Verdi, one of Germany's biggest trade unions, has been calling on Amazon to conduct collective bargaining for its 16,000 workers. The US giant says only 350 workers had joined the stoppage.
Workers at the Amazon distribution centers at Leipzig in eastern Germany and Werne in the west, walked off the job in the early hours of Monday as part of a longrunning campaign for better pay and conditions.
They are demanding collective bargaining on pay and conditions, a Verdi trade union spokesman said. The Leipzig workers are expected to strike until December 24, and the Werne workers until Tuesday evening. The actions are the latest in a campaign of frequent strikes the union has organized since 2013.
"We have repeatedly given Amazon more time to react to our demands," Verdi's Thomas Schneider said, adding it was a "provocation" that Amazon refused to negotiate. "We will see whether their promises to customers to deliver parcels punctually by Christmas Eve can be met."
He warned that the action could extend to other Amazon centers in Germany.
Amazon workers protested when founder Jeff Bezos was in Berlin to receive the Axel-Springer-Award in April
No impact says Amazon
However, an Amazon spokesman said only 350 workers had taken part in the action at the two sites on Monday and most employees were working normally. The company was well prepared: "The strike will have no impact on our delivery commitments," he said.
Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market after the United States.
Verdi wants Amazon to be regarded as a retail and mail-order firm, but the US company says it is a logistics company. Pay rates for the two sectors vary considerably.
Amazon says its pay rates, starting at €10.78 ($12.20) per hour, are at the upper range for the logistics sector. Pay rates can rise to €2,400 per month with bonuses after two years, the company says.
In November, the Federal Cartel Office said it had received many complaints about the treatment of third-party sellers and would investigate if Amazon was preventing fair competition. "We will examine whether Amazon is abusing its market position to the detriment of sellers active on its marketplace," President Andreas Mundt said.
jm/ng (Reuters, dpa)