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German union calls for Amazon workers to strike

June 28, 2020

The Verdi trade union called for the 48-hour strike to "step up the pace" of wage negotiations with the retail giant. The union has long sought a collective bargaining agreement for German Amazon employees.

Deutschland Amazon Logistik Zentrum in Rheinberg
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Meissner

Trade union Verdi has called on employees at six Amazon locations in Germany to strike for 48 hours amid an ongoing wage dispute.

The strike is part of Verdi's push to conclude negotiations with the online retail giant for a collective bargaining agreement for "good and healthy work."

"We are stepping up the pace because Amazon is not showing to this point any insight and is endangering the health of employees in favor of profit," said Orhan Akman, responsible for the retail and mail-order industries at the union.

Akman referenced recent coronavirus outbreaks of "at least 30 or 40 colleagues" at Amazon distribution centers in Bad Hersfeld, a town in central Germany. Amazon has denied the outbreaks took place.

The strikes will take place at two Amazon locations in Bad Hersfeld, as well as in Leipzig, Rheinberg, Werne and Koblenz. The strike will begin during the night shift on Monday and last 48 hours.

Amazon in Bad Hersfeld
Amazon Fulfillment Centers in Bad Hersfeld, Germany had a coronavirus outbreakImage: picture-alliance/dpa/U. Zucchi

Wage dispute

Verdi and Amazon have been in a wage dispute since 2013. The union is seeking a collective bargaining agreement for employees at German distribution centers that aligns with the retail and mail-order industries.

Amazon has rejected such demands, insisting it is a "fair and responsible employer" even without collective bargaining and the wages it pays are at the upper end of the retail and mail-order business.

"What the union describes as an objective has long been a reality for Amazon employees: Wages at the upper end of what is paid for comparable activities, development opportunities for many people and, above all, a safe working environment," a spokesman told the Reuters news agency.

The company said that, since February, it has ordered 470 million units of hand disinfectant, 21 million pairs of gloves, 19 million masks, face shields or other mouth and nose protection and 39 million packs of disinfectant in Germany alone.

In April, Amazon was forced to close six distribution centers in France after a court ruled the retail giant wasn't doing enough to protect employees.

Amazon has 13,000 permanent employees in Germany that work at 13 logistic centers, as well as seasonal workers.

dv/dr (AFP, Reuters)