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German Amazon workers stage 2-day strike

March 7, 2022

Trade union Verdi has called the strikes, which coincide with Equal Pay Day and International Women's Day, at six Amazon warehouses in Germany.

Picture of Amazon building with Verdi logo.
The trade union calls on workers at six Amazon warehouses - in Rheinberg, Werne, Koblenz, Bad Hersfeld (two hubs) und Leipzig - to strike for better pay.Image: Jan Woitas/dpa-Zentralbild/picture alliance

One of Germany's largest trade unions called on employees at six Amazon warehouses in the country to strike on Monday and Tuesday for better working conditions. 

The strikes concide with Equal Pay Day and International Women's Day respectively. The Verdi trade union said the timing of the industrial action highlights the gulf between the "publich image and reality" at Amazon.

Verdi's call for strikes at two warehouses in Bad Hersfeld, as well as in Rheinberg, Werne, Koblenz and Leipzig follows several similar strikes over wages in recent years.

Why are Amazon workers going on strike?

The union's main demand is for Amazon to formally recognize collective labor agreements in the retail and mail order sectors, a request Verdi has made multiple times over the past couple of years.

Verdi said Amazon presented itself as "an organization in which diversity and equality are highly regarded." However, Verdi said, the reality is that "a computer algorithm" determines the expectations demanded of an employee. 

"The individual, their performance and personal circumstances of employees are ignored," said Mechthild Middeke, strike leader for Verdi in Bad Hersfeld.

The consequences are "work stress and pressure to perform," Middeke added. She said that this especially impacts those with additional burdens outside of work. "Those [employees] are often women, for example single mothers."

How did Amazon react?

The US online retailer stressed on Monday, however, that opportunities for professional development at Amazon are plenty, irrespective of employees' gender.

In response to Verdi's demands, the global tech giant insisted that even without a fixed-wage agreement it was still a good employer. "Amazon already offers excellent wages, excellent additional allowance and excellent career opportunities in a safe and modern work environment," an Amazon spokesperson said Monday.

The wages for logistics employees had already been raised last summer, the spokesperson added. As a result "annually, everyone at Amazon earns at least €12 [$12.98] gross per hour plus extras."

Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market after the United States. The online retailer said the planned strikes will not impact deliveries of goods to its customers.

fh/rt (AFP, Reuters)