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Amazon workers in Germany go on strike

March 29, 2021

Amazon workers in Germany are engaging in a four-day strike following a call from trade union Verdi. The company has been frequently criticized for its wages and working conditions.

An Amazon logistics center in Rheinberg
Amazon's logistic center in Rhineberg is one of the sites targeted by the strikeImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Meissner

Amazon workers in Germany went on strike at locations nationwide following a call from service trade union Verdi. The four-day strike was planned for late Sunday, with workers demanding the e-commerce giant raise wages.

Strikes were planned for Amazon locations in Werne and Rhineburg, which are both located in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Amazon locations in the cities of Leipzig and Koblenz will be impacted, along with two locations in the town of Bad Hersfeld in Hesse. 

Why does the union want higher wages for Amazon workers?

"Amazon is making a mint in the coronavirus crisis. For this reason alone, wage evasion must be stopped there," Verdi representative Orhan Akman said. Amazon's profits have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, as consumers turn to online shopping at home instead of going out to brick-and-mortar retailers.

Three critiques of Amazon

Akman has accused Amazon of not adhering to social distancing guidelines which are intended to keep employees safe from infection. The company has rejected the accusation, and said it has taken additional measures to protect workers. 

"These include increased cleaning and disinfection intervals, temperature measurement when entering buildings, mandatory masks, 2-metre distance rules and staggered shift and break times," Amazon said in a statement Sunday evening. 

Amazon locations in Germany have been targeted by union-led strikes since 2013. Amazon workers in Italy organized a strike last week, with labor representatives calling on the company to share its profits with workers. 

What are Amazon's operations in Germany?

The strike comes after the company announced Friday it would hire 5,000 new employees in Germany this year. This will increase Amazon's workforce in Europe's largest economy from 23,000 to 28,000 employees.

Amazon dominates the online retail market

Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market behind the United States, where the company is headquartered. The e-commerce giant was founded in 1994 by Seattle-based entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, who has now become the world's richest person, according to US business magazine Forbes.

In addition to strikes in Germany and Italy, Amazon is also dealing with a possible backlash from workers in the United States. 

Amazon workers in a Bessemer, Alabama warehouse will finish voting Monday on whether to unionize. The results will determine whether Bessemer workers will establish the first US labor union in Amazon's 27-year-long history. 

wd/rt (dpa, Reuters)