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Germany: Amazon staff primed to strike

June 21, 2021

The action in Werne, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Bad Hersfeld, Koblenz and Graben will coincide with the online retailer's Prime Day promotion. Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market after the United States.

Staff in high visibility vests with the logo of German trade union verdi stand by a facility in Leipzig.
Amazon says that participation during past calls for strikes was lowImage: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Endig

One of Germany's biggest trade unions called on workers at numerous Amazon warehouses across the country to go on strike on Monday — to coincide with the online retailer's Prime Day promotion.

The Verdi trade union said it was organizing the strike as part of a long-running battle with the US tech giant in Germany over better pay and working conditions.

The action will take place at Amazon centers in Werne, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Bad Hersfeld, Koblenz and Graben. The strike will begin on the night of Monday, June 21, and run through and all of Wednesday, June 23.

"Profits are flowing solely into the pockets of the group and its shareholders, while employees continue to be denied collectively agreed pay and good, healthy working conditions," Verdi representative Orhan Akman said in a statement.

Germany — Amazon's second-biggest market

Germany is Amazon's biggest market after the United States. Verdi has been organizing strikes at Amazon locations across the country since 2013 as a way of protesting against low pay and poor working conditions.

An Amazon spokesperson hit back, saying the firm offers excellent pay and benefits. Amazon also said that during past calls for strikes, more than 90% of employees in the logistics centers continued to work as normal. 

Earlier this month, Amazon said it would guarantee an entry-level wage at its German warehouses of €12 ($14.25) an hour from July, which will rise to at least €12.50 per hour from the fall of 2022; an offer Verdi called "cynical." Germany's minimum wage is €9.50 per hour.

In the United States, Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos have famously sought to prevent staff from unionizing.

Amazon holds Prime Day as a way of boosting summer sales. The members-only discounts are an important way for Amazon to market Prime, a fast-shipping and media-streaming service that offers subscribers incentives to do more shopping on its website.

"Amazon uses millions for advertising and makes billions in sales on the campaign days," Verdi's Akman said. "The workers in the mail-order centers have to cope with the rush of customers and don't get a cent more for the additionally intensified workload."

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jsi/msh (dpa, Reuters, AFP)