Amazon's German workers strike as Christmas orders peak

Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:58pm EST
 
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By Emma Thomasson and Matthias Inverardi

BERLIN/DUESSELDORF (Reuters) - Hundreds of Amazon.com Inc workers in Germany went on strike on Monday, just as pre-Christmas sales were set to peak, in a dispute over pay and conditions that has raged for months.

Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market behind the United States and sales there grew almost 21 percent in 2012 to $8.7 billion, a third of its overseas total. Amazon took its most daily orders in Germany last December 16, when almost 4 million articles were bought, with shipments peaking on December 17.

Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centers, said 1,115 staff had joined the strike at three sites, but there had been no delays to deliveries.

"Our customers can continue to rely on us for the prompt delivery of their Christmas presents," a spokeswoman said, adding that Amazon uses its whole European logistics network over the Christmas period to ensure delivery times.

The Verdi union said up to 700 workers joined the strike in Amazon's logistic center in Bad Hersfeld, plus 500 to 600 in Leipzig. For the first time, the union also called a strike in Graben, where Verdi said 600 workers took part.

"The Amazon system is characterized by low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts," Verdi board member Stefanie Nutzenberger said in a statement.

GLOBAL AGREEMENT

A delegation of German workers was due to rally at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle along with U.S. unions. In addition, workers in Amazon's center in the German town of Werne will protest on Tuesday, while strikes are expected to continue all week in Leipzig and until Wednesday in Bad Hersfeld.   Continued...

 
The sun reflects off Amazon's logistics centre in Graben near Augsburg December 16, 2013. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle