September 26, 2014

Amazon to German unions: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


via Shutterstock

Strike via Shutterstock

Amazon has had plenty of trouble on its hands in America—in case you missed it, here’s why the Amazon-Hachette dispute matters—but if you’ll direct your attention over to Germany for a moment, 2,000 employees were on strike this week. They’ve been striking since last April, and, spanning five facilities, that’s the largest German strike we’ve reported this year. Again, there’s no response from Amazon.

Germany is the corporation’s second-biggest market, and Amazon doesn’t care about its unions. The unions have been staging strikes since last April, and Amazon still doesn’t care. This particular strike spanned five facilities, including Bad Hersfeld, Graben and Rheinberg, and Amazon doesn’t care. Sarah Sloat at the Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon currently employs 9,000 people, which means 22% of the German workers were on strike this week, and Amazon just doesn’t care.

Amazon has been in business in Germany since 1998, the company has had plenty of time to think it over, and it still doesn’t care about German unions. If the company’s practices challenge the very structure of the German work force, Amazon doesn’t care.

Ver.di–which is not only a brand of cheap bubbly, but a German labor union with 2.1 million members, formally known as Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft–has been leading the strikes. There’s a rich detail in Sloat’s article that the union celebrated the year anniversary of strikes with a cookout, according to the WSJ:

In April, Verdi marked one year since its first Amazon strike with another strike at Bad Hersfeld. Under blue skies, staff in fluorescent yellow Verdi vests grilled bratwurst and a woman dressed as the Easter Bunny handed out chocolate eggs. But turnout was limited.

I hope their planning committee is hard at work on the picnic plan for next year. Amazon still doesn’t provide holiday or vacation pay. It lays off pregnant women before their maternity leave begins, justifying it with Germany’s maternity protection act. In fairness, after the union insisted, Amazon has added a holiday bonus. The starting wage is higher than the nation’s newly-passed minimum wage of €8.50 per hour, starting unskilled workers at €9.55 (about $12.27), but wages should not be set by the business as long as Amazon is selling retail.

Ver.di is pressuring Amazon to acknowledge that it is a retailer, and set wages through collective bargaining as is required by German law. Amazon believes it is something else. This particular strike ended Wednesday, but without any resolution.

“As long as Amazon won’t talk, there’ll be more strikes,” Amazon employee Christian Krähling told the WSJ.


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.