May 29, 2013

German Amazon workers strike again


Around 500 workers at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Leipzig, Germany went on strike on Monday in a one-day work stoppage.

Two weeks ago, over 1,000 staffers at two German Amazon warehouses walked off the job in a one-day work stoppage. On Monday, hundreds of workers staged another short-term strike, as their demand for higher wages has yet to be met. The strike took place at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Leipzig. According to the Ver.di union, which represents the workers, around 500 people took part.

Moritz Yaeger explained the strikers’ demands in an excellent overview for ZDNet:

Amazon has been criticised by unions and workers organisations for not adopting a standard arrangement on pay and conditions used by retailers and mail-order companies in Germany, known as a ‘tariff.’

The tariff would give members of unions leverage like strikes, as well bringing in higher hourly wages and overtime for working late shifts.

The tariff isn’t mandatory in the sector, however, and Amazon instead bases its pay and conditions arrangements on the standards used in the logistics industry.

Originally, Amazon had planned to have local politicians visit the Leipzig site on Monday. The meeting was subsequently cancelled, with the company telling Spiegel online that “the entrance to the building would be hard to reach and the noise could complicate the discussions as the conference room is close to the street.”

According to the Associated Press, the wage agreement the union is pushing for would “include Christmas bonuses and extra pay for working nights, Sundays, and holidays. The agreements could mean as much as 9,000 euros ($11,700) more annually for Amazon workers.”

There’s no word yet as to what the next step will be if Amazon does not accept its workers’ demands. Still, as my colleague Kelly Burdick noted two weeks ago, the strikes are “the first meaningful labor action against Amazon anywhere in the world,” which is significant, regardless of their outcome.

Amazon responded by saying that their workers were well-paid, because of course they did.


Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.