Amazon workers strike in Germany as Christmas orders peak

Verdi union members hold flags while standing outside the Amazon logistics centre in Graben near Augsburg December 15, 2014. — Reuters pic
Verdi union members hold flags while standing outside the Amazon logistics centre in Graben near Augsburg December 15, 2014. — Reuters pic

BERLIN, Dec 15 — More than 2,000 Amazon staff at German warehouses went on strike today to press demands for better pay and conditions as the online retailer races to ensure Christmas orders are delivered on time.

Labour union Verdi said almost 2,300 workers joined the action at five of Amazon’s nine distribution centres in Germany, and that the action would be extended to a sixth tomorrow — the most warehouses hit by a strike in the long-running dispute.

The walkouts at the six centres are set to run until the end of Wednesday’s late shift and Verdi said delays to deliveries could not be ruled out as a result of the strikes.

Amazon itself said customers could order up until midnight on December 21 to get gifts in time for Christmas, or even on December 23 or 24 if they pay for express delivery.

“We deliver reliably,” a spokeswoman said, adding that only a small minority of workers had joined the strikes, with around 19,000 employees working normally.

Last year, Amazon orders in Germany peaked on December 15, when customers bought 4.6 million items — or 53 per second.

Verdi has organised frequent strikes at Amazon since May 2013 as it seeks to force the retailer to raise pay for workers at its distribution centres in accordance with collective bargaining agreements across Germany’s mail order and retail industry.

Amazon has repeatedly rejected the union’s demands, saying it regards warehouse staff as logistics workers and that they receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

The US company has previously said the long-running dispute has not affected deliveries as the vast majority of workers in Germany have not joined the strikes and it can draw on a European network of 28 warehouses in seven countries.

It employs almost 10,000 staff at its warehouses in Germany, its second-biggest market behind the United States, as well as more than 10,000 seasonal workers. — Reuters