Amazon Strikes Continue: Workers in Europe Demand Livable Wage

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Activists in Europe have decided to take on the internet retail goliath, Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) over worker’s rights, according to the International Business Times. Hundreds of Amazon workers went on strike in Germany on Monday; this is the first Amazon workers’ strike this year, following a months long dispute with the company over wages.

A Ver.di union spokesperson estimated that 500 of the 1,200 workers at Amazon’s Leipzig distribution center will strike, per Reuters. Amazon currently employs 9,000 warehouse staff at its nine German distribution centers, in addition to approximately 14,000 temporary workers. The market is the second biggest after the United States.

In the past week, protestors have been active in France and the UK as well as Germany, according to the International Business Times. Activists are claiming that 90 percent of Amazon’s staff are on temporary contracts. In the UK, the company takes on “around 15,000 temp workers around Christmas alone,” according to Emily Kenway, a British activist who spoke with IBT.

“The Amazon system is characterized by low wages, permanent performance pressure, and short-term contracts,” a Ver.di board member, Stephanie Nutzenberger said in a statement on Monday in Germany, per Reuters.

“We want Amazon to treat their workers like human beings, not robots. In terms of pay, the objective is for them to pay living wages to all their employees, both temporary and permanent. We also want them to reassess the conditions their employees are working under,” said Emily Kenway, an activist who founded the group Amazon Anonymous in 2013 in the UK, according to IBT.

“I’ve spoken with lawyers, and the breaks that Amazon gives employees during a 10-hour shift is scraping the barrel and only just about legal,” Kenway added.

Kenway began by collecting signatures using Change.org petition; the petition has garnered 55,000 signatures since December, 2013. Kenway then delivered the signatures, along with a letter, to Amazon’s UK offices, based in Holborn, in February.

In Germany, the Ver.di union wants Amazon to raise distribution center workers’ wages “in accordance with collective bargaining agreements for the mail order and retail industry,” according to Reuters. Amazon has rejected the demand, saying that the distribution center workers are classified as working within the “logistics” industry, where they are paid an above-average rate compared to the standard for the industry, according to the company.

But there have been a lot of barriers to unionization. In the UK, efforts are still progressing rather slowly, and the GMB trade union has been attempting to recruit Amazon workers to unionize, but workers are scared. GMB organizer Martin Smith said that much of the trouble is due to the number of workers who are employed under short-term contracts.

“Ninety percent of the workers are on temporary contracts and this is not the sort of thing you can talk about easily at work out of fear of being dismised, so a lot of people would like to join [the union], but it’s very slow,” Smith said, per IBT.

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