Why Are Amazon Employees on Strike in Germany?

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) employees in Germany are going on strike for the third time since May 14, pressuring the Internet retailer to increase wages and recognize collective bargaining agreements.

Amazon has come under scrutiny in Germany since a documentary aired on German television accusing the company of exploiting migrant labor. The trade union ver.di has called for workers at Amazon plants in Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig to go on strike. “We’re considering moving from single-day strikes to walkouts lasting multiple days,” Joerg Lauenroth-Mago, lead negotiator for the ver.di union, said by phone today. Lauenroth-Mago estimates that about half of Amazon’s 5,300 employees in the two cities will participate in the walk-outs.

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On May 14 about 600 workers from Bad Hersfeld and 300 in Leipzig went on strike, which they followed up with one-day work stoppages in Leipzig on May 27 and Bad Hersfeld on May 29.

Ver.di is demanding that Amazon raise wages from 9.30 euros an hour to 10.66 in Leipzig and from 9.83 euros an hour to 12.18 in Bad Hersfeld, and to pay extra for night shifts beginning before midnight. Right now Amazon uses its own pay scale instead of adopting to industry-wide standards. In Germany, many companies belong to employer’s associations that help negotiate agreements between labor and management. Some U.S. companies, like automakers Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM), are members of such associations in the country.

After the initial strikes, Amazon defended its wage policy, saying ”Our employees earn toward the upper end of the pay scale compared to other logistics companies. The entry wage for an Amazon employee is 9.30 euros ($12.09) an hour, plus bonus; after one year, more than EUR10; and after two years, employees get shares in the company.”

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Amazon employs about 9,000 people in Germany and has been under pressure from the union for not conforming to a collective agreement on employment conditions similar to other retail and mail order firms in the country.

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