Staff at Amazon’s German arm walk out in dispute over wages

HUNDREDS of workers at Amazon’s German operations went on strike yesterday, just as pre-Christmas sales were set to peak, in a dispute over pay that has been raging for months.

Germany is Amazon’s second-biggest market behind the United States and sales there grew almost 21 per cent in 2012 to £5.33bn, a third of its overseas total.

Amazon took its most daily orders in Germany last December 16, with shipments peaking on December 17.

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Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centres, said only 640 workers had failed to turn up for the early shift so there had been no delays to deliveries so far.

“Our customers can continue to rely on us for the prompt delivery of their Christmas presents,” a spokeswoman said.

The Verdi union said: “The Amazon system is characterised by low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts.”

A delegation of German workers will also protest at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, helped by US unions. In addition, workers in Amazon’s centre in the German town of Werne will strike today, Verdi said.

The German union has organised several short strikes this year to try to force Amazon to accept collective bargaining agreements in the mail order and retail industry as benchmarks for workers’ pay at Amazon’s German distribution centres.

But Amazon’s German country head Ralf Kleber said the company had no intention of bowing to pressure from striking workers and was more worried about bad weather hurting Christmas deliveries.

Mr Kleber said Amazon pays warehouse workers well according to the standards of the logistics industry.