Amazon workers in Germany went on strike Monday, protesting the working conditions at the online retailer's shipping centers. The workers' union, Ver.di, also sent a delegation to the company's Seattle offices.
"The Amazon system is characterized by low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts," Ver.di said in a statement.
Amazon employs about 9,000 workers in Germany plus an additional 14,000 seasonal workers; not all of them are union members. According to estimates, about 1,600 people took part in the strikes Monday at three German locations: Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, and Graben.
This week Amazon's peak time in Germany. Reuters reports that last year the company took more orders on Dec. 16 than any other day; its top day for shipments was Dec. 17.
Amazon's presence in Germany is second only to its size in the U.S. If last year's trends continue through 2013, it will get even larger; its sales in Germany grew by 21% in 2012, to $8.7 billion.
A spokeswoman for Amazon said that the company would not be affected by the strikes. "Our customers can continue to rely on us for the prompt delivery of their Christmas presents," she told Reuters.
The BBC reports that Ver.di has been calling a series of strikes this year to try to bring Amazon to the table for collective bargaining agreements that are typical in Germany.
“As a worldwide company, Amazon should treat their workers fairly and with respect in every country,” German organizer Markus Hoffmann-Achenbach told the N.Y. Times by email. German workers were joined outside Amazon's Seattle headquarters by members of the American unions SEIU and the Teamsters.
"The solidarity of American unions and Ver.di, the united services union of Germany, is a sign that social movements are not bounded by national borders and that in times of globalization the workers worldwide stand together as one,” Hoffmann-Achenbach said.
Last month, a BBC reporter went to work undercover at an Amazon warehouse in the U.K. and found it difficult and stressful.
British workplace expert professor Michael Marmot told the BBC, "There are always going to be menial jobs, but we can make them better or worse. And it seems to me the demands of efficiency at the cost of individual's health and wellbeing -- it's got to be balanced."
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