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Amazon Workers Strike In Germany As Christmas Orders Peak 606

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the price-of-free-shipping dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Washington Post reports that in Germany, Amazon's second-biggest market behind the United States, hundreds of workers went on strike just as pre-Christmas sales were set to peak, in a dispute over pay and conditions that has raged for months. Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff members in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centers, says that 1,115 employees joined the strike at three sites. 'Amazon must realize it cannot export its anti-union labor model to European shores. We call on the company to come to the table and sign a global agreement that guarantees the rights of workers,' says Philip Jennings of the global trade union UNI. Verdi organized several short stoppages this year to try to force Amazon to accept collective-bargaining agreements ... The union says Amazon workers receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs and that other retailers pay overtime, but Amazon does not. 'What Amazon is doing is taking this American race-to-the-bottom roadshow to Germany and trying it out on our German brothers and sisters,' says David Freiboth. Amazon has defended its wage policies, saying that employees earn toward the upper end of the pay scale of logistics companies in Germany. Amazon also says it prefers to address employment issues with worker councils at individual sites rather than through negotiations with the union. Amazon says that there have been no delays to deliveries ... adding that Amazon uses its whole European logistics network during the Christmas period to ensure delivery times. A delegation of German workers was set to rally at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle along with U.S. unions. 'We're standing in solidarity with them. We are asking that Amazon respect the union there in Germany and negotiate in a way that is acceptable to Verdi,' says Kathy Cummings of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which was also attending the protest in Seattle."
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Amazon Workers Strike In Germany As Christmas Orders Peak

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  • by The_DoubleU (603071) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:26AM (#45712985)

    The union says Amazon workers receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs and that other retailers pay overtime, but Amazon does not. Amazon has defended its wage policies, saying that employees earn toward the upper end of the pay scale of logistics companies in Germany.

    Please note that the union sees the work as a mail-order job, where wages are higher.
    Amazon thinks of it as a logistics job.
    The union demands that Amazon recognize that the workers are in the mail-order business and pay accordingly.

  • Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

    by Notabadguy (961343) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:29AM (#45713017)


    1. Amazon says that it's pay is already near the top of the scale for logistic centers.

    2. German Union Organizers have a problem with Amazon defining their distribution warehouses as "logistic centers" because it allows them to pay less than they would otherwise be required to.

    Germany's strike is really a strike against Amazon fulfillment centers being allowed to classify themselves as "Logistics" centers. I'm curious what a better definition would be.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:37AM (#45713063)

    Mail order workers. Apparently if you're in a business that sells items by mail, you're on a different pay scale than one that simply shifts items for other people.

  • Re:Ungrateful krauts (Score:5, Informative)

    by geogob (569250) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:05AM (#45713283)

    Actually, things are pretty fine in Germany.

  • Re:Ungrateful krauts (Score:5, Informative)

    by fazig (2909523) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:17AM (#45713377)
    There is no minimum wage here in Germany, at least not currently.
    There is a number of exploitation of cheap labour, mostly from east European countries, some say it's the only reason why our economy is the strongest in Europe. It's basically modern slavery, they earn 5€ per hour, which for them is a lot of money, but would be ridiculously low for German living costs including insurance, health care and other expenses.
    Workers in adjacent countries, like France, lose their jobs because their parent companies rather have goods shipped to Germany and processed there. Then shipped back again, because it's way cheaper than processing goods locally in France, where the minimum wage is almost twice as much (9.4something€ per hour).

    Our Lobbyist Kiss-asses, err, I meant to say politicians, fear that minimum wages will ruin the economy of Germany, will destroy jobs. Now that a minimum wage (around 8€) was promised to be introduced in 2016 from the coalition of Germany's upcoming government, we'll see how things will develop.
  • Re:Ungrateful krauts (Score:4, Informative)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:57AM (#45713871) Homepage

    But it is no wonder companies have so much anymosity towards employees when they pick the busiest time of the year to stop work.

    Of course they did: If you're going to strike, you pick the time that will have the most impact. Just like how a corporation tends to have lockouts and contract negotiations when there is high unemployment in the region near the factory.

    As far as the animosity towards employees, the fact is that workers and management have an inherently adversarial relationship: The worker wants to maximize the amount they are paid for the work they do, and minimize the work they have to do to earn it. Management wants to maximize the amount of work performed, and minimize how much they have to pay to get it done. To pretend that these are other than diametrically opposed is just plain silly. And if you feel thoroughly dedicated to your job, know that management loves people like you because you'll work those 16-hour days without complaining or demanding any kind of compensation.

  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:13AM (#45714069) Journal

    Lol.. you have so many misconceptions it isn't funny. The minimum wage was created to curb minority companies under bidding bloated established white companies. It created a base level that barred those willing to work for less from taking well paying jobs. Mandating a prevailing wage in government contracts was much the same. In more modern times, the minimum had been used to stealth tax increases as both the employee and the employer has taxes associated with pay that does not get refunded.

    Second, union busting has never been popular in recent times. People started seeing unions in a negetive light when Reagan busted the air traffic controllers specifically because they walked off the job and left people in danger in planes in the air with no one directing their movements in a reletively tight airspace. That is when people started seeing that 90% of what unions were needed for was already encoded into law and their remaining usefulness was mostly about greed of income. But what really killed the unions was downsizing in the 80s where the bloat was consolidated and made efficient. This lead to companies poping up that could compete far better than most established union shops and they took an even deeper hit with the offshoring craze that pitted union wages against third world wages. Outside of the traffic controllers showing how wreckless the pursuit of greed can be, it had little to do with the fall of the unions.

    As for income inequality, the majority of the income being considered too large is performance based. It is stock options, bonuses and so one attached to a base pay. It was originally done this way in order to shirk pay obligations if the executive failed to properly run the company (with some tax strategy). The problem is it an incentive to keep wages low and stagnant. It isn't so much the inequal amounts that is the effective problem but what makes those amounts so inequal. Now i know you are looking at fixing it meaning increasing worker pay but the realities will likely be decreasing exec pay and simply giving them prefered stock where they get the same but it is counted as dividends separate from their pay.

    The only way to fix this is to tie employee wages to the same or similar bonus structures. This way, even if the ceo makes 20,000 times more than the base hourly pay for workers, those workers get rewarded the same. I have seen people who actually do get profit sharing earn as much as 2 times thier anual salary fron the profit. Mostly it seems to be one third to two thirds more.

  • Re:Ungrateful krauts (Score:4, Informative)

    by Zumbs (1241138) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:48AM (#45714513) Homepage
    The maximum income tax in Denmark is 51.7%, but there are a lot of ways to decrease the taxed part of the incomes (e.g. union membership, transportation costs, debt, pension savings) so the actual average tax rate on income is in the mid 30s.

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