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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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  • Robots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Qubit (100461) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:11AM (#45712855) Homepage Journal

    I sense a whole lot more of them in Amazon's (near) future...

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:11AM (#45712857)

    they're already doing it pretty heavily... this sort of thing... striking in the middle of a christmas season... it inspires drastic steps.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:13AM (#45712873)
    Naive little American, how's your minimum wage that just keeps shrinking and shrinking working out for your economy?
  • by waspleg (316038) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:17AM (#45712905) Journal

    How apt. It's too bad Americans can't see this but Germans can.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:20AM (#45712929)

    With Amazon's margins they can't afford to be either petty or merciful. They'll switch to robots as soon as it is quantitatively advantageous to do so, regardless of what the workers are doing.

  • by BringsApples (3418089) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:29AM (#45713011)

    Seriously, if you don't want the work don't take it. Nobody forces you to work at Amazon

    And, what the hell do you think a strike is, anyway?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:30AM (#45713021)

    "Amazon also says it prefers to address employment issues with worker councils at individual sites rather than through negotiations with the union."

    Yeah, I bet they do.

    That's actually the reason we have unions in the first place, you know...

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:33AM (#45713033)

    And, what the hell do you think a strike is, anyway?

    Posted here already, so I can't give you mod points. But really, this American attitude is quite idiotic. Wages are always negotiated. Sometimes one side is more powerful, sometimes it's not. Walmart left Germany with its tail between its legs, and what a loss is it for the country! (If anyone thinks Walmart makes low prices, Aldi and Lidl do that a lot better while actually providing quality products _and_ paying their employees decent wages). Nobody will shed a tear if Amazon does the same.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:34AM (#45713043) Homepage

    Why should a worker be grateful to their employers? They do work, they get paid for part of the value of their work (if they got paid the full value of their work, it wouldn't be profitable for their employer to hire them). While this might be a mutually beneficial business arrangement, I'm hard-pressed to see why the employer is doing the worker a favor or otherwise giving them something that they aren't earning, which is my usual standard for being grateful.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:48AM (#45713135)

    Yea cause most of Europe is doing SO economically well...

  • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:54AM (#45713185)

    Business is war, not a matter of "gratitude" because employment isn't a "gift".
    Collective bargaining is the only way otherwise valueless workers have leverage. One ant is nothing, but an army of ants is very different.

    Americans are carefully indoctrinated nowadays to lick corporate boots, no surprise since business owns the US. Mistakes by unions (who BTW were FORCED to get in bed with the Mob back when business utterly owned the politicians and the cops leaving them zero alternative) certainly hurt them, but that in no way invalidates the utility of collective bargaining. Some of us bothered to read more labor history than is taught in school. I suggest that to others so you can draw your own conclusions.
    Workers are not the enemy, business is not the enemy, but to have an equitable relationship to BARGAIN each must have power. The only way workers can have power is collective bargaining unless they are specially skilled AND in short supply.

  • by nharmon (97591) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @09:55AM (#45713199) Homepage

    OMG. If that is what Europe really wants, then they can keep it. Maybe they don't realize that workers don't magically become "productive" out of the womb. Nor do they when someone hands them a diploma. Productivity increases with experience.

    By saying a nation should only employ productive workers and leave the unproductive unemployed, you are effectively saying that anyone young should just be a dependent of the state while older people get to reap the benefits of labor shortages.

    So what happens when your older "productive" workers all retire? All of those "unproductive" young people you wanted to keep unemployed will still be unproductive. I suppose you could just import productive immigrants. But eventually nobody will want to come to your country because you're going to have to tax most of their pay in order to support the multitudes of unproductive people in your country.

    No. I think I prefer America's way of doing things. We provide subsidies to our low-wage earners in the hopes that they increase their productivity through experience. It isn't perfect, but it is at least sustainable.

  • lol unions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:18AM (#45713379)
    I didn't like my old job because the pay and benefits were unfair. Now I got a new job and the pay and benefits are good. That's what I think of unions. Oh and here's the kicker: the former company was doing terrible financially. A union would have made them go bankrupt.
  • Re: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by visualight (468005) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:23AM (#45713423) Homepage

    The minimum wage is/was *supposed* to be for kids in or just out of high school, college students, etc.

    The real cause of this, the point at which we jumped into the race to the bottom was in the 80's, when two things happend:

    Union busting actually became popular. Reagan busting the air traffic controllers, and the unexpected level of approval from Americans, was a tipping point. Upward pressure on wages fell away across the economy.

    Supply side economic policy has been the norm since (under Reagan) taxes on the super rich was basically cut in half.

    Income inequality is the real devil here. The flatter the line is the better off everyone is, even the super rich. To fix it we need two things, upward pressure on labor wages, and an artificial friction to acquiring wealth. By that I mean the more wealthy you are the harder it is to get more wealthy. A progressive tax system does this, but maybe there are other methods.

  • by DogDude (805747) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:31AM (#45713503) Homepage
    ... I've got to say: the American posters on here that are largely big-company bootlickers are really pathetic. I think that Free Market Capitalists are almost as bad a Religionists in that you both believe in fairy tales and you want to be on your knees "worshipping" said fairy tale.
  • by duckgod (2664193) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:41AM (#45713647)

    Is a CEO really worth the same as 10000 (or more) "workers"? No, of course not.

    Yeah actually they are. Every decision a CEO makes is a decision with potentially billions on the line. A hundred workers could do their best to destroy the company and they won't be able to do as much damage as one decision by a CEO. CEOs are paid a lot because there is a high demand for people who won't make billion dollar fuck ups.

  • by njnnja (2833511) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:44AM (#45713691)

    Americans are actually behind Europeans in the "race to the bottom": median income by country []. Median household income in the US is 25% higher than Germany, 43% higher than Italy, and 70% higher than Spain. The only European countries with higher median income than the US are oil-rich Norway, or ones that benefit from "don't ask don't tell" banking sectors. So the typical American worker is doing better than the typical worker just about anywhere in the world.

    To the extent that the "race to the bottom" means competing with third world nations like China for manufacturing jobs, note that China's rapid economic growth the in the last 20 years has done more to improve the quality of life and reduce worldwide inequality than just about any economic development program. While there are many in America and Germany who end up getting the short end of the stick, when comparing the additional misery of hundreds of thousands of Westerners who lost their livelihood versus the improvement in the standard of living for tens of millions of people in the third world from subsistence farming to a modicum of caloric stability, it is difficult to say that the "race to the bottom" is an entirely bad thing for humanity as a whole, or that America has not done an acceptable job of dealing with this challenge at least as well as other nations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:50AM (#45713767)

    We provide subsidies to our low-wage earners in the hopes that they increase their productivity through experience.

    So in other words you subsidise underpayment of staff by big business. You reward businesses for undervaluing their workers.

  • by Sique (173459) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @10:59AM (#45713883) Homepage

    Don't like the job..?? quit.. someone will be forced by sheer financial pressure to take your place..

    There. Fixed that for you.

  • by Psychotria (953670) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:01AM (#45713907)

    What happens if they do make a billion dollar fuck up? They get a big golden parachute and dismissed. Big deal; i.e. there is no risk for them.

  • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:09AM (#45714007)

    The difference, of course, is the health insurance.

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:18AM (#45714133)

    I had horrible low paying jobs at times. If there are less horrible or better paying jobs available you can move to them. If not, well, it's nice to have a job when you need one.

    The people complaining about the horrible, just horrible conditions at Amazon would appear to have never had to work a low-paid, low-skill production-line job.

    I did that for a while when I was at school, and would have switched to Amazon without a second thought if they'd been around at the time.

  • by kbolino (920292) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @11:27AM (#45714259)

    You sit on the board of directors of a failing corporation. Your investors are starting to sell their shares, and your bond rating was just downgraded. What do you do? The "easy" solution is to hire some well known CEO to shore up the company's image. Of course, you have to convince someone who is probably not a complete moron to lead a company that's headed the way of the Hindenburg. So you offer a ridiculously generous compensation package, meant not only to convince the person to take the job in the first place, but also to cover for any loss of reputation he or she might suffer from being associated with a failing enterprise. So what seems like the rape and pillage of a worker's paradise is actually a last ditch effort to keep everybody from losing their jobs, workers and management included. Of course, this strategy rarely succeeds in the long term, but it does keep the corporation limping along a little while longer.

    Everyone derides management, but few people are competent at the task, and fewer still want to do it. It ought to come as no surprise that most managers are incompetent. People see only what they let themselves see, and "workers" are no different from "management" in this aspect.

  • by Arkham (10779) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:02PM (#45714763)

    Jobs like this, with no skills are a dime a dozen, and are the types of jobs (like fast food) that are FIRST jobs, ones for young kids to start with and learn the work ethic and then move up and on to better jobs.

    Someone sorting mail or flipping burgers does not rate getting $20/hr or more. That's just nonsense.

    I'm not disagreeing with you in principle. However, the reality is, there are tens (hundreds?) of millions of Americans and billions of people worldwide with no real skills whatsoever. None. They're capable of nothing but jobs without a skill requirement. These people rightfully want to sleep, eat, buy stuff, and get healthcare just like everyone else. And yet, they either lack the circumstance, the ability, the willpower, or the mental acuity to grow beyond a job that requires no skills. I am not judging how they came to be in this situation, only remarking that this is their reality.

    This is a fact. These people need to be able to survive their whole lives. They need to earn enough not to be a burden on the rest of us. How can this be accomplished? If we aren't willing to give them higher wages, and we're not willing to pay for them to get training to do something more meaningful, then this situation will never change.

  • Re:Robots (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gmclapp (2834681) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @12:25PM (#45715073)
    Union labor is never cheaper than automation. I'm a design engineer at an automation company FYI
  • by Rinikusu (28164) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @01:16PM (#45715817)

    The health insurance and the strong social nets. I'd gladly trade 25% of my income for this.

  • by Raenex (947668) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @01:44PM (#45716187)

    The people complaining about the horrible, just horrible conditions at Amazon would appear to have never had to work a low-paid, low-skill production-line job.

    Tell me about it. I worked a summer before college in a recycling plant. Awful, dirty, and hazardous place. Some of the people there were doing it full time for a living. It impressed on me why I was going to college.

  • by minstrelmike (1602771) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:09PM (#45716513)
    Business doesn't build factories in order to employ workers; they build in order to meet demand.
    If the workers of the world are unemployed and cannot buy products made by factories, that lack of demand is a severe issue. Henry Ford knew his workers needed to be able to buy the cars coming off the assembly line or else the assembly line will shut down.

    Lack of demand cannot be fixed with subsidies to rich people. Those neo-econs confuse demand for money (qualitative easing of interest rates) with demand for products (the thing that actually causes business to hire employees and build factories).
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @02:44PM (#45717003) Homepage Journal

    No, my solution would be to have them pay a wage that values what the people do, and not just hope that there are people desperate enough to work for slave wages.

    It sounds to me, that for a non-skilled job, that they're paying what it is worth.

    These are not or should jobs grown adults are trying to work to support a family. These are starter type jobs for kids or young adults trying to do their first step in the workforce, something to learn your work ethics, etc (see other post in this thread) and move on to a "real job" so to speak. This job is on the level of fast food workers and the like.

    It isn't meant to be a job you make your living has no skills required, and pays for that level of worker.

  • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Tuesday December 17, 2013 @03:56PM (#45717817)

    And yet $20 an hour job is all many people can get. With college education. With having gone through their retirement account. And looking at their remaining productive years.

    It is nonsense. So let me have a CEO job and I'll do it for a mere $500,000. You are going to need a LOT of CEO positions to get rid of this "nonsense."

    I'm really shocked your comment got karma. If everyone gets paid a living wage -- that's the cost of business. Because then people don't have to beg or use government assistance.

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