Thursday, August 8, 2013

German workers demand Amazon play fair

German workers are standing up to online retail giant Amazon, which refuses to allow them to organize and treats them horribly. A half-hour documentary that exposed those conditions in February sparked calls for protests and boycotts:
The half-hour investigative program explored tiny temporary accommodation, unreliable bus transportation to and from Amazon offices, temporary and unsecured contracts, as well as the last-minute outsourcing of work contracts to employment agencies - reportedly paying less than the wages advertised on the original job application.
It also displayed a heavy presence of security staff from a company called H.E.S.S (Hensel European Security Services), with the program questioning a possible allusion to Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess. The security firm was contracted by an employment agency, not Amazon directly.
Employees are currently carrying out a series of strikes to force the company to raise wages and improve working and living conditions.
Amazon employs about 9,000 workers in Germany, but many are on short-term contracts. The corporate behemoth refuses to recognize its workers’ right to collectively bargain, a move that is not in line with other online retailers there. German retail union ver.di  says Amazon is importing  its anti-worker policies into the country.

Marcus Courtney, a technology and communications department head at Uni Global Union, a federation of trade unions, said the company’s stance is unacceptable:
In Germany, the idea that warehouse workers are going to be getting opposition from an employer when it comes to the right to organize, that’s virtually unheard-of.
Workers are calling on Amazon to classify its workers in Germany as retail employees and pay them at the negotiated rate included in collective agreements for retail and mail order companies. OTTO, Germany’s second-largest mail order company, already does so. If Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive officer, has enough money to buy The Washington Post (for which he is paying $250 million cash), then his company can pay a fair wage to its employees.

Send a message to Jeff Bezos to tell him it is time for Amazon to improve the treatment of its German workers. You can also post a message of solidarity for Amazon workers in Germany on the union’s Facebook page.  And to learn more about the movement, click here. The site is mostly in German, but you can still get a feel for the struggle.