Amazon workers strike again in Germany

Reuters

* Strikes called at centres in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld

* Amazon sees no disruption to deliveries

* Company also under fire in Germany over tax, competition

* Survey shows hit to consumer trust in Amazon

By Emma Thomasson

BERLIN, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Workers at two Amazon.com Inc distribution centres in Germany went on strike again onTuesday over pay and conditions, the latest blow to the world'sbiggest Internet retailer in its second-biggest market.

Services trade union Verdi called a one-day strike at Amazoncentres in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld after workers in Leipzig hadalready walked off the job on Monday. Amazon said deliverieswere unaffected as most employees continued to work.

The union has organised several short strikes this year in abid to force Amazon to accept a collective agreement onemployment conditions similar to deals for the mail order andretail sector, more generous than for the logistics sector.

Verdi, which has warned members could strike during the busyChristmas holiday season, said it expected about 600 of the2,500 workers in Bad Hersfeld to take part on Tuesday and about500 of the 2,000 workers in Leipzig.

"Amazon should expect more strikes," said Mechthild Middeke,Verdi union representative in Bad Hersfeld.

Amazon employs around 9,000 people in Germany, its largest market outside the United States. Sales there grewalmost 21 percent in 2012 to $8.7 billion, representing a thirdof its overseas total.

In addition to criticism over pay and working conditions forlogistics workers, Amazon has come under fire in Germany for alow tax bill. The state's antitrust watchdog has also accused itof undermining competition.

A survey published by consultants OC&C earlier this monthshowed German consumers' faith in the Internet giant had fallenon the back of doubts whether it was "fair and ethical". OC&Csaid the labour disputes were undermining Amazon's relationshipwith its customers.

"Trust has historically proven to be the most importantfactor in driving overall consumer perception of a retailer andhas long been a core strength of Amazon's across multiplemarkets," OC&C said in a summary of the survey.

"Amazon's recent experience in Germany shows how fragiletrust can be and the impact it can have across consumerperceptions of a whole proposition."

Amazon regards staff in Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig aslogistics workers and says that they receive above-average payby the standards of that industry.

The company said earlier this month it would invest in threenew logistics centres in Poland, prompting speculation - quicklyrebuffed by Amazon - that it could seek to shift work across theborder from strike-hit centres in Germany.

The company, like several major tech sector companies, hasfaced questions over its tax arrangements in other majorEuropean markets. Over the past six years, it has paid around $9million in income tax on over $23 billion of sales to Britishclients, because it says it operates a single European businessout of Luxembourg, rather than a multinational structure ofindependent subsidiaries. (ID:nL3N0DX2410

Rates

View Comments (0)