Economy

Amazon Workers Strike In Germany To Protest Unfair Wages

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jens Meyer

Amazon employees protest over low wages in 2013.

Thousands of German Amazon workers went on strike Monday, refusing to work Monday until the company pays its workers better, The New York Times reported.

About 2,000 employees from four of Amazon’s German distribution centers went on strike after the company refused to negotiate wages with the labor union Ver.di. The online retailer has 9,000 full-time employees in Germany and thousands of temporary contract workers.

According to Ver.di, which organized the strike, Amazon is bending German labor laws by classifying its distribution center workers as logistics employees so they get paid less. Starting hourly wages for logistics employees are around 9.55 euros, while retail employees get paid anywhere from 10 euros to 13 euros an hour, depending on the region, ZDNet reported.

Ver.di argues that Amazon should pay workers at distribution centers the same as those who work on the retail side. But Amazon disagrees saying, the jobs are patently different, and moving merchandise from shelves to prepping them ready for delivery isn’t the same as directly dealing with customers.

To close the pay gap, workers have demanded Amazon to improve labor conditions and adhere to collective bargaining agreement that would increase wages up to 3 percent for one of the German centers in Graben. Amazon has reportedly agreed to the wage increase in that location, but Ver.di plans to continue striking, according to The New York Times.

Monday’s strike isn’t the first for Amazon. Ver.di has been protesting against Amazon’s labor conditions and wages since 2013, organizing a strike of more than 1,000 workers over the holiday season.

Amazon has a history of facilitating abusive working conditions and skirting labor laws to keep prices low. A 2011 report found that Amazon forced its warehouse employees to work in 100 degree temperatures under threat of being fired for lax productivity. The online retailer was also accused of making employees physically and mentally sick after an undercover investigative reporter for videotaped conditions after taking a job in a Wales-based warehouse. A documentary released in July called “Amazon Rising” also depicts the company’s harsh working conditions — one former employee even likens Amazon to a prison. According to the interviews, workers were timed on nearly every task including bathroom breaks, retrieving merchandise and packing boxes.

Tech companies have become a focal point for wage disputes in recent months. Apple stores faced protesters over the weekend as it launched its highly sought-after iPhone 6. Silicon Valley service workers, including security guards, custodial and maintenance staff, picketed outside of Apple stores across the country Friday to protest disproportionately low wages despite working for some of the most lucrative companies.

LinkedIn recently had to pay employees almost $4 million in unpaid overtime following a U.S. Department of Labor investigation. Earlier this year, Apple and other top tech companies including Google and Adobe had to pay workers $324 million to settle a wage-fixing lawsuit. Employees sued the companies after the government discovered emails between top executives promising not to poach each other’s employees.