Hundreds of workers walked off their jobs on Thursday at Amazon
distribution centers in the German cities of Bad Hersfeld and
Leipzig in a year-long pay dispute, and labor union Verdi warned
that more walkouts were to follow.
"We are here and will continue to strike," workers' representative
Christian Kraehling told Reuters. "And there will be more, bigger
Verdi wants Amazon to raise pay for workers at its distribution
centers in accordance with collective bargaining agreements across
the mail order and retail industry in Germany.
Amazon, however, has rejected the demand, arguing that it regards
warehouse staff as logistics workers and says they receive
above-average pay by the standards of that industry.
The workers have gone on strike repeatedly in the pay dispute, which
started around a year ago, including in the run-up to Christmas when
online retailers rely on business from customers buying gifts on the
Verdi also wants to gain more representation at Zalando, Europe's
biggest online fashion retailer, which was the subject this week of
a television report in which an undercover reporter got a job at one
of its warehouses under a fake name and used a hidden camera to film
"We are working on organizing colleagues at Zalando," Stefan Najda,
Verdi's representative for online and mail order, told Reuters on
The TV report alleged that stock pickers — whose main task is to
gather from shelves goods ordered by customers — were not allowed to
rest during their shifts, were encouraged to snoop on colleagues and
were poorly paid.
Zalando, whose biggest investor is Swedish firm Kinnevik, said the
report "in no way reflects the company culture and worker sentiment
at our logistics sites" and has pressed charges against the
journalist for disclosure of trade and company secrets.
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Prosecutors in the eastern German city of Erfurt, where the
warehouse is located, are investigating the complaint by Zalando,
which has long been seen as a possible share flotation candidate.
Other companies are turning to automation when it comes to stock
picking. Sportswear giant Adidas, for example, last year opened a
new fully-automated distribution center near Osnabrueck in which it
had invested over 100 million euros ($138 million). Employees there
do not do any of the stock picking themselves, a spokesman said.
In Britain, online retailer Ocado is known for its state-of-the-art
distribution technology, where automated systems fill baskets from
central depots according to shopper's online orders. That contrasts
with other retailers offering online ordering such as Tesco or
Sainsbury, which mostly pick orders in regular stores rather than
($1 = 0.7243 euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Victoria Bryan;
by Matthias Inverardi and Nikola Rotscheroth; editing by Greg
Mahlich and Tom Pfeiffer)
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