Workers at a half-dozen Amazon distribution centers in Germany and one in Italy walked off the job Friday to demand better wages from the American online giant in a protest timed to coincide with Black Friday.
In Germany, Ver.di union spokesman Thomas Voss said some 2,500 workers were on strike at Amazon facilities in the cities of Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Werne, Graben and Koblenz. In a warehouse near Piacenza, in northern Italy, some workers walked off the job to demand “dignified salaries.”
The German union has been leading a push since 2013 for higher pay for some 12,000 workers in Germany, arguing that Amazon employees receive lower wages than workers in other in retail and mail-order jobs. Amazon says its distribution warehouses in Germany are logistics centers and employees earn relatively high wages for that industry.
The strikes in Germany are expected to end Saturday.
Amazon Germany defended its position, saying it was a “fair and responsible employer” that offers “attractive jobs.”
“The strikes will not affect us keeping our word to our customers, as the overwhelming majority of our workers are continuing their normal work,” the company told the Associated Press.
The Italian action, a one-day strike, was hailed by one of the nation's umbrella union leaders, the UIL's Carmelo Barbagallo, as having “enormous symbolic value because it's clear that progress, innovation and modernity can't come at the expense and the interests of workers.”
The strike at the facility in Italy was called for permanent workers. The unions advised workers who are on short-term, work-on-demand contracts to stay on the job so they wouldn't be denied future employment.
Amazon says it has created 2,000 full-time jobs in Italy, where unemployment remains stubbornly high.