Unions are calling for Amazon workers to walk-out on its biggest day of the year amid huge criticism over working conditions at warehouses around the world.
German trade union Verdi said it’s encouraging staff at seven Amazon warehouses to strike on “Prime Day” as the retailer prepares to move millions of pounds worth of stock across the globe.
Verdi said the strikes form part of a long-running battle with Amazon in Germany over better pay and conditions. It said that a coronavirus bonus introduced for workers in Germany in March had been scrapped in May, despite a surge in online orders.
An Amazon spokesman said the majority of employees were continuing to work as normal despite the strike call. He said the company offered “excellent salaries,” with benefits and working conditions comparable with other important employers.
Germany is Amazon’s biggest market after the United States.
In June, Verdi said it staged a protest over safety after some staff at logistics centers tested positive for coronavirus. It comes as union GMB launched a petition to take the retailer to Parliament over working conditions in the UK. “No-one should be scared about leaving work in an ambulance. But that’s the reality hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers face each and every shift,” the union said. It alleges that there have been more than 600 ambulance call-outs to Amazon warehouses over the past three years.
The petition is calling for billionaire boss Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, “to give workers basic rights.”
“GMB Union wants to work with Amazon to improve working conditions for our members. But so far, Amazon is refusing to recognize, or even meet with, the union,” a statement said.
In March, one anonymous Amazon employee told Mirror Money he was concerned for his safety after a rise in Covid-19 cases in his workplace. The employee said social distancing became impossible after online orders started to surge. “Whilst queueing for the clock in machine, we have to stand closer than one meter,” he said. “Whilst working, it is impossible to be more than one meter away. You can be placed on either the role of a ‘Slammer’ or ‘Taper’ which results in you being at the end of a conveyor belt. Each belt has up to eight ‘packers’ sending boxes down,” he said. “By this point, these items have already come into contact with various workers, greatly increasing their risk of contamination. There has already been a large number of people sick, yet management refuses to close it down. The company has become a living hell to work for.”
When Mirror Money put these allegations to Amazon, the company said the health of its staff is a “top priority” and that it is enforcing two meter social distance measures across its warehouses. “Amazon is a safe place to work. Yet again, our critics seem determined to paint a false picture of what it’s like to work for Amazon. They repeat the same sensationalized allegations time and time again,” an Amazon spokesman said.
Prime Day, typically held in July to boost summer sales, is now a kickoff to what will be an earlier holiday shopping season.
The member-only discounts are a key way Amazon markets Prime, a fast-shipping and media-streaming service that incentivizes subscribers to do more shopping on Amazon.
Last year, the company sold more than 1 million toys in just 24 hours, with technology sales also flying online. It comes after owner Jeff Bezos’s wealth increased by £57billion at the height of the pandemic, as more people shifted to online shopping.