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Amazon Prime Day: Workers strike across the globe for better pay and working conditions at e-commerce company

E-commerce website says allegations of poor pay and working conditions are misleading

Clark Mindock
New York
Monday 15 July 2019 18:55 BST
'No more discount on our incomes', say workers
'No more discount on our incomes', say workers (Getty )

Amazon workers across the world are striking to protest what they say are poor working conditions and low pay, just in time for one of the e-commerce website’s biggest days of the year.

The strikes come as Amazon offers up deals for Prime Day, which saw 100 million products ordered last year, and workers are rallying under the slogan: “No more discount on our incomes”.

Some of the first strikes were confirmed in Germany, with locations in Werne, Rheinberg, Leipzig, Graben, Koblenz and Bad Hersfeld seeing walkouts, according to the Gemran worker’s union Verdi.

Further strikes or protests are planned in facilities including in the US, Spain, United Kingdom, and Poland, according to UNI Global Union.

“While Amazon throws huge discounts to its customers on Prime Day, employees lack a living wage,” a spokesperson for the German union told CNN.

They continued, noting that around 2,000 workers had gone on strike: “The company must finally recognise collective agreements for the retail and postal sectors; wages and salaries cannot be determined in the style of lord of the manor.”

The protests are in response to what have been described as poor working conditions and pay, with recent reports finding Amazon employees face extreme pressure to meet goals set by the company, that workers sacrifice well-being and health in the jobs, and that their pay has required some to turn to federal assistance to make ends meet in the US.

At a Minnesota packaging site ahead of planned protests on Monday, workers described taking on the massive international corporation as a daunting task, especially on Amazon Prime Day, when billions in sales are generated.

“To actually get out and say [to Amazon], ‘You’re not doing a good job,’ that’s not an easy thing to say,” Meg Brady, a “rebinner” at the company’s facility outside of Minneapolis, told the Washington Post.

“Because Amazon is so huge, you do feel like you’re this small person trying to fight a giant.”

Amazon Prime Day 2019: What is the internet shopping event?

For its part, Amazon has defended its treatment of employees, and last year raised its minimum wage to $15 (£12) an hour in the US.

Last week, the company pledged to retrain a third of its workforce in the country — a total of around 100,000 jobs.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said Prime Day has “become an opportunity for our critics, including unions, to raise awareness for their cause, in this case, increased membership dues”.

“These groups are conjuring misinformation to work in their favour, when in fact we already offer the things they purport to be their cause — industry leading pay, benefits, and a safe workplace for our employees,” they said.

“We can only conclude that the people who plan to attend the events are simply not informed. We encourage anyone to book a tour of our fulfilment centres and compare our overall pay, benefits, and workplace environment to other retailers and major employers in the community and across the country.”

But the company’s treatment of workers has still drawn the attention of critics beyond the unions, including 2020 presidential candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.

Earlier this year, the company also suffered a setback after a concerted effort in New York City forced the retail giant to pull back from its plan to build part of its second headquarters in Queens.

On Monday morning, with strikes beginning, senator Elizabeth Warren — a leading presidential candidate who has called for breaking up big technology companies like Amazon — expressed support for the strikes.

“Their fight for safe and reliable jobs is another reminder that we must come together to hold big corporations accountable,” Ms Warren tweeted.

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