Amazon warehouse workers in Germany are striking for 48 hours this week, to protest conditions that have led to COVID-19 infections among fellow employees. Strikes began today at six warehouses and are set to continue through the end of the day Tuesday.
The company has drawn international criticism for its decision not to disclose official COVID-19 infection rates among workers, but a representative for Berlin-based labor union Verdi (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft or German United Services Trade Union) says they’re aware of “at least 30 to 40” workers in the Bad Hersfeld factory in Central Germany who have been infected with the virus.
Other striking factories include Koblenz, Leipzig, Rheinberg and Werne. Germany represents Amazon’s largest non-U.S. market, and is one that has seen its fair share of worker protests. Strikes were planned for Prime Days in both 2018 and 2019. But the COVID-19 pandemic represents a new challenge for the online retail giant.
As it has done with other recent criticism, the company denied suggestions that its working conditions are unsafe and pointed to various COVID-19-related initiatives.
“The majority of our associates does not participate and we see no impact on customer orders. The fact that more than 8,000 of our over 13,000 permanent associates in Germany are with us for more than five years proves that we are a fair employer,” a spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Everything the union demands is already in place: Wages at the upper end from what is paid for similar jobs, career opportunities and a safe working environment,. The facts are: By end of June, we will have invested approximately $4 billion worldwide on COVID-related initiatives getting products to customers and keeping employees safe.”
Here in the States, the company has drawn criticism from media and politicians alike for its action on COVID-19, including the firing of multiple workers who have been vocally critical of its policies.