Prime Day: Amazon workers in Europe and US protesting and striking - Josh Loe

Prime Day: Amazon workers in Europe and US protesting and striking

Amazon workers in five countries are expected to protest working conditions on Prime Day amid calls for better pay and improved working conditions.

Workers in a Minnesota warehouse said last week they will strike for six hours on July 15 for Prime Day, Amazon’s busiest shopping event of the year. Now employees across Europe plan to join them.

It follows Amazon raising its ambitions for Prime Day, promising one-day delivery and extending the discounting period to two days through July 15 to July 16 — the first time it has done so.

“By doubling Prime Day’s duration and halving the delivery time, the company is testing hundreds of thousands of workers’ physical limits as though they were trained triathletes,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

“This is plain wrong. Operating at these speeds for this duration means Amazon needs to hire more workers, under more sustainable speeds that don’t put workers’ lives in jeopardy. Instead, we are seeing a callous indifference to worker safety.”

Read more: Some of Amazon’s highly paid tech workers say warehouse worker conditions are ‘a source of shame’

In Germany, workers will also go on strike for at least two days in seven different warehouses across the country. Orhan Akman, the federal secretary for German union ver.di, said workers are “deprived of a living wage.”

As of Monday morning, 2,000 workers were on strike in Germany with numbers likely to increase, said a spokesman for UNI Global Union, an international union which represents 20 million workers globally and is helping to coordinate the protests.

Amazon workers in the UK, Spain, and Poland are set to hold protests. Workers in Madrid’s San Fernando de Henares warehouse plan to demonstrate for two days. During last year’s Black Friday strike at the same warehouse, El Confidencial reported that Amazon approached local police to intervene by going inside the warehouse to force workers to maintain productivity, leaving police “dumbfounded.”

An Amazon protester in Madrid on Black Friday 2018.
CCOO de Madrid

UK workers will start protesting July 15 and finish with a large-scale demonstration at the Rugeley warehouse on Friday 19, where they will also be joined by Spanish workers.

Rugeley has a blighted reputation, as undercover journalist James Bloodworth reported that while working there in 2016, the working culture resembled a “prison,” and that he found a bottle of urine left by a worker apparently too pushed for time to use the bathroom.

Workers in Poland — who have been in an ongoing struggle with management since May— have said they will begin protests on July 15 and will not cease until they reach a collective agreement with the company. Amazon walked away from the negotiation table on July 2.

Amazon: unions are ‘conjuring misinformation’

An Amazon spokesman told Business Insider that the unions leading the protests are “conjuring misinformation,” and that Amazon offers “industry-leading pay, benefits, and a safe workplace.” The spokesman said:

“Events like Prime Day have 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.

“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 across the country.”

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