There continues to be labor unrest across Amazon fulfillment centers in Germany, this time, timed at the peak of the holiday fulfillment surge period.
Our Supply Chain Matters commentary in mid-June noted four consecutive weeks of various work stoppages involving 1300 workers associated with a German labor union. The issue involves a dispute as to whether temporary or full-time workers at Amazon’s German facilities should be classified as retail and catalog workers, which garners a higher pay scale in Germany.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that employees in Germany are again exercising periodic work stoppages at local logistics and customer fulfillment centers. The report indicates that 1600 workers, the largest number thus far, had taken part in work stoppages, and for the first time, workers at Amazon’s logistics center in Graben joined in these actions.
The new twist is that about 10 U.S. organized labor groups, including the Teamsters union and the Service Employees International Union, joined Germany’s Ver,di labor union in a symbolic protest that took part at Amazon’s Seattle corporate headquarters. The continued work stoppages across Germany were obviously timed for the height of the current holiday fulfillment surge period.
Amazon issued a statement indicating that customer fulfillment would not be affected by the strikes, in spite of the current peak period in activity. The online fulfillment giant has again defended its wage policies indicating its employees earn toward the upper end of pay scale for logistics entities in Germany. Amazon further indicated it prefers to address employment issues with worker councils at individual sites rather than negotiating with a labor union.
Obviously, Amazon will continue to openly resist efforts directed at organizing its workforce. As supply chain and logistics teams know, Germany is a unique challenge since worker councils are a generally accepted practice where employees have a voice to company management on labor policies and practices.
Volkswagen has been dealing with somewhat of a similar challenge as its German based worker council voiced concern that workers in its U.S. manufacturing facilities do not have worker council voice. Representatives of the United Auto Workers labor union approached Volkswagen’s workers for serving as that voice, which has triggered all sorts of other concerns since the Volkswagen Tennessee plant resides in a non-union right to work state.
By our view, Amazon will have to find a creative solution to German worker grievances, perhaps on a site by site basis, since the German protests are bound to continue without some further gestures.