Amazon has been one of many strongest driving forces behind the surge of e-commerce vacation gross sales round Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and the remainder of the times resulting in the top of the brand new yr. Now, a few of its staff in Europe have picked one of many greatest procuring days of the yr to protest the corporate’s practices, dubbing the day “Strike Friday” as a substitute.

Employees at Amazon amenities throughout Italy and Germany are placing outdoors Amazon’s warehouses to talk out towards a variety of firm practices that they are saying “endanger the well being of its workers,” overlaying such areas as management tradition and efficiency controls.

Germany is Amazon’s second-biggest market globally after the U.S., and the strikes there passed off in six main depots in Unhealthy Hersfeld, Leipzig, Rheinberg, Werne, Graben and Koblenz, in response to Verdi, a commerce union in Germany. (And so they really first began earlier this week, and should go on through the weekend.) In Italy, staff related to three completely different unions — CGIL, CISL, and UIL — have been placing in what seems to be just one location, in Piacenza.

In Germany, the Verdi union desires Amazon to undertake a brand new framework for “Gute und gesunde Arbeit” (‘good and wholesome work’), probably with some strain from regulatory our bodies behind it.

“Amazon completely endangers the well being of its workers with its means of working. Excessive strain to create increasingly more in much less time, everlasting efficiency controls and monitoring, a poor management tradition and insufficient restoration occasions are well being hazards within the Amazon labor course of,” Stefanie Nutzberger, Verdi a board member, said in a statement (initially in German). “A particular collective settlement can assure wholesome and good working situations. We must always create the required laws in order that workers are not uncovered to the arbitrariness of an employer who additionally conducts its enterprise on the expense of their well being.”

The complaints in Italy echoed this concept, too,

“Work is just not a commodity,” said Annamaria Furlan, the secretary common of CISL in Italy (initially in Italian). “The dignity of staff should not be trampled on. Amazon must open a dialogue with unions over industrial relations, employment stability and higher salaries.”

Amazon tells TechCrunch that not all workers have been placing at present. “The overwhelming majority of our workers in Italy and Germany got here to work and remained targeted on delivering the perfect buyer expertise. We’re pleased with our file of job creation and are assured we are going to ship for our clients this vacation season,” a spokesperson stated. “Amazon is an efficient employer. We’re dedicated to making sure a good cooperation with all our workers, granting useful working situations and a caring and inclusive surroundings in all our workplaces.”

We’ve requested if Amazon is negotiating in any respect with the unions over their requests, and whereas not answering the query instantly, that is what they advised us:

“In all places we function we provide our Success Middle workers’ aggressive salaries and really enticing advantages together with an progressive program referred to as Profession Selection that gives workers funding for grownup training, providing to pre-pay 95% of tuition and related charges for nationally acknowledged programs,” the spokesperson stated. “To verify we stay aggressive, we assessment compensation data and advantages which might be provided for comparable jobs within the native areas yearly and make changes as applicable.”

The protests come at a key time for Amazon within the area. On one hand, the corporate continues to be a juggernaut not solely on the earth of e-commerce and cloud providers, however new developments in AI and voice interfaces — particularly round Amazon’s well-liked Echo hub and its Alexa interface — are laying the groundwork for Amazon to play a fair greater position in our digital lives.

However, the corporate has lengthy been scrutinised for the way it handles its taxes, and in some international locations the influence that it’s having on native and smaller companies. Within the former case, it seems that Europe and individual countries are actually beginning to take action.

The latter concept of Amazon affecting small and native companies is much less of a name to motion lately than it was some years ago, though when and if tides flip and we see extra protests towards the corporate’s different practices, this might turn into a problem once more.

Amazon has been lauded for its immense and environment friendly logistics operation, however protests like these level to the way it’s not at all times easy crusing, and that Amazon’s beneficial properties come at a labor value (for now, at the least).

Germany final yr generated over $14.2 billion in gross sales for Amazon, a distant second to the U.S. and its $90.three billion of income, however nonetheless sufficient to make the it second-largest market on the earth. Italy seems to be the fourth-largest marketplace for Amazon in Europe, after Germany, the UK and France. Amazon final yr earmarked an extra $550 million of funding into the nation to construct out its enterprise, develop information facilities and faucet into an financial system that’s comparatively underdevelopment by way of Web velocity and on-line spend in comparison with different elements of Europe.

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