By Helena Smolak

 

Amazon.com faced strikes in the U.S. and Europe on Black Friday, hitting the e-commerce giant at the start of the busy holiday shopping weekend as labor unrest picks up on both sides of the Atlantic.

Warehouse workers and drivers planned strikes Friday in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Italy and Spain to demand better wages and working conditions, according to the UNI Global Union, a global union federation focused on the services sector with affiliated organizations from 150 countries. Further protests by climate activists and workers are planned in other countries, the UNI Global Union said.

The planned demonstrations could disrupt supply chains and prevent merchandise from reaching Amazon on Black Friday as the U.S. e-commerce giant aims to boost sales. Amazon had advertised 10 days of holiday discounts from Nov. 17 to Nov. 27.

An Amazon Germany spokesman said strikes wouldn't affect deliveries.

"We offer great pay and benefits for our employees, with great career opportunities, and provide a modern and safe working environment for all," an Amazon U.K. spokesman said.

The industrial action is part of a global campaign known as "Make Amazon Pay" coordinated by the UNI Global Union, which expects strikes, protests and other action in more than 30 countries.

This is the fourth year that the campaign has taken place, but this time the protests come against a background of rising labor unrest in developed economies. The U.S. has seen walkouts in industries ranging from auto making to entertainment, while labor protests swept several European economies earlier this year.

In Germany, Amazon's second-biggest market by sales in 2022, employees at five fulfillment centers in Bad Hersfeld, Dortmund, Koblenz, Leipzig, and Rheinberg, began a 24-hour strike at midnight on Thursday to demand a collective wage agreement, trade union Ver.di said.

"Employees will continue to fight with great commitment for a collective wage and health agreement. The exploitation of Amazon employees must come to an end," Ver.di spokesman Jan Jurczyk said.

An Amazon spokesman said employees in Germany are paid fair wages, with a starting gross salary of more than 14 euros ($15.27) an hour, including additional benefits.

Amazon's employees in Germany report pressure to perform and intense workloads and surveillance that creates a climate of fear, Silke Zimmer, a member of the Ver.di national executive board, said.

"We reject the trade union's criticism as it does not reflect reality. It's not for nothing that half of our colleagues have been with us for over five years", an Amazon Germany spokesman told The Wall Street Journal.

More than 1,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Coventry, England went on strike Friday, the GMB Union said. Amazon was hit by its first strike in the U.K. earlier this year in a dispute over pay.

Meanwhile, the Italian and Spanish trade unions CGIL and CCOO used social media to call for strikes over the Black Friday weekend. Amazon workers in India also demonstrated, the UNI Global Union said.

The UNI Global Union said protests are expected in Japan, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the U.K. and Canada against the climate impact of Amazon's data centers, it said. In France, anticapitalist group Attac called for protests targeting Amazon's parcel lockers on social media.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company has invested billions of dollars in packaging reduction and purchases of renewable energy and electric vehicles as part of its target to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

 

Write to Helena Smolak at helena.smolak@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 24, 2023 08:04 ET (13:04 GMT)

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