Amazon: Snowfall is a bigger problem than worker strikes

The e-commerce giant doesn't seem too worried about thousands of German factory workers threatening to strike during the busy holiday season.

A worker loading orders in one of Amazon's factories. Amazon

Hundreds of trade union workers in Amazon's German factories have staged a series of strikes over the last year demanding better wages and working conditions. They're now planning a major strike for the holiday season.

However, Amazon executives don't see too much cause for concern.

"Snowfall in Germany is the bigger problem in the Christmas business...That is what gives me worry lines," Amazon's head for Germany, Ralf Kleber, told Reuters in an interview Friday.

Next to the US, Germany is Amazon's second-biggest market. According to Reuters, the company's nine German distribution centers employ 9,000 warehouse staff plus an additional 14,000 seasonal workers. Over the last year, Amazon's sales in Germany grew by nearly 21 percent to $8.7 billion, which is a third of the company's total international sales.

With e-commerce becoming increasingly more popular and the holiday season being the busiest time of year, it would seem that striking workers might put a dent in Amazon's factory efficiency and delivery timeliness. But Kleber maintains the company's deliveries have been unaffected by the strikes.

"We are talking about a minority who take part in actions brought on by the union," Kleber told Reuters. "Amazon is a fair employer. Many of our workers have been with us for more than 14 years. The majority of workers would say it is a good, well-paid job."

Trade union Verdi workers employed in Amazon's distribution centers in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld are behind the series of strikes. They are asking the e-commerce giant to sign an agreement that would give them pay and working conditions similar to the company's German competitors.

According to Reuters, this dispute between Amazon and its workers led to roughly 1,000 employees walking out from German distribution centers on Monday.

Kleber said that Amazon pays its factory workers well and doesn't drive them too hard. He added that distribution center work can be demanding, but that's part of the industry.

"We are a logistics company," Kleber said. "Trucks arrive, are unloaded. Goods are sorted, packed, and loaded into trucks again."

CNET contacted Amazon for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.

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About the author

Dara Kerr is a staff writer for CNET focused on the sharing economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado where she developed an affinity for collecting fool's gold and spirit animals.

 

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