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Amazon worker strike expands to fifth German facility

The workers argue that Amazon isn't paying them enough, while the company says they're actually paid at the upper level of their grade.

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Strikes at five of Amazon's nine German facilities hinge on a debate about whether workers should be paid as mail order and retail employees or as logistics staff. Ken James/Amazon

Amazon employees in Germany have expanded their strike to a fifth location over claims the company isn't paying them enough.

Workers at a facility in Werne, Germany, kicked off their strike on Wednesday, following similar protests that started September 22 in four other facilities. The workers are protesting Amazon's wage policy, though it's not clear how many have actually walked off the job. Amazon employs 15,000 workers at its nine fulfillment centers in Germany. Verdi, the country's largest labor union and the organization that represents the Amazon workers, called for six facilities to strike against Amazon.

Amazon has been dealing with strikes across Germany since last year. During the busy holiday-shopping season, workers at distribution centers walked off the job, arguing that their pay isn't in line with their job requirements. At the heart of the issue is whether the workers are logistics or mail order and retail employees. The latter category would effectively put them in an industry that has higher average wages. Amazon maintains that they are logistics workers and actually earn more than the average logistics employee in that industry.

"Employees in Amazon's fulfillment centers work in typical areas of the logistics sector, i.e., storage, packing and distribution of products," an Amazon spokeswoman told CNET in an e-mailed statement Wednesday. "Their wages are at the upper end of the pay scale common in the logistics sector."

According to Amazon, after working for Amazon for two years, a typical logistics worker at its German facilities will earn "a minimum of 10.47 euros ($13.38) gross per hour; in year one it is 9.55 euros ($12.21)." Amazon also provides the employees with benefits and insurance.

Verdi, meanwhile, argues that Amazon is actually shortchanging its employees. Those who work in the retail sector -- the industry Verdi represents -- would typically make substantially more than that per hour, the organization says. It's now trying to get Amazon to sign a collective-bargaining agreement and agree to classify its workers as retail employees. At this point, that seems unlikely.

According to Amazon, the strikes did nothing to disrupt the fulfillment of packages at the company's German centers. Amazon doesn't anticipate any delays in service.

(Via Bloomberg)