Amazon workers across world urged to strike on Black Friday

    Activists of Greenpeace attach banners reading ‘crime’ and ‘Black Friday. Nature destruction as a business model’ at the Amazon headquarters in Munich, Germany.

    Activists of Greenpeace attach banners reading ‘crime’ and ‘Black Friday. Nature destruction as a business model’ at the Amazon headquarters in Munich, Germany.
    | Photo Credit: Reuters

    Gig Workers Association (GigWA) in association with Amazon Warehouse workers and Hawkers Joint Action Committee held protests here on Friday, demanding the global giant to pay at least ₹25,000 per month to every employee and reduce working hours from 10 hours to eight hours.

    The campaign, titled “Make Amazon Pay”, was part of the global action call given by the Make Amazon Pay coalition involving UNI Global Union, Progressive International, 80 trade unions, civil society organisations such as Oxfam and Greenpeace against Amazon “squeezing every last drop it can” from “workers, communities and the planet”.

    The organisers claimed that actions took place in States across the country, including, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and West Bengal. The workers are also protesting the firm forcing employees to work under surveillance, setting unachievable targets, 30-minute lunch breaks, messing up with punching time, use of disrespectful language against women workers and more.

    Their other demands include the provision of adequate restrooms for men and women workers, seating arrangements, enough rest time for employees who work while standing, a common crèche, equal pay for all, fixed term contract as per Indian labour law, and an end to arbitrary dismissals.

    Dharmendra Kumar, Co-convenor of Joint Action Committee against Foreign Retail and E-commerce, said Amazon is lowering working standards across the board in India. “It is based on a business model, which is ecologically disastrous and economically unviable, squeezing all including workers across the supply chain, small and independent traders, street vendors, communities, and the planet,” he said.

    Protests across the world

    Workers at Amazon sites across the world, including in the United States, Germany, and France, were urged to strike on Black Friday, targeting the online retailer on one of the busiest shopping days of the year with calls for better pay.

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    The Make Amazon Pay initiative, which made the call for strikes, said industrial action was planned in more than 30 countries.

    Germany’s Verdi union said work stoppages were planned at 10 fulfilment centres in that country.

    It demanded the company recognise collective bargaining agreements for the retail and mail order trade sector and called for a further collective agreement on good working conditions.

    “As an employer, Amazon offers great pay, benefits and development opportunities – all in an attractive and safe working environment,” a spokesperson for Amazon in Germany said in a statement.

    Among other things, the spokesperson pointed to a wage increase for Amazon logistics employees in Germany from September, with the starting wage now at 13 euros ($13.52) per hour or more, including bonus payments.

    On Friday morning, the company said the vast majority of its employees in Germany were working as normal, with strike action limited to nine of its 20 German fulfilment centres.

    A spokesperson for Amazon France said there had been no sign of disruption to operations so far.

    “This is the first time that Amazon has had an international strike day,” said Monika Di Silvestre, Verdi’s representative for Amazon workers.

    “This is very important, because a major global corporation like Amazon cannot be confronted locally, regionally or nationally alone,” she added.

    (With inputs from Reuters)

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