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Amazon faces Black Friday strikes by workers across Europe


By Walé Azeez, CNN Business

Amazon is facing strikes by warehouse workers and delivery drivers across Europe as its busiest weekend of the year begins.

Labor unions in Germany, Italy and France are calling for the company to pay its workers fairly and respect their right to join unions. The strikes have been called to coincide with Amazon’s annual Black Friday event, which kicks off a four-day shopping bonanza that culminates in Cyber Monday.

The action is part of a wider global protest organized by a group called Make Amazon Pay. The coalition of unions, environmentalists and tax campaigners has called for protests in 22 countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.

The international coalition is also demanding that Amazon “pays its fair share of taxes and commits to real environmental sustainability.”

An Amazon spokesperson said that the groups represented a variety of interests, and while the company was “not perfect in any area” it was taking its role and impact seriously.

“We are inventing and investing significantly in all these areas, playing a significant role in addressing climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, continuing to offer competitive wages and great benefits, and inventing new ways to keep our employees safe and healthy in our operations network, to name just a few,” the spokesperson added.

Some of its workers are not convinced.

Germany’s giant Verdi union organized a strike of warehouse workers to coincide with the launch in Berlin of “Amazon Workers against Surveillance,” a group protesting the company’s “use of apps, hand scanners, browser tools and cameras to surveil its workforce 24/7.”

“Working almost anywhere at Amazon is stressful and hazardous to one’s health,” the group said in a statement on its website.

In Italy, workers are planning to blockade warehouses and trucks at all Amazon centers across the country, and thousands of drivers are set to strike on Friday.

Warehouse workers are also striking in France, including at a logistics center in Lille, in support of demands for wage increases and bonuses, and an end to compulsory overtime.

They told CNN that Amazon has asked employees to work on all four Saturdays during December, in addition to their usual hours. For this overtime, they would get a bonus of €120 euros ($136) subject to certain conditions, the workers said.

It’s not clear how disruptive the strikes will be for Amazon, but this holiday shopping season is proving tough for retailers trying to satisfy strong consumer demand in the face of supply chain disruptions, and shortages of workers and some goods.

Make Amazon Pay was launched a year ago after 50 organizations held strikes and protests in 16 countries around the world, the coalition said.

“Today’s actions show the scale of resistance to Amazon’s exploitation at every link in its chain of abuse,” said Casper Gelderblom, a coordinator of the group.

“Workers throughout the supply chain are demanding what’s rightfully theirs when even Jeff Bezos admits their labor paid for his recent joy ride to space,” he added.

— Xiaofei Xu and Nathaniel Meyersohn contributed to this article.

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