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Amazon hit by first strike in Germany

Striking Amazon workers outside the company's logistics centre in Leipzig, Germany, on May 14, 2013
Striking Amazon workers outside the company's logistics centre in Leipzig, Germany, on Tuesday. German employees of Amazon staged their first-ever walkouts on Tuesday as the US Internet retail giant was hit by a dispute over pay.

German employees of Amazon staged their first-ever walkouts on Tuesday as the US Internet retail giant was hit by a dispute over pay.

Employees at two logistics centres in Bad Hersfeld and Leipzig launched a strike with the start of the early shift at 6:00 am (0400 GMT), the giant services sector union Verdi said.

In Bad Hersfeld, strikers planned to march to a rally in the city centre at around 11:00 am (0900 GMT), while employees in Leipzig rallied in front of the warehouse.

"There's a good atmosphere. The whole thing is really great," said Verdi's chief negotiator Joerg Lauenroth-Mago.

Verdi is demanding that Amazon's 9,000 employees in Germany be paid according to a sector-wide wage deal for the retail and mail-order industries.

Striking Amazon workers near the company's logistics centre in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, on May 14, 2013
Striking Amazon workers near the company's logistics centre in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, on Tuesday.

But the head of Amazon Germany, Ralf Kleber, rejected such demands in recent press interviews.

Bad Hersfeld is the largest of Amazon's seven distribution centres in Germany, with a workforce of more than 3,000. The Leipzig site employs around 2,000 people.

Amazon says it pays an hourly wage of 9.30 euros ($12) to employees in their first year and then 10 euros after that.

Verdi is calling for a minimum hourly wage of 10.66 euros for Leipzig.

Amazon's working conditions in Germany were the subject of a public television documentary earlier this year which accused the group of bringing workers in from crisis-hit countries such as Spain to work at Amazon warehouses.

The documentary alleged that employees were subjected to bullying from security personnel, some of whom wore clothing associated with neo-Nazi groups.

It also alleged that Amazon paid the workers less than advertised and that their belongings were regularly searched in the temporary housing they were provided.

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