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Amazon faces strike threat in Germany over pay, conditions

A worker packs boxes at Amazon's logistics centre in Graben near Augsburg December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
A worker packs boxes at Amazon's logistics centre in Graben near Augsburg December 17, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

By Victoria Bryan

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Global internet retailer Amazon.com could be facing its first strike in Germany by warehouse workers seeking better pay and benefits.

Amazon employs around 9,000 people across Germany and has come under fire from trade union Verdi for refusing to implement a collective agreement on employment conditions, in keeping with the country's other mail order and retail firms.

The union is also pressing for higher basic pay and bigger supplements for night shifts.

Amazon workers in the eastern city of Leipzig voted in favor of strike action earlier this month and staff at Bad Hersfeld, a town in central Germany where 3,700 are employed, joined them on Monday.

Verdi said almost 98 percent of those taking part in the ballot at Bad Hersfeld voted in favor of strike action.

"Amazon's management should ... finally start talks on a collective agreement," the union's negotiator Bernhard Schiederig said.

A strike, which would delay deliveries to customers, could come within weeks, Schiederig told Reuters, although no date has been set.

Schiederig also told Reuters he thought a site visit by Peer Steinbrueck, the opposition Social Democrat candidate for chancellor, to Bad Hersfeld on Monday, where he met Amazon Germany boss Ralf Kleber and labour representatives, had gone well.

But he said management had again refused to enter negotiations on a collective agreement, though said they were happy to hold further talks with Verdi.

In Leipzig, the union is calling for starting pay of 10.66 euros ($13.89) an hour, compared with 9.30 euros now. In Bad Hersfeld, they want pay of 9.83 euro to be increased to 12.18.

Amazon Germany was not immediately available for comment on Monday. It has previously said that it pays wages that are competitive.

The online retailer hit headlines in Germany in February after it employed security staff from a company linked to a neo-Nazi group who were bullying its employees.

Amazon has since terminated the contract, saying it regretted the events.

($1 = 0.7676 euros)

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Anneli Palmen; Edited by Stephen Brown, John Stonestreet)

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