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Amazon ‘treats its workers like swine’ – German TV report

ARD has filmed a documentary on Amazon in Germany. It finds maltreatment of foreign workers, who are put on schedules with little sleep between one shift and the next and are under constant security surveillance. They get paid 1,500 Euros a month. This is the unfriendly face of Amazon. Watch the doc here (auf Deutsch)

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  1. Norman, is that number right? If they are really paid €1500 / week I can well imagine workers, foreign nationals or locals, being happy to put in a lot of hours for that. Over a 48-week working year that’s €72,000 assuming holiday unpaid (= $96,000 or £62,000).
    I imagine you might mean per month, though?

    There was an interesting magazine article recently in one of the UK broadsheet weekend supplements looking at an Amazon warehouse in Rugeley, UK.

  2. For an English version read the extensive Financial Times article from Feb 8th by Sarah O’Connor.

    • Yes, interesting article in FT.

      • It is too bad that the British government has not required that Amazon comply with minimum standards that correct the abuses cited in the Financial Times article. Also, it’s too bad that Amazon workers have been unable to organize effectively. Jobs are desperately needed, but that should not be an excuse for substandard working conditions. Moreover, Amazon does want a presence in the U.K., so it is not as if they would close shop and move their business elsewhere.

  3. !500 euros a month is more than double my UK state pension in euros.

  4. How do these figures compare with the salaries of workers in traditional bookstores? Never above minimum wage, usually far below. Historically, workers in bookstores are college students who’ve “dropped out” for a year or two and enjoy being surrounded by books, plus the occasional good conversation. It’s always been a lousy job from the standpoint of economics.

  5. Martin Locher says:

    Former employee claims the TV report was wrong (in German):

  6. Martin Locher says:

    Latest column on (in German) –> Das Märchen vom bösen Online-Giganten

  7. Martin Locher says:

    I finally took my time to watch the German TV report.
    Very alarming information indeed. Although, as mentioned above, the “darkness” of the report is contested.

    I see some main problems, which are surely not an “Amazon only” issue:

    A: Companies are allowed to employ as many contractors as they want for as long as they want. I think they should be limited to a certain percentage and certain periods. I understand that companies like Amazon won’t hire staff for all year, if they only need the workers during the festive days and that’s perfectly fine to me. Even during this time though there should be clear guidelines how workers need to be treated.

    B: Workers loaned in from abroad often are not aware of their rights. They don’t speak or read the local language, which makes it hard for them to live a live outside of work. They leave their home countries without having a contract in hand.

    C: Travel to and from work and accommodation are not ruled by a law (or not enforced?). If temp workers are loaned in from abroad or from far away, the employer should be forced to organize their stay to an acceptable standard. Opportunities to shop and cook for themselves and not be forced to eat certain portions by certain restaurants, as the report suggested.

    I find it strange too, that workers are forced to arrive at work hours before shift start, because there’s only one bus to work. If a company decides to do their business outside of a public transport network and/or pay their workers so bad that they couldn’t afford those services anyway, the employer should be forced to transport workers to and back from work just before a shift starts or ends. Maybe a 1 hour wait seems acceptable.

    In addition to that, I find it strange, that Amazon uses a security service, which allows their workers to wear clothes connecting them clearly to the right wing scene. This is unaccaptable, especially when the security staff mainly “looks after” foreigners.

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