Germany Investigates Treatment of Amazon Workers
By Ina Steiner
Shocking reports about Amazon.com's alleged treatment of workers is causing a scandal in Germany. The government threatened to cancel the licenses of firms contracted by Amazon to hire temp workers and provide security if the reports were accurate, according to UK newspaper the Independent.
The reports of alleged poor working conditions and worker intimidation came from a documentary by Diana Lobl and Peter Onneken, "Ausgeliefert! Leiharbeiter bei Amazon" (Delivered! Contract workers at Amazon). The German-language film was posted to YouTube.de on Thursday.
German newspaper Spiegel noted there were no interviews with Amazon or its staffing agency in the film, and cameras remained outside the distribution centers, but said the filmmakers captured the "oppressive atmosphere" through a single protagonist - an unemployed schoolteacher from Spain.
According to the documentary, Amazon shipped in temp workers from all over Europe, including Poland, Hungary, Spain, Romania, to work for low wages during the holiday shopping season, placing them in temporary housing. Most disturbing to Germans is the alleged ties of the security workers to right wing neo-Nazis at a firm hired by Amazon's temp agency who allegedly intimidated the workers and conducted spot inspections at the residences.
Amazon told the New York Times on Friday it was investigating the claims that a subcontractor employed security guards with neo-Nazi ties to oversee the immigrant workers.
There are chronic reports about Amazon's hiring practices at its factories around the world, including this 2011 report on the AuctionBytes Blog about dangerous working conditions at a Pennsylvania warehouse.
Amazon and other companies are also facing complaints that they divert UK profits - a parliament committee chairperson told executives from Amazon, Google and Starbucks, "People want to know why companies which benefit from an infrastructure paid for by them and are paying people low wages who receive taxpayer-funded tax credits from the exchequer are not paying their fair share," according to the Guardian.
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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