Amazon workers strike in Germany as Christmas orders peak

BERLIN - Workers at Amazon warehouses in Germany started a fresh three-day strike on Monday to press their demands for better pay and conditions as the online retailer races to ensure Christmas orders are delivered on time.

Labour union Verdi said the strike had started at five of Amazon's nine distribution centres in Germany but added it would only know later in the day how many workers participated. The walkouts are set to run until the end of Wednesday's late shift.

Verdi said delays to deliveries could not be ruled out due to the strikes, but Amazon said customers could order up until midnight on Dec. 21 to get gifts in time for Christmas, or even on Dec. 23 or 24 if they pay for "express" delivery. "We deliver reliably," an Amazon spokeswoman said.

Last year, Amazon orders in Germany peaked on Dec. 15, when customers bought 4.6 million items, or 53 per second.

Verdi has organised frequent strikes at Amazon since May 2013 as it seeks to force Amazon to raise pay for workers at its distribution centres in accordance with collective bargaining agreements across Germany's mail order and retail industry.

Amazon has repeatedly rejected the union's demands, arguing it regards warehouse staff as logistics workers and says they receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.

Amazon has previously said the long-running dispute has not affected deliveries as the vast majority of workers in Germany have not joined the strikes and it can draw on a European network of 28 warehouses in seven countries.

The US company employs almost 10,000 warehouse staff in Germany, its second-biggest market behind the United States, plus more than 10,000 seasonal workers.