Amazon bosses are refusing to meet with unions in Germany after another round of walkouts over pay, setting up a year of disputes between the retail giant and organized labor.
The strike continues a long-running dispute between Amazon and members of the Ver.di union for service sector workers. Amazon employees staged several pickets last year, eventually earning a concession from Amazon in the form of a Christmas bonus.
The union says that’s not enough. While Germany has no national minimum wage, it has pay-scales negotiated by each industry. Amazon currently classifies its warehouse staff as logistics workers, arguing that compared with workers in that industry, €9.55 ($13) an hour is a sweet deal.
Ver.di and its members argue they are mail workers—they should be paid the higher rate for that industry.
Semantics aside, Ver.di is using the strike in Leipzig as a warning shot to the retailer. If Amazon doesn’t get around the negotiating table after today’s action, the union is threatening to bring the retailer to its knees with national strikes lasting days at a time.
Amazon is currently running with the too-big-to-care line. It claims none of its operations have been affected by the strikes thus far, noting how it managed to fulfill all of its Christmas orders despite the pickets. Some of its employees even staged an anti-union demonstration to show solidarity with their bosses.
Still, Germany is Amazon’s second largest market outside the U.S., with around 9,000 permanent staff in nine locations and roughly 14,000 temporary workers.
In countries such as the U.K., where the GMB union is trying to sign up Amazon workers, shop stewards will be watching carefully to see what can be learned from how the German unions play their hand.