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Amazon warehouse workers protest in Europe on Black Friday

Boxes and parcels were stacked in bays ahead of shipping at an Amazon.com fulfilment center in Koblenz, Germany, Friday.
Boxes and parcels were stacked in bays ahead of shipping at an Amazon.com fulfilment center in Koblenz, Germany, Friday. (Alex Kraus/Bloomberg News)

Amazon.com Inc. employees in Europe protested warehouse working conditions, some using the slogan “we are not robots,” in another challenge for the world’s biggest online retailer heading into its busiest time of year.

Workers in Germany, Spain, and France walked off the job at Amazon fulfillment centers on Black Friday, one of the busiest online shopping days of the year. In Italy and the United Kingdom, workers protested at several facilities, according to Bloomberg Law.

More than 600 German workers at the company’s Bad Hersfeld facility walked out on Friday morning local time. In Spain, workers at Amazon’s Madrid-area San Fernando de Henares facility planned a two-day strike Friday and Saturday. That facility employs 1,800 workers and was last on strike during Amazon Prime Day, another major shopping day for the company in May, according to UNI Global Union.

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About 500 workers in the United Kingdom demonstrated at five Amazon warehouses, according to the GMB union. Membership in the union among Amazon employees is small, national officer Mick Rix said. Images on social media showed small groups of people gathered with banners from the union.

“What we’re saying is Jeff Bezos, you’re the richest man in the world, you have the wealth and ability to make sure your workers are treated with respect and dignity,” Rix said. “You as the wealthiest man in the world would prefer to spend your wealth on space travel rather than on the people who create your wealth.”

Germany and the United Kingdom are among Amazon’s biggest international markets, accounting for more than $27 billion in sales in 2017. Germans are expected to buy about $2.7 billion worth of goods on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, an increase of about 15 percent over last year. Amazon does not disclose sales totals for Spain.

Earlier this week, the company said it mistakenly shared customer data with undisclosed parties, a privacy misstep heading into the key holiday shopping period.

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Amazon said on Friday that the demonstrations in Europe did not disrupt operations and disputed the level of protest participation claimed by some unions. The company has invested about $31 billion and created more than 75,000 permanent jobs in Europe since 2010, it said in an e-mail.