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Conflict at Amazon

Letter from the union section of Inicjatywa Pracownicza at Amazon in Poznan/Poland to all Ver.di shop stewards and all Amazon workers in Germany
on the solidarity actions with the Amazon strike in Germany and the opening of the collective labor dispute at Amazon in Poland

(June 29, 2015)

The conflict between the workforce and the employer at Amazon in Poznan has been smouldering for several months. Already some time ago the workers organized in the union Inicjatywa Pracownicza [IP – Workers Initiative] have called attention to various problems. Hundreds of workers have signed petitions against work on official holidays, rising norms, low wages, and recently against changes of shift times.

The final straw came on June 24 and 25, 2015, when the shifts were prolonged from ten to eleven hours while workers in German Amazon centers were on strike. The workers in Poznan knew about the strike in Germany because IP-members had distributed flyers presenting the demands of Ver.di, the union of the Amazon workers in Germany, and had pinned photos of strike rallies in Germany onto the IP’s black board. IP-representatives also wore strike-T-shirts with the slogan ”Pro Amazon mit Tarifvertrag“ [Pro Amazon with a collective agreement] they had received from Verdi-activists (a collective agreement is the main demand of the striking workers in Germany). Banners were hung up on road bridges in Sady [the suburb of Poznan were the Amazon warehouse is located] with the slogan: ”We support the strikes at Amazon in Germany!“
 
During the night shift from June 24 to 25, a part of the workforce in Poznan decided to spontaneously show its solidarity and express its discontent with the general working conditions and wages at Amazon in Poznan by working slowly during the eleventh working hour [that was added due to the strike in Germany]. Other workers refused to work during the strikes in Germany and shortly beforehand took a day off because they did not want to act as strike breakers.

We do not know all reasons and motivations of those who took part in the events during the night from June 24 to 25. However, we understand that the spontaneous reaction and the fact that workers took things into their own hands go back to Amazon’s worker hostile strategies and the fact that the employer has ignored all the demands workers from Poznan have made so far.

In the past few days since the protests, a series of disciplinary interviews has taken place, and, so far, at least five workers (mainly female workers from the Pick department) were suspended (but still get paid). Inicjatywa Pracownicza has made the following statement on that on June 25:

"Based on information the cross-company section of OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza got from workers regarding the suspensions of, at least, four workers we demand to get an explanation for the suspensions. According to what we know so far, the only reason for the actions taken by the employer is to put pressure on the workforce that spontaneously expressed its support for the strike at Amazon in Germany and the demands of the German colleagues. In our view, such repressive measures won’t calm down the sentiments among the workforce in Poznan but further stoke up the smoldering conflict. For that reason, we appeal to the management to take back the suspensions of the Amazon workers and to start negotiations with OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza on the improvement of labor conditions and wages.“

On June 28, another worker was suspended. Other workers have told us that during disciplinary interviews management representatives denied members of IP to take part although they have the right to do so. IP demands the immediate stop of these illegal actions that are directed against the interests of union members.

Meanwhile, under the impression of the protest and Amazon’s reaction more than thirty other workers have joined IP in the past few days.

During the memorial celebration on the workers’ uprising in Poznan in June 1956, members of IP at Amazon were standing among others in front of the gate of the Cegielski plant [formerly the biggest factory in the city and center of the uprising in 1956] when this statement was read: ”For Inicjatywa Pracownicza the workers’ social demands are at the center – now and then. We should remember that the Cegielski workers took to the streets against rising norms and lower wages. Now there is a conflict at Amazon, and the workers make the same demands.“

Inicjatywa Pracownicza declares its support for the current and upcoming strikes of our colleagues at Amazon Germany who are organized in the union Ver.di. We demand that Amazon in Poland takes back the suspensions and stops bullying the workforce. Otherwise we are forced to organize protest actions. We ask the workers in Poland and Germany to stay united. Our common aim is the struggle for dignity, better working conditions and better wages – across the borders!

Attachment – Opening of the labor dispute and list of demands to Amazon in Poland

According to section 1 and section 7 of the law on the settlement of collective labor disputes the Cross-Company Secttion of OZZ Inicjatywa Pracownicza at the AMAZON Fulfillment Poland Sp. z o.o. demands the following from the employer:

1. Increase of the hourly wage to, at least, 16 zloty an hour (before tax).
Due to the yearly raised minimum wage [in Poland], the increasing labor work load and the rising norms the workers expect wage increases.

2. Introduction of wage supplements based on seniority.
Due to the large labor turnover in the company the experienced workers who have already been employed for a longer period should get wage supplements based on seniority.

3. Introduction of an employee share scheme.
The workers demand that shares, used by Amazon in many other countries as an incentive, are introduced in Poland as well.

4. Introduction of shift plans for a whole year.
The current monthly shift plans make it difficult to plan the time off work. The workers demand shift plans for a whole year, something the Amazon employees in Germany already have.

5. Introduction of a work break regulation according to the real break times.
Due to the long distance between the work places and the break rooms the break time has to be recorded correctly, for instance, at the gate and not at the break bell in the hall.

In case the demands listed will not be fulfilled, then, starting on July 4, 2015, the union is in the state of a labor dispute with the employer. After that negotiations will take place in the next few weeks. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, an external mediator will conduct a mediation process. Without any progress in the negotiations the union has the right to organize a two-hour warning strike. If there is no agreement at the end the workforce has the right to officially go on strike.
__________________________

Translated and slightly rearranged version; Polish version see
 http://www.ozzip.pl/teksty/informacje/pilne-akcje/item/1950-wybuch-konfliktu-spor-zbiorowy-i-represje-w-amazonie;

German version see: http://www.ozzip.pl/english-news/item/1952-der-konflikt-bei-amazon

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