Amazon warehouse workers go on strike in Germany over coronavirus infections

Key Points
  • Amazon warehouse workers have gone on strike in Germany after staff tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • Labor union Verdi said Amazon is endangering the lives of warehouse workers. 
  • Amazon said it will have invested approximately $4 billion worldwide on Covid-related initiatives.
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Amazon warehouse workers have gone on strike in Germany after staff at several logistics centers tested positive for the coronavirus.

The strikes are taking place at six of the e-commerce giant's warehouses across the country on Monday and Tuesday. 

German labor union Verdi said on Sunday that Amazon is endangering the lives of warehouse workers. 

"Amazon has so far shown no insight and is endangering the health of employees in favor of corporate profit," said Orhan Akman, who is responsible for the retail and mail order sectors at Verdi, in a statement. 

Amazon denied that it was endangering the lives of workers, adding that state health and regulatory agencies have inspected and passed 91 of its facilities since March.  

A recent outbreak at a warehouse in the town of Bad Hersfeld infected at least 30 to 40 Amazon workers, the union said. 

Strikes are being held at Amazon warehouses in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Rheinberg, Werne and Koblenz. 

"We utilize a variety of data to closely monitor the safety of our buildings and there is strong evidence that our employees are not proliferating the virus at work—what we see is that the overall rate of infection and increase or decrease of total cases is highly correlated to the overall community rate of infection," an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC. 

"We believe strongly our associates are not spreading the virus at work given the robust safety measures we've put into place. Unlike others who hide beyond HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), anytime there is a confirmed diagnosis we alert every person at the site. Employees receive a direct message noting when the person with the confirmed diagnosis was last in the building."

Similar strikes have also taken place in the U.S., where Amazon clamped down hard and fired workers

Last month, Amazon VP Tim Bray quit "in dismay" at the firm's crackdown. In a blog post, the Amazon Web Services engineer said the firing of protesters was evidence of "a vein of toxicity running through the company culture."

Amazon has been accused of having a slower response to the coronavirus than Chinese rivals Alibaba and

Over 50 Amazon "fulfilment centers" around the world have seen cases of the coronavirus, while some have dubbed the warehouses as "breeding grounds of coronavirus." At least eight Amazon warehouse workers have died as a result of the coronavirus. 

Amazon says it has gone to "great lengths" to protect workers from the virus. Temperature checks, disinfectant spraying, "enhanced" cleaning and social distancing have been introduced at warehouses, and workers are given protective masks to wear. But the virus still seems to be spreading in some warehouses. 

"The facts are: by end of June, we will have invested approximately $4 billion worldwide on COVID-related initiatives getting products to customers and keeping employees safe," an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC. 

"In Germany alone, we have ordered 470 million units of hand disinfectant, 21 million pairs of gloves, 19 million units of face masks, face shields and other mouth-nose-covers, 39 million units of disinfectant wipes. Health authorities and government officials are confirming that we have the right measures in place to protect associates and customers."