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Amazon workers go on strike in Italy over labor conditions

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Key Points
  • Amazon warehouse and delivery workers in Italy have gone on a 24-hour strike to call on the company to make changes to workloads, shifts and benefits.
  • Trade unions FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL and Uiltrasporti said it's the first strike to affect Amazon's entire logistics operations in Italy.
  • An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC the company and its delivery partners "already offer what these groups are asking for."
A man holds a FIT-CISL flag outside a distribution centre during a strike at Amazon's logistics operations in Italy, in Passo Corese, Italy March 22, 2021.
Remo Casilli | Reuters

Amazon warehouse and delivery employees have gone on strike in Italy to raise concerns around working conditions.

The 24-hour strike is taking place at several Amazon warehouses in Italy, including in Tuscany, Florence and Pisa. Trade unions FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL and Uiltrasporti said it's the first national strike to affect Amazon's entire logistics operations in Italy.

The strike comes as tensions have grown between Amazon and its front-line workforce in Europe and the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic. Warehouse workers in Italy and other parts of Europe went on strike last year to call on Amazon to implement greater coronavirus safety measures. Workers across the U.S. also participated in walkouts and protests last year to highlight similar concerns.

Additionally, warehouse workers at Amazon's Bessemer, Alabama, facility, known as BHM1, are currently voting on whether to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Unions have a stronger foothold among some of Amazon's European workforce, but Amazon has managed to head off organizing efforts in the U.S.

FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL and Uiltrasporti called the strike after they said negotiations broke down with Assoespressi, an employer association representing last-mile and e-commerce couriers, including some of Amazon's third-party delivery firms in Italy.

Workers and the unions are calling on Amazon and Assoespressi to engage in discussions around shifts, the pace of work, job security when contracts change, fewer working hours for drivers and more job stability for temporary workers, among other issues. They're also calling for access to a "Covid allowance for operations in constant pandemic conditions."

Salvatore Pellecchia, general secretary of FIT-CISL, told CNBC in a statement that 75% of Amazon workers in Italy participated in the strike on Monday. He added that the union expected a lower turnout because many of the participants are temporary workers, who feel their job could be at risk if they strike.

"If Amazon does not change its position, we will be forced to organize another strike," Pellecchia said in a statement. "Amazon has registered a huge increase in turnover and profits thanks to the pandemic, and now must talk with us to give its employee what they are waiting for."

Amazon disputed FIT-CISL's claim that a significant percentage of its workers in Italy participated in the strike. Less than 10% of Amazon's 9,500 employees took part in the action, Stuart Jackson, communications director for Amazon's Europe, Middle East and Africa operations told CNBC in a statement.

"The fact is, Amazon and our Italian network of independent delivery service providers already offer what these groups are asking for — excellent pay, excellent benefits and excellent opportunities for career growth, all while working in a safe, modern work environment," Jackson said. "The unions know this."

Representatives from FILT-CGIL and Uiltrasporti didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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