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Amazon hit by strikes and environmental action over black-Friday corporate jamboree

UNIONS and environmental activists joined forces in France and Germany as Amazon faced strike action and protests to disrupt its flagship black-Friday consumer-fest.

French NGOs Attac and Les Amis de la Terre, along with the Solidaires association of unions, said in a report that the “world according to Amazon is not sustainable.”

Demonstrations took place across France to make today “a black day for Amazon,” exposing the global online retail giant’s appalling record on the environment.

Climate activists blocked the path of lorries into an Amazon depot in the south of Paris.

And protesters marched on the company’s French headquarters in Clichy, chanting slogans including: “Amazon — for the climate, for employment, stop expanding, stop overproduction.”

In a joint statement, the groups accused Amazon of increasing greenhouse-gas emissions through rapid-delivery services, of destroying unsold products and of showing a lack of transparency in its carbon budget.

Amazon denied the charges, claiming the statement was based on “erroneous” information and speculation.

The groups said that Amazon is responsible for 55.8 million tonnes of greenhouse-gas emissions — equal to those of Portugal.

Three million new products were destroyed by Amazon in France alone in 2018, according to the groups.

Amazon also denied charges of tax evasion, after it was alleged that the company hid 57 per cent of its sales in France through creative accounting practices.

The statement also exposed the poor working conditions of staff hired on insecure, short-term contracts across the world, which it claimed meant that “for every job created by Amazon, two are destroyed.”

Members of German union Verdi walked out at warehouses in Leipzig, Bad Hersfeld, Koblenz, Rheinberg, Werne and Graben in a long-term dispute over terms and conditions. 

They will strike until Tuesday, impacting on both black Friday and cyber Monday — Amazon’s annual online sale extravaganza.

“Their work cannot be had at rock-bottom prices,” Verdi said in a statement — demanding a collective labour agreement to ensure “a living wage and good, healthy jobs.”

Amazon suggested that workers at German distribution centres do not need union recognition and negotiations because it is “one of the best employers in the logistics industry.”

But the union accused Amazon of “withholding basic rights” from staff and of making them work “under extreme pressure.”

“As a result, many employees become ill,” Verdi said. 

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