Last week, 75% of the workers voted for a 24-hour strike in response to Amazon’s efforts to make life harder for its employees. The workers also called for a boycott of Amazon products from March 14-22 in order to affect Father’s Day, which was on March 19.
Now, almost all of the close to 2,000 full-timers (1,100) and temporary workers (900) at the San Fernando de Henares center in suburban Madrid are on strike. While there have been similar actions organized recently by Amazon workers in France, Italy, and Germany, this is the first strike at Amazon in the Spanish State.
Several unions (CCOO, CGT, UGT, and CSIT) called the strike after Amazon decided to replace the current contract with a new contract (the provincial agreement for the logistics sector) that would involve cuts to overtime pay as well as a pay reduction for night shifts and work on holidays, a considerable cut in sick pay, a total elimination of seniority-based wage increases, and lower general wage increases that do not even keep up with inflation.
The workers are facing massive intimidation from the bosses. There are reports that Human Resources is having individual meetings with workers to ask them if they will be striking and telling them they will have to be on call next weekend to work 9-18 hours on their day off. But the workers are not deterred. At 5:30 a.m., there were pickets to stop trucks from leaving, and a rally was held at noon.
In order to diminish the effects of the strike, Amazon began diverting packages to neighboring countries. However, workers across Europe have shown support for the strike. In Poland and Germany, Amazon workers sent solidarity. In Germany, the largest warehouses announced that they will engage in a work stoppage in solidarity with the workers in the Spanish State.
Jeff Bezos is the world’s wealthiest person with a personal net worth of over $100 billion, accumulated through the sweat and hardship of Amazon workers. A worker at the San Fernando de Hanares warehouse now makes between $25,000 and $26,000 (€20,000-21,000) per year and has not seen an increase in pay since 2016. Bezos and his company want to reduce that by €1000-2000.The working conditions at Amazon in Europe and the U.S. are already nothing short of torturous or even murderous.
Workers are expected to package products at insane speeds, lift heavy items, and meet unrealistic quotas while being constantly monitored. Perpetual exhaustion and overwork are apparently what Amazon means when it boasts that it offers “attractive jobs.”
Various reports have revealed that bathroom breaks are too short, workers are discouraged from sitting down during ten-hour shifts, and there is little or no natural light in the centers. An article published in November of 2017 quotes a worker in Essex, UK saying, “Two half-hour breaks were the only time off my feet, but it was barely enough time to race to the canteen and wolf down some food to keep my energy up.”
According to the undercover investigator who wrote the piece, some workers sleep outside near the warehouse in order to make it to work on time, and almost everybody suffers regular physical injuries and acute anxiety.
This is what capitalism looks like. Amazon will not change their barbarous practices on its own, and neither will any other capitalist enterprise. The only way for workers to fight against this exploitation is to stand up, stop working, and demand their rights.