Amazon workers strike in Italy over pandemic-driven delivery demands

By Elvira Pollina

MILAN (Reuters) – Amazon employees in Italy went on a 24-hour strike on Monday. This was the first such action by the US company’s entire logistics operation in the country, including third-party delivery service providers.

Unions estimate that Amazon’s delivery systems rely on 40,000 employees in Italy, including those in the logistics department, which employs most of Amazon’s 9,500 long-term employees in the country.

The Italian unions FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL and Uiltrasporti called the 24-hour strike after failing to reach common ground at two meetings with Amazon in January and the breakdown of negotiations with the employers’ association Assoespressi, which represents supply companies.

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Uiltrasporti’s Marco Odone said protests were widespread on Amazon websites and preliminary estimates showed that 70% to 75% of workers did not call in at work.

A spokeswoman for Amazon, which has 40 logistics centers in Italy, said less than 10% of its employees and around 20% of third-party workers had joined the strike.

“We are currently not calling for salary increases, but a more humane work plan,” FIT-CISL Secretary General Salvatore Pellecchia told Reuters.

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The Italian protest comes after a surge in e-commerce, with goods sold online increasing by a record 31% to 23.4 billion euros in 2020, according to data from the Politecnico University of Milan.

“Sometimes you can’t find parking or people are not home to make sure you are on your schedule, drive fast and risk fines or worse,” said Bruno Gambardella, who has worked for an Amazon supplier since 2017.

Mariangela Marseglia, Country Manager at Amazon in Italy, said in a letter to customers that the company puts workers first, be it in their own right or as a contractor, and offers a safe and inclusive work environment, competitive wages and benefits.

The unions had asked Amazon to start talks about workers for the company’s contractors, but the company declined.

Employees at Amazon’s fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, are voting on whether to become the first unionized Amazon facility in the United States

Last week, Amazon announced it would invest 120 million euros in a new distribution center near the northern city of Bergamo and hire 900 people on permanent contracts within three years.

Amazon, whose sales in Italy were € 4.5 billion in 2019, has invested € 5.8 billion in the country since 2010.

“We don’t want to stop the growth of Amazon in Italy, we just want to make it more sustainable for workers,” said Odone.

($ 1 = 0.8384 euros)

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; writing by Valentina Za; editing by Alexander Smith and Cynthia Osterman)

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