* Amazon workers in Germany go on strike again
* Verdi union says more strikes to follow
* Report by undercover journalist slams Zalando
* Zalando denies allegations, sues journalist
(Recasts, adds union comment, details on Zalando)
FRANKFURT, April 17 Working practices at the
German operations of two of Europe's largest online retailers
have come under fire this week, with more strikes at Amazon
and Zalando being forced to defend its warehouse
operations after a critical TV report.
Hundreds of workers walked off their jobs on Thursday at
Amazon distribution centres in the German cities of Bad Hersfeld
and Leipzig in a year-long pay dispute, and labour union Verdi
warned that more walkouts were to follow.
"We are here and will continue to strike," workers'
representative Christian Kraehling told Reuters. "And there will
be more, bigger strikes."
Verdi wants Amazon to raise pay for workers at its
distribution centres in accordance with collective bargaining
agreements across the mail order and retail industry in Germany.
Amazon, however, has rejected the demand, arguing that it
regards warehouse staff as logistics workers and says they
receive above-average pay by the standards of that industry.
The workers have gone on strike repeatedly in the pay
dispute, which started around a year ago, including in the
run-up to Christmas when online retailers rely on business from
customers buying gifts on the Internet.
Verdi also wants to gain more representation at Zalando,
Europe's biggest online fashion retailer, which was the subject
this week of a television report in which an undercover reporter
got a job at one of its warehouses under a fake name and used a
hidden camera to film working practices.
"We are working on organising colleagues at Zalando," Stefan
Najda, Verdi's representative for online and mail order, told
Reuters on Thursday.
The TV report alleged that stock pickers - whose main task
is to gather from shelves goods ordered by customers - were not
allowed to rest during their shifts, were encouraged to snoop on
colleagues and were poorly paid.
Zalando, whose biggest investor is Swedish firm Kinnevik
, said the report "in no way reflects the company
culture and worker sentiment at our logistics sites" and has
pressed charges against the journalist for disclosure of trade
and company secrets.
Prosecutors in the eastern German city of Erfurt, where the
warehouse is located, are investigating the complaint by
Zalando, which has long been seen as a possible share flotation
Other companies are turning to automation when it comes to
stock picking. Sportswear giant Adidas, for example,
last year opened a new fully-automated distribution centre near
Osnabrueck in which it had invested over 100 million euros ($138
million). Employees there do not do any of the stock picking
themselves, a spokesman said.
In Britain, online retailer Ocado is known for its
state-of-the-art distribution technology, where automated
systems fill baskets from central depots according to shopper's
online orders. That contrasts with other retailers offering
online ordering such as Tesco or Sainsbury,
which mostly pick orders in regular stores rather than
($1 = 0.7243 Euros)
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan and Victoria Bryan; Additional
reporting by Matthias Inverardi and Nikola Rotscheroth; editing
by Greg Mahlich and Tom Pfeiffer)