Dark clouds gather over Amazon on Black Friday

The company reportedly has plans to lay-off 10,000 employees, the largest workforce reduction in the company’s history. Photo: EPA/JUSTIN LANE

As the company reportedly plans to lay off around 10,000 employees in corporate and technology roles, dark clouds gathered on Black Friday over Amazon’s warehouses in France and Germany where workers went on strike to demand salary increases and better working conditions.

In France, dozens of striking Amazon workers gathered outside the warehouse in the southern suburbs of Paris, demanding their salaries be raised and working conditions improved.

The “Make Amazon Pay” initiative made the call for strikes, and said industrial action was planned in more than 30 countries, including the United States. Workers picked Black Friday, a day of massive sales around the globe, to boost the outreach of their message while targeting the world’s most famous online retailer.

France's SUD and CGT unions called for strike action in the country's eight warehouses, Reuters reported.

Nevertheless, Amazon France claimed there had been no sign of disruption to operations so far. The rising cost of living, two French union officials said, would lessen turnout as employees were more inclined to seek overtime.

The demand of unions striking in France is a higher cash bonus for the period preceding Christmas, during which employees at warehouses are asked to do overtime work.

Downing tools in Germany

In Germany, some Amazon workers downed tools at nine of Amazon's 20 warehouses in the country.

In the western city of Koblenz, workers were seen standing outside near a red-and-white banner that read "We're on strike" in German, French and English.

“With the small amount of money or salary that you earn, you can't live in this time,” one worker and father of three, Bastian Zefi, told Reuters.

It is the Verdi union that called the strikes in Germany. It demanded that the company recognizes collective labour agreements for the retail and mail-order trade sector.

Germany is experiencing its highest inflation rate in decades, exceeding 10 percent. Verdi spokesperson Petra Kusenberg called the recent wage increase at Amazon “a drop in the bucket” at three percent.

Another demand by the union was a further labour agreement on workers' wellbeing, with Ms Kusenberg noting that warehouse employees can walk 15-20 km per day on the job.

Amazon claimed that the vast majority of its employees in Germany were working as normal on Friday.

Amazon to shut down its food-delivery business in India

In India, Amazon’s food-delivery business is seeing its last day of existence as it is to be shut down in the future, according to the e-commerce giant’s Friday statement.

Amazon Food, a business the company was trialling in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru, would be discontinued, Amazon said.

“As part of our annual operating planning review process, we have made the decision to discontinue Amazon Food,” a company spokesperson told Reuters. “We don't take these decisions lightly. We are discontinuing these programmes in a phased manner to take care of current customers and partners.”

As reported earlier by the Economic Times, the business would be discontinued from December 29 onwards.

The announcement surfaced a day after Amazon announced the phasing out of its online learning platform for high-school students in the country – the Amazon Academy platform. The service was launched early last year amid a boom in virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the decreasing certainty of the macroeconomic environment, the e-commerce giant has reviewed its global workforce while planning to lay off around 10,000 employees in corporate and technology roles.