After a documentary aired on the German TV channel ARD on Wednesday night, Amazon.com(NASDAQ:AMZN) is coming under fire for hiring alleged neo-Nazi security guards, who were shown routinely intimidating temporary workers at Amazon supply centers in Augsburg and Konztanz in the south, and Bad Hersfeld in the center of the country, the Telegraph said.
The security company, named HESS security, shares a name with Rudolf Hess, who was Adolf Hitler’s deputy in the Nazi Party during its reign over Germany. The temporary workers, many of them immigrants, were hired during the pre-Christmas rush, and were housed in hostels and budget hotels. The documentary showed the guards invading and searching the worker’s bedrooms and kitchens, and telling the workers that they were mandated to “keep order” in their homes.
Workers said that they were searched for pilfered breakfast food, and one woman named Maria told the documentary crew that she was confronted by a large, tattooed guard and told to leave her shared apartment after using a wall heater to dry her clothes.
In the film, the security guards were shown with close-cropped, military-style haircuts, and black leather clothing from designer Thor Steinar, a haberdasher who is closely associated in Germany with far-right politics. The federal government in Germany has banned the sale of the Steinar brand because of the neo-Nazi assocations, and Amazon also banned the sale of this clothing in 2009, the US Independent reported.
HESS Security is headed by a man named Uwe L, who is associated with football hooligans and men known to the German police as neo-Nazis.
At one point the film showed the guards assaulting the documentary crew and demanding they hand over the recordings when they were discovered using cameras.
Amazon currently employs 7,700 full time workers in Germany. In an official statement to the Associated Press, Amazon denied hiring HESS security, and said, “We are, of course, currently examining the allegations concerning the behavior of security guards and will take the appropriate measures immediately. We do not tolerate discrimination or intimidation.”
The United Services Union in Germany also reported other abuses of the temporary workers. Many lived in cramped quarters and had to walk up to 17 kilometers (more than 10 miles) to and from work every day. If they were late, their pay was docked. And many, when they arrived, were informed they would be earning lower wages than they were originally told.
“They don’t see any way of complaining,” said Heiner Reimann, a spokesman for the United Services Union in Germany, to the Independent. “They are all too frightened of being sent home without a job.”
USU also told reporters that Amazon workers have been complaining for years of harsh work conditions.
USU is a worldwide trade union that claims 2.6 million members.
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