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Amazon Workers Strike In Germany As Christmas Orders Peak 606

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Washington Post reports that in Germany, Amazon's second-biggest market behind the United States, hundreds of Amazon.com workers went on strike just as pre-Christmas sales were set to peak, in a dispute over pay and conditions that has raged for months. Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff members in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centers, says that 1,115 employees joined the strike at three sites. 'Amazon must realize it cannot export its anti-union labor model to European shores. We call on the company to come to the table and sign a global agreement that guarantees the rights of workers,' says Philip Jennings of the global trade union UNI. Verdi organized several short stoppages this year to try to force Amazon to accept collective-bargaining agreements ... The union says Amazon workers receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs and that other retailers pay overtime, but Amazon does not. 'What Amazon is doing is taking this American race-to-the-bottom roadshow to Germany and trying it out on our German brothers and sisters,' says David Freiboth. Amazon has defended its wage policies, saying that employees earn toward the upper end of the pay scale of logistics companies in Germany. Amazon also says it prefers to address employment issues with worker councils at individual sites rather than through negotiations with the union. Amazon says that there have been no delays to deliveries ... adding that Amazon uses its whole European logistics network during the Christmas period to ensure delivery times. A delegation of German workers was set to rally at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle along with U.S. unions. 'We're standing in solidarity with them. We are asking that Amazon respect the union there in Germany and negotiate in a way that is acceptable to Verdi,' says Kathy Cummings of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which was also attending the protest in Seattle."

Facebook Building a Company Town 159

cold fjord writes "The Wall Street Journal reports, 'Facebook Inc.'s sprawling campus in Menlo Park, Calif., is so full of cushy perks that some employees may never want to go home. ... The social network said this week it is working with a local developer to build a $120 million, 394-unit housing community within walking distance of its offices. ... the 630,000 square-foot rental property will include everything from a sports bar to a doggy day care. Even in Silicon Valley, where tech companies compete to lure coveted engineers with over-the-top perks and offices that resemble adult playgrounds, Facebook's plan breaks new ground. A Facebook spokeswoman said employee retention wasn't a major factor in the real estate push. "We're certainly excited to have more housing options closer to campus, but we believe that people work at Facebook because what they do is rewarding and they believe in our mission," she said. Some employees had inquired about places to live near the corporate campus, she said ... The development conjures up memories of so-called "company towns" at the turn of the 20th century, where American factory workers lived in communities owned by their employer and were provided housing, health care, law enforcement, church and just about every other service necessary.'"

400 Million Chinese Cannot Speak Mandarin 562

dryriver writes with this excerpt from a thought-provoking report at the BBC: "China's Education Ministry says that about 400 million people — or 30% of the population — cannot speak the country's national language. Of the 70% of the population who can speak Mandarin, many do not do it well enough, a ministry spokeswoman told Xinhua news agency on Thursday. The admission from officials came as the government launched another push for linguistic unity in China. China is home to thousands of dialects and several minority languages. These include Cantonese and Hokkien, which enjoy strong regional support. Mandarin — formally called Putonghua in China, meaning 'common tongue' — is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. The Education Ministry spokeswoman said the push would be focusing on the countryside and areas with ethnic minorities."

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