Amazon quits Neo-Nazi subcontractor
Amazon says it has terminated the contract of HESS Security after they were accused of using security guards with neo-Nazi connections to intimidate its foreign workers.
The allegations were made by a German television channel in a documentary about Amazon’s treatment of more than 5,000 temporary staff at its German packing and distribution centres.
According to the Independent newspaper the film showed omnipresent guards from a company named HESS Security wearing black uniforms, boots and with military haircuts. They were employed to keep order at hostels and budget hotels where foreign workers stayed. “Many of the workers are afraid,” the programme-makers said.
The documentary provided photographic evidence showing that guards regularly searched the bedrooms and kitchens of foreign staff.
Several guards were shown wearing Thor Steinar clothing – a Berlin-based designer brand synonymous with the far-right in Germany. The Bundesliga football association and the federal parliament have both banned the label because of its neo-Nazi associations. Ironically, Amazon stopped selling the clothing for the same reasons in 2009.
ARD suggested that the name “HESS Security” was an allusion to Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. It alleged that its director was a man, named only as Uwe L, who associated with football hooligans and convicted neo-Nazis who were known to police. The programme-makers, who booked in at one of the budget hotels where Amazon staff were housed, said they were arrested by HESS Security guards after being caught using cameras. They were ordered to hand over their film and, when they refused, were held for nearly an hour before police arrived and freed them. The film showed HESS guards scuffling with the camera crew and trying to cover their lenses.
ARD said Amazon’s temporary staff worked eight-hour shifts packing goods at the company’s logistics centres in Bad Hersfeld, Konstanz and Augsburg. Many walked up to 17 kilometres per shift and all those taken on could be fired at will. On arrival in Germany, most were told their pay had been cut to below the rate promised when they applied for jobs at Amazon. “They don’t see any way of complaining,” said Heiner Reimann, a spokesman for the United Services Union (Ver.di). “They are all too frightened of being sent home without a job.”
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