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Germany – Agency licenses under threat in Amazon temporary scandal

18 February 2013

The German labour minister has threatened to revoke the license of staffing firms which supplied temporary agency workers to online retailer Amazon after a TV documentary showed the poor living conditions of the workers.

The report by public broadcaster ARD last week showed how the seasonal workers, mainly from Eastern Europe and Spain, were harassed by security guards who, the programme alleged, were linked to right-wing extremist groups. The workers also had their rooms searched and were closely watched by the security personnel.

Labour minister, Ursula von der Leyen, told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the staffing companies involved in supplying the workers could lose their operating licenses.

“The suspicion weighs heavily; therefore all facts must be put on the table as quickly as possible. If the special investigation finds that there is some substance to the complaints against the employment agencies, then their licences are in question,” she said. Austrian-headquartered recruiter Trenkwalder, the ninth-largest staffing firm in Europe according to Staffing Industry Analysts’ research, is one of the firms known to have supplied agency workers to the retail giant.

Amazon said it will look into the allegations while some of its customers in Germany have started to make boycott calls over the scandal. The security firm accused of harassing the workers, H.E.S.S., denied the claims. The firm was under contract with an employment agency and not with Amazon which has now terminated its contract with the firm.  

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