By Elvira Pollina
MILAN (Reuters) - Amazon workers in Italy went on a 24-hour strike on Monday in the first such action by the U.S. company's entire logistics operation in the country, including third-party delivery service providers.
Trade unions estimate Amazon's delivery systems rely on 40,000 workers in Italy including staff at its logistics arm, which employs most of Amazon's 9,500 long-term staff in the country.
Italy's FILT-CGIL, FIT-CISL and Uiltrasporti unions called the 24-hour strike after failing to reach common ground at two meetings in January with Amazon and the collapse of negotiations with employers association Assoespressi, which represents delivery firms.
Marco Odone of Uiltrasporti said protests were widespread across Amazon sites and preliminary estimates found 70% to 75% of workers did not report to their jobs.
A spokeswoman for Amazon, which has over 40 logistics centres in Italy, said fewer than 10% of its employees and around 20% of third-party workers had joined the strike.
"We're not asking for pay rises right now, but for a more humane working schedule," FIT-CISL Secretary Generale Salvatore Pellecchia told Reuters.
The Italian protest comes after an e-commerce surge, with goods sold online in 2020 rising by a record 31% to 23.4 billion euros, data from Milan's Politecnico University shows.
"Sometime you can't find parking or people aren't home, to make sure you meet your schedule, you drive fast risking fines or worse," Bruno Gambardella, who has worked since 2017 for an Amazon supplier, said.
Mariangela Marseglia, country manager for Amazon in Italy, said in a letter to customers that the company put workers first, whether its own or contractors, and offered a safe and inclusive work environment, competitive pay as well as benefits.
Unions had called on Amazon to enter talks regarding workers for the company's contractors, but the company refused.
Workers at Amazon's fulfilment centre in Bessemer, Alabama, are voting on whether to become the first unionized Amazon facility in the United States
Last week, Amazon said it would invest 120 million euros ($143 million) in a new distribution centre near the northern city of Bergamo, hiring 900 staff with a permanent contract within three years.
Amazon, whose turnover in Italy was 4.5 billion euros in 2019, has invested 5.8 billion euros in the country since 2010.
"We don't want to stop Amazon's growth in Italy, we just want to make it more sustainable for workers," Odone said.
($1 = 0.8384 euros)
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Writing by Valentina Za; Editing by Alexander Smith and Cynthia Osterman)