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Business Ethics

Amazon fires security firm over mistreatment report

Online retailer Amazon has severed a contract with a security company accused in a television documentary of intimidating temporary workers hired for the Christmas rush. Amazon said it would not tolerate such behavior.

Mounting criticism in Germany prompted the online retail giant Amazon to announce the dismissal on Monday of a security firm featured in a German public television documentary.

The report had shown alleged mistreatment of foreign temporary workers brought into Germany from crisis-hit nations such as Spain.

Amazon said it had ended its relationship with Hensel European Security Services [H.E.S.S.] "with immediate effect."

"Amazon has a zero tolerance limit for discrimination and intimidation and expects the same of other companies we work with," spokeswoman Ulrike Stoecker told the news agency Associated Press.

H.E.S.S. had already denied any wrongdoing while supervising accommodation provided for the temporary workers.

Investigations in full swing

The documentary broadcast last Wednesday showed personnel of the security firm wearing clothes linked to the neo-Nazi scene. It also included interviews with foreign workers who claimed they were intimidated by the security guards.

The documentary also suggested there was a broader climate of bullying at Amazon's seven logistics centers in Germany, with constant pressures on temp workers to perform better and random staff searches of foreigners not aware of the country's stringent labor laws.

The German government said the Federal Employment Agency was also investigating the subcontractor which hired the security firm. "We expect the results during the course of the week, Labor Ministry spokeswoman Christina Wendt told reporters in Berlin.

Minister sought probe

At the weekend, German Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen had told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that she wanted a thorough probe.

"If the investigation shows there is something to the accusations against the temporary placement agency then its license is at risk," she warned.

Germany's large services sector union Verdi has long accused Amazon of paying its seasonal workers unfair wages and going overboard on surveillance.

hg/ipj (dpa, AP)