Online retailer Amazon has fired a German security firm which staff allegedly bullied foreign workers and had links to the neo-Nazi movement.
A documentary aired on German TV alleged that employees of Hensel European Security Services, or HESS, intimidated and harassed seasonal workers at three of Amazon’s German distribution centers, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Security staff, outfitted with black uniforms and military-style haircuts, would routinely search workers’ belongings at their cramped temporary housing at a vacant holiday park, the documentary claimed. Some employees of HESS — an acronym the documentary claimed is a direct reference to Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess — were shown wearing a clothing brand, Thor Steinar, which is linked to the neo-Nazi scene, writes the Telegraph. The documentary also alleged that HESS is headed by a man with links to soccer hooligans.
“As a responsible employer of approximately 8,000 salaried logistics employees, Amazon has zero tolerance for discrimination and intimidation and expects the same from every company we work with,” Amazon told the Financial Times.
But Amazon itself also came under scrutiny: the company, which has about 7,700 people on staff in Germany and hires additional temporary workers at peak times, paid the foreign workers less than the advertised rate, the documentary alleged. One woman from Spain claimed her contract with Amazon was terminated without explanation the day after she complained about the behavior of the security staff, Sky News reports.
The company has faced repeated criticism over working conditions in its European distribution centers. Amazon workers in Germany have long complained of intense pressure, random searches and short breaks, notes the Telegraph. And a recent investigation by the Times revealed that workers at an Amazon warehouse in the U.K. walked from 11 km to 24 km per day.