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According to Bloomberg Billionaires, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is now “the richest person in modern history”.
This probably won’t provide much comfort for Amazon’s workers in parts of Europe, though. They have gone on strike in protest of pay and work conditions, on the same day that the news about Bezos was released, according to Newsweek.
Workplace health hazards and long hours without bonuses are the cause of protests carried out by Amazon workers in Germany, Spain and Poland.
Spain’s Amazon warehouse saw 1 800 workers down tools in strike action that is set to continue throughout Wednesday. Thousands of workers in Germany were striking on Tuesday, with workers in Poland currently on a go-slow.
Meanwhile, in America, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health named Amazon as one of the most dangerous places to work in the country.
The industrial action coincides with a day of special deals offered by Amazon called Prime Day, as well as with news that Bezos’s net worth is now estimated at $152 billion, making him richer than anyone else since the first wealth ranking was published in 1982.
The richest man in modern history was previously Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose net worth when he was the richest man in modern history would be $149 billion today when taking inflation into account.
The Amazon billionare’s net worth, after rising by $52 billion, is now more than the annual GDP of more than 100 countries, including Lebanon, Macau and Slovenia.
This puts the complaints of Amazon’s workers in stark contrast to its CEO’s success.
According to Stefanie Nutzenberger of German labor union Verdi: “The message is clear, while the online giant gets rich, it is saving money on the health of its workers.”
Amazon has repeatedly faced criticism over its treatment of workers. Warehouse workers walked out in Germany and Italy on Black Friday last year, complaining of difficult conditions and reports that some staff were injured on the job and collapsed from exhaustion.
Amazon has denied these allegations, with a spokesperson telling Engadget: “Amazon is proud to have created over 130 000 new jobs in the last year alone. One of the reasons we’ve been able to attract so many people to join us is that our number one priority is to ensure a positive and safe working environment.”