Several of Amazon warehouses in the US have been hit by the coronavirus, with Amazon workers testing positive for Covid-19 in various states, according to Amazon and local media reports.
They include New York, Florida, Shepherdsville, Kentucky, Jacksonville, Texas, Michigan, Oklahoma City and Florida. In some of these cases, Amazon has shut down its facilities for cleaning, and employees who have been in close contact with infected staff have been quarantined, according to staff.
Last week, after employees from warehouses in the US, as well as Spain and Italy, tested positive for the virus, staff have claimed that the company is not doing enough to protect them from getting infected. More than 1,500 workers from around the world signed a petition, calling on the company to take additional steps to ensure their ‘safety’.
According to staff, the company’s ‘per-hour rate’ discourages safe sanitary practices, such as hand-washing, and it was not doing enough to ensure ‘safe distances’ were maintained, particularly during staff meetings. Amazon staff raised their concerns, shortly after the company announced plans to hire 100,000 new workers to help cope with floods of orders, particularly from areas under lockdown – across the US and Europe. Warehouse workers, along with delivery drivers, particularly in highly affected areas are struggling to ship packages to millions of customers who are under house arrest or lockdown to avoid spreading the deadly coronavirus.
In response to the discontent and requests for more assistance, Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos, published an open letter to his employees, thanking them for their work during the coronavirus crisis. “We’re providing a vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable. People are depending on us,” he stated.
However, Bezos admitted that he is struggling to get workers all the protection his staff need, such as masks “because of the global shortage”. Bezos said that Amazon has put in orders for millions of face masks for employees and contractors, but few of these orders have come through, “as masks remain hard to find around the world, as governments are directing supplies to medical workers.”
Bezos said “Amazon’s leadership has already instituted many new protocols, including increased cleaning in fulfillment centres”. It has since “adopted guidelines to ensure regularly cleaning door handles, stairway handrails, and touch screens, etc, as well as staggered start and break times” to help social distancing. He also reached out to people who have been laid off to come work for Amazon temporarily, as the company announced plans to hire 100,000 more US employees to handle the huge surge in new orders.
Bezos’ comments come as his employees and four US senators have urged the company to do more to support its workers, especially those who aren’t able to work from home during the outbreak, not only in terms of more stringent health measures, but also better pay.