Beijing time on March 26, Fastcompany today published that amazon’s six warehouse staff tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Not only does the company fail to provide adequate personal protective equipment, but it also fails to ensure a safe social distance that makes employees feel unnerved, as follows is a summary of the article:
Last week, Amazon announced it would hire 100,000 new employees to deal with orders that grew rapidly during the new corona pneumonia outbreak.
Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder and CEO, is an essential public resource for Amazon’s positioning during the outbreak. “We provide vital services to people around the world, especially those most affected by the new coronary pneumonia, including the elderly,” he said in a post on Amazon’s official blog. “
To increase its appeal, Amazon raised the minimum wage from $15 to $17. “We hope that people who have been on holiday because of the outbreak will be able to temporarily come to work at Amazon before they return to work,” Bezos said in a blog post. “
While hiring new ones, Amazon seems to have failed to treat older workers well. Similar to employees in Europe, employees at several Amazon fulfillment centers in the U.S. have expressed dissatisfaction with their owners: inadequate security measures and enormous pressure to complete tasks.
After interviewing several Amazon U.S. employees and labor rights advocates, Fast Company found that Amazon warehouse employees faced inadequate protections, heavy workloads, and social distance guidelines that conflicted with official recommendations.
With more than 460,000 confirmed cases and more than 20,000 deaths worldwide, many countries and regions around the world have taken steps to close public places such as schools, restaurants, museums and bars, requiring hundreds of millions of people to stay at home and avoid unnecessary outings. Amazon still requires warehouse employees to work normally and even force overtime to handle fast-growing orders.
“Every time you walk through the door of a unit during an outbreak, it means a point increased risk of infection,” said an Amazon employee who works at the JFK8 Order Execution Center in Staten Island, New York. I mean, which is more important for the public to receive the goods they buy and the health of their employees? “Recently, an employee of this order execution center was diagnosed with a new coronavirus. Currently, eight Amazon order execution centers in the United States have employees confirmed to be infected with the new coronavirus.
Inadequate safety measures
Over the weekend, several Amazon employees got off the S40 bus and entered the JFK8 warehouse, wearing a variety of protective gear, some N95 masks for medical staff to treat patients with new coronary pneumonia, some wearing surgical masks and dust masks, and one employee even wearing a cotton mask.
This scenario shows that employees are “all over the world” in protecting their health, and that Amazon’s management has not given them the necessary guidance in this regard. Athena, a nonprofit advocacy group for employee rights, provided Fast Company with a screenshot of amazon’s message to warehouse employees, dated March 15, advising employees to maintain a “about 3 foot” social distance.
At an order execution center in Queens, New York, the placards read, “To ensure workplace safety, maintain a minimum social distance of 1 meter (about 3 feet).” “The order execution center last week had its first confirmed case of new coronary pneumonia.
Amazon message to warehouse employees
The new coronavirus is highly transmitted in confined space. The CDC recommends that people stay at a distance of 6 feet because the new coronavirus can be suspended in the air in the form of aerosols for about 30 minutes and can survive for hours on the surface of the object.
According to Beth Gutelius, a University of Chicago researcher and logistics expert who studies warehouse design, maintaining the recommended social distance in Amazon’s warehouses is virtually unworkable. Each order execution center has thousands of employees and the distance between stations is different. Each item requires several different processes to complete the packaging.
The study found that the new coronavirus can survive for up to 24 hours on cardboard boxes and for several days on the surface of other materials, including plastics. It is clear that if an employee infected with the new coronavirus is too close to another employee, or even sneezes at a commodity, the virus can spread among warehouse employees and even buyers can become infected.
Amazon insists it has taken a variety of precautions. An Amazon spokesman described in an email several measures the company has taken to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in order execution centers, including increasing the killing of larger areas of the market for people such as doorknobs, elevator buttons and lockers, pulling up the distance of tables in the lounge and requiring employees to stay at home when they feel unwell.
But employees say these measures are not enough. “The company says it has taken steps to keep us safe, but it doesn’t,” an employee at JFK8 told Fast Company. Although hand sanitizer was provided, toilet hygiene was improved and the distance between the dining tables in the restaurant widened, staff still gathered at work. “
Amazon’s infamous work environment has further exacerbated employee dissatisfaction. According to Zachary Lerner, senior director of the trade union New York, Amazon’s high targets for employees, so employees are highly stressed at work. A spokesman for Amazon told Fast Company, “We assess employee performance based on employee performance for a considerable period of time, and we know that there are a number of factors that can affect an employee’s ability to perform on an hourly or daily basis.” “
According to the Atlantic Monthly, some Amazon warehouse employees need to scan one item every 11 seconds, the equivalent of scanning hundreds of items per hour and thousands of items a day, according to performance reviews. This means that employees don’t even have time to go to the bathroom, let alone take their hands seriously.
“The company told us to wash our hands and cleaners, but we didn’t have time to do that,” said William Stolz, an employee at Amazon’s Order Execution Center in Apolis. “
According to another message obtained by Athena, employees are also required to “work overtime.” Amazon said in the message that if employees don’t work overtime and don’t take time off, it means “leaving.” An Amazon spokesman did not disclose details about the departure.
Amazon requires warehouse employees to work overtime
Key positions deserve a fair pay
Amazon has developed a number of policies to respond to the outbreak. Amazon said it would give employees unconditional unpaid leave by the end of March, and two weeks of paid sick leave for employees diagnosed with the new coronavirus or home isolation.
But employee rights advocates are skeptical that these policies will be enough to stop the spread of the new coronavirus in warehouses. “We all know how difficult it is to test for a new type of coronavirus right now, but it doesn’t make sense for employees who live off on wages,” said Dania Rajendra, Director of Athena. This can lead to a situation in which employees who live off wages may still be struggling to get to work in warehouses, even if they feel unwell. “
It is clear that Amazon is essential to millions of Americans living in isolation. Amazon’s sales of paper towels and toilet paper have tripled in the past month compared with a year earlier, and sales of cold medicines have increased eightfold, according to the New York Times.
To ease logistical pressures and help those who need it most, Amazon handles only orders for necessities and medical supplies in the United States, Italy and India.
“There’s no denying that Amazon currently offers critical services,” Gutlius said. We are told that home isolation is the only way to stop the spread of the virus. Online shopping ensures that others maintain a safe social distance. For residents of states with weak health care, shopping online on Amazon instead of shopping in supermarkets helps them better protect their health. “
If Amazon’s service is indeed a critical service, Gutlius said, it should give warehouse employees the same treatment as other key employees during the outbreak, for example, by giving them financial compensation for overtime pay above $2 an hour.
This also means giving them adequate protective equipment, such as masks and gloves. An Amazon spokesman said employees working at JFK8 could get personal protective equipment for free on “multiple vending machines in buildings.”
But Bezos acknowledged in a blog post that Amazon does not have enough personal protection for its employees, “and we’ve ordered millions of masks for employees and expatriates who can’t be telecommuting from home, but delivered very little.” The supply of masks is quite tight around the world and is understandably being allocated mainly to the hospitals and clinics that need it most. Once masks are available, priority will be given to employees and partners who provide important products to people.”
Since masks that are important to employee health are difficult to supply in the short term, Amazon is right to encourage employees to follow social distance standards.
In Stoltz’s view, the way Amazon operates during the outbreak is not only irresponsible to its employees, but also a threat to the safety of all Americans, “I want people to understand that it’s not just about the safety of my colleagues.” If our order execution centers across the country do not adhere to the same safe social distance standards as other buildings, this is a threat to everyone.”