Jeff Bezos, Chief Executive Officer of Amazon.com Inc. shared an open letter on his Instagram account on Saturday, warning his company’s 800,000 employees that the coronavirus will most likely get worse before it gets better.
The letter followed after criticisms from his own employees and the U.S. lawmakers that Amazon, one of the biggest company in the world, isn’t doing enough to protect its warehouse workers and delivery drivers who risks themselves in delivering products to Amazon customers looking to avoid stores.
”This isn’t business as usual, and it’s a time of great stress and uncertainty. It’s also a moment in time when the work we’re doing is its most critical.”Jeff Bezos
The letter, which is his first public comments about the virus, comes when regulators and lawmakers around The United States are making decisions about which businesses are essential and should keep operating and which are not, so employees can remain at home and reduce the chances of exposure to the outbreak which has infected more than 300,000 globally and killed at least 13,000.
Among the products which has seen a surge in demand on Amazon’s platform are medical supplies, hand sanitizer, and baby formula. The company is dealing with the rising demand by taking several measures such as plans to hire 100,000 workers, temporarily boosting pay among its warehouse employees and raising wages for contract partners who are either directly or indirectly involved with Amazon.
Companies such as Amazon, Walmart and other big retailers in The United States have been dealing with unhappy employees and activists for not doing enough to protect hourly workers on the front lines of the crisis.
On Saturday, Amazon took the first step when the company announced hourly workers in it U.S. delivery network would receive double pay for every hour they work in excess of 40 each week, starting March 15 through May 9. That follows temporary raises of $2 per hour that will be in effect through April.
Amazon warehouse workers in North Carolina have said that they do not have adequate protective gear or sufficient time to wash their hands during their shifts. They are also suggesting to close the warehouse temporarily so it can be sanitized. Meanwhile, Amazon’s delivery drivers in California said they received one single disinfecting wipe to clean vans before the start of their shifts.
Bezos responded by saying that the company has increased cleaning at all their facilities and implemented instructions for employees to maintain a safe distance from one another. He also added that getting proper equipment remains a challenge. Last Wednesday, Amazon reported the first confirmed case among its U.S. warehouse workforce at a delivery station near New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
”We’ve placed purchase orders for millions of face masks we want to give to our employees and contractors who cannot work from home, but very few of those orders have been filled.
Masks remain in short supply globally and are at this point being directed by governments to the highest-need facilities like hospitals and clinics. It’s easy to understand why the incredible medical providers serving our communities need to be first in line. When our turn for masks comes, our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working to get essential products to people.”Jeff Bezos
By market valuation, Amazon is one of the three most biggest U.S. companies, making Bezos the world’s richest man. Critics though, say that he could do more.
Dania Rajendra, director of Athena, a group that advocates for hourly workers and small businesses, and a frequent critic of Amazon said the following:
”Talk is cheap, rather than focusing on unavailable equipment or issuing half measures that don’t come close to tackling the scale of the crisis, Bezos and his corporation should make real moves that protect public and workers health, starting with the very basics, like enough time for workers to wash their hands, health coverage for everyone who needs it, and paid leave, so people who need to stay home can”Dania Rajendra
Jeff Bezos full letter can be read here.