Since the start of 2020, online retailer Amazon has seen its share price increase by 25%, sitting currently $2,367 per share, with founder Jeff Bezos’ fortune increasing by $24 billion since the start of the pandemic.
Since UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and other world leaders announced similar lockdown procedures, major retailers and high street brands have been forced to close their doors.
This has meant that the online commerce giant has seen a huge increase in the amount of traffic on their website. With little to no other options, many people may now find themselves relying on Amazon as a means of stocking up on daily essentials.
The increase in demand has also meant that Amazon has been forced to hire more temporary employees in order to keep up. The firm has reportedly hired over 100,000 employees in the US in order to manage the ever-growing number of purchases from consumers.
With a reputation for allegedly putting record-breaking profits ahead of the welfare of its workforce, the decision to recruit more warehouse workers will certainly raise concerns with unions, given that the very nature of the job will put many workers at a substantial risk amid the coronavirus pandemic.
GMB Union has reported that workers at Amazon’s fulfilment centres are working in cramped aisles, with no access to masks, gloves or hand sanitiser. Water fountains are also said to still be in use, which could potentially spread the disease at a rapid rate.
GMB senior organizer, Amanda Gearing, described Amazon’s warehouses as “breeding grounds for coronavirus”:
“The NHS is stretched to its limit and Amazon’s failure to act is turning its warehouses into a breeding ground for coronavirus.”
Amanda Gearing, GMB Senior organiser
Amazon run a daily blog that highlights people’s concerns and what the company is doing to combat them. They plan to invest $4 billion in order to implement over 150 “process updates” to keep their workforce safe and virus-free, which includes enhanced cleaning, more PPE and social distancing measures. Amazon employees will also receive an additional $2 on top of their hourly wage.
Says Amazon “firing whistleblowers” is “evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.”
Thank you, Tim.https://t.co/oShy4TQisN
— Emily Cunningham (@emahlee) May 4, 2020
Bray published a blog post citing his reasons for walking away from Amazon. He described the justifications for firing of employees as “laughable” and valued his integrity over his position of vice president.
In a time where supplies run low and the risk of death is high, it is vital for Amazon to preserve the welfare of its workforce while simultaneously remaining to run effectively during the pandemic.