More than 1,500 Amazon workers have signed a petition calling on the company to take additional steps to ensure the safety of both workers and customers. They are calling on the company to close and clean warehouses exposed to the virus and ensure protections for those that need to take time off.
Critics say that the company is endangering its customers and members of the public as well as those working in its warehouses. Research suggests that the virus can remain viable - able to infect a person - for 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and steel.
Measures ‘totally insufficient’
Workers and legislators have criticised the company for requiring workers and delivery drivers to continue working at its distrubution centres during the spread of the virus.
Amazon recently stopped requiring employees in its warehouses to attend ‘stand up’ meetings in packed groups before shifts, after an initial outcry. Over recent weeks it has also begun spraying the warehouses with disinfectant and staggering break times for workers, as well as sending those with coughs home. However, employees say that the measures are not enough.
Hand sanitiser and wipes are said to be in short supply in some warehouses and workers are not given time to wash their hands, they have reported, if ‘rate targets’ are met.
The e-commerce giant has repeatedly been criticised for enforcing punitive targets on workers. If employees are unable to meet them, managers can write it on their record, making promotion within the company difficult, and even leading to firings, workers say. The company is said to have increased these targets for warehouse workers in Italy over recent weeks, in order to meet growth in demand during the outbreak.
Concerns have also been raised about potential overcrowding in work places as Amazon hires more employees to meet increased demand from those self-isolating. The company is already said to have hired new workers in Italy, according to warehouse employees. In America, Amazon annouced the recruitment of 100,000 new workers last Monday, and has specifically targetted those who have been furloughed during the spread of COVID-19.
Luismi Ruiz, who works at an Amazon facility in Spain where two workers have tested positive for the virus and is a union representative, told the Washington Post, “It’s an atmosphere of fear – huge fear right now... measures are totally insufficient.”