Coronavirus: Amazon Promises Protection For Workers After Walkouts

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Image credit: Amazon

After warehouse workers stage walkout in the US, Amazon says it will roll out temperature checks and face masks next week

Amazon is responding to concerns from its warehouse workforce over the issue of protection during the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this week, Amazon fired a warehouse worker in Staten Island (New York) according to CNN, over allegations he broke quarantine rules.

But it emerged that the fired worker (Christian Smalls) had helped organise a walk out at the location (another took place in Detroit) in protest as the firm’s alleged lack of protection of the workforce during the pandemic.

Image credit: Amazon
Image credit: Amazon

Workforce protection

And now the e-commerce giant has confirmed to Reuters that it plans to roll out temperature checks and face masks for staff at all its US and European warehouses (plus Whole Foods stores) by early next week.

This is a mammoth undertaking considering the size of Amazon and the difficulty in obtaining face masks at the moment.

Last month Amazon announced it will to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the US to help with demand during the pandemic. It has so far hired 80,000 of that target.

But there have been cases of workers at 19 Amazon warehouses being infected with Covid-19, and now the firm has pledged to begin testing hundreds of thousands of employees a day for fevers.

It told Reuters it would use no-contact forehead thermometers at site entrances and send anyone registering more than 100.4 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) home.

All locations will have surgical masks available by early next week, after millions were ordered weeks ago, according to Amazon. Meanwhile particle-blocking N95 masks it has ordered will instead be donated to medical workers or sold at cost to government and healthcare organisations, it said.

Want to know about the history of Amazon? Try our Tales in Tech History piece.

Amazon also reportedly said that it will use machine-learning software to monitor building cameras and determine whether employees are staying at safe distances during their shifts, or whether they are often huddled too close together.

Deployment begun

Amazon said the mask rollout was already underway. According to Reuters, temperature scans have begun at facilities near its Seattle headquarters and in New York.

The company has already ramped up to more than 100,000 employee checks daily, with more sites to come.

To an idea of the size and scale of Amazon, the firm reportedly has more than 700 facilities in its US and European distribution network. Amazon-owned Whole Foods menwhile has 508 stores.

At the end of December 2019, it reportedly had a full and part-time workforce of 798,000 people.

Last month Amazon workers were told they would be able to take unlimited sick days in March.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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