Amazon hires 80 000 people to cope with coronavirus orders

Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg
Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg

Amazon.com said it has hired 80 000 people to help meet demand for online orders from people hunkered down during the pandemic and has stepped up safety precautions at its US warehouses.

Dave Clark, Amazon’s logistics chief, said in a blog published Thursday that Amazon would likely go “well beyond” its prior estimate of an additional $350 million in costs to support a growing workforce. Amazon last month said it would hire some 100,000 additional employees to help pack, ship and deliver items.

Clark’s team has come under fire from US senators and state attorneys generallabour unions and some of his own frontline employees for the company’s response to Covid-19 cases in its warehouses. Critics say Amazon has been slow to inform workers and the public and that the company has sometimes failed to adhere to federal guidance for businesses that stay open during the pandemic.

Amazon is now checking the temperature of more than 100 000 of its nearly 800 000 employees daily, Clark said. That screening, which started for employees in the Seattle and New York areas on Sunday, will be rolled out to the rest of the company’s US and European logistics sites and Whole Foods Market stores by early next week, he said.

"With over 1 000 sites around the world, and so many measures and precautions rapidly rolled out over the past several weeks, there may be instances where we don’t get it perfect, but I can assure you that’s just what they’ll be - exceptions,"Clark said.

Clark also addressed a recurring complaint from employees and contractors: that they don’t have enough cleaning supplies, from santising wipes, to hand sanitiser and personal masks, to feel safe in their jobs.

An order Amazon placed for millions of protective masks started to arrive this week, Clark said, and will be available in all Amazon facilities next week. The company is donating N95 masks it acquires to healthcare workers, as well as selling them at cost through Amazon’s business and government sales programme, he said.

"Nothing is more important to us than making sure that we protect the health of our teams, and we’ve been working around the clock since the early days of the outbreak to make changes to our processes and procure the necessary supplies for this," Clark said.

Amazon shares fell less than 1% at 9:46 a.m. in New York and are up about 3% so far this year.

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