Amazon vows all warehouse workers will have face masks by next week

Amazon says it will provide face masks to all its warehouse workers globally by early next week and broaden its use of temperature checks as it tries to slow the spread of coronavirus amid its vast logistics workforce.

The announcement comes 10 days after CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged the company was having trouble filling orders for masks amid a widespread shortage of protective equipment. After workers in several warehouses across the U.S. complained of not having sufficient protective equipment and shared reports of colleagues coming to work sick, the bottleneck appears to have cleared.

“The millions of masks we ordered weeks ago are now arriving, and we’re distributing them to our teams as quickly as possible. Masks will be available as soon as today in some locations and in all locations by early next week,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, said on a company blog on Thursday. 

Particle-blocking N95 masks that Amazon previously ordered will be either donated to medical facilities or sold at cost to government or health care organizations, Clark said.

The e-commerce giant is also expanding its use of temperature checks. Starting early next week, everyone showing up for work at a warehouse or at a Whole Foods store will be checked, and people with a fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will be sent home.

Competitor Walmart announced earlier this week it would distribute face masks and gloves to all its associates, as well as conduct universal temperature checks for anyone reporting to work.

Amazon and Instacart workers walking off job amid safety concerns over coronavirus

Both companies have been dogged by complaints that they aren’t doing enough to protect their modestly paid workforces who are suddenly fulfilling essential roles distributing food and household supplies to countries where populations have been ordered to stay at home as much as possible. 

In recent days, Amazon workers have walked out in New York, Detroit and Chicago. Whole Foods workers held a “sick-out” on Tuesday and freelance workers for Instacart, the grocery shopping app, have struck for higher pay.

At the same time, Amazon’s distribution network is under unprecedented strain as millions of people in self-quarantine move their shopping online. The company has already hired more than 80,000 new workers to help with the increased demand, it said Thursday, and plans to hire 20,000 more.

The company has also expanded its policy of 14 days of paid sick leave — previously available only to workers with a COVID-19 diagnosis — to include workers who come into contact with a person who was diagnosed.

Some workers have demanded the 14-day leave apply to anyone who feels ill or wants to stay home to avoid getting sick, saying the existing policy is too stingy to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

It was not immediately clear if Amazon’s temperature check policy included paying workers who are sent home with a fever.

Categories: National, US & World News

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