Exclusive: Amazon increases overtime pay for warehouse workers

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc said Saturday that it is increasing overtime pay for employees working in its U.S. warehouses, as the world’s largest online retailer tries to meet the rapidly growing demand for online purchases by consumers stuck at home during the coronavirus epidemic.

FILE PHOTO: the Amazon logo is seen in front of the diplayed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in this illustration taken on March 19, 2020. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration / Photo file

Hourly workers in warehouses will receive double pay after 40 overtime hours, up from the 1.5-fold rate from March 15 to May 9, the announcement said.

“We understand that the past few weeks have been a busy time,” Amazon told employees in an internal announcement on Saturday seen by Reuters. “We want to continue supporting you during this time when many services you may be dependent on are no longer available due to closures.”

This is the second time that the e-commerce giant has announced an improvement in wages for its workers in a week. On Monday, Amazon raised the hourly membership fee to $ 17 from $ 15 an hour and announced plans to hire 100,000 warehouse workers and delivery workers in the United States as the virus outbreak increases online orders.

In addition, all part-time and full-time team members in Whole Foods Market stores and facilities will receive double their regular hourly earnings per hour of overtime worked in a working week from March 16 to May 3, 2020, on Domestic food retailer said in a statement sent on Saturday.

Lawmakers urged companies to do a better job by protecting workers, especially those in warehouses and grocery stores who don’t have the luxury of working from home and who are now at the forefront of the fight against further spread of the virus . They carry a greater risk to their health, while continuing to meet the supplies that Americans need to survive by staying indoors.

“We continue to see an increase in customer demand for products delivered to support social distancing in their communities,” Amazon wrote to employees. “Making this possible means that some of us have to work to maintain a good flow.”

A few hours before Amazon’s Saturday announcement, four US Democratic senators, including Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, expressed concern in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday that the world’s largest online retailer has not taken sufficient measures. to protect warehouse staff. They asked in particular whether the company would provide “time and a half” compensation for its employees.

Other companies have also acted. HEB, a Texas-based chain of stores with 140,000 employees in Texas and New Mexico, said on Friday it had increased worker wages by $ 2 an hour until April 12, which came into effect on Monday.

Amazon has offered unpaid unlimited free time to encourage employees to stay at home if they are not feeling well, which could contribute to a higher than usual absence rate in warehouses. He also staggered work shifts and forbidden them to sit next to each other in the dining room to limit contact.

Amazon reported on Thursday that its first warehouse employee in the United States tested positive for the virus, forcing the company to temporarily close a warehouse in New York.

As the virus spreads to the United States, numerous clothing retailers and department store chains have closed stores and bar and restaurant operators have closed or limited delivery and takeaway services.

Online retailers and grocery stores are trying to capture the growing demand as more Americans are forced to stay home to reduce the spread of the epidemic.

The rival retailer Walmart Inc said Thursday that it plans to hire 150,000 coworkers every hour in the United States and has announced $ 550 million in cash bonuses to reward workers.

The highly contagious coronavirus has infected over 274,800 people worldwide and has caused over 11,300 deaths worldwide forcing governments around the world to issue mass blockades of people in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Reporting from Krystal Hu in New York and Rebekah Mathew in Bangalore; Editing by Kenneth Li and Diane Craft

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