Amazon is extending its increase in the hourly pay rate of warehouse workers through May 16th, according to a report from CNBC. The company originally announced in March that, as part of its hiring increase to contend with the huge surge in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, it would raise warehouse worker pay by $2 an hour.
The pay increase was temporary, slated to end by May 1st. Now, Amazon is extending the pay bump to help incentivize workers to continue staffing its warehouses and its grocery and package delivery platforms.
“We continue to see heavy demand during this difficult time and the team is doing incredible work for our customers and the community,” an Amazon spokesperson tells CNBC. According to the report, Amazon is currently employing more than 250,000 fulfillment center workers across 110 facilities in the US alone.
Despite these added benefits, Amazon has faced fierce criticism for its handling of health and safety issues during COVID-19. Employees have complained of warehouses remaining open despite workers testing positive for the virus, and Amazon has also been accused of failing to notify employees when they may have come into contact with co-workers who later test positive.
A warehouse worker strike in New York City last month drew national headlines after Amazon fired one of its organizers, claiming he was violating self-isolation guidelines. Leaked documents later revealed Amazon executives’ plans to smear the organizer, Chris Smalls, to discredit the growing labor movement within the company.
Earlier this month, the first Amazon warehouse worker died of COVID-19, and since the Smalls incident, Amazon has fired both corporate employees and other warehouse workers, in what activists and the employees affected say is retaliation for speaking out about the company’s handling of safety issues during the pandemic. The National Labor Relations Board is now looking into whether Amazon is violating its employees’ rights. And today, Amazon tech workers are calling in sick to protest the company’s actions.
“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies. We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies,” an Amazon spokesperson tells The Verge with regard to its termination of corporate employees. In relation to warehouse workers it has fired, the company also says the rights it affords to employee to protest “do not provide blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, well-being or safety of their colleagues.”
Update April 27th, 6:19PM ET: Added statements from Amazon.