Amazon has announced it will raise overtime pay for its warehouse workers, who are under increasing strain to ship items during the global outbreak of coronavirus, officially called COVID-19. The demand for deliveries from Amazon has skyrocketed as people stay at home and practice social distancing, with shops closed in many countries around the world.
As reported by Reuters, Amazon warehouse workers who are paid an hourly wage will now receive double pay for working overtime over 40 hours per week, which is an increase from the previous rate of 1.5 times pay for overtime. This increase applies from March 15 to May 9.
This comes the day after four U.S. Senators sent an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calling on the company to do more to protect its workers during the coronavirus outbreak, following a confirmed case of the disease at a U.S. Amazon warehouse. The senators were particularly concerned by the continuing practice of “stand up meetings” at warehouses, which require workers to stand closer together than the six feet of distance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and other health organizations.
Although the increase of overtime pay will be welcomed by Amazon employees, the Senators requested accommodations that go further, including paid sick leave for employees and hazard pay of time and a half even before overtime. Amazon has said that warehouse employees who are diagnosed with coronavirus would receive “up to two weeks of paid sick leave,” but other workers such as those at the DCH1 delivery station in Chicago receive no paid sick time.
In a blog post on Amazon’s website, Bezos said he was “grateful” to workers but did not offer any further increases in benefits. He also wrote that the company had placed orders for protective gear such as “millions of face masks” for employees, but that these items were in short supply and orders had not been filled.
In other Amazon news, the company has announced that it will stop shipping non-essential products from Amazon.com to Italy and France, due to the severity of the coronavirus outbreaks in those countries. “We will temporarily stop taking orders on some non-essential products on Amazon.it and Amazon.fr,” Amazon.com said in a statement provided to Reuters. “This lets fulfillment center associates focus on receiving and shipping the products customers need most at this time.”
Essential items that will continue to be shipped include health and household items, baby products, groceries, pet supplies, and personal care products. Third-party sellers who sell through the Amazon storefront can continue to ship orders if they do not use Amazon logistics.