On Saturday, Amazon announced that the company is raising overtime pay for associates working in its US warehouses as the world’s largest online retailer tries to meet the rapidly growing demand for online shopping from consumers stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
Jeff Bezos, the Chief Executive Officer, also said on Saturday, “My own time and thinking is now wholly focused on COVID-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role,” according to a message posted on a company website.
Hourly workers at Amazon’s US warehouses will receive double pay after 40 hours for overtime, up from the 1.5-times rate, from March 15 through May 9, the rate increase announcement said. This is the second time that Amazon announced an increase in pay for its workers in a week.
On Monday, the company increased the minimum hourly rate for associates to $17 from $15 and announced plans to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States as the virus outbreak boosts online orders.
Amazon has offered unlimited unpaid time off to encourage employees to stay home if they do not feel well, as the virus spreads across the US. It has also staggered workers shifts and prohibited employees from sitting next to each other in the lunchroom to limit contact.
But four Democratic US senators, including Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker on Friday, expressed concern in a letter to Bezos that Amazon has not taken enough measures to protect its warehouse staff. They particularly asked if the company would provide “time-and-a-half” hazard pay for its workers.
Bezos said in Saturday’s online post that the company has ordered “millions” of face masks for its on-site staff, but few have been filled because the masks are in low supply and are first going to hospitals at governments’ directions.
He said that “When our turn for masks comes, our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working to get essential products to people.”
On Thursday, Amazon reported its first warehouse employee in the United States tested positive for the virus, forcing the company to temporarily shutter the facility in New York.
Online retailers and grocery stores are trying to capture rising demand as more Americans are ordered to stay at home to reduce the spread of the outbreak.
On Thursday, Rival retailer Walmart said it plans to hire 150,000 hourly associates in the US and announced $550 million in cash bonuses to reward workers.
The highly contagious coronavirus has infected more than 274,800 people across the world and led to more than 11,300 deaths globally, forcing governments across the world to issue mass lockdowns of people in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.