Amazon’s Jeff Bezos announces company-wide coronavirus testing after backlash

The announcement comes as warehouse staff are protesting over health and safety concerns regarding coronavirus. Mr Bezos said Amazon is in the process of setting up a lab to test employees.

In a statement, Mr Bezos wrote: “A next step in protecting our employees might be regular testing of all Amazonians, including those showing no symptoms. We’ve begun the work of building incremental testing capacity,

“A team of Amazonians—from research scientists and program managers to procurement specialists and software engineers—moved from their normal day jobs onto a dedicated team to work on this initiative.

“We have begun assembling the equipment we need to build our first lab and hope to start testing small numbers of our frontline employees soon.

“We are not sure how far we will get in the relevant timeframe, but we think it’s worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn.”

Amazon workers across the US have voiced their concerns over unsafe working conditions.

Employees have staged walkouts in Staten Island, Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit.

The company has terminated at least three employees who were protesting outside of the company’s property.

Amazon told it supported “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.”

The e-commerce has established health and safety guidelines in a bid to be able to operate while minimising the risks to its employees.

Mr Bezos said some of those measures include “extensive social distancing”.

He added: “We have eliminated stand-up meetings during shifts, moved information sharing to bulletin boards, staggered break times, and spread out chairs in breakrooms.”

Amazon recently hire some 100,000 staff members to meet the increasing demand for its services.

Earlier this week, the online retailer announced that it is looking to hire a further 75,000 people.

Mr Bezos said: “These new hires are helping customers who depend on us to meet their critical needs.

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“We know that many people around the world have suffered financially as jobs are lost or furloughed,

“We are happy to have them on our teams until things return to normal and either their former employer can bring them back or new jobs become available.”

The CEO said the company is “committed to helping support employees now”.

He added: “And we are paying associates double our regular rate for any overtime worked—a minimum of $34 an hour—an increase from time and a half.

“These wage increases will cost more than $500million, just through the end of April, and likely more than that over time,

“While we recognize this is expensive, we believe it’s the right thing to do under the circumstances.

“We also established the Amazon Relief Fund—with an initial $25million in funding—to support our independent delivery service partners and their drivers, Amazon Flex participants, and temporary employees under financial distress.”

Amazon’s staff figures vary seasonally – recently peaking for the holiday quarter at 798,000 employees, before advertising a further 100,000 positions available.

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