More than 400 Amazon workers have been infected with COVID-19 at Canadian facilities, where working conditions are described as 'hell'

More than 400 Amazon workers have been infected with COVID-19 at Canadian facilities, where working conditions are described as 'hell'
Amazon shipping boxes leaving a warehouse.Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
  • More than 400 Amazon workers in Canada reportedly have tested positive for COVID-19, and some are blaming workplace conditions.
  • The cases occured at four facilities near Ontario. "The working conditions are hell," an employee who left prior to the pandemic told The National Post.
  • "There is no social distancing, there is no sanitation," an unnamed employee told The Post.
  • Employees who tests positive, along with those who are self-isolating, are given up to two-weeks pay while they're home, Amazon said.

More than 400 Amazon workers in Canada reportedly have tested positive for coronavirus, with some blaming workplace conditions.

"The working conditions are hell," a former Amazon worker told The National Post.

The spread occured at four facilities near Ontario, according to the Post, which quotes former and current employees at the facilities.
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The total number of positive cases should be looked at in a broader context, including the rate of infection in the community living around the facilities, according to Amazon. Ontario on Monday announced a province-wide shutdown, which will begin at 12.01 am on December 26.

"The number of daily cases continue to rise putting our hospitals and long-term care homes at risk," said Doug Ford, premier, in a statement.

Employees who tests positive, along with those who are self-isolating, are given up to two-weeks pay while they're home, Amazon said.
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The company has previously said new hires are being trained to follow strict health and safety rules. It said it invested more than $800 million in new pandemic safety measures in the first six months of 2020, according to an October press release.

"Our top priority is ensuring the health and safety of our employees, and we expect to invest approximately $10 billion in 2020 on COVID-related initiatives to keep employees safe and get products to customers," the company said on a page dedicated to its COVID-19 improvements. But employees at the Canadian facilities have placed some blame for the spread on the fast-paced culture at Amazon facilities.
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"There is no social distancing, there is no sanitation," an unnamed employee told the Post. "Many of them, 99 per cent of them, are scared of working there, but they have no choice."

According to the unnamed employee, workers at the Canada facilities are told not to use their own N95 masks. Employees reportedly said they're timed as they fill boxes, and their bathroom breaks are monitored.

Amazon and Walmart have been locked in battle over which can make shipping and returns easiest. The emphasis on speed makes it difficult for some workers in Amazon warehouses to follow COVID-19 rules, according to the report.
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Amazon's footprint is ever-growing. In the US this month, it announced new fulfillment centers in Louisiana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and several locations in Texas.

As the company expands, some lawmakers are asking questions about workplace policies and pay. Last Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called warehouse employment a "scam" because thousands of workers were reportedly on food stamps.

The US National Labor Relations Board last week said it had found merit in claims that Gerald Bryson, who worked at Amazon's Staten Island fulfillment center, was fired in retaliation for protesting health and safety policies in the warehouse.
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In Alabama, workers are expected to vote in January on whether to unionize, according to The Hill. A vote to unionize would be a first for Amazon's US facilities.

In a statement issued to The New York Post, Amazon said: "We don't believe this group represents the majority of our employees' views. Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire."

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