As Americans continue to live in uncertainty from the emerging Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, their anxiety levels are only likely to increase on news that the country’s biggest e-tailer is about to experience a large workforce shortage.
Amazon and other e- and retailers like Walmart had already announced they were setting up to hire tens of thousands of workers as fewer Americans ventured out to buy products and instead are choosing to order them online.
But now, according to The Sun, Amazon says it is being forced to send a growing number of warehouse workers home after they have been diagnosed with the virus, meaning that as it spreads and more employees are infected, the country is increasingly likely to see a major supply chain disruption.
The Sun reports:
Amazon has reportedly ramped up cleaning measures and sent exposed workers home after the killer coronavirus spread to ten of its warehouses.
COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the company’s tenth storehouse this week, infecting employees who are scrambling to deliver goods to millions of locked down Americans, reports say.
Thus far, Amazon warehouse employees working at locations in New York City, Sheperdsville, Ky., and Jacksonville, Fla., have been infected.
In addition, according to other reports, cases have been diagnosed among employees who work at the e-tailer’s facilities in Texas, Brownstown, Mich., and Oklahoma City.
The Sun also said that the virus has spread to warehouses in Joliet, Ill., Wallingford, Conn., and California.
The Sun, citing the Washington Post, reported that employees are under a great amount of pressure to fulfill a rapidly increasing number of online orders and that as such, they have little time for hand-washing and other hygiene aimed at cutting down on the virus’ spread.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, noted last week that the company would be hiring 100,000 people to handle the surge of orders from the COVID-19 outbreak. In doing so, he portrayed the e-tailer as an essential public resource in times of crisis, according to Fast Company. (Related: They WANT it to spread: Kaiser Permanente theatens to FIRE nurses for wearing N95 masks while treating coronavirus patients.)
“We’re providing a vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable,” he wrote in a post on the company blog. “People are depending on us.”
To compensate for the added workload, the company said it would raise its minimum wage from $15 to $17.
“We hope people who’ve been laid off will come work with us until they’re able to go back to the jobs they had,” wrote Bezos.
But, as Fast Company noted further:
…[W]orkers at multiple Amazon fulfillment centers in the United States are expressing outrage over what they claim are a lack of safety precautions and intense pressure to hit quotas, echoing complaints of Amazon workers in Europe.
“In terms of the coronavirus, every time you walk through the door, you’re taking a risk,” one worker at an Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, where a worker has tested positive for COVID-19, told the financial news site. “I mean what’s more important, getting people’s things to them or your health?”
Another employee who works in Texas showed Fast Company an email advising workers to remain three feet apart, though the CDC’s recommendation is six feet to avoid contagion.
Bezos and company managers are downplaying the virus’ risk to employees, noting they have cut out face-to-face meetings and have ordered millions of face masks for workers.
The problem is two-fold, however. As more Americans avoid stores and order online, Amazon’s workload has increased dramatically. But at the same time, workers are now becoming infected.
Something has to give, and if we had to bet, we’d say it’s going to be the workforce — which means a huge supply chain disruption is likely coming.