The multinational US-based company Amazon must ensure its workers across the globe receive adequate health and safety protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty International said, as hundreds of US Amazon workers prepare to call in sick on Friday in protest over labour issues.
Worker organizations report that hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers in the USA have already stayed home from work this week, citing concerns including a lack of health protection at warehouses.
Amnesty International also called on the e-commerce giant to protect the rights of workers who speak out, amid allegations that staff have been fired after voicing safety concerns.
“We stand in solidarity with Amazon workers who are speaking up for their rights. Amazon warehouse and delivery workers are risking their lives in the midst of a pandemic to deliver essential goods to all of us,” said Joe Westby, Researcher at Amnesty International.
“Amazon is one of the world’s wealthiest companies and its profits are surging as a result of this crisis. It is repugnant that the company’s workforce feel their safety is not being taken seriously. Jeff Bezos needs to step up and address the legitimate and vital concerns raised by Amazon staff – profits should never be put above people.
“It’s outrageous that Amazon is set to end its policy to give workers the option to take unlimited unpaid leave, which was just instituted in March. With reports of new COVID-19 cases emerging at warehouses in Indiana and New Jersey, employees face an impossible choice of potentially putting their health at serious risk by going to work or having to leave the company.
“Allegations that staff have been fired for speaking out are deeply disturbing. No Amazon worker should face reprisals for speaking out about safety concerns. Amazon must ensure that workers can report concerns about health and safety risks without fear of retaliation.”
Amnesty International wrote to the US-based company Amazon requesting information about what steps it is taking to ensure it respects labour rights during the COVID-19 crisis but did not receive a response.
Companies have a responsibility to respect all human rights wherever they operate in the world, including protecting their workers and providing safe working conditions. They must adhere to health and safety standards and properly implement national health advice in order to minimise workplace exposure to the virus.
Under international laws and standards, employers must put arrangements in place that allow workers to report on health and safety risks. Workers’ safety concerns must be listened to and addressed through social dialogue. There must not be retaliation against the workers for raising concerns or lodging a complaint related to health and safety.
Workers are entitled to remove themselves from a work situation that can reasonably be considered as posing a serious risk to their health. Until adequate measures are adopted and an imminent danger to life and health is addressed, employers cannot oblige workers to work in such conditions.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept over the world, people have increasingly turned to online commerce, and Amazon has experienced a surge of orders in most global markets. However, there have been strikes or walk-outs in France, Italy and in several locations in the USA over concerns about COVID-19 protocols and labour issues.