Amazon has been slammed by four US senators for failing to “keep its workers safe” during the coronavirus outbreak who have accused it of “putting the whole country at risk”.
A letter to Jeff Bezos penned by four democratic US senators including Bernie Sanders and led by Cory Booker, accused the retailer of failing to provide sufficient disinfectant and sanitiser for its warehouse workers, Reuters reported.
Referring to a previous news report, the letter went on to suggest that Amazon workers were at risk of receiving poor performance ratings if they took time to wash their hands after coughing and sneezing at work.
It went on to point out that the coronavirus was able to stay alive for 24 hours on cardboard surfaces like Amazon packaging.
“Any failure of Amazon to keep its workers safe does not just put their employees at risk, it puts the entire country at risk,” the letter read.
Amazon denied these allegations, calling the news report “simply unfounded” adding that it has “taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances”.
This comes as Amazon struggles to deal with an influx of new orders as people turn to Prime to deliver essential goods while they self-isolate.
Last week it announced plans to hire 100,000 more staff to meet demand, and has raised wages for the second time in as many weeks offering hourly workers double pay after 40 hours of overtime.
It is also banning sellers in the UK and US from sending any non-essential items to its warehouses from April 5 to meet demand.
On Thursday, confirmed the first COVID-19 infection in its US delivery network as its warehouse staff in France strike amid fears of contagion.
The retailer’s delivery station in Queens, New York, has been temporarily closed for a deep clean while its workers have been sent home with full pay after a member of staff was confirmed to have contracted the virus.
In Europe confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported at three Amazon warehouses, leading its main logistics hub in Italy to see absenteeism hit 30 per cent.
Meanwhile 250-300 workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Saran, France, held a strike outside the facility calling for its closure.
Unions argued that as Amazon was not essential to delivering groceries, sending relatively few compared to non-food items, it should consider shutting its warehouses to protect its thousands of staff.
According to French workers’ union CFDT 30-40 per cent of Amazon employees in France have now dropped out of work amid fears of contagion.