Amazon has sacked the worker who led yesterday’s strike over coronavirus safety conditions for “violating social distancing guidelines”.
Chris Smalls, who yesterday staged a walk-out at Amazon’s warehouse in Staten Island, New York, told Bloomberg that doing so “cost me my job”.
Around 60 protestors demanded that Amazon close its facility for a deep clean after a number of staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
“Since the building won’t close by itself, we’re going to have to force (Amazon’s) hand,” Smalls said at the time, adding that he would “not return until the building gets sanitised”.
Amazon said that Small himself was putting staff at risk by coming on site after being asked by the company to self-isolate for 14 days with pay.
Smalls reportedly “received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk” after he was “asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we’re taking at sites around the world.
“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came on site today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk.”
An Amazon spokesperson told Charged: “These accusations are simply unfounded. Of the more 5,000 employees at our Staten Island site, 15 people—less than half a percent of associates—participated in today’s demonstration. Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis.
“Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable.
“We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances and in Staten Island we are now temperature checking everyone entering the facility. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”
This move has been branded “immoral and inhumane” by the New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who said she is also considering all legal options.
Amazon workers in Florence, Italy also went on strike yesterday to protest working conditions, following numerous demonstrations across Europe.
Last week Frances finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Amazon’s pressure on staff to keep working was “unacceptable”.