Amazon has seen the shock departure of one of its vice presidents who said remaining at the company would have meant “signing off on actions I despised”.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) vice president Tim Bray quit the company abruptly yesterday “in dismay” over the company’s controversial sacking of two employees who were publicly critical of its labour practices.
In a blog post on Friday, Bray said: “I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about employees frightened of Covid-19… remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.
“At the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of the Covid-19 response. It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential.”
In April, Amazon confirmed the dismissal of Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, “repeatedly violating internal policies” which require employees to receive prior approval from management before saying anything about the company’s practices publicly.
Both employees had been publicly critical about how Amazon had dealt with worker safety during the COVID-19 crisis and called on it to do more to protect workers.
This move has been heavily criticised by workers’ rights groups and has sparked numerous protests by Amazon workers including a “sickout” day which saw around 500 staff call in sick.
Amazon said it supports workers’ rights to criticise its practices and organise protests “but that does not come with blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, well-being or safety of their colleagues.”
Last week it said that it was likely to spend a whopping $4 billion helping implement coronavirus safety measures and paying staff extra for coming to work, essentially wiping out its second quarter profits.