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Amazon is Asking Canadian Workers to ‘Stay Home’ If They Feel Sick. Except They Cut Unpaid Leave Last Month.

Amazon notified Bolton, Ontairo warehouse workers that two more workers tested positive for COVID-19 this week

Amazon is advising workers at its Bolton, Ontario warehouse to “stay home” if they feel sick at the same time as the company is disclosing two more workers at the warehouse have now tested positive for COVID-19.

Just one problem: Amazon actually cancelled unlimited unpaid leave last month, and the company is giving no indication it’s willing to reconsider that policy.

According to internal company text messages obtained by PressProgress, Amazon notified staff that two additional warehouse workers tested positive for COVID-19 on May 18 and May 21.

“Your safety and health is our top priority,” Amazon said following the May 18 text. “If you feel sick, stay home. Questions? Contact HR.”

Text message sent from Amazon to Bolton, Ontario workers

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the company sent the text messages.

Amazon would not explain how it expects workers to “stay home” after cutting their unpaid leave and restoring policies that could penalize workers for missing work, but offered general assurances that it supports its workers.

“Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees,” Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft told PressProgress. We are supporting the individuals who are recovering.”

The Amazon spokesperson said workers “diagnosed with COVID-19 will receive up to two weeks of paid time off.”

Last month, PressProgress obtained an internal memo notifying Canadian workers that Amazon was cancelling its unlimited unpaid leave policy brought in at the beginning of the pandemic in the name of containing the spread of COVID-19 and “protecting people’s health.”

Gagandeep Kaur of the Warehouse Workers Centre said Amazon’s workers are stuck in a catch-22 situation.

“Workers can only stay home sick if the company acknowledges that they won’t be disciplined or terminated,” Kaur told PressProgress. “Knowing they might lose their job forces them to report to work even if they feel sick.”

“This is ridiculous for a company like Amazon, making millions in the pandemic, to penalize workers with points for attendance,” she said, adding the company needs to “suspend this point system indefinitely.”

Kaur previously noted Amazon’s warehouse workers could face “potential termination if they reach 6.0 attendance points, or four absences.”

Attendance policy memo (Amazon)

In New Jersey, public health officials have called on Amazon to rethink gutting unlimited unpaid time off during the pandemic, citing recent, reported cases at its warehouses.

One worker at Amazon’s Bolton warehouse told PressProgress that the company’s policies are “making it difficult to stay home when sick.”

“People don’t want to use what limited time-off options they have remaining, now that the attendance policy is back in full force, but staying home without using those options will result in consequences. So people come to work anyway.”

Amazon also confirmed to PressProgress that two additional workers had tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bolton, Ontario warehouse.

The text messages indicate the first worker was last on site on May 12 and the second worker was last on site on May 18. This is in addition to two other workers who tested positive in April.

The company said it individually notifies workers it believes had close contact with anyone who tests positive and offers paid leave to self-quarantine although workers in the warehouse say “nobody has been sent home that anyone is aware of.”

Amazon’s Canadian workers have been speaking out about working conditions at the company’s warehouses, raising concerns Amazon’s strict productivity rules are compromising their health. The company also recently informed staff it is cutting hourly and overtime pay at the end of May.

Last month, Amazon signed a secretive contract with the federal government putting the multinational corporation in charge of distributing Canada’s COVID-19 emergency supplies.

The federal government has refused to share key details about the contract, suggesting doing so would violate Amazon’s privacy.

 


 

Clarification: This story has been updated to include additional details about Amazon’s leave policies and revise an ambiguity in the headline.

 

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PressProgress is an award-winning non-profit news organization focused on uncovering and unpacking the news through original investigative and explanatory journalism.

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