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Amazon Workers Say Demands to Work Faster Are Forcing Them to Violate Social Distancing Rules

Amazon says its workers must meet ‘performance expectations’

After cutting pandemic pay and cutting unpaid leave, Amazon is now pushing its workers to work faster despite guidelines from public health officials.

Amazon warehouse workers in Ontario say the company is still tracking workers using hi-tech surveillance technology and recently resumed its practice of “coaching” individual workers who don’t meet high productivity benchmarks.

“Associate quality feedback and performance is now centre stage in the (warehouse),” the Amazon worker told PressProgress. “Senior management (is) driving better performance across the board more than anything else.”

These practices are causing warehouse workers to violate social distancing rules, the worker said, noting managers are “putting those coaching the associates in close proximity to a greater number of associates every day now.”

In a statement to PressProgress, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed the company is tracking worker productivity and has a policy of “coaching” workers to move faster on the warehouse floor.

Amazon spokesperson Jen Crowcroft told PressProgress:

We have performance expectations for every Amazonian – be it corporate employee or fulfillment center associate and we measure actual performance against those expectations. Associate performance is measured and evaluated over a long period of time as we know that a variety of things could impact the ability to meet expectations in any given day or hour. We support people who are not performing to the levels expected with dedicated coaching to help them improve.”

But the company denied its “coaching” policy is causing anyone to violate social distancing rules because it suspended “stand up meetings,” replacing them with boards and one-on-one conversations, and that “all business essential information is being shared via boards near main areas and through conversations with managers, or HR team members.”

Amazon’s spokesperson said the company is also running training through in-app tools and equipment.

Gagandeep Kaur, a labour advocate with the Warehouse Workers Centre, said that working conditions inside Amazon’s warehouses stand in stark contrast to the image that the company’s public relations department has portrayed.

“The facilities are packed with people making it nearly impossible to maintain that safe physical distance at all times,” Kaur told PressProgress.

“Measures like social distancing are only in place at the entrances,” Kaur added. “As soon as you enter inside the facilities it’s a whole different world.

To date, a number of Amazon workers have tested positive for COVID-19 at its Canadian warehouses, including at least three workers at its Bolton, Ontario facility.

 

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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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