Amazon spends $500m on bonuses for Christmas staff
Amazon is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on bonuses for Christmas staff after sales at the online giant soared during the pandemic. Full-time warehouse workers in the UK and the US will receive £300 or $300, with £150 or $150 for part-time staff. The money, $500m in total, will go to staff working between 1-31 December.
The firm, run by Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, praised staff for “serving customers’ essential needs” during the pandemic.
In a blog post, Dave Clark, senior vice president of Amazon Worldwide Operations, wrote: “I’m grateful to our teams who continue to play a vital role serving their communities.
“As we head into the peak of the holiday season, we want to share our appreciation through another special recognition bonus, totalling more than $500 million for our front-line employees.”
The firm has come under intense scrutiny for working practices in its warehouses during the coronavirus pandemic. Labour activists in the US, for example, recently called on big retailers like Amazon and Walmart to do more to protect workers as surging Covid-19 cases coincide with the holiday shopping rush.
They are calling for hazard pay, paid sick leave and better communication about outbreaks. Amazon workers have raised concerns about their health and working conditions in Europe as well as in the US, claiming it is almost impossible to practice social distancing.
Earlier this year, Amazon was forced to shut down several warehouses in France in an ongoing row over conditions. The company has previously said that its guidelines are adequate and that it provides employees with face masks. However, the company said in a statement that it “provides some of the most advanced workplaces of their kind in the world, with industry-leading pay, processes and systems to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all employees”.
Amazon said it had introduced additional cleaning and other safety measures to increase protection, and in the UK had started a pilot scheme offering voluntary Covid testing for employees.
The retail giant has been one of the retail winners during coronavirus lockdowns as online deliveries skyrocketed when High Street shops closed.
Sales will also be boosted during the Black Friday bonanza, although a coalition of trade unions, environmentalists and other activists have urged consumers to boycott the firm. Protests are being planned in several countries, and in Germany, the trade union Verdi has organised three-day strikes at Amazon warehouses,
Sales at the internet giant shot to $96.1bn in the three months to 30 September – up 37% from the same period in 2019. And profits hit a record $6.3bn, nearly three times last year’s total.
But that level of growth has not come without additional costs. Amazon said it had $2.5bn in Covid-related expenses. In the UK it has also had to create thousands of jobs, as well as 20,000 seasonal posts, in a bid to keep up with shoppers.