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Precarious workers across the world stage fightback against bosses ignoring the pandemic

Amazon’s Whole Food Market delivery service hit by a ‘sick-out’

WORKERS in precarious employment across the world are fighting back against bosses who are forcing them to work without safety equipment or face not being paid.

Amazon’s Whole Food Market delivery service was hit by a “sick-out” today, a response to concerns over the spread of coronavirus among its US workforce.

Whole Worker, the national group that organised the strike, said the action was necessary after reports that workers in stores including those in New York City, Chicago, Louisiana and California had contracted the virus. 

They are demanding paid leave for all workers who stay at home or self-quarantine during the coronavirus crisis, free coronavirus testing for all employees and a doubling of the hazard pay for those who continue to work.

“Covid-19 is a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and customers,” the group said in a statement.

“We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”

Amazon has come under fire, with workers in its warehouses worldwide reporting appalling conditions, a failure to provide protective equipment and a refusal to abide by social-distancing measures.

Workers at an Amazon facility near Florence in Italy walked out in protest on Monday.

The online retail giant has been accused of sacking a worker who led strike action at a Statten Island warehouse in New York, but Amazon bosses insisted that Christian Smalls was on a paid quarantine after having close contact with a diagnosed worker, and had “received multiple warnings for violating social-distancing guidelines,” leading to his dismissal.

Mr Smalls has hit back, accusing Amazon of neglecting its workforce as it continues to rake in the profits from higher demand during the global pandemic. 

“I’m going to keep speaking up. My colleagues in New York and all around the country are going to keep speaking up. We won’t stop until Amazon provides real protections for our health and safety,” he said.

Eyebrows have been raised after it was revealed that Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, sold about $3.4 billion (£2.74bn) of shares in the company in February – before the scale and impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the economy was known. While there is no suggestion he acted improperly, his timing was perfect.

And Republican Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, was heard on a secret recording in February advising a select group of donors that the Covid-19 outbreak would be serious.

Senator Burr sold between $582,000 (£470,000) and $1.5 million (£1.2m) worth of stock in 29 separate transactions on February 13.

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