- Absenteeism rates at an Amazon logistics hub in Italy have hit 30% in recent weeks as workers stay home due to coronavirus fears, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
- Amazon has refused to close the facility for cleaning, a union official told Bloomberg, even after two employees tested positive for COVID-19.
- Workers there are going on strike today, outraged by the company's response to the cases, which stands in stark contrast to its calls for many office employees to work remotely.
- "We are following the guidelines of local and international health authorities," Amazon said in a statement to Spanish news site La Información.
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As many as 30% of workers at an Amazon logistics hub in Castel San Giovanni, a town near Milan, Italy, have stopped showing up to work due to coronavirus fears, according to Bloomberg.
Earlier in March, two workers at the facility, which employs around 1,100 people, tested positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus disease, Reuters reported. Another three tested positive at a warehouse in Spain, according to Spanish news site La Información.
Amazon has refused to close the warehouses, sparking criticism that the company is putting profits ahead of worker safety. Union representatives told Bloomberg and Italian news site La Repubblica that Amazon has not taken sufficient measures to ensure worker safety, while an Amazon worker told Business Insider that tensions between management have come to a head.
On Tuesday, workers in Italy began a strike to protest the company's reaction to two of their coworkers testing positive for coronavirus.
"We are strictly following the guidance provided by the Government and the local health authorities to ensure we are implementing the right measures in all our sites across the country. Our teams are working to ensure we can continue to deliver to the most impacted customers, many of whom have no other way to get the items they need," an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider.
Italy has become the country worst hit by the coronavirus outside of China, with more than 15,000 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths. A slow initial response from the government, the country's aging population, and a lack of adequate medical resources have so overwhelmed Italy's healthcare system that doctors are being forced to choose which patients to treat. Last week, Italy went into a strict nationwide lockdown, with one resident describing the policy simply as: "I stay home," according to the BBC.
Amazon has defended keeping its warehouses open because of their role in delivering essential supplies to customers. This week, the company told sellers it's suspending shipments of all nonessential products to its warehouses to deal with the increased workloads following the coronavirus outbreak, instead prioritizing medical supplies, household staples, and other high-demand products.
However, the company's decision to continue operating warehouses stands in contrast to its approach to full-time, often highly paid, office workers. Amazon has recommended that employees in its Seattle, New York, and New Jersey office locations work remotely, and has instructed all 798,000 employees globally to halt "non-essential" travel. It has also promised to pay hourly workers at impacted locations who can't do their jobs from home.
Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of the international UNI Global Union, condemned Amazon's decision to keep its warehouses open.
"Amazon has told its office workers to stay home in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19 but, when it comes to the warehouses, the same concern does not seem to apply. When employees in a warehouse test positive, there should be a special effort made to protect the other employees, encourage social distancing and to deep clean the facility. But, instead, the company is bringing in more employees, working at an even faster pace, in order to meet the spike in consumer demand," Hoffman told Business Insider.