NY Attorney General says Amazon warehouse safety ‘inadequate’
New York, April 28 (IANS) The New York Attorney General has criticised Amazon, saying the ecommerce giant may have violated federal safety standards for providing “inadequate” protection to its warehouse workers in the city.
According to a report in NPR.org, the office of New York's top lawyer Letitia James said the “company may have also broken the state's whistleblower laws for firing a warehouse worker who helped organise a protest in Staten Island”.
Amazon last month faced flak for firing Chris Smalls, a warehouse worker who helped to organise a walkout at the company's Staten Island fulfillment center.
According to the retail giant, the company “terminated his employment for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment.”
However, Smalls said in a statement that “Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe.
The New York Attorney General said in the letter seen by NPR: “While we continue to investigate, the information so far available to us raises concerns that Amazon's health and safety measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are so inadequate that they may violate several provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act” and other federal and state guidelines, James's staff wrote in the letter, dated April 22″.
Amazon, however, maintained that workers' accusations were unfounded and that it has taken “extreme measures to keep people safe.”
The letter said that New York's attorney general is also investigating “other cases of potential illegal retaliation.”
“This Office has learned that many workers are fearful about speaking out about their concerns following the termination of Mr. Smalls' employment,” the letter said.
“This is a particularly dangerous message to send during a pandemic, when chilling worker speech about health and safety practices could literally be a matter of life and death”.
The e-commerce giant Amazon has also fired two technology workers after they criticised the working conditions of the company's warehouse workers.
Amazon fired user experience designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, according to a report in The Washington Post which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Cunningham also confirmed in a tweet that she was fired. The two workers earlier criticised Amazon for its climate policies.
According to a report in The New York Times, a third employee, Chris Hayes, was also asked not to return to work.
Hayes reportedly circulated an invitation to join a virtual chat with workers of warehouse.
Even as Amazon is on a massive hiring spree as it has already filled 100,000 new jobs announced in March and plans to add 75,000 more to meet the surge in demand due to the COVID-19 crisis, the company continues to face criticism for the working conditions of warehouse workers.
Warehouse workers have complained about shortage of protective equipment to keep them safe and that the company has not proactively notified workers when their colleagues test positive for the virus.
“Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees. We made over 150 process updates to help protect employees — from enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to piloting new efforts like using disinfectant fog in our New York fulfillment centre,” Amazon said in a recent blog post