Amazon to invest $350m and hire 100,000 staff as virus fuels online delivery demand

The company cautioned customers there could be delivery delays as coronavirus disrupts supply chains

FILE - In this Friday, March 23, 2018, file photo, associates move bins filled with products at the loading dock of Amazon's then-new fulfillment center in Livonia, Mich. Amazon said Monday, March 16, 2020 that it needs to hire 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with a crush of orders as the coronavirus spreads and keeps more people at home, shopping online. (Todd McInturf/Detroit News via AP)
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Amazon, which is struggling with a spike in orders due to the coronavirus outbreak, will invest more than $350 million (Dh1.28 billion) globally to increase employees’ wages and hire 100,000 more staff to meet rising demand.

“We are opening 100,000 new full and part-time positions across the US in our fulfillment centres and delivery network,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, wrote in the company’s blog.

The new employees will help the e-commerce giant meet the surge in demand from “people relying on Amazon’s service during this stressful time, particularly those most vulnerable to being out in public”, he added.

The company will add an extra $2 per hour in April from its current rate of $15 per hour or more. In the UK it will add £2 per hour and approximately €2 per hour in many European Union countries.

“This commitment to increased pay represents an investment of over $350m in increased compensation for hourly employees across the US, Europe and Canada,” said Mr Clark.

Amazon is witnessing an overwhelming demand from customers placing online orders for packed foods and household goods as they avoid congested supermarkets and stores. On March 2, the company warned customers of delivery delays due to a backlog of orders.

Five employees, working at Amazon’s warehouses in Spain and Italy, have contracted the coronavirus, according to a Bloomberg report. The company has been widely criticised by trade unions for keeping the facilities open and putting the safety of its employees at risk.

However, the company said all employees diagnosed with coronavirus or placed into quarantine will receive up to two weeks of pay.

“This additional pay while away from work is to ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost income. This is in addition to unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees through the end of March,” Amazon said in a statement.

It has also established the Amazon Relief Fund, with a $25m initial contribution, focused on supporting its independent delivery as well as service partners, their drivers and seasonal employees  under financial distress due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Applicants may apply and receive a personal grant from the fund ranging from $400 to $5,000 per person.

The company also paused its fulfillment centre public tours, cancelled large events and changed the majority of its job interviews to virtual interviews rather than in-person interviews, which often require travel.