Wage increase, creation of 75,000 new jobs – How Amazon is responding to COVID-19 pandemic

As the spread of COVID-19 continue to present challenges to people, organisations and businesses across the world, governments and business owners are restrategising and rolling out measures to protect citizens from the virus and its impact as well as the economy from total collapse.

One of the top four technology companies in the world, Amazon.com Inc., has announced a long list of measures it is rolling out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to help its employees, customers, stakeholders and the economy.

While other businesses are laying off workers and downsizing, the American multinational tech company which focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence, said it plans to hire 75,000 workers in the United States across both full- and part-time positions in addition to the 100,000 it hired in the past four weeks.

The lockdown in the U.S and other parts of the world has forced people to turn to home deliveries for their purchases over fear of contracting coronavirus if they go out to shop. Just as Jumia, Konga and other online stores have been the go-to e-commerce stores for Nigerians, Amazon is the most popular in America. According to the Guardian UK, Amazon has already captured nearly 50% of the US e-commerce market, and with the lockdown, there has been a surge in customers' demands.

In a letter to shareowners on Thursday, Jeff Bezos, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Amazon.com Inc. said Amazon positioned the hiring of 75,000 workers as an option for anyone looking to seek work "until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back."

"We know that many people around the world have suffered financially as jobs are lost or furloughed. We are happy to have them on our teams until things return to normal and either their former employer can bring them back or new jobs become available," he said.

Bezos, the richest man in the world with a net worth of $113 billion, also announced that Amazon will be spending over $500 million on pay increases in April in light of growing need.

"We increased our minimum wage through the end of April by $2 per hour in the U.S., $2 per hour in Canada, £2 per hour in the UK, and €2 per hour in many European countries. And we are paying associates double our regular rate for any overtime worked—a minimum of $34 an hour—an increase from time and a half. These wage increases will cost more than $500 million, just through the end of April, and likely more than that over time. While we recognize this is expensive, we believe it's the right thing to do under the circumstances," the Amazon CEO said.

Other measures announced by Bezos include:

1. Regular testing of staff, including those showing no symptoms, to help keep people safe and help get the economy back up and running.

2. Establishment of the Amazon Relief Fund—with an initial $25 million in funding—to support independent delivery service partners and their drivers and temporary employees under financial distress.

3. Protection of customers from bad actors looking to exploit the crisis by removing over half a million offers from its stores due to COVID-based price gouging. More than 6,000 selling accounts globally have been suspended for violating fair-pricing policies. Sellers suspected to have engaged in price gouging of products related to COVID-19 have been attended over to law enforcement offices.

4. Amazon Web Services: Hospital networks, pharmaceutical companies, and research labs are now using AWS to care for patients, explore treatments, and mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 in many other ways. Academic institutions around the world are transitioning from in-person to virtual classrooms and are running on AWS to help ensure continuity of learning. And governments are leveraging AWS as a secure platform to build out new capabilities in their efforts to end this pandemic.

5. Launch of AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative to support customers working to bring more accurate diagnostic solutions to market for COVID-19, $20 million has been committed to accelerate this work and help customers harness the cloud to tackle this challenge.

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