Amazon VP says he quit after workers who raised COVID-19 concerns were fired

Amazon VP says he quit after workers who raised COVID-19 concerns were fired

A Canadian software developer says he has resigned his position as a vice president with Amazon over the firing of employees who he says fought for better COVID-19 protection in the company’s warehouses.

Tim Bray, who says he worked with Amazon Web Services, wrote in a blog post that he “quit in dismay at Amazon firing of two whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of COVID-19.”

Bray says some workers, who had been active with a group of Amazon employees pushing the company for leadership on the global climate emergency, were contacted by Amazon warehouse staff concerned about what they considered lack of coronavirus protection.

He says the employees with the climate group responded by internally promoting a petition and an April 16 video call with guest activist Naomi Klein, and made an announcement using an internal mailing list.

Bray says two workers who were leaders with the climate group were immediately fired.

Amazon responded in an email to The Canadian Press that it supports employees’ rights to criticize working conditions, but that the two employees were fired for “repeatedly violating internal policies.”

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” the email stated.

The email said Amazon did not have any further comment on Bray’s departure, and would not answer a followup question about what internal policies the two terminated employees had violated.

Bray called the justification for the firings “laughable” in his blog post, and said he raised his concerns quietly within Amazon.

“Management could have objected to the event, or demanded that outsiders be excluded, or that leadership be represented, or any number of other things; there was plenty of time. Instead, they just fired the activists,” he wrote.

On Friday, Alberta reported an outbreak of COVID-19 at an Amazon warehouse north of Calgary. At the time, the province said there were five cases at the site at Balzac.

Amazon said last week it has spent more than $800 million on COVID-19 safety measures, including masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and installing hand-washing stations at warehouses.

Bray said in his blog post that his resignation, through salaries and share vestings, will probably cost him more than $1 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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