On Saturday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos posted a letter to employees, calling the coronavirus pandemic “a time of great stress and uncertainty,” but noting that the company’s efforts to bring food and supplies to consumers with limited shopping options has never been more critical.
In the post, Bezos said Amazon has responded with changes to logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing and third-party seller processes to “prioritize stocking and delivering essential items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula and medical supplies.”
He also highlighted adaptations for warehouse workers who cannot work from home, including “increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning [and] adjusting our practices in fulfillment centers to ensure the recommended social distancing guidelines.”
Amazon employees have complained the company is not doing enough to protect them. Adweek spoke to one warehouse worker who said, for example, that the company had recommended what kind of masks they should wear, but was not providing them.
In Bezos’ letter, he said Amazon has “placed purchase orders for millions of face masks we want to give to our employees and contractors who cannot work from home.” However, few of those orders have been filled to date because “masks remain in short supply globally and are at this point being directed by governments to the highest-need facilities like hospitals and clinics.”
Meanwhile, companies like worker safety and health care conglomerate 3M announced it is doubling production of N95 masks to nearly 100 million per month and, in a press briefing on Saturday, President Trump said apparel brand HanesBrands is “retrofitting its manufacturing capabilities in large sections of their plants to produce masks.”
When Amazon’s turn for masks comes, Bezos said, “Our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working [on getting] essential products to people.”
Overall, Bezos cautioned that he expects “things are going to get worse before they get better,” and again pointed to the platform’s intent to hire 100,000 temporary workers who have been laid off. This follows a precedent established in China by ecommerce platforms Alibaba and JD.com, which also hired temporary employees in logistics as orders surged.
Bezos took a moment to express gratitude to his employees, noting praise from the likes of even Trump, who has had his share of beefs with Bezos over the years.
And, the Amazon CEO added, he is now “wholly focused on COVID-19 and on how Amazon can best play its role,” noting, “We won’t stop looking for new opportunities to help.”
“We are meeting every day, working to identify additional ways to improve on these measures,” he said. “I know that we’re going to get through this together.”