(CNN Business) – Amazon employees at the company’s facilities in Staten Island, New York, plan to leave work Monday amid allegations that the online retail giant has mishandled its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Employees are protesting Amazon’s decision to keep the Staten Island warehouse open despite news of a confirmed case of the virus there last week, said Christian Smalls, an assistant manager at the facility leading the strike.
Many more employees have tested positive for the virus at the facility than the company has publicly acknowledged, Smalls said, alleging that up to five to seven workers have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.
An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement Sunday night that the company’s top priority is the health and safety of its employees.
The spokesperson said Amazon “recently implemented daily temperature controls at our operations sites as an additional preventive measure to support the health and safety of our customers and employees.”
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“We believe that direct communication is the best way to discuss feedback, and our on-site teams are speaking directly with employees every day to hear your questions and discuss the options available in this ever-changing environment,” said the spokesperson.
The strike will begin at 12:30 pm local time, and could involve between 50 and 200 people, Smalls estimated. After the strike, the workers will gather at a nearby public bus stop and speak to the press.
“The plan is to cease all operations until the building is closed and disinfected,” Smalls told CNN in an interview. “We are not asking for much. We are asking that the building be closed and disinfected, and that we be paid. ”
Before settling on the strike, Smalls, who said he handles approximately 500-600 people weekly, said that every day for the past week, he sought help from the facility’s general manager, but to no avail.
Smalls said he expects Amazon to give in quickly, because facilities like his are “breeding grounds for this pandemic.” Employees are advised to continue working until they receive confirmation of a positive result, Smalls said. But, he said, that may be too late, due to the virus’ multi-day incubation period. Smalls added that he has tried to contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, but has not yet received a response.
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On Sunday, Amazon implemented daily temperature checks for everyone who enters the Staten Island facility at the start of their shifts, according to a worker employed there and an internal post on the Amazon employee app that was viewed by CNN Business.
In an interview with CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday, Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs, said ensuring the safety of the company’s American employees was “our first and foremost concern.”
“This is our first and foremost concern, which is to make sure that Amazon employees, more than 500,000 in the United States, are protected as best they can while doing this heroic job for their fellow citizens,” Carney said.
He added, “We have also told employees that if they feel uncomfortable coming to work, if they are concerned about their own health, they can take unlimited time off until the end of April without any repercussions. We don’t want anyone to feel that their job depends on coming to work in this circumstance. ”
Amazon has previously said that employees who become ill or quarantined will receive a two-week payment, and that Amazon contractors who test positive for the virus can request up to two weeks of payment from a 25 million-dollar relief fund. dollars that the company has established.
The company has also said it is taking “extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our facility.” That includes regularly disinfecting door handles, elevator buttons, lockers and touch screens, Amazon said, as well as shift changes and chair layouts in break rooms.
Additionally, workers are asked to stay at least two meters from each other during the workday, according to Smalls.
Sara Ashley O’Brien contributed to this report.