In a wave of hiring across Canada, Amazon raises warehouse worker salaries, while eliminating bonus program

Amazon Canada will hire 15,000 new warehouse and distribution employees with pay raises offered for front-line workers, the online retail giant announced Monday.

But the pay increase “doesn’t really make much of a difference,” said Warehouse Workers Center organizer Gagandeep Kaur, because the company recently rescinded a bonus program that gave workers a monthly payment based on attendance and productivity.

The variable compensation payment, a bonus worth up to eight percent of the workers’ monthly salary, was eliminated in Canadian warehouses this August, according to internal communication obtained by the Star.

“Starting Aug. 29, your hourly pay rates will increase and VCP will end,” the memo reads, noting that the decision is based on an “annual salary review process.”

The new hourly wages will start at $ 17 and range up to $ 21.65 for experienced hires, the company said, an increase from the previous initial rate of about $ 16 per hour. In a statement, Amazon spokesman Dave Bauer said the salary increases will also apply to seasonal hires.

Existing employees will also receive an additional $ 1.60-2.20 per hour, regardless of their seniority, according to the company.

Amazon has not responded to Star’s questions about removing its rewards program. The August memorandum says eliminating the program is part of “simplifying payment” and says the rate increases will equal the maximum bonus payments for which workers were previously eligible.

VCP payments were phased out at the company’s warehouses in the US in 2018, when Amazon announced that it was introducing a $ 15 minimum wage policy.

According to recent Canadian job postings on the company’s website, initial rates for warehouses in the GTA start at $ 18.20 an hour, higher than openings in other parts of the country. The jobs are a combination of seasonal and permanent positions, and the company offers a $ 100 bonus for those with proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Kaur said that while the e-commerce giant’s salary and benefits package for permanent workers compares favorably with other warehouses in the region, the fees are still “not enough to make ends meet.”

“Affordability is becoming a big issue, especially here in the (Peel) region.”

Amazon’s profits soared during the pandemic and rose 220 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Working conditions in company warehouses and among delivery drivers are under increasing scrutiny. Last year, a Star investigation found that a large proportion of injuries in the company’s warehouses were caused by overexertion and repetitive movements, and workers complained of unsustainable productivity quotas and limited ability to take breaks.

While the company initially slowly suspended disciplinary action against workers as a precautionary measure in the face of a pandemic, it later reinstated the policy and eliminated a $ 2-per-hour wage increase for heroes.

In California, lawmakers are considering new legislation targeting productivity quotas. Last week, the state Senate passed a landmark new bill that imposes limits on the practice.

If the bill becomes law, warehouses in California will have to disclose productivity quotas to workers and government agencies. Companies will also be prohibited from implementing quotas that prevent them from taking meal and bathroom breaks.

“We definitely have to do the same here, because our workers here face the same problem,” Kaur said. “These jobs could be so much better if some things could change.”

The pandemic also highlighted working conditions at Amazon and the general warehouse sector, where there is low union density and median wages stand at $ 18 in the GTA.

Records obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that Amazon, which employs thousands of warehouse workers in Brampton and Mississauga, had the highest number of COVID-19 cases of any employer in the Peel region last year. .

In March, public health authorities imposed mandatory shift closures at a facility, after 617 of the 5,000 Heritage Road workers tested positive for the virus.

Amazon has previously said that its COVID rates fell below community transmission levels and that it is one of the few employers to conduct multiple rounds of mass testing, leading to higher case counts than elsewhere in the world. job. It also says that it has implemented strict security measures and invested $ 45 million in precautions against the virus.

Kaur said the company’s financial success is “all possible thanks to the hard work of the workers.”

“They are the backbone of this industry,” he said. “They need respect.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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