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The e-commerce giant committed to adding a total of 175,000 new jobs amid COVID-19 to help meet demand, but KKS Advisors, a progressive advisory services firm, has ranked the company among the worst of those with inequality and COVID-19-related issues in a new report.
"During the pandemic, the company created numerous jobs, for which it might ostensibly receive credit under a first-pass analysis," KKS wrote. "However, these jobs were largely low-quality, many used zero-hour contracts, and they are unlikely in the medium and long term to align with a stakeholder primacy agenda."
Zero-hour contracts are contracts between an employer and an employee that do not require a minimum work hour requirements. Amazon hired a range of full and part-time workers during the pandemic as millions of people were laid off from jobs as a result of lockdowns.
"Amazon has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in this critical time – jobs that pay twice the federal minimum wage, health insurance from day one, up to 20 weeks of paid parental leave, and company-funded upskilling opportunities. We’ve announced plans to hire 300,000 people in the U.S. since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis," Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski told FOX Business.
Amazon offered $500 bonuses to essential employees who worked through June and invested about $4 billion in COVD-19 related initiatives in the second quarter of 2020. It also made 150 process updates in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, according to a blog post.
The company proved its value during the pandemic as lockdowns and COVID-19 concerns kept people from shopping in physical stores. Amazon's market capitalization has ballooned since February; it is now worth more than $1.5 trillion. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' wealth topped $200 billion in August.
Based on COVID-19 response and inequality metrics, KKS ranked Amazon in the bottom quarter of companies listed in the report, among eBay, Tyson, Wells Fargo, Gilead Sciences and others.
"Companies with a poor performance ... more frequently face legal issues such as lawsuits related to workers, in addition to shareholder dissatisfaction expressed through the filing of shareholder proposals on social and human capital issues," the report said.
Three Amazon warehouse workers filed a lawsuit against the company in June demanding more COVID-19 protections.
Bezos was one of 181 major CEOs to sign a statement of purpose that includes a commitment to investing in employees through fair compensation and benefits, training and education, as well as an environment that fosters "diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect."
The KKS report notes that Amazon fired at least six employees who spoke up against the company's response to COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic, including warehouse worker Christian Smalls, who has organized a number of protests against the company since he was fired in late March after saying the company's worker conditions were unfair amid COVID-19.
Some of his demands have included $30-per-hour minimum wage, shareholder access for all employees, 100-percent PTO for employees who test positive for the virus, $2-per-hour hazard pay and sick time pay, as well as other benefits and forms of compensation.
KKS cited a number of reports in which U.K. and U.S. Amazon employees expressed concerns for their health while working during the pandemic, saying warehouse conditions were "hellish." At least seven Amazon workers have died of COVID-19 and at least 400 have tested positive.