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Amazon’s new CEO claims warehouse worker injuries are ‘misunderstood’

The injury rate among Amazon’s warehouse employees is “sometimes misunderstood,” chief executive Andy Jassy said in his first shareholder letter since taking the helm from Jeff Bezos last year. Following a bruising labor fight in which warehouse employees in New York City became the company’s first in the US to win the right to unionize — and on the heels of a new report claiming that Amazon leads the warehouse industry in employee injuries — Jassy claimed the e-commerce giant’s injury rate is “about average relative to peers.” The letter did not mention that Amazon is in a battle to hire warehouse workers in a tight nationwide labor market, and is also engaged in a campaign aimed at recruiting high school students to its warehouse work. Jassy revealed that Amazon has created a list of the “top 100 employee experience pain points” that cause “strains, sprains, falls and repetitive stress injuries” in the company’s fulfillment network. Amazon, he added, is “systematically” solving each one of them. Some of the injuries are due to the fact that Amazon hired 300,000 people in 2021 alone, many of whom were “new to this sort of work and needed training,” according to the letter. Amazon’s critics have blamed its high productivity goals for its growing injury rates, but Jassy didn’t address the speed at which Amazon employees work. Instead, he said the company is focusing on solutions, including “rotational programs” that cut down the time employees spend doing the same repetitive motions, “wearables that prompt employees when they’re moving in a dangerous way” and “improved shoes to provide better toe protection.” “But we still have a ways to go,” he wrote. “When I first started in my new role, I spent a significant amount of time in our fulfillment centers and with our safety team and hoped there might be a silver bullet that could change the numbers quickly. I didn’t find that.” Amazon has more than 1 million workers in its 253 fulfillment centers, 110 sorting centers and 467 delivery stations in North America alone, he wrote. The confusion over injury rates, he said, stems from how jobs are classified at Amazon. “We have operations jobs that fit both the ‘warehousing’ and ‘courier and delivery’ categories,” Jassy wrote. He said Amazon’s warehouse injury rates were “a little higher than average” at 6.4 vs. 5.5 for its peers and a “little lower” than average for all courier and delivery jobs at 7.6 vs. 9.1. “But we don’t seek to be average,” he wrote. “We want to be best in class.” Jassy’s first shareholder letter was wordier — at 5,200 words — than Bezos’ 3,891-word last letter to shareholders on April 15 in which he promised that Amazon would be “earth’s best employer” and “safest place to work.” The discussion of injury rates comes amid a high-profile labor fight in Bessemer, Ala., where Amazon employees just voted for the second time on whether to form a union after the National Labor Relations Board ordered a second vote, concluding that Amazon had interfered with the first one. Jassy also said Amazon has been focusing on improving its delivery times to Prime members so that more deliveries are made in one day instead of two.

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