A delivery worker for Amazon in Los Angeles, the US. Picture: CHRIS DELMAS / AFP
A delivery worker for Amazon in Los Angeles, the US. Picture: CHRIS DELMAS / AFP

Amazon.com says it will expand its hiring spree by an additional 75,000 workers as the online retailer shores up its logistics operation to meet demand from people hunkered down at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Amazon said on Monday it had already filled 100,000 previously announced temporary and full-time positions. The hiring spree and a temporary $2-an-hour wage boost will likely cost more than $500m, up from a prior estimate of $350m, the company said.

Online shopping has surged, particularly for staples such as toilet paper and groceries, and Amazon and its expansive warehousing and delivery operation have become lifelines for shoppers who can’t venture out in person.

Even as some of Amazon’s rival technology giants withdraw earnings guidance or warn about uncertain demand during the pandemic, analysts say Amazon stands to gain from shopping trends brought on by the virus. The company has kept its doors open as state-mandated closures of non-essential businesses shutter speciality physical retail storefronts across the US and Europe.

Meanwhile, Amazon is struggling with outbreaks of Covid-19 in its own ranks, with cases at dozens of sites around the US, according to employees and media reports. Some workers say Amazon’s hiring has helped the company fill roles of employees who have stopped coming to work out of fear of contracting or spreading the virus. Amazon says employees can stay at home without fear of termination or discipline, and interviews with workers at sites across the country suggest many are not showing up for work.

Amazon also says it has rolled out more intense cleaning and hygiene measures at its facilities, including temperature screenings and reorganised break rooms to encourage social distancing. Still, employees are getting sick as the pandemic spreads, and some have raised concerns that Amazon isn’t doing enough to keep them safe. Workers at Amazon warehouses in New York, Michigan and Illinois have staged walkouts demanding the company close their facilities for extended cleaning.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration last week said it was investigating working conditions at an Amazon warehouse in eastern Pennsylvania where at least 21 employees were diagnosed with Covid-19.