Amazon’s COVID-19 blog: How we are supporting our employees, customers, and communities in Canada

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Last updated May 19, 2020

Our teams worldwide are working around the clock to ensure we continue to provide our essential services during this most critical time. Below is a running list of updates and what we’re doing to support our employees, partners, customers, and communities in Canada.

May 19
COVID-19 helpline calling with Alexa

In Canada, you can now say, “Alexa, call the coronavirus helpline” or « Alexa, appelle le service d’assistance téléphonique sur le coronavirus » to get connected with your local public resource line.

May 1
Amazon Canada donates $3 million to charities and organizations related to COVID-19

Amazon Canada donates CAD$3 million to support those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis in Canada including $1.5 million for Canadian Red Cross, United Way Centraide Canada, and Food Banks Canada, and an additional $1.5 million fund to support local organizations in the communities where our employees live and work.  Read more here.

April 30
Providing for customers and protecting employees
In the second quarter of 2020, Amazon expects to invest approximately $4 billion on COVID-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe. This includes investments in personal protective equipment, enhanced cleaning of our facilities, less efficient process paths that better allow for effective social distancing, higher wages for hourly teams, and developing our own COVID-19 testing capabilities. Read more about our work to keep employees safe.

Audible.ca teams up with Scotiabank
Audible.ca has teamed up with Scotiabank to give all Canadians a chance to catch-up with a diverse range of  Canadian literary classics, by giving away audiobook editions of 10 past winners of the Scotiabank Giller Prize. The titles available range from seminal works by local legends like Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, to more recent acclaimed novels by Sean Michaels and André Alexis. All 10 selections will be available at audible.ca/listenwithgiller until June 28, and once downloaded, may be kept and enjoyed forever.

April 28
Amazon invests more than $800 million so far on COVID‑19 safety measures
Through the measures we worked rapidly to implement, we expect to spend more than $800 million in the first half of the year on COVID‑19 safety measures. This includes purchasing items like masks, hand sanitizer, thermal cameras, thermometers, sanitizing wipes, gloves, and additional handwashing stations, as well as using disinfectant spraying in buildings, procuring COVID‑19 testing supplies, and hiring more janitorial staff. Some specific numbers include:

  • Deploying 100 million+ masks
  • Adding 2,298 handwashing stations
  • Adding 5,765+ janitorial staffers to our typical teams
  • Deploying an additional 34 million gloves
  • Adding 48 million ounces of hand sanitizer
  • Adding 93 million sanitizing spray bottles and wipes
  • Deploying more than 31,000 thermometers and 1,115+ thermal cameras

We’re also spending over $85 million redeploying team members from their typical roles to performing safety related tasks and audits at sites around the world. This includes team members who are “social distancing ambassadors” helping with temperature checks. Read more about how we’re taking care of employees here.Stay well – check your symptoms at home with Alexa and guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada
Using guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Alexa team built an experience that enables you to use Alexa to check your symptoms at home, using just your voice. Ask, “Alexa, what is my risk of getting the coronavirus?” or if you’re speaking to Alexa in French “Alexa, quel est le risque de contracter le coronavirus?” and Alexa will ask a series of questions about your symptoms, and possible exposure. Based on your responses, Alexa will provide the Public Health Agency of Canada guidance that matches your risk level and symptoms.

April 21
Amazon Music supports the Unison Benevolent Fund’s COVID-19 Relief Fund
Amazon Music is proud to have finalized a support plan to become official partners for The Unison Benevolent Fund’s COVID-19 Relief Fund in Canada. The Unison Fund is a registered non-profit organization that provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community, Amazon Music’s contribution will be directly distributed as part of The Unison Fund’s financial grant program to affected members of the Canadian music community during these challenging times. For more information on the work that Unison does, please visit www.unisonfund.ca.

April 16
Amazon publishes annual letter to shareholders from Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO
Read the letter here.

April 13
Stories help – and Audible is making them available for free
Audible Stories (audible.ca/stories) is a collection of hundreds of free full-length stories in seven different languages, designed to give children and families a screen-free entertainment option. Millions of daily visitors from 180 countries around the world, including many Canadians, are streaming stories from the site. The collection has doubled in size over the past few weeks, with new selections including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in both English and French-language editions. Canadian Potter fans may be particularly excited about listening to Stephen Fry’s English-language performance of the book, now available for the first time in North America on Audible Stories!

For adult listeners, Audible has made James Taylor’s musical memoir Break Shot available for free, in which the legendary singer-songwriter uses stories and songs to tell the story of his early life. Like Audible Stories, Break Shot is available for free to anyone in Canada; no Audible membership required. Taylor fans across Canada who were disappointed by the recent cancellation of his tour may be particularly interested in getting to know Taylor better by listening to this unique hybrid of music and storytelling.

April 8
Giving our customers more time to return items
We’re temporarily extending return windows in light of the ongoing global health crisis. Most items ordered through Amazon or seller partners in the U.S. and Canada between March 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020, can now be returned until May 31, 2020. Items ordered through Amazon or seller partners in Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, and the Netherlands between February 15, 2020, and April 30, 2020, can now be returned until May 31, 2020. For more about customer orders and deliveries, click here.

April 3
Government of Canada partners with Amazon to help get personal protective equipment to front‑line healthcare workers
The Amazon Canada team is proud to partner with the Government of Canada by leveraging our fulfillment network and delivery service partners to ship critical supplies to front-line medical professionals across the country. Read more.

Cloud helps Canadian Customers During COVID-19 Pandemic
From coast to coast, we are hearing from customers just how important the cloud has been to them as they try to get staff online, develop new applications quickly, or scale to meet the burgeoning demand. We’ve been collecting some stories from across the country and will continue to share more highlights from our customers. Read them here.April 2
Update from Amazon’s Operations Network
To date, we’ve made over 150 significant process changes to ensure the health and safety of our Amazon teams. Read details in this message from Dave Clark, Senior Vice President of Amazon Worldwide Operations.

April 1
Updated work-from-home guidance
In light of ongoing international COVID-19 developments, we are extending Amazon’s guidance globally, except for mainland China. All corporate office employees who work in a role that can be done from home are recommended to do so through April 24.

March 29
Health and safety measures from the global Amazon network
Amazonians all over the world have sent in images of the ways their facilities are adapting to fight the spread of COVID-19. See below for snapshots that capture everything from the enhanced cleaning protocols to the many visual reminders of the need to practice social distancing. Read more here about how Amazon prioritizes health and safety while fulfilling customer orders.

March 27:
How to use Alexa and Amazon Devices to stay informed and connected
We want to do everything we can to support customers during these unprecedented times and our teams are working to make Alexa and Amazon Devices (Kindle, Fire tablets, Echo, Fire TV, and more) even more helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

Specific callouts for Canada include:

  • Ask Alexa to sing a song for 20 seconds, and she’ll help you keep time while you scrub your hands with a tune.
  • You can use Alexa video calling to stay connected to friends and family near or far using compatible Echo devices, the Alexa app, or Skype. Just say, “Alexa, call Dad.” You can also use Drop In to check on your kids throughout the day. Simply say, “Alexa, drop in on the living room.” Video calling and Drop-In are available on the Alexa App or an Echo Show device. Learn how to remotely set up a device for your loved ones.
  • Families everywhere can now stream free audio stories in six languages from Audible and more than 20 kid-friendly shows from Prime Video.
  • Prime customers have access to eBooks across genres including children’s literature, romance, and health and wellness for free with Prime Reading on your Kindle, tablet, or phone.
  • Minecraft Education Edition is offering Fire tablet users around the world access to three free adapted lessons.

March 26:
Twitch to host a 12-hour charity live stream to benefit COVID-19 relief
Amazon subsidiary Twitch (a video live streaming service) has partnered with Amazon Music to launch Twitch Stream Aid. The 12-hour charity live stream will benefit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and feature some of the biggest names in gaming, music, and sports, with special guests. Twitch Stream Aid kicks off this Saturday, March 28 at 9:00 a.m. PST.

March 25:
Amazon Web Services helps the World Health Organization accelerate COVID-19 research
We are working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to accelerate the effort to track the virus, understand its outbreak, and to better contain its spread. AWS is supplying WHO with advanced cloud technologies and supporting them with technical expertise. This ranges from building vast “data lakes” aggregating epidemiological country data, to rapidly translating medical training videos into different languages and helping global healthcare workers to better treat patients.

As it becomes increasingly important to provide Canadians with up-to-the minute information on COVID-19, several governments are relying on the AWS Cloud to power its websites, including Canada.ca, Ontario.ca, and Quebec.ca.

March 24:
How Amazon prioritizes health and safety while fulfilling customer orders
Now more than ever, Amazon’s fulfillment, delivery, and physical store networks play a critical role in serving customers. In these unprecedented times, we remain committed to the health and safety of our employees, partners, and the customers we serve. Read more.

Empowering our customers
Globally, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is responding to the needs of businesses and organizations that require tools and support as they deal with the ripple effect of COVID-19. AWS is providing credits that help cover costs, while enabling organizations to quickly stand up and scale their tools and infrastructure to keep businesses running, and speed COVID-19 research projects. At AWS Canada, we’re seeing the same requests for support, particularly across healthcare, education, and government customers as they deal with the growing demand from clients and citizens. We are also actively engaged with our startup ecosystem who are doing research on COVID-19, and deploying our resources to help expedite projects, such as working with Ottawa-based Aetonix who is providing virtual screening services for COVID-19 to a number of hospitals for free. AWS is supportive of the work happening in Canada’s rich AI ecosystem in Montreal, and we are assisting Mila in its current mission to discover antivirals in the fight against COVID-19. Machine learning has a real impact in helping the medical and research community expedite results.

In addition to these efforts, the team at the newly-opened Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) is working on a project with Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) in collaboration with other facilities to help identify if someone has COVID-19 based on CT-Scans. The project is done with support from the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative and is one part of a larger joint endeavor between AWS and UBC to help solve health and wellbeing challenges using the cloud.  We will be sharing more details in the coming weeks.

March 23: 
How we’re combating price gouging
Amazon is taking a number of important steps to keep prices fair and protect our customers from those looking to exploit the current crisis. We have zero tolerance for price gouging and longstanding policies and systems to prevent this harmful practice. We’re working vigorously to combat price gouging. Find out what we’re doing.

Prioritizing high-priority items in our Operations network
As COVID-19 has spread, we’ve seen an increase in people shopping online. To serve our customers while also helping to ensure the safety of our associates, we’ve adjusted our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third-party seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering items that are a higher priority for our customers. This will result in some of our delivery promises being longer than usual.

March 21:
A message to employees from our CEO and founder
Jeff Bezos sent the following email to all Amazon employees: “This isn’t business as usual, and it’s a time of great stress and uncertainty. It’s also a moment in time when the work we’re doing is its most critical. We’ve changed our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third party seller processes to prioritize stocking and delivering essential items like household staples, sanitizers, baby formula, and medical supplies. We’re providing a vital service to people everywhere, especially to those, like the elderly, who are most vulnerable. People are depending on us.” Read the full email.

March 16:
Hiring 1,000 people in Canada to help meet demand and support existing employees
We are opening over 1,000 new full and part-time positions across Canada within our fulfillment centres and delivery network to meet the surge in demand from people relying on Amazon’s service during this stressful time, particularly those most vulnerable to being out in public. We also know many people have been economically impacted as jobs in areas like hospitality, restaurants, and travel are lost or furloughed as part of this crisis. We want those people to know we welcome them on our teams until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back. We will be hiring over 600 people in Ontario, 300 in the Vancouver area, and 100 in Alberta. Learn more.

Increasing our workers’ pay in Canada, the U.S., UK, and many EU countries
In addition to the over 1,000 new roles we’re creating in Canada, we want to recognize our employees who are playing an essential role for people at a time when many of the services that might normally be there to support them are closed. In Canada, we will be adding an additional CDN $2 per hour worked through April from our current rate, depending on the region, $2 USD in the US, £2 per hour in the UK, and approximately €2 per hour in many EU countries. This commitment to increased pay through the end of April represents an investment of over $350 million in increased compensation for hourly employees across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Full story.

March 11:
Establishing the $25 million Amazon Relief Fund
The Amazon Relief Fund is focused on supporting our independent delivery service partners and their drivers, Amazon Flex participants, and seasonal employees under financial distress during this challenging time. We will be offering all of these groups the ability to apply for grants approximately equal to up to two weeks of pay if diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine. Going forward, this fund will support our employees and contractors around the world who face financial hardships. Applicants may apply and receive a personal grant from the fund ranging from $400 to $5,000 per person. Read more.

Supporting employees affected by COVID with paid time off
All Amazon employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine will receive up to two weeks of pay. This additional pay while away from work is to ensure employees have the time they need to return to good health without the worry of lost income. This is in addition to unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees through the end of March. Full story.

March 6:
Amazon employees who can are asked to work from home, globally
In light of ongoing international COVID-19 developments, we now recommend that all global employees who work in a role that can be done from home, do so through the end of April. Every team is different and not all jobs are conducive to working from home. Employees and partners whose work requires their physical presence in their workplace, have access to all of their usual paid and unpaid time-off benefits. 

We are continuing to pay all hourly staff who work for the service providers that support our offices around the world—from food-service workers to security guards to janitorial staff. 

February 28, 2020:
Pausing events and tours
We paused our fulfillment centre public tours program, cancelled large events, and changed the majority of our job interviews to virtual interviews rather than in-person interviews, which often require travel. At the same time, we increased our cleaning of all facilities globally, including regular sanitization of all door handles, stairway handrails, elevator buttons, lockers, and touch screens. We also announced we will host a virtual annual shareholder meeting this year. Shareholders from around the world will be able to view and participate in the meeting live, regardless of their location.

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