Workplaces have been divided sharply as a result of the pandemic, with white-collar workers Zooming at each other from the comfort of their homes while frontline workers in masks fought for (and generally won) higher salaries before seeing them devoured by rising inflation.
Amazon has been a trailblazer in all aspects of pandemic-era labour, first lifting its average minimum wage to $18 per hour, then embarking on a massive recruiting spree, particularly in its warehouses, while also fully adopting remote work at the corporate level.
CEO Andy Jassy has just drawn a line in the sand: remote work for some, but salary inflation for frontline staff must not spiral out of hand.
Jassy spoke with veteran tech journalist Kara Swisher about the tech giant’s remote-work strategy on Wednesday at Vox Media’s 2022 Code Conference in Beverly Hills. “We don’t have a plan to make people come back,” he explained. “Right now, we don’t. But, as we learn, we’ll proceed adaptively.”
When asked if an even higher minimum wage of $25 per hour was possible, Jassy said it would be unreasonable. “There is a limit to the economics you can pay and have a profitable business,” he said.
Jassy brought up during the conversation that some teams work in person more than others, such as those working on hardware and creative development. I do believe that some tasks are more difficult to complete remotely, he admitted. “I believe that distant invention is a little more difficult.”
Jassy’s remarks reaffirmed the company’s lenient policy on remote employment, which it had introduced at the end of the previous year.
Jassy delivered a memo describing Amazon’s plan to staff members in October. In the letter, Jassy stated that the business anticipated welcoming staff back into the workplace at various times as the world began to recover from the pandemic.
The company’s current emphasis is on flexibility. It would be up to team leaders to set their policies regarding remote work, he wrote. “At this stage, we want most of our people close enough to their core team that they can easily travel to the office for a meeting within a day’s notice.”
Jassy talked about the ongoing unionization effort at the company during his conversation at the Code Conference. The Staten Island Amazon warehouse became the nation’s first unionized Amazon workplace in April after the independent Amazon Labor Union was successful in unionizing it.
Company executives have kept questioning the outcome of the election. A National Labor Relations Board representative suggested last week that the organisation disregard Amazon’s objections.
Nevertheless, Jassy insisted throughout the conference that the vote count included “extremely troubling inconsistencies.”