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Amazon gives cut workers more time to sign

Amazon.com workers recently cut now have more time to consider a separation agreement that has raised the hackles of employees and labor advocates alike.

    Amazon.com workers recently cut from the online retail giant now have more time to consider a separation agreement that has raised the hackles of employees and labor advocates alike.

    The company notified employees on Thursday that they have until their last day of work to sign the separation agreement, which for many employees will be sometime in May. Previously, the agreement required laid off employees to sign the pact by Friday.

    Last week, Amazon announced that it would lay off 1,300 workers and close certain business sites. The company at the time said it would offer all laid off workers a standard severance package that includes two weeks of pay.

    Amazon is requiring employees to sign the separation agreement to receive an enhanced severance package that includes six to 10 weeks of severance pay and a cash bonus.

    "A few employees have asked for extra time to decide whether to sign the separation agreement, so we've decided to extend the deadline for each of you," the company said in an e-mail to workers in its Seattle customer service center. "If you've already signed your agreement but now would like more time to think about it, please let any of us know, and we'll return your signed agreement to you."

    Amazon's move follows a walkout by some 50 Seattle customer service workers Tuesday. Workers staged the first significant labor action at Amazon to protest the company's recent layoffs and the separation agreement, which many of them consider unfair.

    "This is a definite win," said Marcus Courtney, an organizer with the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, which led a union drive in the Seattle customer service center. "It happened because people were continuing to speak out and organize around the separation agreement."

    Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith denied that the company bowed to pressure from organizers.

    Workers have criticized the separation agreement, worrying that if they signed it they would lose the right to sue Amazon for sexual harassment or racial discrimination. Workers have also criticized the lack of an end date for the contract, and the possibility that Amazon could fire workers before the last day stipulated by the agreement to avoid paying severance.

    The separation agreement originally included a non-disparagement clause, but Amazon removed that clause after workers complained.

    The change in the deadline only affects laid off customer service and distribution center workers.