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Amazon workers stage Black Friday protests in 15 countries

Their demands have included improved working conditions and better pay. A day earlier, Amazon announced bonuses for front-line employees.

Amazon has hired hundreds of thousands of new workers to handle the spike in consumer demand. 
Declan McCullagh/CNET
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A day after Amazon said it will give a holiday bonus to its front-line employees -- those most at risk of contracting the coronavirus --  warehouse workers in multiple countries staged strikes and protests on Black Friday.

Full-time employees in the US from Dec. 1 to 31 are eligible for the $300 bonus, Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of retail operations, said Thursday in a company blog post. Part-time workers in the US employed during the same period will receive a $150 bonus, he said.

"Our teams are doing amazing work serving customers' essential needs, while also helping to bring some much-needed holiday cheer for socially-distanced families around the world," Clark wrote, adding that he's "never been more grateful for -- or proud of -- our teams."

However, workers in the US, UK, Mexico, Brazil, India, Australia and nine other countries planned to carry out strikes and protests on Black Friday, one of the e-commerce giant's biggest sales days of the year, Vice reported. They have been demanding that Amazon improve working conditions and pay, as well as respecting the right to organize -- a collective effort known as #MakeAmazonPay.

Employees in Germany went on strike in seven warehouses on Friday, and at Amazon's London headquarters, a workers union projected "Make Amazon Pay" onto the side of the building, according to Business Insider. Also, garment workers demonstrated outside an Amazon supplier in Bangladesh. A strike in Sydney was the first demonstration of the day, The Verge reported. 

In an emailed statement, an Amazon spokesperson said: "This is a series of misleading assertions by misinformed or self-interested groups who are using Amazon's profile to further their individual causes. Amazon has a strong track record of supporting our people, our customers, and our communities, including providing safe working conditions, a $15 minimum wage and great benefits, leading on climate change with the Climate Pledge commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040, and paying more than $5 billion in taxes in 2019."

This year's pandemic lockdowns and related growth in online commerce have been a driving force for Amazon, which saw its profit triple in the third quarter. But the company has also struggled to implement new safety features in its warehouses, and workers have repeatedly protested for better protections from the coronavirus.

Amazon has hired hundreds of thousands of new workers to handle the spike in consumer demand and has added dozens of new safety measures including a testing regime, masks and more rigorous cleanings.

The company disclosed last month that nearly 20,000 of its US workers have contracted COVID-19, a sign that its work to contain the virus in its workforce is far from over.

The second round of bonuses, which total $500 million, will come after Amazon announced in June it would pay out $500 million in one-time bonuses to front-line employees.