Contractors at an Amazon warehouse in Darlington say they have walked out over a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and inadequate social distancing measures.
Builders have claimed they were working under “unacceptable and unsafe” conditions at the distribution centre and face being sacked for walking out over coronavirus safety fears.
Amazon strongly rejected the allegations. The online retailer insisted that it has “implemented proactive measures” at all of its sites and ensured face masks are available for workers to use to use.
One worker said: “It’s a big site and the Amazon building is huge and there is nobody wearing masks or gloves – people are not social distancing.
“Bosses have said if people walk off the site they will be sacked and replaced with someone else.
“The only way you can work safely is if there were five people on site. It’s impossible. There are hundreds.”
A cleaner who works for TC Facilities Management, accused Amazon of “ignoring” a “worsening” situation.
The worker said: “There is nobody enforcing social distancing rules, people are in very close proximity with each other.
“Cleaners do not have PPE, we have the worst rubber gloves to clean the area, no aprons and no masks.
“When I approached my manager about it they said “you’ve got to sneeze and cough” over you to catch it.
“Workers who don’t feel safe are told they can have agreed unpaid leave – a few have already quit from the agency.
“Some have gone home with symptoms in the last two weeks.
“Amazon should be overseeing this to make sure everyone is doing their part. They are still letting contractors put everybody at risk.”
TCFM said that contract workers would be provided with face masks and that it would ensure that social distancing was being adhered to.
The company said: “We take seriously the responsibility we have to our people in keeping them safe and well at work, and in doing so make sure that every colleague is provided with the correct equipment and tools for the jobs they are asked to complete, we can confirm that there is no shortage of the correct Personal Protective Equipment in any of our sites.
“We are working closely with our partners – we have been able to go further to support our teams by providing face masks to all and also temperature checking everyone on entry to sites for all colleagues protection.”
Alan Marshall, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for the economy, said: “Our environmental health team has received several complaints relating to various companies claiming that public health guidelines are not being followed, but we have received no specific evidence to support this.
“We have discussed the complaints with the companies who have assured us they have policies and procedures in place and comply with the guidelines.”
An Amazon spokesperson said: “Amazon is disappointed that some individuals working on the completion of the Darlington site have not complied with social distancing guidelines set by the contractors.”
Agencies contributed to this report