Amazon has suspended more than two dozen employees who refused to work their shifts after a fire at one of its New York warehouses.

The move happened a day after a cardboard compactor at the Staten Island warehouse caught fire.

Dozens of employees had congregated in a break room late at night on Monday, October 3rd, raising fears over fire safety and unwillingness to work.

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Some were concerned that the air in the warehouse would be unsafe to breathe due to smoke or toxins from the fire.

The firm confirmed the suspensions, stating that though it respected employees’ rights to protest workplace conditions, blocking workspaces was unacceptable.

In an email to its employees, the Seattle giant said the paid suspensions will stay while an investigation takes place.

Under federal labor law, workers are entitled to conduct the so-called concerted activity for “mutual aid or protection,” such as protesting an unsafe work environment.

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In response to the suspensions, the Amazon Labor Union stated that it intended to submit an unfair labor practice complaint.

Workers on the night shift said that their supervisors told them to work despite the blast earlier the day.

However, those who were on the site during the incident were sent home with pay.

Amazon Labor Union VP and employee at the warehouse, Derrick Palmer said: “Workers want to go home.

“They sent the day shift home, but they’re making the night shift stay.” (Mr. Palmer works the day shift.)

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In an initial statement, the e-commerce giant said it had asked night staff to report to work once the fire department verified that the facility was safe.

The statement said: “While the vast majority of employees reported to their workstations, a small group refused to return to work and remained in the building without permission.” 

Employee Connor Spence, the union’s treasurer said some staff finally returned to their stations, while others went to the site’s main office to continue their protest.

Workers at another Amazon facility in Albany, New York, will vote on whether to join the Amazon Labor Union next week.

Source: The New York Times

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