Amazon.com Inc. will allow warehouse workers to keep cell phones with them at work, abandoning plans to resume a ban temporarily lifted during the pandemic.
“We recognize the desire of employees to keep their cell phones inside the facilities and the past two years have shown that we can do this safely,” Amazon said in an email to employees reviewed by Bloomberg.
“Therefore, we are making the temporary telephone policy permanent, worldwide, in all of our operational facilities.”
The Seattle-based company considered resuming the ban late last year, angering workers who said they needed phones to keep in touch with family members during the pandemic.
A December tornado that further killed six Amazon workers in an Illinois warehouse reinforced ‘Wish to have their employees’ devices so they can access information in real time during emergencies.
For years, Amazon has banned employees from keeping phones in warehouses and required them to leave them in their vehicles or in lockers near breakout rooms.
After temporarily easing the ban during the pandemic, the company announced last year that it plans to reset the ban. When workers complained, Amazon said it would allow the phones “until further notice”.
It is not uncommon for employers to discourage the use of personal devices during working hours. Cell phones can pose a safety risk, especially in industrial operations, if workers are distracted.
And some companies fear that rogue employees may use camera-equipped smartphones to divulge sensitive technology and information.
But many workers in the digital age see their devices as a lifeline, especially in case of sudden emergencies.
Amazon’s move to ban phones comes as the company faces unprecedented union unrest.
Employees at one of Amazon’s Staten Island warehouses voted in favor of joining the new Amazon Labor Union earlier this month.
A second vote is underway to decide whether 1,500 workers at a nearby Staten Island facility want to be represented by the same union. Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama have twice voted against joining the department store’s retail and wholesale union and the union group is appealing the result of the latest election.
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