Big relief for staff! Amazon mobile phones ban in warehouses lifted

Amazon.com Inc. will let warehouse workers keep mobile phones with them on the job, abandoning plans to resume a ban temporarily lifted during the pandemic.

Amazon.com Inc. will let warehouse workers keep mobile phones with them on the job, abandoning plans to resume a ban temporarily lifted during the pandemic.

“We recognize the desire for employees to keep their mobile phones inside facilities and the last two years have demonstrated that we can safely do so,” Amazon said in an email to employees reviewed by Bloomberg. “Therefore, we are making the temporary phone policy permanent, worldwide, in all of our operations facilities.”

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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 killed six Amazon workers at an Illinois warehouse further reinforced employees’ desire to have their devices so they could access real-time information during emergencies.

For years, Amazon banned employees from having their phones on warehouse floors and required them to leave them in their vehicles or in lockers near breakrooms. After temporarily relaxing the ban during the pandemic, the company announced last year that it planned to reimpose the ban. When workers complained, Amazon said it would allow phones “until further notice.”

It’s not uncommon for employers to discourage the use of personal devices during work hours. Mobile phones can pose a safety risk, especially in industrial operations, if workers are distracted. And some businesses fret that rogue employees could use camera-equipped smartphones to leak sensitive technology and information.

But many workers in the digital age consider their devices a lifeline, especially in sudden emergencies.

Amazon’s shift on banning phones comes as the company faces unprecedented labor unrest. Employees in one of Amazon’s Staten Island warehouses voted in favor of joining the upstart Amazon Labor Union earlier this month. A second vote is under way to decide whether 1,500 workers at a neighboring Staten Island facility want to be represented by the same union. Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, twice voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union, and the labor group is appealing the outcome of the most recent election.

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