Amazon.com will no longer require redundant US workers to sign a gagging order in return for increased benefits, following an outcry from trade unions.
The online bookseller axed 1300 jobs earlier this week in an attempt to become profitable by the end of 2001. The redundancies will come about mainly from the closure of the supplier's distribution and customer service centres in the US.
But the alarm was sounded among union representatives when Amazon's management asked the customer service agents it laid off earlier this week to sign a non-disparagement clause against the company in return for a bigger redundancy pay-off.
The union urged members not to sign. Gretchen Wilson, an organiser with the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, said: "This is not about a standard offer to employees without any strings attached. It's taking our lawyers a long time to fully understand this."
But in a memo to former employees yesterday, Amazon bosses said they could cross out the non-disparagement paragraphs from a larger separation agreement, which offered an enhanced redundancy package. This includes an extra 10 weeks' pay and $500 for not disclosing trade secrets.
An Amazon spokeswoman said: "We try to be responsive to employees' concerns. We felt we had made a mistake."
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