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09/13/2021

Amazon to hire 15,000 employees across Canada; increase wages

E-giant says it needs additional staff to stay focused on its customers and keep up with demand
An Amazon employee packs a box in a warehouse while wearing a mask

Amazon Canada is hiking wages as it seeks to fill thousands of new jobs against the backdrop of a labour market that has been dramatically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The e-commerce giant said Monday it would hire 15,000 new warehouse and distribution workers in communities across the country this fall to support its ongoing Canadian expansion plans.

Amazon also announced it would increase the starting wage for its front-line, hourly employees in Canada to between $17 an hour and $21.65 an hour, up from its current starting wage of around $16 an hour.

Existing employees will also receive an additional $1.60 to $2.20 per hour, starting immediately, Amazon said, regardless of how long they've been with the company.

"We are growing very rapidly in the country," said Sumegha Kumar, director of Canadian customer fulfilment operations for Amazon Canada, in an interview.

"Our business is expanding a lot, and we want to continue to stay focused on our customers, so we obviously have needs around hiring and retaining top talent."

Amazon Canada currently has 25,000 full-time and part-time employees in 25 communities across five provinces. The company is growing rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting explosion in online shopping. Amazon now has 46 warehouse, logistics and delivery facilities in Canada compared with 30 in mid-2020. More growth announcements are expected later this year, according to the company.

However, Amazon's expansion plans come at the same time segments of the Canadian economy are experiencing significant labour shortages. According to Statistics Canada, the country added 90,200 jobs in August, bringing the country as close as it has been to recouping historic employment losses last year.

The Canadian unemployment rate fell to 7.1% for the month, compared with 7.5% in July, bringing the rate to the lowest level since the onset of the pandemic last year.

But not all those jobs are being filled. TD senior economist Sri Thanabalasingam said Friday that labour supply hasn't kept pace with the robust demand for workers in high-touch industries like retail and food service, and that is resulting in staff shortages.

"Career changes, and ongoing health concerns could be possible reasons for the lack of available workers," he said.

Kumar declined to say if Amazon is encountering a labour shortage in Canada, though she acknowledged "there are some places where we have more of an opportunity than others" to fill vacant positions. She said raising wages is one way to ensure the company stays competitive.

"We will always continue to look at how our market is progressing and make the necessary investments in our compensation structure," she said.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced it would boost wages for its new U.S. hires to $17 an hour, as it seeks to add 75,000 new workers in that country.

Other companies south of the border, including McDonald's, Costco and Walmart have also boosted wages to attract more applicants and keep up with a flood of customers as pandemic restrictions ease.

Amazon is also offering a $100 bonus for new and current employees who show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The company dealt with ongoing outbreaks of the virus at several of its facilities throughout the pandemic.

Amazon has not mandated vaccinations for its employees.