By Jeffrey Dastin
(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> plans to offer permanent jobs to about 70% of the U.S. workforce it has hired temporarily to meet consumer demand during the coronavirus pandemic, the company told Reuters on Thursday.
The world's largest online retailer will begin telling 125,000 warehouse employees in June that they can keep their roles longer-term. The remaining 50,000 workers it has brought on will stay on seasonal contracts that last up to 11 months, a company spokeswoman said.
The decision is a sign that Amazon's sales have increased sufficiently to justify an expanded workforce for order fulfillment, even as government lockdowns ease and rivals open their retail stores for pickup.
Amazon started the hiring spree in March with a blog post appealing to workers laid off by restaurants and other shuttered businesses, promising employment "until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back."
Seattle-based Amazon did not disclose how much it was spending to make the positions permanent and whether that cost would be in addition to the $4 billion it has forecast for virus-related expenses.
The permanent roles come with benefits that seasonal workers lack, such as employer-offered health insurance and retirement plans.
Some Amazon staff, unions and elected officials have said the company has put employees' health at risk by keeping nearly all its warehouses operational during the pandemic. At least 800 U.S.-based workers have tested positive for the highly contagious virus, according to figures compiled by one employee, which Amazon has not commented on.
The company has increased cleaning, added social distancing measures and offered face masks, fever checks and virus tests in response.
Amazon said it had 840,400 full and part-time staff at the end of last quarter while it still was in the process of hiring. It has not reported an updated number.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)