Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq:AMZN) is once again on the hunt for more tech talent in Vancouver.
The e-commerce giant revealed Tuesday it plans to hire a total of 1,800 corporate and tech workers between its locations in Vancouver and Toronto.
It’s not clear yet just how the new hires will be divided between the two Canadian hubs.
The company currently employs a mix of 5,500 full-time and part-time employees in B.C., and will soon be moving into an expanded downtown Vancouver base for its Amazon Web Services (AWS) division.
Last fall, the Seattle-based company said it would hire an additional 3,000 workers for its AWS facilities in Vancouver as it committed to take up an additional 680,000 square feet of the old Canada Post building on West Georgia Street.
The iconic, boxy building will see two towers sprouting from the classic façade, while Amazon will lease 18 floors from the building’s North Tower and 17 floors from its South Tower with at least 6,000 workers.
Development is expected to be completed in 2023.
Amazon embarked on a search for an “HQ2” in 2017, issuing an opening invitation to cities across North America to make a pitch as to why they should host the company’s second home.
It eventually whittled 238 bids down to 20 – Toronto being the only Canadian city to make the short list — before deciding its HQ2 would be split between two locations in New York City and Virginia.
The company planned at the outset of the HQ2 campaign to invest US$5 billion in the local economy over 15-17 years while hiring as many as 50,000 employees (its Seattle presence already included 40,000 employees across 33 buildings occupying 8.1 million square feet at the time).
But since the HQ2 bid, Amazon has taken an increasing liking to Vancouver, committing in November 2017 to hire an additional 1,000 workers in the city.
Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify Inc. (TSX:SHOP) backed away from its January 2020 plans to hire 1,000 West Coast workers for a new four-storey, 70,000-square-foot office in downtown Vancouver at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, it’s turning its attention to hiring remote employees.
Amazon, however, told BIV in May 2020 it had no plans to back out of its expansion plans for the city.
But its presence in Vancouver hasn’t been without tumult.
A high-level AWS executive in Vancouver quit his job in May 2020 over how he felt his former parent company had been treating workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of COVID-19,” Tim Bray, previously an AWS vice-president and distinguished engineer, wrote in a blog post.
Bray was referencing dismissals that unfolded the previous month, when warehouse workers reached out to the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) organization for support raising awareness over what they considered to be unsafe working conditions during the pandemic.
One warehouse worker had already been dismissed in the wake of internal company protests.
Some AECJ members in turn promoted a petition and organized a video call to bring attention to the issue.
They were subsequently dismissed for what Amazon described as violating internal policies on commenting on the company publicly without authorization.
“VPs shouldn’t go publicly rogue, so I escalated through the proper channels and by the book,” Bray said in his post, adding he would not provide further details about those discussions other than that he believes he brought up his concerns to the appropriate people.
“That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.”
The former tech executive said the job provided $1 million between salary and share vesting, but he was left uneasy after warehouse workers repeatedly raised concerns about the safety of Amazon’s fulfillment centres.
But Bray had kinder words for AWS, the cloud-computing division of Amazon.
“It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization. I genuinely admire its leadership,” he said in his post.
“Of course, its workers have power. The average pay is very high, and anyone who’s unhappy can walk across the street and get another job paying the same or better.”
An Amazon spokeswoman told BIV the company respects the rights of employees to organize and protest but that the statements of employee groups protesting against the company don’t represent the majority of workers.
Earlier this year, Amazon workers in Alabama voted against becoming unionized following an intense campaign from both sides of the vote.
Meanwhile, the company revealed last month it was opening a string of new fulfullment centres and delivery centres across the Lower Mainland that would create 2,950 jobs in B.C.
A 450,000-square-foot fulfilment centre is set to open in late 2021 at property in the Port of Vancouver, accounting for half those jobs.
Two delivery stations will also launch this year in Pitt Meadows and Delta, where Amazon said hundreds would be employed.
A City of Langley sort centre opening later this year is expected to employ 500 people.
Meanwhile, a Langley Township delivery station that opened this past February is “creating 200 jobs,” Amazon said in a release.