Instacart made in-house hand sanitizer for shoppers who are about to walk off the job

On the eve of a planned work stoppage by its shoppers, Instacart said today it would distribute independently-developed hand sanitizer to its shoppers.

Instacart shoppers are planning to refuse new orders Monday because they say the grocery delivery company has not done enough to protect them during the coronavirus outbreak. The strike is still on, the workers said in a statement today, calling Instacart’s response a “sick joke.”

One of the shoppers’ demands was for Instacart to provide protective gear such as hand sanitizer, but organizers also want the company to add a $5-per-order hazard payment and expand its sick leave policy.

“Given the broad supply chain shortages for supplies like hand sanitizer, Instacart worked with a third-party to manufacture its own hand sanitizer for Instacart shoppers to overcome the existing inventory delays and global supply chain scarcity, without taking away resources from healthcare workers,” the company said in a statement emailed to The Verge.

The shoppers’ group said it has been asking for hand sanitizer for weeks, and questioned how the company was able to source it so quickly. “Where were these efforts back when Shoppers first began asking for it?” their statement read. “It’s abhorrent that it took this long for them to act, but on the bright side, it shows that a strike will work to change their behavior.”

The hand sanitizer is a liquid spray ethyl alcohol-based product that Instacart says meets CDC guidance. It will be made available for free to shoppers who request it via a special website, the company said.

Lead organizer Vanessa Bain told The Verge on Friday that she and other shoppers are concerned for their health, and that Instacart’s measures weren’t going far enough to ensure their safety.

The company announced on March 9th it was giving 14 days of paid leave to any part-time workers or shoppers who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been put into mandatory quarantine.

On Friday the company said it would extend the benefit through May 8th. It also introduced a bonus program, based on hours worked between March 15th and April 15th and ranging from $25 to $200, and additional promotions for full-service shoppers to earn more based on regional demand.

Bain said previously that the sick leave plan was insufficient, since many shoppers don’t have health insurance and would likely work while sick, if they were even able to get a coronavirus test.

In addition to providing hand sanitizer, Instacart said today it is changing the tip options in its app. Under the new structure, the “none” option will be removed, and the app will remember a customer’s previous tip and set it as default for future orders.

In their statement today, however, the workers called this plan “ridiculous” adding it would likely “provide no meaningful benefit to shoppers.”

Instacart has announced plans to hire 300,000 new shoppers due to the overwhelming demand for grocery delivery during the coronavirus outbreak.

For its part the workers’ group says it was “heartened by the outpouring of support” it received since announcing its strike plans, adding “the strike is still on.”

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