Amazon to close French warehouses until next week after court ruling


PARIS (Reuters) – Amazon will close its warehouses in France until at least early next week after court orders it to limit deliveries of essentials such as food and medical supplies.

FILE PHOTO: A truck with the Amazon Prime logo arrives at the Amazon logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, in the north of France, on March 19, 2020. REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol

In an internal document sent to French unions before a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Amazon said it plans to close the country’s six warehouses, which employ 10,000 permanent and temporary workers, from at least April 16-20.

“The company is obliged to suspend all production activities in all its distribution centers in order to assess the risks inherent in the COVID-19 epidemic and to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of its employees (during this period), “said Amazon. in the document seen by Reuters.

During the suspension, Amazon will operate a state unemployment scheme to pay its workers, the group said in the internal document.

Amazon’s French subsidiary did not return calls for comment.

The world’s largest online retailer is facing increasing scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic of the health measures it has put in place to protect employees from coronavirus while it faces an increase in online orders.

Most stores are closed in France while the government is trying to contain the pandemic, the closing of warehouses will likely disrupt deliveries across the country.

In a decision released on Tuesday, a French court said that Amazon should carry out a more in-depth assessment of the risk of coronavirus contagion in its warehouses and should in the meantime limit its deliveries, or incur a fine.

“We are puzzled by the court ruling, given the hard evidence put forward regarding the security measures put in place to protect our employees,” Amazon said in a statement.

“Our interpretation suggests that we may be forced to suspend the activity of our distribution centers in France,” the group said, adding that it would appeal the decision.

The case followed a complaint by Union Syndicale Solidaires, a French group of unions.

Some of them had called for the complete closure of Amazon’s activities in France, or at least for a crackdown, after having expressed their concerns about health standards on its shipping sites, arguing that they were too crowded.

According to the court decision, Amazon currently employs nearly 10,000 people in its six French warehouses, including 6,500 on permanent contracts.

COVID-19, the influenza virus infection, has been reported among personnel from at least 19 Amazon warehouses in the United States, and the company was hit by high-profile protests in several warehouses.

Additional reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Mark Potter and Carmel Crimmins

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