Amazon may temporarily close French warehouses to assess COVID-19 risks

The company is responding to a court order issued yesterday.

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BRETIGNY-SUR-ORGE, FRANCE - APRIL 13: The logo of Amazon is seen at the entrance of the company logistics center on April 13, 2020 in Bretigny-sur-Orge, France. The French government has ordered the American e-commerce giant Amazon to take measures at four of its sites in France to better protect Covid-19 employees. Amazon has been summoned by the "Sud-Solidaires" union, which is calling for the closure of warehouses to protect employees from possible coronavirus contamination. The court decision will be rendered on Tuesday April 14 by the Nanterre court. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, claiming over 115,000 lives and infecting over 1.8 million people. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)
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Amazon may close all of its distribution centers in France following a court order issued yesterday, Reuters reports. The warehouses will reportedly remain closed until at least April 20th. During that time Amazon will assess risks related to COVID-19 and take necessary measures to ensure employee safety. This could have serious ramifications for deliveries in the country.

The court order issued yesterday demands that Amazon carry out a thorough assessment of the risks the coronavirus pandemic poses to its employees. In the meantime, it must only deliver essential products, or it could be fined up to one million euros per day. The court gave Amazon 24 hours to comply.

In a statement provided to Engadget, a spokesperson for Amazon Europe said:

"Following the judgement of a French court on Tuesday, we have to temporarily suspend operations in our Fulfilment Centres in France. This is in spite of the huge investment we made in additional safety measures to keep our hard-working, dedicated colleagues safe, while ensuring they had continued employment at this difficult time. Our FC operations are complex and varied, and with the punitive 1M euro per incident fines imposed by the court, the risk was too high. We remain perplexed by the court’s decision, which was made in spite of the overwhelming evidence we provided about the safety measures we have implemented, and have launched an appeal."

According to the court ruling, Amazon currently employs close to 10,000 people at six warehouses in France. It will reportedly use a state partial employment program to pay its employees while the facilities are closed. 

Amazon is facing increased pressure over employee safety during the coronavirus pandemic. To meet a surge in demand, it announced plans to hire an additional 100,000 delivery and warehouse workers and temporarily increased pay, but cases of COVID-19 have been reported among staff from at least 19 Amazon warehouses in the US. After an employee-led protest, Amazon said it would do more to protect workers, but it has also been criticized for firing employees who spoke out against its labor practices.

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