Amazon will start reopening French warehouses on May 19th (updated)

An impending deal on COVID-19 safety is key to this move.

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This picture taken on on October 22, 2019, shows a new Amazon warehouse, part of mobile robotic fulfilment systems also known as 'Amazon robotics', in Bretigny-sur-Orge, some 30kms south of Paris. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP) (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Amazon’s French warehouses are close to reopening roughly a month after they closed. The internet retailer said it planned a gradual reopening starting on May 19th as it came close to reaching a deal with French unions and work councils on safety measures to protect against COVID-19. It’s not clear just how quickly the facilities will come back online, but it promises to widen deliveries beyond essential items like food and healthcare products.

The shutdowns came after French courts limited shipments to essentials until Amazon conducted risk evaluations at the warehouses. The courts found that Amazon hadn’t provided sufficiently sanitary conditions in some areas, and that it hadn’t factored aspects like mental well-being into its work schedules and teams. Amazon closed the warehouses in part due to alleged ambiguity over the nature of essential products.

The company has been implementing stricter safety measures in warehouses, such as temperature checks. France’s order to limit shipments added to existing pressure, though, and the it’s clear that workers will take further action if they’re convinced Amazon still isn’t doing enough to safeguard employees.

Update 5/17 11:30AM ET: An Amazon spokesperson told Engadget this was all about “formal procedure” and that there has been “no significant change” to the safety measures the company had already put in place. You can read the full statement below — it’s clear unions were content enough to come back, even if the measures might not completely address concerns about COVID-19 (such as the desire to test for the disease, not just temperatures). Separately, it’s now clear that the restart phase will last through June 2nd, and French workers will receive an extra €2 per hour in hazard pay through May.

Next week, our employees in France will return to the same fulfilment centres supported by more than 150 new processes and millions of euros worth of investment that we had already implemented to keep them safe. This situation was all about formal procedure and there has been no significant change to the safety measures we had already put in place. Now, we look forward to getting back to the business of serving our customers with the things they need at this challenging time for France. Amazon
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