Coronavirus: Amazon To Close French Warehouses After Court Ruling

Amazon will close its warehouses in France, after a ruling by a French court that limits its ability to trade in that country.

Amazon will close its warehouses until at least early next week, after the French court ordered it to limit deliveries to essential goods such as food and medical supplies during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This is according to Reuters, which cited an internal document sent to French unions ahead of a meeting on Wednesday afternoon, in which Amazon said it planned to close the country’s six warehouses.

Image credit: Amazon

French closure

The move will impact 10,000 permanent and interim workers at the six warehouses, from 16 April until 20 April at least. It is reported that 6,500 are permanent workers.

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

During the suspension, Amazon will reportedly utilise a French state partial unemployment scheme to pay its employees, the group said in the internal document.

Amazon’s French subsidiary did not return calls from Reuters, seeking comments.

The move comes after a ruling on Tuesday, when a French court said Amazon had to carry out a more thorough assessment of the risk of coronavirus contagion at its warehouses and should restrict its deliveries in the meantime, or face a fine.

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

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

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

Warehouse infections

Amazon has been facing criticism over the firing of staff members who have criticised cleaning in warehouses that have reported cases of Covid-19.

On Monday Amazon said it was building its own coronavirus testing facility in order to monitor the health of its staff.

More than 50 Amazon-owned facilities in the US have confirmed cases of Covid-19, with some locations including multiple affected individuals.

Amazon has recently begun instituting anti-pandemic measures including taking the temperature of staff upon their arrival at work and spraying disinfectant.

Last week five US senators sent Amazon chief Jeff Bezos a letter demanding more information on the firing of Christian Smalls.

Smalls had alleged that Amazon had not properly cleansed the warehouse after an employee was struck down with Covid-19.

Last month Amazon workers were told they would be able to take unlimited sick days in March, but only if they were diagnosed with Covid-19.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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