Coronavirus: French Court To Rule On Amazon Warehouse Appeal

A court battle between French unions and e-commerce goliath Amazon is expected to be ruled on Friday by a French court.

Amazon announced 9 days ago that it was closing all of its warehouses in France, after a ruling by a French court that limited its ability to trade in that country.

The French court had ordered Amazon to limit deliveries to essential goods such as food and medical supplies during the Coronavirus pandemic, in a case brought by a French trade union.

Image credit: Amazon

Court ruling

The French court had originally ruled that 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, while it improved its health measures.

Amazon instead opted to close all six of its warehouses in France in response, in a move that impacted 10,000 permanent and interim workers (6,500 are permanent workers).

Amazon’s closure of the warehouses was until it could appeal the court decision.

And now according to Reuters, the French court is to rule on the appeal on Friday.

The closure of the Amazon warehouses has not just hurt its workforce in that country, but also 10,000 smaller third-party traders that sell and ship their goods via the Amazon logistics juggernaut.

“It’s been horrendous,” Yannick Jan was quoted as saying. He runs a stationery company that has been trying to handle 600 orders a day from its own premises, rather than the usual 80, since Amazon warehouses shut on 16 April.

He reportedly has had to opt for more expensive delivery firms, which is eating into his margins.

Amazon’s reasoning for closing its warehouses was that the original French court ruling was too vague and it could not risk a fine.

It remains to be seen what Amazon will decide if the French court rejects its appeal, and whether it can reach a compromised with staff to allow its French warehouses to reopen.

“I can reassure everyone – we are heading towards a solution,” Laurent Dégousée of the Sud union was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The Sud union brought the claim, and it wants Amazon and postal services in France to restrict the shipments they process.

Amazon, has insisted its health standards were adequate, and has frozen some storage fees for French vendors.

US trouble

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

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

More than 130 Amazon-owned facilities in the US have confirmed cases of Covid-19, with some locations including multiple affected individuals.

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

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 its warehouse in Staten Island, 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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