Amazon extends French warehouse closures amid Covid-19 court dispute

The Nanterre court ruled that Amazon deliveries in France should be limited in a move to protect workers from the deadly coronavirus.
The Nanterre court ruled that Amazon deliveries in France should be limited in a move to protect workers from the deadly coronavirus. © Thomas SAMSON AFP/File picture

Global e-commerce giant Amazon on Sunday said it would keep its warehouses in France shut until April 22, extending its previously announced closure by two more days, after a French court ordered the company to limit its deliveries to essential goods in order to protect its staff from contracting Covid-19.

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Last week, a Nanterre court ordered Amazon to carry out a more thorough assessment of the risk of Covid-19 contagion at its warehouses and said it needed to restrict its deliveries in the meantime, or face a fine. Amazon, which has appealed the court decision, responded by temporarily closing down its six warehouses in France until April 20.

On Sunday, it said it would extend the closure by another two days, as the appeal will not be heard until Tuesday.

“We remain puzzled by last week’s decision by the Nanterre court and look forward to the appeals hearing. We will temporarily uphold the activity suspension of our French distribution centres,” the company said in a statement sent to AFP.

The world's largest online retailer is facing mounting scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic of the health measures it has put in place to protect employees from Covid-19 while it deals with a surge in online orders.

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

Some of them had called for the complete closure of Amazon's activities in France, or at the very least a clampdown, after raising concerns over health standards at its shipping sites, arguing they were too crowded.

Amazon currently employs close to 10,000 people at its six French warehouses, 6,500 of whom are on permanent contracts, according to the court decision.

Cases of Covid-19, the flu-like infection caused by the virus, have been reported among staff from at least 19 Amazon warehouses in the United States and the company has been hit by high-profile protests at several warehouses there.

With most shops in France shuttered as the government tries to contain the pandemic, the closure of the warehouses will likely disrupt deliveries across the country.

In an internal document sent out last week, Amazon said it would tap a state partial unemployment scheme to pay its employees during the suspension.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

 

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