PARIS — Amazon has closed its six warehouses in France while it carries out a court-mandated order to assess the risk to its employees from the coronavirus pandemic.
“Following the judgement of a French court on Tuesday, we have to temporarily suspend operations in our fulfillment centers in France,” Amazon said in a statement.
“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,” it added.
Amazon has closed the sites until at least April 20 after a French court on Tuesday ordered the online retail giant to limit its deliveries to essential goods while it carried out the audit, the CGT union said in a statement. Workers’ salaries will be paid in full during this period, it noted.
The court in Nanterre, on the outskirts of Paris, had ordered Amazon to comply with the ruling within 24 hours or risk a fine of one million euros per day. The ruling was in response to a complaint filed by trade union Sud Solidaires, which had called for Amazon’s six French warehouses to be shut down. The retailer has appealed the decision.
The union had described the situation as a “sanitary and social bomb.” Amazon has insisted throughout that it has taken measures to ensure the safety of its workers.
Amazon said last month it had stopped taking orders for nonessential goods on its sites in France and Italy in an effort to reduce pressure on its logistics teams, after coming under fire from unions who accused it of failing to respect health and safety regulations in its distribution hubs.
According to Sud Solidaires, essential goods such as food, hygiene products and medications represent just 10 percent of Amazon’s business in France.
Amazon appeared to acknowledge that it was still shipping some non-essential goods.
“Our FC [fulfilment center] operations are complex and varied, and with the punitive 1M euro per incident fines imposed by the court, the risk of accidentally shipping non-essential items 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,” it said.
“The union action that led to the decision will likely have consequences for many people in the country, including our thousands of employees, customers who rely on us now more than ever, and the small local businesses that use Amazon to grow,” it said.
“While we will do our best to minimize the impact on French small businesses, those who depend on our FC network to deliver their products will be negatively impacted by this ruling.“