France: Amazon closes warehouses following court injunction to limit deliveries to essential products

Credit photo: Alexander Isreb,

On 14 April 2020, the Nanterre Tribunal ordered Amazon to reduce its deliveries to essential products only in order to reduce activity at warehouses and implement social distancing rules amid the Covid-19 outbreak in France. The court decision included a 1 million euro penalty for each day of delay or each instance of non-compliance with social distancing rules. The following day, Amazon announced that it would be closing its French warehouses for 5 days to evaluate security measures it could put in place to comply with the court order. On 20 April 2020, Amazon announced that its warehouses would remained closed for two more days in the hope that the court decision is reversed on appeal. On 24 April 2020, the Court of Appeal of Versailles rejected Amazon's appeal, though it extended the list of essential products authorized for delivery and reduced the scale of the penalty.

Amazon has kept its warehouses closed since the court decision. This story includes comments from Amazon.

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14 May 2020

Amazon's Showdown in France Tests Its Ability to Sidestep Labor

Author: Liz Alderman and Adam Satariano, The New York Times

...“People kept coming to work feeling worried about being exposed to a mortal danger,” said Mr. Bérot, 50, who works at a warehouse south of Paris...Mr. Bérot’s union successfully sued Amazon last month, in what has become the most prominent labor showdown the retailer has faced since the coronavirus outbreak...The case, now headed to the French supreme court, tests Amazon’s ability to sidestep the demands of workers who are fulfilling the surge in orders...Unions in the United States have made few inroads after years of campaigns. But in Europe, national labor laws require companies to deal with them, even if employees aren’t members...

Amazon defended its response to the virus, saying it had put in place more than 150 changes at its warehouses, including providing masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off and higher pay...Amazon has not disclosed how many warehouse workers have contracted Covid-19 in Europe, but cases have been reported in France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain...In Germany...Amazon is entangled in a seven-year battle against one of the country’s largest unions, Ver.di, which has fought to negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement...

As its legal battle in France drags on, Amazon is tapping its warehouses in Germany, Italy and Poland to fill orders by French consumers, minimizing the fallout from the dispute...The episodes in Europe show Amazon will work with unions when required by law, said Virginia Doellgast, an associate professor at Cornell University who studies international labor. “They cooperate where they have to,” she said...

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4 May 2020

France refuses Amazon's Covid-19 emergency fund request

Author: France 24 with AFP and Reuters

France's labour ministry on Monday refused a request by Amazon for emergency funds to pay its employees during the coronavirus crisis...The ministry said Amazon France had asked to benefit from coronavirus crisis funds that cover about 84 percent of net pay for workers facing temporary layoffs because of a drop in business...labour unions...say not enough was done to mitigate contagion risk for staff working in close proximity...Last month, an appeals court upheld a ruling that sharply curtailed Amazon's operations and ordered management to review safety measures...But Amazon said it was impossible to comply with the order, and completely shut down the six sites from mid-April until May 5, though it maintained full pay for employees...

The world's largest online retailer is facing mounting scrutiny...and France has become a major battleground. France is the only country where Amazon has shut all of its so-called fulfillment centres after unions complained that they were still too crowded and filed a legal challenge...Unions called Amazon's request for employment aid "absolutely scandalous" and accused the firm of getting around the court order by fulfilling French orders from its other warehouses in Europe...Amazon reported last week that despite a surge in orders worldwide because of virus lockdowns, its profit dropped 29 percent in the first quarter of this year, to $2.5 billion, because of Covid-19 expenses, including measures for "keeping employees safe"...

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24 April 2020

Amazon loses appeal against worker safety ruling in France that prompted it to close

Author: Hadas Gold, CNN Business

Amazon will keep its French distribution centers shut down through April 28 after losing its appeal against a court ruling that prompted it to suspend deliveries in France...A court in Paris on Friday upheld a ruling that Amazon (AMZN) must stop selling nonessential goods as it carries out a risk assessment on how best to protect employees from coronavirus in its distribution centers...Amazon said employees would continue to receive their wages, and blamed the ruling on labor unions, which brought the complaint accusing the online delivery giant of endangering the lives of workers by not instituting enough safety precautions...

The company said it had instituted expanded safety measures and "do not think that this decision is in the best interest of the French."...Under the terms of the court order, Amazon would be limited to selling goods classified as electronics, office equipment, animal care products, home improvement items, health and body care products, and groceries. Each shipment of an unauthorized product could incur a penalty of up to €100,000 ($108,000)...Amazon said in its statement that under such rules, even a small amount of accidental shipments of items outside of the allowed goods could result in a penalty of more than a billion euros per week...

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20 April 2020

Amazon France to stay closed for two more days

Author: The Connexion

Amazon to remain closed for two more days - until Wednesday April 22 - pending an appeal to a court order to limit its activities nationwide...a court in Nanterre...ordered it to deliver only “essential” items - such as food, health or medical products. This represents barely 10% of its usual deliveries.

The court found that Amazon was continuing to operate “as if nothing was amiss” during the Covid-19 crisis, and had failed to put in place reassurances and safety measures for its warehouse staff...the company closed its warehouses to evaluate the situation in its warehouses and see if further security measures could be put in place. It had planned to re-open today (Monday April 20). But now the company has announced that its warehouses will remain closed for an extra two days, in the hope that it will obtain a reversal of the court order on Tuesday (April 21).

In a statement given to the Agence France-Presse, Amazon said: “We remain perplexed at the decision of the court in Nanterre that was handed down last week, and we await with interest to see that our appeal is heard. We will temporarily maintain the suspension of activity of our French distribution centres.” The Amazon France warehouses employ around 10,000 workers, who have been asked to stay at home during the closure, on full 100% pay. Amazon has not requested government assistance - using the partial unemployment (chômage partiel) scheme - during the stoppage...

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16 April 2020

Amazon closes operations in France after court orders Covid-19 safety review

Author: RFI

Amazon...closed its warehouses after it was ordered to stop deliveries of non-essential goods by a French court that ruled it had ignored its obligation to protect the security and health of its employees during the coronavirus pandemic...Amazon announced the closure of all its French centres for at least 5 days during which employees would be paid their full salaries...The company has 6 warehouses in France employing 10,000 people and the EU head of operations, Roy Perticucci, stepped down...following the court ruling. 

Amazon France’s biggest trade union, SUD, took the online retail giant to court, alleging that workers were being forced to work in close proximity in contravention of social-distancing measures...French finance minister Bruno Le Maire accused Amazon of putting unacceptable pressure on employees after unions claimed the e-giant was refusing to pay staff who did not go into to work for fear of coronavirus contagion...hundreds of employees walked out of several Amazon processing centres in France, exercising the “right to withdraw labour” in France’s labour code...Amazon said it was “perplexed” by the ruling as it had given the court evidence about temperature checks, physical distancing orders and the use of personal protective equipment. The company said the closure would affect “millions of clients who use our services to have products delivered to their homes during this confinement period” as well as "employees and small and medium sized businesses" that use the company...

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15 April 2020

France: Court orders Amazon to stop non essential deliveries or face financial penalties

Author: Benjamin Berteau, Ya Chun Wang, CNN (US)

"French court orders Amazon to deliver only essential goods in France", 14 April 2020

A French court has ordered Amazon to reduce its local delivery operations to cover only essential goods, warning on Tuesday that if the court's ruling is not met within 24 hours, the company could face a penalty of 1 million euros ($1.1 million) for each day of delay.

In its ruling, Nanterre Court of Justice ordered Amazon to further regulate its activities within France to receiving, preparing and delivering only essential goods, such as food, hygiene and medical products...

The court has also required that the company carry out an assessment of the "occupational risks inherent in the Covid-19 epidemic" in all of its warehouses, according to a ruling seen by CNN...

...The ruling follows the filing of a complaint by the French workers' union -- Syndicale Solidaires -- which has accused the online delivery giant of endangering the lives of workers amidst the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement to CNN, the union said Amazon had violated the withdrawal rights of employees, alleging that the company threatened to suspend employee salaries...

...Amazon employs workers around the world. ... the multinational company said that it had increased pay for hourly employees ... in the U.S., ... Canada, and ... in many EU countries...

...In the US, Amazon faces pressure from lawmakers and workers to take more safety precautions and potentially close facilities hit by the virus.

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