Amazon shut all its warehouses in France because a court ordered it to reassess worker safety

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  • Amazon has shut down all six of its warehouses in France following a court ruling on Tuesday that it needed to reassess the safety of workers during the pandemic.
  • The ruling stipulated that Amazon could only ship essential goods while officials assessed its hygiene and security measures, and included a $1.1 million fine for non-compliance.
  • Amazon said the risk of the fine was “too high” for it to keep its warehouses open, and has told all its warehous staff to stay home for at least five days.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon has taken the extraordinary decision to shut down its distribution centers in France after a court ruled Tuesday that the company had to reassess protective measures to keep workers safe from the coronavirus.

The court in Nanterre on Tuesday ruled that Amazon may only ship essential items in the meantime. The judge imposed a fine of 1 million euros ($1.1 million) for every day following the order that Amazon continued to ship non-essential goods.

The court said in its order that Amazon had “failed to recognize its obligations regarding the security and health of its workers,” according to AFP.

“Following the judgement passed down by the Nanterre court on Tuesday April 14, we must temporarily suspend all activity in our distribution centers in France,” Amazon announced in a tweet late on Wednesday.

“Given the inherent complexity of our logistical activity and the million euro fine for infraction imposed by the court, the risk of contravening the decision was too high,” it added. An Amazon spokesman clarified that specifically the risk of accidentally shipping non-essential items was the issue. Le Figaro reports that this temporary shutdown will last a minimum of five days.

Amazon has six warehouses in France, where it employs roughly 10,000 people. The retail giant said it is asking its warehouses workers to stay home from April 16 to 20, and a spokesman confirmed to Business Insider they will receive 100% of their pay. “In the longer term we will evaluate the impact of this decision for them and for our French logistics network,” Amazon said. It added that it will be appealing the court’s decision. 

This doesn’t mean French Amazon users won’t be able to order packages in the meantime. “We will continue to serve our clients in France via third-party businesses that sell their wares on Amazon, and thanks to the strength of our global distribution network,” the company said.

Amazon insisted that it had shown the court “concrete evidence” of the new measures it has brought in to protect its workers from the spread of the coronavirus. In its warehouses across the world, Amazon has brought in new warehouse policies including a 6-foot distancing rule for workers, distribution of anti-bacterial products, and temperature checks.

Many workers — including ones who spoke to Business Insider — have said these measures are either inadequate or impossible to enforce. Some said social distancing is made impossible by the layout of the warehouses where employees work only a few feet apart, and others that the sanitation products are run out or are missing. One worker told Business Insider the recently-introduced temperature checks are often faulty.

Do you work at Amazon? Got a tip? Email this reporter at ihamilton@businessinsider.com or iahamilton@protonmail.com.

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