Sacré bleu: French court forces Amazon to shut down

franceOnline shopping is saving the sanity of some UK consumers but their French counterparts have no such luxury following a landmark court order demanding the retailer ceases all non-essential deliveries.

The US giant now faces fines of up to €1m (£870,000) for every day it does not comply with the order which was made at the Tribunal of Commerce in Nanterre. The case had been brought by workers union SUD-Solidaire over its concerns for worker safety amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

A number of inspections had found safety issues at five out of Amazon’s six warehouses in the country, including the inability of workers to abide by social distancing measures.

Following the court order, Amazon has now shut its warehouses in France until Monday next week while it attempts to enforce the new measures.

In a statement, Amazon said: “Our fulfilment centre operations are complex and varied, and with the punitive €1m per incident fines imposed by the court, the risk 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.”

This is the first case in which Amazon has been forced by courts to limit the sale of non-essential items, despite workers complaining of dangerous working conditions across the globe.

In the UK, GMB union accused the company of forcing its workforce to do overtime to tackle huge demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, a move which national GMB officer Mick Rix said was evidence that Amazon was putting “profit before safety”. Amazon employs 27,000 people in the UK and has 17 warehouses.

Amazon said: “Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable. We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances.”

In a note posted on its French website, Amazonfr, the firm said: “Following the judgment rendered by the Nanterre court, we must temporarily suspend our operations in our distribution centers in France, despite concrete evidence of the security measures put in place to protect the health of our employees. We are appealing this decision.

“However, we will continue to give you access to the products you need thanks to the strength of our global distribution network and third-party sellers. Concretely, you can continue to order and receive all the articles displayed as available on Amazon.fr. The delivery times displayed on the site are adjusted.”

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