Amazon may close French warehouses after court restrictions

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FILE PHOTO: A truck bearing the Amazon Prime logo arrives at the Amazon logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, northern France, March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

PARIS (Reuters) – Amazon said on Wednesday it may temporarily close its warehouses in France after a court ordered the e-commerce giant to limit deliveries in the country to essential goods like food and medical supplies.

The U.S. company is facing mounting scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic of the health measures it has put in place to protect employees from the coronavirus pandemic while it strives to meet a surge in orders as most shops remain under lockdown.

In a ruling on Tuesday, the French court said Amazon had to carry out a more thorough assessment of the risk of coronavirus contagion at its warehouses and should restrict its deliveries in the meantime, or face a fine.

“We’re puzzled by the court ruling given the hard evidence brought forward regarding security measures put in place to protect our employees”, Amazon said in a statement.

“Our interpretation suggests that we may be forced to suspend the activity of our distribution centres in France,” the group said, adding it would appeal the decision.

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.

Some worker unions have 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.

Reporting by Sarah White and Mathieu Rosemain; Additional reporting by Gwénaëlle Barzic; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Mark Potter

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