Amazon is reopening its French warehouses after a one month shutdown over worker safety during the pandemic

Amazon is reopening its French warehouses after a one month shutdown over worker safety during the pandemic
Inside Amazon's Thornton, Colorado warehouse (picture taken in March 2019).Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
  • Amazon is reopening its warehouses in France after a one-month shutdown.
  • Amazon sent its warehouse workers home last month after a court ruling meant it would either have to increase its safety measures to better protect its workers against the coronavirus or face fines for shipping non-essential items.
  • French workers' unions welcomed Amazon reaching an agreement with them to reopen its warehouses, and said union negotiation "must not be an exception as a result of the crisis."
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Amazon has arrived at a rare agreement with workers' unions in France to reopen its warehouses in France which have been shut down for a month over worker safety concerns.

Amazon shut down its six French warehouses on April 16 after a court upheld a union complaint that the company wasn't doing enough to protect its workers from the spread of the coronavirus. The court ruled that either Amazon would have to bring its safety measures up to code or only ship essential items — and risk incurring fines for any non-essential items. Amazon originally said it would appeal the decision.

Amazon's warehouses will reopen on Tuesday, the company announced. "This follows five weeks over the course of which was have repeatedly provided clarifications and information about the security measures implemented inside our distribution centers to protect our employees," Amazon France wrote on Twitter.

Four major French workers' unions announced on Friday they had reached an agreement with the company.

"Activity has resumed under the conditions trade unions had put forward, demonstrating that Amazon recognizes the legitimacy of its staff representatives," workers' union CFDT said in a statement.


Amazon has a history of rejecting union activity. A leaked training video from 2018 showed how the company trains managers to try and quash union organizing.

"This agreement must not be an exception as a result of the crisis; it must be the beginning of a fair and sustainable social dialogue, for the reputation of the company and for the development of quality employment," CFDT added.

Christy Hoffman, general secretary for the international UNI Global workers' union, also welcomed the agreement.

"Amazon's deal with French union to reopen its fulfillment centers in France is good news for workers and shows how important it is to have a union voice when it comes to health and safety," she said. "These workers had the same concerns as workers everywhere: the pace of work made it impossible to maintain distance and there was no enforcement of any rules. They stood together and negotiated an agreement to fix these issues and enable the warehouses to reopen. It's a good result for everyone and proves that bargaining works."

Ruqayyah Moynihan contributed to this report.

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