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Amazon shuttered its French warehouses on Thursday following a court ruling that it had to limit deliveries to products in the food, medicine and hygienic categories due to inadequate coronavirus protections at its warehouses.
The e-commerce giant faced a fine of 1 million euros (around $1.1 million) per day if it failed to carry out the civil court order on Wednesday, as previously reported by the New York Times. It plans to appeal the fine.
"Following the judgement of a French court on Tuesday, we have to temporarily suspend operations in our Fulfilment Centres in France," an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "This is in spite of the huge investment we made in additional safety measures to keep our hard-working, dedicated colleagues safe, while ensuring they had continued employment at this difficult time."
It criticized the unions that brought the court case, noting that "the decision will likely have consequences for many people in the country," including employees, customers and small businesses that sell through Amazon. It deemed the "punitive" fine too high to ignore, and the warehouse workers will be asked to stay home during the closure.
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SUD-Commerce, the main union behind the lawsuit, told the Times that workers will be paid during the closures, which are expected to last five days as Amazon improves warehouse safety measures.
"We will be very vigilant today … that the court decision will be followed by Amazon," a union spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "We understand that people want to order goods in this difficult time of confinement, but in no way it should put in danger human health."
Amazon in recent days fired three workers in the US who criticized warehouse conditions during the global pandemic.
The new strain of coronavirus, which can develop into a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December and has spread worldwide in the months since. As of Thursday morning, it has infected more than 2 million people and caused over 137,000 deaths globally.