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Amazon is reopening its French warehouses after COVID-19 labor dispute

Amazon is reopening its French warehouses after COVID-19 labor dispute


Amazon shut down six warehouses in April

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon is reopening its six distribution centers in France beginning today, according to a reporter from CNN. The company shut down the warehouses in April due to a labor dispute with workers who alleged that the internet retailer wasn’t doing enough to protect them from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The six warehouses are set to “gradually reopen” starting today, according to an Amazon spokesperson speaking to CNN.

Amazon closed all six of its French warehouses on April 15th after a French court issued a ruling that threatened to fine the company €1 million per item for shipping out anything other than medical supplies, hygiene products, and food items.

The court ruling came after a complaint from French unions representing Amazon’s workers who argued that the warehouses were too crowded and that Amazon wasn’t doing enough to protect them from the virus. Amazon argued that its operations were “complex and varied” and that the “the risk was too high” to try to only ship products that met the court ruling — hence the total shutdown for the past month.

A statement posted by the CFDT Services union gives more details on the agreement, which includes health guarantees, a voluntary return to work for workers, adjusted schedules to help with distancing, and increased pay of €2 per hour through the end of May.

Despite reopening in France, Amazon continues to struggle with safe work conditions for its employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, there have been seven known COVID-19 deaths of employees at Amazon warehouses. The company is also being frustratingly opaque about how many workers have actually been infected or died from the virus, with Amazon senior vice president of worldwide operations Dave Clark calling statistics on infections “not a particularly useful number.” Amazon has also fired some of its employees who staged a walkout over safety concerns, which led to a senior engineer and vice president resigning from the company in protest.