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AMAZON

Amazon to close sites in France for five days after court ruling

Online retailer Amazon said on Wednesday it would halt activity at its French distribution centres for five days following a court ruling faulting the e-commerce giant on its measures to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Amazon to close sites in France for five days after court ruling
AFP

The sites would be closed from April 16th to 20th inclusive but employees would be paid their full salaries during that period, Amazon said.

The CGT union told AFP the works committee had voted for closure of the sites for a total clean and evaluation of the risks.

Ealier this week a court in Nanterre, outside Paris, said Amazon France had “failed to recognise its obligations regarding the security and health of its workers,” according to a ruling seen by AFP.

While carrying out a health evaluation, Amazon can prepare and deliver only “food, hygiene and medical products,” the court said.

The injunction must be carried out within 24 hours, or Amazon France could face fines of one million euros ($1.1 million) per day. 

Amazon were given one month to carry out the evaluation.   

The ruling comes as consumers around the world flock to Amazon during the coronavirus lockdown.

But concern has grown over the safety precautions taken by the company, and dozens of workers protested in the United States last month.

Amazon has been hiring thousands of workers as business booms in countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak after authorities imposed business closures and stay-at-home orders to try to limit infections.

The company said Monday it had filled the 100,000 US jobs it promised a month ago to meet demand from the coronavirus outbreak, and was ready to take on 75,000 more.

But Amazon France's biggest labour union took the company to court saying more than 100 workers were being forced to work in close proximity despite the nationwide ban on public gatherings in force since mid-March.

Last month, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire accused Amazon of putting “unacceptable” pressure on employees after unions claimed the retailer was refusing to pay staff who did not go in to work for fear of coronavirus contagion.

His comments came after hundreds of employees walked out at several Amazon processing centres in France, exercising the “right of refusal” in France's labour code if an employee considers there is a risk to health or safety.

Amazon disputed claims that it was not taking sufficient precautionary measures, saying it had imposed stricter cleaning protocols and taken steps “so that employees can keep the necessary distance from one another.”

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PROTESTS

Hundreds protest Amazon expansion in France

Hundreds rallied in several French towns on Saturday, January 30th, in protests against Amazon called by anti-capitalist and environmental groups, including at one site where the US e-commerce giant plans a massive warehouse.

Hundreds protest Amazon expansion in France
Image: Raymond Roig / AFP

Amazon plans to set up a 38,000-square-metre (400,000-square-feet) facility in the small southern town of Fournes near the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct bridge that is a World Heritage site.

A crowd police said numbered around 800 and which organisers estimated at 1,400 rallied at the site, planting shrubs in front of huge banners reading “Stop Amazon” and “Not here or anywhere”.

They formed a human chain to show the size of the project, while multicoloured balloons floated 18 metres (60 feet) up to indicate the height of the planned five-storey facility.

“It's two years that the citizens of Fournes and its surroundings have fought against the installation of a giant Amazon warehouse,” said Raphael Pradeau, spokesman for French citizens' activist group Attac.

“At the start they were a bit alone against everyone, but they have succeeded in halting the project thanks to legal recourse.”

“We want to show that these are not small isolated fights and that we can mobilise hundreds of people who are ready to return to stop the work”, said Pradeau.

Protesters in Fournes, France. Photo: Sylvain Thomas / AFP

Precarious jobs

Sarah Latour, 38, came with her two sons aged eight and six, and the family
planted a shrub in waste ground, where vines had once grown.

“These plants, these shrubs that we are planting today are a symbol of life that contrasts with the concreting that Amazon practises,” she said. “I came with my children because I don't want this destructive model for them.”

About 200 people also rallied outside an Amazon facility in Carquefou, a suburb of the western city of Nantes, organisers said.

“We condemn Amazon for destroying more jobs than they create, and that these are insecure jobs,” said Sophie Jallier, a spokeswoman for the organisers in Carquefou.

In the eastern town of Ensisheim, about 100 people gathered to protest a plan to build a giant warehouse on a 15-hectare site of former agricultural land. Bannners read “Amazon, Fiscal Vampire” and “No mega warehouse.”

“Today, we condemn an economic system that is at the end of its rope and which is using the planet,” said Isabelle Schaeffer, a member of an environmental group in the Sud Alsace region.

Other protests were held in Augny, in the eastern Moselle region, and in Perpignan in the south.

Amazon practices “unfair competition with regard to businesses that pay their taxes in France”, Eric Barbier of the environmental group Alteratiba said in Perpignan.

In addition, “most workers are on precarious contracts, hired during peak periods such as Black Friday or Christmas and are then thrown out”.

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