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France refuses coronavirus funds for Amazon after safety dispute

France's labour ministry said on Monday that it denied a request by Amazon for emergency funds to pay employees during the coronavirus crisis, after the US giant shut its warehouses over a court order to sell only essential items.

France refuses coronavirus funds for Amazon after safety dispute
Photo: AFP

The ministry said Amazon France asked last Thursday to benefit from the country's partial unemployment scheme that covers about 84 percent of net pay for workers facing temporary layoffs because of a drop in business.

Amazon France confirmed it sought the funds to cover salaries for some 10,000 employees at its six main distribution sites in the country.

The online retailer has been locked in a battle with unions which say not enough was done to mitigate contagion risk for staff working in close proximity to process a flood of orders amid the nationwide lockdown, which saw traditional shops shuttered.

Last month, an appeals court upheld a ruling that sharply curtailed Amazon's operations and ordered management to review safety measures.

The court said only digital products, office equipment, groceries, medical and personal care products could be delivered in the meantime.

But Amazon said it was impossible to comply with the order, and completely shut down the six sites from mid-April until May 5th, though it maintained full pay for employees.

“The recent decision by the Court of Versailles has obviously had an impact on our French operations… As a result, we filed for the help that other companies in France have benefited from,” the company said in a statement.

“Our logistics operations are technically complex and the court's fine of €100,000 for any infraction means that even accidental shipping of non-authorised products, on the order of 0.1 percent of the total, could lead to over one billion euros of fines per week,” it said.

Unions called Amazon's request for employment aid “absolutely scandalous,” and accused the firm of getting around the court order by fulfilling French orders from its other warehouses in Europe.

Dozens of employees had staged walkouts at several sites before the ruling to demand better workplace protection during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amazon reported last week that despite a surge in orders worldwide because of virus lockdowns, its profit dropped 29 percent in the first quarter of this year, to $2.5 billion, because of COVID-19 expenses, including measures for “keeping employees safe”.

The company is in the process of recruiting some 175,000 more employees to cope with surging demand.

Member comments

  1. Typical France. Always siding with the unions. Amazon is entitled to the money just like any other company.

  2. Normally as we know they pay a lot of tax into the system on the profits which are vast. Oh no they don’t, they move it to lower tax situations.

    If you pay into a system perhaps you then have a right to claim off it in difficult times.

    They are sitting on a big pile of money perhaps they should use that.

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COVID-19

Macron demands France take ‘protective measures’ against Covid rise in China

French President Emmanuel Macron has asked his government to take "protective measures" as China sees an explosion of Covid-19 cases. The EU was also set to meet on Thursday to discuss measures.

Macron demands France take 'protective measures' against Covid rise in China

Macron has made it clear he is following developments in China very closely and has asked his government to put in place appropriate measures.

Those measures were yet to be announced on Thursday morning but the French government could follow the path of Italy and impose all travellers from China to provide a negative Covid-19 test before arriving in the country.

The French government said it was “ready to study all the useful measures that could be implemented in conjunction with France’s European partners and within the legal framework that exists today”.

On August 1, 2022 France adopted new rules to combat Covid-19 after scrapping its state of emergency. The text gave the government the right – until January 31st 2023 – to require travellers aged 12 and over to present a negative Covid-19 test prior to entering the territory in the event of a “new variant likely to constitute a serious health threat.” 

In Brussels the European Commission was to hold a meeting on Thursday to “discuss possible measures for a coordinated approach” by EU states in response to the explosion of Covid-19 cases in China.

Italy said on Wednesday it was reinstating mandatory coronavirus tests for arrivals from China following an explosion in cases there, with Milan’s Malpensa airport finding around half of all passengers tested were positive.

Coronavirus infections have surged in China as it unwinds tight controls that had torpedoed the economy and sparked nationwide protests.

China on Monday scrapped quarantine for inbound travellers from January 8th onwards, dismantling the last remaining piece of its stringent zero-Covid policy and ending some of the world’s harshest border restrictions.

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