French Court Orders Amazon to Suspend Nonessential Sales

The emergency ruling Tuesday requires Amazon to evaluate health risks at all its facilities across France and negotiate new safety measures with workers.

Employees observe social distancing due to coronavirus at the entrance of Amazon in Douai, France, last week. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler, File)

PARIS (AP) — A French court has ordered Amazon to stop selling, storing or delivering nonessential goods for the next month to protect its employees from the virus.

The emergency ruling Tuesday requires Amazon to evaluate health risks at all its facilities nationwide and negotiate new safety measures with worker representatives, according to lawyers for unions that launched the legal proceedings.

The court stopped short of halting all Amazon activity, as unions had sought.

Amazon must suspend its non-essential trade within 24 hours of Tuesday’s ruling or face $1.1 million in fines per day, said lawyer Judith Krivine. Sales of food, medicine and hygiene supplies are still allowed.

Amazon did not immediately comment. The head of Amazon France, Frederic Duval, said last week that the company was doing everything it could to put in place safety measures.

Unions hailed the ruling.

“It is a great victory for us,” said Tatiana Campagne of union SUD, which filed the legal complaint alongside environmental group Amis de la Terre. “We feel that the health of workers was taken into account.”

Amazon dominates the online delivery market in France, and has seen demand explode in in the U.S. and around the world since virus confinement measures were imposed. France’s lockdown began a month ago and is set to last at least until May 11.

In New York last month, Amazon fired a worker who organized a walkout to demand greater virus protection, saying the employee himself flouted distancing rules and put others at risk.

The Seattle-based company said it has taken aggressive steps to protect its employees from the virus, including cleaning and distancing measures.

Several walkouts and protests have drawn attention to fear and discontent among low-wage workers on the front lines of the pandemic, particularly those packing and delivering groceries and other essentials.

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