Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Amazon to temporarily close fulfillment centers in France

The move follows a French court order requiring Amazon to either shut down its warehouses or limit operations to essential goods.

Point of impact: How will the tech economy recover from COVID-19?

Amazon on Wednesday confirmed that it will temporarily shut down its six fulfillment centers in France. The decision comes in response to a French court order requiring the e-commerce giant to limit its warehouse operations to essential goods to protect workers from the COVID-19 virus.  

latest developments

Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

From cancelled conferences to disrupted supply chains, not a corner of the global economy is immune to the spread of COVID-19.

Read More

The decision was made "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," Amazon said in a statement to ZDNet. "We remain perplexed by the court's decision, which was made in spite of the overwhelming evidence we provided about the safety measures we have implemented, and have launched an appeal." 

On Tuesday, the Nanterre Court of Justice, just outside of Paris, ordered Amazon to curtail operations or risk a daily fine of 1 million euros ($1.1 million). The ruling came in response to a complaint from a labor union, arguing that Amazon was continuing with operations "as if nothing had happened." The court said normal operations could resume once Amazon had put in place sufficient safety measures for its workers. 

In its statement, Amazon said it decided to close its fulfillment centers completely in response to the ruling because the risk of accidentally shipping non-essential items was too high. 

"This week, we will ask our [fulfillment center] employees to stay home," the statement said. "In the mean-time, we are working through what this court's decision means for them and our French operation. While we will do our best to minimize the impact on French small businesses, those who depend on our FC network to deliver their products will be negatively impacted by this ruling. We will continue to serve French customers through our independent marketplace sellers and robust global fulfilment network."

In the US, meanwhile, Amazon is ramping up activity. Earlier in the week, it announced it would hire an additional 75,000 workers to meet the current demand, on top of the 100,000 workers it has hired in just the past month. 

Amazon is providing daily updates regarding the steps it is taking to respond to the pandemic, such as implementing enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to protect its employees, delivering  personal protective gear like masks to employees and implementing temperature checks across its operations.

Some of these measures, however, were only implemented after workers at Amazon fulfillment centers began speaking out in protest over the company's lack of precautionary measures -- and after workers began getting sick.