Amazon goes on hiring spree as working conditions under scrutiny
London (CNN Business)Amazon is reopening its distribution centers in France after they were shut down more than a month ago due to a dispute with labor unions over the health and safety of workers.
An Amazon spokesperson told CNN Business on Tuesday that all six warehouses in France would “gradually reopen from today.”
A labor union brought a court case complaining Amazon (AMZN) was not doing enough to protect its workers from contracting coronavirus in its warehouses. The court ordered the company to limit itself to selling only “essential” goods.
Instead of complying with the order, Amazon shut down its warehouses in France on April 15 blaming complex logistics, confusion over what constituted an essential good and the possibility of high fines.
After losing an appeal and saying it would take the case to the French Supreme Court, Amazon instead announced on Friday that it had reached an agreement with the labor unions.
“This follows five weeks of discussions in which we have repeatedly provided clarification and information about the extensive safety measures already implemented at our fulfillment centers to keep our employees safe,” an Amazon spokesperson said in Friday’s statement.
The company continued to pay its workers during the shutdown and maintained that it had increased protections for its staff. Throughout the standoff, customers in France were able to buy goods from third party marketplace sellers and Amazon’s global fulfillment network, the company said.
According to the Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail, one of the four major labor unions to negotiate with Amazon, employees will gradually return to the warehouses on a voluntary basis at first.
In a statement the union said it had “obtained health and security guarantees” for employees, along with a pay bump of €2 ($2.19) an hour for those returning voluntarily and schedule adjustments to help increase physical distancing.
Amazon has faced criticism in the United States and around the world over the health and safety of workers as it faces increasing demands on its services during the pandemic. Workers have staged protests as the company has frustrated employees and critics by declining to provide information about the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases at its warehouses.
— Sara O’Brien contributed to this report.
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