By Mathieu Rosemain
PARIS (Reuters) – Amazon’s French warehouses are set to reopen on Tuesday with about 30% of employees, three union officials said, ending a month-long dispute over whether the e-commerce giant was doing enough to protect workers from the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. retailer’s six French warehouses have been closed since a court backed union complaints, and ordered Amazon to restrict deliveries to essential items during the pandemic or face hefty fines.
The 10,600 permanent and temporary staff employed at the warehouses will progressively return to work by June 2, according to an agreement signed by five French unions last week and seen by Reuters.
During a first phase, starting on Tuesday and ending next Monday, a maximum of 50% of staff will be allowed to work, on a voluntary basis. As of Monday afternoon, about 30% of workers had volunteered to resume work on Tuesday, the three union officials said.
A spokeswoman for Amazon declined to comment on the number of employees set to return to work on Tuesday.
“What we’re interested in is that we can start over on a sound and sustainable basis,” she said.
Under the deal, voluntary workers will get a bonus of 2 euros per hour until June 2. During that same period, employees who stay at home will still receive their full salary.
Amazon also agreed to reduce the working day by 15 minutes. That will create a delay of about 30 minutes between the morning and night shifts, reducing numbers in changing rooms and at entrance gates.
The agreement also lifts restrictions on what kind of products Amazon can send to clients across France.
The court had ruled Amazon should restrict deliveries to IT products, health items, food and pet food while the company reviewed its coronavirus-related health policies.
An external firm, Progexa, has been hired to review the health measures implemented by Amazon, the agreement said.
“We’ve buried the hatchet,” said SUD union leader Laurent Degousée, who led the lawsuit against Amazon.
However, Amazon said the deal made no fundamental changes to the measures it had already put in place when it decided to close its warehouses on April 16.
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Sarah White and Mark Potter)