Amazon planning to reopen its French warehouses from May 19

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, northern France, April 22, 2020 after Amazon extended the closure of its French warehouses until April 25 included, following dispute with unions over health protection measures amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

PARIS (Reuters) - Amazon said on Friday it aims to gradually reopen its French warehouses from May 19 as it finalizes an agreement with unions and work councils to end a dispute over coronavirus protection steps that closed the sites for more than one month.

The U.S. e-commerce giant’s six French warehouses, which employ about 10,000 people on permanent and interim contracts, have been closed since April 16 following court rulings that ordered it to restrict deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic or face hefty fines.

“We are currently finalizing a process with French unions and works councils, and we are hopeful that we will be able to re-open our French fulfillment centres in the coming days,” Amazon said.

The legal stand-off followed a complaint filed by hardline union SUD, which said Amazon did not do enough to protect employees from COVID-19 contagion.

The company has said the latest French court ruling, which restricts deliveries to IT products, health items, food and pet food, could lead to multimillion-dollar fines if it unintentionally ships items that are not included on the list.

Reporting by Christian Lowe; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Sandra Maler and Sonya Hepinstall