For Gilles Renevier, a vet from a village south-east of Lyon, preventing the web retailer Amazon’s plans to construct an unlimited logistics centre in his space was “frequent sense”.
The US tech large – which is the market chief in French on-line procuring – was because of start building of an enormous centre for packing and supply beside Lyon airport in south-east France this 12 months.
However two native associations have lodged authorized information to halt the construct, warning there could be a dangerous improve in highway visitors and air pollution with greater than 1,000 lorries and 4,500 small car actions a day and no correct planning nor public transport to compensate for it in an space already saturated with visitors. Additionally they argue the construct would destroy 33 protected species of animal life with out justification.
“We gained’t again down,” Renevier mentioned. “This mission is an outdated approach of doing issues – now we have to consider methods to stay higher in a society with much less air pollution.”
The transfer comes amid an increase in anti-Amazon feeling amongst French campaigners and protesters, bolstered by gilets jaunes (yellow vests) demonstrations in opposition to Amazon. In France, the place customers spent greater than €38bn procuring on-line final 12 months, Amazon is the market chief. However a sequence of yellow vest blockades outdoors Amazon depots has heightened a row over unfair tax benefits for international tech giants.
When the anti-government yellow-vest protesters started their nationwide tax revolt in November it was aimed on the state relatively than firms – with protests at unemployment places of work or assaults on native authorities buildings. However Amazon was the notable exception.
Over the previous 4 months, yellow vest campaigners have sporadically blockaded a number of Amazon depots and buildings, from Toulouse within the south-west to Montélimar within the south-east and Douai within the north, earlier than being moved by riot police.
One younger gilet jaunes protester from Douai mentioned: “Tax in France isn’t truthful. A number of of my mates work at Amazon. How come low-paid staff, toiling all day in an Amazon hangar, must pay all their tax, and massive firms get to rearrange methods to pay the least tax doable?”
Raymond Stocco, a gilets jaunes organiser in Toulouse, mentioned: “The anger may be very actual. Employees are taxed to the hilt. Why ought to massive teams – Google, Amazon – be capable to discover a approach spherical it?”
With yellow vests protesters gathering outdoors entrances to hangars, Amazon issued statements that the protesters have been improper. “We pay the whole thing of taxes required in France, as we do in all international locations that we function in,” the corporate mentioned, including that it had invested €2bn in France since 2010, the place it employs 7,500 everlasting staff at 20 websites.
Amazon has up to now been criticised for minimising its tax invoice in France and different European international locations by channeling gross sales via Luxembourg, which provides tax breaks to overseas firms which base themselves there. Amazon has mentioned that it now has a department in France and lodges retail gross sales, costs and earnings within the nation.
The French authorities – searching for to calm the gilets jaunes motion – has introduced it’ll press forward alone with a brand new tax on large know-how firms, together with Google, Apple, Fb and Amazon.
However rigidity has grown after a handful of Amazon employees mentioned they’d been sacked as a result of they’d supported the gilets jaunes motion on social media.
An employment tribunal in Orléans is at present contemplating a case for unfair dismissal of an worker in his 30s who had been working for 5 years getting ready Amazon supply parcels at a depot in Saran. He misplaced his job three weeks after writing a publish on Fb in November utilizing the time period “we, gilets jaunes” and suggesting blocking a depot. In a tribunal listening to this month, Amazon refused to present him his job again and the case continues.
“This can be a query of public liberty,” mentioned Avi Bitton, the employee’s lawyer. “Occurring strike is a proper within the French structure, similar to the liberty of speech. There was a nationwide yellow vest motion, my consumer wished to participate in it. Is he supposed to remain silent on that nationwide motion simply because he’s an Amazon worker?”
Khaled Bouchajra, a commerce unionist for the left-wing CGT on the Saran Amazon website, mentioned commerce unions have been robust and revered throughout the agency however any concern between staff and Amazon was seen by the French public “as wealthy in opposition to poor”.
The temper amongst gilets jaunes protesters worsened when it was perceived that Amazon’s on-line procuring gross sales may gain advantage from the truth that high-street gross sales have been being restricted by gilets jaunes demonstrations on Saturdays within the run-up to Christmas.
Actually, though French on-line gross sales rose on the finish of final 12 months, they weren’t as excessive as anticipated, amid a dismal temper for shopper confidence.
On the difficulty of employees dismissals, Amazon mentioned the gilet jaunes motion was not linked to Amazon. The corporate mentioned: “That’s the reason posting an attraction to dam [a site] on social networks to hurt your organization doesn’t correspond to exercising the correct to strike, however quite the opposite is a critical violation of a employee’s obligations.”
In Lyon, the corporate has not commented on the opposition to a brand new logistics centre. A neighborhood mayor who authorised planning permission, Pierre Marmonier, mentioned: “I perceive that the concept of Amazon scares folks, it may be sophisticated … However all of the questions I requested of Amazon have been answered they usually reassured me.”
Evelyne Lavezzari, an area resident, whose affiliation Acenas started the motion to halt building on the website, mentioned: “This mission is dangerous to us domestically, we needed to take a stand, and we’ll hold going.”