Three delivery organisations that courier parcels for Amazon are to face legal action over drivers’ employment status and entitlement to employment rights, such as holiday pay and the national minimum wage.
Trade union GMB is bringing legal action against Prospect Commercials, Box Group and Lloyd Link on behalf of its members who work as couriers delivering parcels for online retailer Amazon.
The legal action will argue that couriers working for the three delivery firms should be classified as employees rather than independent, self-employed contractors. This would mean that the couriers would then be entitled to employment rights that self-employed contractors do not have access to. This includes receiving holiday pay and the national minimum wage.
According to GMB, couriers are required to attend scheduled shifts controlled by Amazon, meaning they do not have the traditional flexibility of being self-employed. The trade union plans to argue that, as couriers are treated as employees in terms of their working hours, they should also receive the associated rights.
Two drivers also claim they were dismissed for whistleblowing about working practices, for example raising concerns that drivers were being underpaid and not receiving the amounts they were contractually entitled to. These claims will be brought directly against Amazon.
A spokesperson at Amazon said: “Our delivery providers are contractually obligated to ensure drivers they engage receive the national living wage and are expected to pay a minimum of £12 per hour, follow all applicable laws and driving regulations and drive safely. Allegations to the contrary do not represent the great work done by around 100 small businesses generating thousands of work opportunities for delivery drivers across the UK.
“Amazon is proud to offer a wide variety of work opportunities across Britain, full-time or part-time employment, or [self-employment]. Last year we created 5,000 new permanent jobs on top of thousands of opportunities for people to work independently with the choice and flexibility of being their own boss, either through Amazon Logistics, Amazon Flex, or Amazon Marketplace.”
Tim Roache, general secretary at GMB, added: “Amazon is a global [organisation] that makes billions. It’s absolutely galling that they refuse to afford the people who make that money for them even the most basic rights, pay and respect.
“The day to day reality for many of our members who deliver packages for Amazon is unrealistic targets, slogging their guts out only to have deductions made from their pay when those targets aren’t met, and being told they’re self-employed without the freedom that affords.
“[Organisations] like Amazon and their delivery [organisations] can’t have it both ways; they can’t decide they want all of the benefits of having an employee, but refuse to give those employees the pay and rights they’re entitled to. Guaranteed hours, holiday pay, sick pay, pension contributions are not privileges [organisations] can dish out when they fancy. They are the legal right of all UK workers, and that’s what we’re asking the courts to rule on.”
Amy Richardson, associate solicitor at Coffin Mew, said: “It makes sense for the unions to name Amazon to get the headlines and put pressure on them to change their working practices. If Amazon is a hard task master when it comes to delivery targets, then the delivery [organisations] no doubt must make a squeeze somewhere along the line to make it a profitable business for them, so the combination of this will probably have had an adverse impact on the drivers.
“If the drivers are self-employed then they have very few rights, but if in fact they are found to be employed by the delivery [organisations] then those [organisations] will lose their margins because they will have to pay more in terms of holiday pay, rest breaks, etc, and of course paying compensation for anyone they have dismissed because they blew the whistle on these unfair practices.
“If the union wins this case, it will become less attractive for delivery [organisations] to take on Amazon accounts, and perhaps Amazon will be forced to change some of their own practices and demands if they are struggling to get people to take on the work.”