Whistleblowing delivery drivers are taking legal action against Amazon on the charge of bogus self-employment.
The latest gig-economy case involves claimants who all worked as couriers, delivering parcels for Amazon. GMB, the union representing the couriers say they were employees and the companies they worked for (UK delivery contractors) used a ‘bogus self- employment model’ to wrongly deny them employment rights, such as the national minimum wage and holiday pay.
The drivers were required to attend scheduled shifts that were controlled by Amazon, according to the claim by GMB, which it says means they did not have the flexibility that is integral to being self-employed.
In this situation, the couriers were treated like employees in terms of their working hours, contends GMB, which says they should be treated as employees in terms of their rights too.
Two of the couriers are also claiming that they were dismissed because of whistleblowing, saying that their roles were terminated because they raised concerns about working practices, for example that:
- the number of parcels allocated to drivers resulted in excessive hours and/or driving unsafely to meet targets;
- drivers were expected to wait a significant time to load their vans, extending their working hours;
- drivers were driving whilst tired, which posed a threat to their safety and other road users; and
- drivers were being underpaid and not being paid amounts that they were contractually entitled to
These whistleblowing claims are also being brought directly against Amazon on the basis that it was Amazon who determined the way that the drivers should work, says GMB.
Details of the case are emerging, with one of the drivers, reporting long shifts – he left home at six o’clock in the morning and returned at 11pm at night – and yet still had £1 per undelivered parcel deducted from his wages. He was also told more than once, he claims, that he would not be paid if he did not complete a route, which led him to sometimes drive ‘half asleep at the wheel’.
Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, says: “Companies like Amazon and their delivery companies 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 companies 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.”