GMB launches 'Uber' style legal case against Amazon logistics firm in new gig economy battle
Union files legal claim against Amazon’s logistics company in latest high profile case against firms using self-employment loopholes to avoid paying the minimum wage.
GMB union today launched legal action against national logistics company UK Express, on behalf of workers at Amazon.
UK Express has its headquarters in Birmingham but is currently advertising for drivers in Manchester, Grimsby, Swindon, Derby, Leeds, Penrith, Hull, Exeter, Blackburn, Carlisle, Bristol, Bradford, Crewe, Hartlepool, Scarborough, Nottingham, Scunthorpe, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Kendal, Lincoln and Sunderland.
The case is the latest in a series being brought by GMB on behalf of members to tackle the growing trend of bogus self-employment and gig economy exploitation.
It follows the union’s ground-breaking victory against Uber and a recent case lodged against logistics company DX.
GMB believes that UK Express drivers fall into the same category as Uber drivers, in that although they currently have ‘self-employed’ status, they should actually be classed as workers.
The distinction is important because workers are entitled to basic employment rights such as minimum wage, holiday or sick pay.
People working as self-employed are not.
In October 2016, an employment tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are workers entitled to basic workers’ rights and that the company are wrong to label them as self- employed.
GMB has taken the legal cases on behalf of members who deliver for Amazon, contending that the drivers should be classed as workers, meaning they would be legally entitled to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave per year, the National Minimum Wage at £7.20 per hour for over 25s, increasing to £7.50 from April 2017, paid rest breaks and whistleblower protection.
GMB claim that Amazon drivers are workers, and potentially employees, on the ground that:
· Amazon impose control on drivers relating to routes, sanction them for 'poor performance' and require them to pay for a van hired from the company
· Amazon Logistics require the drivers to be available for 15 days per month
· Limited right of substitution - money is deducted from a driver’s pay if they cannot work
· Drivers all prohibited from working for a competitor.
Maria Ludkin, GMB Legal Director said:
“This is another case in a long line of legal battles around bogus self-employment.
“Employers might not like paying the Minimum Wage or giving their workers the protections they’re entitled to in the workplace, but I’m afraid it’s not optional. UK Express deliver for some of the world’s largest companies, in this case Amazon.
"The drivers delivering for Amazon – like Uber drivers and delivery drivers for DX – cannot be classed as anything other than employed when you look at the law.
"We don’t get to pick and choose which laws we adhere to and which we don’t like the look of.
“This is a much wider issue than individual companies like UK Express or Uber.
"This is about employment in 21st century Britain.
"Fake self-employment is costing the Treasury and the economy millions while trapping some very hardworking people in in-work poverty.
"Amazon are already costing us enough but refusing to pay their taxes. It’s not on, and GMB will never stand by and allow this sort of status quo to continue – this won’t be the last case we bring.”
Nigel Mackay, a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day, said:
“We believe UK Express drivers are workers who are being denied their rights, including paid holiday and the National Minimum Wage, due to being mislabelled by UK Express as self-employed.
"Drivers are also being fined if they can’t work, even when they have good reason.
"We believe this is unlawful.
"UK Express is paid by Amazon to deliver its parcels. We believe Amazon should require its contractors to provide workers with their legal entitlements, including paid holiday and National Minimum Wage, and to stop fining staff if they are unable to work.”