A bid by more than UK 1,400 delivery drivers to win employment rights from online giant Amazon has moved one step closer after a tribunal ruled against the online giant’s attempt to strike out their claim.
The drivers insist that although they ostensibly work as self-employed contractors for delivery companies contracted by Amazon they are the online retailer’s de facto employees.
Law firm Leigh Day is representing the drivers who are claiming for holiday pay, the national minimum wage, breach of contract and unauthorized deductions from wages against Amazon companies' subcontracting firms.
Amazon refutes this claim, arguing it has no contractual relationship with the drivers. Last month it applied to throw out the claims at an Employment Tribunal hearing.
Amazon denies having any relationship with the claimants, arguing that the delivery companies it uses sign agreements with drivers specifying that they are independent contractors and do not have employment status.
The retailer also requires that the delivery companies declare that they are not solely reliant on it for business, according to the judgment.
Amazon also argues it is the delivery companies' customer and as such could not be sued as the drivers' employer.
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However, in a ruling made public on Monday (27 March), Judge Frances Spencer said the lawsuits against Amazon should proceed.
Judge Spencer ruled that the drivers should have their case laid out in full before a tribunal.
She said: “The tribunal will ultimately decide if it is really the case that Amazon has simply outsourced the delivery of parcels … as Amazon contends, or devised a means to engage workers in a way that avoids its statutory obligations.”
Judge Spencer said the tribunal could strike out the claim only if it was "virtually certain" that it would fail.
"While the various relationships may, at first sight, look like a simple outsourcing arrangement, in the absence of further information as to how the relationships work in practice I cannot conclude either that the case against Amazon has no reasonable prospect, or that it has little reasonable prospect of success," Judge Spencer said.
Lawyer Kate Robinson of Leigh Day, said the judgment represented a "huge success" for the drivers the firm represents.
"Amazon is a multinational company and Leigh Day believes it is using a complex structure of arrangements to deny delivery drivers the employee rights we believe they should be entitled to," she added.
Amazon is also facing a collective action lawsuit in Utah, where drivers accuse the retail giant of failing to pay overtime despite their working more than 40 hours a week.
An Amazon spokesperson said: "We are committed to ensuring these drivers are fairly compensated by the delivery companies they work with and are treated with respect, and this is reflected by the positive feedback we hear from drivers every day.”