Amazon has been found to be breaking labour law in Spain. The country’s labour inspectorate found that Amazon had been pushing over 4000 people who work as delivery drivers for ‘Amazon Flex’ into bogus self-employment. The ruling requires Amazon to pay over €6 million in unpaid Social Security contributions that it had been evading by illegally classifying the workers as freelancers.
“These workers had been pushed into extremely precarious situations with zero job security from one week to the next week and shouldering all the risks. But they didn’t give up. Together they stood up to the Big Tech giant and through their unions they are driving the changing tide,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.
“Amazon’s immoral and unlawful labour practices are not confined to Europe. We are seeing a global push back from workers and from regulators to demand accountability and responsibility. This is an important union win amid a major wave of public outcry over Amazon’s behaviour.” said Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union.
The Spanish Labour Inspectorate opened an investigation following a complaint introduced by the country’s UGT trade union about Amazon’s labour practices in last mile delivery. The ruling focusses specifically on workers in Madrid and Barcelona but further investigations are underway in other cities too.
“The current legislation is sufficient,” explained UGT in a statement. Arguing for “an end to the non-compliance with said regulations”, Pepe Alvarez, UGT General Secretary explained that what is needed is “a guarantee that the collective agreements that correspond to the activity of the companies involved be applied.”
The surge in bogus self-employment that unions across the continent have been sounding the alarm on highlights the need for stronger enforcement. Funding for labour inspectorates has been cut in many European countries.
The result is that corporations like Amazon are infringing the laws that exist to protect working people. Until recently, they were acting with impunity, but a wave of recent rulings, mostly of cases brought by unions, indicate an important change.
“It is not good enough to have laws written down on paper. They must be enforced. This is true at EU level too. Recent revelations about Amazon’s spying suggest that the corporation may be also breaking EU privacy laws. We have recently written to Commissioners Nicolas Schimt and Thierry Breton calling for an investigation but have yet to hear back. If Amazon are found to be in breach there must be compensation for those affected and penalties to make it understand that compliance with law is not optional,” said Oliver Roethig.
As part of a major coalition of unions, UNI Europa called on the EU to open an investigation into allegations of Amazon spying on workers. Among a wave of recent scandals in the press, a leaked internal Amazon report indicates that they are spying on workers’ private Facebook groups, including of Amazon Flex drivers in Spain. Workers’ privacy rights guaranteed by EU law must be enforced.