Amazon argues for dismissal of lawsuit brought by delivery drivers

Amazon is arguing for the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by more than 1,200 delivery drivers which, if successful, would force it to pay hefty compensation.

Lawyers for the retail giant told the Central London Employment Tribunal on Monday that the case, brought by legal firm Leigh Day on behalf of the drivers, should be abandoned because it will not be successful.

More than 1,200 workers have united in the legal battle against Jeff Bezos’s multinational company, with 10 to 15 joining each week on average.

The drivers make deliveries on behalf of Amazon via Delivery Service Partners (DSPs) so they are classed as self-employed, meaning they do not benefit from employees’ rights like holiday pay and the national minimum wage.

Leigh Day says the drivers should be entitled to compensation for the years they have been working for Amazon partners without these rights – reportedly totalling more than £140 million.

Representing Amazon, Jason Galbraith-Marten KC told the tribunal the workers have “no reasonable prospect of success” because there is no “express contract” between them and Amazon.

He said the continuation of the case depends on whether it is “appropriate to imply a contract”.

Mr Galbraith-Marten said: “This is a claim in which, if it is allowed to proceed against Amazon, will be a significant claim.”

He said drivers are recruited and paid by the DSPs rather than by Amazon – though the money “originates” from Amazon.

“Amazon is having its parcel delivered and must pay for that service,” he said.

“But it is important that it is paid by the DSP. We pay the DSP, we don’t pay drivers.

“Amazon isn’t paying for the work done by the worker, it is paying for the services provided by the DSP.”

Mr Galbraith-Marten admitted drivers attend training sessions at Amazon depots.

Representing the workers, Ben Cooper KC said striking out the case would be a “draconian” response by the judge.

In his written submission, Mr Cooper said: “It would only be in an exceptional case that the claim should be struck out, such as where the facts asserted by the claimant could be conclusively disproved.”

Leigh Day has compared the case to that of Uber drivers, who won the right to be classed as workers rather than independent contractors following a Supreme Court decision in 2021.

Mr Cooper said it is “of central importance” to recognise the Uber case was also concerned with “the implication of a contract in the context of a multi-party relationship where there was no express contract between the workers and the employee”.

“Since there was no such express contract, the only possible contract can have been an implied one,” he said.

Mr Cooper said the Supreme Court judges recognised “the need to focus on the substantive reality” of the “vulnerable position of workers” so the “language of agreements” could not be used by employers to overlook workers’ rights.

The preliminary hearing is expected to last two days.