Spanish Court Says Amazon Delivery App Violated Labor Law

The company forced more than 2,000 delivery drivers to use its Flex app.

Amazon facility in Schoenefeld, Germany, March 18, 2022.
Amazon facility in Schoenefeld, Germany, March 18, 2022.
AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish court has ruled that Amazon broke labor laws by forcing more than 2,000 delivery drivers to use an app that the company controlled for scheduling work and payments and requiring them to use their own cars and cellphones on the job.

Amazon could not treat workers using its Flex app as self-employed because the e-commerce giant's Spanish subsidiary "assumes the authority to make all decisions regarding the service, setting the conditions of execution and remuneration, and the circumstances of the day, time and duration" of labor, according to the Madrid labor court's decision released Friday.

Amazon stopped using the Flex app in Spain in 2021.

Friday's ruling is the result of a lawsuit brought by Spain's social security body following a 2019 labor inspection at an Amazon facility. The government agency is seeking to recoup payments that it says Amazon should have made on behalf of the drivers.

Amazon has long argued that Flex was an intermediary platform between freelance delivery workers and clients in Spain, rather than a delivery service in its own right.

"We respect the court ruling, but we disagree and will be filing an appeal," the company said in a statement, adding that it worked with a range of delivery companies.

"Between 2018 and 2021, we also collaborated with some freelancers through the Amazon Flex program, which accounted for a small percentage of packages delivered in Spain," it added.

The court decision is the latest in a series of legal measures in Spain that are designed to stop e-commerce and delivery app companies from designating workers as self-employed when they have little control over their hours and earnings.

Spain's socialist coalition government in 2021 passed the "Riders Law," which classified food delivery riders as employees of the digital platforms they work for.

"This is another step forward for jurisprudence as a corrective mechanism for new ways of working" using apps, said Spain's UGT union, which backed the lawsuit.

The ruling referenced a Spanish Supreme Court decision from 2020, which found that Barcelona-based food delivery app Glovo was illegally treating "riders" as self-employed.

Spain's labor ministry fined Glovo 57 million euros ($62 million) last month for violating the same labor laws. The company has since signed a deal with the Madrid regional government to deliver food to vulnerable people in the city.

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