Court says delivery riders exploited as false autónomos

Court decision says Deliveroo riders full-time company employees, not free-lance 'autonomos'. Photo: EFE via Público
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The highest appeals court in the regional community of Madrid has handed a victory to 532 riders for the Deliveroo courier service after the Treasury department of the Spanish government’s Social Security system claimed in court that the Spanish subsidiary of the global London-based delivery company had been defrauding the riders of benefits they should receive as full-time employees.

According to the lawsuit, from 2015-17 Deliveroo had been requiring its bicycle couriers to be registered as self-employed free-lance autonomo workers to whom the company effectively outsourced the work of delivering goods to customers, a move designed to enable the company to avoid paying and providing benefits normally accruing to full-time employees under Spanish labour laws.

In a decision issued Thursday, the regional Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Madrid upheld a lower-court ruling in favor of the delivery riders, concurring with the conclusions reached by government workplace inspectors that the riders were in fact working as full-time employees for Deliveroo’s Spanish subsdiary, Roodfoods Spain.

The government had previously won its case on behalf of the riders in July in a Madrid civil court, but Deliveroo-Roodfoods appealed the verdict to the regional Tribunal Superior. Having now lost the case in the regional appeals court, Deliveroo is expected to appeal the verdict to Spain’s Supreme Court.

► News Sources: El Diario, El País and Público …

Founded in London in 2013 by two UK entrepreneurs, Deliveroo operates a bicycle-rider delivery and courier service in some 200 cities in the UK, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Australia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Kuwait, and Taiwan. The company has 5,700 full-time employees, but relies principally on more than 20,000 bicycle couriers worldwide who are technically registered as self-employed free-lancers, delivering goods and packages to customers of the service.

In the Madrid case, government workplace inspectors found that 537 riders for Deliveroo were performing duties that a full-time employee might be expected to provide, but were not receiving the corresponding pay and benefits because the company was circumventing Spanish labour legislation by requiring the riders to be registered as “false” autonomos.

Based on the workplace inspectors’ report, Spain’s Social Security system then sued Deliveroo-Roodfoods, demanding payment of 1.2 million euros in back taxes and benefits payments so that the Deliveroo riders could be appropriate compensated and receive the benefits they were entitled to as full-time employees.

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