Search

< News

20.06.2024 / News /

Amazon seasonal delivery drivers take former bosses to court over stolen wages

I feel that I have not only been robbed of my salary, but also of my time, my energy, my hopes and my dignity. I don’t want this fraud to go unpunished and I don’t want this to happen to others either. We are going to go all out.”

Diego Martin Baglietto, UVW member and seasonal Amazon driver

A group of Spanish Amazon seasonal delivery drivers, victims of a migrant worker scam, are fighting back after being cheated out of their wages. Lured to the UK by Amazon’s subcontractor One Motion Logistics Ltd, they were promised good pay and conditions but ended up working long hours without pay, facing huge deductions and debts. They also discovered their supposed ‘work visa’ was a fraud. These workers, who are all UVW union members, are taking One Motion and Amazon to court. Their demands are simple: pay what’s owed and stop exploiting vulnerable migrant workers. This case highlights the urgent need for accountability and justice for all migrant workers facing a hostile anti-migrant and anti-worker environment, which fosters a spectrum of abuses ranging from wage theft to human trafficking and modern slavery.

It started like a dream. “I went to the United Kingdom with great excitement. I thought it was a great opportunity to earn some money, see the world, and learn English… I even planned to stay after the campaign for the remaining time on the work visa (which we were told would last for six months), working as a driver, which is what I love to do,” recalls Diego Martin Baglietto.

But after working long hours and six-day weeks delivering Amazon packages to British households in the run-up to Christmas, Diego and his colleagues returned home to their families in Spain demoralised, empty-handed, and even indebted.“All those aspirations and excitement were shattered. I took the job because I needed to help my young autistic son, and I have gained nothing, only suffered great moral, psychological, and economic damage,” he says.

Diego at work in the van

The workers were recruited in Spain over social media by Oxfordshire-based, One Motion Logistics Ltd, which provides courier services to the online giant Amazon. The workers described how they answered a social media advert and were invited to an online recruiting meeting where the logistics company lured them to the UK promising over £100 per day, as well as free housing, van rental, insurance and return flights. The drivers were told they would be self-employed, paid weekly and would only need to take care of their own food. One Motion also said they’d take care of their work permits too.

Once in the UK, reality turned out to be somewhat different. One Motion delayed the drivers’ pay, which forced some workers to take out small loans from One Motion during their first weeks in the UK to buy food. To their shock, One Motion charged them 25% interest.

The irregularities persisted. Some became suspicious when they were not provided with the vans’ insurance policy. Several drivers said that managers at One Motion appeared to monitor them and their vehicles incessantly, even outside of working hours. This pervasive oversight made them feel constantly watched and managed at work, a condition wholly unfamiliar to genuinely self-employed individuals. UVW argues that the drivers were incorrectly categorised as self-employed. Considering the true nature of their relationship with One Motion, these drivers should be classified as workers under section 230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Working for free

One Motion left large sums unpaid, and once the workers were sent back to Spain, the company charged them big amounts for van rental, minor repairs to the vans and cleaning, as well as exorbitant administrative fees to process driving fines. The van rental company also happened to be owned by One Motion Logistics Ltd.

Some drivers ended up practically working for free as it’s the case of José Manuel Elá Asángono.“Not only they didn’t pay me, One Motion is now saying that I owe them money. After working for five weeks for them, they only paid me £200 out of the agreed £3,100 and they are saying I owe them £5,500. I just want us to be paid back the money we are owed and for this not to happen to anyone else.”

José Manuel Elá Asángono on his ordeal

Traumatic Christmas

All the workers have reported suffering psychological damage as a consequence of this degrading treatment on top of their financial ruin. They say they have been treated inhumanely, expelled from their accommodation on Christmas Eve, a day before their planned return flights. One Motion told some of them to sleep at the airport, others to share beds with strangers in different lodgings and at least two drivers ended up sleeping rough. 

Albeiro Ortiz Hernández, a long-time member of UVW, recalls: “We had a traumatic Christmas. It was inhumane treatment. Financially it affected me a lot because I couldn’t meet the payments I had to make at the end of November and by deducting so much money from what I was owed I have accumulated debts.” 

Diego sums it up: “I feel that I have not only been robbed of my salary, but also of my time, my energy, my hopes and my dignity,” he told us. “I have been cheated, I have been promised things that have not been fulfilled, and I have felt exploited and mistreated both at work and personally. I had to borrow money to be able to make this trip and I have returned with debts. I ended up sleeping rough.”

Work visa? Not really

To top it all, One Motion appears to have committed immigration fraud in their name by submitting visa applications under the EU Settlement Scheme on the drivers behalf and once they were already in the UK. 

The workers later found out that these applications, which included their personal mobile phones and passport numbers, had been made fraudulently, on the basis of their purported family relationship to a person in the UK that they didn’t know.

Some have since received emails from the Home Office (HO) confirming their applications have been rejected, others, with the guidance of UVW, have written to HO asking to withdraw their application and explaining the situation. If the workers are seen as having collaborated in the scam they could face a travelling ban to the UK for years.

Since Brexit, EU workers are no longer allowed to work in the UK without a work permit. The drivers suspect the company’s behaviour falls within the definition of human trafficking and modern slavery.

Albeiro at the Amazon depot

The legal challenge

The drivers, backed by UVW, are taking One Motion to the Employment Tribunal, and they’re including Amazon in their legal claim. Why? Because their working relationship with Amazon was clear-cut. Amazon provided the drivers’ initial training in-house, and the workers used the Amazon Flex app during deliveries. As UVW members, who are often subcontracted to exploitative service companies, know, the so-called ‘client’ is—if not legally, then certainly operationally and morally—responsible for the conditions imposed on them. Amazon chooses the subcontractor and has the power to influence contractual terms and conditions. Subcontracting out parts of their operation to unscrupulous companies is just another nasty trick in its exploitation playbook.

Albeiro says: Amazon is a permissive company. They must know what is going on with their subcontractors because once we arrived we heard that it is common knowledge amongst drivers that One Motion operates in this way, not paying their workers with petty excuses, docking management fees, fines and exorbitant damages. But Amazon doesn’t seem to care, all it seems to be interested in is the end product, making money, selling, selling and selling and nothing else.”

Deliveries have given handsome profits to both companies with global delivery giant Amazon making almost $34 billion in delivery sales in the UK alone and One Motion Logistics Ltd reporting £90 million revenue across operations in the UK, Spain and Germany, all the while ripping off their couriers. Union-busting Amazon has always relied on poverty wages to make its extraordinary high profits.

“You can’t imagine that a company that makes so many millions a year is going to be built on ripping people off and that this is allowed to go unpunished.”, Diego says. “I don’t want this fraud to go unpunished and I don’t want this to happen to others either. This must not stay like this. We are going to go all out.”

The current anti-migrant climate, coupled with the erosion of workers’ rights, shortcomings in legislation and visa schemes for seasonal migrant workers, creates a breeding ground for abuses. There’s little accountability for companies employing migrant workers on temporary contracts, putting workers at risk of exploitation. The only way to combat this is to unionise, organise, and fight.

The UVW delivery drivers are appealing to all workers in Amazon who may have suffered similar exploitation to contact UVW (here) and unionise, so that they can recover their wages and fight against these abuses together. 

You can support these workers in many ways:

Make a donation to our support fund >>

Join UVW as a member >>

Become a solidarity member >.>

SHARE  

11.07.2024 / / /

Round 2: GOSH cleaners vs racist outsourcing

11.07.2024

UVW is back on Facebook!

09.07.2024 / /

DfE strike postponed: Facility staff secure backdated pay

02.07.2024

The digital class struggle in peril: Facebook and X/Twitter shut down UVW accounts

27.06.2024 /

The movement is growing: caterers at DfE join the fight!

24.06.2024

Challenging Inequality: UVW’s Historic Appeal to the Supreme Court

Newsletter

Stay up to date with our latest news, campaigns, trainings and events