Deliveroo France has to pay a fine of 375,000 euros, two former managing directors have been sentenced to a fine of 27,000 euros each, payable to the social security fund, as well as suspended imprisonment. In addition, the company must pay considerable compensation to trade unions and employees. The reason for this is the illegal employment of drivers as self-employed persons who should have been employed as employees subject to compulsory insurance.
Paris, 19 April 2022, report by Maia Courtois
This judgement opens a new page in the struggle of courier drivers. After a week of trials from 8 to 16 March, the company Deliveroo France was sentenced to the maximum penalty for illegal work. The judiciary thus recognises that the platform providers should have been employed as employees and not as self-employed. And that the company abused labour legislation.
"This is the first criminal conviction of a delivery platform . And not just any one, it’s the most important of all". This is how Laurent Degousée, lawyer for the Sud Commerces trade union, summarises the significance of the judgement of the Paris Criminal Court. At the beginning of March, Deliveroo France had to defend itself against a charge of "hidden labour" during a week-long trial. The court handed down its verdict this Tuesday, 19 April. The company was sentenced to the maximum penalty provided for by law: a fine of 375,000 euros.
The judgement is historic. It states that the delivery drivers of this platform should have been employed as employees, not as self-employed ’auto-entrepreneurs’. So far, the employees have brought several labour law proceedings in this matter before the conseil de prud’hommes .
Deliveroo must pay compensation to trade unions and riders
The company was the defendant and three ex-managers were also in the dock. Two managing directors were sentenced to a twelve-month suspended prison sentence and a five-year ban from managing a company. Both held the position of ’directeur général’ of Deliveroo France during the period under trial from 2015 to 2017. The two ex-directors were also each sentenced to a fine of more than 27,000 euros to be paid to the social security fund (URSSAF).
A third defendant, who was the operations manager until 2018, was sentenced to a four-month suspended prison sentence as an employed accomplice.
The criminal court’s verdict was in line with the prosecutor’s demands from 16 March. On the last day of the trial, which Les Jours reported on in detail in a separate series, the public prosecutor denounced "the instrumentalisation and abuse of labour law". The company had "systematically instrumentalised and abused the provisions of labour law". She had requested the sentences announced today against the former members of the Executive Board.
"Their defence was abysmal. We have facts that speak in our favour. And nobody is better placed than us to talk about them. We could only win," reacted Jérémy Wick, courier in Bordeaux and member of the first CGT delivery union.
Deliveroo France has not yet responded to our request for comment.
The company must pay 50,000 euros in damages to each of the trade unions involved in the proceedings as joint plaintiffs. These are CGT, Solidaires, Sud Commerce et Services, CNT-SO and Syndicat national des transports légers.
Compensation will also be paid to the 116 carriers as interveners or plaintiffs. "They will receive a share of at least 1,500 euros," explains Laurent Degousée. The amount of these individual payments will be decided in a civil court hearing. It will take place on 6 February 2023.
Finally, this first-instance judgement must be publicly displayed for at least one month wherever Deliveroo is present online. Publication should take place on the mobile app and/or the company website. These modalities also still need to be finalised.
This judgement "is a defused grenade"
"This judgement will lead to further proceedings. It’s a grenade with the safety on," believes Laurent Degousée. The trial was preceded by several investigations, including by the Regional Directorate for the Economy, Employment, Labour and Solidarity (formerly DIRECCTE) (French: Direction régionale de l’économie, de l’emploi, du travail et des solidarités) and the Office central de lutte contre le travail illégal (French: Office central de lutte contre le travail illégal). It only covered a specific period: from 20 March 2015 to 12 December 2017. "Since then, the situation has worsened. These workers have been dragged down even further," emphasises the lawyer.
"What was done in the years 2015-2017 is still widespread practice today. Permanent position monitoring by satellite, self-processing of invoices ... All this continues," adds Jérémy Wick.
This criminal case is therefore something of a precedent, and the coming uproar will put the labour courts at the centre of the dispute. "We’ve already had cases of couriers who were paid 15,000, 20,000 euros in compensation," recalls Laurent Degousée. Further proceedings are pending.
Jérémy Wick, for example, is one of a group of around twenty couriers from Bordeaux who are hoping that their Deliveroo labour contracts will be reassessed by Prud’hommes. The hearing took place last week. The judgement is expected in mid-June.
Also in June, the conseil de prud’hommes in Paris will hear an important case concerning Frichti, another platform. It concerns "99 cases of self-employed people without papers and official residence permits. They want compensation with the prospect of finally obtaining legal status," explains Laurent Degousée. Sud Commerces and the CNT-SO are supporting them.
Following today’s ruling, the CNT-SO is applying for the cancellation of the professional elections (élections pprofessionnelles) for platform workers scheduled between 9 and 16 May. "The cheap representation planned by the government is unacceptable in view of the judgement," said the union. Formally, too, "the election was organised under deplorable material and legal conditions"
The global challenge of uberised work
The fundamental question was whether Deliveroo is a simple platform that connects couriers and customers or a company that offers delivery services. The court considered the latter to be the case. The Chamber is of the opinion that the delivery drivers were therefore in a dependent relationship with their employer Deliveroo France.
In its ruling of 28 November 2018, the Court of Cassation defined dependent employment (French: subordination) at the Take Eat Easy platform as "the performance of work under the authority of an employer who is empowered to issue instructions and directives, to control their execution and to sanction violations by his subordinate". (https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/juri/id/JURITEXT000037787075/)
For Laurent Degousée, this process is linked to a global problem. It is about the uberisation of work and its "atypical form of employment, which is a challenge because it must not become the norm".
"It’s one of the small stones from which a building is constructed. We will need more to put an end to Uberisation. But they will come," hopes Jérémy Wick. Until then, today’s judgement "will not fundamentally change our daily lives. But it legitimises and strengthens us. It will trigger a snowball effect that will motivate other delivery drivers and organisations.
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French original of the article :
Online-Magazin Rapports de Force vom 19.4.2022,
Conseil de prud’hommes (France)
Tribunal judiciaire (France)
Court, which has replaced the tribunal de grande instance and the tribunal d’instance since 1 January 2020.