GLS Parcel Company Cleared in ‘Strangling Contracts’ Case; Subcontractors Penalized with Fines

GLS Parcel Company Cleared in ‘Strangling Contracts’ Case; Subcontractors Penalized with Fines

On Friday, the criminal court in Antwerp handed down sentences to a number of subcontractors working for the parcel company GLS. These subcontractors were fined, in most cases the fines were partly deferred, for breaching social law in their treatment of their employees. However, the court did not find that these breaches were directly caused by the so-called ‘strangling contracts’ that these subcontractors had signed with GLS. Consequently, GLS and its directors were acquitted of any wrongdoing.

The social inspection services carried out large-scale inspections at a GLS depot located in Puurs-Sint-Amands in January and June 2021. Although GLS sorts the parcels with its own employees, the transportation of these parcels to customers is subcontracted. The subcontracting transport companies use their own vehicles and staff.

During these inspections, several infractions were discovered at these subcontracting companies. These included not having a DIMONA notification, not providing a copy of the part-time employment contract and/or variable work schedule, and not having a work permit among other things. Consequently, the inspection services drafted several reports detailing these violations.

The subcontractors placed the blame on GLS. They had signed a transport agreement with GLS that stipulated specific terms regarding how the subcontractors and their employees were to execute their tasks. The subcontractors claimed that these were ‘strangling contracts’ that effectively eliminated their authority over their employees and forced them to breach social law in order to continue operating profitably.

However, the court disagreed with this claim. It ruled that the transport agreement, or ‘strangulation contract’, while restrictive, was not so severe as to completely erode the authority of the subcontractors over their employees. The court pointed out that the subcontractors had willingly entered into the agreement and had the ability to terminate it at any time. The contract could not be used as a justification for the breaches of social law. Thus, GLS and its directors were acquitted. The subcontractors and their directors were fined amounts ranging from 800 to 14,400 euros, with most of these fines being partly deferred.

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