Uber has lost another legal challenge in Europe over the employment status of drivers: the court in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, have ruled that Uber drivers are employed rather than self-employed contractors.
The court also found that the drivers are covered by the existing collective labor agreement in the country – which pertains to taxi drivers – which means Uber faces increased costs for complying with the agreement that stipulates wage requirements and covers benefits such as sick pay. (and it may be answerable To pay back the driver in some cases.)
The court also ordered Uber to spend 50,000 euros.
About 4,000 drivers are working on the ride hailing giant’s platform in the Dutch capital.
An Amsterdam court rejected Uber’s traditional defense that it is just a technology platform that connects passengers with taxi service providers – finding instead that drivers are merely self-employed ‘on paper’.
The judges highlighted the nature of the service being provided by drivers and the fact that Uber has control over how they can operate and earn through its app and algorithms.
Europe’s top court already ruled in 2017 that Uber is a transportation provider and must comply with local transportation laws – so you’ll be forgiven for deja vu.
The Dutch lawsuit was filed last year by the national trade union centre, FNV – with hearings to begin in late June.
In a statement today, FNV’s VP, Zakaria Boufangacha, said: “This statement illustrates what we’ve been saying for years: Uber is an employer and drivers are employees, so Uber must comply with the Collective Labor Agreement for Taxi Transport. It is also a signal to The Hague that such constructions are illegal and therefore the law must be enforced.
Uber has been contacted for comment on the decision. The company had not responded at the time of writing – but, per ReutersUber said it intends to appeal and has “no plans to hire drivers in the Netherlands”.
Updates: Uber confirmed this is appealing, with a spokesperson saying: “Nothing will change for drivers using the app, as we appeal this decision.”
Maurits Schönfeld, Uber’s general manager for Northern Europe, said: “We are disappointed with this decision because we know most drivers want to be independent. Drivers do not want to give up their freedom to choose when, where and where to work. So In the interest of drivers, we will appeal the court’s decision, as well as continue to improve the way the platform works in the Netherlands.”
In the UK, Uber lost a string of tribunal decisions on its employment classification over several years – to lose before the UK Supreme Court this February.
Uber then said it would treat drivers in the UK as workers, although disputes remain (such as over its definition of working hours). In MayUber also said it would recognize a UK trade union for the first time.
Elsewhere in Europe, the company continues to fight employment lawsuits – and to lobby EU lawmakers to control the platform’s work…
The European Union has said it wants to find a way to improve the way the platform works. However it is not yet clear what any pan-EU ‘reform’ could look like.
The Commission has been approached with questions on its Forum Action Initiative.
“Digital labor platforms are clearly concerned, evident through investing heavily on their lobbying power and throwing more resources at the EU level. These companies – including Uber – recently launched a new funding lobby group. have come together to create a platform that is specifically targeted to influence policies on the way the platform works,” said. Jill Toho, PhD researcher in data rights at the University of Amsterdam, speaking to Nerdshala following the Amsterdam decision.
“We saw how Uber implemented and amended laws in their Prop 22 campaign in California, and along with other companies in Europe, they are attempting to do the same again. It is disappointing to see that the commission has approved the platform activists. In its two consultations on regulation, it has spoken only to tech companies and has not held any meetings with trade unions or other forum work representatives.
“All of this is incredibly problematic and especially concerning if the EC consultation results in a directive on the working of the platform. Overall, victory in the courts is important for workers, but in Brussels the issue of corporate power and influence remains as well as lack of public enforcement for these court decisions,” she said.
Updates: A spokeswoman for the commission told us that the second phase of consultations on improving working conditions for people working through the digital labor platform is still in progress (until 15 September).
“Based on the outcome of this consultation, the Commission intends to present a proposal by the end of this year,” she said.
“The purpose of the second phase of consultations is to gather the views of social partners to ensure that people working through the platforms have good working conditions, while supporting the sustainable development of digital labor platforms in the EU. In this context, social partners are also consulted on the potential content of EU-level initiatives, such as (but not only) employment status classification and facilitation of access to labor and social security rights.
The spokesman said that the commission is closely following developments in the member states and taking into account its analytical work.