According to a Dutch judge, Uber drivers are employees and are entitled to the benefits that go with it.
Setback for Uber in the Netherlands: a judge rules that people who perform rides for the company are not self-employed, but employees.
Uber had tried to prove otherwise. It stated that it is just providing an app that matches people with a car to people looking for a ride. The drivers can do that when they want, and how much they want, so that there would be no employee-employer relationship.
The judges brush those arguments off the table. According to them, the drivers are not as free as Uber claims. For example, they must accept the company’s terms and conditions in order to use the app. Algorithms dictate which rides to run, preventing them from choosing the ride that would be most lucrative for them. If the driver refuses a ride up to three times, he or she is automatically logged out.
According to the judge, this all comes down to a ‘modern relationship of authority’, in which technology is given an indirect (often digitally) controlling interpretation. According to the court, the mantra that the drivers are self-employed is something that is ‘only on paper’, and the system ‘in the actual implementation contains all the features of an employment contract’.
As a result, all Dutch Uber drivers are now covered by the Taxi Transport Collective Labor Agreement, with all the associated provisions such as wage scales, sick leave or holidays. Drivers can also demand back wages due to the ruling. The trade union FNV, which filed the case, is pleased with the ruling, which must take effect immediately. Uber has already said it will appeal.
Belgian case postponed
Uber has to fight that fight in more countries, and not always with success. In the United Kingdom, the battle dragged on for years, until the British Supreme Court ruled in favor of Uber earlier this year. The UK’s 70,000 drivers are here now’workers‘, with a minimum wage, paid vacation days and a retirement plan. In the meantime, Uber is actively lobbying Europe for a ‘renewal of existing legal frameworks’, tailored to platform workers. Uber has already lost a similar case in France.
In our country, there is also a similar lawsuit against Uber, brought by the Belgian taxi federation FeBet. At the beginning of this year, the Court of Appeal in Brussels referred two preliminary questions to the Constitutional Court before reaching a verdict. Still waiting for that advice.
The Belgian taxi companies feel encouraged by the Dutch statement. “The net is slowly closing around Uber,” the taxi association GTL Taxi tweeted.