Uber

Dutch court determines that Uber drivers are employees

mr. dr. R.M. (Ronald) Beltzeron

Following a court action brought against Uber by the Trade Union Confederation (FNV), it was decided that drivers who are contracted by Uber and who transport passengers via the Uber app are employees. Therefore, they are covered by the collective bargaining agreement for taxi transport.

The FNV had taken the matter to court because, according to the trade union, an employment contract exists between Uber and the drivers. The FNV denounced Uber's statement that it merely offers a platform where independent drivers and their customers can meet. The FNV argued that Uber's involvement is much more significant; the company organises the transport services in detail, as evidenced by the agreement that the drivers must sign with Uber.

The subdistrict court decided in the FNV's favour, opining that the legal relationship between Uber and the drivers satisfies all of the criteria of an employment contract:

  • labour;

  • wages; and

  • authority.

The Uber app has a disciplinary and instructive effect as well as a financial incentive; the more rides that a driver fulfils, the greater access they have to certain privileges. If the driver refuses rides or has a low rating, they suffer negative consequences. There is no negotiation between the driver and the customer. As soon as the drivers use the app, they are subjected to the algorithm developed by Uber, which can be changed unilaterally by Uber. As a result, the drivers are controlled by Uber via the app.

This judgment means that Uber is obliged to apply the collective bargaining agreement to their drivers' employment contracts for the periods that the collective bargaining agreement has been declared universally applicable. This means that these drivers can, in certain cases, claim salary in arrears. In addition, Uber must pay the FNV €50,000 in compensation on account of its failure to comply with the collective bargaining agreement for taxi transport.

The judgment may have major consequences for other platform employers who also usually use apps.

In the Netherlands, there is no intermediate employment category, only "self-employed" or "employee". Where platform workers are regarded as employees, they are covered by social security law, dismissal law and pension law.

Uber is lodging an appeal.

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