Uber loses Dutch court fight over drivers' rights

Monday September 13 2021
Uber pic
By AFP

The Hague. A Dutch court ruled on Monday that Uber drivers in the Netherlands are effectively under an employment contract, in a fresh blow for the US ride-hailing giant's gig economic model.

The judgment, in a case brought by a Dutch union, comes months after a similar UK court ruling on Uber drivers' rights led to the American firm agreeing a world-first union deal in Britain.

"The legal relationship between Uber and these drivers meets all the characteristics of an employment contract," and drivers are covered by a collective labour agreement for taxi drivers, the Amsterdam District Court said in a statement.

"This means that Uber is obligated to institute a labour contract with drivers... and therefore means these drivers are entitled to backpay in certain circumstances," the court said.

The umbrella Dutch labour union FNV dragged Uber to court in December, saying that taxi drivers and Uber shared a labour agreement and Uber drivers often earned less than the minimum wage.

Uber, which insists it simply provides a technical platform to link independent drivers and customers, said it would appeal the ruling. 

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"We are disappointed with this decision because we know that the overwhelming majority of drivers wish to remain independent," Maurits Schoenfeld, Uber's Northern Europe general manager, said in a statement emailed to AFP.

"Drivers don't want to give up their freedom to choose if, when and where to work."

Uber in March in a world first said it was granting its UK drivers worker status, with benefits including a minimum wage, following a Supreme Court ruling.

But elsewhere it has strongly resisted such a sea change in its business model, arguing that its drivers are self-employed freelancers.