Uber Technologies Inc.’s long-running battle with a labor union is set to drag on after the Netherlands’ top court was asked to weigh in on the crucial question of whether its drivers and other gig economy workers should be treated as staffers with extensive legal rights or as freelancers.
(Bloomberg) — Uber Technologies Inc.’s long-running battle with a labor union is set to drag on after the Netherlands’ top court was asked to weigh in on the crucial question of whether its drivers and other gig economy workers should be treated as staffers with extensive legal rights or as freelancers.
The Amsterdam Court of Appeal is seeking guidance from the Supreme Court in the Netherlands because of the “great social and legal importance” of these issues, it said in a Tuesday statement. The lower court said its questions concern the role of entrepreneurship in assessing an employment relationship and about the procedure that must be followed to determine such a relationship for a group of workers.
The appeals tribunal said it expects that the answers to its questions will also be important for other similar disputes. It referred to a March ruling from the Supreme Court which determined that Deliveroo Plc’s delivery workers are employees. Deliveroo exited the Dutch market in October last year.
Uber is challenging a 2021 court ruling which concluded that the legal relationship between Uber and its drivers met all of the characteristics of an employment contract. Following this ruling, Dutch labor union FNV called for Uber drivers to be automatically considered as employed by the company. But in a separate legal bid, Uber managed to suspend the ruling pending an appeal on the grounds that the company would have to drastically change its organization to comply with the order, leading to costs.
Maurits Schönfeld, director of Northern-Europe at Uber, said Tuesday’s court statement is a confirmation that drivers are entrepreneurs.
“Outstanding questions remain and as the case continues, it remains important that drivers can make their voice heard, because 94% of drivers want to remain independent,” he said. “We hope that drivers get clarity soon.”
Zakaria Boufangacha, FNV’s vice-chairman, said the union is “happy” with the steps the court has now taken, but regrets that a final ruling has not yet been made. “The court finds in our favor on almost all points and concludes that the drivers are employees,” said Boufangacha. “If that is the conclusion, Uber must apply the collective labor agreement.”
The case is one of many gig worker battles that Uber has faced from labor unions and civil right groups across Europe. In the UK, Uber lost a lawsuit over whether its drivers are workers, forcing the company to formally recognize a labor union that will give its drivers greater collective bargaining powers. Uber, which reported its first-ever operating profit in August this year, is also facing ongoing legal challenges on the classification of its drivers in California.
(Updates with response from FNV chairman in seventh paragraph)
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