Dutch union FNV’s win against Uber yet another sign that EU law must confirm platform workers are employees

16 Sep 2021

“The legal relationship between Uber and these drivers meets all the characteristics of an employment contract,” ruled the Court of Amsterdam in the case brought forward by Dutch trade union FNV against Uber.

Meaning: Uber drivers are employees. Therefore Uber is an employer and must apply the sectoral collective agreement for the taxi sector. A huge win for gig economy drivers in the Netherlands who can now look forward to better wages and more rights in the event of dismissal or illness.

The win follows other trade union victories against Uber and other platform companies: wins against Uber in Belgium and the UK and over Deliveroo and Globo in Spain and Italy.

However Uber does not want to comply with the court judgement. They have ignored the ruling and already filed an appeal. It just goes to show that all of Uber’s claims about being socially responsible are nothing more than “social washing”.

For the ETF it’s a clear sign that the current situation, where it is up to workers and unions to fight for the correct status in courts, is not fit for purpose. Workers that are in a much weaker position than platforms spend years in courts, and when they finally win, platforms look for every loophole to avoid applying the judgement. Oftentimes rulings apply only to a small number of workers and do not lead to any systemic change.

It means that the EU must step up and ensure fair conditions for all workers in platform companies.  If the EU truly wants to do achieve this then their legislative proposal planned for December this year must reflect the key demands in our six-step manifesto for fair platform work:

  • Presumption of employment status for platform workers
  • Platform work is NOT a separate sector and should not be treated as a special group
  • Third employment status, between self-employed and employee, is not an option – this will only stip workers of their fundamental rights
  • Fair pay and working conditions
  • Full compliance with labour, occupational health and safety and fiscal regulations; contribute to national social security systems and medical insurance schemes.
  • Fair digital workplace fee of biased algorithms where platform workers can access their data

Background: FNV’s fight against bogus self-employment

This June, FNV took Uber to court due to its exploitation of drivers under the guise of “self-employment” when in reality, their drivers are anything but. Self-employed workers can determine their own rates, schedule, uniform, vehicle…  which is far from the case for Uber’s drivers. After filing the lawsuit, FNV collected evidence, spoke with hundreds of drivers and submitted their statements. Five of these drivers were physically present to share their personal experiences. FNV’s efforts were not in vain as these same drivers will now benefit from “employee” status and all the accompanying benefits. This isn’t FNV’s first win, in February, Amsterdam ruled in favour of their claim that delivery workers are pseudo-freelancers and should be paid in line with the official pay and conditions agreement for the sector much to Deliveroo’s dismay.