Ride-sharing app company Uber has lost a major lawsuit in the Netherlands. Now, Dutch Uber drivers will be treated as full-time employees and will be granted the same benefits as full-time cab drivers. The move is one of the most resounding defeats Uber has ever been handed, and is the opposite to what has occurred in the US, where Uber has fought to keep its drivers classified as “contractors.”
A judge in Amsterdam made the decision Thursday, allowing Uber drivers to fall under taxi cab drivers’ collective labor agreement. The court found that the language of the contract between Uber and its drivers “conforms to all the characteristics of an employment contract”, and, as such, drivers for the company need to be considered full-time employees.
The workers organization that instigated the suit called the moment a huge win for workers, both in the Netherlands and all over the world. “This verdict shows what we have been saying for years,” said the Federation of Dutch Unions vice-chair, Zakaria Boufangacha. “Uber is an employer and the drivers are employees, so Uber has to abide by the taxi traffic collective labor agreement.”
The win isn’t just a reclassification for legal purposes: it’ll have a major impact on the pay of Uber drivers in the country. They’ll be entitled to more compensation, befitting full-time workers, and they’ll be eligible for significantly more benefits under Dutch law. Should they fall ill, they’ll have more robust access to paid sick leave.
Perhaps most dramatic is the change in employment termination. Under the collective agreement, if a taxi driver has their employment terminated, they’re usually owed a severance. This is a massive change for Uber drivers, and could go a long way toward making Uber’s Dutch drivers feel like they’re working for a living wage.
The case is also costing Uber in other ways. The judge found that Uber already knew full well that it was in violation of Dutch law by not joining the labor agreement. As such, the company is being fined some €50,000, making this a painful day for the ride-sharing app.
“We are disappointed with this decision because we know that the overwhelming majority of drivers wish to remain independent,” said Uber’s Northern Europe General Manager, Maurits Schönfeld. “[The drivers] don’t want to give up their freedom to choose if, when, and where to work,” Schönfeld argued.
The workers, however, seemed to disagree, as many took to social media to celebrate the decision.