Maurits Schönfeld, director of Uber Northern Europe, during the meeting between FNV and Uber about the rights of drivers.ANP/Koen van Weel

Uber and FNV meet again in court today. The union believes that Uber is an employer and must therefore comply with the national taxi collective agreement. The judge initially ruled in favor of FNV. The originally American taxi platform did not agree and appealed. In the run-up to this appeal, Maurits Schönfeld, director of Uber Northern Europe, will address this issue in an exclusive conversation with TaxiPro.

What’s happening today?

“We will review all information regarding this matter. This time, for example, a number of drivers who drive for Uber are also involved in this case. That is a difference from the first time. It is important that their interests and information are also taken into account in this matter. With the previous statement you saw a lot of anger and emotions among the drivers. Many of them have been self-employed for decades. They do not want to be employed at all, but rather want to remain independent. Because of the previous ruling, they would suddenly all initially be employed by Uber. There was a lot of resistance to that at the time.”

What do you think is the crux of this case?

“If you look at the substance of this case, it is about whether drivers are self-employed or employed. Although the vast majority indicate that they want to remain independent, it is not a black and white discussion. I think drivers really like using the app because of the freedom and flexibility it offers. There is no such freedom, or at least a lot less, under a collective labor agreement. However, that does not detract from the fact that you can look at how we can retain that freedom and independence, and how we can add certain social protections to it. For example, we are in favor of compulsory disability insurance or a pension fund for drivers. That is an important nuance in this discussion.”

Many drivers complain that they hardly have anything to gain as a self-employed person. They think that Uber determines too much on their behalf.

“Each driver has the freedom to choose where and when to work, which vehicle to use and which journeys to accept. We believe that such matters are intrinsic to independence. Within the taxi sector there are of course different opinions about platforms. You will see that different discussions are intertwined. If a driver says that there are certain things that need to be improved at Uber, I completely understand. But if the question is whether they want to be employed, the answer is often ‘no’.”

How does that show?

“Several studies have been done on this. The most recent was carried out by Maastricht University on behalf of the municipality of Amsterdam. In it 94 percent of the drivers indicate that they want to remain independent. That makes sense, because a taxi driver has been self-employed since time immemorial. We as Uber have not changed that. We just continued there. In this market, that independence is a great asset that we are proud of.”

FNV sees it differently. They state that you are an employer and that you must therefore pay the drivers in accordance with the taxi collective agreement. Are they missing the point?

“FNV says it solves certain problems by offering an employer-employee relationship. However, that is not in the interest of the drivers. If you add up the numbers, you see that you can earn more at Uber than under a collective labor agreement. FNV does not stand for independence. They represent a different interest, namely for the employees in the Netherlands. We stand for that independence. That is a difference of opinion and vision.”

Do you think you can settle the appeal in your favour?

“We are positive and feel really strengthened by the fact that the drivers are now also being heard in this case. After the previous loss, many drivers have come to us, who indicated that the earlier decision of the judge had a huge impact on their lives. We are convinced that this can lead to a different result in the second instance.”

And what if the court once again rules in favor of FNV?

“We respect the judge’s decision. If the judge decides in favor of FNV again, we will have to adapt in the way described in the judgment. We will always put the interests of the drivers first.”

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