Uber not allowed to fire workers at Amsterdam head office

Business

Benefits agency UWV denied Uber permission to dismiss a group of employees at its international headquarters in Amsterdam. According to UWV, the ride-hailing company failed to show that the dismissals were structurally necessary, NRC reports.

In June, Uber terminated the contracts of 200 workers in Amsterdam as part of global layoffs. The company applied for collective redundancies at the UWV for the affected employees. Many of the employees already individually signed for voluntary departure, before the UWV approved the redundancies.

According to NRC, the employees were put under high pressure to sign for voluntary departure. They were informed of their dismissal via video call on June 12, were disconnected from all internal systems a day later, received daily reminders from Uber to sign for voluntary departure, and were told that “their position ceased to exist”, the newspaper wrote.

About ten of the 200 employees refused to sign for voluntary departure. A number of them received a letter from the UWV on Thursday, saying that Uber could not provide sufficient arguments to justify the dismissal.

Uber said the layoffs were the result of “the dramatic impact of the pandemic and the unpredictable nature of a possible recovery”, according to the newspaper. But according to the UWV, the company could not sufficiently demonstrate that the work reduction the company is facing is of a structural nature. UWV also pointed out that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi repeatedly told his staff that the revenue decline was slower than initially thought. And in a staff meeting on September 1, Khosrowshahi said that the layoffs were “stricter than absolutely necessary”.

Trade union FNV is “very pleased” by the UWV’s decision, a spokesperson said to NRC. “This shows that powerful companies such as Uber are simply bound by Dutch dismissal law if they want to fire employees.”

Tech site The Information also reported early this month that Uber is using the pandemic to relocate its technical staff jobs to India, to cut costs and return the company to profitability. While entire technical departments were dismantled elsewhere in the world, including the Netherlands, Uber announced in October that it was recruiting 225 new software developers in India.