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Uber driver is employee, not freelancer: Swiss agency

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An Uber driver is an employee for which the company must pay social security contributions, a Swiss insurance agency has ruled, dealing a blow to the U.S. ride-hailing platform that says drivers are independent contractors.

The California-based startup whose cab service has expanded worldwide vowed to challenge the ruling, the latest clash with regulators that have accused it of bypassing national labor protection standards and shunning collective negotiation with drivers who work on freelance terms.

In October, a British tribunal ruled Uber should treat its drivers as employees and pay them the minimum wage and holiday pay.

Suva – which as a provider of obligatory on-the-job accident insurance in Switzerland helps decide which workers are freelance – found an Uber Technology [UBER.UL] driver was staff because he faced consequences if he broke Uber rules and could not set prices and payment terms independently, broadcaster SRF reported.

A Suva spokesman confirmed the report but said it concerned a particular driver who had sought to clarify his status, not a general ruling on Uber’s business model. “For us it is not about the company but about the person involved,” he said.

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Nevertheless Rasoul Jalali, general manager at Uber, took issue with Suva, which he said had classified independent drivers as employees in other cases before Uber arrived in Switzerland, triggering other challenges.

“Taxi dispatchers have had exactly this issue for years and yet today there is not one driver employed by a big dispatcher in cities such as Zurich or Geneva. So this is nothing new in Switzerland and we will challenge it, just as others have,” he said in a statement.

“Drivers using the Uber app are independent contractors who enjoy all the flexibility and freedom that come with being self-employed.”

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Founded in 2009, Uber has taken the world by storm but come up against opposition too.

Various services it has proposed have been banned in some countries and it faces numerous battles in U.S. courts over labor standards, safety rules and pricing policies that trigger fare surges at peak times.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Nick Macfie and Alexandra Hudson)


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‘Clear and present racism’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika say Kellyanne Conway should have been ‘fired on the spot’ for slurring reporter

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were astonished by Kellyanne Conway's response to a reporter asking about President Donald Trump's racist attacks on four first-year lawmakers.

The White House senior adviser asked Breakfast Media White House correspondent Andrew Feinberg, who is Jewish, about his ethnicity after he asked Conway what countries Trump was telling the Democratic congresswomen to return.

"I won't draw any parallels with any fascist countries, but what happened yesterday in a press gaggle has nothing to do with the United States of America," Scarborough said, "and in any other administration over the past 240 years, a person that did what Kellyanne Conway did yesterday would have been fired on the spot. By the time she left the press gaggle and went back into the White House, they would have already packed up her belongings and would have told her leave by the back door and never talk to us again."

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French lawmakers approve controversial bill to rebuild Notre-Dame

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French MPs on Tuesday approved a law on the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, three months after flames ravaged the great Paris cathedral, but with the rebuilding process still mired in controversy.

The cathedral, part of a UNESCO world heritage site covering the banks of the River Seine in Paris, lost its gothic spire, roof and precious artefacts in the April 15 blaze.

Tourists in Paris are still heading to Notre-Dame to take photos and selfies, with the horrific fire only increasing its global fame, although they cannot access the esplanade in front of the building let alone the edifice itself.

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Iceland tries to bring back trees razed by the Vikings

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Before being colonised by the Vikings, Iceland was lush with forests but the fearsome warriors razed everything to the ground and the nation is now struggling to reforest the island.

The country is considered the least forested in Europe; indeed, forests in Iceland are so rare, or their trees so young, that people often joke that those lost in the woods only need to stand up to find their way.

However, it wasn't always that way.

When seafaring Vikings set off from Norway and conquered the uninhabited North Atlantic island at the end of the ninth century, forests, made up mostly of birch trees, covered more than a quarter of the island.

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