In the last week of Advent, two taxi colleagues won over seven thousand euros in a judgement and one thousand two hundred euros in a settlement at the Berlin labour courts. It is interesting to compare the circumstances of how this came about.
The seven thousand euros won is no mean feat and twice as much hard-earned money. The colleague needed two years of patience and strong nerves before he finally got justice. It took a dispute through two instances, a settlement agreed in the first instance that was cancelled by the employer, weeks of work to analyse working time records on paper, repeated meetings with his lawyer, discussions about the legal procedure, replies to the employer’s written submissions and four court hearings before he was awarded his full salary for his work in 2018 this week, four years late.
This was possible because the penniless colleague was reimbursed for his legal costs by the state of Berlin. This is called legal aid, which all poor people are entitled to. Almost all taxi drivers today fall into this category and can count on the fact that they too can go to court to claim unpaid wages and other violations of their rights.
It also took Benedikt Hopmann, a lawyer who was convinced of the merits of the case and convinced the court, to familiarise himself intensively with the complexities of the taxi industry, which are difficult for outsiders to understand. He was able to explain to the judges in both instances why his client had worked much longer hours than the taxi company’s pay slips claimed. In short, he succeeded in enforcing a new rule in court, which states that the working time of a taxi or hire car driver lasts from the time he gets into his car and logs into the taximeter or app until he logs out of the time recording system. Only the legally prescribed breaks are to be deducted from this time, as the breaks written into a database by the taximeter are generally not traceable and therefore lack any probative value.
The second case did not take years but only half an hour, like many labour court cases between civilised parties. Our colleague had taken on a job as a school assistant in addition to driving a taxi. Unfortunately for him, his attitude didn’t suit the vocational teachers and he was dismissed during his probationary period. The employer had failed to comply with all regulations and had to accept the settlement proposed by the court, which included compensation amounting to just under a month’s salary and a good reference.
The colleague did not need state support here, as the trade union ver.di provided its member with a lawyer and covered the costs. The experienced labour lawyer had routinely prepared the proceedings well and managed to negotiate compensation for her client regardless of the probationary period, during which dismissal is possible at any time.
The Christmas gifts from the labour court will not reach our colleagues’ accounts until the new year, but we can already be happy for them. We all benefit from it. Taxi drivers have rights too, we just have to demand them. Preferably together with our trade union.