LABO and Uber, the new Intouchables ?

Why is LABO entering into an agreement with Uber?

18 August 2023 by Klaus Meier 

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]


The taxi supervisory authority LABO [1] has concluded an agreement with Uber to combat black sheep in the hire car industry. In view of the known cases in which the company has not complied with court judgements and laws, the authority has shown itself to be naive to say the least. Should it not first guarantee all taxi drivers in Berlin "safety and the efficiency of the business" (PBefG § 13, paragraph 1)? Should it not first guarantee all taxi drivers in Berlin "safety and the efficiency of the business" (PBefG § 13, paragraph 1)? The head of the taxi authority does not seem to care about the legal definition of it’s task. I think this is a must and not a non-binding possibility.

Uber How To - this is how it’s done

In my eyes, LABO [2] is passing the buck by agreeing to work with Uber. In Germany, and especially in Berlin, Uber’s success is based on these three pillars:

Price dumping

1. in the initial phase a few years ago, the company paid a lot of money to taxis and car hire companies that took part in Uber price dumping. The aim was to squeeze out profitable taxi companies. This was the classic method used by large companies to roll up a market. The small taxi companies were unable to counter this and the brutal introductory phase was a complete success. Uber had arrived in Berlin.


2. Phase two was all about growth. Drivers were needed who were willing to work for mini-wages that are still not enough to live on today. Due to the influx of people seeking protection, especially from Syria from 2015 onwards, a large number of new poor people were added to the labour market. These people were not familiar with the German labour culture with its trade unions, minimum wages, labour and social law. Since the local knowledge test for hire car drivers was initially abolished in 2017 under the leadership of CSU Transport Minister Scheuer, Uber companies were able to successfully recruit drivers from among them. According to newspaper reports, it is mainly Syrians who are employed as Uber drivers in Berlin.


3. The increasing number of Uber vehicles is causing the revenue per vehicle, both for taxis and for app-mediated hire cars such as Uber, Bolt, etc., to fall to such an extent that most companies no longer generate enough revenue to pay their drivers the statutory minimum wage. The majority of taxi companies are only surviving because they only pay their drivers wages for routes travelled but not for empty journeys and waiting times.

Uber partner companies make profits because they pay their drivers an even lower commission on turnover and only declare the smallest part of this as wages. The majority is paid in cash "under the table". The companies thus "save" on taxes and social security contributions, and their drivers receive 900 euros or more every month as support from the job centre due to their extremely low declared income.

It is therefore fair to say that our social security systems is subsidizing exploitation, as well as tax fraud and social security contribution fraud. Every cent of support for an Uber driver paid under the table goes directly into the accounts of the global corporation. This is not a metaphor. Uber controls the payment flows in the industry with its app.

Reports from Inforadio, Berliner Abendschau and Kontraste show the effects for drivers.

The agreement

Why is LABO now entering into an agreement with Uber, and what is it about? We don’t know exactly, because the press release from the Senate Department for Mobility, Transport, Climate Protection and the Environment does not contain a link to the text of the agreement. However, a few things are obvious.

  • The agreement is only intended to identify companies that are operating completely illegally. The companies registered with the LABO are not covered by the agreement. All serious studies show that the evidence for their alleged profitability cannot be true.
  • An official agreement with state authorities ennobles Uber. Just like the investments in sponsoring the Berlinale and the Berlin Press Ball, the perception of Uber as a reputable company anchored in Berlin society is strengthened.
  • In view of its decades of inactivity, the authority apparently wants to demonstrate its ability to act. At best, the agreement with the organisers of exploitation and wage fraud will prove ineffective for drivers and, at worst, will set back all efforts to improve quality and pay in the industry by years .

A proposal

Berlin needs good taxis. Berlin does not need exploiters but healthy companies. The first prerequisite for this is a functioning supervisory authority.

We also need real innovations in the taxi industry that make life in Berlin more practical and pleasant. Perhaps a look back to the time when the Wirtschaftsgenossenschaft Berliner Taxibesitzer ( WBT) was founded will help. This approach can be modernised. In the United States, self-organised taxi platforms have been successfully established in New York and other cities, and the idea of "platform cooperativism" is being pragmatically pushed forward. They are proving to be a successful response to the invasion of parasitic "sharing platforms".

I would therefore like to see an independent but municipally anchored brokerage platform that arranges good and fair taxi journeys and sets standards as part of the municipal control of the taxi and hire car industry.

Here, Erik Forman, founder of "The Drivers Cooperative", reports on how 7500 drivers in New York have created their own platform.

About platform cooperativism

The reason for this text

Link to the press release from the Senate Department for Mobility, Transport, Climate Protection and the Environment dated 14 August 2023


  • In this text, the term "Uber" also refers to smaller, similarly operating ride-hailing companies and car hire operators. And to make it clear once again: The task of the supervisory authority for taxis and hire cars LABO is to uncover and sanction the abuses described in each individual case and to ensure that all market participants behave in accordance with the law. It must also help the Minimum Wage Act to take effect.
  • Good work
    In my opinion, the LABO should ensure that average taxi drivers can earn a decent income in a 40-hour week and do not become a danger to others due to overwork and stress. Today, for example, a monthly gross of 3000 euros is probably the lower limit for a salary with which a small family can make ends meet very modestly. This would require a turnover of 6700 euros (with an imputed 45% of turnover as the effective gross wage). This corresponds to 444 passengers per month, 20.5 every day or 39 euros turnover per hour. Adjusted for inflation, this would roughly correspond to the income of Berlin taxi drivers in the 1980s. This is exactly what the LABO was supposed to create the conditions for.
    The reality is different. Although tourism was booming, in the last year before Corona, taxis could only expect a business volume of 15 euros per hour. The salary part of this figure were roughly 7 Euros. Today, after the end of the anti-corona measures, the situation is similar.
    Is this the natural fate of taxi drivers? Hardly, because it is politics and administration that decide the conditions under which taxi drivers work. [3]

Logo of the article : Own photo shows a hire car at Theodor-Heuss-Platz driving under the logo of the Bolt platform. The picture shows how the platform operators are lying. Bolt, Uber and FreeNow claim that they are "only acting as intermediaries", yet they set the fares, control the way in which the cars are plugged in and payment is processed, and sanction drivers as they please. In this way, they determine the course of business down to the last detail. Taxi brokerages really do limit themselves to arranging jobs and offer practical additional services which, however, leave the companies and drivers their autonomy.

[1What is the LABO?
For most Berliners, the Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten is the registration authority responsible for applying for and issuing all state identity documents and much more. The authority provides information on its tasks here.

For the taxi industry, "the Labo" is the Department for Passenger Transport, which handles all taxi and hire car licences as well as the licensing of patient transporters. Before this task was privatised, the authority was also responsible for the dreaded local knowledge test.

The LABO reports to the Senator for the Interior, while the Passenger Transport Department is subject to the specialised supervision of the Senate Transport Administration. For reasons that have to do with the peculiar historical convolutions of the Greater Berlin administration, the LABO (Passenger Transport Department) is responsible for monitoring the taxi and hire car industry.

This task is obviously too much for this department, and so for many years its activities have been limited to the administration of its records, while effective inspections or the limitation of taxi licences to an economically sensible number, as provided for in the Passenger Transport Act, do not take place. This has allowed catastrophic social conditions to spread, first in the taxi industry and later in the hire car sector, including the takeover of entire companies by organised crime.

At present (August 2023), attempts are being made to turn the problem authority back into an institution that fulfils its tasks for the benefit of Berlin, its economy and its population through restructuring and improved equipment.

[2As of August 2023, the website of the authority still claims that it is mandatory to "wear a medical face mask or FFP2 mask while on the premises of the State Office for Citizens’ and Regulatory Affairs". The office does not even manage to keep its information up to date for the public.

[3Ultimately, Berlin’s House of Representatives and authorities determine the level of taxi driver salaries through laws, regulations, urban development, transport and economic policy. For this reason, the LABO should not award any new taxi licences until it has been established within an observation period of one year that there are still revenue reserves for further taxis on the market (PBefG § 13, paragraph 4). The last study commissioned by the Berlin transport administration on the profitability of the taxi industry dates back to 2016 and its results were alarming. 77 per cent of Berlin taxis were apparently uneconomical and only earned money through trickery. The city did nothing to change the situation

[4Anyone who pays bus, lorry, hire car or taxi drivers only the minimum wage or less causes danger to life on the roads. Under no circumstances should drivers work more than 40 hours a week. It must also be possible to earn an adequate salary during this time

[5This link refers to the ARD Mediathek, which is not allowed to make its content accessible in the long term due to the Interstate Media Treaty in favour of private providers. We have archived evidence of the statements in the article. Perhaps this article is still online : Drivers are victims of organised illegal employment.

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