The dispute over the establishment of a works council at the smartphone bank startup N26 is entering the next round: the N26 management also wanted to stop a second employee meeting on Friday with an injunction obtained from the labor court – and this time it took place anyway. The meetings were about the appointment of electoral boards for two companies of N26; the electoral boards then organize the actual works council elections.
The first meeting on Thursday took place despite the injunction against six employees because the Verdi union had agreed at short notice to act as host. The N26 management then obtained another ruling, this time against Verdi regarding the event on Friday. But that was also circumvented because in this case the union IG Metall stepped in as the organizer. The election boards have been successfully appointed for both N26 companies, announced the initiators.
Inadequate hygiene concept
N26 argued in both cases that neither the initiators nor the operator of the restaurant chosen as the location had submitted a hygiene concept. In the case of the second meeting, it was added that over 500 people had been invited in Berlin but meetings of more than 500 people are prohibited a spokesman said. The company has to fulfill its duty of care for its employees, especially in times of corona.
The owner of the location, the Berlin Hofbräuhaus, however, insured against the specialist medium Finance Forwardto have a safety and hygiene concept coordinated with the authorities. Upon request, he delivered a lawyer-agreed declaration to N26 within the deadline, certifying the hygiene concept for the venue.
At the second meeting, the police were also called by strangers to check the security arrangements, reported the initiators. But there was nothing to complain about. Who called the police remained open. The spokesman for N26 denied that the company had alerted the officials.
Valentin Stalf apologizes
Further legal steps are currently not planned by N26, said the spokesman. Since the election boards have now been determined, the process of establishing a works council can also continue its course. Co-founder Valentin Stalf also recorded on Friday afternoon Linkedin position and apologized for the escalation of the debate for which he and his leadership team felt responsible.
“It’s not the way we normally work together as a team,” explains Stalf. Even if the management prefers a different form of co-determination, they will still support the organization of works council elections. He emphasized that N26 was not trying to prevent the establishment of a works council.
“Alternative employee representation”
But according to Finance Forward, Stalf is said to have raised the mood against the second meeting in an internal email. “Another union (IG Metall) is trying to interfere with a fair, well-planned election of an election committee for the works council at N26,” the message said. “Any quickly organized election driven by external parties will not involve you, will not be safe and not representative.”
Previously, Stalf is said to have stated in another email that a works council would be “against almost all values that we believe in at N26”. Instead, the management of N26 would like to establish an “alternative employee representation”, which also represents the employees in locations such as New York and Barcelona. Of the start-up’s 1,500 employees, around 1,300 work in Berlin. Details on this concept remained open, with a spokesman saying it was an ongoing discussion process. The committee should be designed “lean” and “modern” – and also exist in parallel with a works council.
It remains to be seen whether this will pacify the discontent that seems to prevail among some of the start-up’s employees. The initiators had spoken of an “all-time low” in employee trust in management. Under the hashtag # N26UnionStrong Numerous expressions of solidarity with the works council founders can be found on Twitter. SPD chairman Saskia Esken also spoke up via Twitter.