UBER CEO DARA KHOSROWSHAHI reassured investors concerned about new European Union regulations in December, telling a group of bankers that his company can continue to thrive even under rules that would force it to hire drivers as employees.
“We can make any model work,” Khosrowshahi said when asked about potential EU legislation that would require Uber to designate drivers as employees or provide additional rights such as vacation time and a pension.
Speaking by video at a December 14 “fireside chat” hosted by the Swiss bank UBS, Khosrowshahi told investors that recent decisions in Spain and the United Kingdom have not drastically harmed the company. In the past year, both countries have enacted rules compelling gig companies to provide more worker protections to drivers.
“Spain business is up close to 40 percent on a year-on-year basis, and Spain EBITDA margins are very close to our overall long-term margins as well,” noted Khosrowshahi, referencing the company’s cash flow before taxes and interest.
“There’s a lot of demand for our technology, our service, our brand, our safety, our reliability. So any model can work economically for us,” he added.
The Uber CEO’s nonchalant remarks appear to contradict the company’s stance in the United States.
The classification of gig economy drivers has become one of the most contentious modern labor industry issues in the U.S., where an estimated 59 million total gig workers labor without benefits, guaranteed hours, or the protection of a union. Uber has been a leading force in preserving this gig structure, pouring over $190 million into a ballot measure in California alone to reverse rules that granted most drivers employee status. The regulations, passed by the California State Assembly in 2019 as Assembly Bill 5, or A.B. 5, aimed to make these workers eligible for minimum wage, union membership, and health care benefits.
In 2020, as gig companies fought the law in California courts, Khosrowshahi floated the possibility of temporarily suspending services in the entire state. The law has now been partially repealed, keeping the ride-hailing and delivery drivers it was designed to convert classified as independent contractors.