Friday 14 August 2020 4:02 pm

N26 staff to form works council after bank fails to break up meeting

Staff at N26 have made a major breakthrough in their efforts to form a trade union after the digital bank failed to break up a meeting of employees during a dramatic day of confrontation.

N26 workers today confirmed they had met and selected an electoral board, which will now begin the process of organising an election for a so-called works council.

Representatives on the works council will then voice concerns about a range of issues at the company, including uneven staff salaries and a toxic working culture.

It came after a dramatic stand-off between staff and management during which the digital bank made desperate efforts to prevent this afternoon’s meeting from going ahead.

The founders of N26 took out two injunctions to block the gathering — which took place in a bar in Berlin — citing health and safety concerns.

But German union IG Metall stepped in this morning to chair the meeting, which went ahead as planned.

In a further dramatic twist, N26 staff reported that police were called to the meeting. However, the police were said to have left the venue after finding no breach of safety measures.

A spokesperson for IG Metall said the organisation had intervened because of its belief in “solidarity between unions”.

“IG Metall Berlin has proven today that we‘re able and willing, even at very short notice, to take any necessary steps for workers to have their say and use their rights to organise their companies,” the spokesperson said.

The selection of an electoral board marks a significant step forward for N26 employees in a fierce row that has rocked the Berlin-based bank.

In an open letter published online staff said confidence in management had reached an “all-time low”.

Employees also accused the company of refusing to listen to feedback because the responses were too “angry”.

The digital bank’s founders Valentin Stalf and Maximilian Tayenthal are said to have written a memo to staff, in which they said a works council would hinder its ability to achieve its goals.

N26, valued at $3.5bn (£2.7bn) as one of Europe’s most valuable fintech firms, pulled out of the UK market citing Brexit concerns earlier this year.

A spokesperson for N26 said the injunctions were filed due to Covid-19 safety concerns, but denied the company had called the police.

“As the event was actually prohibited from taking place by the Berliner Arbeitsgericht (Berlin Labour Court) due to Covid-19 related concerns, we will wait for their official guidance on the validity of these results, and will respect the court’s decision on how we should proceed,” the spokesperson said.

“While we believe that there could be a more modern, digitally-enabled and globally inclusive alternative to a traditional works council, especially for a diverse international business like ours, N26 fully supports formal employee representation in all its forms, including a traditional works council.”