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GENEVA

Uber gets back on the road in Geneva after ban

The Swiss canton of Geneva has given the green light for Uber to operate, lifting a temporary ban over a labour law dispute. Drivers will now be considered employees rather than contractors, giving them better social protection.

The ride-hailing service, Uber, has been authorised to operate once again in the Swiss canton of Geneva.
The ride-hailing service, Uber, has been authorised to operate once again in the Swiss canton of Geneva. (Photo by SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Geneva has lifted a temporary ban on Uber cabs after reaching an agreement with the ride-hailing giant, both sides announced Friday.

A week ago, Switzerland’s highest court agreed that Uber drivers should be considered employees and not independent contractors, backing a decision by the Geneva canton to temporarily ban the US firm’s ride-hailing activities.

Under the new deal, Uber drivers in Geneva will now be employed by “Swiss partner companies”, and should be able to return to work over the weekend, Uber said in a statement.

“We are fully committed to supporting our partner companies and their drivers and to allowing users once again to travel safely at an affordable price,” said Uber Switzerland’s general manager, Jean Pascal Aribot.

Last week, Switzerland’s Federal Court rejected Uber’s appeal against a 2019 ruling in the Geneva canton classifying its drivers as employees, and ordering it to halt its activities unless it pays their social charges.

In the rest of Switzerland, Uber does not, for the moment, plan to set up “such a binding model”, as the “vast majority” of Uber drivers in the country “wish to remain independent”.

Uber believes that only some of the hundreds of drivers who worked via the app in Geneva before the ban would return under the new system.

“We plan to relaunch our cab services this weekend, as soon as we have enough drivers on board by becoming employees of one of our partner companies,” Uber said, citing a gradual return over the coming days.

Under their new status, drivers will get the Geneva minimum wage of 23.27 Swiss francs ($23.55) an hour — one of the highest in the world — while their new employers will have to pay their social security charges.

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GENEVA

‘Witch hunt’: Lake Geneva baptism ban infuriates evangelicals

The Swiss canton of Geneva has banned baptisms in the waters of Lake Geneva organised by evangelical churches -- a decision they branded a "witch hunt".

'Witch hunt': Lake Geneva baptism ban infuriates evangelicals

The canton — comprising the city of Geneva and its hinterland that forms the western end of the lake — took the step on July 8, amid a backdrop of debates around secularism.

“It’s an abuse of authority,” Jean-Francois Bussy, president of the Evangelical Federation of the neighbouring canton of Vaud, told AFP.

Baptisms in Lake Geneva are permitted in Vaud, which covers the rest of the lake’s northern shore.

“We have had no complaints in the canton of Vaud, which is much more liberal at this level than Geneva, which in my opinion applies fundamentalist secularism and a quite detestable witch hunt,” said Bussy, who heads the Vaud branch of the Swiss Evangelical Network in French-speaking western Switzerland that has around 40,000 members.

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Among the Swiss confederation’s 26 cantons, Geneva and Neuchatel are the only two secular ones.

The separation of church and state has been enshrined in Geneva law for more than a century.

Geneva is nevertheless famous for having welcomed the French theologian Jean Calvin in 1536, who made the city a bastion of the Protestant Reformation, and whose statue stands against the old town’s city walls.

“Baptism is a religious service”, said the Geneva authorities, while the canton “has established the principle whereby religious events take place in private”, therefore excluding the shores and public beaches of Lake Geneva.

“Only organisations permitted to have relations with the state can request authorisation for a public religious event” — and the two evangelical parishes concerned are not among them, the authorities added.

To get on that list, organisations must undertake to exclude acts of physical or psychological violence, spiritual abuse as well as discrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin and sexual or gender identity.

According to Bussy, “it is not very clear what motivates the cantonal authority to ban events like this which do not contravene public order”, constituting a “peaceful example of a laudable religious practice”.

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