Berlin-based fintech company N26 is facing outcry from its staff over management concerns.
Earlier this month, 30 employees from German fintech N26 published an open letter, in which they stated that trust and confidence in management was at an “all time low”.
The Berlin-based staff said that results of a recent engagement survey were “disheartening”, claiming that management is aware of discontent within the company but has not taken sufficient action to deal with employee concerns.
The workers announced plans to organise a works council, with elections due to be held this week to choose employee representatives. However, these plans were met with opposition from N26, which filed court orders to prevent the meetings from happening.
With the support of German labour union Ver.di, workers at N26 said they would proceed with elections.
The N26 employees who are trying to organise this council claimed that the company described responses to the recent employee engagement survey as “angry rather than productive” and, as a result, the company will not be taking feedback into account.
“Contrary to the management’s interpretation, we believe the tone of the responses is evidence that many employees feel strongly about improving work life at N26, and that there’s a need for a medium to properly communicate and discuss company issues and concerns without management pressure,” they wrote. “This is where the works council comes in.”
N26 filed an injunction against the signatories of the invitation to the works council election, preventing these individuals from conducting the meetings planned to take place yesterday (13 August) and today (14 August).
Representatives from Ver.di stepped in to chair the first election yesterday, in place of the original signatories. The first electoral board members were selected and will serve until 2022.
According to organisers, the elections are being held in a venue that is “fully compliant” with health and safety measures necessary to limit the spread of Covid-19 and enable physical distancing.
The organisers added that the meeting is fully complaint with German law, meaning employees have a legal right to attend without repercussions.
The response from N26
N26 co-founders Valentin Stalf and Maximilian Tayenthal have called for an alternative solution to a works council, arguing that the council could exclude international employees. The company said it filed injunctions against the employee gathering due to health and safety concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement to CNBC, a spokesperson for the company said: “The alternative to the works council should have a representation of employees who are not only based in Germany, but also all other countries, including Brazil and the United States.
“There could also be a shorter term for members of the global employee representation board to ensure that new employees don’t have to wait for several years until they get to elect their representatives. We believe that this will take employee representation to the next, international and inclusive level.”
The spokesperson added that if staff want to organise the feedback culture in Germany differently, via a works council, N26 “will of course respect and support this”.
According to Sifted, N26 has the lowest Glassdoor score of the four major digital banks, below Revolut, Monzo and Starling. An employee speaking to Sifted said that there has been a string of resignations recently, including the firm’s chief people officer, which has resulted in further concerns from employees.
Oliver Hauser, union secretary at Ver.di, told CNBC: “The company tries to be a start-up and a grown-up bank at the same time. This has a negative impact on the working conditions and [leads to] non-functioning structures and inequality among workers.”