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European Edition
14th September 2021
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Uber loses court fight in Netherlands over drivers' rights
A court in the Netherlands has ruled that Uber drivers are employees and not contractors, and are thus entitled to greater workers' rights under local labour laws. The Amsterdam District Court sided with the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV), which had argued that the ride-hailing company's roughly 4,000 drivers in the Dutch capital should enjoy benefits in line with the taxi sector. The court’s decision comes months after a similar UK court ruling led to the San Francisco-headquartered firm agreeing a groundbreaking union deal in Britain. "The legal relationship between Uber and these drivers meets all the characteristics of an employment contract," and drivers are covered by a collective labour agreement for taxi drivers, the court said, adding "This means that Uber is obligated to institute a labour contract with drivers . . . and therefore means these drivers are entitled to backpay in certain circumstances."  The judges also ordered Uber to pay €50,000 ($59,000) in damages to the FNV for not adhering to a collective labour agreement. Uber said it would appeal the ruling. "We are disappointed with this decision because we know that the overwhelming majority of drivers wish to remain independent," Maurits Schoenfeld, Uber’s Northern Europe general manager, said, adding "Drivers don’t want to give up their freedom to choose if, when and where to work." The FNV welcomed the ruling. "Due to the judge's ruling, the Uber drivers are now automatically employed by Uber," said Zakaria Boufangacha, FNV's deputy chairman. "As a result, they will receive more wages and more rights in the event of dismissal or illness, for example."
Volkswagen invests €70m in battery development lab
Volkswagen has invested €70m in a new research and development lab at its Salzgitter battery plant for the planned large-scale production of the automaker's own battery cells for electrically powered vehicles. The facility  is expected to create around 250 additional jobs. Thomas Schmall, the member of the managing board responsible for technology and components, said the new centre should help VW reduce its dependence on batteries made in Asia. Other German carmakers are also establishing their own factories in this sector. Opel has  received government funding for new cell production in Kaiserslautern, and Daimler recently announced its intention to build eight "gigafactories" for electric car battery cells worldwide.

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Petition to amend Luxembourg citizenship language test falls short
A petition urging Luxembourg’s government to drop the requirement for proficiency in the Luxembourgish language as a pre-requisite for citizenship has not achieved enough backing to be debated in parliament. Campaigners had argued that candidates should be allowed the choice of taking the citizenship exam in French or German, the other two official languages in Luxembourg. The petition’s organisers said that the “fact that someone speaks one of the three official languages should be sufficient in obtaining Luxembourgish nationality,” adding “Speaking one of these languages [French or German], it is possible to live a normal life in Luxembourg . . . The current requirements for obtaining Luxembourgish nationality discriminate against those who speak French or German.” The petition closed with just over 3,700 signatures, falling short of the threshold needed to progress.
Former Ericsson employee charged over bribery scheme
A former employee of a local unit of Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson has been charged by the US Department of Justice with attempting to bribe Djibouti government officials in order to win business with a state-owned telecommunications firm. US authorities say former Ericsson Egypt employee Afework Bereket helped arrange $2.1m in bribes to at least three Djibouti officials so Ericsson could secure a €20.3m (US$24m) contract. The indictment references an email where prosecutors said Bereket urged that one payment be made "ASAP" because "[e]verybody in the management of [the telecommunications company] & in the ministry are waiting their part of the cake."
Staff shortages are holding back Britain's recovery
The Governor of the Bank of England has urged furloughed UK workers and others who have left the workforce to return to employment amid concerns that severe staff shortages are holding back Britain's economic revival. Staffing shortages have been pushing up wages with Goldman Sachs estimating that underlying wage growth had hit 5% over the summer, threatening to put more upward pressure on inflation. Speaking to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, Mr Bailey argued that while inflationary pressures from commodity prices and supply chain disruption will ease, he now has “a bit more concern about persistence in the labour market story.” He also told MPs that the recovery was showing signs of “levelling off” now that the immediate boost from reopening the economy had faded.
We are creeping towards a continuous working week
The FT’s Sarah O’Connor says society’s shared rhythms of daytime work and weekend rest are disintegrating as a “continuous working week” takes hold amid a decline of the traditional 9 to 5.
New compliance chief appointed by Credit Suisse
A new chief compliance officer has been appointed by Credit Suisse five months after the Swiss lender sacked at least seven senior executives in the wake of twin crises at Archegos Capital and Greensill Capital. Rafael Lorenzo, who has run the bank’s internal audit division since 2017, will take over from Lara Warner, who was global risk and compliance chief of Credit Suisse until the wave of top departures in April. Thomas Grotzer, general counsel for the bank’s Swiss business, had held the position on an interim basis since Warner was forced out. Meanwhile, Christine Graeff was named global head of human resources, succeeding Antoinette Poschung, who is retiring by the end of January 2022, Credit Suisse said.
Investment banks accelerate efforts to automate junior ‘grunt work’
Wall Street banks are increasing efforts to automate “grunt work” foisted on junior staff, portraying the changes as an attempt to reduce workloads and stop young talent from leaving the industry.
Japan confronts a severe shortage of tech workers
Japan is making a digital push to address a severe shortage of technology workers and engineering students. This talent deficit is made worse by the near absence of women in the fields of science and technology.  UNESCO data indicate that Japan has some of the lowest shares of women in the developed world enrolled in the university programs that produce workers in these fields, and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry forecasts a shortfall of 450,000 information technology professionals in Japan by 2030. The World Digital Competitiveness Ranking compiled by the International Institute for Management Development ranks Japan 27th globally and seventh in Asia, behind countries like Singapore, China and South Korea. But the push to elevate women in digital fields could also leave them further behind. The 2021 UNESCO Science Report released in June said that, globally, women stand to lose more than men as automation takes over low-skilled jobs, and women also have fewer opportunities to gain skills in the increasingly high-demand fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data engineering. “Because of digitization, some jobs will disappear, and women will probably be affected more than men,” observed Takako Hashimoto, vice president of Chiba University of Commerce and a delegate to the W-20, which advises the Group of 20 major nations on women's issues. “So there's an opportunity here but also a danger.”
Push for boardroom diversity in US overlooks private companies
The top venture-funded private companies in the US have very few Black directors, according to new research by the Board Diversity Action Alliance. Of the roughly 4,700 board seats at the 843 businesses that have been backed by more than a dozen top venture capital and private equity firms, only 49 have been held by Black directors, or just 1% of thousands of positions over more than two decades, the report says. “These organizations are started by white men,” said Ursula Burns, a former chief executive of Xerox who sits on the boards of Exxon Mobil, Datto and Uber and is a founding partner of the Board Diversity Action Alliance. “They start the company with their friends and their family. Their friends and family look exactly like them, right?”
Ikea charters ships to combat bare shelves
Ikea is chartering its own ships and using transcontinental rail networks as problems with transport, raw materials, and sourcing and production have compounded the impact of the pandemic and led to up to 10% of some Ikea product lines being currently unavailable in the U.K. and Ireland. “During the last year we have shipped more volume than compared to before the pandemic and we have taken many extraordinary actions, such as buying our own containers and chartering extra vessels,” Tolga Öncü, retail operations manager at Ingka Group, which operates Ikea Retail, said by email, adding “We have sent goods by train from China to Europe and we have invested in temporary intermediate warehouses in China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and Thailand to work to avoid having to stop production.”

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