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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 labor 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 U.K. 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 labor agreement for taxi drivers, the court said, adding "This means that Uber is obligated to institute a labor 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 labor 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."
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Toyota objects to ‘exorbitant' tax breaks for the wealthy
Japanese automaker Toyota is objecting to proposed tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs) in the U.S., saying the plan includes “exorbitant” tax breaks for the rich. A 10-year plan is emerging in Congress to offer incentives of as much as $12,500 for people to buy EVs – on the condition that they are built by union-represented workers. Toyota is a non-unionized automaker, and purchasers of EVs from non-union shops such as Toyota, Tesla and Honda would be limited to tax breaks of about $7,500. As proposed, the credits would be available to car buyers with annual incomes as high as $400,000 for an individual, $600,000 for heads of household and $800,000 for couples. “Electric cars shouldn't just be for rich people,” the automaker said in a letter to the leaders of the proposal in the House Ways and Means Committee. “We urge you to reject using the country's limited resources to give exorbitant tax breaks to those wealthy enough to buy high-priced cars and trucks,” 11 Toyota executives from 10 U.S. states wrote in a joint letter to the committee leaders, adding that they did not find fault with the entirety of the plan. “The proposed $7,500 tax credit for EVs makes these vehicles more accessible to Americans of modest means, and we support it,” they wrote.
Restaurants closing doors to diners as Delta variant spreads
Restaurants across the U.S. entered the summer with optimism, as COVID-19 related restrictions eased and diners flocking back to premises. Now, however, nearly one in five Americans say they are no longer going out to restaurants, and 9% have canceled existing plans to eat out in recent weeks, according to a national survey of 1,000 adults by the National Restaurant Association last month. The Delta variant has reversed much of the reopening momentum seen in recent months, with mask mandates returning in many areas. Bars and restaurants lost 41,500 jobs in August, the largest monthly decline of any single sector, according to Labor Department figures released earlier this month. It was the food-service industry’s first monthly decline since December. Many operators have struggled to hire enough workers this year, and some have argued that it isn’t worth dedicating employees to sit-down service when indoor business remains much slower than to-go sales. Wendy’s told investors last month that some of its restaurants were closing their dining rooms during parts of the day because of staffing shortages, and it supported operators’ decisions to close indoor dining if they needed to. At Chick-fil-A, where drive-through lines at restaurants have stretched across parking lots during the pandemic, the Atlanta-based company has allowed owners to keep dining rooms closed if they wish.
Kohl's holiday workers eligible for bonuses up to $400
Kohl's is hiring 90,000 seasonal workers, who will be eligible for up to a $400 bonus for working through the holiday season. The retailer plans to host two national hiring events. Applicants will be able to receive an interview and a job offer on the same day. The hiring events on September 16th-18th and again on October 21st-23rd will take place at all of the company's stores, distribution centers and e-commerce fulfillment centers.
Tax Court sought to steer Jewish judge from cases involving Muslims
The Globe and Mail reports that while the Canadian Judicial Council was probing several complaints against Tax Court Justice David Spiro late last year, the court revealed it was screening counsel and litigants to prevent members of the Islamic faith from being involved in cases before him. Justice Spiro would recuse himself immediately, even late in a case – “from any file at any time” – if anyone involved appeared to be of the Muslim faith, Tax Court Chief Justice Eugene Rossiter said in a letter to the judicial council. The policy was for “perception purposes,” the chief justice's letter said. Scholars such as Peter Russell, an emeritus professor in the University of Toronto's political science department, said such screening for religious affiliation is unprecedented.
Apple patches security flaw that leaves users vulnerable to spyware
Apple has issued an emergency software update after cybersecurity researchers said they had uncovered a new vulnerability allowing hackers to deploy Israeli company NSO Group’s spyware tool through iMessage. The Pegasus spyware used a method known as the zero click remote exploit, allowing hackers to turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages, texts, emails, calls, even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal, and send them back to NSO’s clients. The discovery means that more than 1.65bn Apple products in use worldwide have been vulnerable to NSO’s spyware since at least March. The fix stems from research done by The Citizen Lab, a public interest cybersecurity group that found a Saudi activist's phone had been infected with Pegasus. News of the security update comes as Apple prepares to unveil its new iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches later today.
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.
New model W-2 language for sick and family leave wages
New guidance from the IRS gives language for employers to use on W-2s regarding qualified sick and family leave wages paid to employees for leave taken this year. The guidance, Notice 2021-53, provides model language to use as part of the “Instructions for Employee” for the W-2 or on the separate statement provided with the form. The guidance also applies to self-employed employees to help them determine the amount of any sick and family leave equivalent credits they may claim.
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.”
New French film focuses on tension between labor and profit
French director Stéphane Brizé's new film "Another World" tells the tale of a plant manager who is asked by his bosses to lay off his workers. The movie details the tension between labor and profit in globalized, market-oriented economies, says Reuters. Actor Vincent Lindon features in the role of Philippe Lemesle, an executive at the French unit of Elsonn, a fictional multinational manufacturing business. "It's a story about people who question their commitment, both at the professional and personal level," Brizé told Reuters.
Shell weighs vaccine mandate and firing staff who resist
Royal Dutch Shell is considering whether to mandate vaccines for employees and dismiss those who refuse to comply, according to an internal memo sent to the Anglo-Dutch oil company’s executive committee. "For staff who refuse to comply with a vaccine mandate, we would make all reasonable efforts to avoid terminating their employment but will be faced with no alternative but to do so," the FT quoted the document as saying.
ABC Carpet & Home files for bankruptcy
New York luxury home décor retailer ABC Carpet & Home has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after more than a century selling rugs, luxury furniture and kitchenware to urbanites, blaming pandemic lockdowns and a “mass exodus” of potential customers from Manhattan. It listed assets of up to $50m and as much as $100m of liabilities in its petition. The filing allows a company to continue operating while it works out a plan to repay creditors. The retailer’s existing lender, 888 Capital Partners, has agreed to advance $5.7m of fresh cash to ABC during the bankruptcy to fund operations; it will also serve as the so-called stalking-horse bidder for ABC’s assets, setting a floor for further bids. If no better offers come in, the lender would forgive the bankruptcy loan and some $8.7m of pre-bankruptcy debt in exchange for ownership of the business.

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