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Labour law

2017

A judge in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has ruled that a Uber driver is an employee, and ordered the company to pay the driver USD25.000, including compensation for holidays, contributions to a severance fund, and USD15.000 in moral damages related to attacks from taxi drivers. The ruling is not the first of its kind in Brazil. In February 2017, a labour court in Minas Gerais also ruled that a Uber driver is an employee of the company and is entitled to workers’ benefits. Uber states that it would appeal the Sao Paulo judge's decision.

Frank Field, chair of the UK Work and Pensions parliamentary committee investigating the so-called ‘gig economy’ has criticised Uber, Deliveroo, Amazon, and Hermes over the ‘unintelligible’ self-employment contracts these companies are offering their contractors. The MP expressed concerns over such contracts being confusing for contractors, who do not understand their rights, and are prevented from challenging their self-employed status. Referring specifically to Uber drivers, Field said that their contracts are ‘gibberish’. Uber reacted commenting: ‘We recognise our terms could be written in plainer English and we started the process of revising them some time ago'.

A report published by the International Bar Association Global Employment Institute argues that current labour and employment legislation needs to be adapted to the emerging workplace reality characterised by the advancements in the field of automation and artificial intelligence (AI). While these advancements are ‘on an exponential curve’, jobs undertaken by humans are at risks of being reassigned to robots or AI systems, and the existing legislation designed to protect the workers’ rights may not be adequate any longer. The report concludes that ‘governments have to become more active and have to set flexible frameworks concerning the labour market and should promote the development of new business models’. Looking at the automotive industry, the report states that there is a 90% likelihood for jobs such a truck or taxi drivers to be eliminated in the long run. It, however, notes that ‘liability issues may become an insurmountable obstacle to the introduction of fully automated driving’.

A federal judge in Seattle, USA issued a decision to temporarily block the application of a law allowing drives of companies like Uber to unionise over pay and working conditions. The law, first of its kind in the USA, requires companies that hire or contract with drivers for application based ride-hailing services to bargain with drivers, if a majority of them shows they want to be represented. In explaining his decision, the judge noted that ‘the public will be well-served by maintaining the status quo while the issues are given careful judicial consideration as to whether the city’s well-meaning ordinance can survive the scrutiny our laws require’.

A Brazilian labour court in Minas Gerais state ruled that a Uber driver is an employee of the company and is entitled to workers’ benefits. The judge also ordered Uber to pay one driver around $10,000 in compensation for overtime, night shifts, holidays, and expenses such as gasoline and water. The company reacted saying that it would appeal the decision, citing a contradictory ruling issued by another labour court in the same Brazilian state few weeks before.

2016

In the wake of a crumbled deal over a potential bid for Twitter, analysts are now estimating that the ailing company could cut 10% of its workforce, the Financial Times (FT Weekend, print) reports. As Twitter may need to get its cost structure in line, the layoffs are likely to be from the sales and marketing departments where the company spent 39% of its revenue - as opposed to, for example, Facebook’s 14%.

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