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Unlikely bedmates: union strikes Airbnb deal ‘to protect delivery drivers’ | Technology

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Airbnb will pay union members $150 to sign up as hosts under an unusual deal the Transport Workers Union says is about ending the exploitation of delivery drivers.

Under the deal, Airbnb will actively promote food and package delivery companies that do the right thing by their workers – although the union says none currently meets its standards.

Airbnb will also put $50 for each new union host into a not-for-profit company set up by the TWU.

The union has been campaigning against food delivery companies including UberEats, Deliveroo and Foodora over pay and conditions for their workers.

The union said none of the food delivery companies in the market were meeting its benchmarks on ethical labour practices, meaning there were currently no providers Airbnb could endorse. But it said the new deal was about effecting change.

“This is really a call for companies to lift their standards, that there are opportunities for them,” TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said.

“Rather than going to the lowest standard, where people won’t get paid superannuation, don’t have workers’ compensation, and are paid below minimum wages, this is about encouraging the new economy to lift standards.”

Sheldon said the situation was different for package delivery, where there were existing companies worthy of endorsement for the way they treated their workers.

He said Airbnb would endorse deserving delivery companies by giving its own business to them, and by encouraging Airbnb hosts to use and recommend them.

For every new union host, Airbnb will also give $50 to Teacho, a not-for-profit company established by the TWU with employers and industry experts.

Its aims include improving research, training, industrial rights, and health and safety standards for transport workers.

Airbnb’s public policy chief, Brent Thomas, said ethical companies needed to do their bit to make sure “technology was a force for good”.

“With wages flat and the cost of living high, we want to empower working families by helping them earn extra income and promote good, well-paying jobs. We are proud to partner with the TWU which fights tirelessly for the rights of workers,” he said in a statement.

UberEats, Deliveroo and Foodora have been contacted for comment.

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BusinessGig economyRape and sexual assaultSilicon ValleyTechnologyUberUS news

Uber accused of silencing women who claim sexual assault by drivers | Technology

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Uber is trying to force women who say they were sexually assaulted by drivers to resolve their claims behind closed doors rather than in the courts, a move that critics say silences victims and shields the company from public scrutiny.

Court records in a California class-action lawsuit revealed that the ride-sharing firm has argued that female passengers who speak up about being raped in an Uber must individually settle their cases through arbitration, a private process that often results in confidentiality agreements.

Nine women from across the US have joined the case, seeking to represent all women who have been assaulted or experienced violence in Uber cars in hopes of pushing the corporation to reform and better protect passengers. Uber, however, has filed a motion arguing that the riders agreed to privately arbitrate all disputes when they signed up for the ride-share service and thus have no right to file a lawsuit.

Uber’s lawyers are relying on a legal mechanism that has faced intense scrutiny in Silicon Valley over the last year as the #MeToo movement has shone a light on sexual misconduct in US workplaces and in Hollywood. Arbitration clauses have prevented victims of sexual harassment and discrimination from moving forward with lawsuits, allowing companies to avoid public trials, and critics say it makes it easier for serial offenders to keep their jobs and target new victims.

Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer whose viral account of sexual harassment sparked a reckoning about abuse in the male-dominated tech industry, has pushed for an end to arbitration agreements. In December, Microsoft became the first high-profile tech company to announce it would eliminate forced arbitration, recognizing that the “silencing of people’s voices” can perpetuate sexual misconduct.

“Our clients deserve a trial,” said Jeanne M Christensen, one of the class-action attorneys who filed a motion on Thursday fighting Uber’s efforts to push the women into arbitration. “The goal is to force Uber to acknowledge that this is happening and to do something about it.”

Christensen argued that arbitration prevents the public from learning about the frequency and severity of rapes and assaults by Uber drivers and inevitably results in non-disclosure agreements that silence the women, making it less likely that other victims will speak up.

In the case of one plaintiff from Miami, an Uber driver carried the intoxicated passenger into her home when he dropped her off and raped her, according to the complaint. A Los Angeles driver allegedly assaulted another plaintiff who fell asleep in his car. A 26-year-old plaintiff from San Francisco said an Uber driver pushed his way into her apartment building and groped her.

The women are “horrified and shocked that this is what happened to them, and they are also horrified that people aren’t talking about it, and that Uber has been fairly successful at keeping it out of the news”, said Christensen.

An Uber representative said in an email: “The allegations brought forth in this case are important to us and we take them very seriously. Arbitration is the appropriate venue for this case because it allows the plaintiffs to publicly speak out as much as they want and have control over their individual privacy at the same time.”

The representative did not, however, respond to questions about whether Uber’s arbitration settlement agreements allow the women to speak out or if they include standard confidentiality clauses. Christensen also noted that the women already have control over their privacy – they are listed as “Jane Does” in the suit.

Veena Dubal, an associate law professor at the University of California, Hastings, who has advocated for Uber drivers’ rights, said she has interviewed drivers who have filed claims against the company and were subsequently unable to speak to her due to settlement agreements.

People involved in class-action suits against Uber “want the public and the state and Uber to recognize that their experiences are not random”, said Dubal. “They are the result of a structural problem … They want Uber to make changes.”

Female drivers have also repeatedly accused Uber of failing them when they are assaulted by passengers, and advocates said the arbitration agreements can make it hard for them to seek justice.

“Uber has an interest in removing these cases from the public eye,” said Bryant Greening, an attorney with LegalRideshare, which represents Uber riders and drivers. “It’s despicable … It’s a public safety issue and it’s an issue that’s relevant to our community.”

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BusinessGig economyTechnologyUber

Uber to take appeal over ruling on drivers’ status to UK supreme court | Technology

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Uber plans to appeal to the UK’s supreme court against a ruling that drivers should be classed as workers, setting the scene for a landmark legal battle with major implications for the gig economy.

The taxi app lost a tribunal case brought by two drivers last year and tasted defeat for a second time earlier this month when the employment appeal tribunal (EAT) upheld the original decision.

Uber hopes the supreme court will grant it permission to leapfrog the court of appeal and take its case directly to the highest court in the country as soon as February.

“We have this afternoon requested permission to appeal directly to the supreme court in order that this case can be resolved sooner rather than later,” said a spokesperson.

The case will determine whether Uber’s drivers should be treated as workers, a status conferring improved rights such as guaranteed minimum wage and holiday pay.

It could also have ramifications for a host of gig economy firms, which operate by inviting workers to accept small jobs at short notice, often via smartphone apps.

The gig economy has proved to be a battleground for disputes involving firms such as takeaway company Deliveroo and courier firm CitySprint. Its emergence also prompted a full-blown government review into modern employment practices, led by Matthew Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair.

Uber is understood to be hopeful that the supreme court will agree to hear its arguments directly before or after a similar case involving Pimlico Plumbers, which is due to begin in February 2018.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which is backing the two former Uber drivers at the heart of the case, said it was confident of victory.

“It is unfortunate that rather than focusing on how to give its drivers a guaranteed minimum wage and paid holidays, Uber is instead choosing to waste everyone’s time by appealing once more,” said the IWGB general secretary, Dr Jason Moyer-Lee.

“The IWGB has already beaten Uber at the employment appeal tribunal and we are more than ready to beat them again.”

Yaseen Aslam, one of the two drivers who brought the original case, said: “As the holiday season approaches, drivers should be looking forward to the security of a guaranteed minimum wage and holiday pay. Instead, they now face many more months of poverty, stress and uncertainty, while Uber profits at their expense.”

The case hinges on the employment status of Uber drivers, who the taxi app claims are self-employed contractors. Uber says the majority of its 50,000 drivers prefer their self-employed status, pointing out that the two drivers who brought the case no longer drive for the company.

The IWGB has said that being granted “worker” status would mean drivers would still be technically self-employed, but would also enjoy greater protections.

Lawyers for Uber are expected to tell the supreme court that the EAT’s ruling last month relied on misunderstandings of how Uber drivers interact with passengers.

They will argue that the EAT erred in its understanding of whether drivers are obliged to log in to the app or to accept a certain percentage of passenger requests.

The legal tussle is unfolding against the backdrop of a decision by Transport for London to revoke Uber’s licence, pending an appeal that the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has said could take years to resolve.

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Gig economyLondonTechnologyTfLUberUK news

Tell us how will you be affected by Uber losing its licence to operate in London | Technology

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Uber’s licence to operate in London will not be renewed according to Transport for London (TfL).

The private taxi hire operator’s application was rejected on the basis that the company is not a “fit and proper” operator. Uber can operate until 30 September when the current licence expires, but the company has 21 days to appeal.

We’d like to hear from drivers and passengers who will be affected by the decision.

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