US: Google fires 4 employees for unionizing

South Africa: SA Airways bows down to Union demand

29 November 2019: Struggling national airline South African Airways (SAA) was final forced to pay the outstanding salaries to its employees. The SAA board met with Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in a bid to find a solution to the financial crisis faced by the national airline.

Unions, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association, representing about 3,000 of its 5,000-strong workforce went on strike on 14 November over the airline’s refusal of salary hikes and its plan to cut 944 jobs in an attempt to stem severe financial losses. Their demands include job security for at least three years, 8 percent salary increases and a halt to the contracting-in of security, cleaning and other services.

Canada: Rail workers strike against unsafe work

25 November 2019: Nearly 3,200 workers at Canadian National, the country’s largest rail operator, walked off the job on 19 November, to protest against chronic overwork and unsafe conditions.

Unionized workers at CN have been without a contract since 23 July but talks between the two sides have made little progress. Rail workers in Canada have long warned against the growing dangers of chronic fatigue. While employees are given their schedules in advance, last minute changes to shifts can mean long days and night on the job with little rest in between. Some shifts can last as long as 42 hours.

Canada’s transportation safety board has identified fatigue as a major problem in the industry and found that it was a contributing factor to nearly 100 investigations over the last 27 years, including a number of derailments.

 US: Google fires 4 employees for unionizing

 25 November 2019: Google fired four employees for what the technology giant said were violations of its data-security policies, escalating tension between management and activist workers. Google Walkout for Real Change, a group representing employees organizing at the company, accused Google of firing the employees “in an attempt to crush worker organizing.” Google employees have been protesting and organizing for the past two years over issues including the company’s handling of executives accused of sexual harassment, its treatment of contract employees, and its work with the Defense Department, federal border agencies and the Chinese government. The workers who were fired were involved in the organizing activities.

Tensions increased as Google cracked down on what had long been a freewheeling work culture that encouraged employees to speak out. Google recently cancelled a regular series of companywide meetings that allowed workers to pose questions to senior executives and implemented a tracking tool on employee’s web browsers and began working with a consulting firm, IRI Consultants, that ‘helps organizations navigate workplace challenges, improve employee engagement and productivity, manage labor relations, and implement effective communication strategies to achieve their business and advocacy goals’. The IRI Consultants has helped several companies to quell unionization efforts.

UK: High Court bans Royal Mail workers from striking

21 November 2019: The High Court ordered in favour of the Royal Mail Group (RMG) in an injunction thereby preventing the first national postal strike in a decade. Last month, 110,000 members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) voted by a 97 percent majority to mobilise against attacks by the RMG on their pension agreement, job security, and working conditions.

The CWU lodged an appeal on 20 November at the High Court against the order. According to CWU that strike action could still take place before Christmas if members vote again and even if the legal appeal is lost.

Norway wealth fund stops investments in G4S over human rights violations

14 November 2019: Norway’s £850bn sovereign wealth fund has decided to stop investment in British security company, G4S for violation of the human rights of thousands of migrant workers in the Middle East.

The Norway’s Council on Ethics, which reviews the fund’s investments, found that migrant workers in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates hired by G4S were effectively in “debt bondage” after having their passports taken away and being paid less than agreed. Migrant workers were found to have taken out loans to pay “recruitment fees” of as much as £1,400 to work for G4S. They were then paid monthly salaries of between £100 and £130, meaning they could not leave.The council’s investigations also revealed “long working days, a lack of overtime payment and examples of harassment”. It said many of G4S’s 29,000 migrant workers in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia could be affected.

US: California Threatens Gig Economy with New Law

1 November 2019: State of California recently signed into law the Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), in which the court shifted the burden to the nationwide courier and delivery service to prove their drivers were not employees by using the “ABC test.” Under this new test, an individual is presumed to be an employee, unless the employer can prove all of the following: (A) the worker is free from the company’s control (B) the worker performs work that isn’t central to the company’s business and (C) the worker has an independent business, trade or occupation in that industry. This will shift the burden of proof to employers such as Uber, Lyft who misclassify workers as independent contractors.

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