Deliveroo: “Workers rights – key reason investors are not investing”

In wide ranging article in The Observer said today employment rights are contributing to the company failure to secure big investors.

The Observer reports: “Just as off-putting for some was the faint whiff of exploitation accompanying every meal, with some of Deliveroo’s 100,000 freelance couriers claiming they receive less than the minimum wage.

David Cumming, chief investment officer at Aviva Investors, said workers’ rights were a key reason he had not invested in the business: “A lot of employers could make a massive difference to workers’ lives if they guaranteed working hours or a living wage, and how companies behave is becoming more important.”

LGIM also pointed to “contentious” issues around worker rights, citing a desire to invest clients’ money responsibly. That ethical concern could also develop into a financial one.

February’s supreme court ruling, that drivers for taxi app Uber were workers rather than self-employed, could have significant ramifications for all gig economy firms. Deliveroo has admitted that the possibility of a reclassification of its riders into workers poses an investment risk to the business.

High-profile suits from riders seem like an inevitability – indeed Deliveroo has put £112m aside to fund its defence. Losing those cases could have seismic consequences for its cost base.

“We didn’t invest in it because we were worried about the combination of the valuation and the potential risk to the profitability of the business if they did have to employ all their riders,” said Rupert Krefting, head of corporate finance and stewardship at fund manager M&G.

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CTUF – IER May Day Rally: Online: May 1st. 11am – 12.30pm

Click anywhere on the above graphic and book your place now!

Speakers and topics confirmed (as of 16th April): John Henry QC (Tory Employment Rights Review); Professor Keith Ewing (Brexit Agreement Employment Rights); Sarah Wooley (Fast food organising). Andy McDonald MP (Labour’s Employment Rights Task Force); Paddy Lillis (Fire & Rehire); Kate Ewing (Care Homes Working Time); Mick Rix (Uber); Yvette Williams (Covid 19); Andy Green (Freeports); Colin Hayden (Go North West Bus Dispute); Eileen Turnbull (Shrewsbury 24); Matt Wrack (Public Sector Pay); Dave Ward (GS CWU); Strike Map.

Video solidarity messages: Barry Camfield (CTUF Australia); United Steelworkers (USA & Canada); Maxine Peake. 

Chairs: Tony Burke, Carolyn Jones, Adrian Weir.

Plus launch of new May Day Manifesto

Book your place now – online by clicking on the graphic above.

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USA: Amazon Union Election Count Starts Today

The ballot of workers at Amazon in Bessemer, Alabama is one of the highest profile union recognition ballots carried out in recent times in the USA. Ballots are expected to begin being counted today with the count possibly lasting days. Thousands of workers from the facility in Bessemer have taken part

The ballot will determine whether warehouse employees will become the first group to unionise among Amazon’s 800,000 U.S. workers. 

The US National Labour Relations Board, is in charge of the election, and they have indicated that the ballot e counting process could ‘take days’ partly because both parties can dispute votes.  

Results are usually declared quickly but the Covid-19 pandemic meant the election was held by postal vote and the board officials will have to sort through any ballots that are challenged by the parties and count each ballot by hand, with the total count expected to be in the thousands.

Pro-union employees have joined the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, (RWDSU),who say that  a yes vote would allow workers to collectively bargain over pay, working conditions, safety, training, meal and shift breaks and other benefits. 

Amazon has across hundreds of facilities in the USA. Workers have have complained about about gruelling workload the company monitoring process of employees through an internal tracking system and CCTV cameras.

Ballots were mailed to 6,000 employees.and even if workers vote to unionise, under the US system it could ta long time for the union to secure  a first contract . Either side could also contest the results of the election.

Amazon has a record of anti unionism. In 2018 it defeated a union campaign at its Whole Foods Market business and number of maintenance and repair technicians voted against a union at a Middletown, Delaware facility.

During the Whole Foods campaign, Amazon used a training video to coach Whole Foods staff on how to spot organising efforts. The company has said this video is no longer in use.

Last year Amazon posted—and removed—job listings for analysts that included descriptions on monitoring union-organizing threats. Amazon has said the postings weren’t an accurate description of the roles and were made in error.

Union organizers were present on a daily basis at the site, talking to workers, handing out leaflets and phone calling workers. The union also launched an information website and sought to garner support by rallying employees through family members and union members who work in other industries.

 Amazon have retaliated with a website to encourage workers to vote against a union. Signs were posted around the facility, and managers initially held frequent one to one meetings with workers. 

The company’s messaging and tactics amount to was classic US union busting techniques centered around the cost of union subscriptions with Amazon saying that a union is unnecessary because its workers receive better pay and benefits from the company than they would in other comparable jobs. Amazon hasn’t made as clear to workers, however, that Alabama is a “right to work” state, meaning employees would have an option on whether to be union members and pay dues.

Meanwhile in Germany the Ver.di union has called on Amazon workers at six Amazon sites ito go on strike this week for four days in the latest attempt to try to force the company to recognise collective bargaining agreements under German law.

Ver.di said the strikes at Amazon’s sites in Rheinberg, Werne, Koblenz, Leipzig and at two locations in Bad Hersfeld signalled an “unofficial start” to wage talks for the retail and mail order industry, which are due to begin in the next few weeks.

“Amazon is making a mint in the coronavirus crisis. For this reason alone, wage evasion must be stopped there,” said Ver.di union representative Orhan Akman.

Verdi is demanding a pay increase of 4.5% for workers in the retail and mail order industry. “This must also be possible at Amazon this year,” Akman said.

Amazon is facing a long-running battle in Germany over better pay and conditions for logistics workers, who have frequently staged strikes since 2013. Germany is Amazon’s biggest market after the United States.

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GMB calls for meeting with Asda to discuss potential £500 million compensation

GMB,  has hailed a ‘massive victory’ as the Supreme Court ruled in favour of 40,000 Asda workers. The ruling means shop floor staff at Asda can be compared to workers in the distribution centre for the purposes of their equal pay claim.

GMB has  called on Asda bosses to meet with them and discuss the next stage of the shop workers’ compensation claim, which could run to £500 million.

This is the fourth time Asda has lost a court battle on this issue.

In January 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that GMB members could compare themselves in this way– upholding the rulings made by an employment tribunal in 2016 and the Employment Appeal Tribunal in 2017.

GMB has enlisted law firm Leigh Day to work the case on behalf of GMB members. There are almost 40,000 claimants involved.

Susan Harris, GMB Legal Director, said: “This is amazing news and a massive victory for Asda’s predominantly women shop floor workforce. We are proud to have supported our members in this litigation and helped them in their fight for pay justice. Asda has wasted money on lawyers’ bills chasing a lost cause, losing appeal after appeal, while tens of thousands of retail workers remain out of pocket. We now call on Asda to sit down with us to reach agreement on the back pay owed to our members – which could run to hundreds of millions of pounds.”

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