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Bezos says Amazon needs better ‘vision’ for workers


Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Thursday told investors the e-commerce giant needs a better “vision” for its workers, just days after an effort to create the company’s first labor union was defeated. Defending Amazon’s treatment of employees, Bezos laid out a new goal for the company to be “Earth’s best employer and Earth’s safest place to work,” in his final letter as chief executive.

“Despite what we’ve accomplished, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for our employees’ success,” Bezos said in the letter. Bezos will remain chairman of the board after he resigns as chief executive later this year, handing control of Amazon to Andy Jassy of the company’s cloud services unit.

A contentious unionization drive at an Amazon warehouse in the southern US state of Alabama failed last week as a vote count showed a wide majority of workers rejecting the move. “Bezos’s admission today demonstrates that what we have been saying about workplace conditions is correct,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the union that vied to represent Amazon workers. “But his admission won’t change anything, workers need a union – not just another Amazon public relations effort in damage control.” Bezos contended that he took no comfort in the unionization failure.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

“While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees,” Bezos said in the letter. He rejected news reports that he said unfairly portray Amazon workers as “desperate souls and treated as robots.”

“That’s not accurate,” Bezos said. “They’re sophisticated and thoughtful people who have options for where to work.” Unions and political leaders have argued that Amazon employees face constant pressure and monitoring, with little job protection, highlighting the need for collective bargaining.

Amazon has argued that most of its workers don’t want or need a union and that it already provides more than most other employers, with a minimum $15 hourly wage and other benefits. The Seattle-based technology and e-commerce powerhouse hired 500,000 people last year and now directly employs 1.3 million people globally, according to Bezos.

Amazon plans to invest more than US$300 million this year into workplace safety projects, and roll out a software program that figures out how to rotate employees between jobs to reduce chances of injuries caused by repetitive motions.

 

Joe Devanesan



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In Alabama, Black Amazon Workers Vote Their Economic Interest


The political left has a complicated relationship with its black supporters. When blacks vote to help elect Joe Biden, they are celebrated. When they vote to help undermine the progressive agenda, they are in the way.

Smarter Democratic strategists have been warning for some time that the party has been moving steadily to the left of the average black voter on everything from crime and gay rights to school choice and immigration. Progressive politicians and liberal activists may want to ban charter schools, reduce resources for law enforcement and empty out the prisons—“No more policing, incarceration and militarization,” Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib tweeted this week—but polling shows that such ideas have little support among the black rank and file.

This growing disconnect between political elites and ordinary blacks was on display again last week when Big Labor’s attempt to organize an Amazon facility in Alabama with a workforce estimated to be 85% black was rebuffed by a vote margin of more than 2 to 1. In what has been described as a major setback for organized labor, 71% of the workers who cast ballots voted against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, responded by suggesting the workers had somehow been deceived. “Amazon has left no stone unturned in its efforts to gaslight its own employees,” he told reporters after the vote.

The employees themselves offered a different take. They expressed satisfaction with the pay, benefits and working conditions at Amazon and said that paying dues to a union to address any complaints they did have was unnecessary. For years, organized labor has been working to gain a foothold at Amazon, the nation’s second-largest private employer after Walmart . These efforts have failed repeatedly, and no wonder. Amazon offers relatively high pay and good benefits. Blacks and Hispanics are 49.3% of its hourly workers and 20% of managers. And Walmart, which has also been fighting off unionization for years, offers competitive salaries and benefits while having a similarly diverse workforce.

Nationwide, black unionization rates are slightly higher than those of whites. This is in part because a higher percentage of blacks work in the public sector, where unionization overall is more prevalent than it is in private business. Among private-sector workers, however, black unionization has steadily declined over the decades, just as it has among other groups. And contrary to the suggestion of labor officials like Mr. Applebaum, it’s not because black workers are confused or have been hoodwinked. Rather, they are acting in their own economic interests, and they happen to be in good historical company.

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China mine rescue: Crews race to free trapped workers in Xinjiang



Rescue teams are trying to reach 21 people trapped in a coal mine that flooded in China’s Xinjiang region, local media reports say.

It is not clear what triggered the flooding at the Fengyuan mine, but it reportedly occurred during upgrading works on Saturday.

Some 29 miners were initially affected, but rescuers managed to free eight of them.

Crews have located all the trapped the miners, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Twelve were on one platform, eight on a second platform, and the last worker in an escape route, it said.

The flooding is reported to have hampered rescue efforts by cutting power underground and disrupting communication lines.

Rescuers have been trying to pump water out of the flooded shaft while simultaneously pumping air into the mine, according to CCTV.

Further pipes are being laid but the operation is expected to be challenging, the broadcaster added.

Mining accidents are not uncommon in China, where the industry safety regulations can be poorly enforced. In December last year, 23 miners died after a carbon monoxide leak at a coal mine.

And in January, 10 miners were killed in a blast at a gold mine in Shandong province.

Eleven survivors of the explosion remained trapped underground for two weeks, and for much of that time they had no food and sustained themselves only on water.

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Unpaid wages recovered for disability service workers


The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has recovered $43,204 in unpaid wages for 322 service workers following an investigation into National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) service providers in NSW and Victoria.

The FWO investigated 27 businesses operating in Western Sydney, NSW’s Central Coast, and Mid-North Coast, and Inner-East Melbourne between September 2019 and July 2020. The businesses that were audited offered various forms of assistance to NDIS users, such as accommodation services, household tasks, community participation and personal mobility equipment.

“The FWO was concerned about the potential for non-compliance with workplace laws among NDIS service providers because of the sector’s rapid growth, with increased competition from new, relatively inexperienced employers,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said.

Inspectors assessed employment records against the Fair Work Act 2009, Fair Work Regulations 2009, the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Award 2010, Supported Employment Services Award and relevant enterprise agreements.

As a result of the investigations, 13 of the businesses were found to be non-compliant with workplace laws, with 11 of these businesses guilty of underpayments and three of failing to meet payslip and record-keeping obligations.

The most common contraventions related to underpayment of the minimum wage, followed by underpayments of weekend penalty rates and failure to pay travel allowances.

Inspectors issued Compliance Notices to 10 businesses requiring employers to rectify breaches of the law. They also issued one Infringement Notice with penalties totalling $1200. These businesses were put on notice that any future breaches may lead to higher-level enforcement action.

As a result, the FWO recovered wages from individual businesses that ranged from $23 for one worker at a Western Sydney business to $21,549 for 222 workers at a separate Western Sydney business.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation should serve as a reminder to new employers and those in expanding industries about the importance of prioritising compliance with workplace laws,” Parker said.



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Whyalla steel workers face fresh uncertainty as creditors chase GFG Alliance




Thousands of jobs are at risk after court action was launched against the owner of GFG Alliance, British billionaire Sanjeev Gupta.

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JobKeeper ends, but Queensland businesses struggle to find workers


Central Queensland businesses are turning customers away and closing down amid a struggle to find staff despite the end of JobKeeper.

Federal treasury warned that tens of thousands of jobs would be lost when the subsidy ended last Sunday.

Regions like Cairns and the Whitsundays were expected to be among the hardest hit, but as businesses shifted to domestic-focused trade restaurant and tourism operators faced an entirely different problem.

“A lot of tourism operators across the broader region haven’t been claiming JobKeeper for many months now, because their figures didn’t represent 30 per cent or more drop in revenue,” Capricorn Enterprise chief executive Mary Carrol said.

Across the state health protocols have forced hospitality staff to control the capacity within their businesses and regulate COVID-19 check-in requirements.

The new responsibilities, in addition to regular services, mean staff are stretched thin.

“We still have some restaurants who have not been able to open seven nights a week because they can’t find enough hospitality workers,” Ms Carroll said.

Kylie Smith manages a waterfront restaurant in Yeppoon that was open seven days a week before the pandemic hit.

The restaurant is now closed for dinner from Monday to Friday due to a lack of staff, who Ms Smith said had been too hard to find.

“We don’t take wedding bookings at the moment or any larger functions or events because, again, that takes staff resources,” she said.

The restaurant had increased its focus on takeaways and introduced an electronic ordering system for times when the restaurant couldn’t offer table service.

“[We are looking for] different ways we can build up, because there’s certainly no light at the end of the tunnel at this point in terms of recruiting staff,” Ms Smith said.

Steve Bates from Callide Dawson Chamber of Commerce said the problem stretched as far as Biloela.

“Cafes in town are struggling to get staff numbers — people just aren’t applying for jobs,” he said.

Biloela business owner Mark DiRuggiero spent six months trying to recruit staff, but he closed his cafe and bar in January.

Mr DiRuggiero said while the two-year-old business was unable to recover from the financial impact of COVID-19, an inability to find staff played a factor overall.

“I was advertising for manager and barrister, just people I could put on for at least six months,” he said.

“I could hardly get any applications.

“If you don’t have staff there, you’re not running your business efficiently.

Data from Capricorn Enterprise showed there were more than 3,000 jobs available in central Queensland.

Callide Dawson Chamber of Commerce called on locals to fill the positions.

“I would suggest to people who have had a good old rest, it’s time to stand up and help your country fight back now,” Mr Bates said.

Ms Smith said customer demand at her restaurant was back to pre-pandemic levels, but she was still restricted due to the staffing shortages.

“That’s something a number of venues are experiencing,” she said.

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Hong Kong employment agencies reject calls for Philippines flight ban, and suggest foreign domestic workers get Covid-19 shot before travelling to city



Agencies dealing with the employment of foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong have rejected calls for flights from the Philippines to be banned, and said workers should be vaccinated against Covid-19 before entering the city.A debate over stopping flights has intensified after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases involving people arriving from the country grew over the past couple of weeks. Among the 56 imported infections recorded between last Thursday and Tuesday this week, 18 were from…

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Thousands of Australian businesses and workers face an uncertain future as JobKeeper comes to an end



The Australian economy may have picked up faster than expected during the coronavirus pandemic, with 2.7 million people and 680,000 businesses now having “graduated” from JobKeeper.

But with the wage subsidy scheme officially coming to an end on Sunday, many of the 960,000 Australians and 370,000 businesses still relying on the payment face an uncertain future. 

Global Ballooning Australia is one of them. When the international borders shut last March, it lost its international business – around 60 per cent of its income – overnight. Since letting 20 staff go, it has used JobKeeper to keep its remaining “essential workers” employed.

But after a long Melbourne lockdown, COVID-19 outbreaks during the Christmas break and now staring down the barrel of the slower winter season, it will be tough to pay staff wages once JobKeeper wraps up. 

“The worse case scenario for Global Ballooning is that the finances that we’ve been able to inject into the company over this JobKeeper period dimmish to the point where we do have to start looking at shedding staff,” Director Kiff Saunders told SBS News.

“The end of JobKeeper is certainly going to put a lot more pressure on tourism businesses in this country for sure.” 

In recent months the company has invested heavily in its domestic market, but with no date around when international borders will open, “we just have to weather the storm”, Mr Saunders said.

Treasury secretary Steven Kennedy told a Senate hearing last week that up to 150,000 people could be out of work after the support scheme wraps up.

Charities are concerned many Australians will be forced to seek help for the first time.

The St Vincent de Paul Society estimates one million children in Australia have a parent who is still relying on JobKeeper. 

National President Claire Victory told SBS News the organisation is preparing for a “huge increase in demand” for its services over coming weeks, with lots of Australians expected to access Centrelink payments who have never done so before.

“At each stage when that supplement has been wound back, we’ve seen a corresponding increase in demand for our services,” Ms Victory said. “So with that JobSeeker level coming right back and JobKeeper ending at the same time, pushing so many new people onto those payments, we’re expecting a huge increase in demand for our services.

“What we are expecting is that there will be a lot of people needing to come to us for help just with food and with paying their bills each week.” 

‘Encouraging signs’

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says “encouraging signs across all sectors” and across the country have led to the government’s decision to end JobKeeper on 28 March.

“It has achieved its objectives of supporting businesses and saving jobs, preserving employment relationships and delivering much needed income support across the economy,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

“JobKeeper was an economic lifeline which helped keep around a million businesses in business and 3.8 million Australians in a job at the height of the pandemic.”

The Reserve Bank claims the wage subsidy saved more than 700,000 jobs, with official estimates putting employment losses at between 100,000 and 150,000.

The unemployment rate sits currently at 5.8 per cent.

New figures from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) show that 1.54 million employees collected the wage subsidy between October and December last year, down from 3.6 million between April and September.

ATO figures sector by sector are also largely positive. The number of workers on JobKeeper in retail has dropped by 68 per cent. In trade and construction reliance fell by 65 per cent, and in real estate by 71 per cent. The accommodation and food services sector saw a 52 per cent drop in reliance on the subsidy.

But transport, postal and warehousing continued to struggle, with only a 36 per cent drop in the number of people on the wage subsidy.

There is no data available for the tourism sector, because the industry encompasses such a wide range of jobs.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the unemployment rate will not necessarily rise after JobKeeper ends.

“In less than a year the number of people employed is now greater today than it was when the pandemic hit this country,” he told parliament during the week.

Mr Frydenberg says while the nation has not yet emerged from the pandemic, the economic recovery has been stronger than almost anywhere else in the world.

“Our Economic Recovery Plan will continue to support the economy through measures such as tax cuts, business incentives, the JobMaker Hiring Credit and a record investment in skills and training,” he said.

Head of Investment Strategy and Chief Economist at AMP Capital Shane Oliver told SBS News he believes the “timing is right” to bring JobKeeper to an end.

“We have seen pretty good recovery. If we hadn’t seen the economic recovery, then I’d be a lot more concerned,” he said.

“JobKeeper was always an emergency program to help the economy through the lockdown until we’re able to reopen again and it’s done its job. It’s protected incomes, it’s protected jobs, it’s protected businesses and now is the time to bring it to an end.”

Calls for targeted help

But Mr Oliver joins other experts in calling for more targeted assistance now JobKeeper has ceased.

“JobKeeper was a catch-all for businesses and it was appropriate a year ago and it’s done a fantastic job. But by the same token we’re now in a situation where the problem parts of the economy are specific sectors, particularly the travel sector and services, particularly in city CBDs.

“So I think these ongoing support should really be more targeted.”

The danger in continuing JobKeeper indefinitely is that it results in “zombie jobs and stops the economy recovering”, Mr Oliver said.

“The reality is a lot of the jobs have moved away from inner city areas and CBDs out to the suburbs because we’ve got more people working at home. That’s likely to be a long-term phenomenon, but if we keep subsidising jobs in the CBDs, that will stop the adjustment in the economy and stop those jobs moving out to the suburbs.” 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese says while JobKeeper must come to an end at some point, it has said it is “unwise” to withdraw support from industries and businesses still impacted by the pandemic.

“While some businesses that have JobKeeper have continued to do well and have increased their profits over the last year, a range of businesses have not had that support and have seen massive downturns in their turnover,” he told the media on Sunday.

Mr Albanese says targeted support would continue to provide businesses and people the help they need.

“Two million Australians are either unemployed or want additional hours but there are many more Australians out of work than there are vacancies,” he said.

For operators like Mr Saunders at Global Ballooning Australia, his business will remain in crisis mode until the international borders are able to reopen.

He says he feels the government should “drill down into businesses” that still need help and “offer assistance in some form”.

“We have supported the Australian visitor economy and supported the Australian workforce by being able to employ people within this industry,” he said.

“The people in this industry are very passionate about what they do.

“It’s very distressing to see the pain points around people who have had to either shut up their business or move to other employment when this is the life that they have set up for themselves.”



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Ford government offering cash to retirement home workers who stay in the job for six months


Ford government offering cash to retirement home workers who stay in the job for six months | The Star

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Politics”,”trust”:null,”special”:null,”enableConversations”:false,”enableLivechat”:false,”publishedepoch”:1616616525355]},”type”:”articleRelatedInlineSecondary”,”text”:”Horwath said that it crucial because new infections in the second wave rose as high as 4,000 daily across the province, making it impossible for local health units to track down all the contacts of new cases, potentially leading to further spread of the virus.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true,”type”:”cta”,”buttonText”:”Sign Up Now”,”buttonLink”:”/emails.html?nsrc=article-inline-covid”,”description”:”Never miss the latest news from the Star, including up-to-date coronavirus coverage, with our email newsletters”,”title”:”Get the latest in your inbox”,”text”:”“They don’t have the resources,” she added.”,”type”:”text”,”isParagraph”:true,”text”:”Plans for a new in-patient wing at the William Osler Health System’s Peel Memorial Hospital in Brampton don’t go far enough when the fast-growing city has been pleading for a brand 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Premier Doug Ford said he would like to make permanent the temporary raises of $3 hourly permanent for personal support workers but Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said it is not in the cards right now.

Premier Doug Ford’s government is offering $5,000 to retirement home personal support workers who stay in the job for six months and $10,000 to nurses for one-year commitments as part of a $2-million program to “attract new PSWs and nurses to work in retirement homes.”

Ford has repeatedly hailed personal support workers in long-term care as “heroes” who are “overworked, underpaid and understaffed” as they help residents get dressed, groomed, toileted and fed — and that he would like to make his temporary raises of $3 hourly permanent.

But Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said that is not in the cards right now, even as the government works toward of hiring thousands more long-term-care staff to give residents of nursing homes four hours of daily, hands-on care by 2025, up from 2.75 hours now.

“We’re investing heavily in training, recruiting … and retaining personal support workers,” he told reporters, pointing to a $115-million program announced recently that covers tuition costs for PSW programs at community colleges, including paid work terms in the industry.

The temporary raises have been extended until the end of June for 147,000 personal support workers and will be reviewed at that time, the finance minister added, noting several new nursing homes are being built and others renovated to improve working conditions for staff.

“I intend to look at it very closely.”

Over six months, the $5,000 bonus works out to about $5.50 hourly for PSWs for a 35-hour week in retirement homes, where many residents typically have a lower level of needs than in nursing homes, where many residents have dementia or other chronic conditions that require a higher level of care.

Critics said the nursing home industry needs better wages, full-time jobs with benefits and paid sick days to stem high levels of turnover and attrition in the personal support worker field, which pays $18 to $20 an hour and saw PSWs on the front lines of the pandemic, putting their lives in danger for low wages.

Such improvements would have led to an immediate shoring up of nursing home staffing and improving care levels for residents as the pandemic continues, said New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath.

“The Ford government has forgotten about long-term care,” she charged. “I would have done all those things.”

About 6,600 nursing home workers contracted COVID-19 and 11 have died. More than 15,000 residents contracted the virus, killing more than 3,800.

“This budget does nothing for anxious families with parents in nursing homes expecting transformative action to improve their care,” Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said.

The budget also sets aside $2.3 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing as Ontario prepares to emerge from the pandemic in an era of increasing vaccination but still with risks in schools, workplaces and elsewhere.

Horwath said that it crucial because new infections in the second wave rose as high as 4,000 daily across the province, making it impossible for local health units to track down all the contacts of new cases, potentially leading to further spread of the virus.

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“They don’t have the resources,” she added.

Plans for a new in-patient wing at the William Osler Health System’s Peel Memorial Hospital in Brampton don’t go far enough when the fast-growing city has been pleading for a brand new hospital and full emergency department to take the strain off existing facilities and ease long wait times, Horwath said.

“This government is continuing to ignore the people of Brampton, who are desperate.”

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Risk of catching COVID-19 almost double for night shift workers: research


People who work night shifts may be at higher risk of catching COVID-19 than their counterparts who work during daylight hours, new research suggests.

The team of researchers, from Australia, the UK and Denmark, found that people who worked night shifts were nearly twice as likely to catch COVID-19 as those who worked during the day.

New research suggests people working the night shift are at nearly double the risk of contracting COVID-19 than those who work during the day.Credit:E+

Lead researcher Yaqoot Fatima from James Cook University said that was the average increased risk across all night shift workers, regardless of whether they worked in the healthcare sector or not, and regardless of their socio-economic status.

“Of course healthcare workers are at increased risk of catching COVID-19 due to their risk of exposure to the virus, but the odds of catching the virus was comparable across all night shift workers,” Dr Fatima said.

In all, the chance of any night shift worker catching the virus was 1.85 times that of their day shift counterparts. When healthcare workers were removed, night shift workers were still 1.81 times more likely to contract COVID-19.

Dr Fatima said while the study looks specifically at the data and does not suggest a cause for the higher rate of infection among night shift workers, it is well known that working night shift can throw out people’s natural circadian rhythms, potentially opening them up to infection.

“Other researchers have put forward the theory that disruption of circadian rhythms resulting from night shift working could predispose someone to be more at risk of infection with COVID-19,” Dr Fatima said.

“This could be a function of reduced melatonin levels, and poor immune response.”

The research’s publication comes as many countries, including Australia, juggle the initial phases of the rollout of vaccines, with priority given to frontline workers and those considered at higher risk of infection.

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#Risk #catching #COVID19 #double #night #shift #workers #research



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