On the job but unprotected — why European welfare is failing gig workers – POLITICO



This article is part of a special report, The Essential Tech Worker.

When gig economy platforms arrived in Europe a decade ago, observers predicted that they would either blow up the welfare state — or get smothered by it.

In many ways, both prophecies have come to pass.

For thousands of Uber drivers, delivery riders, babysitters and other denizens of the “gig economy,” what was originally meant to be a side hustle has turned into a de facto job representing their sole source of income — ushering in a new generation of workers whose jobs are far more precarious than those of their peers in traditional employment. Meanwhile, European countries that uphold their welfare systems with pride are still struggling to figure out how to bring this new type of worker into the fold.

One reason they’re having a hard time is that current labor laws are premised on a binary either-or definition: A worker is either an employee, or they are not.

Regulators are stuck in a bind. Attempts to protect workers who appear to be self-employed but in reality depend on a single company for their livelihood have fallen flat or run into legal obstacles. In London, for example, Uber has been stuck in a tortuous legal process since 2015 trying to overturn a court decision that ruled drivers should be classified as workers instead of self-employed people.

The companies themselves have proposed a compromise, a “third way,” that would grant workers some social protections but maintain their independent status.

So far, their attempts have ended in failure. France flirted with a voluntary charter for gig workers that would maintain their independent status but provide some social rights. That initiative was quickly struck down by the country’s Constitutional Council as “unconstitutional,” because it gave platforms the power to fix rules that legislators should have.

Last September in Italy, food-delivery companies unveiled a collective agreement with a far-right union that would establish workers as independent contractors. The agreement caused outcry among workers, unions and the country’s labor ministry, who deemed it invalid and against Italian labor law.

Collective agreements are also tricky — the first one between a union and Danish domestic work platform Hilfr was struck down by Danish competition authorities.

California — the birthplace of the gig economy — has tried to atone for its creation with a new bill, dubbed AB5, that forced companies such as Uber and Lyft to reclassify their drivers as employees. The ride-hailing companies are embroiled in an expensive lobbying battle against the law.

One European court after another has looked at the evidence and reached the same conclusion: Any pretense that workers are independent is “fictitious,” in the words of France’s highest court in a ruling regarding Uber drivers.

A U.K. Supreme Court decision on the same issue is imminent. Courts in Spain and Italy have reached similar rulings with respect to other gig work platforms. One of the main arguments courts have highlighted is the level of algorithmic control platforms have over workers. The algorithm decides when and how workers work, and how much their work is worth.

Platforms say workers want their autonomy and flexibility, which is incompatible with employee status. That status could also be the end of their business. Uber, for example, has never made a profit, and likely never will if it has to pay its drivers and couriers social benefits. The outcome of California’s AB5 fight will show how resilient the platforms’ business models truly are.

The European Commission has pledged to improve the working conditions of gig workers. So far the Commission’s only suggestion has been to tweak competition rules to allow for bargaining rights for gig workers.

The seeming incompatibility between traditional employee protections and platform-based business models has opened room for proposals that could blow up the way we think about the relationship between workers and the companies that sign their paychecks.

Two leading legal scholars on labor law, Nicola Countouris, of University College London, and Valerio De Stefano, of KU Leuven, have suggested redefining the definition of workers and offering employment protections to anyone who works for a client or another person, and doesn’t hire other people or employ significant materials or capital.

This would catch Uber drivers and Deliveroo couriers, and also protect workers in other fields that are starting to normalize the use of algorithmic control, such as the care and retail sectors.

There are some early signs of movement in this direction. All eyes will be on Italy, which in 2019 passed a law giving couriers basic protections including sick leave and social security while still categorizing them as autonomous workers.

Even as the coronavirus rages on, the European welfare system still hasn’t figured out how to embrace gig workers. At stake is not just home delivery and on-demand rides, but the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of ever-more essential workers.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Tech policy coverage: Pro Technology. Our expert journalism and suite of policy intelligence tools allow you to seamlessly search, track and understand the developments and stakeholders shaping EU Tech policy and driving decisions impacting your industry. Email [email protected] with the code ‘TECH’ for a complimentary trial.





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Older workers face higher unemployment amid virus pandemic – Long Island Business News


For the first time in nearly 50 years, older workers face higher unemployment than their midcareer worker counterparts, according to a study released Tuesday by the New School university in New York City.

The pandemic has wrecked havoc on employment for people of all ages. But researchers found that during its course, workers 55 and older lost jobs sooner, were rehired slower and continue to face higher job losses than their counterparts ages 35 to 54.

It is the first time since 1973 that such a severe unemployment gap has persisted for six months or longer.

In every recession since the 1970s, older workers had persistently lower unemployment rates than midcareer workers — partly because of seniority benefits.

But in the current recession, older workers experienced higher unemployment rates than midcareer workers in each month since the onset of the pandemic.

The older workers’ unemployment rates from April through September were 1.1 percentage points higher than mid-career workers — at 9.7% versus 8.6%. The rates were compiled using a six-month rolling average and were far worse for older workers who are black, female or lack college degrees.

Among the newly unemployed older workers is Legasse Gamo, 65. He was laid off in March from his job as a baggage handler at Reagan National airport in the Washington suburb of Arlington, Virginia.

While Gamo is afraid of exposing himself to the coronavirus by working around others, he said he has looked for work — because he feels he has little choice but to take any job he can find.

The contractor he worked for, Eulen America, has required its laid off employees to reapply for their jobs. Gamo did so but said he has received no reply.

The immigrant from Ethiopia supports three grandchildren, ages 6, 12 and 14, who live with him. His daughter is still employed, but her pay is not enough to cover their expenses. Gamo gets $210 a week in unemployment insurance payments and said he has spent almost all of his savings.

“I just want to get back to my job as soon as possible to support my family because I’m afraid we will end up homeless,” Gamo said.

The New School study focused only on workers with established careers. As a result, it did not examine workers younger than 35.

It found that the pandemic has posed a unique risk for older workers, said Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis.

“The higher rate of unemployment for older workers might be because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for employers to shed older workers and not fear investigation by the labor department,” Ghilarducci said.

She added: “Age discrimination rules are not being tightly enforced. Employers, fearing economic instability, may want to get rid of relatively more expensive workers and take their chances with training new workers when the economy recovers.”

Older workers often face age discrimination, making it difficult for them to find jobs. Researchers believe employers laid off and resisted rehiring older adults, in part because they tend to face more serious health risks when infected by the virus.

The unemployment spike for older workers could force more of them into early and involuntary retirement, worsen their financial well-being and exacerbate financial disparities already experienced by women, minorities and people without college degrees in terms of retirement security.

New School researchers estimated that 1.4 million workers over 55 remain lost their jobs since April and remain unemployed. The figure does not include workers who became unemployed in April and left the work force.

The situation could have deep ramifications for older workers close to retirement because their final years on the job are critical for those who have not saved enough for their retirement and expect to work longer to shore up their retirement funds.

The researchers recommended that Congress increase and extend unemployment benefits for older workers, discourage withdrawals from retirement accounts, lower Medicare eligibility to 50 and create a federal Older Workers Bureau to promote the welfare of older workers.





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Jobs for workers under 20 are on the up. But they’re shrinking for every other age group


The number of payroll jobs for Australians aged under 20 is rising above pre-coronavirus levels, but jobs for every other age group are on the decline.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) payroll data shows the number of payroll jobs for the under-20s has increased by 6.1 per cent since mid-March, when national lockdowns began.

Economists say this indicates businesses are preferring to hire younger workers at this stage of the recession, even before the Federal Government’s JobMaker Hiring Credit passes Parliament.

In the fortnight to October 3, the number of payroll jobs for young Australians increased by 2.8 per cent.

However, the number of payroll jobs has fallen for every other age group over the same period, with those over 60 hit the worst.

In the fortnight to October 3, payroll jobs fell for workers aged 20-29 (-0.8 per cent), aged 30-39 (-1.1 per cent), aged 40-49 (-1 per cent), aged 50-59 (-0.7 per cent), aged 60-69 (-0.9 per cent) and aged 70 and over (-1.9 per cent).

The ABS, which released the figures on Tuesday, said care needed to be taken when focusing on two weeks’ worth of data movements.

But if we look at the data since March 14 the disparities are more pronounced.

Since March, the number of payroll jobs has declined for workers aged 20-29 (-6.1 per cent), aged 30-39 (-3.6 per cent), aged 40-49 (-2.7 per cent), aged 50-59 (-2.8 per cent), aged 60-69 (-6.4 per cent) and aged 70 and over (-12.1 per cent).

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announces the new JobMaker hiring credit.

JobMaker hiring credit for younger workers

The Federal Government’s 2020-21 Budget, released on October 6, included the $4 billion JobMaker Hiring Credit initiative, which was designed to provide an incentive to businesses to employ more Australians aged between 16 and 35.

The legislation passed the House of Representatives on Monday, but will not be considered by the Senate until next month at the earliest.

If it passes Parliament, the scheme will offer employers a “hiring credit” when they employ younger workers on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance: $200 a week for workers aged 16 to 29, and $100 a week for workers aged 30 to 35.

The Government says it is an important initiative to ensure young workers, school leavers and university graduates are not left behind by the recession.

The tax credit should support around 450,000 positions for young Australians over the next two years, according to Treasury.

However, economists say today’s payroll data shows employers are already preferring to hire the youngest workers of any age group at this stage of the recession.

“Nationally, payroll jobs worked by people aged under 20 years old continue to show the greatest strength, which are now 6.1 per cent above their pre-COVID levels, indicating businesses are preferring younger workers — even prior to the introduction of the JobMaker Hiring Credit,” EY’s chief economist Jo Masters said.

Recessionary conditions ‘broadening’ across the country

The decline in payroll jobs has started to migrate from smaller businesses, with under 20 employees, and businesses with 20 to 199 employees, to larger businesses with 200 or more employees.

In the fortnight to October 3, businesses with fewer than 20 employees and businesses with between 20 and 199 employees each recorded a decline in payroll jobs (-0.9 per cent), to be both down (-4.1 per cent) since March 14.

Businesses with 200 employees and more saw their payroll jobs decline by a larger amount in the fortnight to October 3 (-2.7 per cent), to be down (-6.4 per cent) since the beginning of the year.

“Today’s data demonstrates that the economic recovery from COVID-19 will be slow, as recessionary conditions broaden across the country,” Ms Masters said.

“The stress is becoming more evident for larger companies, with a 3.1 per cent decline in payrolls for NSW businesses with over 200 employees.

“Looking forward, the loss of job momentum raises concerns that the cyclical downturn is still to come,” she said.

The fall in overall payroll jobs in the fortnight to October 3 (-0.9 per cent nationally) comes after payroll job numbers increased (by 0.5 per cent) over the previous fortnight.

It means over the month to October 3 total payroll jobs declined by 0.7 per cent.

“It’s disappointing to see a stalling in the jobs recovery,” Commonwealth Bank associate economist Nicolas Guesnon wrote in a note to clients.

“The recovery in the labour market looks to have lost some momentum in recent weeks. Our internal data is showing a lift in JobSeeker payments over early October.

“However, we expect to see the recovery in the labour market resume. Further easing in restrictions in Victoria will help lift employment.”

Payroll jobs are jobs paid through Single Touch Payroll-enabled software to the Australian Taxation Office.



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Putin’s National Cultural Heritage Fund finally pays wage arrears owed to laid-off workers




Russia’s National Cultural Heritage Fund has paid off its debts to its former employees, who were laid off during the coronavirus lockdown. The fund is responsible for a large-scale construction project aimed at creating four cultural-educational complexes in Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, Kemerovo, and Sevastopol. The idea for the project came from President Vladimir Putin, who’s personally overseeing its development.



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With older poll workers sidelined, young Americans step up



Leo Kamin is just 20 days too young to vote this year, but that was no excuse to sit out the election. He became a poll worker in March and has since helped recruit 30,000 poll workers, many of them high schoolers like himself, through Poll Hero Project.

Even in a good year, the small army of election officials needed each November is hard to rally. Add in a pandemic, which disproportionately affects the older Americans who make up the majority of poll workers, and many feared a crisis.

Yet even if some shortages still remain, the deluge of young people stepping up to take their place has been enormous – and may ripple into a new generation of poll workers civically engaged for years to come.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about my generation: We’re lazier, not connecting to the real world. We’re zombies to social media and our phones and stuff,” Mr. Kamin says. “But this has truly shown me that is just not at all true. There are so many people my age who are just looking for any opportunity to get involved.”

The air was freezing, the sun had yet to rise, and Leo Kamin had just arrived at the church for his 6 a.m. shift – which meant he only had 15 hours to go.

Out came the tents and tables, mercifully arranged around heating lamps in the gusty parking lot. Inside, he and a team of poll workers puzzled together dividers, printers, tables, tablets, computers, and their all-
important voting machines. 

All that was left was the voters. And at Mr. Kamin’s polling station in Denver on March 3, they would soon arrive in hundreds. By the time he left at 9 in the evening, Mr. Kamin had used so much hand sanitizer his skin was beginning to crack.

But among the many ballots he saw cast that day, not one was his own. A high school junior, Mr. Kamin is 17 and just 20 days too young to vote this year. For him, that wasn’t an excuse to sit out the election. Mr. Kamin turned to poll working and first pitched in during the primaries in March. This November he’ll return, and likely send thousands of other young poll workers to voting stations.  

Partly motivated by his experience in March, Mr. Kamin helped found the Poll Hero Project, a nationwide drive to register poll workers for this year’s election. Their initial goal, says Ryan Schwieger, a senior at Princeton University and another co-founder, was to recruit 1,000 poll workers in the first month. They hit that number in a week, and have since added almost 30,000 more – mostly still in high school, and like Mr. Kamin, unable to vote themselves. 

Poll Hero’s work is at the vanguard of a countrywide call to action for young people to help run this year’s election. Even in a good year, the small army of election officials needed each November is hard to rally. Add in a pandemic, which disproportionately affects the older Americans who make up the majority of poll workers, and many feared a crisis. 

Yet even if some shortages still remain, the deluge of young people stepping up to take their place has been enormous – and may ripple into a new generation of poll workers civically engaged for years to come.

“There are a lot of stereotypes about my generation: We’re lazier, not connecting to the real world. We’re zombies to social media and our phones and stuff,” Mr. Kamin says. “But this has truly shown me that is just not at all true. There are so many people my age who are just looking for any opportunity to get involved.”

The heart of democracy

If there ever was a time to get involved in elections, it’s this year, says Quentin Palfrey, chairman of the Voter Protection Corps (VPC).

A national election requires about 115,000 polling places and 900,000 poll workers, he says. But since in a typical season some 60% of poll workers are age 60 or older, the people most likely to work the polls are also those most threatened by COVID-19. 

During the primaries, the pandemic led to mass shortages of poll workers in states like Georgia and Wisconsin – shuttering more than 90% of polling places in some locales. These closures forced tight bottlenecks and hourslong waits to vote. The result, says Andrea Hailey, CEO of Vote.org,
was logistical disenfranchisement of voters who didn’t know where to vote or have the time to wait. 

There is no comprehensive data for American election officials, but research from the VPC and Carnegie Mellon University suggests that 485 counties in eight battleground states are still at a high risk for poll worker shortages. 

While absentee voting and voting by mail are now more available than ever, not everyone has or prefers that option, says Mr. Palfrey. Particularly for long-disenfranchised groups, he says, there’s a certain comfort in casting a ballot in person. 

And to do that, people need poll workers, says Rachael Cobb, chair of political science and legal studies at Suffolk University in Boston.

From answering questions to keeping records to reporting votes, these front-line election workers manage American democracy’s most important day from start to finish.

“The whole health and wellness of our democracy at the end of the day comes down to people filling out their ballots,” says Ms. Hailey. “When you go in person, poll workers are the people who are going to guide that experience.”

Answering the call of duty

A desire to experience that other side of elections brought Bree Baccaglini, a law student at Stanford University, to a four-hour poll worker training in 2018. In that informational monsoon, she learned how to troubleshoot the voting machines, handle ballots, and manage the human error bound to come. 

When she arrived at the polling place weeks later at 6 a.m., she entered one of the most rigorous civic educations of her life. 

“Elections are mammoth national events run by bajillions of individuals,” she says. “We view it as a rarefied process, but it’s really just a lot of normal people showing up to do their jobs.”

Ms. Baccaglini will return to work the polls this November, freshly motivated to play her part during the pandemic. Her sense of purpose – shared by thousands of other young people working the polls this November – hints at a rise in collective spirit among a group often viewed as civically apathetic. 

Of the more than 600,000 poll workers that the nationwide campaign Power the Polls has attracted this year, around 40% are under 35 and 65% are under 50, says Robert Brandon, president and CEO of Fair Elections Center, one of the campaign’s founding organizations.

Each of the many young poll workers interviewed for this story mentioned a desire to protect voting rights and more at-risk Americans who may need to stay at home. 

“Older and more immuno-vulnerable people should definitely not have to bear this burden,” says Ms. Baccaglini. 

The upshot is a new sense of collective engagement among some, brought to light by the pandemic and tense election. To steal a phrase, says Ms. Hailey of Vote.org, many younger Americans are not asking what the election can do for them. They’re asking what they can do for their election. 

Emily Luan, an adjunct professor who lives in Brooklyn, plans to work the polls for the first time this November. She doesn’t feel particularly inspired by the candidates this year, but she wants to be sure that anyone around her who wants to vote can vote. 

Anika Rice, who will work the polls even while working on her Ph.D. in geology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hopes to engage with her community and help protect voting rights. 

Leah Rocketto, an editor at Woman’s Day in New York, is stepping up on Election Day just because she can. She feels privileged to be young, healthy, and employed during the pandemic. Why not use that privilege to help people vote? 

And then there’s Mr. Kamin, who will return to the polling place hoping for better weather this November. 

His first foray into election work let him witness some heartwarming moments: applause for first-time voters, civic excitement from new citizens, the grace of the older poll workers who remind him of his grandmother. He hopes for more such moments in the fall, and another chance to participate in the collective effort of Election Day.

“For people like me especially who cannot vote, it just feels good to make an impact,” he says. “And you’re making an impact on hundreds of people instead of just casting one ballot.”



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Family violence workers burnt out in midst of ‘shadow pandemic’


It turned into a nightmare.

The man treated his partner like a servant, until she was able to escape. The quick-thinking driver of the taxi she jumped into gave her phone numbers for domestic violence services.

Sophie is one of her only lifelines in a new country.

“When it’s dark, the middle of the night, and they don’t have the emotional support, they call us,” she said.

“It’s my duty to do what I can to help them.”

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It’s a duty family violence practitioners are feeling more responsibility for than ever, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing record rates of family violence.

Workers in the sector is feeling more burnt out and stressed, new research has revealed, as they struggle to maintain barriers between their work and lives, with the horrors of the job intruding into their homes.

A report by Monash University’s Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre released on Tuesday, based on a survey of more than 100 Victorian workers, found almost 70 per cent were experiencing burnout and increased stress due to the demands on the sector.

One unidentified worker told researchers the reduced face-to-face contact with clients had increased pressure on employees.

“I think if a client’s not engaging there’s that real concern about what’s happening for them and how long it’s been since a worker has actually sighted them to know how they actually are and if they’re OK,” one employee said.

Monash’s Dr Naomi Pfitzner said staff were working out of their living rooms and bedrooms alone, on personal laptops, talking about highly traumatic and violent situations.

Crime data revealed last month that Victoria was experiencing its highest rates of family violence, with reports of abuse in homes up 6.7 per cent, leading to it being described as the ‘shadow pandemic’.

“Family violence practitioners have worked tirelessly to meet this huge demand on a sector that is the front line of Victoria’s shadow pandemic,” Dr Pfitzner said.

“We need to prioritise the wellbeing of these practitioners. They are providing a vital service to the Victorian community at a time when family violence has never been higher.”

Those surveyed for the report, 80 per cent of whom were women, talked about trying to prevent their own children from being affected by their work.

“When they see me stressed, they know someone might be in danger, so they just get stressed as well,” one worker said.

Another said her daughter had overheard one of her conversations.

“I thought she was in her room… it was really horrible… [I] had to sit there and debrief with her.”

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Some workers said their family and friends were also coming to them for advice, so much so they dubbed it the ‘unofficial caseload’.

“So literally every week I was getting calls from friends and other people saying ‘ how do I support this person experiencing family violence’ I think that was happening to quite a few practitioners and we make a bit of a joke about it about how much are you holding as your unofficial caseload?”

Domestic Violence Victoria, the state’s peak body for family violence services, was working with the state government to provide and expand specialist counselling and support for family violence workers, chief executive Tania Farha said.

“Specialist family violence services for experiencing family violence can be the difference between life and death. Adequate support for the workers providing these services must be prioritised,” Ms Farha said.

The government said the mental health of frontline workers was a priority and funding was at first poured into support and accommodation for survivors.

“When the pandemic hit, we didn’t wait to invest millions into extra support and crisis accommodation so that victim survivors can stay safe in their own homes,” Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams said.

For assistance call Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 or national domestic violence helpline 1800 RESPECT. In case of emergency call 000.

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Family violence workers burnt out in midst of ‘shadow pandemic’


It turned into a nightmare.

The man treated his partner like a servant, until she was able to escape. The quick-thinking driver of the taxi she jumped into gave her phone numbers for domestic violence services.

Sophie is one of her only lifelines in a new country.

“When it’s dark, the middle of the night, and they don’t have the emotional support, they call us,” she said.

“It’s my duty to do what I can to help them.”

Loading

It’s a duty family violence practitioners are feeling more responsibility for than ever, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing record rates of family violence.

Workers in the sector is feeling more burnt out and stressed, new research has revealed, as they struggle to maintain barriers between their work and lives, with the horrors of the job intruding into their homes.

A report by Monash University’s Gender and Family Violence Prevention Centre released on Tuesday, based on a survey of more than 100 Victorian workers, found almost 70 per cent were experiencing burnout and increased stress due to the demands on the sector.

One unidentified worker told researchers the reduced face-to-face contact with clients had increased pressure on employees.

“I think if a client’s not engaging there’s that real concern about what’s happening for them and how long it’s been since a worker has actually sighted them to know how they actually are and if they’re OK,” one employee said.

Monash’s Dr Naomi Pfitzner said staff were working out of their living rooms and bedrooms alone, on personal laptops, talking about highly traumatic and violent situations.

Crime data revealed last month that Victoria was experiencing its highest rates of family violence, with reports of abuse in homes up 6.7 per cent, leading to it being described as the ‘shadow pandemic’.

“Family violence practitioners have worked tirelessly to meet this huge demand on a sector that is the front line of Victoria’s shadow pandemic,” Dr Pfitzner said.

“We need to prioritise the wellbeing of these practitioners. They are providing a vital service to the Victorian community at a time when family violence has never been higher.”

Those surveyed for the report, 80 per cent of whom were women, talked about trying to prevent their own children from being affected by their work.

“When they see me stressed, they know someone might be in danger, so they just get stressed as well,” one worker said.

Another said her daughter had overheard one of her conversations.

“I thought she was in her room… it was really horrible… [I] had to sit there and debrief with her.”

Loading

Some workers said their family and friends were also coming to them for advice, so much so they dubbed it the ‘unofficial caseload’.

“So literally every week I was getting calls from friends and other people saying ‘ how do I support this person experiencing family violence’ I think that was happening to quite a few practitioners and we make a bit of a joke about it about how much are you holding as your unofficial caseload?”

Domestic Violence Victoria, the state’s peak body for family violence services, was working with the state government to provide and expand specialist counselling and support for family violence workers, chief executive Tania Farha said.

“Specialist family violence services for experiencing family violence can be the difference between life and death. Adequate support for the workers providing these services must be prioritised,” Ms Farha said.

The government said the mental health of frontline workers was a priority and funding was at first poured into support and accommodation for survivors.

“When the pandemic hit, we didn’t wait to invest millions into extra support and crisis accommodation so that victim survivors can stay safe in their own homes,” Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams said.

For assistance call Safe Steps on 1800 015 188 or national domestic violence helpline 1800 RESPECT. In case of emergency call 000.

Sign up to our Coronavirus Update newsletter

Get our Coronavirus Update newsletter for the day’s crucial developments and the numbers you need to know. Sign up to The Sydney Morning Herald’s newsletter here and The Age’s here.

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Healthcare workers, high-risk people will get priority for COVID-19 vaccine in New York — governor


According to the five-phase preliminary plan for New York’s vaccine administration program, healthcare workers in patient-care settings, long-term care facility workers, and some long-term care residents would be among the first to receive a vaccine. Image via The New York National Guard / CC BY 2.0

NEW YORK — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday that healthcare workers and high-risk populations, including some long-term care residents, would get priority in his state to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is approved and available.

According to the five-phase preliminary plan for New York’s vaccine administration program, some details of which Mr. Cuomo announced at a news briefing, healthcare workers in patient-care settings, long-term care facility workers, and some long-term care residents would be among the first to receive a vaccine.

In the second phase of vaccine rollout, first responders, school staff, other public-facing frontline workers and people whose health conditions put them at extreme risk would get priority for the vaccine.

In Phase 3, it would be administered to people over 65. All remaining essential workers would receive the vaccine in a fourth phase, and healthy adults and children would receive it in a fifth phase.

Prioritization would also vary by geographic location based on the prevalence of the virus, Mr. Cuomo said.

“This is a larger operational undertaking, I would argue, than anything we have done during COVID to date,” he told reporters.

The program will likely seek to deliver some 40 million doses of a vaccine to state residents, as New York’s population is around 20 million and the vaccines in development may require two doses to be effective, Mr. Cuomo said.

He said the state had sent the drafted plan to the federal government, along with questions on what funding the federal government would provide for the effort.

“States cannot do this on their own,” he said.

A New York state task force will carry out its own review of coronavirus vaccines authorized or approved by the federal government due to concerns of politicization of the approval process, according to Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat who has blasted President Donald J. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think that will give people added surety in the vaccine,” Mr. Cuomo said on Sunday. — Gabriella Borter/Reuters









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Big Tech’s essential workers – POLITICO



MILAN — In the first weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic, people across the world stepped out onto their balconies, opened their windows or stood on their stoops to clap for the health care workers risking their lives during the pandemic.

Another type of “essential worker” received less attention. And yet they played a big role in making our lives in lockdown more comfortable: They delivered pizza, sushi and poké bowls; they took us to the doctor’s office and drove us home when we couldn’t face taking public transport.

For many of these gig workers — delivery people and drivers working with platforms such as Deliveroo, Uber and Glovo — staying at home wasn’t an option. But showing up for work came at a personal cost.

With little or no access to sick pay or social security payments, many had to choose between the possibility of contracting the virus and the reality of having no means to pay their bills. Most had to buy their own protective equipment such as face masks and hand sanitizer. In a recent report, Fairwork — an organization researching best and worst practices in the emerging platform economy — found that most companies did not do enough to protect gig workers from exposure to COVID-19.

We asked riders and drivers in Europe’s major cities about what it was like to work through the pandemic. They all said: “We don’t feel safe.”

Riccardo Mancuso, Italy

“I was afraid — afraid of getting sick, of contracting the virus and passing it on to those around me,” said Riccardo Mancusco, 26, who works as a rider for the food delivery app Deliveroo to help finance his studies in Bologna.

The platforms didn’t provide workers with masks, gloves or hand sanitizer in the first weeks and months of the pandemic, according to Mancusco, who worked throughout the lockdown. “We felt left in jeopardy.”

It wasn’t until the trade union Riders Union Bologna launched a lawsuit against the platform in April, that Deliveroo started sending safety supplies to workers, according to Mancusco, who is a member of the union.

“In June, I received 10 masks, five bottles of hand sanitizer and a package containing about 50 pairs of gloves,” said Mancusco. The supply wasn’t enough to last longer than two weeks, after which he again bought his own. He eventually received a second package “with the same amount of materials” in late September.

In an emailed statement, Deliveroo said it “has distributed and continues to distribute personal protective equipment to riders (masks, sanitizing gel, etc.)” and guaranteed a refund of €25 if riders purchased their own. The company also stressed that it “implemented a ‘contactless’ delivery method” and offers financial assistance to riders if they fall ill: “€30 per day of compensation for hospitalization for up to 30 days”; “€1,500 one-time compensation for intensive care recovery, once discharged from the hospital”; and a “one-off lump sum of €350” if a rider has to self-isolate with coronavirus symptoms.

Not everyone can afford to buy their own masks and sanitizer out of pocket, said Mancusco. Some of his colleagues come from extreme poverty. Many are migrants who have just arrived in Italy and cannot afford to spend their salary on buying a new mask every day.

“They told us, ‘Buy them, and we will reimburse you,’ but I never heard of any rider who actually got anything back,” he said.

“The employers put our health and that of their customers at risk,” he added, pointing out that the platform hasn’t put in place any new policies going into the fall and winter, even as the number of infections is growing across the country and people fear further lockdowns.

Jérémy Wick, France

When France went into lockdown in March, Jérémy Wick, 31, quickly realized that his job was not compatible with health safety.

“We come in contact with too many people,” said Wick, who works as a rider for Deliveroo and Uber Eats. “I deliver 20 orders a day on average. There are elevator buttons, doors and doorbells to touch all the time, the possibility of getting sick is higher.”

Wick came down with a fever, cough and chills in late March and was told by his doctor to self-isolate. At the time, only those with severe respiratory symptoms were tested for coronavirus, but Wick is confident he had a case of COVID-19 — and that he was exposed at work, despite his efforts to follow social-distancing measures.

“I don’t know if I got it from a colleague, a customer or a restaurateur, I just know that neither of the two platforms I work for protected me,” he said. “None of them sent me enough masks, gloves or hands sanitizer. The first package came in May: There were only three [masks].”

He was attracted to the work initially because he thought there would be “freedom” in flexible working hours, but said he became disillusioned when he realized it amounted to what he calls “a hidden form of exploitation.”

Wick said he received €30 a day in compensation during his quarantine from Deliveroo. In an emailed statement, the company said its insurance scheme covering riders in France “amounted to €230 for 24 days.” It added that it offered riders “free remote medical consultations.”

Wick ended up suing both Deliveroo and Uber Eats, arguing for changes to his contract and that they should have done more to ensure his safety. “I don’t want other colleagues to risk their health like what happened to me,” he said.

The experience has made him re-evaluate the value of the “freedom” he thought his job afforded him. “In March, even my girlfriend got sick because of me. I felt guilty, we were afraid of dying. For what? Delivering a pizza?”

Joynal Khan, United Kingdom

Until the coronavirus pandemic hit home in the U.K., Joynal Khan was happy with his choice to become an Uber driver.

Originally from Bangladesh, Khan, 52, came to London 28 years ago and, with his wife, raised five children on a waiter’s salary. He started driving for Uber six years ago, attracted by the flexible hours and the prospect of being his own boss.

The company’s treatment of drivers during the pandemic was a “great disappointment,” he said. “No masks or other protective devices. I emailed Uber complaining about the lack of material, but they didn’t do anything.”

When his calls went unanswered too, he decided to buy his own masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. But because demand was so low between March until August, Khan didn’t work. People weren’t leaving the house, he said. And no customers meant no income.

“Fortunately, I received something from the government, but I was hoping that Uber would also help us with some financial help,” he said. “My family and I struggled a lot to get to the end of the month.”

Uber did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Now things are a little better, said Khan. People are hailing rides again on the app, and he is back behind the wheel. He has received some masks from Uber, he said, but also makes sure to buy his own stash, because the supply is unreliable. He also keeps hand sanitizer in the car for his customers — and to help protect himself from them.

“I’m a little afraid, but can’t help but work,” he said. “I do it for my family.”

Damian, Spain

Damian, 23, came to Madrid eight years ago from North Africa. Last year, he started working for Glovo, a Spanish food-delivery startup founded in Barcelona. The gig helped him finance his training to become an assistant cook — his dream job.

“I earn based on how many runs I do, and even during the months of lockdown I continued to work, I needed that money a lot,” said Damian, who asked to use an alias out of fear of losing his job.

He continued to work throughout the pandemic, even when he developed flu symptoms in mid-April. He is ashamed to talk about it, he said, but felt he had no choice at the time.

“I had a headache, and for a day a little fever. No cough. Maybe it wasn’t COVID, I don’t know, but I couldn’t afford two weeks of unpaid quarantine,” he said. “I would not have been able to pay my rent and other expenses, I would have ended up on the street.”

Glovo didn’t provide its riders with masks, so Damian had to buy his own and ended up using the same mask for several days in a row because he couldn’t afford to wear a new one every day.

None of the other platforms gave their riders protective equipment, and people got sick, said Felipe Corredor, a former rider and trade unionist from Madrid. But Glovo also “cut riders’ payments in half during the worst days of the pandemic,” when people were placing fewer orders, he said.

The effects were devastating for those who relied on those gig economy jobs. “These people are considered self-employed,” Corredor said. “If they don’t work, they don’t get paid, if they don’t get paid they don’t eat.

Glovo faced “initial difficulties” in procuring personal protective equipment because of disruptions to supply chains, Glovo co-founder Sacha Michaud said in an email. The company was eventually able to “provide around 133,000 masks, 71,000 pairs of gloves and 2,500 liters of hand sanitizer gel to our couriers worldwide,” she said. The changes to the compensation structure “were planned prior to COVID-19 and were implemented to address the imbalance that previously existed between short- and long-distance orders,” she added.

Damian said he still finds it hard to talk about those days, because he knows that his behavior put the lives of colleagues, customers and restaurateurs at risk. “If I went back, I wouldn’t do it anymore, but I was really afraid of ending up on the street,” he said. “I don’t have my family here. I don’t have anyone.”

Going into winter and the prospect of rising infections and further lockdowns, Damian says he feels more protected — not because of anything platforms are doing, but because people are better informed about how the virus spreads and how to behave. Still, he said, he knows the nature of his job isn’t compatible with a pandemic.





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Australian workers face ‘pandemic of insecurity’, Chris Bowen says | Australian politics


Chris Bowen says Australia is facing a “pandemic of insecurity”, with employers likely to use job creation during the economic recovery from the coronavirus to recruit workers as casuals and on contracts.

The shadow health minister will use a lecture at the University of New England on Wednesday evening to highlight the negative health impacts of unemployment, long-term shift work, increasing casualisation and occupational insecurity.

Bowen will say research shows workers in insecure jobs face increased stress, anxiety and other mental health challenges, and studies indicate the fear of losing a job is “just as harmful as the actual experience of unemployment”.

Research shows insecure work has “physical implications” as well as creating psychological stress.

“Taken together, 21 studies show a 34% increased risk of heart disease for insecure workers, and these health impacts are most prominent where job insecurity is thrust on people by circumstances beyond their control – in other words, exactly what we have seen this year,” his speech says.

Bowen acknowledges that in the age of the gig economy some workers seek out the flexibility associated with jobs such as driving for Uber, or home delivery services.

But he will say many workers find themselves in these employment arrangements for want of a viable alternative, and “these platforms have stretched the relevance of industrial conditions and protections to breaking point”.

He will say young people are particularly vulnerable to becoming trapped in insecure work or losing their jobs during a downturn. At the peak of the economic shock associated with the pandemic in March and April, almost one in three workers aged 18 to 24 lost their jobs.

Labour force data released in August showed more than 1 million people were unemployed, although the jobless rate fell back down to 6.8% last month with the creation of 111,000 jobs. The pandemic has tipped Australia into its first recession for 30 years.

Despite the improvements in the labour market, Bowen notes the actual rate of employment for young Australians remains under 60%. That is partly a function of the job-shedding in the services sector during the pandemic, he says – “and partly it’s because half of all young workers – and 80% of young workers in those particular industries – are on casual contracts”.

“I’m concerned that as young people gradually return to employment, that figure of casualisation might actually grow even higher, as employers hire young people back,” Bowen’s speech says.

“More and more, when someone enters or re-enters the job market, they get an insecure job. In fact, as the Melbourne Institute has recently highlighted, Australia has one of the highest rates of casualisation in the OECD.

“One in four Australian workers is a casual. Half of those have no guaranteed hours.”

Bowen will cite a survey of Australian rideshare and delivery drivers undertaken by the Transport Workers’ Union which found that three in four drivers wished they were engaged as employees rather than independent contractors.

“When you take into account all of the variable and fixed costs and income, these workers make an average $10.42 an hour,” he says. “In Australia. One of the wealthiest countries in the world. In 2020.

“Not even $100 for more than a full day’s work.”

On current trends, he will say, Australia risks developing a technologically driven underclass. Bowen will note that 38% of Australians who live below the poverty line are actually in work.

He argues it is impossible to stop technological innovation or consumers seeking out the convenience of app-based services – “but we must recognise the real and cancerous impacts of the growing workplace insecurity, and governments must consider how our regulatory system needs to be updated to deal with it”.

“To me, this really comes down to a basic question – what kind of society do we want?”



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