Google to end forced arbitration for all worker disputes

Google said Thursday it will no longer require that its workers settle disputes with the company through arbitration, responding to months of pressure from employees. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
Updated 22 February 2019
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Google to end forced arbitration for all worker disputes

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Google said Thursday it will no longer require that its workers settle disputes with the company through arbitration, responding to months of pressure from employees.
The change will take effect March 21 and will apply to current and future employees. Employees that have settled past disputes won’t be able to re-open their cases.
Google said last year it would end forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault cases, and Thursday expanded that practice to all worker disputes. Google’s parent company, Mountain View, California-based Alphabet Inc., has its nearly 100,000 employees.
The updated practices only apply to Google employees, and employees of Google projects such as Deep Mind and Access. Other Alphabet subsidiaries, such as Waymo, are not included.
Mandatory arbitration requires employees to settle their disputes with the company privately and outside of court. The practice, widespread in US employment contracts, can lend itself to secrecy and has faced criticism recently.
Google workers who staged a walk out late last year have continued to press the tech giant to drop forced arbitration requirements. Protest organizers commended Google for Thursday’s announcement, but wrote in a Medium post that they would not officially celebrate until the changes went live in employee agreements.
Google won’t make all employees re-sign their work contracts, it said, but will post the policy change internally and update its contracts for new employees.
The company also said it would extend the change to its agreements with contract workers. But it will not require vendors to change their own contracts, meaning some workers could still be held to the previous standard.
Other tech companies including Facebook, Uber and Microsoft have recently ended forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment claims.
Google Walkout organizers who are focused on forced arbitration issues said they would continue working on ending the practice at other companies. Members of the group plan to meet with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., next week to advocate for a federal law against forced arbitration.


UK inflation rises in April by less than Bank of England expected

Updated 22 May 2019
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UK inflation rises in April by less than Bank of England expected

  • Consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 2.1 percent in April after a 1.9 percent increase in March
  • Electricity and gas prices were the biggest driver of inflation last month

LONDON: British inflation rose last month by less than the Bank of England and investors had expected, but still hit its highest level this year, pushed up by a rise in energy bills.
Consumer prices rose at an annual rate of 2.1 percent in April after a 1.9 percent increase in March, the Office for National Statistics said on Wednesday. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a rate of 2.2 percent, the same as the BoE’s forecast.
Sterling and government bonds were little changed by the data as core inflation, which excludes energy and food prices, held steady at 1.8 percent for the third month in a row.
“In principle, this is another reason to think the Bank of England will keep rates on hold for the foreseeable future,” ING economist James Smith said.
But he added that a strong labor market meant an interest rate hike in November could not be ruled out.
A recent weakening of inflation, combined with the lowest unemployment rate in 44 years and rising wages, has taken the edge off the uncertainty about Brexit for many households whose spending drives Britain’s economy.
But Britain’s energy regulator raised a price cap on energy providers by 10 percent with effect from April, and all big six suppliers raised their standard prices by the same amount, which the BoE said would push inflation above target briefly.
Electricity and gas prices were the biggest driver of inflation last month, the ONS said.
Computer game and package holiday prices helped to offset the impact of the higher bills.
The ONS figures also suggested less short-term pressure in the pipeline for consumer prices than expected.
Manufacturers’ costs for raw materials — many of them imported — were 3.8 percent higher than in April 2018, much less than the 4.5 percent rise predicted by the Reuters poll.
The ONS said house prices in March rose by an annual 1.4 percent across the United Kingdom as a whole compared with 1.0 percent in February, marking the first increase in house price inflation since September.
Prices in London alone fell by 1.9 percent, a smaller drop than in February.
The ONS also revised down its estimate for Britain’s budget deficit in the last 2018/19 financial year that ended in March.
The headline measure of public sector net borrowing amounted to £23.5 billion ($29.8 billion) that year or 1.1 percent of gross domestic product, compared with the previous estimate of £24.7 billion or 1.2 percent of GDP.
In April, the first year of the 2019/20 financial year, the deficit stood at £5.8 billion, as expected by economists.