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Facebook office cleaner who led protests at London site fears for his job | Facebook

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Facebook’s facilities management firm has demanded the removal of a union activist leading a campaign against “impossible workloads” imposed on exhausted cleaners at the US tech giant’s London offices.

Emails seen by the Observer show JLL @ Facebook, which manages the social media firm’s London sites, asked Churchill Group, which employs the cleaners, to remove the workers’ elected union rep, Guillermo Camacho, from Facebook’s offices after he helped organise protests against a doubling of cleaning duties in July.

“The number of floors we have to clean has gone up from five to 12 [at Facebook’s offices on Brock Street]. But they haven’t brought in more staff. It’s impossible – I was having to come before my shift and leave late to get it done,” said Camacho. “It’s making us all really stressed and sick. That’s why we had to protest.”

One cleaner claims she suffered internal bleeding, after she was timed cleaning the Brock Street offices by a manager in June. Another cleaner says she has to take painkillers to work after developing excruciating back pain.

Miriam Palencia, 42, who has cleaned Facebook’s Brock Street offices for more three years, said: “A manager threatened me with a sanction if I didn’t clean one-and-a-half floors. He timed how long I took. It was hell. I had a haemorrhage on one of my shifts because of the stress.”

The building’s 22 to 24 cleaners, who earn £10.85 an hour and are represented by the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union (CAIWU), claim they were ordered to clean a washroom, with five toilet cubicles and a shower, in one minute and 30 seconds.

Facebook’s HQ at 10 Brock Street in central London.
Facebook’s HQ at 10 Brock Street in central London. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Camacho, 39, has a seven-year unblemished disciplinary record in the building. Yet the email from JLL @ Facebook requests that “Camacho… be removed from the [Facebook] account” for an alleged “lack of proactiveness in managing the team and maintaining a high cleaning standard”. It was sent on the same day he led protests outside the offices in July.

Churchill Group said it couldn’t comment on individual cases but insisted “any employee relations matters are unrelated to any protest activity or union involvement”. The company said the additional floor space had been added to the account but it had not resulted in increased workload because the cleaners’ tasks had been realigned. “Each task has been timed and undertaken by our own management to ensure they are realistic and achievable; this has been backed up by time-and-motion reviews specifically designed to each site,” said a spokesperson.

Alberto Durango, the union’s general secretary, called on Facebook to take responsibility for the plight of the cleaners in its offices. “It is disgusting that low-paid cleaners are being worked to the point of exhaustion in the building of a fabulously wealthy firm that is making billions of dollars in profit every year,” he said. “Facebook cannot turn a blind eye while its contractors are trying to break the union and intimidate cleaners by forcing out their rep.”

The union raised the cleaners’ concerns with Facebook, which has seen its profits double to $10.39bn, in July and August. But email exchanges seen by the Observer show Facebook’s managers repeatedly referring the union back to Churchill, claiming “we are not the correct organisation to correspond”.

Camacho said: “We worked throughout the pandemic. We kept Facebook’s offices open. But now Facebook is trying to wash their hands of us and say we are nothing to do with them. Facebook is the boss of these companies – it can tell them what to do.”

This week Camacho, who is currently suspended after the removal request, faces a crunch meeting. Minutes from his last meeting with Churchill reveal he will be dismissed if another role cannot be found for him “specifically due to a third-party removal request”.

“I have two young children and a wife to support – as well as my extended family in Bolivia. My kids keep asking me why I’m not at work. I don’t know what to say. I’m worried about losing my job,” he said. “It makes me feel depressed. I won’t be able to pay the rent.”

Facebook said the wellbeing of anyone working in its offices was of the utmost importance and it had ensured all of its contract workers continued to be paid throughout the pandemic. “As a Facebook supplier, JLL must adhere to our strict vendor standards, including ensuring that anyone contracted is paid the London living wage as minimum,” said a Facebook spokesperson.

JLL said: “We pride ourselves on our reputation for integrity and ethics and we hold all our vendors to the same standard in our vendor code of conduct. The health and safety of our people, including those employed by our vendors, is of utmost importance.”

A spokesperson said Churchill Group put employee wellbeing above anything else. It added it had not seen any extended sickness on the contract. “We will not comment on the specifics of individual cases but we are confident with the governance of our HR processes and state that we follow legislation and operate with transparency and integrity throughout the management of every case.”

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Facebook oversight board to review system that exempts elite users | Facebook

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Facebook’s semi-independent oversight board says it will review the company’s “XCheck” system, an internal program that has exempted high-profile users from some or all of its rules.

The decision follows an investigation by the Wall Street Journal that revealed that reviews of posts by well-known users such as celebrities, politicians and journalists are steered into the separate system.

Under the program, some users are “whitelisted”, or not subject to enforcement action, while others are allowed to post material that violates Facebook rules pending content reviews that often do not take place. The Xcheck system, for example, allowed Brazilian footballer Neymar to post nude pictures of a woman who had accused him of rape, according to the report.

Users were identified for additional scrutiny based on criteria such as being “newsworthy”, “influential or popular” or “PR risky”, the Wall Street Journal found. By 2020 there were 5.8 million users on the XCheck list, according to the newspaper.

The oversight board said Tuesday that it expects to have a briefing with Facebook on the system and “will be reporting what we hear from this” as part of a report it will publish in October.

The board may also make other recommendations, although Facebook is not bound to follow these.

The Journal’s report, the board said, has drawn “renewed attention to the seemingly inconsistent way that the company makes decisions, and why greater transparency and independent oversight of Facebook matters so much for users”.

Facebook told the Journal in response to its investigation that the system “was designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding”. The company added that criticism of it was “fair” and that it was working to fix it.

A representative for Facebook declined to comment to the Associated Press on the oversight board’s decision.

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Philippines imposes 12 per cent digital services tax • The Register

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The Philippines has become the latest nation to impose a digital services tax.

Such taxes require the likes of Netflix and Spotify to pay local sales taxes even though their services are delivered – legally, notionally, and physically – from beyond local jurisdiction.

The Philippines has chosen a rate of 12 per cent, mirroring local value added taxes.

“We have now clarified that digital services and the goods and services traded through digital service providers should generally be subject to VAT. This is just a matter of common tax sense,” said Joey Salceda, a member of the Philippines’ House of Representatives and a backer of the change to the nation’s tax code.

Salceda tied the change to post-pandemic economic recovery.

“If brick and mortar establishments, which are the hardest-hit by the pandemic, have to pay VAT, the giants of e-commerce shouldn’t be exempt,” he said.

However, local companies that are already exempt from VAT by virtue of low turnover won’t be caught by the extension of the tax into the virtual realm.

Salceda’s amendments are designed to catch content streamers, but also online software sales – including mobile apps – plus SaaS and hosted software. The Philippines’ News Agency’s report on the amendment’s passage into law even mentions firewalls as subject to VAT.

The Philippines is not alone in introducing a digital services tax to raise more revenue after the COVID-19 pandemic hurt government revenue – Indonesia used the same logic in 2020 .

But the taxes are controversial because they are seen as a unilateral response to the wider issue of multinational companies picking the jurisdictions in which they’ll pay tax – a practice that erodes national tax bases. The G7 group of nations, and the OECD, think that collaborations that shift tax liabilities to nations where goods and services are acquired and consumed are the most appropriate response, and that harmonising global tax laws to make big tech pay up wherever they do business is a better plan than digital services taxes.

The USA has backed that view of digital services taxes, by announcing it will impose tariffson nations that introduce them – but is yet to enact that plan.

Meanwhile, the process of creating a global approach to multinational tax shenanigans is taking years to agree and implement.

But The Philippines wants more cash in its coffers – and to demonstrate that local businesses aren’t being disadvantaged – ASAP. ®

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How to ask your boss for more flexible working

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While returning to the office is now possible for many, some workers might still want the option of flexible working some of the time. Here’s how to broach the subject.

This week marked the beginning of a phased and staggered return to workplaces for many employees in Ireland.

It essentially marked the first official green light for employers to ready their offices and start putting plans in place for their staff’s return.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

However, HR body CIPD Ireland urged employers to be mindful of anxious workers as they face “another round of upheaval” with the return to offices.

So, while employers are finalising plans about how, where and when their teams will work, some employees may be wondering how to go about expressing their preference, worried that it’s not in line with what the company wants.

While there have been plenty of discussions and remote work advocates calling for leaders to be more flexible and recognise that the future of work will be hybrid, the reality for individual employees can feel very different.

While big-picture debates around the right to request remote work are happening, how do you ask for what you want in the here and now, when your boss is determined to have a full return to the office?

Explain your reasons

If remote or flexible working isn’t something your boss is already willing to give you, then you must treat it like a pay rise request.

Explain clearly and concisely the reasons why you want more flexibility, how it will benefit you and make you a more engaged, happier worker.

While family commitments might be an important factor, so too is work-life balance and getting rid of long commutes. And, while there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Covid-19 is still a very real concern, so don’t be afraid to express your reservations about this too.

Make a business case

When you ask for a pay increase, you provide proof of the value you have added to the company. Take the same approach here and explain to your boss how flexible working will actually be beneficial to them.

Some managers who resist remote working might still have an office-based mentality where presenteeism is key. But there are numerous studies that show that knowledge workers are more productive when working remotely.

And, when done as a purposeful business strategy, remote working can help teams prioritise work more clearly as well as allowing for more downtime and work-life balance.

Be realistic

Depending on your manager, your team and the work you do, it may not be feasible to ask to work from home five days a week.

It’s important that you are realistic about asking for what you want and also realistic about what you can deliver in return. Remote workers can be more productive but they can also be in danger of burning out so be thoughtful about what strategy will work best for both you and your manager.

Listen to their perspective

While conversations around remote working appear to be mostly positive, it can be a different situation behind the office doors.

Many managers and leaders are still hesitant about moving to a fully flexible working strategy and this can lead to workers feeling like they are not being listened to.

However, one of the best ways to combat that hesitancy from managers is to listen to their concerns and address them in a problem-solving manner.

Being able to alleviate some of your manager’s worries might make them more amenable to allowing for more flexibility.

Make expectations clear

If you do convince your boss to allow for a more flexible working plan than what they had originally considered, it’s important that both sides understand what is expected.

Without clearly defining the outcomes of the new set-up, misunderstandings can lead to disappointments and feelings of mistrust in the idea of flexible working.

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