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New Zealand Uber drivers launch class action against ride share company | Uber

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New Zealand Uber drivers are taking the global ride-share company to court, in the hopes of being legally determined as employees instead of contractors.

It is the latest in a string of cases taken against the company and other ride-share apps, and the second such case in New Zealand.

Two unions, First Union and E Tu, will take the class action to the Employment Court on behalf of more than 20 drivers. They hope to override a legal precedent set in the court last year, which ruled a driver was not an employee.

An Uber driver’s rate is set by Uber, but First Union’s Anita Rosentreter said the judge in last year’s decision concluded that the driver had control over their wages because they could, in theory, be paid less, or could improve the profitability of their business through adopting cheaper business costs – such as a phone plan.

“I find it unfathomable that someone thinks that is a compelling argument,” said Rosentreter.

The Employment Relations Act 2000 requires that the intention of the parties, and how an employment relationship acts in practice, must be considered. Merely stating in a contract that a person is a contractor does not mean it will automatically pass the legal test.

Rosentreter said Uber ultimately has control over how its business is carried out and how much drivers are paid for each ride. She said the drivers are out there representing Uber’s brand, not their own, meaning they should be deemed as employees, despite signing on as independent contractors.

“The court has to look at the reality of the way drivers are working and the relationship they have with the company and decide if that looks more like an employment relationship than the relationship of a contractor or a client,” Rosentreter said.

The legal challenge is part of a two-pronged attempt to seek better conditions and security for Uber and food-delivery drivers.

The unions delivered a report titled Gig Work in Aotearoa to the minister for workplace relations and safety, Michael Wood, at Parliament on Wednesday, outlining legal grey areas for gig-workers in employment law, their lack of employment security, and worrying trends in their rates of pay.

As self-employed contractors, the drivers are being deprived of their minimum employment entitlements, including the minimum wage, holiday pay, sick leave and legal recourse for unjustified dismissals, the report said.

Fifty-three percent of the respondents said they earned less than the minimum hourly wage after expenses.

“We have an opportunity in Aotearoa to get ahead of the worst excesses of the gig economy and learn from ample overseas evidence that employment laws need to be fit for purpose, not prone to exploitation by companies like Uber,” Rosentreter said.

A spokesperson for Uber New Zealand said in a statement that Uber is “focused on continuing to look at how we can improve the quality of on-demand work, while retaining the two key things that make it unique compared to traditional forms of work – low barriers to earning income, and the flexibility to work when you want, where you want, for as long as you want, and you can stop at any time.”

It said last year’s Employment Court ruling was consistent with multiple rulings in Australia and overseas.

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Scam-baiting YouTube channel Tech Support Scams taken offline by tech support scam • The Register

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The Tech Support Scams YouTube channel has been erased from existence in a blaze of irony as host and creator Jim Browning fell victim to a tech support scam that convinced him to secure his account – by deleting it.

“So to prove that anyone can be scammed,” Browning announced via Twitter following the attack, “I was convinced to delete my YouTube channel because I was convinced I was talking [to YouTube] support. I never lost control of the channel, but the sneaky s**t managed to get me to delete the channel. Hope to recover soon.”

To fool Browning, the ruse must have been convincing: “I track down the people who scam others on the Internet,” he writes on his Patreon page. “This is usually those ‘tech support’ call frauds using phone calls or pop-ups. I explain what I do by guiding others in how to recognise a scam and, more importantly, how to turn the tables on scammers by tracking them down.”

Browning has made a name for himself with self-described “scam baiting” videos, in which he sets up honeypot systems and pretends to fall for scams in which supposed support staffers need remote access to fix a problem or remove a virus – in reality scouring the hard drive for sensitive files or planting malware of their own.

“I am hoping that YouTube Support can recover the situation by 29th July,” Browning wrote in a Patreon update, “and I can get the channel back, but they’ve not promised anything as yet. I just hope it is recoverable.”

Whether Browning is able to recover the account, and the 3.28 million subscribers he had gathered over his career as a scam-baiter, he’s hoping to turn his misfortune into another lesson. “I will make a video on how all of this went down,” he pledged, “but suffice to say, it was pretty convincing until the very end.”

Tech support scams have been going on for about as long as people have needed technical support, but a report published by Microsoft last month suggested the volume may be declining. The same report found that the 18-37 age group was the most likely to fall victim – and that 10 per cent of those surveyed had lost money to a scammer.

YouTube was approached for an explanation of how deleted accounts could be restored and what precautions it has in place to prevent its users – even those with considerable experience in the field of con-artistry – from falling victim to tech support scams, but was unable to provide comment in time for publication.

Browning did not respond to a request for comment. ®



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Orion the humpback whale ‘a dream sighting’ for marine observers

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A member of the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group spotted the humpback whale while out conducting a survey on marine life off the Donegal coast.

Marine mammal observer Dr Justin Judge described the moment he spotted a lone humpback whale off the coast of Donegal as “a dream sighting.”

Judge spotted the whale at 9.30 on the morning of 9 July while representing the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) on board the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer.

The group of researchers and observers was out on the waters around 60 kilometres north-northwest of Malin Head when they saw the whale. They were carrying out the annual Western European Shelf Pelagic Acoustic (WESPAS) survey.

“This is a dream sighting for a marine mammal observer,” Judge said. He explained that the creature would be nicknamed Orion – which had a personal meaning for Judge and his family.

“The individual humpback whale ‘Orion’ has been named after the Greek mythological hunter, since the whale was moving with the fish stocks for food. It is also my son’s middle name so fitting on both fronts,” Judge said.

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He added that the team had also observed “a lot of feeding action from a multitude of cetacean species that day, including bottlenose, common, Risso’s and white-sided dolphins, grey seals and minke whales.”

To date, the IWDG has documented 112 individual humpback whales in Irish waters since 1999, many of which are recorded year after year. Humpback whales are frequent visitors to Irish waters as they are an ideal feeding area for humpback whales stopping off in the area on their migration across the Atlantic.

The beasts are identifiable thanks to the distinctive pattern on the underside, which is unique to every individual whale.

“Observing any apex predator in its natural environment is exciting but a new humpback whale for Irish waters, this is special,” WESPAS survey scientist, Ciaran O’Donnell of the Marine Institute said.

The Marine Institute’s WESPAS survey is carried out annually, and surveys shelf seas from France northwards to Scotland, and west of Ireland. WESPAS is the largest single vessel survey of its kind in the Northeast Atlantic, covering upwards of 60,000 nautical miles every summer. The survey is funded through the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund under the Data Collection Programme which is run by the Marine Institute.

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Tesla second-quarter profits top $1bn even as it struggles to handle demand | Tesla

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Tesla made a profit of more than $1bn in the last three months even as it struggled to keep up with demand for electric cars in the face of a global chip shortage.

The company announced Monday that it has made a profit of $1.14bn in its second quarter, 10 times what it made a year ago and its eighth quarter of back-to-back profits.

Tesla has already reported deliveries of 201,250 electric vehicles, and production of 206,421 total vehicles, during the quarter ending 30 June.

Car manufacturers across the world have struggled to keep up with demand amid a shortfall of semiconductors.

“Our biggest challenge is supply chain, especially microcontroller chips. Never seen anything like it,” said Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, in June. “Fear of running out is causing every company to over-order – like the toilet-paper shortage, but at epic scale.”

The company has pivoted to using other suppliers and the shortage has not dampened enthusiasm for its vehicles, especially Tesla’s Model Y compact sport-utility vehicle, the most popular all-electric vehicle in the US.

“Public sentiment and support for electric vehicles seems to be at a never-before-seen inflection point,” the company said in a statement.

The company’s shares rose more than 2% in after hours trading.

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