Uber’s New Regulations

Gig economy is a section on the Human Rights and Business Resouce centre that I haven’t previously looked into, although I’ve been meaning to. Through there I found this article on a new ruling for Uber to be recognised as a transport firm. Previously they have been operating as a ‘computer service business.’ Uber have been in the press for a while now, along with food delivery service Deliveroo, as many of their employees are unhappy with the way they are treated by the companies.

This new ruling means that Uber’s employees within the EU are now subject to stricter regulations. This could potentially mean Ubers employees being recognised as just that. Many of Uber’s workforce argue that they should be entitled to the minimum wage along with holiday allowances.

As the ruling judge said “It follows that, as EU law currently stands, it is for the member states to regulate the conditions under which such services are to be provided in conformity with the general rules of the treaty on the functioning of the EU.” I understand that to mean that in this country it will be down to the UK government to work out what this means for Uber’s employees. But this seems like a step in the right direction at least.

Uber themselves have said “This ruling will not change things in most EU countries, where we already operate under transportation law.” Unless the UK government get their act together, I can’t honestly see a lot changing for Uber employees for the time being, but none the less this is a step in the right direction for businesses to take some responsibility for their stakeholders.

Merry Christmas!


The #metoo movement has been gaining momentum for a while now. Mainly an online movement, #metoo has meant women from all over the world sharing their experiences with sexul assault, in order to destigmatise and bring awareness to just how many women have experienced it at some point in their lives. The #metoo movement has a big focus on sexual assualt within the workplace, with men in positions of power using this against women in lower positions. The movement started to make waves after the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein were made public.

The clip above, which is from the BBC show Business matters is a brief interview with journalist Shiori Ito, the first woman in Japan to publically accuse a high profile journalist of sexual misconduct. Ito was lead to believe that she would be given career progressing opportunities by meeting with the famous journalist, but instead he raped her. A huge issue with sexual misconduct, especially in a work based relationship is that many people would be afraid to speak out against what happened to them, through fear that they would never be able to find work again after doing so. This is a big reason why the #metoo movement has been so successful, as it has shown solidarity between women to not put up with this kind of abuse day in day out.

Although I can pick flaws in the movement, the tidal wave of discussion it has caused is so important and long overdue. Even in a developed western society I can still expect unwanted advances from male collegues and feel like I can’t report it as it will make working with that person uncomfortable, or I could lose my job. I admire the bravery of every woman who has come forward but especially Shiori Ito, as initially coming out with the accusation must have made her feel incredibly isolated in her own country. It’s great that as a result of speaking up, Japan are now ammending their rape laws after 110 years.

It’s up to businesses to start taking sexual abuse allegations seriously, and set up a better way for people to be able to report it. In a past job of mine, there was a manager who was well known to make his female collegues incredibly uncomfortable. When I questioned why over the years, no one has formally reported him, I was told that the process would be too traumatic. This company that I worked for had a policy that if you reported another member of staff for something, you would then be made to have a meeting with this collegue, mediated by a manager to discuss your issues between you. The worst part about the whole situation was that the other managers knew how innapropriate this member of staff could be and they did nothing about it.

As businesses will have no legal obligation to improve things, the government will need to step in and introduce tighter laws. In the mean time, movements like #metoo may be enough to pressure companies to take sexual abuse more seriously. Ethical consumerism is on the rise and if a company has a bad reputation for an issue such as this, it may be bad for sales. As long as we keep up this discussion, change might really happen.

Holding Corporations Accountable for Human Rights Violations

This week I discovered an excellent human rights podcast from the University of Oxford called ‘Rights Up.’ I was extremely pleased to find a podcast entitled ‘A No-Man’s Land of Justice – Holding Corporations Accountable for Human Rights.’ You can listen to the podcast here.

The podcast interviewed Professor Boni Meyersfeld, who has written about the links between international law and domestic violence but has a strong interest in the idea of corporations being held responsible for human rights violations.

In class, we have been reminded countless times that in terms of international law, only states can be held responsible for human rights violations, but Professor Meyersfeld points out the reasons why businesses themselves should be held accountable for these infringements.

Professor Meyersfeld notes that a lot of people argue that companies do not make human rights abuses, individuals within the company do so. However, in other parts of the law such as tax avoidance, the company as a whole is held responsible, rather than the individuals within it, why should human rights abuses be considered any differently?

She then went on to discuss globalisation and the subsequent governance gaps between host and home states, something which we have been studying closely in class. As a result of globalisation, there is more of a need for a standardised international law.

Something she spoke about which sparked my interest was how closely linked corporations are to the state and the amount of influence and power some corporations have, even within politics. She used the example of America invading Iraq, and how Dick Cheney’s oil company directly profited from this political decision. This feels all too familiar, what with the current leader of the free world, Donald Trump, perhaps having a conflict of interests when it comes to business and political ideals. Where do we draw the line in terms of what a business does, and what the state does? Professor Meyersfeld also talks about continued colonisation in developing states. Even though states may have decolonised, corporations remain and exploitation still occurs structurally.

Linking nicely to my post from last week about gender inequality as a result of extractive forms of industry, Prof Meyersfeld then went on to speak about the roles of corporations and certain violations committed against women.

Something she mentioned which I wasn’t aware of was how in certain communities in developing countries, after mining companies move into these areas, women who previously had no issues, suddenly have massive problems with their reproductive health. She notes how we have to draw a link between these issues and the mining companies, whether it’s down to air pollution, water contamination or even just long and tiring distances walked by women just to get hold of food and water.

Prof Meyersfeld then shared what she believes to be one of the best remedies to these human rights issues, and amongst others, she believes impoverished states should unify to create standardised, stronger laws, so that they do not compete for the economic input of large corporations, and therefore reduce their own standards of law.

Something that Prof Meyersfeld mentioned right at the end that we have not talked about in class is the U.S Alien Tort Statute which reads;

“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”

This piece of legislation has been used as a way for foreign nationals to bring claims into the U.S courts for human rights violations committed within host states. So far, these cases have never been successfull apart from through settlement, but this piece of legislation certainly brings attention to a need for an international legal system.


Land Intensive Corporate Activity: The Impact On Women’s Rights

Due to the current sociological climate, and all the discussions surrounding women’s rights that is currently so prevalent within the media, this week I wanted to focus on the impact of businesses upon the rights of women.

Now before I start, I know that sounds like a loose connection, what do businesses have to do with women’s rights? I didn’t really know either, apart from perhaps sexual assault within the workplace. That is until I came across this report from CORE and Womankind.

The report is based off a study conducted by graduate students of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Essex and is an eye-opening read.

The report notes how 70-80% of the world’s small-scale farmers are women, however, these women often have very little control over their land or over business decisions. Their work is ‘often undervalued and unrecognised.’

Another section of the report that caught my eye talked about sugarcane plantation workers in Uganda who would beat women passing by, who are simply just trying to search for food and water.

We have discussed in class that extractive forms of industry are some of the most damaging in terms of human rights, however, the report notes how in Kigyayo, the implementation of oil companies in this area has meant girls have been taken out of school. As the destructive quality of oil mining has meant school closures, children are being forced to travel further in order to receive an education. Many parents are taking their girls out of school, as the long journey puts the child more at risk of harassment and violence. Surely big businesses should be penalised for this destruction? Surely both host and domestic states of these businesses should be held accountable?

One of the main points I took away from this report is that because gender discrimination is so normalised within everyday life, it is extremely difficult to remedy issues caused by gendered inequality. Not just within businesses themselves, but also in terms of policymakers and political leaders. If there are few women within powerful positions, how are we to communicate these issues to figureheads who can implement change, when these gender disparities are so deeply ingrained into everyday life that they become unnoticeable?

The report notes that big businesses are breaking Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (The availability of food, water, clothing, medical aid and living conditions.) Because the rights of a voiceless group of people are being infringed, it is extremely easy to ignore.

The report gives an extensive list of recommendations on how to remedy this topic, including: ‘States should ratify and implement all existing regional and international human rights instruments’ and ‘States should adopt mandatory human rights due diligence legislation and develop gender-responsive human rights-based guidelines for corporations on how to conduct their operations.’ Although these recommendations are promising, they are just pure discussion at this point, with no sign of these issues actually being taken seriously by figureheads.

This is by far one of the most thought-provoking topics I have explored so far, it has really shown me how subtle and nuanced some human rights and business issues can be. It has also made me think about just how important the current wave of feminist uprising we are experiencing is, in terms of making gendered human rights progression.