Labour bites

Defending the right of workers to express religious beliefs

In the wake of Israel Folau’s sacking by Rugby Australia, Darren Greenfield, State Secretary of the NSW Branch of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) said “I’ve got a personal view on it. We haven’t discussed it internally [in the union] but “I don’t think you should be sacked for putting your point of view across. That’s his point of view.”

Former senior ACTU official Tim Lyons said employers should not police the private views of workers. “I find what Folau said pretty repugnant, but there is an important principle here about employers regulating private conduct which I could easily see being used against union activists,” he said.

“I think the only circumstances under which it would be appropriate is if what was said gave rise to a genuine health, safety and wellbeing issue for other employees.”

Josh Bornstein, national head of employment law at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, said while he “thoroughly disagreed” with Folau’s views which “are repugnant to most people”, he had a right to them and to his religious affiliation.

“My concern is that employers are using employment contracts to extend the reach of their control over their employees well beyond the workplace in ways that undermine human rights, democratic rights, political debate and in Israel Folau’s case, undermine religious affiliation,” he said. (Source: SMH)

Contractor v employee the Google way

Google works hard to keep the 121,000 contractors it employs separate from its permanent employees. Even so, it’s still risking a major labor lawsuit in Google’s home state of California.

Google employs about 102,000 full time employees worldwide compared with its 121,000 contractors, according to a recent New York Times report. These workers are typically employed through a temp service or outsourcing company, meaning that Google does not employ them directly.

But the ‘contractors’ are fighting back and according to several employment lawyers, the search giant is still at risk of a huge lawsuit in which the contractors could claim they should properly have been classified as employees, at least within California.

In a watershed case last year, the California Supreme Court laid out a three-pronged ‘ABC’ test for determining whether someone working as a contractor is actually an employee instead. In this test, to be legally classified as a contractor, a worker must be outside the employer’s control, perform work that is outside of the employer’s usual business, and have a business or profession where that worker performs similar tasks for other clients. For the worker to legally be defined as a contractor, all three must be true, and the burden of proof rests with the company.

Whether Google could meet the outside usual business prong of the ABC test seems unclear. But since contractors make up well over half of Google’s workforce, it could be tough to sell a judge on the idea that all these people are doing work outside of Google’s usual activities. From the outside, it also looks unlikely that Google could pass the part of the ABC test that requires contractors to have a separate business of their own with other clients for whom they do similar work. (Source: Inc)

Trade union MPs

A majority of the MPs elected to the Finnish Parliament on April 14 belong to a union. Rank and file union members are once again well represented among the 200 seats. The previous parliament boasted 120 union members.

Not all unions reveal which of the politicians are their members. Usually the unions offer their members the possibility to present themselves in the union media, but not all union members avail of this opportunity.

There is no ‘trade union part’ in Finland and union members come from the whole political spectrum, However, many of the leftist MPs have been active in their unions.

Twenty-one were won by members of the trade union for the Public and Welfare Sectors meaning that one in 10 MPs are members of that union. The Union of Health and Social Care Professionals claim 10 members, the Trade Union of Education in Finland may have as many as 30 but the Union does not list how many MPs are members.

Other unions represented include the Industrial Union, Trade Union Pro, Service Union United, Social Science Professionals and the Association of Finnish Lawyers. The six medical doctors, two priests and several journalists elected to Parliament are probably members of their own unions, as union density within these sectors tends to be very high. (Source: Trade Union News Finland)