Four-day week fans, Uber campaign triumph and Beijing’s worst sandstorm in a decade

Planet Business: Fit for a ‘technoking’

Sandstorm in Beijing: cyclists in the Chinese capital pictured on Monday amid heavy smog. Photograph: Noel Celis / AFP

Sandstorm in Beijing: cyclists in the Chinese capital pictured on Monday amid heavy smog. Photograph: Noel Celis / AFP

 

Image of the week: Dusty city

Despite Tourism Ireland’s best efforts to light up everything green, Beijing and other parts of northern China were busy contending with a force of another shade earlier this week, as heavy winds blew in sand from the Gobi Desert, turning the sky sepia and covering the capital in orange-brown dust. The China Meteorological Administration said the storms were the worst in at least a decade, while more than 400 flights in and out of Beijing were cancelled – a mass grounding that might have garnered bigger international news headlines had much of the rest of the world not come to regard aviation as a more risky novelty than assumed means of interconnectivity. Pollution levels were hazardous, with masked-up residents adding goggles and hair nets to protect themselves.

In numbers: Uber defeat

5

Years since former Uber drivers Yaseen Aslam and Irishman James Farrar were the test claimants in a UK employment tribunal case that successfully argued Uber drivers were not self-employed the way the company claimed. Uber has been contesting their victory until recently.

70,000

UK-based drivers for San Francisco-founded Uber who will now be reclassified as workers, entitling them to better working conditions including holiday pay and the minimum wage, after Uber was last month defeated in the UK supreme court.

40-50%

Extent to which Uber drivers will still be short-changed, according to Farrar and Aslam, based on the company’s plan to apply the minimum wage only after drivers accept a trip request and “after expenses”, not while they are logged on and waiting for requests.

Getting to know: Zach Kirkhorn

Zach Kirkhorn, who also goes by Zachary, is the chief financial officer of electric vehicle maker Tesla. This is what it says on his LinkedIn and it is a role he wisely retains despite the addition this week of a second title, “master of coin” of Tesla. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, meanwhile, has extended his business card to include “technoking” – as in techno-king – with both new titles soberly documented in a regulatory filing sent by Tesla to its good friends at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The “master of coin” title may be a reference to Tesla’s newfound love of Bitcoin, though it also just so happens to have been a prominent position of power in Game of Thrones, last occupied in the television series by Jerome of Robson & Jerome.

The list: Four-day week enthusiasts

With any luck, it will soon be easier to list people who are against the concept of a work culture based on a four-day week. But, while we still can, here are just some of the people who either support the idea or would like to explore it.

1. The Spanish government. Interested companies are expected to be invited to take part in a three-year pilot project, beginning later in 2021.

2. Jacinda Ardern. The New Zealand prime minister last year said she would “really encourage” employers to think about a four-day week, “because it certainly would help tourism all around the country”.

3. Unilever. The consumer goods giant evidently took note and has since started a four-day week test in its New Zealand operation in a bid to “measure performance on output not time”.

4. John McDonnell. The former UK shadow chancellor of the exchequer has been one of the more vocal proponents of the four-day week. This, alas, did not help Labour win the 2019 general election.

5. Four-Day Week Ireland. This coalition campaign group includes trade union Fórsa, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and 4 Day Week Global – a movement dedicated to proving five days of clocking in is outdated and counter-productive.

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