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Here are the latest posts, from the week of 11 September 2019.
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▤  Gig economy workers find creative ways to turn apps against their bosses

A hopeful story about organising in the so-called gig economy from Jack Shenker’s Now We Have Your Attention: “organised resistance by digitally outsourced workers has erupted repeatedly on the streets of major cities in recent years, usually beginning in the back alley spots where delivery riders are encouraged by their apps to congregate and then fanning out rapidly through WhatsApp networks, word of mouth and some technological trickery. In 2016, for example, an announcement by Deliveroo that it would soon be unilaterally altering its rider payment structure prompted a six-day ‘strike’ in which riders acted en masse to make themselves unavailable for orders. Colleagues from Deliveroo’s rivals, Uber Eats, swiftly followed suit, and began taking advantage of a promotional offer within the app that granted new customers £5 off their first order. By repeatedly creating new accounts and ordering low-value meals to be delivered to the picket line, the strikers amassed both a mountain of free food at Uber’s expense and a steady stream of fellow riders, who would turn up with the order only to be met by a sea of radicalised peers cheering their arrival and chanting ‘Log out, log out!’” (There is a long excerpt from the book in The Guardian.)

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▤  Potato-headed potentate gets his kicks from crushing opponents: Mungo

Mungo McCallum: “The Greens reckon that Peter Dutton is a sadist — that he positively enjoys inflicting cruelty on his defenceless victims. But this is probably unfair to the potato-headed potentate. Dutton is certainly heartless, but his cruelty, while undoubtedly real, is more of an inevitable consequence of his demeanour than a deliberate agenda. What the Home Affairs minister really enjoys is power — what George Orwell once described as the image of a boot stamping down on a human face. He exults in trampling his opponents, leaving them defeated and demoralised. He gets his kicks not so much from tormenting them, but from crushing them into impotent misery. Thus the brutality of his treatment of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers from Biloela is almost incidental. What matters is his demonstration of supremacy — his ability to override all the normal standards of decent behaviour just because he can.”

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▤  FWC member continues partisan commentary while deciding key cases

Fair Work Commission deputy president Gerard Boyce is under fire for partisan social media comments about the Labor Party and the trade union movement. He was one of six members with employer backgrounds appointed to fill a single vacancy [$] when the polls showed the Coalition was unlikely to win the next election. Boyce has a long career representing militant bosses; when he worked for the mining industry he complained that WorkChoices didn’t go far enough. He is now deciding whether it is legitimate for BHP to set up a subsidiary company, create a new EBA with 16 employees — with a margin of just one vote — that would cut wages by up to 40% and strip hard-won working conditions, and then transfer hundreds of employees into the new company. It is unlikely there will be any consequences: former Peter Reith staffer and now FWC senior deputy president Jonathan Hamberger cleared himself of bias for retweeting Michaelia Cash’s anti-union propaganda while continuing to hear cases involving the same union.

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▤  Fair Work upholds sacking because it doesn’t get the joke

A worker was sacked by BP after sharing a Downfall parody meme about the state of enterprise bargaining with his colleagues. The sacking was upheld by Fair Work Commission deputy president Melanie Binet — a Michaelia Cash appointee and former Freehills colleague, who earlier this year had a decision overturned due to “lack of empathy towards an employee who missed a deadline, because his two-month old son had been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening heart condition”. Binet compared the Downfall meme to other cases where workers had shouted that their managers were Nazis, and ruled that “when viewed in context … a reasonable person would consider the Hitler video inappropriate and offensive”. The AWU is now considering an appeal, because “anyone with a smartphone and a sense of humour can tell you, Hitler Downfall parody videos are not about comparing anyone to actual Nazis.” Indeed — I am not comparing Deputy President Binet to actual Nazis in this Downfall parody meme about her terrible Downfall parody meme decision.

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▤  Extinction Rebellion seeks ‘extraordinary emergency’ climate change ruling

Four Extinction Rebellion protestors charged with disrupting Brisbane traffic will try to set a new legal precedent; Emma Dorge explained: “I’m pleading not guilty on the basis of the extraordinary emergency defence… We’re in the midst of a crisis and that’s the climate crisis, we believe we’ve essentially been forced to break the law to avert a far more catastrophic outcome.” The Queensland benchbook (a guide for judges on how to instruct a jury) sets out the test: “a person in an emergency cannot always weigh up and deliberate about what action is best to take. [They] must act quickly and do the best he can. If you consider that an ordinary person with ordinary powers of self control could not reasonably have been expected to act differently, or if the prosecution has not satisfied you beyond reasonable doubt of the contrary, you must acquit.” That hurdle will be tough to clear. But before even reaching that point, the court must be satisfied that the accused was acting “under the stress of an extraordinary emergency” — and if the protestors can get a ruling that climate change is legally recognised as an extraordinary emergency, that will be significant regardless of the final outcome of the case.

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