Wed, Mar 25, 2015 - Page 7 News List

UN women’s agency backs out of Uber partnership after trade union backlash


The UN’s women’s agency has backed out of a partnership with ride-sharing company Uber, which had pledged to create jobs for 1 million women drivers by 2020, after a protest by trade unions and civil society groups.

International Transport Workers’ Federation vice president Brigitta Paas said the unions and NGOs immediately rejected Uber’s “idea of a million jobs that we knew were likely to be insecure, ill-paid and potentially unsafe.”

They launched an immediate online campaign against the collaboration.

“We informed UN Women that although Uber says it operates in 55 countries around the world, almost 40 percent of national or local governments in those countries have said ‘no’ to the company one way or another,” Paas said in a statement on Friday last week.

UN Women and Uber announced the partnership on March 10 during a two-week meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women to assess progress toward equality for women 20 years after a landmark UN women’s conference in Beijing.

In a joint message, UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick said they were “launching a partnership to work together around the world toward a shared vision of equality and women’s empowerment.”

However, just three days later, on March 13, Mlambo-Ngcuka announced at one of the commission’s side events: “Not only are we listening, we are aligned. And I want to assure you that UN Women will not accept an offer to collaborate on job creation with Uber — so you can rest assured about that.”

The audience burst into applause and the coalition of unions and NGOs claimed credit for UN Women pulling out.

UN officials said there were also protests from some governments about the Uber collaboration.

In a highly publicized case in early December last year, a 25-year-old passenger in India said she was raped by an Uber driver. Earlier this month, Uber introduced new safety features for riders in India, include a “panic button” on its app that would let riders notify police in an emergency, and a “safety net” that would let riders share trip details with others.

UN Women said in a statement on Monday that it was “grateful” to Uber for sponsoring its event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Beijing platform for action to achieve gender equality.

“Beyond this event, we have not discussed opportunities to engage with Uber, including in the context of their commitment to create 1 million jobs for women in the next five years,” UN Women said. “At this point, we do not plan to expand the collaboration.”

Uber said in a statement that it was proud to sponsor the UN Women event and reiterated its “ambitious goal” of creating 1 million jobs for women drivers in the next five years.

“Uber will be seeking advice from UN Women and groups around the world on the best way to achieve the important goal of economic equality and opportunity for women,” the statement said.

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