(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 30th June 2022) London, Uk – –
Letter from 13 major firms to government says ‘unhelpful’ move to repeal decades-long ban will only further inflame strikes
Britain’s biggest recruitment and staffing companies have written to the government to protest against plans to replace striking workers with agency staff, warning that this would further inflame strikes.
In a letter to Kwasi Kwarteng, the bosses of 13 companies including Hays, Adecco, Randstad and Manpower called on the business secretary to reconsider plans to repeal a decades-long ban on using agency workers to cover for picketing staff.
“We can only see these proposals inflaming strikes – not ending them,” the 13 groups warned in their letter, which was sent by Sarah Thewlis, chair of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).
The firms said they felt “compelled” to write to the business secretary as the leaders of the largest staffing businesses in the UK to express their “concern” at how the government was moving ahead with the proposals, which they described as “unhelpful”.
Faced with strikes by thousands of rail workers and staff in other industries over pay offers well below the 9.1% inflation rate at a time of soaring living costs, the government this week put forward draft legislation.
It would remove the restriction under regulation 7 of the 2003 conduct regulations “preventing employment businesses from introducing or supplying agency workers to hirers to replace individuals taking part in official strike or official industrial action”.
The staffing agencies said in the letter: “We strongly believe it has the potential to cost our businesses – as we will be held responsible for sending strike breakers across a picket line and putting our workers in harm’s way. It will not matter if our individual businesses choose not to supply – the industry will be called into disrepute.”
The companies noted that the industry contributed nearly £40bn to the UK economy every year, and was keen to support future growth.
The REC said it had not yet received a response from Kwarteng.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The business secretary makes no apology for taking action so that essential services, such as train lines, are run as effectively as possible, ensuring the British public don’t have to pay the price for disproportionate strike action.
“Allowing businesses to supply skilled agency workers to plug staffing gaps does not mandate employment businesses to do this. Rather, this legislation gives employers more freedom to find trained staff in the face of strike action if they choose to.”
The government argues that the ability of a business to use agency workers does not stop an individual’s ability to strike; and that agency workers are under no obligation to accept a role replacing staff during strikes.
By Julia Kollew
Grayscale Investments has sued the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) barely an hour after the regulatory agency rejected its application to convert its flagship Grayscale Bitcoin Trust product to an exchange-traded fund (ETF).
The SEC rejected Grayscale's application earlier Wednesday, citing concerns about market manipulation, the role of Tether in the broader bitcoin ecosystem and the lack of a surveillance-sharing agreement between a “regulated market of significant size” and a regulated exchange, echoing concerns the regulator has expressed for years in rejecting other spot bitcoin ETF applications.
Grayscale is a subsidiary of CoinDesk parent company Digital Currency Group.
In the filing, Grayscale simply asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review the SEC's order.
The investment firm announced it was prepared to sue the SEC in the event of a rejection earlier in 2022, saying it would file a proceeding tied to the Administrative Procedures Act. To that end, Grayscale tapped former Solicitor General Don Verrilli, who has experience in APA proceedings.
“Grayscale supports and believes in the SEC’s mandate to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets and facilitate capital formation – and we are deeply disappointed by and vehemently disagree with the SEC's decision to continue to deny spot Bitcoin ETFs from coming to the U.S. market,” Grayscale CEO Michael Sonnenshein said in a statement Wednesday.
Essentially, the company will argue that the SEC has to allow products that are like other products already trading, in this case bitcoin futures ETFs.
Verrilli told reporters earlier in June that the SEC's approval of futures ETFs indicate the underlying market must be seen as reliable.
“This is a place where common sense has a really important role to play. You've got a situation now in which you have certain kinds of exchange traded funds, one that is focused on bitcoin futures, and the SEC has approved that, the SEC is given it the seal of approval,” he said. “In order to do so it had to make a determination that that giving this approval was consistent with the securities laws, and in particular, that that there wasn't a sufficient underlying risk of fraud and manipulation.”
To date, only a handful of bitcoin futures ETFs have been approved to trade. Spot bitcoin ETFs trade based on the price of bitcoin itself, while futures-based ETFs trade based on the price of CME's bitcoin futures product (which in turn is tied to an index). Bitcoin ETF proponents argue that the futures markets are still based on the underlying spot bitcoin price, while the SEC notes that CME's futures market is regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a fellow federal agency.
By Nikhilesh De
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 29th June 2022) London, Uk – –
Walgreens Boots Alliance confirms Sky News’ exclusive report that it is abandoning an auction of the UK’s leading high street pharmacist amid torrid financing conditions.
Boots the chemist
The owner of Boots the Chemist has abandoned the sale of Britain’s biggest high street pharmacy chain amid torrid conditions in global debt-financing markets.
Walgreens Boots Alliance confirmed on Tuesday afternoon a Sky News report that it had decided to retain ownership of Boots after an auction process lasting for several months.
In a statement, the New York-listed healthcare giant said it had conducted a thorough strategic review but would now keep control of the “successful” Nottingham-based company.
“WBA has been encouraged by productive discussions held with a range of parties, receiving significant interest from prospective buyers.
“However, since launching the process, the global financial markets have suffered unexpected and dramatic change.
“As a result of market instability severely impacting financing availability, no third party has been able to make an offer that adequately reflects the high potential value of Boots and No7 Beauty Company.
“Consequently, WBA has decided that it is in the best interests of shareholders to keep focusing on the further growth and profitability of the two businesses.”
The decision will cast doubt over the long-term strategy of a stalwart of the UK high street, which had been identified as non-core to its American parent's future.
On Tuesday, WBA insisted it was committed to investing in Boots' future, although it signalled that it was open-minded about reviving a sale or other form of corporate activity in future.
The £5.5bn auction of Boots had faltered badly in recent weeks, with the only bidder to make a binding offer- a consortium of Apollo Global Management and Reliance Industries – pinning its hopes on the steadfastness of a quartet of lenders.
Apollo and Indian behemoth Reliance had lined up Royal Bank of Canada, Credit Suisse, Santander and Bank of America to help finance a large chunk of the £5bn-plus acquisition.
However, growing concerns about the global economy had triggered severe doubts among large banks which help finance leveraged buyouts, with Boots among the biggest such deals in Europe.
Because of the difficulty bidders were having financing a deal, WBA was prepared to retain a significant minority stake in Boots in order to get the deal through.
Another prospective bid from the owners of Asda – Mohsin and Zuber Issa and TDR Capital – had looked even more uncertain.
WBA, which has been advised by Goldman Sachs, had been in talks with bidders for months.
Among the other challenges facing prospective acquirers was finding an adequate solution for Boots' £8bn pension scheme – one of the largest private retirement funds in the UK.
Sky News revealed earlier this year that an apparent early frontrunner in the Boots auction – a joint bid from Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners – had decided not to proceed amid scepticism over the price tag of up to £6bn.
Rosalind Brewer, WBA chief executive, said: “We have now completed a thorough review of Boots and No7 Beauty Company, with the outcome reflecting rapidly evolving and challenging financial market conditions beyond our control.
“It is an exciting time for these businesses, which are uniquely positioned to continue to capture future opportunities presented by the growing healthcare and beauty markets.
“The board and I remain confident that Boots and No7 Beauty Company hold strong fundamental value, and longer term, we will stay open to all opportunities to maximize shareholder value for these businesses and across our company.”
Like many retailers, Boots had a turbulent pandemic, announcing 4000 job cuts in 2020 as a consequence of a restructuring of its Nottingham head office and store management teams.
It has also been embroiled in rows with landlords about delayed rent payments.
Shortly before the pandemic, Boots earmarked about 200 of its UK stores for closure, a reflection of changing shopping habits.
Boots' heritage dates back to John Boot opening a herbal remedies store in Nottingham in 1849.
It opened its 1000th UK store in 1933.
For Stefano Pessina, the WBA chairman, a decision to sell Boots outright would have marked the final chapter of his involvement with one of Britain's best-known companies.
The Italian octogenarian engineered the merger of Boots and Alliance Unichem, a drug wholesaler, in 2006, with the buyout firm KKR acquiring the combined group in an £11bn deal the following year.
In 2012, Walgreens acquired a 45% stake in Alliance Boots, completing its buyout of the business two years later.
By Mark Kleinman
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 29th June 2022) London, Uk – –
Airbnb has permanently banned parties and events at homes on its platform, after a temporary measure during the pandemic proved popular with hosts.
The firm says the rule has become “much more than a public health measure” since it was introduced in August 2020.
“It developed into a bedrock community policy to support our hosts and their neighbours,” the San Francisco-headquartered firm said.
However, it also removed a limit on how many people can stay at homes.
Airbnb said in a statement that the number of complaints about parties dropped by 44% since the measure was first introduced.
Exceptions to the global ban may be made for “specialty and traditional hospitality venues” in the future, it added.
Airbnb also said it would remove a limit on the number of people its listings are allowed to accommodate at any one time.
It previously imposed a 16 person limit to occupants because of concerns over the spread of Covid-19.
The firm said “several types of larger homes are capable of comfortably and safely housing more than 16 people – from castles in Europe to vineyards in the US to large beachfront villas in the Caribbean”.
“Removing this cap is meant to allow those hosts to responsibly utilise the space in their homes while still complying with our ban on disruptive parties,” it said.
The company started putting restrictions on parties in 2019. It banned “open-invite” parties and so-called “chronic party houses” that were a nuisance to neighbours.
During the pandemic, Airbnb introduced an indefinite ban on parties “in the best interest of public health”.
More than 6,600 guests had also been suspended from using the platform last year for breaking the rules.
“This new and long-term policy was enacted to help encourage and support community safety,” Airbnb said.
“We look forward to sharing updates in the coming weeks and months on our efforts to complement our community policies on parties,” it added.
By Annabelle Liang
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 28th June, 2022) London, UK —
G7 leaders have agreed to study placing global price caps on imports of Russian energy to curb Moscow's ability to fund its invasion of Ukraine and to contribute up to $5 billion to address global food insecurity, officials said on Tuesday.
The war in Ukraine and its dramatic economic fallout, in particular soaring food and energy inflation, has dominated this year's summit of the group of rich democracies at a castle resort in the Bavarian Alps.
The European Union will explore with international partners ways to curb Russian energy prices, including the feasibility of introducing temporary import price caps, a section of the final G7 communique seen by Reuters said. The officials said this meant both oil and gas.
The G7 has been debating price caps as a way to prevent Moscow profiting from its invasion of Ukraine, which has sharply raised energy prices, cushioning the impact of Western moves to reduce imports of Russian oil and gas.
Russian oil export revenues climbed in May even though export volumes fell, the International Energy Agency said in its June monthly report.
A cap on the price other countries pay Russia for oil would squeeze Russian President Vladimir Putin's “resources that he has to wage war and secondly increase stability and the security of supply in global oil markets”, a senior U.S. administration official said on Tuesday.
The idea is to tie financial services, insurance and the shipping of oil cargoes to a cap on Russian oil prices. So if a shipper or importer wanted these services, they would have to commit to the Russian oil being sold for a set maximum price.
Italy, whose economy is reliant on Russian energy, pushed to extend the price cap to gas.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi last week warned of the need to tackle energy prices to contain inflation and said the main objection to a gas cap from fellow Europeans was fear it could lead Russia to reduce supplies further.
France has said the price cap mechanism should extend beyond Russian products to reduce prices more broadly, including for the G7 nations that are looking to source energy from elsewhere.
France supports the language in the final communique but it remains unclear how such a mechanism would work and needs “thorough” discussions, a French official said.
G7 leaders have also agreed to push for a ban on imports of Russian gold as part of efforts to tighten the sanctions squeeze on Moscow, an EU official said on Tuesday.
Britain, the United States, Japan and Canada agreed at the start of the G7 summit on Sunday that they would ban imports of newly mined or refined Russian gold, while the European Union expressed some reservations.
TACKLING FOOD INSECURITY
G7 nations, which generate nearly half the world's economic output, want to crank up pressure on Russia without stoking already soaring inflation that is causing strains at home and savaging developing nations.
There is a “real risk” of multiple famines this year as the Ukraine war has compounded the negative impact of climate crises and the COVID-19 pandemic on food security, United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said last week.
The G7 will commit up to $5 billion to improve global food security, the senior U.S. official said, with the United States providing over half of that sum, which would go to efforts to fight hunger in 47 countries and fund regional organisations.
The G7 is attempting to rally emerging countries, many with close ties to Russia, to oppose Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and invited five major middle-and-low income democracies to the summit to win them over.
Some are more concerned at the impact of soaring food prices on their populations, blaming Western sanctions, not Russia's invasion of one of the world's largest grain producers and blockade of its ports, for the shortages.
Asked if G7 leaders had found a way to let Ukraine export its grain, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday: “We're working on it, we're all working on it”.
The G7 leaders have also agreed to take a more coordinated approach to challenging China's “market-distorting” practices in global trade, the U.S. official said.
“You'll see leaders release a collective statement, which is unprecedented in the context of the G7, acknowledging the harms caused by China's non-transparent, market-distorting industrial directives,” the official said on Tuesday.
Among their commitments was one to accelerate efforts to remove forced labour, including state-backed forced labour, from global supply chains, the official added
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 28th June 2022) London, Uk – –
Customers ‘tightening their belts’ amid economic uncertainty, says outgoing operator
Camelot, the outgoing UK national lottery operator, has said players have “tightened their belts” in the face of soaring living costs, as it reported lower sales of tickets and instant win games.
The company, which has launched legal action against the Gambling Commission after losing the lottery’s next licence to the Czech-owned newcomer Allwyn, posted a 3% drop in sales to £8.1bn in the year to 31 March. It said most of that fall was caused by a 7% decline in sales of National Lottery Instants to £3.4bn.
“This was largely down to greater competition for people’s attention and spend after the lifting of Covid restrictions, followed by growing economic uncertainty over the latter part of the year,” Camelot said.
Scratchcard sales remained below pre-pandemic levels. Sales across the 44,500 retailers offering national lottery products fell 4% to £4.7m over the year. Retailers account for nearly 60% of all sales for the group.
Camelot blamed pandemic restrictions in the early part of the year that affected footfall and shopper frequency, but more recently the cost of living crisis, which it said had slowed down the retail recovery as “consumers tightened their belts”.
Draw-based games fared better, although ticket sales dipped slightly to £4.6bn, with fewer large EuroMillions rollovers. There were 15 draws with a jackpot of more than £100m, compared with 22 the previous year.
With Covid restrictions ending, online sales fell by 2.6% to £3.4bn,partly due to the introduction of lower online play and wallet limits for potentially at-risk players.
Camelot said £1.9bn was generated for good causes over the year, the second highest total raised.
The Camelot chief executive, Nigel Railton, said over the next year the company would “continue to invest and innovate to respond to the changing consumer environment”.
He added: “Camelot has once again raised a record amount for good causes from ticket sales, and has also ensured that a record-equalling £3.1bn was once again generated for society through good causes, lottery duty and retailer commission, at a time when other funding sources are being squeezed.”
By Julia Kollew
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Mon, 27th June 2022) London, Uk – –
Russia is believed to have defaulted on its debt for the first time since 1998 after missing a key deadline.
Russia has the money to make a $100m payment, which was due on Sunday, but sanctions made it impossible to get the sum to international creditors.
The Kremlin had been determined to avoid the default, which is a major blow to the nation's prestige.
Russia's finance minister called the situation “a farce” and it is not expected to have short-term impact.
This is because Russia does not need to raise money internationally as it is reaping revenue from high-priced commodities such as oil, according to Chris Weafer, chief executive at Moscow-based consultancy Macro Advisory.
But he said it would create a “legacy” problem if the situation with Ukraine and international sanctions improves.
“This is the sort of action that will hang over the economy and make recovery much more difficult when we get to that stage,” he said.
The $100m interest payment was due on 27 May. Russia says the money was sent to Euroclear, a bank which would then distribute the payment to investors.
But that payment has been stuck there, according to Bloomberg News, and creditors have not received it.
Meanwhile, some Taiwanese holders of Russian bonds denominated in euros have not received interest payments, according to the Reuters news agency, which cited two sources.
The money had not arrived within 30 days of the due date, that is, Sunday evening, and so is considered a default.
Euroclear would not say if the payment had been blocked, but said it adhered to all sanctions, introduced following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Russia finance minister Anton Siluanov admitted foreign investors would “not be able to receive” the payments, according to the RIA Novosti news wire.
Because Russia wants to pay and has plenty of money to do it, he denied that this amounts to a genuine default, which usually occur when governments refuse to pay, or their economies are so weak that they cannot find the money.
“Everyone in the know understands that this is not a default at all. This whole situation looks like a farce.”
Defaulting nations usually find it impossible to borrow any more money, but Russia is already in effect barred from borrowing in Western markets by sanctions.
Also, Russia is reportedly earning about $1bn a day from fossil fuel exports, and its finance minister Anton Siluanov said in April the country had no plans to borrow more.
The default will trigger repayments on a large chunk of Russia's debt, according to Mr Weafer.
About $40bn of Russia's debts are denominated in dollars or euros, with around half held outside the country.
“Some parts of that debt will now become automatically due because there will be early repayment clauses in all debt instruments so if you default on one it usually triggers the immediate demand for payment on the other debts, so Russia could certainly face immediate debt repayment of about $20bn at this stage,” he told the BBC's Today programme.
Russia's last debt default of any kind was in 1998 as the country was rocked by the rouble crisis during the chaotic end of Boris Yeltsin's regime. At the time Moscow failed to keep up payments on its domestic bonds but managed not to default on its overseas debt.
Russia has seemed on an inevitable path to default since sanctions were first imposed by the US and European Union following the invasion of Ukraine.
These restricted the country's access to the international banking networks which would process payments from Russia to investors around the world.
The Russian government has said it wants to make all of its payments on time, and up until now it had succeeded.
Default seemed inevitable when the US Treasury decided not to renew the special exemption in sanctions rules allowing investors to receive interest payments from Russia, which expired on 25 May.
The Kremlin now appears to have accepted this inevitability too, decreeing on 23 June stating that all future debt payments would be made in roubles through a Russian bank, the National Settlements Depository, even when contracts state they should be in dollars or other international currencies.
Meanwhile, Mr Weafer, who is based in Moscow, said that life was more or less operating as normal despite sanctions and Western companies withdrawing from Russia.
“If you're in Moscow right now frankly, if you weren't reading the newspapers, you'd see there's been a price increase but otherwise life is as it was before February 24.
“In March and April there was a lot of concern that products would disappear, that factories would not be able to get components or materials to continue operating and we could be looking therefore at a severe drop in employment or a rise in unemployment by the summer [or] early autumn. That situation has improved,” he added.
“We've seen alternative import routes opening via Kazakhstan and Turkey, the government has promoted what they call a parallel import scheme so effectively a lot of products that were blocked in March and April are now starting to reappear, albeit at a higher price.”
By Ben King & Dearbail Jordan
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 27th June 2022) London, Uk – –
Aberdeen-based Well-Safe Solutions, which specialises in plugging and abandoning oil wells, has secured new funds in a round led by MW&L Capital Partners, Sky News understands.
A pioneering oil-well decommissioning specialist has raised a further £50m to fuel its international expansion amid growing demand fuelled by the transition to a net-zero economy.
Sky News understands that Well-Safe Solutions, which was established in 2017, has raised the money from a group of investors led by MW&L Capital Partners, a London-based principal investment and financial advisory firm.
MW&L – headed by former Goldman Sachs partners Julian Metherell and Matthew Westerman, and Peter Livanos, a member of one of Europe's oldest shipping dynasties – also participated in Well-Safe's two funding rounds in 2019 and 2020.
The new money will be used to acquire Well-Safe's third decommissioning rig, and takes the total sum raised by the company to more than £150m.
It comes amid warnings from a number of North Sea oil producers that their investment plans risk being stymied by the government's planned windfall tax, following a surge in industry profits.
Notwithstanding new capital investments, however, nearly 1,800 wells require decommissioning in the North Sea over the next decade.
Phil Milton, Well-Safe's chief executive, said: “The capital raised in previous investment rounds has been instrumental in enabling the company to put in place a world-class portfolio of bespoke well plug and abandonment (P&A) assets, backed by expert onshore and offshore teams.
“As we continue to build upon Well-Safe's operational record, we are looking forward to exporting this model to new markets, which have expressed an interest in our collaborative, multi-well, multi-operator approach to well decommissioning.”
Well-Safe was set up by a trio of industry executives including Alasdair Locke, who made a fortune from the sale of Abbot, his oil and gas services business. WSS has also received funding from Scottish Enterprise.
Mr Locke's other business successes include presiding over the growth of Motor Fuel Group, one of the UK's largest petrol station operators – and which is now itself up for sale.
“This financing allows a step change in the capabilities of Well-Safe Solutions, enabling us to be competitive on a global basis,” Mr Locke said.
Based in Aberdeen, Well-Safe employs 230 people onshore and offshore, and has contracts with companies such as Ithaca Energy.
It argues that its ‘P&A Club' approach to decommissioning is groundbreaking because it pairs oil and gas expertise with investment in bespoke, fit-for-purpose marine and land-based assets.
The company's other backers include Tony Hayward, the former BP chief executive, and Marcel van Poecke, a senior energy executive at Carlyle, the buyout firm.
The world of luxury automobiles is more diverse today than it has ever been. Not only do customers have more variety to choose from, but they can also enjoy features & a ride quality that was only showcased in concept cars. Newcomers have somewhat managed to earn a good reputation in this niche, but legacy automakers continue to dominate the entire luxury vehicle market to this day. Hand-picking the most luxurious motorcars of the present era is a rather difficult task. Nevertheless, this video will walk you through the top 10 most luxurious cars of 2022, which we think have truly earned their reputation.
Cam Rackam, 42, is an NFT artist from Huntington Beach, California. Cam graduated with a BFA in drawing and painting from Cal State Fullerton. He had attended and was featured in many art exhibitions over the years for his work in oil painting. But once the pandemic hit in 2020, Cam pivoted to making NFT art. On October 27th, 2021, Cam sold his entire 10,000 NFT collection for 660 ethereum, or $2.6 million. His cut: $738,593.97.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Fri, 24th June 2022) London, Uk – –
Motor industry giant Toyota is recalling 2,700 of its first mass-produced all-electric vehicles over concerns their wheels may fall off.
A spokesperson told the BBC that bolts on the bZ4X's wheels “can loosen to the point where the wheel can detach from the vehicle” after “low-mileage use”.
The recall comes less than two months after the car was launched in Japan.
Car maker Subaru also says that for the same reason it will recall 2,600 electric cars it developed with Toyota.
On Friday, Toyota said in a statement that it had issued a safety recall for 2,700 bZ4X SUVs in the US, Europe, Canada and Japan.
“If a wheel detaches from the vehicle while driving, it could result in a loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash,” a spokesperson said.
“No one should drive these vehicles until the remedy is performed,” they added.
The BBC understands that some bZ4X models have not been recalled. However, a Toyota spokesperson declined to comment on how many of the vehicle the company had manufactured.
Toyota said it had notified Japanese safety regulators about the defect on Thursday and the cause of the issue was “still under investigation”.
Another Japanese car manufacturer, Subaru also said it was recalling 2,600 units of the Solterra, its first all-electric car jointly developed with Toyota, because of concerns over loose bolts. The firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.
Toyota is viewed as a relative latecomer to the electric vehicle market, as compared to rival manufacturers like Tesla, which launched its first electric car 14 years ago.
It launched the bZ4X in Japan last month. The car was only available on lease “to eliminate customer concerns regarding residual battery performance, maintenance and residual value,” Toyota said earlier this year.
This week, the company said it would cut the number of vehicles it plans to produce next month by 50,000 to 800,000 because of a shortage of computer chips and supply disruptions caused by the pandemic.
Although Toyota currently aims to manufacture a total of 9.7m vehicles around the world this year, it has signalled that it may be forced to lower that number.
By Annabelle Liang
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Tue, 24th June 2022) London, Uk – –
The strike action follows a wave of discontent expressed by workers across the country in recent months. Many are demanding higher wages to deal with the cost of living crisis.
British Airways (BA) workers at Heathrow have voted to strike during the school summer holidays, in a move set to cause more travel chaos as the industry struggles to recover from the COVID pandemic.
Members of the GMB and Unite unions overwhelmingly supported the prospect of industrial action over pay with 95% of those voting, at both unions, backing strikes on turnouts of 81% and 63% respectively.
It means that more than 700 BA check-in staff and ground-handling agents could walk out at the height of the summer season.
No strike dates have been announced, as the unions suggested that they wanted to give the airline some time to change its mind on the key issue.
The unions are seeking to reverse a 10% pay cut on workers that was imposed during the pandemic when global lockdowns grounded flights.
Around 13,000 jobs were also cut by BA.
The airline has offered a 10% one-off bonus but not a return to the same pay as before.
“With grim predictability, holidaymakers face massive disruption thanks to the pig-headedness of British Airways,” Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said in a statement.
“GMB members at Heathrow have suffered untold abuse as they deal with the travel chaos caused by staff shortages and IT failures. At the same time, they've had their pay slashed during BA's callous fire and rehire policy,” she said.
“What did BA think was going to happen?”
Unite officer Russ Ball added: “The problems British Airways is facing are entirely of its own making. It brutally cut jobs and pay during the pandemic even though the government was paying them to save jobs.”
BA ‘extremely disappointed'
It is understood that if strikes do go ahead, those balloted for action at Heathrow make up less than 50% of BA's customer-facing team.
The airline responded: “We're extremely disappointed with the result and that the unions have chosen to take this course of action.
“Despite the extremely challenging environment and losses of more than £4bn, we made an offer of a 10% payment which was accepted by the majority of other colleagues.
“We are fully committed to work together to find a solution, because to deliver for our customers and rebuild our business we have to work as a team.
“We will of course keep our customers updated about what this means for them as the situation evolves.”
Analysis: By Ian King
To judge from today's vote by check-in staff, who are members of Unite, BA still appears to have a Heathrow problem.
The airline's comment today that its Heathrow-based employees had declined an offer that had been accepted by colleagues elsewhere across the network is eerily familiar to the remarks made by Sir Rod all those years ago.
To that can be overlaid the generally challenging industrial relations at BA – which are a legacy of its past as a state-owned industry.
Union membership is significantly higher in the public sector than in the private sector and it is no coincidence that it is companies that were once state-owned – like BA, Royal Mail and, to a lesser extent, BT – which tend to have worse industrial relations than most private companies.
The strike action threatens further damage for BA as it struggles to get back on its feet following the COVID crisis to date.
Its efforts have been hampered by IT failures and staff shortages – the company refusing to confirm that it had shot itself in the foot during an inquiry into the recent air travel chaos by MPs earlier this month.
The PM's spokesman urged the unions and BA to resolve the row.
“We don't want to see any further disruption for passengers and strike action would only add to the misery being faced by passengers at airports,” he told reporters.
“We expect BA to put in place contingency measures to ensure that as little disruption (as possible) is caused and that where there is disruption that passengers can be refunded.”
Wave of discontent
The prospect of strikes also follows a wave of discontent expressed by workers across the country in recent months.
Many are demanding higher wages to deal with the cost of living crisis.
About 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out this week.
The RMT's general secretary has warned that rail strikes could “escalate” unless a settlement is reached for all workers in the industry.
Mick Lynch told Sky News that more train drivers might enter the dispute – and “other people are balloting in this industry too”.
By James Sillars
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Thur, 23rd June 2022) London, Uk – –
Old-style notes must either be spent or deposited in a bank before end of September
People have just 100 days left to use the paper £20 and £50 banknotes remaining in circulation, the Bank of England has said.
The last day the notes will have legal tender status is 30 September.
The Bank is encouraging anyone who still has them to use them or deposit them at their bank or a post office before the end of September.
While the majority of paper £20 and £50 banknotes in circulation have been replaced with new polymer versions, there are still more than £6bn of paper £20 notes featuring economist Adam Smith, and more than £8bn of paper £50 banknotes featuring entrepreneur Matthew Boulton and engineer James Watt, in circulation.
That is more than 300m individual £20 banknotes, and 160m paper £50 banknotes.
It is a year since the Bank first issued the polymer £50 banknote featuring Bletchley Park codebreaker and scientist Alan Turing. The Turing 50 completed the Bank’s “family” of polymer notes, with all of its denominations – 5, 10, 20 and 50 – now printed on polymer.
The Bank of England’s chief cashier, Sarah John, said: “Changing our banknotes from paper to polymer over recent years has been an important development, because it makes them more difficult to counterfeit, and means they are more durable.
“The majority of paper banknotes have now been taken out of circulation, but a significant number remain in the economy, so we’re asking you to check if you have any at home.
“For the next 100 days, these can still be used or deposited at your bank in the normal way.”
By Guardian staff and agency
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Thur, 23rd June 2022) London, UK —
Proxy advisers Glass Lewis and ISS are recommending Sainsbury's investors vote against a resolution at its annual meeting calling for Britain's second-biggest grocer to commit to paying the so-called real living wage to all its workers by July 2023.
Glass Lewis said adoption of the proposal from responsible investment group ShareAction “could border on micromanagement by shareholders.”
“We believe that with a matter as dynamic and company-specific as the wages paid to employees and contractors, it may not be appropriate to allow shareholders or a third party to dictate those terms,” it said.
It also warned the resolution's adoption could “hem the company into a constrained position” if market conditions changed.
Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) said it opposed the resolution because its adoption would mean that Sainsbury's “would be involuntarily held to a different standard to its competitors.”
ShareAction had co-ordinated the filing of the resolution by an investor coalition that includes Legal & General and Nest.
Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) annual general meeting is on July 7.
The real living wage was established by the Living Wage Foundation charity and independently calculated by the Resolution Foundation think tank, according to how much workers and their families need to live.
The rates are currently 11.05 pounds ($13.56) per hour in London and 9.90 pounds per hour in the rest of the United Kingdom. That compares with Britain's main government-mandated minimum wage rate of 9.50 pounds per hour.
The Bank of England is watching pay closely as it weighs up the risk that the recent jump in inflation to a 40-year high of 9.1% becomes embedded in the economy.
Sainsbury's has since May been paying real living wage rates to all its directly employed staff but is not doing so for all its third-party contractors, such as cleaners and security guards.
“To effectively balance the needs of our customers, colleagues, suppliers and shareholders we must preserve the right to make independent business decisions which are not determined by a separate body,” a spokesperson for Sainsbury's said.
Sainsbury's is recommending shareholders vote against the resolution. The company has a workforce of 189,000, making it one of Britain's biggest private-sector employers.
(qlmbusinessnews.com via coindesk.com — Thur, 23rd June 2022) London, Uk – –
In contrast with exchanges like Coinbase and Gemini, the derivatives platform plans to increase its staff.
Bitget, a Singapore-based crypto derivatives exchange, plans to double its workforce over the next six months, just as other crypto firms are cutting back.
The exchange plans to reach 1,000 employees by the end of the year, it said in a press release on Thursday. It had 150 employees at the start of 2021 and had grown threefold by mid-2022, according to the press release.
Exchanges like Coinbase, Gemini and Crypto.com, meantime, are reducing staff amid a market rout that's seen the price of bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency by market cap, slump more than 50% since the start of the year.
Bitget has experienced “tremendous growth and generating strong and recurring cash flow despite uncertain market conditions,” the company said. Trading volume at the derivatives exchange grew 10-fold in the past 12 months, reaching an all-time high of $8.69 billion in March, said Managing Director Gracy Chen.
Bitget ranks number five in Coingecko's list of derivatives exchanges, with a trading volume of $7.4 billion in the past 24 hours as of the time of writing.
In March, Bitget announced it had registered with U.S. authorities, signaling that it plans to expand from Asia to North America.
By Eliza Gkritsi
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Wed, 22nd June Sept 2022) London, Uk – –
IEA chief warns that Russia may be trying to prevent countries filling storage facilities ahead of winter
Europe needs to prepare immediately for Russia to turn off all gas exports to the region this winter, according to the head of the International Energy Agency, who has called on governments to work on reducing demand and keeping nuclear power plants open.
Fatih Birol said reductions in supplies in recent weeks which the Kremlin has attributed to maintenance work could, in fact, be the beginning of wider cuts designed to prevent the filling of storage facilities in preparation for winter, as Russia seeks to gain leverage over the region.
“Europe should be ready in case Russian gas is completely cut off,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times. “The nearer we are coming to winter, the more we understand Russia’s intentions.
“I believe the cuts are geared towards avoiding Europe filling storage, and increasing Russia’s leverage in the winter months.”
EU countries are racing to refill storage sites, with Germany hoping to reach 90% of capacity by November. Its stores are only half full.
Member states have also been working to reduce their reliance on Russian fossil fuels, by sourcing gas from other countries, including the US, and speeding up the switch to renewable energy, although officials have conceded that the race to phase out Russian oil and gas would mean burning more coal and keeping nuclear plants going.
Birol said emergency measures taken by European governments to reduce energy demand had probably not gone far enough, and urged countries to work on preserving energy supplies.
“I believe there will be more and deeper demand measures as winter approaches,” Birol said. He added that gas supplies may need to be rationed, if Russia were to further reduce gas exports.
Moscow has reduced or even cut off gas deliveries to several EU countries in recent weeks, in response to their decision to impose sanctions on the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian gas supplies to Europe received through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline – which runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany – have been falling.
Last week, Russia’s state-controlled energy company Gazprom announced the second cut to gas transported via the pipeline, reducing supplies to just 40% of capacity.
The Italian energy firm Eni has reported a halving of Gazprom’s gas supplies to Italy, which gets about 40% of its imported gas from Russia. Meanwhile, the French network operator GRTgaz said France had not received any Russian gas via Germany since the middle of May.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov last week blamed maintenance issues for the reductions in supply, a reference to earlier comments saying Russia was unable to secure the return of equipment sent to Canada for repairs.
By Joanna Partridge
(qlmbusinessnews.com via bbc.co.uk – – Wed, 22nd June 2022) London, Uk – –
Some Asda shoppers are setting £30 limits at checkouts and petrol pumps, the supermarket's chairman has said.
Customers are putting less in their baskets, switching to budget ranges and are worried about the future, said Lord Stuart Rose.
“What we're seeing is a massive change in behaviour,” he told the BBC.
It comes after food and fuel costs soared in the UK. Inflation – the rate at which prices rise – reached a 40-year high of 9% in April.
Lord Rose said he saw the inflation rise coming last year like a “train coming through a tunnel with a big flashing light on the top”. Now it's time to “fasten our seatbelts”, he said.
“People are trading back. They are worried about spending,” he said. “They've got a limit that they've set out, too. They say £30 is one limit… and if they get to more than £30 then that's it, stop. It's the same with petrol.”
Lord Rose said the country was facing some very tough times and urged the government to do more to help low income households.
But the Treasury said it understood people were struggling with rising prices and it was making cost of living payments of £1,200 to those on the lowest incomes.
Lord Rose also addressed government concerns that supermarkets were not passing on March's 5p per litre cut in fuel duty, insisting Asda price changes were “done the same day”.
The retail veteran has some 50 years of industry experience under his belt. He remembers the runaway inflation of the 1970s and said this bout of rising prices has come as a very nasty surprise for consumers.
“I'm of the generation that remembers what it was like last time. And once [inflation] gets hold, it's quite pernicious,” he said.
“And it takes a long time to eradicate… We're in danger of being in a place that it's very difficult to extricate ourselves from.
“What's rather sad is that the country, the government, perhaps the Bank of England didn't see inflation coming quickly. They've now recognised that.”
Asda has been tracking disposable income since the financial crisis in 2008 and is all too aware of the squeeze on consumers.
Its latest data shows households had, on average, £44 less a week in discretionary income in May compared with a year ago – a fall of nearly 18%. This is the amount of money left over after taxes and essential bills have been deducted and it is the third month in a row where disposable incomes have dropped to record levels.
Like other supermarkets, Asda is having to grapple with its own soaring costs and decide how much of this to absorb and how much to pass on to shoppers.
All the big grocers are in a battle to keep prices as low as possible on the most popular everyday items because they know customers will vote with their feet and shop around.
The UK's third biggest grocer has expanded its cut price groceries with a new range, Just Essentials, covering some 300 products.
It has also launched Dropped and Locked, an initiative to lower prices on 100 items and keep them at the same price for the rest of the year.
“We're doing everything we can. We've invested nearly £100m in the last month or so making sure customers get essentials at very, very attractive prices to try and help them,” said Lord Rose.
But will it be enough? Asda has recently been performing less well than its rivals.
Lord Rose said he was not too worried about market share in the short and medium term.
“It goes up a bit, and down a bit, you'll see the monthly changes and that's always been the case in retail… We will do what we need to do to look after our customers,” he said.
“Secondly, because we've had a change of ownership – my colleagues and I only took over the business a year ago – we're doing things which we think will affect the long term of the business which will give customers a better Asda.”
The Asda chairman and former M&S boss said he did not want to predict where food prices will get to by the end of the year but would like to see more government support for those most in need.
“I would urge them to do more for those people at the bottom end of the earnings income scale,” he said. He suggested a VAT reduction or another reduction in fuel tax would be “helpful”.
He acknowledged the government now has a difficult balancing act between tackling rising prices without scuppering economic growth. But he knows what he would do.
“I would say the most important priority in the short term is to kill inflation, because once inflation gets embedded, it's very, very hard to kill. If it means we have to slow the economy down for a while, and it looks as if we are heading for a recession, then so be it.”
A government spokesperson said its £37bn support package meant it would deliver a tax cut in July to save the typical employee more than £330 a year.
It said people on Universal Credit would keep £1,000 more of what they earn and a 5p cut on fuel duty would save a typical family £100.
By Emma Simpson
(qlmbusinessnews.com via uk.reuters.com — Tue, 21st June 2022) London, UK —
Britain's payment systems regulator (PSR) will conduct two market reviews of card fees charged by Visa and Mastercard, the U.S. companies that account for 99% of debit and credit card payments in the UK.
The PSR's announcement on Tuesday follows heavy pressure from lawmakers to launch full market reviews to tackle card fees paid by retailers, which are typically passed on to consumers.
“We want to understand whether card payments are working well and to make sure that merchants, and ultimately consumers, get a good deal,” said Natalie Timan, the PSR's head of strategy.
Mastercard said that Britain is one of the most innovative and competitive payments markets in the world and the company was committed to working with the PSR to increase choice in the interests of everyone who makes and receives payments.
Visa declined to comment.
The first review will look at why there was a fivefold post-Brexit increase in the cross-border interchange fee that Mastercard and Visa charged retailers for consumer purchases by phone or online in the European Union, the watchdog said.
The PSR had already said that preliminary inquiries had been unable to find an explanation for the increase based on volumes, value or mix of transactions.
The fee had been capped by an EU agreement that fell away in Britain after it left the bloc.
The PSR said it wants to understand the rationale behind these increases and whether they are an indication that the market is not working well.
The second review is into fees for services that allow retailers to accept card payments.
Draft terms of reference for the reviews have been put out for public consultation until Aug. 2.
The watchdog indicated to lawmakers last month that it could take years to complete a review and implement concrete changes.
Reporting by Huw Jones
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 21st June 2022) London, Uk – –
Bank of England feels other measures will play stronger role in guarding against household debt
Lenders will no longer have to check whether homeowners could afford mortgage payments at higher interest rates after the Bank of England ditched a rule originally designed to avoid another 2007-style credit crunch.
The rule, introduced in 2014, was intended to make sure borrowers did not take on more debt than they could afford, and potentially “amplify” an economic downturn and put financial stability at risk.
The decision to withdraw the affordability test comes despite the Bank of England having raised interest rates for a fifth time in a row to 1.25% last week as part of efforts to tackle soaring inflation, meaning some mortgage borrowers could be in line for higher repayments.
The Bank of England, which originally consulted on the changes in February, confirmed that it would scrap the affordability test after determining that other rules, including those that cap mortgages based on the income of borrowers, were “likely to play a stronger role” in guarding against an increase in household debt.
The central bank said in a statement that those other rules “ought to deliver the appropriate level of resilience to the UK financial system, but in a simpler, more predictable and more proportionate way”.
Experts said that while some might find the rule changes “baffling” in light of rising interest rates, the risks were relatively low, given the loan-to-income rules would remain in place.
“The timing of today’s announcement that the Bank of England is going to loosen its affordability rules is somewhat baffling and may enrage some who still have the financial crash burned into their memory,” said Gemma Harle, the managing director of Quilter Financial Planning. “With interest rates starting to creep up to meet the damaging impact of inflation and soaring energy and food prices, you would think that people’s ability to afford their mortgage should really be under the spotlight now.”
However, she said: “While it is potentially bad timing for the announcement, the change in the affordability rules may not be as significant as it sounds as the loan to income ‘flow limit’ will not be withdrawn, which has much greater impact on people’s ability to borrow.”
Chris Sykes at the mortgage broker Private Finance added that the change would be positive news for borrowers who may be falling short on other affordability tests put in place by lenders who were taking the cost of living crisis into consideration. “This isn’t a case of the floodgates opening; in fact, whether the changed measures will even give flexibility close to that we saw when rates were 1% is a good question,” he said.
“Just because the recommendations change it doesn’t mean that banks will automatically change the way they look at things; they still have a duty of care, have to be seen to be lending responsibly and also have their own internal risk committees that they would need to get any changes by.
“What this will allow is for additional discretions or innovations by lenders. Perhaps it could inspire some lower stress rates for those that need it most with low income but with perfect credit and years of experience paying their rent.”
By Kalyeena Makortoff
(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 20th June 2022) London, Uk —
It comes after hundreds of passengers were left waiting for over three hours during the weekend to retrieve their luggage, with no explanation from staff.
Heathrow has asked airlines to cancel 10% of their flights today as the airport faces a baggage backlog.
Around 5,000 passengers have been affected after carriers agreed to axe less than 30 flights.
Problems with the baggage system at Heathrow left hundreds of travellers waiting for over three hours during the weekend to retrieve their luggage, with no explanation from staff.
Airlines that have cancelled flights today include Virgin Atlantic, Flybe, Air France, Air Canada, TAP Portugal, Loganair, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Brussels Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Aer Lingus, ITA Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa, KLM and Bulgaria Air.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We apologise unreservedly for the disruption passengers have faced over the course of this weekend.
“The technical issues affecting baggage systems have led to us making the decision to request airlines operating in Terminals 2 and 3 to consolidate their schedules on Monday 20th June.
“This will enable us to minimise ongoing impact and we ask that all passengers check with their airlines for the latest information.”
Heathrow, like airports and airlines across the country, is grappling with staff shortages during the busiest season of the year, which have led to hundreds of flights being cancelled in recent weeks.
On Friday, an “enormous luggage carpet” was spotted outside a Heathrow terminal, as staff grappled with an “ongoing issue with the baggage system”.
Travellers told Sky News there were huge queues at border control upon landing and large crowds at baggage reclaim over the weekend.
Some passengers had been forced to travel without their belongings.
Meanwhile, EasyJet announced plans to cut more flights over the busy summer period, as it apologised to customers for failing to “deliver the service they have come to expect from us”.
A number of flights will be cancelled into and out of Gatwick in response to the airport's announcement last week that it would introduce flight caps in July and August to help it cope with a staff shortage.
The airline has blamed staff shortages in ground handling and at airports, as well as air traffic control delays for increased turnaround times, delayed flights and cancellations.