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Australian tycoon to help small publishers strike deals with Google, Facebook

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Australian small publishers will get a leg up in their fight to secure licensing deals with Google and Facebook after the country’s richest person said his philanthropic organisation would seek a collective bargaining arrangement for them.

The Minderoo Foundation, owned by Andrew Forrest, chairman of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group, plans to help 18 small publishers by applying to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on their behalf so they can negotiate together without breaching competition laws.

The move was welcomed by publishers including the Star Observer, Australia’s oldest LGBTQ title, which like some other small publishers did not get a deal with Facebook despite having secured a deal with Google.

Forrest’s extra clout as well as the differing approaches to small publishers by Google and Facebook could build momentum for the Australian government to intervene and set fees.

Australia broke new ground with a law that has since March required the two tech giants to negotiate with Australian outlets for content that drives traffic and advertising to their websites.

But while most major news providers have secured deals, many small publishers have been left out in the cold, criticising Facebook in particular for its reluctance to take their calls.

Other publications that have secured deals with Google but not Facebook include TV broadcaster SBS, the main source of foreign language news, and the Conversation, which publishes public affairs commentary by academics.

The ACCC Chair Rod Sims has also on several occasions expressed concern about whether Facebook is approaching the law in the right spirit.

The law allows for Australia’s government to set fees if negotiations between tech giants and news providers fail, but at present rejected companies have been left with little recourse as they wait for the government to review the law next March as planned.

The 18 small publishers being helped include online publications that attract multicultural audiences and focus on issues at a local or regional level, Emma McDonald, director of Frontier Technology, a Minderoo Foundation initiative, said in a statement.

Google reiterated that “talks are continuing with publishers of all sizes.” Facebook said it “has long supported smaller independent publishers.”

The foundation’s move comes after ACCC late last month allowed a body representing 261 radio stations to negotiate a content deal.

($1 = 1.3826 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Renju Jose; Editing by Sam Holmes and Edwina Gibbs)

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Ontario passes new rules aimed at work-life balance for employees – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Ontario government has passed new laws it says will help employees disconnect from the office and create a better work-life balance.

On Tuesday, the government said it passed the “Working for Workers Act,” which requires Ontario businesses with 25 people or more to have a written policy about employees’ rights when it comes to disconnecting from their job at the end of the day.

These workplace policies could include, for example, expectations about response time for emails and encouraging employees to turn on out-of-office notifications when they aren’t working, the government says.

According to the act, between January 1 and March 1 of each year an employer must ensure it has a written policy in place for all employees with respect to disconnecting from work.

“We are determined to rebalance the scales and put workers in the driver’s seat of Ontario’s economic growth while attracting the best workers to our great province,” Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, said in a statement Tuesday.

The act also bans the use of non-compete clauses, which prevent people from exploring other work opportunities and higher salaries at other jobs.

According to the government, Ontario is the first jurisdiction in Canada, and one of the first in North America, to ban non-compete agreements in employment.

McNaughton says the new laws not only protects workers’ rights, but also will help to attract top talent and investments to the province.

The act also removes “unfair” work experience requirements for foreign-trained immigrants trying to work in their professions. 

It also introduces a mandatory licencing framework for temporary help agencies and recruiters to help prevent labour trafficking.

“This legislation is another step towards building back a better province and cementing Ontario’s position as a global leader, for others to follow, as the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family,” McNaughton said.

A government spokesperson told CTV News Toronto that while the act has not yet received royal assent, it is expected to later this week.

Timelines for when each law under the Working For Workers Act will come into effect have not been announced yet and the government said it there will be a initial grace period for businesses.

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Asian factories shake off supply headaches but Omicron presents new risks

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Asian factory activity grew in November as crippling supply bottlenecks eased, but rising input costs and renewed weakness in China dampened the region’s prospects for an early, sustained recovery from pandemic paralysis.

The newly detected Omicron coronavirus variant has also emerged as a fresh worry for the region’s policymakers, who are already grappling with the challenge of steering their economies out of the doldrums while trying to tame inflation amid rising commodity costs and parts shortages.

China’s factory activity fell back into contraction in November, the private Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) showed on Wednesday, as soft demand and elevated prices hurt manufacturers.

The findings from the private-sector survey, which focuses more on small firms in coastal regions, stood in contrast with those in China’s official PMI on Tuesday that showed manufacturing activity unexpectedly rose in November, albeit at a very modest pace.

“Relaxing constraints on the supply side, especially the easing of the power crunch, quickened the pace of production recovery,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group, in a statement accompanying the data release.

“But demand was relatively weak, suppressed by the COVID-19 epidemic and rising product prices.”

Beyond China, however, factory activity seemed to be on the mend with PMIs showing expansion in countries ranging from Japan, South Korea, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Japan’s PMI rose to 54.5 in November, up from 53.2 in October, the fastest pace of expansion in nearly four years.

South Korea’s PMI edged up to 50.9 from 50.2 in October, holding above the 50-mark threshold that indicates expansion in activity for a 14th straight month.

But output shrank in South Korea for a second straight month as Asia’s fourth-largest economy struggles to fully regain momentum in the face of persistent supply chain disruptions.

“Overall, with new export orders flooding back to countries previously hamstrung by Delta outbreaks and the disruption further down the supply chain still working through, there is plenty of scope for a continued rebound in regional industry,” said Alex Holmes, emerging Asia economist at Capital Economics.

India’s manufacturing activity grew at the fastest pace in 10 months in November, buoyed by a strong pick-up in demand.

Vietnam’s PMI rose to 52.2 in November from 52.1 in October, while that of the Philippines increased to 51.7 from 51.0.

Taiwan’s manufacturing activity continued to expand in November but at a slower pace, with the index hitting 54.9 compared with 55.2 in October. The picture was similar for Indonesia, which saw PMI ease to 53.9 from 57.2 in October.

The November surveys likely did not reflect the spread of the Omicron variant that could add further pressure on pandemic-disrupted supply chains, with many countries imposing fresh border controls to seal themselves off.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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ANZ faces class action for “unfair” interest charged from credit card customers

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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group has been sued by a law firm for charging interest on some purchases by credit card holders which were repaid on time for nearly a decade, the parties said on Wednesday.

The law firm, Phi Finney McDonald, filed a class-action suit in the federal court against Australia’s No. 4 lender for charging interest between July 2010 and January 2019 on purchases that should have been interest-free.

“The terms of ANZ’s contract made it impossible for a typical consumer to understand that they would be charged retrospective interest, even on purchases which they repaid on time,” the law firm said in a statement.

Australia outlawed charging retrospective interest in January 2019.

The lawsuit alleged “unfair contract terms and unconscionable conduct” by the bank, but did not specify the damages it was seeking against ANZ in the federal court.

ANZ said in a statement it would review the claim that its contract contravened the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal actions faced by Australia‘s top banks, ranging from breach of consumer protection credit laws to charging financial advice fees to dead customers.

Scrutiny of Australian lenders and financial institutions has ramped up significantly since a Royal Commission inquiry in 2018 found widespread shortcomings in the sector, forcing companies and regulators to take swift action.

 

(Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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