UN women's agency backs out of partnership with Uber

AP News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2015 6:58 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. women's agency has backed out of a partnership with the 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.

Brigitta Paas, vice president of the International Transport Workers' Federation, 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 posted Friday.

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

In a joint message, UN Women's Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said they were "launching a partnership to work together around the world toward a shared vision of equality and women's empowerment."

But 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.

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

In a highly publicized case in early December, 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 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 one 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 Monday that it was proud to sponsor the UN Women event and reiterated its "ambitious goal" of creating one 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.