National / International News

28-day police bail limit proposed

BBC - 5 hours 1 min ago
The time people can be put on police bail could be limited to 28 days, the Home Secretary Theresa May announces.

Radio listeners save turkey pair

BBC - 5 hours 16 min ago
Two turkeys that were the subject of a radio vote criticised by animal lovers including Queen guitarist Brian May are saved from slaughter.

Gogglebox drops family over UKIP bid

BBC - 5 hours 21 min ago
The Michael family is dropped from Gogglebox because the dad is standing as UKIP candidate.

EU court gives UK visa direction

BBC - 5 hours 23 min ago
The UK cannot block non-EU family members coming to the county from Europe without a travel permit, European judges say.

Cell phones bring new leverage for farm workers

When you think of “salary negotiations,” picking fruit isn’t the first job that comes to mind. Individual farmworkers don’t control much about their work environments, but Eduardo Cruz says there’s a big range in what you can get paid to pick apples. “This year, I picked Honeycrisp for $42 a bin,” he says. “At other farms, they paid $35 a bin, or thirty.”

These differences in pay depend on a host of variables that determine how easy it is to fill a 1,000 pound bin of fruit: the size of the trees, the slope of the orchard, the quality standards imposed by the grower. In Washington’s Yakima valley, growers and workers alike say cell phones have helped to spread this information faster than ever, tightening the labor market and spurring on competition for the best piscadores. 

Farmworkers have always gotten together to trade tips. Still, they often had to drive out to far-flung orchards to find out who was hiring and what they were paying. Nowadays, most of these conversations take place via cell phone. “I’ve got a lot of friends, and we talk,” Cruz explains with a smile.

You ask a few questions about the job, get the foreman’s number, and if it seems promising, make the trip out to the orchard. Cell phones have reduced the “transaction costs” of looking for farmwork.

Grower Charlie de la Chapelle says that’s made the workforce more willing to move around: “And that’s a good thing, because if in fact we are short of people and we have a good price, they call their buddies and they bring ‘em.” The flip side is that “you don’t know who’s gonna show up tomorrow.”

On Chapelle’s farm, workers picking Fujis have to sort the fruit as they go, and the ground is littered with discarded apples. This extra work means they can’t fill bins as fast, which can hurt their pay.

Orchard manager Art Thompson says he’s worried his crew might start looking elsewhere. “We’ve got a pretty steady crew,” he says, “but believe me, if I let ‘em make this wage all day, the cell phones will start being picked up.” This means employers have to be ready to adjust wages.

It’s basic economics: free-flowing information leads to a freer market. Researchers have made similar observations about cell phones across the developing world. Agricultural economist Philip Martin recalls one study of fishermen in southern India.”If you’re out in your little boat, and you’ve got a bunch of fish, you have more power to know which port to take them to, by calling the various fish brokers, and saying, ‘what are you paying?’”

 For low wage workers without much clout, cell phones have brought a bit of leverage. 

Man critical after takeaway attack

BBC - 5 hours 28 min ago
A man is left critically injured after he was attacked in a takeaway in Portrush, County Antrim.

Surviving the Peshawar school massacre

BBC - 5 hours 31 min ago
The schoolboy who was shot in the head and lived

Badger cull fails to meet target

BBC - 5 hours 38 min ago
Fewer than half the target number of badgers were killed in this year's cull in Gloucestershire, Defra announces.

VIDEO: 'Three boys died before my eyes'

BBC - 5 hours 41 min ago
A survivor of the Pakistan school attack, Aqif Azeem, describes what happened when gunmen stormed the school.

Kenya protests halt parliament debate

BBC - 5 hours 41 min ago
Kenya's parliament is forced to adjourn after angry opposition MPs disrupt government plans to push through a tough new security bill.

VIDEO: Why energy use is falling in the UK

BBC - 5 hours 43 min ago
The amount of energy people are using in the UK is falling steadily even though the economy is growing, new figures confirm.

Jack and Emily are top baby names

BBC - 5 hours 45 min ago
Jack and Emily revealed as the most popular first names for babies whose births were registered in Scotland in 2014.

Libraries 'must emulate coffee shops'

BBC - 5 hours 48 min ago
Public libraries in England need to become more like coffee shops if they are to survive, a government-commissioned report concludes.

Mortgage lending dip 'continues'

BBC - 6 hours 8 min ago
UK mortgage lending in November returned to the level seen a year earlier, lenders say, offering more evidence of a post-summer slowdown.

US boy's 1944 conviction overturned

BBC - 6 hours 10 min ago
A judge has overturned the conviction of a 14-year-old black boy sent to the electric chair for murder more than 70 years ago.

Retail sales boosted by Black Friday

BBC - 6 hours 14 min ago
UK retail sales rose at their fastest annual rate in more than 10 years in November, thanks to the effects of Black Friday.

Tests claim Ebosse died from beating

BBC - 6 hours 38 min ago
New post-mortem tests claims Albert Ebosse died in Algeria after a beating rather than being hit by a projectile thrown by fans.

'Ice pancakes' found on River Dee

BBC - 6 hours 40 min ago
Dozens of "ice pancakes" the size of dinner plates are found floating on a stretch of the River Dee in Scotland.

Two world titles, one champion?

BBC - 6 hours 52 min ago
Stephen Bunting hopes to become the first player to hold both versions of the world darts title at the same time.

Whitehall v town hall

BBC - 6 hours 54 min ago
David Cameron promised to give local government more power, but local councils continue to shrink, relative to central government.