As I pulled into a parking lot, a man in an orange vest told me to stay in the car until my appointment time was announced over a very loud loudspeaker to avoid people congregating. After passing through two screenings by people who remained welcoming, despite having to endlessly ask the same questions, and a registration check in, I received a shot four minutes after my scheduled appointment time. It was injected by someone more than qualified for the task: an orthopedic surgeon.

Canada’s decision to get at least one shot into as many people as possible means that I’m not scheduled for a second dose until August.

As many Canadians look at vaccination rates in Britain and the United States, their frustration has been growing. Right now, just 2 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated compared with 24 percent of Americans. But the scheduled increases in vaccine shipments — the Moderna slip up aside — should help Canada catch up slightly over the next few weeks.

If so, it will also be a relief to the medical world. After he released the projections compiled by Ontario’s table of science experts on Friday, which indicated cases could hit 30,000 a day if nothing is done, Adalsteinn Brown, the dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said, “More vaccination, more vaccination, more vaccination.”


built 100 tiny shelters for homeless people to get though the winter. He now has an even bigger plan.

  • Geneva Abdul, a Times colleague now based in London and former member of Canada’s national soccer team, wrote about the confidence that playing the sport gave her.

  • An exhaustive review found that anti-gay bias by Toronto police helped allow a serial killer to prey on the city’s gay community.

  • William Amos, a Liberal member of Parliament from Quebec, stripped down after a jog while not realizing that his computer’s camera was on and broadcasting to his fellow lawmakers in a virtual meeting. Now some people are asking who leaked the photo of Mr. Amos standing nude to the public.


  • A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


    How are we doing?
    We’re eager to have your thoughts about this newsletter and events in Canada in general. Please send them to nytcanada@nytimes.com.

    Like this email?
    Forward it to your friends, and let them know they can sign up here.

    View Source

    How Mario Draghi Has Made Italy a Power Player in Europe

    ROME — The European Union was stumbling through a Covid-19 vaccine rollout marred by shortages and logistical bungling in late March when Mario Draghi took matters into his own hands. The new Italian prime minister seized a shipment of vaccines destined for Australia — and along with them, an opportunity to show that a new, aggressive and potent force had arrived in the European bloc.

    The move shook up a Brussels leadership that had seemed to be asleep at the switch. Within weeks, in part from his pressing and engineering behind the scenes, the European Union had authorized even broader and harsher measures to curb exports of Covid-19 vaccines badly needed in Europe. The Australia experiment, as officials in Brussels and Italy call it, was a turning point, both for Europe and Italy.

    It also demonstrated that Mr. Draghi, renowned as the former European Central Bank president who helped save the euro, was prepared to lead Europe from behind, where Italy has found itself for years, lagging behind its European partners in economic dynamism and much-needed reforms.

    In his short time in office — he took power in February after a political crisis — Mr. Draghi has quickly leveraged his European relationships, his skill in navigating E.U. institutions and his nearly messianic reputation to make Italy a player on the continent in a way it has not been in decades.

    denied her a chair, rather than a sofa, during a visit to Turkey last week, saying he was “very sorry for the humiliation.”

    In his debut in a European meeting as Italy’s prime minister in February, Mr. Draghi, 73, made it clear that he was not there to cheerlead. He told an economic summit including heavy hitters like his European Central Bank successor, Christine Lagarde, to “curb your enthusiasm” when it came to talk about a closer fiscal union.

    That sort of union is Mr. Draghi’s long-term ambition. But before he can get anywhere near that, or tackle deep economic problems at home, those around him say Mr. Draghi is keenly aware that his priority needs to be solving Europe’s response to the pandemic.

    Italian officials say his distance from the contract negotiations, which were completed before he took office, gave him a freedom to act. He suggested that AstraZeneca had misled the bloc about its supply of vaccine, selling Europe the same doses two or three times, and he immediately zeroed in on an export ban.

    “He understood straightaway that the issue was vaccinations and the problem was supplies,” said Lia Quartapelle, a member of Parliament in charge of foreign affairs for Italy’s Democratic Party.

    On Feb. 25, he joined a European Council videoconference with Ms. von der Leyen and other European Union leaders. The heads of state warmly welcomed him. “We owe you so much,” Bulgaria’s prime minister told him.

    Then Ms. von der Leyen gave an optimistic slide presentation about Europe’s vaccine rollout. But the new member of the club bluntly told Ms. von der Leyen that he found her vaccine forecast “hardly reassuring” and that he didn’t know whether the numbers promised by AstraZeneca could be trusted, according to an official present at the meeting.

    He implored Brussels to get tougher and go faster.

    Ms. Merkel joined him in scrutinizing Ms. von der Leyen’s numbers, which put the Commission president, a former German defense minister, on the back foot. Mr. Macron, who had championed Ms. von der Leyen’s nomination but quickly formed a strategic alliance with Mr. Draghi, piled on. He urged Brussels, which had negotiated the vaccine contracts on behalf of its members, to “put pressure on corporations not complying.”

    At the time, Ms. von der Leyen was coming under withering criticism in Germany for her perceived weakness on the vaccine issue, even as her own commissioners argued that responding too aggressively with a vaccine export ban could hurt the bloc down the road.

    Mr. Draghi, with his direct talk during the February meeting, tightened the screws. So did Mr. Macron, who has emerged as his partner — the two are dubbed “Dracon” by the Germans — pushing for a more muscular Europe.

    Behind the scenes, Mr. Draghi complemented his more public hard line with a courting campaign. The Italian, who is known to privately call European leaders and pharmaceutical chief executives on their cellphones, reached out to Ms. von der Leyen.

    Of all the players in Europe, he knew her the least well, according to European Commission and Italian officials, and he wanted to remedy that and make sure she did not feel isolated.

    Then, in early March, as shortages of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine continued to disrupt Europe’s rollout and increase public frustration and political pressure, Mr. Draghi found the perfect gift for Ms. von der Leyen: 250,000 doses of seized AstraZeneca vaccine earmarked for Australia.

    “He told me that in the days before he was on the phone a lot with von der Leyen,” said Ms. Quartapelle, who spoke with Mr. Draghi the day after the shipment freeze. “He worked a lot with von der Leyen to convince her.”

    The move was appreciated in Brussels, according to officials in the Commission, because it took the onus off Ms. von der Leyen and gave her political cover while simultaneously allowing her to seem tough for signing off on it.

    The episode has become a clear example of how Mr. Draghi builds relationships with the potential to yield big payoffs not only for himself and Italy, but all of Europe.

    On March 25, when the Commission became suspicious over 29 million AstraZeneca doses in a warehouse outside Rome, Ms. von der Leyen called Mr. Draghi for help, officials with knowledge of the calls said. He obliged, and the police were quickly dispatched.

    In the meantime, Mr. Draghi and Mr. Macron, joined by Spain and others, continued to support a harder line from the Commission on vaccine exports. The Netherlands was against it, and Germany, with a vibrant pharmaceutical market, was queasy.

    When the European leaders met again in a video conference on March 25, Ms. von der Leyen seemed more confident in the political and pragmatic advantages of halting exports of Covid vaccines made in the European Union. She again presented slides, this time authorizing a broader six-week curb on exports from the bloc, and Mr. Draghi stepped back into a supportive role.

    “Let me thank you for all the work that has been done,” he said.

    After the meeting, Mr. Draghi, however modestly, gave Italy — and by extension himself — credit for the steps allowing export bans. “This is more or less the discussion that took place,” he told reporters, “because this was the issue originally raised by us.”

    View Source

    Worry Over 2 Covid Vaccines Deals Fresh Blow to Europe’s Inoculation Push

    BRUSSELS — First it was AstraZeneca. Now Johnson & Johnson.

    Last week, British regulators and the European Union’s medical agency said they had established a possible link between AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and very rare, though sometimes fatal, blood clots.

    On Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson said it would pause the rollout of its vaccine in Europe and the United States over similar concerns, further compounding the continent’s one-step-forward-two-steps-back efforts to quickly get people immunized against the coronavirus.

    European officials had been confident that they had secured enough alternative vaccine doses to take up the slack of the AstraZeneca problems and achieve their goal of fully inoculating 70 percent of the European Union’s adult population — about 255 million people — by the end of the summer.

    On Tuesday, European officials did not immediately say whether they believed the milestone would also survive the Johnson & Johnson suspension. But the European commissioner for health, Stella Kyriakides, wrote on Twitter that “Today’s developments with the J&J vaccine in the US are under close monitoring” by the bloc’s medicines regulator.

    months of short supplies and logistical problems.

    There is mounting evidence that the concerns are eroding Europeans’ willingness to get the AstraZeneca vaccine in particular, and threatening to elevate already high levels of vaccine hesitancy generally.

    YouGov poll published last month, 61 percent of the French, 55 percent of Germans and 52 percent of Spaniards consider the AstraZeneca vaccine “unsafe.” That is in stark contrast to the findings of a similar poll from February, when more people in those countries, with the exception of France, believed that the shot was more safe than unsafe.

    Regulators have asked vaccine recipients and doctors to be on the lookout for certain symptoms, including severe and persistent headaches and tiny blood spots under the skin. Doctors’ groups have circulated guidance about how to treat the disorder.

    In Poland, where the vaccination campaign relies to a large extent on AstraZeneca and where its use has not been restricted, a recent poll showed that given a choice, fewer than 5 percent of Poles would choose the AstraZeneca shot.

    Almost everywhere across the European Union, it seems, many are eager for alternatives, as the new types of vaccines that include the Moderna and Pfizer, which utilize science known as “mRNA,” have not been associated with similar side effects.

    Data from the 27 E.U. member states by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control shows that over all, 80 percent of vaccine doses distributed to the bloc have already been administered. That share drops to 65 percent for AstraZeneca, however, suggesting that many of its doses are sitting unused.

    Yet it is hard to predict how serious a blow the latest twist in the AstraZeneca saga — and the new Johnson & Johnson concerns — will be to E.U. vaccination efforts, as officials in Brussels have made big if belated efforts to turbocharge the second-quarter supply of doses.

    The European Union is poised to receive at least 300 million doses of various vaccines, three times what it got in the first quarter. Two hundred million are slated to come from Pfizer/BioNTech. Moderna is expected to deliver 35 million doses. Another 55 million doses are due of the Johnson & Johnson jab, and 70 million from AstraZeneca.

    In the rosiest scenario, the European Union could get up to 360 million doses by June.

    On Thursday, after Spain’s government changed the age threshold for the AstraZeneca shot, two-thirds of people called up for vaccination in Madrid did not show up, Antonio Zapatero, the regional health minister, told a news conference on Friday.

    He attributed the no-show by 18,200 people to “confusion” generated by Spain’s central government, which said on Wednesday that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given only to people over 60. Before this change, Mr. Zapatero said, the rate of abstention was 2 percent.

    In Belgium, where the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine has also been limited, the authorities said they did not expect major delays in the overall rollout, but they are still concerned about the confusion that the rare blood clotting issue is causing.

    Yves Van Laethem, a top epidemiologist who is the country’s Covid task force spokesman, said he expected a two-week delay that would mostly affect younger age groups in late summer. He said the E.U. regulator guidance had only partly helped in clarifying the situation.

    The European Medicines Agency’s opinion “wasn’t very clear, and it is also part of the problem,” Dr. Van Laethem said in an interview. “When you say, ‘We don’t apply limitations, but we just say there are serious side effects,’ there is part science and part diplomacy in that.”

    He said the limited effect that the new AstraZeneca issues would have on Belgian’s rollout was in large part because the country had ordered big shares of other vaccines.

    Although all E.U. countries have been offered a chunk of each vaccine approved in the bloc so far — AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer — many opted to forgo parts of their share of more expensive or cumbersome vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna early on, instead favoring the AstraZeneca jab.

    “In Britain or Eastern Europe, a big part of the campaigns are based on AstraZeneca,” Dr. Van Laethem said.

    Wealthier bloc members like Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands can better compensate for the loss of confidence in AstraZeneca, because they acquired extra doses of other vaccines — especially Pfizer — through a secondary market after poorer E.U. nations gave theirs up.

    Those countries — including Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia and Slovakia — are likely to be less able to quickly offer alternatives.

    Dr. Van Laethem, the Belgian immunologist, said that the national and European authorities needed to better communicate the costs and benefits of taking the AstraZeneca dose versus and the other authorized vaccines.

    Experts worry that even limited concerns over one vaccine’s unlikely side effects can affect people’s overall willingness to be immunized.

    “The main thing is to make people understand that the problem is the virus,” he said. “We have to vaccinate people — the risk linked to the virus is higher than those rare side effects.”

    Raphael Minder contributed reporting from Madrid and Constant Méheut from Paris.

    View Source

    Johnson & Johnson delays its Covid-19 vaccine rollout in Europe.

    Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday said it would delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid concerns over rare blood clots, in another blow to the continent’s ambition to ramp up inoculation campaigns that have lagged behind other countries in the West.

    Several countries of the bloc were poised to start administering the vaccine later this week, in what would have been a boost to efforts by the European Union to vaccinate 70 percent of adults by September.

    “The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement, adding that it had been reviewing the cases of blood clots detected in the United States with European health authorities.

    The first signs of concern in Europe came last week. The European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s drug regulator, said it was investigating reports of four cases of blood clots in people who had received a shot of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine in the United States, one of them being fatal. The regulator said it wasn’t clear if there was a link between the vaccine and the clots, adding that it treated the reports as “safety signal” that required further assessment.

    Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine came to a sudden halt in much of the United States on Tuesday after federal health agencies called for a pause in the vaccine’s use following the emergence of a rare blood clotting in six recipients.

    All six were women between the ages of 18 and 48 and all developed symptoms within about two weeks of vaccination. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

    Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and about nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Johnson & Johnson’s announcement comes as Europe has been embroiled in a regulatory back-and-forth over another vaccine, AstraZeneca’s. Several countries have restricted the use of the vaccine in younger people, after the European Medicines Agency said there was “a possible link” between blood clots and the vaccine earlier this month, and said it should be listed as a rare side effect.

    Both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca use the same technology, prompting concerns that the blood clots reported in recipients of both vaccines could be the same rare, yet sometimes fatal side effect.

    The agency stopped short of advising to curb the use of the vaccine in 27 member countries, saying that it was up to the national authorities to decide who should receive which vaccine, which resulted in a patchwork of different national regulations.

    France and Belgium have restricted its use for those older than 55, and Germany, Italy and Spain, for those over 60. Some other countries, such as Poland, which rely heavily on AstraZeneca in their national rollouts, decided to go ahead with AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

    View Source

    Britain Rejoices and Asks: Are Lockdowns Finally Finished?

    LONDON — In China it was fengcheng. In Spain it was el confinamiento. In France it was le confinement. In Britain it was known as lockdown, plain and simple — but it had the distinction of being one of the longest and most stringent in the world.

    On Monday, that finally began drawing to an end.

    After months of coronavirus restrictions that encroached on almost every aspect of daily life, the English celebrated a hopeful new chapter, many of them in what seemed the most fitting way possible: with a pint at a pub.

    “It’s like being out of prison,” said Kate Asani, who was sitting at a small table with two friends in the back garden of the Carlton Tavern in the Kilburn area of London, where they basked in each other’s company as much as in the sunshine.

    For people across Europe, struggling with yet another wave of the pandemic and demoralized by a vaccine rollout that, outside of Britain, has been deeply troubled, this is hardly a time to rejoice.

    Images from the ghostly streets of Wuhan riveted the world’s attention, and it soon became clear that the virus respected no national borders. But there was debate over whether Western democracies could — or should — resort to the extreme measures taken by Beijing.

    As hospitals struggled to deal with a flood of patients and death tolls soared, the debate was overtaken by the undeniable reality that traditional methods of infectious disease control, like testing and contact tracing, had failed.

    And so lockdowns became a way of life.

    held out longer than many of its European neighbors, entered its first national lockdown on March 26, 2020.

    Although it is difficult to compare lockdowns, researchers at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford have developed a system ranking their stringency. They found that Britain had spent 175 days at its “maximum stringency level.”

    “In this sense, we can say that the U.K. is globally unique in spending the longest period of time at a very high level of stringency,” said Thomas Hale, an associate professor of global public policy at Oxford.

    2,500 cases and 36 fatalities.

    first shut down last year, even the prime minister sounded shaken.

    “I do accept that what we’re doing is extraordinary,” Mr. Johnson said last March. “We’re taking away the ancient, inalienable right of freeborn people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub.”

    Days earlier, Mr. Johnson’s recommendation that the public voluntarily stay away from pubs and other social venues was not universally well received. His own father said: “Of course I’ll go to a pub if I need to go to a pub.”

    It was not just pubs that suffered under lockdown. Retail stories, too, struggled to survive.

    The flagship store of the British retailer Topshop on Oxford Circus, once a destination for fashion-hungry young adults, permanently shut its doors after its parent company filed for bankruptcy last year. And plywood boards now cover the front of Debenhams, another retail chain that floundered during the pandemic.

    The two companies crumbled within days of one another, as the country bounced from one lockdown to the next and the pandemic hastened the end of British high-street brands that were already teetering on the edge.

    But now, those stores that have survived are hoping for a heyday, after the worst recession in decades.

    Retailers hope that there will be a splurge in spending by people who have amassed a record amount of savings, nearly $250 billion according to government estimates, roughly 10 percent of Britain’s gross domestic product.

    Plastered in big letters on the shop front of John Lewis, a British department store, there was an invitation coupled with a fingers-crossed prediction: “Come on in London, brighter days are coming.”

    Marc Santora and Megan Specia reported from London and Eric Nagourney from New York.

    View Source

    Saudi Aramco Sells Oil Pipeline Stake for $12.4 Billion

    BJ’s Wholesale Club, died unexpectedly on Thursday of “presumed natural causes,” according to a statement released Friday by the company. He was 49.

    “We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney,” said Christopher J. Baldwin, the company’s executive chairman, said in a statement. “Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community.”

    Mr. Delaney joined BJ’s in 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer. He was promoted to president in 2019 and became chief executive last year. Before joining BJ’s, he was a partner in the Boston office of Bain & Company from 1996 to 2016. Mr. Delaney earned a master’s in business administration from Carnegie Mellon University, and attended the University of Massachusetts, where he pursued a double major in computer science and mathematics.

    Mr. Delaney led the company through the unexpected changes in consumer demand spurred by the pandemic, with many customers stockpiling wholesale goods as they hunkered down at home. “2020 was a remarkable, transformative and challenging year that structurally changed our business for the better,” Mr. Delaney said in the company’s last quarterly earnings report.

    The BJ’s board appointed Bob Eddy, the chief administrative and financial officer, to serve as the company’s interim chief executive. Mr. Eddy joined the company in 2007 and became the chief financial officer in 2011, adding the job of chief administrative officer in 2018.

    “Bob partnered closely with Lee and has played an integral role in transforming and growing BJ’s Wholesale Club,” Mr. Baldwin said. He said that the company would announce decisions about its permanent executive leadership in a “reasonably short timeframe.”

    BJ’s, based in Westborough, Mass., operates 221 clubs and 151 BJ’s Gas locations in 17 states.

    Revolut’s office in London in 2018. The banking start-up is offering its workers the opportunity to work abroad for up to two months a year.
    Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

    Before the pandemic, companies used to lure top talent with lavish perks like subsidized massages, Pilates classes and free gourmet meals. Now, the hottest enticement is permission to work not just from home, but from anywhere — even, say, from the French Alps or a Caribbean island.

    Revolut, a banking start-up based in London, said Thursday that it would allow its more than 2,000 employees to work abroad for up to two months a year in response to requests to visit overseas family for longer periods.

    “Our employees asked for flexibility, and that’s what we’re giving them as part of our ongoing focus on employee experience and choice,” said Jim MacDougall, Revolut’s vice president of human resources.

    Georgia Pacquette-Bramble, a communications manager for Revolut, said she was planning to trade the winter in London for Spain or somewhere in the Caribbean. Other colleagues have talked about spending time with family abroad.

    Revolut has been valued at $5.5 billion, making it one of Europe’s most valuable financial technology firms. It joins a number of companies that will allow more flexible working arrangements to continue after the pandemic ends. JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Ford Motor and Target have said they are giving up office space as they expect workers to spend less time in the office, and Spotify has told employees they can work from anywhere.

    Not all companies, however, are shifting away from the office. Tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, have added office space in New York over the last year. Amazon told employees it would “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”

    Dr. Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, said he did not expect office-centric companies to lose top talent to companies that allow flexible working, in part because many employees prefer to work from the office.

    Furthermore, when employees are not in the same space, there are fewer spontaneous interactions, and spontaneity is critical for developing ideas and collaborating, Dr. Wang said.

    “There is a cost,” he said. “Yes, we can interact via email, via Slack, via Zoom — we’ve all gotten used to that. But part of it is that we’ve lowered our expectations for what social interaction actually entails.”

    Revolut said it studied tax laws and regulations before introducing its policy, and that each request to work from abroad was subject to an internal review and approval process. But for some companies looking to put a similar policy in place, a hefty tax bill, or at least a complicated tax return, could be a drawback.

    After its initial public offering imploded, WeWork went public through a SPAC deal.
    Credit…Kate Munsch/Reuters

    After weeks of wading into the debate over how to regulate SPACS, the popular blank-check deals that provide companies a back door to public markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission is sending its first shot across the bow.

    John Coates, the acting director of the corporate finance division at the S.E.C., issued a lengthy statement on Thursday about how securities laws apply to blank-check firms, the DealBook newsletter reports.

    “With the unprecedented surge has come unprecedented scrutiny,” Mr. Coates wrote of the recent boom in blank-check deals.

    In particular, he is interested in a crucial (and controversial) difference between SPACs and traditional initial public offerings: blank-check firms are allowed to publish often-rosy financial forecasts when merging with an acquisition target, while companies going public in an I.P.O. are not. Regulators consider such forecasts too risky for firms as yet untested by the public markets.

    Investors raise money for SPACs via an I.P.O. of a shell company, and those funds are used within two years to merge with an unspecified company, which then also becomes a publicly traded company. Because the deal is technically a merger, it’s given the same “safe harbor” legal protections for its financial forecasts as a typical M.& A. deal. And that’s why there are flying-taxi companies with little revenue going public via a SPAC while promising billions in sales far in the future.

    The S.E.C. thinks allowing financial forecasts for these deals might be a problem. They can be “untested, speculative, misleading or even fraudulent,” Mr. Coates wrote. And he concludes his statement by suggesting a major rethink of how the “full panoply” of securities laws applies to SPACs, which could upend the blank-check business model.

    If the S.E.C. does not treat SPAC deals as the I.P.Os they effectively are, he writes, “potentially problematic forward-looking information may be disseminated without appropriate safeguards.”

    The letter serves as a warning, but perhaps not much else — yet. Unless the S.E.C. issues new rules (as it did for penny stocks) or Congress passes legislation, SPAC projections will continue. But this strongly worded statement could moderate or even mute them.

    “The S.E.C. has now put them on notice,” Lynn Turner, a former chief accountant of the agency, said.


    Amazon Warehouse Unionization Votes

    Either side needed 1,521 votes to win.

    A total of 505 ballots were challenged; 76 were void.·Source: National Labor Relations Board

    Amazon beat back the unionization drive at its warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., the counting of ballots in the closely watched effort showed on Friday.

    A total of 738 workers voted “Yes” to unionize and 1,798 voted “No.” There were 76 ballots marked as void and 505 votes were challenged, according to the National Labor Relations Board. The union leading the drive to organize, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said most of the challenges were from Amazon.

    About 50 percent of the 5,805 eligible voters at the warehouse cast ballots in the election. Either side needed to receive more than 50 percent of all cast ballots to prevail.

    The ballots were counted in random order in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, Ala., and the process was broadcast via Zoom to more than 200 journalists, lawyers and other observers.

    The voting was conducted by mail from early February until the end of last month. A handful of workers from the labor board called out the results of each vote — “Yes” for a union or “No” — for nearly four hours on Thursday.

    Sophia June and Miles McKinley contributed to this report.

    A screenshot of a “vax cards” page on Facebook. 

    Online stores offering counterfeit or stolen vaccine cards have mushroomed in recent weeks, according to Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online.

    The efforts are far from hidden, with Facebook pages named “vax-cards” and eBay listings with “blank vaccine cards” openly hawking the items, Sheera Frenkel reports for The New York Times.

    Last week, 45 state attorneys general banded together to call on Twitter, Shopify and eBay to stop the sale of false and stolen vaccine cards.

    Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Shopify and Etsy said that the sale of fake vaccine cards violated their rules and that they were removing posts that advertised the items.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the vaccination cards in December, describing them as the “simplest” way to keep track of Covid-19 shots. By January, sales of false vaccine cards started picking up, Mr. Khalifah said. Many people found the cards were easy to forge from samples available online. Authentic cards were also stolen by pharmacists from their workplaces and put up for sale, he said.

    Many people who bought the cards were opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines, Mr. Khalifah said. In some anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, people have publicly boasted about getting the cards.

    Other buyers want to use the cards to trick pharmacists into giving them a vaccine, Mr. Khalifah said. Because some of the vaccines are two-shot regimens, people can enter a false date for a first inoculation on the card, which makes it appear as if they need a second dose soon. Some pharmacies and state vaccination sites have prioritized people due for their second shots.

    An empty conference room in New York, which is among the cities with the lowest rate of workers returning to offices.
    Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

    In only a year, the market value of office towers in Manhattan has plummeted 25 percent, according to city projections released on Wednesday.

    Across the country, the vacancy rate for office buildings in city centers has steadily climbed over the past year to reach 16.4 percent, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the highest in about a decade. That number could climb further if companies keep giving up office space because of hybrid or fully remote work, Peter Eavis and Matthew Haag report for The New York Times.

    So far, landlords like Boston Properties and SL Green have not suffered huge financial losses, having survived the past year by collecting rent from tenants locked into long leases — the average contract for office space runs about seven years.

    But as leases come up for renewal, property owners could be left with scores of empty floors. At the same time, many new office buildings are under construction — 124 million square feet nationwide, or enough for roughly 700,000 workers. Those changes could drive down rents, which were touching new highs before the pandemic. And rents help determine assessments that are the basis for property tax bills.

    Many big employers have already given notice to the owners of some prestigious buildings that they are leaving when their leases end. JPMorgan Chase, Ford Motor, Salesforce, Target and more are giving up expensive office space and others are considering doing so.

    The stock prices of the big landlords, which are often structured as real estate investment trusts that pass almost all of their profit to investors, trade well below their previous highs. Shares of Boston Properties, one of the largest office landlords, are down 29 percent from the prepandemic high. SL Green, a major New York landlord, is 26 percent lower.

    President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during a White House appearance on Thursday.
    Credit…Amr Alfiky/The New York Times

    President Biden proposed a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.

    The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.

    Mr. Biden’s first spending request to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.

    It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget request the White House will release this spring.

    Among its major new spending initiatives, the plan would dedicate an additional $20 billion to help schools that serve low-income children and provide more money to students who have experienced racial or economic barriers to higher education. It would create a multi-billion-dollar program for researching diseases like cancer and add $14 billion to fight and adapt to the damages of climate change.

    It would also seek to lift the economies of Central American countries, where rampant poverty, corruption and devastating hurricanes have fueled migration toward the southwestern border and a variety of initiatives to address homelessness and housing affordability, including on tribal lands. And it asks for an increase of about 2 percent in spending on national defense.

    The request represents a sharp break with the policies of President Donald J. Trump, whose budget proposals prioritized military spending and border security, while seeking to cut funding in areas like environmental protection.

    All told, the proposal calls for a $118 billion increase in discretionary spending in the 2022 fiscal year, when compared with the base spending allocations this year. It seeks to capitalize on the expiration of a decade of caps on spending growth, which lawmakers agreed to in 2010 but frequently breached in subsequent years.

    Administration officials would not specify on Friday whether that increase would result in higher federal deficits in their coming budget proposal, but promised its full budget would “address the overlapping challenges we face in a fiscally and economically responsible way.”

    As part of that effort, the request seeks $1 billion in new funding for the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax laws, including “increased oversight of high-income and corporate tax returns.” That is clearly aimed at raising tax receipts by cracking down on tax avoidance by companies and the wealthy.

    Officials said the proposals did not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan, which he introduced last week, or for a second plan he has yet to roll out, which will focus on what officials call “human infrastructure” like education and child care.

    Congress, which is responsible for approving government spending, is under no requirement to adhere to White House requests. In recent years, lawmakers rejected many of the Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.

    But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.

    Part of Saudi Aramco’s giant Ras Tanura oil terminal. The company said it would raise $12.4 billion from selling a minority stake in its oil pipeline business.
    Credit…Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

    Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, has reached a deal to raise $12.4 billion from the sale of a 49 percent stake in a pipeline-rights company.

    The money will come from a consortium led by EIG Global Energy Partners, a Washington-based investor in pipelines and other energy infrastructure.

    Under the arrangement announced on Friday, the investor group will buy 49 percent of a new company called Aramco Oil Pipelines, which will have the rights to 25 years of payments from Aramco for transporting oil through Saudi Arabia’s pipeline networks.

    Aramco is under pressure from its main owner, the Saudi government, to generate cash to finance state operations as well as investments like new cities to diversify the economy away from oil.

    The company has pledged to pay $75 billion in annual dividends, nearly all to the government, as well as other taxes.

    Last year, the dividends came to well in excess of the company’s net income of $49 billion. Recently, Aramco was tapped by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s main policymaker, to lead a new domestic investment drive to build up the Saudi economy.

    The pipeline sale “reinforces Aramco’s role as a catalyst for attracting significant foreign investment into the Kingdom,” Aramco said in a statement.

    From Saudi Arabia’s perspective, the deal has the virtue of raising money up front without giving up control. Aramco will own a 51 percent majority share in the pipeline company and “retain full ownership and operational control” of the pipes the company said.

    Aramco said Saudi Arabia would retain control over how much oil the company produces.

    Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich neighbor, has struck similar oil and gas deals with outside investors.

    View Source

    Blood Clots Linked to AZ Vaccine Stem From Rare Antibody Reaction

    Two reports published on Friday in a leading medical journal help to explain how AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine can, in rare cases, cause serious and sometimes fatal blood clots.

    Scientific teams from Germany and Norway found that people who developed the clots after vaccination had produced antibodies that activated their platelets, a blood component involved in clotting. The new reports add extensive details to what the researchers have already stated publicly about the blood disorder.

    Why the rare reaction occurred is not known. Younger people appear more susceptible than older ones, but researchers say no pre-existing health conditions are known to predispose people to the problem, so there is no way to tell if an individual is at high risk.

    Reports of the clots have already led a number of countries to limit AstraZeneca’s vaccine to older people, or to stop using it entirely. The cases have dealt a crushing blow to global efforts to halt the pandemic, because the AstraZeneca shot — easy to store and relatively cheap — has been a mainstay of vaccination programs in more than 100 countries.

    statement on its website, AstraZeneca said it was “actively collaborating with the regulators to implement these changes to the product information and is already working to understand the individual cases, epidemiology and possible mechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events.”

    The two new reports were published by The New England Journal of Medicine. One from Germany describes 11 patients, including nine women ages 22 to 49. Five to 16 days after vaccination, they were found to have one or more clots. Nine had cerebral venous thrombosis, a clot blocking a vein that drains blood from the brain. Some had clots in their lungs, abdomen or other areas. Six of the 11 died, one from a brain hemorrhage.

    One patient had pre-existing conditions that affected clotting, but during a news briefing on Friday, Dr. Andreas Greinacher, an author of the report, said those conditions most likely played only a minor role in the disorder that occurred after vaccination.

    second report, from Norway, described five patients, one male and four female health care workers ages 32 to 54, who had clots and bleeding from seven to 10 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. Four had severe clots in the brain, and three died. Severe headaches were among their early symptoms. Like the German patients, all had high levels of antibodies that could activate platelets.

    The team from Norway also recommended treatment with intravenous immune globulin. The researchers said the disorder was rare, but “a new phenomenon with devastating effects for otherwise healthy young adults,” and they suggested that it may be more common than previous studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine had indicated.

    On Friday, European regulators also said they were reviewing reports of a few blood clot cases that occurred in people who had received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. In the United States, federal agencies are investigating reports of a different type of unusual blood disorder involving a precipitous drop in platelets that emerged in a few people who had received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

    Benjamin Mueller and Melissa Eddy contributed.

    View Source

    Amazon Union Votes Continue to Be Tallied: Live Updates

    Unofficial Tally of Amazon Warehouse Unionization Votes 1,608 yes votes are needed for the union to win today. The New York Times·As of 7:19 p.m. Hundreds of ballots have been contested, which could delay either side from reaching the threshold. One ballot was marked as void. The ballots were being counted in random order in the National Labor Relations Board’s office in Birmingham, Ala., and the process was broadcast via Zoom to more than 200 journalists, lawyers and other observers.The voting was conducted by mail from early February until the end of last month. A handful of workers from the labor board called out the results of each vote “Yes” for a union or “No” for nearly four hours on Thursday.Amazon and the union had spent more than a week in closed sessions, reviewing the eligibility of each ballot cast with the labor board, the federal agency that conducts union elections. The union said several hundred ballots had been contested, largely by Amazon, and those ballots were set aside to be adjudicated and counted only if they were vital to determining an outcome. If Amazon’s large margin holds steady throughout the count, the contested ballots are likely to be moot.The incomplete tally put Amazon on the cusp of defeating the most serious organized-labor threat in the company’s history. Running a prominent campaign since the fall, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union aimed to establish the first union at an Amazon warehouse in the United States. The result will have major implications not only for Amazon but also for organized labor and its allies.

    Labor organizers have tapped into dissatisfaction with working conditions in the warehouse, saying Amazon’s pursuit of efficiency and profits makes the conditions harsh for workers. The company counters that its starting wage of $15 an hour exceeds what other employers in the area pay, and it has urged workers to vote against unionizing.

    Amazon has always fought against unionizing by its workers. But the vote in Alabama comes at a perilous moment for the company. Lawmakers and regulators — not competitors — are some of its greatest threats, and it has spent significant time and money trying to keep the government away from its business.

    The union drive has had the retailer doing a political balancing act: staying on the good side of Washington’s Democratic leaders while squashing an organizing effort that President Biden has signaled he supported.

    Labor leaders and liberal Democrats have seized on the union drive, saying it shows how Amazon is not as friendly to workers as the company says it is. Some of the company’s critics are also using its resistance to the union push to argue that Amazon should not be trusted on other issues, like climate change and the federal minimum wage.

    Sophia June contributed to this report.

    Revolut’s office in London in 2018. The banking start-up is offering its workers the opportunity to work abroad for up to two months a year.
    Credit…Tom Jamieson for The New York Times

    Before the pandemic, companies used to lure top talent with lavish perks like subsidized massages, Pilates classes and free gourmet meals. Now, the hottest enticement is permission to work not just from home, but from anywhere — even, say, from the French Alps or a Caribbean island.

    Revolut, a banking start-up based in London, said Thursday that it would allow its more than 2,000 employees to work abroad for up to two months a year in response to requests to visit overseas family for longer periods.

    “Our employees asked for flexibility, and that’s what we’re giving them as part of our ongoing focus on employee experience and choice,” said Jim MacDougall, Revolut’s vice president of human resources.

    Georgia Pacquette-Bramble, a communications manager for Revolut, said she was planning to trade the winter in London for Spain or somewhere in the Caribbean. Other colleagues have talked about spending time with family abroad.

    Revolut has been valued at $5.5 billion, making it one of Europe’s most valuable financial technology firms. It joins a number of companies that will allow more flexible working arrangements to continue after the pandemic ends. JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Ford Motor and Target have said they are giving up office space as they expect workers to spend less time in the office, and Spotify has told employees they can work from anywhere.

    Not all companies, however, are shifting away from the office. Tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, have added office space in New York over the last year. Amazon told employees it would “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”

    Dr. Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, said he did not expect office-centric companies to lose top talent to companies that allow flexible working, in part because many employees prefer to work from the office.

    Furthermore, when employees are not in the same space, there are fewer spontaneous interactions, and spontaneity is critical for developing ideas and collaborating, Dr. Wang said.

    “There is a cost,” he said. “Yes, we can interact via email, via Slack, via Zoom — we’ve all gotten used to that. But part of it is that we’ve lowered our expectations for what social interaction actually entails.”

    Revolut said it studied tax laws and regulations before introducing its policy, and that each request to work from abroad was subject to an internal review and approval process. But for some companies looking to put a similar policy in place, a hefty tax bill, or at least a complicated tax return, could be a drawback.

    A screenshot of a “vax cards” page on Facebook. 

    Online stores offering counterfeit or stolen vaccine cards have mushroomed in recent weeks, according to Saoud Khalifah, the founder of FakeSpot, which offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online.

    The efforts are far from hidden, with Facebook pages named “vax-cards” and eBay listings with “blank vaccine cards” openly hawking the items, Sheera Frenkel reports for The New York Times.

    Last week, 45 state attorneys general banded together to call on Twitter, Shopify and eBay to stop the sale of false and stolen vaccine cards.

    Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Shopify and Etsy said that the sale of fake vaccine cards violated their rules and that they were removing posts that advertised the items.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced the vaccination cards in December, describing them as the “simplest” way to keep track of Covid-19 shots. By January, sales of false vaccine cards started picking up, Mr. Khalifah said. Many people found the cards were easy to forge from samples available online. Authentic cards were also stolen by pharmacists from their workplaces and put up for sale, he said.

    Many people who bought the cards were opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines, Mr. Khalifah said. In some anti-vaccine groups on Facebook, people have publicly boasted about getting the cards.

    Other buyers want to use the cards to trick pharmacists into giving them a vaccine, Mr. Khalifah said. Because some of the vaccines are two-shot regimens, people can enter a false date for a first inoculation on the card, which makes it appear as if they need a second dose soon. Some pharmacies and state vaccination sites have prioritized people due for their second shots.

    An empty conference room in New York, which is among the cities with the lowest rate of workers returning to offices.
    Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

    In only a year, the market value of office towers in Manhattan has plummeted 25 percent, according to city projections released on Wednesday.

    Across the country, the vacancy rate for office buildings in city centers has steadily climbed over the past year to reach 16.4 percent, according to Cushman & Wakefield, the highest in about a decade. That number could climb further if companies keep giving up office space because of hybrid or fully remote work, Peter Eavis and Matthew Haag report for The New York Times.

    So far, landlords like Boston Properties and SL Green have not suffered huge financial losses, having survived the past year by collecting rent from tenants locked into long leases — the average contract for office space runs about seven years.

    But as leases come up for renewal, property owners could be left with scores of empty floors. At the same time, many new office buildings are under construction — 124 million square feet nationwide, or enough for roughly 700,000 workers. Those changes could drive down rents, which were touching new highs before the pandemic. And rents help determine assessments that are the basis for property tax bills.

    Many big employers have already given notice to the owners of some prestigious buildings that they are leaving when their leases end. JPMorgan Chase, Ford Motor, Salesforce, Target and more are giving up expensive office space and others are considering doing so.

    The stock prices of the big landlords, which are often structured as real estate investment trusts that pass almost all of their profit to investors, trade well below their previous highs. Shares of Boston Properties, one of the largest office landlords, are down 29 percent from the prepandemic high. SL Green, a major New York landlord, is 26 percent lower.

    A closed restaurant and pastry store in Tucson, Ariz. The Fed chair, Jerome Powell, said the economic recovery from the pandemic has been “uneven and incomplete.”
    Credit…Rebecca Noble for The New York Times

    View Source

    Help! I Want to Go to Europe in August. Is This a Pipe Dream?

    My husband and I are currently planning a trip to Ireland, Portugal and Italy for August and September. We are only reserving hotels with free cancellation policies and our airline tickets can be changed to a future date. Knowing that much of Europe is closed right now to United States citizens because of the virus, is there much hope that our plans will materialize, or are we wasting our time? What should I watch for? Kathy

    Although there are some signs of life — Iceland is newly open to fully vaccinated travelers and Greece will reopen to vaccinated or virus-tested visitors next month — Europe, where case counts are rising in some parts and the vaccine rollout has been disappointingly slow, is still largely closed to Americans. Ireland is open to United States citizens with a combination of testing and quarantine, but Portugal and Italy, like most of the continent, for now remain off limits. Italy, in particular, was hard-hit by the virus in the early months of the pandemic; and in March, the spread of a contagious variant from Britain pushed the country back into another lockdown.

    “This environment is so challenging because there is significant pressure for countries that rely on tourism to rebound, which counterbalances much slower vaccination rates in Europe,” said Fallon Lieberman, who runs the leisure-travel division of Skylark, a travel agency affiliated with the Virtuoso travel network. “So unfortunately, those two forces are at odds with one another.”

    Your question, like many related to the pandemic, involves various degrees of risk. First, let’s look at the concrete risk: If you book now for late summer, how likely are you to lose money?

    flexibility with seats beyond Basic Economy, and now, especially, it’s wise to book tickets that can be easily changed. Delta Air Lines has eliminated change and cancellation fees for all flights originating from North America, and Delta eCredits set to expire this year — including for new tickets purchased this year — can be used for travel through 2022. United Airlines has also permanently eliminated change fees.

    Unlike a plane ticket, which can always be changed (either for free or for a fee), a nonrefundable hotel reservation is generally exactly that: a use-it-or-lose-it investment.

    The good news: “Hotels in Europe — and around the world, really — are being quite flexible,” said Ms. Lieberman, who has helped hundreds of Skylark clients cancel and rebook last year’s felled Europe trips, many to this summer and beyond. “While this is a very challenging time, many suppliers are providing maximum flexibility.”

    Cancellation policies vary by property, but many of the multinational companies have made it easy, and relatively risk-free, to plan ahead. Companies like Hilton and Four Seasons are allowing cancellations up to 24 hours before check-in. Hyatt is allowing fee-free cancellations up to 24 hours in advance for arrivals through July 31 (and it’s always possible that date will be extended). For points nerds, most of the big hotel chains allow most award nights to be canceled scot-free, with the points redeposited, within a day or two of the expected check-in.

    More complicated than physical refunds, though, is the larger, metaphysical risk: How likely is it that this trip is actually going to happen? What forces can help predict whether the Europe trips we book today will actually materialize in August and September?

    France and Italy have just been locked down again, interest in Europe is rising, aided, no doubt, by signs that President Biden could lift the ban on European visitors to the United States as early as next month, news of the possibility of European health passes, rumors that Spain and Britain could both restart international tourism in mid May, and more.

    At Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes and predicts flight and hotel prices, bookings for Europe-bound summer 2021 travel surged 68 percent week-over-week between the last week of February and the first week of March. Searches for round-trip flights to Europe departing this summer increased a whopping 86 percent in the 30 days following February 22.

    According to TripAdvisor data of hotel searches from the United States for this summer, five of the 10 most-searched European destinations were in Greece, but Rome — and Paris, for that matter — were also on the list.

    To make sense of how traveler zeal will jibe with the realities of the pandemic, analysts and travel industry experts are eyeing several factors, including flight schedules.

    According to PlaneStats, the aviation-data portal from Oliver Wyman, an international consulting firm, the number of Europe-bound flights scheduled to depart the United States this month is around 26 percent of the number that departed the United States for Europe in April 2019. Next month compared to May 2019, that figure is looking even higher so far: 35 percent. (April and May 2020, by contrast, both clocked in at 5 percent.) That’s lower than normal, but it’s still a drastic uptick from any other point during the pandemic. Although many will be connecting flights (Americans can still transit through Europe) or culminate in destinations like London (Americans can visit England, though multiple testing and quarantines are required), schedules still remain a key indicator.

    Khalid Usman, a partner and aviation expert at Oliver Wyman. “What airlines don’t want to do is put out schedules where people are not going to be traveling.”

    Pandemic Navigator, which simulates day-by-day immunity growth. “That’s good news for the domestic market, but in the context of international travel, we do have to realize that it’s not just about one country — it’s a country at the other end as well.”

    Factoring in the spotty vaccine rollout across the pond, Mr. Usman said it’s reasonable to assume that Europe’s herd immunity will lag several months behind the United States. Over the next several months, he added, European countries will follow in Iceland’s footsteps and open individually, complete with their own regulations about vaccinations, testing and quarantines. To spur travel across the continent this summer, the European Union is considering adopting a vaccine certificate for its own residents and their families.

    “It’s not going to be a binary open-or-shut,” Mr. Usman said. “Countries are going to start getting more selective about who they’re going to start letting in.”

    Italy’s numbers — plus new lockdowns and growing Covid variants — seem to be stifling optimism; Hopper flight searches from the United States to Italy have remained relatively flat.

    For now, Ms. Lieberman, of Skylark, has adopted a “beyond the boot” mind-set: “Our theory is that if you’re willing to go beyond the boot — meaning, Italy — there will be fabulous, desirable summer destinations for you to take advantage of.”

    Portugal surged in January but has recently eased lockdown measures as infection rates have slowed. The country is now aiming for a 70 percent vaccination rate this summer.

    American interest in Portugal is spiking in response. In the first week of March, following an announcement that Portugal could welcome tourists from Britain as soon as mid-May, Hopper searches on flights from the United States to Lisbon rose 63 percent. (That’s not far behind Athens, for which travel searches shot up 75 percent in the same time period.)

    will next month start nonstop service between Boston and Reykjavik — and resume its Iceland service from New York City and Minneapolis.

    “Unless demand spikes rapidly enough to outpace the increase in supply, flash sales can be found as airlines attempt to entice travelers to return amid piecemeal easings of travel restrictions,” said Mr. Damodaran. Icelandair, for example, is running sales on flights and packages through April 13.

    And with prices for summer flights to Europe still relatively low in general — down by more than 10 percent from 2019, according to Hopper — experts see little downside in penciling in a trip.

    “If you’re willing to take some risk, plan early and lock in your preferred accommodations and ideal itineraries,” Ms. Lieberman said. “But of course we caution you to be prepared to have to move deposits and dates if it comes to that.”

    View Source

    Revolut Will Allow Employees to Work Abroad for 2 Months a Year

    Before the pandemic, companies used to lure top talent with lavish perks like subsidized massages, Pilates classes and free gourmet meals. Now, the hottest enticement is permission to work not just from home, but from anywhere — even, say, from the French Alps or a Caribbean island.

    Revolut, a banking start-up based in London, said Thursday that it would allow its more than 2,000 employees to work abroad for up to two months a year in response to requests to visit overseas family for longer periods.

    “Our employees asked for flexibility, and that’s what we’re giving them as part of our ongoing focus on employee experience and choice,” said Jim MacDougall, Revolut’s vice president of human resources.

    Georgia Pacquette-Bramble, a spokeswoman for Revolut, said she was planning to trade the winter in London for Spain or somewhere in the Caribbean. Other colleagues have talked about spending time with family abroad.

    JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Ford Motor and Target, have said they are giving up office space as they expect workers to spend less time in the office, and Spotify has told employees they can work from anywhere.

    Not all companies, however, are shifting away from the office. Tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, have added office space in New York over the last year. Amazon told employees it would “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”

    Dr. Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, said he did not expect office-centric companies to lose top talent to companies that allow flexible working, in part because many employees prefer to work from the office.

    Furthermore, when employees are not in the same space, there are fewer spontaneous interactions, and spontaneity is critical for developing ideas and collaborating, Dr. Wang said.

    “There is a cost,” he said. “Yes, we can interact via email, via Slack, via Zoom — we’ve all gotten used to that. But part of it is that we’ve lowered our expectations for what social interaction actually entails.”

    Revolut said it studied tax laws and regulations before introducing its policy, and that each request to work from abroad was subject to an internal review and approval process. But for some companies looking to put a similar policy in place, a hefty tax bill, or at least a complicated tax return, could be a drawback.

    View Source