French dressing tribunal fight
Twelve French state post office workers have gone before an industrial tribunal in Albi, south-west France, to demand payment for the time it takes to put on and take off their uniforms. They calculate it takes a total of 10 minutes a day. The 11 female and one male worker also want their employer to pick up the bill for cleaning. They are being supported in their case by the militant CGT union, which claimed La Poste is not respecting labour legislation introduced in 2000. This stipulates that the time taken to put on and remove a uniform be considered as work, for which compensation should be made in the form of either pay or rest. If the case is upheld – the tribunal is due to deliver its verdict in June – the union has calculated that each of the organisation’s 100,000 workers could be due about e3,000 (£2,000) in back pay. La Poste has tried to play down the claims, pointing to a national agreement signed last month with four unions (not including the CGT) that makes provision for fresh negotiations on the issue.
VW’s former HR chief guilty
The former personnel director of Volkswagen and architect of Germany’s unpopular labour reforms has been given a e576,000 (£380,000) fine and two-year suspended jail sentence following a slush-fund scandal. Peter Hartz, who had been personnel director at the car maker since 1993, pleaded guilty to paying e2m (£1.3m) over a 10-year period in bribes to Klaus Volkert, the former head of Volkswagen’s works council. The sentence was suspended because Hartz co-operated with the prosecution, and had not profited personally from the bribes paid to union representatives. Charges that he signed off luxury holidays and brothel visits were dropped as part of a deal with lawyers. Hartz was an adviser to the former chancellor Gerhard Schroder on overhauling Germany’s unemployment benefits scheme, and gave his name to the unpopular ‘Hartz IV’ set of labour market reforms.
US ups investment in diversity
Three in four US employers are planning to maintain or increase spending on diversity and inclusion training this year, according to a survey. The study of more than 2,000 senior HR executives by consultants Novations Group found that 22% expected to boost spending on diversity and inclusion training, while more than half (52%) anticipated the same budget as last year. Only 5% anticipated a decrease in budget from 2006. Globalisation is the greatest factor driving this training, according to Novations’ senior vice-president Gerry Lupacchino. “The focus used to be primarily US-oriented, but as the workforce demographics of companies change, organisations face complex new challenges in all regions. Diversity and inclusion training has to keep pace, if not lead the way,” he said. “It’s now more about contribution than compliance. Organisations use inclusion training as a way to get everyone fully engaged.”
General strike over in Guinea
Guineans have finally returned to work after an 18-day nationwide strike that saw almost 60 people killed. Unions called off the general strike in the capital Conakry last week after reaching a deal with the government over ministerial powers and trade prices. President Lansana Conte agreed to delegate some powers to a new government and cut fuel and rice costs in the West African state. But union leaders warned the general strike was only suspended, and could be resumed if the deal was broken. Boubacar Biro Barry, one of the union leaders, said: “We are satisfied, but we remain vigilant. If the government does not respect its commitments, there is no doubt that we are ready to resume the strike immediately.”