This week’s global HR news in brief

EC to clamp down on protectionist ‘old EU’ work bans
The European Commission (EC) is targeting the established (and wealthy) member states of the European Union which prevent citizens of the 10 new accession states exercising their right to work across the continent. It has formally requested that The Netherlands reviews its rules which insist that employers secure work permits for staff temporarily posted from these eastern and southern EU countries. The EC said this illegally “discriminates against businesses in new member states”, making it difficult for them to operate in The Netherlands. Brussels has also warned Luxembourg it could ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to fine the country for continuing to stop companies securing work permits for non-EU staff posted there. The ECJ is taking action against Italy, Portugal and The Netherlands over their refusal to allow other EU security companies to work in their territories.

UK’s comparative chaos as unions fail to rouse EU
The UK still suffers from high rates of industrial action compared with its European Union (EU) competitors, according to research. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions said that while the UK lost 904,900 working days through strikes in 2004, Germany lost just 50,673, and The Netherlands 15,000 (in 2003). Only Spain had a worse record last year, with 928,151 days lost. Some new EU member states in eastern Europe have passive workforces. Estonia registered 1,548 working days of strikes in 2004, Poland 6,600 in 2003, and Lithuania none at all in either, according to Statistics Lithuania. Its director, Willy Buschak, said: “In comparison with the past, the early 2000s have been a time of relative industrial peace in many European countries.”

McDonald’s signs mediation deal to avoid disputes
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and McDonald’s have signed an agreement to resolve workplace disputes through alternative dispute resolution when charges of discrimination are filed against the fast-food giant. McDonald’s, which operates more than 13,000 restaurants across the US, said it prohibited unlawful discrimination and harassment, and the agreement was consistent with the company’s “commitment to our employees to take their concerns seriously and find ways to resolve concerns fairly and efficiently”. The EEOC has 90 such national or regional agreements with large employers.

Outsourcing revives red-under-the-bed fears for US
Americans’ reactions to outsourcing depend mostly on location, according to a new survey. The practice of outsourcing work to China elicited the most negative reaction from US citizens, followed by Russia and India. But outsourcing to Canada, Ireland and Mexico received a positive response. The survey of 1,000 American adults by Opinion Research also found that 71% believe the US government should set limits on how much outsourcing American companies can do, with just over half believing such restrictions would harm the competitiveness of US firms. More than a quarter of respondents fear outsourcing could cost them their jobs, and most think boycotts can influence a company’s decisions. Around 17% of Americans would buy a US-made product even if it cost 20% more than the same product made elsewhere.

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