Global newsround

Mike Broad reports on what’s happening in HR around the world

Ethical practice is the key to success of globalisation

Companies must embrace ethical practices if the globalisation movement is to
succeed, delegates were told at an international conference last month.

George Cox, director general of the Institute of Directors, which held the
conference, said there needs to be a global spread of higher standards of
corporate governance. But he added that globalisation was needed in developing
countries to bring investment and the transfer of skills.

The conference attracted hundreds of anti-globalisation protesters,
particularly in response to the presence of former US Secretary of State, Henry

Kissinger said that today’s business leaders are better educated than ever,
but the length of their contracts leads to short-termism.

"The challenge is can we find forums in which we can address long-range
problems?" he asked.

UK faces work-time legal action from the European Commission

The European Commission is
threatening legal action against the UK due to an alleged failure to fully
implement the Working Time Directive.

A warning letter was sent to the UK Government on 21 March and
manufacturing union Amicus claims that a key complaint concerns the measurement
of additional time worked voluntarily.

The union complained to the Commission that the directive
limiting the working week to 48 hours had been inadequately implemented.

General secretary Roger Lyons said: "Britons work the
longest hours in Europe. This decision will cut excessive working time
considerably, slash stress and bring us closer to the level of working hours
enjoyed throughout the rest of Europe."

UK businesses are concerned by the red tape that the
measurement of additional hours would generate. The CBI called it a
"bureaucratic nightmare".

The government has until 21 May to respond, and if the EC is
not satisfied that UK law has been brought into line with the directive the
case could be taken to European Court of Justice.

Temps could get equal benefits as permanent staff under directive

Temporary staff working across Europe
will be entitled to the same pay and conditions as permanent employees from day
one of employment, if proposals by the official responsible for driving the EU
agency workers directive are agreed.

Minister of European Parliament Ieke van den Burg wants to
remove the qualifying period for the legislation, which currently means temps
would only be entitled to equal pay after working for an employer for six weeks.

Van den Burg said: "Since the majority of temporary
placements are for weeks rather than months, the core group would be excluded.
That is illogical and unacceptable."

Employers believe the draft directive will increase business
costs and create red tape for HR. (globalhr May 2002)

Economic recovery bleak for Germany as strikes loom

Germany’s economic recovery has been
thrown into doubt by a fall in an important business indicator in April.

The Ifo Index fell in the same week as a new report by the OECD
predicted that economic growth in Germany would hit only 0.7 per cent this

The country is also facing high unemployment, rising trade
union militancy and a spate of high-profile corporate bankruptcies, which are
combining to undermine the Social Democratic-led Government’s attempts to be
re-elected in September.

The massive IG Metall engineering union called on thousands of
workers to vote in strike ballots in May following the collapse of wage
negotiations for the sector’s 3.6 million workers.

UK workers worse off than their European counterparts

People in the UK work harder, spend
less time on holiday and pay more in tax and for goods than other Europeans.

A study by UK firm Bradford & Bingley shows British
employees clock up an average 8.7 hours a day at work compared to 7.7 hours in
Italy, 7.9 in France and 8 in Germany.

The research reveals that average household income in the UK is
the highest in Europe at £35,917, but British workers pay more tax and social

UK employees also have the least time off, with only 28 days
each year on average, including public and annual holidays, compared to 47 days
in France, 46 in Spain and 41 days in Germany.

Ian Darby, group commercial director at Bradford & Bingley,
said: "We found that, rather than being rewarded for longer working hours
and fewer days holiday, everyday items cost us far more than our European
counterparts – and we suffer a higher tax burden."

HR seen as the weakest link

Successful global companies do not have world-class HR teams,
according to research by a leading business school.

The report, Measuring the Competi-tive Fitness of Global Firms,
claims that HR has consistently been regarded as one of the weaker capabilities
of global firms for the five years that the report has been published.

The study, by Professor Jean-Claude Larreche of Insead Business
School in France, examined 12 management capabilities of 326 leading global
companies, including mission and vision, marketing strategy, organisation and
systems and HR.

HR averaged a score of 64 in 2002, with scores of between 65
and 79 being regarded as ‘world class’.

The quality of HR management was found to vary by industry
sector, with computer and electronics companies performing best and finance and
insurance organisations worst.

Paul Belcher, partner of Watson Wyatt, which sponsored the
research, said: "The trend is in the right direction. HR is an area in
which many companies have been closely focused in recent years and I think we
can confidently predict that world-class companies will be matched by having
world-class HR in next year’s report."

Firms fail to invest in future leaders

Firms are failing to respond to
managerial doubts over their leadership potential, claims research from the US.

The study, by Conference Board, shows that only one-third of
the executives surveyed rate their future leadership capabilities as excellent
or good. This compares with 50 per cent five years ago.

The report’s co-author said: "Hyper competition,
fast-changing technology and closer scrutiny from corporate boards are putting
increasing pressure on companies to develop effective leaders for the future.

"But while some firms are taking action, less than half of
those surveyed say that developing future leaders is a major priority for their
top management."

More than 150 large organisations in the US were surveyed in
the Development Dimensions International-sponsored research.

UK faces unemployment jump if it joins the euro

UK unemployment would jump by more
than a quarter of a million in three years if the UK were to enter the European
economic and monetary union, according to research.

Simulations carried out by Oxford Economic Forecasting – on
behalf of the No Campaign – show that after eurozone entry, potential shocks to
the economy, such as a recession in the US, a rise in oil prices or a drop in
equities, would be more pronounced.

George Eustice, director of the No Campaign, said if the UK
stays outside the eurozone, the Bank of England would be able to cut rates
aggressively, counteracting any damage.

The UK Government has promised not to recommend entering the
monetary union unless five economic tests are met.

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