Global Newsround

Philip
Whiteley reports on what’s happening in HR around the world

France
M&S owns up to ‘shambles’ over staff

Alain
Juillet, head of troubled British retailer Marks & Spencer in France, has
been forced to accept that its handling of the planned closure of its 18 stores
in France has been a "terrible shambles".

In
an interview with Le Figaro in August, he said he was "taken aback"
by an announcement from the London head office on the planned closures.
"That there have been errors of communication is the least that one can
say [about this case]," he said.

Juillet
described the structure of the parent group as "very centralised, very
hierarchical and monolithic". The challenge for chief executive Luc
Vandevelde to restore the group’s fortunes is "a race against the
clock".

He
affirmed that M&S plans to sell all 18 French shops, and ensure personnel
are transferred, but couldn’t guarantee that all 1,700 jobs would be saved.

M&S
created a storm of protest in March when it announced the closures, and it
could face court action over alleged failures to consult with staff.

Peter
Reid, an independent adviser to top European companies on works councils, said
the saga reveals deep-seated cultural differences between the UK and France.
"In France, the consultation system is about saving jobs rather than just
consultation," he said. "The pressure is to strengthen the
consultation process, because there is a political desire to remove the ability
of companies to close plants and offices."

The
British view is that the level and extent of staff consultation depends on the
employer and each organisation should be allowed to develop its own approach in
a voluntary way.

European
employers with more than 50 staff are set to be covered by a draft EU directive
on information and consultation with staff.

www.lefigaro.fr

Working
conditions slip as capitalism takes over in China

Employment
conditions have fallen with the spread of private sector industries in China,
according to an investigation by the New York Times.

Statutory
conditions in China are on a par with Western countries, but in practice the
44-hour working week and locally set minimum wages are ignored, the report
said. Conditions are particularly bad in manufacturing plants run by inward
investors, employing staff who have migrated from rural areas. "The supply
of labour vastly exceeds the demand," said Zhou Litai, a lawyer in
Shenzhen who has represented workers in health and safety cases.

The
report quoted one trade union official as saying that there had been collusion
between local government officials and factory managers, which has hampered
implementation of worker-protection laws.

www.nytimes.com

Taiwanese
unemployment rises

Taiwan
has seen unemployment soar in the past year. The economy contracted by more
than 2 per cent in the second quarter of 2001, and the proportion of the
population that is unemployed rose to 4.5 per cent, compared with just 2.9 per
cent a year earlier.

The
United Daily News has reported that the jobless rate might break 5 per cent
this year. The economy shows no sign of improvement and tens of thousands of
graduates are about to enter the labour market, the agency said.

Unofficial
trade strong in Argentina

A
large proportion of the Argentine workforce is in the informal economy,
according to the national chamber of commerce. A report estimated that turnover
in unofficial trade through street vendors is around Ar Pesos 15bn (US$ 15bn),
evading Pesos 3bn in losses to the labour market and taxes.

The
statistics reflect a national rate of unemployment which has increased in the
past year to 16.5 per cent, and is slightly higher, at 17.2 per cent in the
Greater Buenos Aires region, the principal economic centre of the country.

www.lanacion.com.ar

USA
Referendum bid launched to resist local wage floor

Businesses
in a Californian city are organising signatures to authorise a referendum on
local minimum wage legislation. Opponents of the Living Wage Bill in Santa
Monica say the requirement for some larger employers to pay at least $10.50 per
hour is unnecessary regulation and "pay-back to unions that supported most
of the council", according to Herb Katz, of the employers’ campaign.

Union
organisers have planned their own "decline to sign" campaign,
shadowing the pro-business group as it solicits signatures. The pro-labour
group lobbied a farmers’ market, handing out pieces of pie, saying that
low-paid workers "deserve their slice". The employers’ campaign,
known as FAIR, has spent nearly $200,000 on the protest, and received over
$50,000 of in-kind contributions.

www.worldatwork.com

Western
Europe
Managers must learn from past on job cuts

Employers
are failing to learn the lessons of past exercises in downsizing, HR experts
have warned, as redundancy schemes spread across the economy.

The
Hay Group reported that many organisations have declined to offer outplacement
services in order to save costs, and warned that they will have a damaged
reputation when they start to hire again. "It makes people who are staying
rather nervous of their employer – there is quite a lot of resentment and
anger; you never know when those former employees are going to be clients of
yours. Also, word gets out on the street that the organisation is not a nice
place to work," said Susan Bloch, head of executive coaching at the Hay
Group.

She
said that the common practice of asking redundant employees to clear their
desks and leave the building within an hour causes great upset and offers no
advantages to the organisation.

In
the case of the new economy, executives have often been inexperienced and were
anticipating endless growth, so were unprepared to deal with redundancy
situations, she added.

Companies
should follow the lead of Cisco, which offered redundant staff the chance to
work for a charity for a year on one-third full pay, she said.

Redundancies
have spread from collapsing dotcoms to telecom firms and vehicle manufacturers.

Unemployment
has generally halted its downward slide in advanced economies. In August,
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder conceded that he is unlikely to meet his
target to reduce the country’s total of unemployed people to 3.5 million by
next year. The number increased to just under 3.8 million in July.

www.worldatwork.com

Germany
Red tape ties refugee posts

Medium-sized
companies in Germany cannot afford to take on skilled immigrants because of the
bureaucracy involved and the high level of the minimum wage, according to a
report by an industry-financed economic research unit IW.

It
said that the "green card" application process for a skilled employee
is time-consuming, and compounds the problems caused by helping the recruit to
find housing. However, the report also states that some employers have found
that recent simplifications in the process have helped. The minimum yearly
income of DM100,000 (around $45,000) was too high for some companies.

Almost
9,000 green cards have been issued in Germany to IT experts from outside the
European Union. The country has put a time limit of five years on the duration
of the work permits, which the report indicated was a reason for low take-up as
it inhibits career planning.

www.faz.com

USA
CEO’s $10m severance pay

A
severance package has topped the $10m mark. Michael Bonsignore, departing chief
executive of Honeywell International, received the parting gift along with
"generous pension cheques", according to World at Work, formerly the
American Compensation Association.

Bonsignore
was ousted by the board of directors in July, and details of his severance
package emerged in a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange
Commission, the principal listed companies regulator in the US.

Lawrence
Bossidy has been brought out of retirement to head the firm on a temporary
basis, on a salary of $2m, plus a target bonus.

High
remuneration, particularly for executives who have not been deemed to have
earned them, are increasingly being questioned by investor groups and
regulators in the US and the UK. Disclosure requirements have been tightened up.

www.worldatwork.com

Canada
Civil servants walk out over ‘double standards’

Public
service employees in Canada held three one-day strikes in August, causing
considerable disruption to social security, immigration, agricultural
administration and other areas.

The
dispute focused on accusations of double standards, following the awarding of
20 per cent pay rises to members of Parliament and 8.7 per cent increases for
executives in the federal government, but only 2 per cent for unionised
employees.

In
July, a conciliation board recommended that junior public sector staff be given
a 3 per cent rise and a CA$1,000 signing bonus.

"That
is a minimum. They [the members] will not go below that," said Nycole Turmel,
president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the trade union involved in
the dispute.

The
government has signalled its willingness to restart negotiations on the matter.
Talks were due to be held as globalhr went to press.

www.lexis-nexis.com

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