Global newsround

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

Toyota settles two-week strike at Philippines subsidiary

Car manufacturer Toyota Philippines has restarted production following a
two-week strike. The company, which is a joint venture with Toyota Motor
Corporation, the Philippines bank Metropolitan Bank and Japan’s Mitsui, backed
down over the sacking of 227 employees, which had provoked the stoppage.

The dismissals were carried out in response to an earlier three-day stoppage
and go-slow, following a failed campaign by workers for the recognition of an
independent union.

Around 400 of Toyota Philippines’ 1,400 employees are union members.

Chirac calls for limits to strike action in public sector

Jacques Chirac expressed support for a law of "minimum public
service" during strikes, after stoppages once more affected the train and
bus system in France.

"A strike is a fundamental right, guaranteed by the
constitution and no one questions that, but like all freedoms it has its
limits, in that it affects the freedom of others," he said.

A strike by train staff, as a protest against alleged plans for
privatisation, was followed by walk-outs by bus employees, in dispute over a
GGT union bid for the right to retire at 55.

Job losses steady in Japan, but underlying rate is up

Japan’s unemployment rate has fallen unexpectedly, according to
the latest figures released in early April, but the underlying rate remains on
an upward trend as the Japanese economy continues to struggle.

Labour market experts noted that the ratio of job offers to
applicants, which is a guide to business conditions, is deteriorating. The dip
in unemployment from 4.9% of the workforce to 4.7% is seen as a lagging
response to last year’s economic recovery, which had started to peter out as
the data were published.

French judge orders Marks & Spencer to halt redundancies

A tribunal
in France has ordered Marks & Spencer to suspend its closure of 18 shops
pending full consultation with the employees affected. Unions in France accused
the UK-based retailer of flouting national law by announcing redundancies.
Closures followed strategic decisions made in London to concentrate on the UK
market, but the judge ruled that this did not overrule French law.

Meanwhile, the French food group Danone has also hit fierce
controversy over plans to make redundancies, even though it is profitable. The
group wants to increase the efficiency of its biscuit factories and announced
in March that it was seeking to lose 570 posts out of 15,000 in France, which
has triggered street protests by employees.

Pfeffer attacks vitriolic e-mail threatening sackings

Leading human resources academic Jeffrey Pfeffer criticised a
vitriolic e-mail sent by a chief executive to his managers which caused a 22%
slide in the share price. Cerner Corporation’s CEO Neal Patterson told managers
he wanted to see the car park full by 7.30am each day and threatened sackings.

"It is the corporate equivalent of whips and ropes and
chains. It puts you at war with your employees and with your basic tendencies
in human nature," says Pfeffer. Patterson has since apologised.

Pfeffer is a trenchant critic of harsh or impersonal treatment
of employees, which causes damage to profitability as well as to employees’
sense of well-being.

Fat cat pay "heralds drop in profits"

There is a negative correlation between chief executive pay and
company performance, according to a study by the US pressure group United for a
Fair Economy. Its research claims that companies headed by the top ten most
highly paid executives have under-performed the average of Standard & Poor
top 500 companies, as measured by return to shareholders.

"The existing compensation packages provide short-term
incentive, but not the climate for long-term sustainable business
success," says author Scott Klinger. "When Business Week releases its
list of the ten companies which had the highest paid CEOs in 2000, that would
be a good list of stocks to sell short."

EU sets limits on free movement of workers

There is likely to be a five-year transition period in
implementing freedom of movement for employees within an enlarged European
Union, European Commissioners announced in April.

The EU may take on as many as 12 new members from Eastern and
Central Europe in the next ten years, with Poland, Hungary and the Czech
Republic currently heading the queue.

But according to Gunter Verheugen, the commissioner for
enlargement, and Anna Diamantopoulou, the social affairs commissioner, citizens
of these countries will not immediately have the right to work in existing EU
member countries.

People from new member countries will face some limits on their
ability to work in Western Europe for five years after accession to membership
of the entrant nations. Proposals to work will need the approval of EU

Citizens of the 15 current members of the union have full
freedom of movement.

Informal employment takes a grip on Argentina

Working in the informal economy has
reached a record high in Argentina. A study by independent group Equis
calculated that more than one-third of the adult population – 38% – are working
in the unofficial economy, depriving the state of millions in tax revenues. The
country has failed to benefit from recent years of global economic growth, and
rates of both temporary work and official unemployment remain high.

Joint pact aims for better employment in Sicily

Employers, trade unions and universities in Sicily have reached
agreement on a series of policies and initiatives aimed at boosting employment
in the island. Like much of southern Italy, Sicily has high levels of activity
in the informal economy, and also has organised crime.

The new pact commits unions affiliated to four national
confederations, the local university, employers’ associations and statutory
bodies including the Equal Opportunities Council to work together. They aim to
create new companies, help introduce or reintroduce individuals into regular
employment and promote training in new technology.

Asia invests in training to combat skills shortage

US-based data storage company EMC has launched its Asia Pacific
Global Training Center in Singapore to address the shortage of storage
specialists in the region. The firm has invested S$5m (£1.9m) in the centre,
which is its second in the region (the first was in Japan). It aims for 2,800
students by 2003.

In a similar move, Singapore Network Services plans to invest
the same amount over the next three years in a software development and
training centre in India. The application service provider will build the
centre in the heart of India’s burgeoning software industry in Bangalore.

Lufthansa pilots hold back on strike in 35% pay claim

The airline
pilots union in Germany has backed away from a strike at national carrier
Lufthansa as part of its pay dispute. The union is seeking a substantial pay
hike of 35%, which has been rejected by the company, saying that pilots earn
less than in comparable airlines in other countries. The company’s original pay
offer was just over one-tenth of the claim, at 3.6%.

But the pilots’ association promised not to carry out strikes
over the Easter period. It would have been the first strike of pilots in the
history of Lufthansa.

Minimum wage up 11% for UK employees

The UK has announced an 11% rise in the minimum wage, from
£3.60 an hour to £4.10, to take effect from October 2001.

An estimated 1.3 million employees in the country will benefit
from the increase, which will be followed by a further ten pence rise a year
later, if economic circumstances permit.

It is the first increase in the pay floor since it was
introduced in 1998, the first time in its history that the UK has had a minimum

Graduate hiring rate stays high despite downturn

North American companies are maintaining a high rate of
recruitment from universities, despite corporate lay-offs and talk of a
possible recession.

A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers
of the US found recruiters are evenly split between those planning to stick to
original college hiring goals and those scaling back due to the economic
slowdown. An "extraordinary" job market for graduates in recent years
has become merely "good", says a report by the Society for Human
Resource Management.

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