Global newsround

whitely reports on what’s happening in HR around the world

in Spain as court outlaws pay freeze

major constitutional controversy has erupted in Spain after the High Court
ruled that a public sector pay freeze imposed by the government in 1997 was

court has decided that the incoming centre-right government of Jose Maria Aznar
broke an agreement signed by its predecessor with the unions, which would have
seen public sector salaries rise by as much as 2.6%.

unions have promised a "hard and virulent" fight to ensure that the
government meets the back-dated payments in full, which could cost the Spanish
Exchequer close to Ptas500bn (US$3.45bn). The two main national trade union
bodies, the UGT and the Comisiones Obreras, were discussing the possibility of
a national strike as globalhr went to press.

staff gain more rights

businesses will have to ensure that home-workers receive the same  treatment as other employees, under
regulations due to be in place by the start of 2002. The European Union’s
social affairs commissioner, Anna Diamantopolou, signed the agreement on
teleworking on 7 February this year.

main features are to guarantee equality of access to training and career
development; equal protection under health and safety rules; and continuation
of employment status and collective rights.

payoffs linked to "non-litigation" clauses

in the US are cutting down on litigation by linking increased severance payouts
to clauses that bar an ex-employee from suing the company, according to a
report in USA Today.

example is ICG Communications, a data, voice and Internet communications
provider, which offers an additional two weeks’ severance pay for every year of
service to employees who sign a non-litigation agreement.

are anticipating a short economic downturn and they do not want to have a
negative profile, because they may be hiring again in the near future, the
report noted.

example of generosity in downsizing came at AOL, which offered stock options to
those losing their jobs through the merger with Time Warner, although this was
not specifically linked to non-litigation clauses.

US president to admit more Mexican workers

W Bush has agreed to discuss loosening immigration rules for Mexican nationals,
to help reduce labour shortages in the southern US. In February, the new US
president discussed proposals for a new guest worker programme with his Mexican
counterpart, Vicente Fox  

plans put forward in the US Senate differ over whether temporary employees –
who are wanted by employers in the agriculture, construction and service industries
– would have the right to apply for US citizenship.

rights groups say failure to grant citizens’ rights would place immigrant
employees in the ambiguous position of Gastarbeiters in Germany, who are
permanent residents without political rights.

and Bush are currently considering both options.

protestors take to streets of France

of thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in France to voice
opposition to planned increases in pension contributions. Employers’ body MEDEF
wants to increase by five years the 40-year period during which private sector
employees have to contribute in order to benefit from full pension rights.

the current French system, the non-government body the ASF, comprising trade
union and employer interests, administrates the pension system for the private
sector. MEDEF, representing employer interests, argues that with increasing
life expectancy the system will collapse on present trends.

Zealand opens doors to Asian skills

Zealand is to soften its English-language test for immigrants in an attempt to
alleviate skill shortages. The test was imposed in late 1995 following an
increase in the number of people from Asia looking for work on the islands.

change is part of a push by the government to upgrade the economy and
compensate for an exodus of skilled people, especially those versed in IT and
communications technology.

annual target of migrant employees set by the New Zealand government is being
increased from 17,000 to 27,000. The policy change follows pressure from
employers at forums the government has been holding with them since October.

managers take pay cut

managers at Mazda in Japan have volunteered 10% pay cuts in sympathy for the
1,800 employees being asked to take early retirement.

2000, the loss-making Japanese car giant, now one-third owned by Ford, asked
for people to step forward for the redundancy programme. However, as yet, no
one has come forward, prompting the gesture by managers, who announced their
intention to "take part in taking painful action", according to a
statement released by the company.

sales grew slightly last year in the US but fell in Japan and Europe. The
falling euro has also diminished revenues from European sales and the firm
plans to close one of two assembly lines in Hiroshima, western Japan.

textile staff paid for doing nothing

Indian Government is contributing towards "idle wages" to textile
employees without sufficient work. Staff of the National Textile Corporation
are receiving subsidy from the state as the company continues to run at a loss.

the move, textile minister Dhananjay Kumar said he was honouring social

government criticises work ethic

Deputy Prime Minister has hit out at the country’s service employees and
labelled the work ethic as a "disgrace".

still find ourselves being attended to by an unsmiling, unco-operative,
inefficient worker with zero initiative," Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

to a report in the Asia Pacific Management Forum, the situation arises partly
due to a critical shortage of staff and partly due to "an increasing local
perception that service jobs are demeaning and best left to foreign workers
from Indonesia, Philippines and Bangladesh".

averts national rubber strike

industry employers in Mexico have avoided a national strike after unions agreed
to a 9% pay increase. Production continues following an agreement signed in
February between the 35 companies and the national coalition of trade unions covering
the sector.

agreed to leave collective bargaining arrangements intact, shelving proposals
to modify the procedures. The deal was brokered with the help of a conciliator
from the Mexican Employment and Social Affairs Department.

in pay floor for US employees

US Senate has approved a significant hike in the minimum wage, from $5.15 to
$6.65 per hour in three annual increments.

first increase (of 60c) will be effective 30 days after the law passes, said Senator
Edward Kennedy, who is promoting the Fair Minimum Wage Bill of 2001. Kennedy
claimed that the purchasing power of the minimum wage is nearly three dollars
below the level of 1968.

is strengthened in Germany

worker representatives are set to gain more say on works councils. Labour
minister Walter Riester, from the ruling Social Democrat party, has received
the backing for his plans from both the Green Party coalition partner and from
the trade unions.

wants the works councils (Betriebsrat) to have a say on  training, environmental issues and the
organisation of work.

forums are already the most influential of any model in Europe, giving employee
representatives considerable say on management decisions. The changes are
expected to become law before the next round of works council elections in 2002.

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