HR news round-up: HR stories making the headlines 23 September 2010

A round-up of HR stories in today’s newspapers.

One of the UK’s largest hospitals has been forced to shut its emergency department and maternity unit for the winter over fears that lives will be put at risk due to staff shortages, reports the Daily Mail. Queen Mary’s Sidcup NHS Trust, which serves more than a million people in south London, has been ordered to make the closures to protect patient safety. Managers admitted that a drastic shortage of A&E doctors meant that the unit would not be able to cope with the expected surge in admissions over the winter months. Leading doctors warned this closure is only the “tip of the iceberg” and dozens of other overstretched hospitals may be forced to shut their doors over the coming months.

Firefighters are set to launch a campaign of industrial action tomorrow in a row over new contracts, with the threat of strikes next month.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the action will go ahead in London from midnight tonight unless the capital’s fire brigade withdraws plans to introduce the contracts, which include different shift patterns, reports The Independent. The action will include an overtime ban, a refusal to undertake higher duties and a withdrawal from various voluntary projects. Thousands of FBU members are also being balloted on strike action, with the result due on 14 October. The union would have to give seven days’ notice of any walkouts.

The merger between Iberia and British Airways has moved a step closer after the Spanish carrier backed BA’s approach to tackling its £3.7 billion pension deficit, reports the BBC. Iberia had the right to cancel the tie-up if it felt that the hole would be too much of a lag on the merged firm. But it said that it had chosen not to invoke its right to pull out of the deal. In June, BA set out a recovery plan to address the deficit, putting aside at least £330 million a year until 2026. Observers say that this was the last major hurdle to the tie-up going ahead.

Cherie Blair has attacked men from some of the world’s biggest companies for their treatment of female employees, accusing them of putting “token women” on their boards, according to the Daily Telegraph. Speaking at a discussion about women in poor countries at the UN summit in New York, Blair told executives from Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, Sony and dozens of other companies to deal with the injustices they deal women “in their own back yard” before telling developing countries what to do. “…because the women who work in your organisations would give a hollow laugh if you go back and say ‘Oh, we believe in empowering women in the developing world and helping women’,” she said. “In fact, on your boards you have no women, or you just have token women, and in your senior management and in your middle management, women are not given the access to equal pay, equal opportunity and are not truly valued.”

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