International briefs: share option settlement at Telefonica

Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica has reached an agreement with unions over share options for employees. Staff in the company and in 100 per cent-owned subsidiaries will have options on between eight and 40 shares, at 5 euros each -about a fifth of their value at last week’s prices. The UGT union welcomed the announcement, but called for more guarantees on job security.

US employees benefit from financial guidance

Financial advice is the latest benefit being offered to staff in the US, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Many firms are working with professional financial planners to offer assistance to key executives, and job candidates are starting to expect such a perk.

Austrian work policy hit by right-wing rule

The right-wing Austrian government has launched a series of Thatcherite changes to employment policy. The controversial coalition, which includes the far-right Freedom Party, plans a reduction in non-wage labour costs of 15bn Austrian schillings (£670m) by 2003, through cuts to holiday payments and reduced employers contributions to national insurance. It will also embark on privatisation initiatives, and intends to cut staff in the public sector. It seeks to cut pensions costs by raising the retirement age by 18 months in the private sector.

US employers pay staff to stay in retention push

Labour market pressures in the US have increased to the stage where even junior clerical staff can receive retention bonuses. Around 10 per cent of employers in a survey by the American Compensation Association reported offering extra cash to junior staff to stay. The proportion rises to nearly a third of employers in the case of professional staff, slightly higher than for top managers. Bonuses are typically paid in a lump sum cash award.

German banks seal deal on Saturday work

Banks in Germany have secured a deal on Saturday working after protracted negotiations with unions. But the agreement is limited to weekend work on a voluntary basis, starting in October, with a maximum of 6 per cent of all employees at any business involved. The arrangement is experimental, lasting two years. Existing employees, but not new recruits, will be compensated with time off. The deal was struck between employers and the DAG and HBV unions. Members of the HBV union remain opposed to the deal, according to an internal vote, but the executive decided it did not have enough support to resist the move, instead it will aim to improve the deal within individual banks.

French PM acts to boost public-sector pensions

Lionel Jospin has made concessions to the unions in his bid to reduce the deficit in the public sector pension scheme. The French prime minister intends to increase the period of contributions from 37.5 years to 40 years, but has opted for a negotiated arrangement, rather than imposing the change. And he promised that civil servants’ bonuses would be included in pension calculations.

Euro Parliament slams tyre firm over closure

The European Parliament has criticised tyre manufacturer Goodyear-Dunlop for closing its plant in Cisterna in Italy with inadequate warning. Just over 500 jobs were lost. It also rebuked the European Commission for approving a merger between the ABB and Alstom electricity suppliers last year without considering the full social and employment consequences. The parliamentary resolution also called on the commission to evaluate the application of the law on consulting on redundancies and speed the review of the European Works Council directive 

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