International news

This week’s international news

California spends $10bn on low-pay subsidies

California’s tax-payers are spending US$10.1bn (£5.5bn) a year subsidising
the state’s growing low-wage economy, according to a study from Berkeley’s
Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California. It
claims that of the families receiving social assistance in California, 53 per
cent of funds went to working families to cover health and childcare costs,
rather than to unemployed and retired people. About $5.7bn (£3.1bn) of the
money went to families with workers earning less than $8 an hour (£4.36), while
those with workers earning between $8 and $10 (£5.44) an hour used $1.9bn
(£1bn) of the subsidies. Retail workers received $2bn (£1bn) in aid, more than
twice the amount in any other sector. The study said that by raising the minimum
wage to $8 per hour from the current $6.75 (£3.68), the state could save $2.7bn
(£1.5bn) in benefit payouts. It added: "Some assistance programmes may be
serving as de facto subsidies for low-wage employers, pushing down wages and
providing disincentives."

Confidential information ‘can be passed to unions’

Employee-elected company board members can pass confidential information
learned from meetings to trade union chiefs and expert advisers, as long as
they can demonstrate the disclosure helps them carry out their job, a European
Court of Justice (ECJ) advocate general has advised. Miguel Poiares Maduro
added union secretary-generals could discuss this information with colleagues,
but had to ensure it was "necessary for [them] to be able to perform his
duties". Maduro was advising on a Danish case involving the general
secretary of financial worker union Finansforbundet, and a RealDanmark employee
board member, whose company was being merged with Dansk Bank. The employee
informed the union boss about the deal, who told colleagues. One bought and
sold shares in RealDanmark and was subsequently convicted of insider trading.
The secretary general and board member were later prosecuted for illegally
transferring confidential information.

Wal-Mart chiefs risk bonuses over diversity targets

Senior executives at US retail group Wal-Mart will lose up to 15 per cent of
their bonuses if the company fails to meet employment diversity targets. CEO
Lee Scott told shareholders at the annual company meeting that bonuses,
including his own, would be cut by up to 7.5 per cent this year and 15 per cent
next year if the company doesn’t hit goals on the number of women and
minorities it employs. The company employs 1.3 million staff, making it the
biggest single private employer in the US. Wal-Mart, which owns supermarket
chain Asda, has been beset by legal challenges and could soon be hit with a
class action suit alleging the company denies promotion and equal pay to female
staff. The company has created a compliance office in the US that now has 140
people working to ensure the company follows the rules and its own procedures.

‘Europass’ CV system launched to cover all of EU

A comprehensive European Union (EU) CV system, helping EU workers and
students gain recognition for their qualifications across the Continent, has
been approved in principle by the EU Council of Ministers and the European
Parliament. The ‘Europass’ – a passport-style document – will contain personal
details presented in a common format (in a major European language). It will

– A commonly formatted European CV, containing a harmonised presentation of
qualifications and competencies, including extra-curricular activities,
academic qualifications and work experience

– A European Diploma Supplement describing the nature, level, context,
content and status of a graduate’s studies

– A ‘MobiliPass’ recording any training or studying on a recognised EU
course, stating which institution was involved

– A European Language Portfolio recording language learning and abilities,
plus cultural experience

– A Certificate Supplement, attached to a vocational certificate, explaining
what skills have been gained.

Each EU country will set up a Europass National Agency (ENA) to manage the
system, which should be launched next year.

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