International news

This week’s international news

Happy low-paid staff can benefit companies

Treating low-wage workers well provides substantial benefits to companies,
according to a recent corporate study in the US. Conducted for Corporate Voices
for Working Families, it highlighted 15 company programmes – ranging from
subsidised childcare at the Bank of America to short-term employee loans at
Levi Strauss & Co – which improved workers’ lives, while improving their
employers’ profits. The study noted that despite the US’s huge wealth,
approximately 30 per cent of all US workers earn less than $15,000 (£8,364) a
year, and 20 per cent make between that and $25,000 (£13,939).

Campaigning for higher standards of safety

Higher safety and health standards in Europe’s construction industry could
save up to 1,300 lives each year and avoid 850,000 serious injuries, according
to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. Cutting the sector’s high
incidence of accidents and work-related illnesses could also save the EU up to
75bn euros (£50bn) a year, the agency claims. The ‘Building in Safety’ campaign
will highlight the health and safety risks in Europe’s construction industry,
as well as the solutions, in more than 30 countries throughout the continent,
making it the largest ever campaign of its kind.

EC to consult over reform of Works Councils

A comprehensive public consultation is being prepared by the European
Commission on reforming the existing system of European Works Councils, to
avoid them struggling with recent legislative reform, economic changes and
May’s enlargement of the European Union (EU). Established by EU directives
almost 10 years ago, Brussels says around 650 companies or groups have such
councils, covering an estimated 11 million employees. It says they have been
‘highly successful’ in providing employees with information and consultation on
decision-making. However, the commission wants to consult employers and
employee organisations on whether the system should be adapted to take account
of recent bursts of corporate restructuring across Europe, creating new
subsidiaries, notably in the 10 countries about to join the EU.

Part-timers find better work-life balance

A European Union (EU) survey concluding that part-time workers are less
likely to report job-related health problems and are more likely to achieve a
positive work-life balance is good news for UK companies. Indeed, the European
Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO) report said the UK has the EU’s second
highest proportion of part-timers – 25 per cent of workers in 2002. Only The
Netherlands has more, with 43.8 per cent. The number of UK part-timers has also
risen, up from 22.9 per cent in 1992. While this trend reduces the UK’s
exposure to health risks, the report warned that part-timers had "fewer
opportunities for training and career progression, lower salary levels and
reduced access to supplementary payments and social protection benefits".

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