International news

This week’s international news

US firms see decrease in workplace injuries

US companies are reporting a steady decline in the number of workplace
accidents and injuries that cost them time and money.

A report by The Conference Board, the country’s executive association, shows
that from 1999 to 2002, the number of lost-time cases per 100 full-time
employees in surveyed firms declined by an average of more than 40 per cent.
The survey also found that recorded incidents have declined an average of more
than 23 per cent. These trends are generally consistent with statistics
reported to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The study said improved management practices alone couldn’t take all the
credit, claiming a company’s workforce must be engaged and involved in health
and safety management systems.

Survey participants cited several elements of successful health and safety
strategies: good leadership at the top and confidence among all employees in
the creations and implementation of tailor-made policies that work, along with
constant health and safety monitoring.

German manufacturers bow to staff pressure

Germany’s largest manufacturing union, IG Metall, and employers have agreed
on a pay deal, averting the threat of a major industrial strike.

Last week almost 20,000 German manufacturing workers staged warning strikes
in an attempt to keep pressure on employers during wage talks. But on Thursday
the union signed the deal which includes a 2.2 per cent pay rise for the year
starting 1 March and another 2.7 percent over 14 months starting in March 2005
for workers in the auto, electrical and engineering industries. Employers had
offered a 1.2 per cent rise over 15 months starting on 1 January 2005, to be
followed by another 1.2 percent rise over the following 12 months.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the deal was good for both sides and would
help keep the economic recovery on track.

Californian supermarket strikes continue

Southern California’s long-running grocery strike continues, now running
into its fourth month.

About 70,000 grocery clerks have been on strike or locked out by supermarket
chains Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway since 11 October 2003. The workers claim
new health and benefit offers from their employers are inadequate. Now, a
federal mediator has been trying to ease negotiations.

The financial strain caused by the length of the strike has forced many
employees off the picket lines or to other jobs. The supermarkets have lost
millions of dollars, operating stores with replacement workers.

The strikers are also targeting supermarket executives – recently disrupting
a golf tournament by shouting slogans at two supermarket board members who were
about to tee off.

In other protests, union supporters shut down a Safeway in Santa Cruz for an
hour-and-a-half by dancing in a conga line through the store.

Malaysian workers decide on public holidays

The Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) has been told to ask its members
whether they want fewer public holidays.

Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, said the
Government would be happy if workers wanted to work harder.

"If workers don’t like holidays, just tell us. If they want to work
harder, good – then we can reduce the number of public holidays," he told
a press conference.

According to local newspaper The Star, the MTUC said declaring too many
public holidays could be detrimental to workers’ productivity and could affect
the country’s economy.

Abdullah said there had been many holidays in recent weeks because some
festivals coincided with each other. "The economy has never been affected
because of the holidays," he added.

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