International news in brief

 Collective bargaining still settlement method of choice

Collective bargaining remains the dominant method for settling pay and working time conditions in European workplaces, covering around two-thirds of workers in the EU, new research reveals. This figure contrasts with one-fifth of workers in Japan, and one-eighth of those in the US, according to a report from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The proportion of Japanese workers who are trade union members fell from 20.2% in 2002 to 19.6% in 2003, continuing a 28-year downward trend. US union membership slipped to 12.5% in 2004, down from 12.9% in 2003 and 13.2% in 2002. By contrast, 11 of the 19 European countries for which membership figures were available recorded an increase in union membership, while the rest recorded a fall. Luxembourg, Ireland, Malta, Norway and Cyprus experienced the largest increases in union membership, while the largest decreases were in Bulgaria, Poland and Slovakia. The UK experienced a 12% decline.

‘Lookism’ on the up as beauty bias takes hold at work

A new US survey on appearance discrimination in the workplace confirms that a trend of ‘lookism’ is sweeping across the world, according to the Employment Law Alliance. It discovered a culture of discrimination against those who are deemed overweight, unattractive or unconventional in appearance. It also found that 39% of Americans thought that employers should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of appearance, and 33% believed that physically attractive people are more likely to be promoted. Damian Kelly, employment partner at law firm Eversheds, said: “We are increasingly becoming a ‘lookist’ culture, and this is an issue that potentially affects us all. In time, we will undoubtedly have laws that protect us from beauty bias, but in the meantime, perhaps we should keep off the cream cakes – it could be damaging our career prospects.”

Equal opportunities call centre launched in the US

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has launched a national contact centre to help it respond to the one million-plus calls it receives every year. The centre will operate 12 hours a day, freeing up commission staff to investigate and litigate discrimination charges. A government report showed that EEOC offices are rife with message backlogs, outdated telephone systems and inconsistent capacities. Commission chairperson Cari Dominguez said: “We have to break out of a system that is fragmented, bureaucratic, parochial and unwieldy.” The outsourced operation will take calls from workers, employers and potential litigants, whose cases will be assessed before being forwarded to district offices. It will also field general enquiries, which account for 51% of all calls, and a round-the-clock automated system will answer frequently asked questions.

Send your international news to [email protected]


Comments are closed.