News in brief

Danes shocked by car giant’s heavy-handed tactics

The news that troubled German car manufacturer Opel has been trying to lay off employees in Denmark by offering to buy contracts has come as a shock to employment experts. “It’s rather easy to get rid of people here,” said Jesper Due, head of the Employment Relations Research Centre at the University of Copenhagen. A construction worker, for example, can be fired with just three days notice. The firing process for blue collar workers – 80% of the workforce – is regulated by collective agreements. White collar workers are protected by law, but even their contracts can be easily terminated, with notice of three to six months. It’s all linked to high unemployment insurance, explained Due. Danish workers receive generous benefits when out of work, which lessens their angst about redundancy or sacking, he said. However, it means there is a high turnover in Danish companies. “Employers are not that reluctant to hire people when the economy is in good shape because they know when the economy is in bad shape they can fire them,” said Due.

France censured over closed shop for tourist guides

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has censured France for failing to remove obstacles to its recognition of legitimate tourist guide qualifications gained in other European Union (EU) member states. Judges have ordered France to bring its regulations in line with EC directives on the mutual recognition within the EU of professional diplomas and training. The French government said it was reforming its laws, but had not finalised a new regulation. Mutual recognition of professional qualifications legislation is a key part of EU treaty commitments enabling trained staff to live and work across Europe. Directive 89/48/EEC focuses on high level courses and diplomas lasting at least three years. The ECJ said France “had failed to comply with its obligations” under EU law. Should there be further delays, the commission could ask the court to impose fines on the French government.

Aussie metal firm ends row over offensive Xmas gift

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has recently resolved a dispute at aluminium manufacturer Alcoa sparked off by a male fitter’s gift of a vibrator and a pair of crotchless panties to a female colleague. About 400 workers went on strike at two of the company’s Western Australia refineries after the man was sacked for gross misconduct and breaching its harassment policy. The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said the industrial stand-off would continue until he was reinstated, citing an overreaction by Alcoa. Following a commission hearing, Alcoa withdrew the termination notice, but the man was not allowed to return to work until an investigation was completed. The union said the items were given to the woman as a Christmas gift and the vibrator was a massage tool. weblink

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