News in brief

Yanks feel dandy despite working longest hours

Americans may work longer hours and have fewer holidays than most employees in the developed world, but they are happier. Compared with Britons and Canadians, a recent Gallup poll of more than 7,000 employees has indicated that US workers love work. It said that 40 per cent of Americans were ‘completely satisfied’ with their opportunities for promotion, compared with 29 per cent of Canadians and 25 per cent of UK respondents. Asked if they were similarly satisfied with their managers, 60 per cent of Americans agreed, compared with 47 per cent of employees in Canada, and 42 per cent in the UK. Gallup analyst Raksha Arora told Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper: “One key to why Americans are willing to work longer hours could be that they are more likely to see greater potential reward.”

Pension fund wages war on fat-cat pay packages

America’s largest public pension fund is launching a campaign to curb oversized severance and pay packages for corporate executives. The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) is launching a three-year assault to halt what it calls “abusive corporate salaries”, enlisting other funds and using the clout of its US$168bn (£86bn) portfolio. The fund claims average CEO salaries are 535 times bigger than average worker salaries – up from 42 times bigger in 1980. CalPERS proposes that the US Securities and Exchange Commission requires more pay disclosure from companies, and will develop guidelines with stock exchanges on the role of compensation committees. Forging ties with the compensation consulting industry, the fund will focus on major companies in 10 business categories ranging from healthcare to telecommunications.

Clock error leads to $1.3m payout for hospital staff

A US company is facing a US$1.3m (£667,280) payout to more than 3,650 current and former employees after a programming error led to their salaries being shortchanged for four years. The ‘punch-time’ clocks at a regional hospital in New Hanover, North Carolina, were programmed incorrectly almost four years ago, leaving a 15-minute discrepancy on all hourly employees’ punch times. Workers who punched the clock early at the start of their shifts, or after their shifts had actually ended, were short-changed in their salaries. Immediately after the problem was discovered, the employees, along with the US Department of Labor, demanded that the hospital provide full compensation for the extra hours. An exhaustive audit of 7,000 employee records revealed the extent of the problem, and the hospital administration acknowledged and subsequently corrected the error.

Controversy rages over guns on workplace property

Employers in Oklahoma are facing off with workers over the rights of employees who want to keep guns in their cars on company property. Last March, the state overwhelmingly approved a law allowing firearms to be kept in locked vehicles on company property. Many employers opposed the law, winning a temporary order preventing it from taking effect. Since then, a number of companies have dismissed staff found with guns in their cars. One such company, Weyerhaeuser paper mill, faces legal action from four employees. They are convinced the sniffer-dog search of the car park was just an excuse to lay off workers. Sacked employee Larry Mullens told The Telegraph that he is determined to fight. “People tell me to ‘stick to my guns’, because they are all carrying one too,” he said. “The bottom line is it is our constitutional right to have a gun in the car.”

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