This week’s global HR news in brief

Protesters march over exposure to asbestos

More than 3,000 people joined a protest in Paris last month in support of the relatives of workers who suffer from or have died from asbestos-linked illnesses. They marched to the Ministry of Health in Paris and called for a national lawsuit against the firms involved. The protest march followed two legal cases in September, against manufacturer Alstom Power Boiler and tyre-maker Michelin, which have been accused of exposing workers to dangerous levels of asbestos. In the UK, trade union Amicus and Thomsons Solicitors are preparing to appeal against a High Court ruling in a bid to reinstate compensation for people who have the asbestos-related condition pleural plaques.

Wal-Mart faces £42m payout for unpaid overtime

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has been ordered to pay a minimum of $78m (£42m) compensation to staff who were made to work during their breaks. A Pennsylvania court ruled that Wal-Mart had broken state law by refusing to pay employees for additional work. The class action was brought by about 187,000 former employees who worked for the supermarket chain between March 1997 and May 2006. Dolores Hummel, who led the action, said she regularly had to work during her breaks and after the store closed during her 10 years at the company. Hummel estimated she frequently worked an extra eight to 12 hours a month without pay. “One of Wal-Mart’s undisclosed secrets of its profitability is its creation and implementation of a system that encourages off-the-clock work for its hourly employees,” she said. Wal-Mart said it was planning a “very broad-ranging appeal”.

EC tells Slovenia to sort out pensions or risk financial crisis

The European Commission has called on Slovenia to change its pension system or risk a financial crisis. The commission said Slovenia was among three EU member states likely to face serious financial problems due to increased spending on pensions. Pension expenditure is expected to account for up to 7.3% of GDP by 2050 as a result of the ageing population. The only thing alleviating the increased financial burden that ageing in Slovenia will cause is the relatively low level of public debt, the EC said.

Bulgarians see UK as top spot when EU opens doors

The UK is the most popular destination for Bulgarian jobseekers, an online survey has revealed. More than half (54%) of jobseekers polled by website said they would look overseas for work, with the UK being the first choice when Bulgaria joins the EU in January 2007. About 13% said they would come to the UK, followed by Spain (8.4%) and Germany (6.5%). Neighbouring Romania will also join the EU in January. The UK government is considering whether to limit the number of migrant workers admitted from Bulgaria and Romania. Almost 600,000 people have come to the UK from the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004, after the government decided not to impose any restrictions on entry.

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