This week’s international news in brief

Ministers agree to reform national qualifications

A deal has been struck between the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers that will pass reforms on the mutual recognition of qualifications. The aim is to clarify the existing system, easing the exploitation of rights to work in any member state. And although the system has been simplified – creating one committee to assess and approve national qualifications and authorising a European identity card for professional skilled workers – it is not as liberal as the European Commission would have liked. It had proposed easier access to job markets, allowing professionals to be regulated by their country of origin. But, as with the controversial services directive, this kind of liberalisation drew opposition from France and others, and the final text accepts “control by the host country”. This gives governments greater powers to check qualifications and to limit working rights if these are deemed unsuitable.

Aussie state to outlaw unauthorised staff monitoring

Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, has moved to outlaw employers from snooping on workers’ private e-mails as part of legislation aimed at stopping firms covertly observing employees. The New South Wales state government introduced legislation to outlaw unauthorised spying on employees using technologies including e-mail, video cameras and tracking devices. Attorney general Bob Debus said: “We don’t tolerate employers unlawfully placing cameras in changing rooms and toilets. Likewise, we should not tolerate unscrupulous employers snooping into the private e-mails of workers.” Australia has national privacy laws but they do not cover e-mail monitoring. Penalties would include an A$5,500 fine (£2,275) for individuals, or A$5,500 (£2,275) for each director of a corporation. Trade unions welcomed the move as a victory against ‘big brother’ monitoring by employers, which they said had been on the rise.

Spanish union calls for labour rights for prostitutes

Comisiones Obreras, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has called for labour rights for prostitutes. It argues that legislation is needed to prevent exploitation, and held a conference on labour rights last week. There are an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 prostitutes in Spain, of which more than 90% are immigrants, mostly operating from roadside brothels, according to the union. It added that many were Eastern European or African and worked in near slavery, with women brought in by traffickers without Spanish citizenship. The conference was attended by representatives of political parties, social and legal experts, sex workers and union representatives from Holland, Argentina and Sweden, as well as from Spain. The union hopes the conference will lay the groundwork for legislation to protect sex workers’ rights.

Under-age workers found in Mexico’s Barbie factory

Under-age workers have been found on the production line in a Mexican factory that makes costumes for Barbie dolls. According to the Financial Times, US toy manufacturer Mattel said an internal audit at the Rubies factory just north of Mexico City found one 15-year-old working at the factory. However, trade unionists at the company said that 10 of the workers at the factory were aged between 13 and 15. Mattel said in a statement: “Mattel makes toys for children – not jobs – and takes violations of its ethical manufacturing code very seriously.” The paper reports that one girl knew she was too young to work legally at the factory, but was told by managers to lie about her age. Rubies makes costumes under licence for superhero dolls such as Superman and Batman, and film characters such as Harry Potter.

Comments are closed.