This week’s international news in brief

35-hour week negotiations underway in France

• Employers and unions in the French public sector have begun negotiations
on introducing the 35-hour week for the country’s 5 million statutory
employees. Seven unions have entered discussions with public services minister
Emile Zuccarelli to reach agreement on a national accord. This will be followed
by local discussions in individual sectors on how the 35-hour week will
operate. The Government aims to have full implementation by 2002. Le Figaro.

US firms fail to engage in written love contracts

• Nearly three-quarters of US organisations do not have a written policy on
workplace romance. An additional 14 per cent have an unwritten yet widely
understood policy, a survey of 617 human resources employees by professional
body the SHRM found. Of those with loose guidelines, 55 per cent said that
policy "permits but discourages" workplace romances. A further 32 per
cent have policies consenting romance, while 7 per cent prohibit it completely.
Of those prohibiting romance, 88 per cent said it was because of the potential
for sexual harassment claims.

European works councils guide launched

• A guide to help firms set up European works councils has been launched by
Dublin-based European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
Conditions. It contains information on the 386 voluntary agreements set up
under the law, and the 63 works councils established under the compulsory
statutory process. A multinational has to assemble a consultative works council
or employee forum if it employs 1,000 or more staff in the EU, with at least
150 staff in two or more countries, if requested by staff. From 15 January, UK
employees have been counted in the formula.

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