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News from December 2003
- California leads way in prosecution of workplace deaths
(Dec. 23 '03)
In his second article on workplace fatalities in the US, David Barstow in the New York Times examines how California is at the vanguard of prosecuring employers who kill or injure their workers by violating safety laws. He writes:
"Long before Congress created the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1970, California had its own workplace safety standards, and it is one of 21 states that run their own versions of OSHA. Its powerful labor leaders and big-city district attorneys have long been adept at using headline-grabbing workplace deaths to win ever-stronger enforcement powers for the state agency, known as Cal OSHA.
Under federal law, it is a misdemeanor to commit safety violations that kill workers. The maximum penalty is six months in jail and a $500,000 fine. But after a deadly refinery explosion in 1999, California adopted one of the nation's first laws making that same offense a felony. In California, conviction carries a sentence of up to three years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.
Every workplace death or serious injury in California is investigated with an eye to potential prosecution."
Continue reading "California leads way in prosecution of workplace deaths"...
- US rarely seeks charges for workplace deaths, New York Times investigation finds
(Dec. 22 '03)
An investigative report by David Barstow in the New York Times finds that in the past 2 decades, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has rarely proseduted employers for worker deaths resulting from willful safety violations. The article, reproduced below, details how and why OSHA has failed to pursue criminal prosecutions.
Continue reading "US rarely seeks charges for workplace deaths, New York Times investigation finds"...
- New report on preventing violence and harassment in European workplaces
(Dec. 17 '03)
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has published a report, Preventing violence and harassment in the workplace by V. Di Martino, H. Hoel. and C. L. Cooper.
The Foundation commissioned a project into violence and harassment in the workplace in 2002. This report publishes the findings of the project. It identifies the different forms and patterns of violence and harassment in the workplace in the EU and describes the recent upsurge in activity and initiatives with respect to violence and harassment within the legal arena, with new legislation addressing these problems recently enacted or in the pipeline in a number of countries. It also presents evidence of adverse effects on individuals, organisations and society, and assesses the potential financial costs. Finally, it analyses the factors that may contribute to and cause physical and psychological violence, and reviews a variety of good practices with respect to preventing and managing violence and harassment at work. The 109 page report is available free.
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- Retail and hospitality workers face growing stress
(Dec. 14 '03)
A research report by the WarrenShepell finds wide-spread stress among Canadian retail and hospitality employees. WarrenShepell is Canada's leading provider of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and related organizational health and wellness services
Here is the press release on the report:
TORONTO, December 12, 2003... As the holiday season approaches, Canadian retail and hospitality employees are in distress and their employers need to pay more attention to their emotional health if they want to reduce turnover and increase productivity, according to a Report released today by the WarrenShepell Research Group, subsidiary of WarrenShepell.
The Report examines the mental health of Canadian employees in the retail and hospitality industry. The Report reviewed three years of data - representing 13,100 cases from a total population of 91,000 employees.
According to the Report:
both retail and hospitality employees report greater stress and depression symptoms than employees in other sectors. Hospitality employees report higher rates of personal stress (three-year average 11.26 per cent); however, the most rapid increase in personal stress was found among retail employees (almost 1.5 times since 2000).
retail and hospitality employees report higher incidences of domestic violence (three year average 1.01 per cent vs. national norm 0.52 per cent); especially in retail where the rate of reporting is twice the national norm (three year average 1.14 per cent).
alcohol, smoking and anxiety present at higher frequencies in the hospitality industry than in other sectors, signaling a potentially costly source of absenteeism and presenteeism. Hospitality employees also report a higher proportion of substance use issues in alcohol (three-year average 1.90 per cent vs. national norm 1.15 per cent) and smoking (three-year average 1.48 per cent vs. national norm 0.41 per cent).
retail and hospitality employees present a higher proportion of work relationship and conflict issues (three-year average 4.02 per cent vs. national norm 3.07 per cent) especially hospitality employees (4.27 per cent).
"The Report's findings indicate that job strain and the apprehension of future events combine to create a challenging environment in which to manage, motivate and retain healthy retail and hospitality employees," said Rod Phillips, WarrenShepell, president and CEO. "The retail and hospitality industry are already highly-vulnerable to economic and market fluctuations. Recent history has demonstrated that both industries can be devastated by unpredictable traumas and the severity of these events and its impact on employees in the workplace can no longer be ignored by their employers.
"While Canadians may understand that these sectors have suffered financially because of 9-11, SARS and the Iraqi war, most are unaware of the serious emotional toll that faces employees in those industries," Phillips added.
Retail and hospitality represent a significant portion of the Canadian economy accounting for over 50 per cent of total consumption in Canadian households. The growing retail industry employs over seven per cent of the Canadian population or approximately 1.75 million Canadians.
Continue reading "Retail and hospitality workers face growing stress"...
- Night shifts hard on health and productivity
(Dec. 14 '03)
Virgina Galt's feature Globe & Mail article on the health and productivty costs of shiftwork is a wake-up call for employers. While no statistics are availalbe, it appears that few Canadian employers offer the support that shift workers need to lessen its disruptive and unhealhty. The article gives examples of some good practices that employers can follow, with good results. Full text is below.
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- Most workers like their jobs and their bosses, according to American Enterprise Institute
(Dec. 9 '03)
The right-thinking AEI has presented a case for less government regulation of wages, employment standards and working conditions. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington, D.C. think tank analyzed polls from Gallup, Harris, Roper ASW and the National Opinion Research Center and found that workers trust their own company' like their jobs and like their bosses.
Key findings include:
- Poll questions asked by four leading survey research organizations show small changes in job satisfaction over the past quarter century. The vast majority of workers are satisfied with their jobs or the work they have chosen. Very few workers say they are completely or very dissatisfied with their jobs.
- Dissatisfaction is slightly higher among some groups than others. Young people, for example, are just starting out and their salaries are often low. Their dissatisfaction is unremarkable. It is a product of their place in the life cycle.
- About three in 10 say they have "seriously considered" changing jobs in the past year. Young people are much more likely to give this response than people who are older . Young people's expectations about work are different from the past. In 1977, in an Opinion Research Corporation survey, 47 percent of teens said "having a secure, steady job" was important to them in choosing a career. In 1999, 21 percent gave that response.
- A majority in 2001 said their job gave them a sense of identity. Majorities call their work a career. Around four in ten see it as a job.
- What people want in their jobs hasn't changed much over time. Work that is "important" and gives a feeling of "accomplishment" tops the list.
- People are most satisfied with their co-workers, but they are generally satisfied with many other aspects of their jobs (job security, chances for promotion, income/benefits).
- Like the "rat race" many years ago, the "time crunch" has captured the popular imagination. Surveys show that for most workers, media portrayals of job stress may be overstated. Around a quarter are completely satisfied with the amount of stress in their job and another six in 10 are somewhat satisfied.
- In a 2000 Penn, Schoen & Berland survey, 47 percent said their employers were "very" and 33 percent "somewhat" accommodating to their needs to balance work and family life.
- Huge majorities of workers say they are loyal to their companies. Solid majorities say their corporations are loyal to them. Workers' perceptions of "most employers'" loyalty are more negative, but they are also less reliable than people's personal experiences.
Continue reading "Most workers like their jobs and their bosses, according to American Enterprise Institute"...
- Global HR focus is on attracting, retaining and engaging high performers
(Dec. 9 '03)
TOWERS PERRIN WORLDWIDE SURVEY FINDS DRAMATIC SHIFTS AHEAD AS ORGANIZATIONS LOOK TO MANAGE PEOPLE COST WHILE GEARING UP FOR GROWTH
As Business Strategies Become More People Dependent, Employers Emphasize Workforce Segmentation and Differentiation to Engage Key Talent.
Employers across the world, especially the most successful companies, are trying to manage people costs without cutting staff. Companies are now focusing more heavily on employee engagement as business strategies become more people-dependent, according to a new Towers Perrin global survey of 1,300 organizations in Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America, including 79 in Canada.
"Employers are facing the dual challenges of cost management and retaining talent. The study shows that they recognize the need to consider new approaches to managing and rewarding the workforce," said Christopher Hatch, national leader for Towers Perrin's Rewards and Performance Management practice, based in Toronto.
The Towers Perrin 2003 Rewards and Performance Management Challenges study found that around the world, employers are now increasingly focusing on three key tactics:
Segmenting the workforce by high-performing individuals and the functions with the greatest direct impact on business results
Designing customized programs for these groups
Introducing more variable pay into the reward mix
Continue reading "Global HR focus is on attracting, retaining and engaging high performers"...
- Hollowing-out: head office employment in Canada
(Dec. 8 '03)
A new Statistics Canada study, Hollowing-out: An analysis of head offices in Canada 1999-2002 has found only limited support for the contention that corporate Canada is shedding head office employment. The possible decline of head offices, commonly referred to as "hollowing-out," has received considerable attention over the last two years, especially from those concerned with the migration of head offices to other countries.
Overall, the study found relatively few sectors that showed patterns of decline in head office employment. Most importantly, in some important sectors - for example, mining and oil and gas extraction, and professional, scientific and technical services - employment in head offices actually increased.
The analysis was based on a detailed count of the number of head offices in Canada and their employment, provided by Statistics Canada's Business Register for 1999 to 2002.
During this four-year period, the number of head office units in Canada increased slightly, as did employment in head offices.
Recently, there has been concern that Canadian firms were becoming "hollowed-out" corporations that would no longer demand the services of financial markets, or of key business services.
Much of the discussion surrounding the hollowing-out phenomenon has been based on anecdotal or indirect evidence. This new study provides a more comprehensive and direct analysis of the recent evolution of Canada's head office sector.
From 1999 to 2002, the number of head office units increased marginally from 3,936 to 3,969. The leading head office centres are Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. During the 1999-2002 period, Calgary surpassed Vancouver as the major head office location in Western Canada.
Continue reading "Hollowing-out: head office employment in Canada"...
- Coping with Change: HR in the Non-profit Sector
(Dec. 8 '03)
Coping with Change: HR in the Non-profit Sector is the 4th report in a series from Canadian Policy Research Networks. From CPRN's press release, Friday, December 5, 2003 –
Canada's non-profit sector is responding to a turbulent environment with positive human resource strategies that rival or surpass the effectiveness of those in the for-profit and public sectors.
The fourth study in a pioneering series on the non-profit sector from CPRN's Work Network finds the sector under stress, but highly innovative in its responses. Coping with Change: Human Resource Management in Canada's Non-profit Sector, by Kathryn McMullen and Richard Brisbois, examines the impact of changes in the external environment on both organization and human resources policies of non-profits.
The non-profit sector is a critical part of the delivery system Canadians rely on for their quality of life," says Ron Saunders, Director of the Work Network. "That's why the sector's ability to adapt and survive is of vital public interest.'Canadians turn increasingly to non-profit organizations for a host of essential goods and services, especially in the wake of cuts in the public sector. Some 60,000 non-profits (excluding religious organizations and quasi-governmental organizations like hospitals and schools) provide almost 900,000 paid jobs. That's equal to the total combined employment of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, or to the total number of jobs in the construction, mining and oil and gas industries nationally.
Like other sectors, the non-profit sector has experienced intense pressures for change over the past decade," says Kathryn McMullen.
The sector has seen its responsibilities grow in tandem with public sector cutbacks. What's more, its funding has become more tenuous – shifting from on-going, core commitments to short-term, targeted funding.
These changes place enormous demands on non-profit organizations," says McMullen, "demands that require unusual innovation and adaptability from both managers and workers.'The authors document a dynamic sector that has been as active as other sectors in raising employee skill levels, improving product and service quality, and increasing employee participation in decision-making. Motivation for these changes is not dissimilar to that of other sectors.
What sets the non-profit sector apart, however,' says McMullen, "is the central role its people play. Often unable to compete with other sectors on salaries, it has to focus more on the working environment, on job quality factors."
Indeed, the study finds that many non-profit organizations have a comparative advantage over other sectors in areas such as individual control over work, shared decision-making, and mutual respect and trust in the employment relationship.
These are advantages the sector would be wise to build upon," says McMullen, "since the current funding environment prevents many organizations from offering high salaries or long-term permanent jobs.'The authors make a number of recommendations for further research aimed specifically at uncovering the human resource realities in the sector and improving its sustainability.
More research is needed, they suggest, to identify what role organizational size plays in the non-profit sector. They also call for research on strategies particularly suited to the needs of non-profit organizations – like diversifying funding sources, adopting formal approaches to fund-raising, and collective approaches to such things as providing employees with benefits and training.
'Lessons learned from this research are likely to apply beyond the non-profit sector," says Ron Saunders. "Strategies that make the non-profit workplace desirable to skilled and committed workers, make good business sense in any workplace."
Continue reading "Coping with Change: HR in the Non-profit Sector"...
- Registered apprenticeship programs are growing
(Dec. 8 '03)
Statistics Canada reports that enrolment in registered apprenticeship programs has increased, which is good news given shortages in many skilled trades. After declining in the early 1990s, enrolment is up 32% between 1995 and 2001, especially among women. Enrolment among women rose 76%, although women still account for only 9% of the total registrations.
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- Airline crews risk exhaustion and forgetfulness - new survey
(Dec. 8 '03)
Airline Crews 'Risk Exhaustion and Forgetfulness' - Survey
By David Stringer
Airline cabin crews are pressured into a 24-hour lifestyle and routinely suffer mental exhaustion and forgetfulness, new psychological research claims.
Professor Amanda Griffiths and Professor James Morley Kirk, of the Institute of Work, Health and Organisations at The University of Nottingham, revealed their findings following the suspension of two British Airways pilots accused of drinking on duty.
The psychologists quizzed cabin crew from English-speaking airlines and 35 international carriers and said many struggle with the pressures of their work.
"Results showed that crew were typically worn out and experiencing aspects of mental exhaustion, such as forgetfulness, difficulty in making up their minds or doing things rashly," said a university spokeswoman.
"Two main factors were associated with the work stress – the demands of the job and the amount of control people had over their working lives.
"While not a feature of this latest study, it is a well-known fact that increased alcohol consumption is a common coping strategy used by stressed people."
More than 80% of those questioned said they worked under a high level of pressure, which included heavy workloads, physical demands and the experiences of rude and aggressive passengers.
"People also reported to be under pressure socially. Crews are expected to work away from home for days at a time, leading to a lonely 24 hour lifestyle," said the spokeswoman.
Continue reading "Airline crews risk exhaustion and forgetfulness - new survey"...
- Women bearing brunt of job burnout
(Dec. 8 '03)
Donna Nebenzahl, writing in the Montreal Gazette, Dec. 8, 2003, assesses one of the key findings from research conducted by Linda Duxbury and Chris Higgins on work-life balance in the last decade. The research finds that between 1991 and 2001, workloads and work-life conflict have increased, while job satisfaction and commitment have decreased. The most stressed out group are professional women, especially those with family responsibilities. This reflects, more than anything, the persistence of traditional gender roles in families (women do most of the childcare) and the slowness with which employers have adpated to the needs of these workers.
Continue reading "Women bearing brunt of job burnout"...
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