News Article

Global HR: Association's Alliance With Asian and European Partners Will Help Members Manage the Looming Uncertainties

January 6, 2012

Global HR challenges in the coming year will be largely shaped by whether the economic boom in Asia is maintained even as the European situation remains fragile, with our new ally in the Far East—the Asia Pacific Employee Relations Group (APERG)—helping companies in that unpredictable region.

Global HR Alliance Expands   The formal launch of APERG on January 1st by Executive Director Amy Lau offers our member companies doing business in Asia services and benefits similar to those they have received from our European ally--the Brussels European Employee Relations Group (BEERG).  APERG will be chaired by Eaton Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Jim McGill.  If your company is interested in joining either or both of these groups, please contact Amy at alau@aperg.asia or Tom Hayes at tom.hayes@beerg.com.  We have also received expressions of interest from several member companies about forming networks of their senior HR officials in Latin America and Africa/Middle East.  We plan to schedule a meeting this year in each of those regions to facilitate this.  If this of interest to your company, contact Dan Yager at dyager@hrpolicy.org.

Asia Outlook  According to APERG's Amy Lau: "2011 closed with a sigh of relief for some companies and deep reflections for many.  While Japan's earthquake/tsunami-turned-nuclear-crisis in March alerted a lot of companies to re-evaluate their global supply chain strategy, the Thailand flooding in October reinforced the importance of mitigating risks by diversifying production and services in this region.  Meanwhile, the Eurozone crisis definitely hit suppliers in Asia, resulting in an evident decrease in industrial output in most countries.  In addition to higher operating costs in China, as well as the leadership change happening right now in North Korea (which in turn impacts confidence in South Korea) and that expected in China in 2012, there are also signs that ASEAN countries like Vietnam and Burma present new investment opportunities and India is progressing steadily with its economic transformation.  Accordingly, companies are re-shaping their Asia strategy with cautious capital investments focused on long-range growth.  While most Asian countries are prepared for continued challenges in increasing exports and expanding domestic consumptions, companies operating in this region have tended to focus more on improving operational excellence and risk management in order to sustain their competitiveness and growth in Asia Pacific."  For more on Amy's outlook for 2012, click here.

Europe Outlook  According to BEERG's Tom Hayes: "The euro crisis continues to dominate the European political and economic landscape.  Following the December summit of heads of government a new treaty is currently being negotiated between 26 of the 27 governments, with the UK on the sidelines.  It is expected that the new treaty will be finalized by the end of March and will set demanding new rules on budget discipline for Eurozone member states.  From a labor relations and employment law perspective there will be little in the new treaty per se.  However, the treaty, when taken together with measures already enacted, will result in sustained pressure on individual countries from the EU institutions (Council of Ministers, Commission and Central Bank), along with the International Monetary Fund in some cases, to make changes to employment laws, social security regimes and even collective bargaining structures, in order to boost labor market flexibility, increase the competitiveness of the private sector and cut government debt.  Widespread political unrest in parts of Europe as a result of such measures cannot be ruled out.  Further, if the Socialist Party candidate, Francoise Holland, wins the French presidential election next April the political dynamics within the EU could change significantly, with a left-leaning France less willing to support the austerity measures being demanded by a right-leaning Germany.  At the moment, Hollande is well ahead in the polls."

Global Labor Outlook  According to Hayes: "The coming year will see a merger of three of the global labor union federations: the metal workers, the chemical workers and the textile workers.  The resulting federation, as yet unnamed, will coordinate unions across all manufacturing sectors, with the exception of the food industry, which will continue to be organized by the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF).  The merger means that private sector companies will, in the future, be confronted with four major, global union federations: the merged federation; the IUF; UNI Global, representing workers in the commerce and services sectors; and the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), active in the shipping, road and airline sectors.  The reduction in the number of federations will make coordination amongst them easier focusing on:

  • "Creating global union networks within companies;
  • "Targeting global companies through corporate campaigns to get them to negotiate International Framework Agreements (IFAs) with global unions;
  • "Building the organizing and negotiating competence of local unions in countries such as Mexico, Malaysia and Vietnam;
  • "Using the new UN Business and Human Rights Framework ('The Ruggie Principles') as a point of attack in global corporate campaigns; and
  • "Attacking 'precarious' forms of employment, such as contract and agency work and pushing companies to employ workers on traditional, full-time, permanent contracts.”
Next Global Labor Certification Program March 14-16  The volatile economic situation in China's continues to give rise to new employment regulations and labor obligations for companies doing business there, with only slightly less churning in other countries in the region.  Following on the success of the Global Labor Certification-Asia program in Singapore in September, the program will be offered twice this year.  The stateside version will be offered in San Francisco on March 14-16, with the Asian version to follow the week of July 9 at a location in Asia to de determined soon.  In addition, we will again offer the Global Labor Certification-Latin America program in Miami on December 4-6.  If you are interested in registering for one of these, contact Melissa Glatz at mglatz@hrpolicy.org.