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Monthly Archives: May 2009

By Elizabeth Allen
The Courier-Mail
May 28, 2009 12:01am

A survey of business professionals by recruitment firm Robert Half found almost 40 per cent reported a loss in productivity because of stress-related issues.

The biggest causes of stress were concern about the economy (63 per cent) and excessive workloads due to understaffing and lay-offs (60 per cent).

Robert Half spokesman Andrew Brushfield said stress was one of the costliest of workplace issues.

“Companies must find the balance between positive tension and energy which can enhance productivity, and high stress levels which can impede,” he said.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25547360-421,00.html

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By James Thomson
SmartCompany
May 28, 2009 10:20am

CASH-strapped companies are turning to debt collectors to keep their companies afloat, with debt collection agency Dun & Bradstreet reporting a 20 per cent rise in the number of debts referred to it in the first three months of the year.

According to D&B’s data, the dollar value of debts referred has also jumped sharply, increasing from $900 in the first quarter of 2008 to $1100 in the first quarter of 2009.

While the 20 per cent jump in debt referrals is a concern, D&B chief executive Christine Christian says the most worrying spike was a 146 per cent jump in the number of debts referred between the last quarter of 2007 and the last quarter of 2008.

“These businesses have been backed into a corner,” she says. “They realise if they don’t move they won’t be at the front of the queue. There is only a limited amount of cash out there.”

Most debts are being referred with 90 days of their due date, down from around 120 days a year ago.

While companies in New South Wales and Victoria are most common referrers of debt, the biggest spikes in debt referrals occurred in the Northern Territory (up 53 per cent), Queensland (up 52 per cent) and Western Australia (up 42 per cent).

Companies in NSW are chasing the biggest debts by dollar value, with an average outstanding bill of $1300.

The spike in debt referrals has put pressure on D&B’s business, which Christian says is “coping OK”.

“Debts are far more difficult to collect and that is certainly having an effect on our margins. Debtors are just running out of cash.”

And despite hope that “green shoots” of recovery are starting to appear in the global economy, Christian says it is too early to be optimistic.

“Quite the contrary – this is all coming to a bit of a head. The next six months or the rest of the calendar year are going to be tough.

http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,25550004-5017673,00.html

AAP
May 27, 2009 10:56am

BHP Billiton predicts the global economic recovery will be slow and protracted, but says there’s reason for some cautious optimism in China.

Chief executive Marius Kloppers told a minerals conference in Canberra that it would be another six months before there were clear signs of the true situation for the company’s markets in China and the OECD.

“The best we can say in the medium term is that conditions remain uncertain,” he said.

In the US, there was still a downside risk with unemployment remaining a problem. The economies of Europe, especially the UK and Germany, were still a worry, and Japan was weak.

On China, Mr Kloppers said there were a few reasons for optimism including early signs about growth, Chinese loan activity and in the construction and real estate sectors.

“If all of these trends continue in the second quarter they will give us some reason to be cautiously optimistic,” he said.

But Mr Kloppers stressed the need for caution because there were still issues around Chinese exports, adding the company did not expect in the medium term a sharp return to overall economic activity.

“We probably believe as a company the economic recovery will be both slow and protracted,” he said.

http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,25545415-31037,00.html

AAP
May 27, 2009 09:50am

MOST of the MPs in the Coalition don’t think an emissions trading scheme will deliver reductions in carbon pollution, veteran Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey says, despite a scheme still being Coalition policy.

The Coalition parties yesterday opted to defer until early next year a Parliamentary vote on Government legislation setting up emissions trading. It wants the Government to wait until after global climate change talks in Copenhagen and for the results of a Productivity Commission inquiry.

But whether it will support a trading scheme after that is not yet certain.

“I, and the majority of the Coalition party room, say it will not work, it will not deliver carbon emission reduction,” Mr Tuckey says.

The $23 billion the Government spent on cash handouts in its second stimulus package would have been better spent renewable energy projects, he said.

Opposition frontbencher Andrew Robb said the Coalition believed an emissions trading scheme should be introduced “when we get it right”.

“This issue is too important to have a rushed, ill-conceived approach,” he said, adding it was the biggest single, structural change in history.

26 May 2009 Liberal backbencher Stuart Robert said it was still Coalition policy to have an emissions trading scheme up and running by 2012.

However, Labor MP Jason Clare said Liberal Party MPs were the laggards when it came to climate change.

“What we have in America now is we’ve got Republicans who are more progressive than the Liberal Party,” Mr Clare told Sky News.

Liberal backbencher Scott Morrison dismissed that argument as “nonsense”, saying the Coalition was holding out an “olive branch” to the Government on emissions targets.

Labor MP Jim Turnour said the Coalition’s call for a Productivity Commission inquiry into an emissions trading scheme was a delaying tactic which would deny business certainty.

“There are billions of dollars in our scheme to support … trade-exposed businesses,” he said.

Mr Turnour denied reports the Government would withhold compensation if the emissions trading scheme was delayed.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25545205-29277,00.html

AAP
May 27, 2009 01:27am

REPORTING standards adopted in Australia four years ago are too complicated and need simplification, a survey has found.

Accounting firm Grant Thornton Australia surveyed 200 company directors, audit chairs and accountancy advisors to gauge the progress of the implementation of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

The standards were adopted here for financial reporting periods beginning on or after January 1, 2005, making Australia one of the first countries to adopt the international guidelines.

While 80 per cent of survey respondents were broadly supportive of the adoption of IFRS, a similar proportion said the standards were far too complex.

“We were one of the first markets to implement the new standards and following several reporting periods we’re in a better position to understand where adjustments are needed,” Grant Thornton Australia director Andrew Archer said.

“This is the first real quantified study of Australian market attitudes to IFRS, and its message is clear – reform and simplify.”

About three quarters of respondents supported the identification of unrealised gains and losses from the use of mark-to-market values, to ensure trading results weren’t masked by market fluctuations.

Just over 50 per cent of those surveyed called for the inclusion of underlying earnings results that take out volatile impacts and disclose traditional core trading earnings.

“In line with the current reviews underway, our survey indicates that there are some immediate opportunities to improve current frameworks, particularly adding in flexibility to allow for disclosure of additional information,” Mr Archer said.

“We’ll be sharing these findings with the federal government and relevant agencies and organisations shortly, to underscore the need to provide more support and guidance on disclosure.”

http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,25544949-31037,00.html

AAP
May 27, 2009 04:24am

CLIMATE Change Minister Penny Wong has refused to say whether Labor would like to fight an early election on climate change, but she believes it’s “very clear” the public wants action.
Coalition politicians met in Canberra yesterday and vowed they would not pass the Federal Government’s emissions trading scheme this year.

That raises the possibility of an early double dissolution election if the Senate knocks back the ETS laws twice.

“It’s very clear to us as the Government that the Australian people want action on climate change,” Senator Wong told ABC TV from Paris.

“They made that clear at the last election and that continues to consistently be the message I hear.”

Senator Wong said Labor would “continue to campaign” on emissions trading because it believed it was the right thing to do.

The move by Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull to try and defer a vote on emissions trading laws until after global climate change talks in December was weak-willed, the climate change minister said.

“What has occurred today is an extraordinary act of weakness, an act of surrender by Malcolm Turnbull, surrendering to the climate change sceptics in his own party room.”

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25544981-29277,00.html

By Ewin Hannan
The Australian
May 27, 2009 07:45am

UNIONS are targeting mining companies, banks and other big users of John Howard’s Work Choices as the ACTU seeks to use Labor’s new workplace laws to impose collective bargaining on employers and increase union membership and influence.

The Australian reports less than 24 hours after Telstra backflipped and resumed talks with unions, another major user of individual contracts, the Commonwealth Bank, yesterday revealed it had started talking to unions about striking a new collective union agreement, the first since 2002.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence told The Australian the resources, finance and hotels sectors would be a focus of the union movement’s campaign to phase out individual employment contracts in favour of union collective rights once new bargaining rules became compulsory on July 1.

But the Australian Mines and Metals Association yesterday lashed out at the ACTU and the new laws, claiming the Fair Work Act would give unions a seat at the bargaining table, regardless of the interests of employees.

AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said 90 per cent of the resources sector had “moved beyond” collective bargaining, and some companies were engaged in a “last-minute dash” to sign workers on to non-union agreements that were identical to the Howard Government’s Australian Workplace Agreements.

“We are about to have unleashed on the economy the greatest increase in union power since federation,” Mr Knott said.

“Under the new system, a workplace’s ability to choose to make an agreement with its employees, without union interference, has virtually disappeared.”

Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard yesterday rejected Mr Knott’s comments. “None of the claims made by Steve Knott are true,” her spokeswoman said.

FSU national secretary Leon Carter said the Commonwealth, along with ANZ, Westpac, and National Australia Bank, were “pretty much saying they are prepared to sit down and bargain with us”.

“They would absolutely deny it but there is no doubt they are coming to terms with the fact there is a new industrial relations regime that does require them to look at collective bargaining,” Mr Carter said.

Mr Lawrence said the union movement’s message to employers was union members were entitled to be represented “and the employer has to recognise the union in bargaining and deal with employees and the unions in a more open way”.

“It is a recognition that, under the Fair Work Act, something has changed and there is a need for employers to review the approaches that they’ve had, and those with the mindset that is still Work Choices need to move on from that,” the ACTU secretary said.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25545022-421,00.html?referrer=email&source=eDM_newspulse

Julia Talevski
May 26, 2009
Misled … IT job seeker Antriksh Tyagi.

After completing a masters degree in IT, Indian-born Antriksh Tyagi thought Australia was the perfect escape from job-scandal-ridden organisations in his home country.

Searching for vacancies in his ideal field of work, he came across an advertisement from an IT solutions and consulting company, Zanok Technologies, and applied for a business analyst role.

Upon receiving the job offer, Tyagi took a couple of days to consider taking up the new role and even conducted some research into the company using Google.

“It sounded like a really good job and I was really happy. I was an IT graduate and getting an IT job was a big achievement because of the global economic crisis,” Tyagi says.

However, he soon learned he was being misled. During the induction, Tyagi was handed his contract, which said he would be required to undertake training. He was then informed that he would have to pay $4700 for the training.

The payment was intended to cover all the training resources provided by the company and, after it was completed, he claimed he was promised a business analyst role within the organisation.

Tyagi began to recognise some things weren’t quite right. To begin with, he was given a task to sell a telephone service called Spoxcy, which offered low-cost overseas call rates. He noticed other employees were also given tasks outside their job descriptions.

“Even though I was hired as a business analyst, I was also instructed to do other jobs they had assigned for us,” he says.

Tyagi claims that during his two months with the company, he received no training for the job he was promised. Along with other trainees, he began seeking legal advice, which pointed him in the direction of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Since then, the ACCC has obtained a Federal Court injunction against Zanok Technologies and its directors, Darley Stephen and Vanitha Darley, for misleading or deceptive conduct. The ACCC alleges Zanok had posted job advertisements across websites,including Seek, the Fairfax-owned MyCareer and Gumtree, offering jobs in the IT industry but instead were offering “training”.

Despite assurances from Zanok, the ACCC alleges there was no job guaranteed at the end of the training. Zanok was contacted by Icon but had not responded at the time of writing. The matter is still being heard by the Federal Court.

http://www.theage.com.au/news/technology/biztech/job-applicants-caught-in-training-trap/2009/05/26/1243103494930.html

27 May 2009 8:17am

Employers that fail to treat staff with compassion and tact during the economic crisis will see their talent flee when the economy turns – and it will turn within 12 months, says Team Leaders managing director, James Adonis.

“How managers treat staff today will affect how managers are treated in a year’s time,” Adonis told HR Daily.

For the moment, the “power pendulum” has swung back in the bosses’ favour, he says, and disgruntled employees have far less leverage than they did throughout the employment boom.

But employers that fail to adequately support their workers in tougher times, or that resort to layoffs hastily and tactlessly, are likely to witness an exodus of their best when the employment market improves.

In his book, Employee Engagement: Why People Hate Working for You (ISBN 9780975798720) – based on a study of 2,400 employees from Australia and around the world – Adonis identifies 50 things that make workers angry, upset or frustrated on the job.

These range from poor performance management, hypocrisy and broken promises to backstabbing, office psychopaths and inconsiderate or annoying colleagues.

The disrespectful treatment of peers during an economic crisis – including those made redundant and those who remain – should also be added to the list, Adonis says.

Budgets might be tight, he says, but employers can still afford to:

support employees, who are also affected by the downturn and whose problems at home will impact their performance at work. Managers could arrange for them to receive financial advice;

encourage relationships within the workplace. Satisfaction levels increase by up to five times if there are healthy relationships among colleagues and leaders; and

provide opportunities, or implement career development programs. Even on a modest budget, workers can be encouraged to run a training session, take on a new task or assume greater responsibility. Giving them the skills to “help them leave” will actually keep them there longer, Adonis says.
10 things your employees hate
According to Adonis, managers should focus on what not to do, rather than what to do, and look to eliminate what employees hate.

The top 10 reasons employees “hate working for you” are:
Lazy and under-performing co-workers – particularly when they receive similar pay and most of management’s attention. Managers should dedicate the majority of their time to high performers, and train, motivate or sack under-performers where necessary;

Lack of appreciation or recognition – managers must acknowledge and show appreciation for good deeds immediately, in person and in detail, and be on the lookout for employees doing the right thing;

Communication issues – source important information from employees directly, rather than through the grapevine, interact face-to-face where possible, and remember that communication is a two-way process;

Accountability and responsibility – promote responsibility by giving employees the training and resources they need, and assign accountability. Remember that “managing accountability is a management responsibility”;

Negativity – be “extra positive” when times are tough. Negative words, body language or decisions can affect the team “like a slap in the face”. Provide feedback to negative employees by focussing on their actions, not their personality;

Customers – scrap expressions such as “the customer is always right” from the workplace vocabulary, and listen to workers when they have gripes about clients. The fault could lie with your systems;

Annoying and inconsiderate co-workers – address inconsiderate behaviour – such as poor hygiene and obnoxiousness – by raising the issue with offending employees and showing how their behaviour affects the business;

Lack of teamwork – establish an environment that fosters teamwork. Ensure there is an understanding of the team’s goals and purpose, that each employee understands what other workers do, and that communication channels are free flowing;

Gossip and backstabbing – refrain from participating in workplace gossip, whether at work or in a social environment. Respond to and act on gossip and “office bitchiness” in the same way you would a discriminatory comment; and

Deadlines and time – employees can have difficulty saying “no”, so monitor workloads to ensure they haven’t taken on too much. Clarify responsibilities, supply the necessary tools and resources and offer time-management training.

http://www.hrdaily.com.au/nl06_news_selected.php?act=2&nav=1&selkey=1168

AAP
May 27, 2009 07:11am

AUSTRALIA stands out as an island of calm amid the global economic storm, an international business confidence survey shows.

One in five international businesspeople cited Australia as the country best surviving the recession in a survey of 7500 people in more than 24 nations.

Australia placed first in the survey, ahead of China, with India and Singapore in equal third place. New Zealand also fared well, ranked ninth.

The survey, conducted in April, was aimed at gauging business sentiment and what impact the economic downturn has had on businesses globally.

Australian businesspeople appeared relatively unaffected, according to the poll conducted for Servcorp, a provider of virtual and serviced offices that operates in 61 nations.

“In my experience working with international businesses around the world, especially during the last six months, I’ve noticed how relatively unaffected (are) Australian businesses and… business persons’ attitude by the economic downturn,” Servcorp executive director Taine Moufarrige said.

CEO Lucky Times Industries “Over 71 per cent of Australian businesspeople believe we are the lucky country, and it’s interesting to see that the rest of the world agrees.”

Pessimistic media reports were the number one concern among Australian businesses, the survey found.

More than 25 per cent of Australian businesspeople also said they were worried about the way the government responded to the global financial crisis.

“I think the doom and gloom reports that Australians hear every day are harmful to Australian businesses and hold them back from seeing the opportunities that are present in the current economic climate,” Mr Moufarrige said.

“This is a time when Australian business confidence needs to be supported and encouraged in the media and by the Australia government.”

Top 10 recession-beaters

1st – Australia

2nd – China

3rd – India and Singapore (equal)

5th – Hong Kong

6th – Canada

7th – Japan and Qatar (equal)

9th – New Zealand

10th – Malaysia, Sweden and Vietnam (equal)

Source: Servcorp International Business Confidence Survey.

http://www.news.com.au/business/story/0,27753,25545056-462,00.html?referrer=email&source=eDM_newspulse