New briefs: Feb. 12, 2001

Toronto — Starting salaries for HR assistants will likely run five per cent higher in 2001, putting them in the range of $27,750 to $33,250, according to new research from the staffing firm Office Team. Starting salaries for administration assistants as a whole are expected to rise by about 3.5 per cent. Sales assistants can expect increases of 7.3 per cent, marketing assistants 6.4 per cent and executive assistants 5.8 per cent.

Redmond, Wash. — Microsoft has been ordered to pay almost US$97 million to a group of employees the company had wrongly classified as temporary to avoid paying benefits and compensation. The employees, mostly hired through staffing agencies or as independent contractors, said they worked essentially as full-time employees but the company classified them as temps in order to pay lower wages and avoid benefits. Most notably the “permatemp” workers were excluded from the extremely lucrative stock option plan. As many at 12,000 permatemps who worked with the company between January 1987 and June 2000 could be eligible for compensation.

Toronto, Edmonton — Ontario is giving nursing schools $49 million to help students graduate sooner. The money is to help ease the nursing crisis. Nearly $15-million will be used to fast-track nursing students so they can earn their degrees in less than four years. $24-million will be used to increase enrolment. One of nurses’ main concerns, however, is poor working conditions and inadequate pay. Critics say money should be slated to address these issues. As many as 12,000 nurses are needed in Ontario. Approximately 40 per cent of nurses are slated to retire in the next 10 years. In Alberta, the government announced $38 million to educate 575 more nurses and other health professionals. In Manitoba, the rural 12-bed Erickson hospital will temporary close because of a lack of nurses. Last October, a report commissioned by provincial health ministers recommended a 10 per cent increase in nursing school enrolment.

Toronto — The average IT worker starting salary is expected to rise 8.3 per cent in 2001, a salary survey by RHI Consulting says. Senior consultants will see remuneration rise as much as 17.3 per cent. For a list of salary ranges by category visit Strong IT hiring is expected in the financial services, retail, technology, automotive, government and natural resource sectors.

Edmonton — Employers and employees can now access Alberta government Workplace Health and Safety services 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week through a new toll-free number: 1-866-415-8690. Information is also available via a new Web site:

Toronto — Bell Canada has launched an online resource to provide small- and medium-sized businesses with a gateway to products, services and information over the Web. The new Web portal — — partners with more than 30 leading Canadian companies including Carswell, IBM and Dun & Bradstreet.

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