News Briefs (Oct. 22, 2001)

Tech dept. development wish list
Toronto — The improvement of technical skills is the biggest need in IT staff development, a survey of chief information officers reports. In the poll of 270 CIOs, by IT staffing firm RHI Consulting, 30 per cent of respondents said technical skills was the area their IT employees could most use improvement, followed by verbal and written communication skills (21 per cent), project management (18 per cent), organizational skills (16 per cent), interpersonal skills (nine per cent).

Class actions over overtime
San Francisco — Employees who don’t traditionally get overtime are hitting California businesses with class action suits. More than 200 suits by groups such as store managers have been filed in the last year and a half. In August, claims adjusters at Farmers Insurance Exchange were awarded US$90 million. Out-of-court settlements include: Rite Aid Corp. ($25 million), Taco Bell ($13 million) and U-Haul ($7.5 million). Such overtime suits have become a trend during the past five years, with strong workers’ rights legislation in the state increasing the likelihood of success for class-action suits.

Sales jobs in high tech lucrative
Toronto — In 2002, sales representatives in high-tech firms should see compensation increases of 4.5 per cent, the High-Tech Compensation Survey by William M. Mercer and the Information Technology Association of Canada states. While higher than increases expected for other sectors, the raises are down from those of two years ago when high-tech sales jobs, such as software reps, became high paying. Top performers are earning as much as $150,000, and quotas are used by almost all firms.

Super cubicle
San Francisco — Cartoonist Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, has teamed up with a California firm to design the cubicle of one’s fantasy. In addition to desk and standard items, it includes a hammock, cooler, aquarium and changeable flooring with options from Persian rugs to Astroturf.

Money to study Dr. shortage
Ottawa — The federal government is putting $4 million into a study to find long-term solutions to physician human resources issues, with the Canadian medical profession adding another $1.6 million in cash and services. Emerging models of care delivery and their implications for physician supply and training will be examined. In another looming health worker shortage, Canada is facing a dearth of pharmacists. There is already a shortage of about 2,000 pharmacists and as baby boomers age and the demand for prescription drugs rises, the shortage is expected to increase. Pharmacists are in short supply worldwide, and Canadian practitioners and new graduates are being lured to the United States with larger salaries, signing bonuses and other perks.

Physician abuse of nurses
Montreal — Nurses from the Montreal General Hospital walked off the job last month after a surgeon allegedly grabbed and yanked the arm of an operating-room nurse. Violence against nurses has been on the rise in Canada. Last year in Alberta, statistics showed that 17 per cent of nurses reported they had been assaulted in the past five years and more than one in eight cases involved assaults by doctors.

European employee preferences
London, U.K. — In a survey of young professionals, French and German workers said their ideal employer would offer work-life balance and flexible work arrangements. In contrast, British professionals said they want international opportunities, challenging work and development opportunities. The study of 14,000 young professionals was done by research consultancy Universum.

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