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European Edition
23rd September 2022
Bosses think workers do less from home, according to Microsoft survey
A major new survey from Microsoft shows that bosses and workers fundamentally disagree about productivity when working from home. The results of the survey show that while 87% of workers felt they worked as, or more efficiently, from home, 80% of managers disagreed. The survey questioned more than 20,000 staff across 11 countries. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the BBC this tension needed to be resolved as workplaces were unlikely to ever return to pre-pandemic work habits. "We have to get past what we describe as 'productivity paranoia,' because all of the data we have shows that 80% plus of the individual people feel they're very productive - except their management thinks that they're not productive. That means there is a real disconnect in terms of the expectations and what they feel." He added that employers are having to work harder to recruit, enthuse and retain staff. That even includes Microsoft itself. "We had 70,000 people who joined Microsoft during the pandemic, they sort of saw Microsoft through the lens of the pandemic. And now when we think about the next phase, you need to re-energize them, re recruit them, help them form social connections," Mr Nadella said. Microsoft employees can work from home up to 50% of the time as standard.
Workers at Thales vote for industrial action
Workers at the Belfast site of the French missile-making firm Thales have voted for industrial action. The Unite union confirmed their members voted 77.5% to strike for improved pay. Thales employs more than 600 workers in Northern Ireland and the company said it wanted to resolve the dispute "as quickly as possible." Unite members had sought a wage increase of 8.1% in January of this year; in response, management offered workers a 5% increase and a one-off payment of £500. General secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, said: "The success of Thales in Northern Ireland has been trumpeted widely by the Tory government - indeed it was recently visited by a government minister. But those who contribute to that success are expected to accept a low ball five percent pay increase in the midst of a cost of living crisis. Workers at Thales deserve better. This is a hugely successful business which can afford to pay out a proper pay increase meeting our members' pay claim in full."
Sabadell UK unit TSB to give staff £1,000 to cope with inflation
TSB, the UK unit of Spanish bank Sabadell, is to pay around 4,000 staff a one-time £1,000 ($1,135) bonus to help them cope with rising inflation. Around three-quarters of the lender's UK employees will receive £500 in October and another £500 in April, a bank spokesperson said, confirming a report in the Spanish newspaper Cinco Dias. Senior executives and management will not get the bonus. Reuters notes that HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, NatWest and the UK business of Santander are among British lenders who have similarly given thousands of their staff a one-off sum or a pay rise to help them cope with the spiralling cost of living.
German union wants banks to pay workers €1,500 energy bonus
German union Verdi wants the country’s top banks to pay some of its lowest-earning workers a special bonus to help with higher energy prices. The union is asking for a €1,500 payment for this year and another for the next, affecting some 40,000 employees. "There are also low-wage employees in the banking industry. For them, things are now getting very tight financially," Verdi official Jan Duscheck said.
Exxon Mobil shuts refinery in France due to strike
ExxonMobil is shutting its Fos-Sur-Mer refinery in France amid ongoing strike action. The CGT and Force Ouvriere labour unions called for the strike following wage negotiations focused on rising inflation. "We are gradually shutting down the Gravenchon refinery and petrochemical plant and we have started preparations to gradually shut down the Fos refinery," an Exxon Mobil spokesperson said, adding "This unfortunate situation may impact our customers, contractors, suppliers, and employees, and affects the international reputation of Exxon Mobil activities in France."  Walkouts have already caused the gradual shutdown of Exxon's Port Jerome-Gravenchon oil refinery and Notre Dame de Gravenchon petrochemical site.
Better work-life balance for bankers could be another ‘mommy track’
The FT’s Brooke Masters is sceptical about Citigroup’s new hub in the Spanish city of Málaga for junior investment bankers who fret about work-life balance. Participants could be stigmatised as “unserious.”
German finance boards least gender-diverse in Europe
According to data analysed by EY, the boardrooms of banks, fintech firms, insurers and asset managers in Germany are the least gender-diverse in Europe. Only 29% of financial services board members in Germany are women, compared with a European average of 37%. EY’s European Financial Services Boardroom Monitor shows Switzerland also had a low score, with 33% of financial services board members being female. Italy took the lead at 44% while Britain and France recorded a figure of 38%. "Incoming regulation that will mandate equal gender diversity in the EU and the UK is positive, but if firms are to achieve this aim, further action is needed now," said Omar Ali, EMEIA financial services managing partner at EY. "Like other sectors, financial services companies need to up their game."
Where are all the women in asset management?
The FT’s Helen Thomas says the asset management sector – “which espouses the value of diversity for better decision-making and acts as enforcer” at companies - has failed to make great strides itself.
Goldman Sachs hunts new revenues in EU transaction banking push
Goldman Sachs is expanding into transaction banking in the EU as part of a group-wide strategy under CEO David Solomon to grow beyond the lender’s core areas of trading and advisory.
US return-to-office rates hit post-pandemic high
US employees are returning to their offices at the highest rate since the pandemic forced most workplaces to temporarily close in 2020 amid falling infection rates and greater company efforts to bring staff back. Office use on average was 47.5% of early 2020 levels for workers in the office over the five business days from September 8th to September 14th in the 10 major metro areas monitored by Kastle Systems, a company which tracks security swipes into buildings. That was the highest percentage since late-March 2020, the company said, with days in the middle of the week notably strong. Office use for Tuesday and Wednesday last week was at about 55% of the pre-pandemic workforce, Kastle said.
US tech firms in Kenyan talent war
Business Daily newspaper has reported that Microsoft, Amazon and Google are increasing their presence in East Africa, with Kenya as their hub, in moves that are resulting in monthly salaries of up to 1.8 million Shillings for principal tech specialists. Smaller local firms including Wasoko, Flocash, Twiga foods, Lori Systems, and Sendy, along with telcos and banks, cannot match the attractive packages offered by these US technology giants, and as such their business plans are being hurt. In April, Google announced the opening of its first Africa product development centre in Nairobi. Meanwhile, Microsoft plans to invest $100m (1.2 billion Shillings) in technology development hubs in Kenya and also Nigeria, and launch large-scale hiring of engineers in both countries.
China sends regulators to Hong Kong to assist US audit inspection
Beijing has sent a team of regulatory officials to Hong Kong to assist the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) with onsite audit inspections involving Chinese companies, as part of a landmark deal between the two countries. A China-US agreement last month allows US regulators, for the first time, to inspect China-based accounting firms that audit New York-listed companies.
New Zealand push for plain language law
New Zealand’s government hopes to banish jargon with a plain language law demanding that bureaucrats use simple and comprehensible language to communicate with the public. The proposed legislation will require government communications to be clear and concise, but opposition argue it will add further layers of bureaucracy and cost, in the form of plain language-monitoring officials, without actually improving communication with the public. “I don’t think plain language can really solve [the] problem. As long as humans are creative and playful and inventive, I think they’ll find ways around it,” says linguist Dr Andreea Calude.
G20 nations are not cutting emissions fast enough – PwC
New analysis from PwC suggests progress among G7 countries on decarbonisation is falling alarmingly short of what is required to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris Agreement. Dan Dowling, Partner, Net Zero, Cities & Sustainability, PwC UK, said: “The world is falling alarmingly short of the rate of decarbonisation required if we are to stand any chance of meeting the IPCC's 2030 deadline to reduce emissions by 43%. Nations must make radical changes to both their energy mix and their energy usage. This will lead to resilient and affordable energy, a clean and productive economic landscape, and a healthy society. However, if we fail, the costs of adapting to climate change will continue to increase.”

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