Thursday, January 31, 2008

PROOF OF US OR CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP NOW REQUIRED TO ENTER US AT LAND AND SEA ENTRY POINTS

As of today, all Americans and Canadians entering the US at land and sea entry points will be required to present a passport or a driver's license accompanied by a birth certificate from Canada or the US, a naturalization certificate or other proof of US or Canadian citizenship. The Discover America Partnership is pointing out that the Canadian government is running an extensive public service television advertising campaign to educated Canadians on the new requirements (which are the same for people entering Canada). They're urging support for the Travel Promotion Act which would fund a campaign to promote tourism to the US and educate visitors on how to avoid problems entering the country.

CANADA AND PHILIPPINES SIGN LABOR ACCORD

RP, Canada sign labor accord

Needed: 30,000 skilled workers a year RP, Canada sign labor agreement; British Columbia needs 30,000 workers a year
Charissa M. Luci
The Canadian government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Philippines to address the shortage of skilled workers in the Canadian province of British Columbia, the Canadian Ministry of Economic Development said yesterday.
Canadian Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen and Labor Secretary Arturo Brion signed the accord last Jan. 29. The agreement seeks to strengthen relations between British Columbia (BC) employers and Philippine recruiters.
"The British Columbia economy is growing at a rate faster than the overall Canadian economy and definitely faster than the overall American economy," Hansen said.
The agreement caters to Canadian companies engaged in tourism and hospitality, retail, and construction industries that are in need of skilled workers.
"To maintain this momentum, we need to attract 30,000 workers per year with specific skills from outside British Columbia," he said.
Secretary Brion said the Philippine government is receptive to partnering on international recruitment.
"Our agreement with BC truly confirms the opening of a new chapter of sharing Filipino labor with other countries through contract migration," he said.
Earl Wilde, president of the BC Hotel Association, said the memorandum of understanding will provide British Columbia employers "effective, quicker access to foreign workers."
"We are looking to attract temporary or permanent immigrants in areas where we have labor shortages," he said.
The Philippines is the third largest source country for immigrants to British Columbia, the Canadian Ministry of Economic Development said.
It said the memorandum is a commitment under WorkBC, the provincial action plan to address skills shortages in the Canadian province.
With more than a million new job openings expected over the next 12 years, and only 650,000 young people in the K-12 school system, meeting labor market demands will be a key challenge over the coming decade, the ministry said.
It said by 2011, the majority of Canada’s labor force growth is expected to come from immigration.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CANADA; IT INDUSTRY FACES LABOUR SHORTAGES

Labour shortage could cripple Canada's tech industry: report

David George-Cosh, Financial Post
Published: Monday, January 21, 2008

Canada's technology companies will soon face a shortage of workers that could cripple the sector and deal a harsh blow to the Canadian economy, according to a report published by a coalition of industry professionals.
More than 90,000 jobs in the information technology sector will need to be filled in the next three to five years and could potentially impact the Canadian economy to the tune of $10.6-billion, said Conference Board of Canada vice-president of organizational effectiveness, Dr. Michael Bloom.
"The problem is much bigger than any of us at the Conference Board has identified," said Mr. Bloom.
A "perfect storm" of socio-demographic factors, negative perceptions of the tech sector following the bubble burst of 2002 and a significant drop in university enrolment in IT programs across Canada has all come together to create this dire scenario, said Mr. Bloom.
The Conference Board's report says that while more than 600,000 Canadians are employed in the IT sector, 31,000 of those will soon retire and another 58,000 will be needed to plug in forthcoming productivity gaps. Furthermore, the report found that each vacant position represents an average cost to the Canadian economy of $120,000 per year.
To combat that problem, more than three dozen companies that span the gamut of the technology industry have formed together under the "Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow's IT Skills" moniker. Some of the companies include cable giant Rogers Communications Inc., Internet hardware maker Nortel Networks Corp., transportation manufacturer Bombardier Inc. and retailer Canadian Tire Corp.
"If you don't do anything about it, everyone [will] chase after the same talent," said St├ęphane Boisvert, president of Bell Canada Inc.' enterprise group, who is leading the coalition group.
Some of the solutions the coalition intends on focusing on is marketing tech to high schools in hopes that more students will enroll in tech-specific post-secondary fields and convincing the federal government to loosen immigration regulations to easily allow more highly-educated workers to enter and work in Canada.
Still, any efforts to inject new blood into the sector won't happen overnight. According to Statistics Canada, tech employees earn 45% more than the average Canadian and any move to offer a higher premium to attract untapped workers may force companies to offshore their workforce, said Paul Swinwood, president and CEO of the Information and Communications Technology Council.
Yesterday's announcement was only the beginning of what Mr. Boisvert hopes will convince industry and government officials to swiftly act to fix the alarming issue. Monte Solberg, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, has already been briefed on the report as well as members of the Ontario and Quebec governments.
"The government is waiting to see what the industry can absorb," said Mr. Boisvert. "[But] it's a mistake for us to wait for them. We need to act now."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

PARLIAMENT BANS BALLOT BOX VOTES ON CITIZENSHIP

Caterina Naegeli
Buergi Naegeli Rechtsanwaelte
cnaegeli@bnlawyers.ch

The controversial use of the ballot box to decide on applications for Swiss citizenship has now come to a temporary end. After a long back and forth the Senate finally approved a proposal that outlaws anonymous votes.

Switzerland has some of the toughest citizenship rules in the world. Being born in Switzerland does not grant the right to be Swiss. The children and even grandchildren of foreign immigrants are not entitled to citizenship. Foreign residents have to undergo a two-phased process before they may receive the country’s red passport.

In phase one, they have to file their application at the Aliens’ Police in the municipality of their residence. From there it is sent to the Federal Department of Justice, which will give a principal authorisation if some basic conditions are met. Typically applicants have to live uninterruptedly in the country for at least 12 years before they can apply, which is quite a long time compared to the required four to ten years in EU states. Besides being be able to speak fluently either German, French, Italian or Romantsch (a language which is only spoken in the canton of Grisons) they must show integration into the Swiss way of life, familiarity with Swiss habits, customs and traditions, and compliance with the Swiss rule of law. And of course they must not pose any danger to Switzerland’s internal or external security.

In phase two, cantons and municipality of residence can impose their own requirements, which may be additional to those imposed by the confederation, and set the cost of acquiring citizenship before approving it. The applicants must testify at a local citizenship committee, who will interview them to determine whether they can be entitled to Swiss citizenship. The final decision lies with the local communities.

This final decision has been subject to discussions for some time now. It is regarded as a political act and adjudicated by either the parish assembly or the municipal council. Years ago the rightwing Swiss Peoples Party (SVP) started an initiative, which aims at handing over the final say on citizenship applications to the voters in an anonymous poll. Critics fear that the floodgates to biased and arbitrary decisions would be wide open. Already ballot box procedures have been subject to media attention and heated criticism, notably when voters in the town of Emmen near Lucerne repeatedly rejected the naturalisation of foreigners, especially those from the Balkans. Apparently this anonymous procedure can pose unsurmountable problems for applicants whose only shortcoming may be a non-european sounding name. Since the proposal also demands that the verdict is final and unappealable, the procedure would furthermore be contradictory to the European Human Rights Convention.

But now the parliament has outlawed ballot box votes on citizenship. The Senate finally followed the House of Representatives in approving a counter-proposal to the SVP initiative that only an elected body or a local assembly must deal with citizenship requests. This decision came after a long road with several rounds of debate in parliament over the past few years and effectively confirms a 2003 Federal Court ruling (decision of the 09. July 2003, 1P.228/2002/sta, 129 I 217, http://www.bger.ch/ ).

But the SVP has forced a nationwide vote on the issue, likely to take place on the 1. July 2008. This upcoming vote again promises a heated debate, even though the initiative barely gathered enough signatures to be approved.

Friday, January 4, 2008

2007 - SPAIN´S YEAR IN CHINA


Marla Bojorge, of Bojorge & Associates, Visalaw International’s Spanish affiliate, reports that 2007 was the “Year of Spain in China”. Following agreement reached between the Spanish and Chinese governments during President Hu Jintao’s state visit to Spain, the two countries have just ended an extremely productive year developing economic and cultural ties between the two countries.

Marla recently travelled to Beijing as part of an official delegation representing Spanish business interests and a state-owned corporate entity attached to the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Spain. In China the delegation met with their counterparts and took part in activities aimed at helping the Chinese public to become more aware of the true, and progressive, character of modern Spain.

Visit http://www.china2007.es/ for more on this. For the record, here is Marla at a reception in Beijing.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

SPANISH GOVERNMENT AND UNIONS SIGN AN AGREEMENT TO IMPROVE WORKING CONDITIONS FOR FOREIGN PERSONNEL WORKING IN SPAIN

Marla Bojorge
Bojorge & Associates
marla@icav.es

• A long negotiation process lasting 15 years has come to a close.
• The agreement will benefit more than 6,000 contracted foreign labourers working in Spain

IMPROVEMENT OF WORKING CONDITIONS
The agreement reached involves the establishment of a single framework of work conditions applicable to foreign workers. This embraces all personnel who offer their services abroad, regardless of nationality. Currently, 50% are Spanish or members of the EU-and the legislation that regulates their contracts.

• Individual rights: The same rights are granted for this group as for all other personnel working for the General Administration of the State. The scope of these new rights is broad, encompassing licenses, permits, vacations, shifts, hours of work, leaves of absence, modifications of working conditions, retirement, disciplinary proceedings, and the termination of work contracts.

• Collective rights: For the first time, the right to the collective representation of foreign workers is recognized and regulated by the representative bodies that exist to protect workers’ rights. Also, the participation of foreign workers in the vocational training programs and social action programs articulated in the various Ministerial departments and organs, is recognized.
Furthermore, the agreement establishes protocol to help with the analysis, normalization development and recognition of such things as professional qualification, employee mobility and structural policy; taking into account the diversity that characterizes this group of workers.

CONCLUSION
With the making of this agreement the legal situation of employees contracted abroad is finally resolved. Until now, because of their geographic dispersal, their differing nationalities, and the complexity generated by differing judicial systems, the working conditions of foreign workers were not regulated in a uniform manner, nor were minimal standards of Spanish legislation applied, especially in relation to the exercise of their individual rights.
Of the 9,600 public employees currently working abroad, 30% are subject to the Government employee system. The remaining employees (around 6,000 people) are subject to the new labour system. The great majority (91%) of this group, who are currently regulated by contracts subject to local legislation are expected to benefit most from the new arrangements. They are now expected to see significant improvement in their situation.

For clarification of any of these issues Marla can be contacted direct at marla@icav.es