Column Eight: Helpline with a deadline

How many employers have wished they could have avoided expensive or embarrassing employment disputes, ask the solicitors DJ Freeman.

The firm does not actually answer the question. But in a move that could set a dangerous precedent - as lawyers like to say - it has set up a telephone helpline that gives callers instant access to a specialist in the area 'for a low quarterly subscription charge with no hidden extras'.

But parsimonious executives beware - while there is no limit on the number of calls per quarter, they will be restricted to 30 minutes each.

Employment - or rather unemployment - is also on the minds of Century Business Books, producer of a delightful series of pocket-sized volumes on management issues of our day under the banner 'The Perfect'.

However, the company seems to be finding this choice of theme a problem. 'No dismissal can be 'perfect',' says the blurb for one of the latest publications, The Perfect Dismissal. Quite. And readers are also to take issue with another notion in the series, The Perfect Meeting.

Those planning to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities in Eastern Europe would do well to note RMC's experience.

When the building products group bought a lime quarry at Rudersdorf in eastern Germany it also had to take on a prison, mental hospital, collection of holiday homes and various other buildings. This is because, in keeping with the grand planned economy philosophy that used to govern that part of the world, when it was discovered that the only way to expand the quarry was to knock down the town, that's what they did - regardless of what was in the way.

As a result, the visitor to Rudersdorf walks along an old street that suddenly stops at a fence. On the other side is a 40ft drop into the pit.

All those exasperated by the seemingly inexhaustible lengths to which banks will go to extract money from their customers will sympathise with the plight of a west London delicatessen. Close inspection of its charges from a well-known clearer revealed a fee of pounds 3.51 for a letter half- written but not sent.

Good to see it's not just insular Britons who have failed to take account of the new world order. ABN Amro's spokesman in Amsterdam said yesterday: 'We're not looking for acquisitions in the UK at the moment, but we are in Europe.'

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