Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News in Mar. 11-31, 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
3/31/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
3/30/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Industrial dispute resolved at Mirotone, final corporate press release fwdd by Don Dennis, 30 March 2001.
[Our search of AOLNews on "35 hour" this weekend turned up an undated headline "Mirotone Paint workers claim working week win." When we tried to click on the headline and open the story, our system crashed - twice - probably because of our old version of Netscape. We searched for "Mirotone" on Google and came up with a New Zealand (.nz) URL, so we took a leap of faith and changed it to the Australian equivalent, we hoped (.au). Bingo, corporate homepage. Left an inquiry on their web facilities for info re their 35-hour workweek and received a prompt email from Don Dennis, Managing Director, Mirotone Pty Ltd (does Pty stand for "Proprietary"? ifso, is that equiv. to our "proprietorship"?), Revesby, Australia. Here's the timesizing part of the press release -]
...The LHMU [Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union] has preserved a 35 hour week for employees covered by the collective agreement and, as part of the total negotiated package, Mirotone has agreed to defer the company restructure as it affected on LHMU delegate..\.. Mirotone's factory and warehouse employees will benefit from a generous wage increase....
[As background on the "company restructure," we present a paragraph from Don Dennis's emailed cover memo -]
...In essence the dispute revolved around Mirotone's initial offer that its employees could choose either to remain on their 35 hour week (9-day fortnight) or they could individually elect to work what otherwise would have been their rostered day off (i.e. a 38.75 hour week, 10 day fortnight) in return for an additional AUS$302.00 for working that additional single day. It seemed like a very simple way for Mirotone to reduce the administration involved in managing a roster for rostered days off that would improve Mirotone's customer service and would enable employees to earn more money....
[So, leaving aside the "fortnight" wrinkle, it seems the company was on a 35-hour workweek but management was unhappy with that because of administration costs and perceived customer service problems. So management offered employees a 39-hour week (38.75) for extra money. And there arose "the rather protracted industrial negotiations Mirotone has been engaged in with its employees and their union" (quoted from cover memo). According to the press release, "the negotiations were long and intense over a five-month period." Why the big flutterup if the 39-hour week was really an offer rather than a mandate? The situation begins to sound like a variation on the history of Kellogg's cereals between the late 1930s when the whole company was on a shorter workweek, and 1986 when the whole company was back up to a 40-hour workweek (or of course, longer, in practice, on the part of salaried employees), as told by Benjamin Hunnicutt in his "Kellogg's Six Hour Day" (1996). The titles of some of Ben's chapters tell the story - 4: Erosion of the six-hour coalition... 6: Human relations management: Reaffirming work as life's center, 7: Kellogg workers embrace tthe new work rhetoric, 8: The six-hour mavericks, 9: The death of six-hours. In other words, once W.K. Kellogg himself, with his vision of more jobs combined with more free time, withdrew from active management, less-visionary management at Kellogg's began a long-term program of eroding Kellogg's revolutionary 30-hour workweek.
In the USA, the disunity of the labor movement back in the 1930s on the shorter-hours-for-full-employment issue enabled FDR's massive "New Deal" propaganda machine to spin shorter hours as some kind of defeatism (as if long hours are some kind of "victory"?!) and basically the labor movement sold its birthright for a mess of potage. It never fully realized that of its two historic goals, higher pay and shorter hours, it could drop the first and still achieve both, but if it dropped the second it would lose both - and leverage for anything else. That's what happened in the USA. In the ensuing two generations of American economic history, labor has become roadkill in America. Unionized labor is down below 14% of the American workforce, and most people are working harder and harder for less and less. Much of the national culture is sleep deprivation and "24/7." We're now pushing it onto our kids in the name of competitiveness and "getting into the right schools," even the "right" pre-school. Homework has tripled in 20 years. The suicidal irony for American management is, their short-term "win" has gained them a money-starved and anxious consumer base, where daily more and more of CEOs are "forced" to refocus their businesses, desperately, on the luxury markets, which are supported, capriciously, by the wealthy. In short, top executives are increasingly only marketing to themselves because, as Will Rogers pointed out a lifetime ago, "they're the only ones with any money." They've laid off everyone else to "save costs." The alternative is Timesizing, which only gives us as much "solution" as we need at each step, controls inflation without fostering unemployment, and ties in population policy in the areas of imports (=proxy immigrants), immigrants and births (=longer-term immigrants). Timesizing gives us an intelligent method of recovery from recession/depression as an alternative to our usual methods, including war ("cured" the Great Depression and the Eisenhower 2d-term & LBJ recessions), cold war ("cured" the Reagan 1st-term recession with huge Pentagon spending), drug war ("cured" the Bush Sr. recession with huge prison spending), plague (TB "cured" the World War I demobilization depression), emigration (Mexican President Vicente Fox is eager to unload excess labor on US), and voluntary or involuntary luddism - has kept India and China sustainable at a modest level. (What about lower interest rates? They're impotence is currently being demonstrated dramatically by Japan and incipiently by US.)]
- One difference with the Mirotone case is that Kellogg management approached the project by taking votes in individual divisions where employees seemed more interested in short-term money than long-term sustainability to see if a majority vote could at least swing one division at a time back up to a 40-hour week ("divide and conquer"), and begin eroding the 30-hour corporate culture. Mirotone management apparently approached the project by making the longer-hours a matter of individual employee election, which started a companywide discussion. (Of course, Mirotone may be smaller than Kellogg's and/or not organized into divisions.)
- Another difference is that Kellogg employees did not fully appreciate the unique advantages of their work lives in the middle of the Great Depression and voted in a union ("W.K. was...weeping during the meeting and repeating, "If only they had come to me, I would have given them what they wanted." P.85), and the union (later, unions, plural) was not uniformly behind the shorter workweek (J.N. Cummings, an AFL opererative from Detroit, "struggled to explain...to himself why workers would turn down more money." P.100), and management found allies among labor to restore the already technologically obsoleted 40-hour workweek. In the Mirotone case, apparently the employees and the union had a longer-term view and were more united behind the shorter workweek.
- French unemployment falls, AP via NYT, B2.
France's jobless rate fell to its lowest level in more than a decade in February, dipping to 8.8%.... The Labor Ministry said the number of people out of work, a defined by the International Labor Organization [as contrasted with the American definition by incumbent politicians and self-serving, short-sighted employers] fell by 40,000 in February, to 2.315m. The fall in the unemployment rate from 9.0% in January was slightly bigger than most analysts had expected.
[But then, most analysts are at pains to ignore or downplay the role of workweek reduction in employment creation, and are in complete denial about its role in market stimulation.]
3/29/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- [First, a sample of intermediate-level timesizing, workweek adjustment -]
Hooker reports slight sales decline, reduces inventories in first quarter, Business Wire BW2508 MAR 29,2001 16:35 EASTERN via AOLNews.
MARTINSVILLE, Va...- Sales at Hooker Furniture for the first quarter ended February 28, 2001 declined slightly from the comparable 2000 period, with unit volume holding steady but sales revenues declining 1.3% to $55.9m. Gross profit margin declined to 24.3% in the 2001 period compared to 25.1% for the comparable quarter a year ago, principally due to heavier promotional activity in the current year period. In January, the company cut production work schedules to 35 hours per week to reduce inventories and better match the incoming order rate.
...Significantly, the company reduced inventory levels by $3.8m during the three months since November 30, 2000, while actually improving delivery times to its customers. Paul B. Toms Jr.
, Chairman and CEO, commented, "Given the sluggish retail environment and the generally poor performance across most segments of the economy, we are pleased with our top line performance this quarter. I think the earnings decline is probably typical for our industry right now."
"On the positive side," Toms continued, "we were able to reduce inventories by $3.8m, and further shorten delivery times of our products to our dealers. Cash flow in the first quarter was strong. We continue to invest in our infrastructure to improve operational efficiencies and service to our customers." Toms said he expects performance for the second quarter to be similar to the current quarter. "Given the incoming order rate and prospects for this quarter, we expect to stay on our current 35-hour work schedule through the end of April. Prior to the end of April, we will evaluate the need to further extend short time, but do not expect work schedules to fall below 35 hours per week. We anticipate better business conditions in the second half of the year," he said....
...Ranked among the nation's top 20 furniture manufacturers in sales, Hooker Furniture is a 77-year-old, $250m producer and importer of wall and entertainment systems, home office, occasional and bedroom furniture with approximately 2,000 employee-owners. The company operates six manufacturing facilities and a distribution center in Virginia and North Carolina. Plant locations include Kernersville, Pleasant Garden, and Maiden, NC and Martinsville and Roanoke, Va.
[Workweek adjustment must be a fairly common practice during every American recession judging from the falling "average workweek" figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, we seldom get an actual report, so our thanks to Paul Toms for putting this encouraging report on the Business Wire. It's no secret why Hooker Furniture values its employees enough to trim hours rather than jobs - it's apparently employee-owned. Below, the more primitive kind of timesizing, the sporadic or rolling week-off variety -]
- GM [and Ford] announce plant idlings, AP-NY-03-29-01 1949EST via AOLNews via RadioTony.
DETROIT - General Motors plans to idle five U.S. assembly plants next week, briefly laying off 10,200 workers as the world's largest automaker continues paring vehicle production and inventories amid soft domestic sales.
[Hey, maybe Michael Moore's pressure on them ("Roger and Me") for downsizing has had some effect! Either that or GM figures it's already cut down to the bone.]
GM...said plants to be idled next week, their products and affected workers include:
Last week, GM said its staggered plant idlings would continue into the next three months, ultimately affecting plants in Baltimore and Canada..\.. GM has said it looks to cut production 21% from January through this month over the same period last year, with plans to trim second-quarter output by 17%....
- Lansing C and M plants, Pontiac Grand Ams, Oldsmobile Aleros, and Chevrolet Malibus, 4,200 workers.
- Orion Township, Mich., Oldsmobile Auroras, Buick LeSabres and Park Avenues, and Pontiac Bonnevilles, 3,200 workers.
- Kansas City, Kan., Pontiac Grand Prix and Oldsmobile Intrigues, 2,000 workers.
- In Janesville, Wis., a GM plant that builds medium-duty trucks, will be idled Monday through Thursday, affecting 800 workers....
Also on Thursday, Ford Motor Co. said it will idle over next week its Detroit-area assembly plant in Wixom, where the Lincoln Town Car, Continental and LS luxury sedans are made....
Earlier this week, Ford said it will indefinitely lay off 300 hourly workers at its Oakville, Ontario, assembly plant because of slow sales of the Windstar minivan made exclusively there. Those layoffs will take place in stages through April, Ford said.
[These layoffs were on the newswires 3/27 and not picked up by either NYT or Boston Globe. So we included them in our "not counting" section on 3/28.]
U.S. sales for GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler arm over this year's two months [of data so far] are down a combined 10% from the same period last year. Analysts widely expect softness in U.S. auto sales to continue at least into midyear....
[As we said for Delphi's downsizing today (3/30/2001), primitive week-on week-off timesizing can get you only so far but you need the advanced version based on weekly workweek adjustments that includes overtime-targeted training and hiring aka market reinvestment, or you at least need one of the intermediate versions based on monthly workweek adjustments.]
3/28/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- AVX to furlough about 1,500 workers, AP-NY-03-28-01 1707EST via AOLNews via RadioTony.
Electronic parts maker AVX Corp. will put many of its workers on a week's furlough because of a slowdown in orders.
About 1,500 workers at plants in Myrtle Beach [SC] and Conway, or about 60% of the company's work force in Horry County, won't work from April 9-13, CFO Kurt Cummings said.
The company also furloughed workers from March 12-18 and Cummings said the practice could continue until September.
Orders have dropped for the company's electronic capacitors that are used in cellphones and video game systems.
"We're considering everything we have to do to remain competitive," Cummings said. He would not say if permanent layoffs were being considered....
[But for the moment, they're doing a primitive form of timesizing, not downsizing - they're cutting worktime, not workforce, and that will cushion the accelerative impact of this company's response to the downturn, on the downturn.]
3/27/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Dutch allow shorter week, give break to meat firms, Reuters 09:55 03-27-01 via AOLNews.
AMSTERDAM...- The Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment said on Tuesday it would allow companies affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis to introduce a shorter working week and would pay affected staff unemployment benefit.
"We will allow companies hit by the consequences of this disease to reduce the working hours of employees by as much as they like - 50% or even 100% - and allow employees to apply for unemployment benefit," spokesman Bart Crouwers said. Such benefit in the Netherlands amounts to 70% of an employee's lost wages.
"In the long term the alternative may well be that the company goes bust, in which case the workers would have nothing at all. If we do this, we save companies some of the wages of their employees," Crouwers said.
Five cases of the highly infectious disease have been confirmed in the Netherlands with a further eight suspected.
3/24/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- [French 35-hour week gives preview of headaches we too will have on the road to heaven -]
France's Louvre closes as strikers block entrances, Bloomberg Mar/26/2001 11:21 ET via AOLNews.
[France is conducting the greatest economic experiment at the dawn of the Third Millennium, and is displaying a fascinating pot pourri of human behavior to educate the rest of us for when we finally get smart and realize there is no future unless we share the vanishing work. In this story, we see short-sighted employees who already work only 1600 hours a year consonant with the annualization of the new 35-hour workweek throwing tantrums because they want a reduction next year when other government employees working 39 hours get one, even though they've had it all along. Shades of the brother of the prodigal son, who resented the welcome his father gave his sibling upon his return, even though he'd been enjoying all the good stuff at home all those years anyway.]
France's Louvre museum, which houses Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Mona Lisa, was shut for a fourth day as employees demonstrated to demand more hiring. The museum, which normally receives 15,000 visits on weekdays, said about a fifth of its technical and administrative staff stayed away from work today to press for more hiring as working hours are cut to 35 per week.
"We have enough people [left] to run the museum, but we had to close because the picketers are blocking the entrances," said Patricia Mounier, a Louvre spokeswoman. The closure costs the Louvre about $55,000 a day in lost revenue, Mouner said.
While the protesters want more people hired to comply with the law, it's up to the ministry of culture to decide how it plans to implement the 35-hour workweek.
[This brief Bloomberg report doesn't really get to the core of the problem. Yesterday's longer Reuters report handles it better, but says it's striking gallery attendants, not technical and administrative staff -]
Strike shuts France's Louvre museum for third day, Reuters 08:43 03-25-01 via AOLNews.
...[It's] a strike of gallery attendants over government plans for the introduction of a shorter working week. The attendants are worried that when new legislation comes into force at the start of next year they will not see any reduction in their hours....
[And why, pray, wouldn't they?]
Under proposed [35-hour week] regulations, state workers [like Louvre employees] will have to chalk up just 1,600 hours work a year.... While [Louvre] technicians and office staff would benefit [from the 4-hour workweek cut], auditors have suggested that gallery attendants already work [only] 1,600 hours a year and would not qualify for a reduction....
[Hooboy, is this a problem of perception or are the attendants really just having a spoiled-brat hissy fit? Is it something like, the attendants are counting the 45 minutes a day they take to put on and off their uniforms and the auditors aren't? Who knows. But this is the kind of problem we can expect to run into when we tackle this project. And tackle it we must if we want to reverse our growing income gap (see today's Omens, 3/27/2001) and our slide into the Third World.]
3/23/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Ecuador January unemployment rises to 10.8% on seasonal lull, Bloomberg Mar/23/2001 17:07 ET via AOLNews.
...January's average unemployment in..\..the country's three largest cities...Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca, climbed to 10.8%, compared to 10.3% in December, Ecuador's lowest monthly rate in over two years, the central bank said in its monthly report. Ecuador's unemployment figures are not seasonally adjusted....
Unemployment fell compared with the same month last year, when it was 16.8%. Unemployment soared in 1999 after the Andean nation's $13.7B economy shrank by 7.3% following a pounding by El Nino weather pattern, the near collapse of the banking system and the demise of the sucre currency, which was abandoned this year in favor of using the U.S. dollar. Ecuador's...economy grew by an estimated 2.2% in 2000 boosted by a return of business confidence and higher consumer demand, which reduced unemployment.
[What really reduced Ecuadorean unemployment gets a hint at the end of the next paragraph -]
"Over the last year the economy showed signs of recovery , business confidence returned and companies started hiring again," said Joanna Rodriguez, an economic analyst at Quito-based consultants Multienlace. "The mass migration has also been a key factor."
["Mass migration" a key factor in an economic recovery??? What can she be talking about?]
An estimated 400,000 Ecuadorean men and women headed to the U.S., Spain and Italy in search of work last year. Remittances [presumably from these overseas workers back to their families in Ecuador] reached $1.3B in 2000, second only to oil export revenue.
[Not to mention the supportive effect on wages occasioned by the departure of 400,000 people from the labor market, and the consequent centrifugal effect on the country's wealth, concentrated tightly at the top as in all Third World nations. Let's see, 400,000 forty-hour weeks means that the emigration withdrew 16 million manhours per week from the labor market. That's gotta have a powerful wage-supporting effect for a little economy like Ecuador's. Emigration shares with war, plague and prison (our current American favorite) the distinction of serving as humanity's primitive methods of making manhour withdrawals from national labor-market accounts. Arthur Dahlberg mentions on pp. 181-82 of his trail-blazing "Jobs, Machines and Capitalism" (1933 - see our Bibliography) that around 1850 in England, various craft unions actually provided "Emigration Funds" to export their surplus labor and stop the wage-depressing competition for jobs. But as a way to engage this solution of withdrawing manhours from the labor market, cutting the nationwide workweek is a lot easier than mass emigration, and a lot more sustainable, as more and more nations implement immigration controls in order to maintain their own wages and living standards. But as we shall see, Ecuador is also using the workweek-reduction strategy without much consciousness of it as a strategy, or its potential power as an economic stabilizer.]
The coastal port of Guayaquil, the country's largest city, posted the highest unemployment in January with 12.4% of the population out of work, followed by the capital city of Quito with 9.8% and the southern Andean town of Cuenca with 3.8%.
Full-time employment [presumably defined as 40 hrs/wk] in the three cities was down 18.3% to 32.5% of the population of working age compared to the previous month, as the ranks of the "underemployed" swelled as companies cut back after the December sales peak. Underemployment means people in work that pays less than the minimum wage or for fewer than eight hours daily, typically in the agricultural industry and in the informal economy. According to the central bank, the average level of underemployment in the three cities was 56.7% in January, up 13.6% from December.
[Hey, "underemployment" is a lot better than "unemployment" - and if the majority of people (56.7% here) are "under"employed anyway, maybe it's time to examine the sacrosanct "eight hours daily" that have become frozen in stone. If the majority are working fewer hours, there's something wrong with the arbitrary 8-hr day and 40-hr week, not the economy. After all, like the rest of the world, Ecuador probably reduced its maximum workweek for 150-200 years as mechanization and industrialization progressed, but then stopped the reductions decades ago. The mechanization and automation and robotization didn't stop. Why should the workweek reduction? The alternative is layoffs and unemployment and recession - or worse. Time for economists to wake up to worktime not only as an economic control variable but as THE economic control variable for the next 5-10 decades - Timesizing, not downsizing.]
3/21/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- French 4th-qtr wages rose 0.4% vs. 3rd qtr, 2% vs. year earlier, Bloomberg Mar/22/2001 2:45 ET via AOLNews.
PARIS...- French wage increases slowed during the fourth quarter of last year, dampened by companies applying legislation introducing a 35-hour workweek.... Last year, employers reined in labaor costs as they introduced shorter work time legislation, giving France one of the lowest wage inflation rates in Europe. The law, introduced in February, obliged companies with more than 20 staff to reduce the workweek tto 35 hours. Companies and employee representatives negotiated reduced work times often on the understanding that there would be limited wage increases.... Veronique Riches-Flores, chief economist at SG Capital Markets...expects wages will rise on average by 2.3% this year as the effects of the shorter workweek legislation wear off and as some specific industries encounter difficulties hiring qualified staff. Computer companies and construction companies are among those that report hiring problems because of a growing skills shortage....
[One word - training. It's time for France to solidify its move into the future by implementing overtime-to-hiring conversion.]
- French equity preview: ...Geodis, Bloomberg Mar/22/2001 18:22 ET via AOLNews.
...Geodis SA (GEO FP): The express mail and logistics company said it posted a net loss of 26.9m euros last year following a profit [of] 18.6m euros in 1999. The operating profit fell 63% to 20.3m euros as a result of rising oil costs, the implementation of the 35-hour workweek legislation, and rising provisions....
[Blaming a four-hour cut in the workweek for falling profit? If this company's management can't surf the bigger market base unleashed by activating (pre-multiplier) 11.4% more consumer units (dba new employees) and turn this profit drop around next year, they should join the army, the university, or the monastery.]
3/16/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- German Verdi union delegates ready for pay fight, Reuters 14:35 03-20-01 via AOLNews.
BERLIN...- Activists in Germany's new mega-union Verdi said on Tuesday their labour group now had the cash and political muscle to press home demands for more pay and a shorter work week.... Five unions merged this week to form Verdi, short for United Services Union.... German service sector workers typically work a 35- to 40-hour week..\..
[The German is not given but would probably involve the words Vereinigten (united) as in die Vereinigten Staaten (the U.S.), and Diensten (services) - "union" is possibly "Bund" and not in the anagram. But they could hardly have come up with a more confusing name for us "K.I.S.S." Americans who are used to Verdi being an Italian opera composer, not a German mega-union. Of course, "verd-" also means "green" in the Romance languages, and they did elect a Green to head up this union -]
In a secret ballot, members elected...Frank Bsirske with a 95.9% majority to head Verdi. He is the first member of the environmentalist Greens party to lead a major union. Most are traditionally led by Social Democrats.
[Great, maybe this will spotlight the link between environmentalism and blasting out of the "work hard, produce more, consume more" compulsion that seems to grip much of the industrialized world, especially the English- and Japanese-speaking parts.]
Bsirske took over as leader of the OeTV, Germany's largest service-sector union, in November after this predecessor failed to win full support for Verdi. He managed to turn only qualified backing into an 87% majority for the merger..\..
With three million members from across the services sector, [Verdi] represents a formidable force.... Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder...himself is a Verdi member..\.. Schroeder made last-minute changes to appease unions but delegates still whistled and jeered the architect of the reform, Labour Minister Walter Riester, as he addressed the..\..congress settin up the union.... Riester was once deputy head of IG Metall, the engineering union which was the country's biggest until Verdi was formed.
STRONG POLITICAL INFLUENCE
German unions already enjoy the kind of political influence most of their European counterparts can only dream of, after successive foreign governments rolled back trade union power in the 1980s and 1990s....
[Then all the more shame on them for allowing France to beat them to a nationwide statutory workweek of 35 hours! Unions in Germany must be almost as stupid as unions in the U.S. and Canada in letting this power lever escape their grasp. Without shorter hours, employees are turned into surplus goods by incessantly inrushing waves of labor-saving automation and robotization, and surplus goods are fighting against market forces in trying for higher prices (labor price = wages). Cutting hours per person moves labor from surplus to scarcity, and enlists market forces on their side to raise wages and prevent the kind of topheavy concentration of wealth and the gaping income gap that we're seeing in America, to a degree that undermines the stock market as the top income brackets suction the spending power and markets away from their own investment targets. The resutling "Black Hole" economy experiences "the more concentration, the less circulation." For 150 years, American labor made the two demands that Verdi is now making in Germany - higher pay and shorter hours. The irony is, that they only needed to demand and win the second of the two in order to get both. But American unions allowed FDR to seduce them away from the second and focus them exclusively on the first - higher pay - so they lost both. They lost both because they then found themselves in surplus, fighting market forces instead channelling them in their direction with shorter-worktime forged labor scarcity. FDR passed minimum wage and maximum makework, instead of maximum workweek. As early as 1935, he regretted not pushing the 30-hour bill through the House after it passed the Senate in 1933, but it was already too late. All he managed after that was the too-little too-late 40-hour workweek in 1940 - a level that was soon diluted with industry exemptions by employer lobbying during the war. Still, for the next 25 years, American labor basked in the power proffered by the labor shortages due to the deadly and wasteful hand of war. But the job market swelled as the postwar baby boom replaced the fallen and maimed of the war, and with a pre-technology workweek, American (and Canadian and British) labor was toast - roadkill - a surplus commodity - common as dirt and rapidly becoming cheap as dirt. 1970 marks the transition. It took another 20 years for Japanese labor to collapse, thanks to Ed Deming's legacy of "banish fear from the workplace" and the tradition of lifetime employment, but collapse it did due to ignoring the worktime issue (10,000 people a year were dying of karoshi, death by overwork), and almost immediately the whole Japanese economy collapsed in the early 90s, and it has remained collapsed ever since.]
"We're used to fighting and now we can do something. We'll be taking a long hard look at working hours, particularly the amount of time worked in any one year," said Christel Rose, a delegate from the big state of North Rhine-Westphalia.... While German unions are fond of militant language, most labour issues are resolved by discussion and the European Central Bank has applauded the rarity of strikes and moderate wage claims.
[We bet it has. And the result of the fuzziness of the shorter hours issue in the minds of the German unions?]
Membership of the German Trade Union Federation (DGB), the umbrella labour grouping, has fallen from just under 10 million in 1994 to around eight million in 1999.... "There are lots of people losing their jobs out there through these mergers and restructurings. Verdi is an instrument to fight back," said Anja Keuchel, a member from the banking, insurance and retail sector.
[But only if Verdi continues its focus on a shorter workweek and elevates it to top priority, even exclusive priority. It's the "pearl of great price," the all-in-one issue. You get shorter hours on a continuously adjusting basis, and you get everything. And the most flexible and market-guided design for a shorter hours program is Timesizing. It integrates continuous training and inflation-blocking (Phases 2 & 3), democracy and interest-rate stabilization (Phase 1), and in Phase 5, the coordination of population factors (imports, immigrants, births) to safeguard the environment.]
3/15/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- [American Bankers Assoc. puts 2 types of timesizing before layoffs -]
Credit card delinquency rises, AP-NY-03-15-01 1003EST.
...The seasonally adjusted percentage of credit card accounts 30 or more days past due rose to 3.34% in 4Q00, up from 3.21% in Q3, the American Bankers Association said Thursday.... "As we expected, the number of delinquent accounts has increased as the economy has slowed," said James Chessen, the Association's chief economist....
As the economy slowed dramatically in the second half of last year, some Americans worked fewer overtime hours, saw their workweek shorten, or were laid off, putting a strain on their ability to pay bills, Chessen said....
[Hmm, maybe there is hope. This Bankers Assoc. economist put worktime cuts first in his list of responses to the slowdown. Again, he's a conventional economist who undoubtedly views less overtime and shorter workweeks as negative. If however, on the corporate or economywide level, we went with the "zen" of trimming worktime as a deliberate strategy in this downturn, such "timesizing, not downsizing" would reverse the downturn - not perhaps in the way that top management expects, but then, they and their stifling concentration of income created the downturn in the first place. Cutting worktime per person reverses downturns by mopping up the surplus labor resulting from the waves of short-sighted mergers and layoffs and harnessing market forces to raise general wage levels and centrifuge income to people who go out and spend it instead of into the funnelling channels that pack it in the pockets of the top income brackets - where it does not get spent. So this and the following stories indicate that the strategy of shorter worktime is being used anyway - and consider also the huge spread of temporary and part-time employment in the last 10-15 years - but these things are not happening in the best way (to put it mildly) or in a coordinated way. If we accepted the process instead of denying it, fighting it and bemoaning it, it would surprise us by turning into our salvation, not our doom. And if we quit using it just when we're forced to by a downturn crisis, and instead used worktime adjustment as standard operating procedure, we'd never get into such deep downturns. The best way to design worktime adjusment to include built-in training, flexibility and a market orientation, such as in our Timesizing program.]
- Technitrol warns of lower Q1 earnings on sector downturn, Reuters 17:05 03-15-01 via AOLNews.
PHILADELPHIA...- [The] electronics parts maker...expects to see first quarter earnings of 54-56 cents per diluted share, falling short of analysts' estimates, becaues of a downturn in the electronics sector....
Chief executive James Papada said the company has terminated all temporary employees, instituted a hiring freeze, shorter workweeks and rolling plant shutdowns [i.e., shorter workmonths], as well as cut back on travel and outside consulting.
[Here's a far-sighted CEO who values his skill set and is doing everything he can to avoid indefinite layoffs, including cutting worktime, not workforce - "timesizing, not downsizing."]
- Flexsteel Industries, Inc. announces revised expectations for third quarter operating results, Business Wire BW2567 MAR 15,2001 21:00 EASTERN via AOLNews.
DUBUQUE, Iowa...- Flexsteel Industries, Inc. (Nasdaq:FLXS) announced today that it...anticipates revenue to be approximately 10% less than [its] record March 2000 quarter of $75m..\.."due to the continuing lower sales in our vehicle seating business, and during the last 45 days there has been a slow down in both our residential and commercial incoming orders," said Flexsteel President and Chief Executive Officer, K. Bruce Lauritsen....
In addition to identifying additional sales growth areas, the Company is focusing on inventory management, minimizing capital expenditures, reviewing credit exposure and has implemented reduced work hours in an effort to retain the team that performed well to produce the record sales and profits of the prior year....
[Now there's a smart company. They've got to cut costs because sales are down, but they retain their skill set and preserve company loyalty and morale by spinning an hours-cut as a reward&retention incentive. Hats off to Bruce Lauritsen, one of America's most intelligent and imaginative CEOs, for timesizing to stall and reverse the downturn, instead downsizing and deepening it!]
CONTACT: Flexsteel Industries, Inc., Dubuque; Timothy E. Hall, 319/556-7730 x392; KEYWORD: IOWA.
- French economy added 134,200 jobs in fourth quarter of 2000, Bloomberg Mar/15/2001 2:47 ET via AOLNews.
PARIS...- The French economy created more jobs in the fourth quarter of last year than in the third, led by hiring in the service industry. Payrolls, excluding government and farm employment, added 134,200 jobs, or 0.9%, to reach an employment level of 14.73m, a final Labor Ministry report said. That was more than the 121,200 in a preliminary report on Feb. 16. The number of jobs created in the third quarter was revised lower to 117,200 from the 120,600 originally originally reported.
Service companies, ranging from telecommunications companies to hotel operators, have been hiring the most in recent years [because they're less automated than agriculture or manufacturing - ed]. Although slackening economic growth worldwide will probably slow the pace of growth in coming months, analysts say uuemployment will keep falling.
[Hmm, they've changed their pessimistic tune - for France.]
"We continue to expect a jobless rate below 8.5% at the end of the year," said Marc Touati, an economist at Natexis Banques Populaires in a recent note to investors..... Service companies added a revised 101,000 jobs, a 1.1% increase from the third quarter. Services include temporary employment agencies, which derive more than half of their business from manufacturers. Manufacturers added a revised 15,400 jobs, up 0.4% from the third quarter. In January, a quarterly business survey showed French factories running at their busiest since April 1990....
The government says its policies helped reduce unemployment. Since launching a youth program in mid-1997, the government has created more than 298,000 jobs for workers under 26, the Social Affairs Ministry said last month. The reduction of the workweek to 35 hours from 39 saved, or created, more than 251,000 jobs as of November last year, the government said. The law currently applies to companies with more than 20 employees; smaller firms must comply by next January.
[By sheer prorating, reducing the workweek from 39 to 35 creates an extra four 35-hr jobs for every 35 employees previously working a total of 39hx35= 1365h/wk and now working only 35x35= 1225h/wk, leaving 1365-1225= 140; 140/35h= the 4 new 35-hr jobs = an 11.4% increase in employment. It might be slightly fewer than that, because trimming the workweek tends to make people more efficient, thanks, for example, to better prioritization. However, the multiplier effect would apply to those four extra employees and the additional spending that would ripple through the economy thanks to their new earnings would create further new jobs.]
...[Yester]day's report showed that the number of jobs created throughout last year rose 3.6% to a revised record of 506,300. The figures cover about three quarters of France's workforce and exlude workers in "non-competitive" sectors, such as the civil services, education and health care.
- Kimball says lower sales, margins to hurt Q3, Reuters 11:10 03-14-01 via AOLNews.
NEW YORK...- Furniture and electronic assembly manufacturer Kimball International...chairman and chief executive Douglas Habig said in a press release the company has taken actions in response to slower demand, including enacting shorter work weeks and eliminating some temporary employees and employees working on production and administration....
[Americans, British and Japanese are time blind. They think God gave us the 40-hour workweek on tablets of stone from Mount Sinai. They think jobs come in rigid 40-hour (or more, not less) blocks. Kimball obviously avoided some layoffs by breaking out of the box and cutting hours, but not enough, as shown in our downsizings today (3/15/2001). France, however, is beginning to "get" it, but not without a serious crisis in their identity as the biggest complainers in Europe -]
- ["Another shitty day in paradise."]
France adapts to 35-hour week with more vacation, higher prices, Bloomberg Mar/14/2001 5:09 ET via AOLNews.
France's 35-hour-workweek has led famed chef Alain Ducasse to do less lunch. [He] now serves lunch only two days a week at his three-star restaurant at the Plaza Athenee hotel, down from five days a week last year. "With the new law cutting hours it was impossible to keep the same team together throughout the week, and I didn't want to compromise quality by starting a shift system," said France's best-known chef.
[Here we see one of the big effects of a shorter workweek. This "poor guy" presumably has to preside six or seven days a week at dinner, and previously he also "had" to preside five days a week at lunch so as not "to compromise quality" by delegating. He was heading for a heart attack but he was sooo important, sooo indispensable. Now better rested and with a new lease on life, he struggles to maintain his self-importance and his myth of indispensibility by sulking, "OK if I can't be there, we're not going to have it!" Pathétique.]
When the law was under debate three years ago, business opponents said it would
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and his allies said it would
- make companies flee France,
- killing jobs and
- slowing the economy.
[Now the Bloomberg reporter makes a statement that applies only to what the opponents said, claiming it applies also to what the proponents said -]
- create jobs and
- improve the quality of life.
A year after the implementation of the 35-hour law, interviews with managers of dozens of companies show that both predictions were wide off the mark.
[There is no support in all the rest of the article for the claim that the 35-hour law is "wide off the mark" of creating jobs and improving the quality of life although there is the statement, buried down in the 19th paragraph, that "Predictions the law would destroy jobs in France have not come true," and instead, the reporter immediately goes fuzzy on us -]
The real impact is in the office, on the factory floor, on daily lives.
[This is a gruatuitous, meaningless statement if ever there was one. But then this reporter, straining not to give the reduced workweek any credit for the astonishing economic growth that "coincidentally" happened during the last couple of years while French companies were preparing to implement, and implementing, the shorter workweek, affects a stance of sympathizing with the "poor" interviewees who can now make full-time pay and benefits in only five 7-hour days -]
Government aid and the fastest economic growth in 30 years have eased the costs imposed by the law, and most of those interviewed say they have learned to live with the 35-hour week.
[Life is rough! Our hearts bleed for the poor French! If this is at all representative of the real opinions of the majority of French people (which we doubt), what a mob of unworthy wretches - beam them back to 'Les Miserables' so they really have something to complain about. Check out this wording -]
Some have even managed to turn the law to their advantage by persuading employees to accept more flexible work practices.
[You don't say! Land o' goshen, betcha that was a tough sell! Did they break any arms while they were twisting them? (Do we have ANY chance at all of getting the straight story in the workaholic masochistic English-speaking media???)]
Time out for coffee.
Almost all businesses, though, have had to redo the way they organize their workforce to comply with the law.
[For God's sake, they only dropped 4 hours a week from their previous workweek level of 39 hrs/wk! That's only an hour a day. What's the BFD?!! Our reporter gives us a hint in the next paragraph. S/he has been interviewing mostly American companies in France, such as Bain and Toys'R'Us, which presumably have to kick and scream like victims to placate their home offices in the land of the longest working hours per year in the entire developed world, the big dumb "work hard, not smart" US of A -]
Consultants Bain & Co. last year closed its Paris office for two weeks in August....
[Most French firms close for the whole month of August and Paris empties out.]
Toys 'R' Us Inc. pays its sales help to stay home several weeks a year,
[OK, that's called paid vacation]
then has them work 48-hour weeks at holiday time without overtime..\..
[That's called comp time. Did that strain the skills of the Toys'R'Us management?
The reporter throws in another is-this-really-supposed-to-be-a-complaint - this one from a presumably French company -]
The 75 employees of Studelac, a market research firm in Toulouse, take cigarette or coffee breaks only on their time "off" for 15 minutes twice a day....
[And this is a hardship or what? This reporter has led seemingly led a very limited and sheltered work life. There are many many American companies that follow this practice, for example, some big insurance companies.]
"The 35-hour law forced all French businesses to re-think and re-negotiate the way they use labor," said Jean-Marie Pean, managing director of Bain in France.
[In other words, instead of the bogus "efficiency" of American CEOs acquiring and firing, French CEOs really had to learn efficient management skills as in scheduling and time management.]
"Some companies were able to rip up outdated work agreements....
[Oops, sounds like praise. Quick, dilute it with a complaint!]
...Others were already running efficiently and found the law to be an added cost. In most cases a supportable cost, but a cost nonetheless.
[Well, maybe they'd like to continue paying high unemployment insurance premiums, which are now being cut, or perhaps they'd like to continue experiencing dwindling markets as more and more employees get marginalized and disemployed by rising technological efficiency and immigration?]
Ducassse [the "famed chef" at the beginning] took the simplest step available to compensate for serving three fewer meals a week: he raised his prices 10%.
[Nothing wrong with that - whatever the market will bear.]
Not everyone has the pricing power of a famous chef. And with competition rising and the European economy poised to slow down, higher costs due to the shorter week may become harder to swallow....
[Not if, as seems likely from the story below on 3/07: "Analysis - German gloom clouding euro-zone growth," the shorter workweek solidifies domestic demand in France and effectively immunizes the French economy from any general slowdown in the European economy.]
More cost, less revenue.
[Ah, "less revenue" when France is experiencing "the fastest growth in 30 years"??? What's distorted about this picture? This article is doing backbends to try and blacken the shorter workweek, and it's not working.]
..\..Vallinox Nucleaire [which] makes nickel alloy tubes used in nuclear power plants...agreed with its unions to keep a 40-hour workweek. Instead, workers get an extra 17 days off a year. Even with a one-year salary freeze..\..executive VP Grady Harrison...says his cost per hour of labor has risen about 8% because of the additional time off.
[This is actually one of the positive effects of a shorter workweek - it centrifuges income out of unspendably inflated top-executive salaries and into wages that people go out and spend - and that, children, is where France's "fastest economic growth in 30 years" comes from. But now look at the example this guy gives of the bad effects of these higher labor costs. Does it have anything to do with higher labor costs?]
He says he recently lost a U.S. order to a Swedish competitor partly because the new work rules lengthened the amount of time it would have taken to fill an order.
[No it doesn't. This is a scheduling complaint, not a cost complaint. And scheduling and hiring - temps for instance - is a basic management skill which apparently this VP and his colleagues in the Vallinox executive suite have lost, spoiled as they have been for years and years by a gross labor surplus in France (and around the world). And if France gets real smart and goes the extra mile to implement the constant overtime-targeted training feature of Timesizing, this type of problem will evaporate, even for executives with rusty management skills like Grady Harrison and his buds. Same goes for the next "problem" reported by Studelec -]
Studelec, the Toulouse market research firm with limited coffee breaks...
[Hey maybe that's the problem for American CEOs - they're yapping about "efficiency" and "working hard" but they're employees, though putting in 70-80 hours a week "face time" are taking unlimited coffee breaks and infinite lunches, not to mention time spent surfing the Web and playing MS Windows solitaire.]
charges clients such as Motorola Inc. and European Defense & Space Co. by the hour. Because of the new legal limit on how long its experts can work, the company will bill about 2m francs ($285,000) less this year than last, when it had 25m francs of revenue, said chief executive Daniel Bruni.
[Ah, what we're not mentioning here is - if this company is completing contracts in the same amount of weeks as other market research firms but for less money, this company is going to get a LOT more business. It's people are going to be better rested and more creative and focused and prioritized for the market research tasks, and Studelec, if it can ever stop complaining, stands poised to take over a much bigger share of the market research market. However, it's still complaining, or at least its CEO is -]
"Worse than the money is the sort of atmosphere it creates when people are told when they can or can't go out for a coffee," says Bruni.
[And what kind of atmosphere would that be, M. Bruni - focused, disciplined, coordinated, efficient? Most people we know would rather work hard for a clearly defined seven hours a day than futz around for eight or maybe nine or gosh, "let's just hang around indefinitely making like we're doing important stuff." And if you don't need people to work together, M. Bruni, what's the problem with turning them into professional consultants who operate on billable time and set their own hours, coffee breaks and all? Speaking of coffee breaks, we need one tho' there's still 2 valuable pages of this article left.]
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