Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News in June, 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
6/30/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
6/27/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Hooker reports second quarter results & announces $3.0 million common stock repurchase program, Business Wire BW0231 JUN 29,2001 14:42 EASTERN via AOLNews.
MARTINSVILLE, Va...- Hooker Furniture (OTC BB:HOFT) reporter [yester]day that its net sales for the second quarter ended May 31, 2001, declined 16.4% to $55.6m from the prior year quarter, reflecting the difficult economic climate experienced during the period.... "We experienced a deepening decline in business at retail during the second quarter. Although overall costs declined during the current year from the year ago period, we were unable to reduce costs enough to offset the effect of lower volume on our operating margins," commented Paul B. Toms Jr., Chairman and CEO....
[And now, timesizing, not downsizing; that is, hours cuts instead of job cuts -]
Toms further commented, "We have been working a short, 35-hour work week since January and expect to stay on this schedule through the end of August. We will also take our traditional week off in July for the scheduled maintenance of our facilities and we plan to shut down another week in August to control inventory levels. Prior to the end of August, we will evaluate the need to further extend short time into the fourth quarter."...
[See also our previous Hooker article on 3/30/2001.
- SIPEX Corporation company [sic] announces plan to reduce cost structure, Globe wire services via BG, C1.
BILLERICA, Mass...- SIPEX Corporation (Nasdaq: SIPX) today announced that it will be reducing its workforce by approximately 15% due to the continued slowness in the semiconductor market.... In addition to the reduction in workforce, the Company will be shutting down its manufacturing operations for some period in the Company's third quarter....
[Presumably to avoid an even larger workforce reduction.]
- French unemployment rate steady, AP-NY-06-29-01 0933EDT via AOLNews.
PARIS...- France's unemployment rate held steady at 8.7% for a fourth straight month in May, although slightly more people were looking for jobs, according to government figures released Friday [6/29].... Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has made cutting the jobless rate a top priority since coming to office in 1997, when the unemployment rate was at 12.6%.
The government's chief measure to cut joblessness was a law shortening the working week from 39 hours to 35.
[This is the first time we have seen the shorter workweek referred to as "the government's chief measure to cut joblessness." Always before, it was obscured by reference to the additional youth jobs program.]
It says the measure has created jobs by forcing employers to hire more staff, though many employers accuse the government of unnecessary meddling in the economy.
[And how much de-activated domestic demand in terms of unemployment would "many employers" like to see before regarding work-spreading as necessary "meddling in the economy"? 15%? 20%? 25%? This question requires a regular referendum of all the players in the economy, employers and employees, to gain an authoritative answer and shut the mouth of near-sighted whiners.]
The government said the job-creating effect of the law would be felt most in 2000 and 2002 - not this year.
[Huh? This wording makes it sound like this statement was made in 1999. The gap in the effect is presumably due to the rush of big employers getting on board when there were incentives in 1999 and the crowd of small employers scrambling on board at the beginning of next year.]
Companies with more than 20 employees were required to implement the shorter working week as of February 2000, but businesses with fewer than 20 employees have until January 2002....
- 2 possible timesizings -
- Hewlett-Packard asks employees to take pay cut, Reuters via NYT, B3.
...including Carleton S. Fiorina, the CEO...or use up accrued vacation days, as part of cost-cutting efforts to help it contend with a slowdown.
[And presumably avoid layoffs.]
"It's a 10% pay cut, or eight paid vacation days," said a Hewlett spokesman, Dave Berman.
[Is there an understood incentive here that employees who take the 10% pay cut can take a 10% hours cut too? - since the overall output isn't needed. Ifso, this would be timesizing.]
The program is voluntary, and employees can elect to take a pay cut lower than 10% or to surrender fewer than eight vacation days, he said.
[Wait a minute, is it "use up" vacation days, or "surrender/completely lose" unused vacation days?]
- Alcoa Inc., NYT, B3.
...Pittsburgh, the biggest aluminum maker [will] cut production by 63,000 metric tons, or 15%, at a plant in San Luis, Brazil, beginning July 1 because of an electricity shortage.
[Are they doing this via shorter workweeks or temporary plant idlings to avoid layoffs? Ifso, we're looking at another example of Timesizing.]
6/22/2001 glimmers of the ultimate solution -
- Minnesota: Nurses return to work, by Elizabeth Stanton, NYT, A16.
About 1,300 nurses at two hospitals in the Minneapolis area ended a three-week strike on Monday after they accepted a new contract. The contract was rejected earlier this month by union officials, who said it did not give nurses enough control over their workload. The new contract includes a 19.8% raise over three years and gives a designated nurse the ability to close a unit for two hours if it is understaffed.
6/21/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- The Philadelphia Fed releases June business outlook survey, PRNewswire 06/21/2001 12:00 EDT via AOLNews.
The region's manufacturing firms report continued weakness in business conditions.... The survey's labor market indicators reflect continued weakness in the manufacturing sector. The current employment index, which has now remained negative for eight consecutive months, fell from -11.1 in May to -14.3 this month. Firms also report declines in average work hours: the current average workweek index fell from -14.6 to -16.8.... Survey participants continue to report decreases in the levels of general activity, new orders, employment, and average work hours....
[How ridiculous that prevailing economic theory in a highly technological economy counts decreased work hours as a negative instead of a positive. What does that leave as the whole point of technology since it's not making life easier and better for people - is it then merely to load the top income brackets with even more unspendable spending power? If these workhour declines are happening anyway, perhaps "the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our work hours but in ourselves, that we are Luddites" (apologies to the Bard). When did our economists develop this perverse view of worktime à la "work hard, not smart"? When did the purpose of technology change from reducing work to increasing work? And if technology is shrinking working hours anyway, even though our brain-damaged economists chant over and over again that "technology creates more jobs than it destroys," let's implement an automatic worktime-sharing and -spreading system like Timesizing, acknowledge real progress, and cut the keening (Irish wailing)! If work is spread around so un(der)employment is really low - we're talking zero, nada, nothing but the "frictional unemployment" of job mobility - wages will not go down when hours are cut, they will go up to where they should be to enable our workforce to purchase their own output without relying on unreliable exports into a world that our primitive economic ideas have impoverished even more than ourselves.]
6/20/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- Bush reaches out to unions with new workforce panel, by Peter Szekely, Reuters 20:52 06-20-01 via AOLNews.
WASHINGTON - ...One change Bush said he would like to see is contained in a bill that would allow private sector workers to take compensatory time off instead of getting paid for overtime.
[In other words, on an annualized basis they wouldn't be working overtime at all. This is similar to the way France is implementing the 35-hour workweek. And getting rid of overtime or converting it into training &/or hiring is a prerequisite for an effective maximum workweek and the general centrifugation of work and wages which a maximum workweek brings about (and of course, the centrifugation of income is a fast ticket to solid recovery).]
"Many hard-working people would prefer to be able to choose a few extra days at home instead of a few extra dollars on payday," he said.
[You won't see us praising Geo. Dubya Shrub very often so relish it.]
"We've got to trust the workers of America to make the decisions that's best for their families."
[Not too grammatical but it's a no-brainer anyway. Now cometh our braindead union leaders who just don't seem to get business' need for flexibility and the fact that as long as you preserve the limit, it doesn't matter if you annualize - subject, of course, to the demands of the human body for sleep and the avoidance of sleep deprivation. In other words, you wouldn't want the French to put in their whole 1600-hr per year allotment of employment in 9½ weeks or they'd all be dead.]
Union leaders oppose the measure, saying it would undermine the 73-year-old legal foundation for the 40-hour workweek and the assurance of time-and-a-half for hourly workers....
[Well the "73-year-old legal foundation for the 40-hour workweek" is the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which laid down 44 hours as the statutory maximum workweek in 1938, 42 hours in 1939, and 40 in 1940, giving us the famed "40/40/40 Plan" = 40 cents an hour minimum wage, 40 hours maximum workweek, in 1940 AD. But the time-and-a-half pay provision itself was the main underminer of the 40-hour maximum. Annualizing it (max40hrsx50wks= max2000 hours per workyear per person assuming 2 weeks vacation)
protects it better than motivating employees themselves to violate it with extra pay. But poor dumb union leaders in America never quite got this through their thick noddles, so they've been pushing for overtime, bunching up work and skills, expanding the wage-depressing "army of the unemployed," undermining their own leverage at the bargaining table ever since. "Lord what fools these mortals be."]
- Toshiba to cut production, Bloomberg via NYT, W1.
The Japanese electronics giant...said it would trim semiconductor production at four plants in the next two months to reduce costs amid a decline in orders for chips used in mobile phones and personal computers. Toshiba will suspend production at a transistor plant in Hyogyo prefecture for 19 days beginning in late July, and will also shut a chip plant in Fukuoka prefecture for 13 days beginning on Aug. 3.
[Thus presumably cutting worktime in lieu of layoffs. Timesizing, not downsizing.]
6/16/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- The French miracle: a shorter week, more jobs, and men doing the ironing - Official study finds that France's 35-hour week has boosted the economy and proved a hit with both employees and their bosses, by John Lichfield, Independent Digital (UK) 19 June 2001 via *Tom Walker 's Timework Group (BC) via shorter hours e-list (email email@example.com with 'subscribe' as message).
PARIS - ...France's experiment with a state-imposed shorter working week - mocked by the workaholic and market-driven [our italics - ed.] British and Americans three years ago - is beginning to alter the country's rigid social patterns.
Weekends now start on Thursdays or end on Tuesdays; many younger, working mothers choose to stay at home on Wednesdays, when French children are traditionally off school.
Middle-range French executives, on a 1,600-hour working year, find that they have an average of two weeks' extra vacation (on top of the six weeks they already had). Leisure...sales are booming. There is even anecdotal evidence that French male, blue-collar workers are doing the midweek shopping; or learning how the iron works.
The law, pushed through by the former employment minister Martine Aubry, already applies to six million employees in France, just over half the workforce. Next year, small companies with [less than] 20 workers will be given shorter working hours for the first time. A number of categories - including senior business executives, doctors, lawyers, journalists and soldiers - are exempted.
But what effect is all this having on the French economy? And French unemployment (which was the whole point of a shorter week in the first place)?
An official report published [Monday] said that the mandatory 35-hour week, and its voluntary predecessor (the Robien Law), had created 285,000 jobs in the past five years. By the time the law applies fully to smaller companies in 2003, it should have created 500,000 jobs, the report by LePlan, the French state's strategic planning body, said.
This is far fewer than the 700,000 new jobs forecast by Lionel Jospin's centre-left coalition government when it came to power, promising a statutory 35-hour week, four years ago this month. It is, though, by no means the calamity forecast by business leaders and orthodox market economists - both French and Anglo-Saxon.
[And all with minds tightly closed to a central economic control variable - worktime per person.]
The principle of a state-imposed reduction in the working week - from 39 hours to 35, without a reduction in wages - would be ruinous to French competitiveness, they said. It would discourage foreign investment. It would increase taxes and social charges because the government would have to compensate employers. It would destroy more jobs than it created. None of that has happened, yet.
French unemployment has fallen from 12.6% in June 1997 to 8.5% this month, the lowest figure for 18 years. Almost one percentage point of this reduction should be attributed directly to jobs created by the reduction of the working week, according to yesterday's report.
[Hope they've got a big indirect attribution, because "almost one percentage point" out of 4.1 sounds low to us.]
Perhaps more important still, it says that the shorter working week has helped to dispel the atmosphere of "all-encompassing pessimism" which gripped France in the mid-1990s. It has increased consumer confidence and consumer spending - boosting rather than crippling the French economy. Foreign investment in France is booming.
[All this was foretold by Arthur Dahlberg in 1932. Except he foretold it for the USA in 2000, not France, and he foretold it for a 20-hour workweek, not 35-hour. See his Jobs, Machines and Capitalism, especially the first part of Chapter 8 where he sets the scene (USA 2000 on a 20-hr workweek) for a reversal in 2010, "How the Industrial System Adjusts to the Injection of Additional Labor-Hours," when by some quirky back-from-the-dead Puritan work ethic, the US returns to the 40-hr workweek and by 2029 induces the Great Depression II.]
Social charges on employers have not been increased so far, but a potentially damaging row is still in progress on how to pay the £1.5B (at least) unbudgeted, extra annual cost of subsidising companies who have switched to the shorter week.
[It's a mistake to go in for a lot of such subsidization, especially when you're just adjusting the workweek by 4 hours. Dahlberg points out for his imaginary 20-hr workweek America that "the competitive power of the United States was as great as before. It was consequently unnecessary to modify the tariff wall in the least, because of this shortening of working hours. American workers, while working but half as long, were, nationally considered, twice as efficient as before." Jobs, Machines and Capitalism (1932, reprinted 1969), p. 195. That means that most companies will not become less competitive because the myriad hidden inefficiencies built up justify the long 39-40 hr workweek despite waves of work-saving technology will be dropped - and not least, the gross undercounting of technological productivity gains motivated by misguided employers' clinging to the Forty-Hour Work Week Forever will be dropped.]
In the meantime, the 35-hour experiment has started to attract admiring glances from across the Channel. Last week, the Industrial Society, a think-tank with broadly Blairist views, painted a mostly positive picture of the reduction in working time in France. By flying in the face of "Anglo-Saxon economic orthodoxy", the French seem to be winning the battle over how to give employees a better balance between work and private life, the report said. "The French seem to be throwing away the textbook of labour market policies," said the report's author, the economist Charlotte Thorne. "If the French experiment works then the UK Government may be forced to look at France rather than the US for new ideas about reforming the jobs market.
[God help anybody who looks to the US for new ideas about anything during this period of return to 19th-century 'American primitive.' But note the captioning of "Anglo-Saxon economic orthodoxy" - with its huge blindspot in the central strategic area of worktime as a control variable - significantly by a woman economist rather than one of our many testosterone-poisoned know-it-alls who can never admit he's wrong.]
"Britain is still in the mind-set that we have to work incredibly long hours.... Practically, there is no reason why we shouldn't have a 35-hour week here, but culturally we are a million miles away."
[And the Land of the "Free" (USA) is two million miles away. Remember "work smart, not hard"? Our Anglo-Saxon motto has reversed that and become "work hard and dumb."]
In truth, the effects of the 35-hour week in France can be difficult to pin down. Some business leaders point out that negotiations on reducing working time have permitted companies to scrape away years of accumulated restrictive practices.
[Alias inefficiencies - as Dahlberg predicted.]
In return for shorter, annual hours, workers have agreed to more flexible hours; to work longer days or to come into the office or factory on weekends; even, miraculously, to work during the month of August. The result has been a windfall of productivity.
[Again as Dahlberg predicted in 1932, and Juliet Schor in 1991.]
The negotiations have also forced businesses to think again about who they employ and why.
The result, according to Régisse Versaeud, head of the insurance services sector of the CFDT trades union federation, is that some of his members complain that they are being made to work too hard when they are at the office.
[Gary Zabel, soc. prof. at UMass/Boston, had this impression of the "sham" shorter workweek from his several-month stay in France last year.]
"Overall, the response from members is that they approve of the changes but I think employers have, in some cases, taken the opportunity to load too many tasks on individuals.
[There are always a few bad apples, and certainly here in the U.S., this overloading happens all the time in the aftermath of omnipresent downsizing.]
"Something like 2,800 new jobs have been created in insurance offices by the 35-hour law in the last three years but we think the figure could still be even higher."
["Could be" or "should have been"?]
The government is having difficulty in making its own bill add up.
[Well, maybe it should have led the way instead of hanging back to apply the shorter workweek to itself only along with small companies in 2002.]
The cost of subsidising employers who created new jobs was to be borne by lower unemployment payments, the existing social security budget and extra taxes on alcohol and tobacco. [But] the Jospin government now faces a shortfall of at least £1.5B a year, which it proposes to take from a large, but possibly temporary, surplus in the social security (health and pensions) budget. In the longer term, employers protest, that means they may be forced to pay for their own subsidies.
[Yeah, well they're profiting from the rise in business activity and domestic demand, aren't they? Not to mention the rise in efficiency and social cohesion, a predictable fall in crime and incarceration costs, and a generally better mood in the country compared to the "all-encompassing pessimism" of the mid-1990s. At a certain point, some Frenchmen are just chronic whiners. Like the old Jewish story about the man and his wife in bed at night. "Oy, am I thoisty," he says. "Oy, am I thoisty." So she gets him a drink. Does he shut up? No. "Oy, vuz I thoisty. Oy, vuz I thoisty...." If complaining is part of your identity, heaven's no use to you.]
In the meantime, the government could be said to be, in effect, "buying" the new jobs.
[Well what the heck did we do with the WPA and the CCC and the whole "New Deal" in the 'Thirties? What the heck did we do with World War II and with every single war thereafter - and WWI for that matter? Better to "buy" new market-demanded jobs than to bring in a bunch of socialist planners to invent government jobs a la WPA - hiring people to clean up cemeteries and paint murals and write tourist guidebooks, things the private sector is perfectly capable of doing if the culture shifts in those directions.]
The net cost to the French treasury of subsidising employers shifting to a 35-hour week is estimated in yesterday's report by Le Plan at £4,600 per new job. Orthodox economists might argue that the money might have been better used on reducing business taxes - or building more TGV lines.
[Except that then, the money would have found its way directly to the pockets of the top income brackets, as it was during the mid-1990s - straight to the people who already have much more than they can spend. Why? Because high unemployment would still be depressing wages for ordinary employees, so domestic spending and demand would be a fraction of what it could and should be.]
At a social level, the 35-hour week is already a great success and will be one of Mr Jospin's trump cards in the presidential elections next year. President Jacques Chirac, his principal rival, criticised the idea as "ideologically obsolete."
[Yeah, Jacques - let's just go back to the "modern" 80-hour workweeks of the 1840s. What a moron. A brain-dead Anglo-Saxon masquerading as a Frenchman juxtaposed with the most significant and futuristic experiment occurring on the planet at the dawn of the Third Millennium. There are still plenty of stupid French people who just don't get it. However -]
Two thirds of people on a shorter week say that it has improved their lives. Working women, especially, say that a four-day week, or shorter working day, has made their lives tolerable for the first time.
["Tolerable"? Good God, what have we been doing to ourselves? The whole purpose of technology is to free us up, but by cutting jobs instead of cutting hours, we've used technology to enslave ourselves again.]
Madame Niki in the hairdressing salon in the 17th arrondissement now has most Fridays off, as do her clients. The concentration of her trade on fewer days has also meant that she did not replace her assistant [who] left last year. Mark that down for one job lost by the 35-hour week.
[But it was an inefficient job. Two people sitting around a lot five days a week vs. one person working a lot four days a week. The fact is, on a 1940-era 40-hour workweek, we are in no position to talk about "efficiency" in the context of piles of work-saving technology - which we don't use. And can't really use lest we lose our jobs. Any economy with a frozen workweek, whatever the level, soon becomes effectively Luddite (efficiency resistant) if they keep introducing new work-saving technology.]
"Fantastic, incredible, a complete change in the way I live. I see my small daughter for an extra day each week and my wages are virtually the same," [said] Benedicte Rifai...a junior financial analyst with the French electricity board, Electricite de France [EDF], which also owns the London Electricity Board. Since the introduction of the 35-hour working week - or technically speaking, a 1,600-hour year - at EDF last year, Ms Rifai has worked a four-day week. She still earns £27,000 a year, only slightly less than her job commanded when it was spread over five days.
"We can choose for ourselves, more or less, how to work the hours," she said. "Some people go home at three in the afternoon every day. Some people take longer vacations. Working mothers, like me, often choose to take Wednesdays off, because many schools in France are closed at least half the day.
[Compare "Wednesdays half day" in Britain.]
"It means I can save on childcare costs and spend a whole extra day with my daughter. It's difficult now to remember how people coped with a full five-day week.
"I used to work in New York and I've seen the other side of the coin - long days and only two weeks' vacation. I think our way is healthier and more civilized and, in the end, good for the company too. The employees can concentrate when they are on the job."...
[By contrast -]
Lucy Finn...typically works a 40 to 45-hour week as a human resources manager for London Electricity [in Britain]. "My job is fairly flexible. Some weeks I am in at 8am and out at 6pm,
[With a halfhour lunch, those are 9.5-hour days, 47.5-hour workweeks, not just 45. That was the standard level in America in the late 1920s. Doesn't sound "fairly flexible" to us.]
"...but other days I manage to do 9am to 5:30pm.
["Manage to do" a 40-hour workweek, the statutory American level in 1940, 61 years ago. "Manage to do" definitely doesn't sound "fairly flexible."]
"If I work long hours, it is recognised and I can make up for it."
["Make up for it" sounds like she's going to work even longer hours. How about, "be compensated for it" by taking comp time. The whole feeling here is different, more anxious, when Freudian slips like that come out.]
She has...no children. As a junior executive
[plied with titles]
...she feels her £34,000 salary, vacation entitlement and other benefits make up for working longer than her French counterparts.
[Not likely, when the French start at four weeks' vacation. And what good is an extra 7,000 quid when you have no time to enjoy it?]
She agrees Britain has a long-hours culture, but says firms have become more flexible.
[Yeah, we'll give you a "salary" and you'll give us a blank cheque on your life, but we'll be "flexible" about it. Heads we win, tails you lose.]
She does not hanker after a 35-hour week.
[The prisoner loves her chains.]
"I think some of the salaries in France are a bit lower. There are also cultural differences. They have a different way of life...."
[Yeah, more stylish than the Brits, much as we love them. Better food than the Brits - French cuisine. (Who ever heard of British cuisine? Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding? OK, but not 7 days a week, especially with that weird gravy on the side. Plaice and chips? Gag. Fried tomatoes, fried bread and thick bacon for breakfast? Where's the loo!) We'd guess that the positive effects of a little red wine at meals on the vascular system means a longer life expectancy for the French than the British. And now with a 35-hour workweek, expect to see fewer sick days. Less absenteeism. Less workplace violence. Less domestic abuse. Healthier, better behaved children. More creativity and humor/wit/esprit. A flourishing of the arts. The only problem with France is its current dependence on nuclear power and that will eventually be resolved by fusion or alternative energy such as solar, wind or micro-hydro.]
- [More experience-based lessons for our own future from the economy that's leading the world on what will gradually be recognizes at the world's most important, most all-embracing, all-influencing issue.]
French employers threaten to quit welfare system, Reuters 16:30 06-19-01 via AOLNews.
PARIS...- France's employers' association on Tuesday threatened to quit the joint administration of the country's welfare system, angry at a government plan to use the system's surplus to fund a cut in the work week to 35 hours. Medef, France's most influential employer group, said it would pull out of the system, jointly run by employers and trade unions since 1945, unless the government dropped the funding plan and pledged to reform the system. "This decision is a result of the government's recent announcement that the 35-hour week would be financed by social security money," Medef said after its chairman Ernest-Antoine Seilliere met with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on Tuesday.
[This all raises a host of questions, such as,
"We have made our decision and it is linked to our demand that the rules governing social security be modified.... The responsibilities, funding and mandate of the system must be clarified," Seilliere told a news conference.
- why does the shorter workweek need "funding" or "financing"?
- what do they mean by "welfare system"/"social security money"? Is it closer to U.S. AFDC or to old-aged Social Security pension?
- doesn't "joint administration" or "jointly running" require joint government-employer decision-making?
- if we're talking about a welfare system similar to U.S. AFDC, isn't the shorter workweek responsible for the the system's surplus by making more people self-supporting rather than welfare-supported? And ifso, why the employer squawk?
- what's wrong with the welfare system that needs "reform"?
[Could it be that France's social security system is as confused and confusing as ours in the U.S., where our "trusted" legislators simultaneously talk about social security going bankrupt in 30 years and yet use its current surplus to claim a general government budget surplus and justify a taxcut for the rich?]
Medef argues that the government's plan amounts to taking money away from the sick, the elderly and from families with children to fund extra leisure time for workers.
[Medef is still under the illusion that France in 1997 with a 12.6% unemployment rate had some alternative to cutting the workweek and sharing the vanishing work. Medef is still under the illusion that there would be anything but a "vrille à la japonaise" (downward spiral like Japan's) in its future - due to declining domestic markets - if the nation didn't make it a lot easier for EVERYONE to earn a good living. This is not about "extra leisure time for workers." This is about economic survival as waves of technology pour into advanced economies and take over more and more human work. When are we going to realize the blatant implications of technology and implement automatically adjusting workweeks that go with the flow instead of pretending we're still making everything by hand and pulling parts to different sections of the factory by oxcart?]
The lobby group said it would not propose new representatives for the welfare board by a July 31 deadline unless the government met its conditions. The mandates of the current Medef representatives expire on Sept. 30. Seilliere called for a round of negotiations between Medef, unions and the government to resolve the issue before September....
6/15/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- Small jets' big stake in a strike - Comair pilots' pay seen as key to future of the planes, by David Leonhardt, NYT, B1.
If the pilots' strike at Comair...83 days' old today..\..does not end soon, ...it could cause [Delta's] entire [Comair] division to shut down. Or if the strike...ends with huge raises for the pilots, it could make the operation of small regional jets so expensive that Delta and other airlines would stop the recent rapid growth in their use.
[This reporter has 2 errors. #1 - timing: he's 2 days too late.]
...Yesterday, with leaders of the pilots' union voting unanimously to endorse a tentative contract that their negotiators had agreed to Thursday with Comair's executives, both worrisome outcomes became far less likely....
[And as for "the pay's the thing" -]
"It was not the pay"..\..said Max Roberts, a pilot and union spokesman...yesterday. "It was everything but the pay."...
[But this story is back again for what more we can learn about the timesizing aspects. So -]
...The history of the negotiations suggests that the chief difference between the tentative deal and previous proposals made by Comair was in retirement benefits, work schedules, and back pay, rather than in regular wages.... Under current Comair rules, pilots could work a maximum of 16 hours in a day. Mr. Roberts...said he believed that the new pact would limit the work day to about 14½ hours....
[And in "Comair, pilots reach tentative deal," by Leigh Strope, AP-NY-06-15-01 1108EDT, we read, "Pilots overwhelmingly rejected an initial proposal offered by the mediation board on May 12. They said it did not meet their demands for pay increases, shorter shifts, a company-paid retirement program and longer rest intervals between shifts."]
6/14/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- Pilots reach tentative deal with Comair - It may take months to resume a full schedule of flights, by Matthew Wald, NYT, C1.
...on the 81st day of the strike.... The National Mediation Board announced that the airline and the union had reached the agreement after three days of marathon bargaining. The pilots had struck over pay, retirement benefits and work rules, including how many hours a day they could be scheduled to work....
James R. Evans, a spokesman for the pilots association and first officer on a 50-passenger Canadair regional jet, said that under the current contract: "They could schedule me to be on duty all day today, 14 hours, until late, late tonight, and then for 10 hours rest, and to fly all day tomorrow, and get done in midafternoon. And then they could make me begin at 4 a.m. the next day. You can't change your body like that."
[He's right - changing schedules is the hardest thing for humans to adjust to. Better to be always on the night shift than to keep rotating shifts. At any rate, both sides in this new agreement declined to provide details as yet.]
6/13/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- Weirton Steel to idle most operations week of July 1, PRNewswire 06/13/2001 17:39 EDT via AOLNews.
WEIRTON, W.Va...- As part of its cost-containment program, Weirton Steel Corp. (NYSE: WS) [yester]day announced it will idle most of its operations July 1 through July 7, affecting approximately 2,100 of the company's 4,100 employees. Company officials said the number of affected hourly and management employees who will not work during the week may slightly fluctuate. Normal operations will resume July 8.
In addition to closing most office functions, all mill operations will be idled except for basic steelmaking functions. Some maintenance work will be performed in various mill areas.
[So Weirton Steel is avoiding layoffs by cutting worktime, "timesizing, not downsizing." Are there courses on this common highly competitive strategy in the business schools? Or are they, like most professional economists (for example, the idiot savants who edit The Economist magazine of London], in denial about it, and spouting only out-of-touch accusations of "lump of labor fallacy"?]
"We based our decision on a decrease in steel demand within domestic markets in addition to low selling prices attributed to unfairly priced steel imports. Weirton Steel, like many domestic steel producers, has been involved in cost-cutting initiatives to help weather the storm," said John H. Walker, Weirton Steel president and CEO.
The company experienced similar outages last year during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday weeks affecting 2,800 and 1,080 employees, respectively.
[There are other, less fair and flexible alternatives to downsizing, and one of them which might be called "pay-sizing" is demonstrated in a story today from Florida, "Fla. paper halts living-cost hikes," AP-NY-06-13-01 1818EDT via AOLNews, "The St. Petersburg Times is suspending quarterly cost-of-living payments to employees as company officials predict profit margins will drop to a 50-year low this year...."
[In short, pay had been indexed to inflation and it was this indexing that has been suspended.]
"The [St. Petersburg] Times decided to cut the supplements rather than resort to layoffs, buy-outs or a freeze on merit raises. About 1,600 full-time employees and board members, who voted for the belt tightening, will be affected..\..Paul Tash, Times editor and president...said Wednesday. [Even so,] since January, the [St. Petersburg] Times Publishing Co. has reduced the full-time staff by 50 through attrition, he said. The newspaper has already reduced its news hole and cut other expenses, including marketing and travel." What in the world is a "news hole" if not a typo? Any readers that can shed light on this, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll give you a correction credit.]
- South Korea hospital workers join national strikes, by Kim Myong-hwan, Reuters 03:50 06-13-01 via AOLNews.
SEOUL...- Workers at major South Korean hospitals went on strike on Wednesday as a nationwide walkout to demand better pay and conditions and to protest against government-led restructuring entered a second day.
[Just in time, because according to "South Korea: Airline strike ends," by Don Kirk, today's (6/14) NYT, W1, "Korean Air has settled a two-day strike by 1,400 of its 1,800 pilots. Ground crews at Asiana [Airlines] remained on strike. Coordinated walkouts at other companies continued, but the number of workers on strike nationwide has dwindled." Also -]
But while the country's flagship carrier Korean Air Lines said most of its flights had been cancelled because of a strike by pilots, some 15,000 metal workers returned to work pending further negotiations with their managements.... "About 8,400 staff at nine hospitals nationwide have walked out from this morning," said [Korean] Confederation [of Trade Unions] spokesman Sohn Nakoo.... The Confederation...is demanding that South Korea's 44-hour, six-day work week be reduced to a 40-hour, five-day week and that working conditions for temporary workers be improved....
[Presumably So. Korea's present workweek consists of five 8-hr days and one 4-hr day to make up the 44-hr total. Another reference to the shorter-workweek demand occurs in "Korea court gives Daewoo Motor time for sale talks," Reuters 04:29 06-13-01 via AOLNews, "The metal workers are linked to the militant 500,000-member Korea Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which is currently spearheading a nationwide strike for hefty wage increases and a shorter work week."]
6/12/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- R. R. Donnelley revises guidance; recommits to long-term growth strategies, PRNewswire 06/12/2001 08:52 EDT via AOLNews.
CHICAGO - ...new guidance for 2001 earnings per share [downward]....
To accelerate realignment of the company's printing platform while addressing lower printing activity..\..R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co. (NYSE: DNY) has consolidated work in fewer plants, reduced workweeks, laid off workers and temporarily idled equipment in selected locations until demand recovers....
[So despite 1,737 jobcuts this year, Donnelley would apparently have had even more if it had not implemented reduced workweeks. Too bad it doesn't realize the all-sufficiency of the timesizing strategy and the spiralling self-destructiveness of jobcuts compared to hours cuts. See also our previous R. R. Donnelley article on 4/26/2001, item #2.]
- Emerging FX - Off early lows, but outlook bearish, Reuters 04:51 06-12-01 via AOLNews.
...[SOUTH] KOREAN WON...
The won ended onshore trade off its session low helped by equity-related inflows, but the upside was capped by the yen's weakness and worries about a nationwide labour strike. Airline and industrial workers went on an indefinite strike Tuesday demanding a shorter work week, hefty pay raises and to mark their protest against job losses due to restructuring....
[We either share and spread the work and wages and create heaven - or concentrate the work and profits and create hell, even for the "have's" whose investments then have no sustainable markets. Timesizing or downsizing. How long can we remain this time blind?]
6/09/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- Etc. - Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc., Globe staff & wire services, C9.
...of Gloucester MA, whose machines are used to build computer chips, said fiscal third-quarter sales will be less-than-expected because chipmakers have scaled back production. Varian, which plans to halt manufacturing for two weeks in July to save money....
[So Varian is cutting worktime to avoid cutting more jobs - they've cut 440 jobs this year already - see NYT version in today's downsizings, 6/12. Guess they're starting to realize they might need a few employees, so they better start cutting worktime a bit for everybody instead of cutting it completely for a few...and a few more...and.... We call it Timesizing, as an positive alternative to downsizing. The NYT version of this story kinda finesses the timesizing at the end, "The company, whose devices shoot out ion beams to alter the surfaces of semiconductor materials, said it had also planned a two-week shutdown in July."]
- Doctors' union strikes at Portugal health service, Reuters 13:35 06-11-01 via AOLNews.
LISBON...- The biggest doctors' union in Portugal's embattled public health service launched a three-day strike on Monday over pay and working conditions. Mario Jorge, VP of the 7,000-member National Doctors Federation, told Reuters between 50 and 60% of its members in the National Health Service had gone on strike [and] some of the 15,000 health service doctors outside the union also had joined the stoppage. A spokesman for the Ministry of Health put the overall figure at 20%.
[Oops, wide disagreement on the facts.]
The doctors' union is seeking four billion escudos ($17m) partly for back pay and to bring up salaries. It also wants a maximum working week of 42 hours....
[We welcome Portuguese doctors to the 42-hour American workweek of 1939, according to the Federal Labor Standards Act of 1938. Guess not everywhere in Europe has as healthy a workweek for doctors as Germany. Portuguese doctors seem to be struggling with the same kind of sick worktime culture as American doctors. We ask Dr. Helen Caldecott and her Physicians for Nuclear Disarmament and Physicians for Social Responsibility, how about fighting for a healthy worktime culture for American (and Portuguese?!) physicians. If you don't have balance and health in your own lives and professional area, it kinda makes us roll our eyes about your crusades to spread balance and health to other peoples' lives and areas. "Physicians, heal yourselves!"]
6/08/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- Molex plans deeper cuts, closings, AP-NY-06-08-01 0807EDT via AOLNews.
[Bad news lately, but earlier -]
LISLE, Ill. - ...In November, the company shortened factory work weeks from five days to four, cut salaries and fired about 1,000 temporary workers after product demand began to flag. After those cuts..\..electronics component maker Molex Inc...had about 19,300 full-time and temporary workers....
[Timesizing in practice. Workweeks and wages were cut a little for everyone, so no permanent employees would have to completely lose theirs.]
6/07/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- More cutbacks by consultants as Accenture [nee Anderson Consulting] trims its payroll, by Jonathan Glater, NYT, C5.
...[by] approximately 600 employees [1%], mainly support staff, and encourage up to 800 consultants to take voluntary sabbaticals for up to one year in an effort to control costs....
[So, they're trying to cut worktime to avoid further layoffs - a primitive form of timesizing. But they should be doing it by trimming hours evenly for everyone - on a weekly basis - instead of singling out support staff for cuts and consultants for year-long sabbaticals. How we love drama and trauma when small adjustments can do the job with fewer negative side effects. A 1% cut in worktime is less than 5 minutes a day. If 600 employees is 1%, (600+800=) 1400 employees is 2.33%, which would involve cutting 11.2 minutes a day for the whole company and trimming pay down to 97.66%. This is the only way to arrest the current global downturn. We either go through this together and the plane noses up, or we further separate into more and more overworked and more and more underemployed - and the plane crashes.]
The steps are in response not only to a slowdown in client spending...
[As if further damaging the consumer base via your own employees is going to conduce to client spending.]
but also to a sharp decrease in the firm's attrition rate, which at this time last year topped 20% as consultants hopped jobs in search of dot-com glory. Now, as employees see other job options vanish - and as the prospect of Accenture's public stock offering beckons, though no date has been set - attrition is 12%, said Roxanne Taylor, a spokeswoman for the firm....
[Some company spirit they have at the new Andersen Consulting - they're so happy when they have a high attrition rate that they start depending on it.]
6/6/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- Chipmaker idling 2 Dallas plants, AP via NYT, C2.
Texas Instruments, struggling with weaker demand for semi-conductors, will shut two Dallas manufacturing plants in a few weeks. The move will temporarily idle about 1,800 workers, the company said.
The company will close a plant that produces analog computer chips from July 2 through July 23 [3 workweeks, plus one workday?], and will briefly shut a slightly smaller chip plant from June 30 to July 7 [one workweek], a spokeswoman, Kim Quirk, said late Tuesday. "It's just an idling in reaction to the sharp semiconductor downturn," Ms. Quirk said. "It's one of the methods we're using to aggressively reduce costs so when the market turns up, we're ready."
[In other words, if you're expecting an upturn, it's crazy to cut the staff you'll need at that time. In other words, most downsizing CEOs are a danger to their companies and themselves.]
The larger plant to be idled for three weeks has about 1,000 workers, Ms. Quirk said, while the smaller plant has about 800. She said most workers would take vacation time.
[However, since you really have no guarantee there'll be an upturn, or when it'll be if there is, it's more flexible and sustainable to trim and "luff" the workweek all along the way so you don't get into a tight spot, rather than chopping entire weeks out of the workmonth. "Sailing your corporation" like this, which could also be compared to reefing and unfurling sailboat sails, is the approach we take in our Timesizing program, which can be applied equally well in any size of corporation in the private sector or on any level of government in the public sector.]
6/01/2001 glimmers of Timesizing -
- [maximum hours-awareness by Reuters!]
Koreans put in most time on the job, survey shows, Reuters 15:47 06-05-01 via AOLNews.
South Koreans are the world's workaholics, putting in the longest workweek of any country in the world, while France and Italy have the shortest, according to a survey released on Tuesday...a global study by NY-based market research firm Roper Starch Worldwide....
[The significance here is that we have here the first-ever global summary of national workweeks - first-ever since we started searching AOLNews daily for this kind of thing late last year, and covering 1995-96 when we worked at an electronic news-clipping service. We're talking about average actual workweek here, and not statutory maximum workweeks like France's new 35-hour workweek. Here's the list, painstakingly extracted from the negligible text -]
global average 44.6 hrs/wk
Middle East & Africa 48.6
North America 42.4
Western Europe 41.7
South Korea 55.1
[In short, life hasn't gotten any easier for two whole generations now, despite the "advantages" of wave after wave of work-saving technology, because we're using it to downsize instead of timesize (trim workweek). And we think we're so damn advanced. We're a disgrace to intelligence, that's what we are - slaves who love our chains.]
- [S. Koreans aren't taking this lying down -]
Police, workers clash in S. Korea, by Soo-Jeong Lee, AP-NY-06-05-01 via AOLNews.
Hundreds of workers and activists hurled rocks and fire bombs at riot police Tuesday to protest the breaking of a strike at South Korea's largest nylon plant...owned by Hyosung Corp., one of the world's largest producers of nylon..\.. Eight workers and 36 police officers were injured in the clash in Ulsan, an industrial city 160 miles southeast of Seoul....
Workers at the plant began striking on May 24 after management relocated 14 workers whose jobs were no longer needed because they could be done by machines. Hyosung's 1,400-member union saw that decision as a prelude to job cuts and went on strike.
[We assume there's a lot we aren't being told here, because these 14 workers did not lose their jobs, they just got relocated. And even timesizing Lincoln Electric requires that employees be willing to accept job reassignment in order to give them a lifetime guarantee of employment. Maybe the "relocation" was tantamount to a layoff because it involved moving or a 160-mile commute. Maybe the whole situation was actually tantamount to the 12-13 French employees who were going to be displaced by robots in the recent French movie about the 35-hour workweek called, "Human Resources." We found it in Blockbuster Video a couple of weeks ago, but if you rent it from Blockbuster, make sure you get a dated and signed receipt when you return it because there are allegations that Blockbuster has been playing games with late charges. And by the way, let's hear from all those among you who think that more efficient technology creates more jobs than it destroys. Let's hear from all those who think the strategy of sharing and spreading employment is "Lump of Labor Fallacy." Truth is, it's not even a (fixed) stable lump. It's a changing but diminishing lump. How do we know? Because that's the whole purpose of technology - to take over the work. "This is not rocket science!" Those who don't "get it" are right up there on the dunce stool with those who deny the Nazi ovens, insist the Earth is flat or argue that our God is sooo small, He said something once a day six times in a row and created everything, even before He created the Sun so He could tell what a "day" was. Evolution is ever so much more awesome than 'creationism.']
The company asked police to intervene after 2 weeks of negotiations failed to end the strike, which Hyosung management said was illegal....
[Why illegal? We aren't told.]
Tuesday's clash with police was led by the militant Korean Federation of Trade Unions, which claims a membership of 600,000. The group threatened to organize large-scale walkouts in the nation's metal, chemical, aviation and medical industries June 12 to press their demand for a shorter work week and better working conditions....
[No wonder, when their average workweek, according to the article above, is the longest in the world at 55.1 hrs/wk. What the heck is technology for, anyway?!]
The confederation also demanded a halt to the government-initiated corporate restructuring that has so far resulted in mass layoffs.
[Sounds like a pretty stupid and suicidal government. "Let them eat cake, duh."]
- France: Job hunters increase, by John Tagliabue, NYT, W1.
In the latest sign that the buoyant French economy might be succumbing to slowing global growth, the number of people registered as seeking jobs rose in April by 5,000, to 2.3m. [However,] the increase [was] the first in nine months.
..\..The increase [was seized upon as] evidence of spreading job cuts as French exports stall.
[But then, France is only 10% dependent on exports - much less than larger Germany.]
Numerous companies in France, including the food giant Danone, the appliance maker Moulinex, and the British retailer Marks & Spencer, have announced layoffs in recent months.
[We're not sure that these companies are so "numerous" when they have to keep re-using the same three examples over and over again.]
The announcements have so unsettled the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin...that it is planning legislation to make it more expensive for companies to lay off workers.
[Oh isn't that terrible! Like private corporations are having a contest with the French government to force France into recession by downsizing, just to prove that workweek reduction is wrong? Talk about "cutting off your nose to spite your face"! Until we implement a homeostatic workweek-vs.-underemployment mechanism such as Timesizing's Phase 4, disincentivizing downsizing is something we all should be doing while the damage it's done is still limited. But of course, here in big know-it-all America, we're going to keep bloody downsizing until we've reconstructed the 1930s, brick by stone.]
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