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Timesizing News, May 27-31, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080

5/31/2003  worktime consciousness in the news, aka glimmers of strategic hope -

5/30/2003  worktime consciousness in the news, aka glimmers of strategic hope -
  1. [First, here's a constructive employer who's taking the Dutch route of beefing up part-time (contrast UPS' attempt to make everyone part-time to avoid benefits) -]
    WestPark Direct steps up ambitious pace of growth, success, PRNewswire 05/29/2003 15:03 EDT via AOLNews.
    [The Dutch are doing it to try to get timesizing from the bottom up and reduce unemployment. WestPark Direct is probably doing it to access a population of higher quality employees, like the plastics companies in Indiana who buy Ron Healey's 30/40 Plan®.]
    LAKEWOOD, Ohio...- Riding a wave of expansion and prosperity defying financial forecasts for its industry, WestPark Direct continues to position itself for further growth well into the future. The Ohio-based sales and marketing firm - which develops and implements marketing and sales strategies for the nation's newspapers - has increased its staff fivefold since its inception in Nov/2001. WestPark Direct, which began operations with 25 employees 1½ years ago, now has a staff of 125 - with a goal of 200 by fall.
    "Our rapid growth has been driven primarily by referral business," says WestPark Direct founder and president Timothy Schmidt. "Our customers tell us that our quality is exceptional, and more importantly, they tell others as well.... Staying on the cutting edge of technology allows us to be more efficient and to provide a more pleasant work environment for our staff."
    The WestPark Direct staff comprises primarily part-time employees working 25-35 hours per week. The company's unique approach to staff management includes providing all employees with retirement and health benefits, as well as flex-scheduling typically not offered by telemarketing firms.
    ...WestPark Direct also...now [offers] Direct Mail Made Easytm; and Billing Made Easytm;.... For more information on WestPark Direct, call 216-502-3010 or toll-free at 800-403-5998; or visit our website at *WestParkDirect.com.

  2. [Then, here's a destructive employer who's taking the Wal-Mart route of unpaid overtime -]
    Charfoos & Christensen, PC, reports: Mid-level Detroit Edison supervisors and managers file federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA], PRNewswire 05/29/2003 12:30 EDT via AOLNews.
    DETROIT -...The FLSA requires that hourly employees be paid for time and one half their hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 hours in the work week. According to the complaint, Detroit Edison pays these employees an hourly rate, and pays them based on number of hours they work in a week, but - ..\..This case is a companion suit to a lawsuit previously filed by Atty. Jared Buckley of Charloos & Christensen PC, Detroit MI, which is currently pending in federal court.... Buckley says, "The employees covered by both lawsuits were victims of a corporate restructure in 1995. More than 2,000 employees, who previously received overtime compensation when they worked more than 40 hours, were reclassified as salaried employees, thus depriving them of the time-and-a-half overtime benefits."
    [Do yet the feeling that the mindset for some employers has become like some stockbrokers? = keep churning ownership and keep grabbing more of the income stream, regardless of precedent and regardless of rules and laws = the Bush approach, except that it didn't start under Bush Jr. In this case it started under Clinton, another example of the lack of choice between the two monopoly (= duopoly) political parties in the cosmetic democracy of USA.]
    Hourly workers, under the FLSA, must receive one and a half times their hourly rate as overtime compensation. "There is no legal way around this requirement for hourly employees," says Buckley. "Detroit Edison's practice of paying hourly rates, but calling it a salary, is itself in violation of federal laws. In this day and age of corporate greed and outrageous executive bonuses, profits cannot come from cheating workers on overtime."
    [Why? Because the top executives already get 400-500 times what ordinary employees earn and they're already spending all they care to, so that concentrating spending-power is deactivating, cutting consumption, bloating inventories, and deepening recession. The so-called "stumbling recovery" is just magnification of any little good news that comes down the pike, and minimization or total neglect of any bad news. Top executives think they can take the whole pie and still have markets. It's the old Chesterton Pan-Utopian Trap. CEOs assume, like fishermen the oceans and lumbermen the forests, that markets are infinite. And then they act surprised that markets (and oceans and forests) are weakening, They need to be protected from themselves. They need the "discipline of management," never mind the "discipline of the workforce." And the only way to discipline management is by market forces. And the only way to harness market forces in this direction is the create what CEOs will perceive as a general labor shortage, NOT a surplus as we have now. And the only way to create a perceived labor shortage (though an actual labor-employment BALANCE) short of killing and maiming employees via war, epidemic or starvation, is enforcing the standard workweek, converting from semi-voluntary overtime with the mixed-message of time-and-a-half (= slightly bad for employers, somewhat good for employees) into completely voluntary overtime with a focus on prevention via earmarking of all financial advantage specifically for training and hiring to break the skill bottleneck of which the overtime is a symptom. That's Timesizing Phase Two and Phase Three. And then once you have overtime working right for a change, set up the workweek to vary inversely with the unemployment rate (Phase Four - e.g., the workweek goes down as long as unemployment is too high or rising). And assuming you have redefined our cosmetic unemployment rate to really mean something (Phase One) by including in it the whole problem of non-self-support in our economy, you'll see a period of more or less uninterrupted reduction in the workweek. Then the only consideration is pace of change, which should be slow - an hour a year or halfyear, max, - this too can be set by referendum as was the redefinition of unemployment (and repeated annual referendums can keep both pace and definition updated to accommodate rising expectations). Then all you need is a set of annual or biannual referendums to make sure you're not sabotaging your economic progress with interest rate fiddling (Phase One) or uncontrolled population variables (imports, immigrants, births = Phase Five). That's your basic "Solid Recovery via Full Employment via Worksharing" Program, alias Timesizing.]
    For more information, or to obtain a copy of the complaint, call Jared Buckley, David Parker or Ian Bourgoine at Charloos & Christensen PC, 313-875-8080.
    [And don't get it mixed up with Timesizing.com, which is is 617-623-8080, shades of the old 8080 computer chip.]

  3. Japan's jobless rate unchanged at 5.4% in April, Kyodo 05/29/03 23:21 EDT via AOLNews.
    TOKYO -...The number of people working less than 35 hours per week rose 480,000 from a year earlier to 20.79 million, and the number of those working more than 35 hours plunged 910,000 to 40.78 million....
    [Looks like Japan is timesizing willy-nilly, and not in a particularly constructive way, because we have not heard anything about their beefing up part-time employment with full-time benefits like the Dutch. Except possibly at the municipal and prefectural levels where they've been experimenting with worksharing - see 1/30/2002 and 3/07/2002 #1 - and at sporadic companies, e.g., 1/10/2002 (and endlessly talking about it nationally, e.g., 3/08/2002 #4).]

5/29/2003  primitive timesizing in the news, aka glimmers of strategic hope -
  1. [a timesizing company finally caves -]
    Hooker Furniture to close Kernersville NC plant, Business Wire 05/28/2003 16:00 Eastern via AOLNews.
    MARTINSVILLE, Va...- Major furniture manufacturer and importer Hooker Furniture (Nasdaq;HOFT) announced [yester]day that it will close its Kernersville NC plant by late summer. The 115,000-sq-ft plant, the oldest and smallest of the Company's 5 wood furniture production facilities, employs approximately 270 people, representing approximately 12% of the Company's total workforce, and manufactures home theater furniture, wall units and entertainment armoires....
    Despite increased sales and marketing efforts and improvements in product quality and delivery times, "we have seen a steady decline in orders for domestically produced products and do not foresee a time in the future when we will have enough incoming orders to run 5 case goods plants," said Douglas Williams, president and COO. "We must balance our domestic production capacity with the demand in the marketplace."
    "We have been working short, 35-hour weeks since late 2000 in an effort to avoid closing a plant," Williams said. "We've always been a company that cares about our employees. We hesitate to make a move like this that affects people who have done a good job for us over the years."
    ..\..Over the last 3 years, a sustained economic downturn and a flood of lower-priced imported case goods, primarily from Asia, have forced many U.S. case goods manufacturers to curtail operations. "We have exhausted every reasonable avenue to fight this industry-wide trend that affects like everyone else," said Paul Toms Jr., chairman and CEO. "Regretfully, at this point we have decided it is necessary to close a plant."...
    The selection of the Kernersville plant for closing "has nothing to do with its production performance," Williams said, adding that "the quality and profitability of the plant has been very good and the people there have done a great job." The multi-level plant was chosen because it is the oldest building and the smallest and least flexible of all Hooker's plant. To remain competitive, the Company's domestic facilities need to have the flexibility to run smaller manufacturing cuttings in order to deliver more customized products faster, Williams said.
    Hooker will offer a severance package to the Kernersville employees that is expected to total approximately $1.0-1.2m, according to Jack Palmer, VP of HR. "The Company will offer job placement counseling and will applly for extended unemployment benefits under the NAFTA Trade Act," Palmer said....
    Ranked among the nation's top 15 public furniture manufacturers in sales, Hooker Furniture is a 79-year old producer and importer of wall and entertainment systems, home office, occasional, dining, bedroom and upholstered leather furniture with approximately 2220 employees. The Company has 10 manufacturing facilities, a distribution center and a warehouse located in Virginia and North Carolina. Plant locations include Cherryville, Hickory, Pleasant Garden, Kernersville, Maiden, and Woodleaf, N.C., and Martinsville and Roanaoke, Va.... Please visit us on the...Web at *HookerFurniture.com and *Bradington-Young.com [huh?]....

  2. IG Metall expects east German strikes next week, by James Mackenzie, Reuters 05/28/03 11:36 ET via AOLNews.
    BERLIN...- German engineering union IG Metall said on Wednesday it expected metal workers in the eastern state of Saxony to strike next week following a breakdown in talks with employers for shorter working hours. The giant German union said there had been "a huge show" [ie: turnout] in a ballot of 16,000 members at 85 firms including car maker Volkswagen AG and the union was confident of reaching the required 75% minimum needed to call a strike. The ballot, expected to be concluded on Friday, follows last week's vote by east German steel workers in favour of strike action and comes as unions step up pressure on Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to water his Agenda 2010 'reform' plans [our quotes]....
    ... IG Metall called the strike ballots in eastern Germany to demand a cut in weekly working hours to 35 from the current 38 to bring the region into line with western Germany, where workers already have a 35-hour week. IG Metall, which represents a total of some 310,000 workers in eastern Germany, says the gap between working hours in east and west, originally agreed to make up for the gap in productivity between the two sides, is increasingly unjustified given productivity advances by eastern German plants. It is calling for the gradual harmonisation of working hours across Germany but has said the process could be spread over several years.
    Employers have rejected the demand, saying industry in the economically struggling east cannot afford to implement a shorter working week.
    [Sounds like they're able to pass along most of the bill for most of east Germany's 18.7% April unemployment to west Germany - no incentive to take care of their own.]

  3. [and in case any of you were wondering -]
    Why do we work?, half-page ad by *Principal Financial Group, WSJ, A4.
    Why do we spend more time living at work than in a living room? Because when it comes to living, we weren't made to sit back and observe. We were made to get up and do something with our lives. To accomplish. To have an impact. At The Principal, we understand that....
    [Thus completely finessing the question of whose agenda you're working on - your own important and interesting one or someone else's trivial and boring one - not to mention how little of "an impact" you're going to have working on the kind of McJob you're able to get these days, if you can get one at all.]

5/28/2003  worktime consciousness in the news, aka glimmers of strategic hope -
  1. Justices, 6-3, rule workers can sue states over leave - Gain for federal power - Court majority cites sex-role stereotyping in its decision on time off for family, by Linda Greenhouse, NYT, front page.
    WASHINGTON... - In a surprising break with its marchj toward states' rights [& costs!], the Supreme Court ruled [yester]day that states can be sued for violating their employees' federally guaranteed right to take time off for family emergencies. The vote to reject Nevada's claim to constitutional immunity from suit under the Family & Medical Leave Act was a decisive 6 to 3. ...Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas [were] in dissent.... In addition to Justice [Sandra Day] O'Connor, Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer joined Chief Justice [William] Rehnquist's majority opinion. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred separately. The decision affirmed a 2001 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco....
    [The Journal version, buried in the last section, second page -]
    Justices bolster family-leave act - Supreme Court says law covers employees of states who have the right to sue, by Robert Greenberger, WSJ, D2.

  2. Statewide affordable housing conference kicks off Michigan Homeownership Month, PRNewswire 05/27/2003 17:11 EDT via AOLNews.
    LANSING...- The Michigan Conference on Affordable Housing is scheduled to take place at the Lansing Center on June 2-4, with an expected attendance of over 1,200 people representing developers, nonprofit groups, affordable housing advocates and homeless service providers....
    Workers in Michigan must earn $12.67 per hour for a typical 40-hour workweek to afford an average 2-bedroom apartment at a fair-market rent. The minimum wage in Michigan is $5.15 per hour. \Thus\ the gap between [the minimum] wage and affordable housing for some is insurmountable....

  3. Hangovers emerge as top excuse for skiving workers, Reuters 05/27/03 06:55 ET via AOLNews.
    ["Skiving" is apparently British slang for "sicking out" or playing hookey on your employer by calling in sick, whether you really are or not.]
    LONDON...- A third of British workers think it is acceptable to take a bogus day off sick, and the top reason for doing so is a hangover, according to a survey...conducted among almost 1,000 people [by] Crown Computing, [a] software company..\.. Over 60% of respondents in the research released on Tuesday [5/27] said they had "pulled a sickie" after hard drinking....
    Four in 10 would think again if they knew their bosses were monitoring their sick leave closely. A third would be less likely to skive if their working hours were more flexible....
    [How about if they were simply shorter?!]
    Mike Hawkesford, managing director of Crown Computing...said the results showed the need for bosses to manage sick leave.... The Confederation of British Industry, an umbrella organisation for employers [= the British Keidanren? - see 12/04/2002 #2], says bogus absence costs business as much as £11.6B ($19B) a year.

5/27/2003  primitive timesizing & timesizing consciousness in the news, aka glimmers of strategic hope -
  1. Lufthansa, Dow Jones via WSJ, C9.
    Lufthansa began cutting back work hours for its 16,000 ground personnel by one hour, to 35 hours a week. The airline's decision, set to take effect yesterday, is aimed at helping cut costs and came despite earlier opposition from the workers council. Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty [sounds Irish, not Deutsch!] said the company's business had declined enough to trigger a decrease in working hours agreed-to during the way arbitration earlier this year, designed to avoid layoffs. The first trigger was reached last month, when Lufthansa cut weekly working hours for its ground personnel to 36 from 37.5.
    ["The first trigger"! - ya gotta love the Germans for puttin' some style into timesizing!]
    The airline also is negotiating a similar deal with pilots. Lufthansa earlier this month posted a 356m-euro ($426.4m) net loss for the first quarter.
    [Timesizing, not downsizing. Here's a couple of clips from the Reuters version -]
    Lufthansa says no job cuts planned, denies report, Reuters 05/26/03 03:15 ET via AOLNews.
    FRANKFURT...- Deutsche Lufthansa AG said on Monday it was not planning job reductions to weather the current aviation crisis, denying a newspaper report that the airline's works council was expecting cuts.... Comments by Lufthansa CFO Karl-Ludwig Kley at the time of the Q1 results that referred to potentially drastic personnel measures, however, have fuelled speculation the airline was considering making [job] cuts..\.. The Financial Times Deutschland [FTD] reported on Monday that the head of the works council expected job losses at the company and called for talks to discuss personnel changes.... "We are realistic and have in our minds already that Lufthansa will become smaller," the head of the works council, Wolf Liebetrau, was quoted as saying..\..
    "These considerations do not exist," a [Lufthansa] spokesman said of the [FTD] report, calling it "unrealistic" and "irresponsible" to call the jobs into question....
    [Now that's the kind of commitment to employees that we like to see, and a big contrast to our own dear Air Canada (see our downsizing page today, 5/27/2003 #1) despite some timesizing-to-avoid-downsizing on their part last year.]
    Europe's third largest passenger airline has been famous for avoiding jobcuts in times of crisis. Currently it has introduced shorter working weeks to help offset personnel costs in the face of low demand.... Lufthansa shares were up 0.8% at 8.65 euros in opening trade.

  2. [more from Germany -]
    German industry condemns east German steel strike, Reuters 05/26/03 03:15 ET via AOLNews.
    BERLIN...- The head of the German metal industry association on Monday rejected calls for a shorter working week for the east German steel industry after workers voted at the weekend to strike over the issue from June 2.... Martin Kannegiesser, head of the Gesamtmetall employers' federation, said shortening the working week would add significantly to costs for the industry in the still economically depressed former communist east. "They are not strong enough. [huh? strength has nothing to do with it] The east is still a relatively new industrial centre in European and certainly world terms, and still has to find its place in the European and world economies," he told German radio.
    [Like you have to suffer 18-20% unemployment until Martin Kannegiesser says you're ready to move on? Wadda nerve!]
    ..\..Engineering union IG Metall had urged 7,000 members in the east German steel industry to back a strike to demand a cut in weekly working hors to 35 from the current 38 to bring the region into line with western Germany, where workers already have a 35-hour week.... IG Metall said some 83% of its members at 17 steel companies including Arcelor unit Eko Stahl voted for the strike, well above the required 75% threshold.... A further 16,000 union members at 85 metal and engineering firms including two Volkswagen AG plants in the state of Saxony are due to start a separate 3-day strike ballot on Monday [5/26 we think].
    IG Metall, which represents a total of some 310,000 workers in eastern Germany, says the gap between working hours in east and west, originally agreed to make up for the gap in productivity between the two sides, is increasingly unjustified given productivity advances by eastern German plants. It is caling for the gradual harmonisation of working hours across Germany but has said the process could be spread over several years.

  3. [and from southwestern Europe -]
    Portugal president queries new labour laws, Reuters 05/26/03 13:35 ET via AOLNews.
    LISBON -...Pres. Jorge Sampaio on Monday [5/26] requested the Constitutional Court to query several aspects of a controversial set of new labour laws...which the centre-right government says will give the Portuguese economy a much needed boost.
    [You're never going to get an economic boost by employing fewer people at longer hours, only from employing more people at shorter hours.]
    ...The new Labour Code was approved in parliament in January and its almost 700 articles provide for more flexible working hours [ie: longer?], and...mak[ing] it easier to move businesses within Portugal and crack[ing] down on absenteeism....
    [Compare our jibes last time Reuters trotted out this sentence (1/17/2003 #2).]
    But unions say the 'reforms' [our quotes] unfairly penalise the worst paid workers in the EU without addressing structural problems like tax evasion, a sizeable underground economy, underinvestment and historically low education levels....

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