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Timesizing News, Oct.15-20, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


10/18-20/2003  primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/17-19 via GoogleNews & searched-collected-prescreened by Alan Applebaum of Brookline MA USA (except #1, which is direct from the 10/20 WSJ hardcopy, & all excerpts & comments by Phil Hyde) -

  1. 10/20   U.S. could follow Europe's high-tax path, Outlook column by Greg Ip, WSJ, A2.
    [An unlikely beginning, but, we promise, "Paydirt ahead!" - and possibly an unacknowledged pickup from the recent bonanza of shorter worktime articles thanks to John de Graaf's efforts at establishing Take Back Your Time Day.]
    Americans owe their economic edge over Europeans in part to the fact that they work more, a distinction often attributed to cultural differences: Americans want to consume more, while Europeans enjoy their leisure more.
    [First, note the sweeping, simplistic generalizations about possibly the most diverse population on the planet - there are millions of Americans who work less, some from choice and many from the necessity of not being able to find a suitable full-time job in today's brutal job market (right next to this article on page 2 is our headline from hell today, "Factory employment is falling world-wide" - see 10/20/2003 #1). Secondly, note the quaint and old-fashioned veneration of more work and more consumption, the former out of step with the Age of Robotics and the latter out of step with the Age of Ecology. Thirdly, note the naive and arrogant starting assumption, apparently unexamined, that Americans have an economic edge over Europeans. We suspect that this is a "given" only in the desperately self-congratulatory American media and would be hard to find in the media anywhere else in the world except those owned by Americans and their surviving, but increasingly ambivalent, worshippers. The breathtaking irresponsibility of the Bush administration is vaporizing American wealth and goodwill so quickly that even the firehose of LatAm migration is turning toward Europe. And eventually it take higher taxes to pay off this most un-Republicanly profligate, "Republican" administration's astronomical war debt.]
    As late as the 1970s, though, the French actually worked longer than Americans. The reason they now work one-third fewer hours has less to do with a yearning for the good life than it does with escalating taxes, including payroll taxes, in Europe.
    [Greg is still innocent of the impact of technology, even though it's spread all over the article right next to his. And again, since when has requiring one-third more working hours been an unmitigated Good Thing? This bizarre attitude, a preference for handing over control over more of your life to someone else, belies the Wall Street Journal's frequent lip service to freedom and liberty, since they apparently have no realization that that the most basic freedom of all is free time, and indeed all the other freedoms put together are nothing without free time. In addition, all technological worksavings are valueless to a nation that doesn't adjust its worktime correspondingly downward, because what's the good of more and bigger houses and cars if you have less and less time to enjoy them? This whole Puritan work ethic is replete with self-contradiction. The only thing of value in it is the thread of independent self-support, and that, in the Robotics Age, is possible - and necessary if we are to have any employee-consumers left - with a lot fewer working hours per person.]
    Who works hardest? [blowout chart]...Source: Edward Prescott [see text below]..\..
    In countries with higher taxes, people tend to work less.
    [Sounds to us like an argument for higher taxes, not against!]
    Italy, taxrate 64%, workweek [avg?] 16.5 [hrs?]
    France, 59%, 17.5 [hrs?]
    Germany, 59%, 19.3 [hrs?]
    Canada, 52%, 22.8 [hrs?]
    U.K., 44%, 22.9 [hrs?]
    U.S., 40%, 25.9 [hrs?]
    Japan, 37%, 27.0 [hrs?]
    [Prescott must have based this chart on old data because annual working hours in the U.S. have now exceeded those in Japan for several years, and if the average workweek is calculated properly, that would be reflected in the relative values of the US and Japan workweeks in the table. Or, Prescott may be just too doctrinaire to let the figures speak for themselves without a little 'cooking'. Back to the text of the article -]
    But Americans can't afford to be smug: The U.S. may be headed in the same high-tax direction if it doesn't tackle the looming crisis in Social Security and Medicare.
    [HA! Social Security and Medicare costs are dwarfed by $8000 a minute, $1 billion a week of our money that Bush is wasting on the military alone in Iraq, an reckless adventure totally unnecessary and now a focus of world terrorism and very much OUR problem where previously it had nothing to do with 9/11 and Al Qaeda and was entirely someone else's problem - except in the compulsive perfectionistic minds of a few complainers who wanted to "get" Saddam Hussein - which, despite his hemorrhaging of our billions, Bush has still failed to do (or to "get" Osama, or the anthrax mailer, or the leak of the CIA agent's identity, or the nuke-armed dictator of North Korea....).]
    The stagnant job growth of the past year may be an early taste of the problems ahead.
    Edward Prescott of the University of Minnesota says Europe's higher taxes made it more expensive to hire labor, even though take-home pay may not have increased much.
    [On the other hand, universal healthcare in Europe and Canada makes it less expensive to hire labor, and the higher taxes in Europe and Canada have enabled them to avoid the huge disabled, homeless and prison-inmate costs the U.S. has.]
    The bigger the [tax] burden, the harder it is for employers to pay a salary that will entice someone to take a job rather than stay on public assistance, go to school or retire early.
    [Ah, what's the matter with going to school or, if you can afford it, retiring early?? Why are they in this list?! Greg, your corporate masters will be displeased if you don't argue a bit more coherently.]
    Between the 1970s and mid-1990s, he says, the French taxrate rose to 59% from 49%, while the U.S. taxrate held at 40%. The result: The average French person of working age logged 24.4 hours a week in the early 1970s, one hour more than American.
    [Advantage, America, say we.]
    By the mid-1990s, the French workweek had shrunk to 17.5 hours, while the U.S. workweek had grown to 25.9 hours.
    [Huge advantage to France, say we. We note that in The Economist's 2004 edition of its Pocket World in Figures, France ranks high in human longevity, 17th in highest population 60 & over and 18th in highest median age, while the US doesn't even appear in the top 21-23. And while none of the top 14 cities represents France or the U.S. in the highest quality-of-life index, 10 of the cities are European and 2 are Canadian - all presumably with TERRIBLE higher taxrates than the U.S. - and the only ones we begrudge are the sales taxes and the VATs, which do burden business - unnecessarily because these revenues should come from the top income and wealth brackets whose hoards are otherwise wasted by the commonly accepted - but seldom applied in this context - neo-classical principle of the Marginal Utility of Capital, alias the diminishing dynamism of concentrated money.]
    The relationship between work and taxrates was similar for the seven major industrial countries.
    [It's so bizarre to hear the Wall Street Journal, supposedly the great advocate of efficiency, arguing in favor of more work, evidently for its own sake. How excitingly Neaderthal! Or maybe their CEO readership just can't give up control over people's lives. Talk up "freedom" but perpetuate a looong workweek!]
    The Japanese, with even lower taxes than the U.S., work more, and the Italians, with the highest taxes, work the least. The difference in hours was narrower in the 1970s, when the difference in taxrates was smaller.
    His [Prescott's] findings, published in a paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis,
    [so they're the control freaks behind this! - we figured it wasn't just the Lutheran bachelor farmers of Lake Wobegon, Minn.]
    may provide a clue as to why employment in the U.S. has shrunk in the past year, despite economic growth.
    [Again, the article right next to this is screaming Technology! Technology! Technology! - but don't expect this doctrinaire piece to have any inkling of that.]
    Growth in compensation is supposed to slow when unemployment rises as workers give up wage gains in exchange for job security.
    [What does compensation have to do with employment growth, except as a motivator of automation and downsizing and downsized markets (death spiral), and who in the world has job security these days - except a few unions [down to 14% of the workforce overall] who think they've won it in negotiations for a couple of years?]
    But for the past three years, compensation has grown about 4% a year [if you're still full-time employed] with little deceleration, largely because of soaring healthcare costs [irrelevant to part-timers].
    [Note this has nothing to do with taxes. And if it includes top executives, the 4% figure is greatly skewed upward.]
    Since inflation is lower than a decade ago, the "real" cost of labor is rising twice as fast now than in the 1990s - making it harder for employers to hire more freely.
    [Again, note that this has nothing to do with taxes. In fact, if general taxes paid for universal healthcare, it would be easier for employers to hire more freely, so this all amounts to an argument for universal-healthcare-financing higher taxes.]
    Higher compensation growth today is justified by faster growth in productivity.
    [General compensation has never grown as fast as productivity, except during World Wars I and II - and constantly for top executives. The obsession with productivity, regardless of marketability, as an explanation for levels of compensation is a bizarre one.]
    But companies' determination to improve productivity also may be an outgrowth of rising labor costs.
    [Too bad they aren't equally determined to improve marketability by improving markets by improving employment by implementing timesizing in response to higher technological productivity instead of reversing the whole virtuous circle by downsizing.]
    And even though the Bush administration has marketed its taxcuts as aimed at job creation [ha!], in some respects they may encourage companies to substitute labor-saving machinery for costly labor.
    [At last a mention of labor-saving machinery/technology! And the real agenda "outed" = rationalizing the Bush panacea of taxcuts for the rich and dysfunctionally increased concentration of employment, income and wealth.]
    The Bush taxcuts have made capital cheaper by cutting taxes on dividends and capital gains and giving better tax treatment to equipment purchases.
    [They've also put labor in greater surplus/redundancy and except for top executives, made it generally cheaper for those who lose their full-time jobs. New topic -]
    Europe's larger lesson for the U.S. may be about the costs of failing to prepare for the expense of the babyboomers' retirement. The White Hose [oops] House budget office says Social Security and Medicare have promised to pay out $18 trillion more than they will receive in revenue in coming decades, and that doesn't include the costly new prescription-drug benefit both...Bush and Congress want. Closing that gap without any cut in benefits would require a 7.1% increase in the combined Social Security payroll tax, now at 15.3%.
    [OR merely a removal of the cap, now somewhere around $63,000, that lets all the most wastedly concentrated and astronomical personal compensation go completely untaxed. This is the right's favorite kind of tax - flat, regardless of level - but they've managed to damage even what little money-centrifugation&activation this flat tax does by capping it at a ridiculously low level.]
    Such an increase would discourage people from working, especially those at the bottom of the wage scale, for whom payroll taxes are proportionately a larger share of their total income....
    [Easily solved by making this generally work-discouraging flat tax into a sensible graduated tax. All flat taxes discourage work. And it might just help if the jobs and on-the-job training was there too. Very few people want to sit idle and dependent if there's an attractive alternative that lets them rejoin the human race.]
    "People would just stop working," says Arthur Rolnick, research director at the Minneapolis Fed.
    [Note the facile assumption that this is a possibility for anyone and everyone. Do we not have welfare capped at 5 years and a doctor's note required for disability? And isn't this what people are being forced to do anyway because of lack of jobs and training - hence our rising disability, homelessness, prisons, and suicide?]
    As the workforce shrank, taxes would have to go up even more for the remaining workers.
    [What makes him think that current levels of quality-of-life and even civilization will be maintained by American plutocrats - safe, insulated and isolated in their gated communities? Here's the funniest part of all -]
    Mr. Prescott thinks that allowing workers to invest their Social Security contributions in private accounts would help solve the problem,
    [so he's a tout for the financial industry - what a surprise, - so much for scientific economics]
    because they would consider their contributions to be savings that finance their own retirement, not a tax.
    [He thinks we don't consider them as financing our own retirement already, with private retirement schemes being looted on every hand? Ah, these tenured professors - so sheltered in their ivory towers! And how many stock busts is it going to take to get these morons off their boring, bankrupt and on&on repetitive "privatize social security" fixation?]
    But Alan Auerback of the University of California at Berkeley counters that the benefits promised under the current system's generosity will have to be curtailed and "the sooner, the better."
    [Another piece of the neo-con artists' plan for degrading America revealed!]
    Otherwise, Americans' work habits again could look like those of the French.
    [And again, the braindead touting of work for the sake of work, and the continuing waste of "labor-saving machinery" on adding another trivial billion or two to Bill Gates' or Warren Buffett's lethargic, market-starving hoard. No substantial human progress along this route, regardless of how many well-heeled and fashionable charities Gates Sr. finds. At least the Journal today is beginning to acknowledge the paradigm-shifting impact of technology - though they haven't seen that "work" is in the crosshairs - and as a matter of fact, they are reopening the debate over the New Deal, though with a degree of time blindness that renders their conclusions ruinous - see "The New Deal: Time for a new look," WSJ, A19.]

  2. 10/17   Regarding five-day work week, (Q&)A by Sean Hayes, Korea Herald.
    SOUTH KOREA - Dear Sean, I read that the five-day work week legislation passed. How will this bill affect those who work for small companies? Will we not have to work on Saturday, will my pay be decreased, and will I have the same number of annual leave days?   - "Tired in Masan."
    Dear "Tired," the new 5-Day Work Week Act, which will amend the Labor Standards Act [LSA], will apply to the financial sector and companies with over 1,000 employees from July 2004. For smaller companies, the measure will be phased in - [These are the first details of South Korea's workweek reduction design, and it's a lot more graduated - and smarter - than France's, 1997-2002, which jumped from 39 to 35 hours a week in just two steps: "large" companies over 20 employees (as if a 21-employee company is "large") and small companies under 20 employees - and they let the government itself wait to go with the small companies! We have no info as yet on whether S.Korea is leading, rather than lagging, with government participation.]
    Working hours have been reduced by four hours per week. The new LSA provides that the maximum working hours per week are 40 hours and the maximum working hours per day are 8 hours. During the three-year period after implementation of the Act, an employee may agree to work an extra 16 hours with the first four hours paid at the hourly wage plus 1/4 and the remaining at the hourly wage plus 1/2.
    [Still a poor overtime design, with insufficient disincentives and failure to take advantage of the incidence of overtime throughout the economy to target, trigger, finance, gauge and pace training & hiring. See Timesizing Phase 2 for an outline of a better design.]
    The previous LSA provided the maximum working hours at 44 hours allowing four hours of work on Saturday. The old LSA provided a maximum of 12 hours of overtime paid at the hourly plus 1/2.
    Working hours have been decreased, but the number of days of paid leave has also been decreased. Employees who have worked for a year and who have maintained an 80% attendance record will be entitled to 15 days of paid leave per year. Those with more than three years of service will receive an additional one-day of paid leave for every two years of service following the first employment year. The maximum allowable number of paid leave days is capped at 25 days. Those that worked for less than one year will receive one day of paid leave per month of perfect attendance. The old LSA provided for paid leave of one day each month and an annual paid leave of 10 days per year after the completion of a full year without an absence. If an employee did not maintain a perfect attendance record but maintained a 90% attendance record, eight days paid annual leave accrues. The new LSA eliminates the one paid-leave day for each month of employment.
    The LSA, however, guarantees current wages of all employees even though working hours have decreased by four hours per week.
    The new LSA overall is a benefit to most employees but the LSA, as noted, will be phased in over a period of seven years so many employees of small businesses will not see a benefit from the law for many years to come. For questions concerning the new LSA you can visit the Ministry of Labor website at www.molab.go.kr or ask questions about the new LSA or other legal matters at www.HayesLaw.org.

  3. 10/17   Overworked Americans look to take back their time, by Sherry Stripling, Seattle Times.
    SEATTLE - Katie Bill is a woman of high tolerance.
    Ever since the driver's-side door of her van broke two years ago, she's used the passenger door, climbing over the console four to six times a day.
    Bosses and salon clients loved that willingness to accommodate. "Katie, could you work on Sunday?" "Could you foil my hair at 9 p.m.?"
    But one day, two months ago, after nearly 18 years of working impossibly long hours punctuated by panic attacks, this married mother of two woke up and said:
    "I can't do this anymore. I'm hating my life."
    "It just becomes the way we live," says Ms. Bill. "If you're not going Mach II with your hair on fire, then there's something wrong."
    That something wrong is pervading the whole nation, say organizers of the new "Take Back Your Time" movement. The group, which has strong Seattle ties, hopes Americans will rally on Oct. 24, national "Take Back Your Time Day," to talk about how overwork and over-scheduling have thrown us out of whack.
    The United States once led the way in reducing work hours. Progress was defined as a better balance between work and home life. Now we have the longest hours of any mature industrialized nation, with the average American worker adding 199 hours to a year's work since 1973, according to the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. - and still it's not enough. Half of Americans surveyed by a Harris Poll said they were not taking a week of vacation over the summer, citing economic and work concerns.
    Take Back Your Time Day is on Oct. 24 for dramatic symbolism. That day comes nine weeks before the end of the year - or about 350 work hours. Time Day organizers say the average American who has a job works that many more hours than the average European each year. Yes, they have smaller TVs, cars and houses, but they also have shorter work hours, four-week-minimum vacations by law, and more holidays.
    Long work hours are not the only pressure on our finite allotment of 24 hours a day.
    A 1999 report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project said that mothers with school-age children average more than five car trips a day. We give first-graders day schedulers to keep up with piano, French, soccer and tae kwon do lessons. Even when we are home, we're often too fried to do anything but watch TV. Or we've taken work home because we spent our workday in meetings, committees or answering e-mail, with no concentrated time to think.
    "We have this mentality of rushing, which means nobody enjoys their lives because you're always thinking about what you have to do next," said Cecile Andrews, of Seattle, a longtime advocate of the voluntary-simplicity movement that's behind Take Back Your Time Day. "A society where people are not talking over the back fence is also a society where people don't vote, and this is a direct relationship to no time."
    (EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)
    [Never seen this in a story before - will leave in for enlightenment of SWT advocates writing press releases.]
    The topic is real enough that a bipartisan alliance including Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., won uncontested approval to name October "National Work and Family Month." Though Hatch wants labor rules eased and Kennedy wants them tightened, they agree that reducing the conflict between work and family life needs to be a national priority.
    (END OPTIONAL TRIM)
    "People are tired. They're burned out," said Jeanne-Marie Maher, a Seattle-area doctor who recently stepped away from the profession that she loved after growing frustrated by the factory format of hurrying patients through. Now she's working as a life and health coach - starting with Katie Bill.
    "The number of people I've seen in the last several years who had to take time off for stress is much higher than I ever remember seeing," said Maher. "They want their lives back, and they want time with family and friends."
    One goal of Take Back Your Time Day is simply to raise consciousness the way Earth Day brought a national focus on the environment. But there are many barriers.
    (EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)
    Earth Day had a budget of $185,000 the first year and dramatic evidence of environmental damage, which led to passage of major environmental legislation within three years.
    A river burning from pollution is easier to envision than what is now being dubbed "time poverty." And while Time Day has the Internet as a tool, its budget, so far, is only $6,000.
    John de Graaf, an independent documentary producer who works with Seattle's KCTS Television, edited the movement's recently published handbook, "Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America." He gets lots of nods when he talks about the big price we're paying with our health, families and community "for the sake of the economy." But he finds that people have little faith that they even have the right to try to change it.
    "They say, 'It's part of the American culture. Businesses will never go for it.' People are far more resigned about the prospect of doing anything about it than they were about the environment."
    (END OPTIONAL TRIM)
    Some critics say this is no time to think about cutting back on consumption or hours. If it's less expensive to work employees longer than it is to pay benefits for new employees, then that's how it must be. Too many companies are barely surviving as it is.
    Cutting back is not an option for many workers, either. Some are working two jobs, often with no benefits, and still not making ends meet.
    Amber Balch, governmental affairs director for the Association of Washington Business, says the polls she sees show that workers' biggest concern in this economy is not hours worked, but having a job and benefits. They want security that the job will be there tomorrow.
    People who compare the United States to more socialized countries forget about the high cost companies here pay for benefits and for protecting themselves from litigation, she said.
    But studies show the damage of burnout is mounting. U.S. workers are the most productive in the world, according to a new study released by the United Nations' labor agency, the International Labor Organization (ILO). But that's because American workers put in more hours; other countries are more productive per hour.
    Some 80% of U.S. men and 62% of women work more than 40 hours a week, according to the ILO. Yet two-thirds of employees surveyed for the Center for a New American Dream said they want to work fewer hours and would be willing to trade pay to do it.
    "We have accumulated enough evidence to prove that work overload doesn't benefit anyone," said Sharon Lobel, professor of management at the Albers School of Business & Economics at Seattle University.
    Business leaders, she said, need to help employees find ways to take the load off - even through small changes, such as prorating benefits for employees who want to work less than full time.
    At Xerox Corp., MIT researchers asked a group of engineers what aspects of their normal work prevented them from having enough free time outside of work. As a result, the company instituted a two-hour block of uninterrupted time in the mornings - and the engineers had more time at home and their first on-time product launch.
    "When businesses encourage people to have a life, not just a job," Lobel said, "we pay back our employer with commitment, innovation and solid performance."
    (EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)
    "The thing we hear over and over again is time," said Andrews, who has done things such as rent out two-thirds of her house to cut her expenses, thus buying herself free time, but is still surrounded by hectic professionals who set the pace. "How did the most powerful country in the world lose control of its time?"
    We don't have time to enjoy what we have, say Take Back Your Time organizers, who find ready listeners among religious leaders. The notion of a day of rest and reflection goes back thousands of years in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, but now we don't have time for spiritual lives.
    How did this happen? For one thing, technology - the very thing that was supposed to replace overwork with a new problem: what to do with so much leisure time.
    Fifteen years ago, we were promised that our computers would become as easy to use as telephones. Instead, phones became as complicated as computers.
    If we strip away the computer, the television and our many telephones for periods of quiet time, we can see how they've contributed to our minds becoming agitated, and how hard it is to slow down, says David Levy, a University of Washington professor in the Information School.
    "Our outside is incredibly busy, and our inside is incredibly busy, too," says Levy, who is coordinating Time Day events on campus.
    Initially, organizers of Take Back Your Time Day hoped that many Americans would take the day off work to discuss the possibilities of changing our culture and our lives, but most off-campus events now will be held at lunch hours or off hours.
    "We realized that was a pipe dream in this economic climate where people are frightened," said de Graaf, the documentary producer.
    Changes can come at a policy level or they can be smaller, personal changes. Go to the park on your lunch hour? Meditate? Take a pay cut and work fewer hours?
    "It connects to almost everything," Andrews said.
    (END OPTIONAL TRIM)
    Becoming overburdened is a gradual process. Martin Ringhofer, who has been in purchasing at Boeing for 25 years, likens it to watching your kids grow.
    "I didn't realize it at the time, but the best way to describe it was just hectic, extremely high pressure," says Ringhofer.
    Unplanned meetings at lunchtime or what was supposed to be the end of his day. Dozens of daily e-mails that required action. The pressure of overburdened co-workers who depended on one another.
    Late one week in October 2002, Ringhofer joked with his co-workers that if things didn't ease up, one of them was going to end up in the intensive care unit. That Monday, it was Ringhofer, who learned he'd had three "silent" heart attacks and will likely need a heart transplant.
    He's back at work in a position that still uses his expertise but with much less pressure. Now he enjoys his work again but has to be ever watchful of the strain.
    He gets up early to eat a balanced meal and gets on the road early enough that he handles the traffic without adding stress. No "brown bag" lunch meetings for him. He walks instead. "When you take time for the important things, you feel better," said Ringhofer.
    That's also the approach that Katie Bill has taken. For nearly a decade, she worked for a major hotel chain, putting in 12- to 14-hour shifts, up to six days a week.
    When her two children were born, she went to beauty school to change her profession and then "tag teamed" with her husband, going to work soon after he got home.
    She felt she was still missing her life, so she changed again, starting her own salon at home. But she still couldn't set boundaries and soon found herself with clients from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
    She told her family, "Hurry up, let's have dinner. Let's go. Let's go."
    Finally, she volunteered to be the pilot project for a life coach, who just happened to be her former physician, Jeanne-Marie Maher, who looked at Ms. Bill's schedule and asked:
    "How are you even doing this?" Maher worked with Ms. Bill to help her focus on what she wanted in life, giving her an idea of what she was tolerating instead of changing.
    Out went the desk with all the cubbyholes.
    In came a set schedule, which includes working every other Saturday instead of every evening for clients who work days. Ms. Bill says her car "is still a flipping train wreck," but she sees herself as halfway through the change process, which includes making sure she does something fun every day.
    "Life is too short," she says. "I don't have the patience for it to be just OK."
    She could put her kids on the bus and use her time even more efficiently, but she won't. The girls are too young, she begins in her own defense. Or maybe she's just a control freak.
    But after a pause, the truth comes with conviction: She wants to spend as much time with her kids as she can.
    "This is my time."

  4. 10/19   Campaign hopes to reverse trend of spending more hours on the job, by Fran Stewart, special to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
    After months of bashing the French, there comes a time - this week, in fact - when we're encouraged to celebrate them, reflect on them, watch how they work.
    Forget french fries, toast or even kisses. How important, really, are those to our health, family and environment? Instead, think about French leave.
    On Friday, a broad coalition of educators, health- care professionals, clergy members, labor leaders, environmentalists, family advocates and even animal lovers wants us to take time to consider the lifestyle lessons of the French and other industrialized nations. While U.S. workers have been increasing their time on the job, our Western European counterparts have been opting for more time off.
    Take Back Your Time Day is the first of what its creators at the Simplicity Forum hope will be an annual event.
    Organizers acknowledge that observations might be spotty around the nation this year, ranging from an all-day symposium in Iowa and public speeches in Boston to university teach-ins and personal reflections during neighborhood potlucks. But they take as their model the success of Earth Day, which began as a small consciousness-raising event more than 30 years ago and grew into a national movement. Sweeping environmental legislation was passed within three years of the event.
    Organizers say recent passage of a Senate resolution designating October as National Work and Family Month is a sign that Americans feel stretched too thin. The resolution elevates reducing conflict between the demands of work and family to a national priority.
    "We've been on this adrenaline ride for a long time," says John de Graaf, national coordinator for the day and editor of the movement's handbook, "Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America." The book is a collection of essays from nearly 40 researchers and advocates exploring the effects of our high-octane lifestyles, offering alternative examples from other nations - as well as our own past - and suggesting ways to change.
    Take Back Your Time Day, which grew out of a 2002 Simplicity Forum conference at Oberlin College, has brought together groups that often don't intermingle, such as conservative family-values advocates, liberal environmentalists and labor groups. What unites the disparate coalition is a belief that Americans have made sacrifices to add an average of 60 hours to their work year since 1990.
    Many workers have added much more. A 2001 national report on work and family found a 10% increase in time spent on the job. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that about 30% of managers and professionals worked 49 hours or more per week. And, according to a study commissioned by Expedia.com, job insecurity has led many workers to refrain from taking all of their vacation time.
    What has suffered in this fast and furious pace, Time Day advocates say, is our health, our families, our communities, our churches and our environment.
    Little progress American workers certainly have paid a price in terms of time for children, for their communities and even for involvement in political discourse, says Lois Goodman, president of the Work and Family Consulting Group in Northeast Ohio. But she questions what the movement can accomplish without a clear agenda.
    [Timesizing.com has the clear agenda.]
    Goodman has seen movements for better work and family balance come and go with little real progress. In 2002, she directed a work and family survey of more than 4,000 Northeast Ohio employers, finding that most of them recognize the importance of "family friendly" policies but few offer workable alternatives. Goodman says she was saddened by how much this area still lagged behind options available elsewhere in the country. "I was surprised by how dramatic it was, how far off we were."
    In Mansfield, Richland County extension agent LuAnn Freppon- Duncan has sent out informational fliers and Take Back Your Time Day posters to area churches, restaurants, doctors, health clubs, social agencies and even pet stores.
    The day dovetails with the findings of a 2001 study that stress and depression were key issues among Richland County families, says Freppon-Duncan. In particular, stress-related items cited were time constraints, money issues and work demands.
    What appealed to her about the day was the idea of starting small, simply acknowledging the value of family time and taking steps to act on those priorities. In fact, Freppon-Duncan has been reluctant to plan a county event for this year. Instead, she would rather take back her own time and spend it with her family.
    Marilyn Welker, founder of Simply Living in Columbus, considers a quiet family moment as a good use of Time Day. She won't be doing that. She will be overseeing about 250 participants in her voluntary simplicity and environmental advocacy group's two-day annual conference. But the event will include a workshop on Take Back Your Time Day.
    "I think there's a very deep spiritual call in this," Welker says. "I have an image of resting."
    Badge of honor
    Organizers recognize that many workers, particularly in light of the current job market and economic insecurity, have no choice but to accept employer demands to do more.
    Corporate downsizing has meant more work for fewer workers.
    "I'm not calling for a revolution here," says de Graaf, who insists the movement is not anti-work nor against a capitalist economy. Instead, he points to cereal giant W.K. Kellogg, who believed that leisure would be the crowning glory of capitalism. Through 1985, the Kellogg company retained the option of a 30-hour week.
    De Graaf notes that sociologists in the 1960s were concerned that labor-saving technology would lead, not to too much work, but to too much leisure. But instead of the 20-hour work week foreseen at the time, workers now brag about putting in 50, 60 or even more hours a week, equating value and business.
    Americans view productivity as a point of pride. We ridicule the French and other Western Europeans as slackers for their monthlong holidays and chant "We're No. 1" as our economic mantra.
    We accept as our patriotic duty the call to shop and consume. President Bush even ordered us to as a way to combat terrorism and a recession.
    Many of us now look to work for our emotional identity and support instead of turning to friends, community and even family, says Ilene Philipson, author of "Married to the Job: Why We Live to Work and What We Can Do About It." "Where we spend our time is where we live our lives," Philipson says.
    Philipson says she sees an overinvestment in work among most of her clients. Women, in particular, have turned to the workforce for security, she says, both as reassurance that they can take care of themselves and as comfort in insecure times. Also, workers, encouraged by corporate marketing, have grown to view their employers as a family. But "it isn't a family. It's a profit- making institution."
    With such emotional investment, a loss of promotion or a layoff is devastating, Philipson says.
    "We have this notion in this country that we need to give everything to our jobs. It's a badge of honor."
    Out of balance
    That mind-set is what de Graaf would like to change - America's need to overwork and overconsume. And, as a byproduct of that turbocharged lifestyle, our need to overschedule our lives and our children's.
    Instead of serving our economy, we need to think in terms of our economy serving us, he says.
    Western Europeans have taken that view, placing value on quality of life as well as productivity.
    "We do make fun of them, but I think at our peril," de Graaf says. "Over there, they laugh at us - about our obsession with stuff."
    Lee Ann Halley saw that cultural clash up close when she worked as director of manufacturing for L'Oreal in Solon. When workers in the company's French operations take jobs with U.S. divisions, "they can't believe how awful our benefit and vacation plans are." Some accept the holiday cuts, thinking U.S. experience will improve their careers. Others are ready to go home.
    For Halley, of Bentleyville, the long hours and frequent travel took too much of a toll on her family life. She quit her management job two years ago and now works a couple of days a week consulting for her former employer.
    She enjoys the flexibility to spend time with her 3-year-old, take walks, help out friends in need in her "Mommy network" and volunteer with her church.
    Halley knows not all workers have such options. "This economy is scary," she says. Companies "pretty much want blood and a thank you because you have a job."
    In May 2002, her husband was laid off and spent a few months out of work. Halley refused to second-guess her decision to leave a high-powered, full-time job. "I would not have changed that decision for anything, even with him losing his job."
    Few companies seem to really value and support a good work- life balance, Halley believes. "I think it puts people in a real big quandary."
    A change in direction The United States was once a leader in workplace reform. The U.S. government codified the 40-hour work week in 1938 [enacted in 1940 after 42 hours in '39 and 44 hours in '38]. The Senate even passed a 30-hour version the year before [no, 5 years before]. Many corporations switched to 30-hour weeks during the Depression to share the job opportunities among as many workers as possible.
    But during the past 20 years or so, we've lead in another direction.
    We now work more hours per year than most other industrialized nations - on a par with Japan.
    Our 1,877 hours on the job do pale, however, to South Korea, with its 2,474 average work hours per person.
    "Hours creep has happened very slowly, almost too slowly to notice," de Graaf says.
    And although we still are No. 1 in terms of overall productivity, we lag behind other nations in terms of productivity per work hour. According to the International Labour Organization, we trail Norway, France and Belgium.
    When those nations faced the tradeoff between time and money, they chose time. The work week in France is 35 hours, a standard set by the government in 2000. In addition, French workers have 25 paid vacation days, meaning each employee gets five weeks off each year. That's a mandated minimum.

  5. 10/19   Insecure workers on hours treadmill, by Jim O'Rourke, Sydney Sun-Herald.
    AUSTRALIA - Giving Australian workers greater control over their time on the job [meaning??] is turning them into workaholics, working longer rather than shorter hours. University researchers say economic 'reform' [our quotes] makes workers feel more insecure in their jobs, forcing them to work harder to prove their loyalty and commitment.
    [This does not sound like giving them greater control.]
    The study, by Queensland's Griffith University, also suggests that bosses who don't pay overtime, or give workers time off in lieu, are more inclined to take advantage of workers and make them work longer hours.
    Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show about 24% of full-time employees work 49 hours or more a week.
    The researchers said despite widespread support, especially from the union movement, to introduce an upper limit on working hours, there was no way of enforcing it.
    [Ever heard of the 'overtime police' in France? "Where there's a will, there's a way."]
    Those working the longest hours are employees who have worked at the organisation the longest - for at least five years.
    Even though many workers choose[?] to stay at work longer, 67% of them say there should be a weekly limit.
    Those who worked longer hours also reported higher work-related injury and illness rates.
    Researchers last year studied 17 organisations, including two manufacturing companies, a government department, a hospital and a bank, surveying 766 full-time employees.
    Griffith University researcher David Peetz said those who worked the longest hours had "the greatest say" over how many hours they worked [ha] and their start and finishing times.
    [Big deal. Flex time is meaningless, just rearranging deck chairs.... It takes actual worktime reduction to mop up the labor surplus and give employees real control.]
    Dr Peetz said there was pressure on those who had a say to stay at work to "get the job done".
    "They internalise the objectives of the organisation and feel it an obligation to work long hours rather than be forced by management," he said.
    "Changes in the regulatory framework have encouraged and legitimised these changes in workplace culture which ultimately benefit and are driven by management."
    [Ultimately driven by management? This would seem to contradict the bizarre contention that employees have more control.]
    The Griffith researchers suggest the best way to restrain long hours is to provide "collective regulation".
    Last year, unions lost a test case on working hours in the Industrial Relations Commission. Although the Commission accepted workers should have the right to refuse overtime if it was unreasonable, it rejected a claim for two extra days off on full pay for people forced into long hours over extended periods.
    [There should be no such thing as mandatory or forced overtime, and no such thing as chronic or permanent OT.]
    Some unions, however, did not support the shorter hours push, arguing that limits could cut pay for those relying on overtime and weekend work to fatten their pay packets.
    [Some unions are terminally suicidal.]

  6. 10/19?   Hospitals face fines of £1m a week, by Tom Curtis, ScotlandonSunday.com.
    SCOTLAND - Hospitals have been threatened with fines of almost £1m a week if they continue to break new rules on junior doctors' hours.
    The Draconian penalties, which would cripple NHS trusts, will be imposed from next summer unless medics' working hours are reduced to a maximum of 58 a week.
    The threat from the Health and Safety Executive leaves hospitals with no choice but to accelerate moves to shift responsibility for patient assessment and treatment away from junior doctors and on to specialist nurses and consultants.
    Scotland on Sunday revealed last week that thousands of Scottish junior doctors will be taken off night shifts under plans to comply with a separate UK deal which came into force in August. Consultants warned the move would increase their workload and lengthen waiting lists.
    The European Working Time Directive imposes a total ban on any juniors working more than 58 hours a week from next August. It is envisaged that the hours limit will eventually come down to 48.
    If trusts do not comply, they could be fined £5,000 by the Health and Safety Executive for each occasion on which the law is broken, according to NHS managers and doctors' leaders.
    Any trust with large numbers of 'non-compliant' posts would rack up massive costs, because multiple breaches could be recorded each week.
    Alastair Henderson, policy manager for the NHS Confederation, told a conference of health managers in London: "I know some of you are thinking that is not too bad in terms of cost-benefit analysis, but that could add up to £875,000 a week for 25 non-compliant doctors."
    Simon Eccles, the UK junior doctors' chairman for the British Medical Association, said the penalties would apply UK-wide because the Working Time Directive is part of British law.
    Eccles said his own calculations, based on a smaller number of non-compliant doctors' posts than Henderson's 25, showed the average trust would risk fines of £250,000 a week. He added: "I don't think the courts are going to let them off."
    Scotland's hospitals have already been hit by a crisis over junior doctors' hours, which have been capped at 56 a week on the grounds of patient and doctor safety. But hundreds of juniors were still working up to 65 hours a week when the UK deadline for compliance with the 'New Deal' passed in August, raising the prospect of industrial tribunals and the punitive withdrawal of funding for juniors' posts.
    Trusts now claim to have made about 80% of their juniors' posts 'compliant' with the 56-hour rule, and claim they are in a good position to avoid breaching the separate Working Time Directive.
    But the BMA does not share their optimism. Eccles said: "I don't believe them. I think, particularly in Scotland, there are going to be real problems. They haven't yet succeeded with New Deal compliance, so how they will get Working Time Directive compliance, I don't know."
    As a result, he said "a very different way of looking at things" would have to be considered, to avoid fines which are so large as to be unthinkable.
    English trusts are already running pilot schemes under which fewer doctors are on call at night in certain specialities, such as cardiac care, and more nurses are used instead. Similar experiments are under way in Scotland, and Lothian University Hospitals Trust medical director Charles Swainson is advocating the idea for hospitals including the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
    Eccles suggested such 'Hospital at Night' projects might be the only way forward.
    Jason Long, the BMA's Scottish juniors' chairman, said it was "very unlikely" that all doctors would be within the Working Time Directive by next August. "There are lots of groups looking at solutions and people are more focused, but it's still very difficult in the short time we have.
    "However, hopefully this is a threat that will never be used. It would be catastrophic because that money would disappear from patient care."
    SNP health spokeswoman Shona Robison said: "The impact of fines at this level on patient care would be enormous, exacerbating the problems we face in hospitals already.
    "The Scottish Executive is right when it says to trusts that it's unacceptable for them to be breaching the law, but it also has a responsibility to ensure trusts have enough staff to avoid doing that."
    Scottish trusts sought to play down the threat, saying they believed measures already being introduced north of the Border would help ensure compliance.
    A spokesman for the NHS Confederation Scotland, which represents trusts, said: "The New Deal for junior doctors has gone a long way towards achieving compliance with the Working Time Directive. Obviously there has to be some reorganisation of the way some services are delivered in order to achieve compliance."
    A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said the issue of fines would be dealt with by the Health and Safety Executive on a UK basis.
    She added: "We have said in the past that we don't want doctors, or any other NHS staff, working when they are over-tired."

  7. 10/18   Working week -... Women dare not go flexible, by Nick Pandya, The Guardian.
    Although many employers in the UK offer flexible working, most women say that they are afraid of taking it up in case their career suffers, according to a new survey. The poll of 234 female senior managers by training consultancy for women Eve-olution, found that 72% believe that job sharing and flexible working impedes career development. For information on Eve-olution training courses including dates, contact: info@eve-olution.net or 01483-459-998....

  8. 10/17   Workers Struggles: Asia, Australia and the Pacific, World Socialist Web Site.

  9. 10/17   Part-timers need support - A third of all working Canadians are holding down multiple part-time jobs or temporary employment and lack the wages and benefits they need to feel secure, a new study finds, by Wallace Immen, Toronto Globe and Mail, C1.
    While Canada has seen phenomenal job growth in the past few years, much of it has been in part-time or temporary work and that is leaving employees increasingly insecure, according to a study released by Statistics Canada yesterday.
    "We have to ask: What is the quality of these jobs?" said social scientist Leah Vosko of York University, lead author of Precarious jobs: a new typology of employment.
    A third of all working Canadians depend on multiple part-times job or temporary employment rather than full-time positions, and a majority of them are women, found the study done with Nancy Zukewich of Statistics Canada and sociology Prof. Cynthia Crawford at the University of Toronto.
    Between 2001 and 2002, part-time jobs rose by 7.7%, a growth rate three times higher than the creation of full-time jobs, the study says.
    Although the full-time permanent job still accounts for the majority of employment, it is becoming less common, dropping from 67% in 1989 to 64% in 1994 and 63% in 2002.
    "It is a truism that the norm of the full time job is declining," Ms. Vosko said in an interview.
    "But I think what we show in this study is there is some justification to say that workers, especially young people and women, can no longer expect to have access to full time, full year job.
    "I think this will have some very significant implications for our system of social benefits and statutory entitlements. The fact that people are expressing insecurity has credence.
    "It's fair to say this is because of the way our system of social protection operates."
    Because employment laws are based on full-time work, non-standard jobs often leave people without security, benefits and the ability to negotiate for pay increases and workplace protection, Ms. Vosko said. These are problems governments and private employers must work together to solve, she added.
    "It's important for governments to acknowledge that large numbers of people are turning to self-employment because they can't find suitable full-time work. I think there would be a strong interest among employers that all their employees have access to benefits. In fact, I think the portability of such things as pensions would be of benefit to employers."
    The study's over-all recommendation is that Canada's social benefits programs be revamped to cover more people, so non-full-time work or a desire for flexibility in working hours doesn't have to mean insecurity.
    Ms. Vosko suggested that Canada follow the lead of the European Union, which is reviewing the status of non-full-time workers based on a report titled Beyond Employment, considering such things as membership of the labour force; time; collective organization; the role of the state, and gender issues.
    She said the employment insurance system should be revamped so everyone who pays into it gets full access to it. For example, women who work part-time with limited hours or short job tenure can have trouble getting EI [(un)employment insurance] benefits, even if they pay premiums, Ms. Vosko said.
    "Many self-employed people can't access EI benefits at all, yet it might be better for the system if they were able to access it."
    As well, she said, collective bargaining should apply to all non-full-time employees who are not covered.
    "We should also make benefits more portable and not tied to continuity of service in one job," Ms. Vosko said.
    "We should be concerned about the growth of self-employment and ensuring these people have reasonable access to retirement income," said Ms. Vosko, adding that most self-employed people don't have significant retirement savings and can quickly run into trouble if they need to use their savings for business or personal emergencies.
    The number of people working in temporary and part time jobs rose from 28% of the work force in the 1980s to 34% in the early 1990s and it has remained at roughly that level since.
    But there is a gender split, with only 59% of women in the labour force with full- time jobs versus 66% of men.
    Women accounted for more than 60% of Canadians in the most tenuous temporary jobs and their work was most likely to be in the social services than in business or industry. Most of these workers have no long-term security and face a constant risk of being unemployed. they have no control over their working conditions, wages and pace of work. the study found. Most importantly, part-time employees have no way to persuade their employers to increase pay and wages have lagged far behind salary increases in full-time occupations.
    Many women work part time because of care-giving responsibilities, according to the study, while nen tend to move to part time work to get more education.
    However, young men are now facing the same kind of inability to find full-time and permanent jobs that women of all ages encounter.
    Even if a job is secure in a sense that it is stable and long term, it can be precarious because the wages or benefits are not sufficient to maintain the worker and any dependents, the authors concluded.

  10. [Here's an article on the Gospel of Consumption that John de Graaf would probabaly like -]
    10/17   Values outsourced - What are the social costs of the Wal-Mart economy? - Everything is justified by `slavish devotion' to the consumer, [or "to create jobs"], by David Olive, Toronto Star via TheStar.com.
    CANADA - This is Ground Zero in the Wal-Mart economy, and most of us are complicit in whatever role it has played in the elimination of 2.8m jobs in the U.S. economy since 2001, and 77,000 manufacturing jobs in Canada so far this year.
    A stunning 82% of American households bought something at Wal-Mart last year.
    And not long after its arrival here in the mid-1990s, Wal-Mart had pushed T. Eaton Co. and Kmart Canada into an early grave, merely an opening act for its current menacing regard for survivors Hudson's Bay Co., Loblaw Cos., Shoppers Drug Mart Ltd. and the like.
    At Ground Zero, Wal-Mart has piggybacked on the trends in free trade, weakened unions, diminished customer loyalty and just-in-time delivery methods to become the world's biggest private enterprise, with US$245B in sales.
    Wal-Mart alone now accounts for about 10% of total U.S. imports from low-wage China. ("Walk around Wal-Mart," says former General Motors Corp. chief executive Jack Smith, "and it looks as if everything is made in China.")
    What it doesn't outsource directly, Wal-Mart obtains from suppliers who find they too must outsource to low-wage jurisdictions in order to cut their selling price to the bone. The saying goes that the second-worst thing for a manufacturer to do is sign a Wal-Mart contract, so stringent are its cost demands. The worst thing is failing to do so, given the importance of Wal-Mart's shelf space.
    This would explain why even the mighty Procter & Gamble Co., which looks to Wal- Mart as the largest customer for many of its products, was compelled this year to outsource production of its iconic Ivory soap to a lower-cost manufacturer in Ontario.
    In the wider Wal-Mart economy, blue-chip companies now benchmark themselves against "the Beast of Bentonville."
    And so the giant Electronic Data Systems Corp., founded by Ross Perot but no longer run by that noisy patriot, now recruits $1.25-an-hour tech workers in India and sheds their $10-an-hour counterparts in EDS's home state of Texas.
    Wall Street brokerages including Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. are shifting from New York to India the ground-floor stock-research jobs that traditionally lead to plum analyst assignments. Both India and China are already well-known to recruiters from Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp.
    Levi Strauss & Co. has just announced the closing of its remaining four North American plants, including three in Canada, and will shift all production to Asia and Latin America.
    Paul Martin's Canada Steamship Lines has long recruited mostly non-Canadian crews for its freighters. Recently, Nike Inc. shut a Southern Ontario plant that made hockey sticks for stars like Eric Lindros to shift some production offshore.
    And despite personal interventions from Governor George Pataki, Sen. Hillary Clinton and a bevy of state and municipal officials, Carrier Corp. said this month it will relocate production to Asia from Syracuse, N.Y., a city synonymous with air conditioners ever since Willis Carrier was lured by local tax breaks to open his first factory there. No inducement or threat could now save Syracuse's 1,200 Carrier jobs, a company spokesperson said, "unless they are going to pick up New York State and move it."
    [Ah, the hopefully inconspicuous but insistent name-dropping of attention-starved Canadians - how well we remember!]
    Two unlikely sources of social-justice concern, Business Week and the Wall Street Journal, have recently fretted about the implications of Walmartization of the global economy.
    The former editorialized this month that Wal-Mart's "methods of squeezing out its low prices — paying salaries below the poverty line, building superstores that crush local mom-and-pop shops and pushing manufacturers to the wall for savings — are generating a strong backlash."
    But there is no significant backlash against the hollowing out of industrial North America, where a university degree is no longer sufficient protection against a redundancy notice.
    Oh sure, Andy Grove, the corporate conscience and former CEO of Intel, has taken up the cause, warning this month that something drastic must be done to prevent the bulk of new information technology jobs from being shipped overseas. (Goldman Sachs & Co. says an estimated 200,000 IT-related service jobs have left the United States in the last three years.)
    But Grove's remedies, including bigger university R&D budgets, tax cuts and tort reform, would do nothing to curb domestic job loss, only strengthen the balance sheet of domestic enterprises still in the hunt for expedient cost-saving devices. In the meantime, recruiters for Intel and Microsoft are now active on campuses at Stanford University, the University of Waterloo and in Bangalore.
    As for Wal-Mart, it makes no apologies for its role in the spiralling down of employee wages and benefits. "Where we have the option to source domestically we do," says Ken Eaton, global buying chief for Wal-Mart, which has de-emphasized the popular "Made in America" campaign that founder Sam Walton launched in the 1980s.
    But, Eaton added in Business Week this month, "there are certain businesses, particularly in the U.S., where you just can't buy domestically any more to the scale and value we need."
    There are no significant consumer boycotts aimed at this latter-day coal mine.
    Sam Walton's strategy of "stack `em high, watch `em fly" has been a boon for consumers.
    As the largest peddler of everything from toasters, toys and toothbrushes to TV sets, headache remedies and motor oil, Wal-Mart is justly lauded for helping keep inflation in check. And the firm is believed to have accounted for about one-eighth of all productivity growth in the U.S. economy in the late 1990s.
    But in service to its mantra of delivering the lowest-cost goods to consumers, Wal-Mart has outsourced its social obligations. So have its blue-chip emulators. That's the real bargain that Wal-Mart shoppers have unwittingly bought into.
    The Wal-Mart economy knows the price of everything and the value of nothing — certainly not of a well cared-for workforce, or of a full-employment economy, or of competitive marketplaces that have not yet succumbed to the predations of a single omnipotent enterprise. And who's to blame for that?
    "How about you, for one?" says Slate business columnist Daniel Gross. "At Wal-Mart, the customer is king, everyone else be damned: competitors, employers and the domestic manufacturing base.
    "Everything Wal-Mart does — particularly its low prices — is done in the name of slavish devotion to consumer demand. And every day, millions of Americans ratify Wal- Mart's strategy by shopping there. Stores don't kill economies, consumers do."
    Who then pays for the chronic unemployment and under-employment of the Wal-Mart economy, the hollowing out of the manufacturing economy and the dismantling of the old social contract among corporations, employees and communities?
    You again, probably, as the corporate outsourcing of social responsibility spreads and deepens throughout the economy. At some point, the consumer might be surprised to find himself called on to surrender a portion of his windfall savings at Wal-Mart in the form of higher taxes to preserve some semblance of a just society.

10/17/2003  primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/16 via GoogleNews & searched-collected-prescreened by Alan Applebaum of Brookline (& all excerpts & comments by Phil Hyde) -
  1. BTU International reports third quarter 2003 results, Business Wire Oct 16 2003 06:30 PM US Eastern Timezone.
    NORTH BILLERICA, Mass. -...BTU International, Inc. (Nasdaq NM: BTUI), the leading supplier of advanced thermal processing equipment for semiconductor packaging, surface mount, and advanced materials processing, today announced...net sales for the quarter were $6.7 million, compared to $7.1 in the third quarter of 2002. Net loss for the 2003 third quarter was $1.6 million, or $0.23 per share, compared to a net loss of $1.7 million, or $0.24 per share in the third quarter of 2002.
    ...Said Mark R. Rosenzweig, president and CEO of BTU International. "The surface-mount-technology (SMT) area of our business continued its recovery, but orders from the advanced materials markets have not yet rebounded, and the resulting product mix continues to put downward pressure on gross margins. Early recognition of the sales weakness in quarter three enabled us to reduce operating costs significantly, primarily through a temporary shortening of our workweek," said Rosenzweig.
    [Here's a one-time cutting of the workweek to avoid cutting workforce, skill set, morale and eventually markets. This is a primitive but spontaneous, useful and sustainable form of timesizing, not downsizing. Please patronize our working models of timesizing and buy their stock (Nasdaq NM: BTUI).]
    "Even with lower sales, the company ended the quarter essentially cash neutral and with an improved bottom line."...

  2. Excel sees cutback in worker hours $1 million a month impact on county's economy, by Dan Barker, Fort Morgan [Colorado] Times.
    COLORADO - No, Excel beef-packing plant in Fort Morgan is not closing, nor is Livestock Exchange Inc. in Brush. On the other hand, a fat-cattle shortage across the U.S. has meant significant cutbacks in hours for Excel workers which could amount to $1 million less in paychecks a month going into the county economy.
    Rumors have flown about the closing of the plant and the sales barn in the wake of plants across the country reducing hours for employees. It is not just Excel that has been hit by a shortage of cattle for slaughter, but it is not a death knell for the Fort Morgan plant, said Mark Klein, director of communications. "There is no cause for concern about the future of the facility," he said. "We've been here before and we'll be here again."
    He refers to the fact that cattle supply runs in cycles, and this is to be expected regularly. The company simply adapts to the supply available, as do other packing plants. In fact, Tuesday saw a number of other plants across the country make cutbacks in hours, Klein said.
    [Here's an industry that standardly practices timesizing instead of traumatic firing&maybe-rehiring.]
    For the Fort Morgan site it has meant cutting from 40 hours a week for workers to 32 hours, a 20% cut. The plant is closed on Saturdays, and those hours are spread through the week, he said.
    Simple math shows the impact to...the about 2,000 individual employees.... The average annual wage is $27,518 or about $2,300 a month. A 20% cut would mean a cut of about $450 each month. \For\ the county..\..it has a similar effect..\.. According to Morgan County Economic Development Corp. (MCEDC) figures, the county's largest single employer has an annual average payroll close to $60 million. Divided out, that translates to $5 million a month and a 20% cut in that comes to a $1 million a month cut in pay.... The loss of around $1 million in the local economy will affect retailers, especially as the vital holiday sales season approaches..\..
    [But the impact on both employees and the county is obviously a lot less than it would be with downsizing instead of timesizing.]
    That does not include the loss of overtime, said MCEDC Executive Director Lisa Noble.
    [Overtime should not figure in any standard calculations, but should be regarded as an unfortunate emergency measure to be avoided in future by crosstraining and/or hiring.]
    However, Klein said the company expects this to be temporary: "This is a blip." While no one knows for sure how long the cattle shortage will last, these fluctuations tend to be short-lived, he said. Estimates of the cattle supply cycle vary from eight to 11 years to seven or eight years. Over the past several decades it has been consistent that producers will go through times when they hold onto cattle for breeding and others when they sell off, Klein said. Recently, slaughter cattle prices have set all-time records. When that happens, producers can decide to keep females off the market to build up herds in anticipation of higher profits down the line, said long-time Morgan County cattleman Steve Treadway of Brush [Colo.]. Then it takes a couple of years to raise an animal ready for slaughter, he said. In this case a couple of other factors enter in as well. Cattle from Canada have been blocked from import due to mad cow disease, and herds were culled last year due to the extreme drought that hit much of the West last year. The drought changed cattle production patterns and the normal cycle, Treadway said. Producers are trying to rebuild herds they had to sell off when there was no feed, he added.
    The good news is consumer demand for beef remains strong. Branded beef such as Angus and sterling silver appeal to customers. In addition, beef is more consistent in quality and with microwave packaging is even more convenient, Klein said. So the beef market should recover nicely. Beef plants are scrambling for cattle out there. For instance, Pacific Northwest factories hit hard by the loss of Canadian beef have drawn on herds as far east as Iowa, affecting this region, Klein noted. Of course, a slowdown in cattle sold means fewer head in sales barns - along with fewer hours for [beef plant] employees....

  3. Pay rise [US: raise] for bus drivers, Bath Chronicle.
    BATH, England - Bath's biggest bus company has struck a pay deal in a bid to attract more drivers. First [Ltd.] is gripped by a chronic shortage of drivers in Bath which has resulted in a volley of passenger complaints. The firm has already drafted in a team of emergency drivers from across the country to fill the holes in its rotas [rosters, work assignments]. Now it has reached agreement on a 9.56%, two-year, pay deal for drivers.
    The bus company has been in negotiations with the Transport & General Workers Union [TGWU] on the deal for its drivers at its Bath, Bristol, Wells and Weston-super-Mare depots. It will see wages increase straightaway by 40p per hour with the increase backdated to September.... The basic rate was £242 per week. That has now gone up to £257 per week, backdated to September 14.... First Somerset and Avon operations director Paul Jenkins said...this basic rate did not include overtime or premium payments which took earnings up significantly higher. The rate of pay also increases with the length of service..\..
    The deal will be followed by a reduction in the working week from 39 to 38 hours in April 2004.... In April [the basic rate] will increase again to £259 as hours of work drop. Mr Jenkins said..\.."It is a very competitive labour market, particularly in the Bath area, so we have tried to make the rates as attractive as possible. It is our annual pay settlement and what we have done is agree a two-year deal which will be attractive to people looking for work. It is across all the depots but we hope that the effect, particularly in Bath, will be to encourage people to come forward and join us."
    [The magic of labor/skill shortage is occurring on an isolated spot basis here and there amidst the overwhelming global labor surplus.]
    The company's managing director, Brian Noton, welcomed the deal, saying it would help the company to attract new drivers and retain existing staff, particularly in areas such as Bath, where the unemployment rate stands at 1.3%.
    [In other words, they have what many employers would call an acute labor shortage, but what a long-range observer concerned about sustained and growing consumer markets would call labor-employment balance.]
    Mr Noton is confident the public will notice an improvement in services from the end of the week as the 20 temporary drivers get to work. Malcolm Green, senior regional industrial organiser for the TGWU, praised the settlement which he said would improve terms and conditions for drivers.

  4. Turned on by days off, by Melanie Hannon, F.A.Z. Weekly.
    GERMANY - Germans are true artists when it comes to engineering - days off from work, that is. Proof of this talent is the six-week vacation rule we all know and love, combined with the generous assortment of public holidays and other working-week loopholes with which you can hone your skills for whiling away downtime.
    [Melanie appears to be an AngloSaxon with residual Puritan-workethic guilt.]
    Germans are passionate about getting Brückentage ["bridge days," compare French faire le pont = "do the bridge"], those inconvenient little workdays that fall between weekends and public holidays, off. After all, doing so offers the potential of creating a four-day weekend!
    Another favorite institution is the so-called Betriebsausflug, literally a "company outing" but in reality just another excuse to close up shop and take the day off. This can go far beyond the bounds of the standard office party: Its purpose is to boost staff morale by officially encouraging everyone to slack off, and usually involves the entire firm going together on an all-expenses-paid jaunt, sometimes even involving a quick trip to another country. Participation is expected, and most employees seem content to enjoy the regimented leisure; after all, these outings are almost always held on a weekday, and hence count as work.
    This concept of shutting down the office in the middle of the week for the sake of work- sponsored entertainment is all but unheard of in the United States, where it would probably be interpreted as a strong signal that the company was begging to go out of business. These days many American workers are reluctant to take even their annual two-week vacations for fear of having their jobs evaporate while they're out of town, selfishly indulging themselves in a few days of rest.
    Things might change here [in Germany]. In the last few months, politicians eager to find ways of getting the economy back in gear have questioned the widespread assumption that people need as many days off as Germans get. But should these proposals get as far as actual legislative proposals, the ensuing debate about doing away with a holiday or two and increasing the workweek promises to get the nation's collective blood boiling in a way few other issues could.
    [And of course, it would bring up the whole debate about what good is productivity without marketability, and if you don't spread the work and pay as widely as possible, you're deactivating some of your markets.]

10/16/2003  primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/15 via GoogleNews & searched-collected-prescreened by Alan Applebaum of Brookline (& all excerpts & comments by Phil Hyde) -
  1. Declaring war on time poverty - The first national Take Back Your Time Day will urge Americans to recalibrate lives dominated by work at the expense of balance, by Jill Smith (503-294-5908; jillsmith@news.oregonian.com), The Oregonian via Beaverton News.
    Before he realized what was important in his life, David Sweet of Sylvan remembers running around breathlessly at his job, working late and feeling a great need to appear busy. Now, at age 54, he doesn't work at all. He devotes his time to gardening, family, reading, volunteering and other personal pursuits.
    Sweet managed to do this by simplifying his life, downsizing his home and managing the money he earned during 23 years as a building inspector. He knows not everyone can go to that extreme, but he thinks more people - with the help of their employers - could work less than they do.
    More free time - for everyone from computer specialists to burger flippers - will be the focus of the first Take Back Your Time Day on Oct. 24 (*timeday.org). Modeled after the first Earth Day, this national event is designed to call attention to "time poverty" through teach-ins, outdoor fairs and workplace discussions across the country, including Portland.
    Some speakers will question workplace policies. Others, such as Sweet, will challenge people to reexamine their personal values and whether they are working more than they want or need to. Still others will confront the issue of poverty, which can leave the poorest people working the longest hours with the fewest options for time off.
    The Take Back Your Time Day campaign, which is being coordinated by Seattle-based documentary producer John de Graaf, was launched April 6, exactly 70 years after the U.S. Senate passed a bill that would have made the official U.S. work week 30 hours.
    The Senate's goal was to create jobs for the unemployed while giving workers more time for family life, education, recreation and civic participation, said de Graaf, whose 1997 PBS show "Affluenza" critiqued American patterns of work and consumption.
    Many Americans still want those benefits, according to a poll released this summer by the Center for a New American Dream (www.newdream.org). More than half of those polled said they would trade a day's pay for a day off each week and 83% said they wished they had more time to spend with their families.
    International Labor Organization statistics that include vacation time, paid holidays, work week and overtime show that on average, Americans work 350 hours more a year than Western Europeans. With that in mind, Time Day is scheduled to fall nine weeks before the end of 2003, implying that Western Europeans would have the rest of the year off.
    "We've made work more important than other cultures have. We don't have to do that," said Sweet, a Time Day panel speaker.
    Life on auto-pilot Sweet started changing his personal work ethic in 1996 when he went from 40 to 32 hours a week. Then a single father of sons ages 10 and 11, Sweet found himself cooking more - and healthier. He started preserving food. On his day off, he did chores and errands he otherwise would have had to do when the boys were home.
    His wife of four years, Rosemarie Cordello, followed a similar pattern at the law firm where she worked for 17 years. After taking a voluntary simplicity course at Portland's Northwest Earth Institute (www.nwei.org), Cordello went from full-time to a 30-hour work week. Her elementary-age son was thrilled that she was waiting for him after school. Eventually she quit work altogether.
    "I had been on automatic pilot," she said. "The course gave me an opportunity to question how I was spending my time. (My life) didn't match my values."
    Not everyone wants to work less. "When we're using our jobs to answer basic questions like 'Who am I? What is my life about?' - questions we used to go to church to answer - then it becomes really crucial that we be working really hard," Sweet said.
    Scarcity of part-time benefits And those who do want to work less often can't afford to. That's where business initiatives and corporate culture come into play.
    Good part-time jobs, for example, are hard to find. Most are low-paying with no benefits, according to the "Take Back Your Time" handbook.
    New Seasons Market, which employs about 650 people in four Portland-area stores, is one of the few places that provides full-time benefits (medical and dental insurance for employees and their families) to anyone working 20 hours or more, such as Abhaya Thomas, a Bethany mother of four who started at 32 hours a week and now works 25 at the Orenco Station store.
    Time off is another important issue. In Western Europe, even starting employees are guaranteed a minimum of four to five weeks paid vacation each year. The United States is the only industrial country with no minimum paid time off laws.
    The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which applies to about 60% of U.S. workers, guarantees as many as 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to care for a new child or seriously ill family member. But the Christian Science Monitor reported in 2002 that less than 7% of eligible employees apply for such leave. In addition to the lack of pay, they worried about co- worker resentment and management disapproval.
    Allowing unpaid leave Even paid time off can fall victim to those fears. When David Haines came to New Seasons, he had two months of vacation days stored up from his previous job. "It was really difficult to get time off, so I hadn't taken a vacation," said Haines, now human resources development manager. He appreciates how a company's written policies can be affected by its corporate culture.
    "In most companies, if you were working 90 hours a week, you might get an award. Here, if we see someone working like crazy, we would say, 'What's your problem? Go get a life,' " he said.
    [So, unlike many other CEOs, not a control freak.]
    And unpaid time off is not discouraged for employees in good standing, even for seemingly frivolous reasons. Since January, at least 15 employees have taken several weeks to three months of unpaid leave to do everything from touring with their bands to pursuing meditational programs to traveling to Europe.
    Thomas is taking unpaid leave from her part-time job in the produce section at Orenco Station's New Seasons to travel to India for nearly six weeks with her husband. She is grateful, knowing that at many other companies, "most people would probably just have to quit in order to do something like this."
    On a smaller scale, Stan Christiansen, the Orenco store's bookkeeper, will take a couple of unpaid days around Halloween after using up all his paid vacation this summer at a family reunion.
    Moving at too high a speed
    A major cultural change will have to occur before longer paid vacations such as those of Europeans (an idea endorsed by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich) appear at New Seasons or any other U.S. company.
    "I think it's difficult for an individual employer in isolation to swim against the current of mainstream culture," Sweet said. "As a culture, we have become much too busy and move at much too high a speed."
    Particularly with the unemployment rate up and the economy in bad shape, it's difficult to talk about working less, he said.
    But if enough people call for cultural change, lawmakers will start to listen, Sweet said. "When John de Graaf creates Take Back Your Time Day, he's trying to change public opinion."
    Sweet is already on de Graaf's side. He only wishes he had gotten there sooner so he could have spent more time with his sons, now 17 and 18. "Now they don't have enough time for me."

  2. [Actually, worktime reduction is happening anyway, but happening in terms of economically desperate un(der)employment instead of financially secure leisure -]
    US consumers working less, www.mnrons.com.
    The Harris Poll at this time of the year asks US consumers how much time they spend working, including at school and housework, how much time they have for leisure and what their favourite pastimes are. In most years, the numbers do not change very much. This year's survey, however, shows a sharp drop in the average number of hours spent working (including housekeeping, studying and commuting).
    [This means that in the U.S., the concentration of working hours has proceeded so far that it's disemployed or underemployed enough people and reduced their consumption enough to perceptibly restrain consumer demand and boomerang back to keep more consumers under-employed. Ergo, a vicious circle or more accurately, a self-accelerating downward spiral.]
    Interestingly, this is the only time since Harris Interactive first asked this question almost thirty years ago that the [median?] number of working hours has dropped significantly. According to Humphrey Taylor, chairman of The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive, 'This surely reflects the weakening of the economy and the end of the boom years of the 1990s which saw a record number of hours worked.'
    [Those bubble years should have been leveraged to convert overtime and overwork into fuller employment and a stronger consumer base.
    It's not the number of hours worked, but the number of consumers working that counts, because the fewer consumers working, the less the work and income is spread around, and the less income is spent. And as Will Rogers said, "Money's like manure - it's no good unless it's spread around." The more it's concentrated among the relatively few people who already have most of it and who are already spending all they desire, the more it's wasted on scanning for safe value-storage places (dba "investments") - at a time when the concentration is already so tight that it's vacuuming the markets away from its own investment targets - a classic depression.]
    While the number of hours spent working has dropped, there has been no change in people's estimates of how many leisure hours they have available for relaxation, watching television, taking part in sports or hobbies, and so on. The median estimate of 20 hours this year is the same as it has been every year since 1999. Indeed, it has not been higher than 20 or lower than 19 since 1989. Reading, watching TV, spending time with the family, fishing and gardening are America's most popular pastimes. The largest number mentioned reading (26%) and watching television (15%). These two activities have topped the list every year that the survey has been carried out, although the numbers have fluctuated somewhat. Indeed, it is striking that those who say that watching television is one of their favourite activities has fallen from 23% in 2000 to 20% last year and is now down sharply to 15%.
    The Harris Poll is a nationwide telephone survey conducted by Harris Interactive with a sample of 1,011 adults from August 15 - 19, 2002.

  3. Surprise unemployment 'blip', BusinessEurope.com.
    LONDON - The number of people in the UK out of a job has edged up, the Office of National Statistics says. There were 1,900 fewer people claiming unemployment benefits in the three months to August, but the total number of jobless people crept up by 5,000 over the period to 1,479,000. The rise came against analysts' expectations and many experts say that the labour market presents a confused picture, because demand for labour is reflected in increasing working hours....
    [What's the surprise? What's the confusion? A major unrecognized reason for unemployment is increased concentration of working hours on fewer people, dba overtime and overwork. There's no mention of increased hiring here so there's no growth in consumer demand and the increased working hours are merely impoverishing everyone instead of getting spread around to hire more people and activate more consumers.]

  4. Weekly working hours drop to 43, Yonhap via Korea Times.
    SEOUL - The average weekly working hours in South Korea declined to a record low of 43.1 in August due to a growing number of large corporations introducing the five-day workweek system, a state-run research institute said Wednesday. The figure represents a sharp reduction from 45.5 a year earlier, according to the statistics released by the Korea Labor Institute.
    It is the first time that the weekly working hours fell to less than 44, the standard set by the Labor Standard Law.
    The working hours for those employed on a daily basis reached 39.6 per week in August, while regular workers had 42.0 overall.
    Workers hired on a short-term contract basis had 46.1, according to the institute.

  5. Governor outlines recent travels and benefits to Guam, by Ken Wetmore, KUAM News.
    ...The Governor boasted about what his administration has been able to complete in just ten months in office. Governor Camacho contended that his administration has made great strides toward reducing its size and cost. He talked about the implementation of the 32-hour workweek and the money that was saved, and how it prevented payless paydays and the potential shutdown of critical services. The Governor also spoke about his efforts to reorganize the government and when completed how it will be more efficient and effective.

  6. Lucas County shortfall threatens layoffs in 2004, by Dale Emch, Toledo Blade.
    OHIO - ...The county started the year with a budget of $137 million, with about $8 million coming from one-time sources. Revenue shortfalls have cut projections to about $129.5 million..\.. John Zeitler, the county's budget director...said sales taxes are expected to be about $1.1 million behind projections by the end of the year,
    [Lower sales and lower sales tax are natural in a deepening depression, no matter how hard the investment professionals spin it as a "stumbling recovery." Let's quit taxing what we want, sales, and start taxing what we don't want - so much income concentrated in the top brackets that it's suctioning the spending power out of markets for the productivity it wishes to invest in.]
    while investment income is expected to lag $2.1 million behind estimates. Both performance figures were blamed on the stagnant local economy..\.. Lucas County would cut $10 million in spending and some county employees may face layoffs under a 2004 budget plan under consideration by county commissioners.... Mr. Zeitler...said the reductions might be accomplished by attrition and other means, but he confirmed that layoffs are an option. "We're looking at all areas of possible reduction, and layoffs could be one of those areas," he said. "If we don't get enough reductions in other areas, layoffs might have to be considered by the commissioners and other elected officials."...
    [At least he's considering layoffs as a last resort instead of a first resort, like many CEOs, even when they're in record profit.]
    Sally Powless, staff representative for the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Ohio Council 8, said..."We're working at bare bones now.... [Layoffs are] a possibility, but we're going to do everything in our power so it doesn't happen. We're going to help them by doing what we can to save money." Commissioner Maggie Thurber, the lone Republican on the board, said it is premature to talk about layoffs because the board hasn't done all it can to cut the budget. "I don't think we've worked hard enough to identify other areas to cut before we start scaring the employees of the county," she said....
    [Nice to hear from a Republican.]
    Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak said...she's hoping the county's office of management and budget can work with individual office holders to find creative ways to cut budgets. "We're going to have to work at this until the very last minute to try to preserve jobs...." Some elected county officers said yesterday they think they can trim their budgets by 12.6%.... Auditor Larry Kaczala proposed cutting his employees' schedules from 40 hours a week to 35 hours. He said that would prevent layoffs and reduce his $7 million general fund budget by about $875,000. "At 12.6%, you're talking strictly personnel," he said. "You can't save on enough copy paper to make that up out of your budget."...

  7. Some workers volunteer for layoffs, by Chris Buckley, Valley Independent.
    [Throughout this article, "layoffs" is inaccurately used to mean hourscuts or schedule cuts, making this article a real-life example of the surveys that show 2/3 of Americans would be willing to give up some pay for more free time.]
    [PITTSBURGH] WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP - Like several other communities in the Mid-Mon Valley [probably Mid-Monongahela River Valley], a budgetary shortfall has required the Washington Township Supervisors to lay off some workers in the police and road departments.... The fiscal shortfall is due to increases in the cost of hospitalization, liability, car and workers compensation insurance for the township, said Township Supervisor Joanne Latkanich. Recognizing that shortfall, the supervisors informed workers several months ago that layoffs would be needed, Latkanich said..\..
    But in a unique twist, some workers in those two departments voluntarily accepted layoff status. Monack acknowledged that the layoffs were voluntary. He said the department has continued to operate pretty much as it had in the past. He still oversees the department, going to the office "a couple of hours" a day. "We're trying to work together to see that services continue," Monack said.... Despite the layoffs, Latkanich said police have remained on duty around the clock. "We've always had 24-hour protection," Latkanich said. "At no time have the people of Washington Township gone without protection." Likewise, Latkanich said while the street department layoffs have slowed down some projects, none have gone uncompleted.
    [That's the advantage of the kind of schedule reductions we're talking about here instead of real layoffs.]
    Since the layoffs first took place, the workers in each department have rotated their work status. Hileman has returned to work full-time, but Guy Bilsky is on the reduced schedule. McLaughlin has returned to full-time status, but Monack continues on a reduced schedule, Latkanich said. In addition, another officer is on reduced hours.
    The workers have continued to receive hospitalization coverage during the layoffs.
    The supervisors are unsure how long the layoffs will last, Latkanich said. But a tax increase is very likely in 2004, Latkanich said. The supervisors have already begun working on next year's spending plan, but it is too early to tell how high taxes may rise, she said. "Do we anticipate a tax increase? Yes," Latkanich said. "There is no way we can continue to operate at this pace with the revenues that are coming in."

  8. Siemens' German labour costs rise 4%, by Olaf Brenner, Reuters.
    NUREMBERG, Germany... - Industrial conglomerate Siemens said on Wednesday its labour costs in high-wage Germany had risen 4% over the past year, costing the company some 400 million euros ($470 million). Heinrich von Pierer, chief executive of the German giant, said each percentage point represented 100 million euros, adding that thousands of new jobs could have been created for the cost of the wage increase. "We're talking 6,000 jobs here," he said at an industry function in the German city of Nuremberg.
    [The latest CEO deception - "thousands of new jobs could have been created" but wouldn't have been created.]
    But he told Reuters that did not mean the company, which shed 2,300 jobs in its mobile phones unit this summer, was planning to lose that many employees. "I'm saying it in order to make the magnitude of the cost clear," he said on the fringes of the event.
    [And how many jobs could have been created just from his salary and perks alone? Power is not a matter of "what if." The job categories that have managed to create a shortage of themselves get more power and money and benefits, and those that haven't, don't.]
    Wage deals at Siemens, one of Germany's biggest employers, are negotiated at national level with the powerful IG Metall union.
    [So again, it's top-executive whining that they don't have absolute power. Poor babies.]
    German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder promised to defend the collective wage- bargaining system while appealing to the hardline union on Wednesday for support for his economic reforms.
    [Never mind hardline CEOs. The media are owned by CEOs so it's always and only "hardline unions."]
    Siemens employs 170,000 of its almost half a million employees in Germany, which was recently overtaken by Norway as the European Union's highest-wage country.
    [That should be a point of pride.]
    Von Pierer added that German engineers did not earn their high wages through high productivity.
    [Neither do CEOs.]
    "We're simply too expensive and, thanks to our short working hours, we're unfortunately much slower," he said.
    [That's entirely the CEOs' fault for not introducing more automation. Productivity in the age of robotics has absolutely nothing to do with human working hours and everything to do with morale and mechanization.]

  9. Child labor and Development, how UNICEF is addressing this issue, ArabicNews.com.
    SYRIA - A recent statistical report suggests that child labor is emerging as an issue to be dealt with in Syria. Applying the conventional labor force framework of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and basing its conclusions on a national household survey, it estimates that there are approximately 200,000 working children aged 10-14 and 420,000 working children aged 15-17, in a population of 16m....
    The vast majority of child workers have dropped out of school; they work long hours as adults do; and children receive very low payment, or nothing at all (50%).... Unpaid work in family business is widespread, especially among girls..\..
    The study also raised the issue of long working hours. It came up with the fact that employed children by and large spend many hours at their workplaces. The proportion of economically active children spending 50 hours or more at their jobs each week is as high as for adult workers. 30% of the children work 50-69 hours, which translates into some 190,000 children; 12.5% (78,000 children) stay more than 70 hours at their jobs. Children residing in urban centers work longer hours than children living in rural surroundings....
    Giving wide coverage to the issue of child labor in Syria, UNICEF program coordinator said that three main questions need...to be addressed:
    1. Why do children work? Are there "outer" mechanisms (related to poverty, school) driving them into employment? Or, are there strong, "inner" motivational factors at play? Or both? And, which role do cultural aspects and traditions play? How do people, for example, look at idleness? If economic factors are important on decisions regarding children's work, how and to what extent are they mediated by cultural values and practices? How are the decisions to work taken, and by whom?
    2. Under what conditions do children work? How many hours, and how many days a week? With or without breaks and time to rest? Do children work evening or night shifts?...
    3. What about supervision? ..\..Do they receive on-the-job or other training?... Are the tasks they perform difficult, and physically and/or mentally hard? To what extent does children's employment deprive them of the right to safe and healthy upbringing and "normal" development, including schooling? Is it possible to combine work and education without jeopardizing school achievements? Do children learn and grow in their jobs? To what extent, if any, does the work affect children's health?

10/15/2003  primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/14 via GoogleNews, collected by Alan Applebaum of Brookline (except #7 & 8, which are direct from the 10/15 WSJ hardcopy, & all excerpted & commented by Phil Hyde) -
  1. European car sales turn the corner, by David Gow, The Guardian.
    The west European car market last month bucked the trend of continuing economic uncertainty and weak demand by showing strong growth, with sales up 4.4% on September last year. The Assoc. of European Car Mfrs said yesterday that the surge in sales came from the strengthening of consumer confidence in some markets - particularly the "big five" of Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain - and price incentives.
    But companies are still cutting output, jobs and working time, with Peugeot announcing at the weekend it would shut its Aulnay plant near Paris for a week at the end of this month. It has already sharply cut the working week at its Ryton factory near Coventry.
    [Timesizing, not downsizing = trimming hours for all to avoid trimming jobs for a few, and a few more, and a few more, till...no markets. In contrast, a US-based firm's suicidal behavior -]
    Earlier this month Ford blamed a "dramatic deterioration" in the market for its plans to shed 3,000 jobs at its Genk plant in Belgium and 1,700 in Germany. Its sales fell 4.6% in the first nine months....

  2. Sheriff reins in overtime expenses, by Amie Streater, Dallas-Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.
    TEXAS - When Dee Anderson took over as Tarrant County sheriff more than two years ago, he could sum up in two letters one of the department's biggest problems: OT.   Overtime pay was so rampant under the previous sheriff, David Williams, that workers in the confinement division often received an extra week's pay in overtime every month.
    Williams had mandated six-day work weeks, and the county had no choice but to pay. In fiscal year 2000, total overtime pay hit $1.58 million.
    [Mandatory overtime - the first target of any program to modernize an economy with fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against un(der)employment. Our Timesizing economic-design modifications (compare software 'patches') deal with mandatory overtime in Phase Two: overtime and Phase Three: overwork (meaning overtime from all sources).]
    In fiscal 2003, which ended last month, Anderson's departmentwide overtime total had been cut to $202,519. Anderson gave a brief report on the overtime savings to the Tarrant County commissioners court Tuesday, saying the previous overtime problem was "like a bad dream." "There was great concern with overtime, that it was being abused ... perhaps[?] intentionally," Anderson said. "I'm hoping I can come back next year and tell you we've cut it again, but we're pretty much bare-bones."
    The sheriff credited his employees with meeting the [low?] overtime goals he set for the department.
    Commissioners spent a couple of minutes praising the sheriff not only for controlling overtime costs but also for hiring good managers, including Executive Chief Deputy Bob Knowles....

  3. Smorgon Steel strike ends, by Matthew Rich, Green Left Weekly.
    MELBOURNE, Australia — Twenty-five electricians at Smorgon Steel have ended their strike, in pursuit of a new enterprise agreement, after 227 days. The dispute is the longest in the history of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), which covers the workers involved.
    ...The workers, who are not directly employed by Smorgon Steel, work for two electrical contracting companies, IES and TAD/ADECCO. The workers have decided to use the compulsory arbitration provisions of the Workplace Relations Act to bring Smorgon Steel before the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC)...because Smorgon Steel would not negotiate with them..\..
    This process involves two stages, the first stage being a conciliation hearing; [then] if an agreement is not reached between Smorgon and the ETU, the IRC will make a binding ruling.... Through this process, the workers will continue to fight for a new agreement, which includes a 36-hour work week, [which] is the industry standard for electrical contracting....

  4. Working hours soar as staff shun work-life balance, Startups.co.uk.
    U.K. - Government attempts to cut time spent in the workplace have had "little or no effect", with the number of employees working more than 40 hours a week rising dramatically over the past five years, according to new research.
    [Same syndrome as Japan in the early 1990s. Again, more than mere preaching is required. We suggest a lot more OJT (on-the-job training), targeted and financed by the incidence of overtime, to give stop employees from having that no-options feeling.]
    The study, conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), found that the proportion of staff working more than 40 hours a week had increased from in ten in 1998 to one in four this year.
    The working week of female employees has experienced a significant increases over the past five years, with the average woman now putting in an extra 3.5 hours every five days. The average working week for women now stands at 33.9 hours, while the overall average for both sexes is [also?] 33.9 hours a week, slightly up on 1998 levels.
    The CIPD's report claimed that government measures to help introduce a better 'work-life' balance for employees have had "little or no effect" to date. As reported by Startups.co.uk, over the past year, the government has decided that employers must offer flexible working hours for staff with young children, and provide greater maternity and paternity leave to new parents. ...Despite these measures, UK staff still work the longest hours in Europe, with many not having time to take a proper holiday. Long working weeks have been blamed by analysts for the soaring levels of staff stress in UK businesses, resulting in firms losing an estimated £370 million a year due to stress-related absence.
    Mike Emmott, head of employee relations at CIPD, said that the overall trend of longer working weeks for female staff is not necessarily bad news. "Relatively few of those working long hours are women. "If efforts to secure equal treatment for women at work are to bear fruit we can expect to see their experience of work and working patterns aligned more closely with men. More women are now returning to work after having babies and having the opportunity to build careers. They also enjoy a strong position in the job market. Most long hour workers report some kind of negative effect on job performance, one in four report damaging effects on their mental health in terms of stress or depression and many claim that long hours have put their relationships and health under strain. Clearly there can be important downsides to working consistently long hours and employers and employees both need to be aware of them," he said.
    The CIPD also pointed out that the survey suggested that EU proposals to limit workers to a 48-hour week would have little support amongst UK staff, as many employees work long hours through choice.
    [Questionable.]
    As reported by this website, Britain has secured an opt-out from the working week rules – a stance that has been criticised by trade union leaders who have argued that long hours harm the health of employees.
    Emmott said that most staff who work long hours are managers or professionals, who should be well placed to make informed choices about their hours.
    [Not necessarily.]
    "Some employers are asking staff to sign an opt-out clause simply in order to take the issue of long hours off the table and avoid the possible need for record keeping, even though employees rarely or never work more than 48 hours for long periods. "It would therefore be disastrous to remove the opt-out at a stroke," he said.

  5. Firms told to cut property costs by working flexibly, startups.co.uk.
    U.K. - UK businesses not allowing their staff to work flexibly could be losing out on savings worth £16,000 per employee each year, according to new research. According to figures released by BT, a desk-bound employee at a standard workstation can cost up to £18,000 to maintain, while, on average, just 42% of all office desks are in use at any one time....
    As reported by Startups.co.uk, flexible working laws were introduced by the government in April in order to provide employees with young children a better work-life balance. Although the regulations allow staff to demand flexible working hours, or even the right to work from home, take-up has been fairly slow and research has shown that UK staff still work the longest hours in Europe, with the majority of the working week spen[t] in the office....

  6. Govt denies plan to renege on junior doctors' targets, online.ie.
    U.K. - The Dept. of Health has denied reports that the Government is set to renege on its target of reducing the working hours of junior doctors to 56 per week by August of next year. Under an EU directive, junior doctors in all EU member states must not be required to work more than 58 hours per week from next August. The move is part of a phased plan to reduce junior doctors' working hours to 48 hours-a-week by 2010. A failure to meet the targets could result in fines of up to E100,000-a-day for the State.   Irishhealth.com reported today that the Government was planning to seek an exemption from the directive on the basis of its reform plan for the Irish health services, but a spokesperson for Health Minister Micheál Martin dismissed the report as untrue.

  7. No longer a nuisance if they pay the fee, letter to editor by Michael Stitt, WSJ, A21.
    Hooray for Ian Ayers and Barry Nalebuff's Oct.8 editorial-page essay "Want to call me? Pay me!" They've framed the issue beautifully and offered a solution that is sensible and market driven (as opposed to regulation driven). The popularity of the proposed [Do Not Call] registry and the resulting millions of consumers who have indicated a desire to opt out stems precisely from the average citizen's sense that they no longer control one of their most precious possessions, their time....
    [One wonders, if their time is so precious, why so many of them who read the Journal are prepared to give their employer a blank check on it in terms of the flimflam of the 'salary' concept compared to the time accountability of the hourly wage and the consultant's concept of 'billable time.']

  8. Longest flight in the world set to take off - Singapore Air tweaks menus, adds movies to help fliers bear 18½-hour haul from L.A., by Andy Pasztor, WSJ, D1.
    [Do they break this into three 6-hour shifts or not even try?]



Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
Oct.10-14/2003
Oct.8-9/2003
Oct.4-7/2003
Oct.1-3/2003
Sept.27-30/2003
Sept.18-26/2003
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Feb.1-14/2003
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2002
2001
Y2000
1999
1998 and previous years


For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing put out as a campaign piece during the 1998 race for Joe Kennedy's empty Congressional seat. The handbook is available online from *Amazon.com and at the Harvard Square Coop, 3rd floor (business & economics sections) in Cambridge, Mass.

Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.


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