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Timesizing News, Dec.20-31, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


12/31/2003   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 12/30 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #2-3 are from the 12/31 BG & WSJ hardcopies), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -

  1. Beijing: monthly overtime no more than 36 hours, by PD Online with article relayed from Beijing Youth & translated by Gao Lanrong, via People's Daily Online [China].
    Beijing will initiate new rules on working hours from January 1, 2004, which stipulate that the overtime in companies should not exceed 36 hours.
    According to the "Measures for Enterprises' Implementation of Work System of Comprehensive Calculation of Working Hours and Work System with Non-Fixed Working Hours" which will take effect next year, such companies as below can apply the work system of comprehensive calculation of working hours. A responsible person with Beijing Labor & Social Security Bureau said that companies can implement the work system of comprehensive calculation of working hours with week, month, quarter and year as the period respectively. But the average daily working hours and average weekly working hours should be in line with the statutory standards. During the comprehensive calculation period, the working hours in one day or one week can be more than 8 and 40 hours but the total actual working hours should not exceed the total statutory hours. Staff should be paid no less than 150% of their wages for extra hours accordingly and staff who work during legal days-off should be paid no less than 300% of their wages accordingly. The monthly overtime should not exceed 36 hours on average. Additionally, companies should negotiate with representatives from the trade unions or workers on whether to implement comprehensive calculation of working hours or the work system with non-fixed working hours.

  2. Longer period of rest for truckers mandated, AP via Boston Globe, A2.
    Truck drivers will be able to stay on the road for up to 11 straight hours but will have to take at least 10 hours off before they can again get behind the wheel of their rigs, according to new federal regulations taking effect Sunday.
    [This does not resolve the question yesterday in 12/30/2003 #2 below. Was the maximum only 10 hours on-duty before, in which case we're going backwards by lengthening it?]
    The government said yesterday that the new rules will make the roads safer because truckers will have to rest for two more hours between driving shifts. The Transportation Dept. estimates that the change will reduce deaths associated with truck driver fatigue from 440 to 335 in a year.
    [The 11 straight hours on the road is still ridiculous and murderous.]

  3. [On the other hand -]
    America West Airlines, WSJ, B5.
    ...approved a 3-year employment contract [by which,] instead of a wage increase, the pilots agreed to increase their productivity, or[??] the amount of time they are obligated to fly each month.
    [Is this the "Or" of Defining Equivalence or the "Or" of Exclusive Alternative? In either case, we have here a prime example of bogus productivity defined as "output per person regardless of hours" rather than as "output per person per hour."]
    The new contract won approval from [only] 53% of the 1,450 union members voting.

  4. Lack of benefits curbs staff morale, Birmingham Post [UK].
    ENGLAND - Businesses in the West Midlands remain reluctant to offer attractive working benefit packages and in doing so are reducing staff productivity, according to the latest Business in Britain report from Lloyds TSB Corporate.
    The report revealed that just one in four companies in the region currently provide working benefits, such as flexible hours, working from home and unpaid holiday. Of the 75% not offering such benefits, only a small number (3%) of companies plan to introduce them in the next 12 months, 92% won't be introducing them at all and 5% were undecided.
    However, the 25% of businesses that have realised the advantages of flexible working options are already reaping the rewards, with 56% reporting an increase in staff retention, 35% noted an improvement in staff morale and 21% witnessed a significant rise in productivity.
    Flexible hours and job sharing were the two most popular benefits, with 20% of companies in the West Midlands offering employees the former and 6% the latter.
    The negative attitude in the West Midlands towards flexible working options is not an isolated case and the results follow a national trend, with a high percentage (67%) of companies across the UK opting not to provide employee benefits. The results of the report follow a recent survey by the TUC, which revealed that workers in the West Midlands would do nearly £1.7 billion of unpaid overtime by the end of this year.
    Mark Brotherton, relationship director at Lloyds TSB Corporate, said the challenge for businesses in the region was to be creative with the benefit packages they are offering in order to keep their workforce happy. "The high value of unpaid overtime being done by employees means that businesses need to re-address the balance and start to look at benefit schemes constructively as a means of motivating staff and ensuring harmony within the workplace," he said. "An investment in staff must be seen as an investment in the business and any company that can rise to the challenge and see flexible working as an opportunity, rather than a threat, will seize the advantage. "The smart businesses will realise the benefits of flexible working options and use them for exactly the right purpose; as an effective recruitment tool, as a means of retaining staff and as a way of improving productivity."...

  5. Employers must support families, not harm them - Overwork - by women and men - is a problem that employers must tackle, by Tanya Plibersek (federal ALP member for Sydney), The Age [Australia].
    Well-educated, high-income women are the least likely to have children, or have fewer children, says Anne Summers in her most recent book The End of Equality. The reason, she suggests, is that the Federal Government has a policy agenda to send women back to the home. Underfunding of child care, the dismantling of organisations set up to promote equality between men and women in the workplace and a biased family payments system are all part of the problem. She's right there.
    To simplify Summers's argument, the answer is to ensure good-quality, affordable child care; provide paid maternity leave and get rid of government payments that favour stay-at-home mothers no matter what their husbands earn.
    The reality is a little more complex. If you offered the average parent 80 hours of free top-quality child care a week, they wouldn't take it.
    There is an additional factor, which Summers touches on but does not explore adequately: we want time with our families. Many parents - of either gender - are questioning how they can work 50, 60, 70 hours and still have a satisfying family life. Overwork, unpaid overtime and increasing insecurity in the workplace are underrated in the toll they are taking on families. For both high and low-income earners, those who enjoy their work and those who don't, overwork is a serious issue.
    Indeed, Summers ignores a significant trend of "downshifting" where there is an identifiable trend of people opting to work fewer hours for less money.
    The Federal Government made massive cuts to child care in its first two budgets. Estimates vary about the extent of unmet demand in the community, but the Bureau of Statistics puts the shortage at 174,500 places. At the same time, changes to funding mean that many excellent services in poorer areas closed down. If you can find child care, it's expensive. Many children are on two-year waiting lists. High quality, affordable, accessible child care is a necessity.
    Surely employers that actually faced a financial penalty for allowing people to work 60 hours a week would reorganise workplaces.
    Its absence is not the only thing stopping women having kids, though. Many women can't afford months off to have a baby. The high cost of renting or buying a place to live in Melbourne or Sydney means even parents (usually women) who want to take time off can't afford to.
    Paid maternity leave would ease some of this financial burden for a time. The ACTU and the ALP are arguing for 14 weeks' paid maternity leave.
    Many women find that employers discriminate against them when they are pregnant. They are passed over for promotion, or return from leave to find they have been given lesser responsibilities.
    Women returning to work in the first year of their child's life would benefit greatly from support for breastfeeding. Some workplaces have the foresight to encourage mothers to have carers bring their babies to them for feeding, or at least to provide an area for women to express milk.
    If parents had the right to return to part-time work following a period of parental leave; had an extension of unpaid parental leave from one to two years; a roster that took family needs in to account or the option of job-sharing or working from home, they might find it easier to manage "the work-life collision" as Barbara Pocock calls it. All these are things that governments can do something about.
    One of the greatest changes we could make to help people balance work and family is to discourage people from working more than 40 hours a week. Australians are working the second-longest hours of any country in the OECD. Surely employers that actually faced a financial penalty (like overtime pay) for allowing people to work 60 hours a week would reorganise workplaces so that it wasn't necessary.
    Obviously the problem of overwork applies to men as well as women. Some men work long hours because their employers demand it as proof of loyalty and commitment. Others do it because, frankly, it's easier than getting home at the "witching hour".
    For men to pull their weight at home we need workplaces that recognise that it's not fair - or efficient - to have people working until 8pm every night.
    (My own view is that working mothers are the most efficient workers around - they don't spend much time networking at the pub after work, but give them 16 tasks to do simultaneously and they'll have them all done by 4.55pm in time to pick the kids up from child care!)
    The Prime Minister says women want to work part-time to care for their families, but this is increasingly difficult. Casualisation of part-time work severely limits the ability to plan child care or finances. Families are much more likely to "tag-team" care, thus placing another stress on family life. Part-time work is only good for families when it has decent pay, real career paths, security, regularity and fair conditions.
    Is it any coincidence that work intensification and downshifting are both occurring in an environment in which unions have lost sway?
    Employers who recognise the value of flexible work practices are seeing benefits; but at the moment they are the minority. As a society we must institutionalise such arrangements, not continue the trend to deregulation and casualisation of the labour market that puts so much extra pressure on families.

12/30/2003   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 12/29 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. Work-life balance - When it comes to flexibility, there's no simple solution, by Margaret Steen, Knight Ridder via Bradenton Herald [FL].
    [Oh hey, yeah, if you say so. It can be just as difficult as you want.]
    Kathy Ullrich starts many days at 8 a.m., works until 3 or 4 p.m., then cares for her 9-month-old son until 8 p.m. Then she goes back to work.
    "I love it. The flexibility is great," said Ullrich, an executive recruiter who works from her San Mateo, Calif., home and shares child-care duties with her husband and a part-time day-care provider. "My work day is 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., but I take the breaks I need when I need those breaks."
    Although Ullrich's days are long, she has a setup many working parents would envy. But to achieve this flexibility, Ullrich left the corporate world for self-employment. This raises the question: Is it possible to run a company in which work gets done efficiently, yet employees are able to take care of their personal lives?
    Many experts have ideas about how the workplace could change to make it easier for both women and men to meet their family responsibilities. But so far, changes have been slow and, in most cases, relatively small. Some say attitudes need to change even more than the structure of work. "The way we define good jobs in the U.S. is still around an 'ideal worker' who works full time, full force for 40 years straight," said Joan C. Williams, director of the Program on Gender, Work and Family at American University Law School in Washington. "That either describes someone without children or someone with a wife picking up the pieces."
    But not many workers today have someone at home full-time taking care of children, elderly relatives or household tasks. Fewer than one in five U.S. families includes a married couple with only one worker, according to 2000 Census data.
    Many employers have taken steps to make balancing work and family easier. A recent survey by the Families and Work Institute found that the percentage of workers who said they had complete control or a lot of control over their work hours rose from 30% in 1992 to 36% in 2002.
    [Sounds unlikely. What kind of sample did they use?]
    Proponents of workplace flexibility envision a corporate world in which full-time workers have more control over their schedules and can choose to work part-time without penalty. Among the concepts they promote: Even employers who want their workers to have flexibility see obstacles: Fezell said that although his office's flexible arrangements have been successful, there are times when they don't work. "You can lay out these plans, you can do everything," he said, "but it doesn't preclude a client calling and saying, 'I've got an emergency.' " Then, he said, employees have to be flexible as well.
    Beyond these specific ideas are larger issues about employers' and employees' attitudes. "We need to redefine the 'ideal worker,' " Williams said. "Why should you be choosing workers based on some scheduling requirement rather than on talent?"
    [One word: quality.]
    One answer is that employers use a worker's willingness to work long hours as a measure of loyalty, said Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. "They want people who are willing to devote themselves body and soul to the company," he said.
    But some employers see some of these ideas - for example, advancement for part-time workers - as a sign that workers aren't willing to make tough choices. "You can't have both things," said Seema Handu, president and chief executive officer of PharmQuest in Mountain View, Calif. "You can't say that I need a lot of time with my family but . . . I want the same kind of career path that other people are having who are putting in the full-time effort."
    Handu, whose comments were echoed by other employers, added that part-time workers who return to full-time work should have a chance at promotions.
    Ultimately, experts say, the flexibility dilemma will probably be solved differently by different people. Some will seek part-time work; some others, like Ullrich, may leave the corporate world altogether. But these solutions won't work in every situation. Not everyone can afford to work part time or to start their own business. And even when employers have the best of intentions, not all jobs lend themselves to flexible schedules.

  2. New rules take effect for truckers, by Benjamin Dipman, Albert Lea Tribune [Minnesota].
    Semi-truck drivers will have to abide by new federal regulations beginning Jan. 4, 2004, which are designed to prevent fatigued drivers from operating vehicles while on duty.
    The rules were handed down from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a part of the Department of Transportation, and affect drivers hauling property.
    Three revisions affect the old hours-of-service regulations, according to documents the administration published to advertise the changes.
    1. The first revision alters the off-duty time drivers must take before driving again. Formerly, workers could drive more than 10 hours after having been off duty for 8 hours.
      [Not clear. Why specify 10 hours if it's not a ceiling? Has a "not" been left out? - as in "could drive for not more than 10 hours after 8 hours off-duty"?]
      The new regulations state drivers can drive 11 hours after an off-duty period of 10 hours.
      [This may be a mixed blessing = longer off-duty but also longer on-duty.]
    2. The second change affects the lengths of work shifts. Workers cannot drive after they have been on duty for 14 hours. Formerly, they could not drive after hour 15 of a shift. Break periods are also affected by the second change. Within any shift, breaks, such as stopping for lunch, sleep or refueling, do not extend one's workday. That is, if a driver has a 13-hour workday, a half-hour lunch break will be included in the 13 hours.
    3. The third rule offers an exception to the amount of on-duty hours in seven or eight consecutive days of work. The exception states, "A driver may restart a seven or eight consecutive-day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty." However, as before, drivers may still have 60 on-duty hours in seven days or 70 on-duty hours in eight days.
    A driver can increase the 14-hour workday to 16 hours if two conditions are met.
    1. First the driver must end five consecutive shifts at "the normal work reporting location."
    2. Second, the driver must return to that location after the 16-hour shift. This exception can be used once per week, unless the driver has restarted a shift by taking 34 hours off.
    Regardless of the exception, workers cannot drive more than 11 hours per shift.
    Drivers can also split on-duty time with sleeper-berth periods.
    Details on the new rules may be seen at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
    Warren Amundson, president of the Albert Lea trucking company VFS, Inc. and Dave Jones, owner of Jones Trucking in Hartland, heard of the new rules more than two months ago. Amundson learned through his involvement with the Minnesota Truckers Association and Jones heard about the rules on television and the radio. Jones Trucking, and operations like it, will not be affected by the new rules. Jones drives less than the maximum number of hours allotted. "I'm home every night," he said.
    VFS will be affected. "It'll certainly make a change for available hours" in a shift, Amundson said.
    Because drivers can drive less, some companies might have to hire more drivers. Amundson does not yet know if VFS will need more workers. "I don't know how it will impact me until we test it." He will know more in five or six months, he said. As for the changes, Amundson said, "We can live with it."
    Driving time is often enforced via logbooks, according to Ken Urquhart, commander of the Minnesota State Patrol's Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit. The logbooks record details such as driving time, mileage, and destinations. If drivers travel beyond 100 miles of base, "they are required to have a current logbook," Urquhart said. Patrol officers may issue citations if a logbook is not current or incorrect, or if the driver has been on the road for too long. The changes are "overdue," said Urquhart. "We see it as a beginning into the area of driver fatigue."

  3. Finance minister labors to make French willing to work harder, Reuters via International Herald Tribune.
    PARIS - Francis Mer could be relaxing if he wanted. Instead, France's 64-year-old finance minister gets up routinely at 5:30 a.m., exercises for half an hour on his rowing machine and then works a 14-hour day. He wants more French people to work like him.
    A former steel magnate who is rich enough not to work, Mer is a man on a mission to promote the merits of hard work in a country where employees enjoy some of the shortest working hours in Europe and are hostile to many of the pressures of globalization.
    [Mer is also a short-sighted hog who is monopolizing the technologized economy's most precious vanishing resource, natural market-demanded manhours - which means he's creating dependency, degrading French family time and family values, splitting the French population into workers and drones, depressing wages, weakening the consumer base, and pushing France down into the Third World just like the atavistic morons running the English-speaking economies. Just as the idiots currently running Germany don't have a clue what they're doing right (though the Japanese went there to study worksharing in early 2001), so the idiots currently running France don't have that clue either.]
    Mer is unfazed by the scale of his challenge and has a clear message for the French: The state is not going to be there for you in the way it used to be.
    "For the last 20 years, French culture has been marked by the message: 'Don't tire yourself out. We'll look after you,'" he recently told students in Lyon.
    [Ah, it's the automation and robotization that doin' the looking after, sport.]
    "As much as it is desirable to know how to relax, and to enjoy this relaxation, if you think of your personal life and your professional life as a long, quiet journey which consists of waiting for life to end, then life will just pass you by."
    [Mer would have France go back to the 1940 level of turning over control of your life to others, the 40-hour workweek - or more. His name should not be Mer ("sea") but Cloaque ("Cesspool"), for he wants nothing more than to close France into the past, where his stupid clique of plutocrats controls more and more of everyone's life, no matter how much it impoverishes them and himself.]
    Mer wants to sharpen the competitiveness of the French economy by fostering a more entrepreneurial spirit among workers who traditionally look to the state and powerful trade unions to protect them.
    [Sure, sure. Talking "freedom" while working for more control.]
    He also wants to reduce dependence on the state.
    France's public finances are creaking under the pressure of paying an increasing number of retired people, and Mer's work-ethic pitch is aimed at selling measures being pushed by the center-right government.
    [What a change from when in 1996 they had some intelligence and they, the center-right, pushed through the Robien Law designed to reduced the workweek and expand the workforce and the consumer base.]
    Since coming to power in June 2002, the current administration has knocked the edge off France's 35-hour week - a landmark of the previous, Socialist-led government - by allowing workers to put in more overtime. Other measures passed this year require people to work longer to earn their state pension and cut a national holiday to raise more health care funding for the elderly.
    [So those dummies did do it!]
    Mer wants to further reduce dependence on the state and increase public revenue by reducing unemployment and putting more people to work - an approach endorsed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "If France wants to keep an extensive protection system," said Raymond Torres, head of employment analysis at the OECD, "then you have to use the activation approach."
    France has one of the lowest employment rates in Europe, with just over 60% of the active population in jobs, compared with 65% in Germany and 73% in Britain. A new government measure aims to get more people to work by encouraging the long-term unemployed to accept low-paid jobs. Under the legislation, about a million long-term unemployed will be offered a part-time place with a company or state employer for a maximum of 18 months at the net minimum wage of E545, or $678, a month. The idea is that this could then lead to another job.
    Critics say the government is trying to cut France's jobless rate of nearly 10% without tackling the mismatch between the skills that companies need and those that the long-term unemployed have to offer. "When people have been out of work for a long time, they need training," said Jacques Rastoul, who deals with labor issues at the CFDT union. He said there was a risk that the scheme would provide businesses with cheap temporary labor rather than offering the jobless a real route back to long-term employment.
    Many people in France worry that the government's agenda will threaten the French way of life by opening the way to more of a British-American style capitalist society. Mer's work ethic marks a change in the economic mind-set in France, where selling change can be a tricky business. The pension move was passed after nationwide strikes and demonstrations that crippled transportation services.
    But Mer is undeterred. In the age of globalization, he says, France must change with the rest of the world. Work, he said, "isn't just the main driver of economic growth but the source of man's self-fulfillment."

12/27-29/2003   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 12/26-28 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #1-2 are from the 12/27-29 NYT hardcopies), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. 12/27   Judging 2003's ideas: The most...underrated, NYT, A17.
    ...Leisure, by Prof. Lizabeth Cohen of Harvard History Dept.
    We are tethered to our email, day and night. We are rarely out of cellphone range. Long working hours extend into evenings and weekends. Most of us feel lucky to love our work, but we put few limits on it. Less fortunate Americans labor long days to compensate for laid-off co-workers or simply to pay the bills. Studies reveal that Americans do an average of 350 hours (the equivalent of almost nine 40-hour weeks) more work each year than Europeans [a statistic from John de Graaf's Take Back Your Time Day campaign in October], and 67% fail to sleep 8 hours a night. Stress-induced illnesses are rampant.... We have turned our homework- and activity-burdened older children and ourselves into workaholics, multitasking 24/7. What are we trying to prove?

  2. 12/29   The world's sweatshop - Captive unions - When China's workers unite, bosses often run the union - A factory gets a union, but it's not the one they wanted, by Joseph Kahn, NYT, front page & A7.
    CHINA - ...Many migrants live behind high factory walls in crowded dormitories. They often work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Local recruitment centers are packed with workers who quit jobs in exhaustion or were fired when their employer had a dip in orders.
    Though Guangdong has maintained a double-digit rate of economic growth during the past decade...base pay often falls below legal minimums and overtime hours often greatly exceed regulated maximums....
    Neil Pryde [factory] is run by a New Zealander of the same name, a sailing enthusiast whose Hong Kong-based company has made yacht sails and sports gear in China since 1989. The company's two Shenzhen plants employ about 2,000 workers. ...Many...workers interviewed described the working conditions as decent. All of them said they had legal contracts, assuring steady employment during the contract term. The pay generally meets minimum wage.
    But workers say some departments operate 100 hours a week with one shift of employees, leading to burnout....

  3. 12/28   More jobs, more to do: A peek into next year's work-life trends, by Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ.
    For people who want to have a life while making a living, 2003 has in some ways been the worst of times.
    Expectations of increasing flexibility in work setups were trashed by the economy. Instead of offering time off as an incentive, as I predicted back in 1999 many companies would start doing, employers encroached on workers' personal and family lives by discouraging vacations and ramping up job demands.
    Some also cut back on popular alternative-scheduling programs.
    CCH Inc. in Riverwoods, Ill., says employers offering compressed work weeks fell by 18% in the past year, job-sharing by 19% and telecommuting by 4%.
    Worse yet, workers' job-shopping options were closed off by a labor market as forbidding as Mordor in "Lord of the Rings." Despite signs of economic recovery on the horizon, the job market has persistently refused to rebound with strength.
    But there are some signs of hope. Here are my annual predictions of work-life trends:
  4. 12/26   Another day off! editorial, Wisconsin State Journal.
    Happy Boxing Day!
    If you lived in Australia, you'd be spending this day after Christmas at the beach. If you lived in Canada, you'd be on the ski slopes. If you lived in Great Britain, you'd be on a long walk, with stops along the way at the homes of friends and relations for hot cider and high tea.
    But here in America, there's a good chance that you are spending this day working. After all, we Americans work longer hours and enjoy fewer holidays than any workers in the developed world. And even though more of us got today off than usual - because it fell on Friday - tens of millions of Americans, especially those working retail jobs, are working harder than ever today.
    Do we really need to squeeze another day of work onto the year's soon-to-be-finished calendar? Of course not.
    80% of American men and 62% of American women work more than 40 hours a week, according to the International Labor Organization. Close to 40% of all Americans work more than 50 hours a week.
    This year Congress and the president moved to eliminate overtime protections for millions of Americans, in an effort to expand the outer limits of the workweek.
    There are those who argue that working longer and harder is good for the bottom line. But the opposite is actually true. Hourly productivity is higher in a number of European countries that have moved toward setting 35-hour workweeks. "When there is a shorter amount of time in the workweek, they get more done," explains Joe Robinson, author of the book "Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life" (Perigee Books). Robinson argues that, in addition to undermining productivity, our extended workweeks take a toll on our health and our families. "What I think is that families are breaking down and bodies are breaking down," says Robinson, who suggests that America is "a nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown."
    Robinson says he has been aggravated for years by the increasing pressure on Americans to work longer hours. "I didn't understand why the rest of the world could have productive, decent lives and we couldn't," the author says.
    Robinson is doing something to help overworked Americans. His *Work to Live: Reclaim Your Life, Health, Family and Sanity campaign is pushing Congress to mandate that all Americans receive 3 weeks of paid vacation. That would still be far less than workers in other developed Western nations enjoy - the French and the Swedes get five weeks by law, the British and the Australians get four weeks - but it would be a big improvement for American workers.
    The United States is the only country in the industrialized world without a minimum paid-leave law. As a result, employers are able to squeeze vacation and holiday time for workers. On average, Americans get only about 10 days off a year, significantly less than workers not just in Europe but in China, Brazil and other industrialized countries.
    When Robinson and other backers of the campaign delivered petitions bearing 50,000 signatures to Congress in 2002, their initiative was well received by several leading members of the House and Senate, including two longtime champions of protections for workers, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. But, in a Congress that is busy passing limits on overtime protections, the campaign has a long way to go.
    Maybe we should start small, by taking off on Boxing Day and enjoying the company of family and friends, walking in the out-of-doors and extending the Christmastide just a little longer.

  5. 12/28   'Three million men exceeding EU work hours limit', by Alan Jones, PA News via The Scotsman [UK].
    The number of men working more than 49 hours a week has broken the three million mark as Britain’s long hours culture continues unchecked, a new report revealed today. Almost one in four men work longer than the 48 hours laid down in a European Union directive, research for the GMB union found.
    The longest hours were being worked in the City of London and Kensington and Chelsea, while the regions where people worked the longest hours included the South East and eastern England.
    GMB general secretary Kevin Curran said: “Burn-out Britain is becoming a reality for more and more people as Scrooge employers force their workers to leave precious family celebrations to go to work. “You simply can’t be at your best if you are continually working more than 48 hours a week even during holiday time. “This kind of workhouse ethic will not increase productivity; in fact, it will leave their workforce resentful and burnt out.”
    The UK is the only country in the EU where workers can opt out of the Working Time Directive, although this is currently being reviewed.
    The Government argues that more than a million people would lose out on paid overtime if they had to stop working extra hours.

  6. 12/27   Work stress greater cost than sickies, by Nathan Cross, The Advertiser [Australia].
    Time constraints and stressful workloads are keeping executives away from regular fitness regimes, corporate health specialists have claimed.
    Health Works managing director Ken Buckley said Australians had the world's second-longest working hours, and what he called "presenteeism" costs business more than absenteeism. "Presenteeism is when you show up but don't do anything," Mr Buckley said. "It is phantom absenteeism. For many people, poor health is reflected in poor performance at work."
    He said a US survey had found the problem was costing employers 7.5 times more than absenteeism. "I think, generally, Australians are quite unfit and, as people get older, their levels of fitness tend to drop and I don't think executives are any different," Mr Buckley said. "For many of them, because they are very committed with their time, fitness tends to come pretty low on their priority list."...

12/26/2003   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 12/25 via GoogleNews -
  1. Wellness products to be 'stars' in 2004, Korea Herald.
    SOUTH KOREA -...The introduction of the 5-day workweek [from 5½, is] slowly changing value systems favoring quality time spent with families or on leisure activities....

  2. Eckerd must tell workers about suit - A judge has yet to certify the class in a case seeking overtime pay for photo lab managers, but the number of plaintiffs is likely to increase, by Mark Albright (albright@sptimes.com or 727-893-8252), St. Petersburg Times.
    FLORIDA - After 50 Eckerd Corp. photolab managers and supervisors claimed they were cheated out of overtime, a federal judge hearing a class-action lawsuit in Fort Myers has ordered notification of all the people who were photo managers for the drugstore chain since Nov. 13, 2000.
    U.S. District Judge John Steele made the ruling in the preliminary rounds of a suit alleging that the nation's fourth largest drugstore chain violated federal labor standards law by denying photo lab managers and supervisors overtime.
    After the case was filed in September on behalf of five Eckerd photo lab managers in southwest Florida, publicity attracted 45 more plaintiffs from Florida, North Carolina and Texas to join the suit.
    Eckerd, which has its headquarters in Largo, operates photo labs in most of its 2,760 drugstores in 23 states.
    Federal law defines which hourly employees are entitled to overtime and which managers and professions are salaried and exempt from overtime.
    The chain contends thousands of its lab managers and supervisors are salaried.
    The lawsuit says managers and supervisors must sign a "fluctuating work week" agreement when they take the job. It says they will be paid a base salary if they work fewer than 40 hours a week. But if they work more than that, they are paid for no more than 40 hours.
    [Heads, we win; tails, you lose.]
    The suit claims Eckerd should be paying the lab managers time and a half for each hour over 40. It also says Eckerd didn't consistently follow its "fluctuating work week" policy. Some lab managers say they were paid for less than 40 hours a week if they did not work that many hours. Others say the chain flouted the law by routinely ordering them to work far more than 40 hours a week.
    Steele has yet to certify the class, the most critical early step in a class-action lawsuit.
    He ordered Eckerd to provide lists of current and former lab managers and supervisors for a mailing that would allow them to join the case as well.
    Eckerd attorneys argued that the company followed the law and that the plaintiffs offered insufficient proof that it did not.
    [A less-than-ideal implementation but the very first one where we've seen the spontaneous use of the concept of a fluctuating workweek.]

  3. State's ranchers ask: What's the beef? - Their younger, grass-fed cattle not at risk, they say, by Raine & Gathright & Seligman, San Francisco Chronicle, front page.
    CALIFORNIA - Players in the California beef industry, which provides the state with its 10th-largest export, met the news of the country's first suspected case of mad cow disease Wednesday with a mix of anxiety and defensiveness. Ranchers hurried to set themselves apart from the dairy farm where the infected Holstein was found in Washington state and said they hoped consumers would not overreact to the scare.
    For one thing, ranchers said, their animals are younger and healthier than the 4½-year-old Holstein at the time of its slaughter, and many are raised on an organic or free-range diet. The Holstein that preliminary tests showed was infected with mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was raised on feed, which researchers say was the likely source of the suspected disease. At Harris Ranch Beef Co. in Selma (Fresno County), the West Coast's largest beef supplier, spokesman Bruce Berden said cattle are typically slaughtered at 14-16 months of age and are not at risk for the disease. "If that message is conveyed to our trading partners, and if our government communicates that message and provides assurances, we think the restrictions, the bans, will be rather short-lived,'' he said.
    The company has a lot riding on that bet: It exports between 6m and 7m pounds of beef per year, processing 750 head of cattle per day during a five- or six-day workweek.
    [6-day workweek in the beef industry? Is this chronic or seasonal? Do employees get overtime premium pay?]
    Like the rest of California's beef industry, Harris' largest customers, Berden said, are Japan and South Korea, two countries that have halted shipments pending further tests to confirm mad cow disease. In 2002, California's beef export market was $71m in Japan and $38m in South Korea. Beef and beef product exports in total were valued at $168m in 2002, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation.
    Ranchers have been getting quite good prices recently, said Ben Higgins, executive vice president of the California Cattlemen's Association, but the damage is already being felt from the scare....

  4. Agrium workers can apply for help, IdahoStatesman.com [ID].
    IDAHO - About 45 laid-off or reduced-hours workers from Agrium Inc. Conda Phosphate Operations in Soda Springs are eligible to apply for assistance and benefits under the Trade Act of 1974 and the Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
    The certification covers the period back to Oct. 24, 2002. Workers laid off or reduced to part-time work during this time may be eligible for extra benefits and services.
    The firm was closed in October as the work moved overseas.
    After they are certified as eligible, workers may apply for benefits at a state employment service office.

  5. Values eroding in a world of turmoil, church heads warn, by Malcolm Brown & Matthew Thompson, Sydney Morning Herald [Australia].
    AUSTRALIA - Longer work hours, family dysfunction, rampant materialism and the Federal Government's attitude to illegal immigrants are just some of the issues eroding Australia's social fabric, religious leaders say.
    As about 2500 worshippers fanned away the noon heat at a solemn Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, said the free-market scramble was "hostile to children", with parents working ever longer and having fewer offspring.
    [Apparently the Australian RC hierarchy doesn't yet "get" the value of having fewer offspring in an overpopulated world. That short-sighted desire for more parishioners overrides.]
    He reminded the comfortable of those suffering a "marriage breakdown, long-term family bitterness, difficult teenagers" and other such woes.
    And while his Christmas homily focused on the joy of Christ's birth, he also told the Herald that while "the poor are not becoming poorer, more are slipping from the middle class, and the distance between the battlers and the super-rich is becoming greater".
    Nor was he alone in worrying about the social fabric - in a Herald survey of religious leaders, many warned of work's toll on the values of love and sacrifice.
    The Australasian president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kenneth Johnson, said "in this materialistic time of larger homes and smaller families, too often we have lost sight of the values needed to sustain a vital and healthy nation".
    The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, said good relationships, with each other and God, were the source of wellbeing: "wealth and prosperity are not enough".
    But some spiritual heads questioned our close relationship with the US.
    The imam of the Lakemba mosque, Sheik Taj el-Din Al Hilaly, said Australia "would have remained the prettiest lady in the world" had it not become tied to "a power that is detested by the people of the world".
    ["The gift o' God, the gift tae gae us, is tae see airsels as ithers see us."]
    The chairman of the Buddhist Council of NSW, Graeme Lyall, said Australia's future lies, on the one hand, in "forming closer relationships with the Asian countries" and on the other in curbing the influence of the US, "a country that has a history of violence"....
    The president of the Baptist Union of Australia, the Reverend Tim Costello, said fighting terrorism without equally targeting poverty was fruitless. "You don't beat malaria by killing mosquitoes - you do it by draining swamps."...
    [Good point, but maybe this metaphor needs some environmental updating, now that we appreciate the ecological importance of wetlands (erstwhile, "swamps").

  6. A difficult year marked by slight hope - Record losses at German blue chips, but restructuring and rationalization begin to show their effect, Frankfurter Allgemeine [Germany].
    [Huh? The only effect that 'restructuring' or 'rationalization' in terms of downsizing the workforce can have is further downsizing of the consumer base and weakening of the economy. Thus the only up motion on stocks is going to be of the bubble persuasion. Anyhoo, mirabile dictu, here's a full year of monthly wraps on the German economy from a German newspaper, in English, sort of. Might as well include it all to see how much our media have missed.]
    GERMANY -
    january
    Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement issues a special ministerial permit to allow the takeover of Ruhrgas, Germany's main natural gas supplier, by Eon, one of Germany's two dominant electric utilities. The ministerial intervention overrules the Federal Cartel Office, which had warned against impaired competition both in the electricity and gas markets.
    february
    The stock market collapse, record insolvencies and belated restructuring and rationalization efforts have plunged German banks into a crisis. Commerzbank and Hypo-Vereinsbank both post the first annual losses in their corporate history. Experts predict drastic sectoral consolidation.
    march
    At 4.7m, unemployment reaches the third-highest level since unification. The jobless rate stands at 11.3%. Dresdner Bank Chairman Bernd Fahrholz is sent packing as parent company Allianz publishes the first annual loss in its corporate history for 2002, with Dresdner being the biggest burden. Deutsche Telekom posts a record loss of Euro24.6B for fiscal 2002, the highest loss ever posted by a German company. Wella's founding family agrees to sell the world's second-largest maker of hair-grooming products to Procter & Gamble. The Bundestag decides to extend shop opening hours to 8 p.m. on Saturdays. The new regulation will take force on June 1.
    april
    In their spring forecast, Germany's leading economic institutes project economic growth of 0.5% for 2003, revising downward their earlier forecast of 1.4%. The six thinktanks expect the German deficit to reach 3.4%, exceeding the limit of the euro-zone Stability and Growth Pact. The government remains optimistic and issues only a slight downward revision of its growth forecast to 0.75% from 1%. Germany's most powerful industrial union, IG Metall, reshuffles its leadership. In a surprise move, the board nominates deputy head Jürgen Peters, a hardliner and ardent defender of Germany's extensive system of worker protection, as the successor to Klaus Zwickel. Frankfurt airport operator Fraport cancels its dividend and discloses a net loss of Euro120m for 2002 after writing off an ill-starred airport project in Manila launched in partnership with business cronies of the discredited former ruler of the Philippines.
    may
    The German economy slipped into recession in the first quarter of 2003. Finance Minister Hans Eichel publicly abandons his longtime goal of balancing the federal budget by 2006. The level of management pay in Germany becomes a subject of public debate. Federal Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries of the Social Democratic Party demands the disclosure of individual board member salaries to improve investor protection. WestLB posts a record loss for its 2002 business year after admitting that it had to increase risk provisions for its London project-financing arm over a risky deal with British television and radio leasing company Boxclever.
    june
    Deutsche Börse closes the badly tainted Neuer Markt segment for young and supposedly fast-growing companies. A new, untarnished Tecdax index now serves as the benchmark for investors in stocks that would have been called 'new economy' a few years ago. The collapse of life insurer Mannheimer Lebensversicherung becomes a first test of sectoral rescue company Protektor, which takes over all 345,000 contracts. West LB's multi-billion loss causes heads to roll. Public prosecutors investigate both its London group and several managers. Chairman Jürgen Sengera steps down, making way for interim Chairman Johannes Ringel. Robert Bosch acquires a majority of heating equipment maker Buderus, making Bosch the European market leader in this segment. Quelle becomes the first German mail-order company to sell cars over the Internet. After four weeks of industrial action, IG Metall boss Klaus Zwickel calls off the metalworkers' strike for a 35-hour workweek in eastern Germany and declares the failure of collective bargaining negotiations. As many as 10,000 eastern metalworkers had striked [Sie muessen "struck" brauchen!], temporarily stalling production at BMW and Volkswagen in the west.
    [Klaus Zwickel wimped out on the most important change in Germany all year. Was fuer ein Schnitzel!]
    july
    Amid heavy infighting within the IG Metal industrial union, outgoing union boss Klaus Zwickel indirectly demands the withdrawal of his deputy Jürgen Peters. Zwickel steps down on July 21 [just in time to avoid scandal, as it turned out]. The union board decides on a dual leadership of Peters and the more moderate Berthold Huber to reflect the counter-movements within the union.
    august
    After months of haggling over a bid for Germany's biggest television group, Pro Sieben Sat.1, U.S. billionaire Haim Saban pays Euro1B for the jewel in deposed media mogul Leo Kirch's crown. For the first time since private companies were allowed to enter the German TV market in the mid-1980's, a foreign investor is getting a foot in the door. The deal gives Saban more than 40% of the German private television audience. [Dumb dumb dumb.] Finance Minister Hans Eichel reports a deficit of 3.8% of GDP to Brussels, making 2003 the second consecutive year in which Germany breaches the 3% limit set by the euro-zone Stability and Growth Pact. Public prosecutors in Bonn announce a partial end to more than three years of investigations into Deutsche Telekom managers on allegations of investment fraud. About 15,000 shareholders had sued the ex-monopolist for damages over the alleged failure to disclose risks in issue prospectuses.
    september
    For the first time in postwar Germany, the head of a major bank is being tried for “a particularly severe case of breach of trust.“ The state court in Düsseldorf approves criminal proceedings against Deutsche Bank Chairman Josef Ackermann and former IG Metall union boss Klaus Zwickel, both members of the supervisory board of former Mannesmann, over their role in generous severance payments awarded to high-ranking Mannesmann officials when they agreed to drop resistance to Vodafone's Euro175B hostile bid in 2000.
    [So lacking principles, Zwickel blows with the winds, however corrupting.]
    The trial will keep the courts busy in 2004. In a surprise deal, the Holtzbrinck publishing group sells the red-lining Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel to former Holtzbrinck manager Pierre Gerckens. The deal raises suspicions that Holtzbrinck is trying to buy time until the government makes proposed changes to media takeover laws which could make it easier for the publishing group to merge two of its newspapers.
    october
    In their autumn forecast, Germany's six leading economic institutes [same as the "six thinktanks" above?] lower their growth projection again. The economic experts project zero growth for 2003 and maintain their forecast of 1.8% for 2004. Johannes Ringel, interim chairman of embattled WestLB, throws in the towel. The former Deutsche Bank manager Thomas Fischer becomes the bank's new chairman. Fischer is determined to rein in the ambitious risk-taking that was part of the bank's strategy under former Chairman Jürgen Sengera. Charter airline Aero Lloyd declares insolvency [caught on 10/17/2003 #6] after shareholder Bayerische Landesbank rejects its restructuring plan. Tour operators have to provide additional aircraft to transport 8,500 grounded tourists. After years of takeover speculation, Allianz announces on October 23 that it is selling its 40% stake in cosmetics producer Beiersdorf to a consortium led by retailer Tchibo, leaving U.S. bidder Procter & Gamble on the sidelines.
    november
    The German economy shakes off recession [yeah sure]. Europe's weightiest economy grows by a real 0.2% in the third quarter after three consecutive quarters of shrinkage. GDP has to grow by at least 0.4% to prevent the first full year of economic contraction since 1993. Growth is still driven mostly by foreign demand for German products [time to rebuild domestic consumer base with unemployment-driven workweek reduction and employment spreading!]. The government decides to introduce legal sanctions for companies that do not offer apprenticeships under Germany's vocational training system from July 2004.
    [Apprenticeships are too ponderous and inflexible. Germany needs nimble overtime- (and overwork-) driven training programs.]
    A decision by EU finance ministers to suspend the deficit proceedings against Germany and France [calls into] question...the credibility of the euro-zone Stability & Growth Pact. Without threatening legal sanctions, the ministers demand that both governments reinforce their austerity measures.
    [= suicide. All they need to do is maximize their domestic consumer markets by centrifuging the national income with timesizing, while permanently removing all sales taxes and temporarily increasing graduated income taxes. (Long term tax policy requires greater accountability of conversion to computer-supported specific fees for specific services. How much do you use the roads? You pay your specific small proportion of road maintenance.)]
    Both countries' deficits will breach the stability threshold of 3% of GDP for the third consecutive year in 2004. The German government's net borrowing reaches a post-war record of Euro43.4B.
    [Get government out of the financial industry. Raise graduated income taxes and retire the national debt.]
    The euro crosses the $1.20 level on Nov. 28. Despite an annualized growth rate of 8.2%, the United States cannot get its current account deficit under control.
    [Forget about guidance from the US as neo-con usurpers push US economy rapidly downward - into the Third World - by pushing the US national income rapidly upward - into the sluggish top brackets.]
    december
    Start of court proceedings in the damages suit over the merger of Daimler and Chrysler, launched by U.S. investor and billionaire Kirk Kerkorian who argues that the two companies' [merger] was not a merger of equals, but a takeover.
    [And guess what else, Kirk, there's no Santa Claus either.]
    Corporate insolvencies [in Germany or worldwide? probably both] reached a record high in 2003 amid a sustained economic lull and an insufficient capital base at many small and medium-sized companies. More than 600,000 jobs [in Germany!] may be lost as a result. The euro reaches a new record high in late December. Observers expect the dollar weakness to persist.
    [So however suicidal Europe is, at least it's still just cannibalizing itself slowly like the US under Clinton's "centrism". Meanwhile, the US economy under Bush's radical extremism is cannibalizing itself rapidly and will soon be no greater threat than Russia with all its warehoused missiles. (oh oh)]

  7. Law and human rights: Building a protective environment for children (continues from last week), by Mrs. Maryam Uwais, Vanguard [Nigeria].
    NIGERIA -
    Survival and well-being
    ...The twin pandemics of HIV/AIDS and malaria that are currently at the centre of governmental eradication efforts are commendable, but other areas also need to be strengthened, including the provision of safe water, hygiene and sanitation, a sustainable environment, maternal mortality and morbidity, etc., because these are also essential to the survival of the Nigerian child. There is an alarming growth rate of orphans in our country presently; as a result of the pandemics aforementioned, internal conflicts and other related concerns.
    Most regrettably, the traditional system of extended family care is fast eroding mainly because of the overwhelming poverty in our communities. Concerted action needs to be taken by all of us (government and the civil society, especially) to address this syndrome....
    Poverty; child labour and trafficking
    The abject living conditions of too many of our citizens have led to several distortions in the lives of children in communities and the society, generally. Poverty, alone, has led directly to the sad but growing incidence of child labour, street hawking and even more dangerous, the menace of child trafficking. Demands for cheap labour have been mounting in our rapidly urbanizing and industrializing world. Parents and families, in a bid to survive, are increasingly trading off their young to middlemen and women, in exchange for meager returns.
    Child labour has become so common in our lives, it has become ‘invisible’ to the ordinary eye. The practice is conducted behind closed doors and compounded by the fact that domestic work remains unregistered in our urban areas. Most urban families employ the services of the young in their homes, which children may indeed be poor relations from the villages, and whose immediate families view their labour years as affording these children a better opportunity in life than if they were to remain in the rural communities. The depressing reality is, however, that the child is but merely the outcome of a transaction in which the traded commodity is the child’s labour, while the wellbeing of the child itself is the furthest consideration in the entire transaction. Such a child may be subjected to potentially physical, sexual and emotional abuse, long working hours coupled with low rewards, in tasks that could well be hazardous and adverse to their physical and mental health. Removed from familiar faces and surroundings, this illiterate child cannot communicate, having no capacity for self-expression and remains vulnerable to overwork, neglect and exploitation. Such a child is lonely, isolated, lacks love and affection and developmental opportunities, so other deprivations naturally ensue. He [or 'it', as above] exists solely at the whim of the employer and may be [have a] withdrawn [personality], being fearful of being punished or being rendered jobless.
    Without a doubt, any policy or law designed to curtail this distressing phenomenon in our lives would have to take into consideration the economic contribution such labour makes to families struggling to survive. Child labour needs to be made ‘visible’ without introducing distortions that would only serve to impact negatively on the affected populace. It would be necessary to enlist and not alienate the employers to enable them open their doors to the children in their employ, so as to persuade them to give their ‘labourers’ time off for education or skill acquisition, leisure and some measure of social life with peers and friends, alike, thereby empowering them for a productive ‘after labour’ life. States and local governments should begin to provide venues and trained personnel, at which opportunities for vocational training and skill acquisition are made available for those children who are permitted by their sympathetic employers to improve themselves and develop further competencies. Such provision would also enable them make friends and afford them the opportunity for recreation.
    With child trafficking, experts have identified inadequate legislation, ignorance of the law, poor law enforcement, porous borders and shortage of resources as the major factors contributing to this regrettable, thriving industry, especially in West Africa. While positive strides have been made in the field of legislation against trafficking in children by bodies such as WOTCLEF, so much more still needs to be done in respect of general awareness of the ills and dangers this phenomenon portends for our future by government and civil society. Government also needs to strengthen the capacity of the police and immigration officials, whose duty it is to curtail these unhappy trends and also make more efforts towards tightening our borders. Mention should be made of a notable initiative, whereby a special unit has been carved out (within the Nigeria Police Service) and is being trained specifically for the purposes of confronting this ugly dimension in respect of our young. The bottom line, as in all developing countries, however, is for the Government to focus and prioritize particularly on the reduction and eradication of poverty in our country.
    Street children, including the ‘almajiri’ (beggars) and ‘area boys’ (youth, largely uneducated with no visible means of employment that virtually live on our highways) are a tragic reminder to our government of the suffering of its citizens. These children also constitute a danger to the society, as they comprise a ready ‘army’ to co-opt in times of riots, robbery, arson and violence. Government certainly neglects them at its own peril. Another group of children in need of special protection measures are those that have been displaced internally, as a consequence of communal conflicts, rioting, and other increasingly common aberrations in the public sphere. While the UN has designed mechanisms to immediately capture and address the needs of cross-border refugees, very little has been done for those women and children who have been displaced from their familiar surroundings as a corollary to local conflicts that erupt every now and again in our communities. This category of children is deprived of health care, education, family care and all forms of protection, which are constitutionally guaranteed rights to be enjoyed by all citizens, irrespective of station in life. Government needs to do much more, with the support of the civil society and well-meaning individuals, to address the concerns of these vulnerable groups in our communities. Although there do exist several bodies and non-governmental agencies that are working commendably in this field, experience has shown that many of them are vulnerable and lack sustainability, that their long term strategies are virtually absent and the sharing of experiences or institutional learning, which is invaluable in areas such as these, are not too evident. This fragmentation has proved to be time consuming and financial constraints have only compounded these problems. Concerted efforts need to be made by the actors in this area to coordinate their activities and focus on resolving this problem more holistically.
    Whatever steps need to be taken to curtail these trends have to be viewed within the contexts of life styles, belief systems, poverty and employment patterns. A thorough analysis of these problems should be grounded in the socio-cultural and economic settings of the exigencies of a developing nation, while intervention programs for skill acquisition, vocational training and counseling services should be introduced, to fill those gaps that may be created by the removal of this means of sustenance to a large majority of our rural poor. The efforts by government at poverty eradication should focus on equipping people with essential life-skills to enable them cater for themselves and become self-sufficient, rather than increasing benefits to poor families, which only reinforces the culture of dependency of the poor on the more affluent amongst them.
    Participatory rights
    The right of a child to be treated as a person is crucial to the recognition for the child’s identity, personality, survival and development. Many of these rights however threaten the traditional adult-child relations, which include the right to express an opinion, access to information, etc. In view of the need to strike a balance between adverse traditional attitudes, cultural practicalities and radical proposals for the empowerment of children, these rights should necessarily be limited to issues that directly affect children. Where a child has been deprived of the rights to know and be cared for by his parents, to preserve his identity, name and family relations (which form the bedrock of a child’s confidence and self-worth) and to a voice (in matters concerning him), this deprivation is known to have led to emotional disorders, the loss of self esteem, the lack of trust in others, the inability to form lasting relationships, anxiety, depression, lack of parenting skills, etc. We must begin to acknowledge and ascertain the feelings of children, and to value, respect and consider them in matters pertaining to them. The empowerment of the child with dignity, confidence, private and family life (being the fundamental unit of society), self-worth and self-esteem must be at the cornerstone of our discourse and decision-making. Children can be competent, rational social actors in their own right and parental care, maintenance and guidance should begin to reflect their needs and concerns, also....
    Conclusion
    The Childrens Act, 2003, has been passed at federal level but what remains is for same to be promulgated into law in the different states, with as few modifications to the original format as possible. As much publicity as is possible needs to be afforded the contents of this Act and the government and civil society actors should seize the challenge of creating the awareness that is necessary for children to be able to enforce the rights contained, therein. It may take some time for its provisions and the message behind it to impact on the development of law, policy and practice but the fact of its existence as Law should go some distance in relaxing and altering public and political attitudes to the manner in which children are regarded and treated in our society. The best interests of the child principle must be reflected in legislation and policy on health and education, and in all facets of our public life. As parents and carers in whose custody our children lie, the incidents of violence in the home and around us must be consciously watched and contained, as children, like sponges, soak up the happenings in their surroundings. We cannot continue to contribute (albeit inadvertently) to the perception that aggression, as opposed to mediation and conciliation, is an option for the settling of disputes and disagreements.
    Much remains to be done by all of us who feel passionately for the progress and development of Nigeria, in terms of how our children are provided for and protected by all those whose responsibility it is to cater for them. It must be emphasized, however, that while everyone; Government, society, family, parent and the children themselves; has a vital role to play in ensuring that children are protected in our environment, complacency remains the biggest threat to the protection of children and their rights in Nigeria. We must all, without exception, remain vigilant in these efforts to ensure and assure our future as a progressive, self-sufficient nation, for without the hope that would derive from ample ‘investment’ in our children, we have absolutely nothing to look forward to.
    I thank you for listening.

12/25/2003   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 12/24 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled - 12/24/2003   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 12/23 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #3 is from the 12/24 WSJ hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. Unpaid overtime is way of life, by Terrie Lloyd, Japan Today.
    Terrie Lloyd is the founder of DaiJob, Inc. He also writes a weekly newsletter for entrepreneurs and business people about business and political opportunities in Japan. You can find the newsletter at www.terrie.com.
    JAPAN - Everyone knows that the Japanese as a nation are workaholics — it's been like that for decades. Surely you knew at least this one fact about Japan before you came here, so although you do have rights, you will surely be upsetting the apple cart if you start complaining about working too many hours and you're working less than 40 hours overtime a month. Instead, it helps to understand the rules and standards, so that you can get the most out of the working time that you do put in.
    First a little background. Although the official base working week is 40 hours (48 hours for some professions), in actual fact, most Japanese companies expect their people to put in at least another 20 hours a month in unpaid overtime. This number comes from the expectation that people will arrive at work 20-30 minutes early, to prepare for the working day, and leave 30-40 minutes after the official quitting time to clean up and take care of last minute issues. As there are about 22 days in the average work month, that adds up to 20+ hours.
    Although companies cannot legally force you to work even these extra 20 hours a month, in fact the reality is that if you want the job, you're probably going to have to get used to this requirement. It's the norm for Japanese employees at 99% of firms, and you should know by now that in Japan you either fit in with the "norm" or can expect dismissal for "not being able to fit in."
    At least with smaller companies, if you do work these extra hours, then you have a better chance of promotion (higher pay) and gaining a reputation as being reliable — an important factor when you start asking for time off to go home at the end of the year, or for sickness, etc.
    "Quitting time is when work is done" [our quotes]
    [Regardless of how poorly the work is organized and delegated?]
    At what point should unpaid overtime be considered payable? Clearly it depends on your company and your willingness to pursue your rights under the law. For smaller, very Japanese firms, and especially IT and software firms, the quitting time is when the work is done. So it's not unusual for employees of such companies to stay back until midnight or later. Needless to say, the staff turnover of such firms is also very high, as people start to wear out from the harsh schedule.
    In larger companies, quitting time is unofficially when the "bucho" packs up for the evening. In most companies this is around 8 pm or 9 pm. People leaving before the boss know that they are jeopardizing their promotion chances. Furthermore, due to the ongoing recession, most companies require their employees to get permission before working overtime, which requires a level of temerity that most Japanese employees don't have — therefore they tend to work the extra hours unpaid. As a foreigner, however, so long as you get a signature on a memo authorizing the overtime, your company will pay it, or suffer the legal consequences.
    In either size company, they have the legal right to expect you to come in a bit earlier than starting time and finish a few minutes (usually 15-30 minutes...) after you finish your formal hours. For this reason, many companies don't consider the first 30-60 minutes after the end of the official day as real overtime and don't expect to pay for it. Time after this, however, is overtime in most people's definition, and the issue is usually just one of whether you're allowed/required to work that time and get paid for it.
    In addition, the law allows for a company to ask employees to work longer or irregular hours if unusual or difficult business circumstances warrant it. Basically the Japanese legal code considers a healthy economy and full employment to be more important than the occasional transgression [chronic isn't 'occasional'] of the employment law [ironic that it's exactly that transgression that's starving their consumer base and sickening their economy] and thus has plenty of exceptions for employers to operate under — so long, that is, that the overtime being required is not injurious to one's health. As mentioned previously, whenever the company asks you formally to work [overtime], then they are supposed to pay — or if the work rules provide for it, then at least give you time off in lieu.
    What is too much overtime?
    The official definition of "too much" overtime, is probably the measure for making "karoshi" (death through overwork) claims in the Japanese courts, which recently have pegged the basis for a claim at around 100 hours overtime in the month preceding a death of an otherwise healthy person, or 80 hours a month for 2-6 months preceding the person's death. So if you're being asked to work this level of overtime, then be careful — people die from that.
    Employers do have the right to require you to work overtime in times of financial adversity and other special circumstances. Another situation where you may have to work overtime is when you have agreed to a specific contract with the employer that allows it.
    There are three levels of worker protection in Japan: the Labor Law, which as we mentioned has a variety of let-out clauses for employers, the Company Work Rules, and your personal Work Contract. If either the Work Rules or your Contract allow for you to work required overtime, then the employer is within their rights to ask you to do so — be sure to read your contracts properly.
    Of course if your contract specifies different conditions, or if you are a contractor or part-timer, then these rates may not apply to you, but under normal conditions, overtime is paid as follows: What if you are being unfairly taken advantage of and you want to take action?
    1. Ask yourself if you really want the job, because I can almost guarantee that you'll be made "redundant." Yes, it's not fair, but most companies are under financial pressure and unlikely to want to have someone set a precedent, which will significantly drive up their costs.
    2. Be sure that you are not considered a manager or salaried worker — which people on individual contracts often are. In such cases, companies can argue that as a manager you are expected to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. The law will still be on your side, but winning a claim will be a lot harder.
    3. The body that is meant to protect you — the Labor Standards Office — is being flooded with similar and much worse claims of abuse, so the amount of effort and mind-share that you are likely to get from them will be reduced. Most likely you will be asked by the authorities to try to negotiate a settlement, and if that doesn't succeed then you may be able to get them in to arbitrate.
    There is a Labor Standards Office in every city and they will normally provide you with at least an interpreter, or a local union. Be sure to keep records of your approved or mandated overtime and any correspondence with the company.
    Also, if you've been having health problems due to your work schedule, keep a record of doctor's visits, etc, especially if the amount of overtime is starting to approach eight hours a day. You must have been seen to want to negotiate with the company in good faith before going to the authorities, so make sure you do this as Japanese put a lot of importance on being seen to do the right thing.

  2. [Also in Britain -]
    "British workers too tired to enjoy family life" Amicus survey says, UK Press Release via PRNEwswire.
    LONDON...- As Christmas approaches the imagery of spending quality time with your family and loved ones pops into many people's heads. However, a recent Amicus survey shows that 57% of respondents says that long working hours mean they are too tired to properly enjoy time off with their family.
    The working time survey covers over 3,000 workers in the NHS, Manufacturing and Financial Services Sectors of Amicus and also shows that in addition to long working hours 35% spend 5 hours commuting to and from work a day.
    The effects on family life of long working hours and long commuting time is quite staggering with The survey also shows that on average the respondents work a 40.59 hour working week, this is below the Labour Force Survey average of 43.6 hours for UK workers.
    However, the Amicus survey average is still well above the average figures for our main competitors in Germany 39.3 hours and France 38.6 hours with UK workers working the longest hours in Europe 43.65 and Belgium workers working the shortest average hours of 38.5 hours per week.
    Derek Simpson, Amicus General Secretary said, "Our survey shows that long working hours and long commuting time to and from work quite clearly take their toll on family life.... Christmas is supposed to be a time for the family, a time to enjoy good food good company and Christmas cheer, this is very difficult to do if like the 57% in our survey you are too tired because of excessive working hours."
    "The long working hours culture of the present day echoes the Dickensian gloom of Ebeneezer Scrooge grudgingly letting Bob Cratchet spend time with his family on Christmas Day. This culture has got to be changed to allow people time to work and time to enjoy the fruits of their labour."

  3. [Now cometh two Univ. of Texas 'economists' to dispute these findings "worldwide" based on countries not focused on in story #1 above or mentioned in story #2's list - except Germany -]
    Wealthy most likely to whine in time, Dow Jones via WSJ, D2.
    NEW YORK - Wealth and whining go hand in hand when it comes to feeling pressed for time, a new economic study finds.
    [Especially if you've got wealth and you don't have to work for it, you've got to appear fantastically busy to justify your lack of strings. Btw, this sounds more like sociology than economics and more like a propaganda piece than a study.]
    Two Univ. of Texas economists took a mathematical approach to work, chores and stress to see whether couples in industrialized nations are truly strapped for time, or simply more likely to complain about it.
    [Sounds like a covert attack on Take Back Your Time Day by a couple of guys who want to justify the status quo, and have been pretty sheltered from the downside of it.]
    Their analysis [not surprisingly, given their goals] 'found' [our quotes] that "yuppie kvetching" may be the leading culprit.
    "The 'results' [our quotes] suggest that at least some of the concern about a time crunch may be misplaced:
    ['Some' of every black surface is white, too - an infinitesimal 'some'.]
    Complaints about insufficient time come disproportionately from higher full-income families,
    [If they polled any others - always a serious question on studies dba self-fulfilling prophecies - there may possibly be a factor of differing expectations, a la "princess and the pea," between lower and higher full-income families - and btw, what the heck is a "full-income family"? This may be the artificial term they've injected to exclude families that don't support the a-priori hypothesis they set out to prove.]
    write economists Daniel Hamermesh and Jungmin Lee, in a paper published recently by the National Bureau of Economic 'Research' [our quotes].
    [Hey, at least we've got them talking about the issue. It gets murkier -]
    More work generally leads to more stress, but so does more money , the economists said.
    [This may be true if and only if you get a pile of money all at once like hitting the lottery - "Lottery winners often struggle to handle newfound wealth and fame, and many become tied up in lawsuits or estranged from family and friends. One study found that instant millionaires have about the same level of happiness as recent accident victims." according to "A lotter winner's blues - Year after winning, he [Jack Whittaker of WV] counsels caution," by Gavin McCormick, AP via 12/25/2003 Boston Globe, A10.]
    This finding held across borders, they said, citing data from Australia, Canada, Germany, South Korea and the U.S.
    [So "poor people of the world, rejoice - you may be starving but you don't have any more stress than the rich cuz we've TOLD you so." Let's get back to the time issue -]
    Perceived time stress was most prevalent among wives working outside the home,
    [So "us guys can ignore it - just a silly sissy-girly thing." "And any of you ungrateful wimps who have too much to do in the wake of corporate downsizing, start complaining in falsetto! You're lucky to still have a job! (Next round we'll change that for sure.)"]
    but the economists said it is hard to quantify gender differences. They speculated women may have more different kinds of responsibilities [and expectations!], [no-o-o kidding!]
    or take on a managerial role that increases their anxiety levels.
    ["They're sooo emotional (and irrational and hypochondriacal)."]
    However, the economists weren't too sympathetic to the subjective discomfort.
    [Rightwing apologists for the status quo never are - if they've never experienced it, it's not reality.]
    Messrs. Hamermesh and Lee said time-related anxiety is real,
    [= the meaningless admission before the devastating putdown]
    but a far-from-compelling source of woe.
    [Certainly as far as they're concerned, which judging from their hypothesis going in, isn't very far. Like most apologists for the status quo, however unbalanced, who yap incessantly about "freedom," they have somehow missed the glaringly obvious point that the most basic kind of freedom is free time.]
    "In a world in which sympathy is scarce, it seems reasonable to argue that the time crunch ... may have a smaller claim on public sympathy than poverty," the study said.
    [Never mind that will simply create unstable and unsustainable dependency. And never mind the contradictory evidence of the two preceding articles on overwork in Britain - of course, Britain doth not appear on the list provided to prove Hamermesh & Lee Inc's study applied worldwide. The study sounds pretty suspect - else why wouldn't the WSJ give it bigger play? Presumably Dow Jones did - if in fact DJ didn't actually commission it.]

12/23/2003   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 12/22 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #1 is from the 12/23 WSJ hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. Some business leaders who made a stand over the past year, by Carol Hymowitz, WSJ, B1.
    ...Pernille Spiers-Lopez, president of Ikea North America, believes that addressing employees' lifestyle concerns isn't just a nice thing to do, but the best way to build a productive and committed workforce. The Denmark-born executive catapulted up the ranks of the furniture retailer while married and raising two children. She has drawn on that experience to press for family-friendly policies for everyone at work.
    When she first joined Ikea's senior management team a few years ago, she was the only woman in the group. She told her male colleagues, "I don't live the life you live. I don't have a wife at home, somebody taking care of my dry cleaning and making me dinner."
    Since she became president of the chain's North American division two years ago, the number of women on the management board of the North American business has increased to five from one, and close to 50% of the company's top earners now are women.
    On her watch, Ikea also As a result, annual sales-staff turnover is down to 56%, from 76% two years ago. That should aid Ms. Spiers-Lopez's plans to open 41 more Ikea stores by 2010....

  2. Sharing jobs: Teachers team up instead of leaving, by Diane Stepp, Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
    ATLANTA - It's Wednesday and Arnold Mill Elementary School sixth-grade teachers Beth Fowler and Sonya Turner are tagging up before changing roles of stay-at-home mom and teacher. Over burritos in the faculty lounge of the Cherokee County school, Fowler is giving Turner a quick update on what's going on in their shared classroom that day. The pair of veteran teachers have been in constant contact all week. Each has the other's number on speed dial. They e-mail daily on everything from classroom projects and homework assignments to faculty meetings and parent permission slips. Fowler drills language arts and social studies the first part of the week while Turner is home doing laundry and researching lesson plans on the Internet as she prepares to take over the class at midweek. Fowler is headed home as Turner takes charge. When the kids return from lunch the switch is in place.
    It's a seamless transition.
    Fowler and Turner are part of a growing trend across the nation as school districts take a page from corporate America in an effort to plug the teacher shortage and retain top talent. Teacher job sharing has been around for a while but has experienced a resurgence in the past few years, said Richard Benjamin, former Cobb County superintendent who brought the idea with him from his former posts in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Nashville. "I'm a big fan of teacher job-sharing. It draws some very talented people into the pool that don't want to make a full-time commitment, especially women who are rearing children," said Benjamin, executive in residence in charge of special initiatives at Kennesaw State University and a private education consultant.
    Metro Atlanta districts such as Cobb, Gwinnett and DeKalb counties, to name a few, also have jumped on the job-sharing bandwagon. In its first year, eight teachers job shared in Cherokee in 2000, compared to 60 this year. "I'm absolutely ecstatic over its success," said Cherokee County Superintendent Frank Petruzielo. "It was a good stroke for us. The bottom line is we get to keep highly competent, experienced teachers rather than having them hit the street or go into a different career."
    Job sharing has allowed Fowler and Turner to spend time with their families without having to give up their careers. "It kept me from quitting," said Fowler, who has 16 years' experience.
    Principal Georgeann Toop matched the pair, who interviewed each other to make sure their personalities and teaching styles meshed before signing on. "Neither one of us are lecturers," said Fowler. "You can't be a control freak and make this work," she added.
    Turner agreed that flexibility and constant communication is essential. But sharing a classroom does have its challenges, they said. "Kids will test you at first, trying to play one of us off against the other saying, 'Ms. Fowler said we didn't have to do that,'" said Turner. Then she hits speed dial and her partner is on the line to set the matter straight. "They learn pretty quick that we act as one."
    This is Fowler's third year job-sharing. Her former partners returned to full-time positions.
    Petruzielo said that's not unusual. "This [job sharing] is typically not a permanent model, but one that works for people for a year or two, or three," he said. "These are folks who at some point will likely return to the classroom full time."
    The flexibility of job sharing doesn't just benefit teachers. The Cherokee district uses it as a recruiting tool to attract first-year teachers and recent retirees, said assistant superintendent for human resources Janice Prather. A retired, experienced teacher who splits time in the classroom can keep pension benefits.
    Arnold Mill's Toop has overseen as many as three job-sharing teacher partnerships in a single year. "I'd like to have more of them," Toop said, adding that the teachers involved are "fresh and excited to be here because they've slept late or are leaving early. Teacher burnout is real and by the end of the day teachers can get pretty worn out."
    In three years, Toop said, just one parent asked for a single-teacher classroom. Saundra Rueppel, whose daughter Catherine is in the class taught by Fowler and Turner, is a parent who recommends it. "I've been very pleased with the way it's working," she said. "Those two teachers are highly organized and in constant contact with each other."
    Tammy Grummer has two sons who have been in job-share classrooms. "They haven't had any complaints at all and I don't notice a difference in any way," she said.
    Different styles of teaching can keep things interesting. Dylan Ward, a student in the class taught by Fowler and Turner, says he likes having two teachers. "One may do a lecture and the other one gives us activities to do," said Dylan.
    Having two teachers has another benefit, said Vanessa Pedroni. "If one gets in a bad mood, then there will be another teacher soon."

  3. Employee Retention: Flexible Work Arrangements Get Around the Clock Attention, Business Wire.
    CHAPEL HILL, N.C...- With approximately four million Americans changing jobs each month, companies must ensure they offer work situations that retain their most valuable employees. A study by research and consulting firm Best Practices, LLC, reveals how top organizations structure flexible work schedules to complement employees' varying needs.
    [This is the first estimate of volatility in the American job market that we have noticed in our nearly 5 years of newswatching = 4m changes a month.]
    "Employee Retention: Managing the Part-Time Professional," available at http://www3.best-in-class.com/rr313.htm, unveils how elite Fortune 500 companies use flex-time, compressed workweeks, job sharing and telecommuting to accommodate employees...drawn from lessons learned [from] interviews with 22 companies across 13 industries.... For more information about this report or other benchmarking studies, please contact Alicia Main at (919) 403-0251 ext. 242 or amain@best-in-class.com....

  4. Deutsche Telekom board prepared to accept pay cut, by Sapa, Agence France-Presse via Independent Online [South Africa].
    FRANKFURT - Management board members at Deutsche Telekom were prepared to accept a pay cut of at least 10% if 100 000 employees in the group's fixed telephony division did likewise, the German telecommunications giant said yesterday.
    The idea is aimed at persuading the gigantic services sector union Ver.di to accept a wage agreement at the beginning of next year.
    At the end of October, Deutsche Telekom said it would cut the working week of about 100 000 employees at its fixed telephony division to bring down costs. Under that deal, employees would see their working week cut from 38 hours to 34 hours, with a corresponding loss of pay. In addition, Deutsche Telekom is asking unions to accept a "moderate" revaluation of pay in 2004 and also wants to cut personnel training costs. In return, the group would extend a promise not to make any redundancies until the end of 2004.
    As an additional sweetener, executive would see their salaries cut by the same amount as the employees, a spokesperson said.
    Deutsche Telekom's chairman revealed this year that he earned Euros 1.25m (Rands 10.4m) a year, on top of which he also pocketed performance-related bonuses.

  5. Campaign continues to stop Bush cuts in overtime pay, Workday Minnesota.
    WASHINGTON — Labor will use Congress' month-long recess to resume and increase its campaign against President George W. Bush's plan to cut the eligibility of at least 8m workers for overtime pay.
    Unionists got a new chance to campaign when Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle, D-SD, and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, blocked a huge spending measure for half of the government on Dec.9. That left the bill in limbo until Jan.20. The bill funds the Labor Department and other agencies, but it doesn't have a section, passed by both the GOP-run House and the GOP-run Senate, to keep workers eligible for overtime pay.
    That section bans the agency from spending money on Bush's plan, but Bush forced Congress to obey him and dump it. With the bill stalled, labor can campaign to restore the section.
    The delay also left the Labor Department free to sift through more than 80,000 comments on Bush's plan, consider them and then issue a final rule imposing it during the first quarter of 2004, a spokesman said.
    Senate Republicans tried to jam the money bill through without a vote, but one objection would stop it. The House passed the bill on Dec. 8, then quit for the year.
    Bush "wants to shelve the 40-hour workweek and deny workers extra income in uncertain economic times in order to please big business," AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney said. "During the recess, workers will intensify their campaign to defeat the spending bill by contacting" lawmakers "and urging them to reconsider" the overtime issue, he added.

12/20-22/2003   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 12/19-21 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #7-8 are from the 12/20-22 NYT hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. 12/19   Legal-ease - Five-day work week, by Sean Hayes, Korea Herald.
    [This is very similar to a column in Oct. - see 10/18-20/2003 #2 - but at the risk of some overlap, may be different enough to include.]
    Sean Hayes is certified at the NY and CT bars and employed as a constitutional researcher for the Korean Constitutional Court. The article provides legal information to help readers cope with legal needs, but should not be construed as legal advice. Send your questions to www.HayesLaw.org. - Ed. SOUTH KOREA - Dear Sean: I read that the five-day work week legislation passed. What are the basics of this law and will it be effective from Jan. 1?.   'Exhausted in Taegu'
    Dear Exhausted: 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 (300 from July 2005; 100 from July 2006; 50 from July 2007; 20 from July 2008; 20 from before 2011). The new Act changes three main aspects of work for the average employee (i.e. working hours, paid-leave and unused leave).
    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.
    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 rate plus 1/2.
    Paid-Leave: Working hours have been decreased, but the number of days of paid [vacation] have 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 accrued. The new LSA eliminates the one paid leave day for each month of employment.
    The LSA, however, does guarantee current wages of all employees even though working hours have decreased by four hours per week.
    Unused Leave. Under Korean case law a company is required to compensate an employee for unused days. The amended LSA changes this rule and if paid leave is not used by the end of the year and the company takes specific steps to inform the worker of the right to take accrued annual leave no compensation needs to be paid for the unused lease.
    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.

  2. 12/20   Motor Coach Industries: Fewer workers laid off in Winnipeg - Half of Pembina work force to be gone two days before Christmas, by Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald [ND].
    WINNIPEG, Manitoba - While workers at Motor Coach Industries [MCI] in Winnipeg got good news this week about more jobs being retained, half the work force in the Pembina ND bus plant will get laid off two days before Christmas as earlier announced. MCI officials last summer announced that up to 1,275 workers in the Winnipeg plant would get laid off in January to deal with a lagging industry. But Thursday, company officials said only 310 employees would get laid off Jan.5 in Winnipeg. Gov't-subsidized job sharing and early retirement programs and other concessions by workers cut the number of layoffs needed, MCI officials said....
    In Winnipeg, the company worked in recent months with government officials on a work-share program in which MCI pays workers only for four days of work, while the federal government sponsors an insurance program that pays workers in lieu of a fifth day of work.
    "There are [still] a lot of upset workers here, and they have a good reason to be upset," Glenn Tomchak, incoming president of Local 1953 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers told the Winnipeg Free Press this week. "Over the past 18 months, the workers have been beaten and beaten and beaten. There are still a large number of workers who will be getting a layoff notice one week before Christmas, and that's not easy to take."
    But an MCI spokesman said that management and union together saved many jobs, using incentives such as federal job-sharing and early-retirement leaves, giving Winnipeg workers up to 42 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits..\..
    [Unemployment-insurance-assisted worksharing is fully discussed in Fred Best's 1988 book, "Reducing Unemployment to Prevent Layoffs," and it's all very well as a short-term stopgap measure (see next article for more on downside), but governments need to look at the bigger picture and address the economy-dissolving effects on the domestic consumer base that the bunching-up of the national workload is still having. And that means deploying automatic unemployment-offsetting workweek fluctuation and overtime-to-training&hiring conversin, while curtailing outsourcing with tariffs on incoming goods and services. Globalization will only work if you're willing to join the Third World, and even then, keep racing to the bottom - where there is no absolute "bottom" - some other underdeveloped nation can always outdo you in misery.]
    But in Pembina, it's a different story.
    [Because North Dakota is not one of the 18 American states that currently have a worksharing program, which are AR, AZ, CA, CT, FL, IA, KS, MA, MD, MN, MO, NV, NY, OR, RI, TX, VT, WA, plus 3 districts/territories: DC, PR & VI - see 2/11/2003 #1.]
    MCI laid off about 250 workers early in the year, cutting the work force in about half, soon after winning millions in state aid from North Dakota and several communities, including Grand Forks. Last summer, MCI officials said another 100-plus employees would be cut beginning in October. But this fall, MCI postponed more layoffs, saying none would occur in Pembina until the end of December. That's what will happen next week, said company spokeswoman Pat Plodzeen - 127 will be laid off Tuesday and another 11 will be laid off in January. The Pembina plant once employed as many as 800 in the mid-1990s, but has only about 255 now, so the cuts coming Tuesday will again about halve the work force. It will bring the number of workers at the plant to its lowest level since the plant opened in the mid-1960s, said officials of the International Association of Machinists Local Lodge W384.
    'A little depressing'
    The remaining 100 or so assembly line workers all will be veterans, having 18 years or more of experience. Aurelia Bjornstad grew up in Neche, N.D., about 17 miles from Pembina, and moved back some years ago. She's worked at MCI for 12 years. "It would be 13 in April," Bjornstad said. "But I'm one of them getting laid off Tuesday." Not a holly, jolly moment, she said. "It's a little depressing. It's just the wrong time of year." Top pay of about $16 an hour makes MCI jobs some of the best labor in the region, and difficult to match for those laid off. Two of her three adult children live in Fargo, so she likely will move there to go to college, Bjornstad said. Under a state-aided plan for workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition, laid-off MCI workers get college aid if they study in certain areas of needed professions, such as nursing or some computer work, she said. She also will qualify for six months of unemployment insurance, which pays a top amount of $312 a week....
    Tuesday, MCI will throw a Christmas dinner for employees over the noon hour. Shortly after, Bjornstad and other workers will turn in their tools and punch out. For now, she will celebrate Christmas in Fargo with family and take a week or two to decide what to do. "Hopefully, if the economy goes back up, and the buses go back up, some of us will get recalled back," Bjornstad said. Otherwise, she will have to move away, she said.
    Hanging on
    ...The latest labor contract between Pembina workers and MCI continues through October 2005. The Pembina plant will survive, union officials have said, because of the federal Buy America Act, which requires buses bought by public sector groups, such as cities or counties, to be built in the United States..\..
    [Don't count on it. If Bush gets re-elected, he will likely repeal the federal Buy America Act as an impediment to "free trade."]
    MCI is based in Schaumburg, Ill. It's one of the leading makers of coach-style buses used for public transit systems, tour companies and "line-haul" bus companies, such as Greyhound. Several manufacturing lines have been transferred from the Pembina plant to the Winnipeg facilities over the past two years....
    [If you want to live in North Dakota, you better pressure your state representative and state senator to establish a state work-sharing program like the 18 states and 3 districts named above - and like the Province of Manitoba in Canada, where your manufacturing lines are being transferred to.]

  3. [Here's a very interesting article, also not-entirely-coincidentally about Winnipeg, about the downside of unemployment-insurance assisted worksharing, unmasking it as the stopgap measure it is, and no sustainable substitute for thoroughgoing timesizing -]
    12/19   MCI takes our cash and runs - Corporate welfare at it worst, by Tom Brodbeck, Winnipeg Sun.
    WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Motor Coach Industries [MCI] says it's still committed to Winnipeg as its "centre of manufacturing excellence." Why wouldn't it [be]? Every time there's a downturn in the market, it turns to the government for a bail-out. And it gets one each time. It truly is 'excellent' - for MCI.
    For taxpayers, it's a different story. We're being forced repeatedly to bail-out a big U.S. company every time it has trouble selling its expensive coaches south of the border.
    The latest corporate welfare cheque doled out to MCI was confirmed this week. In order to save a few hundred jobs, MCI proposed a four-day work week for its workers. And who pays for the fifth day? Us, of course, through employment insurance [EI]. MCI workers don't get full pay for the fifth day. But they receive EI benefits for those days, and it comes out of your pocket and mine - and my employer's.
    EI was created as an insurance scheme for people who lose their jobs and require bridge financing to get to their next one. It's not supposed to be there to subsidize the operations of large corporations.
    The latest handout comes on the heels of a $20.5-million bail-out package for MCI from the three levels of government in January. The corporate welfare deal was supposed to save Winnipeg more than 1,300 jobs. But almost immediately after taking the money and running, the company began laying off staff. The first announcement was 45 staff, then another 90. And then we heard in August that 895 staff could be laid-off because of a significant downturn in the coach market.
    This week MCI announced that only 310 of those 895 would be laid off, as if we're all supposed to breathe a sigh of relief. (I thought the $20.5 million was supposed to save all the jobs.)
    Corporate welfare
    MCI was able to preserve the remaining 585 jobs by raiding the EI fund - another government handout. So, even with a second bail-out, MCI still wasn't able to maintain all the jobs it said it would. These are the pitfalls of corporate welfare.
    If MCI wants to invest money in the coach business, great. That's what entrepreneurialism is. You invest money in an industry and you take calculated risks. If you win, you make money - sometimes big money. But if you lose, you risk losing your investment.
    When governments get involved to preserve jobs in the short term for political reasons, they skew that very delicate balance. They encourage companies such as MCI to invest in areas that may not be viable. And more often than not, the investment fails, and taxpayers lose their money.
    Given that history has shown that governments are really bad investors, I think Gary Doer and Mayor Glen Murray (the city has a $1 million stake in this bail-out package) should stop fashioning themselves as portfolio managers and stick to running their governments.
    We'd all have a little more jingle in our jeans if they did.

  4. 12/19   Proctor employees back to full time - Work week: City Hall had to reduce the hours its employees worked because of cuts to local government aid, by Chuck Frederick, Duluth News Tribune.
    PROCTOR, Minn. - In May, the city of Proctor became a symbol of the state's money troubles. The small railroad town up the hill from West Duluth drew media attention from the Twin Cities [Duluth MN & Superior WS] and elsewhere when it decided to close City Hall on Fridays and to reduce its 21 employees' weekly work hours from 40 to 36. Like nearly all other Minnesota communities, Proctor was struggling to absorb cuts in local government aid. Proctor's hit from the state was about $114,000. The city's annual budget is about $1.5 million. "It seemed like a good idea at the time," Proctor City Councilor Jake Benson said Friday.
    No more. This week, Benson and other councilors decided that closing City Hall and reducing employees' work time to four nine-hour shifts per week isn't working out. Residents expect city services on Fridays, too. And many employees struggle to complete the same amount of work in fewer hours. City employees will resume their 40-hour work week Dec. 29, councilors decided. They'll again work five eight-hour days per week. "It just wasn't efficient. It just didn't work well," Benson said. "It didn't work as we had hoped."
    City Administrator John Foschi said he's an example. "I wound up working the same [amount of work] basically, but had to cram [it] within the 36-hour week," he said. "It was very difficult. There were gaps that caused some management challenges, to say the least. It worked for some people, but not for many others."
    The plan certainly worked in terms of the city's bottom line. Proctor saved an estimated $105,000 in 2003 in salaries and overhead. The rest of the loss in state aid, about $9,000, was absorbed with myriad "nickel and dime things," Benson said. Cuts were made in every city department.
    Proctor is looking at an additional loss in state aid of $111,000 in 2004. Some cuts in spending from 2003 will carry over into the new year. And city officials are negotiating new contracts with four of five bargaining units.
    But about $18,000 in cuts still need to be found, Benson said. Final decisions are expected to be made once labor negotiations are completed.
    The loss won't be absorbed by reducing employee hours. Benson said he appreciated city employees' willingness to accept the reduced hours in 2003 - and to take home smaller paychecks - to bail the city out of its bind. Labor came up big," he said. "The employees really came together and realized, 'OK, we have a problem. We're all in this together.' It was really inspiring."
    [Then why don't you dufuses go for five 7-hour days rather than four 9-hour days? You'll save even more money, you'll still have Friday coverage and you'll have a much more predictable and easy-to-remember daily shorter office schedule. If the voters don't like the one-hour-shorter service-day, tell them they'll have to raise taxes and make up the lost funding.]

  5. 12/21   Reeling in our compulsive excesses, by Rob Davis, The Saratogian [Saratoga, NY?].
    We are a nation of excess. We have a culture of consumption, a veritable ethic of overabundance, without a strong controlling ethic of quality and balance. Commercials bombard us to consume more and more (especially now, at the holidays). We are a nation of excess. We 'supersize' unhealthy foods. Big is presumed to be better. Look at the homes being built in Saratoga Springs. Today's new homes are twice the size of the 1950s home, but we have smaller families, on average.
    Look at all the SUVs. And it's almost comical to see Humvees driven on city streets.
    We work too much. Average overtime is rising. More people work over 50 hours a week.
    'One-fifth of American men work those hours, up significantly from 25 years ago ... with implied penalties if you don't give your all,' and U.S. employees still have some of the longest work hours among developed nations, according to Jon Bonné of MSNBC.
    People are having trouble balancing their work and personal lives. More hours at work means more money, which people then spend, partly to compensate for working so hard, but that doesn't make for a better life.
    Psychologically, how does all this impact individuals?
    Compulsive behaviors are fueled by pain and anxiety. People try to medicate their pain with consumption.
    What are we so anxious about? What are we trying to compensate for? Also, in a vicious cycle, over consumption itself causes pain and anxiety, leading to more compulsive behaviors.
    All of this conspicuous excess occurs while many Americans live in poverty. This situation is spiritually bankrupting citizens and it is realistically unsustainable. We are paying the price, economically, politically, psychologically, and spiritually.
    We cannot escape the guilt. Over consumption literally deprives others of the necessities of life.
    Similarly, many are unemployed while others work too many hours. Some European nations are mandating shorter work weeks so everyone can work. We are out of balance, and that causes anxiety.
    Last year, I wrote in a column about living so fast causing stress and reducing one's enjoyment of life. So many people rush around trying to fulfill over-loaded schedules that they don't take the time to socialize with friends, to appreciate the beauty around them, or to eat right and savor the experience. Doing more means being less.
    Some people can choose to change these behaviors on their own. If they cannot, they have a compulsivity problem and need help.
    People can confront their compulsive or addictive behaviors with counseling, books and numerous self-help (or 12-step) groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, etc.
    One must admit there's a problem, commit to stopping behaviors one day at a time, and get enough support to fulfill that commitment and deal with the emotions driving the compulsion. Individuals can change their lives.
    I am an optimist about the culture. I believe each generation learns. Therefore, I believe that changes to this individualistic ethic of over consumption are occurring. There is a growing movement to simplify our lives (books like 'Simple Abundance').
    Personally, I have chosen not to maximize my income. Instead, I work less than 40 hours a week. The result: less stress. My wife and I make do with less. We have one car, so I walk to work and downtown. I am my own boss, and I have the opportunity to help people. I am rich in many ways. More people can and are making similar choices.
    And, over time, we as a society are taking greater care of those struggling to live. While our social efforts to help those less fortunate have waned in recent years, I believe this is only a temporary setback.
    We are going to have to take care of people. We will not be able or willing to pay the many costs of our over consumption. My generation, the baby boomers, will exercise its numerical clout politically. Do you think we're going to tolerate inadequate care for seniors?
    Changes are coming.

  6. 12/21   Workers can be driven too hard for too long, expert says, San Diego Union Tribute [CA].
    Just because our society demands a 24/7 world doesn't mean you have to get dragged into it.
    Yet, increasingly American workers are being asked to participate. More of us work before 7 in the morning and after 7 in the evening than ever before. Some also feel pressure to work overtime, while others do so willingly.
    The American work force, which already puts in longer workweeks and takes less time off than most of the rest of the world, has built productivity this year to its highest point in two decades. But that gung-ho drive has some heavy costs associated with it, according to Circadian Technologies, a Lexington, Mass., research and consulting firm. "There is a point you can build productivity to, but it has limits," says Circadian's David Mitchell. "Maybe it makes sense to run machines 24/7, but that doesn't mean that humans can keep up. Humans break down when you push them too hard."
    In a survey of 550 companies, Circadian recently found that a disproportionate share of the work force is putting in long hours. About 20% of the work force is accounting for 60% of all overtime these days.
    Circadian cautions that when you ask people to work too much, you find some fallout. Low employee morale, more on-the-job accidents and more workers' comp claims are the signs that workers are being driven – or driving themselves – too hard. Circadian believes that most workers can work about 12% overtime, or about five hours per week, before their productivity is adversely affected.
    [Pegging Circadian as an outfit that ignores the drain of operating more productive technology and - not exactly your Great Force for Progress - or even prosperity when work overload is souring the job market and crippling our consumer base.]
    Yet, Circadian says many employers believe they can increase productivity by simply working existing employees longer hours. Sure, they have to pay time and a half overtime, but they don't have to pay for the recruitment and benefits for all those additional workers.
    Perhaps the most disconcerting part of this is that many workers are all too eager to put in extra hours. "You will always find a group of individuals who are willing to put in overtime hours so they can make more money," says Mitchell. "But we're sort of amazed at how deep this runs." Circadian found that among workers who were already putting in 400 hours of overtime annually, a majority of them still wanted to work more.
    Mitchell says that companies need to be more analytical when it comes to overtime demands. "There is a tipping point where productivity suffers," he says. "Companies already have all the information they need: They know how much they pay in overtime, they know accident levels. They just need to develop a spreadsheet and make a cost analysis to see where the tipping point is. "Unfortunately, very few companies ever do this. It's a hidden cost for many businesses that they don't seem to understand."
    This blind spot seems pretty pervasive in our society. Circadian says only about 11% of American companies feel obligated to share the dangers of working too much. And, of course, workers who see that financial incentive for working more are doing little to control their own fate.
    Because our national productivity is so strong, maybe this is a ripe time to contemplate just how many hours we choose[??] to work. Mitchell points out that the life expectancy of emergency-room surgeons is 58 and airline pilots can expect to live to 59. That's a sure sign that the stress associated with some jobs takes a deadly toll through the years.
    But until we decide to look closely at this blind spot, we're likely to never understand the scope of the problem.

  7. 12/20   Germany cuts taxes and eases job laws, by Mark Landler, NYT, A3.
    BERLIN — ...With turgid growth, a soaring budget deficit and an endless, inconclusive debate over economic reform, Germany has been labeled the "sick man of Europe" much as Britain was in the 1970's. \So\ Germany capped a 9-month campaign to unclog its sclerotic economy on Friday, as both houses of the Parliament voted to adopt a package of taxcuts and looser employment laws. The vote, by an overwhelming majority, had been expected since Monday, when Chancellor Gerhard Schröder negotiated a compromise with the conservative opposition, which reduced the size of the taxcut.... These 'reforms' [our quotes] provoked a small uprising from leftist elements of the chancellor's coalition, with 12 members voting against them..\..
    Mr. Schröder, in return, yielded to pressure from the Christian Democrats not to water down laws that would make it easier for German companies to lay off workers.... Still, Mr. Schröder was able to claim a modest victory on his economic program, which he had given the grand name of Agenda 2010 and promoted through red booklets handed out by students hired by the governing coalition. "One of the most important and biggest 'reform' projects in the history of the country has been carried through," Mr. Schröder declared in Parliament. "This will be the end of talk of the `German disease' abroad."
    [Don't count on it. Now Germany is on track to follow Japan's 1990 shift from its own traditional lifetime employment to American-style downsizing, and its immediate economic collapse into depression, since the only thing holding it up had been its huge domestic consumer base, now crippled downsized with mass layoffs. Germany needs does need looser employment laws but only when one key employment law gets tighter and smarter, and that is, it's nationwide workweek needs to be downwardly as well as upwardly (as for salaried employees) flexible, and it needs to be determined not arbitrarily by throwing darts but by the level of unemployment - as long as unemployment is too high or rising, that workweek needs to be slooowly reducing, and all employees need to be subject to its ceiling. If there are salaried employees supposedly "exempt" from overtime pay premium, fine, but a shadow time-accounting system will still hold them accountable to the new nationwide worksharing workweek-cap. And they also need to implement overtime-to-training&hiring conversion to get the level of skill liquidity they need in the modern world.]
    Mr. Schröder's remedy is far gentler than the harsh medicine administered to the British economy by Margaret Thatcher.... While Mr. Schröder's proposals to cut unemployment benefits drew 100,000 people into the streets of Berlin recently, it was a relatively rare show of public protest. The chancellor quelled leftist opposition within his coalition — in part, through regular and rather theatrical threats to resign. Germany's labor unions also proved less of a roadblock than expected. The most militant of them, IG Metall, lost much of its popular support and fell into a messy leadership crisis after being forced in June to call off a strike for a shorter workweek in eastern Germany....
    [As usual, it was the union's own disunity that sabotaged it. Even so, it did succeed in gaining a shorter workweek for a small number of east German steelworkers, though not for the large number (310k) of east German engineering employees.]

  8. 12/22   For more people in their 20s and 30s, going home is easier because they never left, by Tamar Lewin, NYT, A27.
    On the job, James Navarro seems to be a model of mature adulthood.
    [Check out what "a model of mature adulthood" is in unbalanced America today -] But look at the rest of his life, and the picture becomes murkier. Mr. Navarro lives with his parents in Queens.
    [Surrounded by worksaving technology, Americans are taking the savings in unemployment instead of a leisurely 35 or even 40 hours a week of work, and the resulting lack of time and underlying job insecurity (too few 50-hr/wk jobs to go around in a high-tech world) means they can't even afford their own homes.]
    His mother packs lunch for him a few times a week. His bedroom still has his highschool baseball trophies and a giant stuffed bunny that was a present from a former girlfriend. On weekends, he plays touch football and goes drinking and clubbing with his two best friends - both about his age, [over-?]fully employed and living with their parents too.
    [Working 50-hr/wk or more, Americans don't even have time to grow up. We're talking beyond pathetic to pathological.]
    "When I was in college, I thought I'd be married by 24 and have a house and kids by 30 [in short, a life]," Mr. Navarro said. "Now I think the idea of being an emotionally developed male by 24 is ridiculous. I want to get married and have kids some day. But I don't feel any pressure that it has to be soon."...
    [The only pressure Americans feel is the pressure to work 50-plus hours a week, the level of hours their great-grandparents fought for and achieved a century ago - never mind their grandparents won the 40-hour week 63 years ago, they've thrown that away. In its place, a little-boy slave mentality. From pathetic to pathological. From productive/creative work/life balance to mommy's little sweatshop grunt.]



Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
Dec.11-19/2003
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Nov.21-30/2003 + Dec.1
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2002
2001
Y2000
1999
1998 and previous years.

For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, 'flung' into print as a campaign piece during the 1998 race for Joe Kennedy's empty Congressional seat. The handbook is available online from *Amazon.com.

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