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Timesizing News, January 10-20, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
1/20/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 1/19 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
1/17-19/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 1/16-18 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #6 & 7 which are from the 1/17-19 WSJ & NYT hardcopies), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- The bear's lair: The costs of workaholism, by Martin Hutchinson,
United Press International.
WASHINGTON... - According to the Census Bureau, the median earnings of U.S. workers of 25 and over in 2001 was 6.78% above its level in 1973. However, according to the International Labor Organization, the average U.S. employee worked 1,978 hours in 2000, compared with 1,883 in 1980. In other words, remuneration per hour was pretty well flat, in spite of a generation of technological progress. So has all this hard work done Americans any good?
In conventional free market economic doctrine, it should have done. Workers make their own choices as to how much effort to put into their job, and how to balance it with their family and leisure activities, while employers make their own free determinations of whether to employ particular workers, and how much to pay them. In this economically Panglossian view of the world, therefore, if American workers want to work harder, while European and Japanese workers slack off, that simply reflects such cultural factors as the greater propensity of Americans to indulge in consumption.
As a young banker, I had a dream. It was to get a job that paid half the salary and bonus of an investment banking partner, in return for working half the hours. A 40-45 hour week, in return for an annual remuneration of $1-1.5 million - that seemed to me to be an ambition worthy of a gentleman!
Not only did I not achieve this ambition, but there was never any chance that I would. Such jobs do not exist. In order to get paid like a top investment banker or lawyer, one must put in a workweek of ludicrous length, even though much of the excessive workweek is spent in pointless internal meetings or office politics. The ninetieth hour of the workweek is very seldom as productive as the first forty, but one must put in the ninety hours in order to hold the job that pays the top salary.
There would thus appear to be a market imperfection; the market for executive labor is "lumpy" so that not all combinations of work time and salary are possible. This is of course entirely to be expected in the markets where individual services are sold. Notoriously, early industrialization tended to exploit the workforce, so trades unions appeared to combat this tendency. While the market for labor is theoretically perfect, in practice there's a bit more to sell one's labor than there is to selling soap powder.
At this point it is instructive to engage in a little "public choice theory" - the economics that studies organizational decisions from the viewpoint of the interests of the protagonists. Top management wants to get as much work out of its staff as possible. In the days of strong labor unions and lifetime employment, it was hampered from doing so by the workforce's ability to resist collectively any suggestion of "speed-up." In unionized settings [only 14% of the economy!], this is still the case, so that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that, although the annual hours worked of the U.S. labor force as a whole has increased substantially over the last decades, that of "plant labor" has declined, to about 34 hours per week from 36 in 1980. In a factory with a large labor force, where dismissals will cause major labor unrest and contracts are bargained collectively, the workforce's ability to resist management's demands remains strong.
In non-factory settings [does he mean non-union?], however, the removal of middle management [secondary], the increase in top executive incentive compensation
via stock options [secondary] and increased workforce turnover [negative - he should have said increased workforce job-clinging] have all increased top management's bargaining power [the primary factor is the cultivated scarcity of management and the enforced redundancy alias surplus of labor], and its ability to
enforce a workplace norm that involves much longer working hours than employees may wish. This is for one very simple reason: management's ability to impose on employees the very substantial costs of redundancy.
[- that's not one very simple reason - one very simple reason would be "management's ability to impose redundancy on employees." Management imposes redundancy - alias cheap surplus-commodity status - by distracting attention from gentle and intelligent unemployment-offsetting workweek adjustment by repeatedly instigating dramatic and insane wars. See tomorrow's Wall St. Journal editorial on Democrats and war, 1/21/2004.]
If the cost of working a shorter week is not a smaller bonus but a prolonged period of unemployment, together with considerable uncertainty as to where the new job will come from and what it will pay, then the employee is no longer a free bargaining agent, he is operating to a large extent under coercion.
[The light dawns on another commentator.]
Additional coercive factors arise from the greater number of women in the full-time workforce, and from relatively high immigration; both factors tend to increase the supply of technical and middle management labor without increasing the demand commensurately.
For top management, this situation is ideal. A workforce norm is imposed under which 70-80 hour workweeks are required for promotion, and 50-60 hour workweeks are required in order to remain employed - whatever the employee's nominal terms of employment.
[Compare subtitle of Ben Hunnicutt's magnum opus, "Work Without End - Abandoning shorter hours for the right to work." How pathetic is that in the age of worksaving robotization?]
With weak corporate governance, top management no longer has to present the profits of sweating the workforce to shareholders, instead, it can keep a very large percentage of them itself, via stock options.
Naturally, top management also has to work long hours (although the example of Dennis Koslowski suggests that this is by no means universal). However, since in the Darwinian selection through which it rose, working excessive hours was key to survival, top management is drawn predominantly from among those segments of the workforce with fewest outside interests, whether a stable family life or in the cultural field. The tradeoff works for them; they have a low need for leisure time outside work, and a high need for ego gratification through achievement of power and wealth. "Neutron Jack" Welch, destroying his marriage in order to have an affair with the Editor of the Harvard Business Review, with whom he was discussing management techniques, is a case in point.
[Never mind "Neutron Jack" Welch, how about "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap, wrecker of Sunbeam and numerous other companies under the cover of turn-around expert.]
Whether society as a whole benefits from having its major corporations run by these psychotic personalities, some of whom are highly unstable, is of course a different question.
Meanwhile the United States' GINI coefficient of inequality moves inexorably upward. Around 0.32 at its low point in the early 1960s, and 0.34 in 1973, it has moved up beyond 0.4 in the last 30 years, and shows no sign of reversing. In the short term, workaholism, and forced workaholism have probably helped economic growth, since they have maximized the output of the U.S.'s highly educated workforce. In the longer term, the picture may be very different.
For the workforce that is not protected by a union, the inhabitants of the Dilbert strip cartoon, the tradeoff is almost always sub-optimal. Top management's bizarre lifestyle preferences are imposed on the company culture through coercion, and there is little that middle management and technical staff can do about it, other than seeking alternative employment or attempting entrepreneurship.
As the above statistics demonstrate, middle management's ability to live the good life is hampered not only by the hours it has to work but also by a living standard that has failed to rise significantly in thirty years, rendering it essential in many families for the wife to work full time to make ends meet. Of course, the quality of family life is thereby further degraded.
The future of the forced workaholics is pretty grim. Once their capabilities begin to lessen, they will of course be forced into penurious early retirement, since top management cannot afford to tolerate any slackening of effort, because of the adverse effect on the rest of the workforce. At retirement, their savings will be far less than they had hoped for, since they lack a final salary pension scheme, and their savings, which they lacked the time to invest intelligently, have been devastated by choppy stock markets and inept "financial advisors." Even if they have money, of course, they have neglected their outside interests throughout their working life, and so have few intellectual, cultural or internal resources to fall back on in retirement.
The true downside to the workaholic society comes in the next generation. Traditionally, the major advantage of a middle class over a blue collar childhood was the assistance given by parents to the child's intellectual and emotional growth. A child reared in the family of William H. Whyte's 1956 "Organization Man" not only had clear male and female role models, it also benefited from full time attention from the mother, and a great deal of attention from the father also, as working hours had shortened since the 1920s, giving fathers more leisure time.
Today's child, with two working parents, at least one of them putting in far more than a normal working day at the office (and very often bringing home work and being interrupted at weekends by cellphone calls and travel) has less interaction, emotional and intellectual with its parents, and is generally brought up largely by semi-professional child minders. Consequently its intellectual and emotional development will resemble more closely that of the neglected blue collar child, rather than the coddled offspring of the middle class. Even for children of top management, the huge amounts of available money will in no way make up for lack of parental attention.
In the long term, the increasing income inequality, declining quality of the young workforce, and the high taxes needed to take care of a baby boom generation that has omitted to provide properly for itself, but remains in healthy retirement for three and even four decades will cause an evolution in U.S. society towards a stratified, corrupt and stagnant business culture, similar to that of Latin America. That is likely to be the true cost of workaholism.
(The Bear's Lair is a weekly column that is intended to appear each Monday, an appropriately gloomy day of the week. Its rationale is that, in the long '90s boom, the proportion of "sell" recommendations put out by Wall Street houses declined from 9% of all research reports to 1% and has only modestly rebounded since. Accordingly, investors have an excess of positive information and very little negative information. The column thus takes the ursine view of life and the market, in the hope that it may be usefully different from what investors see elsewhere.)
[In short, most contrarians most of the time are going to be bears in a pit of bulls.]
- Senate panel to examine overtime - Number of workers affected by Bush proposal may be focus of debate, by Kirstin Downey, Washington Post.
The debate at a Senate hearing today on the Bush administration's controversial plan to revise the nation's overtime pay standards is likely to center on how many workers could lose income as a result.
The Labor Dept. calls the plan an essential updating of Depression-era employment laws, which have become the subject of numerous lawsuits from workers claiming they lost extra pay. The new rules would make anyone earning less than $22,100 a year automatically eligible for overtime pay, up from $8,060 now. They also would exempt from mandatory overtime pay those in "a position of responsibility" or making at least $65,000 a year, changes opponents said could cost millions their extra
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said in a recent interview that he called the hearing of his Appropriations subcommittee to give a full airing to the issue, especially the different estimates of the numbers of workers affected by the change. One union-supported study said 8m employees could lose extra pay. The Labor Department said in news releases that the new rules could cost 644,000 workers overtime, though in an analysis in the Federal Register it said an additional 1.5m to 2.7m "will be more readily identified as exempt."
Some academics said another significant change could be to the very concept of the 40-hour week. Already, some 25m American white-collar workers, categorized as professional, managerial or administrative, are exempt from overtime pay, and many complain they are being overworked by employers facing the competitive pressures of a global economy. Some said they fear protesting could cost them their jobs amid continued corporate downsizing.
"It's as much about time as about money," Todd D. Rakoff, a professor of administrative law at Harvard Law School, said of the new rules.
[Rake-off, a name almost as unfortunate as Hide.]
Rakoff, author of "A Time for Every Purpose: Law and the Balance of Life," a recent book about how society has regulated work hours, said more workplaces soon may resemble high-profile law firms, where young associates exempt from overtime pay now work 25% more hours than associates did 25 years ago. "Now there's no incentive for the senior partner not to grab the associate's weekend. It doesn't cost him a dime."
Dale L. Belman, a professor in the School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University, called the problem "hours creep." He said that it starts with a one-time request in an emergency situation but that longer work hours quickly become standard. "There's always too much work to do, and absent legal restraints, there's a lot of tendency for employers to want more hours out of their employees," Belman said. "This is probably going to result in further increases in hours of work with all the attendant burdens on the individual."
Others disagree. Michael Goree, an assistant professor at Michigan State University who advises employers on how to set their personnel policies, calls his colleagues' fears "paranoia." He said most employers will continue to abide by the 40-hour workweek and will respect their employees' time and personal responsibilities. "I think the changes are trying to give employers more flexibility and build trust and respect between the employee and the employer," Goree said. "People will find good places to work as best they can. The law won't have that big of an impact."
The overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act have been in place since 1938. The rules require employers who ask workers to work more than 40 hours a week to pay time and a half for every hour over 40. About 11m people received such overtime pay in 2002.
In some other countries, work-hour limitations are imposed by law. The European Union nations, for example, limit the workweek to 48 hours, except for doctors in training and transportation workers, unless employees volunteer to work overtime.
The rule change, set to take effect in March, has been a topic of hot political debate for months. Tens of thousands of workers have written to the Labor Dept. and White House opposing the changes. Meanwhile, dozens of business groups support the revisions and have lobbied hard for them.
Specter and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) sought to scuttle the Labor Department's effort by blocking funding for implementing it. The House and the Senate voted for such language in the omnibus appropriations bill, but under intense pressure from the White House, conferees stripped the amendment from the bill.
Earlier this month, Democratic presidential candidates attacked the rules change after an AP story cited how the Labor Department provided employers advice on how to avoid [paying for] overtime. Six business groups responded that employers would take no action "that would drive their employees away to their competitors."
The Senate is scheduled to vote on the omnibus bill today.
- HR Zeitgeist - Time and time again, HR Gateway [UK].
[A chunk in the middle of this article is a lift = repeat from this weekend 1/17-19/2004 #4 below.]
In South Africa last week, a football club at the bottom of the country’s highest league table sold its Premiership status to a club six points from the top of the next division down. Each will take over from where the other left off next game leaving the former Premiership team cashing in on its past successes with another chance at the top as well as being £400,000 better off. As for the former division one club, well, they at least they get a taste of being in top flight football as well as getting a chance to stay there.
In the UK, such behaviour – selling league placings - in sport would frowned upon, however, it could be worth adopting such a bartering system for the workplace, certainly in terms of working time. We are currently in a heated debate over time. Official figures last week showed a half hour fall in the number of hours worked over the past 18 months. Hoorah, I hear you cry, work-life balance is kicking in. Maybe, say some economists, but the problem is that hours have to [or do they?] increase again now the economy is starting to pick, something employees may not be too happy about:
[- only as long as the power gradient is steeply biassed toward employers due to inpouring technological worksavings and a frozen 1940-era workweek]
‘While work-life balance has had some effect on the lowering of working hours, the main impact has to be the slower economy over the past two years. However, this is now picking up and so employers will either increase hours or hire more staff. They will probably try raising hours first but in the climate of work-life balance and the Working Time Directive review this may bring about resistance from workers and unions which would in turn hit GDP,’ Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development chief economist, John Philpott told HR Gateway.
[So employees are hit not only with the disempowerment/devaluation of surplus-commodity status, but also the "objective," "scientific" opinion of "professional" economists - all owing their salaries to CEOs of one kind or another - sort of like all the doctors of astronomy in Copernicus' and Galileo's time owed their livelihood to the geocentric Roman Church.]
According to recent Office for National Statistics figures, working hours fell 7.1m, or 0.8%, in the three months to November. Since 1994 working hours have fallen from 33.5 hours a week to 32, a fall that the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) estimates cost the GDP of the UK £7.4B a year. Mark Pragnell, economist at CEBR, believes that Philpott is misguided by laying most of the reduction in working hours at the feet of a stumbling economy; the times are a changin’, he believes:
‘Certainly the economy is partly to blame but the Working Time Regulations, work-life balance issues and more older workers in the economy have a big effect. In terms of older workers, firms have to be more flexible with hours and this is an issue that is here to stay. People are changing their view of work and the demographic is also changing. I believe businesses are going through a structural change and so we need to consider ways of dealing with it,’ he told HR Gateway.
Of course, all this talk of time just reminds us that we are still stuck in [the past] in many aspects of work. Many employees still experience being hammered by a manager for coming in five minutes late no matter how hard they work during the day, or the details of their personal life. Like the White Rabbit in Alice we are fixated with time [but punctuality, not duration or quality/performance -] when it is performance we should be tracking. Drawing a line joining time worked and GDP as a result of productivity from time worked is ‘so last century’ as anyone who has spent Friday afternoon picking their fingernails waiting to go to the pub can tell you.
Maybe this is where the South African Premiership football team can teach us a lesson or even the Kyoto pollution trading scheme devised to reduce global warming. The Kyoto system allows countries who do well at reducing pollution levels to trade their gold stars with countries who are not. For a good sum of money, wealthy countries can pollute with impunity because they know they can always buy themselves pollution-free status. Not exactly the world’s best idea for reducing greenhouse gases, however, time is clean and such a system transferred to the workplace could help bring performance in by the back door.
A new ‘time sharing’ scheme that allowed paranoid managers to barter and trade hours could help push forward the performance agenda. Managers in firms with large stockpiles of hours could trade them with managers in other companies boasting high performance results. Then company leaders stuck in a time-related groove with hard-pressed managers trying to push through high performance-working will be satisfied when reports suggest that they are still flogging staff to death - even though they are not. Overtime dependent firms could make themselves a tidy performance profit!
OK, so there are a lot of holes in this particular theory – not to mention a fair level of humour - but something must be done to move the UK onto a performance footing and managers are key to the change. A report from TalentMax last week suggested that 87% of talented achievers it surveyed said that bad management quashed their talents, hampering them from performing. Only 31% of the 128 firms contacted had a talent management strategy leading to nearly nine in ten talented individuals saying that managers had forced them to leave because they would not allow them to perform and they were denied development.
Meanwhile, finance directors took a pop at GPs for handing out sick notes too readily, an accusation that is also thrown at them from HR. But, as the British Medical Association (BMA) points out, it can be the lack of a performance ethic in firms that forces doctors to hand them out: ‘Employers often flout the seven day rule and ask for sick notes after three or four days. Staff are often sent in to gain sick notes when they are better, which is a real waste of the GP’s time as well as being of dubious use to employers,’ it said.
The Accountancy Age findings appeared to have one voice out the 266 finance director’s polled who could see the benefits of a more sensible approach to management: ‘If you do not trust your staff there is no point hiring them in the first place,’ he said. Indeed! A point worth making when one of your managers berates an employee for coming in five minutes late.
1/16/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 1/15 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except today, #1 which is from the 1/16 WSJ hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- 1/16 PASOK, ND [two political parties] slug it out - Shorter work week, more bills in Parliament are latest issues, Kathimerini [Greece].
GREECE - Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in his last election campaign as PASOK’s leader, addressed a lively meeting in Iraklion, Crete, one of the party’s strongholds, last night. He was on the island to present the Cretan part of the ‘Convergence Charter,’ which is aimed at bringing Greece up to speed with the rest of the EU. ‘I am here,’ Simitis said, ‘to show that we always worked according to a plan, we always had targets, so that Greece could get ahead.’
The ruling PASOK and conservative New Democracy parties clashed yesterday over a suggestion by PASOK Gen. Secy. Michalis Chrysochoidis that the government might consider labor's persistent demand for a 35-hour work week. With elections set for March 7, every such suggestion or action by the [PASOK] government sets off a storm of protests from opposition parties [like the ND].
[This is tough for Canadians to wrap their brains around, because the NDP (New Democratic Party) in Canada is democratic and progressive, but apparently the ND in Greece is neither.]
ND leader Costas Karamanlis met with Pres. Costis Stephanopoulos yesterday and afterward called for the election campaign to be waged according to fair principles. He listed four as:
The government is expected to call for an extension of the current Parliament to February 13 in order to pass legislation on a number of important issues, including pensions, development, public works awards, equality of all before the law, the codifying of the capital market law, and others, for a total of some 15 new bills.
- the State's absolute impartiality, noting that seven new bills «promoting favoritism» were presented to Parliament on Wednesday;
- the Constitution must be adhered to, with all parties and opinions being given fair coverage;
- leaders of all parties represented in Parliament or the European Parliament should take part in at least one debate while Karamanlis and George Papandreou, who is to be elected PASOK leader next month, should hold at least three;
- and the campaign should not produce noise pollution or visual ugliness.
PASOK's general secretary met yesterday with the leadership of the country's largest labor group, the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE [Greek acronym]), in light of the talks on a collective labor agreement that are to begin on Monday. GSEE is pressing for a pay hike of 8% and a 35-hour work week. «We have been of the opinion for years that work hours have to be reduced gradually.
[Correct. Schedules are the hardest thing for humans to change. And large systems are best changed slowly. As Lao Tzu said, "Rule the empire as you would cook a small fish (i.e., gently)."]
I think we must start a great debate on this between the government, parties, unions and business groups,» Chrysochoidis said.
ND spokesman Theodoris Roussopoulos accused PASOK of «suspicious populism» and of «trying once again to promise everything to everyone.»
ND honorary chairman and former P.M. Constantine Mitsotakis proclaimed in Parliament, «My hair stands on end when I hear such things... The 35-hour week will blow the economy sky high.»
[If he means activate large sectors of underemployed and therefore dormant consumers and galvanize unprecedented sustainable growth, he's absolutely right. If he means crash the economy, he needs to rub his nose in world economic history between 1800 and 1950, when workweeks were cut in half, from 80 to 40, and wages and consumer markets skyrocketed, especially during and after world wars when the wage&consumption-stifling surplus of labor hours was corrected in the least intelligent, most wasteful way.]
The Athens Chamber of Commerce & Industry (EBEA) warned that such a setup would increase costs for small and medium-sized enterprises by 30% and could put 300,000 of them out of business.
[Not likely, but shorter workweek introduction can be staggered for small businesses, in order to leave it to market forces to discipline small employers as their difficulty in retaining good employees mounts. This difficulty will be compensated by the activation of all kinds of consumer and associated markets that have been stifled by under-employment and lack of leisure and shopping time - the kind of markets France enjoyed in 1999-2001 and the USA in 1938-40.]
- 1/18 60-hour work week laid off - Liberals moving to roll back Tory employment legislation - Labour minister planning announcement tomorrow, by Queen's Pk Bureau Richard Brennand & Caroline Mallan, Toronto Star.
PROVINCIAL PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS, Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario - The Liberal government is set to roll back controversial Conservative legislation that allowed a 60-hour work week in Ontario. "Our objective is to make the workplace fairer," Finance Minister Greg Sorbara said yesterday.
Labour Minister Chris Bentley is to announce tomorrow that the Liberals will be fulfilling their election promise to end the previous government's extension of the work week to a maximum 60 hours. "I know that the minister is very anxious to do that. He has a number of reforms in his ministry that he brought to our cabinet retreat," Sorbara said as the Liberals gathered for a caucus meeting yesterday.
During the election campaign, tackling the 60-hour work week was coupled with a promise to increase the province's minimum wage for the first time in almost nine years. Last month, the government announced it would increase the minimum wage to $7.15 an hour from $6.85. The change comes into effect Feb. 1.
Bentley refused to answer reporters' questions regarding his announcement. "We said we were going to roll it back ... we are going to be addressing the 60-hour work week and related issues," he said.
New Democratic Party MPP Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre) said anything short of repealing most of Bill 147 would not be appropriate. "The only thing that is acceptable is a total repeal of the Tory legislation," he said. "And quite frankly any government showing real leadership would not only look at reducing the 60-hour work week, but also the prospect of developing four-day work weeks and aggressively controlling the amount of overtime workers are subjected to."
Bentley did say the Liberals will not alter other Tory changes to the Employment Standards Act, among them a 10-day unpaid leave every year to deal with family crises such as a sick child.
The former Tory government, which was seen as ideologically anti-union, argued in 2000 that the amended Employment Standards Act only replaced an outdated system where employers had to get a special permit to allow employees to work more than 48 hours a week. Under the Tory law, which affects 4.5m non-unionized workers, an employer is required to get the consent of employees for the extended hours.
Seven provinces do not have caps on hours employees can work during a week. Currently, overtime, at time-and-a-half, must be paid for any hours above 44 in a week, but the number of hours can be averaged over four weeks.
The Tory amendments also eliminated the legal requirement for week-long vacations, leaving employers free to schedule vacations one day at a time.
[This is the kind of micromanagement that a redress of the huge power imbalance between employees and employers corrects flexibly by market forces. And that power imbalance gets corrected by trimming the workweek until employers perceive a general shortage of labor that they respond to by respecting - and rewarding - it more. Of course, it's not a shortage. It's a balance at last, a labor-employment relation that prevents self-undermining levels of income and wealth concentration and guarantees sustainable growth, not just today's string of bubbles on a downward trajectory.]
"To suggest that this 60-hour work week was voluntary is farcical," said Buzz Hargrove,
president of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), who applauded the Liberals' move.
[Amen. The employee-employer power imbalance, fueled by downsizing instead of timesizing, guarantees that.]
Hargrove said Navistar, the truck company in Chatham, tried to force his union to accept the same work week provisions as part of a package of proposed concessions. "If you can imagine that happens with a big, strong union like ours, imagine the little small ma and pa shops where workers are being told you have to work this whether you want to or not, contrary to what the law says," he said in an interview.
During their eight-year rule, the Tories made a number of changes to labour law. The first was to get rid of the NDP legislation, Bill 40, that prohibited the use of replacement workers during strike and lockouts. As well, the Workplace Democracy Act requires would-be union organizers to observe a one-year "cooling off" period between failed attempts to certify a union in a workplace and fast-tracks applications to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to decertify a union if a first contract isn't reached within a year.
- 1/17 Pay cuts given - but only to a few, by Norwalk Bureau Chief Heather Fowler, Lorain Morning Journal [Ohio].
NORWALK, Ohio - The newly unionized maintenance staff for Huron County were the only employees working directly for county commissioners who received cuts in their [hours and] paychecks yesterday, according to Commissioner Mike Adelman, who also took a cut.
County commissioners have maintained that due to a projected budget shortfall of almost $1m, employees under their authority would take a 10% pay cut this year and other departments must cut budgets by 10%. However, commissioners have decided to lay off account clerk Brenda Soblesky, so now other office employees will no longer need to take pay cuts, Adelman said.
''As it stands right now, there wouldn't be any other hourly cuts,'' he said. However, 15 employees in the Building & Grounds Dept. and the county mechanic each had 4 hours a week cut from their pay as part of an agreement negotiated by the American Federal State & Municipal Employees, Ohio Council 8, Local 710 and the county, Adelman said. In other words, for every [2-week] pay period, the 15 employees' paychecks are missing a full day's wages.
Local 710 union representative Steve Webb said commissioners told the union if it did not agree to the reduction of hours, then 3-6 employees would be laid off, Webb said. Webb said he is satisfied with the union's decision to cut employee hours and avoid layoffs. ''That was something we were pleased about,'' Webb said. ''Our unit voted unanimously and all members voted to go to reduced hours, so no one would get laid off,'' Webb said. ''We try to keep jobs. That's our #1 thing.''
[Finally, a pocket of intelligent union people in an all-too-often selfish, workaholic and suicidal America!]
County Administrator Mary Cain ''assured'' him that every county department took a 10% cut to salary accounts, Webb said. ''We were assured that every department, judges included, took a 10% cut,'' Webb said.
However, union member Jean Sandifer disagrees with Webb that union members unanimously agreed to handle the 10% budget reduction by cutting their [hours and] pay. She has requested minutes of the October meeting when the vote supposedly took place, she said. ''It was not a unanimous vote and I would like them to provide minutes of that meeting,'' Sandifer said. ''It was only a discussion. It was never put to us that this was going to happen,'' Sandifer said, adding that there was a show of hands. ''If I can give up one day a week and it solves the financial woes of the entire county, I think that's great. I'm happy to be doing my part,'' Sandifer said sarcastically.
[Oops. A piece of lint in the "pocket of intelligent union people." The fact is, it would help the whole country, not just individual counties, to implement worksharing instead of the alternatives (downsizing, makework or war) and this is the realization we need to bring about in everyone - without the sarcasm.]
Meanwhile, Adelman sent County Auditor John Elmlinger a memo earlier this week asking that Adelman's [own] $50,354 salary be cut by $5,035 in order to match the employees' 10% pay cuts, according to the document. ''I wouldn't ask someone to do something I wouldn't do myself,'' Adelman said in November when the pay cuts were first discussed.
[That's only fair, and it's one of Lincoln Electric's principles = "everyone sacrfices together, starting at the top."]
Adelman also donates $5,500 from his salary for scholarships for county high school students.
- 1/16 Economic warning over ‘reaction to working hours’ - Economists are warning that firms will need to increase working hours as the economy warms again, a move that will cause the country problems however it is handled - The latest employment figures suggest a healthy employment market, but underneath [lies] dormant a potential GDP-sapping conflict over working hours all being played out in the theatre of the Working Time Directive review, suggest economists, HR Gateway [UK].
[English-language economists have truly turned into blind guides. They take the severely flawed GDP far too seriously, the unemployment rate not seriously enough, and STILL totally ignore the factor that causes recessions and depressions, the unuseable super-concentration of skills, jobs, income and wealth. They have gradually, subtly prostituted themselves over the decades because of their own income source = insulated, isolated and near-sighted wealthy alumni who donate vast sums to the university's endowment.]
U.K. - According to recent Office for National Statistics figures, working hours fell 7.1 million, or 0.8%, in the three months to November, a drop that could have a major impact on economic growth it is claimed. Since 1994, working hours have fallen from 33.5 hours a week to 32 – half an hour of which was over the past 18 months - a fall that the Centre for Economic & Business Research (CEBR) estimates cost the GDP of the UK £7.4 billion a year.
According to Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development chief economist, John Philpott, the fall over the past 18 months could have an impact on growth this year as employers look to raise hours [when they should instead be increasing hiring, wages and consumer spending] as the economy improves: ‘While work-life balance has had some effect on the lowering of working hours, the main impact has to be the slower economy over the past two years. However, this is now picking up and so employers will either increase hours or hire more staff. ‘They will probably try raising hours first but in the climate of work-life balance and the Working Time Directive review this may bring about resistance from workers and unions which would in turn hit GDP,’ he told HR Gateway today.
[Not if we redefine GDP to stop giving ourselves points for bad stuff and exclude factors like sickness, weapons, burials, waste cleanup, etc.]
Mark Pragnell, economist at CEBR, believes that the figures reflect permanent structural changes in 'U.K. PLC.' People do not want to work in the same way anymore, they want flexibility, he says. Also, larger numbers of older workers are in the economy leading to employers having to be more flexible: ‘Certainly the economy is partly to blame [or credit] but the Working Time Regulations, work-life balance issues and more older workers in the economy have a big effect. In terms of older workers, firms have to be more flexible with hours and this is an issue that is here to stay. ‘People are changing their view of work [back! to what it used to be] and the demographic is also changing. This year employers can either raise hours or hire more people both of which will cause many problems as skills shortages are already bad,’ he told HR Gateway.
[What nonsense. Hiring more people would raise wages and consumer spending, and start the huge sustainable upward curve last seen after World War II. Britain is in a labor glut like everywhere else and here is an idiotic employer-tied economist whining about shortages. It's "the princess and the pea" syndrome. Employers have gotten so coddled over the past three decades of mounting labor surplus that they whine at any little thing that doesn't go their way - while in the meantime pursuing downsizing strategies that cumulatively weaken their markets.]
While many commentators suggest GDP will grow at 3% this year, the CEBR believes that the figure will be closer to 2.4% because of the problems associated with higher hours and skill shortages.
[Higher hours and skill shortages go together - UNLESS you implement automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion.]
- 1/18 40-hour week eludes millions of workers, by Harry Wessel, The Orlando Sentinel.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Janet Gartland loves her job but not the hours. A logistics coordinator with Siemens Westinghouse Power in Orlando, she regularly puts in 11- and 12-hour days, which translates into 55- to 60-hour weeks. Working that many hours week after week, "you tend to be more irritable, more frustrated," said Gartland, who has been with Siemens for 8 years. "Things that don't normally bother you, bother you. You're on the edge all the time."
She's not complaining. Gartland prefers being on edge to being bored, and her "multitasking, fast-paced" job is anything but boring. Nevertheless, she said, "I'd love to go to an 8-hour day."
So wouldms of other full-time workers, for whom the 40-hour workweek is a seldom-to-never occurrence. "Americans work more hours by far than any other workers in the world," said Benjamin Balak, who teaches economic history at Rollins College in Florida.
[Except the Taiwanese are now vying for this booby prize - see story yesterday 1/16/2003 #3 below.]
"If you want to be a high-income wage earner, you have to work like a dog. If you want leisure in today's economy, you'll be stuck in a low-income job. It's income or leisure."
For many if not most professionals today, Balak said, working in excess of 40 hours a week "is expected. You don't have an option."
Recent government surveys appear to contradict Balak. They show the amount of weekly hours put in by full-time workers has remained virtually unchanged since the mid-1970s — 43 hours then, 42.9 hours now.
[because of uncounted overtime, particularly for salaried workers.]
But there is more to it than meets the eye because the surveys include both salaried and hourly workers. An unpublished U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study, for example, finds that those in administrative, managerial and executive occupations spent an average of 45 hours at work each week in 2002.
Hourly workers, who must by law be paid time-and-a-half for overtime, tend to work about 40 hours a week, just as they did in the '70s. It's among the growing number of salaried workers — who aren't eligible for overtime — where the extra hours largely are being worked.
Currently, about 50m U.S. employees are not eligible for overtime; about 71m are eligible.
The 65-year-old Fair Labor Standards Act, which established the 40-hour workweek as a national norm, did so largely by requiring companies to pay employees at least time-and-a-half when workers clocked more than 40 weekly hours. The law protected production and nonsupervisory workers, not managers or professionals. With the subsequent decline in manufacturing jobs, the percentage of workers eligible for overtime pay has dropped.
Another reason the government's published data may be misleading is that they "only measure hours on the job [ie: on the worksite, alias 'face time']," said Randy
Ilg, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington. The data do not include night and weekend hours spent handling work-related e-mails, phone calls and paperwork from home — homework made even easier with the widespread use of laptop computers and cellphones.
"The number of professionals and managers is growing," Ilg said. "The percentage of people working off the clock is growing."
There is another [angle] the government's hours-worked surveys do not take into account: the increased number of dual-income households. "If you look at family work hours, you see really dramatic changes," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "Over the last 30 years, middle-income couples with kids have added an average of 20 weeks of work, the equivalent of five more months a year." In other words, fathers who worked a lot of hours before are still working a lot of hours. But mothers who used to stay at home or work part time are now far more likely to be working full time, as well.
A 1997 survey by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute found that employed fathers with children worked an average of 50.9 hours a week, while employed mothers with children worked an average of 41.4 hours a week.
[What a disgrace, already felt in the obsession of our society with violence, including the whole 'tough on crime' syndrome.]
- 1/19 U.S., EU productivity gap is widening [not], by Christopher Rhoads, WSJ, A2.
[another politically motivated attempt by a triumphalizing US 'conservative' to neo-conn us into thinking we've got higher hourly productivity than Europe, even though we don't bother counting all our hours - or even paying for them, as a neighboring article demonstrates -]
Wal-Mart suit gets class-action status in Massachusetts, WSJ, A2.
...alleging Wal-Mart Stores Inc. consistently required employees in that state to work additional time without pay....
[And if they don't want to pay for the additional time, why should they bother counting it, or reporting it to the people gathering the data for the hourly productivity measure? See also 6/25/2002 #1. Repeated American claims to be the global leaders in hourly productivity will have zero credibility until big American firms quit trying to sneak back slavery (unpaid working hours).]
- 1/17 United Airlines recalls 600 flight attendants, AP via NYT, B4.
...who were on voluntary furlough...to duty starting March 15, based on seniority. They will join 400 flight attendants who were scheduled to return on April 1....
[i.e., timesizing, not downsizing. Compare yesterday -]
1/16 US Airways forced to allow voluntary furloughs after flight attendants file lawsuit, PRNewswire 01/15/2004 12:02 EST via AOLNews.
...According to the collective bargaining agreement between AFA and US Airways, before flight attendants are involuntarily furloughed, the airline must first offer a voluntary furlough. ..\..An arbitrator ruled that the airline had improperly furloughed 552 flight attendants....
1/15/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 1/14 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except today, #2 which is from the 1/15 WSJ hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- Ahead of the tape...- Utilize it, don't criticize it, by Jesse Eisinger, WSJ, C1.
All economic indicators are singing harmoniously, except for the monthly employment report. The economy is strong, according to the GDP [gives points for destructive events], the manufacturing surveys [need to restock after Xmas], weekly jobless claims [based on fewer eligible], retail sales [based on deep discounts & luxury mkts] - you name it - while inflation is tame [$ & interest rates are at record lows, deflation is the danger] and the trade gap is narrowing [only because neo-'conservatives' are finally undermining their own suicidal 'free' trade policy].
Today, the government reports figures on industrial production and its companion, capacity utilization, [which] is forecast to creep up to 75.9% from 75.7%. With prices of manufactured goods rising [no offset for discounts or oil price rises], according to the producer price index, it's surprising capacity utilization is still low.
But a significant part of the estimate of industrial production is based on the numbers of hours worked in the month. In the troubling, but potentially aberrant, employment report for December, the number of hours worked in the factory sector fell substantially....
- Women face daunting climb up the career ladder, by Vanessa Mock, swissinfo [Switzerland].
Women are still failing to reach the highest echelons of Swiss companies and only account for 15% of senior management, according to the Swiss Employers’ Association. The organisation has launched a five-year campaign to boost their
numbers and make firms aware of the difficulties facing women in the workplace....
The [Swiss] Employer’s Association is issuing a set of recommendations to Swiss companies, giving practical advice on how women can be helped along the career ladder. It also plans to launch courses for companies encouraging them to introduce schemes for
working mothers, such as job-sharing programmes....
- Taiwanese learning that life is more than making a living, by Louise Liu, Taipei Journal.
According to a study, Taiwanese on average work longer hours than anyone in the world.
[What kind of sick competition is this now? Is this like a "how much worksaving technology do we have that doesn't do us any good" contest?]
Though such diligence has made them prosperous, it may also be turning them into one of the world's most stressed-out societies. Free-lance writer Louise Liu, based in Berlin, examines recent signs of heightened awareness of the dangers of stress to physical and mental health and the imperative to change their lifestyle.
Early in December of 2003, people in Taiwan were shocked by the news of the sudden death of Wen Shi-ren, a well-known entrepreneur in the Taiwanese IT industry admired by many for his philanthropy and dedication to his work. As Wen died at the relatively young age of 55, his death generated widespread reflection on its cause. Examination of his lifestyle reveals a probable contributory factor: He was a workaholic who set extremely high expectations for himself and lived under constant stress.
[Japanese-style karoshi (death by overwork) in Taiwan??!]
The cover story of a December 2003 issue of Business Weekly, a prestigious Chinese-language magazine in Taiwan, stated that more and more Taiwanese people are becoming victims of stress, and the considerable deleterious impact this can make on their mental and physical health. Wen's case has brought to the fore this long-ignored issue, which many scholars and doctors assert we can no longer afford to gloss over.
Just how stressed out, then, are Taiwanese? According to statistics published in the "World Competitiveness Yearbook," published by the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland and cited in the Business Weekly article, Taiwanese have the highest average number of working hours anywhere in the world.
[Doubtful. But the real long hours aren't tracked ... places like Bangladesh, places in Africa....]
The average working hours per person per year on the island is currently 2,282 hours, which means nearly 44 hours of work per week. In comparison, Americans work an average 1,952 hours per year, while the average for Germany is 1,561 hours. Therefore, working hours in Taiwan are 1.4 times longer than in Germany, a condition which one may reasonably surmise is more conducive to stress.
The fact that Taiwanese are willing to accept such strenuous working conditions may be puzzling to Westerners, who for the most part are accustomed to less exhausting work schedules. If one is to understand why working hours are so long in Taiwan, it is important to consider the differences between Western and Chinese cultural values regarding work and life.
For instance, when people are asked to name an important traditional Chinese character trait, a common answer is diligence. Chinese peoples are indeed well known for their diligence in work - a characteristic as deeply rooted in their culture as is the demand for efficiency in the German culture. Diligence is also interrelated with another characteristic Chinese value, the relentless striving for success and the desire to win no matter what. Of course, this value is particularly evident in the workplace, with those in the Chinese cultural tradition commonly taking achievements at work as the prime measure of success in life. Hence, the workplace is the center of life for a lot of Chinese people, a fact underlying the saying "the Chinese live to work." Another factor that might explain the diligence of the Taiwanese people in their work is the fierce competition they face in the island nation, which has the second-highest population density in the world after Bangladesh. Though a mere 36,188 square kilometers in area, it is home to 23m people, a huge population for such a small patch of earth. Little wonder, then, that Taiwanese feel the need to work hard in order to keep their jobs and beat out competition.
[What about "work smart, not hard"? What about all the layers of work-saving technology that were "sold" as making life easier for everyone?]
Western cultures, by contrast, generally have a quite different outlook on work. While the Chinese are said to live to work, Westerners tend to view work as a means to getting enough money to relax and enjoy life - an important goal in Western culture.
[Would this were true in the English-speaking economies! Apparently the reporter has never heard of the Protestant work ethic]
This is especially true for people in Western European countries such as Germany and France, where employees enjoy much longer vacations than do their counterparts in Asian countries such as Japan and Taiwan.
According to survey data published in the Mental Health Foundation's "2003 Report on the Mental Health Index of Taiwanese" and cited in Business Weekly, one-third of Taiwanese describe their mental and physical health as being poor because pressure from their living environments has rendered their bodies and minds incapable of maintaining resilience under stress.
The mental and physical well-being of survey respondents was assessed in terms of six types of mental problems covered in the questionnaire: sleep problems, memory problems, lack of concentration, lack of motivation, depression and anxiety - all of which are symptoms of stress.
Assuming that the survey sampling is representative of the general population, its results indicate that 11% of Taiwanese lack motivation, 5.1% experience loss of ability to concentrate, 15.9% experience sleeping problems, 10.8% experience difficulties with memorization, and 16.4% frequently experience anxiety or depression.
The report also offers insight into the demographic profile of those who are most likely to fall victim to stress-related maladies. As the survey data indicates, university graduates earning monthly salaries between US$1,500 and US$1,900 tend to be the most depressed and anxiety-ridden.
Attempting to explain this finding, in the Business Weekly article professor Yu Han-i of National Taiwan University Department of Social Work emphasized that Taiwanese are taught from a very young age to strive for high achievement and not to ease up until they have reached their goals. Therefore, reasoned Yu, the higher the educational level people have, the less easily they tend to be satisfied with their achievements and salaries.
In addition to the aforementioned six categories of stress-related problems, the report also asked subjects to rate their general mental health on a scale from zero to 10, with 10 meaning excellent. Results show that 45% of interviewed subjects gave themselves scores below five, an indication of the alarming degree to which people are feeling burned out.
As a matter of fact, says CNN.com's health page, unrelieved stress is inimical to physical health because it produces hormones that can weaken the immune system and make the body more vulnerable to colds and other diseases. Other effects stress can have on the body, says the Web site, include high blood pressure, heart problems, digestive problems, increased chance of infection, muscular strain, backache and aggravation of chronic conditions like eczema.
Too much stress can also disrupt normal brain function. For example, when humans are stressed, the adrenal gland near the kidney secretes the stress hormone cortisol. Scientific studies have shown that high levels of cortisol impair memory function, making memories less accessible or inaccessible for periods of time, although memories themselves are not thereby lost.
In another CNN.com health article, Douglas Bremer of Emory University stated, "Chronic stress can also harm mental concentration and reduce a person's learning ability." Therefore, the negative effects of stress are manifold and should not be shrugged off as insignificant.
As the Business Weekly report further points out, Taiwan by no means has a monopoly on stress-related problems. Indeed, they are a common fixture in even the most affluent industrialized countries. The report cited International Labor Organization figures indicating that one out of 10 employees suffers either from depression, anxiety or exhaustion in advanced countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Finland and Poland - among which the United States and Finland have the world's highest growth competitiveness according to the World Economic Forum's 2003 Global Competitiveness Report.
Hence, one may say that Wen's untimely death has at least served as a wakeup call to Taiwanese who for too long have chosen to ignore stress and stress-generated maladies by fatalistically accepting them as part and parcel to their cultural heritage.
Fortunately, awareness of stress has increased significantly in recent years, and people are becoming increasingly concerned about their mental and physical well-being. Interest in stress-relieving methods has been stimulated in the wake of Wen's demise, with the Business Weekly article offering the following advice from eperts:
One reason that interest in strategies for relaxation has risen in recent years is the introduction of the two-day weekend in Taiwan. Only three years ago, Saturday used to be a working day on the island, leaving only Sunday for rest and recreation.
- Maintain a regular schedule and healthful diet in order to provide the body and brain with sufficient rest and nutrition.
- Allow for at least a short period of relaxation time during each workday.
- Lead a simple life free of inordinate materialistic desires.
- Take a philosophical approach to life, shaping one's personal values and one's own definition of success in life, with an emphasis on developing a fuller range of human potential.
- Further, the article recommended meditation as a means of deep relaxation and stress relief. Meditation is currently experiencing a growth in popularity in the West, its practitioners including Hillary Clinton and Al Gore.
Consequently, activities such as travel, soaking in hot springs and going to resorts have become increasingly popular in recent years, and even though Taiwanese are still among the hardest working people in the world, at least they are learning to look at life as more than just making a living.
- Bill: Part-time workers need benefits - Unemployment eligibility would expand, by Norma Love,
Concord Monitor [NH].
New Hampshire should expand unemployment benefits to cover more workers who want to work part time, supporters of a House bill testified yesterday.
[Well, of course, if they're going to count part-time employees as "employed" for purposes of the unemployment rate, regardless of their desire to work full time.]
Rep. Franklin Bishop, a Raymond Republican, told the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee his bill would provide benefits to part-time workers who lose their jobs and are searching for permanent employment "commensurate with their work history."
[Nice word here, "commensurate" - implies both similar in skills and similar in pay.]
People can collect unemployment now if they are looking for a permanent full-time job and are available to work all shifts. Laid off part-time workers can get benefits if they look for a full-time job - though their benefits will reflect their lower earnings. The law does allow people with physical or medical limitations to look for part-time work.
Supporters argued expanding benefits to cover more part-time workers is a matter of fairness since about 25% of the state's work force - or about 121,000 people - work part time. Franklin noted that part-time workers can collect unemployment in a handful of states.
But Deputy Employment Security Commissioner Darrell Gates warned that the bill's price tag was too high - $10m a year. Gates said the trust fund used to pay unemployment benefits has steadily dropped over the past few years, from $316m in December 2001 to $226m last month. He estimated the fund will have $181m at the end of this year.
The state has been paying $120m a year in benefits, but employers have only paid $40m annually in payroll
taxes to replenish the fund, Gates said. As a result, employer taxes are being increased to boost their contribution to $65m a year. Spending $10m on benefits for part-time workers would not be wise at this time, he said. "The state cannot afford this bill," Gates said.
Gates also argued most part-time workers prefer to work part time. Only 6,000 of the 121,000 part-time workers said they accepted part-time work because they could not find a full-time job, he said.
But Jonathan Baird of New Hampshire Legal Assistance said many people are forced to work part time because they can't find full-time work. Employers like the flexibility they gain by hiring part-time help, he said. Employers also save on overtime and health premiums, he said.
Family pressures also make it impossible for many people to work day or night. Child care isn't readily available for odd hours. "It misrepresents reality to assume all part-time workers choose to work part time," said Baird. The unemployment program was established when the male breadwinner was the employment model - not mothers juggling child rearing with work.
"The economy has drastically changed," he said. "The (unemployment) rules have not kept up."
1/14/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 1/13 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except today, ##3,4,5 which are from the 1/14 WSJ,BG,WSJ hardcopies), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- Asda the best company, The Western Mail via icWales [UK].
UK - Supermarket giant Asda was named yesterday as the best company in Britain to work for.
Workers at the firm were questioned in a Fortune magazine exercise to find employers offering a "great workplace, distinctive culture and a clear social mission". Fortune said there was more than a "warm and fuzzy" atmosphere at Asda adding, "Employees have well-defined ways to move up from entry-level jobs."
The magazine also highlighted "colleague circles" in every Asda store which served as sounding boards for grievances and ideas for improvement.
Asda, owned by US giant Wal-Mart [what a potentially undermining contrast!], employs 125,000 workers at 265 stores in this country.
Asda said its working practices included...job sharing, career breaks, adoption leave and so-called Benidorm leave for over-50s wanting to take up to three months off in the winter.... David Smith, Asda's People Director said, "We always try and stay one step ahead of the game."
- One legacy you don't want to pass on to your children - workaholism, by Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, D1.
Over [ie: before] the holidays...a college freshman brought home a plan that shocked her parents: She would work as a waitress full-time straight through her vacation, including Christmas.... Her father, Krish Krishnan...was dismayed to see his daughter taking his example of working long hours to extremes. "Don't be so hard on yourself"...he told her. But [his] advice fell on deaf ears.
As the baby boomlet hits their teens and 20s, many parents are dismayed to see they've created little adults just like themselves: workaholics. They toil to exhaustion, they're stressed and distracted, and they seldom make time to spend with loved ones. The shock of seeing themselves in their kids brings many of these parents [just where they need to be -] to a dead halt. ...Whether an overwork habit can be a true addiction depends on whom you ask. Some say it can...liken[ing] workaholism to, say, alcoholism, as a compulsive disorder that progressively destroys the sufferer's health, character, relationships, and ability to feel emotion.
...Most people use the term "workaholic"...to describe people who get so caught up in overwork that they lose perspective for a long time on other aspects of life. That can include people with a chronic habit of working too long because they fear being laid off or because they're seduced by the heady rewards of some careers....
- Consulting firms to be forced to comply with 48 hour working week?, Consultant News [UK].
A possible Government crackdown on employer abuses of the 48-hour maximum working week was mooted this week, in a move that could wreak havoc on the UK management consultancy sector.
[Ergo, no time discipline in this sector, surely one of the most important discipline's management can have. So we might well question what, if anything, these self-proclaimed "management consultants" have to offer.]
In an interview with the Financial Times, Gerry Sutcliffe (Minister for workers’ rights) revealed he would like to see laws changed to make it harder for employers to pressure new recruits into signing away their rights to a maximum working week. He also threatened to throw the spotlight on industries where allegations of working hours abuse are rife.
Such a move could have wide repercussions for the consulting industry, where it is common practice for new recruits to sign a waiver to these rights. Such waivers legitimise the 60-80 hour working weeks that are the norm in consulting.
[They work 1840 working hours, have no lives, and they think they have anything to offer anybody? Better this nest of charlatans should be put out of business.]
In its current form, the working hours directive gives UK employers the freedom to ask their workers to waive their right to a 48-hour maximum working week.
[How about the freedom to have some of the most basic kind of freedom = free time?! How about the freedom to have a life? The "freedom" to enslave oneself to someone else's agenda is self-negating.]
There is currently nothing to stop employers from asking new recruits to sign their
employment contract and their opt-out agreement at the same time, a practice which could be seen as "bending the rules".
The Government wants to be perceived as clamping down on such "abuses" of the directive. The alternative - that the EU steps in to impose its strict working regime on British employers - is likely to result in even greater restrictions on employers’ hiring practices, something the Government is keen to avoid.
Senior figures in consulting, law, accounting and banking will all be hoping that any revisions to the UK’s implementation of the directive do not force the 48 hour week upon them - or compel them to compensate employees for additional hours
[Is this pathetic or what? This moron is arguing against "compelling" employers not to practice slavery = uncompensated work. We thought slavery in Britain was abolished in 1824. Apparently not, with employers armed with the "salary" loophole.]
Watch this space for further developments....
[Such is always the whine of hogs who want more than their share of a vanishing resource - no matter how it deprives and harms others, even in the most basic "game" of human society in the Economic Age = self-supporting work.]
- Labour - U.S.: Overtime pay forms in peril, by Katherine Stapp, Inter Press Service.
An electronic technician with the U.S. Navy, John Garrity has two young children and another on the way. He often works extra hours to help make ends meet, but worries that under new overtime pay rules proposed by the Labour Dept., he
will lose about $6,000 a year.
[No one should "often" work overtime to make ends meet. They should have plenty of on-the-job training options open to them so they can upgrade their skills and make what they need "to make ends meet" within straight time. And Timesizing's Phase Two makes those options available.]
"It's a pay cut and an attack on workers' rights," he said in an interview. "They're trying to roll the clock back. People fought and went to jail to have a 40-hour work week so they could spend more time with their families. The president just wants to pay back his corporate friends."
On Wednesday, an international trade union criticised the United States for having ratified only two of eight global conventions on core workers' rights, calling that one of the "worst rates of ratification in the world".
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) said the country has "a serious record of continuing labour rights violations involving some of the world's best-known companies, such as Wal-Mart".
The George W. Bush administration has touted the new overtime rules as a long overdue update of the Fair Labour Standards Act of 1938, pointing out that they would extend overtime pay eligibility to an estimated 1.3m low-income workers.
Under federal law, hourly employees are entitled to time-and-a-half pay (150% of the normal rate) if their work week extends beyond 40 hours.
But a study last year by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-partisan Washington think tank, found the new rules would also remove overtime pay protection from some eightm workers by reclassifying them as executives, professionals - in the case of Garrity, for example - and administrators. Workers earning more than $65,000 a year would also be exempt from overtime pay.
"Our experience is that the Department of Labour has been pretty unresponsive to our criticisms," said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at EPI. "We've written extensively about the serious, fundamental flaws in their analysis of the impact of this change, yet they've done little to address the issues we've raised."
Labour Department officials contest the study, saying the changes would affect less than onem higher-paid workers.
But many Democrat and Republican politicians alike oppose the new regulations.
Last year, both the Senate and House of Representatives passed an amendment to the proposed rules that preserved overtime pay protection for most workers. The amendment, named after its sponsor, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa state, was later
dropped from a spending bill under intense pressure from the White House.
The Labour Department is now pushing the regulations as an administrative rule change - for which it does not need congressional consent - that would likely take effect in March.
In a move that provoked outcry among unions, the department has also published information for employers on how to legally avoid paying overtime to low-income workers who could be eligible for it, thought it insists it does not recommend such tactics.
"This is a draconian proposal," said Lou Gerber, chief lobbyist of the Communications Workers of America labour union. "The administration has been deaf to the votes of Congress. The real issue is why isn't the administration proposing to raise the minimum wage, rather than cutting overtime pay?"
Legislators are currently on winter recess, but a hearing on the overtime rules is planned for Jan. 20.
"The idea behind our lobbying efforts right now is to get them to put the Harkin amendment back in the bill," said Kelly Ross, a legislative representative with the American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations, which represents more than 13m workers. "It will be a lot harder to fix it once it's passed."
The National Organisation of Women (NOW) has also opposed the changes, noting that many of those affected would be women working in middle-income jobs, like nurses, secretaries, cooks and paralegals. "Think about a working mom whose boss requires her to work an extra four hours one night," said NOW President Kim Gandy in a statement. "Without the guarantee of overtime, she has to pay the babysitter while she's doing work for which she isn't getting paid extra."
The ICFTU reported that, "women hold nearly half the executive and managerial jobs in the United States, but they fall short of men at the top ranks of the salary ladder". "Discrimination in respect of employment and occupation is prohibited by law. However, there is still a wage gap between men and women and between different ethnic groups," it added.
Industry groups that support the Labour Department's position argue that the EPI study was faulty, and assert the new rules would actually result in a net increase of people entitled to overtime pay protection. "These regulations have not been comprehensively modified since 1949 and are out of step with today's workplace," said Sandra Boyd, a vice president at the National Association of Manufacturers. "Employers want these regulations reformed for two reasons: to reduce compliance
costs - you shouldn't need to hire a team of lawyers and consultants to figure out how to classify employees - and to reduce litigation exposure," Boyd said.
Last year, the Labour Department investigated more than 31,000 worker complaints and recovered $212m in unpaid overtime wages, a 21% increase over 2002. A particularly notorious case was retail giant Wal-Mart, which is fighting dozens of lawsuits around the country brought by employees who say they were forced to work unpaid overtime.
Tammy McCutchen, who heads the Labour Dept's wage & hour division, says increased productivity and fewer lawsuits under the new rules could mean savings of up to $1.9B for employers. "Overtime pay is very hard to get even if you are entitled to it," says Jonathan Rees, a history professor at Colorado State University who has written extensively on labour issues. "The fact that the Bush administration would rather take away this right than enforce this law is an obvious sign of their domination by corporate interests."
- Australia employers face demands to ease required work hours, by Barbara Adam, Bloomberg News.
MELBOURNE, Australia - ...The world's biggest industrial explosives maker, Melbourne-based Orica,... the Australian units of International Business Machines, the world's biggest computer services company, and Stockholm-based Autoliv, the biggest maker of air bags for cars, are among...companies embracing flexible working hours that make family and work commitments easier to juggle.
Labor unions want the same arrangements for all Australians. Employer groups say they would be costly and create extra paperwork....
The benefits of flexible work policies may be reflected in share prices. Orica's stock has surged by more than a third in each of the past three years. Autoliv's U.S. stock rose about 80% last year as it acquired businesses to expand. It finished the year second only to Lear Corp. on the Bloomberg U.S. auto part/equipment index. IBM Australia and its parent, IBM World Trade, are not listed.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the national organization of labor unions, wants the labor court to let all workers buy, through pay cuts, up to six weeks' extra annual leave [vacation]....
For the Australian unit of Autoliv, the A$100,000-a-year, or $76,525, cost of flexible work hours is worthwhile. Reduced staff turnover saves about $3.6m annually, Robert Franklin, the chief executive, said.
Franklin faced industry opposition when he began introducing changes to working arrangements seven years ago and says other employers' objections are shortsighted. "They were all saying to me that I was creating precedents that were unjustifiable, that were a cost burden to the industry, that I should be hung, drawn and quartered," he said. "Many organizations now see us as the benchmark in manufacturing systems and efficiency, so slowly people are starting to realize that it has some merit."
Franklin said his labor policies were endorsed by the Autoliv parent company, based in Stockholm. Autoliv Australia offers up to two weeks extra leave in exchange for pay cuts, flexible start and finish times, and an early finish on Fridays. It also lets workers "buy" a year's annual leave, at 80% of normal salary, by working at four years for 80% of their pay, according to Franklin.
IBM Australia, which offers its 10,000 Australian employees options such as job-sharing, working from home and unpaid leaves of absence, plans to test a leave-buying scheme this year. "At the end of the day the cost is pretty much negligible," said Katrina Troughton, IBM's Australia-New Zealand general manager for software.
1/13/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 1/12 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #3-4 which are from the 1/13 NYT & WSJ hardcopies), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- Lack of work-life balance policies highlighted in study, Ireland Online.
EIRE - A survey undertaken by the Irish Management Institute has found that 68% of companies have no formal work-life balance policies in operation. However, while no formal or written procedures were available in a lot of cases, many firms did employ practices which helped employees balance their work and personal lives.
The practice which had the highest impact was job-sharing, with the highest overall impact score on the area of staff retention.
Managers were asked to rate the impact which each of 15 tools had on the four organisational concerns of motivation, productivity, retention and recruitment. Among the practices mentioned in the survey were study leave, part-time employment, flexi-time, job-sharing, telecommuting, voluntary reduced working time and term-time working.
The managers were asked to rate the impact of each of the headings on a five point scale with one representing a low impact and five representing a high impact.
Commenting on the survey, IMI Director of Training, Andrew McLaughlin said : "The emergence of 'presenteeism' and 'workaholic' cultures in the early 1990s are still evident in many organisations today. The research demonstrates that Irish managers take the work-life balance of their employees seriously," he added.
Following pilot testing, 120 questionnaires were sent out and 73 were returned, a 61% response rate. 40% of respondents were at senior management level and 60% were at middle or supervisory level. 68% of respondents were male and 32% female.
The majority of respondents (83.6%) worked in private sector organisations.
- Dragging into work when you're sick does no one a favor, by Jared Sandberg, WSJ, B1.
USA - ...It can be hard to tell which ailment is worse:
But consider this hazard...: Your every exhale strafes colleagues with pathogens. One innocent keystroke on the departmental fax machine - or any other public display of infection - and the whole department could be laid...waste....
- the virulent strain of influenza that is still laying people low
- or America's short-sighted work ethic, which does a number on people's heads. We often mistake absenteeism for sloth and presenteeism for productivity, forgetting that we all know officemates who don't do much work even when they show up. As a result, countless employees soldier on at work with their sniffles and tickly throats, hallucinating that they are indispensable or that their bosses will shower them with appreciation.
[Most employees today would be happy just not to be showered with pink slips.]
- 'I can provide for myself' - Many [Melrose High] students say having a [part-time] job pays off in buying power and self-esteem, by Irene Sege, Boston Globe, D1.
[But where do they find the jobs?]
MELROSE, Mass. -
..\..They take jobs to buy cars and clothes and cellphones and pizza, to fund hobbies, to save for college, and to fill time. Some, like Kotkowski and Fallon...have jobs that match their passions. Some, like David Carroll and Karima Taswell, work several weekday evenings and weekends too. Most earn $8 an hour or less, but some land more profitable posts....
- ...Amanda Kotkowski [at a] beauty salon...after school....
- ...Mark Fallon...works at a skateboard shop....
- Christina Carucci charges up to $11 an hour for babysitting.
- Danielle Burke pockets $140 waitressing one busy Sunday.
- ...Rebecca Kromer...is on [duty] her [Burke's] night off..\..
- Jared Luxenberg gets as much as $25 an hour in the computer consulting business he started when he was 11.
Even in a down economy, more than half of Melrose seniors with jobs work 15 hours a week or more....
[Well, they're finding part-time school-year jobs in time-warped Melrose, Mass. while other students can't find summer jobs and graduates can't find permenant jobs.]
- Dollar General Corp., WSJ, C6.
...lost a round in a court fight with current and former store managers regarding overtime pay.... In March 2002, a Dollar General store manager, Edith Brown, filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham, claiming that she worked up to 90 hours a week without receiving overtime pay, bonuses, vacation or sick time. In a statement, the company said it continues to believe that its store managers are properly classified as [overtime-premium] exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act...\..
The ruling allows individuals who served as store managers since March 1999, among other conditions, to join the original complaint..\..as an "opt-in class"..\.. The retailer [is] based in Goodlettsville, Tenn....
1/10-12/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 1/09-11 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
- Government, employers, unions join to create jobs, Korea Herald.
SOUTH KOREA - Labor, management and the government joined yesterday to establish by mid-February a three-way convention to generate jobs, the Korea Tripartite Commission said yesterday. The labor policy consultation body said a six-member committee was launched to draw up an outline of the job convention before handing the draft to the main committee.
"To create jobs in the frozen domestic labor market, larger corporate investment and job-sharing among workers are necessary," said Shin Chul-young, who presided over the tripartite meeting. "The convention will likely include measures to reinvigorate investment, resolve labor disputes and ease corporate regulations," he said....
- Workplace and family - The ABCs of retirement - Having a plan and making it well in advance are key to moving into this life phase, experts say - Gary Waterfield offers 10 factors you should consider before leaving your career for good, by Stephanie Whittaker & John Kenney, Montreal Gazette.
MONTREAL, Que. - Don Prokosh, who retired two years ago, continues to work as a substitute teacher about two days a month.
"I still feel like I'm on an extended vacation except that I get paid once a month," said Prokosh, who retired at the age of 51 from his job as a teacher in the Lester B. Pearson School Board. "I had taught for 33 years and I didn't feel burned out. But it seemed like the right time to retire. The union was doing workshops on retirement. The new curriculum had come along and I decided that if I stayed in my job, I would have to go through a different education cycle."
But rather than leave the profession completely, Prokosh decided he would work as a substitute teacher after retiring. "That's what got me through it," he said. "It would be a bit like a decompression chamber. I would teach one or two days a week."
Having a plan and making it in advance of retirement are the key to moving into that life phase successfully, experts say.
In his recently published book, How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free, author Ernie Zelinski says that "retirement should put a perpetual smile on your face," but he cautions that people need the "three important essentials" that they enjoy during their working lives. "A sense of community, purpose and structure," Zelinski said in an interview from Edmonton. "You need to replace those things in retirement."
Zelinski's book is a recipe for how to plan a retirement financially and psychologically. And he says that people often govern their retirements as they run their working lives. "People often say they'll travel when they retire," he said. "In fact, people who don't travel much when they're working are less likely to travel in retirement. "Generally speaking, if you watch TV in your leisure time when you work, you'll just watch more of it when you're retired. People who are active tend to continue being active after retirement."
One of the best ways to prepare for retirement, he says, is to forge a balanced lifestyle while working. "If you lead a balanced life, that's your best preparation because you don't sink all your identity into work. Balance means that you don't work more than eight hours a day and you don't identify yourself through work. You take vacations and when you go on vacation, you don't take work with you. People who get totally immersed in their work have the hardest time in retirement."
Preparation for retirement should begin at least a decade before the big day, says Zelinski.
Gary Waterfield, a consultant and career coach at DBM, an international career-transition firm, says a pre-retirement lifestyle is a good predictor of the post-retirement version. "People who have interests outside of their work lives tend to transition well into retirement," he said. Waterfield, who conducts retirement-preparation workshops, says "people often spend longer planning for their vacations than their retirements."
He says there are 10 factors that contribute to the success of retirement that people should consider before leaving their careers for good:
"I encourage people to take time and re-evaluate the plan on an annual basis," he said. "At least five years before retiring, you should start mapping your retirement so it'll be a smooth transition."
- Work reorientation, the ability to reorient themselves to doing something other than work. "This is important for people who wear their jobs like a badge of identity on their foreheads," Waterfield said.
- Attitude toward retirement. "Some people can't wait to retire because they have other interests or plans," he said. "If you don't have a positive attitude toward retirement, you need to explore why."
- Directedness. Retirement will require you to be your own boss, says Waterfield. If you've been self-employed or in a position of authority, you already know how. If you've always had marching orders, you'll have to learn.
- Health perception. "People who lead healthy lives will continue to do so in retirement," Waterfield said. "You shouldn't just look at health issues when you retire. You need to think about them before."
- Financial security. "Any expert will tell you that the sooner you start planning this, the better," Waterfield said. "People normally start planning for this in mid-life. You need to analyze your financial situation and adjust your lifestyle accordingly."
- Life satisfaction. "As we go through life, we need to decide what our life satisfiers are," Waterfield said. "How can we continue to be satisfied after retirement? You need to analyze what satisfies you and discuss this with your partner." Part of this picture might include moving into self-employment or working a reduced work week.
- Life meaning. "This becomes more important as people age," he said. "We ask ourselves what the journey is about. This is a spiritual and inward discussion. And thinking about it helps you live your life in line with your values."
- Adaptability. "People develop routines when they live in a structured way," Waterfield said. "All of a sudden, you wake up on a Monday morning and the day is your own." Retirees have to learn to adapt to a smaller income and to not being in a familiar work environment. "Communicating about this with family and friends can help."
- Family relationship issues. "The person who was away is now at home," he said. "So partners see more of each other. This could be good, bad or in between and it requires open discussion. Most healthy couples agree they need time apart."
- Writing a success plan. Before you retire, says Waterfield, it's important to consider all the above factors and write about them.
Prokosh says he views his retirement as another life transition. "I've been through a lot of transitions in my life and this was just another," he said....
- In-house audit says Wal-Mart violated labor laws, by Steven Greenhouse, NYT, A16.
"It was just too busy to take a break," said Maria Rocha, who ran a restaurant inside a Dallas Wal-Mart, that she said was under-staffed. [photo caption]
An internal audit now under court seal warned top executives at Wal-Mart Stores three years ago that employee records at 128 stores pointed to extensive violations of child-labor laws [maximum worklife control - bottom of range (top = retirement age)] and state regulations requiring time for breaks and meals. The audit of one week's time-clock records for roughly 25,000 employees found 1,371 instances in which minors apparently worked too late at night, worked during school hours, or worked too many hours in a day. It also found 60,767 apparent instances of workers not taking breaks, and 15,705 apparent instances of employees working through meal times.
Officials at Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, employing 1.2m people at its 3,500 stores in the U.S., insisted that the audit was meaningless....
[Well, if it was an "internal audit" and it was meaningless, why did they implement it? Again, Sam Walton would be spinning in his grave if he saw the monster his heirs and successors have turned his business into. No surprise considering their creeping slavery of "clock out and keep working," 6/25/2002 #1.]
- [a kindof confused article with a good, clear title & lotsa timesizing implix -]
CEOs as job killers, by Editor-in-chief William Holstein of Chief Executive mag, WSJ, B2.
Just as America's CEOs are recovering from a damaging series of scandals,
[they trolling for sympathy when it's no one's fault but their own?]
they face the prospect of an election-year barrage over jobs. True, we have seen some cyclical increase in employment, but it's decidedly modest and is far below the level that "feels" good.
["We have seen"??? Don't you love the way these big babies portray themselves as passive spectators? Who the hell is there to do the hiring if not them? The mom&pop groceries&hardwares they've shut down with their Wal-Marts? And never mind the level that "feels" good - their concern should be the level that maintains their own markets. Timesizing does this automatically.]
The reason is that deeper structural forces are at work:
[check out this genius's first-to-mention "deep structural force" -]
one is that CEOs have outsourced 100,000s of jobs. Outsourcing, mostly outside the U.S. [ie: 'offshoring'], is a much deeper phenomenon than many people recognize
[only for obsessive-compulsive "free trade" dogmatists]
and is still in its early stages.
[Oh oh, guess he figures they've just started their global looting spree.]
Millions of jobs are at stake.
[OH OH, "millions of jobs" means tens of millions of once-confident consumers, as in c-u-s-t-o-m-e-r-s, as in c-l-i-e-n-t-s, and in once-robust onshore, domestic, home m-a-r-k-e-t-s.]
The risk, of course, is that CEOs could become targeted as "job killers," particularly if [even official low-balled] unemployment levels remain above, say, 5%.
[Here's hoping Nader and the rest of the critics enhance their effectiveness by taking a hint from the great community organizer, Saul Alinsky, who said, "Personalize the problem." In short, quit criticizing abstract "big corporations" and target CEOs, preferably individual CEOs, preferably by name. The whole purpose of the corporate artificial person was shielding. Cut through the shield. No pain, no gain.]
- It's not just the factory jobs going offshore;
- it's the kind of white-collar and high-tech jobs that affluent Americans expect to be available for their children.
[Remember how the Civil Rights Movement never really gained traction until the children of the affluent got involved and started getting beat up and arrested? And there's no way there's gonna be squat available for the children of the affluent if the downsizing response to technology coupled with desperate offshoring continues - assuming, of course, that there's any population of "affluent" left to speak of outside Bill Gates', Paul Allen's, and Rupert Murdoch's increasingly heavily guarded fortress-homes.]
What should be done?
[We'll hold off including this in our Big Questions - it's too soon in the article and too shallow in the "deep structural forces."]
CEOs need to remind the broader public what globalization really means
[is he referring to meaning "descent to the lowest common denominator"? - the kind of thing CEOs used to accuse communism of? - because that's what's happening, regardless of his illusions of some nobler meaning]
and what an important role U.S. innovation plays in it.
[Is he referring to the way US innovation saves time, but then gets poisoned when US CEOs convert those time savings into huge concentrated compensation for themselves and huge downsizing and underemployment for everyone else, instead of more, fully employed, financially secure free time for everyone, including themselves via timesizing?]
The guiding philosophy, held by both Republican and Democratic presidents for decades, is that it makes sense for the U.S. to shed lower skilled jobs because Americans are capable of climbing up the ladder toward better-paying, more fulfilling roles.
[This is why we need new, Third-Way, "guiding philosophy." And phew! Mr. Holstein doesn't even listen to himself. Didn't he just say three sentences before, "It's not just the factory jobs going offshore; it's the kind of white-collar and high-tech jobs that affluent Americans expect to be available for their children."?! Mr. Holstein either has a very partitioned mind or mad-cow disease! (Couldn't resist - it's just that ol' Jeckyll&Hyde thing surfacing again.) Then he goes into a big thing about needing to commercialize new technology, and "job-creating innovation" - blissfully ignoring the cost-cutting dba downsizing purpose most CEOs have imposed on technological innovation, a cumulating downsizing that has spread from their workforces to their markets and is still going on (see below and archives). Too bad they haven't figured out a way to downsize their workforces without downsizing their customers' customers! Gee, come to think of it, there may not even be one! Well, place-bo my gaze-bo and creature-feature Placibo Flamingo! Then he strolls Memory Lane and evokes...]
...the classic start-up in a garage or a college dorm room, as in the case of Apple Computer, Dell and HP.
[How revealing that all three of them erst-while innovative garages are locked in a death struggle of declining prices and profits for a downsized consumer base. HP is the only one that has done some serious downsizing lately (15,000 on 9/05/2001 #1) but they were kinda building on Compaq and DEC downsizing, and now that Mitch Kapor's innovative garage (Lotus) got eaten by IBM, IBM got into the act too (its own 15,000 layoffs, 2/28/2003 #1, and 1,000 more recent offshorings). Dell only did 4000, 5/08/2001 #1, while only Apple has managed to maintain its workforce without massive downsizing.]
Yet another source [of jobs, we presume] is the application of technology to services.
[Ah, doesn't he mean "yet another CEO job-killing ground"? First CEOs wiped out agricultural employment with machine technology, reducing it to less than 5% of what it once was. Then they moved on to wipe our manufacturing employment with mechanization and now robotization. And now they've started on the service sector. They've already made great progress. They've disemployed most American travel agents (remember travel agents?) with direct Internet reservation systems, many bank tellers via ATMs, 10,000s of gas station attendants with self-serve gaspumps, and now they're starting on supermarket and gawdknowswhatother cashiers with self-serve checkout systems. Oh yeah, let's not forget the 100,000s of corporate and organizational telephone receptionists and phone-information operators (remember easy&pleasant old "411") thanks to infuriating time-wasting frequently circular, robotic telephone answering systems. It's so easy to forget all the hundreds of job categories that have disappeared (unless you're trying to justify incremental phase-out of overtime pay) when you're straining to think of the dozens of job categories that have been created by technology. We're not against technology - God forbid, that would be (oh horror!) LUDDISM! - but we're sure as hell against CEOs committing economic suicide on our behalf (first) and their own behalf (next) by continuing to subvert technology by cutting jobs and markets instead of working hours - by continuing to downsize the workforce&consumerbase instead of the workweek ( 'timesizing'). This whole 'job-loss recovery' is their doing, CEO near-sightedness, CEO blinderedness, CEO stupidity, CEO obsessiveness, robotic sociopathic CEO grabbiness. It's no one else's. They're the ones who have all the power, all the lobbyists, all the PACs, all the political contributions, ergo all the decision-making. There's no one else they can blame - or we can blame - but themselves. Wal, maybe we can blame the unions for not focusing much MUCH more obsessively on continuing our 150-year history of workweek reduction instead of letting it lapse for the last two generations - you know, to keep the vanishing market-demanded employment spreading around to all the people we would like to be self-supporting so that taxpayers wouldn't have to do it - or neglect it and then be faced with a line of homeless beggars at every shopping mall.]
The manner in which FedEx, UPS, Cintas and Wal-Mart have applied technology to otherwise mundane functions has created hundreds of thousands of jobs.
[Could this possibly be the same FedEx that floated early retirement and severance deals for 14,000 of its employees last year, ? 6/03/2003? Could this possibly be the same UPS that tried to convert all its full-time employees to part-time c.1996 to save money on benefits? And we don't have anuthing on Cintas, but it's truly amazing that Holstein has the gall to cite Wal-Mart, which has a PBS documentary going the rounds about how many small businesses it's destroyed all over the country, not to mention the crummy pay and "clock-out-&-keep-working" it's still being investigated for, 6/25/2002 #1. What planet does Holstein live on, Planet Mooo-duh? If indeed the technology applied to mundane service functions has created 100,000s of jobs - a claim which he has not supported with either evidence or anecdotes - then it has destroyed 1,000,000s of mundane service jobs. We mentioned a few categories above: travel agents, bank tellers, service-station attendants, receptionists, 411 operators, supermarket cashiers, small-store clerks, small-store owners....]
The common denominator is that people with cutting-edge ideas obtain capital and take risks.
[Cutting-edge ideas? It would be well to recall here the Dilbert strip way back on 1/11/1995: Dilbert lying on sofa, Dogbert sitting on back of sofa above him. Three frames, first two - Dogbert speaks -
This is the heart of American-style capitalism and nobody else has ever been able to match it.
- "I'm starting my own venture capital firm.
- "I'm attracted to the concept of watching people with moronic ideas beg for money."]
[In fact, as Buckminster Fuller was wont to point out, history shows again and again that most innovation comes from socialized efforts in military settings, and then filters out to the civilian markets. IN FACT, partitioned-brain Holstein, never one to remember what he himself said longer than two sentences ago, bemoans in the next column the fact that -]
...The Bush administration is cutting back on the federal government's technology spending. ...Government spending created the Internet and the biotech industry, both major sources of new jobs..\..
[or new job&stock bubbles anyway. Mr. Holstein is babbling. He's contradicting himself repeatedly. And this is the calibre of thinking that has reached the seat of editor-in-chief of Chief Executive magazine. Boy, are we in trouble.]
Problem is, these patterns of job creation aren't working well enough right now.
[They never did, but then, until we stopped in 1941, we always nudged the workweek downward, starting at roughly seven 12-hour days in 1776 and ending at the now-frozen 40-hour week in 1940. That's the only thing that gave "these patterns of job creation" the appearance of ever working well. OK, there is also something called quality-enhancing technology, but we've maxxed out on most of that. With nuclear and hydrogen bombs, we maxxed out on weapons. With hifi that only dogs can hear, we maxxed out on audio. With CDs inducing everyone to rebuy their tape&album collections, and with music-downloads, we've maxxed out on sound-storage. With the much-resisted government attempt to get us to rebuy our TVs for the sake of digital TV, we've maxxed out on TVs. With the retirement of the Concorde fleet, we've maxxed out on air travel. With circular customer-punishing automated phone answering we've maxxed out on phone reception. The one qual-tech area we haven't maxxed out yet is medicine, but our healthcare "system" is so screwed up, we'll probably all be wiped out by some fast-acting plague before we can figure out who our insurer is (if any) this month, let alone fill out the paperwork. The technological max-out in quality is one big job-creation blocker.]
History tells us that creating the next wave of jobs is never a completely smooth, precisely choreographed process.
[In fact, Dickens tells us that it's not even incompletely smooth, or imprecisely choreographed. It's mass layoffs and lower-pay rehirings, ending up in "dark Satanic mills," or Bangla Deshi sweatshops.]
But the gap that exists at the moment is dangerous.
To shape the debate [don't flatter yourself, Bill], here are the issues that CEOs ought to be highlighting:...
[First, he takes the opportunity to attack Sarbanes-Oxley, the law that sloppy CEOs brought down on themselves because their criminal dishonesty was cutting their own throats, and now this moron wants to soft-pedal it instead of really getting behind it. Call him a Holstein with a death wish. Then he takes the opportunity to attack tort reform. We begin to wonder when he's going to start talking about jobs, either in terms of cost-cutting without downsizing or real growth strategies a la market-share-building without M&As. Oh here's one. This is rich. His third idea is getting more government spending - on tech innovation. Pretty pathetic from a self-styled 'capitalist'. Oops, his 4th one is something the government should do too - national technological policy, though how this differs from his hated "industrial policy" isn't at all clear. Oo lala, his 5th one is also something government should do again - foreign policy - which again, isn't at all clear just what he's proposing but since he's bashing little national ("geopolitical") objectives like trying to preserve the workforce and the consumer base in favor of "the economic objectives of Commerce", we suspect he's alluding to the religion of Globalization which is taking us all down to the LCD/lowest common denominator faster than communism ever did. His rhetorical wrap-up for Issue 5 -]
American CEOs ought to be players in shaping a broad, cohesive foreign politcy that's conducive to economic growth and job-generation.
[It's the old 'economic growth' cure-all, but damn, what if GDP growth is happening without jobs, and soon without consumers, and soon without markets, and soon without corporations (bankruptcies are breaking records every year), and soon without CEOs? And as for job-generation, maybe it's time we quit straining for that and settled for work-sharing. Just getting everyone employed would be such a huge boost in the velocity of money and economic dynamism that we might be surprised we didn't think of it long ago (we did, but World War II intervened and we did a memory dump). Consider the wasted markets de-activated in unemployment, welfare, disability (5.7m), homelessness (940k), prisons (2.2m), you're-gonna-join-me suicides, early retirement, self-"employment", forced no-benefits part-time.... That's a LOT of potential business. Then Holstein scales down to just damage-control vs. offshore outsourcing -]
...Outsourcing could be explained as contributing to efficiency, enhancing shareholder returns and improving prices for customers.
[What good is efficiency to a homeless person? How can holders get enhanced returns from shares in productive firms that have deterioriating markets? What's the net gain of lower prices to customers who have lower-paying jobs or none at all? Holstein does end with a worthy version of the Big Question -]
...The election year debate must not be, "Why Do Evil CEOs Move Jobs Offshore?" Instead, it should be, "How Do We Rev Up the Great American Job Machine?"
[And the answer to that is, the same way we did for our first century&ahalf up to 1940, especially 1938-40. And the same way the French did between 1996 and 2001. And the same way the Japanese are experimenting with at the city and prefectural level. And the same way the South Koreans are implementing starting in July. And the same way thousands of US firms do, unheralded, in every recession. We CUT THE WORKWEEK and spread the diminished work around to everyone, thereby maximizing the circulation of a diminished national income. It's counter-intuitive to workaholics and Puritans, but it's better than the previous wave of counter-intuition that mesmerized us during the early Depression, codified by Keynes, and under the disguise, none other than socialism. How does it differ from socialism? Socialism is a burgeoning maximum of stifling detailed regulations. This is a stable minimum of initiative-unleashing ground rules, ideally just one. Timesizing. We request that readers with a moment to google Chief Executive magazine and find out their (or editor-in-chief William J. Holstein's) email, tell him about our feedback on his article.]
- 1/09 Toronto economy expected to rebound - Toronto to move up to 6th place from 15th, Conference Board says, by Peter Kuitenbrouwer, National Post [Canada].
...Home construction will slow a bit in Toronto, the board predicts: from 45,000 housing starts last year to 43,000 homes in 2004. "Workers in the construction industry who had been working 50 hours a week are going to go back to working 40 hours a week," Mr. Lefebvre said.
...Ann Mulvale, the Mayor of Oakville [east of Toronto], said she is still working with Ford and the Canadian Auto Workers to save jobs through job sharing at Ford's remaining minivan plant. "We didn't concede those jobs," she said. "You want to keep your skilled people employed because once you lose them to other provinces or other countries, you can't get them back."...
- 1/10 Widening income gap, editorial, Korea Herald.
SOUTH KOREA - Inequality in family income distribution is fast approaching a dangerous level, with one out of every 10 households stuck in the category of absolute poverty. The government needs to address this serious problem with great concern or it will undermine its efforts to promote social integration.
According to a recent study by the Korea Development Institute, the after-tax Gini index climbed from 0.298 in 1996 to 0.358 in 2000, two years after a foreign currency crisis. The index measures the degree of deviation from the perfectly equal distribution of income, marked by a zero score. A score of 0.4 indicates that income inequality has become a serious matter.
It is regrettable that Korea is ranked third in income inequality among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, after Mexico and the United States. What is all the more disheartening is that there are no grounds to suggest that the distribution of income has since improved. It would be safer to believe it has worsened as the nation undergoes a long slump, pushing so many people into credit delinquency.
According to the KDI research, the portion of households whose income fell short of the money needed to purchase the basic necessities of life grew at an alarming rate. The ratio of households in absolute poverty almost doubled from 5.91% in 1996 to 11.46% in 2000. Worse still, one out of every five families had none of its members on a payroll.
A sharp increase in unemployment is primarily to blame for deepening income inequality. No early improvement is in sight, with economic experts warning of a jobless recovery this year. The government is advised to focus on job creation when striving to generate growth exceeding 6% this year, as it has promised. It is also urged to grant incentives to corporations launching job-sharing or job-creating programs by reducing work hours or changing work shifts.
At the same time, it needs to seek a more balanced income redistribution through equitable taxation. Income redistribution has much room for maneuver, as the nation showed only a slight improvement in taxation, a 4.5% difference between the pre-tax and after-tax Gini indexes to be precise. Korea was way behind Sweden with a 101% change and Germany with 59%. The Korean government should keep this point in mind when revising its tax system.
But growth accompanied by job creation is preferable to taxation, as the former is a speedier means of promoting income equality....
[No it isn't. Growth measured by GDP is irrelevant to income equality. The USA is supposedly growing by leaps and bounds, but so is its income inequality. Guess these disproven "tapes" hang around because the two-guy media (two rich guys) make sure they're repeated as often as possible, like Bush repeating "Iraq-9/11, Iraq-9/11 (oh there's no connection) Iraq-9/11, Iraq-9/11."]
- 1/09 Family & learning matters for overworked staff - Work-life balance is improving in the UK yet there is still much to be done, and new figures suggest that it is family, friends and employers who are losing out as staff struggle to find time, HR Gateway [UK].
UK - Time gained through a greater balance between work and life would be used by employees to spend more time with family and friends as well as to improve themselves through culture and learning, suggests a new survey.
The BMRB survey commissioned by the Dept. of Trade & Industry (DTI) suggests that -
The focus [whose?] on increased work-life balance does appear to be slowly making a difference to employees’ lives, suggests the survey. Well over a third (38%) have changed their working hours to fit in with their commitments and interests outside of work. However, well over a quarter (28%) still feel that they spend too much time at work at the expense of other commitments, rising to 38% for employees aged between 35-55, a figure that the Trade & Industry Secy, Patricia Hewitt, would like to see lowered: ‘We already know that people can work much more effectively if they can balance the varying demands on their lifestyles, so it makes good business sense for employers to cater for all employees' needs.
- most (87%) employees would chose to spend any extra time with loved ones....
- Second on the work-life balance wish list was to go to the theatre, cinema or art galleries more (70%),
- followed by reading more (66%)
- and learning a skill such as a new language or some other career enhancing study (57%).
Accommodating these interests and commitments will not only help workers stay healthy, but will also benefit the bottom-line through reduced absentee rates and recruitment costs,’ she said.
Almost nine in ten workers (87%) said that they thought having interests and commitments outside of the workplace helped to achieve a more fulfilling work-life balance. Other pastimes employees would undertake if given more time include: playing more sport or taking up sport (56%), voluntary work (44%) and joining a club or a hobby group (40%).
In case you are still in the dark about the subject of flexible working, the Government offers the following breakdown of ways employers can help rebalance employee work and life issues:
Flexible working patterns
The DTI also reminds people that working locations can be flexible, such as at home or on the employers premises, while practical employee benefits such as childcare, health and fitness facilities and financial packages, can also be helpful.
- Part-time - government statistics define part-time working as less than 30 hours a week. Part-time workers are entitled to the same treatment as full-time employees including the same hourly rate of pay.
- Job sharing - two people carrying out the duties of a post that would normally be done by one person. Each person is employed part-time but together they cover a full-time post and divide the pay, holidays and other benefits.
- Staggered hours - employees have different start, finish and break times. This can help employers to cover longer opening hours but it can also be a good opportunity to offer people more flexibility.
- Term-time only working - employees remain on a permanent contract, either on a full or part-time basis, but can have unpaid leave of absence during the school holidays.
- Flexitime - giving people a choice about their actual working hours, usually outside agreed core times. This means staff can vary their starting and finishing times each day and sometimes also their break times during the day.
- Compressed hours - working a total number of agreed hours [per week] over a shorter number of working days [eg: four 10-hr days instead of five 8-hr days? = insignificant for worksharing and job creation].
- Annualised hours - employees work on the basis of the number of hours to be worked over a year rather than a week - usually used to fit in with peaks and troughs of work. [= also insignificant for worksharing and job creation]
- Shift swapping - employees can negotiate working times to suit their needs and re-arrange shifts amongst themselves or within teams.
- 1/09 EU to clamp down on UK long hours working culture - Tell your boss - more time in the pub means better productivity, by Jo Best, Silicon.com.
UK - It's a fact that UK workers put in the most hours at work in Europe. But if the EC has its way, that could be all change.
While techies are well-known for their long-hours culture – often clocking up more than their contracted time with the unwritten code of conduct making evening and weekend work the norm – the IT industry could be in for a shake-up. Anna Diamontopoulou, EC commissioner for employment and social affairs, singled out the UK for abusing its workers' rights and plans are now afoot at the EC to sort the problem through legal avenues. The EU working time directive states that a 48 hour
working week should be the maximum for European workers, but silicon.com's own Skills Survey 2003 revealed that more than one in ten of Britain's IT workers are regularly clocking up 50 hours and more a week.
Breaking the 48 hour limit isn't illegal – UK workers can sign a waiver giving up their rights to a shorter working week –
[oh gee, what an Wonderful Opportunity, where do we sign?!]
but it's not popular with the European Commission, who are seeking to deal with UK employers who think they can exploit their workers' rights, unless British employers themselves take action to tackle the issue first.
A "culture of presentee-ism" is a problem in some offices, according to Beatrice Rogers, head of private sector at ICT trade organisation Intellect. "In some cases, people are scared to leave their desk. That doesn't benefit the employee and it doesn't benefit the employer. You won't be productive if you just sit at your desk and play solitaire," she said.
It's not an office culture that makes economic sense, however. "Working long hours doesn't mean higher productivity... workers need to have a good work/life balance to be productive," Rogers added.
Nevertheless, a blanket ban on long hours isn't the answer.
[Yes it is. The long-hours jobs aren't there for everyone in a robotized age unless we want to marginalize absolutely everyone with a huge under-employed population. And a permanently partitioned economy and species.]
As beleaguered techies will be more than happy to testify, there are some weeks and some projects that simply do need more time stuck behind a desk, coding furiously or migrating data centres when no-one else is around.
["Some weeks" can be easily accommodated by rare-emergency overtime or specialized temps. They do not require continued uncontrolled slide back into sweatshops and slavery.]
It's something the EU should take that into account when legislating. "In the IT industry, there's a need for flexible working. Some weeks, 40 hours is enough but with some big projects you really need to push....you need to have the ability to opt in and to opt out," Rogers said.
[With some big projects, you really need good management skills, as in workload balancing and delegating - a couple of little skills that have almost disappeared in a lot of unlimited hours situations today, like American medicine, trucking, airline piloting, Wal-Mart clerking, Mexican maquiladoras and Bangla Deshi garment sweatshops.]
One of the suggestions on the table from the EC is a 40 hour week – still a poor cousin to the French's 35-hour slack-fest –
[here's a moron who has nothing better to do with her? pathetic life than scurry after someone else's agenda so they won't call her a "slacker" - well, apparently there are a few French people who do have something better to do with five extra hours in their week. Honest to God. What a disgrace to the English language is this Jo "Best". What at pathetic gruntlette. What a throwback embarrassment to the women's movement]
which is likely to go down well with UK workers.
[Ah, we BELIEVE that UK workers got the 40-hour workweek SIXTY years ago soon after US workers.]
The DTI's figures have shown that eight out of ten British workers would like less time at work and more time at home with their family. Shocking, that.
- 1/11 Growing weary of the rat race, Britons 'downshift', by Mark Rice-Oxley, Christian Science Monitor.
LONDON – It was the long hours, short weekends, and grueling international travel that spurred Sorrel Newbery to radical action. After six years as a high-powered management consultant with a six-figure salary but no time to spend it, Ms. Newbery quit. She is now training to become a schoolteacher and has totally transformed her lifestyle.
"I got to a state where I was working in Holland Monday to Friday and was so tired when I did get to go home. And I wasn't enjoying what I was doing and just couldn't see the point," she says. "I thought I could do so much more than just working all hours to change a share price by a quarter of a pence."
Britons are the workaholics of Europe, according to a new European Union study. Their average work week is 44 hours, five hours more than the average German and six more than the average French. By comparison, US workers log 43 hours a week on average.
[Hey, wait just a little minute. The limeys are trying to rob US of our title to the workaholics of the industrialized world! Well, they may have the longest average workweek, but we have the longest average workyear (hours per year).]
Yet more and more Britons are leaving the rat race for simpler lives. With TV saturated with shows depicting urbanites retreating to the country, to job trainers reporting more high-paid professionals looking for different lines of work, the idea of "downshifting" has swept England. Even two of Prime Minister Tony Blair's top aides, including his press secretary Alastair Campbell, have joined the trend.
According to Datamonitor, a business information and research company, 200,000 British workers and their families will "downshift" in 2004, bringing the total to around 3 million. "Our research shows that an alarming number of people appear to be unhappy in their employment and unfulfilled by their work," says Roger Ramsden, marketing director at insurance company Prudential, which deduces from its own research that 1 in 14 British workers have already downshifted and that more than half a million 35- to 54-year-olds plan to join them in the next three years. "With the proper forward planning, an enhanced quality of life is something everybody can achieve."
Analysts point to a number of reasons for the trend.
"The things we value are not just what we consume and own and have," says Dominik Nosalik, an analyst at Datamonitor. "It's also about the time we have and the energy we have to do things. This is becoming much more important to people. "The bigger picture is that people want a better quality of life, spending time on the things we like and with the people we like," he adds. "A lot of downshifters have children and are reassessing their values."
- ...The pressures of work and information overload are more demanding than ever before, some note, forcing many to call a timeout.
- ...People are beginning to value their time more: Many say there is no point earning a high salary for 40 years if you get few chances to enjoy it.
- ...Society is generally more affluent now than a generation ago, giving many people the option to forego the cash incentive for a more measured, serene existence.
- And some even cite Sept. 11 as a watershed that forced people to face up to what
- they truly value in their lives.
Prudential, meanwhile, said in its research that people downshifted to seek a better quality of life, to spend more time with family, to use untapped skills, to seek a safer life for their children, to obviate work stress, and to avoid tiresome commutes.
For Newbery, the retreat from highly paid work into teaching has brought with it a dramatic change in lifestyle. New clothes, fashion haircuts, and Starbucks coffee are all rare treats now rather than the norm. But these limitations are more than compensated for by her newfound freedom, she says. No longer does she have to work through weekends or miss family birthdays or make her home in foreign hotels. "I've got more energy now and love what I do," she says. "I'm not as well off as I was, but if you don't have the latest pair of trousers or the latest haircut, does it matter?"
It's not just Britain that is downshifting. The trend is also advancing across Western Europe. Datamonitor says that there are an estimated 12 million downshifters in Europe, up from 9.3 million in 1997.
But Britain is perhaps the most fertile soil for people looking to downshift, because of the country's ingrained culture of long working hours. Britain is the only country that has opted out of European Union rules capping the legal working week at 48 hours. In theory, British firms are supposed to offer their staff a choice, but in practice most are gently[?] cajoled into working late. As a result, more than 3 million British men now work more than 48 hours a week. It's a trend that is ringing alarm bells in Brussels, where EU social affairs commissioner Anna Diamantopolou said that the issue of working hours needs to be addressed again amid fears that EU rules are being circumvented by bosses, particularly in Britain. Union leaders say the long-hours culture is resulting in the kind of fatigue and burn out that drives people to downshift, or worse. "Increasing numbers of people suffer from burnout and other ailments and take long periods of sick leave and early retirement due to ill health," says Kevin Curran, general secretary of the GMB labor union.
Not everyone's a downshifter, though. Researchers say millions of people will never want to break away from the comfort zone of work or step off the career ladder. Loss of status, lack of cash, and a surfeit of free time can be terrifying for some. Some who have made the break subsequently changed back again, unable to deal with life in the slow lane. "Compared to the broad population, the number of downshifters is still a low percentage," says Mr. Nosalik. "Most people just can't afford to, or it's too much of a risk, or their patterns of behavior are just too ingrained."
- 1/11 Personal view: Work-life campaigners are misguided social engineers, by Dir. Ruth Lea the Centre for Policy Studies [London??], Telegraph.co.uk.
[We agree. This is an economic issue, not a social one, and workaholics can be accommodated as long as they're willing to reinvest 100% of their overwork earnings in the source skills, or have it taxed away from them so the gov't can facsimilate that investment.]
Last week National Statistics released the latest analysis of working trends.* Its conclusion was that patterns of work had changed so much that it may no longer be sensible to talk about a "standard model" in the UK.
The old-style standard model - Monday to Friday, nine to five - was being replaced by more flexible patterns of work to such a degree that it cannot automatically be considered the "norm". The conclusion didn't surprise me. It merely reinforced the findings of others.
British employers are among the most flexible in the developed world. OECD data show that 41% of working women work part-time in the UK whereas the European Union average is only 25% and the average of OECD members (comprising 30 developed countries) is only 24%. In the EU only the Netherlands has a higher percentage.
[because the Dutch have more benefits than anyone else for part-time employees.]
A recent OECD "composite of indicators of work/family reconciliation policies" (including maternity leave, part-time and flexi-working) also shows the UK in a favourable light. Though behind Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, the UK is comfortably ahead of Finland, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Belgium and France and on a par with Germany.
Such information is rarely, if ever, quoted by government ministers. I believe that this is very unfortunate. Credit should be given where it's due. Flexible working patterns are, for the most part, arranged and agreed by employers and employees to suit both parties. Where employers are able to accommodate their employees' wishes for flexibility, staff morale can improve, recruitment can be easier and staff turnover can fall. Employers know that if they do not offer a competitive package, with attractive terms and conditions, they cannot expect to recruit and retain the best. Employees with marketable skills will move to those businesses where the package is more attractive. Moreover, changing technology can enable more flexible working patterns. None of this is rocket science.
It is not always practical for employers to accommodate their employees' wishes for flexibility, which often translates as less work for the same pay. Small firms (and the majority of British businesses are small) with key employees struggle with home working or job-share.
Customers object to "getting a different voice" every time they ring up - and dissatisfaction can lead to lost business. Then there is the matter of employees who are expected to work full-time when special groups are treated preferentially (as in "family friendly" flexible policies). Their resentment at having to cover for their "flexible" colleagues is understandable.
So given that British employers are already leaders in providing flexible work, and market pressures will mean more flexible patterns in future, what's the point of "work-life balance" campaigns, pushing for greater work flexibility as well as shorter hours? Why not let the market just get on with it?
[The market cannot determine its own framework. Another way of putting it: a game cannot define itself. The closest we can come to a market-determined market definition or framework is to define it by a series of public referendums, some of them regularly repeated for fine-tuning, for example, annually.]
Unfortunately, there are those who prefer social engineering to the workings of the market. Among them is, alas, the Dept. of Trade and Industry. It exhorts business and it regulates (last April there was a raft of extra policies) but it does not praise.
There seem to be two major drivers behind the agenda of the work-life balance campaigners. The first is the 1970s feminist belief that every woman should have a job whether she wants one or not. It has given us the EU's/DTI's "family friendly policies" (including extensions to maternity leave, paternity leave and parental leave). It is immensely unpopular to point out the cost of such policies, and not just to small businesses, but surely 1970s feminism should be laid to rest. It is 30 years out of date. Even in the 21st century there are many women who would prefer to stay at home and bring up their children.
The second driver is the perceived need to deal with "Britain's workaholic long hours culture", especially as "Britain has the longest hours in Europe" - a claim that is rarely challenged for its veracity or its relevance. In fact, it's not even strictly true. In 1999, Greeks worked longer "usual" hours than UK workers, and with EU enlargement in May the UK will fall down the average hours league. Moreover, the hours worked in the UK are not very different from those worked in Spain,
Portugal and Ireland.
More to the point, we really should stop comparing ourselves with EU countries whose labour markets are underperforming and whose economies are declining in global terms. We should compare ourselves with economies that have a better track record, including the US, where hours worked are significantly longer.
By international standards, Britain has an "average hours" culture, rather than a "long hours" culture.
[Not for Britain's level of technology.]
Many economies in the EU have a "short hours" culture, and the evidence that it's damaging them is piling up with every working week that passes.
[Yeah, that Euro currency is just sinking sooo low! - not. What planet does this moron live on? Just because Europe has lower crime and absenteeism and higher family values and stronger families and consumer bases, it's GDP is lower because more of everything is still working right, as compared with the crime&war-inflated GDP of the English-speaking economies. Let him justify the race to the bottom, we'll just keep saying, Sure...sure....]
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