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Timesizing News, March 23-31, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080

3/31/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/30 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -

  1. Pain and gain of a 35-hour week - Economic and labor 'reforms' [our quotes] are meeting strong opposition in France, by Nick Easen, CNN.
    The struggle to achieve a work-leisure balance is one of the biggest challenges of modern life, but if you live in France you get a little help from the government. Since 2000, companies with more than 20 employees have [granted] more leisure time than ever, thanks to the 35-hour working week. Yet the full impact of the initiative - economically and socially - has yet to be fully understood.
    [Has anyone thought of looking at economic history prior to 1940 as the world's workweek came down from 80 hours a week to 40, or is this too obvious?!]
    Some in industry and government have nothing but praise for the four-year-old legislation, which cut the working week by four hours; others say it has cost France dearly.
    [Yeah, their workaholism, inefficiency and makework, including a lot of government pork and patronage, and a lot of cheap foreign domestic servants.]
    "You obtain much better results when people are relaxed and in good shape, rather than being tense - by working less you generally work better," Thierry Monfort, CEO of Laboratoires Boiron near Lyon told CNN. The homeopathy company claims to have maintained both salaries and productivity, although not everyone is happy about the shorter working week.
    "We have been forced to reduce the number of hours, eventually that is going to affect our bottom line," says Giles Le Lamer CEO of Electrovision, a lighting and disco company.
    [So much the better when the bottom line merely funnels into unearned income at stifling levels of concentration in the top brackets.]
    The law was introduced by left-wing former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the hope it would bring more jobs, as well as extra leisure time. Yet France still has one of the lowest employment rates in Europe, with just over 60% of the active population in work, compared to 65% in Germany and 73% in Britain. Current Labor Minister Francois Fillon has tried watering down the law by raising the legal limit on overtime.
    [That's ridiculous. France is one of the most highly automated societies in Europe too, and needs to lower the workweek further until the employment rate rises to satisfactory levels. So what does their pre-technologically oriented Labor Minister do? Re-raises the workweek by admitting more overtime and concentrating more work on fewer people. An outstanding act of economic suicide.]
    But economic 'reforms' have deeply divided France, chipped away at the conservative government's popularity and sparked protests. Just this week, voters delivered a devastating verdict on President Jacques Chirac's government and its reform program when opposition Socialists won nearly all [21] of France's 26 regions.
    The pain
    Budget Minister Alain Lambert sparked controversy last year, saying the law was costing 15 billion euros a year [basis??] and that France's public deficit would probably have remained below the EU cap if the law had not been passed. The Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) also estimates that the 35-hour week costs the government 8-10 billion euros per year [basis??].
    [Then cut it further so you get full employment and 100% unemployment-insurance-benefit savings, and savings on welfare, and disability, and homeless shelters, and prisons, and costs of forced early retirement, and forced interrupted retirement, and forced part-time, and forced multiple part-time.... God, why is it so hard to see the obvious?!]
    "On balance there has been some small increase in productivity that can probably be attributed to the (shorter) week," says John Martin of the OECD.
    [Again, productivity is not an issue in the Robotics Age. The issue is marketability, and you can't market products and services to robots.]
    "It is quite clear that the increase in productivity is not large enough to offset the full cost of the 35-hour week."
    [Cost to whom? The top income brackets, where money is so concentrated it's lost its utility anyway and moves so sluggishly compared to the lower brackets that it might as well be frozen?! What about the cost of uncapped concentration of income to the middle and lower brackets?! That is the real issue. The devastating cost of maintaining this dysfunctional, uncapped pecking order of "positional goods" - not to mention the distorting effect on the humans "possessing" them.]
    The gain
    According to the Work Foundation, a charity that advises companies on flexible working, there is no evidence to prove that longer hours bring about productivity gains. "It is about how you organize your work. It is about working smarter rather than harder," says Alexandra Jones, of the Work Foundation. "So actually associating the two is a mistake and it is shown by France's productivity."
    [At last, some intelligence on this issue!]
    One thing that is clear, a change in the law is unlikely anytime soon. "If I told my employees "we are going to do what we did three years ago, instead of working less for the same salary, you will work more for the same salary" - then, they would take to the streets," says Le Lamer.
    Already more German companies are considering allowing employees to work longer than the standard 35-hour week, following carmaker DaimlerChrysler's example. Yet many in France worry that the government's reform agenda could undermine their way of life by changing it into a more Anglo-American, capitalist society.
    [Linked to this article -]
    Workers dream of staying at home
    What is your view on the 35-hour week? Have your say
    If you worked less hours could you still be as productive as you are now?
    [All this is presumably somewhere on the CNN site accessible by Googling the headline of this article.]

  2. Go home on time, Australians told, by Steve Connolly, Melbourne Herald Sun [Australia].
    Consumerism and excessive employer expectations were posing a huge threat to Australian families, a major international conference will be told.
    An academic at the Brisbane conference tomorrow will propose a "National go home on time day" in a bid to achieve a better balance between work and family life.
    [Compare our *Take Back Your Time Day on Oct. 24.]
    Richard Denniss, a senior research fellow at Canberra-based think tank the Australia Institute, said today millions of Australians were "overworking".
    Mr Denniss, to be a keynote speaker at the Globalisation, Families and Work Conference organised by Families Australia, said improved economic growth in Australia was not solving the problems facing families. "Both through individual choice and government policy the vast majority of this growth has been directed towards new consumer demands such as mobile phones that take photographs, flat screen televisions costing thousands of dollars and larger and larger homes to house our smaller and smaller families," he said.
    [Bingo - all "good" things have their limits.]

3/30/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/29 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. Unions threaten strike to prevent longer hours, same pay, Deutsche Welle [Germany].
    Germany's unions are vehemently opposed to plans for lengthening working hours without wage increases. They threatened to go on strike if necessary.
    "If we need to, we will fight," Michael Sommer, head of the German trade union federation, told ZDF television. Public servants can't always be called upon to fix the country's budget problems, he said.
    Speaking in Berlin on Monday, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder also voiced his opposition to a general extension of the working week to 40 or more hours. He said he would prefer to find flexible solutions which take companies' situations into consideration.
    In a meeting of state premiers last Thursday on civil service work contracts, the heads of Germany's states agreed to extend working hours for western German civil servants, without pay increases. The goal of the new contracts is to increase weekly working hours from 38.5 to at least 40 hours per week. Germany's large civil service population includes teachers and hospital workers, as well as those directly employed directly in the government bureaucracy.
    The plan comes at a time when Germany is facing mounting pressure to -
    1. restructure [ie: lower the quality of] its costly labor market
    2. or stand by as jobs and investment move to the cheaper climates of Eastern Europe or Asia.
      [As usual, they have silenced the intelligent range of alternatives. This sentence should have a third alternative -]
    3. or drop the simplistic obsession with "free trade" and switch to fair trade, including tariffs or whatever, because if they don't start protecting their high-quality labor market on the principle of "you only get to access our high-quality consumer base to the extent that you contribute to it with high-quality jobs," they're going to lose their high-quality consumer base. And then Germany will no longer be an economic somebody. They'll just be just another Third World country where 1% of the population "owns" 99% of everything.]
      German workers already work the least number of hours for the most pay compared to their Eastern European neighbors, according to a study by the Cologne Insitute for Business Research.
      Setting a [bad] example
      To prevent job loss, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, head of the conservative CSU party, demanded a 40-hour work week without increased pay, saying public servants should set an example for private industry.
      [Sounds rather like a good way to guarantee job loss - unless you're under the illusion that Eastern Europe and Asia have a lot of jobs. These guys are sooo naive. They haven't thought this through. They're creating policies based on the idea that "we want to be more like the Third World" and guess what, they will be if they carry out these policies.]
      He also claimed the move would increase German productivity.
      [Again, productivity alone is meaningless. Only marketable productivity matters. And if this moronic obsession with productivity in isolation, and globalization regardless of living standards, keeps going, then we'll surely be the stupidest "intelligent species" in the local 16-galaxy cluster, because we'll be surrounded with work-saving robots, but those few of us who still work will have unlimited working hours, and we'll all be impoverished, unhealthy and hungry, while only one percent or less of the population will have decent living standards but will live in fortresses and enclaves. In short, we'll be right back in the Feudal Period of the Political Age, made all the more difficult to change by high technology in terms, e.g., of monitoring devices. How stupid is that?! And it's already here in much of the world. It's called the Third World.]
      He went on to say he expects some German states to introduce a work week of up to 42 hours before the end of this year.
      [Hey, if hours per person are the key to productivity, the 3rd-world sweatshop must be the most productive facility in the world, so let's all go right back up to 80 hours a week, or 90 or 100 or hell, all 168!]
      Laurenz Meyer, secretary general of the Christian Democratic Union, also came out in favor of the longer hours. One or two more hours a week would be the best way to increase competitiveness while securing incomes, he said.
      Unions, including Verdi and the DGB trade union federation, think otherwise.
      Faulty concept
      Speaking to the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper, DGB's Sommer said lengthening working hours is basically a faulty concept. "Longer working hours destroy jobs, prevent new hiring, and reduce job opportunities for those who are out of work," he said. "Lengthening working hours in the public sector would cut out more than 100,000 jobs" across the country.
      He acknowledged that in exceptional cases, "short-term additional work hours could be the way for some companies to pull out of a crisis."
      Over the weekend, Verdi spokesman Harald Reitter said a 40 hour week without more pay comes down to workers taking a pay cut. He also demanded an explanation as to how increased working hours could lead to more jobs. He calculated that an increase to 42 working hours a week for civil service jobs would lead to the loss of 130,000 jobs country-wide.
      [And he's right - at least that many.]
      The debate came about as a number of German states cancelled their civil service contracts last week. In the new contract negotiations, not only working hours but also benefits - such as a thirteenth month of pay for Christmas - will come under the lens.
      Even some ruling politicians are calling for new contracts. One supporter of increased work hours is Interior Minister Otto Schily. And German Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement said he doesn't oppose the idea of longer working hours in Germany in all cases. Firms need to be able to flexibly increase work hours to accomodate more productivity, he said. Such flexibility could also prevent firms from moving jobs overseas.

    4. CIPD: 'reshaped lives' needed for retirement solution, HR Gateway [UK].
      UK - The Government's approach of ‘delayed retirement’ will not be enough to deal with the pension crisis, claims a new report, as it argues for the introduction of 'liquid lives' as a solution.
      New patterns of work, reform of state pensions, a central pension age of 70 and a ‘radical new approach to savings’ are all required if the UK is to weather the impending storm of paying for retirement, suggests a new report.
      The latest Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) research warns that forcing people to work longer is not the answer to the pensions crisis and calls for a new approach to retirement with a ‘ripple down’ effect for younger workers.
      We need to enable skills shortages to be met by older workers on reduced hours, the report argues, while flexible state pensions paid at a base age of 70 should allow higher or lower levels of pension depending whether they are taken before or after 70.
      Savings should also be overhauled with the emphasis being on lifelong saving in a Lifetime Savings Account. This would use Government match funding and ‘other incentives’ to purchase learning, housing and retirement income.
      Part of a two-year project by the CIPD and Tomorrow People, the Opportunity of a Lifetime - Reshaping Retirement report questions the Government’s approach of ‘delayed retirement’ and instead calls for ‘liquid lives’.
      Retirement should no longer be a distinct phase of life. People need to mix and match work and extend leisure and learning throughout their lives, while traditional approaches to career development also need to change. Rather than being stuck in an unfulfilling career by the fear of impending retirement, people need to feel able to change career into their fifties and beyond, it states, while an increased supply of older workers mean they are looked on in a more positive light.
      Britain's demographics have changed from entering work aged 15, working for 50 years and dying on average ten years later, to starting work at 18, working for 47 years and surviving in retirement for 20 years.
      This change needs to be tackled, says Michael Moynagh, co-author of the report. Working lives are being squeezed from both ends and people are retiring later and staying in education longer It is a question of how we deal with this, he says:
      ‘The answer doesn't lie in postponing retirement and forcing people to work longer. What we need is greater flexibility, a better state pension, and more attractive systems for saving,’ he says.

    3/27-29/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/26-28 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
    1. 3/28   America becomes the world's workhorse, by Heather Salerno, Journal News [NY].
      [- 'workhorse' meaning 'sweatshop'? We've got a ways to go for that, but that backward direction is definitely the prevailing trend.]
      When Cecilia Bikkal arrived in Costa Rica last spring for a much-needed family vacation, her thoughts weren't on black sand beaches or tropical rain forests. Instead, she was wondering where to rent an international cell phone so she could check in with her White Plains office.
      [Any relation to Theodore? Oh, that's Bikel, the folk singer.]
      Such dedication is nothing new for Bikkal. A vice president and part-owner of ImageWork Technologies Corp., which sells computer systems that digitize businesses' paper records, she rarely leaves her desk for lunch. Checking her work e-mail is the first thing she does from home in the morning and the last thing she does before bed.
      "Up to a few years ago there was this idea of 9 to 5, when you had a lunch hour and could go home and have a life. A lot more is expected of you today," says Bikkal...who has a 9-year-old son, Isaac, with her husband, Andrew Bilinski, an attorney for a Westchester Family Court judge. These days, she adds, "you can't leave your job at work anymore."
      Bikkal is hardly alone in an overworked world. More and more, employees in this country — from CEOs to executive assistants — are feeling the pressure of a 24/7 work culture. New technologies such as e-mail, Blackberries and cell phones enable bosses and workers to stay in touch anytime, anywhere. The recent economic downturn, too, has forced companies to make do with fewer employees who clock longer hours.
      [The Third Millennium "Battle of Armageddon"? - 9 to 5 vs. 24/7.]
      In fact, Americans are among the hardest workers on the planet, putting in an average of 1,815 hours on the job in 2002. In this arena, the U.S. has surpassed its more laid-back European counterparts, who logged between 1,300 and 1,800 hours.
      But for the first time since World War II, America surpassed Japan, long thought of as the workhorse of the industrialized world. Work hours there dropped to about the same level as in the United States — and this is in a nation that once whipped itself into such a business-centric frenzy that it coined a term, karoshi, that literally means "death from overwork."
      Official U.S. government figures still peg the average workweek at below 40 hours, but experts point out that these numbers do not include salaried employees or the time that is often put in outside the office. "The notion of a 40-hour workweek is a myth," says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families & Work Institute and a Palisades[??] resident. "People can be scheduled for 40 hours, but that's not what they're actually working."
      Extended days and compressed schedules are having a negative impact on employees' health and their quality of work. A 2002 report by the Economic Policy Institute concluded that job stress costs U.S. businesses an estimated $150 billion a year in absenteeism, lower productivity, health insurance premiums and other medical costs.
      Workers are even passing up vacations because of career demands. An Expedia.com survey found that employees gave back more than $21 billion in unused vacation days to employers last year, up from $19.5 billion in 2002.   12% of 2003's respondents reported taking no vacation time at all.
      The problem isn't just that employers are expecting more from their workers, says John de Graaf, national coordinator for Take Back Your Time, an initiative to combat overwork. De Graaf, who is also an independent producer for a public TV station in Seattle, says he believes that the difficulty is partly attributable to wage earners churning and burning without being adequately compensated with additional benefits and leisure time.
      "There's a much more intense pace of work and demands. That's what having increased productivity is all about," de Graaf says. "But the question is, if you do that, shouldn't there be compensations? Getting more of a break, more vacation? That's something that's not happening."
      So, de Graaf's organization has a four-point agenda geared toward lessening job pressure. The group is pushing for adoption of the following business standards:...
      • Cap mandatory overtime. De Graaf says employees who put in 48 hours a week should legally have the right to refuse more overtime..\..
      • At least three weeks of paid vacation. Most European countries get a minimum of four weeks...\..
      • Make Election Day a holiday. This extra holiday would give workers another day off, as well as encourage more Americans to vote, de Graaf says.
      • Paid family leave. The federal Family & Medical Leave Act provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. "Most employees can't afford to take that time off without pay," de Graaf says. By comparison, France gives women at least 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave....
      Some wonder whether workers might be in the driver's seat once the tight labor market loosens. Not necessarily, experts say.
      Despite indications that the economy is more robust, the latest Labor Dept. numbers revealed that job growth is still relatively flat.
      Even if the market improves, clinical psychologist Marilyn Puder-York doubts that it will be easy for workers to shop around for a stress-free option. The 24/7 attitude is now so ingrained in corporate culture, she says, "it's an epidemic. ... It goes across the board, across companies, so there's no other real place to hide if you're an employee."
      Yet there are glimmers of change. Last year, the Families & Work Institute released a survey of top executives at 10 major U.S. companies, including Armonk-based IBM Corp. The group found it surprising that a substantial minority — one-third of nearly 1,200 participants — placed the same priority on family as work.
      This proves that ladder-climbers don't have to completely sacrifice a personal life to get to the top, Galinsky says. "Those people are creating boundaries. They were less stressed and more healthy. And they had succeeded."
      Henry Chapman, manager of employee relations at Malcolm Pirnie Inc., an environmental consulting firm, agrees that individual choices can lessen the feeling of overwork. His company provides helpful perks such as flexible scheduling and emergency child care. But Chapman says he and his wife, media consultant Luisa Fairborne, insist on taking a full three weeks of vacation each year with their three children — ages 7 to 14 — no matter what their workloads. And they refuse to bring their jobs with them, even if they have to put in extra time at the office before their trips.
      The couple also agreed that Chapman would work in White Plains, where they live, so he can duck out of the office for school functions or to play with the children when they're home on a snow day.
      "I think a lot of people are afraid to take control of their situation," Chapman says. "My experience has shown me that most managers across the country are employees just like you. ... They understand when you're stressed or in a crunch."

    2. 3/28   Germany backs UK over working hours opt-out, by George Parker, Financial Times [UK].
      [Thus Germany undermines its advanced position in progressive economic evolution and relaxes the discipline of management - to its own future cost.]
      Germany is backing Britain in its fight to allow employees to work "voluntarily" [our quotes] more than 48 hours a week, signalling a growing alliance between the two governments to block initiatives they see as damaging to business interests.
      In a move prompting a sharp response from Europe's leading trade unionist, Tony Blair, the prime minister, and Gerhard Schröder, German chancellor, have privately agreed that Britain's opt-out from European Union rules should remain.
      [Both Blair and Schroeder are nominally leaders of labor parties who have betrayed their constituency. They should both be speedily replaced, if not for labor's sake, then for the sake of management discipline and market sustainability. Without a strong labor movement, management goes all soft, short-sighted and trumped-up crisis-oriented - and loses all claims to efficiency and its top-priority scheduling and long-term PERT-charting skills.]
      Under the EU's working time directive, member states must enforce a 48-hour working week, but the UK has been allowed a decade-long exemption, which it is seeking to renew.
      Some European Commission officials have criticised British policy, arguing that UK employers have abused the opt-out by coercing staff to work longer hours. The Commission is due to end a review of the opt-out on Wednesday and has not yet decided what to do, but the UK-German agreement means it is unlikely the exemption will be scrapped.
      The deal is evidence that the Commission's efforts to create a "social Europe" as a counterweight to the EU's single market could be grinding to a halt, to the dismay of union leaders. John Monks, head of the European Trade Union Confederation, attacked the move, saying he was disappointed that Mr Blair and Mr Schröder should be opposing moves to improve conditions.
      The agreement is the second such deal recently. Germany also agreed to back Britain in blocking a move to regulate the temporary workers sector. Germany may expect further concessions from the UK, although Britain signalled it would meet German demands in talks on the EU constitution by dropping its national veto in areas of judicial co-operation. Mr Monks, a moderate former leader of the Trades Union Congress, said Mr Blair's determination to protect Britain's opt-out was "disproportionate".
      The CBI said the option of longer working gave employers extra flexibility. "It would be bad news to have that flexibility removed but essentially it is about individual freedom," the CBI said.

    3. 3/28   Survey shows five-day work week in vogue, Taipai Times, 2.
      TAIWAN - The five-day work week is now the norm, a Council of Labor Affairs survey has shown.
      According to the survey, which was conducted in 2003,
      • 38.2% of businesses said that they work five days a week....
      • Another 7.1% said that they work five-and-a-half days per week..\..
      • with 28.5% saying they work six days a week.
        [Whoa, just like the Hebrews in 1500 BC when Moses brought in the Fourth Commandment ("Six days shalt thou labor..."). How advanced - not.]
      According to the Labor Standards Law, employees should not work more than eight hours a day and more than 84 hours a fortnight. Labor unions can shuffle the working hours of members as long as the total number of hours worked does not exceed the fortnight maximum.
      Workers who are not part of a union must conduct a meeting with their employers before adjustments can be made to working hours.
      According to the labor council's calculations,
      • about 50.9% of employees regularly work five days a week.
      • Some 20.6% of employees sometimes work on Saturdays
      • and 15.7% of employees work six days a week.
        [Overall, a strange mis-fit with the business survey above!]
      In the survey, 10% of workers surveyed in the industrial sector worked less than 10 hours of overtime a week, and 6.4% in the service sector.
      ...The survey interviewed 9,606 companies.

    3/26/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/25 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #1 which is from the 3/26 WSJ &/or NYT hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
    1. Voting in France will test Chirac's welfare changes - Delays in implementing new insurance, labor laws could backfire in 2007, by Charles Fleming, WSJ, A7.
      PARIS - French voters will signal strong discontent this weekend with their government's welfare 'reforms' [our quotes]....
      [Chirac's (and Schroeder's, and Blair's, and Greenspan's, and Mankiw's...) idea of "reform" these days is, "How easy can we make it for our CEOs to lose jobs and consumers? How easy can we make it for our economy to commit suicide?"]
      Sunday's election for control of the country's 26 regional councils...has broader implications for France, the world's 5th-largest economy, and its partners within the eurozone...because the election is the center-right government's first chance since 2002 to gauge the impact of its recent tentative moves to roll back France's generous welfare system.
      [What kind of a sick world has it become when people speak of rolling back a generous welfare system as a positive and the hidden subtext, the 35-hour workweek, as a negative?]
      Those initial measures, including pension overhauls [ie: cuts] and cuts in unemployment benefits, have caused widespread protests in recent months and generally are credited with the strong showing by the opposition Socialist party in a preliminary round of voting this past Sunday. "Carrying out 'reforms' [ie: deforms] isn't popular at first [or ever?!], but it's necessary," said Renard Donnedieu de Vabres, spokesman for Mr. Chirac’s 'Popular' Movement Union [our quotes], explaining the governing party's poor showing.
      [It's "necessary" only if you have no imagination and can't fix the Chesterton Pan-Utopian Flaw.]
      ...Much [of the shortsighted rightwing agenda] remains to be done before the next round of national elections scheduled for 2007:
      • a broad overhaul of France's lavish health-insurance system, which is rapidly sinking into the red,
        [then reduce immigration and raise health-insurance premiums, what's the problem?]
      • and a revamp of its suffocating labor laws, seen as a major factor behind the nation's high unemployment rate - 9.6% and rising....
        [How about a further reduction of France's still obsoletely high workweek, which is still keeping market-demanded employment in France over-concentrated on too few people.   9.6% is still better than Germany, and far better than France's last run of rightwing government when unemployment peaked at 12.6% in 1997. The U.S. unemployment rate would be 14% if we had as low welfare, disability, homelessness, prison, forced part-time, forced early retirement and forced interrupted retirement as France has.]

    2. Unions must change shunto focus , by senior research fellow Mitsuhiko Morimoto of the Yomiuri Research Institute, Daily Yomiuri [Japan].
      JAPAN - Nearly half a century after the launch of shunto, or spring labor offensive, a change is under way in the annual negotiations over the upcoming fiscal year's wage levels. The focus of the labor-management talks is shifting from the issue of pay raises to the improvement of the working environment, including such matters as employment conditions and pensions.
      The shunto was launched in 1955 at the proposal of then top union leader Kaoru Ota, who was known as "Ota Rappa" (trumpet) for talking big. His aim was to gain an advantage by having the unions of various industries form a joint labor front in negotiations with management for pay increases, coordinating their efforts and setting the same dates for responses to their demands.
      [Sounds like the standard operating procedure of the German labor movement. Wonder who thought of it first. Judging from the direction of many other ideas, Japan borrowed it from Europe.]
      During the nation's era of strong economic growth, the Japan Council of Metal Workers' Unions (IMF-JC) spearheaded the seasonal labor offensive, setting the pace in wage negotiations. IMF-JC members included unions of the nation's four key industries that led economic growth -
      1. automobile,
      2. electrical machinery,
      3. shipbuilding and heavy machinery,
      4. and steel.
      Labor affairs executives from an informal group of eight companies, made up of two firms from each of the four industries, held behind-the-scenes consultations over the shunto negotiations, working out the companies' proposals concerning wage levels.
      However, it has been obvious for quite some time that the traditional labor-management set up has been on the decline. Six years ago, the steel industry proposed that negotiations for salary increases be held every other year. A large disparity in business performance has emerged even among corporations in the same industry, making it difficult to group metal industry firms together in determining pay hikes.
      This year, there are clear signs of an economic recovery, with the steel, automobile and electrical machinery industries reaping the benefits. However, shunto negotiations without raises in basic pay have taken root as all companies except Nissan Motor Co. have shelved base-wage hikes. Even the labor union of Toyota Motor Corp., which was expected to lead the spring offensive, given that the automaker has enjoyed much higher profits than other firms, did not seek a raise in monthly base pay for the second year in a row. Instead, the Toyota union agreed with management to have the full amount of its wage demands paid in bonuses.
      [These are the 'wages' of allowing a gross labor surplus and general labor disempowerment and devaluation. Japan should have been trimming the workweek as it was turning itself into the most highly technologized and automated economy on the planet, but instead, it managed to hold onto its foundational consumer markets and economic pre-eminence into the late 1980s by maintaining its traditional and Deming-reinforced practice of lifetime employment against the U.S.'s already advancing fashion of downsizing. When Japan started copying the U.S. around 1990, it rapidly went into a recession from which it has never really recovered.]
      The shunto can no longer be called a spring labor "offensive" given the absence of united union demands for increases in base pay and the unions' acceptance of raises to be paid in bonuses in accordance with each firm's financial situation.
      These changes may be regarded as evolutionary as companies are rapidly switching to performance-based wage systems, while the seniority-based pay system and lifetime employment are crumbling. It is only natural for the significance of salary increases in terms of average pay to decline given the growing wage gaps between employees in the same firm due to the introduction of such systems as merit-based pay.
      [In other words, Japan is adopting another feature of American economic suicide, the uncapped concentration and stifling consolidation of corporate and national income. In the truly modern timesizing economy, pay is versatility-based, but Japan is trying to justify its economic suicide by using the "performance" based rationale to replace seniority, something that Ed Deming tabooed. The 12th of Deming's "14 points for management" states,
              12a. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship....
                  b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.... (Page 24, W. Edwards Deming's Out of the Crisis.
      And lest we forget, Deming got the Emperor's medal of honor (1962?) for saving the postwar Japanese economy.]
      It would be a different story if inflation reemerged, but it is impossible not to conclude that the era of shunto talks determining the pay scale of a whole industry is finished [for the moment?]. Demands for pay hikes in the form of basic monthly pay also are waning.
      One of the shunto's major aspects was that unions of major corporations with healthy profits played a leading role in bringing up the wages of workers in the whole industry. A problem [and there are many] resulting from the collapse of such a system is that unions of small and midsize enterprises that have a weak position in talks with management have been left behind, and the disparity between wages in large corporations and smaller rivals may further increase.
      This year, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo) has decided to help the unions of small and midsize firms in their wage negotiations with management, which will follow shunto talks involving major corporations. In addition, unions likely will face further pressure in the future to change the role of shunto talks from pay hikes to working conditions.
      [Here's another problem of union disempowerment due to the collapse of solidarity due, in turn, to downsizing, not timesizing -]
      How are unions going to deal with growing unemployment caused by -
      • corporate restructuring,
      • longer working hours for those not laid off,
      • work-related stress including karoshi (death from overwork)
        [compare our work-linked suicide and violence],
      • the extension [meaning delay?] of the mandatory retirement age to 65
      • and the question of pensions related to it?
      Unions cannot ignore the disparity in pay and working conditions between full-time employees on the one side and temporary workers and "freeters" (young people reluctant to take full-time work) [like, what is the point, man?!] on the other, who increasingly are being hired by companies as full-time jobs are slashed in the restructuring process. There is a mountain of issues for the labor unions to tackle.
      There also are growing numbers of employees willing to work shorter hours to raise their children, care for the elderly or pursue self-fulfillment. Unions probably will have to take the lead in determining a new working environment to meet such demands in the future.
      Certainly, the shunto that started half a century ago when the nation was rebuilding played a major role in improving workers' pay and living standards. But the times now call for unions to seek other things than pay hikes.
      [Amen to that! If unions around the world had been pursuing control of their own supply via worktime reduction, their pay would have gone up tremendously by flexible market forces instead of too-little, too-late by minimum wage laws and living wage campaigns.]
      That the unions' inability to cope with the new developments is a reason for the decline in the proportion of the unionized workforce.
      [Specifically, the unions' selling their birthright, control over worktime, for a mess of pottage, the pot pourri of New Deal socialism (social security, workmen's comp, minimum wage, unemployment insurance) and an alphabet soup of job creation alias makework programs. Unions got distracted by short-term candy and lost focus when they needed to "stay on issue" and "keep their eyes on the prize."]
      Will shunto talks focused on pay hikes change their [focus] to reforming the nation's economic and social structures? The future of the union movement depends on it.
      ["Reforming the nation's economic and social structures" is a big tall unfocused unstrategic rhetorical goal. All they need to do is institute timesizing, and if somebody from Rengo or any of those unions reads this and gets smart, we are willing to help them. Deming wasn't the only one.]

    3. DaimlerChrysler staff get longer working week, Agence France-Presse via Business Report [South Africa].
      FRANKFURT - German-US carmaker DaimlerChrysler is to extend the working week for some 21,000 employees in Germany to 40 hours from 35 hours at present, taking advantage of a recent sector agreement with labour unions, the Financial Times [FT] Deutschland reported on Thursday.
      DaimlerChrysler plans to put all of its staff in planning and development at its plants in Sindelfingen, Untertürkheim and Ulm on a 40-hour week and a corresponding agreement between management and employee representatives would be signed in the next few weeks, FT Deutschland said.
      Under an agreement reached between the powerful metalworking union IG Metall and employers in February, companies can, under certain conditions, ask 50% of their workforce to work a 40-hour week - as opposed to only 18% previously - if management can convince unions and employee representatives that longer hours are needed.
      The measure only affects highly qualified personnel in areas such as research and development and not blue-collar workers on the production line.
      The move nevertheless signifies a small revolution in western Germany, where the 35-hour week was secured by IG Metall as long ago as 1985.
      So far, DaimlerChrysler had said the deal could affect only 107,000 employees at its main plant in Sindelfingen. But FT Deutschland said that employee representatives had fundamentally signalled their agreement to the measure being extended, as long as management promised not to cut any jobs and that the measures were voluntary.
      Employees in the R & D activities were increasingly frustrated with the 35-hour week, because they were frequently required to put in overtime and the additional time-in-lieu frequently expired without workers being able to take advantage of it.
      By contrast, under a 40-hour week, employees would receive up to 14.3% more pay, FT Deutschland said.

    4. [Meanwhile, the U.S. economy continues to blunder around in ambivalence about overtime instead of getting rid of it for every employer and employee except those willing to reinvest overtime profits or earnings in overtime-targeted training and hiring -]
      Local workers disagree with plan to restrict overtime pay, by Steve Yablonski, Oswego Daily News [NY].
      OSWEGO, N.Y. - The federal Department of Labor is planning to implement new overtime restrictions that would prevent military personnel, reporters, nurses, office workers, and many other workers from collecting overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.
      The proposal didn't sit well with employees - and some employers - that spoke with the Daily News.
      On Wednesday, Sen. Charles Schumer urged Congress to vote on and pass a provision restoring overtime pay for millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. "The bottomline is we need to protect this overtime pay and we need to do it now," Schumer said during a conference call. "If employers no longer have to pay time-and-a-half for overtime work, they'll just demand longer hours from their workers instead of creating more jobs. If you want to create more jobs, one way to do that is to protect overtime pay."
      "This isn't fair," Bryan Fellows said of the proposal. "How do they expect people to survive? The overtime helps pay for the little things that come up."
      "And it's extra money that we can put away and save," added Amanda Nelson. "This could really hurt a lot of people who are just making ends meet now. It's not fair; they can make you stay there as long as they want and only pay you a certain amount."
      Fellows and Nelson are Oswego area residents but work at a factory in Liverpool.
      "It's been kind of tough. We've had a wage freeze since 2001," Fellows said.
      John Henry, owner of Mitchell Printing & Mailing in Oswego said he can see how it might save money for some larger employers. "As an employer I can see that it would mean a savings in overtime," he said. "But I don't think that under any circumstances most workers would be in favor of this right now."
      "It's not fair," Fellows said. "It that happens a lot of workers will be SOL. If you treat your workers fairly they will be productive."
      Henry agreed. "If workers are treated fairly and compensated fairly they will stay with a company. They'll do the little things to help make the company a success," he said.
      Nelson noted they don't make a great deal of money, and when you factor in the cost of gas and maintenance on the car after driving back and forth to Onondaga County to work, money is really tight. "They're making it almost to the point where we'd almost not work there, rather find a job around here; but the only place around here would be at a fast food place," Fellows said.
      If it's promoting someone to a true (management) position, then it's a good thing, Henry said. "But, if it's just to take an hourly worker and make them salaried just to get more time/work out of them and not pay overtime when they should, I don't think fair at all," he said.
      The legislation works for the benefit of business vs. employees, said Debbie Engelke of Time & Again Books & Tea in Oswego. "As more and more big business looks for additional ways to 'cut production costs' which benefit their own salary packages, the worker at the bottom of the salary scale suffers the most," she said.
      Since more and more business is going out of the country, the jobs left will largely be in those production and service industries that employ hourly workers, and the management who oversees them, she added. "Since the late-1970s, the work week has expanded cutting into leisure time that benefits the economy. As a culture it is assumed that the harder we work, the more time off we will have to enjoy the fruit of our labors," she said. "What is hidden from the nation in the early 21st Century is that increasing work weeks in essence hides the quality of life issues from citizens."
      "When everyone is working 50 to 60 hour work weeks, we see this as the norm. But this norm is for those in the highest salary scales," Engelke continued. Hourly wage earners do not garner the same economic and social benefits of those in the highest salary scales, she said.
      According to Engelke, "to lengthen the work week, without compensation is another way of decreasing the quality of life for those hourly wage earners who do not garner the same benefit packages, compensations, even bonuses that salaried workers get."

    5. Senate Democrats block federal tax bill in battle over overtime pay, by Kevin Harlin, Albany NY Times Union, with AP, via Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News via Miami Herald.
      DC - Sen. Chuck Schumer and other Democrats are holding up popular tax legislation in the Senate to force a vote on a measure they say would protect overtime pay for millions of Americans, including almost 23,000 Capital Region workers.
      Speaking on a conference call to reporters Wednesday, Schumer said he believes 438,500 New Yorkers - ranging from nurses to chefs to reporters - would lose federal overtime protections if the U.S. Labor Department implements scheduled changes later this month.
      Democrats want to tack a provision barring those changes onto an unrelated bill that reduces taxes for manufacturers and brings portions of the U.S. tax code into compliance with World Trade Organization rules. "It's an important bill to pass, don't get me wrong, but we're holding it up because this is important, too," the Brooklyn Democrat said of the tax legislation.
      Republicans fell nine votes short Wednesday of the 60 they needed to move the tax bill forward without the overtime rider. Republicans urged Democrats to drop the overtime issue, arguing that any delay in passing the corporate tax cut could mean job losses in the Democrats' states. "There's going to be a lot of layoffs in these industries," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
      Federal law currently guarantees one-and-a-half times regular pay for every hour a worker puts in after 40 in a workweek. The proposed tweaking in the regulations would classify many positions as professionals, and therefore exempt from overtime.
      Corporations and business groups say the changes clarify confusing legislation and will reduce rising lawsuits by employees seeking overtime. But labor organizations have claimed the changes would cut overtime from 8 million Americans. Schumer's office said the senator's figures on the number of New Yorkers potentially affected come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Often, overtime is the difference between getting the bills paid or not, or having enough to save for college, or getting a new car instead of throwing money away fixing the old one," Schumer said.
      But the actual impact of the overtime changes is more difficult to pinpoint. Most workers covered by collective bargaining agreements will continue to be eligible for overtime under those contracts. And in some competitive fields such as nursing, many employers offer overtime in order to fill their positions.
      "Those numbers don't sound realistic," Tom Minnick, manager for The Business Council of New York State Inc.'s Center for Human Resources, said of Schumer's figures. "In talking to Business Council member companies, I'm not hearing that this is going to particularly impact any specific employers in New York state." he said. "Employers want more clarity of what the rules are and these proposed rules will help employers with that clarity."
      The stalled tax bill would revoke a tax break declared an illegal export subsidy in international trade courts. Until lawmakers eliminate the tax break, certain American exports from jewelry to agricultural goods face a 5% penalty tariff that ratchets up 1 percentage point each month over the next year.

    6. ["The gift o' God,
      the gift tae gae us:
      tae see airsels
      as ithers see us."
      - Rabbie Burns
      (The gift of God, the gift to give us, is to see ourselves as others see us - Robert Burns.)]
      Productivity rise in USA: Its nature and implications, by former Governor of Bangladesh Bank AKN Ahmed, Daily Star [Bangladesh].
      Productivity rise is the buzzword now in USA. Even our mentors who profess to advise us on the good governance, increase in efficiency suggest reduction of work force for increasing productivity.
      In the recent past, productivity in USA has increased by taking a quantum leap. In the third quarter of 2003 productivity in USA is stated to have grown by 8.1% in the non-farm business sector - and it has grown at an average rate of 5.4% in the last two years - fastest pace for a two-year period in more than 50 years. The impressive performance in the US - driven largely by the production and diffusion of technology - has attracted a lot of attention and widened the gap in productivity between US and Western Europe.
      [Not really. Only on the bogus basis of output per worker regardless of worktime, not on the meaningful basis of output per worker per workhour.]
      According to some experts, this surge is not simply a product of the business cycle, even accounting for usual uptick in productivity after a recession. In the first two years of the six most recent recoveries in USA, productivity gains averaged only 3.5%. The favoured explanation is that improved productivity is yet another benefit of the so-called New Economy. American business has reinvented itself. Manufacturing and Services companies have figured out how to get more from less. By using information technologies, they can squeeze ever-increasing value out of average worker.
      But is it true? Is it correct to assume that this productivity really reflects true increase in production? Are the yardsticks used to measure productivity of workers dependable? Even if there is a surge of such increased productivity, is it going to be a permanent feature of American methods of production? Lastly, what social and economic consequences entail [ie: are entailed in] such productivity rise?
      First of all, productivity measurement is more an art than science - particularly in America's vast service sector, which now employs about 80% of the nation's private workforce. If productivity is calculated as the ratio of output per unit of work time, how do we measure value added in the amorphous service sector?
      • The numerator of production output is hopelessly vague for service. For many years, statisticians have used worker compensation to approximate output in many service industries, which makes little or no intuitive [or sustainable-economic] sense.
      • The denominator of the productivity equation - units of work time - is even more spurious.
        [Spurious in realization, solid in concept.]
        Government data on work schedules are woefully out of touch with reality - especially in America's largest occupational group, the professional and the managerial segments which together account for 35% of the total work force.
        Take for example, financial services. According to American Labour Department, the average work-week has been unchanged at 35.5 hours since 1988. That seems to be patently absurd in view of the fact that profusion of portable information appliances like laptops, cell phones, personal digital assistants etc. along with near ubiquitous connectivity through hardwired and now increasingly wireless, most information workers can toil around the clock. The official data do not come close to this new shift in the manner of working. The official productivity measurement does not take these developments into account. The fact remains that to the extent productivity "miracles" [our quotes] are driven by perspiration [rather] than inspiration, there are limits to productivity gains.
        [i.e., they're meaningless.]
      Again, the contention that increased productivity in Corporate America is showing up in the bottom line in the form of increased profits also does not seem to be true. When better earnings stem from cost cutting, there are limits to future improvements in productivity.
      [Especially if the costs are cut in headcount, which immediately weakens the economic environment in terms of its foundational consumer markets.]
      Strategies that rely primarily on cost cutting will lead eventually to hollow companies - businesses that have been stripped bare of once-valuable labour. That is hardly the way to sustained prosperity.
      [Ya know, Solly, dis guy is makin' a lotta sense.]
      There is no precedent for sustained productivity enhancement through downsizing. America's present productivity revival may be nothing more than a transition from one way of doing business to another - a change in operating systems. Aided by the stock market bubble and the Y2K frenzy, corporate America led the world in spending on information technology and telecommunication in the latter half of 1990s. This resulted in an increase of the portion of GDP that went to capital spending. With the share of capital going up, the share of labour went down. Thus national output was produced with less labour - resulting in windfall of productivity.
      [And an inherently temporary reliance on savings and debt to maintain markets for the therefore inherently temporary windfall of productivity, since productivity (ie: supply) without marketability (ie: demand) collapses.]
      Once the migration from old to the new technology starts to peak, the transitional productivity can be expected to wane. With tumbling of the growth of high-tech industries in the last few years for lack of demand as predicted, sights of jobless recession and jobless recovery are appearing on the scene. This has some serious economic and social consequences in the long run.
      One element that is surfacing now in Corporate America is increasing use of foreign labour. One example is that "Can I help you" jobs are now more and more being transferred to India from USA. Much as exodus of manufacturing jobs abroad did in the decades in the past, sending services or knowledge-intensive jobs to countries like India in causing fear of displacement in the United States and elsewhere. A study by Forrester Research of Cambridge MA estimated that this type of labour migration generally referred to as outsourcing, if contracted to another company, or offshoring if run by a company itself, could send 3.3 million jobs overseas by 2015.
      [Our different understanding of outsourcing and offshoring is simply that outsourcing is in-country or out-of-country or "overseas" job transfer (though Mexico and LatAm are not exactly "overseas" or "offshore"), while offshoring is specifically out-of-country job transfer.]
      India with its large pool of English speakers and more than 2 million college graduates every year is expected to get 70% of them. In fact, it is estimated that about one million Indian workers are already working for corporate America engaged in -
      • call service,
      • customer reservations for airlines,
      • selling thousands of products of Americans by telemarketing,
      • providing bounced-check records to American retailers,
      • customer service help to welfare and food stamp recipients,
      • prepare tax returns,
      • evaluate health insurance claims,
      • transcribe doctors' medical notes,
      • analyse financial data,
      • read CAT scans
      • and even prepare presentation papers for Manhattan investment banks etc.
      All these are of course in addition to the work done by big Indian based international companies who are operating in hardware and software computer field. Even other industries including automobiles, pharmaceuticals have gained from an increased demand for high-quality products made in India's low cost manufacturing plants.
      Within USA, such cost-cutting measures in the name of increasing productivity are being done by many major leading companies, led by Wallmart [nice spin, erecting walls; their spelling: Wal-Mart]. Wallmart is the largest American corporation in terms of sales with $245 billion in 2002. It is now the largest grocer and furniture dealer in USA. More than 30% of the disposable diapers purchased in the country are sold in Wallmart as are 30% hair care products, 26% of toothpaste and 30% of pet food. Wallmart has nearly 3000 stores in the United States and plans to add an additional 1000 over the next five years. Increasingly the company is taking its formula abroad. Wallmart is now the largest private employer in Mexico. It now imports merchandise worth $20 billion from China alone.
      [Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, would turn over in his grave if he saw the economic cancer that his company has turned into.]
      Its formula of success is to cut the costs to the minimum,
      • by diversifying the sources of supply,
      • squeezing the labour to the maximum
      • by iron discipline,
      • by not allowing union formation (there is a union probability index for each employee)
      • by giving bare minimum wage,
      • by employing immigrant labourers, often illegal aliens,
      • denying health care and pension benefits to the employees
      • and offering the lowest prices to the consumers compared to other companies.
        [This last is clearly not a way Wal-Mart cuts costs. Its just a necessary corollary of their squeezing labor and low wages, since it's proliferating an impoverished American consumer who can afford only the lowest prices.]
      According to the study of Mckinsey and Company the ruthless efficiency of Wallmart's supply chain accounts for as much as a quarter of US economy's recent productivity gain.
      Following the example of Wallmart, some European companies which have to pay much higher wages to their workers in their home countries are making forays in the USA. For example, 800 outlets in Europe have opened about 70 stores in North East USA. They plan to open 12 to 15 stores a year in the United States.
      • The policy of the company in Sweden [is] to make sure that nobody whose work is contributing to its success is deprived of his or her human rights or suffers mental or bodily harm.
      • In the United States though, in the age of Wallmart, the company is resisting workers' attempts to unionise. It has thrown organisers out of the stores and called the police when UNITE began organising outside one of its plants.
      Meanwhile, another pillar of Euro-corporate company, the Danish security company Group 4 Falk is taking a similar tack with the thousands of security guards it employs in the United States, since it purchased Wackenhut Corp. in May 2002.
      • In Denmark, Group 4 Falk's security guards receive 111 hours of training and make between $16.00 to $19.00 per hour.
      • In the United States, its guards receive as little as one hour's training and pull down an hourly wage of $8.00. In suburban Chicago where the Service Employees' International Union won family health insurance for guards at 30 companies, Group 4 Falk refused to sign the contract and informed its employees that if they wanted to maintain their company health insurance they have to leave the union.
      So when European employers look to the United States, they see...the same [bad example as] when they look to China:
      • Millions of low wage workers who have all but lost the right to organize
      • the government intent on keeping things just the way they are.
      Furthermore, another question remains: Even if USA is able to produce more because of increased productivity, who will buy the increased volume of goods and services?
      [Finally, he gets to the most compelling argument, which we should all be leading with and which we urgently need to quantify. But alas, he pursues it in circuitous fashion -]
      The widening gap in productivity between Europe and USA underlines some of the largest risks facing the world economy, namely the US's trade deficit, the world's overdependence on US economy for growth, and Europe's aging society. The divergence ensures that global economic growth will continue to rely on debt-laden US customers, a [debt] burden they would not be able to shoulder forever. The head of WTO has highlighted these problems when he recently stated, "We are globalising in a way that most economies in the world are becoming more dependent on US health.
      [Or so the US would like to believe and so other economies should let the US believe as long as Bush is in power.]
      "If the US drives this process by incurring more imbalances, this is a difficult trend for us all" - US included.
      [Difficult, that is, debt-based and therefore inherently temporary and unsustainable.]
      The implication of increased productivity simultaneously with jobless prosperity has been highlighted by Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Edwards in his "Two Americas" speech.
      1. "One America that does the work,
      2. another America that reaps the reward.
      1. One America that pays the taxes,
      2. another America that gets the tax breaks...
      1. One America - middle class America - whose needs Washington has long forgotten,
      2. another America - narrow interest America - whose every wish is Washington's command."
      Finally what goes now in USA as productivity rise, is not really a sign of efficiency but the outcome of sham profits shown by Corporate America by manipulating their books and depriving the labour [of] their legitimate dues. These scandals are coming out on newspaper pages almost every day. The last word on this issue has been depicted in a cartoon in which one asks if there has been so much productivity, what the Americans do in their spare time, and the answer was "Trying to delete spam".
      [The mistake here is that Americans have no spare time because their productivity depends on working round the clock but only having 35-40 workweeks counted in their productivity calculations.]
      From what has been stated above, it will be clear that US will no longer enjoy the benefits of globalisation alone. [Negative results] of globalisation - what poorer countries were complaining of - are now washing the shores of USA. Faced with this development and the opposition to free trade by poorer countries in the recently concluded WTO meeting in Cancun and the summit meeting of 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries at Monterrey, Mexico, USA is in a bind to reconcile its cry for free trade and globalisation with its national interest. The issue that ought to be decided by [USA] is simply this: "What is an acceptable price to pay to restore a measure of fairness, equity and economic security for [our] people?" This fundamentally is a political issue, not an economic one.
      It is again the same question that the political leaders in Bangladesh should ask themselves when they, led by bureaucrats, business elites and foreign advisors are embarking on a campaign of "productivity rise" by mere cost-cutting measures and through layoff of workers in disregard of social mores and economic realities. If they fail to do this, they will soon face serious social unrest and political turmoil. Unfortunately for us, we have a political democracy which itself suffers from "democratic deficit" in governance of the country.

    3/25/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/24 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #1-2 which are from the 3/25 WSJ &/or NYT hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
    1. Tax legislation suffers setback in Senate clash on overtime rules, by Shailagh Murray, WSJ, A12.
      [First, the short version, followed by the long version on page C1.]
      DC - Senate Democrats blocked legislation that would overturn a US export taxbreak that Europeans have protested, opting to let retaliatory tariffs pile up on American goods rather than surrender to Republicans in the fight over new overtime-pay rules.... On March 1, the EU slapped tariffs amounting to millions of dollars a month on US exports to Europe, totaling $4B a year...to goad Washington into addressing the WTO's concerns.
      [This is the depth of the GOP's commitment to free trade.]
      ...In recent week, Dem leaders decided to use the tax package, widely considered one of the few must-pass bills this year, to resurrect a debate about overtime rules [that was settled to Dem satisfaction until the Repubs cheated and changed things at the last minute].
      At issue is a proposed amendment to the tax bill that would block pending Labor Dept. overtime regulation [changes].
      Critics say the proposed overtime [changes] would make millions of workers ineligible for overtime pay. A similar effort to block the rules succeeded in the Senate last year, and the House signaled support for it, but the effort ultimately failed [due to GOP sabotage by GOP leaders].
      The overtime issue has resurfaced amid a heated battle over which political party is doing more to create jobs and protect American workers [and the foundational American consumer markets].
      • Democrats argue that preserving overtime does both: It creates jobs by providing employers with an incentive to hire new people, and it assures that workers, especially in low-wage service industries, aren't exploited.
        [A better overtime design is described in Timesizing Phase Two.]
        Sen. Tom Harkin (D, Iowa) [is] the main proponent of the measure.
      • But GOP Senate leaders [called] Mr. Harkin's amendment...irrelevant to the tax debate and accused Dems of thwarting job creation by blocking the tax bill, which would provide $145B over 10 years in manufacturing and other corporate breaks.
        [How long does it take for some people to realize that you don't get jobs by giving money to the top brackets, because it just stays there. You adjust the free-market playing field (by creating a perceived shortage of jobseekers, not jobs, via workweek reduction) to give money to the bottom brackets, and as it filters back up to the top it drives general economic prosperity, even for the top. Channeling the national income to the top income brackets is like trying to irrigate the midwestern states by channeling water into the mouth of the Mississippi. Channeling the national income to the bottom brackets is like irrigating the midwestern states by seeding rainclouds all across the headwaters of the Mississippi and its tributaries.]
        ...Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate's No. 2 Republican [is] the main opponent of the overtime amendment....
        [And dumb as a stump.]
      [Here's the longer version -]
      Corporate tax bill hits wall in Senate after debate on overtime, by Edmund Andrews, NYT, C1.
      DC - After months of arduous negotiations, Senate Republicans veered close to defeat on Wednesday in their effort to overhaul corporate tax laws and resolve a $4B trade battle with the EU. Though the bill had bipartisan support, it stalled on the Senate floor after Democrats and Republicans fought to a standstill over an unrelated amendment that would block the Bush administration from changing rules that govern overtime pay.
      In a 51-to-47 vote, Republicans failed to win the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and prevent Dems from bringing up the amendment. Repubs angrily accused Dems of election-year grandstanding [if no real constituent representation now, then when?!], while Dems said they merely wanted a chance to vote on rules that they said could eliminate overtime pay for millions of white-collar workers.
      ...Senate Dems have insisted that they be able to offer an amendment that would block the Bush administration from revising the nation's rules for governing overtime pay for white-collar workers. [Bush's] proposal, they say, would eliminate overtime for as many as 8 million workers. Repubs contend that the proposed rules would merely 'modernize' [our quotes] regulations....
      ['Modernization' to today's myopic Republicans is anything that furnishes CEOs with tanks of Jonestown kool-aid that they can serve to everyone else in the world and then drink themselves. They call all the hard lessons of the Great Depression old-fashioned, and are thereby reconstructing every detail of the situation in the 1920s that caused it. But alas, the Dems aren't much smarter.]
      Senate Dems have been fighting the Bush administration's proposed overtime rules for months and had succeeded in attaching an amendment that would block the changes to the catch-all spending bill earlier this year. But the amendment was later removed in the House-Senate conference committee.
      Even if Senate leaders manage to work out a deal on the overtime issue, the overall tax bill faces other challenges. Many corporations are quietly hoping the legislation will die, calculating that they would end up losing more than they would gain if it were approved.... A similar bill is pending in the House, but GOP leaders there have been paralyzed for months by feuding between companies that engage primarily in domestic manufacturing and those with extensive overseas operations..\..
      [Compare the coming battle between companies that sell mainly to domestic US markets and companies that mainly export.]
      In a bid to help the nation's ailing manufacturers, which have shed nearly 3 million jobs in the last 3 years, both the House and Senate bills would reduce the corporate taxrate by about 10% on profits from products made in the U.S.
      [That's dandy for dysfunctionally high top-executive pay and the stifling concentration of the national income, but what about the 3 million employees who lost their jobs?]
      • The old taxbreak for exporters, which Congressional analysts estimate is worth about $55B over the next 10 years, would be phased out.
      • The taxcut for domestic manufacturing would be worth about $65B.
      • On top of that, the Senate bill would provide about $37B in taxcuts on American companies' foreign income [thus incentivizing more outsourcing and American job & consumer-base loss] and about $17B in taxcuts to oil producers, movie studios, timber companies and scores of business groups [all pure welfare for the rich and a further tax on the dynamism of the American economy].
      [Congress could not be more efficiently weakening the US economy if it were doing it on purpose. It needs unemployment-countering workweek reduction and as CEOs struggled with that, all other areas would gradually come into balance.]
      Many Democratic lawmakers are dissatisfied with the provisions that benefit American multinational companies. Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) wants to offer an amendment that would strip out the international taxbreaks....
      [This would seem to be a no-brainer, but to the privileged, insulated, isolated no-brain GOP-dominated Congress, it's a major challenge.]

    2. 'Part-time' retirement sought, Dow Jones via WSJ, D3.
      NEW YORK - Employers aren't doing enough to retain workers who want to ease their way into retirement, according to a recent study.
      Roughly two out of every three workers over age 50 will shun the traditional concept of retirement, where you stop working at age 62.
      [Surprise. We would have expected "65" from the WSJ.]
      An increasing number of babyboomers, people born between 1946 and 1964, want ["partial retirement" or "phased retirement" first; that is, they want] to ease into the process by cutting their hours or their workload.
      Yet only 40% of workers over age 50 who want partial retirement...believe their employers will accommodate them, according to a study by HR consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide [which] surveyed 1000 people between the ages of 50 and 70....

    3. [Going backwards -]
      DaimlerChrysler extends 40-hour week, Financial Times Deutschland reports, Bloomberg.
      DaimlerChrysler AG, the world's fifth-largest carmaker, will extend the 40-hour work week to employees at its headquarters and research and development section, Financial Times Deutschland said, citing unidentified from the company's works council.
      Some 21,000 employees will be affected by the longer hours, the paper said. Employees have been under a 35-hour work week since 1995, the paper reported.
      The Stuttgart, Germany-based carmaker agreed reached an agreement with its works council to allow up to 50% of the employees work a 40-hour week. The workers with the longer hours get up to 14.3% more wages, the paper reported.
      [It's all about the need for efficiency versus the need for markets. It's OK is CEO unleash their competitive thirst for efficiency on machines, which are extensions of the human body, but if they unleash it on human bodies, they cut their own markets and their own throats. Why? The ol' Ford-Reuther Paradox = Henry Ford, "Let's see you unionize these robots!" Walter Reuther, "Let's see you sell them cars."]

    4. Offshoring is only one of the causes of high unemployment - What’s to blame for lost jobs? by Lee Sustar, Socialist Worker Online.
      Is your job going to Guangdong or Bangalore - and is George W. Bush to blame? While corporate outsourcing and offshoring of jobs has already become a central question in the 2004 presidential elections, the debate has so far only scratched the surface of the real reasons for the worst job growth since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
      An estimated 2.8m factory jobs have been lost since Bush took office in 2001. While the unemployment rate is officially 5.6%, that’s only because long-term joblessness - the worst in 20 years - is so bad that people have either dropped out of the labor market or have never even entered it. Count those people, and the real jobless rate is 7.4%.
      That’s why outsourcing - factory jobs moved to China or call center operations sent to India, for example - has emerged as such a hot issue. The Bush administration’s response has shown only contempt for working people. "Outsourcing is just a new way of doing international trade," said Gregory Mankiw, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. "...More things are tradable than were tradable in the past, and that’s a good thing."
      Tell that to the workers at the Maytag plant in Galesburg, Ill. Their factory is set to shut down while production moves to Reynosa, Mexico, where workers will be paid just $2 per hour, compared to an average hourly wage of $14.15 for the workers in Illinois.
      As if Mankiw’s let-them-eat-cake remarks weren’t outrageous enough, it turned out that Bush’s first choice to be the White House "czar" for manufacturing, Anthony Raimondo, himself outsourced 75 jobs to China. To Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Raimondo is a "Benedict Arnold CEO" - a reference to the traitor in the War of 1812 against Britain.
      [Doncha hate it when someone you'd like to sympathize-with screws up something basic and obvious like this?! It would be difficult for Benedict Arnold to be a traitor in the War of 1812 because he died in 1801! Let's hope Lee Sustar's other facts aren't as unchecked as this one. It was the Revolutionary War, Lee. Wakey, wakey!]
      Kerry has taking a cue from Bill Clinton, who has a presidential candidate in 1992 liked to roll up his sleeves while speaking to union members and denounce George Bush Senior’s lousy record on jobs. Once in office, Clinton, of course, rammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) through Congress - and got Kerry’s vote in the Senate.
      NAFTA led to the loss of 500,000 U.S. jobs between its launch in 1994 and 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. A separate study by Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that some 879,000 U.S. jobs disappeared as a result of NAFTA. While even this higher number is a tiny fraction of the total number of jobs in the U.S. economy, many of the manufacturing jobs lost were unionized and decently paid.
      According to a U.S. government commission, trade is responsible for at least 15% to 25% of the growth in wage inequality. However, there’s more to this story, according to the EPI’s Scott. "When trying to identify the causes behind trends such as the disappearance of manufacturing jobs, the rise in income inequality, and the decline in wages in the United States, NAFTA and the growing trade deficits provide only part of the picture," he wrote.
      "Other major contributors include deregulation and privatization, declining rates of unionization, sustained high levels of unemployment, and technological change." In other words, Corporate America has eliminated jobs and lowered wages even where trade isn’t decisive.
      That’s why politicians like Kerry find that it’s safer to confine the debate to trade rather than challenge the Wal-Martization of America, created by the corporate backers upon which Kerry depends. After all, his campaign Web site, JohnKerry.com, posts an adoring article touting Kerry’s "healthy respect for market forces."
      Today, those "market forces" are driving increasing numbers of white-collar jobs overseas. The media is rife with stories about "offshoring" of technology, financial and call center jobs to India, where a large pool of highly educated English speakers offer a low-wage labor pool for Corporate America.
      The focus on India, however, is misplaced. According to a study by McKinsey Consulting, of $20B in outsourcing revenue from the U.S. in 2002, Ireland accounted for $8.3B; India for $7.7B; and Canada, $3.7B. In fact, Canada also was one of two industrial countries - Spain was the other - to have gained manufacturing jobs between 1995 and 2002, according to a recent study by Alliance Capital Management.
      Overall, some 22m factory jobs were eliminated worldwide over this period - an overall loss of 11%. Even China saw a 15% decline in factory jobs. The reason for much of this job loss is advances in productivity - especially in the U.S.
      "With productivity growing at an annual rate of 3% to 3.5% rather than the expected 2% to 2.5%, the reason for the jobs shortfall becomes clear," Business Week concluded. "Companies are using information technology to cut costs - and that means that less labor is needed." Given the global gut in industries from airlines to autos to steel - the result of the boom years of the late 1990s - business is reluctant to invest and hire more workers.
      If China and India are blamed for U.S. job losses, it’s in part because Washington wants to use the issue to get trade concessions from those countries. And, as with trade tensions in the past, racism plays a role. The supposed threat of 2B-plus Indians and Chinese stealing "American jobs" is seen as more politically effective than, say, blaming Canada.
      These dynamics can be seen in the AFL-CIO’s formal complaint against China, which blames that country’s suppression of labor rights for low wages that have allegedly led to the loss of 727,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. While this approach seems to highlight the conditions of Chinese workers, it nevertheless effectively allies the AFL-CIO with the Republican China-bashers in Congress.
      If U.S. unions want to challenge China’s labor practices, they should step up organizing at the 10 U.S. companies who are among China’s top 40 exporters. And if the China-bashing is destructive, so too is relying on employers in a "buy America" campaign. For example, steel tariffs enabled companies to raise prices, but job losses and concessions have continued.
      International solidarity is the only way workers can avoid being pitted against one another in trade wars between governments.
      [We'd like to add another way, namely, putting together the figures to show the deteriorating effect on the consumer base and on the economy generally.]
      The international labor opposition to the World Trade Organization and the Free Trade Area of the Americas show the potential for such a strategy.
      If union leaders are serious about defending jobs, they have to break with the tradition of partnership with employers. For example, steelworkers could demand that the government to purchase steel for the reconstruction of run-down public schools and inner cities - or the nationalization of the steel industry.
      Unions not only need to take a stand against concessions but demand that workers’ higher productivity be used to support shorter hours for full pay in order to increase the number of jobs. The bosses can certainly afford it - profits as a share of national income are at an all-time high.
      Rising health care costs - cited by employers as a reason to hold down hiring - can be brought under control with a national health care insurance system. Workers in factories slated for closure could take inspiration from the sit-down strikes that built the unions in the 1930s, and occupy their plants to fight for their demands. Organized labor can demand a real jobs program of public works - not the Clinton "workfare" that forces welfare recipients to take jobs for sub-minimum wages, but long-term employment.
      All this will be dismissed as "unrealistic" by union officials - as if pinning labor’s hopes on a free-trader like Kerry is rational. [Bingo! - At best, Kerry is a stopgap. We need persons of the calibre of Kucinich and Nader in the not-so-longer run, and we need to obey technology's timesizing imperative for the sustainable looong long run.]
      It should be recalled that it was "unrealistic" to build unions during the mass unemployment of the 1930s as well.
      The fight for jobs will remain an issue beyond the 2004 elections. It’s time to develop a realistic strategy - one that centers on fighting back.

    5. France is shooting itself in the pied [foot] - Its rigid labor policies are driving off desperately needed foreign investment, by Carol Matlack, Business Week.
      [This claim is countered by facts. First, France doesn't "desperately need" foreign investment. It's got a lot of rich people of its own. And the subtext here is "its 35-hour workweek is driving off foreign investment," which just doesn't square with reality. Right off the bat when France first cut the workweek, foreign investment in France was booming. See 6/20/2001 #1. Moreover, if France continues or shortens further its 35-hour workweek, it will be able to safely decontrol wages and dismantle the job supports, job creation programs, pork and patronage that have been the hallmark of all modern governments - and it will be the last First World economy left standing, as all the others consign themselves to the sweatshops and impoverished consumer demand of the Third World. Everyone will be trying to exploit the sole-surviving French consumer base instead of the American, because Americans will be working megahours in competition with high-productivity technology, wages will be subsistence-level - Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" will take on new meaning as the rest of the world, with the French exception, sinks into The New Feudalism and a new dark age.]
      Clara Gaymard, the French government's special representative for international investment, makes an impressive sales pitch. On a recent swing through Washington, Detroit, and Atlanta to woo U.S. corporations, Gaymard wielded a fistful of statistics showing that France has lower real estate prices, cheaper utility costs, and lower average wages than most of Europe's major economies. Not to mention an enviable standard of living, with excellent health care, education, and public transportation.
      So why aren't corporate decision-makers buying? France, although Europe's second-largest economy after Germany, has lagged Britain, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg in foreign direct investment over the past six years - not only in absolute numbers but also in average annual growth rates. French leaders ought to be disturbed, given that the unemployment rate, at 9.6%, is among Europe's highest. They should be even more upset when they consider what's driving potential investors away. The big problem isn't transatlantic political tension, or the strong euro, or the siren song of outsourcing to emerging markets. More than anything, it's government policies.
      Even in a region known for labor rigidity, France stands apart. Its 35-hour workweek forces employers to cut working hours without reducing pay. While the smallest businesses are now exempt, the short week is among the biggest impediments to foreign investment, says Ernest-Antoine Sellière, head of MEDEF, the leading employers' group. It also undercuts France's efforts to attract high-paying jobs in research and technology - positions that often entail long, irregular hours.
      [We disagree. Research entails a lot of creativity, which is stimulated by getting away from the desk at least as much as sitting behind it.]
      "The government said it wanted employment," Sellière says, "but it has devalued work."
      Among other big deterrents are laws requiring lengthy consultations with workers over the restructuring or downsizing of business operations. Consider the plight of Nestlé (NSRGY ), the producer of Perrier mineral water. The 1,600 workers at Perrier's source in southern France turn out about 600,000 bottles of water apiece each year - less than half the production rate at Nestlé's San Pellegrino plant in Italy. Nestlé wants to offer early retirement packages to trim about a quarter of the Perrier payroll, but the proposal has been bogged down for months in talks with unions. Frustrated Nestlé execs now say they may sell off Perrier. "We can't risk weakening our other brands for a product that accounts for only 5% of our sales," fumes Frits van Dijk, head of the Nestlé Waters unit.
      Aren't such hassles outweighed by France's relatively modest wage scales? Gaymard cites a study of major industries by accounting and consulting group KPMG that shows an average annual salary of $40,742, compared with $48,019 in the U.S. But when payroll taxes and other benefits are added in, the average cost per employee surges to $64,154 - above the U.S. total of $63,379. As to higher-paid workers, a government study found that a company employing a $147,000-a-year worker pays $70,000 in payroll taxes, while the employee pays more than $61,000 in social security and income taxes. The combined burden is far higher than in any other European country.
      Some multinationals are simply moving higher-paid employees to other countries. Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL ) recently relocated its European headquarters to Zurich from the town of Compiègne, near Paris; British retailer Kingfisher moved the offices of Castorama, a chain of do-it-yourself stores it owns, from Lille to London.
      France is starting to respond. Paris has streamlined work-permit procedures for expatriates and increased tax credits for research & development. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin promises action this year on overhauling the health-care system, which accounts for a big share of the payroll tax. "We know that France has some handicaps, but reform is on the way," promises Sébastien Huyghe, a center-right parliamentarian.
      Reformers need to hurry. Look at Switzerland, which passed a sweeping package of corporate tax reforms in 1997. Since then, a crowd of foreign companies, including Procter & Gamble (PG ), Starbucks (SBUX ), and Google, have set up European headquarters there. Now that's a successful sales pitch.

    3/24/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/23 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
    1. Siemens says needs flexibility to keep German jobs, Reuters [India].
      [Or rather, they need tariffs that prevent them from accessing a consumer base to which they don't contribute with employment to give them a reason for keeping high-quality jobs in Germany.]
      FRANKFURT - German engineering conglomerate Siemens said on Tuesday it would agree to keep thousands of threatened jobs in Germany if trade unions and staff were prepared to be more flexible about work conditions.
      [I.e., lower your standards down to Third World levels. "Flexible" here means "loose" or "worse."]
      The powerful IG Metall trade union, which negotiates conditions for engineering workers on a national level, said on Monday more than 10,000 Siemens jobs were under "acute threat" of being moved abroad to lower-wage countries such as China and India.
      Siemens said in a statement it had "no concrete plans to outsource 10,000 jobs" and said it had begun discussions with workers' representatives about making German workers more competitive by introducing more flexible working hours.
      [I.e., longer working hours. Sure, if they can turn Germany into a Third-World sweatshop, they wouldn't need to outsource German jobs to East Europe or China. But then they would no longer have their rich German consumer markets either.]
      "We hope to save as many of these threatened positions as possible. But all sides must be ready for compromise to achieve this," Chief Executive Heinrich von Pierer said in the statement. Von Pierer has long criticised Germany's high labour costs.
      41% of Siemens' workforce of over 400,000 employees are currently in Germany, with a further 26% in the rest of Europe.
      Siemens said after initial consultations it would enter a second phase of negotiations with workers' representatives on March 31, which it expected would last for several weeks.

    2. Shorter working hours may cause doctor shortage, Human Resources-Centre [UK].
      UK - New EU rules restricting doctors’ hours will cost the NHS [National Health Service] the work of 3700 junior doctors, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.
      [Then train and hire more, and quit endangering patients with these medieval working hours!]
      The new regulations that come into force this August, will cut junior doctors’ hours from up to 70 to 58 hours a week.
      Health minister, John Hutton, said the Government would have to recruit between 6000 and 12,000 doctors to cover the shortfall. “I do not believe that is a sustainable strategy for us to pursue in the timescale that is available and I think that we would struggle to recruit that size of workforce,” he said.
      [Then get moving on it!]
      The BMA warned that unless changes were made it would be “very difficult to maintain the present levels of service”. It said waiting lists would go up and operations would have to be cancelled.
      Ministers are hoping to agree a concession on doctors’ hours at a meeting of European heads of government in Brussels this week. But it is thought that any change is unlikely to be implemented by August, when the regulations come into force.

    3. [and here's a parallel application of the above to the Irish Republic -]
      Deadline for EU working time directive may be delayed, Ireland Online.
      The deadline for the implementation of an EU directive forcing Irish hospitals to reduce junior doctors’ working hours may be delayed, according to reports this morning.
      The reports said EU heads of government were planning to amend the working time directive following objections from Germany and France.
      This amendment could reportedly push back the deadline for the implementation of the directive, which was due to come into force in August.
      Under the directive, junior doctors cannot be forced to work more than 58 hours-a-week. At present, junior doctors in Ireland work around 70 hours-a-week and the EU directive is expected to cause major headaches for hospitals that rely on these doctors.

    3/23/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 3/22 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #1 which is from the 3/23 WSJ &/or NYT hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
    1. Missing from work: the chance to think, even to dream a little, by Carol Hymowitz, WSJ, B1.
      ...Since 1979 \when\ Vickie Farrell...was a manager at DEC in Boston, she has watched email evolve "from an experimental novelty to a significant productivity-improvement tool, to a mainstream work mode enabling people to communicate globally 24/7."
      Today, Ms. Farrell, now a VP of Teredata...sees email becoming a counterproductive intrusion in the workplace. She, like other managers, are turning off, or ignoring, their email in an effort to get some work accomplished.... Managers complain that the relentless flow of computer messages disrupts thought processes and kills creativity. There is no quiet time available during the workday, or even after office hours, to digest information, to ponder fresh ideas, to concentrate wholeheartedly on a difficult problem, or even to daydream....
      [In fact, for many there's no "after office hours."]

    2. Improve your employees' job satisfaction - With an increasing number of workers eager to find a greater work/life balance, find out what you can do now to keep your employees happy, Entrepreneur.
      [Guess the question here is, in a labor surplus, why bother?]
      The tough job market of the past two years has made life very difficult for those who are either unemployed or underemployed. And so you might think that your employees, because they have jobs, would be ecstatic.
      They aren't. While no doubt grateful for a paycheck, U.S. workers are actually less satisfied than they've been in many years. A November 2003 survey by CareerBuilder, a leading job-search Web site, documents the extent of this dissatisfaction. The survey found that nearly one in four workers are now dissatisfied with their jobs, a 20% increase over 2001 levels, with some six out of ten workers planning to leave their current employer for other pursuits within the next two years. A similar survey by the Society for Human Resource Professionals revealed that more than eight out of ten workers intend to look for a new job when the economy heats up.
      As an employer, you have good reason to be concerned about findings like these. A recent Ernst & Young survey calculated that the cost of replacing a high-level employee may be as much as 150% of that departing employee's salary. And matters could become worse very quickly. While the economy continues to rebound, existing workers will find job-hopping an increasingly viable option. And if predictions of widespread worker shortages by the latter half of the decade come true, these conditions will only be exacerbated.
      How should you respond to this impending exodus of valuable workers?
      First, it's important to understand why your employees might be dissatisfied. Over the past two years, as business budgets have tightened and remaining employees have been forced to take on larger workloads, employees have experienced significantly added stress without receiving compensatory rewards.
      The longer-term issue, however, is simply that employees appear to want more in their lives than just work.
      As Tom Silveri, president of strategic HR solutions provider DBM, says, "Let's face it, the era of dot-com craziness, 18-hour workdays, and perks like 'Bring Your Dog to Work Day' are gone. In fact, in a recent poll of human resources professionals, 66% indicated they had seen an increase in requests for flexible work schedules during the past 12 months."
      [A request isn't an implementation. And in view of the next sentence, where does he get the idea that 18-hour workdays are gone?]
      Could it be that the 163-hour rise in average annual work hours over the past two decades has finally started to take its toll?
      One solution is for you to implement what's typically called a "work/life balance program." And it doesn't have to be elaborate. Even simple changes will have your employees feeling a greater balance in their lives. Consider what happened recently at Hewlett-Packard's Customer Engineering division, which provides on-site hardware support for HP customers. To fulfill HP's promise of a rapid response, customer engineers were forced to wear pagers 24/7. No problem at first. But as customers' operating schedules increasingly broke the boundaries of the normal workday, HP's overtime costs soared and morale suffered, with employees typically losing sizable chunks of their evenings and weekends to service calls.
      HP's response? Even without a formal policy, managers allowed employees to create their own work schedules. Some volunteered for three-day, 12-hour schedules, with four hours of work on Monday, enabling those employees to be involved in family and school activities during the week. This change allowed weekday customer engineers to make personal plans for the weekend, knowing that others were covering those shifts. The benefit to HP? Overtime costs fell by 36%, and the dozens of customer engineers who were thinking of leaving stayed on the job, holding recruitment and training costs down....

    3. Workers struggles: The Americas, World Socialist.
      Latin America - Brazilian unions campaign for shorter workweek
      Brazil’s main trade union federations met on March 20 to launch a national campaign for a shorter workweek. Currently, workers work an 8-hour day five days a week and 4 hours on Saturdays, for a total of 44 hours. The unions favor a proposal to amend the Constitution to reduce the workweek first to 40 hours and eventually to 35 hours.
      Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva has promised that 2004 would be a year of economic growth even though unemployment shot up almost one full percentage point in January to 11.7% (from December’s 10.8%) after declining for several months. The unions argue that by shortening the workweek, 1.8 million more workers will be employed.
      According to the Brazilian Adital news agency, a combination of high productivity and low hourly wages have made Brazilian per-unit labor costs 6.7 times lower than those in the United States and 2.7 lower than South Korea’s. Millions of Brazilian workers live on less than US$1 a day. Only Mexico has lower per-unit labor costs in Latin America. The proposed constitutional change would not affect Brazil’s wage levels.

    4. Older workers would delay retirement if employers offered phasing, Watson Wyatt survey finds - Aging baby boomers, worker preferences driving more employers to explore phased retirement programs, PRNewswire-FirstCall via Yahoo News.
      WASHINGTON - One out of three older workers would continue working longer than otherwise planned if their employer offered a phased retirement program. However, many employers have yet to establish formal or informal arrangements - such as shorter work weeks, flexible hours or the opportunity to try something new - that would encourage older workers to delay full retirement, according to Watson Wyatt Worldwide.
      [Why in the world would generally agist employers want to establish any arrangements for older workers. The whole slant of this press release is weird and irrelevant.]
      In a recent survey of 1,000 workers and retirees at or near retirement age, Watson Wyatt [did] one of the most in-depth surveys to date on worker attitudes toward phased retirement. "Worker attitudes about retirement are changing dramatically, and employers have some catching up to do," said Janemarie Mulvey, assistant director of Watson Wyatt's Research & Information Center and one of the study's authors. "We found that a significant gap exists between what older workers are looking for and the opportunities employers provide. For example, a majority of survey participants would like to work fewer hours late in their careers, but less than half of them expect their employer to offer this opportunity."...
      [And they're right. We're in a global labor surplus. Employers are flushing even young workers down the toilet. There's nothing that's going to make employers accommodate employees in general, let alone older employees, except an acute perceived labor shortage and job surplus or the sort that only war, plague or better, Timesizing, can provide.]
      The survey report, "Phased Retirement: Aligning Employer Programs with Worker Preferences," is based on the responses of a unique cross-section of Americans between the ages of 50 and 70. They include full-time workers who are approaching retirement, workers currently in a phased retirement arrangement and those who are fully retired. Copies of the report are available at www.watsonwyatt.com.
      ["Polling the powerless."]

    Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
    Feb.21-29/2004 + Mar.1
    Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
    Nov.21-30/2003 + Dec.1
    Aug. 28-Sep.1/2003
    Aug. 16-27/2003
    Aug. 8-15/2003
    Aug. 1-7/2003
    July 29-31/2003
    July 22-28/2003
    July 16-21/2003
    July 5-15/2003
    July 1-4/2003
    June 28-30/2003
    June 21-27/2003
    June 14-20/2003
    June 6-13/2003
    June 1-5/2003
    May 27-31/2003
    May 20-26/2003
    May 1-20/2003
    1998 and previous years.

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

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

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