Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, July 1-12, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
7/10-12/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 7/09-11 from GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by *Ken Ellis (KE)of New Bedford MA (except #4 which is from the 7/10-12 newspaper hardcopy & #5 from Howard Benett), and excerpts and [comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
7/09/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 7/08 from GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by *Ken Ellis (KE)of New Bedford MA (except #4 & 5 which are from the 7/09 newspaper hardcopy & #1 from the SWT elist & #7 by Allen Applebaum - Allen is on vacation playing bridge in NYC = Brooklyn bridge?), and excerpts and [comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- 7/10 E. Cleveland budget cuts spare firefighters, by Jesse Tinsley (jtinsley(at)plaind.com, 216-999-4889), Cleveland Plain Dealer.
EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio - An agreement reached between the city and fire union has saved the jobs of five firefighters who were to be sent home Friday.... Layoffs in the Police Dept. save $142,000..\..said Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor.... Layoffs in other departments and the implementation of a 32-hour work week [= 4-day workweek] for all city employees, excluding civil service police and fire jobs, have also saved money....
[So hours cuts reduced jobcuts to some extent.]
7/11 Civil servants gearing up for 5-day workweek - Postal service shut down without prior notice, by Na Jeong-ju, Korea Times via times.hankooki.com.
SEOUL, South Korea - Most public and government offices nationwide closed on Saturday under the
limited five-day workweek system for civil servants, which enabled them to take off the second and fourth Saturday of the month until the shortened workweek goes into full swing in July next year .
[This is misleading according to the schedule of workweek reduction outlined later in this article. In July 2005, the shortened workweek only goes into effect for companies (and government departments??) with over 300 "registered workers" - see below within this article.]
Some citizens, unaware of the new schedule, had to turn back at some offices as they didn't offer public services. Most offices operated some departments dealing with public complaints and other affairs that should be done on weekends.
Most post offices nationwide didn¹t provide service on Saturday as well. Officials said some will open on Saturdays and provide service for customers who are still unaware of the change in business hours.
[Note that change in hours per person does not necessitate change in business hours, or vice versa, because of the invention of shift work, which plays over the erratic seas of business hours like a steady little per-person kayak.]
Unionized public officials protested the implementation of the [40-hour] workweek in some locations, while offices in Pusan, Inchon and other areas opened as usual because the offices failed to reach an agreement with unions on certain conditions of the shortened workweek.
Half of the officials at the Seoul Metropolitan Government took Saturday off, but no major problems occurred, according to city officials.
"We opened some departments to help citizens in need. Half of the officials were at home, and the other half were in the office on Saturday, but jobs were done without major problems," said Oh Sung-hwan, an official of the city government's media bureau.
Little confusion arose in most offices nationwide as half of the officials worked in the morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help citizens in need of public service, such as the issuance of certificates. But in some offices in
Anyang, Inchon, Pusan and other areas, all registered employees had to work due to failure in reaching agreements between the office and unions.
From July 1 , working hours for employees of large conglomerates, publicly-owned companies and banks and insurance companies with 1,000 registered workers or more were cut by four hours to 40 a week as the five-day workweek system was set in motion.
Companies with more than 300 employees should adopt the shortened workweek by next July ;
those with over 100 by July 2006;
those with over 50 by July 2007 and
those with over 20 by July 2008.
[- presumably leaving till July 2011 for stragglers; that is, application of the five-day, 40-hour system to all employees economy-wide, with possible exemptions for VERY small "companies"?... OR, do the specific steps go down further? say:
those with over 10 by July 2009,
those with over 5 by July 2010, and
everyone else by July 2008.]
Under the system, public employees can take Saturday off twice a month, but the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs ordered public offices nationwide to operate some departments to meet citizens' needs on Saturday for the next year.
The shortened workweek will affect some 1.8 million employees at 8,408 companies and public offices nationwide. Smaller companies must adopt the system on a gradual basis by 2008.
Experts say the new system is expected to help improve workers¹ quality of life, while entrepreneurs and labor unions are showing mixed responses toward the changes that the new system will have on working and business conditions.
- 7/11 Incheon Airport promotes night flights, by Kim Rahn (firstname.lastname@example.org), Korea Times via hankooki.com.
SOUTH KOREA - The Incheon International Airport authority is working on boosting the operation of night flights, as a growing number of passengers are expected to travel at night on weekends along with the nations' introduction of the five-day workweek system. The airport corporation said on Sunday that it decided to extend the operating hours of restaurants and other facilities inside the airport starting this month, while airport duty-free shops plan to operate at night from September....
[So workweek reduction is good for the travel industry in South Korea.]
Many more travel agencies and airline companies are also operating chartered flights to Japan and Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, and the Philippines for those traveling from Friday evening to early Monday morning. "We will introduce various services to respond to the increasing demand for night flights,'' a corporation official said.
- [Some places are going in the backward direction, such as the Canadian aluminum industry -]
7/10 Alcoa cuts production after strike at Canada factory, Bloomberg via NYT, B4.
...The world's biggest aluminum maker [will] cut production by 66% at its Becancoeur QUE smelter, where union workers are striking. The company, based in Pittsburgh, [will] close one of 3 pot lines today, cutting production to a rate of 270,000 metric tons a year.... Plant management is operating the factory in 12-hour shifts....
[12 hours straight in an industry as dangerous as smelting? This is as barbaric as the 12-hour days in Big Steel in the U.S. as late as the early 1920s.]
- [And the German engineering industry is also going backward -]
7/11 Workers told: Longer week or your job goes abroad, by Kate Connolly, Daily Telegraph via Chicago Sun Times via alert reader Howard Benett.
BOCHOLT, Germany - The decision the workers had to make was elementary: extend your workweek from 35 to 40 hours for no extra pay or your job goes to Hungary.
"Our employers were sly," said Michael Stahl...who has worked as a technician at the Bocholt plant of Siemens, the German electrical engineering firm, since 1977. "They already had the land for the new factory in Hungary when they approached us. Effectively they blackmailed us."
Siemens has created a huge stir across Germany over the past couple of weeks by successfully deploying arguments about the impact of globalization, coupled with fears generated by the ailing German economy, to discard the treasured 35-hour week at two plants in the Ruhr valley employing 8,000 people.
The decision is expected to save Siemens 10% to 15% in labor costs.
Developments are being closely monitored in France, where the 35-hour week is also under threat.
Hundreds of German companies appear to be following Siemens' lead.
DaimlerChrysler, Continental, Thomas Cook and the German railways, Deutsche Bahn, are among firms that have already announced proposals for their workers to put in extra time for the same pay - for the first time since World War II.
Supporters of longer workweeks say this is the only way forward for a country with unemployment at 10.3%, growth the lowest in Europe for the best part of a decade and jobs fast disappearing abroad.
Workers in the new European Union member states are more than 80% cheaper than their German counterparts, the highest-paid in the world after Norwegians.
And the changes may not end with the loss of the 35-hour week. Industry chiefs and politicians now want holidays reduced. German workers average a world record 42 days off a year.
Michael Rogowski, president of the Union of German Industry, who has already said it would not be "unreasonable" to work a 50-hour week, called for seven days to be cut from the statutory holiday allowance to help the economy.
- [another 'take' -]
7/11 Workers told: Longer week or your job goes abroad, by Kate Connolly, Daily Telegraph via SunTimes.com.
BOCHOLT, Germany - The decision the workers had to make was elementary:
extend your workweek from 35 to 40 hours for no extra pay or your job goes
"Our employers were sly," said Michael Stahl, 42, who has worked as a
technician at the Bocholt plant of Siemens, the German electrical
engineering firm, since 1977. "They already had the land for the new factory
in Hungary when they approached us. Effectively they blackmailed us."
Siemens has created a huge stir across Germany over the past couple of
weeks by successfully deploying arguments about the [negative] impact of globalization,
coupled with fears generated by the ailing German economy, to discard the
treasured 35-hour week at two plants in the Ruhr valley employing 8,000
The decision is expected to save Siemens 10% to 15% in labor
Developments are being closely monitored in France, where the 35-hour week
is also under threat.
Hundreds of German companies appear to be following Siemens' lead.
DaimlerChrysler, Continental, Thomas Cook and the German railways, Deutsche
Bahn, are among firms that have already announced proposals for their
workers to put in extra time for the same pay - for the first time since
World War II.
Supporters of longer workweeks say this is the only way forward for a
country with unemployment at 10.3%, growth the lowest in Europe for
the best part of a decade and jobs fast disappearing abroad.
[The concentration of employment on fewer people working longer hours can hardly do anything but worsen unemployment, and calling a return to the longer workweek that Germany had back in the 1940s a "way forward" is preposterous.]
Workers in the new European Union member states are more than 80%
cheaper than their German counterparts, the highest-paid in the world after
And the changes may not end with the loss of the 35-hour week. Industry
chiefs and politicians now want holidays reduced. German workers average a
world record 42 days off a year.
[And why end it there? Why not return Germans to Nazi slave laborers with 168-hour workweeks. If you're determined to destroy your consumer base by consolidating all the work and wages on fewer potential consumers, you might as well kill a few by karoshi (overwork) like the Japanese while you're at it.]
Michael Rogowski, president of the Union of German Industry, who has
already said it would not be "unreasonable" to work a 50-hour week, called
for seven days to be cut from the statutory holiday allowance to help the
- [And as the wave of masochistic and market-clobbering stupidity sweeps German plutocrats, they wax creative on the subject -]
7/12 German politicians mull scrapping holidays - Germans top the list for most holidays and vacation, dw-world.de.
Leading Social Democrats and members of the conservative opposition have come out in favor of reducing the number of holidays rather than increasing the work hours in Germany as a means of raising worker productivity.
Germans could have fewer holidays on their calendar in the coming years. That's the proposal put forth over the weekend by leading members of the Social Democrats and opposition parties. Rather than take away vacation days or add more hours to the work week, which averages roughly 35 to 38 hours for the industrial and manufacturing sector [ie: unionized sector], the politicians favored
scratching a few of the dozen state holidays.
"Before we take away vacation days, we should look at holidays," suggested the Christian Democrats' state party leader for Schleswig-Holstein, Peter Harry Carstensen. Compared to other European and industrialized countries, Germans enjoy the most holidays, averaging 13 in the western part and 11 in the eastern part of the nation. When added to the approximately 30 vacation
days, Germans rank top on a list for most days off.
The premier for the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, Wolfgang Böhmer (CDU), endorsed the proposal to cut down the holidays: "I am not opposed to it," he told the mass-circulation Bild. He said the first to get cancelled would be Epiphany on Jan. 6, which is an official holiday in only three German
states, including Saxony-Anhalt.
But the proposal to cut holidays, primarily religious ones, has met with sharp criticism from church leaders. On Monday Catholic bishops throughout the country defended retaining all of the country's holidays, saying they represented Germany's religious and cultural values. Cardinal Friedrich Wetter from Munich said reducing the number of holidays should not play a role in the discussion on increasing worker productivity. There are enough other possibilities in this area he said.
Bishop Heinz Josef Algermissen from Fulda criticized the Christian Democrat Union and the business-friendly Free Democrats for calling for a reduction in religious holidays. Instead the politicians should be thinking about ways to increase the working week or reducing vacation days, he said. In general
he cautioned the politicians about focusing too much on "creating a society which places all priority on the economy" while removing the spiritual aspects.
Increasing worker productivity
[This is bad journalism. Productivity is a per-hour concept, and therefore cannot be affected by lenghtening or shortening worktime per person. Any and all perpetuations of productivity per person are misleading political red herrings supported by near-sighted employers who can't seem to connect the dots between employment and consumer demand.]
The proposal to cut holidays represents the politicians' latest attempts to increase productivity and boost the sluggish economy without touching the sensitive issue of raising the hours in the work week or taking away vacation days, both of which have been strongly opposed by the unions.
Jürgen Peters, head of IG-Metall, Germany's largest labor union, warned the government not to meddle with the work week and vacation. If the government calls for increasing working hours or taking away vacation days, the union would call for widespread strikes. "We will do what it takes to defend the 35-hour work week," Peters said.
[Well, you failed to do it at Siemens. What's up with that?]
The government in the meantime has criticized the "ideological fixation" on a specific number of working hours as impractical and detrimental to economic growth.
[Strangely enough, this is absolutely true. Labor unions should drop their outdated fights for a fixed and rigid and permanent lower level of the workweek and start fighting for workweeks that automatically adjust with corporate revenues in the private sector and that automatically adjust against comprehensive unemployment in the public sector. Of course, this would mean that the rigid 35-hour workweeks in France and Germany would already be adjusting gradually further downward at rates of, say, a half hour every 6 months, because French and German official unemployment (never mind comprehensive unemployment that includes welfare, disability, homelessness, prisons, forced retirement, forced part-time and forced self-employment) are both still too high.]
Deputy spokesperson Thomas Steg said in Berlin on Monday that "a fixation of any sort was misleading," and pointed to open clauses in tariffs, which allow for flexible solutions.
[Then why haven't we heard about any of these 'flexible solutions' - except in terms of longer workweeks?]
German President Horst Köhler echoed the government's position and urged Germans to engage in a debate without taboos. "Germany is in fact the world's vacation 'meister' and it cannot be a taboo to talk about this topic," Köhler said in an interview with German public television on Sunday.
"All efforts should be focused on the questions of what will create jobs and what will help the economy grow," Köhler said and added that extending the working week or reducing the number of days off should be integral parts of this discussion.
- 7/11 Europe to lag global growth on aging population, labor costs, by John Fraher (jfraher(AT)bloomberg.net) & Christian Baumgaertel (cbaumgaertel(AT)Bloomberg.net) & editor Heather Harris (hharris(AT)bloomberg.net).
GERMANY - Henkel...CEO Ulrich Lehner said in February the fastest global growth in four years would boost the European economy and increase sales of his company's Persil detergent and Schwarzkopf shampoos. [However -]
[So Europe definitely has a problem with sluggish consumer demand in this home markets across Europe. So what do they want to do? Cut consumer demand further by concentrating their technology-diminished employment on fewer people with longer, not shorter, workweeks. Duuumb dee dumbdumb.]
- On July 6, the 128-year-old company cut in half its forecast for sales growth as "ongoing sluggish demand'' in its home market spreads across Europe.
- Two days later Carrefour SA, Europe's largest retailer, said first-half sales at its French hypermarkets fell.
- And on Friday L'Oreal SA, the world's largest cosmetics maker, said revenue in Germany, France and Italy has stagnated.
Five years after the euro currency's introduction, the region's economy is lagging the U.S. for the 11th year in 12 and the pace of growth is dwindling for a fourth decade.
[Maybe it's time Europe got an economy-scoring measure other than the GDP which gives points for all the suicidal stuff the U.S. is doing to itself, like jumping into military quagmires and building prisons like there's no tomorrow.]
Companies, including tiremaker Continental AG, are moving jobs abroad [so bar them from what's left of Europe's markets], government efforts to boost growth have been hobbled by slumping popularity [who cares about cancerous GDP growth anyway?] and a shrinking workforce is boosting welfare costs, further depressing economic expansion.
[Better to shrink the workweek further than lengthen it again and shrink the workforce further.]
"Europe will lag the rest of the world for the next 15 years,'' said Philipp Vorndran, chief strategist at Credit Suisse Asset Management in Zurich...in a telephone interview. "Growth of 1.5% to 2% is what we have to expect over the coming years - and the trend is pointing down.''
[Unless you start giving points for Europe's superior financially-secure leisure time and stop giving points for the U.S.'s "superior" prison building and environment gutting.]
The Paris-based Organization for Economic Development & Cooperation (OECD) estimates the region's potential growth - the rate at which the economy can grow without fueling inflation - at 2%, compared with 2.7% in the 1980s and 3.2% in the U.S. Vorndran said the euro region's potential rate may fall to between 1% and 1.5% over the next two decades.
``There is definitely a gap and that's one of the reasons why we like BNP Paribas to have segments of revenue outside Europe,'' said Baudouin Prot, 53, chief executive officer of France's second-biggest bank by assets, in an interview in Paris on July 6.
The euro region mustered growth of 0.6% in the first quarter, compared with 1% in the U.S. and 1.5% in Japan in the same period. At 9%, unemployment is the highest since 1999 and almost twice the [politicized and sanitized official] U.S. rate.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts the euro region will expand 1.7% this year, at least half the rate projected for the U.S. and Japan. The euro-region economy expanded by an average of 3.2% annually in
the 1970s, 2.4% in the 1980s and 2.1% in the 1990s, according to statistics from the European Central Bank.
``The world [of big 'investor'-speculators?] is in the process of giving up on Europe,'' said Stephen S. Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley & Co. in a research report published July 1.
[If true, Europe should definitely count its blessings. But if Europe continues reducing worktime per person as technology pours in, it's going to be one of the last places with a strong consumer base.]
``Just as the world [of speculators, no one else,] learned to live without Japan, it now appears increasingly resigned to yet another outbreak of `Eurosclerosis.' ''
[It takes a mighty big blind eye to not see the tremendous Americosclerosis.]
The Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 index fell 12% in the past five years, compared with a 4.9% decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the U.S. and a 25% drop in Japan's Nikkei 225 Index, when all indexes
are converted into dollars. This year, the Euro Stoxx index has dropped 1.4%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is little changed and the Nikkei has advanced 8.7%.
Investor expectations for an extension of the European-U.S. growth gap are also reflected in the bond market. Investors are currently demanding 23 extra basis points in yield to hold 10- year U.S. Treasury bonds over comparable German government securities. The average gap over the past year
is 8 basis points.
European two-year notes logged their third weekly advance in four last week as the outlook for economic growth underpins expectations that the European Central Bank will leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 2% for the rest of the year, while the U.S. Federal Reserve raises borrowing costs at a ``measured'' pace from 1.25%.
With unemployment curbing consumer spending and labor costs eroding
earnings, European executives are expanding outside the region to secure
earnings growth. BNP's Prot said the French bank may expand into China, the
world's fastest-growing major economy, and ruled out purchases in its
L'Oreal this year bought China's Yue-Sai Cosmetics to benefit from Asian
demand that pushed regional sales 22% higher in the first half. By
comparison, sales in Western Europe grew just 1.7%. Henkel in March
completed its $2.9 billion purchase of Dial Corp., owner of the top-selling
U.S. soap brand, to reduce its dependence on the German market.
Continental, the world's fourth-largest tiremaker, said in March it plans
to close a factory employing 200 people and shift production to the
Philippines. At $24.31 per hour, average German manufacturing wages in 2002
were 60% higher than across the 30-nation OECD, according to the U.S.
Department of Labor.
``The main reason for the euro zone's weakness is the inability to
translate the impulse from abroad [what "impulse from abroad"?] into domestic demand - the transmissionmechanism is broken,'' said Thomas Mayer, chief European economist at
Deutsche Bank AG, in an interview. ``The process can only be stopped if
production becomes more attractive.''
[Maybe people in Europe are content with what they have. They don't need the pathetic driven materialistic Gospel of Consumption that many Americans need and that is gradually destroying the American environment.]
Politicians including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who have tried
to close the gap in growth potential and curb unemployment by looser rules
on firings or cutting welfare benefits, have been punished with slumping
Support for Schroeder, who persuaded parliament to cut jobless benefits for
the first time since World War II on Friday, and his Social Democratic Party
is at a record low, a poll by Infratest-Dimap showed on July 2. Italian
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government is threatened with collapse
over clashes with coalition partners over his plan to cut taxes.
Europe's shrinking population is also hobbling the region's ability to
compete with the U.S.
[Only the exporters need to compete with the U.S. and exports are a smaller portion of the Euro economy than practically anywhere else. So why should Europeans ruin their high quality of life just for their small minority of exporters?]
The euro region's population will drop 5% to 289 million by 2050, while the number of people living in the U.S. will jump 44% to 409 million in the same period, the United Nations predicts.
[And while the euro region's population will obviously stay sustainable, and probably with high living standards, the uncontrolled bloating of the U.S. population will gradually turn the U.S. into a gigantic impoverished (except for the super-rich) Third World economy, in exactly the same way as uncontrolled population growth swamped India's decent 5% growthrate in the 1920s.]
``There is little prospect of the region reaching a growth rate of 3% a year because the demographic growth isn't there,'' said Kevin Daly, an economist at Goldman Sachs & Co. in London, in an interview.
[Europeans should (and probably do) thank their lucky stars.]
``The only way Europe can really try to achieve it is through a significant increase in immigration.''
[God forbid. Does human life everywhere have to be as superfluous and cheap as it is in India, China, and increasingly, the USA?]
An aging population will also make it harder for governments to use fiscal
policy to spur growth as they divert more resources to pension payments. By
2050 there will be about two workers for every pensioner in western Europe,
compared with four now, according to UN statistics.
[Two workers and four robots. What's the problem?]
The region's governments already allocate almost 12% of public
spending to pensions, according to the OECD. That's about twice the amount
in other industrialized countries such as the U.S., Japan and Australia, the
Paris-based institute said.
Aging populations are already restraining governments' spending options.
Italy's credit rating, which on July 7 was cut by Standard & Poor's to AA-,
the same level as Slovenia and Andorra, will face further pressure ``in
future years'' because of ``age-related spending.'' The UN forecasts that
Italy's population will drop by more than a fifth in the next fifty years.
[Great. And the sooner they get rid of their gangster government, the sooner they can implement worksharing that will easily enable the abolition of mandatory retirement on the basis of a much shorter workweek.]
The concern over pensions combined with deteriorating job prospects have
prompted European consumers to save more, rather than spend, in turn
depressing the largest part of the economy and curbing growth rates.
[The illusion of well-heeled commentators is that Europeans are slowing spending because they're saving more, when in fact they're slowing spending because despite their shorter worktime, they still haven't timesized enough to achieve full employment so their high unemployment is robbing the majority who would immediately spend it of earned income to spend, while allowing the top income brackets to concentrate the national income in amounts they have to save because they couldn't possibly spend that much. This "black hole" effect in the economy is a lot more advanced in the U.S.]
Between 2000 and 2003, the savings rate has risen to 10.7% in
Germany, from 9.8%, and to 15.1% in Italy, from 14.4%.
U.S. households saved just 3.4% of their disposable income last year,
up from 2.8% in 2000.
European governments and employers are seeking to bolster growth prospects
three decades after they started to deteriorate. Four years ago in Lisbon,
EU leaders agreed to make the region the world's ``most competitive,
knowledge-based economy'' by 2010.
Not enough hours
[As shown by their high unemployment, Europe doesn't have enough employment hours to fill the labor hours available from people on the basis of shorter workweeks - and now they want to increase the labor hours on offer by moving people back to longer workweeks? Ridiculous!]
While that goal is probably too ambitious, the euro region may have more
potential than some economists predict, according to Goldman Sachs. Output
per worker in the euro region has grown 1.7% over the past decade,
compared with 1.8% in the U.S. Output per hour, another measure of
productivity [actually the ONLY meaningful measure of productivity in the age of automation], climbed 1.8% in the decade to 2003, compared with 1.6% in the U.S., the bank estimates.
[It is the outdated focus on output per worker that has led CEOs to get nearsighted and greedy at the sacrifice of their workforces and their markets. They think, "Gee, new technology has doubled my output per employee but my market hasn't doubled (cuz I didn't halve their workweek) so I'll just downsize half of them and save a bundle for stockholders and me (- never mind the further downsizing effect on my markets).]
``The euro zone's inferior performance is attributable to a slower-growing
labor force that works shorter hours,'' according to Goldman's Daly.
[Talk about a trogloditic pre-technology brain! The eurozone actually has superior performance because it's leading the world in free time, the most basic freedom there is.]
Germans work 15% fewer hours per week on average than their U.S.
counterparts, according to Morgan Stanley.
[So Germans have more free time, and since free time is the most basic freedom, Germans have more freedom than the self-proclaimed Land of the Free.]
Companies including Siemens AG are also making progress in cutting costs by
threatening labor unions with moves to countries where labor is cheaper.
Siemens, Germany's biggest corporate employer, on June 24 struck a deal with
workers at two plants to increase weekly work hours to 40 from 35 without
In France, Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking to change labor laws
to allow people to work longer. Nine in 10 people in the euro region's
second-largest economy favor loosening the 35-hour work week requirement to
help them earn more, a poll by the Ipsos market research firm showed on July
[A very suspicious finding sponsored by employers. What does the unions' poll show?]
``The beauty of working longer hours [beauty? sounds like sweatshop thinking - at least for others if not herself] is that it allows companies to reduce
labor costs substantially without workers having to take a pay cut,'' said
Elga Bartsch, an economist at Morgan Stanley in London.
[Is Elga a moron or purposefully misleading? More hours per week for the same weekly pay is pay cut in hourly wage. Why is the reporter repeating this drivel?]
``Working longer hours provides a golden route out of Germany's structural growth problem.''
[With "golden routes" like this, who needs gutters?! And if it's such a golden route, why does management have to achieve it by threatening employees with job loss - see next article?]
7/11 State manufacturing program in limbo - Lawmakers look to replace massive cuts that may be too much to overcome, by Matthew Defour, TheTimesOnline.com.
WASHINGTON - For years, John Soeka has been the on-duty lifeguard for small
manufacturers in the region, treading the harsh global economic waters. From his Portage office, one of Indiana [BMT] Business Modernization & Technology Corp.'s 8 resource centers, Soeka helped local companies such as Filter Specialists in Michigan City implement lean manufacturing programs that help cut costs and increase profits.
Paying $12,000 for Soeka's services in 2003, Filter Specialists, which makes liquid filtration products for the automobile industry, reduced its lead-time from two weeks to three days, increased its on-time shipments from less than 75% to more than 95%, and went from a six-day work week to a five-day work week, according to Diana Wuertz, the company's human resource manager. "It was the first time we were able to give raises to the whole company in four or five years," Wuertz said, though she noted part of the streamlining process resulted in cutting 25 temporary jobs.
[Hey, that's why they call them temporary jobs.]
Then in March, BMT closed down the Portage office and laid off Soeka, along with 16 of its 44 other employees across the state. The reason: The federal government slashed BMT funding by 60%, to $800,000 from $2 million....
[Hey, that's what you get for relying on government funding, notoriously politically vulnerable and unstable.]
- [A little good news -]
7/12 Flexible hours - Slowly, companies are offering workers more flexible schedules, by Stacy A. Teicher, ABC News.
...The Families & Work Institute['s] recent report,
"When Work Works," highlights improvements in access to flexible work
options - such as reduced workweeks, telecommuting from home, and long
leaves of absence....
The light bulb went on for Deloitte & Touche in the early 1990s, when managers
realized how many people, especially women, were walking out the door
because of a rigidity that their life circumstances could no longer bear.
Even though women had been half the new hires for years, there were only
7 of them in a group of 100 candidates for partner in 1992. A yearlong
taskforce helped the company emphasize "a holistic view of the life of the
staff" and the need to shift away from the idea that face time equals
productivity..\..says Jim Wall, national managing director for HR at Deloitte & Touche in NYC.... Now about 35% of partner candidates are women. About 2,000 employees (out of 30,000) are on reduced work schedules, and even 30 to 35 partners have flexible work arrangements. Turnover is down to 17% from 28% a decade ago.
Deloitte's conversion also sped up after its offices were destroyed by the
hijacked planes on 9/11. Thanks to technology - and flexibility - the
company was back serving clients within 24 hours. It became even clearer
that employees' effectiveness was not so dependent on place.
Molly Hufton heard about Deloitte & Touche's efforts to retain women by
offering more flexibility early in her career there. "I thought it would be
all talk," she says. Now, nearly 10 years later, she's a believer. Threedays a week she goes to the office in Chicago. For the other two she's at
home with her infant and her 2½-year-old, occasionally taking business
calls when they nap.
The biggest challenge, says the self-labeled type-A personality, is making
sure she doesn't work much more than the 60% time she's arranged. But
the real test of her boss's support came within the first six months of her
part-time arrangement. Her day care shut down temporarily, and with no
extended family in the area, she had to spend five weeks working from home.
"I thought they'd say, 'Forget it!' " she says, but they gave her backup and
told her to do whatever she needed to do. "If Deloitte wasn't as flexible, I would have quit," Hufton says. Instead, she's been promoted to senior manager.
Stories such as Hufton's are promising, but far from universal. More than
half of wage and salary workers don't have options such as working part
time, or choosing the time they start work in the morning....
For Peter Anderson, a single professional in Orlando, Fla., balancing all
his activities became a priority in the early 1990s. Between work, church
commitments, and overseeing some family rental properties, he found himself
scheduled seven days a week. So he asked his supervisor at Convergys, a
global billing-services company, about scaling back his work time to four days.
He was one of the first nonparents in his office to go part time.
A few years into the arrangement, Anderson reduced his work - and his
salary - again, to three days a week. He's been offered promotions, but has turned them down because they'd require a full-time schedule. "Having balance in my life is much more valuable than trying to squeeze more hours
and more responsibility in," he says. He's impressed that the company has
found other ways besides promotions to acknowledge his contributions - such
as substantial monetary awards. The arrangement has solidified Anderson's loyalty to the company. "I don't think I could replicate this," he says. Because he built up his reputation for about five years before going part time, he wouldn't want to start over
paying those dues somewhere else....
- [And a lot of bad news -]
7/11 Rising benefit costs place more of a burden on workers, by Michael Kinsman (619-293-1370, email@example.com), Union-Tribune via SignOnSanDiego.com.
[Full-time benefit costs are a big obstacle to cutting hours and saving our domestic markets regardless of technology.]
If you don't think controlling the cost of employee benefits is important,
look at what's happening in Los Angeles County.
The cost of the benefits package for the county's firefighters has
climbed to an astounding 59% of their base salary.
That means it is no longer fiscally prudent to hire new firefighters
because it costs more to pay benefits to new workers than it does to pay
time-and-a-half overtime to existing firefighters.
Something is wrong here.
Michael Fox, the Southern California managing principal of Towers Perrin
HR consulting firm, says that while this may be an extreme
example of runaway benefit costs, it does highlight the concern over the
"Lately, this has been a very big issue on both the benefits side and the
cost side," he says.
Most companies find themselves spending the equivalent of about 35%
of an employee's salary on benefits.
In recent years, however, health care costs have been rising 12% to
15% a year, workers' compensation rate hikes have been staggering and
the investment returns on pension funds have been down because of low
All of that has stressed a benefits system that needs no more pressure.
"When one benefit increases, you either have to spend more on benefits or
find a way to cut back on others," Fox says.
Increasing employee contributions for health insurance, increasing medical
deductibles or office co-payments or encouraging workers to set aside more
for their pensions are all common ways of accommodating escalating benefit
costs without reducing benefits.
But when costs increase, someone has to pay.
Fox says corporate America seems to have drawn the line on benefits
spending at 35% of salary levels. That puts the burden on individual
The firefighters in Los Angeles County have turned a corner most of us
never want to face. Because it is cheaper to pay them overtime than hire
additional workers, they will be steered into more overtime.
About 96% of the 2,200 firefighters there earning $80,000 or more
last year received at least $10,000 of their salaries in overtime pay.
It's a dangerous precedent when you begin mandating overtime of workers who
have already worked a full week [= 40 hrs?] simply because it's cost-effective. Some of
the Los Angeles County firefighters might be willing to do that, but
certainly there will be some who find it physically taxing or meddlesome in
their personal lives.
The nation's 40-hour workweek was established in the 1930s after the
protests of factory workers who often found themselves working up to 60
hours a week in poor conditions.
[The 40-hour workweek was legislated in 1938 and implemented in 1940, after a 44-hour week in 1938 and a 42-hour week in 1939.]
Minimum wage and child labor laws also were
adopted at this time.
All of these workplace regulations were adopted because they were deemed to
be in the best interests of the people who did the work. If all employers
would have treated workers fairly and with dignity, these regulations would
have never seen the light of day.
Yet, now we have a government entity pushing its firefighters to put in
more than 40 hours a week on a regular basis.
Fox doesn't think that American companies will allow benefit costs to get
so high that they, too, find it more cost-efficient to work their employees
But that doesn't mean it won't happen. The final tally is that working
regular overtime is a steep price to pay for getting employee benefits.
7/08/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 7/7 from GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #3 & 5 which are from the 7/08 newspaper hardcopy), and excerpts and [comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- To the Ladies in the Room - Warning: Frank Luntz arms Bush with 'framing' devices to court the womens' vote – Bush's anti-woman record be damned, by Molly Ivins, AlterNet via *Tom Walker via SWT elist.
AUSTIN – Last week on PBS's "NOW With Bill Moyers," there was a long interview with Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and message-meister. Luntz recently advised Republicans to explain "the policy of pre-emption and the war in Iraq" by recommending that "no speech about ... Iraq should begin without a reference to 9-11." This would be despite the fact that the 9-11 Commission concluded Iraq has no connection to 9-11. Now you know why the administration continues to make this nonexistent connection.
Luntz described his methods with appealing pride. His job is to "set the context" and "frame the debate," which he learns how to do through focus groups, polls and dial sessions. But he kept drawing the line at the word "manipulation." No, no, he doesn't manipulate people, he insisted, he merely gives them a context for the message, he merely discovers what it is they want to hear and how best to say it to them.
I'm listening to all this because this is what the shrewdies in Washington pay attention to – you can't hardly be a political writer anymore without sources on linguistics, semiotics, message control and all this good business. It dates you something awful if you do old-fashioned stuff, like call politicos to find out how it's going.
Luntz has discovered that the 4% of Americans who still have not made up their minds about this election tend to be working women, younger, new mothers and fairly low-wage earners. I was pleased to hear Luntz explain how he'd uncovered the most interesting thing about these women. By dint of clever professional questioning, Luntz had come to notice that what the women seem to feel they need more than anything else is... time. I was staggered, since I and every other woman journalist I know have been saying this for only the last 20 or 30 years.
Yes, said, Luntz informed us, working women are feeling incredibly pressured, between home, job, aging parents, demanding kids, etc. Their lives are just a-jangle with demands, and not enough time to fill them. Now here, explains Luntz, is where he comes in.
"You have to empathize," he said. "The very first thing you have to do, it's not about issues, it's about empathy. They have to know that you care, that you understand them, that you understand the frustrations." Say a candidate of his – say George W. Bush – is at a town hall meeting. He'd say, "'Now I want to talk to the ladies in the room' ... 'the women in the room' is how I would put it ... and you say: 'Well, I'm gonna throw this out. I want you tell me if I'm right or not. Ladies here, I'd say that your lack of free time is one of the greatest challenges.' And they'll all sit there, and they'll raise their hands, and they'll all nod yes. At that moment, you have bonded with those women."
Which is all well and good, except then I'm trying to envision what George W. Bush says to them next. The National Women's Law Center released a study in April, called "Slip Sliding Away," on the erosion of women's rights. It found, under Bush:
Here's my problem. This is the record – this is what's being done to women's lives. But it's so passe, you see, to write about it. No linguistics, no empathy, no putting it in context. Just the record. No one does that kind of journalism anymore. How embarrassing.
- The Labor Department has refused to use tools at its disposal to identify violations of equal pay laws.
- Labor repealed regulations that allowed paid family leave to be made available through state unemployment funds. Now it's unpaid leave only.
- Labor has proposed new regulations that deprive millions of workers of the right to overtime pay – and even gives tips to employers on how to avoid paying overtime when the law still requires it.
- The Department of Justice has weakened the enforcement of laws against job discrimination and abandoned pending sex discrimination cases.
- Among the Bush budget cuts affecting the lives of millions of women are cuts in Head Start and other early childhood education programs, after-school programs, K-12 education, housing subsidies, child care, career education, services for victims of domestic violence, the nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC) and Pell grants to help pay for college.
- All in all, it's kind of hard to see how Bush could convince "the ladies" that he has helped take stress out of their lives. Unless, of course, the lady is married to a guy who makes $1 million a year – then she'd have $92,000 extra a year to spend from the Bush tax cuts.
[Or how convenient for Bush.]
- Power department issues alert - Power prices could soar if residents do not conserve more energy, by Brad Plothow, TheSpectrum.com.
ST. GEORGE, Utah - Power prices could soar along with temperatures if residents do not conserve more power.... Many Southern Utahns are already finding ways to conserve.
Dixie State College recently made the transition to a four-day workweek for the summer months to save on utility costs. The school initiated the shortened week last summer. College officials estimate that $40,000 was saved on energy-related expenses in 2003 because some buildings could be shut down, cutting air conditioning and electricity costs....
- Fulton County may reduce employees' hours, pay - Officials seek way out of finance pinch, ToledoBlade.com.
WAUSEON, Ohio - A warning sign of sorts has been hung in the Fulton County commissioners' office, signaling the financial crunch that looms for county departments this year.
"Due to the current financial restraints, the light at the end of the tunnel will be turned off until further notice," it reads.
Yesterday, news started to leak out across the county just how bad that situation really is: For the first time, the majority of Fulton County employees could face a pay cut of five hours a week, with agency doors closed to the public during that time.
Citing ongoing drops in interest income, along with increases in some expenses, County Administrator Vond Hall has projected a $400,000 general fund budget deficit at the end of 2005 if no cuts are made to county departments' budget proposals.
He's proposed to a few department heads to cut the county's 300 hourly and salaried workers by five hours of pay each week. He hasn't officially pitched the idea to the commissioners. The proposal, should it start at the end of July as he's suggested, would save the county more than $500,000 in wages and benefits through the end of next year, Mr. Hall said.
He said the changes could be made by slashing an hour from every workday [=35-hour workweek], or
implementing a half-day workday once a week county-wide [= 36-hour workweek?].
The proposal would not apply to the sheriff's office, he said, and would impact only those departments that operate within the general fund.
Mr. Hall said none of the officials he's contacted thus far has said "absolutely not" to his reduction-in-hours proposal. They also agreed that a half-day workday would make the most sense but that it would have to be instituted uniformly.
He said county leaders have been warned for years about depleting county funds, and they've been told to cut costs.
"This day didn't sneak up on us. This day has arrived," Mr. Hall said.
But many county employees are upset about the proposal.
"I'm not particularly happy about it - a cut in hours is a cut in pay," said
Pam Yoder, who's worked in the county treasurer's office since 1980.
[But in the short term, a cut in hours is better than losing your job, and in the longer term a cut in hours is a raise in pay, because you're reducing the surrounding labor surplus which is keeping down wages and consumer markets.]
She said the issue was a topic in her office yesterday, with employees sharing their unrest about the possibility of seeing smaller paychecks.
Clerk of Courts Mary Gype said yesterday she was seeking answers directly after hearing secondhand about the proposal.
She said her four clerks at the courthouse and the three clerks who work in the county's title office already are facing time constraints in completing their jobs with current 35-hour workweeks.
"Cutting hours: I don't know how we'd get our work done," she said.
"With paperwork, we work to full tilt all day.
"Being a major service to the people and having to have work done timely, it would be difficult [if this happened]."
Ms. Gype suggested instead that the county's 1% sales tax should be raised by a half-percent on the dollar, something that has been discussed previously as an option.
Commissioner Dean Genter recently suggested raising the sales tax by that amount, which could be done without a public vote. But he added that county leaders should look at cutting expenses before seeking that option.
Mr. Hall said the county's current 1% sales tax generates $4 million a year. As of now, though, he also feels that the county budgets and possibly employee hours should be cut without asking taxpayers for more money.
The administrator said commissioners should have more answers at their fingertips this morning when State Rep. Steve Buehrer (R., Delta) meets with them at the commissioners' hearing room.
Mr. Hall said commissioners sought the meeting in part because of budget woes.
He said they want to ask Mr. Buehrer for his thoughts about the future stability of local government funds and whether the amount of sales tax that counties can levy will one day be increased.
- Consumption continues to curb Korean growth, Dow Jones Newswires via WSJ, A8.
SEOUL, South Korea [SK] - Despite record exports and a higher growth estimte for the first half, South Korea's central bank is less optimistic about the economy for the rest of the year, as a hoped-for revival in domestic consumption hasn't materialized.
The Bank of Korea...slashed its full-year outlook for private consumption to a 0.5% rise from a gain of 3.2%, as consumers, saddled with high household debt, are reluctant to open their wallets. The central bank said it expects domestic demand to make only a "gradual" recovery in the second half, predicting also that export growth will slow sharply from September....
[Spare us the overblown nattering about exports - in the US they are just 13-14% of the economy measured in GDP. Domestic demand is the thing, and domestic demand is most helped by worksharing, and South Korea has just begun a major step forward in worksharing. On July 1 it began a 7-year transition from a 44-hour workweek to a 40-hour workweek. On July 1 companies with over 1000 employees were required to cut four hours off their workweeks and if they really needed those hours in certain skill areas, that meant they needed to hire more people. That can be expected to lower the SK unemployment rate and government unemployment (UE) support costs and UE support taxes. The additional employed people are converted into confident consumers and domestic demand will indeed make a gradual recovery.]
"It will be difficult for private consumption to recover significantly in the second half, as the unexpected surge in global oil prices is weakening buying power," the bank said.
[But it will be much easier for private consumption to recover with large companies hiring to replace those four lost hours in everyone's workweek than it would have been without such hiring.]
The government has repeatedly said it won't introduce strong stimulus to boost local demand, having learned a hard lesson from its effort to revive the economy in 2000 and 2001 by loosening credit-card regulations to encourage spending. Household debt then surged, resulting in recession in early 2003.
[This is a hard lesson the USA is about to relearn. As explained above however, the SK government actually has introduced a strong stimulus to boost local (ie: domestic) demand, and that is ... the reduction of the workweek = nationwide timesizing, vs. private-sector downsizing and public-sector upsizing.]
- Living in Santa Fe, editorial, WSJ, A10.
...Santa Fe, that sunny tourist town, last year earned the dubious distinction of passing perhaps the most stringent "living wage" ordinance in the country. It demands that businesses pay a minimum of $8.50 an hour, increasing to $10.50 by 2008. (The federal minimum wage is $5.15.) Unlike "living wage" rules in about 100 other cities, Santa Fe's goes beyond public contracts and applies to any private business with more than 25 employees. A labor-friendly state judge ruled against a business challenge to the ordinance last month, and the law is now in effect.
Big Labor targeted Santa Fe as ripe for a living wage fight, and it chose well. The City Council is to the left of even the state Democratic Party and passed the ordinance 7-1. Meanwhile, the split between lower-paid service industry workers and the city's collection of wealthier retirees and second-home owners provided fodder for some class-war agitation.
[Whenever anyone mentions income gap, 'conservatives' cry class war, but of course it's not class war when they complain about the "liberal elite" in the culture war.]
The laws of economics suggest that the consequences will not be what this law's proponents expect. Companies with 30 or 35 employees will lay off staff to get below 25. Others will let go of their least skilled workers and demand more from those who remain. The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce says it's already heard of 8 businesses canceling plans to move to, or expand in, the city. The real wages [ie: results] of this policy, as everywhere it's been imposed, will be fewer lower-income workers with jobs.
[Quite right. The only way to do this is not by raising pay from the bottom but lowering hours from the top. Raising pay from the bottom (= minimum or 'living' wage) bucks market forces punishing low skills or a general labor surplus - you somehow eventually wind up with lower pay, possibly through benefit cuts or lack of raises, until re-aligned with market wage. Lowering hours from the top, that is, redefining 'full time' downward, immediately reduces the skill surplus &/or labor surplus and with no further government action and without creating a gap in the wage ladder for jobmarket entrants or the unskilled, market forces respond to the decreased surplus by flexibly, gradually, raising wages and benefits - because employees have more job options (and therefore more power) and can discipline employers by changing jobs or threatening to do so. It's all about power, and a surplus commodity, like long-hours labor, has little of it. Santa Fe should replace its stifling living wage rules with liberating, market-building citywide shorter-hours rules. The "Santa Fe workweek" should vary inversely, and gradually, with Santa Fe un(der)employment, similar to the way in which Lincoln Electric's and Nucor's workweeks vary directly with corporate revenues. This would maximally spread the employment of the Santa Fe municipal area, private and public, make self-support in Santa Fe easier, universal and higher-level, boost sales in all local Santa Fe consumer goods and services, and reduce all local direct and indirect costs of dependency and non-self-support, such as costs of homelessness and law enforcement and jail. At higher levels of government, such worksharing saves unemployment insurance costs, welfare costs, disability costs. Timesizing, not paysizing.]
- Europeans rethinking their shorter workweeks - "Europeans [used to] work to live - Americans live to work", HR.BLR.com.
[Now the Euros are dumb enough to switch - unless progressives get a lot more focused fast. Compare Japan in the late 1980s. After a decade of having adoring management books written about them, Japanese CEOs were stupid enough to dismiss the social contract of lifetime employment and start copying US downsizing, and presto, overnight Japanese consumers tightened up and the economy went into the tank for 10-12 years (actually it's still there - and so are we, but we're so much better at news manipulation, spindoctoring, and hiding the prisons and suicides).]
With Europeans working an average of 10% fewer hours a year than Americans, the cliché has had more than a bit of truth behind it. But that may be changing.
The New York Times reports that chronic economic stagnation, deteriorating public finances, and competition from low-wage countries have combined to put pressure on Europeans to work longer hours. At the same time, there's a growing belief that the shorter workweek, once seen as a way of spreading work among more people, has actually done little to ease unemployment.
[Of course, the "growing belief" is among the workaholics anxious to justify their self-important but technologically obviated busyness.]
Klaus F. Zimmermann, president of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin, told the Times: "We have created a leisure society, while the Americans have created a work society. But our model does not work anymore. We are in the process of rethinking it."
Or as the Times itself puts it: "Europe's long siesta, it seems, has finally
reached its limit."
[If so, then it's optimized consumer base has also reached its limit, and its decline will bring Europe down just as Japan's abandonment of its "secret $centrifuge" in the form of lifetime employment brought it down around 1990, and down it has remained ever since.]
The newspaper cites this evidence:
"It's about lowering labor costs [= wages and (if he connected the dots) consumer spending and our own markets]," said Peter Gottal, a spokesman for Siemens, which is based in Munich. "Where we are in a global competition [for lower costs, lower wages, smaller workforces, smaller domestic consumption and greater political instability], 35 hours are no longer feasible.
- The French, who in 2000 trimmed their workweek to 35 hours in hopes of generating more jobs, worry that the move is instead hurting their economy.
[No one has explained how it could possibly hurt their economy in the age of automation. This is pure employer compulsive-obsessive CONTROL freakiness. And the idea of the French imitating the Americans at this particular time in history is a truly sick joke.]
They are talking about returning to longer hours.
- The English already are moving in that direction—informally.
[No, they aren't. After the World War II, they were never clued-in enough to move in the shorter-hours direction along with the rest of Western Europe in the first place.]
A 2002 study found more than a fifth of the labor force working beyond the European Union's mandated limit of 48 hours a week.
[And they've never done anything else. That's why the whole north of England has been as depressed as a war zone for so long. And like Americans, they've become experts at hiding un(der)employment.]
- The Germans, who put in the lightest schedule in Europe by working about 18% fewer hours than Americans, got a wakeup call when the industrial giant Siemens threatened to move production of its cordless and cellular phones to Hungary, where salaries are much lower.
[Fine. Let'em go. But no more access to the rich German consumer market that they're no longer supporting.]
Rather than risk the loss of 2,000 jobs in a country that already has a 10% unemployment rate, the union representing the Siemens workers agreed to extend the workweek from 35 hours to 40 and to scrap annual bonuses that every employee received to help pay for vacations and Christmas expenses.
[Big mistake on the union's part, but then, no more than half the labor movement has ever understood the critical top importance of shorter hours anyway.]
[Ever heard of automation? What about robotics?]
We just need more hours."
[What a dunce. What he really needs is the stronger markets that only fuller employment can bring, regardless of how short the definition of "full time" needs to go to achieve it.]
While Siemens and its union say the contract is not a template for the rest of German industry, the Times reports that it is being viewed that way.
[Yep, it's just like the coming together of the neo-cons and the fundamentalist 'Christians' in the once-great US of A. They saw Siemens' little slice of suicide and they pounced on the opportunity to paint it as Europe's Greatest Panacea - though clearly like the neo-cons, they haven't thought through what happens when they 'win' and the whole of Europe is a poorly paid as Eastern Europe, and then China and India, in the future.]
- [Now we "zoom in" on France -]
French rethink 35-hour week, by Robert Graham, Financial Times [UK], collected by AA 7/7 but published (in hardcopy) July 8 2004 5:00.
PARIS - A new survey has shown wide cross-party support in France for greater 'flexibility' on working hours, adding fuel to the debate over the future of the 35-hour week.
[Yeah, let's have more flexibility on that horribly rigid "one person, one vote" too.]
The poll, conducted late last week by the Ipsos polling institute, revealed 60% of respondents were wholly in favour of "more choice in the length of working time" and a further 30% generally in favour. Only 5% strongly opposed a change and those with no opinion were an unusually low 1%.
The poll, from a sample of 952 people, was conducted in the wake of a raft of comments from senior members of the centre-right government of Jean-Pierre Raffarin - and President Jacques Chirac - on the 35-hour week.
In particular, Nicolas Sarkozy, finance minister, has championed the view that "everyone should have the maximum amount of choice in the rhythm of their life".
[Until the economy's level of technology rises so high that the long-week workers are concentrating the vanishing employment so much that un(der)employment rises astronomically and there isn't enough centrifugation of the national income to buy all the output of the long-week workers. And with a similar situation worldwide, exports are not a solution.]
The poll conclusions are more nuanced than Mr Sarkozy's desire to remove the 'shackles' [oh pour it on, Nicolas!] of the 35-hour week.
[What about the "shackles" of "one person, 'only' one vote," and "one husband, one wife" and the shackles of those damn traffic lights - why can't they change to green as soon as YOU come along! And where can we see these poll conclusions?]
Yet they reflect sentiment in France that the reduction in the working week from 39 hours to 35 hours - introduced by the previous Socialist-led government - has restricted those who wish to earn more by working longer.
[They are perfectly welcome to earn more by upgrading their skills. They do, however, need to let people who wish to work longer to provide more jobs do so.]
Only 15% believed the reduced working week, which began to be introduced in 1999, should be abolished. About the same number endorsed the status quo.
[That is, 15% believed the reduced workweek should be continued in its present form.]
But almost two-thirds [65%?] felt it should be 'reformed,' partially or in depth.
Of those identifying with the opposition parliamentary left, 71% were anxious for some change - just under the 75% identified with the government.
President Mr Chirac has cautioned against any move to roll back the acquis (acquired rights) of the 35-hour week.
But one of his first acts on being re-elected to a second presidential term in 2002 was to sanction the new centre-right government's decision to raise the legal limit on overtime from 120 to 180 hours in the year.
Among the ideas now being advanced by Mr Sarkozy is an end to the taxes paid by employers on overtime. But unions fear this will have a negative impact on job creation.
[Unions need to forget about job creation, which is only of interest to them, and start talking about MARKET creation, which is of interest to employers.]
7/10 Sarkozy champions change to 35-hour week, Agence France-Presse via expatica.com.
PARIS - France's powerful Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy pressed Saturday for change in the controversial 35-hour week, in a wide-ranging interview seen as setting out his platform for a future presidential bid.
["Controversial" only among near-sighted employers who don't get the connection between their employees and their customers' customers, and who don't get the implications of geometrically increasing worksavings from technology.]
In the interview in the daily Le Monde, Sarkozy said that employees should
have the option of working longer hours if they want but pledged French
workers would not be blackmailed into working longer hours.
A reform of the law "should be based on one principle: freedom of choice,
permitting those who want to work longer earn more."
But he stressed that the choice should be entirely voluntary, and he
assailed the German multinational Siemens for telling 2,500 workers in
Germany that their jobs would be shifted to Hungary unless they agreed to
increase their hours from 35 to almost 40 hours with no increase in pay.
Sarkozy said such "blackmail that would not be acceptable here."
The wide-ranging interview appeared to be an attempt by Sarkozy to mark out
his political position four days before President Jacques Chirac was
scheduled to address the nation in his traditional July 14 Bastille Day
Sarkozy makes no secret of his ambition to succeed Chirac in 2007.
With the popularity of the centere-right government slumping, he has been
speaking out publicly and repeatedly made apparent his impatience with
Chirac's brand of politics - taking up clearly opposing positions on issues
ranging from affirmative action for immigrants to relations with Germany.
Sarkozy...who served for the first two years of the government as a
successful interior minister, is highly popular among many deputies and
activists in Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) - who see him as
the party's salvation after humiliating defeats at recent regional and
The finance minister has over the past few weeks made an issue of the
35-hour work week, introduced by the previous Socialist government, and is
apparently trying to satisfy both its supporters and detractors.
Sarkozy said workers should be given the choice at the beginning of each
year of working 35 hours per week, or opting for overtime.
"In acting thus, we are not placing an acquired benefit in doubt, but
offering a choice in a society that lacks it," he said.
One of the biggest problems in the French economy is the lack of purchasing
power of salaried workers, he said, so it makes sense to give employees the
chance to earn more.
The previous government brought in the 35-hour week to create more jobs but
also to shake up hidebound labour practices by giving companies more
flexibility about scheduling work. At the same time, workers had to curb pay
[And this they're now spinning as unproductive???]
Most French workers have become used to the concept, and some companies say
the shorter working week has enabled them to reorganize and achieve higher
productivity, but there is widespread support for introducing more
flexibility into the law which the [rightwing] government says is costing the economy
EUR 16 billion (USD 19.2 billion) a year.
With unemployment stuck near 10%, the minister said taxes and social
charges should be lowered for companies that relocate their activities to
areas that have more than 20 or 30% joblessness.
But Sarkozy opposes an overall tax cut as called for by Chirac, saying any
increase in revenues as France's economy rebounds should by used to repay
the country's debt.
Weighing in on gay marriage, a question which has risen to forefront of
political debate since a mayor defied the central government to marry a
homosexual couple last month, Sarzozy said he opposed gay marriage because
it automatically conferred the right to adoption.
However, the minister said he supported improvements to France's civil
union law which confers some but not all the benefits of marriage.
- French willing to work longer week, minister says (update2), Bloomberg.
French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said he wants to give people the option to work more than the legal limit of 35 hours.
[Oh WHAT an altruist!]
Public opinion polls published the past two days show people want to have the choice of increasing their earnings by working longer hours.
[Even in France with all their shorter-hours experience, people are still confused and misled about the relationship between hours and earnings:
"Whether you work by the piece or the day,
Increasing the hours DECREASES the pay."
- because you're concentrating the technology-vanished employment on fewer people, creating more unemployment and labor surplus,
Sarkozy has said the six-year-old law deters hiring [dead wrong - it increases markets and promotes hiring] and raises businesses' costs [and markets].
[Is that what it did in the 150 years before the 40-hour workweek when we came down from an 80-hour workweek? Hardly! Workweek reduction promoted hiring via worksharing and boosted wages and markets. It prevented the dread black-hole economy where all the spending power was squashed in the top income brackets where everyone already had everything they wanted to buy. How much back-&-forthing are we going to need on shorter hours before we "get" it? There is nothing sacrosanct about the 40-hour workweek.]
The French are ``open and flexible'' to changing the law to allow people to earn more by choosing to work longer hours, Sarkozy...said at a conference of business executives in Paris. ``We can overhaul the 35-hour week while making it voluntary.''
[Yeah, sure. Is obeying traffic lights voluntary? Is just voting once voluntary? Is just having one wife or husband voluntary? In an automating world where market-demanded employment hours are shrinking, the length of the workweek has the same sharing imperative.]
Le Parisien newspaper today published an opinion poll by market research group CSA Opinion showing 51% support changing the work week law.
Yesterday, a poll by Ipsos SA, funded by a small-business organization, showed 90% want the law loosened to give them more choice.
Neither poll provided a margin of error. Paris-based CSA questioned 800 people this week using a quota system representative of the French adult population. Paris-based Ipsos interviewed 952 eligible voters using a similar system.
France's unemployment rate has held at 9.8% in the four months ending May 31, the highest in the Group of Seven industrialized nations, and job creation has stagnated since 2001.
[Then cut hours further - and preferably INDEX the workweek inversely to the unemployment rate. As long as it is too high or rising, gradually cut the workweek and spread the vanishing work a la Timesizing. Lengthening the workweek again will just worsen unemployment.]
While Sarkozy today lifted his economic growth forecast for the year to as much as 2.4% from 1.7%, the state statistics office, Insee, has said employment won't pick up until the end of the year.
[INSEE is just the usual stuffed-shirt cheerleading economists whistling in the wind.]
The 35-hour work week law, which obliges companies with 20 or more staff to reduce work times for no loss in pay, was intended to boost employment. Companies got payroll tax reductions if they committed to hiring more employees. Instead, labor costs have climbed by 11%.
[And domestic consumption has grown proportionately.]
A parliamentary committee, made up mostly of lawmakers from the governing majority, estimated in April the law has protected or created 350,000 jobs at a cost to the state of 23,000 euros ($28,437) per job, triple the cost of standard subsidies.
``A major step backwards socially is in the making because it will mean working longer for the same pay, if not less,'' the Socialist Party and its allies said in a joint statement sent to news agencies by e-mail in response to government ministers' comments about the legislation in recent days.
[Then get organized and Macchiavellian and FIGHT it, you morons! Quit whining about poor workers and start doing the numbers on declining consumer markets - carry your shorter-hours view into the heart of the 'death star' in terms of The Empire's own self-interest!]
Sarkozy is pressing PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin...to scale back the mandates of the law introduced by the previous Socialist-led government. The law, enacted in 1998, lowered the legal work week from 39 hours.
Sarkozy, who has indicated that he wants to succeed President Jacques Chirac in 2007, ``has picked up on a theme that has been apparent in the polls for the past six months,'' said Stephane Rozes, director of political studies at CSA Opinion.
``I was never convinced of the positive nature of the 35 hours,'' Chirac, responding to Sarkozy and others from his party, the UMP, said on May 18....
[Maybe Chirac should reread Exodus 20, where in the Fourth Commandment, YHWH God cuts the Hebrews' 7-day workweek to 6. Clearly Chirac doesn't have the most creative imagination in the world, isn't a big Bible reader, and has never met Phil Hyde to convince him of the positive nature of workweek reduction. Plus he might review the Robien Law of 1996-97, when his own Center Right was forced to adopt a voluntary version of workweek reduction to bring down official French unemployment from above 12.6%.]
- [And in case you missed the point -]
Sarkozy says French opinion is ripe for amending [ie: destroying] 35-hour week, Bloomberg.
French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said public opinion is ripe for the government to amend legislation fixing the country's legal work week at 35 hours.
``There's no public opinion blockage'' and the French are ``open and flexible'' to changing the law to allow people to earn more by choosing to work longer hours, ...Sarkozy said at a conference in Paris promoting the city as a financial center.
[What a crock. Here's a pig's ear paraded as a purse. As sweatshops the world over demonstrate, longer hours goes with earning less, not more.]
Le Parisien newspaper today published an opinion poll by market research group CSA Opinion showing 51% support changing the 35-hour workweek law.
[If this 'random' opinion poll is remotely accurate, which is doubtful, the French are really out to screw themselves. The pollsters do seem to be either bored (with the more employed and more free time of the status quo) or - as with the next one - biassed...]
Yesterday, a separate poll by Ipsos SA, funded by a small-business organization, showed 90% want the law to be loosened to give them more choice.
Sarkozy is pressing PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin...to scale back the mandates of the law introduced by the previous Socialist-led government to boost hiring and combat unemployment. The law, enacted in 1998, lowered the legal workweek from 39 hours for no loss in pay.
[Yet another cabal of "conservatives," in power on a fluke, who want to go for the jugular as fast as they can.]
- [Reality check - are long workweeks really the future?]
Deep roots: Dynamic 90-year-old cherishes lifetime of valley memories - Madge Chaffin Buck laughs while telling stories of her childhood in the Bitterroot Valley, by Rod Daniel, Ravalli Republic.
BITTERROOT VALLEY, Mont. - After 65 years living on the same road, this is the first season Madge Chaffin Buck didn't have a vegetable garden. But...the 90-year-old Corvallis icon isn't ready to hang up her trowel just yet....
Born in 1914 near Springfield, Mo., to Earl Chaffin, Madge moved in 1918 to the valley her grandparents helped to settle, and except for the occasional trips to Missoula, she's pretty much been here ever since.
"At one time there were the Chaffins and the Indians, and that was about it," she said. "I remember when this road had four houses on it.... There weren't such things as a five-day work week," she said. "Not when you had cows. Our trips to Missoula were few and far between."...
[So lest you labor 'neath the illusion that long workweeks are the future, note that what Grannie Chaffin is hinting at is that in them old days there were just six- and seven-day, ie: looong, workweeks. In short, Sarkozy and his ilk are trying to recapture the long workweeks of the past. They're trying to go backwards to a world that technology has made obsolete. Do that and you wind up with Third-World consumer markets.]
- [here's what happens when you don't have markets -]
Bonds news - US 30-year mortgage rates dip in latest week, additional reporting by Glenn Somerville & Mark Felsenthal, Reuters.
WASHINGTON - ...U.S. 30-year mortgage rates averaged 6.01% in the week ending Thursday, down from 6.21% last week, Freddie Mac said.... The U.S. central bank last week raised short-term interest rates to 1.25%, the first increase in four years, embarking on a likely string of rises to cap inflation.
However, a weak government report on the employment picture for June offset the effect of the Fed rate rise, Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac VP and chief economist, said in a statement. "Long-term mortgage rates this week fell to levels equal to those experienced in April, reacting in large part to last Friday's news of less-than-stellar job growth in June," Nothaft said. "This is good news for those who are still house hunting, as lower rates mean more affordable housing."
After three months of strong growth, employers reined in the pace of hiring and trimmed the workweek in June. The U.S. Labor Department said 112,000 jobs were added in the month, less than half the 250,000 expected by Wall Street economists....
- [another article on this angle -]
Running out of steam - Is the recovery losing momentum?, The Economist.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Pity the Republicans. No sooner had America's jobs figures become rosy enough to brag about in campaign ads, than the pesky statistics stopped playing ball. According to numbers released on July 2nd, only 112,000 new non-farm jobs were created in June, far fewer than in each of the previous three months and less than half what analysts were expecting. After rising for four months, jobs in the politically sensitive manufacturing sector fell. The average work-week shortened and the unemployment rate is stuck at 5.6%.
Democrats quickly pointed out that America has lost more than 1m jobs since George Bush took office. The president himself claimed that he had been looking all along for "steady, consistent growth" rather than "boom-or-bust". Don Evans, his commerce secretary, said new jobs had been created in each of the past ten months, including June. "The trend is our friend," he argued.
But is it? That depends on whether June's figures were a one-off, or whether they mark a broader slow-down. It is always a mistake to read too much into one month's jobs statistics. And June had particular oddities. The fall in the average work-week, for instance, may have been influenced by the fact that many workers had the day off on June 11th for Ronald Reagan's funeral, a day that happened to be during the statisticians' survey week.
[So more and more of us are being forced to shorten our hours anyway, but under the worst possible conditions. Why not just go with the trend and design it to take place in the best possible way instead of the worst? Go for the worst-case plan: timesize deliberately, and use it to centrifuge the stiflingly consolidated national income and rebuild our consumer base?!]
That said, the number-crunchers also revised down the jobs figures for April and May a bit. And other evidence suggests America's economy may be cooling somewhat. Durable goods orders (admittedly yet another highly volatile indicator) fell in May for the second consecutive month. Vehicle sales were decidedly lame in June.... And, perhaps most significant, several big chain stores...warned that June would be weak.
It is not all bad. For instance, consumer confidence looks robust (the Conference Board's index rose to 101.9 in June, its highest level in two years). But for Mr Bush, even conflicting signals look dangerous. For the past few months, his campaign has been frustrated by how little his poll ratings have benefited from a string of uniformly [hardly - as demonstrated above] rosy economic statistics. If the economic numbers are less rosy [or more conflicting], then the poll numbers could yet go down.
- Unjust ideas, by William Pratt, Frankfurter Allgemeine [Germany].
The Social Democratic Party, the senior coalition partner in Berlin, sees a threat forming among its generally faithful base of voters - a fledgling political group that goes by the name of "Election Alternative Work and Social Justice." It is the product of a deep disgruntlement toward the social reforms on which Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has spent huge amounts of political capital in an effort to resuscitate Germany's comatose economy. At this point, it is too early to say whether Schröder's benefit cuts,
increased health-care fees and incentives for self-employment will have much, if any, impact on the country's army of 4.23 million unemployed. But, the leaders of the Alternative have already made up their minds. The reforms are a failure and must be thrown out now, they say. In their place, the group has laid out a smorgasbord of union leftovers - shorter work weeks, a government infrastructure program of at least ?40 billion ($49.5 billion) a year that is supposed to create more than 500,000 jobs, and tax increases for companies and the financially well-off. But, in dreaming up these ideas, the group has overlooked the effect such policies have had in the real world. If the shorter work week were a cure-all, Germany's unemployment rate would never have shot through the 10% barrier.
[Yes it would if you implemented it piecemeal and rigidly as Germany did. Piecemeal? Only the unionized sector has shorter workweeks, and virtually only in west Germany. Rigidly? They cut to 35 hours a week and assumed that was The Permanent Cure-All. The proper way to do this is what Walter Reuther called Fluctuating Adjustment of the Workweek back in 1964 at the UAW convention in Atlantic City. In other words, you don't refreeze the workweek at some other shorter level than 40 or 39 - you keep it adjustible, and as long as unemployment is too high or rising, YOU KEEP SHORTENING IT! Until management gets through their noggins that the most critical management skill of the future is suturing shorter shifts, they will be party to the gradual erosion of their own consumer base by downsizing and allowing the technology-vanishing employment to funnel onto ever fewer employee-consumers. How stupid is that?!]
If a program to upgrade the country's infrastructure were all it took to get the economy running again, eastern Germany would have begun to flourish long ago [relevance??]. And if companies [and?] the rich and high-income citizens must become a bigger target for the tax collector, fewer and fewer people have an incentive to take the financial risk that goes along with creating the jobs that these union backers would like to wrap in a thick blanket of collective-bargaining regulations.
[Since 70-80% of most governments today are tax-consuming makework and unemployment-damage-control, worksharing via shorter workweeks would allow the safe reduction of taxes. High taxes go along with longer workweeks, not shorter, unless you really want a fast trip to the Third World - which the US and UK apparently want and now the misnamed "conservatives" of France and Germany seem to be losing their minds too.]
In assembling this array of political cliches, the group fails to consider the real meaning behind the name of social justice: Can a system that has created a legion of jobless workers and a national debt that climbs E2,534 a second be socially just?
The Alternative has chosen to take an old approach to old problems, indicating once again that some Germans are still entrenched in a way of social thinking that may bury many more of them in the years to come.
- Glencoe moves to pay golf workers, by Andrew Schroedter, PioneerLocal.com.
GLENCOE, Ill. - Glencoe has agreed to pay $3,300 to more than a dozen employees of the Glencoe Golf Club after an internal review revealed the village had illegally shorted the workers by refusing to pay them overtime.
"We'll hopefully be cutting the checks (this week)," said Village Manager Paul Harlow.
A review of the workers' payroll records concluded Friday, about three weeks after the Glencoe News confirmed that one of the golf club's seasonal maintenance workers, Norberto Cardoso, had filed a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Labor.
Of the 43 golf course employees, Harlow said 13 were eligible for additional compensation totaling $3,300. The bulk of that amount, about $2,700, will be distributed among a group of eight seasonal maintenance workers, who claim they were required to work between 65 and 70 hours a week.
Harlow and other officials, including Scott Miller, the course's general manager, have confirmed the laborers didn't collect overtime pay, but have denied allegations that the seasonal employees were forced to work against their will.
Village President Anthony Ruzicka said Tuesday that he had no information regarding the federal department's investigation.
A federal department spokesman has said such inquiries usually commence
about six to eight weeks after a complaint has been filed.
Edward Bergmann, a Chicago attorney who advises the village on issues of labor and employment, said he wasn't aware of any contact between the federal department and Glencoe officials.
At least four of the course's seasonal workers are natives of Texas and Mexico and work at the golf club from March to October. They are paid $9 an hour but have no benefits.
In year's past, Glencoe paid the workers overtime but reversed its policy
in July 2003.
At the time, the federal government's Fair Labor Standards Act provided an exemption from the minimum wage and overtime provisions for workers who were employed by a recreational or amusement establishment.
The law was changed, though, in April with the Illinois General Assembly's passage of Senate Bill 1645. The legislation amended the state's minimum wage and overtime laws, requiring most governmental employees, even those who are employed by a recreational or amusement establishment, to be paid time and a half for every hour they work above the standard 40 hour work week.
Village officials have said they weren't aware the law had changed and therefore didn't amend the golf course's overtime policy. Instead, the laborers were paid straight time for every hour they worked.
- Study: Long shifts increase risks of mistakes by nurses, by Chris Rees, WIS [SC].
Researchers say the risk of medical mistakes by nurses in US hospitals is rising due to long shifts.
A new study finds the risk of mistakes increases when nurses work more than a 40-hour work week and triples once a shift stretches past 12.5 hours.
Most of the mistakes (60%) involved administering medications incorrectly or late.
A report from the Institute of Medicine on Medical Mistakes earlier this year recommended nurses work no more than 12 hours at a time.
This study was conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and is published in the journal Health Affairs.
7/7/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 7/06 from GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #2,3,4 which are from the 7/7 newspaper hardcopy), and excerpts and [comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Average Canadian work week [they mean "work year"] shrinking: OECD, Canadian Press via CTV [Canada].
The number of hours spent on the job has dropped over the last two decades for the average Canadian worker, following a similar trend across a large chunk of the industrialized world, says a new report.
The average Canadian worker spent 1,718 hours at work in 2003, but in 1979 the number of hours worked annually by full- and part-time workers was 1,785 on average, the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development [OECD] said in its 2004 employment outlook published Wednesday.
That means, based on a 52-week work year, the average Canadian worker toiled for about 34 hours and 20 minutes a week in 1979, compared with roughly 33 hours a week in 2003.
Canadians worked 74 fewer hours on average in 2003 than their American counterparts [1,792], but [both] lag well behind the almost 2,400 hours worked by the average South Korean [working a standard 44-hour weeks till the 4-hour/week cut for large companies on the first of this month (7/01/04)].
Workers in Poland, the Czech Republic, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Mexico, Spain and Greece also worked longer hours than Canadians.
Norwegians spent the least time at work with 1,337 hours on the job in 2003, followed by the Netherlands at 1,354 hours.
In the report, the Paris-based OECD encouraged its 30 member states to take social objectives into account when looking at job strategies. It highlighted reforms to employment protection legislation as an example, saying such changes can lead to the creation of short-term and insecure jobs.
"On the one hand, less strict employment protection legislation may make it easier for employers to hire workers, thereby improving the job chances of groups which are subject to entry problems, such as young people and women," it said in a news release.
"But this can also damage job security and sometimes put undue emphasis on the creation of temporary forms of employment."
[Employment is employment. We carry no brief for permanent employment vs. temporary employment via a permanent temp agency.]
The OECD also noted the impact of 'flexible' [ie: longer] work hours in boosting employment.
[Clearly no one in the OECD has taken a course in the history of worktime.]
"Expanding options to work part-time can make it easier for parents with young children to combine working and parenting and for some older workers to extend their careers, while greater 'flexibility' [ie: lengthening] of working hours can help firms adjust to changing work loads," it said.
[So can the annualization of shorter workweeks, as France in fact has in effect.]
The organization adopted a jobs strategy [what jobs strategy, where?] 10 years ago to cut "high and persistent unemployment." Labour ministers decided last year to reassess the strategy.
John Martin, the OECD's director for employment, labour and social affairs, said the strategy has had mixed results. "For one thing, high unemployment has not disappeared," he wrote in the report.
"True, OECD unemployment is somewhat below its pre-1994 rates and the latest OECD projections point to some reduction in unemployment rates over the next two years.... But this would still leave unemployment rates in many countries higher than they were in the 1970s and 1980s."
[Then gradually cut the workweek further and implement automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion.]
Between 1991 and 2001, Canada's unemployment rate stood at an average of 9.2%. The OECD forecasts this year's unemployment rate at 7.3%, dropping to 7.1% in 2005. It was 7.6% in 2003.
The numbers mean that in 2004, about 1.3 million Canadians will be out of work, which drops to 1.2 million in 2005.
Across the OECD, the report forecasts an unemployment rate of 6.9% for this year and 6.7% in 2005.
- Job-sharing provides unique hiring option for companies, by Ted Landphair, Voice of America.
WASHINGTON - In the American workplace, it used to be that if you had an important job, too big to do yourself and too demanding for a part-timer, you had little choice but to hire a full-time employee. But, some companies have found another formula: create one job, shared by two people.
It's an idea that's working splendidly at Zoomerang, a multi-million-dollar high-tech corporation in California's Silicon Valley. NBC's Today Show reports the software company has hired two people for the price of one. And not on the assembly line, but near the top of the organizational chart. Dana Meade and Paula Rivers share the job of vice president and general manager.
"We're both responsible for the bottom line of the Zoomering business," said Ms. Rivers. "So whether it's product management or marketing or finance, or what have you, we try to make sure we're in sync with what's going on."
Ms. Rivers and Ms. Meade split the work week, each spending two-and-a-half days at the office. They divide one executive salary down the middle. But they get some employee benefits, like health insurance, in full.
The women proposed the job-share idea to Zoomerang's top management after each had worked many years in the software field and had obtained master's of business administration degrees. They say they could have handled the vice president job fulltime. But each has a child at home, and rather than choose between the fast track and the mommy track, they proposed doing both.
"I knew I wanted to keep my hand in, keep my career moving forward somewhat," explained Ms. Rivers. "But I also wanted to be able to spend time with my daughter. I wanted to spend at least a couple days a week at home with her and just see her grow up and see her change."
A recent study by the research group Catalyst says some women, much more often than men, gladly accept smaller paychecks in return for fewer hours at work and more time with the family. And Ellen Galinsky, the president of the Families & Work Institute, a workplace research center, says the Mead-Rivers alliance is ideal. It allows the women to enjoy quality time at home without losing their place on the corporate ladder.
"The closer you get to the top, as the Catalyst study shows, the more restrictive an 'old boys' network' it is," she said.
Ms. Galinsky says women who have the ability to break through what's called the glass ceiling often give up trying to reach the upper corporate echelon because they don't want to spend the prime of their lives just, as the saying goes, working for the man.
"We've managed to make the pipeline a little better," explained Ms. Galinsky. "It's just that final reach to the top that we haven't made more conducive to having a life outside of work."
Dana Meade says she marched into the office of Zoomerang chief executive officer John Finley and made the bold suggestion that she and Ms. Rivers share the vice presidency.
"His reaction was, uh, 'no,' at first," she recalled. "I just wasn't sure how well it would work for the business, for their subordinates," said Mr. Finley. "Some people on the senior leadership team of the company had some concerns about what would go on day to day."
What went on, it turned out, was super productivity, with a brighter attitude, by two happy women. And that made for one satisfied boss. "If you have great people, don't let 'em get away from you," said Mr. Finley.
Rivers says that even when she and Dana Meade are not working, they work, since they're always checking in by cell phone.
"I talk to Dana every day," said Ms. Rivers. "She talks to me every day. There really isn't an off-day. It's just whether or not we're physically here."
You get the same message from Ms. Meade. "Paula and I talk every day, regardless," she said. "She can understand if my daughter's screaming in the background and we need to take a break."
Apparently everyone wins from the job-sharing arrangement. Ms. Meade and Ms. Rivers keep their hands in the work they love, their kids get extra attention, and the company reaps the benefits. Since the two women became half-time vice presidents, Zoomerang has added customers in more than two hundred countries, and its revenue has doubled.
- Americans [which Americans?] have grown richer [by what measure?], pointer blurb (to A2), WSJ, A1.
...than citizens in other developed nations because they are working more, an OECD report says.
[This should be interesting, and self-interested. By this principle, people in Third World sweatshops must have grown richer than Americans! Here's the target article -]
US wealth tied more to work than productivity, report says, by Greg Ip, WSJ, A2.
[Rather a different statement than the front-page blurb.]
...A new report...plays down the significance of higher US productivity.
[Well, that's a mercy anyway, because all the usual talk about productivity regardless of marketability is preposterous.]
Between 1970 and 2002, annual hours worked per capita rose 20% in the US, the most among 19 countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development [OECD], a Paris-based economic-policy group.
[This measure is lethally flawed. The per-capita workyear totally disregards the critical question of how concentrated on how few people these annual working hours are.]
By comparison, annual work hours declined 17% in Japan and 24% in France.
Many analysts have attributed the US's high per-capita income to higher US productivity - that is, output per worker.
[Both these measures are lethally flawed. Per-capita income totally disregards the critical question of how concentrated on how few people that national income is. So high per-capita income figure for an economy like the US that has the widest income gap and the most concentrated national income in the developed world gives a misleadingly enviable impression of that economy. Bet there are miserable Third World economies with impressive per-capita incomes - that just happen to be highly concentrated on very few people. And when we shift over to measuring output per worker, we find a serious deficiency in counting overtime hours of salaried employees, not to mention wage employees who are cheated of overtime pay by their employers, such as the "world's biggest retailer" Wal-Mart (see 6/25/2002 #1). The misleading impression here is that the US is highly efficient. Wrong.]
The increase in how much Americans work reflects two trends.
Other countries are trying to close the work gap with the US to make themselves more competitive [in a Race to the Bottom] and confront a demographic problem.
- ...The proportion of working-age Americans who work has risen as more women enter the workforce. In other industrialized countries, that trend has been offset by higher overall unemployment, earlier retirement and declining workforce participation of young people. Last year, 71% of the working-age population in the US had jobs, compared with an OECD average of 65%.
[And what economies does the OECD cover?]
- ...Among Americans who have jobs, the number of hours worked per year has edged down only slightly in recent decades, whereas hours worked have fallen sharply for workers in other countries due to shortened workweeks and increased vacation and holidays. Last year, American employees worked an average of 1,792 hours, or 34.5 hours per week, factoring in holidays and vacations. That is about the same as in Japan but far more than in France and Germany, where employees worked less than 28 hours per week on average.
[Meaning that France and Germany are a lot more advanced that the US and Japan in terms of progress toward more of the most basic freedom, free time, (and arguably more technologized) and correspondingly more enviable in terms of really knowing how to enjoy life on their own without employers telling them what to do. However, current near-sighted employers have come to power in France and Germany, so...]
[Don't tell us this is the old bogeyman of the few workers trying to support hordes of retirees - never mind the armies of automata and robots that have been marched into factories and offices in recent decades?!]
Last month, German industrial giant Siemens AG reached a landmark[?] agreement with unions to [re-]extend [weekly] hours at 2 German plants [for a rip-roarin' 200 employees, wasn't it?] and cut benefits without raising [weekly] wages. Meanwhile, Germany [with its labor&consumption-betraying Chancellor Schroeder, Italy [with its gangsta PM Berlusconi] and France [with its lucky-the-left-was-disunited Pres. Chirac] all are trying to rein in pension systems that encourage workers to retire early, placing a huge burden on remaining workers.
[There it is again - the total ignoring of technology.]
At the same time, debate is heating up in the US over the costs and benefits of its freewheeling [ie: unregulated] job market.
pResident Bush has played up recent job creation [grossly inadequate] and the fact that unemployment remains low by historical standards [because more of the problem has been pushed out of the figures ("externalized") into forced part-time counted the same as full-time, and also welfare, disability, homelessness, prisons, and forced early-retirement and self-'employment.']
His challenger, Sen. John Kerry of Mass., and his newly named running mate, Sen. John Edwards of NC, have focused on...the low quality of the jobs being created, and high job insecurity among the middle and working class[es].
[ie: they've focused on the class war the Bushies have declared on the vast majority of Americans who are not wealthy.]
- Germans mull fifty-hour workweek, Deutsche Welle [Germany].
In a move that will surely raise the hackles of Germany’s labor unions, two leading economic and industry figures proposed introducing a 50-hour workweek as a means to reduce the country’s staggering unemployment rate.
[Ha! That'll explode it!]
The suggestion is part of a reform debate in Germany on how to cut costs to make the world’s third largest economy more competitive in the global market.
The problem is two-fold. Germany is losing jobs to lower wage countries and consumers at home, who are either unemployed because of the job-drain or worried about losing work, aren't loosening their purse strings either.
The result is devastating for the German economy, which has been more or less stagnant over recent years. Exacerbating the problem are pension and health reforms introduced by the Social Democrat-Green Party government which mean less money in retirement and higher healthcare costs for patients.
The upshot is that Germany has found itself in a vicious circle. If it reduces government spending, taxpayers will have fewer services or have to pay more. But with lower wages and an uncertain future, people will not be able to pay for the essential goods and services they need.
Will a longer workweek save jobs?
For literally years now, the question has been: How to solve this dilemma? The latest remedial suggestion comes from Klaus Zimmermann, the president of the German Institute for Economic Research and Ulrich Ramm, chief economist at Germany’s third largest bank, Commerzbank.
Both men have proposed introducing a 50-hour workweek to prevent even more jobs being exported to low-wage countries. Ramm said he thinks Germany has room for more jobs, but they have to be affordable.
"I can see a realistic chance for discussion and we should perhaps work a bit more because in Germany we have a lack of payable labor and it's not the lack of labor overall," he said.
In Ramm’s view, the 50-hour workweek would not be permanent [huh?]: By establishing a work-hour account of up to 50 hours for peak production periods, when production slowed, employees could work 30 hours instead for the same pay, he said.
[Poorly explained. Sounds like he's only arguing for a 40-hour workweek annualized.]
Michael Hüther, director of the German Economic Institute, agreed with Ramm’s assessment and argued for a generally more 'flexible' [ie: more old-fashioned, longer] workweek. Still others, like Gerhard Handke, from the German Wholesale and Foreign Trade Association, think workers should also give up a week’s vacation per year to make Germany more competitive.
Handke pointed to Ireland, where workers have just 20 days off [ie: 4 weeks?] a year, compared to 6 weeks in Germany. Handke reduced the situation to a simple formula: You cannot remain affluent and continue working less than everybody else.
[Sure you can. "It's the Technology, stupid!"]
An "abstruse proposal"?
[No, just outdated by technology.]
Meanwhile, one of Germany’s most prominent economists, Peter Bofinger, a professor at the University of Würzburg and a member of Germany’s prestigious group of economic advisers, known as the “Wise Men,” is opposed to a longer workweek. He conceded that longer hours are good for business [but can best be handled by several shifts], but warns of dangerous deflationary pressures when consumer buying power declines:
"Working longer means there will be less purchasing power in the hands of workers and given that we have a problem with our domestic demand this problem will be aggravated," he said. "As the example of the Japanese economy shows, if you reduce wages in a relatively large economy in order to boost employment, you get just the opposite effect [via weakening consumer-demand]."
Bofinger, at least, can be sure of support from Germany’s labor unions. The head of the country’s construction and agriculture union, Klaus Wiesehügel, called the 50-hour week an "abstruse proposal" that would generate more unemployment.
Even the chairman of Germany’s technology giant, Siemens, Heinrich von Pierer, said that talk of a 50-hour week was not very helpful in the current climate and would make people more insecure.
- Germany expected to approve deep cut in [long-term] jobless aid, by Marcus Walker, WSJ, A12.
[The object being, to force people to take jobs that aren't there. This has the same chance of success as the reverse strategy by the US mint, which keeps having doomed campaigns to replace the paper dollar with a $1 coin. They release an insufficient quantity of dollar coins without withdrawing an equivalent number of paper dollars. Result: we still have paper dollars while Canada has dollar coins (with loons on them, ergo, "loonies"). Well, sez you, the US has 71% of the working-age population [whatever that is] employed by cutting welfare [= long-term benefits. To which the answer is, the US also has a huge growth in "disabled" persons - disability is the new unlimited welfare (ie: long-term jobless) program.
(To the tune of "Find a falling star and | put it in your pocket, | never let it fade away. ...):
Find a friendly doctor,
Tell him you're disabled,
Get his signature on that. ...
Solution? Quit straining against technology for enough work to keep everyone of working age spinning their wheels for an entire 1940-level workweek (40 hours) and just share the vanishing work. And don't cut unemployment benefits in isolation expecting that to improve anything - create the new training and hiring options slightly BEFORE the reduction of benefits. "Make it as easy as possible for reality to give you what you want."]
7/06/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 7/05 from GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #1,2,5 which are from the 7/06 newspaper hardcopy), and excerpts and [comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- DTI offers long-hours culture 'masterclasses' - Delivered by EOC & partnered by TUC & CBI, DTI to run 9 free seminars on how to keep your organisation long-hours-free while benefiting from new working environment, HR Gateway [UK].
UK - Nine ‘masterclasses’ in how to remove the long hours culture from your organization are to be run by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) over the coming year at the request of the Dept. of Trade & Industry (DTI), it was announced today.
Covering a range of topics including managing high client demands, tackling departmental long hours, creating flexible working arrangements and overcoming presenteeism [face time regardless of productivity], the classes will run over the year from this summer.
The focus is to learn from peers or organizations which have successfully reduced long hours to their benefit. The DTI wants firms in this bracket to get involved and help out at the nationwide seminars. See below for the contact number.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Trades Union Congress (TUC)-partnered events are free and kick off at the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF) in Birmingham on 6th July, where 14 manufacturing firms will take part.
A suitable place to start considering a recent CIPD survey [Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development] suggested that the high-tech/electronic and the general manufacturing industry sectors have working weeks of 45.8 and 42 respectively compared to a cross-sector average of 40.3.
Trade & Industry Secy Patricia Hewitt said today that the masterclasses will give organisations an opportunity to learn from other firms who've already made improvements to their work practices:
‘This is about sharing best practice, seeing what measures others have found make their companies more productive, and ending the belief that the long hours culture is the foundation of productivity and profitability,’ she said.
Sadly, as with some other government people-related initiatives such as the consultation over the dispute-resolution regulations expected this year, the backing of HR professionals does not appear to be of high importance. While the CBI and
TUC are partners, the CIPD is not.
Organisations interested in taking part in the ‘masterclasses’ or wanting to find out more about the project should contact Barbara Limon, on 0207 960 7438 [UK phone number] or email Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Study links long hours, nurse errors, by Liz Kowalczyk, Boston Globe, front page & B8.
["Oh gee, what a surprise!" Wonder what this says about long hours for physician trainees = interns and residents, as in the "improved" 80-hour weeks they put in according to the story on 7/03-05/2004 #2 below.]
US - What they've long known about truck drivers, airplance pilots, and doctors, researchers also are discovering about nurses: Those who work more than 12 straight hours make more mistakes.
[TWELVE straight hours? Clearly this ain't the most advanced research in the world. Looks like we're still in the dark ages of 1840-level working hours here.]
Nurses who worked shifts lasting 12.5 hours or longer were three times more likely to commit an error, such as giving a patient the wrong medicine or the wrong dose, than nurses who worked fewer than 8.5 hours, about a regular shift, according to a new study from the U.Penn School of Nursing.
Nurses reported that they committed errors on 103, or 5%, of the 2,057 longer shifts and made near-errors on 97 of those longer shifts. Near-errors are errors that nurses intercepted before they reached patients, such as bringing the wrong medication to a patient's bedside but catching the mistake before injecting it.
[Gives ya sooo much confidence in the American medical system!]
Meanwhile, nurses made errors on just 12, or 1.6%, of the 771 regular shifts, and near-errors on only 20 of those shifts.
Working unplanned overtime at the end of a shift also increased the likelihood of a mistake, regardless of how long the shift.
Ann Rogers [was] the lead author of the study published today in the journal Health Affairs.... Rogers and her colleagues found that 14% of nurses worked at least 16 straight hours at least once during the monthlong study, and that the longest shift was 23 hours, 40 minutes. A regular shift typically lasts between 8 and 12 hours. \Rogers\ said many of the 393 nurses surveyed wrote commentary in their logbooks. "They often said, 'I am trying to do too much. I triple-checked myself three times because I knew I was tired,' or 'It was 4 am and I wasn't concentrating,' " Rogers said....
The study is part of growing concern over nurses' workloads and work hours, which may be increasing because of a national shortage of nurses and because of financial pressures on hospitals to trim staff....
[How about pressures to raise nursing wages, cut nurse-training costs, and trim hospital executives' pay and benefits? In short, the national shortage puts nurses in the drivers' seat. They can get anything they want, because if they're not given it, they can walk - to thousands of other opportunities, many of which are "getting it" in terms of treating nurses better.]
Two years ago, another U.Penn study found that every time an extra surgical patient is added to a nurse's workload, her patients' chances of dying with 30 days rose by 7%. Their odds of suffering irreversible complication also increased.
Last November, the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit nonpartisan advisory group, said that nurses' long workhours pose one of the most serious threats to patient safety, as fatigue slows reaction time, saps energy, and diminishes attention to detail. In its report "Keeping Patients Safe: Transforming the Work Environment of Nurses," the group said that state regulators should pass laws barring nurses from working more than 12 hours a day and 60 hours a week - even if nurses want to work extra hours to earn extra money [= new kind of "Typhoid Mary"?!]..\..
Researchers for years have studied the effect of long hours on other professions. [For example, in a closely related profession,] medical residents, or doctors in training, are working under new rules to limit their hours to 80 a week and not more than 24 hours straight....[see below, 7/03-05/2004 #2]....
- Before radio, citizenry got culture, politics from traveling troupes, by Cynthia Crossen, WSJ, B1.
Summer vacation used to be an oxymoron. Until the 20th century, most Americans were farmers, and farm families worked from sunup to sundown - or longer - during the summer.
Only the rich could 'tour.' Travel was expensive and arduous.
And because few people owned radios or phonographs, they rarely heard music or other entertainment. So when the traveling 'chautauqua' came to town, most people who lived in mud-road isolation dug deep in their pockets for the price of a ticket. Named after the original Chautauqua in southwestern New York state, the...troopes pitched their tents in tiny towns across America's heartland.
For the decades between 1904 and 1930, the chautauqua was a kind of respectable circus, a "poor man's college." It offered, not leisure, which was still a sinister and impractical concept for most Americans, but self-improvement.
[Leisure considered a sinister and impractical concept when the private sector was cutting its workweek faster than ever before (tho still not fast enough to keep up with technology)?! This is unlikely as a valid comprehensive generalization for those decades. Now maybe in previous decades before people had their minds opened by the dawn of a new century, it was valid. But anyway, note the underlying message here that as late as 1930, some people still saw leisure as a sinister and impractcal concept for most Americans, the implication being that in a more modern view, leisure is a reassuring and practical concept for most Americans. As you're reading the remaining three articles today, which try to paint leisure as outdated, remember than the conservative Wall Street Journal today slipped, perhaps, and painted it as it is, modern, and the direction of the future - as long as we're defining it as more financially secure free time and not as more financially insecure un(der)employment.]
Shops closed, women brought their knitting and babies, and the front benches were reserved for the elderly and deaf. For about a week, in morning, afternoon and evening sessions, the traveling lecturers, singers and players offered a heady combination of inspiration, pendantry, impersonation and debate. Jacob Riis lectured about slums. Frederick Cook and Robert Peary presented their competing North Pole claims. Robert LaFollette, the impassioned senator from Wisconsin preached progressivism and denounced the Washington fat cats, particularly Joseph "Tsar" Cannon, then speaker of the House of Representatives [1903-11]....
- Europe reluctantly deciding it has less time for time off, by Mark Landler, NYT, front page.
[More accurately, some European plutocrats, who are in the process of being voted out of power (see yesterday's article, 7/06 #5), are deciding that the rest of population (not necessarily themselves however) should have less time off.]
...After nearly 27 years at Siemens..\..Michael Stahl, a technician at a cordless phone factory in the town of Bocholt...got a rude jolt, when his union signed a contract with his employer, Siemens, to extend the workweek at the Bocholt plant to 40 hours from 35.
[With unions like this, who needs short-sighted management? Unions that give way on their one and only power issue are utterly and absolutely useless, pure overhead. Their performance on this issue in the USA is the major reason US unions are down to 14% of the workforce. Unless unions the world over get A LOT more focused and disciplined on this issue, we might as well join management's campaign to get rid of them and work for progress in some other direction, such as strengthening the figures and econometric models of far-sighted CEOs, building their numbers, and forcing the others into line by smarter competition.]
Weekly pay remains the same.
The new contract also scraps the annual bonuses every employee receives to help pay for vacations and Christmas expenses....
[= a direct CEO attack on their own domestic consumer demand. Watch the German economy shrink along with this foolish backward movement.]
[Well, that's it for our keyboarded excerpts - here's the complete article thanks to alert reader-forwarder Kumar Venkat (and, just noticed our regular newsclipper Alan Applebaum caught it too) -]
Europe reluctantly deciding it has less time for time off, by Mark Landler, NYT Online.
FRANKFURT — For Michael Stahl, a technician at a cordless telephone factory in the town of Bocholt, summer is usually a carefree season of long evenings in his garden and even longer vacations. His toughest choice is where to take his wife and three children on their annual camping trip: Italy and Croatia are on this year's itinerary.
Two weeks ago, however, Mr. Stahl got a rude jolt, when his union signed a contract with his employer, Siemens, to extend the workweek at the Bocholt plant to 40 hours from 35. Weekly pay remains the same. The new contract also scraps the annual bonuses every employee receives to help pay for vacations and Christmas expenses.
"I'll have to make do with less," Mr. Stahl said with a sigh. "Of course, the family will come off the worst."
After nearly 27 years at Siemens, Mr. Stahl...feels he has no choice but to put in the extra time. Like millions of his fellow citizens, he is struggling to accept the stark new reality of life in a global economy: Germans are having[?] to work longer hours.
And not just Germans. The French, who in 2000 trimmed their workweek to 35 hours in hopes of generating more jobs [and they succeeded, achieving a 1% cut in unemployment for each of the four hours cut from the workweek, same as the U.S. experience between 1938 and 1940], are now talking about lengthening it again, worried that the shorter hours are hurting the economy. In Britain, more than a fifth of the labor force, according to a 2002 study, works longer than the European Union's mandated limit of 48 hours a week.
Europe's long siesta, it seems, has finally reached its limit — a victim of chronic economic stagnation, deteriorating public finances and competition from low-wage countries in the enlarged European Union and in Asia. Most important, many Europeans now believe that shorter hours, once seen as a way of spreading work among more people, have done little to ease unemployment.
[Thanks to a massive disinformation campaign from short-sighted CEOs. In fact, there is no other practical way to ease unemployment in the age of automation except shorter hours, as acknowledged by dozens of far-sighted CEOs over the last 200 years. Last century, they included Lord Leverhulme (Lever Bros.), W.K.Kellogg and Lewis Brown (Kellogg Cereal), Charles Filene (Filene's Basement), the Lincoln Bros. (Lincoln Electric), the guys at Nucor....]
"We have created a leisure society, while the Americans have created a work society," said Klaus F. Zimmermann, the president of the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin.
[For Chrissake, wake the hell up! The Americans have created a violent idled society with 2m welfare families, 5.7m "disabled," 970k youth homeless nevermind all ages, 2.2m incarcerated, and uncounted millions of forced-early retired, forced-interrupted-retired, forced self-employed without clients, forced part-time without benefits, and forced to move back home with mom&/orpop or forced to use up nesteggs. WAKE UP! Do you morons really want this? You're only in the game because you've activated so much of your potential consumer base. Re-concentrate the vanishing employment on fewer people and you'll immediately get what Japan got in 1990 when it quit its "outdated" lifetime employment and started copying "competitive" US downsizing. It got a permanent underconsumption-led depression.]
"But our model does not work anymore.
[Only because you need to do more of it and do it more consistently and flexibly, with overtime-to-training&hiring conversion and fluctuating adjustment of the workweek, not just another frozen workweek level.]
We are in the process of rethinking it."
[Well you're rethinking it in the wrong direction.]
From the 1970's until recently, Europe followed a philosophy of less is more when it came to labor, with the result that Europeans work an average of 10% fewer hours a year than Americans. Germans, with the lightest schedule [don't they mean shortest schedule? - the length of the schedule has nothing to do with how stressful or heavy the work is!], work about 18% fewer hours.
The job creation argument went hand in hand with the greater social premium that Europeans place on leisure. In the land of the four o'clock rush hour and the monthlong summer holiday, it does really seem, as the cliché goes, that Europeans work to live, while Americans live to work.
[That's the future, not "living to work" like slaves.]
Siemens, however, upset that conventional wisdom by threatening to move production of cordless and cellular phones to Hungary, where salaries are a fraction of those in Germany. That would have cost about 2,000 jobs in a country that, with a jobless rate of 10.3%, can ill afford it.
"It's about lowering labor costs," said Peter Gottal, a spokesman for Siemens, which is based in Munich. "Where we are in a global competition, 35 hours are no longer feasible.
We just need more hours."
[Nope, you just need more markets, and that means more active consumers, and that means more employees, and that means fewer hours per employee - i.e., fewer hours that 35 per person per week. Jesus Murphy, don't you know that people were predicting 16-hour workweeks by now and calling for 20 in 1932 (Dahlberg) and passing 30 through the US Senate in 1933?! Get with the program! The main management skills for the future are workload distribution and shift suturing.]
Siemens and its union say that the contract is not a template for the rest of German industry, but it is being viewed that way. The company, one of Germany's largest employers, is negotiating wages at five other factories, and it may demand some of the same concessions, including different work hours, that it received at Bocholt.
A longer workweek also looms for assembly line workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen, in Southwestern Germany. There, the company wants to curtail breaks during the workday.
Mercedes has not threatened to abandon Germany. But auto workers shivered recently when Opel, which is owned by General Motors, announced that it would assemble a compact minivan at its plant in Gliwice, Poland, passing over its main factory outside Frankfurt, which had bid for the job.
"The firms are in a good position in these negotiations," said Eugen Spitznagel, a researcher at the Institute of Employment Research in Nuremberg. "The unions recognize that the economic climate is bad."
A small majority of the German public also think that a long workweek may help preserve their jobs, according to a recent survey conducted for the business magazine, WirtschaftsWoche.
Even in Germany's public sector, the work is piling up. The state of Bavaria has extended the workweek to 42 hours from 40.
[Here we go back in time. 42 hours was common in the 1920s, 80 years ago.]
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder wants to extend federal work hours to 40 from 38.5.
[With left-of-center party leaders like Schröder, who needs the rightwing? Compare Blair.]
And Deutsche Bahn, the state railway system, is demanding up to six more hours a week from its engineers and conductors.
Flagging tax receipts and large budget deficits are the main cause of the state's newfound push for [longer] hours. In France, however, the government is making a broader case that the 35-hour week, which applies to public- and private-sector jobs, is throttling the country's growth.
"I've never been convinced of the positive effect of a 35-hour week," President Jacques Chirac declared recently. "I feel it's been a brake on economic development and therefore a brake on overall employment."
[Yeah, well maybe you'd like to go back to economic development with high unemployment and weak domestic demand. What a moron! Can't connect the dots between production and consumption.]
Mr. Chirac is feeling pressure from his fiery finance minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who has called for French employees to have the right to work more than 35 hours, if it fattens their paychecks.
[The only people who "have the right" to work longer hours are those whose deflationary, non-monetary, qualitative not quantitative incentive and love for their job is so great that they're willing to work overtime for others - to share their skills and jobs with others - to give up personal unaccountably spendable earnings from their overtime and just reinvest their overtime earnings in job creation. "No overtime alone!"]
Mr. Sarkozy's free-market appeal, though hardly popular with French labor unions,
[it's hardly free-market when it worsen the power gradient between employees and employers - employees have no freedom and employers can do anything they want, until more and more of them go bust due to shrinking consumer demand]
suggests there may be a rebalancing in the basic trade-off Europeans have made between work and leisure.
[He means an "unbalancing," since their balance is far better than ours in the U.S., and supports a far better balance between production and consumption.]
Since the 1970's, Europeans have been willing to accept somewhat slower growth in wages as a price for fewer work hours and longer vacations. The French have an average of 25 vacation days a year, while the Germans get 30 days. The average in Japan is 18 days and in the United States, 12 days.
For a long time, the price for this was not very high, since Europe had high gains in labor productivity, which contributed to booming exports, briskly growing economies and steady wage growth.
Nearly all of these trends turned negative in the 1990's, as productivity growth rates collapsed,
[no, as more technology was injected into the European economies than was being compensated for by further cuts in of worktime per person]
especially in comparison with the United States.
[= a completely irrelevant comparison, since the US, deathly afraid of comparisons on a productivity per labor hour basis, fosters comparisons only on an irrelevant and fraudulent productivity per employee (ie: "unit labor") basis - and ascribes a 40-hour workweek to every employee regardless of how much longer than that they actually work.]
For a decade, Europe has been stuck in a period of chronic slow growth.
[because of chronic weak consumer demand, because of chronic refusal to further cut workweeks and re-activate all its many unemployment-handicapped consumers.]
"We're seeing a change because the trade-off has changed," said Daniel Gros, the director of the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels. "Europeans are seeing that when times are lean, total incomes don't rise at all [unless they fluctuate hours downward with the leanness of the times, in which case wages behave the same as in fat times]. So they are saying, `Perhaps we better work longer hours.' "
[How often do they have to relearn the lesson that longer hours and more concentration of vanishing employment on a smaller percentage of the population only means higher unemployment, more downward pressure on wages, and even less rising motion in wages and incomes than before.]
Mr. Gros disputes the notion that long hours are a panacea for Europe's enervated economies.
[On the contrary, shorter hours are as close to a panacea as exists today for Europe's enervated economies, because they centrifuge wages out of the 'black hole' in the top income brackets and get them out to the people who spend them immediately, creating a solid demand-led recovery.]
He says the productivity of workers tends to decline as the number of hours increases.
[True, but productivity without marketability doesn't mean anything anyway.]
The answer, he says, is for European companies to invest more in workplace training and technology.
[Training, yes, but until you have a modern workweek design that adjusts downward as levels of technology edge upward, more technology investment is not going to help.]
To be sure, Europe's dogged pursuit of free time [ah, wouldn't that be a joyful, light-hearted, possibly bird-like, not "dogged," pursuit of free time, which is, after all, the most basic of all freedoms, the root and foundation of all others!] goes on. Sweden is undertaking a two-year study of the social effects of a 30-hour workweek — proving that Thorstein Veblen and his theories about the leisure class still exert a bigger pull on the European imagination than Adam Smith does.
[And where, exactly, did Adam Smith say anything against leisure or for long working hours? The only economist of the classical period who said anything about working hours was Sismondi in 1819, and he favored shorter working hours. Kindly kut the ignorant innuendo.]
The German government has denied a recent report that it plans to scrap a public holiday on Oct. 3 that celebrates the reunification of East and West Germany. The other 13 paid holidays also seem safe, since most are religious feasts, and the church here retains considerable political power.
Nor have Europe's longer vacations come under the knife yet. The average number of vacation days in western Germany rose to 30 in the mid-1990's from 28 in 1985 and 20 in 1970, and has remained stable since.
The new Siemens contract, however, is pioneering in another way: it replaces the extra payments for vacations and Christmas with a performance bonus, based on the profits of the portable phone division. The payments, once meant to enhance leisure, are now intended to fuel the work.
Mr. Stahl said he would miss the extra money at Christmas, when he would use it to buy gifts and household goods, like a new TV set. The loss of the vacation money next summer will probably keep his family closer to home, perhaps in the nearby Netherlands, rather than in Croatia.
[And that will hurt Croatia, and all the additional travel services between 'home' and Croatia.]
Moreover, Mr. Stahl, who began as a toolmaker's apprentice as a teenager and is now a worker representative in his factory, is skeptical that the performance bonus will ever translate into good money. Siemens, he says, has not done enough to build its brand name overseas as a maker of portable phones, which has limited its profits.
"Shareholders, unfortunately, care only about profits," he said.
Still, Mr. Stahl said he expected that few of his co-workers would walk away from the new contract. Siemens pays well, and jobs like those in the Bocholt plant are difficult to find in today's Germany, he says.
That attitude is even more pronounced in Eastern Germany, where auto workers refused to rally behind the once powerful metalworkers' union, IG Metall, when it called a strike in June 2003 to try to force about a dozen car factories to shorten the workweek to 35 hours from 38 hours, to bring it into line with Western Germany.
IG Metall was forced to abandon the strike, dealing the union and the entire German labor movement a blow from which it has not recovered. The message from the workers was: We will work more, if the alternative is watching our jobs move across the border to Hungary or Poland.
Mr. Stahl reluctantly accepts that view as well, suggesting that the pressure of economic competition is being felt even in Europe's most comfortable quarters.
- German 'experts' call for 50-hour weeks [our quotes], UPI via Washington Times.
["There they go again!" Hey, why not right back to 80, 100, 120 hour weeks, you morons? Why not repeal the 13th Amendment in the US and reinstitute slavery? You know why not? Because you wouldn't have any consumer base, currently two thirds of the US economy, and you'd be working with a third-world economy on the level of Haiti, which still has slavery in the form of datura-doped "zombies" working the sugar plantations in the outback. And notice how "stable" Haiti is politically, and how wonderfully "healthy" it is for rich people. The future is in shorter hours, not longer hours. The future is is more people supporting themselves and safely lower taxes and smaller governments, not fewer people supporting themselves and astronomical government debt and bigger, militarized governments.]
BERLIN, Germany - Some German 'experts 'and industry [mis]leaders are calling for 50-hour work weeks to save German jobs.
[Ha - they would simply concentrate further the technology-shrunken employment - and domestic consumer markets. Note "Germany: Jobless number drops" today 7/7 in NYT W1, a squib that really strains for some good news - the last sentence finally comes clean: "The adjusted number fell 1,000 [whoopeedoo] to 4.37 million, keeping the unemployment unchanged at 10.5%." 10½% unemployment and these clowns want to re-raise the workweek and concentrate employment on even fewer people! Brilliant. With patriots like these, Deutschland doesn't need enemies.]
"In order to protect jobs, people must work 50 hours per week," Klaus Zimmerman, president of the German Institute for Economic Research, told German newspaper Bild.
[Was fuer ein Dummkopf! Mainstream economists are basically just proppers of the status quo or as in this case, fighters for some earlier status quo when industrialists could rape and pillage their economy right down the toilet. Some 'science'!]
Ulrich Ramm, head economist at Commerzbank, told the paper he considers a 50-hour work week a sensible option.
[Do we hear 60? 70? 80?... Let's rev up that Race to the Bottom! And Ramm is a good name for him.]
Ramm added in time German workers might once again be able to reduce their hours.
[Yeah, pie in the sky when you've Third World sweatshop economies.]
Michael Huether, director of the Institute of the German Economy, called for a general increase in work week 'flexibility' [our quotes].
The 'expert' comments come at a time when many German unions are fighting to keep their members' work weeks well below 40 hours.
[Good. Let unions get focused on this shorter-hours issue and this alone and quit frittering away their political weight on issues that buy them nothing in the long run, like immediately higher pay and benefits. For the longer run, they must first control the national (and global) surplus of THEM, ie: the overwhelming flood of labor hours on offer in the shrinking employment markets.]
At the same time, some unions have shown willingness to compromise in limited situations. Powerful [ha! make that either 'weak' or 'stupid'] union IG Metall agreed to
extend to 40 hours the work weeks of about 2,000 Siemens workers, whose jobs would otherwise likely have been outsourced to Hungary.
[Just watch. They will still be outsourced, because employers have just learned the current crop of union leaders are cowards and they've got them on the run. This will be like Raytheon or Fidelity Investments blackmailing Massachusetts for taxbreaks in the '90s "or we'll 'be forced' to move our jobs out of state." What happened? They got the tax breaks AND they moved jobs out of state anyway.]
- [And now our most strident and short-sighted selection, probably from one of dem old Calvinist Boer businessmen trapped in the pre-technology workaholic ethic -]
Euro zone must scrap 35-hour week, Business Day [South Africa].
Siemens started the ball rolling [backward!] just more than a week ago. The German electronics group managed to negotiate a deal in two mobile phone factories to increase weekly working hours from 35 the norm in many German industries to 40 at no extra pay.
Consumer electronics group Philips wants to take the same route in a semiconductor factory in Hamburg. All in all, there are about 100 German firms now considering an increase in working hours.
In France, the 35-hour week is enshrined [no, a 1997-law hardly gives it time to become "enshrined," dear short-sighted biz-writer - it's merely "implemented"] by statute. It was introduced by the previous, socialist government and came into
force at the beginning of 2000. But Nicolas Sarkozy, economy minister since the end of March, has already hinted that he would like to get rid of it.
This is supposed to be Old Europe.
[Shorter hours in Europe are hardly old enough to be part of "Old" Europe.]
What is happening?
The importance of these actual and proposed changes to working hours in the largest economies of the euro zone cannot be overestimated. It is the beginning of a trend that could eventually lead to the reintroduction of the 40-hour working week throughout Germany, France and elsewhere in the euro zone.
This is a far more significant event than all the bits and pieces of economic reform implemented by all the euro-zone governments put together.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), the average annual working hours per person in 2002 were 1444 in Germany and 1545 in France. This compares with 1707 in the UK and 1815 in the US. Most of the gap with the UK is accounted for by the 35-hour week. A return to a 40-hour working week would bring Germany back to the OECD average. It is now close to the bottom of the list.
Total labour productivity in the European Union as measured by output per employee [= meaningless] is only just more than 70% of the level of the US, a percentage that has hardly changed in the past 30 years. But labour productivity measured in terms of output per hour worked [= meaningful] is almost as high as the US.
[No, it's much higher, because the US invalidly omits all the overtime hours of salaried employees, imputing to them only a "standard" 40-hour workweek even though everyone knows they work much longer average workweeks.]
This suggests increasing working hours could be a highly effective way for the Europeans to reduce the productivity gap with the US.
[Like hell it does.]
An increase in working hours without extra pay, however, will not solve the problem of weak domestic consumption.
[That's for sure. An increase in working hours will further concentrate the national income on fewer people, and worsen the problem of weak domestic consumption, not solve it.]
Weekly wages, of course, remain the same. People just work longer hours for the same money.
[And that equates to lower hourly wages = a pay cut, not wages that "remain the same." Boy, this reporter is sure "carrying the water" for short-sighted, consumption-bashing CEOs!]
But unpaid longer working hours could have some direct effect on economic growth if companies produce [we've often noted that longer hours do not mean more production] and sell [we've already noted that longer hours will mean fewer sales and smaller consumer markets] more than they do now.
[It's bizarre to watch these morons try to rationalize economic suicide.]
It would temporarily boost Germany's competitiveness with respect to other euro-zone nations, but only as long as others do not raise working hours as well.
[And there's no guarantee they won't be stupid and masochistic enough not to do that! Welcome, dumme Deutschen, to the Race to the Bottom. We used to have some respect for your intelligence, but that went the way of our respect for Swiss competence once they trashed Swissair.]
The reduction in unit labour costs would allow companies to lower prices, increase profit and investments and hire more workers.
[Whaaat? Lowering prices is the opposite of increasing profit - they pull in opposite directions. Increased profit has no direct variation with increased investment because all the extra profit and more may be drained off into top executive pay and perks. And why on God's earth would CEOs intent of reducing unit labour costs want to re-expand total labour costs by hiring more workers??? - especially given their track record of downsizing in response to technological efficiency instead of timesizing (trimming jobs instead of trimming working hours). This is pure fluff.]
In the short run, an unpaid increase in working hours could reduce inflation because of the effect on prices.
[That's for damn sure. In fact, it would trigger deflation because there'd be weaker consumer markets, just as in Japan from around 1990 right up to the present. And by the way, didn't we already read above that Europe is already hurtin' from weak consumer demand?!]
Some commentators fear it may even lead to deflation, as in Japan in the 1990s.
This is, however, unlikely in Germany because employers and trade unions would probably reach deals to increase weekly working hours in exchange for partial
[Ha! With unions so confused and weak as to agree to longer hours, let alone longer hours with no proportional weekly pay raise, this is an improbability, not a probability, and "partial" compensation won't stop some weakening in consumer demand, and therefore some deflation, anyway.]
If wages go up, so will disposable income and ultimately domestic consumption and economic growth.
[What a moron! He's effectively arguing that a current drop in hourly wages will "probably" be followed by rising wages. How stupid does he think his readers are?!]
The demise of the 35-hour week could be one of the best things to happen to the euro zone in a long time.
[Au contraire, the further reduction of the 35-hour workweek would be the best thing to happen to the euro zone at this point in the age of automation and robotization. Get your brain out of the obsolete pre-technology box!]
7/03-05/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 7/02-04 from GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #4 which is from the 7/03-05 newspaper hardcopy), and excerpts and [comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Ahead of the tape - On the gurney, by Justin Lahart, WSJ, C1.
Thinking about trying to fix the healthcare system can be a real headache.
Funny, for all the time Washington has spent discussing how U.S. companies are losing ground to counterparts in places like China, little attention has been given to how skyrocketing healthcare costs are putting U.S. companies at a disadvantage to competitors in developed countries.
[Hey, the shorter-hours movement has given plenty of attention to this issue because the remora-like attachment of benefits like healthcare to full-time employment in the USA is one of the big spurs to loading existing employees with overtime instead of hiring additional employees, and one of the big obstacles to cutting the workweek. In short, it's one of the biggest obstacles to a long-term solution and some real human progress in this big dumb economy. In fact, way back in 1991, Juliet Schor talked about the problem of full-time attached benefits, especially health insurance, on p.145 of her landmark Overworked American.]
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical-care costs have risen 50% since 1994 - nearly double the rise of inflation, minus medical costs. According to the National Health Statistics group of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, US health expenditures now come to about 15% of GDP.
[Phew. Last we heard, which was about 10 years ago, US health expenditures came to only about 7% of GDP.]
Japan spends about half as much on healthcare as a percentage of GDP, yet has a higher life expectancy at birth and a lower infant mortality rate....
US companies willingly point out that they have been bearing the brunt of the rise in healthcare costs, which is why so many of them have been passing along a larger share of the expense to employees. Firms with a strong union presence are less able to do this. General Motors says it spends $5 billion a year on medical expenses, or around $1400 per vehicle.
In contrast, Japan, like most industrial countries, has national health insurance. Many companies still provide healthcare benefits for workers, but government-sponsored health insurance helps bring down costs significantly....
[And the situation is similar for Canada.]
- Bye-bye Bush boom - It's time to end the economic hype, by Paul Krugman, NYT, A27.
[Makes the case for the idea that the high job creation figures of March and April were the fluke, not the low June figure.]
...May growth was slightly below the Clinton-era average [236,000], and June's numbers - only 112,000 new jobs, and a decline in working hours - were pretty poor....
[Under Timesizing, a decline in working hours would be a positive indicator of rising productivity thanks to welcome technology, but then it would be automatically converted, via the incidence of overtime as "full time" declined, into more financially secure free time, instead of, as now, into more financially insecure un(der)employment.]
- Private Sector: Who's exempt? - Complicated federal regulations on overtime pay go into effect next month, by Maria Greco Danaher, Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
The issue of overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act historically has been confusing for employers and employees alike. Who is eligible for overtime, and how can we know that we are fairly designating overtime work? What are the rights of employees, and how are they best balanced with the obligations of employers?
The FLSA requires that most employees in the United States be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at 1 1/2 times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.
The Dept. of Labor recently issued new regulations, which will go into effect on Aug. 23, to assist in resolving some of the confusion in determining who is entitled to overtime pay and who is exempt from receiving it.
In order to be considered "exempt" from the overtime payments required under the FLSA, an employee must meet three separate tests: the salary level test, the salary basis test and the job duties test.
The salary level test requires that, in order to be exempt from overtime pay, an employee must earn a minimum salary of $455/week, which translates to a yearly salary of $23,660. Prior to these regulations, workers making more than $8,060 were
exempt from overtime pay. The revised ceiling is one of the biggest reclassification issues in the new regulations.
At the other end of the scale, the regulations institute a "highly compensated" designation. Any individual earning more than $100,000 a year, including commissions and nondiscretionary income and bonuses, and who customarily and regularly performs one or more of the exempt duties of an executive, administrative or professional employee as identified below will be exempt from overtime pay.
Under the salary basis test, an exempt employee must regularly receive a predetermined amount of compensation that cannot be reduced or "docked" because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed. Although exempt employees need not be paid for any workweek when they perform no work, deductions may not be made for time when work is not available if the employee is ready, willing and able to perform duties; otherwise, the employee may be viewed as nonexempt, and therefore
eligible for overtime pay. The regulations contain seven exceptions to the "no pay-docking" rule, each of which allows employees to remain exempt although pay is deducted, and employers should become familiar with the exceptions to avoid liability for improper deductions from pay.
The job duties test, which defines the executive exemption, the administrative exemption and the professional exemption, is the area that historically has raised the most questions regarding exemption from overtime status. Hopefully, the new
regulations will resolve some of the previous confusion.
In order to qualify for the executive exemption, an employee must meet the salary exemptions set forth above, and the employee's primary duty must be management. The employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of two or more employees and must have the authority to hire or fire other employees (or have suggestions and recommendations as to change of status that are given particular weight).
An employee who qualifies for the administrative exemption must meet the salary exemptions and will qualify only if the employee's primary duty is performance of office or nonmanual work directly related to management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers. Also, the employee's primary duty must include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.
Employees who meet the learned professional exemption must meet salary exemptions and must perform work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning which is predominantly intellectual, and which customarily is acquired by a
prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction.
Under the creative professional exemption, an employee must meet salary exemptions and the employee's primary duty must be in performance of work requiring invention, imagination, originality, or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.
Because the regulations include a "safe harbor" provision that assists employers in avoiding liability for inadvertent errors when the employer has a clearly communicated policy prohibiting improper deductions, employers can begin to draft and to implement such a policy. The policy should include a complaint provision, along with a statement of the company's willingness to reimburse employees for deductions that are ultimately found to have been improper.
The Department of Labor has expressed willingness to provide answers to questions and input on issues that will be raised in the implementation of the updated regulations. The department's Web site at www.dol.gov provides information on the updated regulations.
- Overtime preferred over new workers, by Troy Anderson, Pasadena Star News.
Benefits for Los Angeles County firefighters have become so expensive equaling 59% of their base salaries that officials say it is now cheaper to pay massive amounts of overtime than hire more firefighters.
As state and county officials have sweetened benefit and pension packages for firefighters and workers' compensation and health costs have risen, the cost of county firefighter benefits have risen to 58.6% from 42% in 1996. That compares with 39% of county administrative employees and 49% for Sheriff's Department workers.
Private sector employee benefits are equal to a third of salaries or less in many cases.
"As ridiculous as it sounds, it's more cost-effective to bring in a firefighter from home and pay them time-and-a-half because we don't have to pay more benefits for them,' Fire Department Chief P. Michael Freeman said.
"If we have to hire another firefighter, we'll have to pay 59% of his salary for his health care, pension and other benefits. So to hire more firefighters to cover (for employees who are sick or on vacation) on a day-to-day basis is 9% more expensive than paying them time-and-a-half.'
Information obtained under the state Public Records Act shows that in 2002-03, more than 940 county firefighters boosted their salaries by more than 50% with overtime, and 15 more than doubled their salaries, including one who took home $217,036.
The analysis of salary and overtime data for 2,209 county firefighters earning more than $80,000 a year also found that nearly all of them 2,116 earned at least $10,000 in overtime.
The highest paid county Fire Department employee was a captain who took home $217,036. He was able to more than double his $94,447 salary with $122,559 in overtime.
The number of firefighters boosting their paychecks with large amounts of overtime is greater than the total of three other county departments recently examined.
Within the county probation, health and sheriff's departments, 1,395 employees earned more than $10,000 apiece in overtime, 390 boosted their salaries more than 50% through overtime and eight employees more than doubled their pay with
"Cities and counties bend over backwards to give public safety employees everything they want in terms of salaries and benefits,' California Taxpayer Assoc. spokesman Ron Roach said. "And they are basically breaking the bank.'
As a result, local and state governments are having to cut funding for many vital programs and government officials are pushing for higher taxes, Roach said. Los Angeles County officials are considering placing a one-half% sales tax measure on the November ballot to boost criminal justice system funding.
The primary factor behind exploding firefighter overtime is "constant staffing,' a contract provision that requires fire stations to be staffed around the clock for fires, medical calls or other emergencies. This means firefighters have to work overtime when co-workers are sick, injured, on vacation or other types of leave.
In the county, this accounted for 73% of the $91 million the Fire Department's spent on overtime in 2002-03. Major fires and other large emergencies accounted for just 17% of the costs. And 5% was generated as a result of an automatic 10 hours of overtime firefighters are paid in every 28-day work cycle, as required under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Firefighters work 56-hour work weeks, usually by working three 24-hour shifts with a day off in between and then getting four days off, or working two 24-hour shifts with four days off.
"Generally speaking, the way contracts are negotiated you have requirements for so many firefighters on a truck and so many to go into a burning building that they tend to have a system that is set up to rain overtime on all these people,' Roach said. "If there is a disaster or emergency, you have to cover it. Los Angeles County is not alone.
Similar problems exist in the Los Angeles City Fire Department, where employees earned $222,975 through base and overtime pay.
The city Fire Department expects to spend $84 million on overtime in 2003-04. Last fiscal year, seven firefighters racked up $100,000 or more in overtime and 223 others earned $50,000 or more working extra shifts.
In comparison, the county Fire Department expects to spend $106 million on overtime in 2003-04, the most of the county's 36 departments. Last fiscal year, two county firefighters earned more than $100,000 in overtime and 465 earned $50,000 or more.
Officials say the rising costs of retirement, workers' compensation, health benefits, unemployment insurance and other benefits are behind much of the overtime government employees are working.
"One of the factors is workers' compensation costs,' Freeman said. "The costs of workers' compensation are out-of-control.'
In comparison to the 59% benefit cost in the Fire Department, benefits for employees in the county's Chief Administrative Office cost 39% of their salaries. In the Sheriff's Department, benefits cost 49%.
In the last few years, county audits have singled out the sheriff's and fire departments for skyrocketing pension costs. One audit found that sheriff's employees and firefighters apply for lucrative service-connected disability pensions at a rate
2 1/2 times higher than elsewhere in the state.
An earlier audit found the county retirement board granted disability pensions to 54% of its members, a rate substantially higher than seven other large counties studied. In 1997-98, 75% of county firefighters took disability retirements. The rate averaged 64% in the three years prior to 2000.
In a work-connected disability retirement, public safety employees can get a pension worth up to 100% of their final compensation, with half of it tax-free. As a result of stock market losses in recent years and rising pensions, the taxpayer contributions the county makes to its pension fund have soared, rising from $1 billion in 2002-03 to an expected $1.34 billion this fiscal year.
Bill McCammon, president of the California Fire Chiefs Association, said the problem is not limited to Los Angeles County. "In some departments in the state, the benefits costs goes up to 70%,' McCammon said. "So there is a benefit to using overtime to maintain minimum staffing levels.
"When the public hears about firefighters working considerable amounts of overtime, they come to the conclusion that there is a scam going on. We have not found that to be the case. We have found that these individuals choose to work the
[In the age of automation and robotization, a "choice" to work more than a workweek length determined by the unemployment rate is as dysfunctional as a "choice" to vote more than once in a system that needs accurate feedback and guidance.]
- Voters in much of Europe seem to want the Ins out, by Richard Bernstein, NYT, A3.
...Whatever their ideology or position on the spectrum, the governing parties of many countries, certainly the biggest ones, are experiencing troubles.... The fact that both leftist and rightist governing parties are in such trouble suggests that something deep is at work in Europe, a general distrust of traditional parties that transcends ideology and bespeaks a pessimism about the ability of the standard politics of either the left or the right to work in the future....
[It's a lot easier to get what you want when you know what it looks like, and neither the right nor the left has a clue of what a strong and sustainable economy would look like. We do, but then we're a "voice crying in the wilderness." The general problem is that the right has defaulted to a self-contradictory combination of small-government rhetoric and covert big-government subsidies for the rich (Chirac is gonna bail out Alstom), thus clobbering its consumer base, while the left has defaulted to repeated reruns of the New Deal with its misguided reliance on makework and minimum wages, or, as with Schroeder and Blair (and Clinton), it has betrayed its base by defaulting to the right. The big unaddressed issue is still: how do we get greater efficiency and productivity without slashing consumers and marketability. The answer is worksharing, as in the Timesizing program's Phase 4, but such is the time blindness and the trapped-in-the-box devotion to the facetime-based work ethic regardless of technology, nobody's on board - except at the municipal and prefectural levels in Japan, and in the weakened French Socialist Party and German IG Metall union, neither of which have the focus, unity, courage and confidence required to pull off this revolution in thinking. Socialist leader Jospin also had some slippage over to the right, and thereby splintered his support, and IG Metall has the usual short-sighted minority of self-sabotaging dissidents who don't understand that if you can only get one of higher pay or shorter hours, if it's higher pay you wind up with neither cuz you're fighting market forces with a continuing labor surplus, but if it's shorter hours, you wind up with both cuz you're cutting the labor surplus and swinging market forces over to your side. In the US, a conservative political consultant on Bill Moyer's NOW last week said the great untouched issue of the female majority of swing voters in swing states is lack of free time. Is Kerry going to exploit it or is he himself too time blind? That issue and a push for government openness would put Bush on the run, cuz in trying to counter charges of withholding info and secrecy and classifying everything, we'd find out all the nasty stuff he's been hiding and toss the bum out. Of course, we'd still have to deal with all the subversion of the election system that the Republicans have been quietly putting in place, starting with their ownership of the three top voting-machine companies.]
- Short week in Europe faces short shrift as economies suffer, by Catherine Field, New Zealand Herald.
[Oh she blew that! Shoulda said, "Short shift faces short shrift"! But it's the fault of long workweeks, not short workweeks. As long as unemployment is too high and consumer demand too low, employment is still too concentrated on too few people and that means workweeks are still too long for current levels of automation and robotization.]
PARIS - Three-day weekends by the sea, the midweek break to take the children to the cinema and once-a-month siestas to break the stress seem set to follow the dodo as France and Germany quietly dismantle the 35-hour week.
[Then domestic consumer markets in France and Germany, particularly in the leisure industries, will also "follow the dodo." Stay tuned for recession.]
The French government last week unveiled plans for a new offensive against the 35-hour law, the cornerstone achievement of the Socialist-led government that was voted out of office in 2002.
[Only because the majority on the left were more disunited than the minority on the right.]
The regulations require employers to set a maximum working time of 35 hours, in exchange for which they get flexible rostering hours, lower social charges - which are ferociously high in France - and a union commitment to restrain wage demands.
As few businesses work a straight 7-hour, five-day week, people work 8- or 9-hour days in a four-day week.
That has revolutionised leisure patterns, especially for families. The bed-and-breakfast industry has boomed as families go away for long weekends at the beaches of Normandy and Aquitaine, skiing in the Alps or walks in the Jura Plateau.
Popular as the 35-hour week is, there is a growing awareness that it has gone too far.
[Ha. Is French unemployment down to zero?]
The ocean of leisure time has helped to deepen France's deficit
[nonsense - just quit subsidizing whining businesses that have a lot more customers now that the vanishing work is spread around]
and raised doubts about its competitiveness.
[France is so little dependent on exports that it should be worrying a lot more about growing its domestic consumer base than its export competitiveness.]
More people are now worried about their jobs, eyeing the threat from Eastern European countries that joined the European Union on May 1, where labour costs are a fraction of those in the West.
[Then cut the workweek further, create a sharper shortage of labor and job security will increase.]
Touching on that anxiety, Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, the rising star of French politics, called for a debate on the 35-hour week that focused on pragmatism, not ideology.
[Ha! Pragmatic would be adjusting the workweek downward until unemployment was zero and the unemployment insurance bureaucracy could be dismantled.]
"If we think 35 hours is positive, then it should be kept," he said.
[It is and should be reduced further. France's unemployment is still over 9%, which would be cut by 1% for every hour the workweek is reduced, as it was between 1997 and 2001 when the workweek went from 39 to 35 and the unemployment rate went from 12.6% to 8.6%, and as it was between 1938 and 1940 in the U.S. when the workweek went from 44 to 40 and the unemployment rate went from 19% to 14.6%.]
"But if we think, as I do, that it is very inconvenient, then launching a deep 'reform' [our quotes - troglodytes always call their oppressions 'reforms'] should not be feared.
[It may be inconvenient to employers spoiled skill-less by labor surplus, but weakening markets are even more inconvenient, and that's what re-raising the workweek will bring them.]
"I really don't see why we should penalise an entrepreneur who wants to provide more work,
[shorter workweeks don't penalize entrepreneurs who want to provide more work, because they simply provide more work for more people instead of more work for fewer people]
or an employee who wants to do more."
[Timesizing does not stop employees with deflationary incentive who want to work more - they can work all 168 hours a week if they wish. Timesizing only stops employees with inflationary incentive who want to work more just to make more unaccountable spending money. How does Timesizing tell the difference? Easy. Timesizing simply requires reinvestment of 100% of overtime earnings in overtime-targeted training and hiring. So how does a person make more unaccountable spending money? Easy. They upgrade their skills and their wage by taking advantage of the many on-the-job training opportunities that spring up in the Timesizing economy - especially since the mandatory reinvestment of the advantage of overtime over hiring is laid first on corporations and only then on individuals.]
Budget Minister Dominique Bussereau said the government was looking for ways to make the 35-hour week more flexible, and predicted that it would eventually become "obsolete".
[Then so will France's strong consumer base.]
If so, it will be the second attack on the cherished labour law since the centre-right government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin took power two years ago.
In one of its first measures, the government raised the ceiling of permissible overtime hours, giving firms more leeway for meeting targets during busy periods.
Like people everywhere, French workers once cared less about the Budget than about their own jobs. But unemployment is 9.8% and many people, especially in the manufacturing sector, are worried that French companies will shift factories to
the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Slovenia.
A survey last year by the business weekly L'Expansion showed that 54% of voters thought France should scrap the 35-hour week, and 67% believed it had done little to reduce unemployment.
[Then go back and forth a few times. People will learn the hard way.]
But the unions are against any change.
A similar loosening of labour laws is under way in Germany, which during the 1970s and 1980s led the charge to cut the working week. "Our structures are inefficient and they are too expensive," Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told Der Spiegel
Business leaders are forging ahead with their own deals ahead of proposed legislation.
The engineering giant Siemens has struck a deal with unions to raise the 35-hour week to 40 hours at two big sites, in
exchange for abandoning plans to move the work to Hungary.
[The usual job blackmail with which near-sighted CEOs kill their own markets with the death of a thousand nicks.]
Carmaker DaimlerChrysler is negotiating longer hours at its Mercedes division, as are travel operator Thomas Cook and the German railway operator Deutsche Bahn, and the Social Democratic-led government hopes to do the same with civil servants.
The blissful era of endless leisure seems doomed.
[The current level of leisure is far from endless, and harming it will harm the consumer base and the economy. So it is far from doomed.]
7/02/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 7/01 from GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #1 which is from the 7/02 newspaper hardcopy), and excerpts and [comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- 7/04 Five-day workweek changes lifestyle, business strategies, Korea Herald.
[South Korea has just started moving from a 44-hour workweek of 5½ days, usually five 8-hour weekdays plus 4 hours on Saturday, to a 40-hour workweek of just the five 8-hour weekdays.]
SEOUL, South Korea - For most Koreans, long working hours and a single day off have long been an accepted way of life, so a five-day workweek introduced this month has opened up a world of new luxuries: more leisure time for shopping, travel, playing golf and even just relaxing.
Lee Kyoung-ah, senior account executive at the global consulting public relations firm Edelman Korea, has already drawn up plans for several long weekends of travel and concentrating on hobbies. Edelman already had a five-day workweek in place but Lee has only recently joined from another firm where workers had one day off.
"I think work efficiency is higher in a five-day workweek," she told The Korea Herald. "We have to handle the same amount of work in five days that we used to do in six. So, we must concentrate on our efforts. Employees cannot afford to loaf around while on duty. The shortened workweek is tight and intensive, but it's much more effective." Lee, who will spend the extra day of leisure time on self-development and hobbies, plans to join a fitness center soon and she feels the two-day break will enable her to get to the office on Mondays totally refreshed.
"I will travel throughout the country on weekends. And, I will study finance so I can get a better understanding of my work," she said.
Lee Dong-hun at Korea Land Corporation also welcomed the shorter workweek. "I will go climbing and fishing on weekends," he said. "I did not have much time to myself after I joined the company. Now, I can enjoy my leisure time again because of the shortened workweek."
He also plans to resume tae-kwondo, Korea's traditional martial arts sport, and says colleagues and other senior staff are thinking of taking up golf now they have more spare time.
The changed workweek will influence lifestyles a lot, experts anticipate. Many believe the shortened work may make their lives more enjoyable and comfortable.
- Financial and state-run companies and large companies with more than 1,000 employees were required to implement the shortened workweek effective July 1.
- Companies with more than 300 workers have to introduce a five-day workweek by July 2005,
- followed by those with more than 100 by July 2006,
- over 50 by July 2007
- and over 20 by July 2009.
- An employer with fewer than 20 workers will be required to introduce the five-day workweek by July 2011 while individual workplaces can do so earlier if they wish.
Many companies are introducing more group activities for employees. Steel giant POSCO has arranged climbing trips in which as many as 1,000 employees will take part. Chohung Bank has increased social gatherings for sports or leisure from 34 to 44
events in a year.
To prepare for more people who may want to use their increased leisure time for self-development, language and computer institutes are planning more weekend classes.
"Until now, there were very few people attending weekend classes during the summer vacation season because university students prefer to enroll in weekday classes and only some company workers registered for weekends," a staff member of ELS
Language School said.
"This month, however, weekend classes became full because of company workers now on a five-day week who want to learn foreign languages. The school is considering increasing weekend classes next month."
Supermarkets and shopping malls are thinking of new ways to attract customers who now have extra time on their hands at weekends, extending their weekend hours and putting on cultural and other events and running special classes.
"We extended working hours 30 minutes on weekends. And we will provide several cultural classes for customers from September," Lotte Shopping public relations staff member Ha Soo-yeon said.
Hyundai Department Store is supporting several concerts and other similar performances and handing out tickets for frequent customers. "We expect more people will go to the theaters or musical halls on weekends because of a five-day workweek," Hyundai Department Store public information chief Ha Ji-soung said.
The store has also arranged cultural classes on wine and jazz and aroma therapy.
For people who may want to focus their extended weekends on sports or leisure, Hyundai has opened a store specializing in leisure equipment only at ts Mok-dong branch. "The response by customers is very favorable," Ha said.
Shinsegae Department Store also has new weekend plans. "We will provide programs targeting couples," Shinsegae PR manager Hong Sun-sang said, announcing massage classes on weekends.
Shinsegae will soon provide other attractions aimed at weekend customers - for example, visits to ranches located in Gangwon Province which specialize in horse-breeding. The ranch and department store have joined forces to opearte the program and "we believe it will be popular for the customers," Hong said.
Some problems remain, however, regarding the changed working environment. Although the shift to a five-day workweek came into effect last week for many companies, many workers are still waiting for details from their employers.
Only 51.5% of public or government-affiliated companies and 20% of private firms have completed management-labor negotiations to arrange holidays and wages in line with the new 40-hour system.
The main issues are the number of holidays, overtime pay and menstruation leave for women. Companies want to cut the number of paid holidays but workers are against such a concession.
Workers at companies which have not yet introduced the new workweek are feeling frustrated, and deprived. "I cannot rest on Saturdays because of the company's management-labor situation. For me so far the shortened workweek measure does not exist and it's stressful," said company worker Chang Woo-young as he anxiously waits for his dream of an extra day off to become real.
[So S.Korea is a little behind the cutting edge, but they're going in the right direction.]
- [Meanwhile, back in the U.S., there's an industry that is way WAY behind the cutting edge, and it's the one you'd least want to be so = healthcare...]
7/04 [Medical] residents: 80-hour week the best Rx, by Karen Roebuck, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Dr. Hussein Tawbi's medical residency started the traditional way - grueling 120-hour work weeks, little sleep and more time spent at a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospital than anyplace else. Anything less would have been viewed as slacking off.
Such was the tradition, after all, for Tawbi and more than 1,200 other medical residents of UPMC.
A year later, however, Tawbi and his peers are forbidden to spend more than 80 hours a week because of new rules implemented nationwide.
The revised rules have spawned changes in the culture and budgets of hospitals - as well as the lifestyles and training of medical residents.
Tawbi and other residents praise the changes, saying they eliminate an abusive system that potentially endangered patients.
"It's better for residents' moral and residents' heatlh - mental health and physical health - and, hopefully, although there's been no studies to prove it, lead to a reduction in medical errors," said Dr. Philip Caushaj, chief of surgery and director of the surgical-residency program at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield.
"There's been enough data to demonstrate that sleep-deprived people don't make the same decisions as well-rested people," he said.
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which accredits U.S. medical schools, mandated the duty-hour requirements, beginning July 1, 2003. Residents also
"It certainly was a pretty impressive change. We all could notice cutting back on our fatigue," said Tawbi, who this month enters his third year as an internal-medical resident at UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Montefiore and the Veteran's Administration
hospitals. He is a member of UPMC's duty-hour compliance subcommittee.
- must take at least one day off a week;
- can be on-call no more than 24 continuous hours - although they can attend seminars and do other related work for another six hours;
- and must have at least 10 hours off between shifts.
The dramatic reduction of residents' hours is being felt in other ways as hospitals have had to hire additional staff. Doctors have had to adapt more of a team-approach to patient care, and older doctors have had to adjust their attitudes.
"It's been a change for us culturally as it is for everybody in the country," said Dr. Dena Hofkosh, residency program director of pediatrics at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Overall, the changes have been positive, she said. "I think it can be good for both patient care and residents' education and residents' lives," Hofkosh said.
The biggest adjustment has been doctors learning to give more detailed information when handing over patients from one shift to another, Hofkosh said. With more frequent shift changes, she explained, "the more potential there is for information to get lost."
[And with less frequent shift changes, the more potential there is for medical error.]
Conveying the significance of nuances in patients' conditions or care can be difficult, she added.
"All of us are having to find ways of caring for patients without having the residents work harder and longer - which is always how it was done in the past," Hofkosh said.
To help prevent such problems, Children's Hospital has realigned schedules so that residents' 12- to 14- hour shifts overlap somewhat, she said.
[12- to 14-hour shifts? Is that crazy or what?! Sounds like they need to further realign schedules.]
Previously, when surgical residents were not in the operating room, they generally did work not usually performed by doctors, such as drawing blood or taking patients to get X-rays, said West Penn Hospital's Caushaj. When West Penn cut back
on residents' hours in July 2002 - a year earlier than required - residents stopped doing such tasks.
[What the heck are nurses, aides, and attendants for?]
"It has not changed the volume of what they do or the quality of what they do. So all that's really stopped is the abuses," Caushaj said.
The Bloomfield hospital has hired additional health-care workers, including three physician assistants, to do the work that 25 surgical residents and fellows no longer can perform. The adjustment has cost the hospital "a couple hundred thousand dollars," Caushaj said.
Dr. Robert Garvin...who is entering his third year of a surgical residency, works an average of 70 hours a week.
[Ridiculous. How many malpractice suits will it take to wake up American doctors to their sicksick incompetence at time and schedule management?]
Residents who break the rules by staying longer are threatened with reprimands, he said. "The ultimate punishment would be being fired," Garvin said. "That hasn't happened yet - it's been threatened."
UPMC has hired a full-time compliance officer to ensure that its 1,200-plus residents in 90 different programs adhere to the new requirements.
The Accreditation Council's board rejected a request last Tuesday to increase the allowed weekly hours to 88 for the nation's surgical residents in their final year. Individual programs, however, can apply to the council for permission to have residents work 88 hours. Eighty of the 7,964 residency programs nationwide have applied for the 88-hour increase, and the board has approved 66 of them, said spokeswoman Julie Jacob.
UPMC's neurosurgery residency program likely will apply to have residents work 88-hour weeks, said Dennis Zerega, vice president of UPMC's graduate medical education.
"It makes good sense in this case, because it allows for the residents to have additional training and more training is good," he said. For most residency programs, 80 hours a week as been enough [no kidding], Zerega said.
The limit challenges some programs, especially for those training in emergency or transplant surgeries, which can be needed at any time, he said.
"If a person goes for a multi-organ transplant, that's a long operation. It may take the better part of a day. What are they going to do - step out in the middle and say: 'We've worked our 12 hours; who's on now?' " Zerega said.
[Better that than - keep going, same team, regardless of fatigue! We patients would much rather have sane well-rested medical attention than a bunch of testosterone-poisoned clowns vying to see how long they can stay awake!]
Another problem, he and Hofkosh said, is getting doctors who trained under the more grueling work schedule to accept the changes.
[This is the attitude, "I went thru hell for my M.D., goddammit, and EVERBODY'S gonna go thru hell for their degree - forever!"]
"Many of the senior residents and (attending physicians) who grew up in a different system have not been very supportive of this." Hofkosh said. Staff doctors sometimes are "not doing what they can to facilitate people leaving," Hofkosh said.
"Occasionally, there are disparaging comments. Mostly, it's a worry that these people are not being well trained," she said.
[Ha! Like someone working 120-hours a week can possibly be well-trained? Sick sick sick!]
Residents should not be put in the position of telling their superiors when it is time to leave the hospital, Zerega said, explaining such situations seem as if residents are saying: "I'm dedicated to my own life more than patient care."
[Why the hell not? If they aren't in good shape, they've got nothing to spread. The Golden Rule can be translated as, "Love yourself well; love others just as well."]
"If you have a system that's always been based on heroics and heroic commitments, the new people coming in are breaking the chain," Zerega said.
[Thank God! Let's cut the dramatics - ever useful for covering up slip-ups as we're seeing with George Bush's wars - and just do a good job. Evolution is a long-term trend away from greater violence, drama and quantity and toward greater gentleness, variety and quality.]
Dr. Andrew Nowalk, an infectious-disease fellow at Children's Hospital who was among the last residents on the grueling 120-hours-per-week schedules, admits he is a little jealous. Still, he said, the changes are positive.
[Sanity makes a brief appearance.]
"Overall, I think patient care gets a lot better when you're not dog-tired," Nowalk said. "It's hard to learn anything at 5 a.m."
- [But there's a growing problem of masochism and self-hatred in the U.S. -]
7/03 Americans at work, avoiding vacation - Workaholics choose to not leave desk, by David Lyman, Knight Ridder via Myrtle Beach Sun News [SC].
[This one's for *Joe Robinson.]
What is it with American workers and vacations?
We long for them. We plan for them obsessively.
But when it comes time to take those vacation days, we're downright flaky.
According to a recent study by Expedia.com, the online travel giant, more than 30% of us don't take all the vacation days that are due to us. A staggering 14% don't take any vacation time. In fact, it's estimated that 415 million vacation days will go unused in 2004 in the United States.
You figure the hours in a five-day work week, and that's nearly 1.6 million years of unused vacation.
It's no longer bosses who are chaining workers to their desks. Truth is, we're doing it to ourselves.
Why? Why give up such a precious benefit? You might as well endorse your paycheck and hand it right back to the boss.
Some people are driven by concerns about job security. There are those who insist they are too busy to get away from work.
Others worry that nothing will go right if they're not around to supervise. Still others say they have to work too hard before they leave, so it's not worth the effort.
Paulette Kosorski insists that none of those excuses describes her. "I just love my job," says Kosorski...a vice president in Fifth Third Bank's Southfield, Mich., offices. Kosorski can't remember the last time she used all her vacation time. "I came close last year," she says.
Underneath it all, it turns out that many of us might not want to take those vacations. Even those of us who take vacations don't seem to be able to shake the work habit entirely; 32% check voice mail and e-mail while they're away.
"The deeper issue is that we're addicted to work," says Jeff DeGraff, associate professor of Management Education at the University of Michigan Business School. "This is not a minor issue. In our culture, work has become fundamental to our
identity. It's a socially sanctioned addiction."
Many companies are quietly supportive of their employees' workaholism. For them, it's more work for the same money.
There are exceptions. The Rand Corp., a California think tank, rewards employees with an extra 5% of their salary if they use all their vacation days.
"This is a place where people are very driven and work very long hours," says spokesman Warren Robak. "They found that people were burning out from working too much. This was developed as a way to entice people to take time off."
But Rand is the exception. The United States is the only developed nation in which the government does not mandate vacation time. If your employer decided to eliminate vacations altogether, there would be no law preventing it. Compare that with
Canada and Japan, which mandate two-week vacations. Or most of the European Union, where four-week vacations are the minimum. Even China and India call for three vacation weeks.
Perhaps it's our unbridled devotion to capitalism.
"In our culture, work is fundamental to our identity," DeGraff says. "It's become such an enormous part of who we are that it is slowly squeezing out the other things that are so essential: community work, going to church, coaching Little League. It's become increasingly hard to find people to pick up these roles because their lives are dominated by work."
- [Here's an odd little US item -]
7/03 Virginia judge blocks labor law, NYT, A14.
RICHMOND, Va. - A Richmond judge on Friday temporarily blocked a new state law that would force Va. employers to allow workers Saturday or Sunday off.
[Is this too rigid or are employers acting like the Princess and the Pea - again?]
The judge, Theodore Markow of Circuit Court, issued an injunction banning enforcement for 90 days. Due to an error in its writing, the law gives employees the right to refuse to work on Saturday or Sunday.
The judge acted on an emergency request from the Va. Chamber of Commerce and four member companies. "It's not a final ruling," said Hugh Keough, the Chamber's CEO. "But it removes the immediate threat of disruption of business activity this weekend."
[God forbid any threat of disruption of business activity!]
The state's options are limited. Before the judge's ruling, Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, asked Atty Gen. Jerry Kilgore to suspend enforcement but was rebuffed. Another option is to recall the General Assembly for a special session.
- [And now the life-deniers have come to power in France too, and are trying to roll back this cutting-edge nation from its path-breaking national 35-hour workweek -]
7/01 EADS boss calls for easing of French 35-hour week, AFP via Expatica [Netherlands].
PARIS - The co-president of the European Aeronautic Space & Defence Group (EADS), Philippe Camus, weighed into a debate Thursday over France's 35-hour working week, calling for greater flexibility in the policy.
"The regulations on the 35-hour work week have widened the gulf between France and the United States, its main competitor, in terms of hours worked.
[France is very little dependent on exports, and to compete with the US in the race to the bottom is to trash the famed "French cultural exception," especially when the US is stupid enough to be taking no-standards China as it's "main competitor." The best solution is for troglodytes like Philippe Camus and Nicholas Sarkozy to move to the USA and join our Race to the Bottom on site.]
"This law must be softened because it has amputated recent productivity gains
[what tripe! - it has actually facilitated recent productivity gains because people, finally getting more rest and actually seeing some benefit from efficient technology in terms of free time, aren't resisting them so vigorously]
and immobilises young cadres and engineers," Camus said during a meeting of an association for the French aeronautics and space industries.
[This moron is clearly from the very limited "grunt" school, dumbly unaware of the "play" school with its creative leaps that occur when you get away from your work and come back to it fresh.]
He also threatened to move EADS operations abroad
["abroad" - so he's gonna move the European Aeronautic Space & Defence Group to the U.S. or Asia? - we think the EU would fire him first - maybe this is a mistranslation - maybe he wants to move it to low-wage, long-hours eastern Europe - fine, let France cut its funding]
and asked for increased state financial aid.
[What a whiner. Let him go, and the sooner the better. France needs Frenchmen like this like the body needs leprosy.]
His comments coincide with an offensive by France's centre-right government on the 35-hour working week introduced by the previous Socialist administration in 1998.
In France the 35-hour week was designed to encourage employment by sharing out the existing work among more people, with companies compensated for their longer pay-rolls by more flexible rostering, lower social charges and a promise of wage restraint from unions.
But many economists say that while the reduction in working time yielded between 200,000 and 300,000 new jobs, many of these would have been created anyway as a result of the country's strong economic performance in the late 1990s.
[Pure Puritan-work-ethic-biassed conjecture. What's a Puritan? anyone who has the nagging suspicion that somebody, somewhere, is having a good time. The human race really needs to quit punishing itself and start learning to enjoy.]
In late 2002, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's majority in the National Assembly made the law more flexible by voting through an increase in the number of permissible overtime hours. But many centre-right deputies believe more action is required to undo the measure completely.
- [And also in Germany, where the unionized sector was down to 35-hours week, they're shouting the tiny news of rollback and ignoring the huge incidence of shorter hours -]
7/02 Longer working hours in Germany welcomed, Business Day [South Africa].
[But then, only a few far-sighted businessmen would have the perception to say otherwise.]
FRANKFURT - European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet implicitly welcomed the trend towards longer working hours emerging in Germany, the eurozone's biggest economy.
[WHAT "TREND"? Only 200 people at one company (Siemens)?! Looks like France and South Africa have overconsolidated media ownership problems with resulting news slant as well as America!]
"Everything that leads to greater flexibility, to increased productivity, is a step in the right direction," Trichet told a news conference when asked about his thoughts about the trend towards longer working hours, particularly in France and Germany.
[Well, it's shorter hours that lead to increased productivity, not longer, because only shorter hours provides people with any benefit from more productive technology. If you freeze the workweek at any level such as the 1940 level of 40 hours a week, you never see any benefit from more productive technology, ever. And why cooperate with productivity drives when CEOs are (A) ignoring marketability and (B) responding to technology with downsizing instead of timesizing?]
The campaign for a return to a 40-hour week appears to be gathering momentum in Germany, driven by big companies that are threatening to cut jobs or move jobs abroad.
Engineering conglomerate Siemens recently struck a deal with unions to re-introduce a 40-hour week at two key sites in Germany in return for [trash-]binning plans to relocate jobs to Hungary.
That deal was seen as a litmus test for much of German industry.
The German-US car giant DaimlerChrysler is currently negotiating longer hours for workers at its Mercedes division by not counting breaks in the total number of hours worked each day, while highly qualified research and development staff would be required to work a 40-hour week, but with a corresponding rise in pay.
Loss-making travel operator Thomas Cook and the German public railways, Deutsche Bahn, are also negotiating a return to a 40-hour week and similar plans are afoot for Germany's civil servants.
And a new poll conducted by market research group Emnid for the business weekly WirtschaftsWoche this week showed that a small majority (51%) of Germans are in favour of a return to a 40-hour week without any increase in pay as a way of
safeguarding their jobs.
[Boy, how carefully must they have selected that sampling!]
7/01/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 6/30 from GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts and [comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- [Now a U.S. company explicitly steps backward on hours, and adds to the accumulating loss of jobs and markets -]
This ain't France, WSJ, C4.
Happy Fourth. Happy merger. Now get back to work.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. initiated a new policy of longer workweeks for rank-and-file employees. The bank, which just completed its merger with Chicago's Bank One Corp., kicked off the third quarter with a new policy requiring many administrative and support staffers to work 40 hours each week, up from their previous workweeks of 35 to 37.5 hours.
[Another wealthy corporation goes backward, thus constricting its markets in the longer term by loading up existing employees and trending against hiring and re-activating un(der)employed and de-activated consumers.]
Hourly employees got a one-time payment [of what?] to reflect the bump up in hours.
The policy covers such employees in New York and Boston, says spokesman Tom Johnson, and "there is a move to make this a corporate standard."
People close to the bank say the extra hours are an effort to align J.P. Morgan's culture with that of Bank One, where a spokesman confirmed [that] 40-hour weeks for hourly employees are standard but declined to comment further.
[Here's another potential downside of mergers, aside from the toxic takeover-downsizing connection.]
- Sarkozy launches 'reform' of 35-hour work week [our quotes], AFP [Agence-France Presse] via Expatica [Netherlands].
PARIS - France's centre-right government stepped up the pressure Wednesday to modify the country's 35-hour work week policy, put into place by the previous Socialist administration, to make it more flexible.
At a convention for small and mid-sized businesses, Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy called for a debate on the controversial work regime that would be free of political manoeuvring and ideological taboos.
"Simple reasoning is needed for such a sensitive question. If we think the 35 hours is positive, then it should be kept. But if we think, as I do, that it is very inconvenient, then launching a deep reform should not be feared," he said.
His comments came shortly after junior minister for the budget, Dominique Bussereau, said the government was considering ways to make the 35-hour work week more flexible, adding that he considered the regulation would slowly become "obsolete."
Sarkozy said reforms to the current policy should start by scrapping charges aimed at discouraging workers from doing overtime.
"I really don't know why we should penalise an entrepreneur who wants to give more work or an employee who wants to do more," he argued.
He also said the policy, which was the main project of the previous Socialist government when it was adopted in 1998, was costing France EUR 16 billion (USD 19.5 billion) per year.
The current government has cited the 35-hour week as one of the reasons for France's failure to keep its public deficit within EU limits - three% of output - set out in the 1997 the Stability and Growth Pact.
Pressure to modify the 35-hour week has been building, with supporters of reform pointing to neighbouring Germany where several big companies such as DaimlerChrysler, Thomas Cook and Deutsche Bahn are negotiating a return to the 40-hour week.
German industrial conglomerate Siemens has even threatened to move some operations to lower-wage countries such as Hungary in negotiations to return a 40-hour work week.
The debate has also spread to Austria where big companies are also trying to reinstate a 40-hour work week.
In France the 35-hour week was designed to encourage employment by sharing out the existing work among more people, with companies compensated for their longer pay-rolls by more flexible rostering, lower social charges and a promise of wage restraint from unions.
However many economists say that while the reduction in working time yielded between 200,000 and 300,000 new jobs, many of these would have been created anyway as a result of the country's strong performance in the late 1990s.
At the moment, they contend, the measure is acting as a brake on growth.
In late 2002, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's majority in the National Assembly made the law more flexible by voting through an increase in the number of permissible overtime hours. But many centre-right deputies believe more action is required to undo the measure completely.
A recent survey last year in the business magazine L'Expansion found that 54% of French people believed France should abandon the 35-hour week, 52% thought it would gradually disappear and 67% said it had little effect on unemployment.
The government is under heavy pressure to take measures to lower France's stubbornly high unemployment rate, which currently stands at 9.8% of the workforce.
- 35-hour week suffers setback - Siemens, trade union deny agreement marks significant shift from shorter hours, by Heidi Sylvester, Frankfurter Allgemeine [Germany].
A landmark agreement that led to the reintroduction of the 40-hour workweek at two divisions of the country's largest electronics company has sparked a debate about whether a new collective bargaining culture is in the making in Germany.
The agreement was reached June 24 between Siemens and the IG Metall trade union in an attempt to prevent jobs from being exported out of Germany. Since reaching the deal, both sides have been working to play down its significance in national terms.
Nonetheless, it does address one factor that economists cite for the country's crippled economy - its generally restrictive labor policies and short working hours in international companies. And the decision by IG Metall workers to accept longer hours signals a significant reversal on a previously sacrosanct issue, the 35-hour workweek. The limit was established after a seven-week strike in 1984.
Today, union leaders are stressing the latest agreement's national insignificance. “Anybody who wants to make a precedent out of the justified deviation in this concrete case knows nothing about collective bargaining,“ said Jürgen Peters, the president of IG Metall, the country's biggest industrial union with roughly 2.7 million members.
Siemens chairman Heinrich von Pierer repeatedly stressed over the past few days that the 40-hour workweek would not be reintroduced across the board at the electronics giant, which employs 167,000 workers in Germany.
The agreement grew out of a threat made by Siemens in March. Germany's largest electronics company said it would cut about 2,000 phone assembly jobs at plants in Bocholt and Kamp-Lintfort, and that it would move them to Hungary if unions did not make concessions to reduce personnel costs.
In the negotiations that followed, the company said it would not relocate the jobs for two years and promised to invest an additional E30m ($36.5m) in the factories. In return, the workers who assemble cellular and cordless phones agreed to work 1,760 hours a year measured over a two-year period that started on Thursday. This averages out to 40 hours of work each week, up from 35 hours.
The deal essentially gives Siemens the flexibility to gear up when there is more work and have people work less when it is slow.
While Peters was eager to stress the unique nature of the Siemens case, denying reports that hundreds of German companies were trying to follow the electronics giant's lead, the Siemens case increasingly is being viewed here as a watershed. The Siemens example could well “help create a new collective bargaining culture,“ said Dieter Hundt, president of the German Employers Association.
Industry observers said they thought similar deals were under discussion at a number of flagship German companies, including Bosch, Daimler Chrysler, Continental, MAN and Deutsche Bahn.
The possibility of lengthening the workweek has existed since at least February when Germany's employers and IG Metall hammered out a compromise wage agreement for metalworkers in southern Germany. In addition to a 2.2% wage increase, the deal secured employers the right to have employees work up to 40 hours a week during boom periods without overtime pay.
While Germany's business leaders and politicians remain divided over a longer working week, many economists have been pointing out that the cherished 35-hour workweek is already a myth. “In reality, more than 40 hours are worked each week by employees in eastern Germany,“ said Karl Brenke of the DIW German Institute of Economic Research. But it is not just workers in the east who work longer hours. IW Cologne, an industry-financed think tank, reported last year that the 35-hour workweek was not a luxury enjoyed throughout all of Germany's west either. According to that think tank, only one-fifth of all western German employees have a 35-hour workweek, with a third of workers clocking up 38 hours.
- Five-Day Workweek Set in Motion Thursday, by Na Jeong-ju, Korea Times.
SEOUL, South Korea - Working hours for employees of large conglomerates, publicly-owned companies and banks and other finance and insurance companies will be cut by four hours a week to 40 beginning on Thursday [July 1, 2004] with the implementation of the five-day workweek system.
The shortened workweek will affect some 1.8 million employees at 8,408 big companies this year. Smaller companies must adopt the system on a gradual basis by 2008.
Experts say the new system is expected to help improve the quality of life of workers, while entrepreneurs and labor unions are showing mixed responses toward the changes that the new system will have on working and business conditions.
Critics argue the five-day workweek will ironically result in an increase in working hours. In reality, if the system is introduced, workers have to work overtime everyday to finish their weekly jobs by Friday to take Saturday off, they say.
Company owners and managers, for their part, argue they will have to hire persons to fill the vacuum of business hours created by the new system.
[Good. That's the whole point. Reduce high unemployment and unemployment insurance costs.]
They worry increased labor costs will be a burden to their companies with the nation’s economy showing no sign of improvement.
[Wage costs will increase but unemployment insurance premiums will decrease. The economy will benefit from more activated consumers.]
Despite such skepticism, the five-day workweek system, one of the most voiced demands of labor unions for the last decade, is already bringing a change to the lifestyle of working people. Leisure and travel firms are seeing growing profits, while amusement parks and family recreation places are filled with people on weekends.
The system is [being first] applied to publicly-owned companies and their subsidiaries, banks, insurance and other finance firms and other private companies with 1,000 registered workers and more. Companies with more than 300 employees should adopt the shortened workweek by next July ; those with over 100 by July 2006; those with over 50 by July 2007 and those with over 20 by July 2008.
Despite the shortened working hours, companies should not cut the salaries or force employees to work overtime without agreement with employees. Instead, monthly leave currently guaranteed in law will disappear, while the number of annual leaves will be set between 15-25 days depending on agreement between management of employees.
The Labor Ministry said it will take time for the new system to take a firm root, although the government, management and labor groups have already agreed on details of the initiative.
So far, only 51.5% of publicly-owned companies and their subsidiaries have reached an agreement with employees on conditions of the shortened workweek. Most of the companies, including large conglomerates, are still having negotiations with employees, according to the ministry.
- Programmer sues VU Games over excessive work hours, by simoniker from the finish-the-game dept., games.slashdot.org.
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - eToychest writes "According to Reuters, a video game programmer has sued Vivendi Universal Games, claiming he and his colleagues were regularly forced to work extra hours and denied overtime pay. The suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, is one of many filed against companies in the state in recent months, as employees seek to be classified as overtime-eligible to obtain compensation for working more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. The suit seeks payment of back overtime wages plus other damages. This comes the recent announcement that the company said it would cut more than one-third of its staff, excluding Blizzard. Of the things mentioned in the suit, the complaints include no overtime compensation, and employees being ordered to falsify timesheets to indicate they worked shorter days." This report is especially interesting in light of the recent IGDA [International Game Developers Assoc?] 'Quality Of Life' survey for game developers.
- [Meanwhile, bosses in the UK are getting dumber; compare yesterday's story #4 -]
Bosses work seven-day week, survey shows, BusinessEurope.com.
LONDON, U.K. - A fifth of UK managers work an extra 14 hours more per week than they're paid for, according to new research.
Working around the clock?
The poll of 1,500 bosses found many felt overworked, undervalued, insecure in their job and lacked the energy to enjoy leisure time.
Some 20% admitted they often put in an unpaid 14 hours in the office, effectively working a seven-day week, the Chartered Institute of Management (CIM) report said.
Half believed they were overloaded with work, while 40% claimed they regularly missed out on family events due to the pressures of work.
A third said they were so tired after leaving work at the end of the day they could not make the most of evenings such as catching up with friends or going to the cinema.
Energy levels were even lower at the weekend with many using Saturdays and Sunday solely to recover from the pressures of the working week.
Managers blamed the problem on an 'authoritarian culture' in the workplace, with a quarter going so far to say they were being exploited by top management.
CRM's Mary Chapman said: "The past of change and a desire to reduce costs has had major implications on working patterns...but all too often these are not communicated effectively and they take their toll through longer working hours and a drained workforce.
"Part of the problem lies in senior management believing one thing about morale, when those closer to the coal face have vastly different experiences.
"It's only when people begin to feel a close, and meaningful, involvement with their organisation that they bring energy, enthusiasm and passion to their work."
- [And still UK managers don't have the sense to get behind the EU workweek limits -]
Bosses resentful of new working time law, Online Recruitment [UK]
Britain is the only EU country where working hours have increased on average over the last decade - but according to a new survey, reversing this trend by limiting the number of hours we work could mean we risk losing our competitive edge.
That’s the opinion of 81% of businesses surveyed by Croner, one of the UK’s leading providers of business information and advice. Respondents to the survey, which was collated via Croner’s www.tradeinternational-centre.net web-centre, said that removing the right to opt out of legislation which will restrict the average working week to a 48 hour maximum would have a negative affect on the UK economy.
These findings challenge whether the UK should fully adopt the EU’s Working Time Directive, from which the British government secured an opt-out in 1993; a move which enables employers to allow staff to work more than 48 hours per week if they choose to sign an opt-out agreement.
Although the Working Time Directive is intended to help employees achieve work/life balance through capping the number of hours they can legally work, Croner is alerting employers that it could actually do the opposite by imposing a more rigid structure whereby employees can no longer choose to work reasonable overtime.
The European Commission is currently reviewing a phase-out of Britain’s exemption to the Regulations and Kimbra Green, employment law expert at Croner, which is part of Wolters Kluwer UK, believes if the opt-out is lost it could have major implications for many industries.
Kimbra says: "As a nation we pride ourselves on our competitive economy, even though we often complain about how hard we work. The survey results are not a sign that our employers are becoming slave-drivers, but rather a protest by bosses for freedom of choice when it comes to working hours. There will always be employers who exploit the system, but it’s clear that a blanket ceiling on working hours will have the majority up in arms."
Some industry sectors have started to move towards ensuring that employees comply with the maximum average weekly limit on hours, but Kimbra believes that some form of opt-out for the UK must be retained.
She continues: "Our survey results reflect a nervousness among employers that if we completely lose the opt-out to the Working Time Directive it could adversely affect their business - employers need the flexibility to use their existing staff rather than incur increased costs of employing additional workers.
"Similarly, many employees welcome the option to work reasonable overtime and if the flexibility to do this were removed, many lower paid employees may be forced to consider taking on additional, separate employment, without telling their employer, which could impact on their quality of life, productivity and pose serious health and safety problems."
Over the past two years the Office of National Statistics has actually reported a half-hour reduction in the average working week to 32 hours.
Kimbra concludes: "It’s clear that current provisions for flexible working are helping reduce working hours and further flexibility is not required through the Working Time Regulations. The majority of businesses we surveyed seem to support this view."
- [So the UK is still fiddling around instead of sharing the vanishing work and rebuilding the weakening consumer base -]
Working hours: UK consults on EU opt-out, out-law.com.
The UK Government yesterday launched a consultation into the country's culture of long working hours and how this is affected by an opt-out provision of the EU Working Time Directive which is widely exploited to keep a worker's week above 48 hours.
Such exploitation runs against the Directive's original intention: to protect workers from the health and safety consequences of overworking.
To this end, the Directive provides that workers in all sectors, public or private, must not work longer than 48 hours a week, including overtime. The Directive also specifies requirements for rest periods, breaks and no less than four weeks' paid holiday per year.
However, in 1993, the UK negotiated an opt-out which allows Member States not to apply the limit to working hours under certain conditions: prior agreement of the individual, no negative fall-out from refusing to opt-out, and records kept of working hours of those that have opted out.
The opt-out, and in particular the UK’s use of the opt-out, was one of the main concerns raised in a recent Commission report into the operation of the Directive. Figures quoted by the Commission show that around 16% of the UK workforce works over 48 hours per week – up 1% from the early 1990s.
The Commission is now carrying out a review of the Directive, and in particular the opt-out, and is expected to propose changes to both in the near future. Forewarned is forearmed, and the UK Government is now seeking the views of employers and employees in preparation for its negotiations with Brussels.
Announcing the consultation yesterday, Employment Relations Minister Gerry Sutcliffe stressed that the Government was committed to retaining the opt-out in order to protect employee choice and workplace flexibility, but was also determined to make sure it was being used correctly.
"The DTI gets many letters from workers asking us to keep the opt-out, but some parties have raised concerns that some people are pressured into signing the opt-out,” said Sutcliffe. “Such action is illegal, as the opt-out must be signed voluntarily under current employment legislation.”
"However, we are open to ideas on how the operation of the opt-out can be improved - that is why we are seeking views now, so that they can be taken into consideration as we move forward with the European Commission's review of the Working Time Directive," he added.
The DTI's consultation does not set out any proposals, but does offer ideas and options people may want to offer views on. It covers three main areas of discussion:
Responding to the launch, Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, commented that it was hard to take the consultation seriously. He said: “The Minister’s statement makes it clear that the government has made its mind up to resist an effective crackdown on Britain’s long hours culture.”
- making sure workers have a real choice about long hours;
- making sure people are protected while they are doing long hours; and
- making sure people know about their rights.
He added, "The government should stop defending the indefensible and end the UK opt-out of the 48 hour working week."
Robyn McIlroy, an employment specialist with Masons, the international law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, commented:
"It was always envisaged that the opt-out would be reviewed in November 2003 and, over the last year, many UK organisations who make use of the opt-out have become concerned at prospect of its removal or restriction.
"Principally, employers are concerned that removing the ability of individual workers to opt-out of the limit on weekly working time will reduce flexibility and impact on the ability of organisations to meet deadlines. In industries where lucrative overtime work is commonplace, workers too may become concerned that the removal of the opt-out will affect them financially. So it will be interesting to see the submissions from employer organisations and unions in this consultation exercise.
"Clearly there are pros and cons for retaining and removing – or at least restricting – the opt-out. On the one hand, removing the opt-out may lead us away from the long-hours culture that is becoming increasingly common in the UK. On the other hand, any measure which restricts competitiveness and the ability of business to make profits must impact on salary levels and, in the current economic climate, UK workers may feel that is too high a price to pay for increased leisure time."
The closing date for the consultation is 22 September 2004.
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