Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, August 27-31, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
8/31/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 8/30 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #23 & 26 which are from 8/31 hardcopy, & Australian & Far East stories which are 8/31), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
( Here's the current search pattern used by our backup, Ken Ellis - he's experimenting with four search runs because of erratic one-run behavior:
"work sharing", OR "work-sharing", OR "job-sharing", OR "job sharing", OR
"work week", OR workweeks, OR "work-week", OR "work-weeks", OR "working
week", OR "working weeks", OR "work-time", OR "worktime", OR "decreases
hours", OR "shorter schedule" -sports -coach -coaches -coaching
"cut hours", OR "cutting hours", OR "reduce hours", OR "reduced hours", OR
"reduces hours", OR "reducing hours", OR "hours reduction", OR "40 hour", OR
"40 hours", OR "forty hour", OR "forty hours" -sports -coach -coaches
"free time", OR "long hours", OR "extra hours", OR "long work", OR "long
days", OR "long workdays", OR "long workday", OR "decrease hours", OR
"decreased hours", OR "decreasing hours" OR "schedule reduction" -sports
-coach -coaches -coaching
overtime, OR overwork, OR overworking, OR Nucor, OR "Lincoln Electric"
-sports -coach -coaches -coaching -football -soccer -baseball -olympics )
8/28-30/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 8/27-29 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #23 & 26 which are from 8/28-30 hardcopy, & Australian & Far East stories which are 8/28-30), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Praiseworthy policies, Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN.
Winning policies that make the best use of older employees:...
Sources: AARP, Mercer Human Resource Consulting
Phased retirement options. Companies allow employees to reduce their work
hours as they approach retirement, without jeopardizing pensions or
Flexible schedules and job sharing. Companies accommodate older workers'
desire to change the balance of work and private time in their lives..\..
Job mobility. Workers nominate themselves for any job openings, task forces
and special assignments - a process that gives older workers equal
opportunity to pursue new jobs and skill-building assignments....
Retire-rehire. Companies establish pools of retirees to call back for
temporary assignments, special projects and heavy work periods.
Individual accommodations. Employers adapt workplaces to employees' special
needs, including work injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or provide
reassignments for those who age out of strenuous physical labor.
College partnerships and lifelong learning. The strategy stresses learning
and development for employees of all ages, from specific new job skills to
diversity seminars to mentoring opportunities....
Flexible spending accounts. Employers establish pre-tax accounts for child
care and elder care, because older workers may be both raising grandchildren
and tending aging parents.
- Commentary - All work and no play is the US way, by Joan Williams & Ariane Hegewisch, Los Angeles Times, CA.
Politicians and CEOs like to boast about the productivity of American
workers. But here's the dirty little secret: U.S. productivity is No. 1 in
the world when productivity is measured as gross domestic product per
worker, but our lead vanishes when productivity is measured as GDP per hour
worked, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development, whose members are the world's 30 most developed nations.
Productivity per hour is higher in France, with the U.S. at about the same
level as other advanced European economies. As it turns out, the U.S.
"productivity advantage" is just another way of saying that we work more
hours than workers in any other industrialized country except South Korea.
Is that something to brag about?
Europeans take an average of six to seven weeks of paid annual leave,
compared with just 12 days in the United States. Twice as many American as
European workers put in more than 48 hours per week. Particularly sobering
is the fact that in two out of three American families with small children
in which both parents work, the couples work more than 80 total hours per
week, also more than double the European rate.
Confusing productivity with long work hours precludes a much-needed public
debate about the costs and benefits of workaholism.
Conventional economic theory argues that Americans prefer the higher income
gained from working extra hours, while Europeans prefer more family time and
leisure. This truth may hold supreme among economists (and business
reporters), but study after sociological study contradicts it. Sociologists
have long documented that many Americans (men especially) want more family
or leisure time and would be willing to sacrifice up to a quarter of their
salaries in return. But they are prevented from working the hours they
prefer for two different kinds of reasons.
Some Americans just need the money, given that the U.S. has the most
unequal income distribution in the developed world. The average CEO of a
major U.S. company, according to Business Week, is paid more than 400 times
what the average worker is paid in the same company. In Britain - the
European economy with the most inequality - that ratio is 45 to 1. Because
the profits from Europe's productivity increases are shared more equitably
through shorter working hours and investment in education and healthcare,
European workers can work fewer hours without worrying about creating a
domino effect in which they first lose their jobs and then healthcare.
Other Americans who would gladly trade time for money cannot do so because
the widespread demand for more family (and life-friendly) hours has not
translated into good, reduced-hours jobs. In most workplaces, a shift to
family-friendly hours is the kiss of death professionally, and a refusal to
work overtime is reason for dismissal.
This leaves too many Americans with only two choices: a good job with
health insurance at 50-plus hours a week or a dead-end job at 20 to 25 hours
a week with depressed wages and no health insurance. The American economy,
compared with Europe's, has fewer jobs that are between 30 to 35 hours a
As a result, many families who would prefer both parents to be employed end
up with Dad working 50 to 60 hours a week because Mom cannot find a quality,
reduced-hours job. So many mothers drop out. One in four mothers are out of
the labor force during the key career-building years, including many with
professional or on-the-job training. This is a squandering of human capital
that is typically overlooked in discussions of productivity and GDP.
A new and more promising way to fuel economic growth would be to offer good
jobs with working hours that enable fathers as well as mothers to maintain
an active involvement with family life as well as an active career.
* Joan Williams is a professor and director and Ariane Hegewisch is a
faculty fellow at the Program on WorkLife Law at American University
Washington College of Law.
- Workaholics learn to master the art of rest at a weekend retreat - Gain tools to create a balanced life , PR Web (press release) via PRWEB, WA.
Have you ever secretly envied your co-worker who
is always the first to arrive in the morning, the last to leave at night,
and rarely takes a day off or even a vacation? She's the bosses pride and
joy. She seems to have unstoppable energy, drive and enthusiasm. When
everyone else stops she just keeps going.
Chances are the star worker and subject of your envy, is suffering from a
socially acceptable condition called "work addiction". The obsession with
work can be all consuming and can stand in the way of a balanced life, one
that includes more than work.
The Art of Rest® retreats for busy women are designed to give the
overworked woman a chance to slow down. Many workaholics, get a self-esteem
boost from overworking. They feel needed and loved when they work. When they
stop, they don't know what to do. They're afraid they'll lose importance to
the employer or even the family. So they keep going.
At the retreats, guests are given a helpful check-list of ten ways to slow
down. The list includes tips such as:
Guests are not expected to go from 60 to 0 in one weekend. Speakers, life
coaches, artists, fitness instructors, and musicians are invited to
introduce tools that will help improve the quality of their personal and
professional life. They are reminded to consider the impact that working
non-stop can have on their health and on their relationships.
- Schedule time off. Workaholics learn the importance of scheduling time off, just as they would any other appointment.
- Expect to feel guilty. The feeling of guilt is common when it comes to slowing down or taking a break.
- Follow through. Just as in work, there must be a commitment to follow through.
- Anticipate the reward. Once a workaholic takes the time to rest. They feel better and can get more done.
Jordan Mercedes, the founder of The Art of Rest retreats for busy women,
and a former workaholic, recalls the days when she and the other managers on
her team boasted in the long hours they worked. "In our exhaustion, we
recounted our long hours to each other as if we were competing for a reward.
Little did we know, the reward was burn-out. While the workplace is not the
cause of workaholism, it provides a place for those struggling with the
addiction to live out the disorder," says Mercedes.
The Art of Rest retreats are not the cure, but a tool to help the work
addicted gain a new perspective and begin to create a more balanced life.
The next retreat will be held on October 1-3 at the Temecula Creek Inn, for
more information please visit www.theartofrest.com or call 562-920-0017.
- Teamsters say delays effective, by Kristen Enevold, Calgary Sun, Canada.
CALGARY, Alta. - Starving Calgary Co-op stores of products on their shelves is accomplishing
a major goal for striking workers, says a union spokesman. "I'm sure because
of that, Calgarians are choosing to shop elsewhere," said Pat Pope, business
agent representing 300 members of the Teamsters Union Local.
And while the union stands firm their call for a boycott of Calgary Co-op
is working, company spokeswoman Donna Burn said that's not true.
"Initially, there were some delays because of the strike action, but for
us, it's been business as usual," she said.
For more than two weeks, the union has been embroiled in a dispute with
Federated Co-operatives Ltd., which is responsible for transporting goods to
Calgary Co-op stores.
The union said it's refusing a demand by their employer that they accept
mandatory overtime, which means 12-hour work shifts, seven days in a row.
They're also rejecting a four-year collective agreement offered by
Federated Co-operatives in favour of a three-year deal.
"By the looks of how things have been going, I would say this strike action
will continue for awhile," Pope said.
No further talks have been scheduled, both sides confirmed yesterday.
- Trade unions needed to protect workers, by Fu Jing, China Daily, China.
Unionists are complaining that many private and foreign companies across
China have deprived employees of their rights to set up trade unions.
The allegations come from an investigation conducted by the All China
Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), which says unions are needed to play an
increasing role in protecting workers' legal rights.
"Basically, the companies are infringing on workers' freedom of association
which is entitled by the Constitution," Jiang Nan, division director with
ACFTU told China Daily.
The situation has aroused concerns from China's top legislative body. In
September, a national campaign will be organized by National People's
Congress (NPC) to find the implementation of an amended trade union law. The
law took effect in 2001.
"Trade unions have assumed the responsibility of speaking out for the
workers and seeking fair solutions for them," said Wang Zhaoguo,
vice-chairman of the NPC's Standing Committee. "We should punish those who
have prevented establishment of trade unions in line with the law."
The law requires that an enterprise, organization or institution which
employs more than 25 people could allow a trade union.
And the trade unions at higher levels are authorized to send union
officials to enterprises and help them establish trade unions, and the
enterprises have no right to interfere in the process, the law indicates.
"But parts of such companies, especially the branch operations of
transnational companies, have refused to set up trade unions," said Jiang.
The United States-based leading international retailer Wal-Mart was once
again criticized by ACFTU because it refused to allow the establishment of
unions in its Chinese branch operations.
"We've made increased efforts for several years but have failed," said
Jiang, adding that the company failed to set up stores in Shanghai simply
because the multinational company insisted on not forming trade unions.
Jiang said some owners of foreign-funded enterprises do abide by China's
laws and regulations and encourage their employees to join unions.
But she also said more work needs to be done to inform foreign investors
about China's laws regarding trade unions.
The latest ACFTU statistics indicate that China has 400,000 foreign
companies, but only one-fifth have set up trade unions. About 40% of
2 million private enterprises have set up trade unions.
"And workers need unions more than ever to represent and protect their
interests," said Jiang.
Guan Binfeng, another ACFTU division director, said infringement of
employee's legal rights do take place in foreign and private companies
without trade unions.
A survey conducted by the provincial Dept. of Labour and Social
Security at China's economic power house Guangdong revealed that 85%
of about 26 million migrant workers in the province have to work for 10 to
14 hours every day and nearly half of them have no rest day, and most of
them are not paid for overtime work.
The Chinese Government has stipulated that the maximum working day is 8
hours and that the working week should not exceed 40 hours. Employers must
double or triple wages paid for extra hours.
Unions are essential to protecting the interests and rights of workers and
resolving worker-management relations, and the number of trade unions should
be increased particularly in non-State-owned enterprises, said Guan.
- [And in the land of karoshi (death by overwork) -]
Family awarded 47 million yen for son's overwork death, Mainichi Shimbun, Japan.
OSAKA - The bereaved family of a man who died after being forced to work
overtime for a company editing used car magazines was awarded 47.24 million
yen in compensation after the Osaka District Court ruled that overwork was
the cause of his death.
The 21-year-old man died of a heart attack only 51 days after entering the
firm, JCM, in April 1996. Despite being classified as a casual worker, he
worked from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. several times.
In the four weeks leading up to his death on June 12, he worked 88 hours
"He died after an accumulation of physical and mental exhaustion from
overwork," Presiding Judge Toshitada Nihonmatsu said in handing down the
ruling. "The company should have provided appropriate working conditions.
"The company did not form an agreement (with the worker) as determined by
the Labor Standards Law, and made him work overtime beyond the regulated
upper limit of 43 hours over four weeks without allowing him sufficient
sleep or rest," the ruling said.
The Tenma Labor Standards Inspection Office decided against allowing
compensation for a workers' accident in January 2001, but the decision was
reversed after the family requested an investigation.
A JCM official said the ruling was being taken seriously, but declined to
reveal the company's response, saying the details of the ruling were being
JCM is involved in the editing of the Kansai edition of "Car Sensor."
(Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, Aug. 31, 2004)
- [But they have learned nothing -]
Overtime pay on rise in Japan, Reuters via CNN International.
TOKYO, Japan - Japanese wage earners' average overtime pay, a
barometer of income conditions, rose 4.5% in July from the same month
last year to 18,476 yen ($168), government data showed Tuesday.
It was up for the 24th straight month.
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare said overall cash earnings, which
include overtime payments and bonuses, fell 0.4% year-on-year to
In terms of hours worked, overtime in July was up 3.0% from a year
earlier at 10.1 hours, rising for the 25th straight month.
The number of part-time workers increased 4.6% year-on-year, while
the number of general employees fell 0.6%.
- [Karoshi also in primitive land of Gaborone!]
Botswana diamond strike enters 2nd week
Business Day, South Africa, South Africa - 8 hours ago
GABORONE - An illegal strike in the world's largest diamond producer
Botswana entered a second week on Monday with the union saying that miners
who had opted to stay on the job were overworked, resulting in two deaths.
"The people are suffering from fatigue. They are understaffed and
overworked. So far, two are reported to have died at the weekend," said Jack
Thlagale, spokesman for the 6,000-strong Botswana Mine Workers Union.
"The rate of accidents has gone up, and in addition to the dead, two more
people were hospitalised after sustaining accidents while on duty in Jwaneng
Mine," said Thlagale, referring to the mine that is widely considered the
jewel in Botswana's diamond crown. "Just go to the mines and see for
yourself. Interview the workers and they will tell you the sorry state of
Thousands of workers in four mines run by Debswana - an equal joint venture
between the government and South Africa's De Beers group - went on strike a
week ago, defying a court order declaring the work stoppage illegal in
Botswana is the world's largest producer of uncut diamonds, with production
in 2003 reaching a record 30.4 million carats, which amounted to 69% of the
total De Beers output.
The union is pressing for a 16% salary increase and a 25% annual
bonus but Debswana is only offering a 10% wage increase and a once-off 10%
Thlagale attributed the rise in accidents to the fact that Debswana was
roping in unskilled workers to keep the mines running.
"The people who are driving quarry trucks, some of them are not trained to
do that," he said.
Thlagale said some 400 mine workers had been fired since the strike was
launched on August 23.
The union leaders meanwhile are to return to court on September 2 to face
charges of contempt of court.
Debswana spokesman Jacob Sesinyi denied the strikers' assertion that
production had been seriously hampered and dismissed the claim that two
miners had died of overwork.
"If an off-duty employee dies of natural causes, it has nothing to do with
the ongoing illegal strike. Overwork had nothing to do with the dead," he
He claimed that the country's biggest mine Orapa was working normally and
said he would take journalists there later Monday so they could see the
situation for themselves.
- [Another 'take' -]
Two deaths at Debswana mine, Business Report, South Africa.
GABORONE - The illegal strike at Debswana entered its second week yesterday
with the union saying that miners who had opted to stay on the job were
overworked, resulting in two deaths.
"The people are suffering from fatigue. They are understaffed and
overworked. So far, two are reported to have died at the weekend," said Jack
Thlagale, the spokesperson for the 6 000-strong Botswana Mine Workers'
"The rate of accidents has gone up, and in addition to the dead, two more
people were hospitalised after sustaining accidents while on duty in Jwaneng
mine," said Thlagale, referring to the mine that is widely considered the
jewel in Botswana's diamond crown.
Thousands of workers in four mines run by Debswana, which is a joint
venture between the government and De Beers, went on strike a week ago,
defying a court order declaring the stoppage illegal.
Thlagale attributed the rise in accidents to the fact that Debswana was
roping in unskilled workers to keep the mines running. "The people who are
driving quarry trucks, some of them are not trained to do that," he said.
Thlagale said about 400 mine workers had been fired since the strike was
launched on August 23.
Union leaders are to return to court on September 2 to face charges of
contempt of court.
Debswana spokesperson Jacob Sesinyi denied the strikers' assertion that
production had been seriously hampered and dismissed the claim that two
miners had died of overwork.
"If an off-duty employee dies of natural causes, it has nothing to do with
the ongoing illegal strike. Overwork had nothing to do with the dead," he
About 44% of the company's 5 500 workers at four mines were on
strike, said Sesinyi, adding that contract workers had limited the impact on
Debswana offered to raise pay by 10% and to pay a 10% annual
bonus. The Botswana Mine Workers' Union had asked for a 16% increase
in pay and a 24% bonus.
Workers are paid a minimum of 1 640 pula (R2 080) a month. They are given
free housing, power and water as well as medical aid.
Botswana's annual inflation rate is 6.7%. - AFP and Bloomberg.
- [And karoshi also in primitive land of U.S.A. -]
Steelworkers blame rising workplace injury on long hours, labor cuts, by Madeleine Baran, The NewStandard, NY.
A steep increase in the number of job-related deaths in the steel
industry this year has alarmed steelworkers and their families. So far this
year, six steelworkers have died on the job, compared with three for all of
2003. Although there have been no studies to discover the reasons behind the
increase, union leaders and workers suspect the increase in demand for
steel, combined with a drastically reduced work force and the retirement of
many more experienced workers may be to blame.
At one US Steel coke plant in Clairton, Pennsylvania, three workers suffered
serious injuries this year. One worker lost his legs when a moving rail car
ran him over. Andrew Miklos, president of the local United Steelworkers
Union representing the plant's workers, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
that the company forces employees to work 16-hour shifts, increasing the
likelihood of accidents.
"This company does not want to see an employee injured, but they need to
take a realistic look at things and make sure that doesn't happen," Miklos
told the Post-Gazette. "It's tough working in there. These accidents are
proof of that."
- Three Illinois-based companies make AARP's list of best employers for
workers 50 and over, PR Newswire (press release).
CHICAGO - What do a dental benefits administrator, an
office technologies and services firm, a financial services company and an
auto manufacturer have in common? These diverse companies recruit and
retain mature workers - they treat them right - and rank among the 35
employers from across the U.S. named 2004 "AARP Best Employers for Workers
50 and Over". Included on this year's list are three Illinois based
companies: Centegra Health System based in Woodstock, Zurich, North America
based in Schaumburg and for a second consecutive year Deere & Company based
in Moline. All companies were evaluated on recruitment practices, continuing
opportunities for advancement, flexible work schedules, and benefits for
current and retired employees. For respective Illinois companies named "Best
Employers" roughly a quarter or more of their workforce are over 50 and they
actively recruit older workers which includes making job offers to former
and retired employees. Employee offered programs and benefits of note
include: Centegra's Alumni Nurse Program which keeps retired employees
active; Zurich's wellness programs to keep older workers engaged and
healthy; and two-time honoree Deere & Company maintains a low turnover rate
for older employees due to flexible work schedules, subsidized
health-related benefits, and career counseling. Recent projections point
toward a continued jump in the percentage of mature workers in the economy.
14% of the workforce is aged 55 and older now; the percentage is
expected to reach 19% by 2012. "Older employees will play a crucial
role in filling future job demands. The creative practices today's winners
have in place can serve as a model for employers seeking a winning strategy
to recruit and retain the mature workforce," said Evelyn Gooden, state
president AARP Illinois. Centegra Health System, Deere & Company and Zurich,
North America will be honored at a dinner in New York City on September 23.
AARP and BusinessWeek will co-host a forum the next day on employer best
practices. AARP is releasing "Staying Ahead of the Curve 2004: Employer Best
Practices for Mature Workers," a detailed analysis of the best practices
among winning employers over the past three years. The report includes
these key findings:
AARP invited employers to apply for the "Best Employer" designation by
describing their innovative practices toward 50-and-over workers in an
extensive questionnaire. A consulting firm provided a preliminary rating of
the applicants. Then a panel of six outside judges evaluated the
and their opinions, combined with the consultant's evaluations, led to final
ratings. Additional vetting followed to determine the "Best Employers."...
Applications for the "2005 Best Employer" competition are available by
visiting http://www.aarp.org/bestemployers. The 2005 application deadline
is February 28, 2005.
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to
making life better for people age 50 and older....
- Attraction and retention of the right workforce is important to the
winning companies. A number of companies offer phased retirement programs.
Several allow employees to collect full retirement benefits while continuing
to work part-time or reduced hours
- while also allowing full health and other benefits.
- Some employers leverage their areas of business focus to
offer programs to support the maturing workforce. For instance, some
hospital systems and health care providers offered health care services at a
discount, as well as a range of services such as free annual check ups to
- Newer programs are emerging to engage the mature worker.
Such programs show appreciation for longer service, recognize mature worker
issues, and/or support family care needs.
[except when we're just a big insurance company sucking up to Bush's giveaways to his pharmaceutical phriends.]
2004 AARP Best Employers for Workers 50 and Over (in [Mass.])
- DentaQuest Ventures, Inc. (Boston, MA)
- The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc. (Cambridge, MA)
- 2 firms rank tops for older workers, by Karen Dybis, Detroit News via DetNews.com, MI.
Talk about respecting your elders. Two Metro Detroit companies rank in the
top 10 on AARP's 2004 list of the best employers for workers over age 50,
the nonprofit organization said today. Auburn Hills-based Volkswagen of America and William Beaumont Hospitals in Troy and Royal Oak ranked sixth and 10th respectively on the list of 35
The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., was ranked No. 1....
At Beaumont Hospitals, employees can opt for compressed work weeks, job
sharing and flex time. Those approaching retirement can switch to part-time
work as they phase out of the work force. The hospital also offers
retirement planning workshops for workers....
More companies should offer these kinds of programs, said Deborah Russell, who directs AARP's Best Employers program. 14% of the workforce is age 55 and older now. It is expected to reach 19% by 2012.... Russell said a...reason people are staying the workforce longer is...people are not saving enough and the average household debt level is rising. "Money and health insurance are the top reasons people remain in the work force," Russell said.
- Guest opinion - Liberals are to blame for safe drinking water and decent wages, by Richard Ross, Kodiak Daily Mirror, United States.
Politics is not about money. Politics is not about power. Politics is not
about winning for winning's sake. Politics is about improving peoples'
lives. Politics is about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our
country and in our world. Politics is about doing well for people."
This is a quote from the late Paul Wellstone, U.S. Senator from Minnesota.
He was a liberal. Today, to many people, the label of "liberal" engenders a
feeling of repugnance, maybe moral depravity, or even mental deficiency.
I'm currently reading a book by a conservative radio/TV personality. The
first chapter (24 pages) mentions and slams liberals/liberalism 33 times,
and ranks our "enemies" as terrorists, despots and liberals. Maybe we could
take a look at what a liberal is, and stands for, to see if we can find the
cause for those feelings.
Here are some of the things that can be blamed on liberals: If your
workplace is safe, your children can go to school rather than being forced
into labor, you are being paid a living wage, including overtime - you
should blame liberals. If you work a 40-hour week, and have the right to
join a union to bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions - blame a
liberal. If your food is safe to eat, and water safe to drink - blame
liberals. That women and minorities can vote, and people of all races can
share the same public facilities - blame liberals. If we're eligible for
Social Security and Medicare, so we can grow old with dignity and not
bankrupt our kids - blame liberals. If our rivers and lakes are getting
cleaner, and our air isn't black with pollution, if our wilderness is
protected and our countryside is still green - blame liberals. If increased
fairness in taxation (up until three and a half years ago) and expansion of
public education and juvenile justice systems are bad - blame liberals. If
couples fall in love and can marry regardless of race - blame liberals.
Wow! No wonder people don't like them.
Progressive innovations like those mentioned and many others were achieved
by long, difficult struggles against entrenched conservative power. What
defines conservatives and conservatism was their opposition to every single
one of the advances listed above.
But most importantly, I guess liberals stand for progress: moral, economic
and social progress to benefit ALL humanity, not just the rich. The current
national administration is attempting to eliminate or diminish many of those
advancements listed above.
Compassionate conservatism is a contradiction in terms, unless one feels
that millionaires many times over need our compassion.
As a leading progressive has said: " You have to respect the conservatives
for their successful strategy in gaining control of American public life.
Their stated and open aim is to change how our country is governed, to strip
from government all of its functions except those that reward their rich and
privileged benefactors. They're quite candid about it, even about their mean
spirit in accomplishing it. Their leading strategist in Washington, Grover
Norquist, famously says that he wants to shrink the government down to the
size that it could be drowned in a bathtub. More recently, in commenting on the
fiscal crisis in the states and its effect on schools and poor people,
Norquist said, 'I hope one of them (meaning one of the states) goes
"But at least Norquist says what he means, and means what he says. The
White House pursues the same homicidal dream without saying so. Instead of
shrinking down the government, they're filling the bathtub with so much debt
that it floods the house, waterlogs the economy, and washes away services
that have lifted millions of Americans out of destitution for decades. And
what happens once the public's property has been flooded? Privatize it and
sell it at a discounted rate to the corporations."
Oh well. At least the economy is getting better. My question is, for whom?
Business Week magazine recently reported that more jobs were being created,
but they were much worse, lower-paying jobs.
So maybe conservatives are right, and some people are naturally born to
ride, and others to wear saddles. I just heard on the news that the latest
figures from the government show an additional million children living in
poverty and without health insurance....
Maybe Sen. Paul Wellstone had a point..\.. Many things that are good for business and good for the economy are NOT good for people....
[Not really. It's just that progressives have been notoriously diffused, non-strategic and mathophobic about crunching the numbers to prove that what's good for people is also good for business and the economy.]
- The jungle - Under a KPMG benefits-sharing program, staffers can donate vacation hours to co-workers who need extra time to care for a family member wtih a medical condition, by Kris Maher, WSJ, B6.
[Similar concept to Amory Lovins' exchangeable pollution licenses?]
- Europe slips further behind US in competitiveness (update1), by James G. Neuger
(firstname.lastname@example.org) and Andreas Cremer (email@example.com), Bloomberg.
Europe is slipping further behind the U.S. in 'competitiveness' [whatever that is!] as the leaders of Germany, France and Italy, weakened by election setbacks, fail to take advantage of the economic recovery to reduce
taxes and over-regulation.
[But is far ahead of the U.S. in quality of life.]
After lagging U.S. growth through the 1990s [because the U.S. includes all kinds of self-destructive brownie points in its GDP, like prison-industrial growth], European Union leaders
embarked in Lisbon in 2000 on a plan to turn the bloc into what they called
in a joint statement "the world's most competitive knowledge-based
economy" by 2010. Europe has outgrown the U.S. only once since then, in
2001. The EU predicts growth of 1.7% for 2004, compared with an
expected 4.2% for the U.S. For 2005, the EU expects the economy to
grow 2.3%, lagging the expected 3.2% growth rate in the U.S.
President George W. Bush, who is set to win nomination for a second term at
this week's Republican National Convention in New York, is campaigning on an
economy that has added 1.24 million jobs so far this year and a jobless rate
that fell to 5.5% in July. European unemployment was unchanged at a 3
1/2-year high of 9% in June, the latest available figure.
"Unless EU governments start doing their homework, we will never be able
to compete with the U.S.," said Reinhard Kudiss, an economist at the BDI
association of German industry in Berlin, which represents 107,000 companies
including Siemens AG and DaimlerChrysler AG. "Foreign investors will judge
us by the pace of change and we can't afford any more years of standstill."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's plans for cuts in jobless benefits to
curb spending are meeting weekly street protests. France's employers are
hamstrung by a 35-hour workweek. Italy, Europe's most indebted nation, has
promised tax cuts without saying how it will pay for them.
`Gap won't narrow'
"If we keep going forward like this, the gap won't narrow: it will grow,"
Rocco Buttiglione, Italy's European Affairs Minister who will become EU
Justice Commissioner in November, said in a telephone interview in Rome.
"There has to be a strong political will to make reforms and invest in the
Since the beginning of 1999, when the euro was introduced, the Dow Jones
Average has risen 11%. Europe's Dow Jones Stoxx 50 Index has lost 20% in the period.
Europe's economic growth unexpectedly slowed to 0.5% in the second
quarter, as a pickup in exports failed to stoke job creation and consumer
"Governments simply have no choice but to move ahead with economic changes
if they are serious about growth," said Thomas Mayer, chief European
economist at Deutsche Bank AG in London, in a telephone interview. "In the
meantime, companies remain focused on export dealings. That's what you dowhen economic conditions at home aren't good enough."
The parties of Schroeder..., French President Jacques Chirac..., and
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi..., lost support in European
elections on June 13. Schroeder's Social Democrats scored their worst result
in a nationwide election since World War II, polling 23.2%, as voters
protested the jobless rate and the cuts in benefits.
In France, Chirac's allies won 37.4%, lagging the Socialist-led
opposition with 41.6%. Support for Berlusconi's Forza Italia fell to
21%, eight percentage points lower than in the 2001 general
elections, weakening his grip on power as coalition partners demanded more
say over policies including a pensions law and plans to cut taxes.
Germany, the continent's largest economy, abounds with reasons why Western
Europe is losing the competition for investment and jobs to the U.S., China
and India - and the low- tax Eastern European countries that, after
entering the European Union in May, are competing right on Germany's
German labor costs are six times the Eastern European level, according to a
report published on August 24 by the Cologne-based IW research institute. A
corporate tax rate of 37% is almost twice that of neighboring
Slovakia, which now makes more cars per person than any other Eastern
For German corporate standard-bearers such as Siemens and DaimlerChrysler,
the only expansion is abroad. With German unemployment at 10.6%, the
most workers can hope for is to keep their jobs. Munich-based Siemens won an
extension of the work week at two phone factories to 40 hours from 35 hours
at no extra pay after threatening to cut 2,000 jobs there.
Schroeder's law reducing jobless benefits from January 2005, the first cuts
in unemployment welfare since World War II, prompted thousands to take part
in Monday demonstrations throughout August in east German cities including
Leipzig and Berlin. Protesters threw eggs at the chancellor during an Aug.
24 visit to the eastern city of Wittenberge.
Support for Schroeder's Social Democrats was 24% in a survey by
polling company Infratest-Dimap published August 29, compared with 38.5%
in elections two years ago. The poll of 2,500 voters carried a
margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.
`Overdue' welfare cuts
The cuts in unemployment benefits "are highly overdue," Norbert Quinkert,
the head of Motorola Inc.'s German unit, said in an interview. "They will
raise the pressure on the jobless to take up work. The government must not
let up in those efforts."
"Lobby groups, especially labor unions, still exert too much influence, so
that companies' investment plans often get clouded by unnecessary
haggling," said Quinkert, whose company employs 3,500 people in Germany. He
said he gets frustrated with the slowness of decision-making in Europe: "In
the U.S. decisions are simply taken more quickly," he said.
Schroeder said on July 10 that he will focus on putting into practice laws
already passed, rather than trying to win support for more cuts in welfare
or a further easing of labor restrictions. The ruling Social Democrats said
at a party conference yesterday they won't pursue a planned overhaul of
healthcare funding, aimed at reducing compulsory contributions by employers
and workers, until after the next election in 2006.
Industry wants more
German industry says that's not good enough.
[And will thereby undermine what it has.]
"Schroeder's welfare cuts can only mark the beginning of more far-reaching
changes," said Kudiss at the BDI. "New laws on other burning issues - for
instance health, pensions and even taxes are just as important."
As the government puts off further action, there is little to breathe life
into domestic demand, which contracted in the second quarter as exports
drove economic growth.
[All they have to do is cut their workweeks further and further centrifuge vanishing national employment to dynamize the national income by getting it out to the people who spend it immediately, instead of leaving with the people who merely hoard it for 'investment.']
German business confidence dropped for a third month
in four in August as record oil prices threaten to further hurt consumer
"The economic outlook for Germany, then, is pretty grim," said Carl
Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics in Valhalla, New York.
"German companies producing goods and services for the domestic market will
remain in trouble."
[And German companies producing goods and services for the export market will be vulnerable to the competitiveness Race to the Bottom. Export markets you have no control over. Domestic markets you can dynamize by giving your citizens more free time and more-centrifuged national income.]
In France, unemployment rose to 9.9% in June. Chirac's government
says a law reducing the statutory work week to 35 hours from 39 hours has
curbed households' purchasing power, hurt government finances and driven
some companies to relocate abroad.
France's work week
Even so, Chirac said last month he won't revoke the legislation introduced
by the Socialist government that preceded his. Instead, he plans to
encourage labor unions and business federations to come to their own
arrangements as he seeks to prevent companies from moving jobs abroad.
"We need less taxes and more freedom for employers so that they can
negotiate labor rules with their employees," said Jean- Francois Roubaud,
head of France's largest federation for small and medium-size companies, in
a telephone interview in Paris. "We have too many taxes, too many labor
restrictions and France is over-regulated."
Sarkozy seeks change
Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has called for changes to the law and
plans steps to narrow a budget deficit that the government predicts will
exceed the EU's limit of 3% of gross domestic product for a third
year in 2004, after reaching a seven-year high of 4.1% of GDP last
year. He may leave his post to run Chirac's party in November.
"Sarkozy's departure would slow down 'reforms' [our quotes], because he's tenacious,
popular, and has strongly spoken in favor of freezing spending and trimming
the deficit," said Maryse Pogodzinski, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Paris.
France's corporate tax rate is 35%, compared with a median rate of
19% among the eight Eastern European countries that joined the EU on
"The tax pressure on companies and individuals who make money is so heavy
that there is no incentive to invest," said Yves Bouget, founder and
chairman of HF Company, France's No. 1 maker of automated appliances
including interphones and remote control devices for television sets.
"The government needs to reduce taxes on profit," said Bouget, whose
company is based south of Paris in Esvres sur Indre and has units in Spain,
Italy, Belgium and Poland. "One shouldn't be surprised if the French
economy doesn't create value or growth."
In Italy, Berlusconi has resorted to more confidence votes this year than
in any other since coming to power in 2001 in order to get laws through
parliament. In July, he called a confidence vote to pass a bill aimed at
curbing the most expensive state-run pension system in the EU. He has so far
failed to deliver on a three-year-old campaign pledge to cut income taxes.
His government is also stalling on a new corporate governance law promised
after the bankruptcy of Parmalat Finanziaria SpA, the country's biggest food
company. Threats by his coalition partners to pull out of the government led
to the July 3 resignation of Berlusconi's finance minister and ally, Giulio
"Berlusconi's in a very weak position at the moment and is struggling to
hold his government together, never mind passing any important
legislation," said Alessandro Truppia, chief economist at Aletti Gestielle
Sgr in Milan.
"All he cares about now is getting tax cuts through because he knows that
if he doesn't he's killed his chances at re- election," Truppia said. "The
problem is that it's going to be a huge strain on the treasury's
purse-strings. With the economy still weak and the debt being what it is,
cutting taxes now seems very, very difficult."
- Overtime rules dispute is a numbers game, by Steven Greenhouse, NYT (text thanks to Ken Ellis), A10.
[We've had many articles on this.]
As a sous-chef at a premier Washington hotel, James Ware has won acclaim for
creating succulent dishes like rockfish in a Chablis sauce with capers.
But Mr. Ware fears that his inventiveness could cost him dearly, because
under new federal labor rules it might cause him to be classified as a
learned professional, making him ineligible for overtime pay. Since overtime
is often one-third of his paycheck, Mr. Ware is fuming about the new rules,
which the Bush administration put into effect last week.
"It's bad for workers; it seems like a step backward," Mr. Ware said.
Over the past week, the new regulations have become a hot political
subject, as Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has
asserted that six million workers will lose overtime coverage under the
administration's new rules. The Democrats contend that the regulations show
that President Bush is once again rewarding his corporate friends at the
expense of workers.
But the administration insists that the new rules will help workers, not
hurt them, and enable 1.3 million more workers to become eligible for
overtime. Officials argue that the regulations will help employer and
employee by reducing ambiguous language and costly litigation.
"Anyone who looks at this objectively will see this is a tremendous benefit
to workers and is a big benefit to businesses even though they will have to
pay more for overtime," said Howard M. Radzely, the Labor Dept.'s top
The new rules are so complex and the arguments from the two sides so fierce
and contradictory that it is hard to determine how many workers will gain or
lose eligibility. The answer may depend on how aggressively corporations use
the rules to reclassify workers as exempt from overtime, meaning that they
will receive no extra pay when they work more than 40 hours a week.
Many business groups and management lawyers back the administration and say
the rules will cause few workers to lose eligibility. But some nonpartisan
experts, seeing a pro-business tilt in the revised rules, say the
administration is wrong to assert that more workers will gain overtime
coverage than lose it.
"The data isn't there for the Labor Dept. to say 1.3 million workers
will gain eligibility," said John R. Fraser, the federal government's top
wage-and-hour official under the first President Bush and President Bill
Clinton. "By my analysis, under the new regulations, 3, 4 or 5 million
Americans could easily lose overtime coverage."
The new rules, which interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act, apply to
salaried white-collar workers only and spell out criteria to determine which
executive, administrative and professional employees are ineligible for
Mr. Fraser, who headed the Wage and Hour Administration of the Labor
Dept. in the 1990's, estimates that 20% of the nation's 72
million white-collar workers are already exempt from overtime pay, including
many executives and learned professionals like lawyers.
"I would fearlessly predict that under these rules, within three years or
five years, instead of 20% of workers being exempt, it will be 25 or
30%," Mr. Fraser said.
Jay Whitehead, publisher of HRO Today, one of the leading magazines for
human resources executives, agreed that many more workers would be exempted
under the new rules. He said that because of the more expansive criteria,
130,000 more cooks would be exempted as well as 90,000 computer workers and
160,000 mortgage loan officers.
"The administration's numbers are clearly just wrong or they forgot to
include a bunch of people," he said. "There's no question that fewer people
will be eligible. About 4 million people will lose eligibility, 1.3 million
will gain, so the net will be 2.7 million more ineligible."
The nation's corporations would save billions of dollars yearly if millions
more workers lose their right to overtime. With job growth slow and wages
stagnant, labor unions have attacked the rules, asserting that companies
will be able to order more employees to work overtime without paying extra
and that this may discourage companies from hiring more workers.
The Bush administration and many corporate lawyers assert that the
Democrats and unions have systematically misrepresented the effects of the
new rules. They lambaste in particular the Economic Policy Institute, a
liberal research group, for estimating that six million workers would lose
overtime eligibility, an estimate that Mr. Kerry and labor leaders have
invoked repeatedly to criticize President Bush.
"These attacks, which suggest that this is some sort of a partisan effort
to undo overtime, are ridiculous," said William Kilberg, a Washington lawyer
who advises corporations on wage-and-hour matters.
Labor Dept. officials insist that the revamped criteria for who is
ineligible are no more business-friendly than the old rules and prevailing
case law. These officials say the regulations are merely an effort to update
outmoded rules and to eliminate ambiguities that have generated mountains of
litigation over who deserves overtime.
In the biggest pro-worker change, no employee earning less than $455 a week
($23,660 a year) can be exempted from overtime. The old rule, last updated
three decades ago, when the minimum wage was far lower, stated that no
worker earning less than $155 a week could be exempted. The administration
estimates that 1.3 million workers, like once-exempt $11-an-hour assistant
store managers, will become eligible under this provision, although
administration critics say at most 500,000 will.
Another change makes it easier to exempt white-collar workers earning more
than $100,000: the test for exemption has been greatly weakened for this
group. The administration estimates that 107,000 of these high-paid workers
will lose eligibility.
Administration officials say it is too hard to estimate how many workers
earning between $23,660 and $100,000 will lose or gain eligibility, but the
administration's critics insist that millions will. These critics say the
rules are full of revised language that makes it easier to exempt workers in
Critics note that the rules say that chefs with four-year culinary degrees
can now be classified as exempt learned professionals, just like lawyers.
Under the rules, inventive chefs might also be exempted as creative
professionals. Critics also question why the new rules say funeral directors
and athletic trainers can be exempted as learned professionals.
The administration says the courts have already held that funeral directors
and athletic trainers can be exempted as learned professionals because they
often require years of college for certification.
"I think some employers are going to take advantage and try to fit into
some of the loopholes, and some will take an ultraconservative stance to
make sure they don't misclassify anyone as exempt," said Nancy Shallow, a
specialist in employment practices with Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
"And some of these issues are still going to be litigated."
- Overtime increases: survey, The Age, Australia.
The nine-to-five work day grind is a disappearing reality for most
Australian workers required to work increasing amounts of overtime, a new
study has found.
Fifty-two% of Australian companies have seen an increase in the
overtime levels being worked by employees in the past 12 months, according
to a survey of 1,700 Australian companies by recruiter Hays.
Of these companies, 56% said the weekly increase was five hours or
less per week, 24% said it was between 5 and 10 hours, while
7% said it was more than 10 hours per week.
"Five hours or less overtime, whether per week, at month-end or at year-end,
is generally considered a reasonable level of overtime to meet occasional
fluctuating workloads," Hays director Jacky Carter said.
But there was a downside to too much overtime.
"When overtime becomes excessive, or is not recognised or rewarded, it can
lead to lower productivity, lower morale, fatigue-related mistakes and
accidents, higher turnover and increased absenteeism," she said.
"When recognised or rewarded, used effectively and in moderation, overtime
can help increase employee satisfaction as it gives employees an option to
either supplement their income, or take time in lieu ... so it can be a
positive tool for both employers and employees."
- News stories make it clear, the elections must be about the economy, Allentown Morning Call, PA.
The last time a president by the name of Bush faced a Democratic
challenger, "It's the economy, stupid!" became a winning rallying cry for
Bill Clinton. While wars in Vietnam and Iraq are a big part of this year's
presidential campaign, there were three economic stories last week that
should remind voters that this election, too, is about the economy.
Clearly, the economy must be a campaign issue.
First was a disturbing report about the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the
government agency that insures retirement plans.
The Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C., research organization, predicted
that the PBGC's growing deficits soon will require a huge taxpayer bailout.
After taking over 152 private corporate pension plans last year, including
those of the former Bethlehem Steel and US Airways Group Inc., the PBGC had
a deficit of $11.2 billion. Cato says it's only going to get worse.
That's not reassuring to any retiree who has had a pension taken over and
pared down by the PBGC. The trend points in the wrong direction for the tens
of thousands of retirees depending on it. The Cato study says that the
agency's deficit could grow to $18 billion over the next decade, and perhaps
as much as $50 billion.
Financial problems could force PBGC to increase the insurance premiums it
collects from businesses. If that's not enough, then a bailout might be
necessary. One step would increase burdens on business, the other on
taxpayers. It all underscores the growing costs of the nation's aging
population and ultimately raises questions about the health of the Social
Security and Medicare systems. Other than hearing the candidates
occasionally talk for or against privatization of Social Security, there's
been little substantive discussion.
Next was organized labor's outcry when the Labor Dept.'s new overtime
rules went into effect. It made strange bedfellows of AFL-CIO President John
Sweeney and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who faces two challengers this fall.
Sen. Specter says he'll work to repeal the rules.
Labor and Democrats say the new rules will hurt millions of workers.
Business interests and the Labor Dept. say they just clarify antiquated
rules and will have minor effects.
Estimates of the rules' impact vary so much that only time will tell which
side is right. Even so, it provided another pocketbook issue for the
Finally, the Census Bureau reported that 2003 was the third straight year
that the number of poor people and people without health insurance grew.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry linked the data to his
campaign's "two Americas" theme. President Bush said the Census figures
are old and don't reflect 1.5 million new jobs.
- Head of Spain's largest bank calls for an end to Europe's welfare state, by Daniel O'Flynn, World Socialist.
Earlier this year the head of Spain's largest bank said there was not much
time left to destroy what remains of social welfare in Spain.
In a well-publicised leak of his speech at a private lunch of the Financial
Club in Bilbao, "The economic situation in the world, Spain and the banking
market," Alfredo Sáenz told like-minded people from the business and
financial sector that Spain must dismantle the welfare state just as
governments throughout Europe are doing.
Sáenz stated, "We must improve our labour and financial markets
structurally, and accommodate our tax levels to those countries that are
going to compete with us, and we must accommodate our regulatory practice to
much more liberal concepts, or really we are going to have a problem".
He continued, "It is not possible to think that European welfare can
continue, much less after the entrance of the ten new members in the
European Union [on 1 May 2004]... Welfare, I reiterate, it is necessary to
disassemble it and we do not have too much time to do it... The question is
how long we have to do it, and it is not much time, not more than 15 years."
As chief executive of Banco Santander Central Hispano (BSCH), Sáenz echoes
the thinking of the leading representatives of the Spanish bourgeoisie. BSCH
is also the largest banking concern in Latin America and has close relations
with regimes there that have imposed structural adjustment policies that
have produced a social catastrophe in the region. Governments like that of
Lula, in Brazil, who began his political career as a leader of the militant
metalworkers' union, and has now implemented labour "reform" legislation
that makes it easier for employers to fire workers, cut wages and eliminate
benefits, work closely with Santander bank.
The Spanish government in general and BSCH in particular have over the last
period increased their political and economic ties with Latin America to the
tune of US$87 billion. The type of regimes that BSCH works with in Latin
America is being offered by Sáenz as a template for the Socialist Party
government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to emulate.
The Zapatero government's reaction to the speech was typically dismissive,
whilst the Spanish trade unions, the Comisiones Obreras, called Sáenz's
remarks "indecent". The unions declared, "We have to protect the [welfare
state] from liberal hooligans, particularly from the financial world, who
are always willing to sacrifice the welfare of others to ensure their own."
Answering the public furor, Sáenz repeated that though he was not a
politician who must carry out a programme, "It is unquestionable that long
term economic growth is intimately connected with several factors, one of
which, and not less important, is the reforms in the labour market and that
means social security, subsidies, working hours and unemployment benefits."
Sáenz views are common currency throughout the boardrooms of financial and
industrial corporations and government circles in Europe. Magazines such as
Business Week, Time, Newsweek and the Economist all call for the end to the
welfare state and warn that the social conditions of workers in western
Europe should be more akin to those in eastern Europe. There are further
warnings that India, Bangladesh and China still undercut all the above.
Figures on labour costs and hours worked show the scale of the offensive
being prepared by the governments of Britain, Germany, and France, and also
how Spain's traditional advantage over its competitors, of low wages and
long hours, has been undermined.
Placing additional pressure on western capitalist governments are the lower
levels of corporate tax in the new accession countries, and the widespread
tax exemptions available to international investors. The average corporate
tax rate in the ten new EU member states is just 21.3%. Whilst
corporate tax is not the only factor which corporations consider when
switching production to a different country, when the tax is coupled with
production costs the equation becomes clear.
The Economist magazine published a supplement on June 26 called, "The second
transition: a survey of Spain" - the first being the transition in 1975 from
Franco's fascist state to bourgeois democracy. The supplement praised
Spain's "effective democracy", particularly former Prime Minister José Maria
Aznar's programme of economic liberalisation - a euphemism for deregulation
The Spanish economy depends on inward foreign investment. Openness to
foreign investment did not start until the 1980s and developed with a
vengeance in the 1990s under the Socialist Party government of Felipe
Gonzalez, when the phrase "Spain for sale" was coined. Net foreign
investment in Spain trebled from 413 billion pesetas (US$3 billion) in 1983
to 1,235 billion pesetas (US$9 billion) in 1992. Frequently such investment
was made to secure markets and distribution channels through the acquisition
of Spanish companies. In contrast there were relatively few Spanish
Hostility to the attacks on living standards by González's government grew
in the working class. Unemployment reached 25% by 1994, with social
discontent leading to several general strikes as well as large mobilisations
of miners, workers in heavy industry and the public sector, and farmers. By
1996 the ruling class regarded the Socialist Party government as a spent
force - unable to defend its interests in the midst of a rapidly developing
internationalised market economy and to fend off public opposition to its
socially destructive polices.
Aznar's Popular Party was elected in 1996 as a minority government in
coalition with Catalan and Basque nationalist parties. He immediately set
out to further deregulate and privatise the economy, and to make drastic
changes in the labour market. He went some way to achieving this, with a
1997 Pact between the government, employers and the trade unions that made
dismissing workers easier and allowed the greater use of flexible and
temporary contracts. Aznar praised the union leaders for their "enormous
maturity" and for abandoning their "prejudices" for the sake of "consensus".
Faced with a thoroughly compromised "opposition", Aznar was reelected in
March 2000 with an overall majority and brought forward plans to open up
Spain's electricity and gas supply industries to competition. The following
year Aznar, emboldened by the lack of any opposition from the unions, pushed
through further drastic reforms of the Spanish labour market that included
breaking up long held working time regulations, giving employers greater
freedom to tailor shift patterns and hours to the needs of big business.
With the Zapatero Socialist Party now in government, the calls for a "second
transition" refer not just to a continuation of the last government's
policies, but their acceleration. In June the Spanish-based
telecommunication operator Telefónica announced the shedding of 15,000 jobs
in Spain by 2007 as it tries to compete in the global telecommunications
market. It has concentrated its operations in Latin American countries like
Chile, Mexico and Peru, where labour costs are much lower and it can take
advantage of the common language between Spain and its old imperial
In addition, because Spain was once regarded as one of the poorest nations
in the European Union, it received large subsidies. It was the biggest net
beneficiary of the EU's regional funds, to the tune of 8.4 billion euros.
With the introduction of the ten new states into the European Union on May 1
this year, Spain has become a net contributor for the first time. While
Spain is still a low wage economy, it has been undercut by lower wage levels
in Eastern Europe and its subsidies have also gone.
The National Statistical Institute (INE) examined the social fallout from
this whole period for the third quarter of 2003. Its survey shows that 10%
of families had what it called "great difficulty" covering monthly
costs. A further 46% said they were also feeling the pinch. Fully 65%
of those surveyed said they were unable to save any of their income.
Sáenz's speech came only a few weeks before a report from the European Union
showing that in 2003 over 33% of Spaniards had "low quality" jobs and
over a third of employment contracts in the country were temporary. Of these
contracts, six out of ten were of less than six months duration, making
Spain the worst country in Europe in terms of insecure working conditions.
A recent article called "Biting the Bullet" in Business Week explains the
response by companies and governments in Germany, Spain and France to the
drive for global competitiveness - imposing longer hours, lower pay and
destroying welfare and employment protection. Beginning with Germany, the
magazine pointed out, "This dynamic is shaking up not only Daimler[Chrysler
auto] employees, who'll now be working longer hours with no extra pay. In
June, workers at two Siemens telephone equipment factories in Germany agreed
to increase their working week from 35 to 40 hours, after the company
threatened to move jobs to Hungary. Auto maker Seat, which earlier had
shifted some manufacturing from Spain to Slovakia, won concessions from
Spanish unions in May that will require workers to put in extra hours during
peak production, without overtime pay. Even France is having second thoughts
about the maximum 35-hour working week enacted in 1998. On July 20th
employees at a Robert Bosch auto-parts factory near Lyon voted
overwhelmingly to start working an average 36 hours weekly, after the
company said it might move operations to the Czech Republic".
This is not just a catalogue of job losses and speed ups, but an indication
of the offensive that is well under way though Europe and which will gather
pace in Spain despite the weasel words of the PSOE and the trade unions.
- New code sets out pro-family practices at the workplace - Though not legally binding, Govt will use the guidelines as reference point in settling disputes on issues such as maternity leave, by Rebecca Lee, Straits Times, Singapore.
Asking a woman at a job interview if she intends to get married or plans to have children could be a no-no if some members
of a panel which looked into family-friendly practices at the workplace have their way.
The desire to guard against discrimination, whether when hiring or when women are employed, is reflected in guidelines
released yesterday which detail the approaches companies should take towards women who are pregnant and employees with
Panel member John De Payva, president of the National Trades Union Congress, believes it is not right for companies to pry
into the intentions of women when it comes to marriage or children.
HERE'S HOW BOSSES CAN DO THEIR BIT
- Hiring should not be determined by marital or pregnancy status, or number of children, but on aptitude, merit and
- Employees should be allowed paid time-off for medical examinations where it does not compromise work performance.
During maternity leave:
- If a married female employee does not meet conditions for getting statutory maternity leave, employers could grant her
vacation leave and/or no-pay leave.
On return to work:
- Maternity leave should not be used as a reason for assigning women to different duties unless this has been mutually
agreed on, or for valid reasons.
- The maternity leave period should not affect how an employee is assessed for performance-related bonuses and increments or
But whether bosses who do so will discontinue such practices rests largely with working groups being set up to help
companies in different sectors implement the guidelines.
Called the Code of Responsible Employment Conduct, it was drawn up by representatives from the Government, unions and
The release of the code comes in the wake of last week's slew of measures to promote parenthood and raise Singapore's
flagging birth rate. These included extending maternity leave from 8 to 12 weeks, and providing parents of children
below age seven with two days of childcare leave a year.
The code sets out how companies should adopt 'principles of non-victimisation and non-discrimination' when administering
These include how employers should not base their hiring practices on the marital or pregnancy status of women, or the
number of children they have, but on their aptitude, merit and experience.
The maternity leave period should also not affect how an employee is assessed for performance-related bonuses and
increments, or career prospects.
The code also spells out how employees should act - such as providing early notice on how they intend to structure their
Though not legally binding, the Government will use the code as a reference point in settling disputes, the panel said.
The code is part of broader guidelines issued by the panel to encourage companies to adopt family-friendly practices as
doing so may help prompt more couples to have children.
On maternity leave, the panel noted that use of the four additional weeks is flexible, and it can be taken within six months
of the birth of a child.
For example, a mother could return to work after eight weeks on a half-day scheme for a further eight weeks, or go on a
three-day work week until the extra month is used up.
Where employees and bosses cannot agree on how to use the additional period, the default position is for a mother to take a
continuous 12-week period of maternity leave.
Panel member Koh Juan Kiat, executive director of the Singapore National Employers Federation, said six in 10 firms polled
preferred employees to take the 12 weeks at one go.
But smaller firms preferred the flexible option, he added.
The panel also addressed how the two-day childcare leave can be implemented, and urged firms which lag behind others in
providing benefits such as marriage and paternity leave to bring themselves up to industry standards.
Elder-care leave in particular will grow in importance with Singapore's ageing population, the panel noted.
8/27/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 8/26 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #3,5,8 which are from 8/27 hardcopy, & Australian & Far East stories which are 8/27), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- 8/27 Holiday on St David's Day? Don't bank on it, say bosses, by Rhodri Owen, Western Mail via ic Wales, UK.
Talk of introducing up to three new bank holidays have been
given the thumbs down by employers in Wales - despite a survey
revealing that a third of British workers are in favour of getting
another day off to celebrate their annual saint's day.
The TUC [Trades Union Congress] has been campaigning for
three extra public holidays, which would bring the
UK into line with the European average of 11 days.
As the UK prepares to enjoy the August long weekend, an online survey vote
has shown most people would opt for an autumn date for an extra day off.
Employees rank the autumn half-term, their patron saint's day or New Year's
Eve among their top choices for new bank holidays, according to the
The survey of almost 20,000 people revealed 41% would prefer a Monday in
late October for a new bank holiday, while almost a third (32%) plumped for
St George's, St Andrew's and St David's days.
Just over one in 10 (11%) chose New Year's Eve, while others included
International Women's Day (March 8), Trafalgar Day (October 21) and
Armistice Day (November 11).
Unsurprisingly, just 1% of the 19,469 who completed the worksmart poll
thought the UK did not need any additional bank holidays.
Brendan Barber, TUC general secretary commented, "The TUC welcomes Labour's
Policy Forum decision that ministers are committed to change the law so that
bank holidays are taken in addition to annual leave, as they are throughout
the rest of Europe.
"But we want the government to go further and introduce three extra public
holidays. It would be a real vote winner."
The TUC believes there are several reasons why extra bank holidays would
have "no impact" on the economy, including a boost for retail and tourism as
workers enjoy their day off, and a potential reduction in work-related
stress - which it says costs the UK £4.4bn a year.
The organisation has also examined economic growth following the
introduction of the Working Time Directive in 1998, which gave some six
million workers an increase in annual leave.
Mr Barber added, "In the past, bosses have wildly exaggerated the costs of
introducing more bank holidays, but our calculations suggest that the UK can
well afford to bring in extra days.
"If we all were able to take a few extra days off work, rather than losing
out, employers would benefit from less-stressed, more contented, productive
Emma Watkins, head of policy at CBI Wales, begged to differ, however.
Stressing the need to look at the costs to businesses of extra bank
holidays, she commented, "In a competitive economy you have got to be ahead
of other countries in attracting investment and creating jobs.
"This is not the route to full employment or a successful economy.
"Lot's of people already have 20 days off a year without the bank holidays
and people don't always want to be told when to take a day off."
With regard to March 1 becoming an annual holiday in Wales she added, "We
will probably be consulting our members again shortly on this but in the
past the majority have not been in favour of it.
"There are probably more productive ways of celebrating Welshness than a
bank holiday or having a day off."
But John Smith, Labour's Vale of Glamorgan MP, who has been campaigning for
a national holiday in Wales on St David's Day, said the research was "very
"I think we should be proud of our national days, our saints' days," said Mr
"St David's Day is now a huge event throughout Wales. My grandchildren
celebrate it as a very important day and it's right that mum and dad should
be free to help them celebrate.
"It's a known fact that Britons work for longer hours and more days than any
of our European partners and it's a myth to believe that long days and hours
result in greater productivity."
- 8/29 Eliminating child labor, Manila Times, Philippines.
PHILIPPINES - Slavery has commonly been associated with the exploitation and trafficking
of Africans by Caucasians from Europe and America, justified by the ignorant
belief that these people could be rightly enslaved because they were
inferior people due to their dark skin color. Such discrimination could not
long be sustained, being totally bereft of any moral or legal foundation.
Unfortunately, even as the United Nations condemns slavery, there are
countries that continue to consider children as inferior beings without any
human rights, susceptible to exploitation for labor and commercial sex.
Previous laws in this country prohibited employment of children below 15
years old in accordance with International Labor Organization standards.
However, setting 15 as the minimum employable age did not constitute a
panacea to social ills on commercial child sex and labor exploitation.
When Republic Act 7658 provided exceptions to such minimum age standards,
the law opened some floodgates on the exploitation of children in family
businesses and in media entertainment. It also left a legal vacuum on
dangerous or hazardous practices involving the exploitation of children
aged 15 to 17.
In provinces with a pyrotechnics industry, families with minors were
manufacturing powerful firecrackers under the claim that children in the
family were working under the sole responsibility of their parents. The
pyrotechnics magnates were subcontracting the manufacture and production of
firecrackers to families akin to a cottage industry tradition in this
country. Yet the seemingly harmless job of attaching a piece of string to
a firecracker has resulted in the burning of whole villages and the deaths
and mutilation of tender-age children, oftentimes as young as five years
old, whose faces are blown up with firecrackers in their hands.
Also, this country has an active and aggressive movie and television
industry. Children therein were being exploited without proper
compensation, and made to perform during the night until early hours of the
morning. Children in public entertainment or information through cinema,
theater, radio, television and other media forms were not getting adequate
education, sleep, or guidance. And since there were not many guidelines,
these children were being exposed to adult fare and work, which may not be
appropriate to their own moral and spiritual development. Thus, it is not
unusual to find minors as young as 15, sometimes younger, already coming
out in bold, sexy, or titillating movies or television programs that pander
to audience prurience.
As a result of the strong child advocacy emanating from ILO-IPEC (ILO's
International Program for the Elimination of Child Labor) and DOLE's Bureau
of Women and Young Workers, the law was strengthened....
R.A. 9231, the latest Antichild Labor Law, was the country's
Christmas gift to our child workers last year. Its...rules have
become effective this month of August after Labor Secretary Patricia Sto.
Tomas...pushed for its earliest implementation. The law prohibits all forms
of child slavery, debt bondage, serfdom and forced or compulsory labor.
I recall [the findings] of a series of surveillance and
raid operations jointly undertaken by the National Bureau
of Investigation and Kamalayan, a nongovernment agency focusing on child
labor issues. Children aged 10 to 17, including young adults, were
recruited from the provinces and brought to factories and warehouses just
outside Metro Manila. Some factories manufactured toilet cleansers.
Child laborers were made to fill up plastic containers with toxic chemicals
inside container drums by drenching their hands into the chemical
containers. They were not protected with gloves, thus the flesh off their
arms melted. Their fingers and fingernails were mutilated. Some factories
produced ceramic toilets, which had to be extremely clean. So child
laborers were made to keep on wiping the ceramic toilets to keep them
immaculately white and polished. These children complained about their
Chinese employers locking the doors to their sleeping quarters and making
them work for long hours, often 20-hour stretches, without enough time for
sleep and without adequate food and nourishment. These are a few examples
of child slavery in this country....
[So long hours go hand in hand with low pay, sweatshops and child labor. Is this what European CEOs want for their continent?]
- 8/29 French favor easing 35-hour week, Journal du Dimanche poll says, Le Journal du Dimanche p.2 via Bloomberg.
French citizens favor easing rules surrounding the 35-hour workweek in order to keep jobs from moving outside of the country, a poll published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche showed.
The telephone poll of 970 people on Aug. 26 and 27 by market research group Ifop showed 59% in favor of "an easing of the 35-hour week in exchange for the suppression of tax breaks given to companies." 56% of those polled opposed scrapping the law that in 1998 cut the legal work week to 35 hours from 39.
Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a scaling back of the law that was introduced by the previous Socialist-led government to boost hiring and combat unemployment. Sarkozy said two weeks ago he backs "substantial modification" of the law to enable those who want to earn more to work more.
[Cynical Sarkozy probably realizes that any time labor has put money before worktime regulation, employers can gradually, based on ambient labor surplus, both increase their hours and decrease their pay - as some EU CEOs seem to be trying again these days. The USA, however deep in debt and over-extended militarily, will soon have nothing to fear from, or envy in, the EU if these CEOs win out. But of course, that's probably exactly why the US-dominated IMF lobbied these same Euro CEOs to dig this suicidal strategy back out of the dustbin of history.]
- 8/27 PM urges angry unions to protect economic recovery, Expatica, Netherlands.
[This PM's 'angry unions' are protecting his economic recovery - by maintaining the same degree of centrifugation of employment and national income inherent in their current shorter workweek and trying to shorten it further to get further centrifugation and dynamization of monetary circulation. It's all about the marginal efficiency of the concentration of national income.]
AMSTERDAM - Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has appealed to
disgruntled trade unions to exercise restraint in order to allow the early
stages of economic recovery to take root in the Netherlands.
Unions call mass strike against government cuts
Balkenende made the appeal in a letter issued on Thursday in reaction to the
country's main unions who have launched a major offensive this week against
the Dutch government's budget cutbacks.
Union confederations FNV, CNV and MHP began a leafleting campaign in
Amsterdam on Wednesday to protest at the government's cutbacks in relation
to early retirement pensions, WW unemployment benefits and social welfare
and moves to increase the work week from 36 to 40 hours.
There are further protests planned around the country in the run up to the
presentation of the 2005 Budget on Prinsjesdag, the third Tuesday in
September. The campaign will climax with a protest in Amsterdam on 2 October
when tens of thousands are expected to participate.
But Balkenende hit back on Thursday evening in a letter in which he noted
the unions had agreed in talks last autumn not to seek wage increases when
negotiating CAO wage and condition deals with employers.
The prime minister said the unions had also agreed in principle to make
deals further down the track with the government about cutbacks to the WAO
workers disability benefits scheme (with its worrying number of recipients),
early retirement pensions and a workers savings scheme.
"It might appear tempting to avoid taking painful measures, but (if we do
that) one thing is certain: the road to recovery would be twice as long and
doubly difficult," Balkenende wrote.
He said the unions had acknowledged this in a joint declaration issued with
the government following the autumn talks.
Relations soured during the second round of talks in spring this year and
the two sides failed to agree on measures to restrict early pension schemes.
The unions announced afterwards that they would seek pay increases when
negotiating CAO deals with employers.
- 8/27 Hundreds in Delaware register socialist to put SWP on ballot, by John Studer, The Militant, NY.
WILMINGTON, Delaware - In the effort to put the Socialist Workers Party
[SWP] presidential ticket on the ballot in Delaware, 509 people throughout
the state have registered SWP.... "I really like the platform of your party,"
one young woman said outside the Valu Giant store at 4th and Adams in
Wilmington as she registered SWP after reading what the party stands
and fights for. "Especially the demand for a shorter work week to
spread jobs around to all who need them, and to
get the U.S. troops out of Iraq and around the world."...
- 8/27 FairPrice supermarkets' operating profit dips - But net earnings rise 30.7% to $78.9m at group level, by Kalpana Rashiwala, Business Times Singapore.
Reflecting increasingly competitive conditions on the local supermarket
scene, NTUC FairPrice said yesterday operating profit from supermarket
operations dipped by 2.7% to $59.6 million for the year ended March
Revenue at the co-operative level, which comprises the core supermarket
business, increased 5.8% to $1.22 billion, allowing it to maintain
its 57% share of the grocery business in Singapore, according to
FairPrice chairman S Chandra Das....
Asked how the switch to a five-day work week will affect FairPrice, Mr Das
quipped: 'People will have more time for leisure. So I'm convinced they'll
spend more money.' FairPrice will adjust working schedules of employees....
- 8/27 British shop managers are exploited: Working all hours to stay open all
Union Network International, World - 11 hours ago
Many British shop managers and supervisors, under pressure to meet targets
and boost profit margins, regularly work excessive hours that put their
health, safety and family lives at risk.
UNI Commerce affiliate Usdaw and its managerial section Sata is building a
case to present to the UK Government on ending the country's "opt-out"
clause on working time regulations. The United Kingdom stands alone in
applying a policy allowing workers to "opt-out" of the EU's maximum 48-hour
Usdaw has long held concerns that its members, particularly managers and
supervisors, feel pressured into opting-out of the 48-hour week - and then
work excessive hours. The Government's own figures show that 4.5 million
people (25% of the workforce) work more than 48 hours per week, with
one in six workers putting in over 60 hours per week.
As part of evidence that Usdaw will submit to a Government consultation
exercise, ending next month, the union is now canvassing a targeted section
of members. Over 12,000 survey forms are this week being posted to
Usdaw/Sata members in managerial and supervisory positions.
The survey will enable Usdaw to give evidence on how many hours these
members work in an average week, compared to their contractual hours. It
will also show how many members have either been asked or felt pressured to
sign an opt-out of the 48-hour maximum working week.
Usdaw believes the Government's "opt-out" policy leaves workers open to
exploitation. John Hannett, Usdaw General Secretary, said: "The regulations
have provided more than enough opportunities, loopholes, opt-outs and
exclusions to sustain the long hours culture in the UK. We have to tackle
this long-hours culture, because it damages lives and puts health at risk.
"The 48-hour limit on the average maximum working week was not plucked out
of thin air. It was based on extended study of long working hours and
accidents. This demonstrated that the risk of having and causing accidents
due to tiredness increased at a faster rate for all time worked above 48
hours. We need clear limits that are widely understood and rigorously
- 8/27 This is not your mother's feminist movement, by Catherine Blinder, Hartford Courant.
I wouldn't have gone if they hadn't shamed me into it. Yet another women's
march - same speakers, same chants, same nasty anti-choicers on the
sidelines. After 30 years of marching, enough already.
But I did go, driving to the March for Women's Lives in April with the
three shaming women. Two lawyers and a former Olympian who now works at
ESPN, all in their early 30s. As punishment I forced them to listen to
Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline as we made our way down the New Jersey
Turnpike talking about sex, music and politics, my personal holy trinity of
But we spoke about other things, too....
These women are "third wave" feminists, the descendants of those of us who
fought for our rights in the streets, in the schools, in the political
arena, in the workplace and in our homes. They genuinely understand thatthey enjoy the fruits of our labor.
This is a generation born into a world where, in large part because of my
contemporaries, females do authentically have more choices: more access to
education and their choice of profession; more opportunity to play sports
and run for public office; less pressure to marry; more time, and ways, to
have children; and more access to abortion. In short, they feel that while
class and race can continue to limit opportunity, discrimination based on
gender is only marginally less acceptable.
They may have grown up believing that if they studied and worked hard
enough, nothing was impossible. But these are also feminists who won't
challenge a culture of sexual harassment because they don't feel they can
change it. They are practical. Sexual harassment, like a long job commute or
horrendous work hours, is just another hurdle to negotiate on their path to
The Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status
of Women was formed in 1973, one of many state
commissions created to research and address workplace
inequities. It succeeded President Kennedy's formation, in 1961, of the
national Commission on the Status of Women, a legislative initiative that
was disbanded in 1963, shortly after the publication of its first and only
report. The report documented "widespread inequities in the workforce" and
recommended affordable child care, a cessation of discriminatory hiring
practices and paid maternity leave. Eleanor Roosevelt was the chair of the
federal commission for the first year, until her death in 1962. The
Connecticut commission continues to politely challenge the status quo at the
state capitol. Natasha Pierre...is its associate legislative analyst. With a degree in
social work, a legal degree and a major in women's studies, she could most
likely have had her pick of cushy corporate jobs, but she chose work that
fed her desire to contribute to the possibility of creating real change.
"The culture here isn't really different than anywhere else I've worked.
We're expected to work hard because we love it. But unlike some state
agencies, we work long hours because we have to. There is so
much work and so few of us."
She talks about the prevalence, even at a woman's organization, of that
pesky male model of success. Again and again I hear this complaint, yet no
one defines the need for this particular paradigm shift as a feminist issue....
Catherine Blinder of Hartford was PR coordinator for Planned
Parenthood of Connecticut in the late '80s and the Permanent Commission on
the Status of Women until 1994....
- 8/28 Nissan's success extends work week - Canton plant adds 6th day to meet consumer demand, AP via SunHerald.com, MS.
CANTON, Miss. - Nissan Motor Co. will go to two six-day weeks each month through
December at its Canton assembly plant to meet increased consumer demand,
Day and night shifts have been extended to nine hours from eight and
production employees are working two Saturdays a month, mirroring the
production schedule at Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., plant, where the revamped
Pathfinder will be launched this fall.
"The sales volumes are dictating that we make more vehicles," said Galen
Medlin, Nissan Canton's HR director....
Minor changes to upcoming products aren't expected to require more work
hours from employees, Medlin said.
- 8/28 47.3% of salaried workers have health problems, Japan Today, Japan.
TOKYO - A record 47.3% of salaried workers in Japan showed abnormal readings
in their health checkups last year, with liver problems and high blood
pressure being the most prevalent, according to a government survey released
Experts say further deterioration in workers' health, combined with severe
labor conditions, may trigger a rise in life-threatening health problems and
diseases including stroke and heart attack. The ministry attributes the
increase in abnormal health readings to workers spending long hours on the
job combined with a lack of exercise.
- 8/28 Men paid more but work longer, by John Masanauskas, Queensland Sunday Mail, Australia.
Women tend to get lower pay than men because they generally work shorter
hours, research in a new book reveals.
In a blow to feminists claiming gender bias in the workplace, the book says
males often work longer full-time hours than females in the same or similar
What Jobs Pay 2004-05 also found that occupations dominated by men tend to
have longer working hours than those monopolised by women.
The book, based on census and recent labour force data, was written by
Sydney workplace researcher Rodney Stinson.
It found that the top earners were specialist medical practitioners with an
average weekly pre-tax salary of $1851.
Other high earners were pharmacists, dentists, and policy, planning and
Poorest paid were mixed crop and livestock farmers, at $402 a week,
followed by hairdressers and fast-food cooks.
Mixed crop and livestock farmers also had among the longest hours of any
job, with 77% working at least 49 hours a week. Caravan park and
camping ground managers, hotel and motel managers and animal trainers also
worked long hours.
Jobs with high female participation, such as library assistants, office
trainees and switchboard operators, had working weeks of 35 to 40 hours.
Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward has raised the issue of
equal pay for women, and Opposition Leader Mark Latham has pledged a Labor
government would help fund equal-pay cases in industrial tribunals.
But Mr Stinson said the extent of working hours was often overlooked in the
"It is a fact that males, on average, have longer working hours in
full-time jobs than do females across the occupational spectrum," he said.
He said that non-professional jobs with very long working hours tended to
have low pay.
"Of the 20 occupations with the longest hours, 18 are overwhelmingly male
and the other two (lawyers and education managers) have a reasonable and
growing number of females," he said.
Another workplace survey has revealed that it is the amount of on-the-job
training that matters most to one-in-three Australians.
An online survey of 1280 Australian workers found 41% of employees
receive no training and development opportunities.
Proving it's not always the bottom line that counts, the survey found
32% of employees would rather receive training than a pay rise,
while 14% said training was not important.
But the boss should foot the bill for their job related training, 73 per
- 8/28 Magic Valley businesses sort through new overtime rules, by Megan Hinds, Twin Falls Times-News, ID.
TWIN FALLS, Id. - Kristen Peterson won't earn overtime pay anymore as a loan
officer for First Federal Savings Bank in Twin Falls. But Peterson doesn't
mind - she says the change gives her more flexibility in her job.
As a worker in the financial services industry who makes more than $455 per
week, Peterson's job classification changed slightly on Monday. That's when
new regulations enacted by the U.S. Dept. of Labor took effect,
classifying Peterson as an "administrative" employee - exempt from earning
premium overtime pay if she works more than 40 hours per week.
"I might not get overtime, but I don't have to worry about clocking in and
out anymore," Peterson said. "It gives me a little more freedom with my
Before the rules took effect, Peterson worked a standard 40-hour week as a
salaried employee and was required to clock in and out for each shift. But
Peterson's hours depend on how busy she is - mortgage loan officers tend to
work longer hours when interest rates are low and shorter hours when rates are higher, she said.
When Peterson worked longer than 40 hours in a week, she was eligible for
overtime. But she says she didn't count on earning overtime and didn't
depend on it as part of her salary.
"It was just kind of a bonus," Peterson said. "I don't mind working extra
In order to comply with the new federal regulations, First Federal Savings
Bank had to re-evaluate the overtime qualifications for 19 of the bank's 155
employees, said Mike Traveller, the bank's senior vice president controller.
Six loan officers, including Peterson, were affected by the new rules.
"We've basically had to take a look at every job title and go from there,"
How the law works
The rules enacted last week change employer guidelines concerning which
employees are eligible to receive overtime - and which ones aren't.
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires most U.S. employees be paid at least
the minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at "time and a half" the regular pay rate for all hours worked over 40 in the work week.
Under the new regulations, workers who earn less than $455 per week, or
$23,660 per year, will be able to collect overtime pay, regardless of their
job duties. Previously, the weekly salary limit had been $155 per week, or
$8,060 per year.
In some cases around the country, that higher threshold affected managers in
fast-food and other services. But managers at the franchised McDonald's
restaurants in Magic Valley earn more than $23,660 per year, co-owner Bill
Kyle said. So they won't get fatter paychecks for longer weeks under the new rules.
The more complicated part of the law involves workers who make between
$23,660 and $100,000.
The law provides employers an exemption from paying minimum wage and
overtime to certain "white collar" employees working in executive,
administrative, professional and outside sales positions. The rules also
affect some computer employees. Under an exemption, employees generally must
meet certain tests regarding their job duties and pay.
For example, to qualify as an administrative employee as in Peterson's case,
all of the following tests must be met:
Idaho Commerce & Labor has received a number of calls from concerned
workers regarding the change in the laws, said Ken Flatt, labor relations
supervisor for the wage and hour section of the state department.
"Everyone's looking for more information," Flatt said. "Everybody's heard
it's changing, but no one knows what's going on."
He said Idaho Commerce & Labor has been referring those with questions to
the U.S. Labor Dept.'s Web site.
- The employee must be compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate not
less than $455 per week, or $23,660 per year.
- The employee's primary duty must be the performance of office or
non-manual work directly related to the management or general business
operations of the employer or the employer's customers.
- The employee's primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and
independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.
Not changing nurses' pay
One Magic Valley business, Magic Valley Regional Medical Center, has not
re-evaluated its employees' classifications and salaries, even though the
law says it can.
Under the new FLSA regulations, registered nurses who are registered by the
Idaho state examining board can be considered "learned professionals" and
can be exempt from overtime premium pay. Registered nurses at Magic Valley
Regional meet the criteria, said Samantha Lopez, the hospital's
administrative director of human resources.
But she said the new regulations won't have any impact on how the hospital
pays any of its employees, including nurses. The national health-care
industry continues to face a nursing shortage, she said, and most hospitals
won't stop compensating nurses for their long hours.
"There's a long-standing industry practice of paying overtime, particularly
to registered nurses," Lopez said. "If a hospital (stopped paying overtime),
nurses would go somewhere else."
Freedom for funeral directors?
Another Magic Valley business applauds the new regulations but says the laws
don't quite reach far enough to affect its workers.
Under the new overtime regulations, funeral directors and embalmers who meet
certain state license and educational requirements are considered "learned
professionals" and exempt from receiving overtime.
But the federal regulations don't apply to funeral directors and embalmers
in Idaho, said John Head, regional manager for Alderwoods Group, which owns
White Mortuary, Reynolds Funeral Chapel and Sunset Memorial Park in Twin Falls.
State laws vary on how much training is required to be a licensed funeral
director or embalmer. In Idaho, students must complete three years of formal
training and a year of apprenticeship, Head said.
The federal guidelines only apply to funeral workers who have completed four
years of formal training; therefore, the new overtime regulations don'tapply to funeral workers in Idaho who aren't managers, Head said. The
federal law only applies to funeral workers in Ohio and Minnesota, he said.
The funeral industry is extremely unpredictable, and making funeral workers
exempt from overtime would allow funeral directors better freedom in
managing the time of their employees, Head said.
"If an employee could work 50 to 60 hours one week and then take a few days
off the next week for (compensation) time, it's just an easier way to manage
your people," he said.
The National Funeral Directors Association is lobbying to amend the
regulations to include more funeral workers.
Times-News business writer Megan Hinds can be reached at 735-3238 or
New federal rules governing overtime pay went into effect last week. Here's
how the rules can affect businesses and their employees.
Q: What do the rules do?
A: The new rules are the first major update in more than 50 years to the
Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes overtime laws. Those laws ensure
that certain workers get extra pay - "time and a half" - for every hour
beyond a 40-hour week.
The new regulations from the U.S. Dept. of Labor are mainly aimed at
revising overtime pay for white-collar workers.
Q: Who will benefit?
A: Many lower-wage earners are more likely to get overtime under the
changes. That's because the regulations set a new "salary threshold" for
determining who gets overtime. Workers who earn less than $455 per week, or
$23,660 per year, will now be able to collect overtime pay, regardless of
their job duties. Previously, the weekly salary limit had been $155 per
week, or $8,060 per year.
Government officials say the rules mean 1.3 million workers who haven't been
eligible for overtime will be able to get the extra pay. And another 5.4
million workers whose overtime was in question will now be guaranteed
overtime, the Labor Dept. says.
Q: Who will lose out?
A: Employees who earn more than $100,000 annually and who perform some
executive, professional or administrative job duties, as defined by the
federal government, will be among those exempt from overtime.
Opponents of the regulations say some nurses, nursery school teachers, store
and restaurant managers, chefs, computer workers, funeral directors,
pharmacists, journalists, mid-level bank managers and dental hygienists who
earn between $23,660 and $100,000 annually could become exempt from
receiving overtime. Most employers are working to figure out who's entitled
to what on a case-to-case basis.
Estimates vary widely regarding how many workers will lose overtime.
Government officials say an estimated 107,000 white-collar workers earning
$100,000 or more who have been eligible for overtime will lose it. The
labor-backed Economic Policy Institute estimates that more than 6 million
people across the pay scale will lose their overtime, as employers work to
reclassify workers under the new rules.
Q: Who's not affected?
A. The exemption does not apply to manual laborers or other "blue-collar"
workers, like non-management employees in production, maintenance,
construction and similar occupations such as carpenters, electricians,
mechanics, plumbers, iron workers and craftsmen. Those workers are entitled
to minimum wage and overtime premium pay no matter how highly paid they
Police, firefighters and other first responders, including correctional
officers, parole or probation officers, investigators, paramedics and
emergency medical technicians are not exempt from minimum wage and overtime
Farm workers also are not affected - they're still considered exempt.
Q: What businesses aren't covered?
A: Employers may be exempt from the new regulations if their revenue is
below $500,000 a year and they don't participate in interstate commerce.
Q: What has the reaction been?
A: While many employers and business groups welcome changes to a federal law
they say is outdated and confusing, labor unions and some Democraticpoliticians say the regulations will take away overtime from workers,
especially those who earn between $23,660 and $100,000.
Q: What if employers don't comply?
A: The Labor Dept. will enforce the law and can collect back wages for
overtime violations. Companies also risk costly lawsuits from employees.
Q: Is every state required to comply?
A: No, the overtime rule changes don't affect 18 states with wage and hour
laws that already abide by stricter rules than the federal government's -
in those cases, the states' rules apply.
Those states are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut,
Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, North
Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Q: How can I learn more?
A: Information is on the Labor Dept.'s Web site, www.dol.gov/esa/whd/.
Click on "Fair Pay."
Sources: USA Today, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Knight-Ridder News Service
- 8/28 Voices fail among call-centre workers, by Steve Bloomfield, Independent, UK.
Call-centre workers are suffering from a new industrial disease: repetitive
voice injury. According to the Royal College of Speech and Language
Therapists, increasing numbers of call-centre workers are being referred to
speech therapists because they are losing their voices.
Long hours and little opportunity for even a drink of water are behind the
"disease". "It's a growing problem," said Paul Carding, a professor of voice
pathology and national adviser to the college. "There is increasing evidence
of people taking time off because if they can't use their voice they can't
work. At its most severe these people can't hold down a job. They have
pushed their voice to the absolute limit. In some cases, voices really
struggle to recover."
Teachers remain the most common professional group to require speech
therapy, but call-centre workers have now become the fastest growing "at
Nearly 800,000 people work in the call-centre industry in the UK, even
though many high-profile companies have outsourced their call centres to
India, including HSBC. National Rail Enquiries outsourced half its calls to
India earlier this year.
But the call-centre industry denies that "call centre-itis" is a real
problem. Ann-Marie Forsyth, director of the Call Centre Association, said:
"This is not an issue specific to call centres. But we encourage members to
be aware of all the risks surrounding the occupation, and organisations need
to make sure that water is available throughout the day."
- 8/28 Consumerism: A subtle corroder of virtue - Psychologist tells how Christians can resist materialism, Zenit News Agency via Zenit.org, Italy.
UNIONTOWN, Ohio - Jesus Christ spoke out against greed more than any other vice.
[An interesting claim - data?]
But despite those warnings, Christians are still incredibly susceptible
to the allure of a materialistic lifestyle, says a Catholic psychologist.
Dr. Ray Guarendi, author, radio host and father of 10, told ZENIT how
Christians in the West are plagued by consumerism and what damage
greed can do to Christian marriages, families and individuals.
Q: Those in a free society are awash in choice in virtually all aspects of
life: housing, employment, appearance, relationships, possessions. What
would you say are the major areas where consumerism has deeply affected
Christians' behavior - without them realizing it?
Guarendi: Consumerism seems to me to be the Number 1 corporate sin of
Christians - it's the sin that affects the most of us the most. We are
simply so deep into it we don't see it anymore.
Our desire for stuff supersedes everything. We are distracted, owned,
tempted and seduced by it. We simply think less of God and more of "it" -
it consumes more of our waking moments than God. That may be why our Lord
spoke more of greed in the New Testament than anything else....
Because of the degree we want stuff, we have to work. That means that Daddy
and sometimes Mommy are away from home all day so that they and their kids
can have everything they want. This leads to what I call the "working parent
Moms often don't want to work, but think they have to work because of
spending habits in the family. They are tired when they come home, they feel
guilty about not spending enough time with their children and they are
hesitant to spend that little time punishing their kids for misbehaving.
That affects their resolve to discipline and be, in effect, parents. If
parents are working long or extra hours, they can't supervise their
children; their kids are on their own to raise themselves....
- 8/28 Car wars test mettle of Germany - A union dispute at Volkswagen is the litmus test for a nation's economic guru, by Peter Beaumont, The Observer via Manchester Guardian, UK.
WOLFSBURG, Germany - At the end of Porsche Strasse there looms the raison d'être for the Lower Saxony town of Wolfsburg. Four chimneys tower over the Mittelland Canal. Below them is fixed a giant marque. It reads VW, for Volkswagen.
The home of Europe's biggest car manufacturer, a short drive off the
autobahn that links Hanover with Berlin, would be an unremarkable little
town. Except that Wolfsburg has become a metaphor for Germany's struggle to
reinvent itself after almost two decades of industrial sclerosis.
This symbolism can be summed up by one man - a figure more closely
associated in the minds of German workers with the pains of reinvention than
even Chancellor Gerhard Schröder: VW's director of personnel, Peter Hartz.
The employment guru, and author of Job Revolution - picked by Schröder to
head his commission to reduce Germany's vast welfare budget, staggering
under unemployment of 4.6 million - has become a lightning rod for all the
merging tensions in German society: between unions and management;
government and governed; east and west; right and left.
The recommendations of his Hartz Commission - to encourage the long-term
unemployed back to work - are behind four weeks of growing anti-Schröder
'Monday demonstrations' that started in the east and have spread to over 140
German cities. The tough prescription has led to puns on Hartz's name with
hart - or 'hard'.
Under a provision known as Hartz IV, Germany's once-generous unemployment
benefits will be cut to a single year from three. Jobseekers must then find
employment or apply for a new, lower, means-tested benefit that will even
take into account the amount of children's savings.
These are measures so controversial that they have triggered a growing
political crisis within Schröder's own governing Red-Green coalition,
confronted with an almost devastating collapse of support for Schröder's ownSPD, and threats against him by the more left-leaning in his party -
including former leader 'Red' Oskar Lafontaine - to form a separate group.
It is not only in the area of welfare reform that Hartz's name has emerged
as a byword for controversy. In Wolfsburg too he has stirred up anger in the
workforce, with an announcement last week that VW, faced with declining
profits, was seeking a two-year wage freeze among its 175,000 employees as
part of plans to reduce labour costs by 30% by 2011. The plan was
immediately rejected by the powerful IG Metall union - setting up what some
fear could be a bitter confrontation between the union and the management.
And so last week Hartz became the symbol of two converging forces that
confront Germans with an unenviable choice: to work harder for less money or
to risk losing their jobs to factories overseas and face a tough new
Rainer Redweik is a Volkswagen computer operator who collates exhaust
emission reports in the Wolfsburg works. A union member, he is intelligent,
cautious and pragmatic as he articulates worries about the Catch-22
confronting workers, switching between concerns over Hartz's plans for
Volkswagen's workforce and his concern over Hartz's recommendations for the
He can see the challenges confronting German industry from globalisation
and cheaper manufacturing overseas, although he questions whether their
product is the same quality. He sees the need for welfare reform, but is
horrified by some of the remedies suggested. And he admits that he is
baffled by what he calls 'the politics of Volkswagen'.
'I don't understand it,' says Redweik. 'They want to take away our money,
yet share-holders will still get theirs. And the management will still be
getting good money.' He complains too about a plan for newer employees to be
paid less than longer-term workers for identical jobs
When he switches to the welfare reform agenda, his feelings are more mixed.
He is scandalised at a proposal to count the savings of children of the
unemployed towards their parents' assets but agrees that with so many out of
work, some cuts are inevitable and even 'positive'.
But if he articulates one thing, it is uncertainty about the future - the
same poisonous uncertainty that is demolishing support for Schröder. What
men like Redweik can see around them is a slow unravelling of Germany's
post-war social accord, amid the ever-declining power of the trade unions
which contributed so much to the social stability in western Germany since
...Redweik was born into a generation that expected the
union-protected guarantees of the generation before: an apprenticeship that
would prepare the worker for a job for life; 8-hour shifts; a shortening
work week and the Lohnfortzahlung, which would ensure his pay would continue
in case of illness.
Since the Fifties these unions had fought for a working week
ever-shortening towards 35 hours, and collective bargaining agreements that
bound whole industries. Their influence went beyond that. In 1998 they
helped to propel Schröder into power, organising rallies, helping his
election effort and spending millions on advertising.
But even as he was elected, trade union power was in a deep decline. A
membership that peaked at almost 12 million following reunification has now
lost more than a third of its members. Of those that remain, up to a third
are pensioners while the average member - like Redweik - is male, educated
and over 40.
In the past 12 months German management has begun to reverse a half-century
of union gains, beginning in the east when IG Metall was defeated in a
strike designed to bring work hours down from 38 hours to the 35-hour norm
in western Germany.
Managements have since forced two high-profile settlements - at
DaimlerChrysler and Siemens - where workforces agreed to work longer hours for no extra money to save jobs moving abroad, setting the scene for the
showdown between Volkswagen and IG Metall in September.
Jörg Köther, one of the IG Metall officials involved in negotiations with
Hartz and Volkswagen, feels industrial action is almost certain in a case he
contends will have ramifications across Germany if his union loses its claim
for a 4% wage rise and guarantees of full employment, rejected in
Volkswagen's hard-nosed pre-emptive bid.
But Köther paints a more sympathetic picture of Hartz: 'For most people now
demonstrating in Germany against his welfare recommendations the simple view
of Peter Hartz now is that he represents both the management pressure on one
side to bring down wages and an attack on welfare benefits on the other. But
it is more complex than that. He was always one of the more progressive
managers - although not easy for the unions to deal with.
'When I hear what he has to say now it sounds not like Peter Hartz, but the
company's board that is speaking.'
Köther is convinced the dispute is important because of managements' desire
to take on the unions. 'If we lose at Volkswagen,' he said, 'every other
company in Germany will do the same.'
He is certain of another thing. When Schröder's party goes to state
elections in the autumn and afterwards, IG Metall's 2.5m members, 'upset and
angry' at his betrayal, will no longer help him.
'What happens in Wolfsburg with the Volkswagen negotiations will have a
significant impact for Germany,' agrees Dr Martin Werding, director of
social policy and labour markets at the Ifo Institute in Munich.
'Germany has seen 20 years of relatively poor economic performance, lagging
behind our competitors. For 20 years we have reduced our working hours and
that trend has not been matched by a reduction in compensation for workers.
Now we have the world record for pay per hour worked.
'The reason it is being addressed now is because our economic crisis is
becoming more and more visible with the problem of massive long-term
Werding believes this has caused the convergence of the two issues: tough
welfare reforms and a move to drive down wages. But one thing worries him.
'The unions do not have a clear strategy. They do not understand how things
have changed in Germany in the past 30 years.'
And if a premonition was needed in Wolfsburg about the likely trajectory of
September's negotiations, there is a poster pasted on the town's walls. It
is for a grand arm-wrestling competition. Its sponsor is Volkswagen.
- 8/29 Power workers defiant in fight for conditions, by Dave Andrews, Green Left, Australia.
FREMANTLE, Western Australia - Power maintenance workers based in Collie, near Bunbury in Western Australia's south-west, are continuing their strike for better working
conditions. The strike by 110 workers, now entering its eighth week, has
provoked a bitter response from their employer, United KG, and the chief of
Western Power Tony Iannello.
United KG is a principal maintenance contractor for Western Power. The
workers began their industrial action after negotiations for increased pay
rates and reduced hours broke down. Talks in the Australian Industrial
Relations Commission (AIRC) stalled. The striking workers have defied the
commission's return-to-work ruling three times, and are demanding that their
right to strike be agreed to before a resumption of work....
- 8/29 Internet free speech laws, Chapter Whatever, by Jon Ann Steinmetz, Mercury News via Pioneer Press, MN.
...Here's a quick rundown [on last week], culled from reports by our staff and wire services.
Monday - ...In a decision that could expose US-based websites to free-speech laws of other nations, [the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals] found that Yahoo could not escape legal action in France for violating a French ban on the sale of Nazi-related items....
Wednesday - Long hours are nothing new in this valley, but this is something else altogether: A building services contractor used by Target to provide
overnight cleaning at its discount stores in California and four other
states will pay $1.9 million in back wages to 775 employees following
charges the company broke federal overtime laws. And by breaking laws, we
mean employees working seven days a week, eight hours and more a day,
without being paid overtime as required by federal law.
- 8/29 International headline news, Philippine Daily Inquirer via CNA via Taiwan Headlines, Taiwan.
MANILA, Philippines - ...The Gov't to cut perks, trips, overtime pay. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is preparing to sign an executive order that will implement austerity measures ranging from suspending overtime pay and new benefits for government employees to cutting down on foreign travel, seminars and parties in all government agencies, according to Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye....
[And slightly longer -]
8/29 Arroyo to cut perks for civil servants, Straits Times, Singapore.
MANILA - Philippine President Gloria Arroyo is preparing to sign an
executive order that will implement austerity measures for civil servants.
These will range from suspending overtime pay and new benefits to cutting
down on foreign travel, seminars and parties in all government agencies,
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said yesterday.
'These measures are expected to generate savings that will in turn be
earmarked for the most vital and urgent pro-poor projects,' he said.
Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin said the executive order would target
savings of 10% in government salaries and overhead costs, including
savings of 400 million pesos (S$12 million) in its energy bills.
- 8/29 The NovaScotian - Atlantic Canadians work too hard, by Harry Bruce, Halifax Herald, Canada.
Not long after Stephen Harper knocked "the culture of defeat" in
Atlantic Canada, and thereby buttressed the hoary and snotty notion among
inland Canadians that we down-homers are the shiftless leeches of
Confederation, a Health Canada survey of 32,000 workers proved that
Maritimers and Newfoundlanders, compared to workers in every other region in
the country, work the longest hours - an average of 44.5 a week - and the
most unpaid overtime.
"If I had a business looking for hard-working and committed workers," said
Linda Duxbury, the Carleton University professor who prepared the study,
"I'd go to the Maritimes."
- 8/29 It's good to work - Ask the French, The Western Mail via ic Wales, UK.
As the summer holidays come to a close and weary parents sigh with blessed
relief as the new school term looms fast on the horizon, business joins in
the celebrations at the prospect of a full capacity workforce after the
countless absences and reduced productivity of the holiday season.
And, while this summer may have lacked the hosepipe ban we have been
accustomed to in recent years, with sun firmly refusing to put its hat on,
it seems the thoughts of workers have turned to sunnier climes and the
prospect of joining our continental cousins in a more leisurely pace of life.
According to research by recruitment company Manpower, 82% of British
workers would now consider working abroad - with the working practices of
our European neighbours most envied including shorter working weeks,
leisurely siestas and extended bank holidays.
It seems that for the 813 people surveyed by Manpower their holidays abroad
gave them a taste for the good life - with almost a third saying they'd like
25 days minimum annual leave, like our Austrian counterparts. A further 27%
would like to adopt the French working style of a 35-hour maximum working week.
A sleepy 19% would most like to see Spanish-style afternoon siestas
introduced to their work regime, and a further 17% would choose to have 14
bank holidays a year, emulating the Portuguese.
But, it seems that while we stare enviously at workers across the Channel,
an altogether more unusual battle is being fought by European businesses
staring enviously back - the right to work.
The cause of this conflict lies in the continental adherence to European
working time rules - the rigid implementation of the 35-hour week,
particularly in countries like Germany and France.
So bad has the situation become that a host of leading businesses, including
the likes of Bosch, Renault and Siemens, are threatening to pick up sticks
and move elsewhere, unless some form of compromise can be reached.
The 35-hour rule has caused an explosion in public sector employment. Yet,
while proponents of the reduced hours practice have suggested similar growth
in the private sector, unemployment figures have shown the opposite, public
sector budgets are soaring and business is claiming to be losing billions.
In France, where the problem is particularly acute, Finance Minister Nicolas
Sarkozy has said working hours restrictions are costing the country £10.6bn
a year, while French employers' organisation, Medef, has put the cost at
somewhere nearer £33bn.
The French SME sector has been particularly troubled, with 93% of 1,000
bosses in small firms recently surveyed stating they would like to see the
restriction on staff working hours relaxed.
And, it's not just the bosses of firms crying out for change. According to a
poll conducted by French business magazine L'Expansion, French workers
themselves want things to change, with over 60% of employees believing the
working hours cap penalises French companies. More than 50% of those
surveyed also believed that the rules were encouraging companies to relocate
abroad, and 36% called for a return to France's traditional 39-hour working
So, fresh from our summer hols, we might cast an envious eye at our lesser
working European comrades and yearn to share in their more relaxing pace of
working life, but at what price?
It seems as though high unemployment, lost productivity and spiralling costs
have left those on the continent with the clear impression that something
isn't working and that perhaps, after all, it's good to be working!
- 8/29 Is your job making you sick?, by Michael J. Weiss, Better Homes & Gardens.
Longer hours, tougher goals, less time with family, fear of unemployment,
technology that keeps us on call 24-7 - work pressure is creating an
epidemic of stress-related job illness.
The demanding workplace
Melissa Belkin needed a break - badly. It was nearly noon, but the
30-year-old special education teacher knew she wouldn't be able to sit down
for a civilized lunch. With her class of 17 learning-disabled third- and
fourth-graders at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Rockville, Maryland,
it was all she could do to keep her charges focused on a writing lesson.
Belkin did manage to scarf down a low-carb yogurt as she graded a mound of
test papers at her desk, but her actual lunch break was spent making
arrangements for a class trip and calling other teachers to get donations
for a retiring colleague's gift.
"I never have a quiet moment," says Belkin, a married mother of a
6-month-old girl. "I love my job, but by the time I leave, I'm ready to
As many Americans know, on-the-job stress is hardly limited to the
blackboard jungle. More employees are trapped in a pressure cooker of long
hours, crushing workloads, tight budgets, and demanding bosses who are also
under the gun. Commutes are longer than ever before (the average slog has
increased 16% since 1990). And the specter of unemployment still
looms: Even though the recession officially ended three years ago,
downsizings and layoffs are still routine.
"There's nothing you can do about the economy, and you can't complain too
loudly about it to your boss," says Frank Kenna III, president of The Marlin
Company, a workplace communications firm in North Haven, Connecticut.
"People feel helpless."
And while we're not happy about toiling harder than before - some 14% of American workers hold two or more jobs - many fear that doing any less will jeopardize their positions. That chronic strain can take a heavy toll on body and soul, causing everything from higher absenteeism and depression to headaches and heart disease. Compounding the pressure is the growth in globalization.
Although the exodus of U.S. manufacturing jobs began decades ago, today's
outsourcing of white-collar jobs threatens the livelihood of 14 million
people, according to a recent study by the University of California.
"Everyone is anxious and uncertain," says Marcus Courtney, president of the
Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, a Seattle-based union of
high-tech employees. When the group recently surveyed more than 400 workers
nationwide, it found that one in five had trained, or knew someone who'd
trained, replacement workers from such countries as India, China, and
Russia. The unsettling message to U.S. workers: No job is safe.
- 8/30 GM's Opel is asking workers for longer hours, news pointer (to A3), WSJ, A1.
[Don't they mean pushing workers for longer hours? Here's the WSJ target's mild headline -]
GM, Ford step up efforts to reduce costs in Europe, by Stephen Power, WSJ, A3.
[And here's the Times version -]
8/28 Germany: Opel opens [hour &] wage talks this week, Reuters via NYT, B3.
The German carmaker Adam Opel...wants to freeze workers' pay through 2009 and extend the workweek to 40 hours from 35 without raising wages, a company official said. The works council, which represents the unionized employees, has said it hopes to secure jobs until at least 2010 with "flexible and innovative solutions," but declined to comment on a report that the company wanted longer hours. Opel, the German unit of GM and its largest European brand, is seeking concessions from workers to "increase competitiveness" [our quotes]. GM lost $504m last year in Europe.
[And AP's version -]
8/27 Report: GM's Opel to push for 40-hour work week for German employees, AP via MLive.com, MI.
FRANKFURT, Germany - Automaker Adam Opel AG is proposing increasing the
work week for its German employees to 40 hours from 35 hours to save money,
according to a report Friday.
German daily Bild, citing an internal memo, said Opel was calling on its
32,000 employees in Germany to work a 40-hour week without extra pay, to
forego pay raises until 2009 and to do without traditional Christmas
The German unit of General Motors Corp. has set out "wide-ranging savings
possibilities" ahead of talks with its works council, spokesman Ulrich Weber
said, but declined to offer details.
The cost-cutting efforts come as a number of large German industrial firms,
faced with a sluggish economy at home and competition from lower-wage
countries, pressure their employees for concessions such as longer working
Last month, DaimlerChrysler employees agreed to give up a planned raise in
2006 in exchange for job security through 2012 at the company's plant in
Earlier this week, Opel's works council said it hoped to secure jobs in
Germany until at least 2010 with "innovative and flexible solutions." It
said it also wanted to guarantee existing wage levels for the employees.
GM Europe's No. 2 executive, Carl-Peter Forster, said in July that his
company needs 100 million euros ($121 million) in savings from its employees
On Friday, GM shares fell 15 cents to close at $41.75 on the New York Stock
- 8/29 The wrong way to shorten the work week, by Carl F. Horowitz, Mises.org.
It's become a common refrain: American workers are badly overworked, driven to a loss of leisure, sleep and possibly sanity
by their material and status obsessions. By instead emulating the Europeans, we would be better rested, more productive, and
have more time for family and other relationships.
That's been a semi-official slice of conventional wisdom, at any rate, roughly since the publication of Juliet Schor's
Overworked American more than a dozen years ago. In her book, Schor concluded that after subtracting work, commuting, sleep
and household chores, American adults on average have only 16 hours a week of free time on their hands.
But a few subversive questions might crop up amid one's fighting rush hour traffic and complying with the boss's directives:
Could it be that many of our workers see themselves as underworked? And in any event, is it the job of government to decide
upon an appropriate length of a workweek?
The French (and European) dilemma: so much work, so little time
[Ah, don't they mean so little work, so little training, such weak consumer demand, and so much idle labor time?]
In France increasing numbers of people are taking such questions seriouslyand in a hurry. It was just four years ago that
millions of Frenchmen were applauding the enactment of a mandatory 35-hour workweek ceiling. Known as the Aubry Law, after
former Minister of Labor Martine Aubry, its backers argued the measure would generate jobs and reduce unemployment. (Long
ago, back in the mid-1930s, France, under the socialist government of Leon Blum, had established the 40-hour workweek.) Yet
during this decade that nation's unemployment rate has continued to hover at around 10%.
Recent polls show that two out of three French workers favor repealing the law.
At least one major company is practicing open defiance. Bosch, the electric appliances giant, recently raised its workweek
from 35 to 36 hours. Company officials at the firm had warned that in absence of such action they might have to move
operations to the Czech Republic, where wages are far lower.
The French government, with a long history of capitulating to the country's powerful labor unions, is now in a bind. If it
refuses to act, it risks the likelihood of other firms defying the law. But if the government goes after violators, it risks
a massive flight of capital. President Jacques Chirac and his cabinet have announced they want "more flexibility" in setting
work hours. That's a nice way of saying that they don't really like the Aubry Law, but can't say so openly for fear of
arousing the unions' ire. Chirac's Finance and Economy Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been somewhat more candid, stating,
"To change the 35-hour week is possible and necessary if we want to modernize France."
Next door in Germany, some major companies also are lengthening the workweek. Siemens, the electronics manufacturer, decided
it would extend its workweek from 35 to 40 hours, after threatening to move its plants to Hungary, where wages are 80% lower. German Railways, similarly, plans to increase its standard workweek from 38 hours to 42. While these
increases don't come near the country's maximum 48-hour-a-week maximum, it is clear that even Europeans, who zealously
cherish their vacation time (especially around this time of year), sense that it really is possible to have too short a work schedule.
This certainly represents a reversal of fortune. For whether due to decree, employer policy, or both, the overall workweek
length among the world's major industrialized nations has moved downward. New data provided by the Paris-based Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development, now with 30 member nations, reveal that during 19702002 the number of hours
worked per capita declined in 14 of 19 nations surveyed (see Table 1). France registered the steepest drop among declining
nations with 23.5%. Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom dipped by 17.1%, 16.6% and 7.2%. For the five nations whose per capita hours rose, the U.S. led the way with a 20.0% increase in hours, while New Zealand
and Canada followed not far behind, respectively, at 17.8% and 16.8%.
Why have these trends occurred? In countries where per-capita hours have increased, OECD concludes, the driving force has
been the growth in overall employment, which has offset the rise in the proportion of workers who work part-time. In
countries with declining per-capita hours, the main reason for the change has been reductions in the typical work year
through devices such as a shorter workweek, heavy reliance on part-time employees, and more liberal vacation and other leave
time. This has led to some major divergences. Adults in the Netherlands on average now work only 1,340 hours a year compared
to 2,410 hours for their counterparts in South Korea (not shown in chart).
American exceptionalism: weird or wired
So why is America running ahead of the pack (or behind it, depending on how one views the situation)? It isn't because the
federal government repealed an hours-per-week maximum limit that never existed in the first place. And it isn't because
Americans have come to oppose the 40-hour threshold beyond which overtime (i.e., time and a half) wages kick in for most
wage and nonsupervisory salaried employees.
Could it be, then, that profit-conscious U.S. employers expect employees to become as workaholic as they are? Or, apropos
Ms. Schor, could it be that today's employees are slaves, if not to their work per se, than to their misguided craving for
luxuries that they rarely will have the time to enjoy anyway?
There's a grain of truth to both possibilities, particularly the latterthose fabled Joneses seem to be harder to keep up
with as time passes. But consider some alternative explanations.
For one thing, organized labor in this country, outside of New York City, never really took the 35-hour (or less) week limit
beyond the talking stagesand even the talking took place decades ago. In 1932, during the heart of the Depression, the AFL
advocated a 32-hour week as a means of "work-sharing."
During the 195758 and 196061 recessions, various labor officials suggested mandatory 32- or 35-hour weeks to reduce
unemployment. In 1962 the AFL-CIO, led by George Meany, officially endorsed a 35-hour workweek. To his credit, albeit out of
Keynesian motives, the United Auto Workers' Walter Reuther rejected Meany's proposal on grounds that it would undermine
spending power and living standards for Americans generally, and members of his own UAW in particular.
By the end of 1963 a number of unions in New York City's garment, printing and building trades had adopted a 35-hour week.
In 1961, the year before the AFL-CIO's proclamation, Local 3 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers had
established a 25-hour weekand that was down from 30 hours. But New York always has been the exception, not the rule.
Nationally, from the JFK years onward, organized labor has moved toward a firm view that economic growth is more in
rank-and-file members' long-term interests than a shorter workweek. Most U.S. workers positively still crave getting a shot at overtime hours during a boom period.
Second, to the extent that employers schedule their employees for a longer workweek, they in turn have grown more attentive
to employee requests for special time off or for flexible scheduling (e.g., working out of one's home). This tendency has
come to loom large with increased participation of women in the labor force. Even other advanced industrialized nations
don't compare with the U.S. in this flexibility. About a decade ago labor economist Daniel Hamermesh compared American and
German work scheduling patterns, and found variations in hours and days worked in a given week occurred far more in this
country. In part this has been due to the combined private-public-sector unionization rate being twice as high in Germany.
It is also due, not unrelated to the previous point, to wider mobility in the U.S. job market. Employers know that if they
fail to respond to employees' time requests, they could lose their best workers to competitors.
Third, our country decades ago reached what might be called a natural limit to the shortening of the workweek. During
190070 the average workweek declined from about 60 to 40 hours. In some measure this occurred because of the enactment of
the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the establishment of precedent-setting collective bargaining agreements. But on top
of that, and arguably more importantly, people do not want to trade off work for leisure beyond a certain point. To make an
analogy, an overweight person going on a diet becomes healthier, but only up to certain point; beyond that point, his or her
attempts to lose weight are counterproductive, even dangerous.
A 40-hour week, despite inevitable time preference differences across population groups, seems overall a sensible, natural
level. Moreover, it is the weekend that Americans seek to preserve more than the eight-hour workday. One suspects that a
five-day workweek lengthened to 45 or even 50 hours likely would not meet with nearly the resistance that a six-day, 40-hour
week would. Hamermesh found that in the U.S., as in Germany, about 20% of the labor force works for at least some of
the day on Saturdays, a situation full-time, year-round employees especially sought to avoid.
Fourth and finally, workers who work longer hours just might be enjoying their situation, viewing their work more as paid
recreation than labor. One of the more salutary effects of the much-maligned (by conservatives) counterculture style has
been the blending of work and leisure, as Virginia Postrel and David Brooks each have explained in different contexts. This
has meant, for one thing, a willingness on the part of employers to provide onsite recreational amenities, from health club
facilities to meditation rooms.
These days, employers are open to instituting just about any activity, however "weird," if they think it will boost employee
morale and productivity. As a recent example (any one of a thousand will do), in March 2001 Toyota's training headquarters
in Torrance, Calif., as part of its corporate team-building program, opened a special drum room filled with 150 congas and
hundreds of additional percussion instruments such as cowbells and maracas. "You sit down and start beating those drums, and
you can let out all the stress and be free, no inhibitions," said one employee. So far more than 3,000 Toyota employees have
taken part in the program. Hey, don't try this at home.
On a deeper level, the work-recreation fusion is the result of a mutual recognition by employer and employee that
creativity, the spark of every successful company, is best nurtured in the spirit of play, of maximizing opportunities for
spontaneous behavior. When work becomes fun, the best minds in an organization seem to operate on full alert, adding to the
company's competitiveness and profit margin. Play has rules, of course, but its behavior is open-ended, not constricted.
(Recall Postrel's metaphor of beach volleyball.)
The process works in reverse, too. When recreation, at home or elsewhere, becomes a serious pursuit, its participants might
well see a business idea in the making, or at least a winning mental attitude. Whether Lance Armstrong's training for, and
running in, the Tour de France constitutes "work" or "play" is moot. What matters is that for him cycling is an obsession,
especially as it invites the possibility (by now fully realized) of being the best in the world at something.
State mandates? Non!
All of the above suggests that the term "overworked" can be highly subjective. True, even a classic workaholic has a point
at which he says "enough!" But that threshold may vary widely by age, sex, ethnicity, family situation, career satisfaction,
and degree of physical exertion in the work. There are, unfortunately, employers who cannot fathom responding favorably to
requests for extra time off or scheduling flexibility. Such employers these days pay the price in the form of high turnover
rates. Workers, whether individually or collectively, should convey their desires to an employer. But in the end, it is not
the job of government to place a ceiling on the amount of time an employee is allowed to work.
Which brings us back to France. Even if that country raises its 35-hour-a-week limit back to 40 hours, there is the larger
issue of the defensibility of such ceilings at any level. Don't look now, but even the French are raising this issue. Former French Minister of Industry Alain Madelin, for one, states:
The 35-hour week represents a costly economic mistake for which we have not stopped paying. . . . It is an attack on the freedom to work.
[There is no freedom to work when waves of automation and robotization are incessantly reducing demand for human labor at all levels.]
What right does the state have to prevent someone who wants to work more and earn more from doing just that?
[Do try to realize the implications of technology. This state right is necessitated by the need to provide every working-age citizen with a self-support-enabling job, so the state itself (and the taxpayer) can out of the roles of employer of the last resort aka makework provider and charity of the last resort.]
Those sorts of thoughts might prove contagious.
Carl F. Horowitz is a Washington, D.C.-area consultant and author on a wide
variety of domestic issues. Formerly, he had served as a Washington
correspondent for Investor's Business Daily, housing and urban affairs
policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation, and professor of urban and
regional planning at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He has a Ph.D. in urban
planning and policy development from Rutgers University. CHoro73851@aol.com.
Comment on this article on the Mises Economics Blog.
- [Here's another article in a similar vein -]
8/30 The State of Working America, by Tim Worstall, Tech Central Station.
I'm alerted by economist Arnold Kling to a report from the Economic Policy Institute on "The State of Working America
2004/2005." My previous experience with their particular fount of economic illogic made me want to read further. That's what
I'm here for folks, doing the boring stuff so you don't have to.
What the EPI wants to show is that cutting working hours leads to higher productivity and that there is thus not a trade-off
to be made between work and leisure. We can have both in violation of our second thing about economics, that there is no
such thing as a free lunch. Expressly:
"Now that countries with progressive social policies have productivity levels which surpass U.S. levels, policy makers
should look beyond our borders for model social policy."
I was at this point going to launch into tortured explanations of exactly why the EPI is wrong in its analysis of the
figures, how confusing hourly and annual figures makes the conclusion meaningless, how in the actual report the workings
point to an entirely different conclusion from that in the release which is the only part policymakers will read (am I the
only person reminded of the IPCC here?) and in sum, generally make a mockery of their pretentions to scholarly rigour. As
this would be terminally tedious for all of us I thought I would rather simply make fun of a few of their points. I am aided
in this by being able to refer to Kling's post:
"As [Berkeley professor of economics] Brad DeLong once pointed out to me in an email, you would expect hourly productivity
(which the EPI is using) to be higher in Europe than the U.S., because of all the cost-increasing labor market restrictions
there. Any business anywhere will avoid hiring workers beyond the point where productivity fails to match costs."
Now I'm not sure about your opinion but mine is that when even a Professor at Berkeley tells you there is something wrong
with a piece of leftist economic research, well, yes, I think we can assume that there really is something wrong with that piece of research.
After I'd read through the press release, the downloadable chapter, read around a bit and had a little think I was able to
formulate a considered and elegant summation of the report. It's rubbish.
It is not, unfortunately, uncommon rubbish. The same ideas (or now that we're all up to date on netiquette I suppose that
should be "memes") have been floating around in other places: Ruth Lea in a recent Telegraph article points out some errors
and one lady writing in the Spectator was so confused on the point that she not only said this:
"The French tradition of the state regulating working hours has stimulated a more productive use of labour. "
she went on to write a whole book about her misunderstanding.
There is a simple mistake that all of these people are making (not Ruth or Arnold, they are arguing against that very mistake) and it is indeed so simple that even left-leaning economist Brad de Long has noted it. If you raise to a company the cost of employing people they will employ fewer of them. More importantly, they will only employ those who are more productive than those higher costs. We would then expect to see the less productive workers not employed at all.
[And if the simple increasing of working hours lowers to a company the cost of employing people, they will employ more of them? We're trying that throughout the Third World and it rapidly runs into a natural constraint = no domestic markets.]
What do we in fact see in countries with high social costs associated with employment? Amazingly, high unemployment
generally and especially so amongst the untrained young (I hope it isn't too much of a shock to you that those who don't
know what they are doing are generally less productive than those who do). The EPI report tries to explain this away by
pointing out that there are some European countries which do not have high unemployment rates, yet it fails completely to
adjust for the various disability, sickness and make-work training schemes. The UK alone has 3 million people on Disability
Benefit, some 5% of the population and while there are obviously people who actually are too ill to work and are worthy of
society's support, it really does stretch the imagination to think that not a single one is a work-shy malingerer, or that
for some (the benefit is higher than unemployment pay) it is an alternative to unemployment.
In the end we come to a true understanding of what is going on, rather different from the report's conclusion above. The
high social expenditure economies have high labor productivity on an hourly basis for those in work. The US has a higher
annual productivity across all of those in the economy as more work, or if you prefer, fewer are condemned to the
irrelevancy of the unemployment (however disguised) scrapheap. Indeed, it must be that way as average (and median) incomes
in the US are higher than in Europe. (As Professor Krugman tells us, average wages in an economy are determined by average
productivity in that economy. It couldn't possibly be true that the EPI could disprove such a luminary now could it?)
There are innumerable little bits and pieces that could be made fun of so I'll just pick those I consider the most egregious.
For example, there are 30 members of the OECD currently, yet the report only deals with data from 20 of them. If I am
allowed to exclude whatever part of a data set that I wish to then I can prove absolutely anything, perhaps even that John
Kerry went to Cambodia. It is also interesting to note that those countries excluded include those that work longer hours
than the US and have lower hourly labor productivity; but then there couldn't actually be a reason for that, could there?
One nation used as a poster child for this vaunted high productivity is Norway, which apparently has an hourly rate at 131% of the US rate. Now the Norwegian economy is heavily dependent upon the extraction of oil and gas. In fact, so
dependent that it is about 20% of GDP and that fifth of total production is performed by only 23,000 workers. Not only will
that tend to boost the productivity statistics but I have a feeling that this is something that progressives would, at
another time, claim was an unsustainable raping of an irreplaceable natural resource, one that should be deducted from, not
added to the GDP accounts. Funny how facts can change depending upon what you want to prove isn't it?
Much is made of the fact that the US has a higher poverty rate (and in something called "shameful", child poverty rate)
than all of the other OECD countries. It does indeed sound terribly bad doesn't it? Yet the fact that poverty rates are
relative within a country, not either absolute or relative across countries is not mentioned. All that has actually been
noted with such poverty rates is that the US has a wider distribution of income, not something that we didn't already know.
Using the Worstall Calculator (envelope, back; pencil, sharp) I was able to show in moments that 500 professional athletes
on $5 million a year would move the US poverty threshold $40 a year higher, condemning yet more thousands of children to the
hell which is poverty. Or not, as the case may be, for it is only when you state that poverty is relative that such absurd
results can be achieved.
To cut to the quick this report is simply a piece of outrageously biased rubbish, desperately straining for the occasional
gnat sized statistic to support the introduction of a highly regulated, high tax, high social expenditure economic system
into the US. Effectively, more like the sclerotic economies of Europe, with low growth, low absolute standards of living and high unemployment.
We shouldn't worry too much about it, for after all, this is only a Presidential election year, the report comes out on September 6th and
"The Economic Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan economic think tank founded in 1986."
- 8/29 Bringing family values to the workplace - How to update our employment practices, by Co-director Thomas Kochan of MIT Workplace Center & Prof. George Bunker of MIT Sloan School of Management, Boston Globe, D11.
...The political debate over family values is turning to the workplace. Last week the Bush administration implemented new rules governing who is eligible for overtime; his campaign is also set to unveil a "flextime" policy that would allow compensatory time off in lieu of paying overtime for hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek....
It is about time the debate over how to instill family values into the workplace gets started.... Why? Today it takes two working adults to make ends meet. The only families that realized an increase in their real incomes and living standards in the last two decades were ones with two college educated working parents. And three fourths of these gains came not from higher wages, but from the longer hours women added to the labor force.
Business 'needs' [our quotes] all this talent to meet the demands in today's 24/7 economy. Yet our workplace policies are still based on the 1930s assumption of a male breadwinner with a wife at home. This model now fits less than one quarter of the workforce. Thus working families and their employers have a big stake in modernizing workplace policies.
...The new overtime rules will better protect some low paid "managers" at places like McDonalds and Wal-Mart by raising the minimum salary for exempt employees to $23,660. But...one of the most senseless changes would exempt employees who volunteer to be "team leaders" for projects aimed at improving productivity or customer service. ...Bush's "flextime" proposal would no longer guarantee time & a half pay beyond 40 hours, as has been the nation's standard for over 60 years. Instead, employees could receive compensatory time off.... Compensatory time options similar to...Bush's proposal are common in the public sector where nearly 40% of employees are covered by collective bargaining contracts and most others by civil service rules that give them a voice in enforcing the rules..\.. [Employees] could also be denied overtime. If they worked less than 80 hours in any continuous two-week period. But there is a hitch. By doing so, they will forfeit the wage premium they would otherwise have received for the excess hours....
John Kerry's plan to expand unpaid family leave is a good starting point. But government survey data show the biggest reason why employees cannot take time off is they can't afford the lost wages. At some point, the federal government has to encourage all states to do what California did this year - design ways for employees and employers to fund paid leave plans. ...Bush rescinded a rule that encouraged this shortly after taking office....
Ultimately, we have to give working families a stronger voice on their jobs so that they can negotiate their own flexible schedules and compensation arrangements.
[The only way to give labor a stronger voice is to reverse the national labor surplus, and the only realistic way to do that is reducing overall labor time on offer in the economy relative to overall employment time on offer. In the 20th century, we did this most dramatically through world wars by sending millions of labor units (employees) overseas and killing and maiming them. But in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, we did this less dramatically but more intelligently by reducing worktime per person, which overall was cut in half from over 80 hours a week to 40. But the 40-hour workweek has been frozen now ever since 1940, regardless of wave after wave of worksaving technology.]
...Why not make a new trade-off? Where employees have an independent voice to negotiate and enforce working hour provisions to increase flexibility, let them do so. Where these are absent, enforce the existing 40-hour overtime standards....
- 8/29 Economic slump hinders salary increase, By Kim Rahn (firstname.lastname@example.org), Korea Times, South Korea.
...According to a report from the Labor Ministry yesterday, the average
monthly wage of an employee in workplaces with more than five workers [for the first half
of the year] was 2.15 million won, up 4.5% from the first half of last year.
It is the lowest rise since 2001, reflecting a prolonged economic slump,
the ministry said....
The low income increase is due to reduced bonuses resulting from economic
depression and slight increases in special allowances such as the overtime
allowance. [Meanwhile,] fixed salaries rose by 6.8%, the ministry said....
The increased rate of the workers' monthly pay in 2001
was 5.9%, 9.7% in 2002, and 10.6% in 2003....
[And they're complaining?!]
Meanwhile, the ministry said the number of those fired surpassed that of
the newly employed for the third consecutive month in June due mainly to a
bearish job market. About 128,000 workers lost their jobs in June, 18,000
more people than those newly employed.
The gap between those employed and fired for a month is the largest number
since 24,000 in 1998, when the nation suffered the worst financial crisis.
The average working hours of employees were 195.6 hours per month this
year, around a 0.9% decrease from last year's 197.4 hours. Fixed
working hours were cut from 179.8 hours per month to 178.9 hours, while
overtime working hours fell by 4.5% from 17.6 hours to 16.8 hours per
- 8/29 Presidential politics also part of Louisiana race for US Senate, by Marsha Shuler (email@example.com), Capitol News Bureau via WBRZ, LA.
There's a presidential flavor to Louisiana's U.S. Senate campaign....
The four major U.S. Senate candidates say they are running
"Louisiana-based" campaigns, stressing issues important to state voters.
But it's not unusual for the names of...George W. Bush and U.S.
Sen. John Kerry...to roll off the tongues of the candidates seeking
to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. John Breaux.
U.S. Rep. David Vitter, the lone big-name Republican in the field,
frequently notes that his major Democratic opponents are supporting
"liberal" Massachusetts Democrat Kerry for the presidency....
Vitter, of Metairie, represents the 1st Congressional District..\..
Three Democrats in the race - U.S. Rep. Chris John, state Treasurer John
Kennedy and state Rep. Arthur Morrell - respond that a Bush administration
has not been good for Louisiana. They paint Vitter as a presidential puppet....
In recent days, the Democratic candidates have attacked Vitter for his
support of new Bush administration overtime rules that strip many workers of
the extra pay....
- 8/29 The Calm Before the Storm; the NYC Republican Convention, by Anthony Wade, OpEdNews.
There is a certain calm in the air here in New York. It only appears calm
however. There is a hypocritical storm coming. It is a republican storm
heading toward a very democratic city. It is filled with rhetoric that is
not supported by policy.... You will hear a lot of rhetoric.
Yes, you will hear a lot of rhetoric. You will hear about values and
principles from an administration that has displayed neither. What you will
not hear is -
You will hear some tired old ideas such as
privatizing social security which has been debunked as a terrible risk that
would make social security insolvent far sooner than it currently is on
You will hear about no child left behind, but of course not hear
about how it has been an essentially useless initiative because it has been
You will hear some new ideas, such as this flextime
nonsense. Essentially this allows employers to cheat you of your overtime
earning capability by wrapping it up in the illusion of being able to set
your own schedule to spend more time with your family.
Another new idea Bush will be pushing is Health Savings Accounts. This is just another Bush
scam for the rich, as this benefits the average person very little. For the
truth behind this swindle, please see this link:
[We would ordinarily cut the following, but the Bush years have brought so much degradation to America that we have difficulty keeping it in mind (or maybe we're blocking it out so we don't grind our teeth down to our gums), so we thought we'd include, in numbered form, this chap's valiant attempt to list it all -]
Tomorrow 250,000 protesters will descend upon this city. These people
understand the facts presented in this article. They understand the
difference between rhetoric and policy. Rhetoric is what you use to
convince people that you have a plan for their futures. Policy is what your
plan really is. Rhetoric is when Bush said in 2000 that most of his tax
cuts went to the middle class. Policy shows that to be untrue and that 1/3
of the cuts went to the top 1%, who earn more than 1.2 million per year.
Rhetoric is when you say that you want to leave no child behind. Policy is
when you don't bother funding your own initiatives. Rhetoric is when you
stand at ground zero and say, "I hear you, the rest of the world hears you,
and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
Policy is when you state that you "no longer think about bin Laden much
anymore" because you want to take out Saddam.
the fact that Bush has been confirmed to be AWOL during
the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal and how Rumsfeld has now been found
to be negligent,...
the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame as political revenge,
the $130,000 in gifts lavished on George and Laura by the Saudis last year,
the daily deaths in Najaf,
the fact that he has not attended one soldiers funeral,
the incident when he stormed out of a press conference because a reporter had the temerity to
ask him about his good friend Ken Lay,
the abuses of the Patriot Act,
the fact that he KNEW Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction,
the fact that to him; "what's the difference" that Saddam did not have WMDs,
the obvious detail that Saddam never worked with bin Laden and had nothing to do with
that the warlords and Taliban are back in charge of Afghanistan,
the odd change in bin Laden from public enemy number one to someone Bush "does
not think about too much",
the healthy forests initiative which is a handout to the logging industry,
the clear skies act which allows more pollution,
the complete gutting of all other environmental regulations,
the dismissal of any scientist that stands for the truth,
the suspension of Habeas Corpus and illegal detention of Jose Padilla as an "enemy
the policy of making people sign endorsements of Bush in order
to attend any Bush event,
the arresting of dissenters at Bush events,
the billions and billions of dollars made off this war by top Bush donors and
Cheney's former company Halliburton,
the fact that Cheney still stands to make money from these contracts thanks to the deferred compensation he receives from Halliburton,
the suppression of the black vote,
the "people of color united" scandal where a white billionaire republican puts
anti-Kerry ads out in swing states pretending to be from the black community,
the use of state employees to harass elderly black voters by
Bush brother Jeb,
the swift boat veterans for 'truth' who now have been
proven to be liars and working for the Bush campaign,
the refusal of republicans to allow paper trails for the new computer voting machines
which are made by republican-backing companies,
the continuing of the 911 cover-up,
and the fact that George W. Bush has been neither compassionate,
We have had four years of policies that have ruined our economy, destroyed
our respect in the world, gutted our environment, stagnated our education
and killed our kids. Now Bush wants to come back where it all started to
feed you more rhetoric, as he did four years ago when he said he was a
uniter not a divider. He is going to look you in the eye and say he is one
of you. He is going to swear that he has your best interests at heart. It
is all going to be empty rhetoric. You need to ask yourself if we can
afford four more years of his policies.
Anthony Wade is co-administrator of www.ibtp.org, a website devoted to
educating the populace to the ongoing lies of President George W. Bush and
seeking his removal from office. He is an...independent writer
from New York with political commentary articles seen on multiple
websites. A Christian progressive, and professional counselor, Mr. Wade
believes that you can have faith and hold elected officials accountable for
lies and excess.
Anthony Wade's Archive: http://www.opednews.com/archiveswadeanthony.htm
Email Anthony: firstname.lastname@example.org
- [Now a series of articles on the Bush overtime changes -]
8/27 Ranks of poor, uninsured swell in Oregon, by Andrew Kramer, AP via kgw.com, OR.
The ranks of the poor and uninsured in Oregon are growing, while typical
incomes in the state have dropped $3,000 since the late 1990s, according to
a U.S. Census Bureau report released Thursday....
Oregon had the highest unemployment rate in the nation for much of the
three-year period covered in Thursday's census report, accounting for part
of the decline. Other reasons for the dwindling pay were the disappearance
of high-tech jobs, which were replaced by lower-paying service jobs, and a
decline in the average number of hours worked per week, said Art Ayre, state
labor economist. The average work week has dropped by about
one hour since 2000, he said....
The census figures showed Oregon's poverty level growing by 0.4%
compared to the previous year, but the increase was not considered
statistically significant. About 400,000 people live in poverty in Oregon,
according to the figures.
The Census Bureau's definition of poverty varies by the size of the
household. The threshold for a family of four was $18,810, while it was
$12,015 for two people.
- 8/28 Debate about OT changes largely bypasses California - State has stricter labor laws, by Chris O'Brien, San Jose Mercury News, CA.
New federal regulations for overtime pay that took effect this week have led
to a heated debate about their impact across the country.
Except California. In this case, Californians are largely unaffected by the
changes because state law is much stricter when it comes to overtime, and
therefore it supersedes federal law.
But that raises the question: How does California's overtime law work? To
get some answers, we turned to the California Labor and Workforce
Q Why don't federal overtime rules apply in California?
A California requires employers to pay overtime to hourly wage employees who
work more than eight hours in a single day. Under the new federal rules, an
employer doesn't have to pay overtime unless an employee works more than 40
hours in a week. California's eight-hour standard is more stringent and
therefore remains the rule. The only people potentially affected are
federal, state, or local government employees who are governed by federal
rules. But because most operate under a contract of some kind, they won't
see any change.
Q Who qualifies for overtime pay under California's law?
A State law starts with the premise that everyone is eligible for overtime
and then lists groups that are exempt. Of course, there are countless
exemptions across 17 industrial classifications that are used by the state.
Q So who is exempt?
A You need to read through the 17 lengthy and complex wage orders issued by
the Industrial Welfare Commission for each classification. But if you really
want to, grab a heavily caffeinated beverage and head on over to
Q Can you generalize?
A As a rule, anyone in an executive or management role where they have the
power to hire or fire or make independent decisions is exempt. And people in
creative or artistic roles are also out of luck. And if you have some
professional job that requires fancy credentials, like being a lawyer,
doctor, architect or teacher, then welcome to the ranks of the overtime
Q Just curious: Why don't companies just promote everyone to management to
avoid paying overtime?
A You're still here? Well, they could do that. But state law also requires
anyone exempt from overtime to be paid at least double the minimum wage. So
if they want to promote someone to be manager of french fry station No. 1,
they would likely have to give them a hefty boost in pay.
Q Does that mean workers in California are getting a better deal than
workers in other states, since it's easier to qualify for overtime pay?
A Depends on who you talk to. Labor and unions would say yes. But some
businesses would argue that people who receive a higher salary that does not
qualify for overtime get more respect within their profession.
Q Does that mean businesses in California must now pay more for overtime,
compared to other states covered by the new national law?
A California businesses already pay more than other states that use the
40-hour work week standard. But business groups have long argued that
California's labor laws are already more expensive. In addition, business
groups have traditionally argued that many employers simply won't let
workers work overtime because it's too expensive and instead prefer to hire
more workers. That's potentially good for the person getting hired, but bad
for the person who would like to earn some extra overtime pay.
Contact Chris O'Brien at email@example.com or call (415) 477-2504.
- 8/29 New overtime rules generate questions, confusion, by Robert Brincefield, Brownwood Bulletin, TX.
New rules governing overtime pay for workers went into effect on Monday of
this week in the first major overhaul of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 50
years. The changes have both employers and workers questioning if they
signify a good sign for them and the economy or a bad one.
There are two significant changes in the rules. The first one raises the
minimum salary requirement for overtime eligibility. Under the old
guidelines any employee who made less than $8,035 was guaranteed overtime for hours worked over 40 in one week. That minimum has been raised to $23,660. This is the salary basis test. If an employee makes less than $455
per week ($23,660 per year) this is the only basis needed in determining if
they qualify for overtime.
The second rule changed the definition of an exempt employee's duties. In
order to be exempt from overtime under the old rules a worker's primary duty
was defined as an activity they spent more than half of their time
performing. For instance if they were classified as management exempt, they
had to spend more than half of the work day managing people and not doing
the actual work. The new regulations change the definition to the employee's
"most important" job duty.
This is the area where there has been considerable ambiguity or gray area
for small business employers. Generally, managers in small businesses do not
have the luxury of only supervising other employees. There usually is a
large component of actual job duties related to the business in which they
are engaged. The new rule should add some clarity. Rather than monitoring
the amount of hours the manager engages in "managing" others an employer can examine the job descriptions and determine if it is their most important duty.
Some of the other classifications of work determining if an employee is
exempt are somewhat more ambiguous. In the professional / creative category
an employee is exempt if their primary duty is the performance of work
requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a field of
artistic or creative endeavor. Wow. The Texas Press Association in
guidelines released this week clarified the definition for the newspaper
industry. Exempt employees include editors, columnists, photographers, and
designers. Reporters that report routine public information, and do not
write columns or news analysis are non-exempt employees and are eligible for overtime.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers can simply choose to pay
workers overtime. The rules are put in place to prevent employers from not
paying workers that are entitled to it. Obviously, that is the primary
concern at this point for employers. They need to ensure that they are in
compliance with the new law. It appears however, that many are taking a
wait-and-see approach with regard to implementing any changes with employees
that up to the rule changes have been earning overtime. In small businesses
like community newspapers employees have to multi-task. Almost all the
reporters at the Bulletin also take photographs in the course of their work
week. Strictly speaking, that would make them an exempt employee and not
eligible for the overtime they were accustomed to under the old rules.
According to the Dept. of Labor, 1.3 million low wage Americans will
gain the right to overtime under the new rules. However, Economic Policy
Institute, a think tank in Washington D.C., said six million workers will
lose their overtime benefits. For many workers overtime is a significant
portion of take-home pay and it has historically been a dividing line
between workers. It remains to be seen what effect the new rules will have
on workers and employers. But if the early going confusion is a barometer,
there are sure to be legal challenges to them.
Bob Brincefield is the Publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column is
featured every Sunday on the Viewpoint page. Email
- 8/29 Overtime could cost SC city $200,000, AP via The State, SC.
CHARLESTON - The city of North Charleston faces an added cost of $200,000 a
year to its $62 million budget under new federal overtime regulations.
North Charleston employs about 970 people, and 93 of those workers, ranging
from inspectors to firefighters, are now eligible for overtime they
previously didn't get.
The city will need to accommodate about 5,000 hours of overtime.
North Charleston will be one of the hardest hit in the Lowcountry under the
regulations that went into effect Monday, according to a survey conducted by
The Post and Courier.
In Charleston, only eight of its 1,640 employees are newly eligible. Similar
to North Charleston, no employee there lost benefits.
The new guidelines mark the first federal update for overtime pay in half a
century. Under the new rules, employees who earn less than $23,600 - or
about $455 a week - are guaranteed overtime. That's far more than the $8,000
limit set decades ago.
White-collar workers who make more than $100,000 won't be eligible. The
regulations become tough to decipher for workers who make between $23,600
and $100,000. Employees who are classified as executives or administrators
likely won't get overtime.
Experts say it's difficult to determine eligibility because job
classifications often vary greatly among companies. Many expect that the
courts ultimately will help decide.
- 8/29 Better overtime rules? YES, by Secy. of Labor Elaine Chao, New York Daily News, NY.
Overtime pay matters to America's working families and as of Aug. 23, the
Labor Dept.'s new overtime security rules are the law of the land -
meaning stronger overtime protections for millions of Americans. Overtime
rules have traditionally been very complicated, and the new rules clarify
workers' rights and employers' obligations.
Under the old regulations, workers earning as little as $8,060 a year or
$155 a week could be denied overtime. Under the new rules, workers earning
less than $23,660 a year or $455 a week are guaranteed overtime protection.
Some 6.7 million workers will benefit.
The new overtime rules also offer explicit guarantees to many workers
earning above the $23,660 threshold, including blue collar workers and
workers who receive overtime under a union contract. Licensed practical
nurses and first responders including police and firefighters also receive
greater protection under the new rule. Hourly workers will continue to be
guaranteed overtime regardless of pay, job or title.
Because the regulations hadn't been changed in decades, they were difficult
to apply in today's economy. The result was an explosion of lawsuits. The
new rules make it easier to determine overtime eligibility. So, workers
won't have to spend years waiting in court to get the overtime they deserve
and employers can pay their workers, not their lawyers.
Yet some in Congress are attempting to undermine these new worker
protections. Special interest groups have tried to discredit the new rules
for political reasons, issuing trumped up "studies" filled with
misinformation designed to confuse employers and frighten workers. Should
these cynical tactics succeed and Congress roll back these overdue reforms,
workers will be unjustly denied overtime, employers will still be saddled
with lawsuits, and the new worker protections contained in the updated rules
will be swept away.
Every administration since President Jimmy Carter's has recognized the need
for reforms, but special interest politics has always won out - until now.
The new overtime security rules provide more protection to workers and mean
that more money can be invested in job creation rather than lawsuits. This
is not the time for Congress to turn back the clock on America's workers and
take away their new overtime rights.
- 8/29 Figuring out new overtime regulations is a full-time job - And lawyers will be raking in fees as labor, employers hash it out, by Rick Haglund (248-540-7311 or firstname.lastname@example.org), Ann Arbor News, MI.
So who are the winners in the Bush administration's controversial overhaul
of overtime rules, which took effect last week?
I'm betting on the lawyers who are working overtime to help their business
and employee-group clients adjust to the new regulations.
Unless you've been glued to the Olympic table tennis competition, you're
likely aware that the Bush administration has implemented a massive overhaul
of the 1939 Fair Labor Standards Act, which covers 100 million U.S. workers.
The administration and business groups say the rules update and clarify
ambiguous overtime regulations that haven't been substantially altered in 55 years.
U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao says the rules extend overtime benefits to
1.3 million white-collar workers and will cost businesses $375 million a
year in extra wages. The rules also strengthen overtime protections,
clarifying who is entitled to overtime, for more than 6 million workers, she says.
A Labor Dept. press release Tuesday on the new regulations was
headlined: "Restoring Overtime Security for Millions of Working Americans."
Can you tell it's an election year?
But labor groups, who mostly believe that the Bush administration is no
friend of workers, say those numbers are fictitious.
Citing a study from the left-leaning Employee Policy Institute, the AFL-CIO
says 6 million workers could see pay cuts from the loss of overtime pay.
Ross Eisenbrey, EPI policy director, has even called the Labor Dept.'s
overtime loss estimates "dishonest." Among those workers the AFL-CIO says
are likely to lose overtime pay are nurses, pharmacists, pre-kindergarten
teachers and 107,000 white-collar workers earning more than $100,000 a year.
Even the right-tilting Heritage Foundation acknowledges that as many as
300,000 white-collar workers could lose overtime pay. But the foundation and
others say most hourly blue-collar workers will be unaffected.
Ann Parker, chief operating officer of the 5,000-member Small Business
Association of Michigan, says the new overtime rules appear to be having
little impact on the small, mostly family-owned businesses SBAM represents.
"They may not be as focused on this" as larger corporations, Parker said.
Miriam Rosen, an employment law specialist in the Bloomfield Hills office
of law firm Butzel Long, says an update of the regulations was long overdue.
"They didn't apply to the new ways in which we do business," said Rosen,
whose firm represents large Michigan employers.
Many job categories, such as government relations, training and
development, and a whole host of technical positions didn't even exist when
the Fair Labor Standards Act was written.
The old overtime rules also were ambiguous and illogical, Rosen says,
making them difficult for many employers to understand. The new rules are
much clearer, she says.
Labor groups claim the motivation to change the rules was pretty clear,
too. They see the new overtime regulations as another blatant effort by the
Bush administration to aid business at the expense of workers while the
economy is struggling.
"The last thing America's workers need right now is a major pay cut,"
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said recently.
Some legal experts say the Bush administration revamped the overtime rules,
in part, to cut down on the volume of multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed by
workers who claim they've been illegally denied overtime pay.
But even though the new rules are clearer, Rosen said overtime lawsuits are
likely to continue as workers and others challenge the new regulations.
"I do think there will be ongoing litigation," she told me.
Whenever that happens, the lawyers always win.
- 8/29 Working overtime to hurt workers, Berkshire Eagle, MA.
If George W. Bush wants to get more cash into the hands of American
workers, as he says he does, the administration's new rules on overtime pay
represent a poor way to go about it. As of last Monday, six million
wage-earners, according to one estimate, were no longer required to be paid
time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40 hours a week. It was the biggest
readjustment of overtime rules since passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act
in 1938. And it came at a time of generally shrinking paychecks for working
The Labor Dept. denies that many workers will be hurt. It predicts 1.3
million workers will actually gain overtime rights and just over 100,000
will lose theirs. But for years corporations have been pushing the Bush
White House for the rules change that have now been issued, and it seems
unlikely that lobbyists were pleading with the administration to find new
ways to spread corporate wealth among the employees. A more plausible
scenario is the Economic Policy Institute's contention that businesses were
salivating to tighten the overtime spigot and juice up profits instead, and
six million workers will soon see their take-home pay shrivel.
Many of those cut are low-level salaried supervisors, possibly as many as
1.4 million. Others are chefs and sous-chefs, as well as 900,000 workers
with college or advanced degrees who have been reclassified as
"professional" employees. Many of the "professionals" apparently will now be
obliged to make ends meet with their newfound prestige instead of cash.
Mr. Bush claims to want to rev up the economy by creating consumer demand,
but jobs that pay less aren't the answer. Yet the overtime-cutback policy is
part of a trend. Few new jobs have been created in the United States in
recent months, and about half those created have been in low-wage service
industries. Many are also part- or even full-time jobs that provide no
benefits such as increasingly rare and precious health insurance.
The burgeoning cost of health care, in fact, is a major factor keeping
businesses from hiring new workers. John Kerry's plan to have the federal
government cover catastrophic coverage for workers would help considerably
- freeing companies from a burden that discourages new hiring - but Mr.
Bush has no comparable plan, or any significant health-insurance ideas at all.
Among those critical of the new overtime rules are labor unions that have
seen real wages for their members and other workers drop for the second year
in a row. During the last two presidencies, Bill Clinton's and the first George
Bush's, the Labor Dept. repeatedly resisted the overtime rules change
that went into effect last week. What happened since then was the
election of a president whose economic policies differ little from those of
Herbert Hoover, a one-term president for good reason.
- 8/29 Labor laws work overtime, by Natalie Christenson (email@example.com), Portsmouth Herald, NH.
Aiming to sharpen employee overtime eligibility rules the new U.S.
Dept. of Labor clarification has been received with mixed emotions.
The rules are trumpeted by the U.S. Dept. of Labor as strengthening
overtime rights for 6.7 million American workers.
While others say the laws now exempt workers who would have normally
received overtime, thus giving businesses an incentive to create inaccurate
job descriptions for the sake of being able to overwork the company
Local attorney Meredith Cook, with Wiggin & Nourie, says the real benefit
of the Fair Labor Standards Act changes is that employers will be forced to
look closely at "white-collar" job descriptions.
"I don't think it is a cause for tremendous concern from either side at
this point," she said. "For employers, I would say it is a great
Cook said there are large blocks of workers not included in the changes,
which she says can be confusing.
Blue-collar or manual laborers, union laborers, and emergency responders
such as police officers and firefighters do not fall under the new rules.
Also, enterprises that generate revenue of less than $500,000 a year and
don't participate in interstate commerce are also not affected by the
changes because they are not required to follow the federal guidelines.
Cynthia Flynn, labor, wage and hour administrator for the New Hampshire
Dept. of Labor says most small businesses in the state aren't required
to use the federal guidelines, so any changes, don't apply.
"We deal with the small companies," she said. "As far as I know we have no
A specialist in employment laws, Cook says the greatest change under the
new rules is that anyone making less than $23,660 a year, or $455 a week,
will automatically qualify for overtime. Simple enough.
But it is who is exempted that becomes complicated.
People employed as a true executive, administrative professionals, outside
sales employees and certain computer employees can now be considered exempt
"For example, in my industry, a paralegal, who has been the source of
litigation regarding the old regulations, are now considered eligible for
overtime under the new rules," she said.
Under the new rules, to qualify for exemption, employees generally must
meet certain criteria regarding their job duties, and Cook says that
includes more than just job titles.
"It is how the person performs the job, how the company advertised for theposition and what a person's previous education, like a bachelors degree,
was required for the job," she said.
In order for an exemption to apply, an employee's specific job duty and
salary must meet all the requirements of the Dept. of Labor's
Cook says a human resource professional should first look at any salaried
employee and figure out what guidelines the employee fits under.
"Take a close look at your management employees to make sure that they meet
the employment standards," she said. "Marketing and human resource workers
might fall under some of the new guidelines depending on their job
descriptions and duties.
"Look at executives - make sure that they do have the authority to hire and
fire, it is very important to work with employees and explain what will be
Cook suggested employees who are now considered eligible for overtime be
taken aside and given an expiation of the changes because some employees may
feel as if they have been demoted.
"Going from exempt to non-exempt, they feel slighted," she said. "Some
might make the assumption that employees would be happy to make more money,
but there are some employees that might see this as a stigma."
- 8/29 Top stories - Aug. 22-27 - State court allows class actions on overtime pay, Los Angeles Times, CA.
In a closely watched labor law case, the California Supreme Court cleared
the way for a class-action lawsuit brought by Sav-on Drug Stores workers who
say they were misclassified as managers and improperly denied overtime. The unanimous ruling overturned a lower-court decision that would have
discouraged such suits.
Plaintiffs' attorneys maintain that many workers, despite having titles
such as "store manager," spend much of their day doing non-managerial tasks
such as stocking shelves or tending a cash register, rather than overseeing
any of the business.
A Sav-on spokeswoman declined to comment on the ruling.
A trial judge in Los Angeles agreed to certify the suit as a class action,
a move appealed by Sav-on. The state Court of Appeal reversed the trial
judge. In overturning the Court of Appeal's decision, the high court judges
said workers had presented enough evidence of common grievances to have
their suit certified as a class action.
- 8/29 On the picket line - New regulations cut overtime, Workers World.
The Bush administration's latest attack on workers came on Aug. 23 when new
overtime regulations took effect. A study conducted by the Economic Policy
Institute predicted that 6 million workers stand to lose overtime pay. That
money will go into the bosses' pockets.
On July 13 three former Labor Dept. officials issued a report claiming
that expanding bosses' exemptions beyond the former rules, which had been in
effect since 1949, still carries out the requirements of the Fair Labor
But that's no surprise. Who is the Dept. of Labor's top spokesperson on
overtime pay? None other than Ed Frank, the former top spokesperson for the
National Federation of Independent Business - which represents businesses
that want to take away workers' overtime pay. So the fox is not just
guarding Bush's DOL henhouse - it is actually in the henhouse.
Though the AFL-CIO mounted a year-long grassroots campaign to push the
Democrats in Congress to vote against the regulations, its efforts were
steamrolled by the Bush attack. The only thing that will win back overtime
is workers taking their demands to the streets in mass action. That's
another reason to join the Million Worker March on Oct. 17 in Washington,
D.C. For more information, visit www.millionworkermarch.org.
- 8/29 Small businesss must comply with overtime rules, by Joyce Rosenberg, AP via Chicago Sun Times, IL.
NEW YORK - Overtime has suddenly become a confusing proposition for some
small business owners.
New government rules that took effect Aug. 23 change the criteria under
which employees must be paid overtime. That means company owners need to
look at all of their employees and determine whether each should now be
receiving overtime - or might now be exempt from overtime.
Generally, under the new rules, the great majority of employees who earn
less than $455 a week, or $23,660 a year, automatically qualify for
overtime. Those who earn $100,000 generally do not have to be paid overtime.
For the many employees whose pay falls between those levels, owners will
have to do an analysis of their jobs to determine whether they can be
exempted from the rules. Basically, only those whose jobs can be classified
as executive, administrative, professional or in an outside sales capacity
are exempted. So are some computer employees.
Those are the basics. Owners will need to look at the rules, and also need
to look at the many exceptions, not just to job classifications, but also to
The Labor Dept.'s Web site at
http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/whd/fairpay/main.htm has explanations
of the rules, including a Power Point presentation with an overview, and
what it calls "fact sheets" that go into more detail. The site contains
definitions of what factors go into classifying an employee as executive,
administrative, professional or an outside salesperson.
For example, the site describes an administrative job as follows:
It sounds straightforward, but human resources professionals warn that
doing an analysis of employees' jobs and salaries can be tricky.
"There are some gray areas - it's not so cut and dried," said Rob Wilson,
president of Employco Group, a Chicago-based company that handles payroll
and benefits for small businesses. "It's not as easy as, just look at salary."
For example, there are situations under which an employer makes deductions
from a worker's pay, say, for lateness. That might at the end of the year
have an impact on whether an employee should be making overtime. But, an
employer must also have given workers notice of the company policy on
docking their pay.
Another example: If you have an employee whose salary level is set at over
$100,000 but he or she doesn't work a full year, you can pro-rate the salary
and not be required to pay overtime even though the worker took home less
And another: Let's say one of your employees directly supervises others
only while you're on vacation. That employee isn't necessarily exempt from
overtime because he or she performed some executive tasks while you were away.
As you go through the analysis, you need to remember that it's not your
perception of your workers' jobs and pay that counts here, it's the government's.
For example, "you can't just call someone a manager," said Paul Sarvadi,
CEO of Adminstaff, a Houston-based human resources firm, referring to theexecutive classification. "A manager has to oversee two or more people, and
have the authority to hire or fire."
The rules specifically mention certain occupations as being exempt from
overtime - for example, insurance adjusters. But even in such cases, an
employee's salary and job must fit the government's regulations. An
insurance adjuster who earns less than $455 a week still has to be paid overtime.
Human resources professionals say the new rules have come as a surprise to
many. As Wilson put it: "Most small business owners didn't know it was
coming and don't even know it's in effect today."
Technically, companies need to be in compliance already with the new rules,
and the Labor Dept. does audit some firms to see if they are following
government pay regulations. But Wilson predicted there would be a grace
period of a couple of quarters before the department imposes any penalties
on businesses that are not complying.
Sarvadi said the best protection against penalties is to start evaluating
your entire payroll.
"There's no getting around an analysis on each individual," he said.
- "The employee's primary duty must be the performance of office or
non-manual work directly related to the management or general business
operations of the employer or the employer's customers; and
- "The employee's primary duty includes the exercise of discretion and
independent judgment with respect to matters of significance."
- 8/29 Business forum - No OT? GOP just lost 2 votes, letter by Jeff Henson, Charlotte Observer, NC.
In response to "OT rules get mixed reception on 1st day" (Aug. 24, Business):
So the new overtime rules went into effect last week. And with these new
regulations I can say for certain that the Republican party has lost two
votes in this upcoming election.
I have never voted for a Democrat in a presidential election and neither has
my wife. Now it seems we have no choice. The Republicans have decided that
my wife should not be eligible for overtime pay any longer. Why have they
made that decision? Well, because she is a nurse. A nurse who works over 50
hours a week, a nurse whose shift was supposed to be over at 11 p.m. one day
last week, yet was not able to leave the hospital until 1:30 a.m.
She doesn't have the luxury of just clocking out when the shift is up. She
has to make sure patients are taken care of, make sure the next shift is
brought up to date on their patients and make sure paperwork is finished.
Apparently, the politicians do not understand how many nurses are out there
and the power they have with their votes.
- Nordics resist call to work longer hours - Unions and political left hit out at industry leaders' bid to extend workweek without raising salaries, Straits Times, Singapore.
SCANDINAVIA - Nordic workers, defensive of their enviable work-life balance, are being lobbied [ie: pressured] to work more hours for the same pay. The move by industry bosses, who are encouraged by deals in Germany and France, leaves the political left and unions disgusted.
Executives from top companies in the [Nordic] region, such as mobile phone giant Nokia, engineer ABB and truckmaker Scania, as well as industry leaders from Norway and Denmark, have sparked a political debate about working hours. Nordic people clock up an average of 37 to 38 hours a week against almost 44 hours in Britain, for example. They also have longer holidays and parental leave for men and women, and less reason to fear unemployment than much of the euro zone.
Anxious to improve competitiveness [ie: to join the Race to the Bottom], employers have cited deals to expand the workweek from 35 hours to 40 hours at German carmaker DaimlerChrysler and technology giant Siemens, and to 36 hours at a French Robert Bosch car-parts plant.
- 'Swedish employees work almost the least in the world,' said Mr Lars Leijonborg, leader of the Swedish centre-right opposition Folkpartiet, in a newspaper column this week that pushed the debate higher up the political agenda. 'To face up to international competition and pay for welfare at home, we have to rethink this. Swedes need to work on average three more hours a week to resolve this imbalance,' he wrote.
- High labour taxes and generous benefits make the region's wage costs among the highest in the world: Norway and Denmark are first and second and Finland and Sweden fifth and eighth in a wage cost ranking by German industry-funded think-tank IWD.
Governments have reacted diplomatically, saying their focus is on getting more people off sick leave and immigrants to work. They are mindful that one- to three-year collective deals with unions keep the region relatively strike-free, regardless of whether the government is broadly centre-left, like Sweden and Finland, or centre-right, as in Denmark and Norway. 'This is not something the Social Democratic government is going to recommend to the unions,' said Swedish Labour Minister
'I think Germany is a good example,' said ABB's local chief Sten Jakobsson earlier this month.
Scania CEO Leif Ostling compared Swedish working habits with new European Union member nations, where 'people often work 40 to 45 hours a week'.
The chorus has grown across the region. Nokia chief Jorma Ollila said that as pay talks begin in Finland, 'strong decisions are a must to avoid a cycle of shrinking'.
The head of Danish shipyard Lindovaerftet called it 'essential to work more hours without extra pay' - a comment echoed by outgoing head Jenns Ulltveit-Moe of Norway's industry lobby.
Unions are more blunt. Norway's labour leader Gerd-Liv Valla said lobby chief Ulltveit-Moe 'is saying a lot of dumb things right now', while Jorma Lohman of the Finnish Metalworkers' Union said a new round of pay talks was not helped by employers like Nokia expressing 'the opinion that salaries [and domestic consumer markets?!] have to be cut'.
Sweden's Left and Green parties, parliamentary allies of the ruling Social Democrats, are going one step further by arguing that working hours should be reduced instead.
[And in the Automation Age, they're absolutely right - IF we still want strong consumer markets where consumers are many and well-furnished with purchasing power.]
'People are forced to work more and more,' said Left Party secretary Pernilla Zethraeus on Wednesday. 'But there is a limit to how much you can exploit people.'
[Cut the bleeding-heart crap and focus on what this would do to their currently strong domestic consumer bases.]
- European debate simmers over longer work week, Channel News Asia, Singapore.
Longer working hours have sparked a heated debate in several
northern European countries where businesses seek to remain competitive and
unions claim jobs are being held hostage.
In France and the Netherlands, the subject has been a political issue forthe past few months.
In other countries, the debate was begun by companies that pressed staff to
work more hours for the same pay.
In late July, Dutch Economy Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst raised a storm
of protest by claiming a 40-hour work week - two hours more than is the case now - should again be the norm to underpin economic growth.
His French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy holds a similar view, stressing that
business should be allowed to increase the number of hours worked to take
full advantage of currently favorable economic conditions.
Sarkozy also points to the cost of cutting social charges for companies as
part of the deal by which France adopted a 35-hour work week, but faces
strong opposition from unions which claim that making people work longer
would boost unemployment.
Faced with growing competition from Asia and new European Union members in
eastern Europe, western European groups used the situation to their
advantage, amid cries that jobs were being treated like hostages.
In Belgium, the financially troubled steel group Marichal Ketin has said it
will expect staff to work 40 hours per week, instead of 36, for no extra
pay. "Belgian companies must overcome a salary handicap of between eight and 10
percent compared to their neighbors," themselves pressed by lower costs in
eastern Europe, said Pieter Timmermans, director general of the Belgian
business federation FEB.
Swedish bosses hold a similar position. Sten Jakobson, chairman of ABB Sweden, a unit of the Swiss-Swedish engineering group, and Leif Oestling, head of the heavy truck maker Scania, were the first to argue for more time on the job, despite opposition by
unions and the country's Social Democrat government. "In the new EU countries, people often work between 45 to 50 hours per week. Work is a luxury there, here it is a right," Oestling said recently.
[No, work (and survival) is a desperate and deteriorating privilege there, here it is a right.]
Heads of the Dutch electronics giant Philips and the leading Dutch bank ABN
Amro have now picked up from Brinkhorst the battle for a 40-hour week.
In Germany, staff at two sites run by the country's biggest industrial
group, Siemens, agreed to work 40 hours a week, five more than previously, for no extra pay. The group pledged in exchange not to relocate 2,000 jobs to Hungary.
In France, several firms have followed the lead of German tool and auto
parts maker Bosch, which convinced workers at a plant near Lyon to work
longer in order to prevent a new assembly line being built elsewhere.
When all is said and done, however, the number of hours worked is less the
issue than labor costs in general, which European business says are too
[Compared to what, the Third World? What do they expect?!]
In Denmark, the 37-hour work week is not being questioned, but businesses
are beginning to demand wages be cut, barring which they will move jobs
- Germany downsizes paradise, by Floyd Norris (firstname.lastname@example.org), International Herald Tribune, France.
[Our commentary on this article chops it up quite a bit, so let's let it run-thru first under the insightful IHT headline, then comment it under the NYT hardcopy headline immediately afterward.]
Among the major industrialized economies, Germany is the un-United States.
Americans spend with abandon, while Germans save. America runs a huge and
growing trade deficit, while Germany's exports rise along with its trade
surplus. American home prices have risen sharply while German prices have
Unemployment is high in Germany - 10.5% overall in July and much
higher than in eastern Germany, but those with jobs tend to have a great
deal. Germans typically start working later in life than Americans, and
retire earlier. They work fewer hours per week and have longer vacations. If
they lose their jobs, unemployment benefits are higher than in America and
can continue indefinitely.
But that is changing, to the angst of unions. Volkswagen this week said it
wants a pay freeze and longer hours for some workers. To some extent that
may be a negotiating tactic, but Siemens and DaimlerChrysler have already
won significant concessions. And, notes Dieter Brauninger, an economist at
Deutsche Bank, many Germans already work more than the 35-hour work week the
big unions won in 1998. He thinks longer hours are both needed and
And the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder appears to be standing
fast on a reform of unemployment compensation, despite demonstrations in
eastern Germany. The new rules say that workers will get unemployment
benefits for just a year after losing a job (or 18 months for those over
55). Then they must either find a job, even if they must move to get it, or
get a new means-tested benefit that is much less generous. To get that
benefit, the unemployed must fill out a long form that asks about such
things as the value of their home and savings, and that of family members,
To many in Germany who have viewed lifelong unemployment insurance as a
right paid for with wage deductions - much as Social Security is paid in the
United States - the idea of a means test is offensive. But the hope is that
it will save the government money - like the United States, Germany is
running large budget deficits, but unlike Washington it has to deal with
European rules that seek to rein in such deficits - and will also persuade
people who can find jobs to do so.
In the best of all worlds, longer hours - lowering pay per hour but not
overall income - should lead to higher investment and employment,
stimulating spending by both businesses and consumers.
But that impact, if it is to come at all, is a way down the road. For now,
German growth is stronger than it has been in three years, but the 2%
annual growth rate reported in the second quarter is not exactly soaring,
and all of it came from exports. Personal consumption barely budged, and
companies cut back on capital investment and Thursday, a survey indicated
business confidence had slipped in August.
"We should see strong export growth feeding into hiring by now," said Elga
Bartsch, a German economist at Morgan Stanley. "The debate is whether the
export-led recovery will spill over into domestic demand." There is talk
that Germany is becoming a "bazaar economy," in which it buys from others
and sells to the world, doing little of the work itself.
It is unfortunate that the changes needed to make the economy more
competitive also make consumers more cautious as they wait to see if they
will be hurt. German businesses are getting enough concessions from workers
to not move jobs out, but with far lower wages available in eastern European
countries that have newly joined the European Union, little new investment
is being made in Germany.
A German economic rebirth might have happened in the 1990s, but for the
botched job of reunification. By insisting that the East German mark was
equal in value to the western one, Germany made the east instantly
uncompetitive. What could have been a magnet for investment instead is a
depressed area where the former Communists are gaining strength in coming
state elections. Seeing investment headed for Poland and Hungary is not
likely to improve the mood.
Investors were enthusiastic about German changes a year ago, but seem
unimpressed now that they are coming closer to reality. Volkswagen shares
are down about a third from the high they set last fall, but a successful
union negotiation could be a sign that union power is ebbing. Betting on an
economy with a lot of saving - and no possibility of a housing bubble - may
yet become popular.
[And now the same article, fully commented -]
The German question: If workers get less, will more get work? by Floyd Norris, NYT, C1.
[Depends on less what - if less worktime per person, yes. Less anything else, no, because anything else is irrelevant.]
Among the major industrialized economies, Germany is the un-United States.
[But then, so is France. And so would be Scandinavia if it was a single unified economy.]
Americans spend with abandon,
[- less and less because their wages are flat, their benefits are being cut, and they're maxxing out their credit cards -]
while Germans save. America runs a huge and growing trade deficit, while Germany's exports rise along with its trade surplus.
[Both are vulnerable.]
American housing prices have risen sharply, while German prices have stagnated.
Unemployment is high in Germany - 10.5% overall in July and much higher in eastern Germany -
[it's also high in America, but much of it is hidden in welfare (2m families), disability (5.7m), homelessness (930k youth + ??), prisons (2.2m), "self-employment," marginal and contingent jobs, unpaid internships and other dilatory volunteerism]
but people with jobs tend to have a great deal.
[And people without jobs also tend to have a great deal - in Germany.]
Germans typically start working later in life than Americans and retire earlier.
[I.e., they have a shorter worklife.]
They work fewer hours each week and have longer vacations.
[I.e., they have a shorter workweek and a shorter workyear. Overall, their market-demanded employment is much more centrifuged than Americans', and so is their national income = spending power. So they are doing a lot more spending per capita and enjoying a lot more monetary circulation per capita than Americans, whose national income is much more concentrated and deactivated in the upper income brackets.]
If they lose their jobs, unemployment benefits are higher than in America and can continue indefinitely.
But...Volkswagen said this week that it wanted a pay freeze and longer hours for some workers. To some extend that may be a negotiating tactic, but Siemens and DaimlerChrysler have already won significant concessions.
["Extorted" significant concessions with job blackmail would be more accurate.]
Dieter Braeuninger, a Deutsche Bank economist, notes that many Germans already work more than the 35-hour workweek that the big unions won in 1998. He says longer hours are both needed and inevitable.
[Then Japanese-style indefinite recession is 'needed' and inevitable in Germany.]
...The new rules say that workers will get unemployment benefits for just a year after losing a job (or 18 months for those over 55). Then they must either find a job or apply for a new benefit - much less generous - based on need. To get that benefit, an unemployed person must fill out a long form that asks about such thing as the value of the applicant's home and the savings of family members. ...The hope is tha the change will persuade people who can find jobs to do so.
[These worktime-unrelated policies sound reasonable - if worksharing in terms of both gradual workweek reduction and overtime-to-training&hiring conversion is going on simultaneously to provide actual job opportunities.]
In the best of all possible worlds, longer hours - lowering pay per hour [ie: wage] but not overall income -
[by what idiocy does Floyd Norris link together the phrase "best of all possible worlds" and longer hours and lower wages?! - get real, Floyd!]
should lead to higher investment and employment,
[why? China and India still have far lower working conditions so the higher investment and employment therefrom will happen there, not in Germany! - the only reason for this connection is that investors think it's all about them, but more realistically, it's all about consumption, not investment, and consumption is all about more of the national income getting spread around in higher wages, not lower wages coupled with a greater concentration of investment money - war can provide centrifuged investment money and higher wages by creating a labor shortage - but shorter hours can do the same thing without the killing associated with war]
stimulating spending by both businesses and consumers.
[Higher investment and employment based on lowering wages and lengthening hours? Only self-stupifying servants of nearsighted and greedy wealth would try to associate such opposites. Lower wages and stimulated consumer spending? Ditto ditto. Indeed, Floyd soon comes round to the same conclusion -]
...Consumers worry that changes will hurt them, and thus fear spending. [And] with far lower wages prevailing in the new East European members of the EU [let alone China and India!], little new investment is being made in Germany.
[Bingo. The EU really screwed itself by letting in all these poverty-stricken new members, especially when West Germany has not even figured out yet how to integrate East Germany without either sinking to its level or depopulating it -]
A German economic rebirth might have taken place in the 1990s, but for a botched job of reunification. By insisting that the East German mark was equal in value to the West German mark, the West made the East instantly uncompetitive [and depopulated it]. What could have been a magnet for investment [and sunk the West to the East's level] instead is a depressed [and depopulated] area where the former Communists are gaining strength for upcoming state elections....
[Scylla and Charybdis. This can only be done by following a Third Way, which Schroeder talks up a lot but evidently knows nothing about = Timesizing.]
- GM's Opel seeking 40 hours work-week - report, by Emily Church, CBS MarketWatch via CBS.MW.
GERMANY - General Motors (GM) German division Adam Opel is
planning to extend employee hours to 40 hours a week from 35 hours,
according to Germany's Bild newspaper, AFX News reported from Frankfurt.
Opel is in talks with unions over pay and conditions. Bild also reported
that Volkswagen's top management has agreed to a two-year pay
increase freeze. The automaker, also in pay talks with unions, is seeking to
cut wage costs by 30% by 2011, AFX reported.
- France's leaders talk about workweek overhaul, by Kenneth Maxwell, Dow Jones via WSJ, A10.
PARIS - The French government approached the task of overhauling [ie: weakening] the nation's 35-hour workweek laws, kicking off a series of meetings with trade unions and employers that it says are designed to add flexibility to, rather than scrap, the system.
Labor Relations Minister Gerard Larcher met in Paris with Francois Chereque, leader of the moderate CFDT union, against a backdrop of what has become a steady trickle of moves by companies to impose longer work hours under threat of outsourcing jobs or factory closures.
[Same game as in Germany, a game that no one can win, because companies are just gnawing away their own rich French consumer base.]
Agencies such as the [American-controlled] IMF have called on countries such as France and Germany to roll back what many see as restrictive working practices that harm Europe's economies.
[Well well well, this is the first we've heard of the IMF's role in this toxic self-immolation. Clearly the USA just can't stand to see any other big economies with higher living standards and greater general happiness than itself, so via its "typhoid Mary," the IMF, it sets out to propagandize the erring utopias to sabotage themselves - and the wonder is, it seems to be working sooo easily! Despite their current, entirely justified fear and suspicion of Bush's America, France and Germany are both lining right up outside the abattoir to slaughter their enviable living standards - envy that the American elite just can no longer abide. Hey, maybe they played a key role in the self-debasement of Japan in the late 1980s too, as Japan, the management wonder of the 1980s, traded its own unique lifetime employment for American-style downsizing and instantaneously plunged into the economic toilet, never since to really emerge. Now France and Germany are about to trade their shorter working hours for American-style longer hours, lower pay, and more concentrated national employment and income - mirabile dictu! So let's see how fast they now tank. It's the same mechanism in each case - they clobber their formerly very vibrant domestic consumer markets - much more vibrant on a per-capita basis than America's.]
Economists say the 35-hour week - originally devised to stimulate job creation [and quite successful at that!] - has imposed rigidity in labor markets that has contributed to reduced competitiveness.
[What bullroar. As it was introduced, French labor practices were actually flexed up, gaining more play than under the previous 39-hour workweek. The only thing that's changed is that bored French CEOs have been listening to the toxic IMF, getting greedy for the kind of megapay&perks some American CEOs have been grabbing, and looking over at eastern Europe and China and India with a view to using the threat of departure to extort self-belittling concessions from their own employees (and their own consumers). The only remedy is to establish the principle in any and every way possible that if CEOs only get to access your rich consumer markets to the extent they contribute to them with high-quality employment. In short, a new kind of tariff, and suicidal globalization be damned.]
France's jobless rate is nudging 10%.
[Big deal. Before the 35-hour workweek was voted-in in 1997, it was nudging 13% (12.6%).]
The current French government has sought to play down the prospect of radical change in the 35-hour workweek,
[hey, same as Kellogg's did as it gradually phased out its 30-hour workweek between 1939 and 1986 - see Ben Hunnicutt's "Kellogg's Six-Hour Day"]
introduced by the former socialist administration in 1999, for fear of striking unrest among the country's powerful trade unions.
[But what good is trade-union power in the context of suicidal trade-union stupidity? They diffused their vote among splinter parties on the left and allowed extreme-rightwinger Le Pen to replace Jospin in the presidential primary. Then they had to vote against Le Pen and get back Chirac, who immediately started trying to water down the 35-hour week - instead of moving a little ahead with Jospin. Many French voters were angry at Jospin for not moving far enough fast enough, but like Americans wanting to discipline the Democrats via voting against Gore for Clinton's moving too far to the right and calling it "the center," many French voted against Jospin and thereby "cut off their nose to spite their face."]
Pres. Jacques Chirac, PM Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy all have said the 35-hour week is here to stay in France as the basis for labor law.
[Ah but they are true Daoists, followers of Lao Tzu, who said, "What you would tear down you must first build up."]
Instead, the government's line is to seek to negotiate 'greater flexibility' [our quotes] with workers and employers.
[ie: more concessions from employees, period.]
...The issue flared up over the summer amid a handful of moves by several companies. In mid-July, workers at one of Robert Bosch GMBH's French plants voted [ie: were forced] to accept a longer workweek for no extra pay. They backed [ie: swallowed] a new deal requiring them to work one extra hour each week after the German tool and carparts maker threatened them with layoffs and the outsourcing of a diesel-pump production line to the Czech Republic.
[They should have said, Fine, GO - but we'll see to it that you never sell another carpart in France. Interesting that it was a German company that started the erosion in France - Germans are so much more impressed with authority - but c'mon, with fratboy Geo.W.Bush as US pResident??? - they must be desperate!]
In Germany, engineering and electronics giant Siemens AG made telephone-factory workers choose between five extra hours a week for no more pay or layoffs and outsourcing to Hungary. They 'chose' to keep the jobs.
[In short, the same process that's been eroding the U.S. economy for 20 years has now started in Europe. In the U.S., profitable outfits like Raytheon and Fidelity Investments went to the Massachusetts legislature to extort taxbreaks under the threat of pulling their jobs out into friendlier states - never mind that lawmakers had absolutely no way of enforcing the implicit pledge to keep jobs in Massachusetts if the concessions were granted. Now this is going on all over the USA, with companies getting cities and states to bid against one another like countries bidding to host the Olympics! It would be funny if it wasn't so suicidal for all concerned, not least the CEOs leading the dance - less dramatic than a "dance of death" - let's just call it the Long Death Spiral.]
- Japan's household spending falls; Unemployment rises (update5), Bloomberg.
Japanese households unexpectedly cut spending in July and unemployment rose, adding to signs a
recovery is faltering in the world's second-largest economy.
Spending by households headed by a salaried worker fell for a third month, dropping 2.5% from June, seasonally
adjusted, the statistics bureau said in Tokyo. The jobless rate rose to 4.9% from 4.6%, the first increase
"These numbers are very disappointing," said Kirby Daley, a strategist at Societe Generale Securities' Fimat division in
Tokyo. "There are increasing signs that the turnaround in the domestic economy is slower in coming than expected."
Consumer spending, which accounts for almost three-fifths of the economy, is declining as wages slide and companies replace
full-time workers with part-timers. Falling domestic demand may hold back an economy that grew at a 1.7 percent annual pace
in the second quarter, half the rate economists had forecast.
Bonds rose as a separate report showed consumer prices fell, extending six years of deflation. The yield on the benchmark
1.9% bond fell 4 basis points to 1.565% as of 1:43 p.m. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.
Nationwide core consumer prices, which exclude fresh food, fell 0.2% from a year earlier, the statistics bureau said.
The report suggests the Bank of Japan won't soon end its policy of holding interest rates at almost zero, said Shuji
Shirota, an economist at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in Tokyo.
"Deflationary pressure is persistent in Japan," he said. "Consumer prices will continue to fall at a moderate pace."
Companies are hiring more part-time and temporary workers to save costs, keeping down wages, which have risen in just three
months of the past three years. Part-time and temporary workers often receive fewer benefits and most don't receive bonuses.
"We've increased the proportion of part-time staff over the past two to three years," said Shuichi Kato, president of
Gigas K's Denki Corp., Japan's sixth-biggest publicly traded electronics retailer. "Part-time staff account for about half of our workers."
The number of people working as many as 30 hours a week has risen every year for the past four years, while the number
working more than 35 hours a week has dropped, according to government figures.
The unemployment rate rose as an increase in the size of the labor force exceeded the number of new jobs. The labor force
increased by 320,000 people, while the economy added 90,000 jobs, the first gain in three months.
"The economic recovery may be prompting people to look for new or better jobs and is one reason the unemployment rate
temporarily rose," said Michio Matsumura, an official at the statistics bureau, told reporters.
The Japanese economy needs improved consumer spending to counter a decline in exports. Overseas shipments slid for a second
month in July, falling 0.3% from June, according to a government report yesterday.
Exports may fall further as the U.S. central bank raises rates and China's government restricts lending, slowing growth in
Japan's two largest overseas markets, according to economists including Koji Takeuchi of Mizuho Research Institute.
The U.S. Federal Reserve is raising borrowing costs to curb inflation. The Fed this month raised interest rates by a quarter
point to 1.5%. Chinese officials are restricting lending to cool Asia's second-largest economy.
The median of nine forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey of economists was for a 2.3% increase in Japanese household
spending. Economists had predicted unemployment would be unchanged.
From a year earlier, household spending rose 2.9%, today's report showed.
Spending on air conditioners rose 12% from a year earlier, boosted by unusually hot weather. Households increased
spending on refrigerators by 55% and on beverages by 12%.
The temperature in Tokyo, home to a 10th of Japan's population, rose to a record 39.5 degrees Celsius (103 degrees
Fahrenheit) on July 20, while the monthly average was 28 degrees, or 3 degrees above normal, according to the Japan
- Republicans for Kerry [moderate Republicans anyway] - Why a Bush win would be bad for the American right, by Niall Ferguson, WSJ, A12.
...Eisenhower didn't have much in common personally with George W. Bush, except perhaps the relaxed work rate....
[This is one of the few points on which we can agree with Dubya. For those curious about the headline, basically the argument is that Dubya has already made many mistakes but they are still disguisable. If he is re-elected, he will continue making mistakes but they will become undisguisable, as John Major's were in his second term in Britain in the 1990s, or as Eisenhower's were in his second term in the U.S. in the 1950s. People will get totally disgusted with the Republicans and by then the Democrats will have figured out that "it's the candidate, stupid" and got themselves a Tony Blair or JFK/LBJ, who will proceed to bury the Republican Party indefinitely.]
Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
(July 31+) Aug.1-10/2004
Feb.21-29/2004 + Mar.1
Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
1998 and previous years.
For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, 'flung' into print as a campaign piece during the 1998 race for Joe Kennedy's empty Congressional seat. The handbook is available online from *Amazon.com.Top |
Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.