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Timesizing News, October 12-15, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080

10/15/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/14 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA, and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Public servants will have 112 days off including weekends next year
    By Elisa Kao, CNA via Taiwan Headlines, Taiwan
    TAIPEI, Taiwan - Central Personnel Administration Director-General Lee Yi-yang announced Thursday that public servants will have 112 days off next year, including weekends.
    [So excluding weekends (2 days a week for 26 weeks), they'll have 112-52= 60 days off.]
    Among the 112 days off, Lee added, employees at government offices will have 8 consecutive days off as Chinese Lunar New Year vacation from Feb 6-13, but will have to work the previous Saturday. Lee made the announcement following discussions with representatives from local governments, the Chinese National Federation of Industries and the General Chamber of Commerce of the ROC.

  2. Dutch Strike Stops Trains, Limits Bus, Tram Services (Update1)
    Bloomberg, United States
    A Dutch public transport-worker strike stopped all trains and limited bus and tram services across the Netherlands as labor unions stepped up opposition to government plans to curb employee benefits.
    The FNV Bondgenoten, CNV and MHP labor unions asked drivers of trains and regional public transport to strike in protest against cabinet plans that include lengthening the work week to 40 hours from 36 hours and cutting some tax breaks on pensions.
    "Participation in the strike is almost 100%," FNV Bondgenoten said on its Web site.
    More than 200,000 people on Oct. 2 demonstrated in Amsterdam against the program, following a bus and tram strike in the city on Sept. 27. Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm has since said the government will proceed with reforms, designed to ease the spending burden on the state and companies as the cabinet struggles to hold the budget deficit within European Union limits.
    In Amsterdam and The Hague, buses and trams are running. Trains are canceled nationwide between until 2 a.m. tomorrow, said NS Groep NV, the Dutch railway operator, on its Web site.
    Rotterdam will have no public transport until 4 a.m. tomorrow. In Utrecht, there will be no buses between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and limited public transport until 3:30 p.m. today. Public transport will also be limited in the regions Groningen, Friesland and around the cities Maastricht and Nijmegen until 4 a.m. tomorrow, said the Dutch transport Web site www.9292ov.nl.
    "Public transport users shouldn't be the victims," the Association for Public Transport Passengers said on its Web site.
    The cabinet is cutting the budget to help get the country's deficit to below the European Union's 3% limit next year. Zalm has cut spending by 9.4 billion ($11.7 billion) this year to stay within the limit in 2004 after breaching it in 2003.
    Workers in the construction, defence and health-care industries plan to stage their own strikes in coming weeks.
    The Dutch economy lost 1.6% of its jobs in the second quarter of 2004, compared with the year-earlier period, while labor costs per employee rose 1.9%. The Dutch economy shrank 0.1% in the second quarter from the first.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Evalinde Eelens at eeelens@bloomberg.net
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Collins at collinsc@bloomberg.net

  3. Rocky start to HK lawmakers' first question-and-answer session
    CAN via Channel News Asia, Singapore
    By Roland Lim
    HONG KONG - The first question-and-answer session between Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa and the territory's new lawmaking council got off to a rocky start on Thursday.
    Activist-turned-lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, fondly known as 'Longhair', complained that he'd been threatened on his way to the legislature by two men who might have been Mr Tung's bodyguards.
    The session was adjourned until he had calmed down.
    Then, the colourful lawmaker got into a spat with LegCo president Rita Fan over what she called his "improper dress code".
    His black T-shirt shouted out a political statement - "Reversal on the decision for June 4th".
    During question-and-answer time, Mr Tung came under fire for not doing enough to boost Hong Kong's economy and competitiveness, and to impose a minimum wage.
    More drama came from former talk-show host Albert Cheng who asked the first question.
    As expected, the man who allegedly lost his previous job because of his anti-Beijing stance, hit out at Mr Tung.
    Mr Cheng said: "If you have a problem communicating with the central government, how do you expect the Hong Kong government to help the democrats?"
    The Chief Executive was quick to defend himself.
    Mr Tung said: "Previously, there wasn't enough communication between the Executive Council and the Legislative Council. I hope we can have a fresh start from this term onwards."
    It seems that the harsh criticism of the Tung administration is not only restricted to the interior of the Legislative Council building.
    Outside Parliament, the mood is equally loud.
    Hong Kongers gathered outside, calling for a minimum wage and shorter working hours.
    They're also upset with the current high fuel prices.
    To appease angry protesters, the government has announced it's considering lowering taxes on vehicle fuel to help bus operators and taxi-drivers.

  4. Worker rights, welfare demands fail - Legislators reject Hong Kong plans
    By Tan Ee Lyn, Reuters via Boston Globe, MA
    HONG KONG - Hong Kong's newly elected lawmakers, who promised last month to listen closely and fight for the less fortunate, threw out two motions calling for more workers' rights and welfare yesterday.
    As expected, the two nonbinding motions failed to get through because they were not backed by probusiness legislators who make up half of the 60-member chamber.
    The legislators were returned in elections last month for a four-year term. Hong Kong's complicated electoral system, which favors pro-Beijing and probusiness candidates, ensured they won 35 seats. Prodemocracy politicians took 25 seats although they won 62% of the popular vote.
    The first motion called for the Beijing-backed administration to protect workers with a minimum wage and maximum working hours, which do not sit well with the government in Hong Kong, a financial hub that prides itself on not interfering with market forces.
    "In the last few years, employers have cut wages and told workers to work longer hours, and workers have followed suit to keep their jobs," said Chan Yuen-han, who sponsored the motion.
    "Wages have fallen to levels that are unacceptably low . . . which is a shame for a place like Hong Kong," said Chan of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong.
    Recent surveys showed the city's nearly seven million people were most concerned about the economy after long periods of slowdown since the Asian financial crisis of 1997.
    According to social workers, wages of the lowest 10% of wage earners have fallen to $500 a month from $630 in 1997 (in US dollars), while earnings of the highest 10% have risen to $7,300 from $6,640.
    The heated debate lasted more than four hours and drew an impassioned speech from radical activist "Longhair" Leung Kwok-hung, who swept into the legislature in the September elections with support from his working-class supporters.
    Leung, who has been jailed a few times for disrupting legislative sittings with his protests, ignored protocol by wearing a red Che Guevara T-shirt in the chamber.
    He related anecdotes exposing the poverty that lay beneath the veneer of the rich, capitalist city.
    "Hong Kong is now famous for its poverty. I know a woman who works all day cleaning out rubbish for [$330] a month," said the veteran street protester in his loud booming voice. "Her daughter, who could not bear to see her mother suffering like this, now helps her mother to throw out rubbish to lighten her burden."
    Lashing out at his probusiness colleagues, the lawmaker who still protests regularly in the streets shouted: "Haven't you said you will listen to the people and work for them? What have you done? You have hung a noose around their necks to hang them!"
    But the minimum wage plan met opposition in the legislature.
    "You do not know how fragile our competitiveness is . . . our salaries are very high compared to elsewhere. Our rents are a lot higher than elsewhere," said Tommy Cheung of the probusiness Liberal Party, which has 10 seats in the chamber. "If you still want to set minimum wages, you will threaten our businesses and the jobs of our workers," he said.
    The second motion, also defeated, called for more welfare for the elderly and the disabled.

  5. French court to rule on 35-hour workweek
    AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer
    PARIS - A French court is to rule as early as Friday on a trade union challenge over a labor agreement at car maker Renault, in a case that could have implications for the country's 35-hour workweek. The court in Nanterre, west of Paris, has been asked by the left-wing CGT trade union to annul the deal negotiated between the company and its staff unions. Four major unions representing the majority of workers approved the agreement, which affects the way overtime is calculated, but the CGT refused to back the deal and instead launched its legal challenge. The Communist-backed union claims Renault is breaking the law by deducting workers' training and break time from the extra days off they are supposed to receive in exchange for working overtime. Renault spokeswoman Violaine Morel said the company believes the accord is legal, but declined to comment further ahead of the ruling, which could come Friday afternoon. If the court finds in favor of the CGT's challenge, the decision could have repercussions for dozens of other companies with similar deals and for a review of the 35-hour law that is currently under way. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin's government has already once amended the law, introduced under the last Socialist-led government, and is considering further changes to reduce the cost of overtime for companies and increase flexibility.

  6. Pharmacy, Banks To Stay Open In Event Of Strike - Officials Aim To Continue Normal Business hours
    Channel Cincinnati.com, OH
    CINCINNATI - Kroger is trying to sell you on the notion of business-as-usual in the event of a strike, WLWT News 5's John London reported. Officials said the only difference in drive-through banking is that you may have to drive past a picket line to get access. Several dozen banks inside area Krogers will be open as long as the store is. The one-hour photo lab and pharmacy will also remain open. To keep the checkout lines running smoothly, Kroger officials are hiring $10-an-hour replacements. Managers from other divisions will fill openings created by a strike. Delivering fresh fruit, produce, meats and dairy products can be a little difficult. Union truck drivers could be asked to honor picket lines if they materialize. Kroger officials said the stores get some daily supply from a variety of sources, including non-union, third-party warehouses, London reported. During the last strike and lockout in California, Kroger said the stores were continuously stocked. Although the goal is to keep normal hours, the west coast walkout resulted in reduced hours. The average Kroger employee makes $11.05 in wages, which is significantly more than Meijer employees, who average $8.70. Wal-Mart employees earn an average of $8.50. Kroger employees also get free health care and the company is asking them to pay between $5 and $15 each week for coverage. There is no word on where picketers would be permitted to stand.

  7. CareerLink opens office in Columbia
    Columbia Ledger, PA
    By: Jamie Fessler
    A CareerLink office recently opened up at Fifth and Walnut streets in Columbia to help job seekers in town. The office is accessed from the rear parking lot of the Columbia United Methodist Church. The main office in Lancaster offers many services, including G.E.D. training and childcare for job seekers. There are many CareerLink access points in smaller towns surrounding Lancaster to make the service more convenient for job seekers. The Columbia access point provides two functions for job seekers. First, the CareerLink volunteers help job seekers to write their resumes and post them to the CareerLink Web site. Employers look to the CareerLink Web site to fill open positions. The second function of the office is to make computers available for job searches. The volunteers are there to help anyone who needs a job and wants to use the Web site to find one. All services at the Columbia office are free. Currently, the office is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. - noon. "We're hoping to add more hours as our workload requires," said Ken Sprout, Columbia CareerLink director. The Web site, www.pacareerlink.state.pa.us, includes job listings and specific job requirements and descriptions. Phone numbers and contact names are available for most job listings, and there is an option to send a resume when a job seeker applies for a position. Although the web site can be accessed through any Internet connection, job seekers will benefit from going to the CareerLink office to browse the web site. The volunteers are available to help job seekers if they have any questions while using the Web site.

  8. Report: 1 in 3 Ariz. families considered 'working poor'
    Tucson Citizen, AZ
    Arizona ranks 41st among states in the number of working poor families, a study says. The study comes just as federal officials announced a decline in welfare recipients nationwide and in Arizona. One in 3 Arizona families is among the working poor, and nearly 41% of Arizona children live in low-income families with at least one person over age 15 working 39 or more hours in the prior 12 months, the study found. The Annie E. Casey Foundation conducted the study with support from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. It was released Tuesday. Nine million families nationwide struggle to make ends meet, says the Phoenix advocacy group Children's Action Alliance. At the same time, the federal government has reduced families on welfare, said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. In December 2003 in Arizona, 52,170 Arizona families received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. By January 2004, that number was 51,183. By March 2004, the latest figures available, it was 49,967. But federal reforms have shortened the time families can get temporary assistance and require adults on it to sign up for job training leading mainly to low-paying jobs. More than one-fourth of working families are low-income, the "Working Hard" report says. It notes that Arizona working parents are 32% more likely to hold jobs paying below the poverty threshold than other Americans and 21% less likely to get unemployment insurance if they lose jobs. In Arizona, nearly 47% of minority families are low income, according to the report. Low income is defined as having income less than 200% of the federal poverty threshold, which varies depending on family size.

  9. Wilensky cites county spending
    Union Democrat, CA
    To defend against the spread of disease and the loss of crops, Steve Wilensky has planted nearly 400 varieties of fruits and vegetables on his Glencoe farm. So far, the strategy has paid off. In two decades of farming, the 53-year-old Wilensky says he has never suffered a major crop failure. Now facing David Studley of Mountain Ranch in Calaveras County's second district supervisorial race, Wilensky hopes to use strategies he's learned on the farm while in office. Keeping the county safe from several potentially ruinous threats, including unchecked growth, a lack of affordable housing and the county's deepening fiscal troubles are among his goals. "This is a watershed moment in our history," said Wilensky yesterday while holding a barrel of just-picked apples on his 42-acre farm. Wilensky placed first in the six-way March primary election for the District 2 (Mountain Ranch-Mokelumne Hill) seat, capturing 47% of the vote. He will face Studley, a lawyer practicing in San Andreas, in the Nov. 2 runoff. The winner will succeed incumbent Paul Stein, who is leaving office after two terms. Chief among Wilensky's concerns is the county's exploding growth, which ranks near the top in the state. In planning for such growth, the candidate said more communication between residents and county officials, and within county offices, will be critical. "If you don't ask the people who are receiving services and those who are providing the services for their input, you're going to make the same policy mistakes over and over again," he said. Wilensky warned that the "planning travesty" that led to unrestrained growth near Stockton and Sacramento could creep east to Calaveras County unless proper planning is done. He supports consolidating the building and planning departments, a move county officials have proposed to speed up the backlog of work in the offices. But the merger should proceed, he said, only if it leads to a more inclusive and sensible approach to planning. Wilensky said the search for affordable housing is another priority. While generally against mandates that developers build a percentage of low-income housing on new projects, he said builders should contribute to a fund set aside for such housing. He also said county fees for builders specializing in affordable housing should be reduced. A key factor in the county's affordable housing woes, said Wilensky, is the lack of jobs. As supervisor, he said he would support job-training programs for the unemployed and underemployed. Regarding the county's fiscal troubles, Wilensky said it was too early to say whether he would support furloughs over layoffs if funds continue to dwindle. Wilensky said the five mandatory furlough days approved by supervisors this year will not save the county enough money and have polarized many county workers and offices. The five days were first expected to save the county $300,000. But because of exemptions, the mandatory days off may save significantly less. The candidate said some blame for current fiscal troubles must fall on county supervisors. He criticized their approval of what he called "whopping increases" in some areas, including a $350 monthly travel allowance for each supervisor, To increase revenue, Wilensky said he supports Measure D, a Nov. 2 ballot proposition which would raise the tax on tourists who stay at Calaveras County hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts from 6 to 10%. Wilensky said he would also work to attack the root causes of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and other crime in the county. "We can't just swat at the symptoms," Wilensky said. "We need better coordination, using every possible resource, to attack the entire issue." Increased cooperation between schools and churches and the county could help in the fight against these crimes, he said. Born in Illinois, he moved to California in 1963 after finishing elementary school. He later returned to the Midwest to attend Antioch College in Ohio. Wilensky moved to the county in 1984. He and his wife Pat and their two daughters started Humbug Creek Farm in Glencoe. Last year he retired from the Service Employees International Union after a 23-year career as an organizer, chief negotiator, coordinator and staff director. Ron Huebert, who ran unsuccessfully for the District 2 seat in the March primary, said Wilensky is the right candidate to tackle the serious challenges facing the county. "He's committed to responsible government and unconditionally committed to representing all the people," said Huebert, now a principal at a charter school near Stockton. Wilensky has repeatedly said that he had nothing to do with the circulation of documents showing that Studley, his election opponent, was involved in a sexual harassment suit filed 12 years ago in San Francisco. Wilensky said he would continue to make phone calls, send out mailings and canvass the district door-to-door during his campaign's final stretch.

  10. Letters Archives - Tell Kids The Truth About Fast-Food Toys
    Georgia Straight, Canada
    In her article "Dining With... Children" [Sept. 30-Oct. 7], Angela Murrills makes a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to discourage fast-food lust in small children. Tell them, she says, "those plastic toys are actually made from pulverized kittens". I have a better idea: why not tell your children the truth? Kids, those plastic toys are made by peasant girls on the southeast coast of China. They earn 25 to 40 cents an hour, get two days off a month, and are exposed to toxic fumes while they work. I don't want to buy you toys that other kids were abused to produce.

  11. Four on trial over sexual servitude
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
    By Natasha Wallace
    Four Sydney people yesterday became the first in the country ordered to stand trial under federal sexual servitude laws, introduced to stem a rise in foreign women brought here and forced into prostitution. Magistrate Leslie Brennan ordered that the four, including a mother and son, stand trial on a charge of conspiracy to cause persons to enter into sexual servitude between November 1, 2001 and June 14, 2003. Those to stand trial are Jenny Lai Chin Ong, 48, and her son, Raymond Aik Tong Tan, 30, Danny Sweeseang Kwok, 37, and Hosea Prayudi Saputra Yoe, 48. They allegedly operated the Australian end of an international syndicate that trafficked women from Thailand, Indonesia and China, Sydney's Central Local Court heard yesterday. Crown prosecutor Robert Sutherland, SC, told the court the women were promised jobs at restaurants or in public relations but were forced to work as prostitutes at brothels in Sydney and Melbourne to "repay their debt", and were only given days off when they were menstruating. Mr Sutherland said that some of the women were aware they would be working in the sex industry, but had no idea they would be unpaid and kept in harsh conditions. One woman felt she was "living like an animal, just working to eat", he said. Australian Federal Police were alerted to the group after three Indonesians escaped from Ong and Tan's apartment in Auburn last year before performing any sex acts. The women, whose names have been withheld, were told by Ong that they would have to repay their debts by doing "800 jobs in 400 hours", the court heard. Defence barrister Garry Jauncey said the women knew that working in a restaurant was "code in Indonesia ... for being a callgirl", and that it was not illegal to bring women into the country to work in the sex industry. He also said they were not forced into prostitution. But the magistrate said that force did not have to be physical and it was clear "the women were in no position to bargain". The trial begins on October 26.

  12. Same-sex partner benefits approved
    Portsmouth Herald News, United States
    By Elizabeth Kenny (ekenny@seacoastonline.com)
    KITTERY, Maine - Same-sex domestic partners of non-union town employees can now take advantage of the same sick-leave and bereavement-leave benefits available to spouses. The council voted on Wednesday night to amend the town's personnel ordinance to recognize domestic partners of town employees. Councilor Ann Grinnell brought the issue before the council a few months ago. She said that even though none of the town's eight non-union employees had requested the change, she wanted to prepare for future hires. Councilor Dennis Estes was the only council member who opposed the revision, saying he would rather wait until an employee asked for such a change. Councilor Rich Balano responded to Estes' concern by saying, "I support this change to attract the best and brightest (employees) out there, and the best way to do that is to" have the best benefits we can offer. The amendment, which passed on a 6-1 vote, allows all employees five days off every year for a death within the immediate family, including domestic partners. Extended paid sick leave is also included in the revised ordinance. Addressing concerns expressed earlier about the cost of the measure, Councilor Frank Dennett said all employees must earn this privilege through tenure. The council had postponed making a decision on the partner-benefits issue several times over the course of previous meetings. At the last meeting, Dennett amended the original policy by using Maine state law to define the term "domestic partner." Since the council began deliberating on the issue, members of the public have variously expressed opposition as well as support for the amendment. Residents in favor of the revision said they wanted to see a level playing field for all town employees, while those opposed questioned the cost and expressed social concerns. In other business at Wednesday's council meeting, Fire Chief David O'Brien along with Joseph Hennessey and Richard Oest Associates presented a preliminary design as well as budget and cost estimates for a project to build a new fire station and upgrade the Kittery Point station. Preliminary plans call for a new station on Gorges Road to replace the nearly 50-year-old station on Walker Street and an expansion of the Kittery Point station. Chief O'Brien pointed out that the designs are extremely preliminary, adding that he plans to visit the council at a later time with an estimated cost and a more complete design plan. O'Brien added that once he and members of Oest Associates calculate the cost of the project, he will seek the council's approval to proceed. At the point when the plans are completed, O'Brien will return to the council for a public discussion of the project, he said, which could lead to a referendum vote on the estimated $1.9 million project for the two stations.

  13. China's poor being left behind
    Kazinform, Kazakhstan
    Astana - Beijing. KAZINFORM quotes BBC News - Chairman Mao's successors decreed that "getting rich is glorious". But despite all the talk of economic growth and success stories, for most ordinary Chinese it is still just a dream. In Zhongshan, a 1,000-year-old village deep in China's under-developed west, up to 90% of the 700 inhabitants survive on government handouts, according to local official Zhou Jiling. Many are looking after grandchildren whose parents have moved to cities far away on the coast to find work. Rural China has benefited far less from reforms Some of these migrants visit their home villages for annual holidays, others once every few years and some not at all. Half an hour's walk away, up a steep winding path through the fields, 72-year-old Wang Yinqing lives in a single room with a packed mud floor. She has been here since 1949, the year Mao led his peasant army to victory. "Things got better then," she said. "He gave us solid houses. Before that they were built of bamboo." Today she has electricity for the bare light bulb hanging from the rafters, but no refrigerator, television or telephone. For a toilet, she goes outside with the chickens. Her daughters grew up hungry, she said, but they now earn just enough for their food and clothing, and sometimes send a little bit home. China's poverty makes talk of superpower status premature She herself has never even seen the nearest city, Chongqing, even though it is just 100km (60 miles) away. While she said China's reforms were "a good thing", they have largely passed her by, as they have many other people in China's countryside.
    Poor getting poorer
    Rural areas did well under the first phase of China's economic reforms. But since then agriculture has been neglected. The abandonment of free public health and other welfare systems and the decision to let some parts of the country get rich before others have all contributed to a huge and still growing wealth gap. To talk of superpowers seems almost absurd when you head into the hills and remember that China still ranks just 94th in the United Nations Human Development Index. Many people are getting richer. But last year the number of people living in extreme poverty (defined as those with annual incomes of less than $77) actually rose, to just over 3% of the population - although admittedly this is the first officially recorded increase in 25 years of economic reforms. Similarly, road-building and other big infrastructure programmes look impressive from a distance. But when you see some rural roads close-up, you come across an awful lot of cracks and pot-holes. Contracts for both building and mending the roads tend to be in the hands of local officials who have close links to construction companies - one of many reasons why China's unique combination of communism and capitalism does not always leave everyone with a fair chance. Migrants are flooding Chongqing for work and better living standards "Concepts we borrow from the West don't always fit in when applied to Chinese reality," said Cao Haili, a journalist working for Caijing magazine, noted for its exposes of the darker side of China's economic reforms. Corruption has multiplied with the massive investment and decentralisation that have been integral parts of the reforms. The lack of transparency, accountability and rule of law become more apparent the further one goes from the centre of power. Crime, local protectionism and regional competition - not to mention the simmering separatist movements on China's fringes - all add to a sense of fragmentation. It is a trend that could bring about the Communist Party's downfall, as its leaders are the first to admit. But they are in a quandary. They have had some success in controlling the breakneck speed of growth, averting - at least for now - rampant inflation and a crash in the banking system.
    But slower growth will mean not enough new jobs for the 10m workers a year entering the urban employment market - not to mention the 14m still laid off from state-owned enterprises, the 95m migrants seeking work and an estimated 150m surplus labourers in the countryside. Protests by laid-off workers take place daily, even at a time when the economy is doing well. Chongqing is one place where jobseekers keep arriving and the boom shows no sign of slowing. With state banks being told to limit lending, private investment has taken over and annual growth is still as high as 12%. "No one can say Chinese are poor," said one local businessman as he ushered a group of glamorous girls into his private room at a karaoke club, "when we can put down four million renminbi ($500,000) in cash for a new villa". He did not mention that the farmers being moved off their land to make way for the villa would have had to work for more than 2,000 years to pay such a sum themselves. The new leadership in Beijing says it is now doing more to tame the raw excesses of Chinese-style capitalism, and address the concerns of the marginalised. It now talks about not only economic growth but also "quality of life". According to Liu Haiming, a Beijing-based artist, Chinese people have become "shaky" in their excitement about money. They no longer relate to each other or care about the common good. "All they think about are material things. They have misunderstood what being a developed country really means." But in cities like Shanghai, migrant workers keep on coming, eager for their big chance. Li Xiaobo works 10 hours a day in a marble processing factory, with no days off - in addition to a part-time job. He shares a 10 square metre room with three co-workers. He and his fellow migrants face discrimination over everything from getting a mortgage to finding a girlfriend. He believes 98% of the migrants are unhappy with their conditions. But for him, it is still better than being back home in Hunan Province. Seeing all the city's fine shops is "like a dream", he said.

  14. Children join in learning about Quran, Muslim faith during Ramadan
    St. Cloud Times, MN
    Dawn Peake
    A 10-year-old St. Cloud girl sat in her classroom during a snack time last fall with no crackers or juice on her desk. Zainab Babuker, now 11, is a Muslim and fasting is a way she observes Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Ramadan - expected to start Saturday with the sighting of the crescent moon - marks the month the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Until Muslims see the next crescent moon in November, they will refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset. It's a time to tune up their spiritual lives. They purify their behavior, give to charity and read the entire Quran. During the month, more than 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide learn discipline and selflessness. But spreading that message to Muslim children in the United States is challenging for parents. Zarby Kakar, Zainab's mother, said children face additional pressure from peers and become confused when confronted with conflicting traditions. Zainab fasted until lunch or for a few days last year as a fifth-grader at St. Cloud's Lincoln Elementary. "The hardest thing for her was when snack time came," her mother said. "Everybody else is eating and she couldn't." According to the Quran, children should start to read the Muslim holy book at age 7 and fast for the entire month of Ramadan once they reach puberty. Many Muslims, however, encourage their children to fast during Ramadan for a few days or for half days before puberty, Kakar said. By fasting, Muslims learn self-control. Their restraint starts with food, but extends to other habits, such as swearing, smoking or drinking alcohol, said Dr. Hamed Alghanim, Kakar's husband. "The Quran teaches you, don't be a slave to these things," Alghanim said. "These things aren't anything."
    Early involvement
    Before children participate in the fast or cooking meals during Ramadan, they learn the importance of the Quran. Muslims recite passages of the Quran during their prayers five times a day. The moment the St. Cloud couple's daughter Athmar was born last year, Alghanim recited a passage of the Quran to her. Since then, the 11-month old has sat on their lap while they read passages or played on the floor while a tape of the Quran played in the background. "She gets used to it like music," Alghanim said, and she will begin to repeat the words just like children do after listening to a Britney Spears song. Kakar said it is important parents explain Ramadan in terms children can understand and involve them in the daily activities at a young age. After Zainab would get home from school, she would help her mother prepare the evening meal. They would talk about breaking the fast and giving food to neighbors and the poor. " 'It doesn't matter how much you give'," Kakar would tell her daughter. "My mother always said, 'If someone knocks on your door, give them a smile and if you can't do that, offer them a glass of water because everybody has water.' " Last year, Zainab became more interested in the holiday. She wanted to wake up before sunrise to pray, eat breakfast, known as suhoor, and begin to fast. "She'd be mad if I didn't wake her up," her mother said. Zainab knew her holiday was special the day after her family stopped fasting and celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr. She stayed home from school, ate a special meal and received gifts to celebrate a successful fast.
    A small celebration
    Virginia Riser, principal of Talahi Community School in St. Cloud, said the school accommodates students during Ramadan, but most Muslim students at the school are still too young to observe the fast. "Our experience has been that very few fast," she said. Last year, about five students told her that they were fasting. "Because of the socialization, they usually go into the cafeteria," Riser said, but they may spend the lunch period in the library. The school also provides a quiet space for students who want to pray in the afternoon. "Initially, when that community was new to us, we did a lot of asking questions - as students and adults," Riser said. Within the past few years, Riser said the school's Muslim population has grown, but she does not know how many students practice Islam. Kakar has struggled to teach her 11-year-old daughter about their faith since the family moved from Seattle to St. Cloud last year for her husband's residency with Mid-Minnesota Family Practice Center. She said St. Cloud's small Muslim community has made it more challenging for her family to observe Ramadan. She said the mosque in St. Cloud does not have a place for females to worship. She also could not find classes on Islam for her daughters or a large community celebrating Ramadan. "The disadvantage is not having the community so the kids don't know about it," she said. Jon Armajani, who teaches Islam at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, said while visiting Muslim countries during Ramadan, he experienced a slower pace of life. Muslims worked fewer hours and most businesses closed early. "Usually during the day, it's a bit more austere," the theology professor said. "People are a bit more serious because they are supposed to be reflecting on God and the hunger they are feeling is to remind them that God is the ultimate source of nourishment." The mission and message remain the same for Muslims in the United States, but the experience often is quite different. "In the Muslim world virtually everybody is participating in Ramadan," Armajani said. "But when Ramadan takes place in the western world, there's less support."
    In Pakistan
    This year, Zainab will observe the holiday in Pakistan with her mother's family. She left in June with her uncle and will attend school with his children this year. "What I saw when I was growing up, I wanted to give that to her," her mother said. A few years ago, Zainab visited Pakistan during Ramadan with her mother to experience the solidarity and celebration. "She loved it so much," Kakar said. "She was just having a ball, so this time she couldn't wait to go." Kakar hopes the year in Pakistan will teach her daughter about the fundamentals of their faith and give her a stronger backbone to face her peers and the temptations at home. "Once you totally know the meaning, you know why you're doing it and it motivates you," Kakar said.

  15. Borneo Bulletin - Brunei Begins Fasting Tomorrow
    Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam
    Bandar Seri Begawan
    Pehin Dato Haji Awang Salim bin Haji Besar, Syariah High Court Judge, broadcast the announcement earlier last night. The announcement was made after the new moon of Ramadhan was not sighted yesterday throughout the country. As usual the Syarie Judges, officials of the Syariah Courts, officials from the State Judiciary Department, official from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Survey Department were at several vantage points in the country to sight the new moon of Ramadhan. They were at Bukit Shahbandar in Jerudong, Bukit Ambok and Bukit Agok in Tutong as well as Bukit Lumut in the Belait District. A nightly terawikh prayer as usual will begin tomorrow evening while the bertedarus ceremony will also highlight the ramadhan nights at all mosques and suraus in the country. Meanwhile, working hours at all government ministries and departments during the Fasting Month of Ramadhan will be from 8am to 2pm. Working hours for daily-paid employees should be an hour shorter from their normal working time.

  16. GM Europe to cut one in five jobs
    BBC News via The Guardian, UK
    David Gow
    BRUSSELS - General Motors announced plans yesterday to shed 12,000 jobs - a fifth of the workforce - in its heavily loss-making European operations and issued a profits warning for its global business in the face of ferocious competition and pricing pressure. The overwhelming bulk of the job losses, probably about 10,000, will fall on Germany, which accounts for more than half of GM's manufacturing costs in Europe and where labour costs are twice as high as in Sweden. The Saab plant in Trollhattan, Sweden, will lose 500 jobs. It is thought likely that GM's British operations, including the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, employing 3,200 people, will escape relatively lightly. GM has 7,000 workers in the UK, including 2,200 in Luton; the carmaker could cut up to 200 posts. The plan to save ?500m (£345m) a year by 2006 comes after five years of losses, culminating in a $236m (£131m) deficit in Europe in the third quarter alone, and the failure of the three-year, ?1bn Project Olympia to staunch these. GM could lose close to $500m in Europe this year, despite raising its market share to 9.6%. Fritz Henderson, GM Europe's chairman, said: "This is a pretty sober day for us." It is also a savage blow to Germany, where unemployment this winter is expected to top 5 million. Companies are cutting costs as a result of weak consumer demand, increasing working hours, and shifting output overseas to escape Germany's high wages and social security contributions. Union leaders, who have agreed locally to widespread job cuts at GM's Opel business in previous years, said they were ready to negotiate but blamed the management for the company's problems. Carl-Peter Forster, former Opel chief and now GM Europe president, said: "If you look back three years, nobody would ever have predicted the softness of the European market, especially in Germany." Acknowledging "tremendous" price pressure in Europe, where Asian and even French manufacturers are increasing sales and profits, he squarely blamed the German middle classes for failing to spend enough - forcing GM to offer costly discounts and incentives. But Mr Henderson, a renowned cost-cutter, allayed German fears that the new plan would mean closure of a car plant, notably Rüssel sheim, near Frankfurt, or Bochum, in the Ruhr region, which employs 7,500. However, GM plans to decide next year where to build its new mid-sized Vectra and the Saab 9-3 later this decade, and there are strong suggestions that either Rüsselsheim or Trollhattan might close, with insiders and analysts pointing to the Swedish plant. GM's chief executive, Rick Wagoner, announced flat third-quarter global earnings of $440m yesterday, sustained by its financing business. He cut full-year profits guidance from $7 a share to between $6 and $6.50. The car business lost $130m, compared with a net profit of $34m a year ago, and Mr Wagoner said these figures were "frankly disappointing". He added: "We've got to move more quickly in addressing these challenging, chronic structural-cost issues." He also attributed blame for for GM's relatively poor profit performance on lower production in North America - where GM is facing substantial healthcare costs - and slower economic growth in China, as well as price deflation in most markets.

  17. UPDATE 2 - US Airways presses for court imposed cost cuts (Recasts, updates with testimony)
    By John Crawley
    ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Record-high fuel prices have eroded US Airways' financial projections in just the past few weeks, and have heightened the need for immediate court-imposed cost cuts on union workers, the company's chief financial officer said on Thursday. David Davis told a bankruptcy court judge the company has lowered its worst-case cash estimates for the next five months by up to $70 million due largely to fuel prices that have topped $54 per barrel. The company's chief executive, Bruce Lakefield, said outside the courtroom that fuel woes are not unique to US Airways but are more acute at the seventh-largest domestic airline because of its desperate need for cash. Earlier on Thursday, Judge Stephen Mitchell of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia approved a previously agreed 3-month extension of government-backed financing from last year that should keep the company flying through mid-January. Terms of the agreement, the second wholesale restructuring of the loan terms in five months, reflect the company's poor cash outlook. US Airways has roughly $750 million in cash now, but is heading into its slowest period of the year and has no prospects of new borrowing or of attracting equity investment. Davis' testimony underscored the company's request for temporary, but urgent court-imposed wage and benefit cuts on most of its 25,000 union workers. This includes a 23% pay cut across the board and reductions in pension contributions. The proposal would also allow US Airways to outsource some aircraft maintenance and increase work hours. US Airways says it could liquidate in February if it cannot reach its goal of quickly lining up nearly $2 billion in annual savings, about half of which must come from labor groups. But some of the airline's biggest unions have forcefully objected to the cuts, saying the company has not tried hard enough to reach voluntary agreements with all its labor groups. The flight attendants, service workers and machinists have asked Mitchell to reject the proposal. "The relief sought by the company is not justified by the evidence and not justified by (bankruptcy law) and not appropriate," said Daniel Katz, an attorney for the Communications Workers of America. Katz said the company has failed to show that it needs to slash costs as much as it has proposed, and that its cost calculations were not complete. Dan Akins, a financial consultant for the flight attendants, said the carrier missed chances over the summer to reach a $116 million giveback deal with those workers. Akins said the airline was distracted by its talks with the pilots. "They were not engaged," Akins said of negotiations with the attendants. While the pilots are currently voting on a tentatively agreed to $300 million giveback plan and Davis says talks on concessions with other groups can continue during Chapter 11. But he said the airline must act now to save up to $38 million per month from union and non-union workers to accumulate $200 million in cash by March. "I would like to reach consensual agreements. But if were to delay the amount we need will go up," Davis said. Mitchell is expected to rule on the company's proposal on Friday. US Airways entered bankruptcy protection for the second time in two years on Sept. 12.

  18. Nobel Prize connects peace, environment
    Daily Nebraskan, NE
    By Tomomi Shineha
    Joshua Mutuma Ruteere, a Kenyan UNL student, wasn’t surprised when he heard the name of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner – not only was she famous in his home country, he had worked with her. The Norwegian Nobel Committee will award the 2004 prize to Wangari Maathai, assistant environmental minister in Kenya, who founded the Green Belt Movement to replant deforested areas. She is also a human-rights and gender-rights activist. “She is very big, very highly respected. Everybody knows her in Kenya,” said Ruteere, a graduate student studying political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Maathai launched the Green Belt Movement in 1977, which is the main achievement that led her to win the prize, and since then, she has spread her tree-planting campaign around Nairobi to increase green areas, especially for poor districts. Ruteere was a member of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission from 1996 to 2002 and worked with Maathai several times in joint projects before he enrolled at UNL. “Professor Maathai is a bridge of human rights, environment, women’s rights and politics.” Ruteere said although Maathai had already received several world-famous prizes for her environmental activities, the Nobel Peace Prize sent an important message to the world. “I think the world saw the shift of paradigm, which makes people to think peace and environment are connected,” he said. Natural resources exist to maintain peace, and peace exists to maintain resources, he said. One cannot exist without another. “Where you have a conflict, there is destruction of resources. There is a strong connection between environment and peace.” He said Maathai stands out because she promoted the concept that environmental movements are a part of human-rights movements to maintain peace. Maathai had been arrested for anti-deforestation activities several times during the presidency of Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, who was in power from 1978 to 2002. Ruteere said the president was a dictator, and the country was completely under his control. Even after Maathai was freed from jail, she was arrested many times, and in 1999 was attacked by developers while she was planting trees. But in December 2002, Moi retired the position, and the dictatorship ended. The country’s third president, Mwai Kibaki, was elected, and after the inauguration he appointed Maathai to his cabinet. In the last two years, Kenya has completely changed, Ruteere said. Robert Hitchcock, professor of anthropology and geography, said although Africa has complicated geographical and ethnical problems, he sees a big success of democratization among African countries in the last few years. About 3,500 ethnic groups exist in the continent and many religious or cultural customs prevent women from having basic human rights and health care, Hitchcock said. He also said, among 54 countries in Africa, 26 countries still perform genital mutilation on women, which is a severe risk for women’s health. Hitchcock, undergraduate adviser for African and African American studies, said Maathai’s effort brought three benefits to African women: it reduced women’s working hours, increased employment opportunities and increased natural resources for practical use. “She made an important change (that) connected women’s rights, environmental issues and political issues,” he said. Recently, Hitchcock said, more African women have gone to universities and advanced to higher-level careers, like Maathai did. “In fact, more women are working for government in Africa than the United States or Japan,” he said. Maathai...will become the first African woman and the 12th female winner of Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10. Ruteere said the Nobel Peace Prize is a strong message for Africans who fight to gain democracy every day – they are not alone. “Many people (in Africa) are struggling to change their countries and systems by themselves. The prize made them recognize the rest of people in the world are with them,” he said.

  19. PSC 'chasing a wild goose' in moonlighting assessment
    Cape Times, South Africa
    By Sheena Adams
    MPs yesterday accused the Public Service Commission (PSC) of "chasing a wild goose" and being alarmist in its assessment of moonlighting doctors and nurses. They were supported by the South African Medical Association and the head of one of the public institutions fingered in a PSC report into the matter. The PSC yesterday presented its findings of an investigation into moonlighting at the Gauteng health department to the portfolio committee on public service. MPs suggested, however, that more empirical evidence was needed to convince them of the severity of the problem. The PSC's investigation showed that more than 50% of specialist doctors owned private clinics and engaged in remunerative work outside the public service - allegedly on government time. Out of a sample of medical staff interviewed at the Pretoria and Johannesburg Academic hospitals, the commission found that the majority of doctors worked only four hours a day, spending the rest of their official work hours [moonlighting] at private clinics. The commission has proposed changes to the conditions of employment of state medical staff, including taking some doctors off the permanent payroll and paying them per hour. Although many state doctors already work on this 5/8 system, the commission is proposing that it apply to a larger percentage of doctors. A state medical officer can expect to earn about R10 000 a month while specialists get about R15 000. A staff nurse earns just over R4 000 a month. Working in the private sector, nurses can command between R30 and R60 per hour. The PSC has also called for the department of public service and administration to review the salary packages of doctors, nurses and allied professionals. Yesterday, ANC MP Richard Baloyi compared the commission's investigation to "chasing a wild goose". He also accused commissioners of indulging in "perception management". "This is unfinished business in as far as dealing with this issue," Baloyi said, adding that hospital management was to blame for not adequately monitoring staff.

  20. KarstadtQuelle to Cut 5,500 Jobs to Restore Earnings (Update3)
    BBC News via Bloomberg, United States
    KarstadtQuelle AG, Germany's largest department-store chain, won agreement from labor unions to cut about 5,500 jobs and ensure the company stays in business. Chief Executive Officer Christoph Achenbach, who was installed in July to rescue the company after three years of flagging sales, last month said that securing an accord was a "matter of survival." The pact will reduce costs by 760 million euros ($941 million) in three years, he said today. "The company has to do more" to stem its losses, said Ulf Moritzen, who helps manages about $5 billion in assets at Nordinvest in Hamburg. KarstadtQuelle's market value has slid more than 30% since Aug. 4, after the company forecast its first annual loss for at least five years. The retailer, which employs more than 100,000 people, makes 90% of its sales in Germany, whose economy has barely grown for three years. Shares of KarstadtQuelle dropped 47 cents, or 3.9%, to 11.68 euros in Frankfurt, bringing this year's decline to 40% and the company's market value to 1.38 billion euros. The stock fell as far as 11.32 euros, the lowest since March 26, 2003.
    Shedding Stores
    As part of the overhaul, KarstadtQuelle plans to sell 77 stores and assets such as specialty retailers to raise 1.6 billion euros. It also wants to raise at least 500 million euros by offering investors seven shares for every eight held at a price that will be set by the end of next month. KarstadtQuelle said it would reach that target if the shares are sold for 5.38 euros each, about half of today's closing price. ABN Amro Holding NV and Dresdner Bank AG's Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein unit will lead a group of banks managing the sale that have agreed to underwrite the new shares for a minimum of 4 euros each. Investors Madeleine Schickedanz and Allianz AG have agreed to buy 280 million euros of new stock, KarstadtQuelle said. The retailer will set the final terms for the sale when the offering starts next month. KarstadtQuelle and Ver.di, Europe's largest union, reached their agreement after four days of talks. About 4,000 of the job cuts will be at Karstadt, the company's department-store business, which will retain 67 outlets. The number of staff working at the mail-order unit will be reduced by 1,500.
    'Key' Compromise
    "This is the first important step for the company's survival," said Christian Schindler, an analyst at Landesbank Rheinland Pfalz in Mainz, Germany, with a "market perform" rating on the shares. "It was key that management and employees reached a compromise to raise capital and boost profitability." Volkswagen AG, one of Germany's largest employers, has so far failed to reach an agreement with its union to save money. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based company has said it may cut as many as 30,000 jobs, or almost one-fifth of its German workforce, if workers won't agree on cost-cutting plans. DaimlerChrysler AG, Siemens AG and Deutsche Lufthansa AG have reached accords with their unions for smaller wage increases or longer working hours. The cost of the reorganization at KarstadtQuelle will result in a loss of as much as 1.34 billion euros before tax and goodwill amortization this year, Achenbach said last month. The company won't post an after-tax profit until at least 2006 or pay a dividend before then, the 46-year-old CEO said.
    To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Blackman in Berlin at ablackman@bloomberg.net; Brian Parkin in Essen, Germany at (49) bparkin@bloomberg.net.
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kimberly Kirner at kkirner@bloomberg.net

  21. ECHN cuts 94 jobs to save $4.5M
    Journal Inquirer, CT
    By Kimberly Phillips
    MANCHESTER, Conn. - The parent company of Manchester Memorial and Rockville General hospitals is eliminating 60 vacant positions and laying off 34 employees to save $4.5 million this fiscal year, the second time in two years it has cut jobs to reduce expenses. The move comes as the company's medical malpractice insurance costs rose 500 percent since 2002 and declining Medicare reimbursements created a $1.8 million loss for the hospitals in fiscal year 2005, which began Oct. 1. Marc H. Lory, the president and chief executive officer for Eastern Connecticut Health Network, said Wednesday the organization is one of the first in the state this fiscal year to an-nounce downsizing efforts, but "I don't think we'll be alone when all is finished." Other small hospitals and their parent companies are feeling the effects of the same things ECHN officials cite: Medicare reductions, rising fixed costs, and doctors who are leaving and taking patients with them. At ECHN, Chief Financial Officer Kevin G. Murphy said, the company was preparing for a 4.5% increase in Medicare reimbursements before hearing they were going to drop by just as much. When the dust settled in Washington, ECHN received a 3% reduction, or about $1.8 million. Other organizations, such as the ones that run Hartford Hospital and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, are seeing $6 million losses, ECHN officials said. Additionally, fixed expenses including employee insurance and utility costs are rising between 5 and 6%, equating to a 9% gap between spending and revenue this fiscal year, Lory said. The fiscal year began Oct. 1. In addition to the hospitals, ECHN operates the Women's Center for Wellness in Vernon and Woodlake at Tolland Malpractice insurance costs for the hospital have risen from $547,000 in 2002 to $2.7 million in 2005, he said. At the same time, local doctors are seeing their insurance costs go up between 26 and 91% this fiscal year. And that's causing many doctors to retire early, Lory said, or leave the system for another hospital that could provide better malpractice protection. Out-of-state moves also are happening and when doctors leave, so do their patients. "We are going to have a crisis here east of the river," Lory said of the dwindling number of doctors who specialize in certain areas, such as obstetrics and orthopedic surgery. "The state of Connecticut has got to get on top of the issue." Until then, ECHN will have to cope. Lory said the mood at both hospitals and the company's other facilities was "somber" Wednesday after the layoffs were announced. About half of the 34 laid-off employees will be moved to other jobs in the organization; none of the jobs are ones that deal directly with patient care, he said. "We're still looking to reduce the number of people who don't have jobs," Lory said, adding that layoffs are "a very difficult thing for us to do." Additionally, certain departments, including the gastrointestinal suite at Manchester Memorial, are having their hours reduced, Lory said. In the GI suite, for instance, the most active time of the day is between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.; employees there are cutting their work hours to match that. Nevertheless, Lory said, the company is planning for wage increases for other employees so it can stay competitive in a market that already sees shortages for workers such as nurses. Lory also said management, including himself, would receive raises this year after having their salaries frozen in 2003. "We've decided we can handle that periodically, but you can't do it regularly," Lory said. ECHN is continuing its doctor recruitment efforts and expects soon to bring in a general surgeon and three obstetrician/gynecologists. Lory said those doctors will increase the hospital's patient volume, but it's uncertain when that will happen, likely next fiscal year. In March 2003, ECHN cut 75 vacant positions and laid off 26 management employees to save $12 million. That came on the heels of a positive year for the company, which netted a $284,000 surplus in 2002. Prior years haven't been kind to ECHN's finances, however, as it dealt with deficits of $17.5 million and $4.5 million in previous years. Part of the problem in past years, Murphy said, could be blamed on billing practices that, in part, collected inaccurate data on patients. Since then, he said, the company has improved its collections, from $11 million several years ago to $14 million in monthly earnings today. Also, he said, the company has improved in collecting insurance co-pays from patients at the time of service, netting an extra $1 million a year. Last fiscal year, ECHN's annual budget, which totals $195 million this fiscal year, included anticipated revenue from increased patient volume during the winter flu season, Lory said. And while some say this year will be a more difficult winter season because of a flu vaccine shortage, Lory said the hospitals have not included any revenue increase like it did before. That's in part because last year's increased volumes didn't pan out, he said, and if it's a more difficult flu season more employees will get sick, meaning increased expenses for overtime pay for fill-ins.

  22. Night-shift workers may see the light - Bill to curtail large retailers' opening hours aims to close stores at 10 p.m., holidays
    Prague Post, Czech Republic
    By Vanessa Bulkacz
    If the Trade Union of Retail Employees has its way, the next time you get a midnight craving for some homemade pancakes you won't be able to run down to the nearest hypermarket for the ingredients. A union-backed bill to limit the hours of operation in retail outlets larger than 200 square meters (approximately 2,150 square feet) is being prepared for submission to the Chamber. Representatives from the union say that maintaining working hours after 10 p.m. and on holidays is "cruel" for shop workers. "Most of the employees are women so if they do not have to work during the holidays and nights they can take care of their families," said Alexandr Leiner, a Trade Union of Retail Employees spokesman. Opponents of the proposal say it would result in layoffs and depress profits, an accusation Leiner calls "rubbish." The ruling Social Democrat Party (CSSD), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM) all back the union's proposal, although each party has a slightly different vision for the outcome of the proposed law. "The original aim of the bill was protection of the employees in supermarkets and we cooperated with the trade unions on that," said Alexandr Cerny, a KSCM deputy. "I back the limitation of opening hours for supermarkets, but to ban Sundays too is extreme and may cause the bill not to be approved." The Christian Democrats are pushing to restrict Sunday shopping in addition to late-night hours, an addendum the trade union does not support. "Sunday shopping adds to this so-called 'hypermarket culture,' " said KDU-CSL Deputy Tomas Kvapil. "I believe parents should take care of their kids rather than shop on Sundays." Cerny points to strict laws limiting retail hours in other EU countries, such as Austria and France, as examples to look to as more extreme versions of the current proposal. "If someone thinks that limiting opening hours after 10 p.m. is drastic, maybe he should try to do some shopping, let's say, for example, in France," Cerny said. "The limitation of opening hours in supermarkets would definitely put us in line with other EU countries." The Civic Democrats (ODS), a conservative opposition party, disagree and are staunchly opposed to the proposed law. "I am against the bill because we would deform the market by legislative regulation, limiting both supply and demand," ODS Deputy Martin Kocourek said. "It would be biased in favor of employees and not employers and customers. The incompetence of trade unions to negotiate the amount and structure of working hours is no reason for MPs to do so." Retailers agree with the ODS. Vesselin Barliev, spokesperson for Tesco supermarkets here, cited competition from neighboring EU countries as the source of this latest proposal to limit retail hours. "The Austrian trade unions are complaining that Austrians are going to the Czech Republic to shop on the weekends," Barliev said. "They should know that since May 1, there are no longer any borders and people may shop where they like. Limiting Czech business hours to appease Austrian trade unions would be ridiculous." Late-night workers seem to be split on the issue. "I do not mind working the night shifts at all," said Vaclava, a 40-year-old Carrefour employee who declined to give her last name. "If I felt exploited I would go and get some other work. Working like this, I have more time for family and children during the day." Milan Janecek, a 35-year-old Carrefour worker, echoed her sentiments. "It is cool that the supermarkets are open so late," he said. "I finish [my day job] every day at 3 p.m. and then come to my job here. It is of my own free will that I work at night. I have a lot of kids - three at home and two more - that I have to support."
    Vanessa Bulkacz can be reached at news@praguepost.com

  23. Scholarships are critical to the future of the university and of Minnesota
    Pioneer Press, MN
    We're now well into the new school year at the University of Minnesota, and what was apparent to me last spring, when our incoming students were making their choice of college, is being proved in our classrooms and labs this fall: Academically, we have the best-prepared freshman class in my 36 years at the U of M. That's good news for the U, because few things define a university more than the quality of its students. And it's good news for Minnesota, too, because most of our 11,000 students who graduate annually stay in Minnesota to live and work, and make contributions to the state's economy, culture and quality of life. Unfortunately, while our students are better prepared academically to succeed at the university, cuts by the Legislature and governor have meant severe budget reductions and back-to-back, double-digit tuition increases for students, leaving many of them more financially challenged than ever before. Although a quarter of our undergraduates work more than 20 hours a week, the old paradigm of "working your way through college" doesn't apply anymore. In 1970, a student working at a minimum-wage job could meet the full costs of a public university education by working 24 hours a week. Today, a U of M student would have to work more than 60 hours a week to meet those expenses. That's why I've made scholarships the top fund-raising priority across the University. We've designated October, a month when many alumni reconnect with our campuses, as Scholarship Month to focus important attention on the drive to raise $150 million in private gifts for scholarship support at the U. Currently, we're able to help about 4,500 students with scholarships created through gifts to the university. Our historic goal is to increase that number by 50%, to 6,800. We announced recently that the first year of the scholarship drive raised $34 million toward the goal — an impressive start. But there's much more to do, and many more reasons to accomplish it. For one thing, we know that students with scholarships graduate on time at a rate 35 percent higher than other students. Scholarships decrease the amount of time students need to work to pay for their education, making it possible to focus on their studies and take part in the many vital and exciting opportunities available at the U, such as participating in research projects or community service efforts or studying abroad. From the overall university perspective, too many work hours for students could stymie our efforts to keep four-year graduation rates on the upswing. Thankfully, we're succeeding in getting some measure of help to our neediest students. A little more than a third of our undergraduates receive need-based assistance. Aid to those students averages about $4,600. But with total expenses for tuition, books and room and board running more than $17,000 annually, there's no question that many students are stretching financially to pay for their education and that we need to do more to help them. At the same time, the University of Minnesota must build on its reputation as one of the premier public research universities in the nation. I will not, and I know the people of Minnesota won't, accept having the state's only major research university slide into second-rate status. We must keep Minnesota's best and brightest (students applying to the U's Twin Cities campus as their first choice indicate their second choice schools are out of state) and attract top students from elsewhere. These students are heavily recruited by other leading colleges and universities, and our ability to compete for them is increasingly hampered by a shortage of merit scholarships. Today the U ranks at the bottom among its Big 10 peers in the percentage of freshmen receiving merit-based scholarships. We need to move up in order to keep up. Our goal is to raise and match private gifts to change the picture on both need-based and merit scholarships, and with the help of our alumni, faculty and staff, and friends of the University we will do just that. Their generosity is not a substitute for adequate state support (even at our recent, record rates of giving, it would take the university more than 20 years of private fund raising to make up for last year's state cuts), but their gifts are an important part of positioning the university and the state of Minnesota for the future.
    Bruininks is president of the University of Minnesota.

  24. Part-Timers on the Tenure Track
    Chronicle of Higher Education
    When Robert Drago, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, first asked me to co-write an article proposing a half-time tenure track, I agreed only reluctantly. At the time, I was already on a book tour and teaching a full courseload; I didn't need any more pressure. And, after all, what would come of the idea? Evidently, something has. I'm hearing from more and more academics who have persuaded their institutions to let them work on the tenure track on a part-time schedule. Just recently, in the space of a week, I received two e-mail messages from faculty members - one at Ryerson University, in Toronto, and the other at Stanford University - who had negotiated such appointments. The first writer, Rachel Berman, is an assistant professor of early-childhood education at Ryerson. As she tells it, she was hired in April 2000 and got pregnant immediately with her second child. With her first, she had hired a babysitter, but this time she felt she couldn't because her new son was born with life-threatening allergies. Under Canadian law, she was entitled to 50 weeks paid leave (no kidding, 50 weeks) but she elected to come back to work at Ryerson early because she was a new faculty member and the principal investigator for a major grant. Day after day, she found herself stumbling to her desk at 9 p.m. after putting her kids to sleep, and working until well after midnight. "Meeting some children's needs is just more challenging than others," she said. "It was too much." So she took a year off and then the following year got involved in a research project one day a week. During both years, she was paid, not by the university but by the research grant. Her future remained a question mark. Then, after reading about our idea for a half-time tenure-track, Berman decided to approach her university. She won the support of her department head, the dean of faculty, and the head of the faculty association. She now has a three-year, renewable contract that cuts her teaching, research, and service duties in half. As a Canadian she has national health insurance; her pension and long-term disability benefits will be calculated based on her new salary. Each year that she works will be counted as a half-year on her tenure clock, although she can speed up that clock if she wishes. The second e-mail message came from Kathryn A. Moler, an associate professor of applied physics at Stanford. Newly separated from her husband and the mother of 2-year-old twins, Moler knew she was going to have difficulties meeting the demands of a full-time schedule. She now holds a part-time appointment, which she negotiated with her chairman when they went jogging together one day. At Stanford, which is on a quarter system, professors in her department typically teach one class every quarter; she negotiated a quarter free of teaching with a proportional decrease in salary. She still manages several grants which together total roughly $600,000 annually. Last summer, with the permission of one of her grant agencies, she decided to take some time off and used money that she had set aside as part of her summer salary to hire a postdoc. "I used to average 70 to 90 hours a week," she said. "Now it's closer to 40." Both women found support for their reduced load within their institutions. Moler, the only woman in her department, said, "My colleagues are incredibly supportive. ... I might be benefiting from the fact that it is an all-male department. Everyone is impressed that someone who doesn't have a wife can do what [the male professors] are doing." Part-time, tenure-track arrangements have been on the books at a substantial number of institutions for years, according to Kathleen Christensen of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Yet most such policies were unusable, she said, "because a culture of long work hours and [a focus on] speed to tenure meant that the part-timer was seen as working in a deviant fashion." For example, at the University of California at Berkeley, "we found that a part-time option already existed on the books," said Marc Goulden, principal research analyst of a Sloan-financed project on family-friendly policies led by Mary Ann Mason, dean of the university's graduate division, and Angelica Stacy, a professor of chemistry there. But few knew about the policy, he said, and even fewer used it, because a faculty member who opted to work part time was not guaranteed the right to return to full-time work. "That was a serious barrier to a lot of people," he said. Survey data at Berkeley found that more than 60% of female faculty members and a third of their male counterparts were interested in a flexible, pro-rated tenure track that would allow them to return to work full time at some point. The trouble is, a policy of the University of California System requires that tenure must be granted within a maximum of 10 years. Goulden, Mason, and Stacy are together working on a project called the UC Faculty Family Friendly Edge, supported by the Sloan Foundation. The trio is advising the system president's office, which is reworking the university's policies for part-timers on the tenure track. In developing a proposal for the president's office, the Berkeley group had to choose between two options: preserving the traditional six-year span of the tenure track but adjusting the tenure standards for part-timers, or maintaining the standards and lengthening the time allowed, within the 10-year limit. When the Berkeley group floated its idea of modifying the productivity requirements for part-timers on the tenure track, some critics feared a dilution of standards. Yet the group found almost no opposition to allowing faculty members to work part time for a limited period. It is now working on the details of a proposal to allow tenure-track professors to work part time for three to five years on a pro-rated basis, so that, for example, two years at half time would equal a full year for tenure purposes. Berkeley is a large, urban research university where departments would have the flexibility to offer a mix of tenure-track arrangements. A department could, for example, recover half of the salary of a part-timer on the tenure track, and use that money to hire an adjunct to teach a course. Small liberal-arts colleges in rural locations have less of a Ph.D. labor pool. So, does that mean that a half-time tenure track is not feasible there? Not necessarily. Saranna Thornton, an associate professor of economics at Hampden-Sydney College, helped me think about a solution. The portion of the tenure-track professor's salary that reverts to the department could be used to hire a postdoc, who would teach a course or two while completing a dissertation or writing for publication. It is less attractive to think about the possibility of departments hiring adjuncts to fill in for part-timers on the tenure track, then paying those adjuncts less than the tenure-track professors and pocketing the difference. A department can, of course, pay the adjunct a higher salary, but that does not solve the ever-growing boom in low-paid, dead-end adjunct positions peopled disproportionately by women. The Sloan Foundation's new Dual-Ladder Program is designed to support projects that create far-reaching solutions for flexible and fair career paths in academe, such as setting up a policy that would automatically move an adjunct to the tenure track after a certain number of years. A number of institutions, including the University of Michigan, are working hard to develop more options for half-time positions on the tenure track with modified duties. The question is, Will such choices ultimately help women or hurt them? Won't the overwhelming majority of those on a half-time tenure track be women? Is this just another recipe for a mommy track? Such questions reflect the assumption that if women aren't given the option of a part-time tenure track they will "tough it out" on the traditional track. But even if they do, there's no guarantee of tenure at the end. I asked Rachel Berman what she would have done if she hadn't been offered the half-time position on the tenure track. "It would have been such a devastating choice," she said. "In all honesty, I might have gone back full time and ended up collapsing." That's a high price to pay for tenure, and indeed a collapse might well have led to her being denied tenure. "I'm just so grateful," Berman said, "I didn't have to face that."
    Joan C. Williams is a professor of law at American University and director of its Program on WorkLife Law.

  25. Older can be better for all - Firms: Tear down silver ceiling
    WASHINGTON - Memo to a headhunter: Find us some wise, experienced workers looking for new challenge... . Wishful thinking? Not entirely. A few companies are using that bold solicitation and wooing seasoned employees, or trying to retain them. Loudoun (Va.) Healthcare Inc., a community nonprofit organization, got together with George Mason University to offer a master of nursing program at the hospital - tuition-free. Because the average age of nurses nationwide is in the late forties, the carrot of education and advancement is a way to keep and recruit experienced personnel. At St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, W.Va., those nearing retirement age can reduce their hours without sacrificing retirement benefits. Employees enjoy flexible hours. San Diego-based Scripps Health not only boasts phased retirement, education programs, job-sharing and flexible schedules, it offers a training course to all employees called "Crossing the Generation Chasm." These health care institutions are among the 35 employers nationwide that were recently ranked by AARP as the best places to work if you are over 50. With the aging of the population, the winning companies forecast what the workplace of tomorrow should look like - a utopian vision of flexible hours, job sharing, educational opportunities, career advancement and secure benefits. By 2010, there will be more than 80 million Americans between the ages of 50 and 80. Most are going to be in the workforce. Surveys of men and women in the baby boom generation show the vast majority intend to work in their so-called retirement years; more than half expect to work part-time. Chronological diversity is destined to be the next wave of social change in the workplace. More than 50% of the workforce is already over 40. But this movement has a long way to go. The reality is that many men and women bump up against a silver ceiling in the workplace. A survey of workers 45 and older by AARP found two-thirds were concerned that age discrimination was a major barrier to advancement. Since 2000, the number of age discrimination cases brought to the federal government has increased after a decline in the late 1990s. Last week the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on barriers against the older worker. "Despite irrefutable evidence of both workforce aging and the untapped talents and reliability of older workers, ageism may be causing many managers to march their companies or organizations straight off a demographic cliff," San Francisco gerontologist Ken Dychtwald told the committee in prepared testimony. Citing a recent survey, Dychtwald pointed out that two-thirds of U.S. employers don't actively recruit older workers; more than half don't try to retain them. And 60% of CEOs didn't take into account the aging of the workforce in their long-term business plans. Victoria Humphrey, head of human resources at Volkswagen of America, put it this way. "In the mid-'90s, there was a common practice of actively recruiting young professionals with MBA degrees to infuse the organization with 'new blood.' As many companies tried to turn their organizations around, they became dismissive toward older, more experienced workers." But by 2030, according to researchers at the Employment Policy Foundation, there will be a labor shortage of up to 35 million workers. How will companies fill the gap? By hiring older workers with needed skills. But do we have to wait that long to break through the silver ceiling?

  26. Lunar New Year next year to be eight days long - EXTRA VACATION: As Lunar New Year's Eve falls on a Tuesday next year, the Cabinet has decided to start the holiday on the previous Monday
    Taipei Times, Taiwan
    By Ko Shu-ling
    There will be eight consecutive Lunar New Year holidays next year, while the number of holidays for civil servants will total 112, the Cabinet announced yesterday. "While Lunar New Year's Eve will fall on Tuesday, Feb. 8 next year, we thought it was a good idea to make Monday a holiday so there will be eight consecutive days for New Year vacation," said Lee Yi-yang, director-general of the Central Personnel Administration at a press conference yesterday afternoon. The catch, however, is that civil servants will have to work on the previous Saturday (Feb. 5) to make up for the extra day off. In other words, the eight-day New Year holidays next year will run from Sunday, Feb. 6 through Sunday, Feb. 13 next year. The Cabinet hopes the private sector will follow suit, although employers are entitled to make adjustments, according to the Labor Standards Act. The number of days off for the financial sector will be decided and promulgated by the Council for Economic Planning and Development, while those employed in the fields of traffic, medical, customs, law enforcement, fire fighting and coast patrol will take their vacations in shifts. Lee made the remarks after reaching an agreement on the matter with government agencies and private sector leaders. The proposed measure still needs to receive final approval from Premier Yu Shyi-kun. Although the Council for Economic Planning and Development argued that the nation's total production value is estimated to lose NT$9 billion per holiday, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said that an extended New Year holiday is conducive to easing traffic congestion. This is the second time the Lunar New Year holiday has been extended since the five day work-week was established - for some - in 2001. In addition to the eight-day New Year holiday, there will also be two three-day holidays next year. They are the Peace Memorial Day on Feb. 28 and Double Ten National Day on Oct. 10. While the Peace Memorial Day will run from Friday, Feb. 26 to Monday, Feb. 28 next year, the Double Ten National Day will run from Friday, Oct. 8 to Monday, Oct. 10 of next year. According to a measure regulating civil servants' holidays, civil servants are entitled to have one day off on a memorial day or festival and three consecutive holidays for the Chinese New Year. Memorial days that are national holidays are the Founding Day of the Republic of China on Jan. 1, the Peace Memorial Day on Feb. 28 and Double Ten National Day on Oct. 10. Festivals from the lunar calendar that are designated as national holidays are the Chinese New Year (the first day of the first month), Tomb-sweeping Day (the fourth day of the fourth month), Dragon Boat Festival (the fifth day of the fifth month). Others include The Mid-autumn Festival (the 15th day of the eighth month) and the New Year's Eve (the last day of the 12th month). Memorial days that are only observed and not marked with a public holiday are the anniversary of Sun Yat-sen's death on March 12, the Revolutionary Martyrs' Day on March 29, the anniversary of the death of the late president Chiang Kai-shek on April 5, Confucius' birthday on Sept. 28, Chiang's birthday on Oct. 31, Sun's birthday on Nov. 12. Dec. 25 is Constitution Day in Taiwan.

  27. IT Salaries Show Upward Trend, Outsourcing Overblown
    By W. Gardner
    The lid on IT salaries is beginning to lift, and IT specialists should see gains of as much as 10 to 15% over the next three years, according to a new IT staff salaries study by the META Group. While that's the good news for IT personnel, the bad news is that the salary inflation will push labor costs upwards of 55% of IT enterprise budgets through 2007, the research firm stated in its annual Staffing and Compensation Guide. "Some turnover is starting," said Maria Schafer, senior program director with the META Group's Executive Directions unit, in an interview Thursday. "Companies need to recognize that their employees don't have strong loyalty to the company [any longer]. The report is based on the belief that the U.S. economy is improving and, as it does, IT budgets will increase, causing key IT employees to seek out "greener pastures" at other organizations. Because of this, Schafer said CIOs must improve a wide range of programs to keep their IT people happy. "Morale generally isn't a problem," she said. "But we see the 'IT employee as service provider' model starting to move forward." She cites performance metrics for IT personnel that have been "all over the map" in the past increasingly becoming focused and valuable to both IT enterprises and IT specialists. Schafer said CIOs and their employees look at performance metrics as a positive, because both parties want to know what the employees can bring to the enterprise. IT specialists with targeted expertise - particularly in security, application development, and networking - are in great demand, she said. META Group analysts said IT organizations will be challenged to devise new strategies to keep turnover from exceeding a 4 to 6% rate. Schafer cited the obvious strategy of utilizing telecommuting as one increasingly popular retention tactic, and she indicated that job-sharing is another perk that is gaining traction in IT organizations. "Companies are becoming more flexible about job-sharing," she said. "With so many IT people resident on-site, we'll be seeing more of these alternate-work arrangements in the future." Schafer was asked what impact the outsourcing phenomenon will have on IT specialists and their salaries. While outsourcing has an impact, she believes talk of its impact has been overblown. Schafer cited a recent META Group outsourcing study, which found that 81% of some 600 polled IT enterprises don't engage in outsourcing at all. She pointed to the value of IT specialists with "balanced capabilities" - having a strong technical expertise combined with managerial skills. She said: "These skills aren't going to be outsourced - ever."
10/14/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/13 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #28 & 29 which are from 10/14 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. America's overworked terrified of days off
    GANNETT NEWS SERVICE via Asbury Park Press, United States
    As a workplace coach, Mary Helms has often talked to executives afraid of vacationing for more than a long weekend. "Somehow workers are afraid if they're not productive 100% of the time, their success will disappear," says Helms, based in Rehoboth Beach, Del.
    In the United States, there is no law giving people the right to paid vacation, and an increasing number of people report feeling unable to get away. A May survey of 2,000 adults by the online travel company Expedia.com found that at least 30% of workers will give vacation days back to the company.
    "We seem to have a workaholic culture right now," says Mary Graham, a spokeswoman with the National Mental Health Association. "We're working long days, taking work home and keeping the cell phone on 24/7."
    On average, the survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive with a margin of error of plus or minus 4%, found that Americans will take 12.4 vacation days this year and give back three to the company, up from two last year. In all, Expedia.com estimates that American workers will return 415 million days.
    As a result, psychologists and workplace consultants now talk about "workplace addiction," "vacation deprivation" and "leisure phobia."
    With years of corporate downsizing, managers expecting fast-track promotions find few openings and distinguish themselves by working 80-hour weeks, says Al Mercatante, a counselor and career consultant. Such workers make themselves invaluable and refuse vacation, he says.
    Other workers say there's simply too much to be done and it's hard to get away.
    "In our society, it's almost as if we're not busy, we don't have the right to exist," says Diane Fassel, author of "Working Ourselves to Death" (HarperSanFrancisco, 1990). "Being a workaholic is an insidious addiction. Your employer rewards you for it, even if you're ruining your health and harming your closest relationships because you're seldom with your family."
    In her view, becoming a workaholic is often more debilitating to the body than alcoholism. Typically, workaholism starts with rushing, overdoing, losing the ability to say no and forming an addiction to one's own adrenaline. This often leads to surges of energy followed by crashes, anxiety, poor sleep and emotional deadness.
    "The addiction to adrenaline can mask physical illness," Fassel says. "The Japanese even have a name for middle-aged men and women who fall over from overwork and die - karoshi."
    Consultants and wellness experts including Terra Wellington of Phoenix say the American addiction to work is encouraged by an intense business focus on productivity. This focus reflects a common business philosophy that tells workers they're expected to do more, Wellington says.
    Pleasure discomfort
    American productivity remains a point of pride, says Laura Stack, a productivity consultant based in the Denver area. But efficiency has come at a high cost. When Stack visits work sites she often finds employees struggling to keep pace with workloads made heavier by downsizing.
    Typically in corporations, those who can't manage added work become like grumpy children in need of a nap, though they don't want to complain, Stack says. But they feel a buildup of stress connected to a fear that they could be the next to lose their job.
    "These workers fear if they're on vacation, someone will think they're not needed. A lot of workplaces are fueled by the idea that a fearful employee is a productive employee," Stack says.
    Joe Robinson, author of "Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life" (Berkley, $14.95), is the founder of a movement begun in 2000 to make people aware that they live in one of the few industrialized nations where a worker's right to paid vacation is not written into law.
    A freelance journalist in Santa Monica, Calif., Robinson would like to see people entitled to three weeks of paid leave after a year on the job. He has called this policy a true family value. For one thing, it would enable workers to spend more time with children and spouses. For another, it would ensure a minimum leave for workers changing jobs.
    "Unfortunately, there's a whiff of illegitimacy that comes with taking vacation now," Robinson says.

  2. Long working hours 'ruining family life'
    Cambridge Evening News, UK
    Love is taking a serious bashing in Cambridge due to long working hours.
    A new survey shows that two-thirds of Cambridge workers think the amount of time they are spending at work is ruining their love life.
    Even more - 71% - say long working hours are affecting their social life, yet one in five working men in the city take a trip to the pub at the end of the day, while more than half have a drink at home.
    The survey, commissioned by Dailymail.co.uk reveals that workers in the eastern region have the lowest job satisfaction in the UK, with more than eight in 10 complaining about long hours. Two-thirds of workers in Cambridge feel they are working too hard, compared with only one-third in the North East.
    At the same time, 27% of workers in Cambridge say they feel pressured to work even longer, with 10% taking work home - nearly double the number in London.
    Yet Cambridge workers are not prepared to sacrifice their salary or promotion prospects to work shorter hours, regardless of the damage being done to home and family.
    85% of Cambridge workers feel their long working hours are hurting their family life, and 61% think long working hours are damaging health.
    More than a third think long hours are counter productive and have a negative impact on the quality of their work, and more than half want to work flexitime.
    Stacey Teale, DailyMail.co.uk editor, said: "The pressures to work late and earn more are clearly having a negative impact on family life in Cambridge. "Six in ten people believe their health is suffering too as a direct result of Britain's longhours work culture. "According to our survey we are creating a nation of workaholics who put work above family, friends and their health."

  3. Denied Time Off for Ramadan, Brooklyn Students Start Petition
    New York Times, NY
    Since moving to Brooklyn from Yemen two years ago, Mugeeb Sweileh has had days off from school for Christmas, the Jewish new year and assorted national holidays. So Mr. Sweileh, a 17-year-old junior at Brooklyn International High School, was surprised to learn that officials at his school may not let him and 20 to 30 other Muslim students take time off to attend Friday mosque services for Ramadan, which begins this week. "It is really important to us as Muslim students," said Mr. Sweileh, who said he planned to sign a petition to the Board of Education asking for the time off. "Why can't we get two hours off only on Fridays during Ramadan?" Ramadan, a month marked by fasting during daylight hours and prayer, is the holiest time of the year in Islam. Muslim students at Brooklyn International say they were denied permission to attend the same services last year, even though Department of Education policy states that students can be excused "to attend a program of religious instruction/education." A spokeswoman who answered the phone at the Department of Education referred all questions to the department's Web site. School officials have not granted permission to attend services this year, either. Some of the students, claiming discrimination, are threatening to skip classes if they do not receive permission to leave. "Going to the mosque on Friday is obligatory for every Muslim male during the year," said Wissam Nasr, executive director of the New York chapter ofthe Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Now that it's Ramadan, we expect that the attendance would rise." Several city schools accommodate Muslim students throughout the year, dismissing them early on Fridays with a letter from a parent or the mosque. "I was in another school when I was a freshman, and I was allowed to leave the school at 11:30 every Friday," said Maneef Hassan, 17, a senior at Brooklyn International. Mr. Hassan said he drew up a petition to the Board of Education and began circulating it yesterday. "Fridays are the holiest days of the week," said Mr. Hassan's 25 year-old brother and guardian, Faroqu Hassan. "Of course I want him to go to the mosque. Please." Last year students said they had a letter from an imam asking them to be excused for Friday services, but were told they needed the approval of the Board of Education. The principal who students said made that decision is no longer at the high school. Kathy Fine, who is in her first year as principal at Brooklyn International, declined to comment. The Department of Education's Web site states that a child may be excused if written permission from the parent and "a copy of the student's registration in the religious instruction program" are provided. Mr. Hassan said he opposed plans by some students to skip classes to go to the mosque. "It will make us look really bad," he said. "It's simply lying just to leave, and I don't want to lie any more. We should have permission."

  4. Are nurses for export?
    World News via New Kerala, India
    Is India treating nurses as an export commodity? A British publication catering to the nursing profession says it is. "Nursing Times" reports that some developing countries now treat nurses as an export commodity that can earn vital overseas currency. "Some countries, such as the Philippines and India, deliberately over produce nurses with the intention of exporting them," it says. "India, for example, is reported to have trained eight million nurses compared with just 3.8 million 10 years ago." The economic appeal of coming to Britain is clear: it could take a nurse in India 10 years to earn what they could earn in Britain in a year. Myrna Miaque, a Filipino nurse working at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, tells Nursing Times that she had previously worked for 17 years in the Middle East. "In Saudi (Arabia), you just work and work and work," she says. "It's not like here in London where you have study days and courses to develop yourself. A friend of mine came to (Britain) ahead of me and kept calling to say: 'Come and work here'." It is not only Filipino nurses who are impressed by the National Health Service. French general practitioners are being enticed to work in London by shorter hours, the fact that they do not have to work on-call and the greater opportunities for part time working, says another health industry publication, "Pulse". Researchers interviewed 31 French GPs working in London and found that they hated the 70-hour weeks in France.
    [Must be one of the unintended backfirings of France's 35-hour workweek.]
    - Indo-Asian News Service

  5. UK's Co-operative Funeral Workers to Strike Over Pay, Hours
    Bloomberg, United States
    Co-operative Group Ltd. funeral workers will stage a one-day strike this month and refuse to work extra hours because of a dispute over pay and working hours. The workers rejected a company offer of a 3.5% increase in annual pay, according to a statement from the Transport & General Workers Union. The union didn't say the size of the increase its seeking. Co-operative Group is the U.K.'s largest funeral director, with 517 branches. It provides 85,000 funerals a year. Workers are paid a basic salary of 12,000 pounds ($21,000) a year, and are often required to be on 24-hour call, the union said. ``Our members are planning industrial action as the very last resort and only because the Co-op managers have failed to address the wholly reasonable issues they have raised on pay and hours,'' said Ian Crawford, T&G Regional Industrial Organizer, in the statement. The strike will take place Oct. 25 and workers will refuse to work overtime from Oct. 22.

  6. US Airways pilot reps rip 'most draconian' contract - Judge expected to rule on temporary wage cut
    Pittsburgh Post Gazette, PA
    By Dan Fitzpatrick
    US Airways' emergency cost-cutting quest continues today in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom, where a federal bankruptcy judge is expected to rule on a temporary 23% wage cut for unionized workers, and in a Coraopolis ballroom, where local pilots are being asked to ratify a $300 million-a-year package of concessions through 2009. US Airways WatchOfficials from the Allegheny County Airport Authority and several other airports across the country will go before an Alexandria, Va., bankruptcy judge today to protect their access to fees paid by boarding passengers US Airways collects and passes on to the airports. They want to make sure the fees, called "passenger facility charges," continue without interruption while the airline is in bankruptcy. The Allegheny County Airport Authority expects to collect another $1 million a month in 2004 and $1.5 million in 2005. US Airways, while testifying in U.S. Bankruptcy Court this week, expressed concern about a rise in work slowdowns or sickness as it tries to cut employee pay 23%. Asked for examples, Chief Financial Officer Dave Davis said the airline had an "entire" cleaning crew in Chicago call in sick a couple of weeks ago. To keep access to $745 million in cash over the next three months, US Airways cannot make capital expenditures that exceed $16.8 million through Oct. 31, $22.8 million through Nov. 30 and $25.8 million through Dec. 31. Also, the sum of operating income, rental expenses, aircraft operating leases, depreciation and non-cash amortization has to be at least $209.8 million in September and October and at least $212.9 million through November.
    Some union officials are fighting both efforts. This week, four Pennsylvania pilot representatives sent letters to fellow union members criticizing the tentative cost-cutting agreement, reached Oct. 2, that would slice pilot pay by 18%, reduce company retirement contributions, eliminate retiree health care and increase monthly work hours. They also said it would result in the furloughs of 571 pilots. Pilots in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, home to more than half of US Airways' 3,200 pilots, can defeat the agreement if the rank-and-file union members vote against the tentative pact. Dan Von Bargen and John Crocker of Philadelphia, in a letter this week, called it "the most draconian concessionary contract any of us have ever seen." Union representative Fred Freshwater of Pittsburgh told his members that the agreement represents "the destruction of the once-proud profession of airline pilot." John Brookman, the other Pittsburgh union representative, urged his members to vote "no," saying in a letter, "There is a path to a better deal." Pilots have until 10 a.m. on Oct. 21 to vote for or against the proposal. Today, in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Coraopolis, union officials will brief local pilots on the agreement and offer them a chance to ask questions about it. It is the last of several "roadshows" held by the union throughout US Airways' system. If ratified, the agreement would be the first major cost-cutting accord reached with a major US Airways union, setting the stage for similar long-term contract changes from the flight attendants, passenger-service agents and machinists. Absent the long-term agreements, US Airways has petitioned bankruptcy judge Stephen Mitchell to grant its request to cut the pay of unionized workers by 23% for no longer than six months. Without it, the company told Mitchell in hearings last week and on Tuesday, US Airways' cash could drop as low as $313 million by February, resulting in massive layoffs and possible liquidation. The judge, according to bankruptcy law, has to decide whether US Airways' request is "essential" to the continuation of the business and whether it would save the airline from "irreparable harm." Union attorneys are arguing that the request does not meet either standard. Testimony on the motion is scheduled to wrap up today, and the judge could make a decision - or put it off - for another day. Mitchell also may rule that US Airways can continue to operate with $745 million from a loan agreement that was to expire tomorrow. Several lenders and the federal government, backer of the $745 million, agreed this week to extend the use of that cash through Jan. 14. To hang onto the money, though, US Airways has to keep its cash above certain levels week to week, falling no lower than $550 million. In bankruptcy documents, US Airways acknowledged its cash would stay above the required levels even without the interim labor cuts. But after Jan. 14, the airline faces $260 million in aircraft lease payments, which could drop its cash as low as $313 million by March. Chief Financial Officer Dave Davis testified Tuesday that cash could drop even lower if fuel, which rose to $53.64 a barrel of crude oil yesterday, continues its rise. When US Airways filed for bankruptcy in early September, it assumed fuel would average $41.70 through March 2005. Every $1 per barrelover the plan costs the company about $2 million per month - or more than $100 million if oil stays at its current price.
    (Dan Fitzpatrick can be reached at dfitzpatrick@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1752.)

  7. HK lawmaker's motion for minimum wage fails
    Straits Times, Singapore
    HONG KONG - Hong Kong's newly elected lawmakers began a fresh term yesterday debating calls for more workers' rights and welfare, a key test of whether they will honour campaign promises to be more responsive to public demands. The first motion called for the government to protect workers by setting a minimum wage and maximum working hours. But the non-binding motion was voted down late yesterday by pro-business legislators, who make up half of the 60-member chamber. Union official and legislator Chan Yuen Han, who sponsored the motion, said wages had fallen to a deplorable level in Hong Kong. She noted that some food deliverymen were being paid as little as HK$2 (40 Singapore cents) per job. 'Now wages have fallen to levels that are unacceptably low...which is a shame for a place like Hong Kong,' said Ms Chan, a member of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, the largest party in the legislature. According to social workers, wages of the lowest 10% of wage earners have fallen to HK$3,900 a month from HK$4,900 in 1997, while earnings of the highest 10% have risen to HK$57,000 from HK$51,800. The move swiftly met opposition. 'You do not know how fragile our competitiveness is...our salaries are very high compared to elsewhere,' said Mr Tommy Cheung of the pro-business Liberal Party, which has 10 seats in the chamber. 'And in such difficult times, if you still want to set minimum wages, you will threaten our businesses and the jobs of our workers.' During the heated legislative debate on the motion, lawmaker and union official Lee Cheuk Yan ate leftover vegetables to highlight the plight of poor workers. The motion was supported by 27 lawmakers and opposed by only two in a vote late yesterday. But it failed because of an unusual arrangement that required approval of a majority of votes from lawmakers picked by special interest groups. The second motion, sponsored by independent pro-democrat legislator Leung Yiu Chung, called for more welfare for the elderly and the disabled. It was also expected to be voted down.

  8. Casualty in staff shortage battle - Patient care 'at risk' despite shorter waiting times
    Huddersfield Daily Examiner via ITV.com, UK
    More than half of NHS trusts do not have enough accident and emergency staff to provide a proper round-the-clock service, it was claimed today. A report by the National Audit Office found that while waiting times in casualty departments had fallen significantly in recent years, many hospitals faced difficulties recruiting staff, even when funding was in place. Changes to the provision of GP out-of-hours services and reductions in junior doctors' working hours also posed risks to A&E services. Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, expressed concern over staff shortages and the long waiting times still experienced by some of the most vulnerable patients. Today's report - Improving Emergency Care in England - said there had been "significant progress" made towards meeting the maximum four-hour wait in A&E set in the NHS Plan. In 2002, 23% of patients waited more than four hours in emergency units, but in the three months April-June 2004, only 5.3% waited that long. But the NAO said there was a risk that undue focus on the target "could mean less attention being paid to the timely completion of treatment for patients who could in fact be safely managed in far less than four hours." Many bottlenecks, such as the management of beds and the availability of specialists, are outside the control of A&E and need to be tackled together, the NAO said. The survey of 126 trusts in England found that shortages in A&E clinical staff were common. It found that 84% of trusts reported a shortage of nurses compared with funded posts, 43% said there was a shortage of permanent consultants and 55% reported a lack of other medical staff.

  9. Hospital bailed out of £35m shortfall
    Greenwich Mercury via ic SouthLondon.co.uk, UK
    By Robert Dex
    QUEEN Elizabeth NHS Trust needed a £35million loan last year to cope with a cash shortfall. The trust, based at Stadium Road, Woolwich, revealed the figure after The Mercury made inquiries following the publication of the hospital's annual report. The money, which came from the Department of Health, was to help with "a historic cash deficit". Director of finance David Wragg said: "There has been an on-going cash shortfall at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for a number of years, principally the result of historic deficits. "In 2004 to 2005, £17million of this public dividend capital has been made permanent by the Department of Health and Strategic Health Authority, in other words turned from a loan into a grant." The trust had to fork out for new contracts given to consultants and changes [cuts] to junior doctors' working hours. Half-a-million pounds was spent on consultants' contracts and the New Deal for Junior Doctors cost the trust almost £2million. The New Deal, brought in by the Government, means no junior doctor can work more than 56 hours a week and forced the hospital to take on more staff. More cash should come in next year when the trust sells the old Greenwich District Hospital. The hospital on Maze Hill was closed in 2001.

  10. Personnel flexibility bill approved by Senate
    By David McGlinchey (dmcglinchey@govexec.com)
    The Federal Workforce Flexibility Act is on its way to the White House for President Bush's signature, nearly two years after it was introduced by Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. "Management has always been a priority for me, and my own experience has taught me that of all the things in which government can invest, resources dedicated to human capital bring some of the greatest returns for taxpayers and the services they need and want," Voinovich said of the bill (S. 129). "This legislation will help provide new tools so government can attract and retain the best and the brightest minds for public service." The Senate approved the legislation Monday. The House had already passed its version last week. The White House press office was not able to say if, or when, Bush will sign the legislation. Lawmakers used the bill to address a long-standing complaint of federal employees by providing compensatory time off for workers who must conduct business travel outside of normal working hours. The bill also allows members of the Senior Executive Service who join the civil service from the private sector to receive the same vacation benefits that are afforded to those who rise through the federal ranks. Some other workers hired from private firms also will receive credit for previous work experience when determining vacation time. In addition, lawmakers eliminated limits on federal recruitment bonuses. In some situations, agencies will be able to issue bonuses as high as 100 percent of base pay - stretched over several years. The effort received bipartisan backing. Federal labor unions issued statements this week supporting the travel compensation language. "While overdue, this is a very important step forward in helping government agencies be as effective as possible in the continuing competition with the private sector for high-quality workers," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "It's a good program not only for employees - allowing them much more flexibility in balancing their work and personal lives - but for their agencies as well."

  11. Disabled workers fear Senate will cut off pensions
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
    By Adele Horin
    AUSTRALIA - Maya Verma's phone started running hot on Monday from anxious disability pensioners who were threatening to throw in their part-time jobs. "I told them the counting of votes isn't finished yet. Let's wait and see who controls the Senate before we get hysterical," she said. Ms Verma manages an employment agency that helps people with disabilities into work. But by yesterday three of her clients had resigned from their jobs, she said, and others were considering doing so. Now that the Coalition is likely to control the Senate from next July, it will be able to pass disability pension legislation that has twice been blocked. Under the bills, disabled people assessed as able to work for award wages for 15 hours a week would not be eligible for a Disability Support Pension (DSP). The current benchmark is 30 hours. This means people like Anthony Leggett, 30, a quadriplegic who works 22 hours a week as a peer support officer for Spinal Cord Injuries Australia, and gets a part disability pension, feel under threat. Because he had shown himself capable of working more than 15 hours, he fears he may be cut off the disability pension in the future. AdvertisementAdvertisement "I feel like I've had the rug pulled out from under me," he said. "The uncertainty is gut-wrenching. For me, this amount of work is what I can cope with. But I'm going to have to consider whether I should cut my hours. Just getting up, showering and dressing can take me three hours." He worries he will be shifted to the Newstart Allowance, which pays $60 a fortnight less, and would lose transport and other benefits. Ms Verma, who manages SCI Workforce, said: "My clients think Centrelink will look at their work history; I'm trying to encourage them to stay on. Usually people ring me annoyed because I haven't got them a job. Since Monday, it's been 'why on earth did you get me a job when you knew this could happen?"' The Government's first bill in 2002 applied the revised work hours test to current and new DSP applicants. After that was rejected, it introduced a bill with a grandfather clause that applied only to new applicants. The Opposition spokeswoman on disabilities, Annette Ellis, said yesterday: "When they introduce a new bill, will it apply retrospectively or not?" The current minister, Senator Kay Patterson, said yesterday that if she continued in the portfolio she would consult the disability sector again before she brought in a new bill. She hoped people would stay in their part-time jobs because "that is exactly what we want them to do. Our focus, in the first instance, are people who might otherwise go on DSP," she said. About $250 million in extra assistance for disabled people has been held up because it was tied to passage of the pensions legislation. The Australian Council of Social Service president, Andrew McCallum, urged the Government "not to make people on disability support pensions the losers of this election".

  12. Clock this: how we spend our time
    Christian Science Monitor, MA
    By Christa Case
    If you're the kind of person who likes to calculate how many years of your life you've spent sleeping, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) just did you a huge favor. While the average American supposedly spent more than four months of 2003 asleep, almost six weeks watching TV (yes, that's 24 hours per day for six weeks), and 4-1/2 days exercising, Census Bureau officials spent the year collecting data for the BLS on how Americans use their time. The result is the American Time-Use Survey (ATUS), the most definitive national study of its kind, says John Robinson, director of the American Time-Use Project at the University of Maryland. "TV remains the dominant free-time activity in America," says Mr. Robinson, who was a part of the first American time-use survey in 1965. Indeed, ATUS - which used a format similar to the Nielsen rating diaries to collect data - reported that Americans watch 2 hours and 34 minutes of TV a day on average, compared with 20 minutes a day exercising and eight minutes a day volunteering or participating in religious or spiritual activities. Robinson also sees other trends: a decline in men's work hours; an increase in the time men spend on household activities; and a decrease in the time women spend on household activities. However, a gender gap does persist. Not only did more women report doing household activities (83% of respondents), they also spent more time doing that work: 1 hour and 48 minutes, compared with the 1 hour and 10 minutes men spent. However, men who reported doing household activities spent 2 hours and 15 minutes per day on lawn and garden care, compared with women's hour and 35 minutes. (These figures are averages of all respondents' answers. The graph below reflects only the time of people who reported taking part in those activities.)
    He says, she says
    Adria Martin, a young mother from Warner Robins, Ga., who was visiting Boston recently, says those numbers match her experience. When her husband, Wayne, starts to protest, she interjects, "Oh, whatever. I clean up after you all the time," teasing him for spending so much time on his riding lawn mower. But Mr. Martin reminds her that his weekends are occupied by mowing the lawn - a six-hour task - and taking care of the flower beds, since "someone doesn't like to get dirty." Oh, and then there's football. With 700 channels coming into the Martins' home on DirecTV, Mr. Martin spends Friday to Sunday watching any football game he can find, "which is not unreasonable," he adds. Of course, he jokes, he also "supervises" their son, Chance, when he watches cartoons. As the boy told his parents at age 5, some shows "have material of a provocative nature." While that may raise Mr. Martin's tally of hours spent watching TV, it's unlikely to top Ms. Martin's average of eight hours per day. But that's a recent development. For the first few years of motherhood, she didn't have time for TV while she cared for her son, worked, and attended classes full time at Mercer University. Her mother and sister often baby-sat, which allowed her to maintain such a full schedule. But the women's unpaid work in the home took up a considerable amount of time. According to Robinson, one of the reasons the BLS conducted this survey was to assess the amount of unpaid work being done in the country.
    In the future...
    Economists have traditionally defined work as that which people are paid for doing. Yet determining the value of time that people spend taking care of one another in the home is a key step in recognizing the importance of unpaid work to the well-being of a national economy, says Nancy Folbre, author of "The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values.". Reassessing the value of unpaid work, says Ms. Folbre, opens up "a whole new world of possible interactions between paid work and unpaid work."

  13. Lew, Fox have advice for Howard
    The Age, Australia
    By Michael Evans
    SYDNEY - Two of Australia's most successful businessmen have some advice for the Howard Government after its historic fourth election win: Australia needsmore immigrants and should consider capping the working week. Solomon Lew, Century Plaza group of companies chairman and a former Coles Myer chairman, told a Sydney lunch yesterday that under current immigration laws his parents would not have gained entry from Poland. "We need migrants as much as they need us," Mr Lew told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce function. "Migrants are critical to nation-building. "There are skills that are needed here in Australia - we need to go back to some kind of a manufacturing base." Australia needed a strong population to maintain its national security, he said. "We need more people so we can protect our shores. "We have got billions of people up north of us and I just can't imagine that those countries are going to let us exist with all our natural wealth, our natural resources. "In 20 to 30 years' time we are going to have major problems." He said there was a risk that Australia was "running out of steam" and the Government needed to address the issue urgently. Mr Lew said Australia's isolation raised the risk of mediocrity and clubbishness in the business community. He criticised CEOs earning world-class salaries but achieving mediocre returns. Mr Lew's long-time friend Lindsay Fox, founder of transport company Linfox, said the rise of the Family First Party at last weekend's election "comes as a result of people looking for something they cannot find in the major parties". He said he could see a case for "regulated maximum working hours" and that workers earning up to $20,000 should pay no tax. Mr Lew also criticised Coles Myer's bid for pubs owner ALH. "I think this could have been handled a lot better," said Mr Lew, who has sniped at Coles since being booted off the board in 2002.

  14. No more tea breaks for Telekom staff
    The Edge Daily, Malaysia
    Telekom Malaysia Bhd employees no longer have the luxury of tea breaks since Sept 1 as its new chief executive Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar's immediate task has been to make the company more private sector-driven. This has been among several measures, including structural ones, initiated by Wahid since he joined Telekom on July 1 in his efforts to transform the country's largest telecommunications company into a lean entity. Other than abolishing tea breaks, Wahid has also implemented a five-day work week and revised working hours. He has enforced a more disciplined work culture in terms of speed in decision-making. At a press briefing on Telekom's way forward on Oct 13, Wahid said he wanted to change the practice of staff taking frequent tea breaks. Essentially, he is hoping to instil a performance-driven work culture in the organisation. To ensure Telekom is run more effectively, Wahid has injected new talents with the appointments of a new chief information officer, senior vice-president of human resource and head of corporate communications. "We have decided to maintain nine members on the board (of directors). We are currently waiting for the Ministry of Finance to appoint a nominee to the board," he said. Wahid added that a strategic leadership was in place in the group's pursuit of international investments. Part of Telekom's strategy is to set up offices in attractive countries to explore opportunities. "This will allow us to cherry-pick on the types of market to target," he said. Among the notable activities since Wahid's appointment is Telekom's recent completion of its US$500 million (RM1.9 billion) 10-year bond issuance, which saw 57% of its bonds placed out to Asian investors, 39% to Europeans and 4% to offshore US. "We are pleased with the successful placement exercise. The overwhelming subscription rate of 8.69 times was the first for Telekom," he said.

  15. A system cracking in too many places
    Fort Worth Star Telegram, TX
    By Mitchell Schnurman
    If the presidential candidates don't convince you tonight that our system for financing health care is broken, consider two local incidents that happened Friday. Osteopathic Medical Center of Texas announced that it was shutting down after 58 years, primarily because it couldn't win decent-paying contracts from health insurers. Then Albertsons, a leading grocer, said it will shift thousands of full-time employees to part-time status, because, among other reasons, health insurance has become too expensive. What's wrong with this picture? On the same day, one longtime business says it can't get enough health care money to stay afloat, while another has to go to extremes to cut its health care spending. Not exactly the "win-win" situation that business likes to talk about. More like lose-lose. Politicians have tiptoed around the health care issue since then-President Clinton's overhaul attempt was squashed a decade ago. Suggest a single-payer system similar to Canada, and critics immediately portray it as Hillarycare all over again. That usually stops the conversation. On the campaign trail, President Bush supports a market approach that aims to shift coverage from employers to individuals. It banks on health savings accounts to help reduce costs for workers and employers. John Kerry sees a bigger role for government, at least in providing coverage for children and the uninsured. He also wants to pool catastrophic insurance to reduce the coverage costs for businesses. Who knows if either approach would resolve the root of the problem - double-digit inflation in health care costs. Or whether either could muster public support. But something needs to happen, either by choice soon or by necessity in a few years. The system is simply cracking in too many places. Osteopathic, for example, was able to collect an extra 13% to 18 percent on its Medicare procedures because it was a teaching hospital. The government wanted to support the training of physicians, said Justin Doheny, interim chief executive. But health insurers weren't moved by that idea. They could press Osteopathic on reimbursements because it wasn't part of a broader network and didn't have a niche that customers clamored for. That may be fine for business, but is it good for health care? It's been a long, long time since health benefits were an afterthought in corporate America. Still, who imagined it would come to this: By 2008, McKinsey & Co. says, the average Fortune 500 company will spend as much on health care as it generates in profits. Workers, in general, are paying much more than before for coverage, too, and unions have made health benefits a battleground. It's the issue behind the current strike threat at Vought Aircraft Industries in Dallas. And it was the dispute that led to a 41/2-month grocery strike in Southern California this year. On average, worker health premiums rose three times faster than workers' earnings from 2000 to 2004, with deductibles and co-pays also climbing. In Texas, where the number of uninsured is the nation's highest, a Lewin Group survey found that 1.2 million workers spent a quarter of their income on health care. That includes premiums, co-pays, deductibles and uncovered services. How do they pay the rent? Doheny says many working poor end up stiffing hospitals on the co-payments and deductibles, squeezing the companies' results. Employers aren't required to offer benefits, so it's natural that more are dropping insurance altogether or making it harder to get. Many restrict coverage for family members or end up hiring more part-time workers. Last year, J.C. Penney increased the number of work hours needed to qualify for company-subsidized health benefits, from 30 to 35 per week. Like Albertsons, Penney said it needed the flexibility to increase staff during busy hours and reduce it during quiet times. Benefits costs are certainly a part of the equation. The high costs of benefits are even being cited as a major factor in the slow pace of the economic recovery. Companies have said they're reluctant to hire full-timers and take on the added health care expense. So it's not surprising that more people are going without insurance. Their numbers have risen by 5 million in the past four years, to an estimated 44.7 million in 2003, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. The Census Bureau says 25% of Texans go without coverage. Other surveys put the number higher. Blue-collar workers at service companies have the highest uninsured rates, an average of 36% nationwide, Kaiser says. The most insured group: white-collar employees in mining and manufacturing, where just 5% go without health insurance. It's easy to blame employers for not providing benefits for more people, but the costs can tilt the playing field. General Motors, for example, outspends Honda on health care by more than 3-to-1. In 2001, 65% of employed workers received health coverage through their jobs; by 2004, that was down to 61%, Kaiser says. Guess what happens if we expect business alone to keep this system working?
    Mitchell Schnurman's column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. (817) 390-7821 schnurman@star-telegram.com

  16. Retiring women mustn't fight shy of pension risk [huh?]
    ic Wales, UK
    Marlene Shalton
    WOMEN face particular challenges obtaining decent retirement income because of existing rules based on outdated assumptions of family units, lower average wages, lower employment rates, and more part-time work. These and other reasons mean changes to the UK pensions system must ensure that women gain access to both state and private pension benefits in their own right, the Pensions Commission said in yesterday's report. Retired women of all ages on average have less income than men. This is because women on average have contributed less into occupational pensions as a result of having lower-paid jobs with fewer working hours, and have tended to work in areas of the services sector where pension provision has not been as great, the data suggests. Historically, the structure of the state pension system has also meant more women relying on their husbands for income during retirement, which has meant their own basic state pension income has been kept low. Some changes are improving the lot of women, such as average female earnings closing the gap on male earnings, while more women are working and benefiting from improved pension rights. Women are also likely to enjoy improved annuity rates as retirement ages are equalised and male life expectancy over the age of age 65 increases faster than women's. However, these positive changes are still not enough to outweigh the women-specific challenges that any changes to the pensions system must take into consideration, the Commission says. It says, "Many women will continue to accrue inadequate pensions because of lower earnings than men, and because of lower number of years in employment. Even though female employees are as likely to be pension scheme members as men, women's lower overall employment rate will depress pension right accrual." While policymakers must address many aspects of both state and private provision in relation to women, the Commission also points out that compulsion would probably benefit women more overall because it would encourage savings by those not covered by employer-sponsored schemes, which often means women working part time. The report into pensions has found there are four main areas of risk to savers linked to investment returns - longevity, defaults, political changes, and earnings progression. Investment return risk is affected by what type of scheme is offered. A Defined Benefit (DB) scheme will place the burden on the scheme provider, a Defined Contribution (DC) scheme will place the risk on the individual, although the post-retirement risk is absorbed by the annuity provider, the report stresses. Longevity is a risk because nobody knows exactly how long they will live in retirement. However this risk is not borne by the individual, but by the DB scheme provider, the annuity provider, or the Government. One problem with the status quo, is that insurers are not sure how much risk they can absorb longevity risk in future 'at acceptable prices'. Political risk is that future governments could change tax rules and the regulatory regime for private pensions. The earnings progression risk ties into the idea that pension income levels should be linked to expected higher earnings immediately before retirement.
    € Marlene Shalton is a director of independent financial advisors Chambers Morgan James

  17. Seachange puts squeeze on coastal councils
    Mandurah Mail, Australia
    A new national grouping of coastal local government councils are struggling to meet the growing community demands from the so-called seachange phenomenom. The new group is gaining in numbers and status with 90 councils representing more than four million Australians, meeting at a summit in Rockingham last week. Grappling with meeting the needs of big population movements to the coast, including infrastructure and community facilities and services, the councils are calling for special State and Australian Government financial assistance. Maroochydore Mayor Joe Natoli said they could become a potent political force. "Local communities will not accept having their long-term sustainability ignored by State and Federal Governments," Mr Natoli said. "They will make their dissatisfaction known at the ballot box if they don't get the support and the resources they are looking for." Mayor Natoli identified the coastal environments, roads, water supplies, sewerage, public transport, health and emergency services, and education as some of the major catch-up areas. Economist John Syme estimated that six WA seachange councils alone, including Mandurah, had infrastructure shortfalls of $400 million to 2011, which can be directly attributed to population growth and its shift to coastal areas. This was attributed to retiring baby boomers, people wanting to downscale from long working hours in city jobs, and still others who now prefer to work from home or commute to cities full or part time. University of Sydney Professor Ed Blakely encouraged the councils to ensure community life was not a victim of rapid growth. He said they needed to look after present and new communities. "This particularly includes older people who may feel unsettled by the many changes in their communities. Similarly with young people, who may feel marginalised by the changes and the loss of their gathering places, beaches and so on." Mandurah City acting chief executive officer Ian Hill said the seachange movement was not just something out of the television series and social commentators' newspaper columns. "The councils who are forming this new group recognise that unless special financial assistance is forthcoming, many rapidly growing communities will be unsustainable in terms of road networks and other infrastructure, jobs and the services which these population influxes will require," Mr Hill said.

  18. Resistance in construction Wider fight builds on Wembley win - Engineering construction workers are moving towards a national campaign to defend conditions
    Socialist Worker, United Kingdom
    Greg Challis and Kevin Ovenden
    THE PUSH for the campaign, which could affect sites across Britain, comes in the wake of the victory by 240 steel erectors at the Wembley stadium site. The Wembley workers were due to vote on a final agreement on Wednesday of this week. It should see all workers at the site brought onto nationally agreed terms and end the use of agencies that undercut those conditions. Last week construction workers rallied in Sheffield over the national agreement - which is under attack from union-busting companies. A meeting of over 150 members of the Amicus and GMB unions unanimously endorsed a call for an emergency conference of shop stewards in theengineering and electrical contracting industry. The aim is to "unite members across the industrial spectrum - scaffolding, mechanical, electrical and structural - with a strategy including official industrial action". Delegations travelled from across the Yorkshire and Humberside region, and beyond from a number of major sites including Wembley. The flashpoint in Sheffield is the new municipal waste incineration plant, which Labour-run Sheffield council has signed over in a £40 million contract to the multinational company Onyx. Construction work has been subcontracted out, and a Belgian firm has brought in workers from Belgium who are being paid under the union rate. The company is exploiting a loophole in the European Union Posted Workers Directive, which employers claim allows them to ignore union agreements and even health and safety laws. Employers are using overseas workers because they believe they can pay them under the union rate. But the solidarity shown in the Wembley dispute showed that it is possible to break this divide and rule tactic. The Wembley workers went to great lengths to point out that if the national agreement is enforced on all sites then it will not be profitable to ship workers in from abroad. At the meeting there were calls for a recruitment campaign at key sites, and for Amicus general secretary Derek Simpson to throw his weight behind this key struggle. Eddie Grimes, a member of the Amicus national executive who has led the fight of foundry workers sacked by William Cook's in Sheffield, urged the workers to stay solid in fighting for their national "Blue Book" agreement. Earlier the workers had marched from Sheffield Trades Club to the incinerator behind Amicus flags, GMB placards, and banners including Sheffield Trades Union Council. A rally was held at the gates, and a petition opposing Onyx was handed in. Amicus says it is preparing to contest the dismissal of Garry Jackson and fellow worker Daniel Degnam by going to an employment tribunal. But the victory by the Wembley workers against mass sackings shows that contractors are vulnerable to immediate industrial action. Activists are now trying to spread that lesson. Feeling is growing, for example, at the Arsenal stadium site, which has been given an official status that means construction workers are on less money than those at Wembley. A dispute earlier this year at the Barry power station site in South Wales ended up with workers taking unofficial action and defending their national conditions. "There is great potential to challenge the nightmare of agency working and to take on the construction bosses," says one Wembley worker. "We're not just talking about pay. It's about establishing working hours that allow us to have a life away from the job. "And it's about enforcing proper safety standards so we end the scandal of record numbers of deaths of construction workers. "We've got strong organisation in some sections on some sites. Now's the time to extend it."

  19. KarstadtQuelle Needs an Accord to Win Over Creditors (Update2)
    Bloomberg, United States
    KarstadtQuelle AG, Germany's biggest department-store operator, said it needs an agreement with labor unions this week about job cuts and longer hours to convince creditor banks to help finance the company's overhaul. ``We'll have a problem'' if the two sides don't come together, KarstadtQuelle spokesman Joerg Howe said at the company's headquarters in Essen. The retailer, which employs more than 100,000 people, yesterday began a week of talks with unions. Chief Executive Christoph Achenbach, who was installed in July to rescue the company after three years of flagging sales, plans to sell 77 stores and assets such as specialty retailers to raise 1.6 billion euros ($1.97 billion). The Ver.di services union said last month the plans may affect 20,000 jobs. KarstadtQuelle, once a member of Germany's benchmark DAX with a market value of more than 4 billion euros, has lost more than half that since it was ejected from the index in Feb. 2001. The stock rose 15 cents, or 1.2 percent, to 12.44 euros at 10:47 a.m. in Frankfurt, valuing the company at 1.46 billion euros.
    `Far Apart'
    Ver.di union representative Franziska Wiethold yesterday said KarstadtQuelle management and the company's labor council are ``extremely far apart'' in negotiations about shop closures and the possible eliminationof department-store jobs. KarstadtQuelle will cut as many as 3,000 administrative positions rather than eliminating any sales jobs, Capital magazine reported, citing management-board member Helmut Merkel. The company is in negotiations with three investors about selling outlets, Merkel told the magazine. Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest carmaker, is also deadlocked in talks with its union. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based company said on Sept. 30 that it may cut as many as 30,000 jobs, or almost one-fifth of its German workforce, if workers won't agree on cost-cutting plans. DaimlerChrysler AG, Siemens AG and Deutsche Lufthansa AG have reached accords with their unions for smaller wage increases or longer working hours. KarstadtQuelle scheduled a supervisory-board meeting for tomorrow to pave the way for shareholder approval of plans to raise 500 million euros for the reorganization. The banks want an extraordinary shareholder meeting in November to initiate the capital increase, for which KarstadtQuelle must allow six weeks to send invitations, Howe said.
    Investor Support
    The share sale is a condition for creditor banks such as Bayerische Landesbank and WestLB AG to extend credit to three years, KarstadtQuelle's Howe said yesterday. Investors Madeleine Schickedanz and Allianz AG support the reorganization. Schickedanz in August announced an increase in its holding to 41.55%. Munich-based Allianz holds 10.5%. ``In the short term, these talks are very significant,'' said Thilo Kleibauer, an analyst at M.M. Warburg & Co. in Hamburg who rates KarstadtQuelle a ``hold.'' Negotiations must be resolved ``so that the talks with the banks and the capital increase can be finalized,'' he said. This year, KarstadtQuelle plans to reduce debt by 14% to 2.85 billion euros.
    `Hardly Bearable'
    ``We find this pressure hardly bearable,'' Wiethold said. The unions will ``do everything possible'' to reach an agreement before Thursday, she said, though not ``at any price.'' Wiethold and Wolfgang Pokriefke, chairman of the department stores' works council, called a demand by managers to save 500 million euros in personnel costs by 2007 ``unreasonable.'' Yesterday's negotiations involved possible job cuts, an extended workweek of at least 40 hours, salary reductions, fewer vacation days and noncontractual Christmas and vacation bonuses, according to Howe. Achenbach has said management-board members will take cuts as well, though unions have called for a higher contribution. The German government, responding to possible job cuts at the country's largest department-store retailer at a time when the unemployment rate hovers at more than 10%, said it won't directly intervene in the company's reorganization. German Economy and Labor Minister Wolfgang Clement said yesterday that the company is under ``very high'' time pressure. ``The management at the moment is completely weighed by this problem,'' M.M. Warburg's Kleibauer said. ``In the next stage they can concentrate on the investment program.''
    To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at Pdonahue1@bloomberg.net.
    To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kimberly Kirner at kkirner@bloomberg.net

  20. Las Vegas union planning to demonstrate against Harrah's
    Las Vegas Sun, NV
    By Liz Benston
    The Culinary Union in Las Vegas plans to dispatch several hundred workers to the corporate headquarters of Harrah's Entertainment Inc. Thursday morning as part of a demonstration aimed at pressuring the company to negotiate with striking workers with a sister union in Atlantic City. Union leaders said demonstrators will engage in "civil disobedience" if necessary to get Harrah's executives to sign a pledge promising that the company won't hire replacement workers in Atlantic City during an ongoing strike. "That's where the decisions are made on this strike," Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer D. Taylor said Tuesday. Taylor claimed "decision-makers" for the casinos "have not been at the bargaining table in Atlantic City." Harrah's spokesman Gary Thompson said the company "is not interested in signing anything but a contract with the union." "The fact is that we never threatened to hire replacement workers, and we've never threatened to bust the union," he said. The Culinary Union also is planning a series of meetings with Atlantic City strikers at Las Vegas properties owned by Harrah's and Caesars Entertainment Inc. as well as Aztar Corp.'s Tropicana and Colony Capital's Las Vegas Hilton. About 10,000 workers with Local 54 of the parent union, UNITE HERE, walked off their jobs at those companies Oct. 1. They are demanding higher wages and free heath care coverage in addition to a three-year contract that would expire alongside three-year contracts at Las Vegas and Detroit casinos. The seven Atlantic City casinos, which now have five-year contracts with the union, claim they have met the union's other demands but have refused to budge on the three-year contract. The Culinary Union took out full-page ads in the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal Tuesday claiming that the future Harrah's-Caesars combination would create a dominant company that could ultimately roll back benefits that gaming workers have gained in Las Vegas over the years. "One has only to look to Mississippi - a nonunion market dominated by Harrah's/Caesars - to understand the chilling future that these companies would like to impose on our communities," the ad reads. "In Mississippi, casino workers are paid less than half of Las Vegas workers, lack basic health benefits and have no job protection or a guaranteed work week." At a news conference Tuesday, Taylor accused Las Vegas casino giants of lying to the public about meeting union demands on basics such as wages and health benefits. "When you're married to somebody there's a tradeoff there," he said. "(The casinos) are acting like an abusive spouse." "Their fight is our fight," added Socorro Guillen, a snack bar worker at Bally's in Las Vegas. "We have no guarantee that in three years they can't do the same thing here to us." The tough talk reflects a rapidly deteriorating relationship between UNITE HERE and Las Vegas casino giants that have so far maintained a cooperative and even friendly relationship with the union over the years. Both sides are accusing the other of a nationwide power grab at the expense of rank-and-file workers. "We've had 25 years of labor peace and we'd like to have 250 more years," Thompson said. "It's not (Harrah's) that is refusing to negotiate in good faith." Thompson said UNITE HERE's tactics in Atlantic City are part of a nationwide strike effort in about a dozen cities involving major hotel chains outside the gaming industry. "They want to have the power to shut down (the hotel industry) at the same time," Thompson said. "We don't want to see what happened on 9/11 happen again because of outrageous union demands and irresponsible leadership." Representatives of Caesars Entertainment declined to comment, and officials at Aztar Corp. could not be reached. The seven casinos in Atlantic City are running a joint ad today that says the casino owners will be negotiating with the union as a group. The ad doesn't discuss any of the proposals presented by the companies. But ads from the Tropicana resort in Atlantic City that ran last week accused UNITE HERE of "selling out" union workers by taking an inferior deal from the Trump casino company. Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts signed a deal with Local 54 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union last week. The Borgata and Sands resorts also are unaffected by the strike. "The truth is that the Las Vegas union bosses came to Atlantic City and told Local 54 how to sell out its members," the ad reads. "By taking the Trump deal, UNITE HERE left your money on the table instead of putting it in your pocket - all to get its three-year contract." Thompson said the ads are accurate. Harrah's offered to give union members an 11% wage increase over five years while the Trump deal included no wage increases save for a smaller cash bonus of $520 per year, he said. Harrah's also offered to continue free health care coverage for workers for the next five years compared to a three-year contract term under the Trump deal, he said. The Trump contract also includes reduced contributions to a severance fund for union workers while Harrah's offered to increase existing contributions, he added. Taylor called the information in the ads a "personal attack" against union leadership and a distortion of the truth. "Their conduct is despicable and we feel betrayed," he said. "They keep on lying." Thompson said the union is "showing desperation" because "members would vote for the Harrah's proposal if they got the chance." "It's sad that the union leaders see fit to mislead their members here in Las Vegas, the same way they are misleading and lying to them in Atlantic City," he said.

  21. IT Staff Salaries to Escalate 10%-15% Through 2007, According to META Group - Advice to CIOs: Focus on IT Staff Retention Immediately
    Business Wire, CA
    STAMFORD, Conn. - IT staff salaries will increase by as much as 10%-15% over the next three years, according to META Group (Nasdaq: METG), a leading provider of information technology (IT) research, advisory services, and strategic consulting. This salary inflation will drive up labor costs through 2007, when they will represent upwards of 55% of an organization's IT budget. According to META Group analysts, as the economy improves during the next 12 months, key IT employees will seek "greener pastures" with competitive firms. To prevent a mass exodus of highly valued employees, CIOs will need to pay closer attention to their human capital management programs, including management development, employee welfare/morale programs, recruiting/retention programs, and perhaps most important, compensatory strategies such as performance-based incentives. "The 'grass is greener' mentality must be dealt with head-on," said Maria Schafer, senior program director with Executive Directions at META Group. "CIOs must begin to work more closely with human resource professionals to implement strategies that address human capital management trends and innovative retention programs - an area in which IT has historically been reactive rather than proactive." META Group analysts point to a range between 4% and 6% as the "magic" turnover rate threshold. Analysts believe the IT organization must devise particularly innovative retention strategies such as enabling more flexible work rules (e.g., job sharing, teleworking), since staff turnover has long plagued the industry, specifically for talent with desirable application development, security, and networking skills. According to the 2004 IT Staffing and Compensation Guide, an annual report released by META Group, 24 % of respondents indicated that IT professionals in the application development field were the most difficult IT employees to retain. Similarly, those polled indicated high turnover among employees who specialize in security (13%) and those who hold networking job functions (13%). "As the economy heats up, so does the desire and incentive to seek higher-paying work and greater development opportunities," said Schafer. "Although this is true throughout all industries, it is particularly indicative of an industry such as IT, which has had one of its longest periods of job and salary stagnation. A steadily improving economic climate is already changing these dynamics, and CIOs must tackle this issue immediately, using a variety of tools to compete with competitor firms - or face a real workforce crisis in the months to come."

  22. Economy Tops Voters' Concerns
    RealMoney, NY
    By Ann Perry
    It's the economy, stupid. And jobs and health care, too. If a recent survey of typical American workers is right, the topics of Wednesday night's final, domestic issues-only presidential debate are what prospective voters care about most, not what the candidates have been emphasizing, Iraq and terrorism. When more than 1,200 employees were asked which issues most concerned them in the presidential election, an overwhelming majority, or 81%, cited the economy and jobs, followed by health care at 71%. Homeland security trailed at 60%. A significant number of employees reported feeling so driven by job insecurity that they were working longer hours and foregoing vacations. And the rising cost of energy and groceries was costing the majority of respondents as much as $25 a week more than a year ago. The study of workers at firms with 10 to 1,000 employees, sponsored twice a year by The Principal Financial Group (PFG:NYSE - commentary - research) and conducted by Harris Interactive (HPOL:Nasdaq - commentary - research), found that compared to prior periods, workers were more concerned about their long-term financial future and relatively unhappy about their current financial well-being. The country's economic recovery, said Daniel J. Houston, senior vice president of The Principal, has not been robust enough to prevent workers from worrying about job security. "The survey shows the key areas that are top-of-mind with American workers during this election season - the economy and jobs," he said. The survey, known as the Principal Financial Well-Being Index, was taken before last week's release by the Labor Department of tepid numbers for September's labor market and revised numbers for August. The company said the results seemed to indicate that anxiety over the economy and jobs was driven in part by employees working longer hours.
    [Here's another reason for shorter hours = anxiety over the economy and jobs does not make for confident consumers or a maximized consumer base.]
    Nearly one-third, or 30%, said they were putting in a longer work week this year compared to the same time last year, a significant increase from a response of 22% in the study's finding the first quarter of this year. Employees are working harder and spending more, with 97% seeing an increase in weekly spending due to the rising costs of basic goods such as gasoline and groceries. More than two-thirds, or 71%, said they were spending an additional $25 a week more than last year and 28% were paying out more than $50 a week over last year. While the subject of job outsourcing has garnered attention during this election season, those surveyed were relatively indifferent. A majority, or 58%, said they were unconcerned about their own job being sent offshore. Only 23% said they were very or somewhat concerned about outsourcing of their own job. American workers continue to say that their benefits are important to them. They rate health care, at 91%, as very important, followed by their defined contribution plans, at 68%, and defined benefit plans, at 54%. Almost two out of three employees agree that a good benefits plan keeps them at their current company and also encourages them to work harder and perform better. While Americans worry about their financial future, few do anything constructive about it. In keeping with past studies, more than one in four workers has not even planned for retirement savings. The majority of workers, or 53%, expect their standard of living to be reduced in retirement, especially those who are nearing retirement. With the decline of the traditional pension and threats to the financial stability of Social Security, Houston said he would like the presidential candidates to make financial well-being and retirement a focus of the election debate. "I hope we hear about financial security, because we are, in my opinion, approaching a financial crisis," he said. Unless workers are setting 10% to 15% of their income aside for retirement, he said, "You will not make it. You will be a Wal-Mart greeter for sure." The Principal Financial Well-Being Index has been conducted twice a year since 2000. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

  23. Kroger union votes to strike - 97% of large membership turnout rejects contract
    Cincinnati Enquirer, OH
    By John Byczkowski
    Kroger Co.'s union meat cutters and clerks in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to reject the company's latest contract proposal and to authorize the union to call a strike as early as 10 p.m. Friday. More than 5,000 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1099 cast votes - the largest turnout ever for the union. Ninety-seven% voted to reject the contract, union spokesman John Marrone said. What happens next is uncertain. "We're not eager to go out on strike," Marrone said. A federal mediator was informed of the contract rejection, but Marrone didn't know whether the mediator had attempted to set up any talks between the two sides. "What we want is a settlement that gives affordable health care to our members," Marrone said. Kroger spokesman Gary Rhodes called the vote "bad news" and repeated the company's stance that the best way to end the labor dispute is at the bargaining table, not the picket line. As they cast their votes Wednesday, union members said they had to take a stand. "All we want is a system (contract) that won't bankrupt us," said Mike Harp, a receiving clerk at the Latonia store and a 37-year Kroger employee. "We can't live with what's offered now." Said Becky Lanham of Amelia, a deli clerk at the Kroger in Felicity: "It's important we don't go on strike and we still have a job." But Lanham voted to reject the contract and authorize a strike. "We don't want to go on strike, but we don't like the proposal." Local 1099 represents 8,500 workers at about 70 Kroger stores in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana. The labor agreement between the union and Kroger expired Saturday, but they agreed to keep talking. The talks broke down Tuesday, so members voted on Kroger's last three-year contract proposal. For a union to gain leverage in negotiations, a strong turnout is as important as a strong majority in the vote. Local 1099 got both Wednesday. "That's the thing (company executives) look at most, is how many people actually voted," said Paul Staudohar, an expert in labor negotiations at California State University at Hayward. "That's an indication of the solidarity of the union." Bill Dudley, a Local 1099 official working the voting center at a Best Western motel in Fort Mitchell, said he didn't expect many people to show for an 11 a.m. meeting. "Maybe I was wrong," he said, looking at a line of 40 or so workers waiting to sign in and get their ballots.
    Health plan important
    A top concern of workers was Kroger's proposal to end almost-free health care. For the first time, full-time workers would pay a contribution of up to $15 a week for family coverage, and deductibles, co-insurance and prescription drug co-pays would all rise. The health plan "is the only thing that makes it worthwhile" to work at Kroger, said Ella Barbarone, a Kroger salad bar manager who lives in Elsmere. "Compared to what we make, it's a big cut." Carolyn Rich of Dry Ridge, who works at a store in Union, said she had a pacemaker implanted in February. "It would have cost me a whole lot more out of pocket" under the company's proposal. Kroger says the health-care proposal is better than those available to workers at other grocery chains in the region, and "it's very similar if not identical to what UFCW members and the company have agreed to around the county this year in other contracts," Rhodes said. Workers were also upset about the small wage increase offered, as well as work rules that might reduce hours and overtime - and cut weekly take-home pay - for many workers.
    [Here's a frequent self-defeating blindspot on employees' part = they don't quite get the linkage: increased hours and overtime leads to labor surplus leads to low wages.]
    Kroger is offering a signing bonus when the contract is ratified, hourly wage increases of up to 25 cents an hour in 2005 and a lump-sum payment of up to $400 in 2006. Workers say only department heads would get the maximum. Most workers would get less, and many would get nothing, they said. The workers "want hard wage increases in lieu of bonuses," said Lennie Wyatt, president of Local 1099. Asked if he thought Kroger was asking for more than the company needs, he said, "yes." What upset many workers was the belief that Kroger is trying to cut down on full-time workers who receive full-time benefits. Sim Jones washes floors at the Kroger in Wilmington. He is legally blind and has a wife and four children. Although he works 40 hours a week, he is still technically a part-time worker. That means he can only afford health care for himself. "They don't want nobody to be full-time anymore," he said. "How's a person who's disabled going to make a living?"
    Feeling underappreciated
    Others say Kroger doesn't value their expertise. "Kroger employees are masters of their trade," said Don Kordenbrock, a meat manager in Kroger's new Hebron store. "They're the best-trained people in Cincinnati. That's the foundation of (Kroger's) success. It's a slap in the face to say that's not important anymore." "I've always had people tell me, 'You work for Kroger, that's a good place to work, they take care of people,' " Rick Eldridge of Wilmington said. "They're really hard on full-time (workers). They don't want to give you anything. I don't even make $30,000 a year, and I've been there 28 years."
    E-mail johnb@enquirer.com

  24. Does working here make you ill? - Centre of sickness? The Civic Centre
    Oldham Advertiser, UK
    Oldham Council has one of the highest sickness rates of any local authority in the country. On average, full-time workers had nearly three working weeks off each due to illness in 2003/04 - and the latest figures show it cost taxpayers in the borough a massive £6.2m in sick pay for the previous year. The shocking statistics will be revealed to Oldham Council's cabinet when they meet on Thursday afternoon. Members will be asked to help remedy the situation by approving, as a matter of urgency, a report entitled 'Improving the management of attendance'. It outlines ways of decreasing time-off across the council's 10,000 plus workforce, which will in turn improve service provision. Councillors will be told in some areas sickness absence is still viewed as an 'entitlement' in addition to annual leave. Stress related illnesses, bad backs and chest conditions were some of the main complaints given by staff for their absences, with the Social and Environmental Services departments suffering badly. Current methods of reporting days off have not altered, or improved, for 20 years. It is estimated the average direct cost of absence per employee is £474, which would mean only a 10% reduction in sickness could save the council around £500,000. And with the authority facing cuts of £9.6m from their budget in the coming year, the report states this would be 'particularly pertinent to the current financial circumstances'. Cllr David Jones, Leader of the council admitted there was a problem with absenteeism which needed addressing. He said while the vast majority of people off sick had genuine reasons there would be individuals who may be playing the system. In both cases employees would be given support so they could return to duty as quickly as possible. He added: "Stress has been identified as one of the main reasons people are sick and this could come about because they are overworked filling in for others. "If we can get more people back in work it will improve the entire situation." The report concludes financial savings have to be made so there is really no choice but for managers to improve their approach to addressing absence.

  25. Marines' proximity to power plant adds danger
    Chicago Tribune via KRT via Kansas City Star, United States
    ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq - The Musayyab Power Plant sits on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River in this city like a steel giant laboring to breathe. Two of its four towering smokestacks spew a steady stream of white smoke, a sign that the turbine engines attached to them are working. One smokestack puffs out weak wisps. The fourth is dormant. Like many of Iraq's 30 electrical plants, the Musayyab facility is struggling to return to full capacity. Because of bad parts, outdated technology and the stress of war, the four-turbine diesel plant produces less than half of its designed capacity. But the Musayyab plant has an added liability: It sits within the razor-wire confines of a U.S. military base. The living arrangements, created to protect the plant, raise concerns from plant officials, who fear mortars aimed at Marines will one day bludgeon the plant, and from military officers, who must monitor the nearly 1,000 mostly Iraqi employees and temporary staffers who come to work in it each day. "Our job is to make sure Iraq has power," said Capt. Henry Parrish, camp commandant and the Marine in charge of securing the plant. "We do everything we can to make that happen." Helping restore power plants such as Musayyab, a 1960s-era facility that churns nearly half of Baghdad's power, to full capacity has been a high priority for the U.S.-led coalition and a major step in the rebuilding process - a "tier-one asset" in Marines parlance. The sprawling base, 30 miles south of Baghdad and home to 1,000 Marines and sailors attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, originally was built around the plant to protect it from insurgents. But securing it has been a challenge. Shrapnel from mortars aimed at the Marines has punched holes in fuel tanks that run the plant. Oil pipelines that once fueled the facility have been ruptured by insurgents. Workers have been threatened and killed. In August, the plant's manager disappeared on his way to work, reportedly snatched by kidnappers. Marine officials here said keeping the plant safe and running is the central mission of the base, and a task delegated to Parrish. On a recent afternoon, Iraqi employees smiled and waved as Parrish strode into the lobby of the power plant, flak jacket on. Parrish smiled back and greeted them in Arabic. "Salaam aleikum," he told a guard at the door, pronouncing the Arabic greeting with a Georgia accent. "Aleikum essalam," the guard answered. Married with three children and one on the way, Parrish, 34, has a finance degree from Georgia Southern University, where he also played running back on the football team. In the Marines he completed command training at the Expeditionary Warfare School. But no amount of training prepared him for his task as plant protector, he said. "I had no idea what I was getting into until I got here," Parrish said. The Musayyab plant has been battered by war. During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, U.S. missiles knocked it out of commission, plant officials said. The facility was repaired and went untouched during last year's invasion. But failing parts and outdated equipment have greatly reduced its output. With all four turbine engines working properly, the plant is designed to crank out 1,280 megawatts per minute, plant officials said. Currently, with one of the turbines out and the rest running under capacity, it is producing 550 megawatts per minute, they said. The lower output accounts for the frequent outages, brownouts and power surges plaguing Baghdad and surrounding cities, the officials said. But finding spare parts is the least of plant officials' worries, they said. Plant employees have been targeted by anti-American insurgents, and some have been followed as they leave the base grounds and return home. One worker was killed in a car bombing outside the base's front gate, a plant official said. As a result, employees are working fewer hours, cutting back on production, the official said. On Aug. 18, the plant's top manager was driving to work on a road in the nearby town of Musayyab when gunmen shot out a tire and took him from his car, according to a witness, Marine spokesman Capt. David Nevers said. Military investigators pursued the case but the trail went cold, Nevers said. The manager has not been seen since. "Everyone in this company is in danger," said Ali Hassan, 25, a chief engineer in the plant's main control room. Piles of employees' shoes line the entrance to the control room. A blinking computer panel, circa 1984, monitors the turbines and boiler rooms, next to a portrait of the green-hooded Imam Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law. "It's dangerous outside every day," Hassan said. "But we try not to think of it too much. Electricity is for all Iraqis. It has to go out." Another threat for employees and the plant are the rockets and mortars fired almost daily at the Marines on base. Two weeks ago, 15 mortars pounded the base in less than an hour, officials said. And recently, a mortar shell exploded near a 3,000-gallon tank holding diesel fuel for the plant, Parrish said. Shrapnel from the mortar sprayed across the tank, punching quarter-size holes in its base that leaked fuel. One plant official, who asked not to be named, said the plant would be safer outside a U.S. base. But that is not an option U.S. military officials are willing to consider. "(The base) was put here initially because there was a threat," said Lt. Col. Robert Durkin, the base's top commander. "If we leave and something happens, then 40% of Baghdad is out of power and everyone's up in arms. We'll stay until the Iraqi government brings in a security force capable of taking over." One of the first tasks assigned to Parrish when he arrived in June was to improve plant defenses against mortars, he said. He fortified outgoing mortar positions surrounding the plant that were set up by the Army, which previously occupied the base, and set up artillery guns to fire 155 mm rounds in an effort to discourage enemy fire, he said. He also began meeting with plant officials, listening to their concerns and adjusting security plans, he said. The daily meetings fostered friendships and sometimes stretched into long conversations about the differences between Islam and Christianity, among other topics, said Parrish, a devout Baptist. "Everyone just wants peace," he said, "so they could work." Another concern for Parrish was the nearly 1,000 plant workers who entered the base each day - people who could relay the base's layout to insurgents or bring in bombs. Each morning, every person who enters the plant is patted down for bombs and other weapons, Parrish said. Mobile phones, which could be used as detonation devices or to help pinpoint targets for mortar teams, are not allowed, he said. And every vehicle that enters the base is searched by bomb-sniffing dogs. "You have to be diligent," Parrish said. "But you have to be courteous. These people work here. It's their livelihood." Marine officials said a team of U.S. military personnel recently visited the base to assess plant security and eventually train and establish an Iraqi security force to take over protection of the plant. Until that happens, it's Parrish's job to help keep Baghdad neighborhoods lighted. "Our goal is to get them up to capacity," he said. "The sooner that happens, the sooner we leave."

  26. Ormond fire dept. overtime pay soars
    Daytona Beach News-Journal, FL
    ORMOND BEACH - A captain at the Ormond Beach Fire Department has an annual salary of $60,744 but, because of overtime he put in over the past year, he was paid $119,620. Another captain's $64,198 salary wound up at $124,046 because of overtime, and a third turned the same $64,198 salary into $112,892. Throughout the 56-person fire department, 27 firefighters earned at least $5,000 each in overtime during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, while 21 in that same group earned $10,000 or more on top of their annual salaries. The fire department's overtime pay tally for the 2003-04 fiscal year will reach about $748,000, according to city records, and some city commissioners are asking for an explanation. Commissioner Troy Kent said he was "shell shocked" when he saw that figure and called it "unacceptable." "This has totally been a management failure," charged Commissioner Jeff Boyle during last week's commission meeting. "The numbers just don't lie." Fire Chief Barry Baker said the problem is too complex to heap all responsibility on managers. "I agree wholeheartedly, overtime is too high," Baker told commissioners. "But it's a process problem, not a management problem." Mayor Fred Costello said he realized the overtime figures were growing a few years ago but commissioners at that time didn't share his level of concern, he said. The overtime issue has been a sticking point as firefighters and commissioners work to reach an agreement on the contract firefighters will work under for the next three years. The contract and overtime issues will be discussed at more commission meetings over the next several weeks. Firefighter overtime costs have climbed steadily since $241,497 accumulated in the 1999-2000 budget year, but Baker and other city leaders say they're working to pare those numbers. Baker estimates overtime costs in the budget year that started this month will be about $500,000, a drop of $248,000 from the fiscal year that just wrapped up. "The City Commission can be assured that all avenues are being utilized to reduce overtime where possible," according to a recent memo prepared by Baker, acting assistant fire chief Skip Irby and city finance director Paul Lane. City leaders blame several things for the climbing overtime costs. The usual firefighter work schedule averages 56 hours per week, which includes an average of 3 hours of planned overtime each week, according to the memo.
    [There should never ever be any such thing as planned overtime. A modern sustainable economy immediately and automatically converts overtime into training and hiring. The practice of chronic or planned overtime will be viewed in the same light as voting twice in the same election - unless you are willing to reinvest 100% of your overtime profits (employer) or earnings (employee) in training and hiring and be part of the full employment solution instead of part of the unemployment problem.]
    The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires that fire department workers receive an additional half-time [pay-premium?] for hours worked in excess of 53 and regular scheduled work hours, according to city records. The 53-hour setup accounted for about $166,000 of overtime costs. But changing firefighters' schedules to reduce that overtime would result either in greater expenses or reduced services, some city officials argue. Last year's early retirement of 15 captains and one driver-engineer created a chain of promotional requirements, which, in turn, led to overtime shifts. About $132,000 of overtime resulted from the early retirements. "The unavailability of qualified firefighters who could move up created a continual overtime problem," according to the memo written by Baker, his assistant chief and the finance director. "The department was in that situation from Oct. 1, 2003 until March 2004." Training over the past year has helped relieve that problem, they wrote. The Ormond Beach Fire Department also suffered "an exceptional" number of injuries and illnesses over the past year, which added about $280,000 to the overtime tally, city leaders said. Officials don't expect a repeat, particularly since the current force is young and the vacant position, created by the assistant chief being on extended worker's compensation for a serious illness, will be filled. Several programs and commitments also have contributed to overtime pay, officials said. They include the Burn Management Program, Citizens Emergency Response Team program, extra staffing for special events, leadership classes for officers, and firefighters assisting with fire dispatching. Language in the 2001-2004 firefighters collective bargaining agreement also resulted in an increase in overtime for higher-ranking personnel. Wording of the proposed agreement would more evenly distribute overtime among the ranks and save money. City leaders say they've saved $2,500 in monthly overtime by having the chief and an assistant chief cover a vacant division chief position. The department also has reduced the amount of off-duty time for the Burn Management and Citizens Emergency Response Team programs, and is trying to cover special events with on-duty personnel when possible. Most of the overtime during the past year can be traced to needs at the supervisory level, and it was those higher-ranking fire department workers who received the largest portions of overtime pay. "With the new union contract language and a larger number of subordinate personnel qualified to work in higher-level positions, overtime will be reduced," according to Baker's memo.

  27. New pay cycle approved for Paris fire and EMS
    Paris News, TX
    By Danny Gallagher
    City officials expect a new pay cycle approved for the fire and EMS departments to save the city a lot of money by making firefighters and paramedics work more hours to earn overtime. The Paris City Council approved the new 28-day, 212-hour pay cycle Monday. The move should reduce the amount of overtime firefighters and paramedics receive each month, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, Interim City Manager Larry Shaw said. Under the old plan, firefighters and paramedics worked a seven-day, 53-hour cycle, which provided them with time and a half for working over their normal 53 hours a week. The new plan, proposed by Shaw, provides them with overtime for work completed over 212 hours on a 28-day cycle.
    [And why are/were firefighters and paramedics singled out for this punishment?]
    By enacting the new plan, it could save the city up to $190,000 in the long run, Shaw said. "This is a pretty significant change," the interim city manager said. The new plan replaces the original seven-day, 53-hour plan enacted by the council in 2002, which cost the city an additional $50,000, according to a guest column written by former District 3 Councilman Benny Plata in the Aug. 30, 2002, issue of The Paris News. EMS Director Kent Klinkerman said the new plan doesn't change the number of hours firefighters and paramedics work but it does reduce overall overtime payments.
    [Sounds like a raw deal.]
    "The total number of hours never changed under the new plan," Klinkerman said. "But there is a loss of hours they can work to qualify for overtime." Bret Holbert, Paris Professional Firefighters Association president, said the plan makes firefighters work more hours in order to earn overtime payments. "(The Fair Labor Standards Act) says a standard work week for firefighters is 53 hours," Holbert said. "Given the schedule of the shifts over the last few years, if someone works 56 hours, then you have three FLSA hours for that week. But by putting us on a 28-day period, you lose some FLSA overtime for the month." Holbert also noted that if a firefighter takes a day off or uses vacation or sick leave under the new cycle, they lose their overtime entirely during that cycle because they work in 24-hour shifts.
    [Why do they work in such long shifts?]
    "Say I work all month without any time off and then I take a day off on the last day," Holbert said. "I lose all the time-and-a-half under the cycle." Klinkerman said it's still important that firefighters and paramedics use their vacation and sick leave even though they might lose overtime. "We want the guys to take their vacation and sick leave days because they're earned those benefits," Klinkerman said. "They need to take time off to relax and get away for awhile, so they need to take their time off wisely." Klinkerman isn't sure how the new plan will affect firefighters and paramedics' pocketbooks in the long run. "At the end of the year, it means there's less for the guys," Klinkerman said. "How much less? We don't know. We're going to look at this for the next six months and see what happens." Holbert said he can understand why the city council chose to address this issue. "We're very supportive with going back to a 28-day pay cycle because the council said they would address the staffing issue again if we went with the new cycle," Holbert said. "I'd like to see them do that."

  28. The airport-security agency..., news blurb, WSJ, front page.
    ...spent $461,745 for an awards banquet and its executive bonuses are unusually rich, an internal report obtained by the AP says. Long hours are justification, a spokeswoman said.
    [So cut them.]

  29. Europe's car makers face turmoil as Japanese gain in market share, by Stephen Power, WSJ, front page.
    ...The European unit of General Motors Corp., which is on its way to losing money for a 6th straight year, is expected to announce as early as today that it will have to eliminate several thousand jobs and reduce or close at least one plant, unless employees agree to work longer hours for no additional pay and other cost-cutting measures....
    [Too bad they haven't yet distinguished between cost-cutting and market-cutting. First the blackmail city and state governments for tax breaks or they'll "have to" take their jobs elsewhere. Now they're blackmailing employees for longer hours and lower hourly wages or they'll "have to" eliminate jobs. This is turning into "Job Blackmail Capitalism." Too bad it incidentally cuts their own markets and their own careers.]
10/13/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/12 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except Australian & Far East stories which are 10/13), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. MPs want a five-hour Ramadan working day
    Gulf Daily News, Bahrain
    [Compare story #5 yesterday.]
    MANAMA, Bahrain - MPs want to cut the Ramadan working day from six to five hours for government staff. The proposal will be discussed at a full parliament session next Tuesday. Al Asala Bloc yesterday submitted a written proposal to parliament chairman Khalifa Al Dhahrani urging that the government's Ramadan working hours be from 8am to 1pm, instead of 2pm.
    Bloc president and parliament's second vice-chairman Shaikh Adel Al Maawada said the proposal was mainly aimed at helping working women meet the needs of their families during the month.
    "At the beginning, we had only women in mind, but then decided to include everyone to be fair, because fasting is for everyone," he said.
    "The change will also help ease congestion on the roads, as all workers whether private or government, leave work at 2pm."
    Shaikh Al Maawada said that the change wouldn't affect employees' output, since it would be temporary.
    "The work pace decreases by itself in Ramadan and I think that five hours is reasonable," he said.
    [Then how about all year round?!]

  2. Karstadt calls for staff pay cuts - Karstadt has been hit by slowing sales
    Reuters via BBC News, UK
    German retailer KarstadtQuelle says it must slash wages for its 100,000 staff if thousands of jobs are to be saved as part of its restructuring.
    The company added that salaries would have to drop by at least 5% - or even by as much as 10%.
    "But there is still the possibility of job cuts," company spokesman Joerg Howe told news agency Reuters.
    The firm is currently in talks with unions over its shake-up - negotiations that are proving to be tough.
    Karstadt needs to save 500m euros ($616m, £344m) by 2007, and plans to plans to sell 77 smaller department stores, 300 speciality shops and other assets.
    The group has said it needs staff to back its overhaul or its financial backers could withdraw support for the business.
    While the union Verdi has said it backs the restructuring proposals, it remains at odds with Karstadt over jobs losses. Under the retailer's plans up to 9,800 jobs could face the axe.
    High hopes
    In an effort to save staff, Verdi - which represents half of the company's 100,000 workers - has said employees are willing to give up holiday and Christmas bonuses.
    However it remains opposed to wage cuts and longer working hours.
    "I am very positive that we will be able to find agreement," Karstadt chief executive Christoph Achenbach told Bavarian radio as the two sides continued their talks.
    "I feel that both sides are trying to find an agreement."
    Meanwhile, the union said it had "high expectations" about the discussions.
    Karstadt needs to win union support for its plans by Thursday to enable it to prepare for an extraordinary shareholder meeting at the end of October when a 500m euro rights offering is expected to be made.
    The group has suffered from a sales slump recently with over the counter sales dropping 5% to 6.97bn euros while mail order revenues fell 2.5% to 8bn euros.
    [Bloomberg News version -]
    KarstadtQuelle Needs Accord to Win Over Creditors (Update1)
    Bloomberg, United States
    KarstadtQuelle AG, Germany's biggest department-store operator, said it needs an agreement with labor unions this week about job cuts and longer hours to convince creditor banks to help finance the company's overhaul.
    "We'll have a problem'' if the two sides don't come together, KarstadtQuelle spokesman Joerg Howe said in an interview from the company's headquarters in Essen. The retailer, which employs more than 100,000 people, yesterday began a week of negotiations with unions.
    Chief Executive Christoph Achenbach, who was installed in July to rescue the company after three years of flagging sales, plans to sell 77 stores and assets such as specialty retailers to raise 1.6 billion euros ($1.97 billion). The Ver.di services union said last month the plans may affect 20,000 jobs.
    KarstadtQuelle, once a member of Germany's benchmark DAX with a market value of more than 4 billion euros, has lost more than half that since it was ejected from the index in February 2001. The shares fell 29 cents, or 2.3%, to 12.29 in Frankfurt yesterday, valuing the company at 1.45 billion euros.
    Ver.di union representative Franziska Wiethold yesterday said KarstadtQuelle management and the company's labor council are "extremely far apart'' in negotiations about shop closures and the possible elimination of department-store jobs.
    Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest carmaker, is also deadlocked in talks with its union. The Wolfsburg, Germany-based company said on Sept. 30 that it may cut as many as 30,000 jobs, or almost one- fifth of its German workforce, if workers won't agree on cost- cutting plans. DaimlerChrysler AG, Siemens AG and Deutsche Lufthansa AG have reached accords with their unions for smaller wage increases or longer working hours.
    Board Meeting
    KarstadtQuelle scheduled a supervisory-board meeting for tomorrow to pave the way for shareholder approval of plans to raise 500 million euros for the reorganization. The banks want an extraordinary shareholder meeting in November to initiate the capital increase, for which KarstadtQuelle must allow six weeks to send invitations, Howe said.
    The share sale is a condition for creditor banks such as Bayerische Landesbank and WestLB AG to extend credit to three years, KarstadtQuelle's Howe said yesterday.
    Investors Madeleine Schickedanz and Allianz AG support the reorganization. Schickedanz in August announced an increase in its holding to 41.55%. Munich-based Allianz holds 10.5%.
    "In the short term, these talks are very significant,'' said Thilo Kleibauer, an analyst at M.M. Warburg & Co. in Hamburg who rates KarstadtQuelle a "hold.'' Negotiations must be resolved "so that the talks with the banks and the capital increase can be finalized,'' he said.
    This year, KarstadtQuelle plans to reduce debt by 14% to 2.85 billion euros.
    `Hardly Bearable'
    "We find this pressure hardly bearable,'' Wiethold said. The unions will "do everything possible'' to reach an agreement before Thursday, she said, though not "at any price.''
    Wiethold and Wolfgang Pokriefke, chairman of the department stores' works council, called a demand by managers to save 500 million euros in personnel costs by 2007 "unreasonable.''
    Yesterday's negotiations involved possible job cuts, an extended workweek of at least 40 hours, salary reductions, fewer vacation days and noncontractual Christmas and vacation bonuses, according to Howe. Achenbach has said management-board members will take cuts as well, though unions have called for a higher contribution.
    The German government, responding to possible job cuts at the country's largest department-store retailer at a time when the unemployment rate hovers at more than 10%, said it won't directly intervene in the company's reorganization.
    German Economy and Labor Minister Wolfgang Clement said yesterday that the company is under "very high'' time pressure.
    "The management at the moment is completely weighed by this problem,'' M.M. Warburg's Kleibauer said. "In the next stage they can concentrate on the investment program.''
    To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at Pdonahue1@bloomberg.net.

  3. Rise of 'contingent' workforce making permanent jobs scarce
    SENTINEL WIRE SERVICES via Holland Sentinel, MI
    CYNTHIANA, Ky. - Phillip Hicks had loaded his rusting pickup and was heading to work one afternoon last year when his tearful daughter called from a pay phone. She had been pulled over for speeding, she told her father, and worse, she was driving with a suspended license. The police had impounded her car and left her by the side of a dusty highway.
    To most workers at the sprawling Toyota plant where Hicks works, the detour to pick up his daughter would be a headache, no doubt. To Hicks...it was considerably more. He called his employer to say he would be late for the swing shift. But since Hicks is a temporary worker, his daughter's brush with the law became a permanent blemish on an already shaky employment record. Temps are allowed only three days off a year, and Hicks was coming up against that.
    Hicks is among the ranks of what economists call the "contingent" workforce, the vast and growing pool of workers tenuously employed in jobs that once were stable enough to support a family. In a single generation, "contingent employment arrangements" have begun to transform the world of work, not only for temp workers, but also for those in traditional jobs who are competing with a tier of employees receiving lower pay and few, if any, benefits.
    The rise of that workforce has become another factor undermining the type of middle-wage jobs, paying about the national average of $17 per hour and carrying health and retirement benefits, that have kept the nation's middle-class standard of living so widely available.
    Hicks has spent four years as a temp worker building cars for Toyota Motor Corp., making manifolds and dashboards for Camrys, Avalons and Solaras sold all over the United States. He works alongside full-fledged Toyota employees who earn twice his salary, plus health and retirement benefits.
    When Hicks left his family in Knott County, Ky., in 2000 to seek work at the plant 140 miles away, the only door left open was through a temporary agency, Manpower Inc. At $12.60 an hour, the job would not even let him afford the $199-a-week health insurance premium for his family of five. But Hicks said Manpower assured him that after a year - two at the outside - he would be on Toyota's payroll, earning $24.20 an hour, with health insurance, a dental plan, retirement benefits, incentive pay, the works.
    "The increasing use of temps "is part of the diminished and inferior wages and fringe benefits you see in all the new jobs that are becoming available," said William B. Gould IV, a labor law professor at Stanford University and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.
    Temps no longer fit the stereotype of the secretary filling in for a day or two. Jobs categorized as precision production, repair, craftsmanship, operations, fabrications and labor now account for 30.7% of all temp jobs, nudging out clerical and administrative support, which represent 29.5% of the temporary army.
    The impact of the temp trend on the American middle class can hardly be overstated. As the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in a paper last year, temporary workers "receive much lower wages than permanent workers, although they frequently perform the same tasks as permanent staff members." An analysis by Harvard University economist Lawrence F. Katz and Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger found that states with the highest concentration of temps experienced the lowest wage growth of the 1990s.

  4. [Now look who's "got our number" -]
    One quarter of working Americans live in poverty: study AFP via Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates
    WASHINGTON - More than a quarter of US working families - or nearly 39 million people - have trouble making ends meet and can be qualified as poor due to a fast shrinking pool of well-paying jobs, according to a new report due to be released on Tuesday.
    The study comes on the eve of the third and final presidential electiondebate between President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry. It is expected to add fuel to the already heated political campaign, during which Kerry has accused Bush of outsourcing good US jobs.
    "The president does not seem to understand how many middle class families are being squeezed by falling incomes, and spiraling health care, tuition and energy costs," the Massachusetts senator said last week, pointing out that 1.6 million private sector jobs had been lost in the country during Bush¹s nearly four-year term.
    Although the report, compiled jointly by the respected Annie E. Casey, Ford and Rockefeller foundations, refrains from apportioning direct partisan blame, it appeared to back Kerry¹s argument by stating: "Our society has not taken adequate steps to ensure that these workers can make ends meet and build a future for their families."
    A total of 28 million jobs, or almost 25% of all those available in the country, can no longer keep a family of four above the poverty level, the study says.
    Even education beyond high school and long working hours are not a shield against poverty any more.
    As many as 3.9 million low-income working families have a member with some post-secondary education, the report says.
    Moreover, the average low-income family is now putting in 2,500 work hours a year, which is equivalent to 1.2 full-time jobs. Families headed by a married couple worked 2,850 hours annually, which equals 1.4 full-time jobs.
    Professions like those of cashier, health care aide, truck driver, waiter, cook and janitor are among those the most poorly paid.
    To be considered low-income by government standards, a family of four had to earn less than 36,784 dollars in 2002. The median income for a family that size was 62,732 dollars that year.
    A married couple now heads contrary to popular perception, most poor working families, or 53%.
    Such families included 20 million children under the age on 18, six million of whom lived officially below the poverty line, according to the study. Economists blame the plight of the working poor on a steady decline in relatively high-paying industrial jobs that require relatively little education.
    The share of jobs held by assembly line employees, material movers, miners and construction workers fell from 44% of the total to 23% between 1960 and 2003, the report points out.
    Moreover, the wages of the less educated section of the work force have significantly declined.
    People with high-school diplomas have experienced a 18.5% decline in real wages over the past 30 years, while those with college degrees have enjoyed a 15.9% increase.
    The report recommends a thorough study of the labor market that would enable policymakers to come up with solutions to correct the imbalances.
    "Federal and state leaders should set policies that reward work through pay and benefits sufficient to support families," the authors say.

  5. You don't have to be a mom to appreciate these perks
    Kansas City Star, United States
    "If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it." Margaret Fuller
    Maybe they shouldn't call it the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" anymore.
    How about the "100 Best Companies for Working People"?

    Whether you're a man or woman, married or single, childless or a mom or dad, you probably are interested in compressed workweeks ... take-home meals ... backup elder care ... therapeutic massage.
    In unveiling its prestigious 19th annual list, Working Mother magazine proudly pointed out the widening scope of work/life programs among this year's winning companies.
    "Work/life benefits at the 100 Best companies have evolved beyond working mothers' essential needs - like maternity leave and phase-back for new moms - and now include programs that read almost like a spa brochure," Susan Lapinski, editor-in-chief of Working Mother, said in a press release.
    I'm heartened that these trendsetters have moved way beyond flex time and telecommuting (both of which are available at all 100 companies on the list), but let's hope other employers take a peek at the myriad benefits cited and ask, "Why not here?" Working moms may help highlight the need for family-friendly policies, but we can all benefit from the work/life connection.
    Which brings me back to therapeutic massage. Working Mother says 80% of companies on the 100 Best list offer this benefit versus 13% nationwide (based on a benefits survey by the Society for Human Resource Management). I'm thinking that's a benefit almost any employer could consider.
    Looking for ideas for your workplace? Go to www.workingmother.com and browse the online profiles of the 100 Best. Here are some other ideas I liked: By the way, while no Missouri- or Kansas-based employer made the list this year, about half of the companies (including Ford Motor Co. and Target Corp.) have employees in the Kansas City area. So at least some of us can say we work for one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.
    I'm just glad working moms are pushing working people forward.
    To reach Donna Vestal, assistant business editor, send e-mail to dvestal@kcstar.com
10/12/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/11 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #16 & 17 which are from 10/12 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 10/12), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. ISG employees vote for shorter work day [with less time off] -
    With new rules, Indiana Harbor hot mill workers could get more overtime
    nwitimes.com (10/12/2004) via Munster Times, IN
    by Andrea Holecek (holecek@nwitimes.com or (219) 933-3316)
    EAST CHICAGO, Indiana[!] - Workers in a majority of [International Steel Group] ISG/Indiana Harbor's 19 departments have voted to work 8-hour rather than 12-hour shifts, which could mean more overtime and bigger paychecks. Workers have been on 12-hour shifts since International Steel Group Inc. reopened the East Chicago mill in May 2002, about five months after it was closed because of the bankruptcy and liquidation of its former owner, LTV Corp.
    [Can you imagine working 12-hour shifts in one of the most dangerous industries? Steel CEOs are persistently stupid.]
    But during negotiations on a new labor agreement, workers represented by the United Steelworkers of America Local 1011 won the right to hold future votes on working a normal 8-hour shift rather than alternative work schedule of four 12-hour shifts one week and three 12-hour shifts the next, said Jim Robinson, USWA District 7 director. "That window has just closed," he said.
    [So, 4x12=48 + 3x12=36 = 84/biwkly = 42-hrs/wk average vs. the 40-hr/wk average of five regular 8-hour workdays. How do they figure they're getting "more time off when you work 12-hour shifts" (see below)? It must only be the slight-of-hand of more days clear of work, because the work is more loaded up on fewer days. Management had a little scam going whereby heads they won, tails employees lost. Shades of Orwell.]
    Last week, mill workers who would be affected by a restructured schedule voted by department on the change.   8-hour shifts won the vote in 11 departments, the vote was even in one department and workers in the other seven voted to retain the alternative schedule.
    Workers on the 12-hour schedule receive time-and-a-half only when they work more than 40 hours in a seven-day work week, Robinson said. They usually work four days one week and three days the next, which eliminates overtime in the three-day week.
    If they..work an 8-hour schedule, they receive overtime for working more than 8 hours in a 24-hour day, he said. "It's a trade off," Robinson said. "You get more time off when you work 12-hour shifts...."
    ["More time off" only in terms of days clear of work, and only because of grossly overloaded workdays, but the those long workdays and the constant disruption in your weekly schedule can easily nullify any advantage from the additional cleared days.]
    Eddie Gonzalez, treasurer of the local, said it's unclear how soon or even if the shifts will be restructured. "According to the contract, the company has a week to go to the 8 hours or they have to pay time-and-a-half for all hours worked more than 8 in a 24-hour period," he said Monday. "But what they're going to do is up in the air. I don't know if they have enough people to go to 8 hours."
    Cheryl DeCero, of Munster, a tracker driver in the hot strip mill, said there aren't enough people in her department to cover all shifts if the company were to make the change as its workers requested. "Sometimes they work us (12 hours) six or seven days [in a row], that's 60 or 72 hours straight,'' she said. "They'd have to hire more people [if they didn't]."
    [In short, they voted for less disruptive shift cycling and more predictable lives. So we can conclude that people like dislike longer shifts and constantly changing weekly schedules and will trade them for shorter shifts and unchanging weekly schedules even when it means slightly less time off. Management should drop the creative efforts on bizarre shift and schedule design.]

  2. Tiredness at work has 'the same effect as drunkenness'
    Belfast Telegraph, United Kingdom
    By Anne Lucey
    Lack of sleep and fatigue have the same effect on the body as alcohol, a conference on safety in the workplace heard this weekend.
    Long working hours and long commutes, as well as increasing night shift work, should mean a greater awareness of the risks of fatigue and shift working, 400 delegates at the National Irish Safety Organisation (NISO) conference in Killarney heard.
    The human body has an "internal body clock" which is more alert at certain times of the day.
    This body clock controls temperature as well as alertness and is predictable, according to Jeremy C Williams of the UK Health and Safety Laboratory.
    Alertness levels slip at night and decrease further as the night proceeds. Shift workers are more susceptible to circulatory disease, digestive problems and fatigue than day workers, Mr Williams said.
    Ultimately, the problems associated with disruption of sleep and fatigue can lead to premature death, Mr Williams warned.
    "You can kill people by keeping them awake," he said.
    Extensive research in the UK has shown that "bad shift patterns" and lack of rest lead to accidents in the workplace, as well as health problems that can endanger both the sleep-deprived person and colleagues.
    Fatigue associated with lack of sleep has the same effect as alcohol consumption, Mr Williams said.
    "When you have been awake for 22 to 23 hours, you are, in effect, drunk. It has the equivalent effect on the body. If you had taken alcohol, you could be prosecuted."
    A minimum of 12 hours between shifts and an avoidance of "the quick return" of eight hours and a restriction on the number of night shifts to a maximum of four in a row, are among guidelines drawn up for the UK.
    The guidelines also suggested a ban on overtime if 12-hour shifts are being worked.
    Junior Minister Tony Killeen, in his opening address to the conference, said there was an acceptance that fatigue led to decreased vigilance, impaired problem solving ability, decreased mood and motivation and increased error.
    Where shift work was concerned, "night shifts have inherent drawbacks," Mr Killeen said.
    "They run counter to our biological clocks and disturb our equilibrium in terms of alertness, body temperature and fatigue levels."
    The conference also heard that most of the 57 fatalities from electricity over the last 12 years could have been avoided if three simple precautions had been taken.
    Michael Hanly, vice chairman of the Electro Technical Council of Ireland, which deals with safety standards in the electrical industry, said a properly working trip switch, electoral installations maintained to standard and awareness of overhead power lines would have avoided all but three of the fatal accidents.
    The conference was also told that insurance costs for business have dropped dramatically because of increasing safety in the work place alongside "cut-throat competition".
    NISO spokesman George Brett said accidents cost the Irish economy ?1.6bn a year.
    However, there had been "a significant drop" in terms of accident claims as the workplace was made safer. The insurance industry's move to make people pay a percentage of the medical costs had also been a factor in the drop in claims in the workplace.
    Kieran Devenish, managing director of Dandelion Insurance, said cut-throat competition had led to a soft market which would be short-lived and said that premiums would soon rise.

  3. Moms stand up to the boss
    Chicago Sun-Times
    They hardly seem like rebels, but mothers with infants are becoming a powerful new force in changing the workplace. These highly skilled mothers are negotiating flexible hours, reduced workweeks, the ability to work from home and other benefits. And if they don't get it, they are walking out the door. Since 1997, thousands of mothers have quit - resulting in a 6.3% decline for working mothers of infants, according to the U.S. Labor Dept.'s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The overall percentage of working mothers with children today has now slipped to less than it was a decade ago and the decline is expected to continue. Those who stay are bargaining with corporations that fear a talent drain. "I think women are more realistic than they were 20 years ago. You are not a revolutionary by saying: 'I work sometimes and I'm home sometimes,'" said Molly Hufton, 31, a senior manager at Deloitte & Touche, who decreased her workweek from 55 hours to 30 after having her first child in 2001. Two decades ago, mothers in the work force were fighting for equal pay and the same opportunities as their male co-workers. Bringing up child-care issues then was considered taboo. But now, mothers believe balancing the baby is a valid point in negotiating with their bosses, and the stroller is pushing corporations to change. "The battlefield right now is getting employers to acknowledge that more than 50% of their work force does not have the male life cycle," said Dr. Anna Fels, a psychiatrist and author of Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives. Because mothers today are having children after they've worked a decade or more, they have already proven themselves professionally and are able to arrange work schedules that weren't even thinkable 15 or 20 years ago. More than 29% of all U.S. employees now work flexible schedules - a 16% increase since 1985, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, at IBM - the world's largest computer maker - 80% of its U.S. employees use flex time. There are tradeoffs. Women on the "mommy track" are often given less-interesting work and fewer promotions. Others simply have had to kiss goodbye their exciting-but-demanding professions and adopt more child-friendly jobs. "Most of my friends struggle enormously and are constantly rechecking about what is the right balance between work and home," said Elizabeth Evans...director of government and community affairs for the Illinois Facilities Fund, a statewide nonprofit that finances real estate development for nonprofits and low income communities. "What kind of sacrifices are we making? What kind of opportunities do we miss - at home and at work?" When Evans began her career as a litigator with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1992, she was...single and often traveled to try cases in other cities. By 1998, she was a supervising attorney, married and about to have her first baby. "I had no idea I would have to choose. I wasn't a mom. I didn't know what being a mom was about," Evans said. From the moment she arrived back in the office from maternity leave, Evans realized her world would have to change. Her division was in the midst of an investigation in New York, and Evans was expected to spend the week there. But she was breast-feeding a 12-week-old baby. "Government lawyers don't make that much money and I couldn't take a helper with me and set up in a fancy corporate hotel," Evans said. "So I made some day trips out of it, and I did the best job I could. But I knew I needed to find a different career." It took about three months for Evans to find a job as a policy associate for a nonprofit, work that she had done prior to going to law school. But when they offered her the job - which came with a giant pay cut, fewer benefits and a huge dip in authority - she turned them down.
    An 'illusion of choice'
    The next day she flew to New York to take a deposition and sat across the table from an accomplished lawyer and had a drastic change of heart. She knew she couldn't become the person sitting across from her and have a baby. So, she called back the nonprofit and pleaded to be hired. "I took a really huge pay cut and I've never really recovered from it," Evans said. "I loved being a litigator, but it's not family-friendly. It wasn't really a choice. It's just an illusion of choice." Evans feels that mothers of young children who succeed at top jobs aren't really honest about what they've sacrificed with their children. Evans still works full time, but reports to the office four days a week, an arrangement she negotiated after she'd worked at her current post for 2-1/2 years. She says she will never be able to work again as a traditional lawyer. "I was a lawyer because I wanted to be the White House chief of staff or a major counselor to Fortune 100 companies and I wanted to be a mom too," said Evans. "No one told me that I couldn't do both. But you can not do both."
    More insecure as moms
    Because women today have already proven themselves professionally by the time they start having families, many women say they feel more insecure about being mothers than workers. "I do think the pendulum has swung. I'm a working mother and I don't feel I have anything to prove," said Susan Melcher...of Hawthorn Woods. "But I often feel I have to prove that I'm a good mother." After having her twins, Zachary and Paige, in 2001, Melcher, a senior manager for a human resource consulting company in Lincolnshire, quickly tired of people asking whether she was going to return to work. "I'm not a huge feminist. But why is that question always asked of the woman?" said Melcher. "Why don't they ask men that question? My husband's thought of staying home would be: Oh, do I get to play golf every day?" Having worked her way up into senior management, Melcher was reluctant to walk away. Besides, she commanded a higher salary than her husband. So she used her 14 years at the company to negotiate her 45-hour workweek into 4½ days [presumably 36 hours]. Still, she feels she is constantly encountering people's subtle judgments about her as a working mother. In her neighborhood of mostly stay-at-home moms, Melcher feels like an anomaly. She says people often quiz her about how she cares for her kids. "The questions come innocently enough," Melcher said. "But you feel you have to defend the preschool. You feel you have to rationalize your decision." Melcher believes there's an underlying societal pressure on mothers to stay home. The media, she says, scare mothers by running stories about how horrible day care is. "If I were at home every day, I'm concerned that we'd end up watching too much television or we'd be going to the mall all the time," said Melcher. After juggling work and career and deflecting others' judgments, working moms eventually give in and quit, Melcher said: "They finally realize they can't be a supermom. And if they feel they have to make a choice, they're always going to choose their family over their career."
    Sequencing moms
    At least one Chicago marketing agency is trying to tap into the talent pool of professional mothers who have left. A survey by Corporate Project Resources Inc. (CPRi) released in August shows that at least a quarter of Fortune 500 companies would be willing to hire stay-at-home mothers for projects lasting up to six months. "Companies have to find a way to redefine how to use people so they can take advantage of this market," said Denise Nash, a Kenilworth stay-at-home mom and former executive who surveyed women like herself for CPRi. In Chicago, Nash focused on former executive mothers who live on the North Shore. None said they wanted to return to work full time. They were willing to work part time as long as the job had flexible hours, involved meaningful, intellectual pursuits and paid well. But did any of these women know women who had these kinds of jobs? "Most people thought it was possible," Nash said. "They won't trade. They won't give up that flexibility. For now, they're channeling it. There's a lot of marathon runners out there and a lot of women who are spinning their lives away. The PTAs have never been run so good, and the gyms are full of fit, fancy women." Reports of top women opting out have spurred a number of studies. One such study by Catalyst, a New York research center, shows that not only do equal numbers of male and female executives aspire to become CEO but that men are also clamoring to have the same kinds of flexibility as women. The most popular options among male executives is the ability to take a leave, followed by compressed weeks and working from home. More corporations are trying to retain parents who want to spend their children's early years at home. Kraft Foods in Northfield has offered flexible options, such as teleworking, job-sharing and part time, since the late 1990s. IBM offers a program allowing male and female employees to take up to three years off. Of those who have taken leave, 59% said they would have left the company for good if the official leave hadn't been offered.
    Men benefit from moms
    Although mothers are demanding such flexible job arrangements, labor experts say that men are benefitting too. In fact, more men have flexible work schedules than women: 30% vs. 27%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "We are seeing younger men saying they want to spend more time with their kids, too," said Lynn Martin, former U.S. labor secretary under President George Bush Sr. For the last decade, Martin has headed Deloitte & Touche's initiative to retain the accounting firm's female talent pool by offering flex time options for both men and women. In June, Deloitte launched a program that allows employees to leave for up to five years while the firm pays for their continued training. "If we talk about the family as being valuable, then it's incumbent upon us to make sure people can raise families," said Martin. "Forward, progressive firms want to keep mothers because they realize they can tap into a much more proficient, loyal, steady and reliant stream of talent." Molly Hufton is one employee Deloitte wants to keep. Since 2001, Hufton has worked three days a week. "I've been here 10 years now," said Hufton. "I've built up a good network and I've demonstrated what I can do. So everyone knows that things aren't going to slack off." At first, Hufton needed help learning how to scale back. She was trying to handle the same 55-hour-a-week workload by working nights and weekends. Now she is strict about limiting her work to three 9-hour days at the office and accepting important calls on the other days while her two children nap. "It really is a balance," she said. "If you give 100% to work, then your kids that day - they honestly do suffer. But then there are days that are vice versa. You have to figure out what percentage mix you can be happy with." Hufton's reduction in hours cost her a 37% cut in pay. Promotions have also slowed. In February, Hufton was named senior manager, a title her husband, who works full time at Deloitte, achieved three years ago. Hufton says she is happy with the balance she has attained and does not have any plans to return to full time. Her friends, many of whom have had to walk away from high-flying careers, are envious of the split she has achieved. But not everyone's job at Deloitte can be so easily tailored. April Bridgeman...was a director of administrative services for Deloitte's Americas practice on the firm's consulting side when she gave birth to her son Grayson in January 2003. After a nine-week maternity leave, Bridgeman returned to find that in the midst of a company reorganization, her responsibilities had changed. "I lost schedule flexibility in the new role, and it was important to me," said Bridgeman. "There are certain hours of the day that I wanted to spend with my son - in the morning and at dinner. It's really not an option for me to be working during those times."
    'Virtual employee'
    Within six months, Bridgeman was hired as vice president for performance solutions at WorldTravel BTI, which allowed her to reduce her workweek from 65 hours to 55 hours [whoopeedoo - this is still a 1910 workweek level] and gave her freedom to work from home. Her days usually start around 8 a.m. and go until 6 p.m. She takes breaks and classes with her son during the day, making up the hours after he goes to bed. Bridgeman puts in several more hours on Sundays while her son naps and on most nights after he goes to bed. "I am technically a virtual employee," said Bridgeman, sipping coffee on her living room couch while her full-time nanny corralled her 19-month-old son in the kitchen. "They don't dictate when and where I work at all." Although Bridgeman's husband is a partner in a Chicago law firm and she could have afforded to quit work, she says she never even considered the option. "I love working," said Bridgeman, whom co-workers have dubbed the 'Energizer Bunny.' "It charges me. I get challenged by it. I also wouldn't want to be a supermom. I don't want to be gone 70 hours a week. I don't want to be taking international business trips. It's all about striking a balance."

  4. A victory for working carers
    The Age, Australia
    NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia - A NSW [New South Wales] case helps advance the cause for flexible working arrangements. For six years, until the birth of her daughter, Evelina Reddy worked for International Cargo Express in NSW. Two months before she was due to return from maternity leave, Ms Reddy told her employer she wanted an extra nine weeks off and then wanted to work only three days a week. Ms Reddy, who had been employed as a manager in the customs section, had been unable to find suitable child care and so on work days had to take her daughter to her mother's home, 25 kilometres away. Her employer refused her request for extra leave and for part-time work and so, after further correspondence, Ms Reddy resigned. Last week International Cargo Express was ordered to pay $16,000 in damages to Ms Reddy for unlawfully discriminating against her because of her responsibility as a carer. Although other women have won cases on the grounds that denying mothers part-time work amounted to sex discrimination, this is the first case in which a carer's responsibilities have been used to argue a claim for part-time work. Her employer is considering an appeal. AdvertisementAdvertisement The ruling by the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal is an important one and potentially significant for parents of both sexes and also for spouses and adult children who find themselves in a caring role. Much has been said in recent years about the need to strike a healthier balance between working hours and family responsibilities. Research has consistently shown that a diverse workforce, with access to flexible hours, is more likely to enjoy higher rates of morale and lower staff turnover and absenteeism. By refusing to accommodate Ms Reddy's needs, her employer has been deprived of her experience and expertise; the economy as a whole can ill afford such losses of productive, skilled workers and businesses should do what they can to avoid them. Another part of the equation, at least for parents of young children, is a greater need for child-care places. In the federal election campaign, the major parties recognised the need for more places by promising to increase funding for child care. Neither party was able to deliver paid maternity leave, although the baby payments offered by both may serve a similar purpose. It remains the case, however, that employees who find themselves with pressing family responsibilities are often forced to make compromises that have negative consequences for their careers and their earning capacity. These sacrifices are disproportionately made by women, often for the pragmatic reason that the female partner earns less in the first place. Spending less time in the office and more at home can be a great source of satisfaction and the financial sacrifice one that is gladly made. What is important is that those who make the sacrifice feel they have a real choice. Ms Reddy's victory in NSW should advance their cause.

  5. A Ramadan State of Mind
    Arab News, Saudi Arabia
    Abeer Mishkhas, abeermishkhas@arabnews.com
    In one of our popular magazines, a group of university students expressed their desire to have the whole month of Ramadan off. Their idea was that the month has a special nature and that people usually increase the amount of time spent in prayer and worship. In another article, people from different backgrounds with different jobs were asked what was the best Ramadan schedule for them. As you would expect, there were a variety of opinions. So here we are again - back to the same stories and ideas we hear every year in Ramadan. People want to change their schedules completely; they want to stay up all night and sleep more during the day. Some say they need to concentrate on worship since the month has a special spiritual nature. Now Ramadan is supposed to increase our affinity and sympathy with the poor and unfortunate. In order to feel what they feel, we abstain from eating and worldly pleasures during the day. But if we sleep all day and are up all night, what has been achieved? How much of the spirit of Ramadan remains with us? It is true that charitable acts increase in Ramadan and that people spend more time in prayer but at the same time, a great number abuse the spirit of the month. For far too many people, Ramadan has become a month of fun, parties and overeating. They consume too much, sleep too little and watch TV for too many hours. What becomes of their responsibilities to their job or, if they are students, to their studies? Those responsibilities come about 10th on the list of priorities since celebrating and having a good time are the first 9 on the list. Not much time or energy left for No. 10! In a discussion with some friends, one of them complained that Ramadan should be a vacation for everybody because there are so many things one wants to do and so little time to do them. I was surprised and told her, "If everybody here takes the month off, then we'll have to import people from other countries to work for us. Who said that people couldn't work in Ramadan? Did the Prophet (pbuh) tell his followers to take the month off? He worked in Ramadan; there is no evidence that early Muslims did not work during the fasting month. What we do know is that they were good Muslims, followed Islamic teachings and lived normal lives. They did not sleep all day and stay up all night in Ramadan." A Jordanian friend complained to me that in Ramadan she couldn't function because of the confused schedule. She said: "This year, I decided to follow my regular schedule, wake up early, go to work, and sleep early. I cannot understand how people turn their systems upside down." I am in total agreement with her. Somehow we in Saudi Arabia, more than in any other Arab or Islamic country, think that work can be delayed and decreased in Ramadan. It is sad to hear people say that they should devote all their efforts to worship as if work is not a form of worship. We can work, fast and worship just like the Prophet (pbuh) did. That, after all, is the Islamic way of keeping Ramadan - not staying up all night and sleeping all day.

  6. Observe Right to Unionize by Making It Reality
    ZNet Labor Watch via Free Speech TV, United States
    By Pat Youngblood and Robert Jensen
    Fifty-five years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set forth basic standards for what many hoped would be a new world emerging from the devastation of World War II and the horrors of colonialism. Among the rights articulated in that document is, "to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests." This was in line with U.S. law; the 1935 National Labor Relations Act declared it the nation's policy to encourage "the practice and procedure of collective bargaining" and protect "the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection." Unfortunately, the principle on the books is not the typical workplace reality in the United States today. Existing laws are inadequate, and employers routinely violate even those. As the world today [Dec. 10] observes Human Rights Day, Americans should heed the conclusion of a Human Rights Watch report in 2000: "[W]orkers' freedom of association is under sustained attack in the United States, and the government is often failing its responsibility under international human rights standards to deter such attacks and protect workers' rights." A study by a leading labor researcher, Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner, found that when faced with employees who want to join a union, 92% of private employers force workers to attend closed-door meetings to hear anti-union propaganda; 80% require supervisors to attend training sessions on attacking unions; 78% require that supervisors deliver anti-union messages to workers they oversee; and 75percent hire outside consultants to run anti-union campaigns. Her study, commissioned by the U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission, also found that half of employers threaten to shut down if employees unionize and that in a quarter of organizing campaigns, employers illegally fire workers because they want to form a union. http://www.ustdrc.gov/research/bronfenbrenner.pdf> Bronfenbrenner also discovered why these tactics are so common - they are effective, increasing employee insecurity and applying downward pressure on real wages and benefits. The negative effect on communities is widely felt; a 2000 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that American families, on average, work 247 more hours per year than they did in 1989. Workers whose rights have been violated can try to use the law to fight back, but these days that's a thin reed on which to lean. Business owners know that the federal government long ago abandoned serious enforcement, and cases brought before the National Labor Relations Board can drag on for years before workers get justice. One simple way to give workers more meaningful organizing rights would be to establish the right of workers to start a union through the "card check" process. If a majority of workers sign a form authorizing union representation, the company would have to recognize the union. Under current law, companies can ignore the workers' wishes and demand an NLRB election, which gives managers the opportunity to engage in these coercive anti-union activities and create an atmosphere of fear. Legislation introduced in Congress last month, called the "Employee Free Choice Act," would give workers the right to unionize through card check, as well as provide mediation and arbitration for first contract disputes, and establish stronger penalties for violation of employee rights during organizing drives and first contract negotiations. Such a law is hardly radical; it's a small step toward reversing the assault on workers' rights in this country and bringing the United States closer to basic international norms. In addition to the Universal Declaration, such norms are also articulated in the "Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work" of the International Labor Organization, an independent U.N. agency of which the United States is a member. That document states that member nations have an obligation "to respect, to promote and to realize, in good faith" four key principles, the first of which is "freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining." The key term is "effective" - rights in the abstract mean little to workers who are coerced into abandoning a union campaign or fired for organizing activities. It's time for the United States to make those rights real for all workers.
    Pat Youngblood is coordinator and Robert Jensen is on the board of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin, Texas, http://thirdcoastactivist.org/. They can be reached at pat@thirdcoastactivist.org and rjensen@uts.cc.utexas.edu.

  7. Firm delivers relief from household tasks - Lisle start-up expects growth in freeing busy families from humdrum errands
    Chicago Tribune, IL
    By John Schmeltzer
    Maureen Hipskind doesn't consider herself an "early adopter." But she is among the first in Hinsdale to sign up for a pickup and delivery dry-cleaning service offered by a new company. Eliminating just one of the weekly mundane tasks, such as dropping off the dry cleaning, convinced her that the service offered by Lisle-based Valet Today was worth the $3.50 round-trip delivery fee. "We would never go back to the way we had been doing it, running around to get everything done," said Hipskind, saying she saves several hours a week alone on the dry-cleaning and laundry service. That's what Valet Today likes to hear. The company hopes to sign up other increasingly busy families by offering other time-saving services such as shoe repair, propane tank replacement, store returns, prescriptions, photo processing, postage and package shipping. Serial entrepreneur Dave Hopkins, who spent seven years in his Lisle basement hammering out his business plan, is looking to tap into the psyche of others like Hipskind who want to eliminate more of the hassles of life and spend more time with their families - an increasingly rare commodity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported last year that the average workweek was 49 hours for men and 42 hours from women. Beyond growing work hours, shopping and errands take a solid chunk of Americans' time. The average American spends 30 minutes each day buying goods and services, slightly less than the 33 minutes spent taking care of household members, according the bureau's 2003 American Time Use Survey. Since launching his business this fall, Hopkins says he has already signed up 5,000 customers in homes, offices and apartment complexes in the Hinsdale and Naperville areas. Revenue for the first full year of operation is expected to be $1.2 million to $1.5 million. Valet Today has regular pickups at office, apartment and condo buildings as well as private homes, where it will return goods cleaned and repaired in two days. The company just opened its first storefront where customers can drop off laundry and have it delivered later that day. It's a niche few firms in the Chicago area are exploiting. While there are nearly 2,000 dry cleaners throughout the area, few offer delivery. And Hopkins projects revenue could hit $7 million next year as the company launches an aggressive expansion into downtown Chicago, expected in January, and the northern suburbs. But Hopkins, who has recruited some top-notch people as board members or joint-venture partners, believes the real growth for Valet Today will come from university campuses across the country. Several retired McDonald's Corp. executives, including Edward Rensi and Tom Dentice, sit on the company's board, while Paul Tatro, a former executive with Divine Inc. and Platinum Technologies, has signed on to manage the rollout of the company's expansion into downtown Chicago. Rensi is the retired president and chief executive of McDonald's USA, and Dentice is a retired executive vice president of the restaurant chain. "We hope to be in 40 colleges and universities within two years," said Hopkins. Already the firm is operating a test program at Arizona State University that it expects to expand next year to the University of Arizona. Expansions are also being explored at universities in Texas, Michigan, North Carolina and Florida. And even though he has some of the best franchising expertise in the country sitting on his board, Hopkins plans to use joint ventures, in which Valet Today retains 51% ownership of the business, to fuel the expansion. Financing the company's growth shouldn't be a problem. Hopkins raised $1.2 million from angel investors in his first round of financing and is on track to raise an additional $5 million in the second round. "Our business plan and focus to learn rapidly allowed us to raise the necessary capital in one of the worst climates to do so - post-Sept. 11, the dot-bomb fall, a poor economy and during a war," he said. "But this was the best time to operate and perfect our proprietary systems and operating logistics." Tatro says colleges could be the key to the success of the business. "The reality is the laundry service on most campuses is a joke, and the kids don't know how to do it," said Tatro, who said his wife has faced mounds of dirty clothes when their kids have come home at holidays. "Dave has got it down to a science." "In five years Valet Today could be the Blockbuster of laundry and other service," he said, referring to the video-rental company by saying that Hopkins has devised a service that "college kids have come to expect." But while Hopkins is facing little competition in the residential category, he will face competition at many of the schools where he hopes to launch his college service, including Northwestern, DePaul and Loyola. "Good luck to them. We're already here," said Mindy Budgor, founder of CollegeButler LLC. "We're expanding to Washington, D.C., and California." Hopkins and Valet Today will also face competition at the University of Michigan, where a student laundry service called Busybody's Wash n Fold is operating. But Hopkins doesn't view the existing services as competition. "We kind of view them as fragmented confirmation of our idea," he said. Despite the boost that colleges should provide for the business, Hopkins said the key to the business is the service provided to customers. "When I drop off in the morning, they know who I am and know I am in a hurry," said Rick Almassey of Naperville, who drops off his dry cleaning near the Metra train station at Route 59.

  8. German, French reports may signal slowdown
    Francois de Beaupuy, China Daily via Xinhua via Xinhuanet via www.chinaview.cn, China
    German investor confidence probably fell this month and French industrial production may have slowed in August, suggesting record oil prices are crimping growth in the European Union (EU), surveys of economists showed. In Germany, an index of investor and analyst sentiment compiled by the ZEW Centre for European Economic Research in Mannheim may have declined to 35.5, a 16-month low, from 38.4 in September, according to the median of 24 forecasts gathered by Bloomberg. French output probably rose 0.1% from July, the slowest pace in four months, the median of 18 forecasts showed. "The effect of the oil shock is real for the euro zone," said Laure Maillard, an economist at CDC Ixis Capital Markets in Paris. "Given the renewed increase in oil prices, worries about US growth and the deterioration in the German labour market, a drop in the ZEW index will probably confirm the slowdown."... The increase in gasoline costs also reduces the chances of a rebound in consumer spending, which has already been crimped by rising unemployment. The pace of growth in household demand halved in the second quarter..\.. ...Italian Finance Minister Domenico Siniscalco said in Rome on October 7, "In our country there's great concern.\.rising oil prices...could reduce the buying power" of consumers. Italian growth slowed in the second quarter as household spending declined, making the country the worst performer among the Group of Seven industrial nations..\..
    The manufacturing and service industries in the euro region slowed in September and retail sales declined as unemployment held at a five-year high of 9% in August, reports last week showed. European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said on October 7 the 60% gain in oil costs this year makes the growth outlook subject to a "good deal of uncertainty."... The European Central Bank held its benchmark lending rate at a six-decade low of 2% October 7 amid signs that oil prices above US$50 a barrel and rising unemployment are tempering growth.... Central bankers "are currently more concerned about the outlook for activity" than inflation, said James Nixon, an economist at Barclays Capital in London.... The pace of growth in the euro region slowed to a quarterly 0.5% in April-June from 0.6% in the previous quarter. The region's recovery remains "relatively timid," as slowing global demand weighs on exports and consumer demand shows few signs of a rebound, the Brussels-based European Commission said in its quarterly economic report on October 5.
    [We have a deepening global depression that is gradually becoming impossible to continue spinning as a recovery. The main reason is that efficient technology is being injected, employees are being downsizing instead of "timesized" (workforces are continuously being trimmed instead of workweeks), and the result is that employment is being funneled onto fewer people and more people are being disemployed and deactivated as confident consumers. Europe is disregarding the technological imperative of "sharing the vanishing work," even though it is the most advanced region in the world in this approach.]
    "We are neither optimistic nor pessimistic," Trichet said in an interview published in the French magazine L'Express. "When we predicted a gradual recovery, I emphasized the word 'gradual,' and I still do."...
    [Central bankers like Trichet are locked into a Pollyanna role.]
    The euro region is lagging behind the United States and Asia. The IMF said on September 29 the US will expand 3.5% next year after this year's 4.3% growth and Japan will grow 2.3% after 4.4%. The 12 nations sharing the euro will expand by 2.2% this year and next, the IMF forecasts.
    [What nonsense. The only reason the US appears to expand more is the totally wasteful, unproductive and regressive Iraq war-of-choice and the fact that the primitive scoring tool, the GDP, counts all of that and so much other destructive stuff (like prison building).] Higher oil prices are curbing profit at companies including PSA Peugeot Citroen, Europe's second-biggest carmaker. The Paris-based company expects rising commodity prices, including steel, to cut operating profits by about 80 million euros (US$96 million) for the year, Chief Executive Jean-Martin Folz said last month at the Paris car show....
    In Germany, companies such as Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest carmaker, and KarstadtQuelle AG, its largest department store operator, are threatening to cut jobs unless workers accept smaller pay increases and longer working hours. German industrial production dropped 1% in August from July, the Economics and Labour Ministry said on October 8, the seventh report in the past week to suggest the pace of growth is slowing. The nation's unemployment rate rose to 10.7% in September, the highest since February 1999....

  9. The ageing face of the future
    The Scotsman, UK
    Belle Macmillan is a member of a select group. Born in the reign of Edward VII, her life has encompassed two world wars and 17 prime ministers. In 1909, the year she was born, the North Pole was conquered and Louis Blériot became the first man to fly across the Channel. But the 95-year-old is also the face of the future. A former nurse, widowed and childless, she moved from sheltered housing into residential care in Edinburgh in spring 2002. "I wasn't very well and I couldn't walk. I couldn't get out," she says. "I'd been in my previous home for 23 years so I thought I had done quite well." By 2101, the number of Scots aged 90-plus will pass 350,000 and could be as high as 435,000 - more than ten times current levels - according to work carried out by Phillip Rees, of Leeds University. Falling birth rates mean many nonagenarians of the future will, like Belle, have no family. Traditional models of care may become obsolete. If a 22nd-century Scotland populated by Methuselahs seems unlikely, consider how surprising today's average life expectancy would have seemed to our great-great-grandmothers. The 20th century added 25 years to the average lifespan and that figure continues to rise. UK wide, the over-80s are the fastest growing segment of the population; their numbers are expected to treble within 25 years. Estimates of the outer limits of mortality, as currently calculated, stop at around 122. But in affluent countries, the number of centenarians has doubled every decade since 1960. In Japan, the number of centenarians has risen from 154 in September 1963, when records began, to 23,038 this year. The 2001 census showed Scotland had around 500 centenarians and 29,114 people aged over 90. "There is nothing we can do about ageing," says Prof Rees. "It is happening. Whatever population projection scenario you adopt, you still have ageing [and] we have to adapt." Jess Barrow, head of policy and public affairs at Age Concern Scotland, praises the Executive for three policy initiatives for older people - "free personal care, free central heating and free transport - all of which are tremendously important; these policies are making a real difference to people's lives. But the government's approach to the ageing population and declining population has been to focus on immigration as the solution. "It is important to encourage people to come to Scotland. But they are concentrating on younger people rather than saying `We've got an ageing population, how can we use that?'" In Scotland, there are 500,000 workers over 50 who contribute 23% of the country's wealth. "This is not a minority issue," says Ms Barrow. "These are not people we can afford to write off. It's so frustrating when you hear politicians and the press talk in terms of older people being a burden and focusing on the cost of free personal care. We can afford what we want to afford." Alan Walker, director of the Growing Older Programme at the Economic and Social Research Council, talks of a "demography of despair which portrays population ageing, not as a triumph for civilisation but something closer to an apocalypse." He suggests doom-mongers visit countries where life expectancy is falling to discover how warped this view is. Nevertheless, an ageing population presents challenges to which policy makers must respond. Paul Boyle, Professor of Geography at St Andrews University, says: "Scotland is not ageing as quickly as some countries such as Japan, but it is ageing faster than the rest of the UK and that clearly has implications for resources. Population decline will happen slowly but ageing will happen quite rapidly and certainly the economists would argue that population ageing, rather than population decline, is the critical issue." Ageing is an elastic concept; it does not conform to a uniform chronological rate. "Age Concern is looking at issues which affect people aged 50 to 100," says Jess Barrow. "There are a lot of people aged 50 who object to being considered `older'. At one end of the scale you have healthy 50 year-olds concerned about how the pension system is going to work for them. And you have 90 year-olds living in poverty and in very poor health. Their circumstances could not be more different yet they are both concerned with ageing. " "We are interested in helping both groups but as far as Scotland is concerned, it is the issues surrounding the 50 year-old that are of prime concern. The challenge is to ensure the 50-year old doesn't become that 90 year-old. It's about prevention." The biggest challenge facing policy makers and planners involves working out how healthy the future population is likely to be. As the World Health Organisation puts it: we may be adding years to life but are we adding life to years? As Ms Barrow says: "The health of the nation is not pre-determined. The challenge for the Executive is to work out how to make sure an ageing population is healthy and independent." In 44BC Cicero argued in De Senectute, his essay on ageing well, that old age offered opportunities for positive change and should not be regarded as an illness. It's a stance Ms Barrow would like policy-makers to adopt: "We need to focus much more on prevention rather than acute intervention. I'm not sure that the Scottish parliament has really come to terms yet with the broader issues around an ageing population. "The person in work between 50 and 65 is far likelier to live longer, be healthier and remain financially independent that somebody who is not working. We need to make sure that the people who want to work can. And it is never too late to improve somebody's health. Most of the Scottish Executive's healthy-lifestyles promotion is aimed at young people and children." But with the current generation of 60- and 70 year-olds, on average, considerably more affluent than any previous generation of pensioners, are we in danger of concentrating too many resources on them? The backlash against ageing populations has begun in Germany where longer working hours and wage cuts are being imposed to deal with the issue.
    [And they, of course, will just worsen the problem because they will further cut into "household demand" (see article above).]
    Chet Tremmel, of the Foundation for the Right of Future Generations, says: "We are not going to keep quiet when a band of pampered pensioners steal the future from us."
    [It's not a steal, Chet - it's a contract with an increasingly important chunk of your domestic consumer markets. Your tune will change as you age. The solution is simple For starters, eliminate all sales and VAT taxes, remove the cap on the Social Security tax and restore the estate tax and World War II levels of the graduated income tax. Then maximize the consumer base by implementing automatic worksharing along Timesizing lines. Then make different contracts with younger workers: abolish mandatory retirement and convert from lengthening workweeks and declining markets to shorter workweeks, improved training, and better disability and rehab.]

  10. Packed, active session expected as Ontario legislature gets back to business
    Canadian Press via National Post, Canada
    Gillian Livingston
    TORONTO - After a long summer hiatus, Ontario's legislature returns to work Tuesday for what's expected to be a busy and raucous session with the Liberals continuing to battle accusations of being promise-breakers. While harsh criticism is sure to come from the opposition Tories and New Democrats, the Liberals could also feel a public backlash when coverage for most eye exams and chiropractic services is eliminated in November. But back in session, the province's politicians are expected to tackle a wide range of issues including electricity restructuring, pollution penalties, gas tax sharing, bring-your-own-wine legislation and mandatory gunshot reporting. The contentious issue of banning pit bull dogs or increasing penalties for the owners of dangerous dogs may come to the fore as Attorney General Michael Bryant examines the controversy. And more details about cancelling the 60-hour work week and teacher testing are also expected....

  11. Union hits out at Kumba job losses
    I-Net Bridge via Mail & Guardian Online, South Africa
    Justin Brown
    JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - Mining group Kumba Resources has served trade union Solidarity with notice that the group wishes to consult with its recognised trade unions on October 21, with a view to retrenching at least 400 of the group's 9 960 workers. The envisaged job cuts form part of Kumba's programme to achieve sustained earnings, before interest and tax contribution, of R800-million. Last week, the group said it is on course to achieve a sustainable minimum R800-million improvement in net operating profit by December 2005, the full impact of which is expected to be realised in the group's 2006 financial year. The minimum R800-million target was set using a forecasted exchange rate of R7 to the United States dollar, Kumba said. "Solidarity finds it infuriating that, at the signing of an agreement on a seven-day work week between the trade unions and Kumba two weeks ago, the group assured Solidarity and the National Union of Mineworkers that there would not be any job losses," Solidarity spokesperson Reint Dykema said.
    [Moral: Never agree to longer workweeks.]
    "At the implementation of [the] Kumba business improvement programme in February 2004, Solidarity asked to be made part of the process. "Kumba, however, proceeded with the process unilaterally ... Solidarity would have proposed an alternative to retrenchments, the more so since Kumba is busy increasing its production and expanding its infrastructure, as is shown by the escalation in rail traffic between Sishen and Saldanha," Dykema added. During the past book year, Kumba invested R759-million in new production capacity. "We find Kumba's insensitive actions incomprehensible. The group's turnover for the year was R8,45-billion, a 13% increase on the previous year. In the light of this, the company should be appointing more workers, rather than indulging in retrenchments," Dykema said.

  12. Blue-collars in ex-suburbs big winners in new pact - Workers in core city see few gains; Towns that voted to demerge must abide by new contract, including wage increases
    Montreal Gazette, Canada
    ANN CARROLL acarroll@thegazette.canwest.com
    MONTREAL, Que. - Where they work could decide whether municipal blue-collar employees are winners or losers under the new collective agreement with Montreal, a city councillor says. "I'm sure my guys will be happy," Anjou borough mayor Luis Miranda said. "They will be taking home more money." The salary scale in the arbitrated agreement announced last week sets wages about $3-an-hour higher than the former city of Anjou had been paying its blue-collar employees, he said. "I hope the central city will send us the difference," Miranda added. "We are already underfunded, and I can't afford (the increase)."
    [Then raise taxes on the wasted money of the wealthy, and get it out into circulation again.]
    For employees of the former city of Montreal, who make up 75% of the municipal blue-collar force, salary gains under the arbitrated settlement appear meagre, at best. Prior to the new contract, permanent employees earned between $18.95 and $27.20 an hour, city spokesperson Amelie Regis said. The new salary scale starts at $18.95 and tops at $26.61. The average hourly wage for permanent workers has fallen 21 cents under the new contract, to $19.99 from $20.20, she added. Salaries will rise by 1.5% each year for the next three years, starting Nov. 1. Employees will also receive 2% lump-sum payments for 2002 (retroactive) and 2007. Aside from salaries, the three-year contract stipulates a 36-hour work week, with the number of work days per week to be negotiated with individual boroughs. Under the previous contract in the former city of Montreal, employees worked 35 hours over four days. The new contract enshrines a level of flexibility that the former city of Anjou already enjoyed with its pool of 67 blue-collar workers, Miranda said. The employees work a four-day week in the summer, when things are quieter and the weather is good, he noted. In winter, employees work five days a week as well as overnight shifts to deal with ice and snow. In other boroughs, where blue-collar employees worked anywhere from 35 to 40 hours a week, borough officials are studying the contract to decide how to apply the new 36-hour week and other changes. As for centre-city services, human resources staff are also giving the deal a close read before discussing changes to the old four-day week or other working conditions with the union, city official Bernard Larin said. The new collective agreement runs until Aug. 31, 2007, in the merged city of Montreal. In the 15 suburbs that voted this year to break away, the contract expires in mid-2006. But officials in the demerged cities will, by law, have to respect job security, seniority and salary gains made under the current contract. The municipal blue-collar union, Local 301 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, is expected to comment on the new contract this week.

  13. A Night in the ER [Emergency Room] Part 1
    Shamokin News Item, PA
    By David Rompolski (dave_r@newsitem.com)
    DANVILLE, Pa. - They are on the front lines of medicine. The doctors and nurses who staff emergency rooms have always been a different breed from their counterparts. In countless instances, their treatment is immediate and their diagnoses made swiftly, all with the knowledge that their actions could ultimately spell life or death. And it's not a place for the faint of heart. ER workers often see people at their worst - sick, psychotic, mangled and scared. And though they are sympathetic, they also know that, at times, they must push their emotions aside so as to deal with the emergency at hand. It is health care at its most basic level - treating those who need help the most. And for those who work in Geisinger Medical Center's ER, it is the life they have chosen. n Another day It's 3 p.m. and Dr. Douglas S. Shields, an emergency medicine resident, is already in his blue jumpsuit, reflective stripes across his chest and down the length of his arms. One of a handful of resident doctors working the nightshift, Shields looks nothing like them. Instead of the white coats which are standard wear for the residents, his attire is necessary since, as the Life Flight doctor, he must be ready on a moment's notice to grab a helmet and rush to the helipad. "If we get a scene call, we fly out with the Life Flight crew and bring (the patients) back here," Shields says. But as of 3 o'clock, Life Flight is grounded, due to the pouring rain - remnants of the same Hurricane Jeanne that slammed into Florida days earlier and left thousands dead in Haiti. Another resident, Dr. Janel Ochse, sidles up next to him. "I worked on my birthday yesterday," she laments. "I was all depressed." Shields consoles her in an "ahhh, too bad" kind of way. As a fellow resident, he is all too familiar with the odd shifts and long hours beginning physicians can put in at hospitals. His sentiments are also indicative of the general disposition of the emergency room doctors: glib humor combined with an overwhelming sense of camaraderie. Like brothers in arms, they have to work in close quarters and often together on cases where lives can be on the line. It's an atmosphere that Shields relishes. "Here we're like family," he says. "We communicate with each other about individual cases and throw out ideas. We're more like a club than the other services." Shields also savors the excitement of the ER. "Emergency medicine is cool because you have to do a little bit of everything," he says. "If I had to go in and see a guy with cataracts every day, I think I'd shoot myself." "Yeah, but the pay's better," jokes Dr. Gregory Wagner, another attending physician sitting at a nearby computer. n Patient No. 1 At 3:15 Shields sees his first patient of the day. Lying in bed with his wife at his side, the 65-year-old man is complaining of a rapid heart rate, and the monitors he's hooked up to confirms his suspicions. The man tells Shields that he's had an aortic valve replaced in early September and that this is the second time he's been in the hospital for these symptoms. "When it hits me, it sends me into a tizzy," he tells Shields. "It feels like I want to black out." After a few questions, the patient admits to drinking a few cups of coffee a day. Shields advises him to cut back because the caffeine will increase his heart rate. Shields blames his problem on an arrhythmia attack which causes an increased flow of blood into the upper chambers of the heart. Shields calls for a beta blocker drug to be injected into the patient's IV. He said the drug, which remains in the patient's bloodstream for only seconds, will take effect immediately. It does, slowing his heart rate considerably. At 3:25 the attending physician, Dr. Michael "Leo" Vollmer enters the room. As the attending physician, it is Vollmer's job to examine each patient to determine if the diagnosis and treatment are accurate. Vollmer agrees with Shield's diagnosis and his prescribing of Toporol, which should slow his heart rate until a cardiologist can look at him. At one point, the patient looks around and acknowledges one of the paramedics standing near his bed, placing him from a previous visit to the ER. "I guess it's not good that I'm starting to recognize you guys," he jokes. Meanwhile, Shields returns to the doctors' station just outside the room to place a call to both a cardiologist and an electrophysiologist. Electrophysiologists, whom Shields describes as "electricians of the heart," are few and far between. "It takes eight years of residency to become an electrophysiologist, so not many people go into it," he says. "The fact that we have two electrophysiologists on staff here is amazing." n Internet anxiety At 3:42 Shields is off to a nearby larger room which can hold more than a half-dozen patients at one time, with sliding curtains separating the beds. Behind one of the curtains is a 66-year-old woman lying in bed, complaining of having pains in her chest and right arm. After introducing himself, Shields asks her what's wrong. "I was reading in bed (last night) when it started," she begins. The woman, her concerned husband standing near the foot of the bed, says she thought she was having indigestion, so she began drinking water and taking antacids. She says the worst of the pain went on for about 20 minutes and seemed to radiate from her chest to her right arm. She says she was nauseated, but felt no dizziness or heart palpitations during the episode. She says she eventually went to sleep, but awoke this morning still having pain in her right shoulder and arm. Suffering from congenital heart problems, she is concerned that her pain is cardiac-related. She continues, telling Shields she went on the Internet to check her symptoms and found that they were similar to an angina attack. "That really scared me," she admits. With her blood pressure and heart rate appearing normal, Shields takes hold of her right arm and asks her to push as hard as she can against his hand. Doing so, she begins to feel pain. Shields believes her pain isn't heart-related, but most likely a strain to a tendon or muscle in her right shoulder. Hearing the diagnosis, the woman breaks out into a big smile, obviously relieved. Just to make sure, Shields recommends she undergo a stress test to rule out any possible heart problems. At 3:58 Shields consults with Vollmer about her condition, and both agree that the pain is most likely the result of a strain. Shields confides that he believes the chest pains may have been psychosomatic, brought on by a fear of a heart attack. Shields concedes that the Internet is a hypochondriac's dream. Although he believes it's helpful for a person to be able to look up their symptoms on the Internet to try and determine what may be causing them, Shields said it can often lead to people misinterpreting their conditions or ascribing their symptoms to the worst-case scenario. Shortly after 4 o'clock, Shields receives a phone call. He learns that a cardiologist won't be available to see his first patient for another two hours. He walks across the hall to the patient's room to tell him the news. He tells the man he can either wait two hours for the cardiologist or, on the advice of the cardiologist fellow, take Toporol to keep his heart rate down and, if the symptoms return, come back to the hospital. Feeling better, the man decides to go home with his prescription. n Go east, young man Shields...grew up in the San Francisco Bay area of California, but also spent some time in southern California. He came to Geisinger in 2002 after graduating from medical school. "I just wanted a change of pace from California. The homes are more affordable here, and there's a lot less traffic," he jokes. He became hooked on emergency medicine while working as an emergency medical technician in northern California. "I was an EMT for awhile, so I sort of got into it - driving to emergency scenes, helping people. It got me in the groove." Residency, he admits, was difficult on both he and his family (he's married with four small children). He said it wasn't unusual for him to work more than 100 hours a week as a resident. More recently, Geisinger has drastically cut back on the amount of hours residents work, giving them a reasonable work week, he says. Despite the long hours and time away from his growing family, Shields says the adrenaline rush he gets from racing to the scene of an emergency and doing all he can to help patients more than makes up for the drawbacks. "I got into this because of the lifestyle," he says. "Even after doing a lot of mundane procedures here (in the ER), I like to get a little something more exciting." n One coming It's approximately 4:45 and the ER is informed that a patient is on his way from Lewistown Hospital. The man was found lying unconscious in a truck-stop shower, and his condition doesn't appear to be good. All Shields can do is wait. Tomorrow:Part 2 of "A Night in the ER."

  14. Employee perks rile retired teachers
    AP via Cincinnati Enquirer, OH
    CLEVELAND - Retired Ohio teachers who are paying more for health care believe their pension fund is spending too much on employee perks at their expense.
    [Why would a pension fund be fooling around with employee perks???]
    The State Teachers Retirement System [STRS] has spent more than $2 million in tuition reimbursements to its employees since 1999, double what Ohio's four other pension systems have spent combined. Retired Chillicothe schools Superintendent Dennis Leone, a critic of the STRS, said the disparity is further evidence that the pension fund's administrators "don't have a lick of sense." Damon Asbury, STRS executive director, said he and the board have gone to great lengths to withdraw or reduce some of the employee benefits. But he defended the tuition reimbursement policy, noting employees must take courses to improve or acquire skills necessary for their jobs. Asbury also disputed the contentions of some retirees that STRS employees have seen no increase in their health care premiums in recent years. "Our associates have stepped up and increased their premium costs," he said. "They went from paying essentially nothing to almost 20% of the premium." Leone and Tom Curtis, a retired industrial-technology teacher from Canton, chafe at other benefits STRS provides to employees, including a 37½-hour workweek, a stipend of up to $5,000 a year for each child they adopt and subsidized child care. STRS previously paid about $500,000 a year to defray employees' child-care costs. After retirees complained, administrators cut that benefit to about $190,000, which the 56 employees who use the onsite child-care facility are "repaying" by giving up two vacation days and working uncompensated overtime. Asbury said STRS began offering the adoption subsidy in 1997 at the request of the late Dave Thomas, an adoptee who later founded the Wendy's hamburger chain. STRS spokeswoman Laura Ecklar said four employees have received a total of $16,073 in adoption payments since then. As for the 37½-hour work week, Asbury said it's a practice that goes back many years. He said it will be examined in an audit to be completed early next year.

  15. Rust Belt: Hurtin' but Not Certain
    Hartford Courant, CT
    CLEVELAND - There's an economic dagger lodged deep in the heart of this burly city. It's a wound that keeps trickling blood, and so far no one knows how to make it stop - including, it would seem, the Democrats who badly need to win the votes of Rust Belt voters.
    [One word of advice to the Democrats: Timesizing.]
    Job losses are changing lifestyles and piercing the psyche everywhere. Go to blue-collar Parma or Brooklyn on the west side and elderly people talk about losing their health care because their longtime employer is out of business. High school kids are opting for the military because of the pay. People are working at gas stations instead of steel mills, and they're lining up at city halls for any job that's rumored to be available. Head for Cleveland and the veteran customer service representative for the electric company explains how she lost her job because, among other things, she was 57. Keep going east to the tony suburbs like Solon and the new college grads are doing volunteer work because they can't find anything else. Hard times in the Rust Belt are nothing new, but this latest round of gloom is more insidious, more vexing. It's settled in like the October fog off Lake Erie, only nothing is able to penetrate this cloud. Not only have jobs been lost, but what remains, or is replacing them, is lower-paying work without the benefits that the auto and steel plants once provided. There are no figures on how many people are working these leftovers but it's certain, said Case Western Reserve University economics Professor Susan Helper, that "very few laid off people will instantly find something equal to their skills and former wages." There are ways out of this, but as Helper put it, "while there are no easy solutions, there are solutions." Among them: Tax incentives for companies to keep jobs in the United States, more money for retraining, help paying health care premiums. The situation in Ohio would seem tailor-made for someone running against incumbents, and Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards have been to these parts enough this fall to establish residency. Yet the Democratic team is no shoo-in to carry Ohio and its crucial 20 electoral votes. Nor is it likely to have an easy time among similar constituencies in other swing Rust Belt states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The reasons say much about the course of this election so far. Iraq and security still trump the economy, even in places like this. These are patriotic people, and "there's a natural desire to support the president in a time of war," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. Brian Gogerty of Strongsville, who is unemployed, saw another reason that the industrial states are not embracing Kerry. "People don't like change," he said. "They want things simple. They know Kerry is from New England and Bush is from Texas. "Bush to them has this plain-speaking way about him. Kerry may have the right answers, but they're complex. You have to remember that these people have been beat up so badly they really don't want to think a whole lot about politics or listen to a lot of politicians." Democrats know these are areas where they should be winning big, and a loss in any one of the four states could very well mean a loss in the election. But they have to overcome a 30-year-old mindset among these people that protest votes don't matter, that no single election will make life better. "We have a long-term problem," said Neil Burditt of Shaker Heights, who lost his corporate research job three years ago. "And we know the problem is never going to go away."
    The Losses
    Cleveland's western suburbs are legendary for their blue-collar work ethic and down-to-earth politics. This is the land of Dennis Kucinich and Drew Carey, the regular guys flailing away at a system that never seems to reward them. It's Parma, a city of flat streets and boxy $100,000 bungalows with tidy green patches in the front and swing sets in the back. It's a heavily Catholic area, a bastion of Reagan Democrats who years ago took a liking to the GOP's pitch of low taxes, moral values and a strong military. The people here worked for years at Republic Steel or General Motors or any of the other places that made the things America needed and wanted. But for more than a generation, that work has steadily been lost to foreign competition, better productivity and corporate consolidation. None of the job erosion, though, seems as dire as what has happened in the past three years. Fifteen% of the state's manufacturing jobs have vanished. Companies have closed and left pensioners without decent health care. Poverty is rampant; Cleveland's 31.3% poverty rate - two and a half times the national average -made it the country's most poverty-stricken city last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This woe creates a ripple effect, as firms that serviced those workers cut back. Brooklyn Mayor Ken Patton has seen as many as 20 applications a day for a single municipal job. Parma High School guidance counselor Andrea Newman, a veteran of 20 years of helping students, said that more and more of them are considering the military because "it's the only way they can afford anything." Real estate agent Susan Battiato of Bay Village recalled too many times when deals were on the verge of closing until someone's loan application was halted at the last minute. Welder operator Kenneth Miles of Cleveland is still working, but "I don't know how much longer. I'm not planning any trips." People hang on by finding other jobs, but they're never the same. Cheryl Dobies of Parma was an executive assistant at a bank, making $40,000 a year before losing her job two years ago. Today she's working two jobs, making $8.50 an hour at a gas station and $10 an hour in a data-entry position. "I'm working more hours and can barely make ends meet," she said. "You learn to buy a lot of spaghetti and decent meat." There are stories like that everywhere. Antoinette Perhacs' husband lost two jobs in three years. Rich Hulvalchick of Parma worked for Republic, later LTV Steel for 38 years. When the plant closed, he lost a chunk of his pension and a lot of his health care benefits. Instead of $2 a month as a co-pay for prescriptions, he now pays $30 for each one. He lost all his stock options, valued at more than $10,000. He copes, but only because "I was lucky enough to put some money aside."
    The Other Side
    The story of the economy here is not just the ballad of blue-collar blues. The anguish has crept into the lives of nearly everyone. On the city's eastern edge, Shaker Square looks like it should be the upscale heart of this region. The historic, circular shopping strip boasts an Everything Birkenstock store, Sushi on the Square, even a movie theater playing "Wimbledon" and "De Lovely." People are well-dressed and white-collar, but there's a tense undertow. Angela Edwards is glib and thoughtful, and she's also out of work. She worked for Cleveland Electric Illuminating as a customer service rep for 24 years before being "downsized" in April. She's looking for work, but fretted, "I'm 57. That's a wonderful age to find a job with the salary and benefits I want, isn't it?" She's for Kerry, like many in this part of town, but it's not an overwhelming feeling. "I can't blame what's happened on Bush," said Mike Chadwick of Solon, who lost his engineering job after 30 years. "The company was downsizing." Democrats know that they have work to do. Kerry policy adviser Bruce Reed says the Massachusetts senator is still struggling for momentum because Bush spent much of the summer tearing him apart in ads that seem ubiquitous here. "They were diabolically effective," says Reed. Bush loyalists say that although they sympathize with workers' plight, things are not as bad as they seem. Their pitch is that Kerry's remedies would make things worse. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, suggests that companies would be subject to tough environmental laws, rules that make it harder to sell overseas and regulatory crackdowns, all of which would force firms to cut back even more. The voters, though, will not have a checklist to discern who has the better talking points. Like everywhere else, the Democrats' task is to make people comfortable with change and warm to the idea that Kerry will make a difference. Although a shift like that would not come easy, Chadwick thinks, it will come. This election is really Kerry's to win, he said. "You hear so much about the election," he said. "You watch. There are going to be a lot more people coming out to vote this time, and they're going to vote for Kerry. They're just not the kinds of people the polls are picking up."

  16. GM readies plan for restructuring its European units - can ill afford further decline in its European business, by Chris Reiter, Dow Jones via WSJ, A19.
    BERLIN - GM Corp. is expected Friday to present to labor unions a plan.... Under German law, companies are required to consult unions on moves such as layoffs, plant closures or changes in working hours....

  17. Wal-Mart announces new Executive VP of HR, WSJ, B13.
    ...Lawrence V. Jackson [succeeding] Coleman Peterson....
    Wal-Mart...faces suits that allege the company forced employees to work unpaid overtime....
    [See 6/25/2002 #1.]

( Here's the current search pattern used by our backup, Ken Ellis - he's now experimenting with six search runs:
"work sharing", OR overwork, OR overworking, 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"
"cut hours", OR "cutting hours", OR "more 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"
"decrease hours", OR "decreased hours", OR "decreasing hours", OR "fewer hours", OR "schedule reduction", OR "long work", OR "long hours", OR "long days", OR "long workdays", OR "long workday", OR Nucor, OR "Lincoln Electric"
"days off"
"work hours", OR "working hours", OR "shorter hours", OR "shorten hours", OR "shortened hours"
"free time", OR overtime, OR "extra hours", OR leisure, OR "time off", OR vacation, OR vacations, -sports -coach -coaches -coaching -football -soccer -baseball -olympics [on hold]

Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
(July 31+) Aug.1-10/2004
July 20-30/2004
July 17-19/2004
July 13-16/2004
July 1-12/2004
June 16-30/2004
June 1-15/2004
May 15-31/2004
May 1-14/2004
Feb.21-29/2004 + Mar.1
Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
1998 and previous years.

For more details, see our laypersons' guide Amazon.com.

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