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Timesizing News, November 2-8, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


11/06-08/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/05-07 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #11 & 12 which are from 11/06-08 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. 11/06   Top Stories: Business - Thank God it's Thursday!
    The Guardian, Canada
    By Wayne Thibodeau
    A four-day work week is long overdue, says the executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
    Barb Byers said cutting the traditional five-day work week to four days would allow workers to take better care of themselves, their families and their communities.
    Byers said it would also leave workers more refreshed and ready to take on the work world on the four days that they are on the job.
    The four-day work week has been tried with mixed results in Europe.
    [No, the results are overwhelmingly positive, but since employees don't own the media....]
    "I think the business class will be absolutely opposed," Byers said in an interview with The Guardian Friday.
    "But what they don't consider is that people who don't get a break from their work, who don't have some measurable time off, are not able to be as productive as they could."
    Byers was reacting to word the federal government is set to launch a national round of collective negotiations with the potential to revamp life on the job as Canadians know it.
    Everything from the length of work week to maternity leave, a national minimum wage and Canada's paltry two-week vacation standard will be on the table when a federal commission begins work next month.
    Labour Minister Joe Fontana is calling it a "pretty monumental exercise."
    Byers is in Charlottetown for the P.E.I. Federation of Labour annual convention being held this weekend at the Dutch Inn in Cornwall.
    Byers believes a review of the Canada Labour Code is well overdue.
    Making reference to the holiday time, Byers said Canadians are only legally entitled to two weeks of holidays while it's closer to six weeks in Europe.
    "People in Europe think that we are absolutely insane, what do you mean you get two weeks of holidays?"
    Byers wants to see a shorter work week, longer holiday time and an overall reduction in the amount of time Canadians spend at work in an effort to provide a better balance between work and home life.
    [And a lower unemployment rate.]
    Carl Pursey, president of the Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour, said his group hasn't taken a stand on whether it will support a four-day work week.
    But Pursey said the federation has expressed its concern to the province's labour minister over legislation which it feels is not keeping pace, particularly with regard to the amount of hours Islanders spend at work.
    The federal commission, which will be formally announced Dec. 2, will hold hearings across the country this winter.
    An interim report is expected by next fall.
    The problem with the review is that only 10% of Canadian workers, totalling about 1.5 million people, fall directly under federal jurisdiction.
    But many provinces look to Ottawa when it crafts its own provincial legislation.
    A spokeswoman with the province said they have no plans to review the Employment Standards Act, the legislation which oversees labour law in Prince Edward Island.
    But Jennifer MacLeod said the province believes its laws are on par with the rest of Atlantic Canada.
    Over the past two years, the province has made changes to include Remembrance Day as a statutory holiday, increase time for sick leave as well as compassionate leave as well as extend the amount of notice employees have to be given before their positions are terminated.
    Fontana said he personally favours longer vacation periods and he wants to examine the option of a four-day work week.
    "I want to engage Canadians in starting to think about: What kind of workplaces? Because it hasn't been done in 50 years," Fontana told The Canadian Press.
    "No one has started to think about and ask the very questions,
    [ah, better do a web search before making statements like this] "All of those issues are very, very important."

  2. 11/05   Law grants execs maximum vacation time
    Federal Times
    By TIM KAUFFMAN
    All senior executives and employees in comparable positions will get the maximum vacation time each year under legislation passed in the waning days of the 108th Congress. The Federal Workforce Flexibility Act, which President Bush signed into law Oct. 30, ensures that senior employees earn eight hours of leave during every biweekly pay period, or 26 vacation days a year. Previously, vacation varied based on how long employees had worked for the government and whether they were in the Senior Executive Service or in equivalent pay systems. The rule change is intended to make the government more competitive for senior talent outside the federal ranks. Before, senior executives with less than three years of federal service earned 13 days of leave a year and needed 15 years of service before earning 26 days of leave. Under the new law, employees will receive 26 vacation days a year when they enter the Senior Executive Service or comparable systems, regardless of how long they've served in the government. The new vacation time rules apply to employees in the SES, the senior-level (SL) system, the scientific and professional (ST) system, the Senior Foreign Service, the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration SES, the Defense Intelligence SES, the Senior Intelligence Service and the Senior Cryptologic Executive Service, according to a Nov. 1 memo from Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James to executive agency heads. Agency heads with employees they believe are in equivalent senior positions but who are not covered under the OPM memo can ask OPM to extend the new leave rules to those employees, James said. The change was effective for SES, SL and ST employees beginning with the Oct. 17-30 pay period. For the other groups, the change takes effect with the pay period that begins Oct. 31, James said.

  3. 11/05   United Kingdom: Time´s Up For The Opt-Out?
    by James Libson and Joanna Blackburn, Mondaq News Alerts
    This month we will highlight new proposals from the European Commission which, if ratified, will restrict the use of the opt-out from the 48-hour maximum working week. In addition, we will also report on recent changes to the Disability Discrimination Act which have broadened its scope, providing increased protection for disabled employees and increased complexity for employers.
    European Commission proposes changes to working time
    After extensive consultation across Europe, the European Commission has issued new proposals to update key aspects of the Working Time Directive. The proposals follow a review of the reference period being used when calculating average working time and the use of the opt-out from the 48-hour week. The proposals also deal with a new definition of time spent on-call by health professionals. In relation to the opt-out, the Commission found that the UK was the only country where general measures to allow individuals to opt out of the maximum working week had been put into place from the outset and it therefore based its conclusions on the use of the optout in the UK. The Commission found that the opt-out was being misapplied and that insufficient protection was afforded to workers. As a result, it has developed proposals that will restrict its use. The opt-out will only apply provided it is expressly allowed under a collective agreement or an agreement between the two sides of industry. However, the proposals do recognise that this may not be possible in all cases and therefore, where there is no collective agreement in force and there is no collective representation of workers within the business, individual consent (which has to be in writing) may still be obtained. Indeed, even where there is a collective agreement, employees will still need to give separate written consent to work over the 48-hour limit. However, the conditions attaching to individual consent will be tightened up too. The employee cannot give consent to opt out at the same time as the employment contract is signed or during any probationary period. This means that if and when the law changes, it will no longer be possible to include the optout in the employment contract, which is perhaps the most common practice at present. There will also be an absolute maximum limit of 65 hours in any one week (unless there is a collective agreement varying this maximum). Therefore, in businesses where there are no collective agreements or collective representation, no worker will be allowed to work more than 65 hours a week. It is worth noting that this applies to any one week and there is no provision for an average, as is the case with the 48-hour limit. In addition, the opt-out under the new proposals will only be valid for one year, after which it would have to be renewed. Employers will also have to keep records of the number of hours actually worked and make these records available to the relevant authorities, if required. These provisions will mean an additional administrative burden on employers, which could be significant. The proposals also deal with the reference period over which the 48-hour week is calculated as an average. The proposal keeps the basic reference period as four months but gives member states the possibility to increase it to one year (provided they consult with both sides of industry). However, it is clear that the reference period cannot be longer than the duration of the contract. If the UK introduces a one-year reference period, the management of working time is likely to be simplified, allowing employers to respond more effectively to fluctuation in demand.
    Changes to disability discrimination
    On 1 October, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was extended to take into account the European Framework Employment Directive. The amendments will affect the way disability discrimination cases are dealt with and make it even more important for employers to consider their employment practices to avoid falling foul of the new legislation. Under the old rules, there were three forms of unlawful discrimination: less favourable treatment for a reason related to disability, failure to make reasonable adjustments and victimisation. The first two could be justified in certain circumstances. The main changes introduced by the new legislation include a new classification of discrimination, "direct discrimination", which occurs where discrimination is on the ground of the employee's disability. This type of discrimination cannot be justified in any circumstances. Less favourable treatment for a reason related to disability remains, but is now known as "disability-related" discrimination under the new rules. This may still be justified. However, it will no longer be possible to justify a failure to make reasonable adjustments. This means that if a Tribunal considers that an adjustment is reasonable, the employer will be liable for discrimination even if it believes that the treatment is justified. Employers therefore need to consider all possible adjustments carefully before making any decisions in relation to a disabled employee. Other changes include removing the small-employer exemption (which used to exclude employers with fewer than 15 employees from the DDA) so that the DDA now applies to all employers, regardless of size. In addition, the new rules include the specific right not to be harassed for a reason related to disability, shift the burden of proof to employers in line with other discrimination legislation and introduce a new right to complain of post-employment discrimination. There are further proposed changes to the DDA that are expected to come into force in late 2005. These changes will extend the protection of the DDA to people with progressive conditions and will remove the requirement that a mental illness should be "clinically well recognised" from the definition of disability.

  4. 11/05   Haworth workers can now buy, sell vacation - New program designed to make schedules flexible, help employees
    Holland Sentinel, MI
    By ROEL GARCIA
    HOLLAND, Mich. - Employees at Haworth Inc. now can buy extra vacation days from the company or sell back time off they don't wish to use. "We've only started online training for a couple of weeks but we've had about 40% of our employees already interested in buying and selling vacation days," said Rob Everse, public relations administrator for the Holland-based furniture maker. The program, which begins with 2005 vacation time, is open to all of Haworth's American employees, Everse said. Employees begin with two weeks of annual vacation and can receive up to five weeks, based on their length of employment. Ross Koning of Park Township, who has worked at Haworth for nearly 23 years as a sales engineer, said employees like the program. Koning, who is eligible for four weeks of vacation, wishes the program had been in effect before. "I could have used it this past year when we were going back and forth to Russia when we adopted two children," said Koning, 42. "I think that I'll wait and see after this coming year. For now, I don't think I'll buy any more days." David Fortenberry of Fennville, who works in Haworth's security department, said he's looking forward to being able to buy extra days off. "I have kids who are involved in school activities and I could use the extra days," he said. Nancy Teutsch, Haworth's vice president of global human resources, said employees who sell vacation days can either take cash or buy additional benefits. "When members sell days, they can put the dollars into benefits such as medical or dental insurance, or they can simply ask to have the money placed on their next paycheck," Teutsch said. When employees buy vacation days, Teutsch said the money - a day's pay for each vacation day purchased - is deducted from their paychecks. "It will come out in increments and the employee won't notice it because it's done gradually," Teutsch said. Everse said Haworth developed the idea through roundtable discussions with employees over the past year. "The employees wanted more control over their lives. If they can get this and the company still runs (smoothly), everyone wins," Everse said. For the first year, employees will be allowed to buy no more than three vacation days or sell a maximum of five. The company hopes to be more liberal with the program in 2006.
    Contact Roel Garcia at roel.garcia@hollandsentinel.com or (616) 546-4219

  5. 11/05   Board approves first reading of ordinance to raise tipping fees
    Siftings Herald, AR
    By Donna Hilton
    ARKADELPHIA, Ark. - With only four board members in attendance Thursday evening, Arkadelphia's Board of Directors approved - on first reading - an ordinance raising the tipping fees charged to other cities and entities for hauling trash.... Directors agreed to table discussion of a vacation buy back program. City Manager Barbara Coplen said she had talked to many of the city's employees, and they all said they would rather receive a pay increase and take vacation time than sell back vacation time to the city. It would cost the city $17,672 to buy back one week's vacation from all eligible employees. A 2% pay raise for all city employees would cost the city $53,306 a year, and a 3% raise would cost $79,959, according to figures provided to board members....

  6. 11/06   Workers can trade sick time for cash - New policy called `a fair accommodation'
    Cherry Hill Courier Post, NJ
    By BERNIE MIXON
    CAMDEN, N.J. - Camden County department heads and confidential aides are being offered thousands of dollars for unused sick time when they retire. Until last year, the county never kept track of the hours worked by management employees. Last year, after the Courier-Post revealed the county had paid out millions in illegal retirement benefits to employees who didn't work long enough to earn them, freeholders promised to trim costs and make reforms. Management employees were put on the clock. Records for the first time were kept of how many hours these employees worked and how many sick days they took. But in April, the freeholders quietly made a new concession to their confidential aides and department heads. While they would lose the unlimited sick and vacation time benefit, they would also be given credit for sick days they had "earned" throughout their careers. No record exists of how many sick days were already taken by these workers. But each will be paid according to a formula devised by a consultant hired by the county. The management employees would be credited eight days for each year worked prior to the new policy, said Richard J. Dodson, director of human resources for the county. At retirement, if employees have unused sick days, they'll be able to trade half of them in for cash, up to a maximum of $19,000, he said. But on Friday, while unveiling a proposed "separation plan" to offer early buyouts for more than 400 county employees to save up to $15 million per year, County Administrator Ross G. Angilella said freeholders will review the new sick-pay policy. Currently, there are four management employees who could retire and take the sick time payout now. If that happened, it would cost taxpayers $67,000. The policy was enacted after the Board of Freeholders banned a practice of unlimited sick and vacation time for management employees. "It is a fair accommodation for adding a restriction to a person's employment in mid-stream. It is based on an expert's recommendation," said Freeholder-Director Jeffrey Nash. "If you wanted to make a change of taking away health insurance, disability insurance - taking away everything - that is not something you can do fairly without making an accommodation." The policy, which was passed in April and took effect in June, caps the amount a management employee can receive at $19,000 and requires them to serve 25 years with the county and be 55 years of age or older at retirement. Vacation time In addition to sick time, the policy spells out how much vacation time an employee is allowed to take. Beginning in January, a worker earns one vacation day per month during the first year of employment. Those employed one to four years earn 12 vacation days per year; employees with five to 10 years earn 15 vacation days per year; employees with 11 to 19 years earn 20 vacation days per year, and employees with 20 or more years earn 25 vacation days annually. Unlike the new sick-time policy, no vacation bank was created to credit employees with vacation days based on prior years of service. However, under the new policy, employees may carry over only one year's worth of vacation. "There is accountability. There is a limitation on how much time you can take," Dodson said. Nash defended the sick-time policy as one that doubles as a kind of early retirement incentive and has the potential to save taxpayers money. "One of the benefits of having people take advantage of this is if someone is compelled to retire early that person is either replaced with a person at much less salary or the person is not replaced," Nash said. Yet the practice of selling back unused sick days at retirement is seldom found in the private sector. "It is somewhat common in government agencies and school systems," said George Faulkner, principal with Mercer Human Resource Consulting in Princeton. "It is very uncommon in the private sector." `Glaring deficiencies' The policy change came on the heels of a Courier-Post story last year that examined the transfer of four ill county workers into "no-show" management positions so they could receive full pay and benefits. At that time, management workers received unlimited sick and vacation time. The freeholders objected to the term "no-show jobs," instead calling them transfers motivated by compassion. The move is estimated to have cost county taxpayers $162,000, according to official estimates. "In terms of doing what is right, we have a responsibility to make administrative changes. And the Courier-Post clearly pointed out this is one of those glaring deficiencies in county administration where you would have people who would not have to account for their sick and vacation time. That is unacceptable," Nash said. After banning unlimited sick and vacation time, the county hired a consultant to make recommendations on a new policy. The county paid the consultant $24,720, according to Dodson. The consultant recommended that the sick time bank be created for management employees, Nash said. The employees were credited with eight sick days a year for every year the employee had worked for the county. The policy also established a limit of no more than 15 sick days per year, effective in June. "We didn't want to credit everybody with 15 sick days because obviously everybody took some time but no one had any record of the time they took because it was not tracked," Dodson said. "If you had 10 years of service and we credited you with eight days, you now have 80 days in the bank." `It is a choice' The idea to pay management employees for unused sick time came from the consultant. Yet management employees will not be paid for every day they accumulate. "For the payout, you have to be age 55 and have at least 25 years with the county and you can sell half of your sick time up to a maximum of $19,000," Dodson said. "That means you are losing a part of your sick time. If you have 100 days, you can sell 50 as long as it isn't more than $19,000." Although four employees - including himself - could meet the requirement and retire with the sick-time sell-back, Dodson said he doesn't expect anyone to use the provision this year. If they all retired this year, the county would be required to pay out $67,000. "It is a choice people have," Dodson said. "They don't necessarily have to retire." But having a sick day bank can have a dark side to it. "The idea is that they want to encourage the employee to get back to work and not linger. It is a disincentive to come back to work if you have sick days in a bank at full pay," Faulkner said. "It doesn't encourage people to come back." State policy State employees have the ability to bank their sick time and receive a payout at retirement. The maximum amount any employee can receive is $15,000, according to the state. In Gloucester County, management employees have a similar option to sell back a portion of their sick time. But the cap is nearly half of what Camden County has in its policy. The policy in Gloucester County also divides sick days in half and pays the management employee up to a maximum of $10,000, said Chad Bruner, deputy county administrator. In Burlington County, management employees are not paid for their sick time. Nonmanagement employees in the county are paid for their unused time up to a maximum of $15,000, said Augustus Mosca, chief of personnel and labor relations. Camden County also has a sick time buy-back policy in the contracts with classified workers represented by Council 10. Workers who serve 25 years with the county and reach age 55 are allowed to sell back half of their unused sick time up to a maximum of $23,000. This benefit is available to workers who retire or resign from their position with the county.
    Staff writer Jason Nark contributed to this report. Reach Bernie Mixon at (856) 486-2462 or bmixon@courierpostonline.com

  7. 11/07   Women physicians find ways to make "part time" work - The trend toward fewer hours is gaining momentum as men join in
    American Medical News
    By Myrle Croasdale
    Erin Tracy, MD, MPH, works full time in a large ob-gyn group. If she could afford it, she'd love to cut back. Several of her colleagues already have. As a young physician active in the American Medical Association's WomenPhysicians Congress, Dr. Tracy has a strong sense of what is happening among her peers. "There is a great interest among a lot of people of my generation to work less hours, to spend more time with family, but figuring that out is difficult," Dr. Tracy said.
    [Just check out Timesizing.com, buddy.]
    Pediatrician Paul Stricker, MD, agrees. A specialist in sports medicine for kids at Scripps Clinic, a large multispecialty group in San Diego County, he just started working part time two weeks ago, after a year of negotiations with his employer. "I feel very relieved," Dr. Stricker said. "Now I'm going to be able to use my time in both worlds." One world is his clinical work; the other covers a range of professional and personal pursuits, including being actively involved in several sports medicine societies and writing a book on kids in sports. Arrangements such as Dr. Stricker's are likely to become more commonplace as the upcoming generation of physicians moves into practice. Women began the trend of flexible medical careers, and more young physicians, men and women alike, are likely to follow suit in the quest for more balance in work and life. There aren't yet a lot of resources to help physicians attain this practice mode, but organized medicine is in the process of filling the gap. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the AMA's Women Physicians Congress, in particular, have begun collecting data and compiling resources on the issue. Leaders in academic medicine say there's a move under way to encourage more medical schools to offer part-time tenure tracks. In the meantime, physicians rely on a network of those who have gone before them for guidance. Hilit Mechaber, MD, an internist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine, went from full time to 50% time when she had her first child. She now spends 2½ days a week at a clinic for the indigent and teaches third-year medical students. She encourages physicians looking to reduce their hours to identify their goals before approaching the boss. Dr. Mechaber's primary goal was to maintain her dual role as medical educator and clinician. Long term, she wanted to be on track for promotion as an academician; her school is in the process of creating a part-time faculty track. In return, Dr. Mechaber took a pay cut and gave up her benefits. Janet Bickel, visiting associate dean for faculty at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, encourages physicians to emphasize their commitment to the practice or institution and the value they bring when they begin negotiating to work fewer hours. "Make it clear that you see yourself as an active professional for the next five decades." Give examples of what you hope to achieve in your career and in the department in which you are working, Bickel said, such as, "I value my clinical practice, and I want to build my diabetic patient base." Then you might segue into your goal to work less. One approach, Bickel said, might be: "Another important value to me is my family. I want to make a long-term investment in you, and I want you to make a long-term investment in me. I'd like to prorate my salary and take Fridays off." "Whatever it is, put it on the table in a positive and professional way. The tone to avoid, and one that many young people are unaware of, is coming in and thinking you are entitled to whatever it is you want," she said. "Realize it's a negotiation. Help them want to make a long-term investment in you." Part of the practice's investment might include paying for full medical liability coverage, even though you'll be seeing fewer patients. The hours cut-off for qualifying for a less expensive policy varies from state to state. But Bickel advises not letting such costs deter you. The alternative of advertising for another physician and bringing in candidates to interview is also costly.
    Employers stand to gain, too
    Frances Brokaw, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, said that ultimately, the employer gains, because part-time physicians are highly productive. "If most division chiefs are honest, they get more productivity per FTE [full-time equivalent] from somebody working part time than someone working full time," Dr. Brokaw said. "Someone working part time is more likely to have a little extra to keep patients a little happier or add in an extra patient here or there. People who are part time have a little more reserve." Dr. Brokaw, who works 80% of full time, said working less gives her more head room, especially on days when the patient schedule falls apart. She might not be spending more time with patients, but she finds she can focus on them better and is less distracted by the other tasks waiting for her. Of course, there is a risk that you'll be paid for part time but end up working full time. Dr. Mechaber's administrative work is not factored into her hours, just as it isn't for most full-time faculty. After having her days off get eaten up by these responsibilities, she decided to spend no more than five hours of her own time on it per week.

  8. 11/07   EU dragging its feet over economic reform: British business chief
    Channel News Asia, Singapore
    BIRMINGHAM, England - The European Union's bid to become the world's most competitive economy will remain a distant vision so long as its 25 member-states undertake reforms at a "snail's pace", one of Britain's top business leaders was to warn. The comments from John Sunderland, president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), were to be made on the opening day of the annual conference of Britain's biggest business group. Sunderland, who is also chairman of British confectionery and soft drinks giant Cadbury Schweppes, was to take to the stage ahead of a keynote address the same day from EU trade commissioner designate Peter Mandelson. The pair were to share a platform just days after Dutch former prime minister Wim Kok said there had been "inadequate" progress on the Lisbon Strategy, a grand plan to make the EU the world's most dynamic economy by 2010, due to "a lack of commitment and political will". Kok, whose nation holds the rotating EU presidency, gave an update to the strategy to EU leaders attending a summit in Brussels last Friday. "With last week's Kok report showing insufficient progress on economic reform and a new European Commission taking shape, nobody can doubt that now is the time to tell it as it is and call for action," Sunderland was to tell business leaders gathered in Birmingham, central England. "The vision of Europe becoming the world's most competitive economy remains very much a distant one. Some national governments are dragging their feet on delivering the basic reforms needed to make Europe competitive." Sunderland was to add: "Frankly, the snail's pace of change is making a mockery of the Lisbon agenda and the drive for economic reform." The CBI president was to insist that while British business is pro-European, "we would be failing in our duty if we did not speak out when policy makers endanger wealth creation and jobs". The business grouping is particularly unhappy at recent Brussels proposals to reform EU laws on working hours, aimed notably at cutting abuse by Britain of rules which cap the working week at 48 hours across the 25-member bloc. British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy were to address the CBI conference separately on Tuesday.

  9. 11/05   Simpler life tempts harassed townies
    International Herald Tribune, France
    by Shelley Emling
    LONDON - It was the stress, bad traffic and lack of parking that finally drove Chris and Gillean Sangster to swap their lucrative jobs in London for a simpler lifestyle. Chris was a national training manager for Marriott Hotels, and his wife, Gillean, was a systems analyst for the London Stock Exchange when they opted for a quieter existence in rural Wiltshire - where he became a massage therapist - in the early 1990s. A few years ago the Sangsters decided to downshift yet again by selling their 500-year-old manor house in Wiltshire and using the sale's proceeds to set up a vacation cottage business in the highlands of their native Scotland. The pair has dubbed this "intermediate downshifting" - taking small steps to exchange big-city pressures for a more peaceful lifestyle. "When we worked in London, we lived in Richmond, and parking was a nightmare, and the traffic was horrible," Chris Sangster said. "Now we have 36 acres and access to a lake, and we can spend a lot more time together." The Sangsters became so sold on their new life that they wrote "The Downshifter's Guide to Relocation," which, just published, is full of practical advice based on their own experiences. And they are not the only ones enthusiastic about the idea. The Sangsters estimate that 40% of the country's population is considering a change in lifestyle. Studies from the business information and research group Datamonitor this year and last year predicted that 200,000 British workers would take a step or two toward a simpler lifestyle in 2004. An estimated three million Britons already have taken the plunge since the early 1990s, the company said. According to Dominik Nosalik, an analyst at Datamonitor, the number of Britons who claim to have downshifted stood at 1.7 million in 1997 and jumped to 2.6 million by 2002. The number is expected to be more than 3.7 million by 2007. And the trend is not confined to Britain, according to Datamonitor. The firm estimates that 12 million people have taken similar steps in Europe, up from 9.3 million in the late 1990s. "There is an overall disillusionment with the rat race that I keep hearing about," Nosalik said. "People with small children in particular seem to want to be out of the rat race." For some, confronting the struggle to balance work and life means a move to the countryside, or even overseas. For others, it simply means seeking a less stressful - and less lucrative - job, even if it is with the same employer. A survey commissioned by Cambridge University and released last November found that the average downshifter had taken a 40% cut in income. Research from the Canberra-based Australia Institute this year confirmed that those making the switch often took big cuts in income, in some cases by as much as half. "In general terms, one can look to one's income being at least cut in half when downshifting - although in living terms, the simpler lifestyle will reduce monthly personal expenditure," Chris Sangster said. "Again, the problem is perhaps different - downshifting to a self-employed state means that you no longer have the regular monthly paycheck so you can get into a feast/famine situation, where you are sometimes earning a lot, and at other times, with the work dried up, you are cash-poor for periods." Those who have made the leap say that what they have given up in salary or status is made up for by the control regained over life and lifestyle. "In principle, if you're downshifting, you're less concerned with high salaries and more concerned with quality of life," Sangster said. "If someone is really concerned about their salary dropping, they're probably not ready to downshift, without talking things through carefully." The British insurance giant Prudential says its surveys indicate that as many as 40% of those under 35 years old who are working full time plan to make changes to seek a better quality of life. Just under one million of those aged between 35 and 54 would like to do so as well, it added. Prudential's research shows that for those past the age of 45, boredom and stress are the most frequently cited reasons. For younger workers, aspirations to a better life provide the main impetus. "Our research shows that an alarming number of people appear to be unhappy in their employment and unfulfilled by their work," said Roger Ramsden, a spokesman for the insurer. Researchers also have detected a related trend that they have dubbed "greenshifting." A growing number of urbanites - especially younger ones - are longing to move out of the cities and suburbs into the countryside. Analysts say it is not surprising that so many people are seeking a lifestyle change. Despite talk of a leisure society, studies show that one-sixth of the British work force now labors for more than 48 hours a week. At the same time, traffic congestion and public transport delays have made urban living increasingly frustrating in recent years. And the property boom in Britain and elsewhere has given people a strong financial footing after selling a family home. Angela Baron, an adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said that many people had watched their parents make sacrifices and miss milestones in their lives - and they have no desire to follow suit. "People today, especially young people, want jobs they can be proud of and that give something back to the world," she said. "Talented people are turning their backs on very successful career paths. "Older people, too, are willing to turn down promotions and take less money in order to have more time off to spend with their families," she said. "People are still willing to work hard, but they don't want their work to be everything in their lives." Stuart and Myra Patterson sold their home and gave up their jobs in local government in the busy city of Stirling, Scotland, in July to buy the Capercaillie restaurant about 40 miles, or 65 kilometers, away in the more rural town of Killin, Scotland. "I have always had a passion for cooking, and now I get to cook all day," Myra Patterson said. "When customers tell you they've just eaten the best scone they've ever had, it really inspires you and builds you up." Despite working 12- to 14-hour days, the couple say they have never been happier. "There's something about working for yourself and building something of your own that gives you so much more satisfaction than working for someone else," Myra Patterson said. She acknowledged that money was a real issue and that she and her husband could not have changed their hectic lifestyle if not for the property boom that allowed them to make a good chunk of cash off their Stirling home. Besides the assessment of motivation, anyone considering a simpler lifestyle also has to do detailed research into the financial repercussions. Tony Clements, a financial adviser at Millfield Private Clients, said downshifting did appear to be growing in popularity, especially for those in their late 40s and early 50s whose children are leaving home. But he cited several important points to consider: You should have the equivalent of at least six months' expenditures in your savings, to cover costs in case of illness or a loss of income. Make sure you have an exit strategy. Do not tie up all your savings and investments for years with no way out in case you change your mind. If you have been working 12-hour days, be prepared for the restlessness that a change in lifestyle could bring. "If you have left salaried employment, you will not only have left the pension fund but also lost any life cover, critical illness and income protection you may have had," Clements said. "When you downshift, you're normally on your own financially if one of you falls ill. "It is important that adequate replacement coverage is put into place and that you include the cost of this when thinking about your budget after you downshift." Clements and others say that planning ahead becomes even more essential for people hoping to move abroad. Fluctuating exchange rates can tack thousands of pounds, euros or dollars on to the price of a property during the months before a sale is completed. Other factors to consider include capital gains taxes in other countries, land taxes and the cost of a bilingual lawyer. In the end, Chris Sangster warns anyone who is thinking about making the kind of move he made to think through all of the eventualities. "The actual reality may be different from what you imagine," he said. "We love living in the countryside, but we do have to go 15 miles to post a letter. Our main shopping center is 50 miles away in Inverness. But the good part is that if it's a nice day outside, we can take advantage of that."

  10. 11/06   Business gets done in France - after they have their cigarette break
    Modesto Bee, CA
    By MEGAN KNIZE
    [And what's the matter with that (except for the carcinogens) - when it applies to you too?!]
    If there's one thing I miss about America, it's efficiency.
    [Oh America is efficient, is it? What about the laughable election system, the ridiculous health insurance 'system', the burgeoning Wackenhut prison-industrial complex (now that's a system!), and all the other totally unnecessary, wasteful, desperate job creation that goes on it both public and private sectors?! America's "efficiency" is extremely selective.]
    Before I moved to France to teach English, I remember an American telling me: "You will finish everything, like turning in forms, opening a bank account and renting an apartment - but only after all the coffee has been drunk, the cigarettes smoked, the gossip had and the breaks taken." Actually, I have had many experiences in the past few weeks that have shown this bit of hyperbole is not far from the mark. My teaching position is secured through the French Embassy. But I am given only a visa, salary and medical insurance. In order to be paid, I had to open a bank account. For the account, I had to bring my passport, a letter from my friend's host family (where we were staying) a copy of the host father's identification card and proof that I had a job. Then I spent about 10 minutes signing forms. And this is supposed to be a student-friendly bank! Then I had to wait for two weeks while the checks were printed. Of course, I learned yesterday that there was a problem with the bank's computer and I will have to wait for yet another week for my checks. My roommate, who is also an English teacher, was telling me about her experiences with French bureaucracy when she began teaching last week. She works in an elementary school and spent an entire afternoon with two English teachers walking from classroom to classroom to ask which teachers wanted English lessons. There must be a better way! I always have a good laugh when I deal with French bureaucracy. What else can you do? Yesterday I had to have a doctor's physical in order to obtain a visa. I arrived at 1:15 p.m., only to find the elevator was locked until 1:30 p.m. After presenting my passport and a small form, I waited in a sterile room with red chairs and 10 other American English teachers for two hours. The holdup? Three people - two nurses and one doctor - were examining one patient at a time. Often, it looked like both nurses were walking one person down the hall. When I finally had the exam (which, thankfully, was not as scary as I thought), I also had to fill out forms in triplicate. At least I left with a cool souvenir: an X-ray of my lungs, which are free of tuberculosis. There are certainly benefits to proceeding slowly and methodically in life. A doctor who takes his time; 35-hour work week, as mandated by French law; and a two-hour lunch break are great for the mind and soul. It's just that I miss my ability to finish things quickly.
    Knize is a former visiting editor. She will live in Montpellier, France, until May. E-mail her at columns@modbee.com

  11. 11/07   When results are all that matter
    Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN
    H.J. Cummins
    When Dave Telschow's department at Best Buy got the chance to try a new super-flexible work schedule, almost nine in 10 workers signed on. For Telschow, it meant he could telecommute from home every Friday. Sometimes he starts early, to get in a full day before heading to the family cabin midafternoon, happily avoiding the evening rush hour. Sometimes he doesn't even work a full day before closing up his laptop. Nobody at Best Buy cares - except maybe Telschow, who, after a career that rewarded long days of work, still struggles with "the hours thing," he said. Telschow, national director of repair services, said he's still adjusting to this new way to work at Best Buy's corporate headquarters in Richfield. It's called a Results-Oriented Work Environment, or ROWE. ROWE goes beyond the flexibility benefits now available at many workplaces - telecommuting, flexible scheduling and a condensed work week. The vision at Best Buy is to drain nearly every measure - including long hours - except results from work evaluations. It is a fundamental shift away from "face time" or "chair time" to just one consideration: Did the employee get the job done? Now, about two years after the launch, everyone in Telschow's department takes part in this new way to work. Within a few months, about half the departments at Best Buy's Richfield headquarters will be in the ROWE mode, and its promoters expect that to be the "tipping point" after which the rest of the building will follow. This kind of results-oriented approach can be intimidating, especially to managers, because it challenges old, comfortable habits, workplace experts said. It's also easy to get wrong and hard to maintain, especially in difficult economic times, they said. Still, it's a particularly appealing style to young employees, who expect this level of freedom to balance their work and home lives, and a promising if rarely realized workplace culture. "Most employers should be able to say, 'All right, this is your job. This is the value created by your job. It is a full-time job, but if you can get it done in 25 hours well, mazel tov, congratulations,' " said Paul Rupert, a workplace flexibility consultant in Washington, D.C. "But the number of companies in which that scenario happily plays out could be counted on one hand."
    Rolled out in Richfield
    ROWE is Best Buy's response to employee focus groups' answer three years ago to this question: How can we be the employer of choice? Workers responded with a chorus of "We want to be trusted to do our work the way we feel is best for us, that can get the best results," said Cali Ressler, who leads work-life programs at the consumer electronics retailer. "They also said, 'We want to be able to balance our personal lives with that work.' " Best Buy's workforce skews young, Ressler said; the average age of its 5,000 corporate employees is just 29. "It's a generation for whom work is just one aspect of their lives," she said, "and their perception is that their parents committed way too much to their work." So about two years ago the retail operations department, which includes Telschow's group, took up the task of developing a results-oriented workplace suited to Best Buy's business and employees. They had no rules - a new and disarming start to any corporate project, Ressler said. They chewed over all sorts of questions: If I work four 10-hour days, will that affect my vacation time calculations? If my employees telecommute from home, how will I know they're working? If my boss can't see me working, how can he evaluate me? Finally they decided to just take the leap, Telschow said, and everything gradually worked out. A corporate predisposition toward meetings faded away, Ressler said. Instead, many now find a note with their thoughts is more efficient, or they recommend someone else they believe would add more to the discussion to attend. Some meetings have disappeared entirely, she said. In ROWE, managers settle on goals for each employee - head a new-product project or check in with every store managers in a region at least once a week, for example - over the next quarter and next year. Then employee evaluations simply measure if they reached those goals, said Jody Thompson, talent-power manager at the company. It means managers have to be more organized up front, she said. Employees say they find the new process fairer, less prone to last-minute impressions made in the days and hours before each evaluation. Evidence of success came in a new employee survey on job satisfaction and "engagement" levels, Telschow said. Just one week before the survey, a billing supervisor called in her staff to say they were falling short in their customer service and she asked them to sort out a solution. "She did the right thing, even though there was some personal risk, and her team came back with adjusted schedules," Telschow said. "To me, that proved their mutual trust. And she had the highest score of any supervisor in the review."
    The theory
    Results-oriented management has popped up regularly through recent decades, called variously "collaborative management" or "employee empowerment" or "quality circles," said John Mirocha, a workplace-culture consultant in Minnetonka. The method operates best in organizations full of self-starters, people clearly capable of doing their jobs and who want to do things their way, Mirocha said. Hard times can be its undoing, though. "This does need steady organization support for managers working in it," said Mirocha, adding that he has seen the approach falter in companies where support resources fell to budget cuts. But don't all employers see themselves as open and supportive? "The real measure of trust is employees who feel they can make an honest mistake without being punished for it," said Katie Popp, who leads several projects - including Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" - at the Great Place to Work Institute in San Francisco. "It has to feel that ingrained." A successful application Popp cites is the complaint center of one retailer. Operators there are authorized to offer callers any remedy costing under $500 without clearing it with a supervisor. It spares both the operators and the customers a lot of grief, she said. Results-oriented management often goes off track with something Rupert calls "hours creep" or "work creep." "There's an expectation that you'll be available by phone, that you'll check e-mail hourly or three times a day, and on and on," Rupert said. "What happens is the conditions get created as if you were in the office, so you might as well be." One of the most successful results-oriented managers Rupert has seen was at a janitorial and sanitation firm in Finland. "The woman who ran it was unbelievably organized and she defined very, very clear results," Rupert said. "So the 300 employees did know what they had to do, and she really couldn't care less where they were when they did it." This "almost ruthless process of clearly defined results" raises one common misconception about this management style, he said. "Nobody is proposing that managers give up control," he said. "They're proposing that managers change the nature of the way they exercise control. "I've become totally convinced the most significant single thing you can demonstrate to an employee that has value and impact is respect," Rupert said. "It's a huge plus. And there's nothing more respectful than seeing them as grown-ups and letting them figure out how to do their own work their own way."
    H.J. Cummins is at hcummins@startribune.com

  12. 11/07   Medical education: 100 years of progress - The AMA Council on Medical Education celebrates its centennial with a nod to the past and a look to the future
    Editorial.
    American Medical News (Nov. 15, 2004 issue).
    When the American Medical Association created the Council on Medical Education 100 years ago, there were no uniform standards for medical schools, and it was widely believed that the principal issue facing these institutions was the reform of medical education. But consensus on the fact that reform was the principal issue in medical education by no means ensured that reforms were the next step. At the time, many medical schools were privately owned and operated by the faculty. They were self-supporting, with student fees being most schools' main source of income. Most faculty members were afraid that raising standards would result in decreased enrollment, which would, in turn, lead to less income. As a result, they were largely resistant to change. It was into this environment that the Council on Medical Education was created in 1904. The council's general goal at that time was to improve medical education in the United States. It had its work cut out for it. Undaunted, it hit the ground running, issuing its first version of minimum and ideal standards for a medical school in 1904, conducting its first inspection of medical schools in 1906 and its first survey of hospitals for training interns in 1912. In 1910, it supported the Flexner Report, which articulated new standards for medical schools and catalyzed a significant change in medical education in this country. The report is still considered a landmark in the history of medical education. The council also had a hand in creating many of the institutions that are instrumental to medical education to this day, including specialty boards. Yet the council has never rested on its early laurels. Its 2002 report on resident physician working conditions recommended implementing an 80-hour work week, in effect stimulating the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education plan to set work rules. And in late 2003, the council, after a significant study of physician supply in this country, recommended that the AMA abandon its policy that an oversupply of physicians exists, weighing in at the early stages of what is likely to be a significant debate about how many and what types of physicians the country will need. In fashioning the council's centennial celebration, now winding down, the AMA has struck a perfect balance between saluting the council's past accomplishments and setting the stage for its coming work. For although great strides have been made in medical education and many groups now oversee and evaluate the process, the council still has an important role to play in defining medical education. Today, its responsibilities include recommending educational policies to the AMA House of Delegates, studying and evaluating medical education, and ensuring that there is an adequate continuing supply of well-qualified physicians and that the AMA remains an accredited sponsor of continuing medical education. One hundred years is a true milestone, and the council has accomplished much to be proud of. With the many challenges facing medical education today, including student debt and physician supply, it continues to have its work cut out for it. No doubt it will tackle those issues with the vigor it has demonstrated in the past, continuing to be a driving force in the betterment of the medical profession.

  13. 11/07   The wages of fun - The hidden cost of cheap toys: China's toy factories
    The Age, Australia
    As the last containers of toys leave China for the Christmas gift season, Hamish McDonald reports that there's a definite lack of good cheer in Toyland. The Tyrannosaurus Rex shuffles forward, twists and raises his scaly head, then roars, displaying rows of sharp, greenish teeth. Li Xinkai, who has been working the joysticks and buttons on a little handheld infrared control unit, smiles with satisfaction, and offers a visitor another tiny cup of bitter, green tea. The kneehigh T-Rex stands silent on the floor. It is almost at the end of the pre-Christmas rush in Santa's Cave, a place otherwise known as the port city of Shantou in the south of China where much of the world's toy-making industry is concentrated - about 2000 factories ranging from giant gated complexes to backyard workshops. In Shantou and other factory zones in Guangdong province, a million workers have been putting in 12-hour days, seven days a week since the middle of the year, filling orders for the global toy giants such as Hasbro, Mattel and Disney. In local showrooms, salesmen like the Disga Toy Factory's Li are still hanging out for last minute orders for T-Rex and other dinosaur species, selling ex-factory for about 75 yuan ($A12) each. "About 80% of our orders are shipped or on the way," says Eric Chan, marketing manager for Hong Kongowned Edu-Science, which makes hi-tech toys like metal detectors, stone polishers, and digital microscopes at a factory in Dongguan. "But we could still get deliveries in time for Christmas if we get a good order now. It's only an hour to the container terminal in Hong Kong or Shenzhen, then 20 days to America or Europe." Large-scale toy manufacture follows the shifts in cheap labour supply and easy international logistics. It went to Japan and Taiwan in the 1950s, then moved to Hong Kong when those places got too pricey. Then when China opened up the Shenzhen special economic zone just across the border, the factory jobs moved there and gradually spread out to other Guangdong towns, especially those in the Pearl River delta or along the coast like Shantou. Young men and women flooded into Guangdong from the villages of China's interior to take up what now totals 19 million factory jobs making toys, sports gear, homeware, bathroom fittings, furniture and electronics. With hundreds of millions of rural villagers still underemployed the supply of labour seemed endless, suggesting China would continue to grab world manufacturing by virtue of low wages. But in recent weeks, this picture has clouded - at least for the factory owners and toy companies. China's Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has just reported a shortfall of 2 million migrant workers for the region, at the busiest time of the year. It appears many of Santa's elves have not turned up for work this year. The reasons are not hard to find. The labour ministry also found that the average salary for a migrant worker, currently between 600 and 700 yuan ($A96 to $112) a month had risen by only 68 yuan in the past 12 years. "That means wages have been going down, even though the official minimum wage has been going up every year," says Anita Chan, a researcher specialising in China's labour market at the Australian National University. Analysts like Chan say Guangdong's workers have been pushed punishingly hard over the 15 years of the Chinese factory boom. Work days of 12 or more hours, seven days a week, are common during peak periods. overtime is generally paid at a lower hourly rate than the basic salary.
    [Again the association of long hours and low pay.]
    Pay is often in arrears to stop workers changing jobs. Dormitories are crowded and food poor, but deductions to pay for them keep rising to offset rises in the official minimum base rate of 450 yuan a month. Police harass migrants without local residency papers and extort small payoffs, and health benefits are generally not transferrable from home towns. Despite Guangdong's steamy heat, workshops are often hot and unventilated; occupational diseases are rife, often caused by dust particles, fibres and chemical vapours. The region also appears to have been the incubator of last year's SARS epidemic as well as several avian flu outbreaks. "Very few factories around here pay the Government minimum rate," says Huang Xinghe, 20, a worker who gets about 600 yuan a month including overtime at a Dongguan factory making golf clubs and tennis rackets for export. "Most of us are not even aware of what it is." Three young women from the nearby Baby Toys factory say they earned about 700 yuan a month entirely on a piece rate, working 8 hours a day in slack times and 10 hours or more when big orders came in. They laugh at the Government minimum. "In our factory the boss is the ruler," one says. Three years ago, the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee surveyed 20 major factories supplying four of the world's largest toy groups - Hasbro, McDonald's, Mattel and Disney - and found that in none of the products did more than 6% of final retail price flow back to the Chinese workers who made them. In the most extreme case, only 26 cents came back the workers from an interactive electronics doll that sold for $US64.99 ($A86). "Nothing much has changed since then," says committee researcher Parry Leung, who is bringing out a new survey shortly. Officially, the interests of the workforce are protected by China's trade union federation, aligned with the ruling communist party. In reality, the union is part of the oligarchy of local power, in which government, legal authorities, and entrepreneurs collude for mutual benefit. The whole region is overrun with private security guards, ordinary police and paramilitary armed police who pick out ringleaders of labour protest for draconian jail terms. Despite this, it has seen a rising number of wildcat strikes and factory sit-ins in recent months. "For workers to go on strike or stage protest actions means there's something quite wrong," says the ANU's Chan. "Chinese workers tend to stick it out until they can't bear it any more." Meanwhile, provinces in eastern China and up the Yangtse Valley have drawn new factories into their own industrial zones. The Government has slashed taxes levied on farmers, so village incomes have risen sharply in the last year. The money may not even be as much as in Guangdong, but the working hours are not as brutally long, and they are located closer to home and family. While the labour supply is still very big in China, the population profile is now narrowing in the prime late teens and early twenties age group as a result of the national one-child family planning policy started in 1978. Also, more young people have some senior school education and look to service industry jobs where work is less isolated and physically onerous, and residency transfers may be easier. With superseded mobile phone handsets now selling in second-hand markets for a few dollars, young workers are more in touch with job opportunities around the country. Guangdong factory owners, many of them from Hong Kong or Taiwan, say in their own defence that they are being pushed just as ruthlessly by the toy industry, increasingly merged into a few giant combines linked in royalty arrangements to entertainment groups Disney and Warner Bros and fast-food chains like McDonald's. And more and more of the final retail value flows to enterprises engaged in the toy concept, research and development, design, and marketing. The remote-controlled T-Rex that Disga is offering in Shantou for 75 yuan is being sold on the Amazon.com and Toys R US websites for $US39.99 - more than four times as much. However, the high-technology toy firm Wow Wee, which says it developed the T-Rex in its design studios, has never heard of Disga. Wow Wee had its T-Rex made in a Shenzhen factory. "It's possible this company is knocking it off," a Wow Wee executive says. Hence perhaps the coyness of Disga, which refused to let The Age onto its factory floor in Shantou. "You want to find out our secrets," a manager said. Whether or not Disga is copying an ageing product line, the case illustrates the difficulty in monitoring the global toy industry. A similar T-Rex is sold in Australia by Kmart under another brand name, Jasman, at $25. The concentration of buying power in retail groups, notably the American chain Wal-Mart, simply blasts even the biggest Chinese factory out of the bargaining ring. "What we are seeing is the famous race to the bottom, the pursuit of cheaper prices in retail stores in the West for Chinese-made goods," says Robin Munro, of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin. "Those constant price cuts have to come from somewhere. Basically it's the foreign buyers squeezing the factory owners to do reverse bidding for orders, bidding the lowest possible price to get the order. Often the factory owners in South China take on these orders at a loss, simply to keep their share of the market. That inevitably translates into cutting workers' salaries or keeping them constant at best." Generally, the toy multinationals keep their distance and in some cases do not deal directly with the factories, instead using agencies like Hong Kong trading firm Li & Fung. However, exposure of low wages and unhealthy working conditions has led to a voluntary industry code and to individual companies like Mattel setting up regular audits of conditions in the factories that supply their toys. But The Christian Industrial Committee's Leung says this has so far been largely ineffective. "The factories ask the workers to tell lies to the auditors. They drill the workers, ask them to memorise some answers to questions about the labour law, working hours, and wages. They have to follow the set answer. If they don't they may be punished." Only with the new labour shortage are wages starting to rise. At a Taiwanowned company in Dongguan making electrical transformers, director Joyce Lin says the bill for its 4300 workforce was now 25% above the same time last year, with about 60% of that going in higher wages and the rest coming from improved medical benefits and costs associated with a jump in staff turnover. "But there will be no price increase, we are the ones taking the blow," Lin says. Lin, who spoke on condition her firm was not named, says the Taiwanese owners are starting to think about leaving China. "The shortage of labour is influencing our plans. In the future we will try to avoid investing more in the Chinese market and invest in other countries or regions. There is India, for example, though the supply chain is not yet mature in the Indian market, so we are still considering that." Parry Leung thinks it may be another six months or a year before the impact of higher wages in Guangdong flows through the toy industry to foreign buyers. Meanwhile parents can enjoy another cheap Christmas, thanks to the low wages that have prevailed up to now in much of southern China's toy industry.

  14. 11/07   Lymo adjusts since scandal - Changes strive to keep money problems in past
    Myrtle Beach Sun News, SC
    By David Wren
    A financial scandal nine months ago at the Waccamaw Regional Transportation Authority has led to sweeping changes in how the public bus company and the S.C. Department of Transportation do business. Responding to ongoing reports in The Sun News this year that exposed mismanagement in the local and state mass transit offices, the agencies in recent months have adopted new policies designed to better account for how they spend public money. The agencies also have new procedures designed to ensure passenger safety and make sure grant applications and other reports are accurate and honest. News in February that former Chief Executive Officer Benedict Shogaolu used $42,484 of public money for personal expenses and possibly violated state and federal laws shook the authority's board of directors, a group that Chairman Leroy Rainbow admits "wasn't as proactive as we should have been." Shogaolu has denied he did anything improper while he was with the authority. State and federal law enforcement agencies are conducting criminal investigations of the matter. Board members have, since February, taken a more hands-on approach to running the agency, which does business as Lymo. For example, the board's recently created finance committee now reviews purchases and makes sure the agency follows state procurement laws. The agency's problems also left local politicians wary of a bus system that is asking the public for more money at the same time ridership is hitting a plateau and its budget deficit is hitting record numbers. "We're more cautious now, not only about Lymo but a lot of things," said Myrtle Beach City Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means. "What happened at Lymo was such a shock to us. It taught us not to take anything at face value anymore."
    Closer eyes on Lymo
    A management shake-up in February, when the board fired Shogaolu, and months of introspection that followed have led to changes in the workplace that Lymo's management says have improved employee morale and created a new attitude toward customers. "People lost trust in us, and now we're trying to restore that trust," said Myers Rollins Jr., Lymo's new general manager. Among the changes that have occurred since Shogaolu was fired: State officials used to do spot checks of only a few purchases the authority made each year, randomly pulling invoices during annual site visits to make sure state procurement laws were followed. Now, the state DOT scrutinizes every invoice the authority pays on a monthly basis. Records that showed how many hours drivers were spending on the road used to be haphazard or missing entirely, compromising the public's safety and possibly violating federal laws because drivers were working 12 or more hours a day without breaks. Now, Rollins says, those records are accurate and computerized and drivers are not allowed to work past the federal limits. The state is helping mass transit agencies, such as Lymo, buy automated fare boxes to ensure accurate passenger counts. Lymo inflated its passenger counts on state forms over at least two years to make it appear the bus company was more successful than it really was. The state's transportation department has stepped up the intensity of its annual visits to the state's 18 mass transit systems. The visits often used to be cursory reviews of a bus company's operations, with spot-checks of financial and safety record-keeping. Those visits now are in-depth looks at how well agencies are following state and federal regulations. "We ask a lot more questions, and we review a lot more material," said Glennith Johnson, the state DOT's director of mass transit. Johnson said the DOT has adopted a get-tough policy on violations of state procurement laws, one of Lymo's biggest problems in recent years. In the past, the state would give bus companies a second or third chance when violations were discovered. The state would reimburse the unauthorized purchases but asked the bus company to write a letter explaining the violation and promising that it wouldn't happen again. "Violations simply aren't allowable now," Johnson said. "There's no chance to cure a violation. If you violate the procurement code, you won't get reimbursed for those expenses by the state."
    Hope in the distance
    An investigation earlier this year by the authority's board of directors showed Lymo routinely violated state procurement laws when Shogaolu was in charge of Lymo. Among those violations was $132,963 worth of furniture the authority bought without getting competitive bids. Those furniture purchases included such items as a $5,582 mahogany-and-leather desk for Shogaolu's office and $10,000 for leather chairs for the board's conference room. Shogaolu also spent more than $32,484 of public money in 2002-03 on personal meals and vacations to places such as the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York and beachfront resorts in Honduras. He spent another $10,000 of public money to attend his brother's funeral in Africa, gave himself cash Christmas bonuses of $9,000 that the board did not authorize and spent $700 of public money to fight a speeding ticket. Debbie Weir, the authority's finance director, said concern about Lymo's financial condition was "minimal" during Shogaolu's tenure and that employees didn't question his personal spending because they feared for their jobs. Board members say they never questioned Shogaolu because everything he told them made it appear the bus company was setting records every year for revenue and passengers. The board later said that Shogaolu kept damaging information from them, including a state audit that showed a pattern of procurement violations at the agency. "It was a wake-up call, not only for Lymo's board but for every other board that oversees an agency in this area," said Liz Gilland, chairwoman of Horry County Council. Gilland said one of the biggest lessons from the Lymo scandal is that board members and public officials can't take information at face value. "I think Lymo has a good board, but they were betrayed by a man that they trusted to run the organization," Gilland said. "Having had that unfortunate incident and putting it behind them, I think Lymo is probably going to be better in the future than it ever has been in the past." Rainbow said the board has to have trust in the agency's leadership but also must take the initiative to make sure that trust is warranted. That didn't happen, he said, until after the financial scandal unfolded. "I believe the hard times were sent there by design, because we needed to be put in a position where we can see and feel and react to situations in a better fashion," Rainbow said. "We can see a twinkle of light at the end of the tunnel now. At one time, I was wondering if that light was ever going to be there."
    Watching Lymo spending
    Shogaolu's unauthorized spending, combined with the bus company's decreased revenue, caught up with Lymo when the bus company finished its 2003-04 budget year - which ended June 30 - with a $171,544 loss. Lymo expects to lose another $214,965 in fiscal year 2004-05 but hopes to balance its budget after that. "If someone had studied our financials carefully [during Shogaolu's tenure], they would have seen it coming," Weir said. In recent months, Weir and others have pored over Lymo's budget to find ways to cut costs. For example, Weir found $175,000 in savings by eliminating excessive vehicle insurance. "We were carrying insurance on buses that we hadn't used in a year or more," Weir said. "So we took those vehicles off the policy." A crackdown on driver overtime has resulted in $58,000 in additional savings in July through September compared with the same period a year ago. Rollins also has cut other spending that had become common under Shogaolu's leadership. For example, board members in August agreed to cut back on the amount of food they eat during their monthly meetings. Instead of catered meals that ranged in price from $198 to $369 per meeting, the board now eats sandwiches. The food bill for the board's October meeting was $45. The board and Lymo employees also cut out their annual trip to the American Public Transportation Association convention, which had cost taxpayers thousands of dollars for meetings in places such as Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. "We asked ourselves, 'Can we really afford 10 grand to go to APTA this year?'" Rollins said. "We decided we could better use that money on providing service to our customers." Shogaolu's annual Christmas party for board members and Lymo executives - a three-course dinner with wine held last year at the Grande Dunes Ocean Club for $3,113.92 - also is a thing of the past. "We'll be holding a generic Christmas party here [at Lymo's offices] for all of our employees," Rollins said. "The board is welcome to attend that party if they want."...

  15. 11/07   Manufacturing: Slow now, optimism ahead
    Rockford Register Star, IL
    Business in the fourth quarter has slowed at Gymtek Inc. as orders declined and the impact of steady price increases in steel and health insurance rippled through the company. The slowdown is typical during the October-through-December period at the job shop, said owner and president Mary Yankus. But it's been felt at other times, as well. "We had some real tough times earlier this year, too," Yankus said. "We really had to cut hours and days. We were down to working four days a week." Gymtek makes parts for hand tools, bows and arrows, all-terrain vehicles and hydraulic hose fittings. The company makes shafts for the machines that make Slushee drinks. "I am very optimistic that we will improve," Yankus said. "But I am not optimistic that we will get back to where we used to be." Yankus said business usually slows during fourth quarter as the holidays approach. Customers' orders are already smaller because many have built up supply. Still, Yankus expects production will be up 5% over this time last year. She anticipates production will be lighter than the third quarter, however. She's hired one temporary worker in the past year, but she doesn't anticipate any more hires this quarter. Of the 24 people on Gymtek's roster, three are temps. Yankus hopes to hire all three permanently but she does not expect that to happen any time soon. "Things are looking better," Yankus said. "The economy certainly has improved, but it's not where it could be or it has been. "We should come out in pretty good shape, but it was tough getting there."
    - By Anna Voelker

  16. 11/08   World Watch... Briefly, WSJ, A12.
    BERLIN - German leaders scrapped a proposal to create an extra working day by moving the national holiday marking German reunification to a Sunday, bowing to criticism that the government had lost respect for the nation's history. The proposal was part of a broader government effort to boost the economy and rein in the budget deficit.
    [More 1920s-style supply-side economics, as if "if we produce it, they will buy" - never mind they're all unemployed because we've funneled work onto fewer and fewer people by responding to technology with downsizing instead of timesizing. And now we're supposed to create extra working days? Let's see how fast we can concentrate the nation's workload onto even fewer people and crash our consumer base completely!]

  17. 11/08   Reducing residents' hours will erode patient care, letter to editor by Past Pres. Dr. Matt Martin of NC Chapter of American College of Surgeons, WSJ, A15.
    [Never mind the danger of having an overtired zombie operating on you. One word to Matt - bust open your self-serving but dangerous and shortsighted bottleneck on medical TRAINING.]

11/05/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/04 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #1 which is from 11/05 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Texas: Paramedics win overtime pay dispute
    by Steve Barnes, NYT, A20.
    A decade-long class-action legal battle ended when the Houston City Council approved an $80m settlement with paramedics involving overtime pay. The city argued that its 2,600 emergency medical technicians [EMTs] should not receive overtime unless they worked more than 46.7 hours a week.
    [Wonder how they arrived at that bizarre figure.]
    A federal district judge agreed, but an appellate court held that overtime earnings should begin after 40 hours a week, the same standard applied to Houston's other public safety employees. The settlement grants individual paramedics past wages ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

  2. Employers' American dream would be a nightmare for UK workers and economy
    Online Recruitment, UK
    The business lobby's fantasy of a red-tape-free economy fuelled by a 'flexible' workforce that can be hired and fired at will is based on a selective analysis of the US economy and a string of myths about successful job markets, according to a TUC [Trades Union Council] report released today (Thursday). Building a Modern Labour Market says that when employer lobbyists complain of red tape and say that we should be more like the USA in order to become more productive and competitive, they mean that UK workers should accept far fewer holidays, longer work hours and less secure jobs.
    The TUC report, released in the run-up to the CBI [?] conference, argues that the UK should instead take the best from both the US and European models to combine the dynamism of the US with the investment in a quality workforce typical of Europe. This would allow us to become one of the most successful economies in the world, without reducing the quality of life of the UK workforce.
    Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, said: "Everyone agrees that the UK economy needs to be more productive. But it can sometimes be hard to find a serious employer contribution to the debate on how we get there. Instead we hear a continuous whinge [US: whining] about red tape, and calls for us to become like the US. Yet British people don't want the nightmare long hours, short holidays, less secure jobs, huge inequalities and weak safety net of the American 'dream' economy. But we could - and should - benefit from US levels of investment in training, technology and transport, and the venture capital freedoms that have driven economic success in the United States.
    "But just as importantly, we should learn from Europe. As the European Union's Kok Report showed yesterday, there is an alternative route to prosperity that remains true to our traditional beliefs of fairness at work by building up the skills of our workforce, the expertise of our managers, our investment in people, plant and research. We cannot compete with India and China by cutting wages and [lowering working] conditions, or by denying ourselves proper holidays, as the CBI suggests. We will only do it through smarter workplaces, with high skills, high commitment and high investment."
    Labour market myths and realities from 'Building a Modern Labour Market'
    1. Myth: strong employment regulations costs jobs
      Reality: OECD evidence shows no link between strong employment regulation and unemployment. The fall in unemployment and rise in employment in the UK since the late 1990s has coincided with the Labour government's strengthening of employee protections. The UK is second only to the US in its lack of employment regulation, according to a 2004 28-nation OECD study, but both countries have some of the highest rates of inactivity, people who want work but who are out of work, and high unemployment among black and ethnic minority groups. Although the UK has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU, it has the fourth highest inactivity rate - above both France and Germany.
    2. Myth: tax[ation] threatens competitiveness
      Reality: The UK is not a high-tax country and there is no evidence that low-tax countries with low public spending are more competitive, as employees end up paying for services one way or another. The 30% corporate tax in the UK is below both the EU and OECD average and well below the average rate in the US (45.2%), Germany (38.9%) and Japan (40.9%). The highest rate of individual tax in the UK (40%) is almost 10% lower than the EU average (48.9%) and lower than in the US (45.4%) and Japan (50%).
    3. Myth: lack of 'red tape' encourages diverse types of employment in the UK
      Reality: There is no link between economic success and temporary working, which, in theory, should enable workers to move jobs quickly to meet demand in the economy. Almost all the UK's impressive employment growth since 1997 has been in permanent full or part-time work. Over this period the UK has strengthened rights for fixed-term and part-time working and the share of temporary work has fallen. Low regulation UK has levels of temporary working less than half the EU average. And the 'entrepreneurial' US has less than half the level of self-employed workers (6.7%) than the average in the EU (14.2%).
    4. Myth: Europe is sclerotic. America is flexible and productive
      Reality: The UK is one of the least productive countries in Europe but workers in France, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands regularly outperform US workers in terms of productivity per hour worked. Recent evidence suggests a US recovery in productivity per hour worked, compared to most EU nations. The European Commission puts this down to more intensive investment in information technology, mainly in the service sector, and a more efficient use of staff through training. The negative consequences of labour market flexibility US-style are stagnant or falling real wages and household incomes, long hours, rising inequality, increased economic insecurity and poverty.
      [Another counter-argument - The US dollar is going down. The euro is going up. This is mainly due to catastrophic Bush fiscal policies but some currency traders may be noticing what's happening to the once-strong U.S. domestic consumer base under the continuing hyper-concentration of the national workload and the national income.]
    5. Myth: a strong welfare state causes high unemployment
      Reality: Social protection contributes to economic efficiency and social equality. OECD research shows that a decent social safety net actually makes work more attractive by encouraging job seekers to take risks, for example joining a start up company, as their potential loss of earnings are insured against. In the US workers are unlikely to move jobs because they could lose their health insurance. There is no evidence linking high state benefits and high unemployment rates but social security spending is linked to poverty. The US has the lowest rate of unemployment insurance (benefit) in the 28 OECD countries and over 35 million people (12.5% of population) live below the official poverty line. This number has increased for children under 18 to nearly one in five and around a quarter of black (24.3%) and Hispanic (22.5%) people live in poverty.
    6. Myth: weak unions are good for business
      Reality: An international World Bank study concluded: "Countries with highly co-ordinated collective bargaining tend to be associated with lower and less persistent unemployment, less earnings equality and fewer and shorter strikes... ". In the UK nearly 40% of union members have had job-related training in the last three months, compared to just over a quarter of non-members. Union safety reps reduce injuries at work by 50%, compared to workplaces without them.
    7. Myth: the European model is threatened by globalisation
      Reality: Improvement in employee protections would not lead to jobs moving abroad and companies should not be using the threat of offshoring to put pressure on employees' pay, pensions, working time or other terms and conditions. Employment in the areas most at risk from job offshoring in the UK (such as business services, finance and communications) grew by 30 per cent between 2001/2003. The UK's international trade in services shows a net surplus of £15 billion. Unions are challenging offshoring projects that lack a strong business case but they accept that it is possible to achieve full employment in the UK while developing economies expand their service sectors.

  3. Effects of changes to board yet to be seen
    Union Democrat, CA
    By CHRIS NICHOLS
    CALIFORNIA - Although two new members will join Calaveras County's Board of Supervisors in January, several county leaders and residents expect no major shift in board politics. But some are curious about how the new leaders will fare.
    ...Joining the board as District 1 supervisor is Bill Claudino. A long-time county resident and retired California Highway Patrol officer, Claudino ran unopposed in the March primary.... Claudino described himself as "probably more conservative" than his predecessor. Claudino, who moved to San Andreas from San Mateo County in 1968, said he would take a fiscally conservative approach to budget issues and work to protect individual property rights....
    Claudino said he hoped to present an alternative version of the furlough plan county officials enacted this summer as a cash-saving measure. Supervisors approved five mandatory days off for most county employees. Instead of forcing workers to take days off and leaving the general public without services, Claudino said he would rather keep workers on the job and pay them back when funds become available....
    [Which may be never, with the greedy, selfish and class-war mood that American wealthy have got themselves into these days. So, bad idea.]
    Contact Chris Nichols at cnichols@uniondemocrat.com

  4. Kuwait booms, but oil wealth slows down push for reform
    Reuters via Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates
    KUWAIT - Kuwait's good times may be back at last.... The boom can be seen in rising domestic confidence in investment, real estate projects and the stock market whose main share index doubled in 2003 and has risen another 25% this year..\.. Skyrocketing oil prices, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and buoyant trade with Iraq would seem to be all the oil-rich country could want.
    [It is, but check out what backward-thinking economists still want.]
    ..."If we use history as a record, we all find that high oil prices are not in our best interest,"..\..said Kuwaiti economist Jasem Saadoun, who heads the Alshall think-tank....
    [Now there's a novel idea. Funny how many 'economists' get themselves on the wrong side of common sense.]
    "Oil producing countries made all the mistakes when the prices of oil rose. They increased public spending and expanded an already bloated public sector and the same is happening now."
    The key step to reform, economists say, is to reduce the absorption of Kuwaitis into the public sector by deflating expectations about high salaries, short working hours and free benefits and improving skills to help them join private firms.
    A large proportion [specifically??] of the public sector, which forms about 90% of the workforce, collects wages but does not report to work and when they do productivity is low, they said....
    [Data? And by the way, "not reporting to work" is a lot different than "short working hours."]

  5. Time for change - Voters expect results from new Legislature
    Agana Pacific Daily News, Guam
    By Steve Limtiaco
    GUAM - Joanne Quinene...of Dededo stands in the doorway of her snackmobile in front of the Department of Motor Vehicles yesterday. Quinene said she thinks senators who did not serve the community were voted out of the Legislature.
    Republicans will replace Democrats as the controlling party in the Legislature next January, but residents yesterday said party affiliation does not matter to them - just results....
    "I think everyone wants a change," Piti resident Sara Quenga...said of Tuesday's General Election results. "The last two years didn't do much for Guam."...
    Lon Bottcher...said the current group of senators "didn't solve problems. What they did is leave the problems for somebody else to work on.
    [= still more Democrats with ideas but no vision.]
    I don't mind seeing the new people coming in there to give it a try."... Joanne Quinene...said she believes voters replaced senators because "a lot of them really didn't do their job." She said lawmakers tend to help themselves until it's an election year, then ask for the public's help. "I want to try something different," she said.
    Quinene, who owns a mobile hotdog stand, said lawmakers need to focus on the people and need to help small-business owners. The high cost of living on Guam makes it difficult for her to afford supplies for her business and also makes it difficult for the public to afford to buy from her, she said. "People can't afford to buy many things with the economy so bad," she said.
    The Legislature's decision to increase the island's gross-receipts tax hurt her business, she said, as did the government's decision to cut employees to a 32-hour work week.
    [But how much more would her business have been hurt if the government had decided to cut 20% of employees' jobs instead of just 20% of their hours?]

  6. [So much for the good news. The rest of today's stories are about a world going backward -]
    Behind the crisis in SEIU Local 250
    Socialist Worker [IL], 11/05 p.11
    Service Employees International Union [SEIU] Local 250 in Northern California has recently been shaken by workers' efforts to form independent unions. LARRY BRADSHAW, chief steward of the Paramedic Chapter of SEIU Local 790 in the Bay Area, and LORRIE BETH SLONSKY, a member of the same chapter and editor of the Gurney Gazette, look at the roots of the controversy. PARAMEDICS AND other medical care workers in Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 250 are challenging and contesting their union representation. In September, the local narrowly averted decertification by paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), dispatchers and critical care nurses. The decertification effort involved nearly 2,400 employees of American Medical Response (AMR), the large national ambulance conglomerate, and pitted Local 250 with its 100,000 members against a newly formed independent union called the National Emergency Medical Services Association (NEMSA). The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election resulted in a draw, with the 660 workers voting to stay with Local 250, and 604 voting to go with NEMSA. In addition, 30 voted for no representation and another 38 ballots were challenged. The result means that neither union reached the "50% plus one" threshold. Torren Colcord, an official with NEMSA, predicts a second runoff vote. This latest setback for the SEIU in Northern California comes on the heels of an earlier defection by San Francisco janitors. In August, the janitors voted 947 to 573 to leave SEIU Local 1877 and joined the newly formed United Service Workers for Democracy (USWD) Local 87 - the number of their old SEIU local before it was merged into the larger Local 1877. Some 139 ballots were challenged or declared void, but the lopsided margin of victory makes a challenge or appeal by SEIU unlikely. In the case of both the janitors and the ambulance workers, rank-and-file anger and dissatisfaction with the SEIU prompted efforts to leave the larger union and form smaller, more responsive independent unions. "We have been dissatisfied with Local 250 for years," one veteran EMT from AMR told a reporter. "They are not responsive. They collected our dues and you don't see them for years."
    In a similar vein, a janitor at San Francisco's Moscone Center added, "After the merger, SEIU 1877 sold us out by signing a sweetheart contract that allows management to replace workers making $17 an hour and earning full benefits with workers making only $9 an hour with no benefits." The janitor continued, "Now our work hours are being cut and our workload increased. That is why we want to join Local 87 members in forming a new independent union for janitors in San Francisco."
    [So here it is. Unions are useless unless they keep their eyes on their power issue = shorter hours and less labor surplus. Tangenting off onto higher pay and benefits just allows the labor surplus to worsen, and union power to weaken. After 64 years of a frozen 1940 workweek, you'd think American unions would learn, but half of them still haven't.]
    The challenge posed to SEIU by the new unions is threatening to spread. Some San Francisco janitors continue to be represented by SEIU Local 1877 because certain units of janitors did not initially petition the NLRB for a vote or did not meet the 30% signature threshold to qualify for a vote. Given the large margin of victory, however, those units may yet choose to join USWD Local 87. Meanwhile, paramedics in San Mateo County voted by 83% to leave the SEIU and opt for NEMSA - and they've negotiated the first NEMSA contract. NEMSA is also challenging the SEIU in Oak Valley and in Sacramento. Socialist Worker spoke with Arnie, an EMT at AMR for 15 years, and a Local 250 shop steward, about why workers voted to leave SEIU. "My main motivation was change," explained Arnie, "I thought NEMSA could breath some new life into the industry." Arnie reported that almost all the Local 250 shop stewards in Alameda County supported NEMSA - and that Local 250 officials challenged her and other shop stewards' votes in the election. Torren Colcord confirms that most of the challenged votes were NEMSA supporters. The NLRB has yet to rule on the challenged votes, declare a winner or decide whether to schedule a runoff vote between Local 250 and NEMSA. For their part, the janitors' defection was prompted in part by recent concessionary contracts and by the heavy-handed intervention of the international union. In the last two years, the SEIU has removed the elected leadership of the janitors' local, fired the staff, placed the local in trusteeship and forced the local into a merger into the statewide janitors' Local 1877 - all over the objections of the membership of Local 87 and without a vote by the rank and file. SEIU Local 87 began with 600 members in 1936 and through aggressive organizing became one of the strongest janitor's locals in the county. All janitors in San Francisco were union members. The union had the right to strike at any time and the local controlled hiring and job assignments through the union hiring hall. Union power produced high wages, good pensions and full family health benefits. During the 1970s and the 1980s, however, Local 87 officials consolidated power by demobilizing rank-and-file participation through a series of bylaw changes. The local's officials relied more and more on deals with the employers and the local Democratic Party establishment. Charges of corruption and misuse of the hiring hall flourished. In 1988, the employers, sensing a much weaker union, went on the offensive, hiring a notorious union-busting firm and provoking a strike - and the settlement wiped out 35 years of union gains. SEIU Local 87officials - who in the past had presided over the decline in pay, benefits, and working conditions - revolted when the international moved to merge Local 87 into the statewide janitor's Local 1877. "Yet in three short months after SEIU took control, it has reduced our drug benefits, increased our workload by pushing gang cleaning in buildings and most recently, allowed companies to take control of hiring," a member complained. "Soon the union hiring hall - and/or our job security - will be gone!" Sensing the loss of their position, Local 87 officials joined with the rank-and-file opposition and were removed from office. Local 87 members, who had a long history of reform movements, staged a dues boycott. When that failed, they launched USWD Local 87. Despite personal appearances and lobbying by SEIU International President Andrew Stern, the janitors opted for the new union by a large margin. The rank-and-file revolts by janitors and ambulance workers do not bode well for Stern and the SEIU leadership. The SEIU has a strategy of pushing large statewide locals of tens and hundreds of thousands of workers who have no control over their union representatives, who are all appointed by the local president. The International is supporting the merger of many health care locals in California into SEIU Local 250 and has forced other local janitors' unions into the huge statewide Local 1877. Janitors in Los Angeles Local 399 were also put into trusteeship and merged into Local 1877 despite massive resistance, including a sit-in and hunger strike at the union offices. The SEIU proposes a similar strategy for the national labor movement. Stern is one of five national union leaders who are the architects of the New Unity Partnership (NUP). The NUP argues unions will never be successful until we get rid of the old all-purpose unions and replace them with 15 big centralized unions that have clear jurisdictional authority and clout within their respective industries. The NUP plan calls for lots of centralization, lots of streamlining, lots of appointments from above - and it consciously advocates less union democracy. Stern recently wrote, "The purpose of union structures is for workers to be able to unite, fight and win together, not make it easier or harder (to) elect or reelect the leaders." Stern ignores the obvious - that when members have the ability to elect their leaders, it makes it more likely that these leaders will represent their members. Union democracy creates stronger, not weaker, unions. Ironically, the SEIU survived the ambulance decertification vote by promising more local autonomy to the paramedics and EMTs. But the recent votes by San Francisco janitors and Northern California emergency care workers indicate that significant sections of the SEIU's membership value and prefer local autonomy and membership control to large, centralized, bureaucratic locals.

  7. Concessions offered at Opel
    Reuters & Bloomberg via International Herald Tribune, France
    FRANKFURT - Struggling to keep their jobs, German workers have offered to extend their working hours in exchange for product and job guarantees at the Adam Opel unit of General Motors, a union leader said Thursday. Employees at the Opel factory in Rüsselsheim offered to extend their work week to 40 hours from 38.75 hours now, while being paid for 35 hours, said the union official, Klaus Franz.
    [Unions should never offer to work longer hours except in the context of corporate-revenue-tied hours (when revenue goes up, hours go up a la Lincoln Electric and Nucor Steel).]
    The offer is conditional on the plant getting approval to build the next-generation Opel Vectra and Saab 9-3 models. A Saab plant in Sweden is competing for the contract to build the replacement models. Both plants fear job cuts or closure if they lose out. GM, the world's biggest carmaker, is expected to make a decision on the production site early in 2005. Negotiations between GM's management and workers' representatives are proceeding "constructively,'' said Marc Kempe, a company spokesman. The company's goal is to reach an agreement by the end of the month, he added, without providing any details on the talks. GM Europe's workers have vowed not to let the Detroit-based company play one factory off against another in allocating work. But they are in a difficult spot, given GM's plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs in Europe as a way to stem five years of losses in the region. Faced with sluggish sales and overcapacity that puts severe pressure on prices and profits, automakers across Europe have been seeking concessions from workers to sharpen their competitive edge.

  8. Call to scrap 'Unity' holiday provokes discord in Germany
    Telegraph.co.uk, UK
    By Kate Connolly
    BERLIN - The German government yesterday announced it would scrap the national "Unity" holiday in an effort to boost the flagging economy and lower its budget deficit. The economics minister, Wolfgang Clement, said the Oct 3 holiday marking the reunification of Germany in 1990, would now be on the nearest Sunday in October. The extra day worked, he argued, would boost the economy next year by around 0.1% and help Germany meet the conditions of the European Union stability pact, which it is likely to breach next year for the fourth time in a row. "Reducing the number of holidays will mobilise extra forces for growth," he said. The decision - likely to face a smooth passage through the Bundestag - follows a long campaign by Mr Clement to reduce public holidays. On top of an average six weeks of paid [annual vacation], German workers have, compared with Britain's 9, about 13 holidays a year, the most...in any European nation.
    They also have the shortest working week, 35.7 hours, in the industrial world.
    [Not true. France has an official nationwide 35-hour workweek and Germany only has a 35-hour workweek in the unionized sectors in western Germany. Most unionized employees in eastern Germany have only got down to a 38-hour workweek. And if you want to protest that we're talking about average workweek, well, yesterday we had an article from the US saying "Friday's jobs report is also expected to show the [average] work-week held steady at 33.8 hours." - from "Hurricanes Seen Boosting US Job Growth in October" By Andrea Hopkins, Reuters, NY Wed Nov 3, 2004 03:45 PM ET. Thus the greater concentration of the national workload in America, which is responsible for America's workaholic reputation, is ironically also responsible for the impoverishment of the consumer base and therefore the low rate of consumption per capita and therefore the low average workweek.]
    Conservative politicians accuse Mr Clement and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who keenly endorses the move, of being "traitors of the Fatherland". Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union said: "To suggest abolishing the Day of German Unity is erroneous, neglectful of history and, coming as it does immediately prior to the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, simply shameful." Guido Westerwelle, head of the Liberal FDP, said: "It would be unthinkable if France or the United States were to get rid of their national holidays, July 14 and July 4. Those who fail to celebrate German unity are also forgetting that Germany was divided." Deciding what day should mark German unity was problematic from the start. Nov 9, the day the Berlin Wall fell, seems a natural choice, but it also marks the birth of the Weimar Republic in 1918, the Hitler putsch of 1923, and Kristallnacht in 1938 when synagogues across Germany were plundered and burnt. Recently, many have seen reunification as a cause for complaint rather than celebration, with the estimated £1000 billion cost contributing to Germany's economic woes. Industry leaders yesterday welcome the scrapping of the holiday. Many pointed to the fact that the economy has been given a boost this year because, by chance, several public holidays fell on Sundays rather than workdays.

  9. E.On, MAN...: German Equity Preview
    Bloomberg, United States
    The following stocks may make gains or losses in German markets today.
    [Duh, that can be said of any stocks, any day.]
    Futures that track Germany's benchmark DAX Index climbed 1.2% to 4090 at the close on Eurex AG, the world's biggest futures market. The DAX closed up 0.1% at 4041.38 on the Xetra electronic-trading system. The stock symbols are in parentheses after the company names and prices are from Xetra close unless otherwise stated....
    E.ON AG (EOA GY): Europe's second-largest utility agreed to buy stakes in the natural-gas storage, retail and importing businesses being sold by Hungary's Mol Rt. for 900 million euros ($1.16 billion). The shares gained 5 cents, or 0.1%, to 65.05 euros....
    MAN AG (MAN GY): shares of Europe's third-largest truckmaker may be active after Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported the company's MAN Roland AG printing division has failed for now to reach an agreement with employees over cost cuts and increased working hours. The newswire cited IG Metall union representative Werner Dreibus. Deutsche Bank AG also cut its rating to "sell'' from "hold.'' The shares lost 21 cents, or 0.8%, to 27.78 euros....
    To contact the reporter on this story: Corinna Budras in Frankfurt at cbudras@bloomberg.net
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Eamonn Sullivan at esullivan@bloomberg.net

  10. Germany to Scrap Holiday, Sell Pensions, Freeze Wages (Update4)
    Bloomberg, United States
    The German government plans to eliminate a weekday public holiday, sell debt and assets linked to pensions and freeze wages for state employees in a bid to boost the economy and close a $10 billion gap in the budget.
    [Sounds to us like a fast ticket to a collapsing domestic consumer base.]
    "Only work creates work and it isn't created on holidays,'' Economics and Labor Minister Wolfgang Clement said in Berlin. Finance Minister Hans Eichel...told a separate press conference "the financial situation remains dramatically difficult.''
    [No, only spending power in the hands of people who spend it immediately creates work, and it isn't sustainably created either by government makework or by concentrating the workload of the nation on fewer and fewer people by increasing the allowable workload per person - quite the contrary.]
    "The measures mustn't harm the economic recovery,'' Eichel said.
    [What economic "recovery"?!]
    "Tax increases are inappropriate in such a situation.''
    [Hey, if the wealthy aren't spending on their own, then the government's got to either spread it around to the people who do spend, or tax and spend itself. No spending, no demand and supply, or consumption and production, no recovery. Channeling the income of the nation to the rich via tax breaks and subsidies on the theory that they'll invest it and that will create jobs was disproved by the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s. The rich finally woke up to the fact that they weren't getting returns from their investments, so now they want to invest in production that has markets, but they've concentrated so much of the national income in their own pockets that there's no production that has markets, so they're pulling back into cash - ergo, investment is not where's it at. In fact, as economists should have known from their own Principle of Marginalism, the more $concentration, the less circulation.]
    Eichel today pared his forecast for tax revenue as rising unemployment and higher oil prices damp consumer spending, adding to pressure on Germany to find ways of avoiding a breach of European Union deficit rules for a fourth straight year in 2005. The government predicts this year's deficit will widen to a postwar record of 43.7 billion euros ($56.2 billion). A three-year slump in Europe's largest economy has swelled welfare costs and pushed the deficit above the EU's limit of 3% of gross domestic product every year since 2002. The European Commission last week forecast Germany will post a deficit of 3.4% of gross domestic product in 2005 after a 3.9% overrun this year. The government is following the example set by companies in cutting costs to boost growth. Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest carmaker, DaimlerChrysler AG, the maker of Mercedes luxury cars and Siemens AG, Germany's largest engineering company are among those that have reached accords this year on longer working hours or smaller wage increases.
    Unity Day
    The Unity Day holiday, marking German reunification and celebrated on Oct. 3, will be permanently moved to a Sunday, Eichel said. The government says may the additional working day may contribute 0.1 percentage point to economic growth. Almost all German businesses, including retailers, close on public holidays. "Poor Germany, thinking that we can't even afford a holiday reminding us of one of the most important and positive events in our history,'' Michael Sommer, head of the DGB federation of labor unions, said in a statement published on the DGB's Web site. Eichel said he will sell some 18 billion euros worth of debt for future pensions payments for former employees of Deutsche Telekom AG and Deutsche Post AG. The debt is backed by future scheduled contributions to the fund by the former state monopolies. Eichel said he plans to sell about 5.5 billion of the debt next year. Until now, the pensions have been covered by Deutsche Post, Deutsche Telekom, and the government.
    `Runaway Deficit'
    The debt sale will provide the fund with enough capital to pay its immediate pension liabilities without needing government contributions to top it up. The money saved through the sale by the government will go to reducing the budget deficit. In the longer term, the government will again need to replenish the fund for pensions of former Post and Telekom employees. "Germany's runaway deficit needs a thorough, structural cure, not a quick fix,'' said Eva Vorbauer, who helps manage the equivalent of about $12 billion at HSBC Trinkaus Capital Management in Dusseldorf, in a telephone interview. The government last week scaled back its economic growth outlook for 2005 to 1.7% from 1.8%, citing the impact of the 56% increase in oil prices this year on exports and the lack of growth in consumer spending. Growth in the third quarter probably slowed from the 0.5 percent rate in the second quarter, the Bundesbank said in its October report.
    Tax Shortfall
    While a surge in exports has led to a recovery this year, tax income and the labor market have yet to pick up. Eichel's panel of tax experts predicts tax receipts for this year will fall 1.4 billion euros short of previous estimates. Next year's revenue will be 3.4 billion euros lower than estimated in May this year, the body said. Some regions of Germany had as many as 14 public holidays in 2003, the most in any of the then 15 members of the European Union along with Spain, according to London-based research organization Incomes Data Services. The Netherlands and most of the U.K. had the fewest, with eight. Eichel said scrapping the public holiday, which doesn't require the approval of the upper house of parliament, will generate 500 million euros in tax revenue and savings. Ursula Steinhoff...a taxi driver in Berlin, called the measure "a really stupid idea.'' Sitting in her cab by the Brandenburg Gate, she said: "I expect better ideas from the government to boost the economy, not this nonsense.''
    Unemployment Cost
    Eichel said revenue is falling from tobacco tax, which the government has increased twice this year, and from fuel tax, after oil prices rose to a record. In addition to the tax shortfall, Eichel said he has had to reduce his estimate for next year's profit from the Bundesbank to 2 billion euros from 3.5 billion euros, while rising unemployment will increase 2005 government spending on welfare by 3 billion euros more than originally forecast. German unemployment rose for a ninth straight month in October, keeping the jobless rate at a five-year high of 10.7%, the Federal Labor Agency said yesterday. The cumulative seasonally adjusted increase over those nine months is 189,000 jobseekers. KarstadtQuelle AG, the country's largest department-store operator, and General Motors Corp.'s Adam Opel AG unit last month announced the elimination of as many as 15,500 jobs in Germany. "The problems that we have can't be solved by additional spending cuts,'' Eichel said. He called on the opposition, which controls the upper house of parliament, to cooperate on cutting subsidies, such as those for homebuyers. By selling the Post and Telekom pension liabilities and future revenue, for which he doesn't need the approval of the opposition-ruled upper house of parliament, Eichel is taking similar action to France.
    French Precedent
    Electricite de France and Gaz de France, the state-owned power and gas utilities, will make one-time payments totaling at least 7 billion euros to the French government to transfer part of their pension liabilities to the state. Other deficit-cutting steps, such as eliminating tax breaks or withdrawing next year's planned cuts in income taxes worth 6.7 billion euros would require the approval of the upper chamber, making them more difficult to implement. Parliament's all-party budget committee completes the scrutiny of Eichel's 2005 draft budget Nov. 11. The finance minister is aiming to use record asset sales worth 15.4 billion euros to limit new borrowing to 22 billion euros.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Andreas Cremer in Berlin at acremer@bloomberg.net.
    To contact the editor of this story: Catherine Hickley at chickley@bloomberg.net

  11. VW deal called 'important signal' - Automaker offers job guarantees and gains cost-saving flexibility
    Frankfurter Allgemeine, Germany
    By Heidi Sylvester
    As talks with Volkswagen approached in September, the company's main union left no doubts about what it wanted: a 4% raise covering a 12-month period. "Every% is a% for the economic upturn," it proclaimed. But after negotiators finished their agreement on Wednesday, the IG Metall was praising something besides money: It was the job guarantees for 103,000 workers at Volkswagen's six plants in western Germany that had become the centerpiece of the union's negotiating ability. "A compromise has been found in which both sides emerge as winners," said trade unionist Waldemar Drosdziok. The highlights include: W workers have won a company pledge of job security until 2011. They will receive a one-time payment of EUR1,000 each in March for agreeing to a pay freeze that runs throughout the 28-month contract. And workers, who have a 29-hour workweek as standard, will be paid overtime once they reach the 40th hour of work instead of the 35th hour.
    [This must refer to the 28.8-hour workweek that VW came down to in 1994 to maintain jobs and avoid the 30,000 layoffs that would have killed their HQ town of Wolfsburg in Saxony.]
    The ramifications of the deal extend well beyond Europe's biggest automaker. They also have a national meaning for an economy that is wrestling with 4 million unemployed citizens, weak growth and tightwad consumers. "It's a very important signal for the international business world that we're able to solve our problems without labor disputes, unlike in many other countries," said Economics Minister Wolfgang Clement. One potential beneficiary is the country's entire engineering sector that also could take advantage of the more flexible working hours the automaker achieved. The negotiations were all the more important because Volkswagen is a symbol of postwar Germany's consensual model of labor relations. It was this unique position that made the standoff a test case for other companies wanting to cut labor costs. The IW, an economic institute in Cologne, has said labor costs in western Germany last year were more than six times higher than in the EU's 10 new member states. In response to such pressure, carmakers across the country have demanded concessions on wages and work rules as they struggle to reduce labor costs. Josef-Fidelis Senn, VW's chief negotiator, said the new deal represented an important step toward the EUR2 billion in cost savings identified as essential to improving the carmaker's competitiveness. The automaker had said it could eliminate 30,000 jobs, or move them to other countries, if it could not cut labor costs by 30% in seven years. Volkswagen reported a seventh straight decline in quarterly profit last week.

  12. Britain: Civil servants strike to defend jobs and services
    British Socialist Appeal Nov/2004 via In Defense of Marxism, UK
    The Blair government is putting the lessons it has learned in Iraq to good use in attacking workers at home. They have unleashed a campaign of shock and awe against their own workers in the civil service. Over the summer Gordon Brown casually announced plans for the biggest campaign of attacks on the civil service in the whole of history. After playing a game of chicken with the opposition to see who would go highest, Brother Brown outdid the Tories and emerged victorious having promised to sack one fifth of the service over the next three years ­ that is 104,000 staff from across all departments. In reality the government is playing Russian roulette. They have been heaping attacks on public sector workers for years and people are sick of it ­ the latest also includes, 20,000 jobs being relocated across the country from London and the South East, and a new proposal to change current terms and conditions, increase working hours, raise the age of retirement, and restrict the number of sick days people can take. The PCS union balloted all 265,000 members urging a bold yes vote to strengthen it's hand in negotiations. The members responded with a massive majority of two to one vote in favour of strike action. The union has called a one-day strike to take place on November 5th ­ this will be important in building the morale of the members for the struggle ahead. The government are trying to build public support for their actions ­ they have said that they are driving through these cuts in order to improve the service ­ work that one out! How can cuts possibly improve the service? They have said that money will be diverted from Œwasteful' behind the scenes work into more frontline services. They are not telling us that for every one on the front line there has to be at least another one behind the scenes backing them up. These cut are designed to save money by running the service down and nothing more. The governments plans will devastate services which every member of society uses ­ anyone applying for a passport, receiving tax credits, or sitting a driving test will suffer from these cuts. And of course the first to suffer are the civil service workers themselves who are right at the point of attack. If the cuts go through the employer will be in a strong position to launch an all-out offensive on the conditions that these workers have built up over generations of struggle. It is essential that the whole movement gets behind this struggle, and gives its full support to the civil service workers. This dispute will not be a pushover. The government has shown in the past that it is determined to take the unions on. One way or another only an organised and determined fight will put a stop to these plans and save the jobs. But this struggle is also a political one. The Labour Government has been working in the interests of the bosses for years ­ now they have turned on their own workers. We have to put a stop to this now. The unions must use this dispute to mobilise against the Tories who are leading our party, to reclaim it and put forward socialist policies in the interests of working people....

  13. Brits continue to flock abroad
    by Michael Clarke, This Is Money via This is London, UK
    The demand for overseas properties looks set to show little respite with over 6m Britons looking to purchase homes abroad. Research by Mintel found rising levels of disposable income, the growth of low-cost airlines and the proliferation of television programmes focusing on living abroad was driving demand. Spain is still the most popular destination and the value of new homes purchased is set to nearly double from £12bn today to £21bn in 2009. As a nation we own over 1m second homes, of which 550,000 are overseas. In the past 12 months, Brits have purchased 75,000 Spanish properties at an average cost of £160,000. It is estimated that in 2009 that figure will grow to nearly 100,000 homes a year. Jack Hamilton, managing director of Parador Properties, said: 'The market has been fuelled by an increase in disposable income, and equity in our homes. 'Personal disposable income has risen by 20% since 1998, and with house prices over the same period rocketing, people have more cash to spend on luxuries and investment purchases.' The report added that gripes with education, crime, pollution, terrorism and long working hours in the UK was also fuelling demand to move overseas. Other overseas property markets which are likely to see growth include Florida, France, Portugal and Cyprus. However, countries touted as growth destinations, such as Bulgaria and Croatia, arenŒt likely to see significant growth because of a lack of infrastructure. Those aged between 45 and 54 are most likely to be interested in purchasing an overseas property, according to the report, with the majority of these likely to be within the ABC1 category band. Increasing numbers of people are funding overseas home purchases by releasing equity in their homes. Hamilton said: 'Owning a property abroad is no longer for the well off, it is an achievable goal for many people.' Mintel head of consultancy Helen Osman said: 'Although growth is likely to drop off from its current level, it is still expected to be strong over the next five years.'

  14. Why we work hardest in UK
    By Jonathan Walker, Birmingham Post via ic Birmingham.co.uk, UK
    The industrious people of Sandwell have officially been named the hardest workers in the country. But residents of Herefordshire appear to be clock-watchers who leave the office as soon as they can.
    Our working habits have been revealed in a new official survey showing how many hours workers across the country put in each week. It exposed the most dedicated and the most idle regions of England - and also highlighted the pay gap between different parts of the country. Black Country MP Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich West) last night said Sandwell's tradition of hard work was a result of its manufacturing heritage. But he said it was essential to improve the balance between work and family life.
    On average, West Midland employees have a working week of 34 hours 36 minutes - exactly the same as the England average. Men in the region spend 39 hours at the office or factory floor while women work for 29 hours 42 minutes. However, there are wide variations within the region. There is also a big difference in the working hours of men and women. For example, The figures, published by the Office of National Statistics, refer only to paid employment and make no account for other forms of work such as caring for children or relatives. There also seems to be a link between hard work and wages. The north-south divide is still a major factor, however. In the wealthy Islington district of London, they work for 36 hours a week. But despite clocking off before Sandwell employees they earn far more, with gross weekly salaries of £755.80.
    [Finally we get to the main determinant - proximity to London.]
    In England as a whole, the average weekly salary is £427.40. Although West Midlanders earn below the national average, their incomes are higher than those of workers in the North East or Yorkshire and Humberside. Mr Watson said the figures proved what Sandwell residents had always known. He said: "Here in Sandwell, we aren't scared of doing a hard day's work and these official figures prove it once and for all."
    [Not scared of a long day's work but apparently scared of having a family life or even having a life.]
    The MP added: "Our industrial heritage in the Black Country means that we don't shirk work and I'm not surprised that people here have been found to work harder than the rest of the country.
    [Welcome to the world of competition with robots and suckers for CEOs.]
    "I hope our hard-working reputation will be a boost for Sandwell and help to attract more businesses, jobs and investment to the borough."
    [But what's Sandwell's unemployment, welfare, homeless, prison, early retired, self-'employed' etc. situation?]
    But he warned that there must be a proper balance between work and family life. [Oops! Suddenly a little damage control.]
    "The Government has rightly introduced new rights to protect people at work, like the minimum wage, the 48-hour working week limit and four weeks guaranteed paid holiday," he said. Maternity leave had been increased and paternity leave had been introduced, he added.
    [Subsidisation of reproduction in an age of overpopulation?]
    "But we need to do more to stop workers from being exploited by introducing further rights at work, such as paid bank holidays for all workers, and continuing to increase the minimum wage."
    [Wage raises and the introduction of further benefits should be handled indirectly by sufficient workweek reduction to create enough of a perceived labor 'shortage' to harness market forces in flexibly achieving these goals, instead of dragging in government to deliberately set arbitrary versions of these goals and then micromanagingly enforce them - usually too little too late or, as here, empty rhetoric.]

  15. Civil servants get set to join strike
    Cambridge Evening News, UK
    As many as 600 Cambridge civil servants could join a national strike tomorrow. Members of the Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union will be forming picket lines in protest at Government plans to cut 104,000 civil and public service jobs. Union members say the cuts will lead to poorer public services in many areas. and that those on benefits and state pensions will be affected. In Cambridge, about 500 staff at Eastbrook, Brooklands Avenue, could join the action. The offices house the Government Office for the East of England, DEFRA, and the Inland Revenue. Up to 150 Department for Work and Pensions staff could strike at Henry Giles House, Chesterton Road, and other DWP offices, JobCentres and agencies in Cambridgeshire could be affected. Nigel Anthony, PCS secretary for the Inland Revenue at Eastbrook, said the aim was to raise the public's awareness of the job cuts and the impact they could have. He said the Government proposals meant staff would no longer be entitled to sick pay for the first two or three days off work, or to a pension until the age of 65. "It is going to mean a poorer service for everyone - benefits, state pensions, job seekers' allowance - all kinds of services are going to be affected," he said. He added many of the Inland Revenue's services would be hit tomorrow and could mean longer waiting times for customers. Anne Packer, Cambridgeshire DWP branch secretary of the PCS, said union members planned to close Henry Giles House for the day. A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said: "As far as the strike itself is concerned, the priority is to minimise the impact on our service, including any office closures. Although it may delay things, it will not halt services."
11/04/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/03 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. Analysis: EU losing ground on reforms
    World Peace Herald, United States
    By Gareth Harding
    BRUSSELS - The European Union may not be very good at creating jobs and producing goods people want to buy, but when it comes to setting up high-level working groups and churning out reports, it is a world leader.
    [Since when has the EU not been very good at producing goods people want to buy? That distinction would have to belong increasingly to the US as GM and other US companies starve for markets. And as for creating bogus makework jobs, that distinction also belongs to the fat-filled USA. The EU should stick to what it's good at; namely, sharing market-demanded work instead of creating artificial jobs with staged wars and inflated prison systems like the big has-been, the USA.]
    Most of the papers penned by EU officials either end up in the recycling bin or gathering dust on shelves, but a report drawn up by former Dutch premier Wim Kok Wednesday will prove harder to ignore.
    [Only by the stuffed-shirt sycophants of the shortsighted super-rich, who fear they're losing control on the populace because of the spread of that most basic of all freedoms, free time.]
    Commissioned by EU leaders in March, the study is a mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy - the ambitious set of social and economic reforms agreed by European heads of state four years ago. Then, with the dot-com boom in full-swing, unemployment falling and growth rates chugging along at over 3%, the goal EU leaders set themselves of becoming the world's most competitive economy by 2010, looked ambitious but not impossible. Now, it has become a distant dream which even outgoing European Commission President Romano Prodi believes is unachievable.
    Asked what his greatest regret was after five years at the helm of the EU executive, the former Italian prime minister said "implementing the Lisbon strategy." Blaming the "short-sightedness of member states," Prodi told United Press International the aim of overtaking the United States by the end of the decade was "realistic when it was written, but if you don't face the consequences and don't accept the instruments to meet the goals of course you will miss the targets."
    The Kok report - which European leaders will discuss at a Brussels summit Thursday and Friday - concludes the EU is not only failing to make progress towards reaching the targets it set itself in 2000, but is falling further behind the United States and south-east Asian economies in some key areas. The goal of raising the percentage of people in work to 70% by 2010 is unlikely to be achieved, with current rates hovering around 63 percent.
    Likewise the target of increasing the employment rate of older workers to 60% by the end of the decade now looks like a pipe dream. There also is grim news on research and development spending - where only two of the EU's 25 countries exceed Lisbon's 3% of GDP target - and on labor productivity, which has fallen in comparison to the United States and Japan.
    If the situation is bad now, it is about to get worse in the future as a result of the aging of Europe's population - which the commission estimates will knock 1% off growth rates by 2020 - and the recent entry of 10 poorer countries into the EU club, the report warns. "Nothing less than the future prosperity of the European model is at stake," Kok concludes in his long-awaited study.
    Europeans cherish their way of life. They enjoy short working hours, long holidays, early retirement, generous welfare systems and excellent schools, hospitals and railways. But is this way of life sustainable?
    [The early retirement and generous welfare, no. The short hours and long vacations, yes. In fact, short working hours are necessary for the sustainabilty of the system in the context of inflooding worksaving technology. Otherwise you get huge technological production capability mismatched with tiny human consumption capacity, tiny because there are too few long-hours jobs to employ enough consumers to buy all the technology-amplified production.]
    With fewer and fewer workers paying for more and more non-workers and welfare bills spiraling out of control, Kok's conclusion is a blunt 'no.'
    Like Prodi, the left-leaning former leader of the Netherlands blames EU governments for failing to implement some of the measures - cutting hiring costs, trimming social security budgets, investing in education, training and new technologies - that heads of state signed up to in the Portuguese capital. "Member states have not delivered on their promises," he told journalists Wednesday. "Rhetoric and delivery do not always go hand in hand."
    France and Germany are two of the worst culprits, ignoring EU fiscal rules and single market regulations, while failing to push through the painful reforms needed to make their economies more competitive and their social security systems more sustainable. But few EU countries, with the exception of the Nordic states, are in any position to boast about their house-keeping.
    "The problem with Lisbon is not technocratic, it's political," says Paul Hofheinz, President of the Lisbon Council, a Brussels-based free market think tank "At the end of the day, as long as it remains political suicide for politicians to put reform plans on the table in their countries, there will not be any reform." Fierce resistance to French and German attempts to make even minor changes to welfare rules have proved how difficult the task is in Europe.
    The crux of the problem is that economic policy is largely decided in national capitals, not Brussels, and EU leaders are therefore under no legal obligations to meet the targets they have agreed to. Few would argue with Kok's proposals for resuscitating the Lisbon strategy - which largely rely on member states drawing up their own reform plans. The question is: what difference will they make if EU governments are free to ignore them?
    British member of the European Parliament Arlene McCarthy believes it is time to "name and shame" countries that refuse to take the economic medicine prescribed. "Where we have cases of serial offenders who can not or will not enforce the rules, we need to stop talking targets and see decisive delivery. I believe that a Lisbon score board will show up the laggards and the leaders."
    This has been tried before - with the single market and EU environmental policy - but where national interests clash with European interests, Brussels rarely emerges as the winner.
    [And another version of the same nonsense -]
    Europe losing growth race, says report
    by David Gow, The Guardian, UK
    BRUSSELS - The EU is in danger of being relegated from the economic super-league because of its failure to match the US and Asia in growth, productivity, innovation and competitiveness, a high-level report warned political leaders yesterday on the eve of their latest summit.
    [Asia is only growing because of dumb-parasite access to US and EU markets, dumb-parasite access because its access destroys worker-consumers in those economies and is inherently unsustainable and temporary. The economic super-league of the USA depends on getting GDP-growth brownie points for committing suicide with staged wars, bloated prison systems and megamultipley reduplicated mini-medical insurance systems that together cover only 83% of its population and constitute one of the biggest private-sector makework campaigns since the truckers' lobby clobbered US freight rail.]
    The report, drawn up by industrialists, trade unionists and business academics under Wim Kok, the former Dutch premier, paints a withering picture of Europe as unable to modernise its ailing economy and ill-prepared for the challenges of declining birth rates and rising life expectancies.
    Mr Kok's team, including Niall FitzGerald, Reuters chairman, and Will Hutton, Work Foundation chief executive, wants the European commission to name and shame countries in the 25-strong EU which fail to live up to "national action plans" to implement the much heralded Lisbon strategy.
    The EU set itself the target, at Lisbon in 2000, of overtaking the US by 2010 to become the world's "most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy... capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion and respect for the environment."
    The Kok report, to be discussed by EU leaders today, makes plain that Europe is further from reaching that goal than it was four years ago and the growth gap with north America and Asia, notably China and India, has widened. It calls for comprehensive reform of the eurozone's stability and growth pact to make it more geared towards higher growth and employment.
    "Time is running out and there can be no room for complacency; better implementation [of the Lisbon strategy] is needed now to make up for lost time," it argues.
    Mr Kok said: "Even if every target were to be hit on schedule Europe would not be on safe ground."
    With forecasts for eurozone growth being downgraded because of surging oil prices, Mr Kok accused governments of being long on rhetoric and short on action. "This is a credibility test for all involved to see if we can really mean what we say and can deliver what we promise," he told reporters.
    His team's 50-page report, designed to stimulate a fresh approach by EU leaders at their spring summit next year, warns that low-wage China and India can already match Europe in quality of goods and services and says that the US threatens to consolidate its leadership in IT and R&D.
    By 2050, the EU's working-age population will have shrunk by 18% and the numbers aged over 65 will have risen by 60%, doubling the dependency ratio to 50%, says the report. The EU's potential growth rate of 2%-2.25% will drop, through ageing, to 1.25% by 2040, with GDP per head 20% lower.
    Spending on pensions and healthcare will, as a result, rise by between 4% and 8% of GDP by 2050, with the depressed growth rate hitting public finances from as early as 2010.
    These problems, the authors say, are exacerbated by the EU's recent expansion to include 10 poorer members and by a decline in average annual growth in output per head and productivity below that of the US. "From holding its own, Europe is now losing ground."
    The Kok team argues that Europeans should work more hours on a lifetime basis, with older employees encouraged to stay at work beyond the retirement age, and companies should invest more, especially in R&D.

  2. [And against Kok's sucky nonsense -]
    Dublin hosting EU conference on 'work-life balance'
    Ireland Online, Ireland
    An EU conference on "work-life balance" is taking place in Dublin today. A recent survey found that one fifth of Europeans feel they cannot fulfil their family responsibilities because of long working hours. Today's conference was arranged to discuss ways to ease the burden on workers and improve their quality of life by introducing more flexible working arrangements. The EU hopes this can attract more people into the workforce, particularly women and the elderly, while also preventing others from leaving their jobs due to pressure and strain. Speaking ahead of the event, Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin said: "The main message is that we do need to develop a structure and an environment that's conducive to the family work-life balance. "Basically, that means more innovative ways of allowing people to come to work in terms of 'flexi-time'. If you look after your staff in that context, you will retain your staff and it's a very good way of retaining skilled people in the workforce."

  3. Race issue flares in Ireland as foreign workers rise
    The Globe and Mail, Canada, Page C7
    Compiled by Douglas McArthur
    Record numbers of immigrants are being granted permits to work in Ireland, the country's Justice Minister Michael McDowell said Monday as he launched a week-long campaign against racism in the workplace. Last year, for the first time, race was the No. 1 issue dealt with by the country's equality watchdog. Almost a third of the files handled by the Equality Authority involved breaches of employment protection laws based on race including excessive working hours, non-payment for overtime, illegal deductions from pay, lack of holiday pay, harassment and dismissal. Mr. McDowell said the country - which for decades had experienced waves of emigration - now has record numbers of people coming from abroad to work.

  4. Expert: Better education key to keeping jobs
    Bradenton Herald, FL
    WENDY DAHLE
    LAKEWOOD RANCH - Offshoring is a word people have become familiar with during this presidential election. Some believe that U.S. companies that contract their services to other countries have contributed to a stale U.S. economy. Because of this perception, offshoring became an election issue. A visiting economic expert told local business leaders Tuesday that American business may be at fault for a stagnant U.S. economy - and offshoring may be one reason. Economic futurist Ed Barlow, president of Creating the Future Inc., told more than 100 people at the Suncoast Workforce Board's annual meeting that America is taking itself out of consideration for high-paying technical jobs by lagging behind other countries in knowledge and economic trends. New technology and opportunities in biotechnology, nanotechnology, life sciences and mechatronics are converging to force U.S. companies to offshore jobs to companies more willing to adapt to a changing world. "It's a knowledge economy," Barlow said. "The potential for failure is great." The world is headed for significant change in its work force and economy, Barlow told the audience assembled at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club. Barlow spoke in detail about creating a competitive economic and work force advantage, and how the Workforce Board can align itself to do just that. After his speech, Barlow planned to work with the Suncoast Workforce Board in strategic planning for the area's employers and employees. Workforce Board executive director Mary Helen Kress said Barlow's innovative ideas will be a tremendous asset. "At least it gives emphasis more fully what we're trying to accomplish with the school systems," Kress said. The Workforce Board is working closely with businesses and schools to marry needs and curriculum. Barlow said the key to companies being successful in the 21st century is to be aligned with rapid changes in the economic structural system. "Failing to recognize structural change will have serious consequences," he said. The serious consequences include offshoring valuable jobs to people who are better educated in technology and who will work more hours for less money. For example, one-half of the clothing sold in the U.S. is made in China, Barlow said. "We need to increase our competitiveness," he said. "Within 10 years, India and China will have a more educated, more credentialized base than we do." The U.S. didn't get it when other countries were moving to the forefront in technology and education, he said. "We will never go back to the manufacturing we had 10 years ago," Barlow said. "The cyclical recovery is gone." In order to counteract the trend, this country, and Florida in particular, needs to attack the problem of outscoring valuable jobs with a "sense of urgency," he said. He suggested more career exploration for young children, better science and math education, more two-year degree options for young people, and more attention to continuing education of baby boomers. Companies at a higher risk for displacing workers need to be evaluated. Displaced workers need to be evaluated and their skills kept current in light of a global economy. Two-thirds of the jobs created today pay less than what was lost from globalization, Barlow said He said keeping current with the rest of the world means a different labor pool than everyone is used to. America could bring jobs back home if it could compete with other countries that are transnational, he said. U.S. schools are deficient in "transnational knowledge," meaning young people are not keeping up with the same technology and skills as those in other countries. "We have an education system that needs to shift to a learning system," Barlow said. Part of the problem in Florida is the state ranks 36th out of the 50 states in teacher salaries, he said. "Everybody has to be in continuous learning," Barlow said. Higher taxes are needed in some cases to provide for better education opportunities, he said. Some states are already looking at taking the necessary steps to keep its work force competitive in the global marketplace. South Carolina has already invested $90 million in mechatronics research, the combination of mechanical, electrical and technical engineering. Minneapolis is the first city to have college graduates in nanotechology. Other states, hopefully, will soon be following their example, Barlow said. "We need to rethink the implications of what we're doing," he said. "Everything's getting smarter."

  5. Not Enough Docs
    Ivanhoe via Ivanhoe Newswire
    For years, medical experts have been telling us there are too many doctors in the United States. Now, an article published in this month's Annals of Internal Medicine written by Medical College of Wisconsin physician Richard A. Cooper, M.D., suggests we are really facing a future with not enough doctors. Why the change in tune? Dr. Cooper says the problem is pretty simple. He says, "The number of physicians is no longer keeping up with population growth." Dr. Cooper cites trends linking economic growth to increased health care spending, an aging population that may need more health care services, the growing tendency of doctors to work fewer hours, and the experiences of other developed nations, which have already witnessed physician shortages of their own. The shortage has been somewhat masked, says Cooper, by the growth in the number of non-physician practitioners and doctors trained in other countries who have come to the United States to practice. More recent studies suggest those influences are waning. For example, a recent survey taken among U.S. medical school deans found 85% reported physician shortages. Dr. Cooper writes, "Taken together, this body of information indicates that physician shortages are emerging and that they will probably worsen over the next two decades. By 2020 or 2025, the deficit could be as great as 200,000 physicians - 20% of the needed workforce." What's needed now, adds Dr. Cooper, is a greater appreciation of the problem on the part of policymakers and a consensus on its solution.

  6. NHS 24 festive leave suspended
    Evening Telegraph, UK
    Staff leave at NHS 24, the nurse-led advice service for Tayside and Fife, has been suspended for the festive period only. NHS 24's associate medical director, Dr Drew Smart, stressed that any impression that all annual leave had been cancelled was "wholly inaccurate". His statement followed a meeting he attended with Tayside health bosses in Dundee, where concerns were expressed about the quality of service delivered by NHS 24 in the three months since it began operating in Tayside. Members of NHS Tayside's divisional primary care committee were told the service is operating with more than 80 nurses fewer than planned. In a written paper presented to the board, Dr Joyce Meikle, NHS Tayside's out-of-hours medical director and a GP at Downfield Surgery in Dundee, said some patients were waiting 20 minutes just to get their calls answered. At busy times it could take them up to two hours for a nurse adviser to ring back. Dr Smart, associate medical director of NHS 24 with responsibility for the east of Scotland, admitted there was a shortage of staff and recruitment difficulties. He said, however, that extras nurses were due to come into the system before the festive period and the organisation would have a "considerably increased nursing cohort" to draw on at that time. He told the meeting, "All annual leave has been cancelled. Nobody is allowed to take holidays and we are relying on everyone working their days off." He later stressed that his comments referred to the festive period only and his staff were not having holidays cancelled at any other time. In a statement after the meeting, he said, "We have been increasing numbers of staff working at weekends and other busy periods through the use of overtime and the re-alignment of shift patterns including the introduction of weekend-only working. "NHS 24 has also significantly improved internal efficiency leading to shorter call lengths and a lower proportion of onward referrals. "All these measures have already increased our capacity at weekends. However, we are also making special staffing arrangements to cover the festive periods. "Annual leave for front-line staff has been suspended for the Christmas period only. However, each staff member will have either Christmas Day or New Year's Day as a rostered day off. "Staff are also being encouraged to take on additional shifts over the festive holiday period in the form of overtime and weekend working. "Our ongoing recruitment programme will mean that we will also have additional staff employed. "Our staff fully recognise that there are additional demands on the health service in general over Christmas and New Year. "The response we have had, particularly for Christmas and New Year, has been extremely supportive. "In addition, the overall number of nurses employed by NHS 24 has increased significantly over the past year and we are continuing a pro-active recruitment of nurse advisors. "More than a third of calls to NHS 24 are dealt with by NHS 24's nurse advisors, who provide clinical assessment and self-care advice without a need to make further referral during the out-of-hours period."

  7. Stressed Scots workers cost businesses £4 billion
    grampian tv, UK
    Thousands of Scots workers are suffering from stress every year and it's costing businesses almost four billion pounds. Today a new strategy has been launched to combat the illness and help Scottish companies battle with stress levels to create a healthier work environment. Pressure is part of everyone's life - both in and out of work - but for many that pressure builds sometimes to uncontrollable levels. And that can lead to stress. Work-related stress is a major problem in Scotland's workplaces - new figures say forty thousand Scots suffered the illness during the year between 2001 and 2002. It's costing UK companies thirteen million days off work a year and three point seven billion pounds. Now the Health and Safety Executive have moved to combat the problem before the nation reaches boiling point. They've launched a set of guidelines to help businesses manage stress levels focussing on six key areas, including demands, support and changes. The new strategy has been welcomed by union leaders who want to ensure employers implement the new strategy in the workplace. The new standards will be piloted at twenty organisations across the UK.

  8. Volkswagen Guarantees Jobs in Return for Wage Freeze (Update5)
    Bloomberg, United States
    Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest carmaker, agreed to guarantee the jobs of 103,000 German workers, avoiding a strike, in return for a wage freeze and cost cuts worth 2 billion euros ($2.54 billion) annually by 2011. The savings represent a 30% reduction in wage costs at six German plants, said Josef-Fidelis Senn, chief negotiator for Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen. The wage freeze is retroactive to Oct. 1 and lasts for 28 months, while the job guarantee runs through 2011, said Hartmut Meine, the IG Metall union's chief negotiator. Chief Executive Bernd Pischetsrieder demanded cost reductions in Germany, where labor expenses are about six times more than in countries such as Poland and unemployment is 10.7%, the highest level in five years.Volkswagen, which also builds vehicles in Poland and Slovakia, threatened to cut 30,000 jobs without the savings. IG Metall has lost half a million members over the past decade and struggled to win wage increases as companies including Siemens AG threatened to move jobs abroad. ``It's good for the company and for employees to get a deal because it avoids strikes in the future,'' said Axel Zeuner, fund manager at SEB Invest in Frankfurt, which oversees $8.5 billion, including Volkswagen shares. ``It is a step forward.'' Shares of Volkswagen fell 1.10 euros, or 3%, to 34.04 euros in Frankfurt. Volkswagen has declined 21% this year, making it the second-worst performer on Germany's DAX Index.
    Job Guarantees
    The stock fell because Volkswagen offered job guarantees that ``limit the company's maneuverability,'' said Marc-Rene Tonn, an analyst at M.M. Warburg in Hamburg who has a ``hold'' rating on the stock. The carmaker last week said third-quarter net income fell 65% to 76 million euros ($97 million), the seventh straight quarterly drop in profit. The company in July cut its full-year operating profit amid slowing growth in China, stagnant demand in Europe and plummeting sales in the U.S. Volkswagen's Western European sales fell 2% in September and its market share in China is down by more than half since 2000 to 26%. The company last month offered buyers of the new Golf compact car 975 euros worth of incentives, including radios and heating and cooling systems, to spur sales as Toyota Motor Corp. gains market share in Western Europe. Volkswagen joins DaimlerChrysler AG, the maker of Mercedes luxury cars, and Siemens, Germany's largest engineering company, as major employers in Europe's largest economy that have reached accords with unions this year on smaller wage increases or longer working hours. German companies are expanding their investments in countries such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic where taxes, social benefits and pay are lower.
    Volkswagen Pay
    Volkswagen factory workers make an average of about 2,600 euros a month, said Joerg Koether, a spokesman for IG Metall. In addition, they receive holiday payments of about 1,120 euros and a vacation bonus of 816 euros. German workers receive five to 10 times as much as their Volkswagen colleagues in Poland and Slovakia, when the cost of all the benefits are included, he said. Siemens reached an agreement with workers at a factory in southern Germany today to reduce employment and cut wages in return for guarantees the company will keep the plant and rule out firing for three years. Siemens will reduce the workforce at the factory in Kirchheim to 175 from 228. The International Monetary Fund yesterday cut its forecasts for German economic growth for this year and 2005, citing the damping effect of persistent unemployment on consumer spending and companies' reluctance to buy new machinery and tools.
    German Economy
    German gross domestic product will probably expand 1.9% this year, the IMF said, revising a prediction issued in September of 2%. Next year, German GDP will expand 1.5%, the IMF added, lowering its forecast from 1.8%. The agreement also includes a one-time payment 1,000 euros in March for each worker, while the company agreed to make investments and ``concrete'' product plans for its German plants, Meine said. Wages of future employees will be lower than those of existing workers, Senn said. Volkswagen agreed that a new small sport- utility vehicle will be built in the company's main Wolfsburg plant beginning in 2007. The two sides have been in talks off and on since Sept. 15 in Hanover, Germany, and negotiated for more than 25 hours starting yesterday before reaching a settlement. The union's had demanded a 4% annual raise as well as job guarantees, while Volkswagen from the start wanted the wage freeze. ``This accord shows how things can be done,'' Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told reporters in Essen, Germany. ``They've achieved job security - for German workers - for seven years and given themselves a basis for economic planning.''
    Warning Strikes
    Workers staged warning strikes Nov. 1 Monday at the Wolfsburg factory, which employs almost half of the carmaker's western German workforce, following inconclusive talks on Nov. 1. About 6,000 employees at the commercial-vehicles factory in Hanover participated in demonstrations yesterday. ``We achieved our goal of securing jobs, not just for today, but for the future,'' Meine said. ``The talks were among the most difficult I have experienced because of the complexity of the issues,'' said Senn. Pischetsrieder warned in September that a strike by workers in Germany might bring the automaker's production to a stop worldwide. There has never been a full strike at Volkswagen. ``We said all along that the only way we could guarantee jobs is to remain competitive,'' said Senn.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Van Loon in Frankfurt at jvanloon@bloomberg.net.
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net

  9. German Unemployment Rises for Ninth Month in October (Update3)
    Bloomberg, United States
    German unemployment rose for the ninth month in October, keeping the jobless rate at a five-year high of 10.7%, as companies including Volkswagen AG threaten to fire thousands more workers to counter falling earnings. The number of jobseekers in Europe's largest economy rose a seasonally adjusted 12,000 to 4.46 million, the Nuremberg-based Federal Labor Agency said. Economists expected an increase by 15,000, the median of 41 forecasts in a Bloomberg survey showed. The International Monetary Fund yesterday cut its forecast for German growth in 2005 to 1.5%, the weakest in the euro area, saying the 'poor job market' is damping consumer spending. Volkswagen and state-owned railway Deutsche Bahn AG are among companies seeking concessions from unions on cutting labor costs. ``We haven't reached the growth rates yet that would prompt hiring,'' said Randolf Rodenstock, chairman of the supervisory board of Munich-based eyeglass maker Rodenstock GmbH, in an interview. Rodenstock, which employs 4,500 people worldwide, agreed with the IG Metall union in August to cut around 300 staff at its plant at Regen in Bavaria. The increase in German unemployment underlines the divergence between the economy of the 12 nations sharing the euro and the U.S. and U.K. The U.S. jobless rate probably held at 5.4% in October as 175,000 jobs were created, a Bloomberg survey of 68 economists showed. The Labor Department releases the report on Friday. The U.K. unemployment rate held at a 29-year low of 2.7% in September. German stocks rose and the euro fell against the dollar as President George W. Bush led John Kerry in vote counting after yesterday's presidential election. The benchmark DAX Index gained 17.85 points, or 0.4%, to 4055.42 as of 11 a.m. in Frankfurt. The euro declined to $1.2713 from $1.2744 late yesterday in New York.
    `Gradual Spillover'
    The IMF said yesterday it expects the surge in exports that have driven Germany's recovery this year from three years of economic stagnation to ``only gradually spill over to investment and employment, and then to consumption.'' Retail sales fell for the second month in three in September, declining 0.4% from August, the Federal Statistics Office said yesterday. General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, and KarstadtQuelle AG, the country's largest department-store operator, both said Oct. 14 they plan to cut staff in Germany. GM said it will shed as many as 10,000 jobs at its Adam Opel AG subsidiary while the unprofitable retailer announced an agreement with a union to cut 5,500 jobs and sell almost half its outlets.
    `Customer Unease'
    KarstadtQuelle today reduced its annual earnings and sales forecast, citing ``a reluctance to buy due to customer unease.'' The HDE association of German retailers said on Oct. 26 sales will decline 0.5% this year after falling 1.2% in the first eight months. Germans' savings ratio, the unspent portion of their disposable income, rose to 11% in the second quarter from 10.8% in the first three months, according to figures published by the Bundesbank. German manufacturers are increasingly planning to cut staff as the outlook for business over the next six months worsens, the Ifo economic institute said Oct. 28. A survey of 21,500 small businesses published today by the ZDH group, representing 860,000 companies, forecast that employment in the sector will fall by 100,000 next year.
    Volkswagen Talks
    German labor unions have become more willing to forego wage increases for their members in return for job security. IG Metall last week halved its initial demand for 4% more pay at Volkswagen, offered to accept pay cuts of as much as 10% for new hires and pledged greater flexibility on working hours. Volkswagen, which has had seven straight declines in quarterly profit, is aiming to cut its wage bill by 30% by 2011. It said Sept. 30 it may cut as many as 30,000 jobs, or almost one fifth of its German workforce, without a pay freeze. The company and union this morning resumed negotiations after failing to reach an agreement yesterday. DaimlerChrysler AG and Siemens AG have reached accords with IG Metall this year on smaller wage increases or longer working hours. German unit labor costs, a measure that includes labor costs and labor productivity, are 16 percent higher than the average of the country's main foreign competitors, according to the Cologne-based IW economic institute. Staff numbers are also being reduced in the public sector. Defense Minister Peter Struck said yesterday that a fifth of Germany's military bases will be shut, leading to the loss of 75,000 civilian and armed-forces jobs by 2010.
    Oil Prices
    Germany's BDI industry group said Oct. 25 executives may also be deterred from investing by record oil prices, cutting 0.5 percentage points off economic growth next year. Four days earlier the BGA exporters' group cut its forecast for growth in 2005 to just 1.25%, saying oil prices will remain ``clearly above'' $40 a barrel. Growth in the euro region's services industry, such as tourism and banking, held close to a year low in October, a survey compiled for NTC Research Ltd. for Reuters Group Plc showed today. In the U.K., a similar index unexpectedly increased.
    `Political Failure'
    Persistent unemployment and weak domestic demand will continue to be a burden on the German economy, economists including Joerg Kraemer at Invesco Asset Management in Frankfurt say. ``The failure of the political parties to implement real labor-market and tax reforms'' will restrain the economy in the months ahead,'' he said in a note to investors yesterday. Still, the number of people in employment in Germany rose by a seasonally adjusted 5,000 in August, the eighth consecutive increase, the labor agency said, citing an increase in part-time work and self-employment. Figures for employment lag behind those for joblessness by two months. ``There have been signs of a stabilization in the German labor market since summer but a clear build-up in payrolls is not in sight,'' said Elisabeth Andreae, an economist at Commerzbank AG in Frankfurt, who expects the cost of oil and slower world trade to damp German growth next year. ``The recovery is still moderate; unemployment will decrease only gradually.'' The IMF said Germany has made ``important headway'' over the past year in making its labor market more flexible, even though ``further reforms will be needed to raise potential output growth.'' Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who will be seeking a third four-year term in 2006, has enforced Germany's first cuts in jobless benefits since World War II and reduced workers' protection against being fired in an attempt to spur hiring.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Rainer Buergin in Berlin at rbuergin1@bloomberg.net.
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Catherine Hickley at chickley@bloomberg.net

  10. Truckies using drugs Seven.com.au, Australia
    REPORTER: Paul Makin
    Fatigue and drugs don't mix for truckies
    Some truck drivers and their wives have revealed the deadly combination of speed, fatigue and drugs that could be contributing to truck related deaths on our roads. Many truckies are under enormous pressure to deliver loads as quickly as possible and with recent deaths involving truckies, grieving families are now demanding action. University of New South Wales Professor, Anne Williamson, said her extensive research shows drugs and excessive work hours is just a part of truckie culture. "It's quite clear the answer lies in reducing the demands on truck drivers," she said, "I think the whole industry has unrealistic expectations of what people can do when they are fatigued." One truckie wife who knows of the demands placed on drivers is Vicki Campbell. "I just woke up and heard a knock on the door , woke up, and I just said you know, the door's unlocked, and just went out there and the police were at the front door and told me what happened," she said. Sleep deprivation cost Vicki's husband Darri, his life. "Darri could be driving up to two, three, four days without sleep whatsoever," she said. With amphetamines raging a war with his heavy eyelids, ...Darri Haynes was killed on a stretch of highway at Grafton, NSW. "They're pushed, Darri was pushed," said Vicki.

  11. Phasing out - Easing into retirement can be a boon to worker and company
    Newark Star Ledger, NJ
    BY DORY DEVLIN
    Retiring from a lifetime in the work force traditionally means cleaning out a desk or locker, the bittersweet moments of a retirement party and a sudden shift to a vastly different daily routine.
    Some people immediately take to newfound freedom. Others find themselves at loose ends with so many free hours. Some find they aren't financially ready to get by without a steady paycheck.
    Some retirees find their way back into the work force, on either a full- or part-time basis. But scholars and advocates for the senior work force say this process could be smoothed in ways that benefit both employers and employees.
    "Phased retirement can be absolutely ideal for workers and employers when it is fully voluntary and when workers fully understand what the offer entails," said Sara Rix, senior policy adviser for AARP, a lobbying group for older-than-50 Americans. "The decision must be based on individual circumstances and good financial planning and foresight, not, 'I would really love to work half time.' You don't want workers to opt for pensions at too early an age if they are not able to sustain themselves comfortably at a later retirement."
    Phased retirement essentially means a gradual reduction in work hours and responsibilities. Demographics suggest phased retirement could be a hot topic and a natural fit for a changing work force.
    In the next few years, the nation's 67 million aging Baby Boomers will begin to retire in large numbers, as the supply of younger workers is expected to shrink.
    Employers will be able to turn to their older workers: Nearly 70% of workers age 50 to 70 plan to work during retirement, or never retire, according to a 2003 AARP study.
    A survey by Watson Wyatt found one in three older workers would like to take advantage of phased retirement. Of those already in phased retirement arrangements, 28% said they are doing so because they need the income, while 42% are phasing out because they enjoy their work.
    So far, phased retirement seems a bit more common in academia.
    Twelve years ago Ernest Reock retired as director of Rutgers University's Center for Government Services. But you can still find the professor emeritus in his campus office a few days a week, or read a book he published last year on New Jersey's 1966 constitutional convention.
    For Reock, retirement meant the chance to shed his title of 32 years, but keep his office so he could continue researching, writing and lecturing -- on a reduced schedule.
    "I was frustrated in the latter years (as director.) There was so much administrative work, I didn't get a chance to do the research I like to do," he said. "When I retired, I decided to stick around and catch up with some of those things."
    Phased retirement also has been gaining ground in the past decade in fields such as health care, where workers are in high demand. Among all employers, it is catching on slowly, and mostly informally.
    Employers tell researchers they are open to phased retirement as a way to hold onto experienced talent, but they are not eager to make it a formal practice.
    "They are surprisingly open to it, but they want to keep control over who has the opportunity and when they have the opportunity," said Robert Hutchens, a Cornell University labor economics professor who authored a 2003 study on employer phased-retirement policies.
    About 13% of companies offer phased retirement, and another 13 percent plan to do so, according to a 2003 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. Yet Hutchens found although few companies report phased retirement as a formal written policy, 73% of companies would permit an older employee to reduce hours before official retirement.
    As the work force continues to age, however, phased retirement's foothold is uncertain, partly because of pension structures that limit wages and base pension amounts to the final years of service, which can render phasing out of work a costly choice.
    Health insurance may also be a hindrance. When phased retirement takes the form of reduced hours before official retirement, Hutchens found 34% of companies report health insurance coverage would cease, and another 26 percent say coverage would depend on the hours worked. When phased retirement means returning to work part time after official retirement, 31 percent of companies say the rehired retiree would receive no health insurance benefits.
    On the other hand, proposed changes in the Social Security program could encourage later retirement and allow older Social Security recipients to earn wages without losing benefits. Many seniors are living longer and healthier lives, and may be interested or in financial need of working beyond traditional retirement ages. Employers may look to hold onto them if a projected labor shortage materializes. "Phased retirement may be an idea whose time has come," Hutchens writes.
    On the AARP's 2004 list of 35 Best Employers for Workers Over 50, only a few have phased retirement plans in place. "We're seeing most of the models that are being tried out through the health-care system, mostly because they are experiencing labor shortages now," said Deborah Russell, AARP's manager of economic security and work issues.
    SSM Health Care, the St. Louis-based hospital system, is ahead of the crowd. Out of 23,000 employees, 142 employees age 60 to 65, and 231 older than 65, are phasing into retirement through reduced schedules.
    In the late 1990s, SSM Health Care took a closer look at its nursing shortage and found that 83% of its work force was female. Many were reaching the peak of their careers and were interested in cutting back on hours spent in their intense jobs, said Steven Barney, SSM's senior vice president of human resources. Some were retiring early and going to work for competitors part time. At a summit on the labor shortage, company executives asked, "Why would we want to lose our very best people just because they didn't want to work five days?" Barney said.
    If phased retirement becomes more widely offered, employees need to carefully evaluate whether the option meets their needs financially, especially if it means taking a lump-sum pension payout or a reduced pension because they are retiring earlier. When defined benefit pensions are taken in lump sum, companies can save money by eliminating the value of early-retirement subsidies, enhancements many employers added a decade ago to encourage older workers to leave.
    At Rutgers, Reock's arrangement allows him to collect his pension while maintaining access to his office and university resources. And there is another benefit, Reock said: "It's nice to go into the office at 9 o'clock or 9:30, when the rush hour is over, and come back home in the afternoon."
    Dory Devlin writes about small business. She can be reached at ddevlin@starledger.com or in care of The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, N.J. 07102
11/03/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/02 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. Does Hong Kong Work Too Much?
    cato.org
    by Marian L. Tupy (assistant director of the Project on Global Economic Liberty at the Cato Institute)
    Would forbidding people from working create more jobs and more wealth?
    [Defining a threshold on the workweek above which people must reinvest their earnings in hiring (and if necessary, training) is not "forbidding people from working", and it certainly does create more jobs by spreading the unautomated employment around, and it certainly does create more wealth because, in line with economists' own Principle of Marginalism (the marginal utility of capital; in other words, the disutility of concentrated money at the margin), it centrifuges the national income instead of concentrating it in the top brackets which are already spending as much as they care to, and by this $centrifugation: the less concentration, the more circulation. Contemporary economists have turned economics into a bit of an embarrassment, just as Ptolemaic astronomers did to astronomy prior to Copernicus and Galileo. Indeed, they not only claimed that the "planets" all, not just the Moon, went around the Earth, but they merged astronomy with astrology. Present-day economists often find themselves arguing against common sense. In this case, they're arguing against the such simple truisms that "sharing the work lightens the load", and Will Rogers' reckoning that "money's like manure; it's no good unless it's spread around." Economists, with their feet now at least 60% in religion, not science, attempt to bolster the current pecking order of position and positional goods, with intimidating econometric descriptions of the status quo that serve to lend it undeserved credibility and thereby bolster it, no matter how dysfunctionally it blocks feedback, versatility and adaptibility. They make repeated statements of pure faith that they have carefully avoided "doing the numbers" on - or that they've made a show of "doing the numbers on" but the numbers they've come up with, like the US election results of 2000, 2002 and 2004, disintegrate under close examination. The top plutocrats are getting sloppy and bored again, and in pushing the envelope further, are changing ever more obviously into kleptocrats who have nothing but contempt for everyone but their own dysfunctional and parasitic kind. Their chatter about efficiency is an ironic joke. We will see a number of places in this article that demonstrate flights in the face of common sense.]
    Some members of the Hong Kong legislative assembly think so. They have proposed a law that would shorten the workweek and limit the time that the people of Hong Kong would be allowed to work. Economic logic and experience show that the proposal will fail.
    [No, propagandists in the Cato Institute try to spin the proposal as a failure. The economic logic of marginalism shows that spreading values like employment around, as workweek reduction does, maximizes their utility. And economic experience shows the proposal will succeed - The proposal before the legislators rests on a misunderstanding that economists call "the lump of labor fallacy." That fallacy holds that the amount of work to be done is constant.
    [Nonsense. It's a truism, not a fallacy. And it holds that the amount of human employment being demanded is shrinking on a per-capita basis due to automation and robotics.]
    When productivity increases, the overall amount of available work declines and people lose their jobs.
    [We see this "fallacy" every day.]
    The remedy proposed is to spread that limited amount of work around. By that logic, discovery of any labor-saving device, ranging from the plough to the personal computer, eliminated work and killed jobs, thus worsening, rather than improving, human lives.
    [These devices are not labor-saving but work-saving. They don't kill jobs if worktime per person is reduced. They simply deliver the technological promise of providing more free time and making life easier for everyone. This is improves human lives rather than worsening them. However, CEOs who respond to worksaving technology by downsizing (mass layoffs) rather than "timesizing" (trimming workweeks) convert the promise of technology in terms of more free time into the curse of more unemployment. They also wind up with overproduction and underconsumption, because in laying off their workforce, they're weakening their consumer base. Those who sneer at the "lump of labor fallacy" presuppose an indefinite (ie: infinite) timeframe and faith in an unspecified job expansion at some other unspecified plant or in some other unspecified industry. It's pie in the sky. And if you presuppose infinity, of course everything in the equation is infinite. Why wouldn't human employment (or anything else for that matter) in infinity be infinite? The bogus argument based on presupposed but inexplicit assumptions of these faith healers has held back human freedom and progress long enough, because free time is the most basic of human freedoms.]
    That view is clearly absurd.
    [On the contrary, Tupy's view is absurd.]
    The loss of agricultural jobs, because of mechanization, did not result in mass unemployment.
    [It certainly did. That's why people moved from rural areas to the urban areas to find work in factories, and are still doing so today in China.]
    Two hundred years ago, the vast majority of Americans were farmers. Today, only 1.5% of the American workforce is employed in agriculture, yet they produce enough food to satisfy domestic consumption and exports to overseas.
    [Irrelevant.]
    What happened to all the "lost" jobs?
    [They were lost, period. The disemployed workers had to move and take worse jobs with longer year-round hours in cities under worse conditions and often with lower pay.]
    Workers whose labor was no longer needed in the agricultural sector found new jobs in the burgeoning industrial sector.
    ["Burgeoning" did not mean "prosperous for workers" until they organized unions and created a shortage of themselves and their skills by reducing the workweek from over 80 to 40 hours or under.]
    When mechanization made the industrial [he means manufacturing] sector more productive, people moved to the service sector to create yet more value.
    [Nonsense. They moved to the service sector because the workweek by then was frozen at the 40-hour level and as work became concentrated on fewer workers, people were forced to move again, again to another sector with lower pay and weaker demand.]
    Most recently, entirely new industries and millions of new jobs were created as a result of the high-tech revolution.
    [High tech is not a big part of the service sector and is not characterized by jobs for nearly the same percentage of the population as pre-mechanized agriculture and manufacturing offered. Most of the people driven into the service sector wind up working for minimum wages at Wal-Mart- or Macdonald's-type jobs.]
    In reality, the overall amount of work to be done depends on our ever-expanding needs, and the people and resources available to do the work. Because our needs are infinite, so is the amount of work that needs to be done. As long as people long for higher standard of living and the goods and services that make improvements in their lives possible, humanity will not "run out of work."
    [This guy is living in a dream world. The overall amount of work to be done depends not on our needs but on the spending power available to us to satisfy those needs. And as technology is used by CEOs to disemploy their own markets and create a chronic labor surplus, wages and spending power are driven down. Also, our "wants" may be infinite but our "needs" certainly are not infinite. This means that the new sectors that the mass layoffees are driven to are demanded less and less urgently. We need manufactured goods less urgently than we need food from agriculture. We need massages, retail nickknacks and the latest version of Windows from the services sector less urgently than we need furnaces and plumbing from manufacturing. The less urgent the demand for our work, the less we get paid - UNLESS we are a scarce commodity in short supply, which can only be achieved in peacetime by workweek reduction.]
    Unfortunately, some politicians occasionally put economic logic aside.
    [On the contrary, they sometimes realize that the logic of the neo-classical revolution in economics, the marginalist revolution, that CEOs have put aside applies to labor as well as to commodity prices.]
    For example, in 1998, the French government, under the leadership of socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, introduced a law that prohibited people from working more than 35 hours per week. According to the Economist magazine, Jospin himself thought that the law was a mistake, but he went ahead with it anyway in order to preserve the cohesion of his coalition government. The result?
    Mr Jospin's law increased the cost of doing business in France. People who work less produce less, and therefore they see their incomes fall.
    [No it didn't. It decreased the cost of doing business in France and much new investment was attracted (and now as Tupy's obsolete long-hours philosophy triumphs in the US, the dollar is sinking under the euro). Because business gained in flexibility, wages were frozen for a couple of years as more people were hired. Unemployment taxes on business were reduced because there were fewer unemployed - the unemployment rate went from 12.6% in 1997 to 8.6% in 2001 before the US-led recession clamped on, and even now French unemployment is still below 10%. And people had more free time to shop, and vacation - so bookstores and healthclubs and the travel industry and the leisure industry in general experienced a boom, exactly as is happening today in South Korea as they move there from a 44 to a 40-hour workweek. And the notion that people who work less produce less is a primitive pre-technological fallacy that reveals complete cluelessness of the effect of efficient worksaving technology. The whole impact of technology is to allow people to produce just as much or more in less time. Tupy has completely missed the boat on this. He's thinking in 17th-century terms before the Industrial Revolution. And if people are really seeing their incomes fall in a way uncompensated by more of the most basic freedom, free time, how come the 35-hour workweek is so popular with the French public? Wake up, Mr. Marian Tupy (assuming you're a male) - you are blinded by dogma.]
    The French government, however, declared that employers could not respond to the shortened workweek by reducing the incomes of their employees. As a consequence, employers redefined the "workweek." Coffee breaks, lunch breaks, and other rest periods are now being excluded from working-time sums.
    [So what. Better to work more intently for fewer hours and have more free time than go on the job for long hours of face time while playing Solitaire behind your boss's back. Better to go into work with priorities and make a visibile difference than just drift through an infinite 8-hours-plus day from coffee break to lunch break to coffee break to bathroom break etc. etc.]
    Another unintended consequence of a shorter workweek is wage stagnation. As for the unemployment figures, six years after the law was passed, French unemployment continues to hover at around 10%. [That's a lot less than the 12.6% it hovered at before the shorter workweek was voted in in 1997, and it would go down if the French shortened the workweek further instead of freezing it forever at the new arbitrary level of 35-hours, which has no more claim to permanence than their previous 39-hour level or their before-that 40-hour level or etc.]
    The failure of the legislation is now widely acknowledged.
    [Only by troglodytes who don't understand technology.]
    In October 2003, the French finance minister Francis Mer stated, "Fundamentally the 35-hour week was bad for our country."
    [= A statement unsupported by data and by the vast majority of French employees.]
    Western European labor markets are quite restrictive.
    [Relative to?]
    In comparison to Hong Kong, France, Germany and Italy are plagued by significantly higher unemployment.
    [Hong Kong is a very small and odd case. It is now part of People's China, so it is quite odd that this capitalist writer should be holding up as a positive comparison a chunk of Communist China. Before takeover by China, Hong Kong was a capitalist economy that enjoyed unusual benefits from being a kind of placenta between China and the rest of the world, mainly from the outside in, and this continues today, mainly from the inside out. In both cases, it is hugely export dependent, whereas France, Germany and Italy are not.]
    When unemployment rose in Hong Kong, the government refrained from restricting the labor market.
    [Thus moving Hong Kong away from its position in the First World of high wages toward China's Third World of low wages.]
    Without government interference, Hong Kong's economy saw unemployment decline from a high of 8.7% in May 2003 to 6.8% last month [Oct/2004?].
    [Meaningless without mentioning wage levels and degree of export dependency.]
    In just 16 months, Hong Kong's unemployment fell by 22%.
    [This is really getting misleading. It only fell 8.7-6.8= 1.9%. Let's cut the confusing switch of scales.]
    Between 1994 and 2003, the average annual unemployment rate in Hong Kong was 4.6%. Over the same time period, the average unemployment rate in France was 10.3%.
    [A meaningless comparison, because we have no information about whether the two populations define unemployment similarly (the US cooks up a "low" unemployment rate by excluding a lot of the problem from the index), and because from 1994 to 1997 France's workweek was 39 hours. Only in 1997 did French companies, worried by high unemployment (12.6%) and high unemployment taxes, seriously begin to move toward the 35-hour workweek that had been talked about since 1982. And the average unemployment rate in 2000-2001 when the 35-hour workweek really came in was less than 9%.]
    As the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) stated, "the empirical evidence points to a clear correlation between high levels of job protection and high levels of unemployment."
    [Shorter hours is not "job protection." On the contrary, it makes individual-case firing-for-cause easier, because people can find other jobs - with training - more easily.]
    Despite having a small territory and no natural resources, Hong Kong is one of the most prosperous places on Earth.
    [But also one of the most vulnerable because it is roughly 90% export dependent, while France, for example, is only about 10% export dependent. The comparison is invalid.]
    In 2003, Hong Kong's per capita income was higher than that of France. Hong Kong achieved that result because of the enterprising spirit of its people and a free economy.
    [Rubbish. It achieved that result because of being coddled by its new Communist masters in Peking and because of its position as a conduit in and out of that Third World economy with its vast poor population and hundreds of millions of unemployed.]
    It is important that Hong Kong retains a high degree of economic freedom and rejects proposals that would erode the flexibility of its labor market.
    [Full employment and a stronger domestic consumer base will only increase Hong Kong's high degree of economic freedom.] [And speaking of Hong Kong -]
    Hong Kong People Still Most Stressed in Asia: Survey
    Reuters
    HONG KONG - Asians are feeling under less stress these days but Hong Kong is an exception with levels almost unchanged, a new survey showed on Tuesday.
    About 32% of 4,700 respondents from Asia said they were feeling higher stress in a poll conducted between late 2003 and early 2004, down from 41% in the previous such poll in 2001, said Brand's Health Education Fund, which commissioned the poll.
    However, 39% of Hong Kong respondents were feeling more stress, only slightly down from 42% in 2001.
    "Asians generally experience lower levels of stress now than in 2001. Hong Kong is he exception where stress levels have remained unchanged," the poll said.
    The poll said the main sources of stress in Hong Kong included a heavy workload, financial problems and economic uncertainties.
    The economy is just recovering from years in the doldrums when bankruptcies and unemployment hit record highs. Companies in the former British colony have long been known for their long working hours.
    [Just like any Third World sweatshop.]
    The survey polled residents aged 15 and above from Hong Kong, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.
    About 40% of those in Taiwan said they were feeling more stress, the highest in the region but far lower than 51% in 2001.
    Only 22% of Thais were feeling more stress, the lowest in the region and down from 30% in 2001.

  2. [And speaking of how 'great' long working hours are -]
    Why violence in the office cubicle
    Economic Times via ECONOMICTIMES.COM, India
    LOPAMUDRA GHATAK
    "Anybody can become angry. But to be angry with the right person is not easy" goes a famous Aristotle saying. Anger known to be a destructive emotion, is famous for popping up at the most inopportune moments. And the workplace is no exception in new age culture. As a 24/7 workplace comes into effect, working hours have shot through the roof. The office has become more than just a staid and dull place to be. Long working hours have resulted in the workplace becoming almost a home outside home. And as familiarity breeds contempt, proximity can often lead to violence. Different kinds of personalities coming together can result in conflicting viewpoints and ideas. And often when endurance levels take a southward dip, many try and release their pent-up emotions physically. A conflict in viewpoint and notions, difficult to take in have often made professionals go aggressive. "I have not physically assaulted any of my colleagues ever, even when I have been terribly angry. But I have got very angry on numerous occasions and it has been difficult to contain anger," Promit Pal, an insurance broker, says. A conflict in view with colleagues or a tiff with a superior can precipitate violent behaviour at the workplace. Sometimes, violence may just be a result of naturally aggressive professionals, who are used to having their way around most situations. When this does not happen, many are unable to take this in their stride, resulting in violent behaviour and violence ranges from physical assault and verbal abuse to intimidation and low-level threatening behaviour. A workplace hazard, violent behaviour can often have a negative impact on the general office environment. Apart from creating a rift in inter-personal equations, it can also change group dynamics tremendously. When violence gets out of control, a lot of impulsive decisions are taken, which are regretted later on. "I remember once I had got a little worked up in a meeting and had actually held a colleague by his collar, because I did not agree with an opinion he had aired. Later when he became my boss, he gave me a tough time and literally forced me to put in my papers," Ambarish Basu, a sales executive, says. Forget long-term plans. Displaying excessive workplace aggression can impair one's prospects in the short-term as well. Apart from being termed as a workplace bully, those who resort to muscle power are often seen as engaging in an "unwelcome, intrusive behaviour whose actions stalls others from doing their duties," believes Mohini Sharma, a corporate counsellor. Often, the behaviour at the workplace can have a strong bearing on the personal front. Apart from brandishing the image and reputation, it also goes on to speak volumes about the state of mind and throws light on the state of personal affairs as well. "Bullying in office happens when professionals feel inadequate and insecure about their position. They often try and substitute it by being violent - verbally, psychologically, or physically. While some suffer from personality and mental health disorders, there are many who do it craving for attention," Sharma goes on to say. When unable to strike a balance between work and personal front, many professionals crack up. And sometimes the workplace just happens to bear the brunt of a ruptured mind, considering the amount of time one spends at the workplace. Buoyed by frustration and low tolerance level, many resort to aggressive behaviour with their colleagues and often blame others for their personal failures, defeats or woes. Not every violent outburst has a reason, but some common factors may apply in the workplace. Violent, abusive or threatening behaviour at work may have more to do with random hostility, of uncontrolled irritation, such as dissatisfaction with poor service or prolonged discomfort. "An ex-colleague of mine was going through a bad marriage. Since she was unable to release her emotions at home, she would get very violent at the workplace the moment something did not go according to her wishes. Finally, the HR guys had to step in and suggest that she take up counselling," Mridu Shekhar, an executive with a MNC call centre, says. Sharma suggests that violence at the workplace can be managed effectively by doing away with the opportunity for violent or threatening behaviour and companies need to effectively handle the situation. There should also be an outlet to vent frustrations and a forum to air their grievances to upper levels of management.

  3. Moody managers need more kip
    The Register, UK
    By John Oates
    One in four British managers is in a bad mood today because they aren't getting enough sleep, according to a report by think-tank Demos on behalf of flat-pack furniture monolith IKEA. Report author Charles Leadbeater said: "On any working day, a quarter of all managers in Britain are likely to be in a bad mood because they have not slept well. These sleep-deprived and shouty managers with a tendency to make mistakes are responsible for millions of British workers. It's hardly a recipe for good management." But while half of managers admitted that lack of sleep made them irritable and more likely to shout at staff, a measly 19% reckoned lack of sleep made them more likely to make mistakes. The reports authors believe that Britain's long working hours culture combined with lack of sleep is creating a vicious circle. Stressed working parents are the most likely to have their sleep disrupted and they are least able to recover. They believe we need to change our attitude to sleep and stop regarding people who work all hours as admirable and successful. In the future the report predicts there will be a growing market for products and services for the sleep-deprived. It predicts automatic "shut-eye pods", like public toilets which you can sleep in without getting arrested. The report's authors also believe napping at work will become more common and that employers will start to take their workers' sleep more seriously. It suggest people most at risk of losing sleep should be offered "catch-up days" to pay off their sleep deficit.

  4. Greenville Hospital System lays off 57 employees
    by Chris Rees, AP via WIS, SC
    GREENVILLE, N.C. - Officials with Greenville Hospital System say 57 employees have been laid off in a cost-saving move. Officials say some other workers have had their hours reduced. Doug Dorman with the hospital says affected employees work in administration, pastoral care, finance and other departments. Dorman says most were support positions and not involved in direct patient care. He says 24 of the workers accepted other positions in the hospital. Four workers took part-time jobs. Dorman says no other cuts are planned. The hospital does not plan to fill 85 vacant positions. The hospital is seeking 151 full-time employees in various categories. Dorman says the hospital reduced the work week of more than 100 other employees from 40 hours to 37.5 hours.

  5. Flex time 'no-brainer' for firms - A little freedom goes long way in raising employees' output
    By Stacey Hirsh, Baltimore Sun via Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, IN
    The door is constantly swinging at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Rockville, Md.: Janet McNichol leaves early some days to take a photography class or watch her sons' baseball games. Colleen Glackin ducks out for a few hours in the morning to go to school part time. Arthur Lynch Jr., who commutes more than an hour to work, has been coming in at 7:30 a.m. or earlier for years so he can be home in time to spend the evenings with his family. "Two kids later, it helps me to have somewhat of a normal family life in the evenings," Lynch said. "Getting home late wasn't really an option for me." Such flexible schedules have become so popular that experts estimate more than half of American companies now offer the perk. The growing percentage of women in the workforce and the efforts of a new post-baby boom generation to juggle the demands of work and family are contributing to the trend. About 86% of workers say work-life balance is their No. 1 career priority, and flexible schedules are the work-life benefit they are most likely to use, according to an emerging workforce study by Florida recruitment agency Spherion. Nearly three out of four workers said they are willing to put their careers on the back burner to make time for family, the study says. Companies and the experts who study them say flexible work schedules help with employee retention and productivity. Employees agree, saying they can get more done when they work during the hours they are most alert ­ be it early in the morning or later in the evening. Some workers even say they feel so indebted to the company and so thankful that their bosses give them family time that it makes them work harder. "Companies increasingly are saying to employees, 'Here's the work that needs to be done, and you know how you work best, so figure out how to do it,'?" said Robert Kelley, a professor of management and organizational behavior at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business. There are some disadvantages to flexible schedules: Some believe the workplace performs an important social function and if workers are there together they gain more energy and a better exchange of ideas. Some say that it's difficult to measure whether a worker is being productive with flexible schedules. And co-workers who spend lots of time in the office may feel as if the flexible work arrangements mean more work gets dumped on them just because they're sitting at their desk every time the boss walks by. Still, many workers and companies say the flexible schedules work to their advantage. Buddy Trentler, an evaluation consultant at Allstate Insurance Co. in White Marsh, Md., is a morning person, so he chooses to work from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. He spends his most industrious hours at his desk, and he is out of work in time to beat the evening crowd at the gym and make it home before dinner to walk his one black and two yellow Labradors. "I feel I hit the floor running in the morning. I'm much more productive in the morning," Trentler said. "It's quieter, the traffic isn't as bad so you don't have to put up with that. You get here, you're in a nice frame of mind, phones aren't ringing." Glackin at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association said she is so glad that she can go to school and work full time that it makes her work harder when she is in the office. "You're grateful to them, so I want to do everything I can," she said. Marissa Quiles, a communications manager at Allstate who went from full time to part time so she could spend more time with her kids, agrees. She says she doesn't mind working from home an extra hour here and there on her day off. "We know at the end of the day you're going to get an employee who's going to give you more than the 25, 30 hours they're required to give," said Lilly Eng, Allstate's director of diversity and work life. "It's really a no-brainer for companies." Flexible work schedules are the most important benefit for Allstate workers, according to the company's in-house research. Having them reduces absenteeism, employee stress and health-care costs for the company, Eng said. "Once an employee feels that they're in an environment where their manager is very supportive, they're just less stressed," Eng said, adding that the workers also have more energy and can better focus on their job. Flexible schedules have become a key recruiting tool. As baby-boomers retire, generations X and Y make up a majority of the workforce and their priority is a work-life balance, said Jen Jorgensen, a spokeswoman at the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va. "Name me a big company, and I'll almost guarantee they're doing it now," said David A. Harrison, a professor of management at Penn State University's Smeal College of Business Administration. Whether it's a compressed workweek ­ where employees work four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days ­ or flextime ­ where workers alter their hours during an eight-hour day ­ workers want to synchronize their work hours with what's happening in other parts of their lives. This way, they can slip out for a dental appointment and it won't conflict with their work schedule.

  6. Ephrata considers layoffs
    By Larry Alexander, Intelligencer Journal via Lancaster Newspapers, PA
    LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. - Faced with the possibility of layoffs next year, Ephrata Borough employees attended Monday's borough council work session to ask officials about their future. Under a $26 million budget being proposed for 2005, as many as four jobs might be eliminated. Two jobs would be lost in public works, one in the electric department and one in the wastewater department. That would reduce the borough's work force from 49 to 45. Also, in the wastewater department, the regular work week would be extended to seven days, eliminating weekend overtime. This move also has employees concerned. "You shouldn't depend on overtime as part of your salary," said one worker who asked not to be identified.
    [Amen, especially when there are so many un(der)employed around you.]
    "But after you've done it for so long and it becomes like a part of your income, you do depend on it." The employee fears the cutback in [over]time could cause problems. "I could lose my house," the worker said. Some of the proposed cuts make no sense to workers. "They're looking to eliminate two crew leader jobs in public works and then hire a manager to do what they do," said Eric Haws, himself a borough public works crew leader and chief steward for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, which represents the nonuniformed work force. The replacement of two workers with a manager also concerns the union. IBEW spokesman Mark Chronister said the borough already has about 15 managers for about 50 employees, "which is way out of line." He added the union is "very concerned about the layoffs being proposed." A public meeting on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 23 with a second meeting, if needed, Dec. 1. Both will be held at 7 p.m. at borough hall. During the meeting, Haws told council that cutting jobs "will not benefit the citizens of this borough." "We provide lots of services," he said. "We're expanding. We're growing bigger in water, and we feel we'd like to be informed as quickly as possible about council's feelings on these budget cuts." His hope is that employees most likely to be affected be told as quickly as possible. "The employees who will be affected should be given some type of fair warning before Nov. 23 or Dec. 1, the two meetings you have scheduled, that their job possibly could be eliminated," Haws said. "Those people want to know." For the most part, council refused to get into the debate over job loss, feeling such talk is premature. Council president Fred Thomas told Haws the budget was being discussed among the various committees and that more information would be coming out "within the next week or so." Borough manager Gary Nace said a meeting is scheduled with IBEW representatives to discuss the situation next Wednesday. Councilman Bryan Foard said the "budget as proposed is not necessarily the one that is going to be ratified." He said not all of the committees have made their comments and recommendations, making him "reluctant to comment too extensively." Councilwoman Mary Schurr said council directed borough staff to keep costs down after an electric rate hike earlier this year. She also said staff was told to hold the line on taxes and costs. "The budget is not final," she said. "If there are other alternatives without making the taxpayers pay more, we will try to do the best we can for the costs of the borough and the workers of the borough." Mayor Ralph Mowen steadfastly opposed any layoffs. "At this point, I am not prepared to approve a budget that includes layoffs," he said. "If I can be convinced of the reasons, maybe, but just based on what I've seen so far, I don't see the need for it. I don't see that it's going to accomplish anything. The people in this borough are used to a certain amount of service, and if we lay off two people in public works in January and the streets don't get plowed, the people will scream." He said there are other options, such as rolling over funds from the borough's electric fund or raising electric rates again. "All options are being explored," Thomas said. In other business, Ephrata Borough police Chief Steven N. Annibali said Ephrata Township supervisors on Monday unanimously approved a plan to contract police services from the borough. The move will merge the nine township officers into the borough's 21-man force shortly after the end of this year. Borough council is expected to approve the ordinance to ratify the contract for police service at its meeting Monday.

  7. Cheese-Eating Vacation Monkeys
    Tech Central Station, United States
    By Jeremy Slater
    The game's over and we're not even through its first half. That's the conclusion from Wim Kok and his group of advisers in their report on the Lisbon Agenda's progress - or lack thereof. The former Dutch prime minister will give his assessment to the European Commission on November 3, but his not totally unsurprising findings have been leaking out over the past couple of weeks. To anyone who had hopes for an economic revival for Europe it has made depressing and enervating reading. In laying out the failure of the EUto come close to the targets which the leaders of Europe set themselves in 2000, Kok certainly does not hold back any punches. His report claims, "What is at risk ... is nothing less than the sustainability of the society Europe has built and to that extent, the viability of its civilisation." The fact is that we will have to find a way to pay for our current long holidays and short working weeks with stronger economic growth -- or suffer the consequences.
    [Ah, super-productive technology is paying for them - indeed, necessitating them unless the EU wants to lose its highly dynamic consumer base.]
    Kok points out the gap between Europe and the US has widened and not narrowed in the past five years -- thus endangering the Lisbon Agenda, which may become a synonym for failure.
    [The US is on a quick trip to the Third World. Europe is welcome to join it.]
    One of the main reasons for this failure to boost growth, he argues, is that unanimity is needed for the European Union to go forward on just about any economic project. This has led to the failure for instance to agree on a European Patent Directive, which would allow for companies in any part of the EU to ensure that their copyright on a new product or service was protected throughout Europe. A deal was not brokered, because several member states said that the new patents should be made available in various national languages. The report also finds there is still headway to be made in the financial services sector, which would allow a truly European capital market to develop and thus provide funding for new companies and projects at potentially cheaper rates of interest than are available now. The departing president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, has also weighed into the debate. In his final official presentation to the Brussels press corps (he will in fact stay on in the job now that the Parliament has scuttled his successor's starting date), he echoed Kok's complaints. Said Prodi, "We need cooperation in this field. If we cannot do this then we cannot make progress economically." Kok report's proposes nine ways in which the European economy should be reformed: Much of what has been suggested most of the readers of this site can agree on, although I expect one or two may have doubts about the last proposal as it smacks of corporatism. But similar ideas helped Japan become a successful high-tech society, which despite its ten-year recession still enjoys higher living standards than Europe, so perhaps we can forgive Kok that suggestion. The problem, of course, is that these proposals still require get the backing of a majority of EU national governments to become law and within certain member states there are vested interests that will make reform difficult if not impossible. For instance, look at France, where the 35-hour work week has been in operation for a few years. The government would like to dilute the law, butfaces massive opposition from the public, largely organized by trade unions whose members come from the 40% of the country's workforce employed by the state. Just as the findings of Kok's report were becoming public another member of the international political elite was revealing the conclusions of his study on the French labor market. Michel Camdessus, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, claims that France suffers from a "work deficit"-- which largely explains why France has lagged behind the economic growth rates of the US and the UK in the past 20 years. Camdessus also noted that France's unemployment rate has remained around the 8% level over the same period. This may be temporarily acceptable during the depths of recession, but over the long term it has consigned a generation to waste their lives away. Surely this is unacceptable as it means that Europe is allowing much of its talent base to be under-utilized. Just as Britain had to face the prospect in the 1980s of some unpopular policies leading to a revitalization of its economy now nearly half of Europe has to face up to the same. If not we will become a comfortable museum where our wealthier cousins from the US, Japan and China come for very pleasant visits and thus enjoy some of the fruits of their vibrant economies. However, we Europeans will still suffer the consequences of sluggish economies, but be cushioned by a social system that encourages only a small part of the population to work while the rest sit around with nothing to do. If that is the case then we truly will become nothing better than cheese eating vacation monkeys.

  8. Germany 'faces five years of stagnation' Telegraph.co.uk, UK
    By Edmund Conway
    Germany must endure another five years of sluggish economic growth, the International Monetary Fund said yesterday as it delivered a damning assessment of the struggling economy's prospects. The country will also break the Maastricht government borrowing rules for the fourth successive time next year, the IMF warned in its annual survey of the country's economy. Although Germany is now pulling out of two recessions in the past four years, the recovery will only be modest and "remains unbalanced, with domestic demand still dormant," the report said. It forecast that the economy will grow by between 1.5% and 1.75% over the next five years, well below Britain's trend rate of 2.5%.
    [Britain is in a much faster state of societal and economic deterioration than Germany.]
    The report coincided with official figures showing German retail sales fell by 0.4% in September amid rising fuel costs and stubbornly high unemployment, which hit a six-year peak of 10.7% in the same month. Economists said output would slow again next year since it probably peaked in the first half of this year. "Households have every reason to remain worried," said Gabriel Stein of Lombard Street Research. "Faced with weak domestic demand, German companies have reacted by shoring up their balance sheets through the simple expedient of cutting investment and hiring." In a reversal of the trend of the 1970s and 1980s, when the UK was daunted by booming German industry, the IMF referred German policymakers to the employment record of the UK.
    [The IMF is the Typhoid Mary of international development. Every economy it touches, it stifles because it ignores marginalism as applied to national income = the less concentration, the more circulation and dynamism.]
    Britons now work more hours than any other major economy except the US, while the Germans, who clocked up the most hours in 1970, are now bottom of the pile with the French.
    [What is this obsolete obsession with human working hours in the age of automation and robotics?! Must be the last gasp of hand-loom economics.]
    Germany's European pre-eminence in the 1970s came at the cost of "excessive" wage growth, the IMF said - a legacy that was still haunting the economy.
    [The IMF is another agency that is ignoring the application of marginalism to wages and the centrifugation of national income: the more concentration of money, the less circulation.]
    Businesses overpaid workers to boost the economy for a number of years and attract the finest employees but this, together with the cost of reunification, has contributed to today's slow growth and high unemployment, the IMF said.
    [Nonsense, except in terms of overpaying top executives. Paying ordinarly workers high wages is what creates wartime prosperity - and the prosperity of plague years - by providing strong domestic consumer demand. High unemployment is a function of automation and robotization bumping against rigid workweeks, which should be automatically adjusting downward to maintain full employment and maximum consumption.]
    The IMF applauded the far-reaching structural changes to employment, pensions and healthcare regimes being implemented by German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder in the face of public protests.
    [Both the IMF and Schroeder are suicidal, and they're trying to take the whole of Germany with them.]
    But, in a separate study, it warned that the Agenda 2010 plan may not do enough to prevent the current problems persisting. "In contrast to most other European countries, Germany's working age population has already begun to decline," it said. "On current policies - including these reforms - labour supply and employment are expected to decline in the decades ahead as ageing of the population drives old-age dependency ratios to new highs."
    [No problem in the Age of Automation and Robotics. The IMF needs to get its brain, if any, into the 21st century.]
11/02/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/01 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. Study: No layoffs at highly productive companies
    by Jason Jennings, SearchCIO.com
    You're familiar with how the scenario is played out at a lot of companies. The CEO proudly tells employees they're valued just like family and then days later, announces a massive layoff.
    According to Linda Trevino, chair of the Pennsylvania State University's Management School, "Layoffs have become a management fad, and companies do them because they think they're expected to do them and because everyone else is doing them. It's almost as though if you aren't doing layoffs, you're somehow not lean and mean."
    By stark contrast, the people who head the most productive companies in the world don't lay off workers. In fact, each company has made a promise to its workforce that the corporate coffers won't be balanced and profits won't be manipulated by laying off employees.
    Is it coincidental that the most productive companies in the world don't engage in layoffs and are able to prosper and thrive in a rollercoaster economy?
    The most productive companies
    My research team and I evaluated the financial results of more than 100,000 publicly traded and privately owned firms, searching for the most productive companies. Eventually, we ended up with eight companies whose annual sales, operating income, return on assets and invested capital per employee topped the performance of all the others.
    A few of the companies that made the final cut include - One of the most striking findings is that all of these companies has a policy of not using layoffs when demand slackens, the economy hits the dumpster or as a way of pleasing shortsighted shareholders.
    Putting their money where their mouth is The ugly truth about layoffs
    Leaders of highly productive companies figured out long ago that increases in productivity won't be achieved without the right people, and that layoffs cause several things to happen.
    1. When workers see layoffs happening around them, they become preoccupied with their own personal finances and the security and protection of their family unit.
    2. Because they're afraid they might be the next in line, valuable workers begin seeking more stable work environments, leaving the business staffed with the undesirable employees.
    3. After a company has a layoff and when demand for its products or services return, the company will face the expense of recruiting, hiring and training to fill the same jobs it earlier eliminated.
    4. As workers are laid off institutional memory becomes lost and is gone forever.
    5. No culture, certainly not one based on productivity, can exist in an enterprise where people fear for their jobs.
    Is it coincidental that the most productive companies in the world don't engage in layoffs and are able to prosper and thrive in a rollercoaster economy? Or is it because companies believe that the right employees are their single biggest asset and winning formula?
    Perhaps Pennsylvania State University's Trevino sums it up best: "Any company which sweepingly lays off workers is unlikely to be productive and must be judged as poorly managed. If a layoff is needed, it's because the company wasn't managed very well to begin with."
    Jason Jennings is the author of the bestselling Less Is More, which profiles the world's most productive companies, and the 2001 worldwide bestseller, It's Not The Big That Eat The Small … It's The Fast That Eat The Slow. His next book, Think Big, Act Small, debuts in 2005. Contact him at Jason@jennings-solutions.com.

  2. State 'Time-Off' Law For Elections
    Channel Oklahoma.com, OK
    [Here's a partial implementation of the call for a holiday on election day by John de Graaf's Take Back Your Time Day campaign -]
    OKLAHOMA STATUTES:
    Every corporation, firm, association or individual hereinafter referred to as "employer" who, on election day, has a registered voter employed or in his service, shall grant the employee two (2) hours of time during the period when the election is open in which to vote, and if such employee be in the county or at such distance from the voting place that more than two (2) hours are required in which to attend such elections, then the employee shall be allowed a sufficient time in which to cast a ballot. No such employee shall be entitled to such time to vote unless the employee notifies orally or in writing an employer's representative of the employee's intention to be absent, on the day preceding the election day. Upon proof of voting, such employee shall not be subject to any loss of compensation or other penalty for such absence. Such employer shall select the hours which such employees are to be allowed in which to attend such elections, and shall notify each of the employees which hours they are to have in which to vote. This section shall not apply to an employee whose work day begins three (3) hours or more subsequent to the time of opening of the polls, or ends three (3) hours or more prior to the time of closing the polls. Theemployer may change the work hours to allow such three (3) hours before the beginning of work or after the work hours. Any employer who fails to comply with this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than Fifty Dollars ($50.00) nor more than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00).

  3. Free the workers to be better consumers
    The Japan Times, Japan
    By KAHO SHIMIZU
    The government is encouraging companies to ensure their employees take time off because it wants workers to get out and be better consumers.
    [The effective way to do this is not rhetoric-based or vacation- or holiday-based, but based on automatic adjustment of the workweek against unemployment, comprehensively defined.]
    In 2003, the average Japanese company employee used a record-low 8.5 days of his or her 18.0 days of paid leave [US: 'vacation'], according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
    If the 8.8 untaken vacation days in 2001 had been used by the nation's 46 million regular employees, it would have generated 11.8 trillion yen in economic effects, mainly in the tourism and leisure industries, according to a 2002 government simulation.
    This figure breaks down into 4.5 trillion yen in increased spending for leisure activities, 3 trillion yen in bolstered consumer spending from job creation and 4.3 trillion yen in ripple effects to a variety of businesses.
    Daikin Industries Ltd., an air conditioner maker based in Osaka, said that its 6,000 rank-and-file domestic employees took an average 22 days of annual paid leave last year.
    "By taking days off, workers can refresh themselves, and their productivity improves," said Tsutomu Oba, personnel chief at the firm's Tokyo branch.
    But many firms have cut back on staff amid the more than decade-long economic slump, making it difficult for the remaining employees to take holidays.
    A worker in Osaka for a supermarket chain said his merchandise section had 10 workers five years ago, but the number is now half that figure.
    He said he barely takes 10 days off out of 30 annual paid holidays.
    "Many other workers in the office take it for granted not to use paid vacation," he said. He said the firm's employees are regarded as irresponsible if they take a long vacation. Yasutaka Suga, head of the working conditions department at the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, said this situation typifies the lack of awareness of labor rights between both labor and management groups.
    "Management does not usually consider paid vacation when assigning staff, while workers are hesitant to claim their rights" to paid leave, he said.
    Given the severe employment situation, "I think for many workers, securing a job is more important than taking a paid vacation," he reckoned.
    [Another version -]
    Workers use less than half of paid holidays
    Asahi Shimbun, Japan
    The Asahi Shimbun
    Employees may have dodged the bullet during corporate downsizing, but they've become so shell-shocked they now take less than half of their paid leave-a paltry 8.5 days a year on average, according to a government survey. In 2003, full-time workers at companies with 30 or more employees took an average of 47.4% of the paid holidays they were entitled to, or 8.5 days, says the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The percentage is the lowest since the ministry started compiling the statistics in 1980. An official at the ministry's Wages and Working hours Division points to the mindset of employees, who are being asked to do more work as the number of workers decreases. ``With smaller staff sizes due to restructuring, (the employees) probably feel their colleagues would be swamped with work if they were to take all their paid holidays,'' the official said. The ministry received valid responses from 4,192 firms. The number of paid holidays the companies granted employees in 2003 averaged 18 days, a figure relatively unchanged for the past several years. The ratio of paid holidays employees actually took to those granted by their employers fell below 50% for the first time in 2000 and dropped to 48.1% in 2002. While workers at large firms with 1,000 or more employees used 53.9% of their paid holidays, those at midsize firms with employees numbering between 300 and 999 used only 42.3%. Employees at smaller firms with a work force of less than 300 used less than 44% of their paid holidays. The ratios at companies in industries such as restaurants, accommodation, wholesalers, retailers and construction were especially low at between 30% and 39%.

  4. Volkswagen May Be Close to Settling Its Wage Talks
    New York Times, NY
    By MARK LANDLER
    FRANKFURT - Volkswagen and its workers entered a critical week in their wage negotiations on Monday, with signs that a compromise was taking shape even as protests flared at factories across Germany. Volkswagen is demanding a two-year freeze in wages, in addition to concessions on a variety of work rules, as it tries to cut its labor costs nearly one-third by 2011. The union, IG Metall, originally asked for a 4% wage increase, but has trimmed that demand to 2%. Now, according to officials at Volkswagen, the gap may be narrowed further with a one-time payment to the workers. Representatives of each side spoke informally before sitting down Monday afternoon for a sixth round of talks in Hanover. "These are the critical days if we are going to have a deal," said a spokesman for Volkswagen, Dirk Grosse-Leege. "I would expect to see something this week, and sooner rather than later." The showdown is being closely watched, and not just because it pits Germany's most powerful union against its most prominent carmaker. The talks are viewed as a litmus test of whether German auto workers can preserve their privileges in the fiercely competitive global car industry. In a sign of how high the stakes are, the union has threatened large-scale strikes against Volkswagen if the talks do not produce an agreement this week. They would be the first in the company's history. The union is already flexing its muscles, with 15,000 workers staging protests at Volkswagen plants in Braunschweig, Kassel and Emden. On Tuesday, it plans to hold a warning strike at Volkswagen's flagship factory in Wolfsburg, which employs more than 50,000 people. While company representatives and union leaders are hinting at a compromise, the warm-up strikes have injected a combustible element into an already tense situation, according to labor experts. "There are risks for both sides," said Michael Fichter, an expert in labor relations at the Free University of Berlin. "The union is hierarchical. But there are an awful lot of members involved. Once the machinery starts, you can't always anticipate how things are going to turn out." The General Motors Corporation recently weathered a bitter six-day strike at one of its Opel plants here, after it announced plans to reduce its European work force by up to 12,000 jobs, most of them in Germany. IG Metall found itself sidelined as its members vented their rage at G.M. Volkswagen has been more oblique about the issue of job losses, saying that if it is not able to reduce its labor costs by $2.6 billion over six years, 30,000 jobs will theoretically be in jeopardy. But it has also offered its workers a guarantee of job security if they agree to its demands. In addition to a wage freeze, Volkswagen wants six other concessions - including more flexibility in how it pays overtime, reduced health care benefits and a new policy on apprentices that would cost less and would give VW the option of not offering the apprentices permanent jobs. Volkswagen's labor contract is unique in German industry because it covers only the company's 103,000 assembly-line workers. Other contracts cover entire industries, and thus guarantee wage parity among employers. VW's workers are paid 20% more than other metal workers. They also work fewer hours.
    [= another indication of the old union rhyme -
    "Whether you work by the piece or the day,
    Decreasing the hours increases the pay.]
    A decade ago, Volkswagen's chief negotiator, Peter Hartz, signed a deal with IG Metall that reduced the workweek to four days. He is leading the talks this time as well. The time provisions of Volkswagen's old contract were so generous, Mr. Fichter said, that some of its line workers trained as electricians or other craftsmen and more than a few of them moonlight in other jobs. "There are people working there who could go out and start businesses of their own," he said. With Volkswagen reporting a 65% decline in profits last week, analysts say such generosity is no longer affordable. The company has felt enormous pressure to cut costs as it faces a stagnant home market and competition from the more efficient Japanese manufacturers. Moreover, Volkswagen owns factories in Slovakia and Hungary, where wages are a fraction of those in Germany. As the company decides where to produce new models, like a sports utility vehicle smaller than the existing Touareg, it is using that cost disparity as a bargaining chip. Volkswagen's supervisory board is scheduled to meet on Nov. 12 to discuss some of these production decisions. The union, which has representatives on the board, is eager to sign a deal before that meeting.
    [Another version -]
    Lack of Pay Accord Extends Stoppages at Volkswagen (Update1)
    Bloomberg, United States
    Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest carmaker, faces production losses at its Wolfsburg headquarters after a sixth set of contract talks with union negotiators on cost cuts, job security and pay ended without agreement. Both sides will resume negotiations today. IG Metall, Germany's second-largest union, will call workers to put down their tools today at the Wolfsburg plant, which employs almost half of the carmaker's 103,000-strong western workforce. Volkswagen's first warning strikes since 1990 will, on a third day of protests, extend to its Hanover plant. ``The talks are difficult, but not without hope,'' Hartmut Meine, the IG Metall's chief negotiator, said after over eight hours of talks in the western city of Hanover. Volkswagen negotiator Josef-Fidelis Senn said an accord is ``possible.'' DaimlerChrysler AG and Siemens AG are among other major employers in Europe's largest economy to have already reached accords with unions this year on smaller wage increases or longer working hours. Labor costs in western Germany last year were over six times higher than in the new member countries of the European Union, according to the Cologne-based IW economic institute. Volkswagen AG Chief Executive Officer Bernd Pischetsrieder said on Sept. 22 that a week of regular strikes, which require workers' approval and have never before been staged at the carmaker, might stop the company's production worldwide. Volkswagen, which last week reported a seventh straight decline in quarterly profit, aims to cut its wage bill by 30%, or $2.6 billion, by 2011 and to simplify pay formulas from 4,000 possible combinations to 12. The carmaker said Sept. 30 it may cut as many as 30,000 jobs, or almost one fifth of its German workforce, without a pay freeze. Both sides will resume contract talks, which started almost seven weeks ago, at 9 a.m. local time in Hanover.
    Production Hit
    Monday's warning strikes involved more than 50,000 workers at Volkswagen plants in Braunschweig, Kassel, Salzgitter and Emden, IG Metall said in a written statement. Today's stoppages will affect the Wolfsburg plant from 1 p.m. and the site in Hanover, where Volkswagen produces trucks, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., according to union spokesman Joerg Koether. German labor law gives unions the right to stage one-hour walkouts, billed as information-exchange sessions, in the first month of negotiations and warning strikes, lasting as many as seven hours, after that. A minimum of three quarters of workers who vote is needed to approve any longer-term stoppages and only after the parties declare talks deadlocked. IG Metall, which has lost half a million members over the past decade, is struggling to safeguard members' jobs in Germany. General Motors Corp., the world's biggest carmaker, said last month its Ruesselsheim, Germany-based Adam Opel AG unit will bear the brunt of 12,000 job cuts through 2006 in Europe.
    Pay Freeze
    The union halved its initial demand to Volkswagen for 4% more pay five weeks after contract talks started on Sept. 15. The company insists on freezing pay for at least two years. IG Metall's other concessions - proposals to accept pay cuts worth as much as 10% for all new hires and pledges on greater flexibility on working time - have also been rejected by the company as increasing, not shrinking, payroll costs. Before Monday's talks, Volkswagen said it expected progress on disputed cost reductions, which are key to resolving the issue of job security. IG Metall has demanded job security for a decade for the 103,000 workers at the six western German plants. ``We expect that we will finally be able to take a large step forward on the issue of cost reductions,'' Senn said. The company's optimism was echoed by Meine who expects both sides ``can possibly make progress in their efforts to work toward a result.'' Volkswagen's third-quarter net income fell 65% to 76 million euros ($97 million) from 217 million euros a year earlier. The automaker's Western European sales fell 2% in September, while its market share in China is down by more than half to 26% from 54% in 2000.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Andreas Cremer in Hanover, Germany at at acremer@bloomberg.net.
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Catherine Hickley at chickley@bloomberg.net

  5. Viewpoint: Addressing stress benefits everyone
    Belfast Telegraph, United Kingdom
    While being out of work is reckoned to be bad for your health, being in a job nowadays can make life increasingly stressful. Lengthening hours and increasing workloads can prove to be a dangerous combination. That said, everyone needs a certain amount of stress to perform to the best of their ability. Deadlines concentrate minds, and many people give of their best when under a degree of pressure. With this Wednesday marking National Stress Awareness Day everyone should be aware that there is a happy balance. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but the converse is not a sustainable solution. Both employers and employees have a role to play in helping to ease stress. As we report today, Belfast company DCC Energy reports sick leave has halved since family-friendly measures were introduced. For all the benefits, measures such as job-sharing and flexible working can be a nightmare for employers, particularly in small firms. Workers have their rights, but they should not seek to abuse them. Certainly, anything that can help reduce absenteeism should be encouraged. At present sick leave due to stress is estimated to cost the UK economy around £12bn a year. This is an issue that must be addressed, particularly in a climate in which people are being warned they may have to work until the age of 70 to secure a decent pension. A happy worker is a productive worker, as DCC Energy has proved. Although IT is vital for most companies nowadays, workers are still the most important asset. Stress is an inevitable feature of the workaday world, but it is in everyone's interests to keep it within reasonable limits.

  6. GLOBAL REPORT - Sweden, in a Balancing Act, Gently Lobbies GM
    by Nicholas George, Bertrand Benoit and James Mackintosh, Financial Times via Los Angeles Times, CA
    STOCKHOLM - When Goran Persson, Sweden's prime minister, met Fritz Henderson, European head of General Motors Corp., in Zurich last week, he knew much would rest on the encounter. The Social Democratic leader made the pilgrimage to Switzerland to try to persuade the U.S. multinational to produce its next generation of medium-size cars at the Trollhattan plant in western Sweden rather than at its Adam Opel factory in Russelsheim, Germany. Persson is dangling a bag of incentives including road and rail improvements, investments in auto industry research and even the promise of child-care facilities for night workers. If the decision goes against Trollhattan, the long-term future for the home of Saab Automobile looks bleak, threatening about 20,000 jobs either at the plant or at suppliers in the region. The competition is putting Persson in a delicate position. Domestic political pressure means he must be seen to be doing something, given that few countries in the world are as dependent on the auto industry as Sweden. High- profile names such as GM-owned Saab, Ford Motor Co.-owned Volvo Cars and heavy truck makers AB Volvo and Scania have become almost synonymous with the country. Yet he does not want to be seen as a pawn in the game of a multinational company setting worker against worker across borders. Nor does he want to undercut his Social Democratic colleague Gerhard Schroeder, the German chancellor and one of his closest allies in the European Union. GM, which last month announced that it would cut 12,000 jobs in Europe after years of losses on the continent, plans to produce the replacements for the present Opel Vectra and Saab 9-3 sedans in the same factory. The two cars share a common platform and many components, so building them on the same production line will lower cost, require less investment and give GM the flexibility to switch between the two as demand dictates. Forcing factories to fight one another for business is common practice in the auto industry. It is often used as a way to encourage local managers and workforces to improve productivity and quality. But increasingly, the threat to move production to a different factory, often in a different country, has been used to squeeze more hours or better terms out of workers. Two years ago, Volkswagen warned Spanish workers that it would shift production of its Seat Ibiza model from Martorell in Catalonia to Bratislava in Slovakia if they did not accept greater flexibility in working patterns. After a showdown, unions accepted the changes. It is a tactic that has infuriated Europe's labor unions. After GM's announcement of the contest between Trollhattan and Russelsheim, unions in Sweden and Germany met to form a common front. Goran Johnsson, chairman of Sweden's Metall union, said: "We agreed not to dump wages or conditions at the other's cost." Trollhattan and Russelsheim were to submit their competing bids to produce the new models to GM executives by today. Despite the pledges of labor solidarity, a key part of both packages is likely to be measures that will increase working hours and improve efficiency without raising wages.
    [Increasing working hours does not improve efficiency, for the reasons indicated in the article above.]
    Sweden would appear to start with an advantage on paper, as labor costs are 20% to 25% lower than in Germany. However, Trollhattan is farther from Europe's main markets and smaller than Russelsheim. The Swedish plant would need substantial investment to cope with production estimated at 300,000 cars a year for the new models. It also has to confront a legacy of failure at Saab. Enthusiasts may love the brand's idiosyncrasies, such as the ignition key by the gear stick and cup holders that unfold, but buyers remain few and far between. Since GM took control in 1989, the auto group has recorded an annual profit only twice. GM will announce its choice next year.

  7. Pittsfield council proposes budget decline
    Bangor Daily News, ME
    PITTSFIELD, Maine - In marked contrast to most Maine service-center communities of its size, Pittsfield's proposed 2005 budget is lower than this year's in expenditures and higher in anticipated revenues. This will result in a $26,746 decrease in taxes to be raised, if the budget is passed as proposed. Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said Monday that this would be the third year in a row that the town will not have to raise its mill rate to reflect expenditures. "This is a leaner budget, and all town employees, every one, will have to do more," Ruth said. "Overall, I believe it is a good, efficient budget." The Town Council will begin its budget review Wednesday night by tackling administrative budgets, such as town administration, finance, municipal building, code enforcement and capital expenditures. All workshops are open to the public and a final budget will be ready for public hearing on Dec. 21. Wednesday night's discussions will begin after regular council business, which begins at 7:30 p.m. The budget assumes that the proposed Palesky tax cap is defeated today at the polls. If it isn't, the budget process would begin anew. The bottom line of the proposed gross budget, which includes the capital budget, is $2.5 million. The proposed operating budget is $2.3 million, and the capital budget is $190,000. Revenues are projected to be $1.6 million, to increase by $1,325, allowing the town's mill rate of $24.80 per $1,000 of valuation to remain stable. "We asked the department heads to hold the bottom line as much as possible, to prioritize basic services, while looking at cost sharing and joining with other departments," Ruth said. This tactic will result in funding far fewer overtime hours, fewer hours for part-time employees and the elimination of the water-sewer administrative assistant's position. That job, filled for the past 13 years by Barbara Musmon, previously had been funded 50% by the highway department, 25% by the water-sewer department and 25% by administration. Ruth said that an antiquated pipe system is falling apart. By shifting water-sewer funds from secretarial to a fieldwork position, a rate increase can be avoided and necessary repairs and reconstruction can begin. "We have some water pipes dating back to 1894 and some sewer pipes are old clay pipes," Ruth said. The restructuring would allow for a new 40-hour, 26-week position or a year-round, 20-hour position. A new position, which equals the replacement of clerk Eileen Wright, who recently resigned, will now be funded 30% by water-sewer and 70% by administration. That employee, Ruth said, will focus on the water-sewer duties, grant administration, secretarial work for all departments and provide backup for the front desk. The budget also includes a 20-cent per hour wage increase for personnel. The town manager, excluding benefits, makes $55,620 a year. Approximate salaries for other department heads, excluding benefits, are: code enforcement officer, $34,528; police chief, $37,752; public works foreman, $25,272; transfer station coordinator, $22,984; librarian, $29,224; theater manager, $24,232. Individual accounts with substantial increases include insurance, legal, and the police department. Copies of the proposed budget and a schedule of budget workshops are available at the town office.

  8. Days off sick for Scots civil servants above UK average
    Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited via The Herald, United Kingdom
    CATHERINE MacLEOD Civil servants in Scotland took an average of 10.5 days off due to illness in 2003, higher than the UK national average and the fourth highest of the 13 regions. According to new government figures published yesterday, the average public-sector worker in Britain took an average of 10 days off last year because to illness, an increase of 0.2% over 2002. In the head office of the Scottish Executive, the average member of staff took off 7.6 days annually over sickness, while in the Scottish Prison Service the average was 12.7 days. Although the government aimed to reduce sick leave in the civil service to an average of 7.2 days a year for each worker by 2003, its own statistics revealed it had failed to meet the targets in many areas of the public sector. In total 4,886,146 working days, equivalent to the cost of £386m, were lost last year throughout the civil service. The report revealed that: women took 2.8 more working days off sick than men, and 0.5 more spells of absence compared with males; certified absence increased with age; self-certificated absence decreased with age; sickness absence decreased as responsibility level rose for both certificated and self-certificated absences; and significant variations exist between departments and agencies in their average number of days absence and the proportion of staff with no recorded absence. The Scottish Public Pensions Agency had a high rate of absenteeism, with an average of 10.1 days off annually compared with 4.1 days for civil servants in the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency and 6.5 in the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency. The UK average has risen from 9.8 days in 2002 to 10 in 2003. According to the report, published by the Cabinet Office, mental illness is still a major contributor to long-term sickness and rose from 4.9% of cases in 2002 to 5.1% of cases in 2003. In the civil service as a whole, the proportion of absences with symptoms ill-defined is 10.6%. The report, prepared by Aon Limited, found that Monday was the most common day for a spell of time off work to begin. The Cabinet Office, which produces the report for the benefit of the civil service to monitor the government's target rates for reductions in sickness absence, is concerned by the quality of data and warned that it would revise the means of collecting data.

  9. WORKPLACE $ICK DAZE
    New York Post, NY
    By DAN MANGAN
    The massive shortage of flu vaccine could cost American businesses $40 billion in employee sick days - twice the amount of a normal year when supplies are sufficient, a prominent Harvard University economist predicts. Professor David Cutler warned that the economy could take an even bigger hit if hard-nosed employers pressure already-sick workers to stay on the job. "If somebody is really feeling ill, they should not come in [to work] because many more people than usual will not have been vaccinated," which increases the chances of catching a bug from their co-worker, leading to even more lost work days, Cutler said. Employers should "be extra vigilant about having a sick worker at work," said Cutler, a former member of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers. "It's obviously going to be worse if they don't." The economist's predictions and advice come as the United States faces a huge shortfall of flu vaccine due to suspected contamination at a British plant where nearly half of U.S.-bound doses were being made. The snafu means that out of the 100 million doses that were expected to be available, there are now only 60 million, which has led authorities to mandate that those doses only go to senior citizens, people with chronic illness, pregnant women, children between 6 months and 23 months old and other high-risk groups. Cutler said influenza usually costs the U.S. economy $15 billion to $20 billion in sick pay and lost productivity each season - assuming that 130 million workers who earn an average $15 per hour take one to 11/2 days off. He calculates that the total cost could double this year because of estimates by some epidemiologists that the "flu might be twice as bad this year." Cutler noted that costs could top $40 billion if the flu strain is particularly virulent, but also said the cost could be lower if this flu season is a mild one. He said the economic impact will be most felt by small companies and the self-employed. "If you're a self-employed person and you can't work for five days because you can't get the flu vaccine, that's a very big deal," Cutler said.

  10. Deputies Want to Scrap a Few Holidays
    Moscow Times, Russia
    By Oksana Yablokova
    MOSCOW, Russia - The country will have fewer holidays - but one extra day off work - if several pro-Kremlin State Duma deputies get their way. The deputies want to scrap the Nov. 7 holiday, originally established to commemorate the 1917 October Revolution, and Constitution Day on Dec. 12, as well as reduce the May Day holiday break from two days to one. Instead, they are calling for a new holiday on Nov. 4 called National Unity Day, and a full-week holiday break between New Year's and Russian Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 7. The changes could affect this New Year holiday season if a bill drafted by United Russia Deputies Valery Bogomolov and Oleg Yeremeyev and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky is quickly passed into law. Rodina Deputy Oleg Shein, a member of the Duma's Labor and Social Policy Committee, which has approved the bill, said Monday that the bill has been approved by the government and will come up for a vote in the Duma later this month. The Duma is not in session this week, and the bill's authors could not be reached for comment. Perhaps the biggest mystery in the bill is the proposal to make an official holiday on Nov. 4. Moscow was liberated from Polish occupation on that day in 1612. "Looking back at history, we can find a lot of heroic deeds that were as significant as this one. I have doubts about fixing this date as National Unity Day," Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov told Interfax. Shein, who does not support the bill, suggested that United Russia was trying to make a holiday out of its ideology. The Communists, who use the Nov. 7 holiday for anti-government rallies, said they are fiercely opposed to any change. "If the authors of this bill and their supporters really want peace and accord in our country, they must respect history as it is," Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov said Friday. Communist deputies in the 1990s managed to keep the holiday even though then-President Boris Yeltsin wanted to get rid of it. A compromise was found by renaming the holiday the Day of Accord and Reconciliation. Shein said supporters consider the holiday outdated. He said the idea behind abolishing Constitution Day is that it effectively duplicates Russia Day on June 12. Both Russia Day and Constitution Day were introduced under Yeltsin to celebrate the fall of the Soviet communist regime and the adoption of the 1993 Constitution. The bill, a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times, also calls for a seven-day holiday between New Year's Day and Orthodox Christmas, compared to the current three days off on Jan. 1, 2 and 7. That would leave the country with 12 holiday days off work compared to the current 11. Mironov proposed stretching the New Year's break even more by making Dec. 31 a day off as well. "This needs to be done so people don't fool around in their offices on that day and focus on preparations for New Year's festivities," he said. The bill is an amendment to the Labor Code, which was passed in 2002 and made Defenders of the Fatherland Day on Feb. 23 an official holiday.

  11. Residents' Work hours
    Annals of Internal Medicine, Volume 141 Issue 9 | Page 742
    by Mitchell Charap, MD
    [Here's what we're up against in American 'medicine' - doctors who think they're God and ignore the erosion of quality care in overtime.]
    IN RESPONSE:
    Dr. Bedarida laments the effects of the work hour regulations. She has already noted a loss of care continuity and a real change in the attitude of residents, some of whom appear preoccupied with getting out of the hospital. She suggests that our new graduates will be ill-prepared after 3 years of training and contends that they, like their European counterparts, will need to work closely with senior physicians for several years to acquire the necessary skills for independent practice. I share her concern and have observed a lack of clinical maturity in a greater percentage of recent graduates. Drs. Kim and Kang assert that medical educators are responsible for teaching and promoting professionalism. I agree, but I suggest that the inflexibility of the work hour regulations insidiously erodes a basic core element of our profession that places the health of the patient above concerns about self. Dr. Lahey recognizes that there will be difficulties in implementing these new regulations and suggests that we need to develop better signout systems to reduce errors. I agree with both points. However, I am not certain whether resident satisfaction or professional dedication will be enhanced by the regulations. I have observed the opposite to be the case. In the 1990s, the ACGME Residency Review Committee for Internal Medicine had the following statement in its program requirements: "Physicians must have a keen sense of personal responsibility for maintaining patient care, and must recognize that their obligation to patients is not automatically discharged at any given hour of any particular day of the week. In no case should the resident go off duty until the proper care and welfare of the patients is ensured" (1). Is this paragraph controversial? Are there physicians who disagree? It was eliminated when the new work hour regulations were mandated. Its omission serves as a startling confirmation of the shift in priorities. We must work to restore and maintain this basic principle.

  12. Odd working hours places demands on both family and social life - And more Americans are facing the dilemma
    By MAUREEN MILFORD, GANNETT NEWS SERVICE via Asbury Park Press, United States
    Maureen Hilliard is married with children. Yet, in many ways she feels like she's been a single mother for 16 years. Hilliard's husband, Connie, is a car salesman whose schedule involves working nights and weekends, so the Wilmington, Del., couple are often like ships that pass in the night, she said. "I've gone to every open house for our girls alone. Tonight is open house for my daughter . . . and I'll be there by myself," Hilliard...said recently. "That's just the way it is." In today's 24-hour economy, the Hilliards' experience is far from unique. Thanks in part to advances in technology and the emergence of the global economy, 40% of the American work force now works mostly nonstandard hours - evenings, overnight, variable or rotating shifts, or weekends, according to Harriet B. Presser, author of "Working in a 24/7 Economy: Challenges for American Families" (Russell Sage Foundation, $39.95). This growth in round-the-clock work has made more Americans balance the demands of their jobs against their social lives and the needs of their families. These were problems once restricted primarily to fields such as health care, law enforcement, utilities, firefighting and transportation. "It's hard for more people today," said James Dillingham, a partner in Shiftwork Solutions LLC in San Rafael, Calif., a consulting company that works with organizations and employees to help resolve shift-work issues. "It's tough to coach Little League or go to church activities. This creates stress and frustration. People feel deprived. They feel resentful." Rotating shifts can be the most challenging - 78% of people with that arrangement report that it is not their preference, according to a study by the Families and Work Institute. "I couldn't function right at all," said Ken Taylor...who worked regularly earlier this year from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. at a supermarket in Bear, Del. "There have been times I didn't even see my kids because I'm sleeping when they leave." Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, said 63% of couples in 2002 reported not having enough time with their spouses, up from 50% in 1992. "It's harder on the marriage than on the children," Galinsky said. "People are not skimping on their children to the extent they can. The children come first." Often working women, particularly single mothers, suffer the most from shift work because the household activities and child care duties still tend to fall to them, experts said. What's more, 40% of women now work at least some evenings, nights or weekends on a regular basis, according to a 2004 study by the AFL-CIO. "Shift work is definitely a concern among working women regardless of whether they're in a union or not," said Rachna Choudhry, a specialist with the AFL-CIO's program for working women. "What we're hearing from women is, they want more control over their time and ways to balance work and family." Tara Bogia...of Newark, Del., a mother of four who works four 10-hour days at a bank, said the only disagreements she has with her husband involve chores and child-care duties. "He calls me (at work) and asks, 'What's for dinner?' I say, 'I don't know. I'm not home,' " Bogia said. Nontraditional hours can be a strain on unmarried workers too. It can cut into their social lives and make it difficult to have a love interest. "All I have is my kitty cat, and sometimes I forget to feed it. It has to eat just the hard food - I usually give it hard and soft food," said Kofi Ansah...a pharmacist in Bear, Del., who has a variable work schedule including evening shifts and some weekends. "It's hard. At night I go home and take my shoes off and soak my feet."

  13. Financial services sector hits back
    Norfolk Eastern Daily Press, UK
    IAN BULLOCK
    Key players from Norfolk's financial services industry yesterday hit back at claims that the sector discriminates against women and fails to deliver family-friendly employment policies. A nationwide survey of 2500 finance professionals, conducted by recruitment specialists Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Accountancy Age magazine, found that a third of employees did not believe their workplace was family friendly, with almost half saying no firm policy on flexible working existed. And more than a third believed the finance profession discriminated against working mothers, with a majority (41%) supporting the Government's proposed increase in paid maternity leave to a year. However, two-thirds of women who opposed the extension did so because they feared it would encourage discrimination against them. John Woods, chairman of the Norwich and Norfolk Financial Industry Group, part of the Shaping the Future partnership, stressed yesterday that women represented a "key and vital part of the financial industry in Norfolk". Describing his own firm, Moneyfacts in Thorpe Road, Norwich, Mr Woods said: "As an employer, by offering flexible working arrangements we have been able to retain skilled staff and reduce recruitment costs; for the individuals concerned we have found the opportunity to work flexibly can greatly improve their ability to balance home and work responsibilities. "Obviously we at Moneyfacts cannot comment on what other organisations do, but we believe that the opportunity to work flexibly has had a positive effect on employee attitudes and morale," he added. "60% of our staff are female, including nine out of 15 who are senior managers. A quarter of our staff are on some form of flexible 'family friendly' working arrangement. We have found the most frequent requests are for part-time work, working from home, coming in late or leaving early." It was not just women in the survey who felt under pressure to put their careers first, with 83% of fathers of under-18s working more than 39 hours a week, and 37% of these clocking up more than 46 hours. More than a quarter (27%) admitted to feeling guilty if they did not put in extra hours and one in 10 of those working over 55 hours a week had received complaints for not working hard enough. "Career sexism" in the finance industry also showed no signs of declining with women continuing to be paid an average of 22% less than men. The trend extended across all levels, with female company partners taking home salaries 25% lower than their male counterparts and female financial directors being paid 12% less. Jason Wyer-Smith, communications manager at Norwich-based Virgin Money, told the EDP: "Financial Services is a demanding, 24-hour industry and Virgin Money encourages all of our working mums and dads to maintain a healthy work-life balance. We promote flexible working hours, have part-time staff in most business areas and we hold family-oriented staff events such as a summer party, fireworks night and a kids' Christmas party, which all thefamily can enjoy together." He added: "We also ask our people what they think about their work-life balance in our annual staff survey because we believe a successful career and a healthy family life should go hand in hand." David Gooderham, director of employee relations at Norwich Union, said: "We take the importance of these issues very seriously and have conducted a number of initiatives over the last 12 months to provide greater flexibility for staff to balance their home and working lives - for instance some staff now work nine days in a fortnight rather than 10." He added: "We have had flexitime systems in many offices for around several years. In addition Aviva has recently appointed a diversity director to promote good practice across all our business units in the UK. Greater flexibility for staff helps us to give a more flexible and customer-focused service." Phil Sheridan, regional manager of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, said: "Being dedicated and hardworking is not the same as being a wage slave. Making money to ensure a decent standard of living is all very well, but not advisable if it leads to the detriment of family life. "The long working hours and discrimination against working parents as highlighted by the survey shows that recent high-profile cases in the finance sector are not isolated incidents. Both employers and employees have a part to play to ensure the finance industry really achieves a healthy work-life balance, rather than just paying it lip-service."

  14. Office stress? Just sleep on it
    Tryst Williams, Western Mail via ic Wales, UK
    Tired Welsh workers should be provided with "power nap" rooms, according to an influential think tank. The Demos group sees the idea as one solution to the problem of sleep deprivation in a workforce affected by long hours and high stress. But business leaders and sleep experts last night poured scorn on the proposal. Charles Leadbeater, author of the Demos report, said, "A small loss of sleep is likely to have a big impact on people who lead stressful lives. Stressed-out parents are already not sleeping enough. "They are the people most likely to have their sleep disrupted and they are least able to recover. "This cocktail needs to be tackled by employers and policymakers to reduce the sleep deficit, and its impact on families and workplaces." Among the report's proposals were the creation of power-nap rooms and 'shut-eye pods', a coin-operated sleep cubicle in libraries and railway stations that would allow people to nap for up to an hour at a time. Demos cited a Mori poll that showed 48% of people aged 35 to 44 in Britain said they did not get enough sleep. Managers polled said sleep deprivation led to irritability and shouting in the office, as well as more mistakes. Innovative ways to help staff relax have already been pioneered at Cardiff-based Admiral Insurance. While the company has yet to provide actual power-nap rooms, staff are encouraged to make use of relaxation facilities. Spokeswoman Jody Williams said, "We have got a number of things which we think are just as effective but a power-nap room is something we would consider if it was raised by staff. "We have an Indian-head-masseur who visits monthly, we have a number of chill-out rooms with sofas, TVs and games consuls for all staff to use, and we are currently trialing a 'relaxation chair', which reclines and massages the user while playing chilled out music through headphones." Apart from children keeping their parents awake, Demos found that worrying about work was the biggest cause of insomnia among managers (15%, compared to 7% of the general population). But Anthony Thompson, Confederation of British Industry's head of employment and reward, remained unimpressed. "Work-life balance is a serious issue but this is not a serious report," he said. "It borders on the suggestion that employees' sleep patterns should be closely monitored by their employer. I seriously doubt such intrusion into workers' private lives would be warmly welcomed." One of Wales' leading sleep experts also had his doubts. Dr Mark Blagrove, director of the sleep laboratory at the University of Wales, Swansea, said, "One problem would be sleep inertia, which means when you wake up you are often groggy for about half an hour And it would only work for people who are very quick at falling to sleep. "It might be that as Britain has longer working hours than most countries you would have thought the solution would be to allow people to work in a more concentrated way and let them go home earlier."

  15. New warnings over NHS staff shortages - Government highlights record investment
    Politics.co.uk, United Kingdom
    Two new reports have warned about potential staff shortages in key areas of the NHS [National Health Service]. According to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) the NHS is facing a "fragile future" with an increasing number of nurses choosing to leave the profession, and the cost of employing agency staff increasing. Also on Monday, the British Medical Association (BMA) warns that A&E departments are facing shortages as doctors below consultant level are leaving to take up better paid positions as GPs. Though the RCN accepts that the overall number of nurses has grown, it warns that the NHS is increasingly reliant on agency nurses or nurses from overseas. It claims that the cost of employing agency nurses has trebled within the past six years to reach more than £600 million. In addition, the RCN stresses that every year around 30,000 nurses (10%) leave the NHS annually, and a 1% reduction in this rate would be equivalent to retaining 3,000 nurses. General secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Dr Beverly Malone, said: "We have to ask why so many nurses feel unable to commit to the NHS and prefer to work on a temporary basis? Nurses tell us that the chance to choose which hours they work is a major factor. We want employers to do more with better flexible working arrangements to significantly improve retention." The RCN also warns that Britain is unlikely to be able to continue recruiting the same number of nurses from overseas, as other developed countries - notably the USA and Canada - are now competing to recruit nurses from the same developing countries. It is calling for flexible working hours, rather than fixed shifts, to become the norm and special measures to be introduced to ensure the retention of older staff, such as tailored "return to nursing" courses and greater financial advice. Commenting on the warnings, Liberal Democrat spokesman Paul Burstow said: "Overseas recruitment is the Government's sticking plaster solution to the shortages of nurses. It is morally indefensible to aggressively recruit nurses from developing countries that have their own health crises. "Nurses should be allowed to work flexibly as this will attract more peopleinto the profession. But it is essential that money is not wasted through poor organisation of temporary staffing." The BMA is also warning about a potential shortage of doctors. It estimates that around half of the doctors working in A&E are employed under staff grade and associate specialist positions. Mohib Khan, who chairs its Staff and Associate Specialist Committee, claims that new research shows that 62% of A&E departments have lost a staff grade doctor to general practice in the last year.
    70% of A&E departments also have vacancies for this grade, with 75% of these in turn citing the disparities between SAS and GP pay and conditions. Mr Khan said: "Unless things get better for this group of doctors, there are going to be serious problems staffing hospital emergency departments. The BMA has always had concerns that poor conditions for SAS doctors would be bad news for patients. This is evidence that their neglect poses a real threat to Accident and Emergency services." Mr Khan is expected to use his address to a BMA conference in Edinburgh today to call for a new contract for SAS grade doctors. Negotiations on a new contract between doctors and employers cannot start unless the Government gives the go-ahead. The Government though says that it is"nonsense" to talk about a recruitment crisis, pointing to the extra investment put into the NHS.

  16. No bedtime story for busy parents
    By Flora Stubbs, Evening Standard via This is London, UK
    More working parents struggle to get home in time to see their children before bedtime, a study has found. About 40% of those with children under five say they find it hard to make it home in time to read a bedtime story, according to the research by pressure group Keep Time For Children. John Alexander, spokesman for the organisation, said of the study: "It demonstrates that the situation with round-the-clock working hours is getting out of hand, and the ones who are suffering the most are our children."

  17. Moore's Law challenges European semiconductor players - Development costs for complex chips explode with every step up in technology
    Franz Joachim Rossman, Correspondent, EDN Europe/Germany via EDN.com, United States
    The German tech economy is humming, especially in the telecom, IT, and automotive sectors. So, surely a number of IC and components vendors are enjoying success, as well. Actually, few European IC companies have the financial and technical resources to handle the demands of Moore's Law. But a few multinational vendors do quite well, and partnerships will keep these vendors in the race to less-than-100-nm design. Figures collected by German electrical and electronic manufacturers' association ZVEI clearly indicate that telecommunication serves as an important sales market for electronic components in Germany. In 2003, telecommunication applications used electronic components worth 3.83 billion euro. This segment ranks as number three in the list of important national sales markets, just after the automobile and data-technology segments. Industry association BITKOM also gives a positive outlook. Half of all ITC companies in Germany report rising domestic sales in the first quarter, and 21% refer to stable businesses. Most anticipate rising turnovers. Mobile telecommunication and digital consumer electronics are driving this growth. These figures and developments may lead you to assume that Germany and its neighboring German-speaking countries host a positive climate for producers of semiconductors for mobile telecommunication and other top-notch consumer goods. A closer look, however, quickly reveals that this region fosters only a small number of companies that supply these markets with their own products or possess the relevant development resources. These companies accordingly remain "invisible" to the public. Infineon is certainly an exception. The semiconductor maker is strongly involved in the "solutions" business, delivering complete chip sets for specific applications. "Customer demand has changed materially over the last 10 years," according to Horst Fenske, Infineon's CTO of Secure Mobile Solutions. "Step-by-step, mobile telecommunication providers have confronted us with more and more tasks, so we were forced to extend our knowledge on systems." Generally speaking, German and European companies cannot free themselves from the same Moore's Law issue companies face worldwide: Development costs for complex chips explode with every step up in technology. The complexity is hardly manageable. You cannot master the increasing complexity without reusable IP blocks, Fenske stresses. Furthermore, windows for market launches are extremely narrow and product cycles alarmingly short. "The verification of the total system remains our biggest challenge for some time to come," states Jürgen Désor, vice president of consumer products for the Micronas Group. Mistakes in organization or technology can quickly mean a company's end. The effects of these trends are obvious: Worldwide, the number of ASIC design starts is sinking, and the adaptation of the latest semiconductor technologies is slowing. A few areas, such as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) handsets, however, will continue to rely on ASIC solutions. "The huge mass of data that needs to be processed by 3G mobile telephones calls for very fast processing speeds," remarks Martin Reuter, Central European technical director for Mentor Graphics. Though standard components such as ADCs, DACs, and DSPs have become increasingly fast, he notes, a few 3G applications still need ASIC designs to achieve higher chip performance, and portable devices and their growing hunger for power challenge developers' expertise. Reuter further contends that extensive power leakage, which you can find in the DSM (deep-submicron) layer, causes nightmares for mobile-phone producers. He describes the situation‹in which leakage rises exponentially with the chip's temperature, and temperature highly depends on frequency‹as "a classic vicious circle." The German industry must also meet further challenges. No doubt, there are enough well educated experts for system design, semiconductor handling and testing, mixed-signal technologies, and electronic packaging. Yet many German engineers and smaller companies focus on technological problems. They try to win potential customers by offering high-tech approaches and an extensive range of functions that demand extensive financial and personnel resources‹not always the right track, in Micronas' Désor's view. He suggests that keeping things simple might help reduce developmental periods. Infineon's Fenske disagrees, stating that simplification based on reducing the number of functions is infeasible. Another approach to diminishing expenditure within development is to apply system description languages with a large abstraction level. You can no longer completely verify highly complex SOCs (systems-on-chip) by using the conventional method, says Mentor Graphics' Reuter. Therefore, he continues, you must switch to higher abstraction levels and search for a connection (co-verification) between system-level and RTL (register-transfer-level) implementation. More companies are realizing that, for customers, a greater numbers of features does not necessarily mean greater benefits. Software can conceal complexity only to a certain extent. Infineon's Fenske, however, points out, "First-generation phones featured unsatisfactory operator interfaces despite their comparatively minor complexity. Today, icons and intuitive menus arethe rule that make reading the manual obsolete." The applications' classic pyramidal assembly‹the broad base formed by comparatively simple applications, with only a few high-tech products on top‹is undergoing massive reconstruction. Micronas' Désor describes this situation as a change in the market shape from pyramid to diamond, with inexpensive, low-feature volume segments; no midrange; and high-end, full-feature devices. Another typical challenge for European companies is the fact that technologically oriented companies often regard marketing and sales as unimportant or even superfluous. "We could finance more start-up companies," according to Christian Reitberger of Apax Partners. "However, many companies lack the required marketing and sales competence." Furthermore, representatives of company interests, such as the ZVEI, continuously cite the lack of willingness to found companies, inflexible political and juridical structures, and short working hours as competitive disadvantages. Directly addressing companies, however, often reveals more concrete problems. Companies often cite high costs for design tools and time-consuming, expensive searches for personnel. Micronas' Désor is convinced, "High costs for tools rather than limited capability constrict companies." Infineon's Fenske also criticizes the tool producers who claim they can simultaneously and considerably reduce all parameters, such as size, development cycles, or power, contending that such an undertaking is impossible. However, he remarks, "Tools have satisfactorily supported us for years now in regard to reusability." The search for good personnel is aggravated by a deficiency that applies to all European industrial nations: the lack of a cluster of semiconductor companies, universities, and service providers such as in Silicon Valley‹an accumulation that fosters a nearly automatic exchange of ideas and a similar ease of exchange of personnel that can be both a blessing and a curse. Today, there is no prospect of a merging of high-tech clusters around Cambridge, Sophia Antipolis, or Munich. And nothing will happen without the commitment of the companies and governments involved, not only because of distance, but also due to differences in language and culture. Fenske contends that Infineon is having no problem finding the right people and that it is important to make optimum use of employees' skills. He warns, however, that companies should not sacrifice the additional effort needed to, for example, secure reusability, due to time pressure. It is important to grant enough freedom and at the same time specify the right direction, he argues. Start-ups and smaller high-tech companies suffer most from the comparatively small domestic market, which forces them early on to internationalize their business and, therefore, to combine financial and personnel resources. Are general whining and the call for government assistance justified? Is the climate for communication and consumer-electronics companies bad, the technological challenges too big, or both? The success of some German, Austrian, and Swiss companies proves that the answer to these questions is "no." Relying on the right products and strategies, these companies successfully develop and market extremely complex semiconductors for communication and consumer-electronics applications. Semiconductor producers Philips, STMicroelectronics, and Motorola have mapped out future plans with their joint R&D effort, Crolles 2 Alliances. Collaboration and the exchange of information do not jeopardize competitiveness but rather are the prerequisites to meet future challenges. Only by cooperating can companies effectively use regional and national resources and strengths and distribute the costs for new technologies to quickly and successfully introduce innovations. Fenske recognizes this situation on the semiconductor level but notes that large companies, such as Infineon, will be able to manage product design by themselves. However, he continues, "Should reusability against all expectations not stand the test, there might also be collaboration on this level."

  18. Fathers are urged to stay at home more By Nicole Martin
    Telegraph.co.uk
    Fathers are being encouraged today to capitalise on new flexible working arrangements to allow them to stay at home and spend more time with their children. The guide follows research showing that only one in 10 men works part-time, despite legislation which gives them the right to ask for flexible working, including working only during school terms, working from home and job sharing. Entitled Daddy's Home: A Life Planner for Fathers, the booklet highlights the need for companies to change their attitudes towards men wanting to work flexibly. The right to flexible working was one of a number of measures, including two weeks' paternity leave, introduced under the 2002 Employment Act, which came into force last April. Those entitled to ask for it must have a child or children under six or a disabled child or children under 18. Under the law, an employer must give "serious consideration" to a request for flexible working and can only refuse because of a "sound business reason", such as additional costs. Citing testimonies from fathers who have benefited from the legislation, the guide says that men who spend more time with their children experience a higher quality of life. One father of three, who works part-time said: "My dad was a very work-orientated person, but I made a decision to be different. It works because overall I get more out of work, family and doing other things. I prefer work now as I don't feel such conflict any more." Mark Harper...a sponsorship manager for Lloyds TSB, which funded the guide, said he took two weeks' paternity leave at full pay and one week's holiday after his daughter, Phoebe, was born. "My wife and I are jointly responsible for our daughter, so I felt it was important to be there at the start of this new adventure," he said. The guide, described as the "ultimate manual for modern fathers" was compiled by Working Families, a charity which campaigns for more family friendly policies at work. Jonathan Swan, its author, said: "This booklet aims to educate men about how flexible working can work for them. While there is a need for cultural change, a lot of the dads we interviewed pointed out that when they changed their working patterns there was an increase in other fathers taking advantage of different ways of working as a result of seeing them do it." Fiona Canon, head of equality and diversity at Lloyds TSB, said: "People with a healthy work-life balance undoubtedly contribute to a more motivated and fulfilled workforce and so flexible working can be a win-win situation for many employers as well." Jack O'Sullivan, the co-founder of Fathers Direct, the information service for fathers, said: "We know involved fatherhood benefits children's education, behaviour and long-term mental health, as well as allowing men and women to share responsibilities more fairly. But it is hard for dads to do what is needed unless they feel entitled to claim workplace benefits, which is why this type of information is so important."

( Here's the current search pattern used by our backup, Ken Ellis - he's now experimenting with seven 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] )



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