Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
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 -
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
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
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
But many provinces look to Ottawa when it crafts its own provincial
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
"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."
- How much vacation time should we have off?
[If we set the workweek low enough to reduce unemployment to voter-acceptable levels, enough of an employer-perceived labor 'shortage' will be created such that vacation time can be safely left to negotiations at individual companies, because labor-management power will be balanced as during World War II, instead of steeply favoring management.]
- How long should one have to work in a day?
[Let's not get into government micromanagement. Let's stick to "how long should one have to work in a week?"!]
- Should there be a federal minimum age in this country.
[Ah, do they mean wage? Ifso, the answer is no. The labor supply should be engineered into enough of an employer-perceived 'shortage' to raise wages sufficiently, and that will be done by letting unemployment automatically control the length of a slowly fluctuating workweek - as long as unemployment is too high, as determined by regular referendum of the participating population - the workweek should gradually shorten.]
Law grants execs maximum vacation time
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
"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 email@example.com or (616) 546-4219
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....
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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
"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
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
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
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
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
But Bickel advises not letting such costs deter you. The alternative of
advertising for another physician and bringing in candidates to interview is
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.
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
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and French Finance
Minister Nicolas Sarkozy were to address the CBI conference separately on
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
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
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
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."
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
"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
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
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
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 email@example.com
When results are all that matter
Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
H.J. Cummins is at firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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."...
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
Still, Yankus expects production will be up 5% over this time last
year. She anticipates production will be lighter than the third quarter,
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
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!]
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 -
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 -
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.
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
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
Labour market myths and realities from 'Building a Modern Labour Market'
- 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.
- 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%).
- 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
- 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.]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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 email@example.com
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."]
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
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
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?]
- [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
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
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,
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
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.
Call to scrap 'Unity' holiday provokes discord in Germany
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
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
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
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
Recently, many have seen reunification as a cause for complaint rather than
celebration, with the estimated £1000 billion cost contributing to Germany's
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
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
To contact the reporter on this story:
Corinna Budras in Frankfurt at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Eamonn Sullivan at email@example.com
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
[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.
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
"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.
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
To contact the reporter on this story:
Andreas Cremer in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor of this story:
Catherine Hickley at email@example.com
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
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
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
'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.'
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
- Sandwell residents work for 38 hours 18 minutes each week, longer than anyone else in the country.
- In Herefordshire, on the other hand, the average working week is just 32
- hours and 54 minutes.
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.
- the men of Sandwell have a working week of 41 hours and 6 minutes,
- while women work for 32 hours and 12 minutes.
There also seems to be a link between hard work and wages.
- In Birmingham, employees work an average of 34 hours 30 minutes a week and the figure is the same in Wolverhampton.
- By contrast, the people of Ipswich appear to do the least work in the
country - spending just 30 hours and 12 minutes at the office each week.
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.
- In hard-working Sandwell, the average person earns £404 a week.
- But in the West Midlands as a whole, that figure is £382.50 a week before taxes. In Herefordshire, gross weekly pay is £325.80 while the people of Ipswich get by on just £316.40.
[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,
[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.]
Civil servants get set to join strike
Cambridge Evening News, UK
As many as 600 Cambridge civil servants could join a national strike
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
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
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
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 -
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
- [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
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."
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.
Expert: Better education key to keeping jobs
Bradenton Herald, FL
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
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
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
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
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,
"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
"We have an education system that needs to shift to a learning system,"
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."
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
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.
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
Dr Smart, associate medical director of NHS 24 with responsibility for the
east of Scotland, admitted there was a shortage of staff and recruitment
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
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
"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."
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
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.
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.
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 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 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
``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
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
``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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Dan Stets at email@example.com
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
To contact the reporter on this story:
Rainer Buergin in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Catherine Hickley at email@example.com
Truckies using drugs
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
"It's quite clear the answer lies in reducing the demands on truck drivers,"
"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
"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.
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
"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
"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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of The Star-Ledger, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza,
Newark, N.J. 07102
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 -
Does Hong Kong Work Too Much?
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.
- as it did between 1938 and 1940 when the USA went from a 44-hour to a 40-hour workweek, starting with a 19% unemployment rate in 1938 and finishing with a 9.9% rate in 1941 with an additional boost from Lend Lease (March) and Pearl Harbor (Dec.).
- as it did between 1997 and 2001 when France went from a 39-hour to a 35-hour workweek, starting with a 12.6% unemployment rate in 1997 and finishing with an 8.6% rate in 2001 before the US-led recession cut in.
- Then there's the whole developed world's experience in the 150 years prior to the general freezing of the workweek at the 40-hour level, when the workweek was cut in half from 80 to 40 and pay was doubled and tripled....]
[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.
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.
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
HONG KONG - Asians are feeling under less stress these days but
Hong Kong is an exception with levels almost unchanged, a new survey showed
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
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.
- [And speaking of how 'great' long working hours are -]
Why violence in the office cubicle
Economic Times via ECONOMICTIMES.COM, India
"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
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
"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
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
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,
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
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
"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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
- Europe must deal with its "aging" society, which "requires a policy shift away from early retirement";
- Europe's national capitals must present action plans for economic growth by the end of next year;
- All EU legislation that has reached implementation deadlines must become national law by next spring;
- MEPs and national governments must remove existing obstacles to the free movement of services across the EU;
- Remaining EU legislation arising from the EU's Financial Services Action plan must become national law by the end of next year;
- There must be an agreement on intellectual property. Kok suggests that all documents should be only translated into English;
- Europe must agree on a common definition of what is red tape and thus avoid any new forms of this;
- National governments should cut the cost of setting up a business by the end of next year - the cheapest costs in the EU's three best countries should become the standard; and
- A European Research Council should be established to take the technological lead.
Germany 'faces five years of stagnation'
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
"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.]
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.
- Nucor, a steelmaker in Charlotte, N.C. The company managed to reduce the length of time it takes to produce a ton of steel from 11 hours to 30 minutes and increased earnings 30 years in a row.
- Also on the list is World Savings, which has 450 branches with nearly twice the amount of deposits as its nearest rival. It also kept its operating expenses roughly half of other banks and achieved 20% compounded growth for 40 years.
- Ryanair, a large European discount airline, also made the list by outperforming Southwest Airlines in every operating metric.
Putting their money where their mouth is
The ugly truth about layoffs
- Nucor manufactures rolled steel and steel joists in the toughest and most commoditized business in the world. Most steelmakers with high fixed cost structures haven't proven nimble enough to survive. More than 40 U.S. steel companies have gone bankrupt in the past few years and not a week goes by that the steelmakers and their unions aren't in Washington with begging bowls in hand asking the government to rescue them.
Contrast that with Nucor: It has grown revenues and dividends for 136 quarters, the average steelmaker makes between $80,000 and $100,000 per year and it has never had a layoff. "The right workers," said Dan DiMicco, CEO of Nucor, "are our single most important asset. When business is bad, as it's bound to occasionally be in a highly cyclical industry like ours, the first thing to go is every executive perk and bonus followed by every plant manager and supervisor giving up theirs. Only then," DiMicco said, "are the workers affected and we reduce the workweek to five days and then four and, on rare
occasions, even three, but we don't lay people off."
[So this indicates that Nucor practices at least one of Lincoln Electric's three requirements for granting employees lifetime employment: acceptance of the principle that everyone sacrifices together, starting at the top.]
Twenty years ago, savings and loans in the U.S. were prohibited by government regulation from making adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs). Keenly aware that issuing fixed-rate mortgages for as long as 30 years without any idea of what they'd be forced to pay for future deposits was risky business, Herb and Marion Sandler, who have jointly headed World Savings for more than 40 years, decided to force the government's hand and simply stopped making mortgages, [thereby] publicly challenging the government to change its policy.
- During the lean year and a half when it wasn't making any mortgages, World Savings kept its loan salespeople and underwriters on the job, doing everything from manning branches to pruning hedges outside the branch offices. Other S&Ls slashed their overhead expenses and personnel ...to the bone.
[So this indicates that World Savings also practices at least one of Lincoln Electric's three requirements for granting employees lifetime employment: acceptance of job reassignment.]
Eventually, the government caved in and allowed World Savings and all other S&Ls to begin issuing ARMs. The difference was that World Savings who'd kept everyone employed gained a huge advantage over all its rivals who had to begin recruiting, staffing and training all over again.
- In the aftermath of Sept. 11, as airlines worldwide began slashing schedules and laying off hundreds of thousands of workers, Ryanair gave away 300,000 free seats, priced another 1,000,000 seats at $30 and plastered posters across Europe proclaiming, "Don't let the terrorists win!" While other air carriers went on to lose billions of dollars, Ryanair hired people, placed an order for 250 new airplanes, added routes and scored its biggest profits in the two years that followed the terrorist attacks.
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.
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?
- When workers see layoffs happening around them, they become preoccupied with their own personal finances and the security and protection of their family unit.
- 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.
- 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.
- As workers are laid off institutional memory becomes lost and is gone forever.
- No culture, certainly not one based on productivity, can exist in an enterprise where people fear for their jobs.
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.
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 -]
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).
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
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%
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
"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
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
``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
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
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.
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
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 email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Catherine Hickley at firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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.
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
GM will announce its choice next year.
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
"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.
Days off sick for Scots civil servants above UK average
Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited via The Herald, United Kingdom
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
"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.
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
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
"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
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
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.
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.]
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
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.
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
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."
Financial services sector hits back
Norfolk Eastern Daily Press, UK
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
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
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."
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
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."
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
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
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.
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
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
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)
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,
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
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
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
Fathers are urged to stay at home more
By Nicole Martin
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
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"
"work hours", OR "working hours", OR "shorter hours", OR "shorten hours", OR "shortened hours"
"free time", OR overtime, OR "extra hours", OR leisure, OR "time off", OR vacation, OR vacations, -sports -coach -coaches -coaching -football -soccer
-baseball -olympics [on hold] )
Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
Oct.27-31/2004 + Nov.1
(July 31+) Aug.1-10/2004
Feb.21-29/2004 + Mar.1
Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
1998 and previous years.
For more details, see our laypersons' guide Amazon.com.Top |
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