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Timesizing News, November 9-15, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


11/13-15/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/12-14 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 11/13-15 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. 11/14   Stress, interrupted - Taking vacations can cut burnout, increase creativity,
    by Diane E. Lewis, Boston Globe.
    Forty hours a week, Adam Darack is an information technology manager. It's not the kind of job that makes a person's heart race, but Darak gets his kicks elsewhere: Three weeks a year he snorkels with sharks in the Galapagos Islands.
    Likewise, Michelle Doyle knows that, as a tax attorney, she isn't exactly living the life of a rock star. But several weeks a year she travels with an Irish rock band, and it thrills the music lover in her.
    And Kim Thurler, an executive in the dog-eat-dog world of advertising, says showing Great Danes can be even more competitive.
    "This hobby is admittedly not the same as shooting the rapids or climbing Mount Everest, but it has plenty of heart-pounding moments nonetheless," said Thurler. "And if something is not going well at work, well, your dog may win."
    With nearly 40% of US employees working more than 50 hours per week, according to the National Sleep Foundation, specialists say hobbies and vacations ease workplace stress, stave off burnout, and encourage creativity.
    In fact, the way we spend our time away from work is especially important in a high-pressure culture where the percentage of US employers offering paid vacations dropped to 87% last year, from 95% in 1999, according to information compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va.
    On the whole, vacation time alloted to American workers doesn't quite stack up to the amount of paid time off European workers get. A survey by Expedia.com, the online travel service, reveals that - Doyle, who received more time off at a prior job, now gets 15 personal days annually that can be used as vacation or sick time; Darack receives three weeks a year, and Thurler gets four weeks.
    But no one can work at top speed continuously without suffering the consequences, says Dr. Gerald A. Kraines, president and chief executive of The Levinson Institute, a leadership training institute, and a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty.
    Hobbies, vacations, and time off to relax and play are important to the creative process. They also enhance physical and mental health.
    "Hobbies and vacations help us maintain balance between work and our personal lives," said Kraines. "They also help us maintain perspective. One can get so obsessed about the immediate that one forgets the important."
    Eli Curran knows about that kind of stress firsthand. Curran...of Marblehead, sells distance learning and educational software. She also works out of her home and describes herself as "pretty much homebound." She often puts in longer hours at home than she might at an office.
    Said Curran, "You are attached to your computer and there is a tendency not to turn off at night. You might not even get dressed or shower. You just sit at the computer."
    In September, Curran took a vacation that changed her life and her view of work: After winning a cycling trip to Italy at a fund-raiser, Curran toured Tuscany and the island of Elba with a group of strangers. The tour, donated by an Arlington company called Ciclismo Classico, took her and several others through Italy's olive groves, rural wineries, coastal communities, mountains, and onto the steep rocky cliffs and rolling hills of the island where Napoleon lived in exile following his defeat at Leipzig.
    "There was no stress, no phone, no e-mail," said Curran. "You don't have to worry about paying bills, nothing like that. So, you are able to let it all go."
    When Curran returned to her job, she tried to "implement what I'd learned in my everyday life" by slowing down and taking time off to relax. She also stepped up her exercise program, and is saving for a repeat tour next year.
    Psychologist Bruce Cedar, president of CMG Associates, an employee assistance program in Newton, points out that a decade ago Americans were more interested in leisure time. Buoyed by a strong economy, they were looking to expand their interests outside the job.
    Today, concerns about the vitality of the national economy and job security have caused US employees to work longer and harder.
    [Longer is clear. Harder is questionable.]
    Thurler...says she has enriched her life by showing pure-bred Great Danes. "It is a complete change of pace and has its own excitement," she said.
    Thurler became hooked on the hobby after she saw a Great Dane in someone's backyard and fell in love with the breed. Today, she spends a couple of hours a day caring for her two dogs. One, Sara, has been ranked among the top 25 Great Danes in the country.
    Doyle, a staff attorney at a law firm in Portland, Maine, travels with a seven-member Irish folk rock band, The Saw Doctors, selling its CDs and branded merchandise at concerts. Recently, she spent three weeks touring with the band, starting in Worcester and ending in Portland, Ore.
    "It was a completely different sort of thing to do," said Doyle.... "It was fun. It was different to think about that and not tax work or settling people's estates when they die, which can be depressing. . . I love live music and I have done, off and on, music promotion over the last 20 years. I do it for the love of music; just listening to it refreshes and recharges me."
    Adam Darack's yearly vacation rejuvenates him. Darack...of Holliston, is an information technology manager for a food manufacturer in Dorchester. He says the trips he and his wife take to the Galapagos Islands, a group ofvolcanic islands about 650 miles west of Ecuador, allow him to "leave everything behind and they recharge my batteries."
    He took his first trip to the islands in 1996 after receiving a free ticket to South America from the travel agency he was working for at the time. During one trip, he met his wife, Ruth...who grew up on the islands.
    "I go out there and it's like stepping back in time maybe 50 years," Darack said. "You get away from the structure and pressures here. You get opportunities to do things every day down there that you would not do here, like snorkeling with sea lions or with sharks, which is an incredible thrill. . . There is always one day in a person's experience that makes you enjoy life so much that everything fits into place. You get what life is about."
    Diane E. Lewis can be reached at dlewis@globe.com

  2. 11/14   Provo offering paid leave for employee organ donors
    Provo Daily Herald, UT
    by David Randall
    PROVO, Utah - Following the example of the state Legislature and a push in recent years to increase organ donations, Provo has become the first city in the state to provide employees paid leave to donate an organ or bone marrow to a stranger. Provo officials say that so far none of the city's 700 full-time employees have taken advantage of the program that started this summer, but donations often take months to finalize as donors are tested and matched. Several hundred Utahns have volunteered for "Good Samaritan" organ donations through the state organ donor Web site www.yesutah.org, and about a dozen people, including at least three state employees, have been matched and made a donation. The Provo program gives workers seven days off for a bone marrow donation or a month for other organs. Workers must have the vacation days, sick leave or other time saved up in order to make the donation, but the hours can come as donations from fellow employees. "We want to take a positive, encouraging approach to the concept of donation and we feel this is a good way to get our employees to give it consideration," said Eric Mauser, Provo director of Human Resources. Previously, donated organs had to go to a family member in order for city employees to get time off. Kerri Adams...a human resource analyst for the state who donated a kidney that ended up in a coworker's daughter, said organ donation really isn't as big a deal as people like to make of it. "If I had another kidney I'd do it again," she said. "If you're healthy before, you should have no issues with it." Adams decided in October 2003 to make the donation but had to wait until April and undergo multiple tests before she had surgery. It took her a full month of paid leave to recover, but she said that overall the experience wasn't too trying. "It's only bad for a couple of weeks and then you're just tired," she said. Kidney surgery has become less invasive in recent years, and Adams said doctors only made one 4-inch incision and two 1-inch incisions to remove the organ. She said other organs have since filled in the place where the kidney was and she doesn't really feel any different than she did before. Sen. Karen Hale, D-Salt Lake City, and recent candidate for lieutenant governor, has been one of the Legislature's main proponents of organ donor legislation. She has helped create bills that have advanced driver's license registration donations, the online registry and created paid leave for state employees. "I just can't say enough about the importance of this issue," she said. Hale said having the paid leave option for state employees can really make a difference. "There are people that would just not be able to take off that month without a paid leave of absence," she said. "It's wonderful just even within the state that employees have been able to do that."

  3. 11/12   Solving the real productivity crisis - The key to better productivity? Get a life, for starters
    From: Issue 78 | January 2004, Page 37, Fast Company, NY
    By Chuck Salter
    When it comes to work, a lot of us have a little problem: We don't know when to say when. Or worse still, we can't. Nearly half of American workers put in more than 50 hours a week on the job. A quarter work all year without taking a vacation. The American work ethic has been hijacked by a culture that encourages overwork, says Joe Robinson, author of Work to Live: The Guide to Getting a Life (Perigee, 2003). We say we like to work hard and play hard, but we don't actually leave much time for play. We survive layoffs only to be saddled with multiple jobs. Then, hoping to protect those jobs, we put in late nights and long weekends and defer comp time or time off. In the process, we become, if not workaholics, then lousy employees: tired, depressed, mistake prone, resentful, and eventually burned out. Here's the dirty little secret about American productivity: It's the highest in the world only because we all put in more hours. Workers in France and Belgium, where five or six weeks of vacation is common - and where people actually take it - are more productive per hour, Robinson's research based on International Labor Organization data shows. What can we do about it? Start by working smarter, not longer. That's what Ernst & Young, the professional services firm, is trying to do. "People used to wear overtime on their sleeve like a badge of honor," says audit partner John Beatrice. "But we realized that was no way to live." Employees, women in particular, were leaving the firm. Now E&Y encourages employees to create flexible schedules that accommodate both their personal and their professional lives. Some work full-time from January to March, then a reduced schedule the rest of the year. Others leave work early to pick up kids from school, then work from home later. More important, employees in the flexible work program aren't considered second-class citizens, says Maryella Gockel, the firm's flexibility strategy leader. Since the mid-1990s, 54 have been promoted to partner, director, or principle. Such strategies, of course, are as common as khakis in corporate America. The reality is, people buy in only when they see their bosses doing the same. Which is one reason Beatrice is assistant coach for the hockey team at Randolph High School, in Randolph, New Jersey. There are days he leaves the office at 2:30 to make an afternoon game - and he expects his audit teams to pursue similar outside interests. "We think you'll do a better job, and you'll be more focused, if you have other things going on in your life." That is, we need to put our work in context. At best, Robinson says, we should consider our relationship with work in the same terms as any other relationship. "If you don't have a perimeter, you'll get walked on," he says. As difficult as it may be, have a candid conversation with your supervisor about your schedule and ways to recharge your battery. And resist the temptation to equate long hours with commitment, even if coworkers do so. "We need a new definition of wimp," says Robinson. "The real wimps are the people who believe you find self-esteem through productivity, who work 14-hour days. The people with real courage are the ones who set boundaries."

  4. [And here's what Joe Robinson is up against -]
    11/12   Workplaces try to increase productivity by dropping vacations
    Ergoweb, Utah
    Dreaming of a nice long paid vacation, a chance to catch up on a little rest and leave work behind? Savor that dream while you can ­ a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that the beloved paid vacation may take off before you do. Over 450 employers responded to SHRM's survey which found that the number of workplaces offering paid vacation time dropped in 2004 to 68%,down from 87% the previous year. Paid leave took an even harder hit: only 29% of employers said they offered it compared to 68% in the previous year. Tom Casey, a principal at Mellon Human Resources and Investment Solutions, told BenefitsNews that the reason for the drop in vacation time offered could be that employers are attempting to get greater productivity from their workers. "Limiting vacation is one way to increase worker productivity," Casey told the publication.
    [Worker productivity is irrelevant and even destructive in the Automation Age. It's worker hour productivity that counts. Start pushing all the work onto fewer workers and you get insufficient consumers to support your technology-amplified workers.]
    Casey could be hitting on a trend. In 2002, Australian Medical Association president Kerry Phelps noted that vacations might actually have a negative effect on a worker's health, through the development of "leisure syndrome" - where vacation downtime is often accompanied by headaches, cold or flu-like symptoms, and intense fatigue.
    [Here we go! We can understand that long 6-week vacations may make the return to work difficult - and that's why we prefer to make workweek reduction the locus of worksharing - but this propaganda doesn't seem to single out very long vacations.]
    Phelps said that Dutch research found that as many as 3% of all workers could be affected by such symptoms the minute they start their break. And even when employers offer vacation time, for the past few years, workers in the United States haven't been taking it. A 2003 survey by Management Recruiters International (MRI) found that over half of the executives surveyed weren't planning to use their vacation time. The execs were choosing instead to stay at the office and tackle their increased workloads that came courtesy of corporate downsizing. But while dropping paid vacation time may seem like a quick means of improving worker productivity, there's a downside to the trend as well: 62% of workers, reported the New York Times, said their workloads increased in the past six months, while 52% of the workers also said their work left them overtired and overwhelmed. In addition to an exhausted or burned-out workforce, squeezing more work from fewer workers may also have another negative side effect ­ increased employee turnover. A 2004 MSNBC report noted that turnover rates have been steadily increasing for much of the year and are expected to continue to rise for the next few years as workers who've labeled themselves "overworked" seek greener pastures. So how can employers get more work from the same number of employees without driving the workers to leave their jobs? In a word, ergonomics ­ improving the fit between employee, task and workplace can mean that work can be accomplished more efficiently by each employee. Employees seem to agree. According to a Microsoft Hardware study, over 50% of employees believe that the best way their employer could show a commitment to their workplace success would be by providing employees with the proper tools to perform their jobs more efficiently.

  5. 11/14   Treasury, IRS propose to let people retire gradually
    Los Angeles Times, CA
    by Eileen Ambrose
    More and more employees say they want to ease into retirement, gradually reducing their hours on the job as they get older before quitting work altogether. But they might feel that their only choices are to quit work or stay on the job full time because of today's rigid pension regulations. The Treasury Department is offering a possible middle ground. Last week, the department, along with the Internal Revenue Service, proposed rules that would allow workers to cut their hours and collect part of their pensions at the same time. "We're really testing the waters to see if this is something employers would like to do and employees would like to participate in. It's the first step," said Bill Sweetnam, the Treasury Department's benefits tax counsel. The way regulations for traditional pensions are set up, workers are left with few options if they want to phase into retirement. Typically, workers can't tap a pension until they leave the job or reach the usual retirement age, usually 62 or 65. Those who don't want to continue working full time into their 60s often end up quitting and settling for a reduced pension benefit. Sometimes they retire from one employer so that they can collect a pension and then go to work somewhere else. Under the proposed regulations, employers would be able to keep such workers by allowing them to begin working fewer hours at age 59 1/2 and collect a percentage of their accrued benefits, without being hit nearly as hard in the long term as they would if they retired early under current rules. The changes would apply to private and public pension plans, and eventually could affect up to 10% of older workers, Treasury officials said. "It's a rather intriguing idea. Kudos to the Treasury Department and the IRS for thinking about something that better reflects what retirement means today," said Stuart Ritter, a financial planner with T. Rowe Price Associates in Baltimore. "Retirement used to mean full time on Friday and starting Monday I never work again. That certainly has changed." Phased retirement promises to give workers more flexibility, but it might not be the best solution for everyone. Depending on the plan and how long workers stay in the labor force, they could end up with lower benefits than if they had continued working full time until their standard retirement age. That would also mean lower benefits for a surviving spouse. "It's just a good news, bad news story," said Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Phased retirement is better than quitting work and withdrawing pension benefits early, she said. "The bad news is the notion that 59 1/2 is the right age to even consider leaving the work force," said Munnell, noting that someone that age could need to cover living expenses for 25 or 30 more years. "I wonder if it gives the signal that it's reasonable to think of withdrawing at 59 1/2 ." Bill Bortz, associate benefits tax counsel with the Treasury Department, said phased retirement can help workers find out whether they can afford full retirement. Workers might find that they need to increase their 401(k) contributions or go back to work full time, he said. They could also find out whether they even like retirement, Bortz said. "It's a way of experimenting," he said. The Treasury Department and the IRS are accepting public comment on the proposed regulations through early February. Final regulations could be adopted next year. As proposed, the tax code would be amended so that employees could get a share of their accrued benefits early based on how much they reduced their work hours. Workers cutting their hours by 20% would get 20% of their benefits. The employee would have to be at least age 59 1/2 , the same age that workers in 401(k)s and similar plans can begin pulling money out of their accounts without penalties for early withdrawals. Certain key managers or business owners would not be allowed to participate. Workers would have to be enrolled in a bona fide phased-retirement program, defined as a written, employer-adopted plan. The program would need to be voluntary, and the worker would have to reduce hours by at least 20%. The workers would still accrue benefits, despite working fewer hours. And their smaller paychecks wouldn't affect the formula for determining final benefits, Treasury officials said. Talk about phased retirement for those with traditional pensions, also called defined-benefit plans, has been going on for at least 25 years. "The only problem, 25 years ago there were a whole lot more people who might have benefited from this than today," said Dallas Salisbury, president of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Defined-benefit plans are disappearing. Seventeen to 20% of private employers have defined-benefit plans, covering 25 million workers. Among those, the number of long-term workers eligible for phased retirement is about 1.5 million, Salisbury said. "It's a small step forward and creates hope that there will be more to come," he said. Workers are hoping for flexibility. In a survey released this year, benefits consultant Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that two-thirds of workers older than age 50 want to scale back their hours before full retirement. Kyle Brown, retirement counsel at Watson Wyatt, thinks employers will find it's in their long-term interest to hold on to experienced, talented workers, even part time, if the economic expansion kicks into high gear and a labor shortage develops. "Employers will be looking to find new ways to hang on to existing employees," Brown said. David Certner, director of federal affairs for AARP, said his advocacy group will be submitting comments on the proposal. "We think the notion of phased retirement is a good one," but AARP wants to make sure that employers can't use it as a tool to push out older workers, Certner said. "You want to allow older Americans greater flexibility in the workplace without compromising their retirement security," he said. "We need to make sure these regulations will give flexibility without compromising retirement security."
    To suggest a topic, contact Eileen Ambrose at 410-332-6984 or by e-mail at eileen.ambrose @baltsun.com

  6. 11/14   Early: The new late - More professional workers in region find sleeping until 7 a luxury,
    by Brenda J. Buote, Boston Globe.
    By the time the sun rises, Joan Lawrence of Beverly has finished her workout at the gym, folded a load of laundry, balanced her checkbook, gassed up her Toyota Rav 4, picked up her dry cleaning, and crammed in a little grocery shopping. ''If I didn't get this stuff done first thing in the morning, it would never get done," said Lawrence, director of financial development for the YMCA of the North Shore. ''My day is usually pretty busy. Most days, I have a lunch meeting or appointments after work. That's when the volunteers and donors typically need to meet with me, so there's little time left at the end of the day to run errands." Lawrence gets up by 4:30 every morning and is on the treadmill by 5 a.m. She rushes home for a quick shower at 6 a.m., then takes a few moments to pay bills or tidy her apartment. By 6:30 a.m., she's out the door to do chores. An hour later, her workday at the YMCA begins with a cup of coffee and a muffin. Throughout the Greater Boston area, a legion of early birds are rising before dawn as professionals like Lawrence, with hectic schedules and precious little free time, are choosing to start their day ever earlier. Boston College sociology professor Juliet B. Schor, who wrote ''The overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of leisure," estimates that the typical employee works 200 more hours a year than did his or her counterpart 30 years ago. As a result, snoozing until 7 a.m. has become a luxury for many professionals. Chores that once were done at the end of the workday now rule the wee hours of the morning. Early has become the new late. ''I get up around 4 a.m. to do dishes, putter around, clean the house, andgo to the gym," said Michael Williams of Everett. ''All of my friends refer to the old Marine Corps saying, telling me that I get more done before 7 a.m. than most people get done all day." Not surprisingly, many savvy business owners are extending their hours to meet the demands of the predawn crowd. The Beverly Sterling YMCA opens its doors by 5 a.m. to welcome a group of fitness aficionados, who flock to the gym's treadmills and bikes. Starbucks also caters to early risers, and often begins brewing coffee long before sunrise. The Saugus store, for example, opens at 5:15 a.m. In Beverly Farms, Debora Lunt opens her hair studio at 6 a.m. weekdays so she can close up shop on weekends and spend time with her two children. ''People don't even realize I'm closed on the weekend because we're able to accommodate them before they start their workday," said Lunt. ''Many of my clients get up early because they have long commutes and want to avoid traffic hassles. They love that 6 a.m. spot. They're able to get their hair done early, and go to work looking great. My morning appointments are booked up now through Christmas." At Henry's market in North Beverly, commuters stream into the store as soon as it opens. Some come for a cup of coffee and a freshly baked breakfast pastry, while others drop in to buy their groceries. On most mornings, owner Henry Swanson...greets customers at the door. He calls many of the regulars by name as he hands out cookies with a smile. Henry's, a family-owned business that has been in operation since 1941, has long catered to the morning crowd. The store is open by 7 a.m. every weekday and does a brisk business, so much so that the store is closed holidays and Sundays, and is open only from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. ''Henry believes kids should be at home with their families in the evenings, having dinner or doing homework, so he chooses to close up shop early," said John Keohane, Henry's chief executive officer. ''We do good business during the hours we're open, so there's no reason really for us to stay open later. Besides, the early closing time allows us to attract and retain a better caliber of help." In addition to a longer workday, many people are finding that their commutes are stretching, giving them little choice but to leave home in the predawn hours. Between 1990 and 2000, most Massachusetts communities saw a drop in the percentage of workers with commutes between 5 and 20 minutes, and a notable increase in the percentage of workers with commutes of 40 to 59 minutes, according to US Census figures. Statewide, the average commute time jumped 19% between 1990 and 2000, from 22.7 to 27 minutes. The bottom line for many people: They simply don't have the time or energy to rush around doing errands after putting in a full day at the office. Molly Murphy sets aside at least an hour every morning to drive from her home in Newbury to her office in Lexington. And then another 20 minutes to take care of errands she won't have time to get to after work. She can often be spotted strolling the aisles of the Super Stop & Shop in Bedford by 6:30 a.m. ''I hate that I have to run errands this early, but sometimes you just have to," Murphy said. Although Murphy is not alone in her disdain of the morning grind, others say rising at the crack of dawn is a delight. At 5 a.m. in Boston's northern suburbs, the streets are dark and quiet. It's a peaceful time, perfect for prayer and meditation, or an early morning run. ''I like to take my daily jog in the morning, when everyone else is sleeping," said Susan Sweeney of Winthrop, vice president of operations at Mellon Financial in Everett. ''Along the way, I'll drop cards and magazines at friends' houses. They wake to find something by their front door and it makes them smile. Sometimes I wear a headset and listen to the news or music. Other times, I just say my prayers." Lawrence, the busy YMCA executive, said she, too, has come to appreciate the serenity of the early morning hours. In fact, she has just one gripe about her daily routine. ''I wish more places were open early," said Lawrence, between trips to the bank and the gas station. ''I'd like the mall to open by 7 a.m. I've got some returns I need to make. And if I could get a manicure and pedicure before work - that would be heaven!"
    Douglas Belkin and Johnny Diaz of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Brenda J. Buote may be reached at bbuote@globe.com

  7. 11/13   Law and You
    by Mohammed Jaber Nader, Arab News, Saudi Arabia
    J.I. from Qasim
    (a) I am a doctor working with a private hospital. My contract is of three years duration. It says that an employee will get 15 days paid vacation annually. The company will give a round trip air ticket and 30 days paid vacation every two years. If someone wants to go on vacation in the first year, the company will allow him 15 days vacation but he has to purchase his own ticket.
    (b) The company also asks for guarantors from the employees who want to go on vacation after the first year. The guarantors should be two doctors of the same hospital. The management says that they will deduct two months salary from each guarantor if the employee on vacation fails to return. This condition is neither mentioned in our written contract nor told to us before coming to the Kingdom. Is such act of company, asking for guarantors, legal?
    (a) Since your contract says, "a ticket for every two years", that's what you will get. A contract is the law among the signatories. If you wish to travel on your vacation before the end of the stipulated two years of service, you will have to pay for the ticket yourself.
    (b) Your hospital may have a reason to ask for the guarantee. The reason could be that they want to ensure that the expenses they paid to bring you for the first time to the country in addition to any transportation or housing would be guaranteed if you did not return. On the other part, the guarantee may be to at least ensure the repayment of the return ticket. There may be other expenses or allowances such as house rent or schooling that the company may have advanced. Nevertheless, the two months guarantee, which the company asks for, could be out of proportion to the investment that the hospital might have advanced. Try to discuss the matter with the management and if there is cause for providing the guarantee you should give that to them....

  8. 11/13   Time To Ride - It's hard to fit cycling into your life, but it's absolutely necessary - Here's why
    By Joe Lindsey, Bicycling [mag?] Mark Silberman knows this one is bad. He's watched the wooden double doors bang open hundreds of times, revealing a gutshot gang member, a suicidal insurance adjuster in anaphylactic shock from a drug overdose or a middle-aged woman with blunt-force trauma from a car accident. But this one's worse. Silberman is all alone in the emergency room of Community Hospital in Dobbs Ferry, New York, the only doc on duty in a normally sleepy ward with just four treatment rooms, and the pregnant woman lying in front of him, in labor at the end of her second trimester, doesn't speak English. Her husband stands nearby, frantically explaining in his few words of broken English that his wife has pain in her stomach. There's no obstetrician or gynecologist, and the critical-care transfer unit from nearby Westchester Medical Center is already in the helicopter on another trauma call. It's all on Silberman. He doesn't hesitate. Even as hisbody begins moving, his mind runs continuous scenarios, maps out plans of action, possible complications and responses, alternate solutions. The two lives in his hands are at the center of an intense mental focus that was once missing from Silberman's life. And that focus is the product of one thing, according to Silberman: He rode his bike that morning. When he rides, he says, "my head is clear." Silberman...works an average of 50 hours a week, in a place where people live or die because of his decisions. Last year, he rode his bike 330 days.
    A couple hundred miles away, in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Andrea Cox has a different kind of baby problem. Connor, her first child, a few weeks old, has been crying for nearly eight hours. He's colicky. After countless visits to the doctor, she understands the only thing to do is to wait it out, but she's near her breaking point. In tears, she calls her husband at work. "Paul," she says, voice cracking. "I need you to come home right now." "I'm leaving right away," he says. "I'll be home as soon as I can." When he arrives, Andrea hands Connor to him and runs to the garage, searching for the same refuge that Mark Silberman uses to calm himself before each day in the ER. She gets on her bike and pedals down the driveway. Quiet. Peace. The rhythm of pedals turning over, of the chain snicking through gears, the whirr-fwip-fwip-whirr of tires crossing tar patches.
    The benefits of riding are broad, and solidly proven in a multitude of medical studies: less fat, more muscle, lower blood pressure and less risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses. Other studies show that regular aerobic exercise does just as good a job strengthening mental and emotional fitness.
    You don't need studies to understand that. During those magic periods in your life when you're riding as much as you want, you feel the benefits. You see the benefits: a well-turned calf, the freedom to go slightly nuts on the spread at the office party without gaining two pounds.
    Yet even with firsthand proof, most of us have trouble fitting cycling into our lives. Like Silberman and Cox, we have jobs and families and commitments. Paradoxically, our culture seems to crunch our lives in terms of both work and leisure pursuits. The Economic Policy Institute's "State of Working America" report found that in 2000, American workers spent the equivalent of almost a full month more per year on the job than they did in 1967. But we also appear to have more leisure hours than we did 30 years ago, according to John Robinson, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who ran the 30-year Americans' Use of Time Project.
    [Juliet Schor ('Overworked American') and Elizabeth Warren ('Two-Income Trap') would beg to differ with him and have better data and less politics.]
    Presumably, we're filling those hours with our culture's ever-expanding array of entertainment, communication, family and technological activities. How else to explain that in surveys bicycling has conducted among people who quit the sport, "can't find time to ride," ranks first or second as the key discouraging factor?
    But Silberman and Cox have discovered two irreducible truths: Getting on the bike isn't about finding time but about making time, and that's worth doing because regularly using some part of their day to ride makes them better people during all the hours they're off the saddle.
    "When I got pregnant," says Cox..."people would tell me, 'Oh, your life is over. You'll never do anything spontaneous again.'" A dedicated bike racer and lifelong fitness buff, Cox says she was determined to disprove the predictions. Within three weeks of giving birth, although she never slept more than three hours in a row during the worst of Connor's colic, Cox got back on the bike. Two months to the day after Connor's birth, Cox was pinning on a race bib, already having shed 20 of the 35 pounds she gained in pregnancy.
    One problem: Between Connor, her own cycling aspirations and a full-time job designing rocket engines for General Electric - as well as Paul's own racing ambitions and full-time job-Cox wasn't making time to ride; she was jamming rides into her life. She began arguing with Paul, often about cycling - counting not only each other's rides, but minutes in the saddle. Cycling became just another stress point.
    "I'd say I was going for a three-hour ride," Cox says. "I'd be 15 minutes late and we'd have an argument. He'd say, 'Well then I get to go for 3:15 too!' We couldn't do that and have a healthy marriage."
    They found time to ride, ironically, by agreeing to stop counting minutes. "We realized it's not about time," Cox says. "It's about what I need, and what Paul needs." Cox went part-time at GE, and they also decided not to race every weekend. It was, finally, the simple act of riding when they felt they needed to, not obsessing over miles, minutes or race finishes, that made them happy.
    For Dr. Silberman, balance was not a matter of retooling his cycling schedule but rekindling one so long dormant he essentially started from scratch. Five years ago he was a typical, harried ER doctor, if a damn good one - associate director of the ward at Columbia University Medical Center and tabbed for the overall directorship. He had prestige, job security and great money but also a slight paunch, steadily increasing blood pressure and a 70-hour-plus workweek filled with paperwork and bureaucratic wrinkles that often kept him from seeing his kids, Aaron and Eve, then 6 and 8, at their sports events and school concerts. At work, he found his concentration wavering, and sometimes had to ask patients to repeat case histories because his mind wandered.
    Silberman decided to simplify his life by working only as a physician. At the same time, he also asked a colleague if he could join the morning ride group. Larry Gilhooly, an intimidatingly large respiratory therapist with a long, iron-gray ponytail, is part of a group of doctors who've been meeting for rides as many mornings as they can for 15 years.
    "Sure, go get a bike," Gilhooly remembers saying, not expecting to see his frazzled, unhealthy compatriot on the dawn-patrol circuit. Now they see each other almost every day in some fog-shrouded parking lot, ready to hammer for an hour.
    Downgrading your job. Downscaling lifelong goals (such as a full-time race schedule piled on motherhood and a full-time job). Are such radical steps necessary? Absolutely-if the end result is regular, reliable, soothing time on your bike. Doctors, psychologists and self-help manuals all tout the benefits of taking time for yourself, and rightly so, says time-management expert Julie Morgenstern, author of several best-selling books on the subject, including Time Management from the Inside Out. "At minimum, you need at least 30 minutes a day devoted to doing something you love, for pure enjoyment," she says.
    Half an hour? Every day? That's hard. For starters, there's so much to do. Then there are interruptions. And finally there's the guilt - shouldn't I be doing something, you ask yourself?
    Relax. You are.
    By making time to just enjoy yourself, you get more done overall, says Morgenstern. "It's an odd, counterintuitive thing," she says. "If you take time for yourself, even though it makes you 'busier,' it's fulfilling. It gives you energy, brainpower, a sense of self-fulfillment that helps you perform in every other area of your life. You get more done in less time the rest of the week." People who don't take this time are in slow motion, says Morgenstern. "You're not rested and focused. It's extremely tangible; everyone I've ever worked with has seen this happen."
    Silberman says he's felt the paradox Morgenstern calls the "Time-Stretching Effect," where each day that he rides feels as if it has more hours. He also depends on cycling to color his days. "When it's snowing," for instance, he says, "I used to feel it was dreary. It was a pain to drive to work, everything was a pain. But if you ride in the woods and see snow on the branches, it fills your spirit and you say, 'Wow, this is a great day.'"
    Cox, who's learned to feed her competitive urge in manageable doses, feels this effect, too. "If I'm on a group ride and am one of the first 10 riders over the hill, then that's satisfying and it rejuvenates you," she says."When I get back to my desk I'm starting anew." The adjustment is working: She's well into her second trimester with a second child.
    As Mark Silberman drives home, he is happy. He saved lives of both the mother and the preemie. Waiting at his home are his wife, Lena; Eve, now a precocious 13-year-old who's probably blaring pop music on the family stereo; and Aaron, 12, who will want to go for a bike ride up the North County Rail Trail and maybe stop for some ice cream. And tomorrow morning, at 7, Silberman will meet his friends for another ride. Mark Silberman likes riding his bike....

  9. 11/13   Human trafficking alleged in Nanakuli
    Honolulu Advertiser, HI
    By Vicki Viotti
    A Tongan man testified yesterday before a federal judge that he was brought to Hawai'i for odd jobs and farm labor and ended up in conditions approaching slavery, in what has been described as a human-trafficking scheme devised by a Waipahu man. Lueleni Fetongi Maka is charged with six counts each of human trafficking, involuntary servitude, forced labor, alien harboring and alien smuggling, and five counts of unlawful use of documents. At yesterday's hearing before U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, witnesses testified that Maka used passports of U.S. citizens to bring Tongan nationals into Hawai'i: seven men who arrived between May and August 2001 and lived on Maka's pig farm in Nanakuli. The men allegedly worked for Maka's pig-farming and landscaping businesses until January 2003, when the first of the victims was arrested for immigration violations. The investigation led to Maka's indictment in June 2003. One of the seven workers, Francis "Sesi" Tautua'a, spoke through an interpreter yesterday about how the men slept on dirty mattresses, worked from dawn until dusk, received weekly pay that ranged up to $240 ‹ but sometimes got nothing ‹ and at times were forced to catch and eat dogs because their food stores had not been replenished. Assistant U.S. attorney William Shipley asked Tautua'a how late the men would work. "Sometimes we worked after the sun went down," he said. The $240 weekly pay he was promised seemed like a lot of money at the time, Tautua'a said, but he added that he rarely got the full amount and was told that some was withheld to be sent back to his family in Tonga. In the beginning, he said, he assumed Maka had brought him to Hawai'i with all the legal passports and visas. Maka had handled all the paperwork at immigration checkpoints after the flight to Honolulu, he said. "At that time my, trust was on him, so I wasn't scared," Tautua'a said. "But I (was) scared later because I realized I'm here illegally." The court also heard from Kuhio Barrios, a Hawai'i resident who sometimes worked for Maka and who told how his U.S. passport was among those used to bring in the Tongan workers. Although Barrios did not live on the farm, he also described the conditions, including cooking facilities limited to a small gas stove; the long work hours; and dwellings he described as plywood "shacks." He said he witnessed Maka chasing Tautua'a and beating him for more than a half-hour one day because a mirror on the company truck had been broken. Federal public defender William Domingo asked Barrios whether some of the men had girlfriends who occasionally stayed with them, and Barrios said that sometimes happened. Domingo asked whether the farm gate was sometimes unlocked. Barrios said that it was, although he added that there were other gates along Hakimo Road as well.
    Reach Vicki Viotti at vviotti@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8053

  10. 11/13   Hard-working Kiwis pay price
    Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand
    By RUTH LAUGESEN
    Workplaces must become more family-friendly, says the government, or it could adopt new laws forcing bosses to change. The move comes as new research shows New Zealand couples work longer hours than in any other country in the developed world. Well-qualified, well-paid professional couples are leading the charge, clocking up the longest hours of all, suggesting long hours are not solely driven by poverty. But in research being released this week by the Labour Department, economist Dr Paul Callister found a pattern of mounting hours across almost all age and income groups. Working couples aged 25 to 59 with no dependent children boosted their work hours by close to an extra day between them from 1986 to 2001. Average hours rose seven hours to 78 for the couples over the period. Couples in the same age group with dependent children were close behind, boosting their work hours by five hours a week. Their average total had risen to 69 hours a week by 2001. The proportion of couples topping more than 100 work hours between them a week also climbed. There were 67,000 New Zealand couples in the under-54 age group in this group, and 32,000 of them had dependent children. Callister found those toiling the longest were those at the privileged end of society. Couples (aged 25-59) that both had a degree or higher were working 74 hours a week. Couples in which neither person had a qualification were working an average of 68 hours a week between them. Callister said it wasn't clear how much the growing work hours was because people enjoyed working, or because workplaces had norms that "you have to meet to succeed".
    But help could be at hand. Best-practice guidelines will be unveiled by the government at the end of the month showing how good employers can accommodate staff looking for work-life balance, says Associate Labour Minister Ruth Dyson. If in 12 months workplaces have shown little or no sign of greater flexibility, she says she will consider flexible work legislation based on new British policies. The British approach gives employees with children aged under six the right to request part-time or flexible work hours. Employees can also ask to work from home. Employers have the right to say no, but they are required to seriously consider employee requests and give reasons for their decision. Dyson said she thought the British legislation was "quite a good idea", as it did not force employers to agree to requests for flexible work. She said changes further down the track could also include: Introducing the right to domestic leave in the Holidays Act for parents with a critically ill child. Introducing caps on very long work hours for crane operators and other construction workers where there were safety issues, similar to caps on hours worked by taxi drivers. With current labour shortages, it made sense for employers to try harder to meet some workers' needs to fit in with school hours or school holidays, for example. While recently released International Labour Organisation figures showed individual Kiwis were second only to the Japanese in long working hours among developed nations, Callister's work is the first to look at couples. He found that among other Western countries, New Zealand was first equal with the United States for working hours by couples. Family advocates have expressed alarm at the working-hour trends. Plunket chief executive Paul Baigent said employers, including organisations like his, needed to start questioning the culture of long working hours. "Spending time with kids at home is really important and everyone knows that," he said. Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly said businesses that wanted to attract the best staff were increasingly aware of the need to tailor-make jobs and hours to suit people's circumstances. But legislation would be a blunt instrument that would create winners and losers.

  11. 11/13   Report says doctors cutting hours
    Journal Pioneer, Canada
    By JIM BROWN
    The statistics are sobering for anyone trying to find a family doctor. According to a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), The Evolving Role of Canada's Family Physicians: 1992-2001, released earlier this week, male and female family physicians are slashing their hours. Increasing numbers of doctors are not willing to sacrifice their families, their health and their personal lives, for the sake of their patients. Among the study's findings are: Dr. David Stewart, a family doctor who oversees a 3,000-patient practice in Cornwall, has read the CIHI report and agrees with its findings. Stewart, recently named one of Canada's Family Physicians of the Year by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, says he dropped out of the baby-delivery business years ago, when malpractice insurance premiums and other costs rose and payments failed to keep pace. Stewart said he could easily work seven days a week if he wanted to, but that would come at the expense of emotional and physical health, as well as his effectiveness as a doctor. Stewart said things are gradually improving for family doctors in P.E.I. and elsewhere across the country, especially in the area of professional development and vacation and leave time, but the profession remains far from healthy. He noted many doctors in rural areas throughout P.E.I. are finding it difficult, and in some cases, nearly impossible, to book a week's vacation. All this is happening at a time when numbers of family physicians are on the rise in P.E.I., according to Health Minister Chester Gillan. But more family doctors are not the complete answer to physician shortages, said Stewart, since all physicians aren't cut from the same mould. Physicians go through different cycles in their careers where they devote more or less hours to their work. And there are many physicians, especially young female physicians, who maintain smaller patient loads and reduced hours, to have more time for their families. Many male doctors are now doing the same thing, said Stewart. And there are more doctors who are thinking twice about working in hospitals. They are weighing the personal costs of maintaining regular practices and hospital work, said Stewart. Once a patient checks into a hospital, the patient's doctor or an alternate must be available to him or her 24 hours a day, seven days a week, he said. Doctors want their patients to receive the best care, but it is disheartening when payment for hospital work amounts to $22 a day, while the cost of hospitalizing a patient is approximately $860 a day at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said Stewart. Payment for an office visit, meanwhile, is roughly the same, but a visit may only last a few minutes, he said. Stewart...has been busy over the years providing a broad range of services to his patients - including founding, with his wife Nancy, 14 mobile pap screening clinics and training nurses to perform pap tests. Stewart set up his practice in Cornwall in 1977, and has found time to teach sailing skills to youngsters and to help bring new docks and new rescue boats to the Charlottetown Yacht Club. Stewart said he was attracted to family medicine by the opportunity to learn a wide range of skills and perform many different services ranging from setting broken bones to mental health, addictions and obstetrics. But that is also the downside, since there are times when Stewart feels "overwhelmed" by the demands of his job. Even with a 3,000 patient workload, far above the national average, he is still fielding many requests from residents who want him to be their family doctor. Stewart confirmed many medical students are attracted to specialties instead of family practice, even though they have to extend their training for several years. That's because the specialties offer better hours and greater pay and professional opportunities. Up to 40% of a family physician's income is consumed by office overhead, said Stewart. If governments shouldered more of the cost of setting up and running practices, that could make a big difference in helping to attract new doctors into family practice, he said.

  12. 11/12   US Airways asks court to end 3 union contracts, pensions - Airline: Unfortunate but necessary move
    Pittsburgh Post Gazette, PA
    By Dan Fitzpatrick
    [Here's one formulation of the key problem - and the basis of the long Kondratieff wave on the business cycle - every so often the wealthy decision makers get bored and frustrated that their holdings aren't entertaining them enough by increasing dramatically - though why should? - so they start breaking contracts to reformulate more in their own interest. Any excuse will do.]
    US Airways yesterday asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to wipe out the collective bargaining agreements of 20,000 employees, terminate the pensions of 53,000 existing and former workers and slash the health benefits of almost 11,000 retirees. The move, which sets the stage for a potential final showdown with workers during the holidays, was called "unfortunate but necessary" by an airline struggling to survive. If granted, the measures would save an estimated $1.08 billion annually and give twice-bankrupt US Airways a "fighting chance to survive," the nation's seventh-largest carrier said. Without the relief, it predicted it would not last beyond mid-January. An Alexandria, Va., bankruptcy judge will hear arguments for and against the motion on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3. By law, the judge has up to 30 days after those hearings to consider US Airways' request. Yesterday's action pits the carrier against three unions representing 20,000 flight attendants, machinists, baggage handlers and passenger service workers, who collectively are being asked to provide $646 million of the $1.08 billion in average annual concessions the airline has requested from all employee groups through 2009. US Airways already has achieved $326 million in annual savings through agreements that have been ratified by 3,200 pilots and a few hundred other employees. The company also is seeking an additional $52 million in retiree medical cuts for union and non-union employees, negotiating most of those changes with a retiree committee appointed by the judge. US Airways Chief Executive Officer Bruce Lakefield said his "overwhelming preference" is to still reach consensual deals with the unions before decades-old contracts are thrown out, pensions are eliminated and replaced with less-generous 401(k) plans and retiree benefits are cut. If that does not happen, though, and the court rejects contracts covering 20,000 of the company's 28,000 mainline workers, the company claims it would then be able to temporarily impose pay, work rules and benefits contained in the most recent cost-cutting offers made to the three unions. The unions would then be obligated by law to negotiate brand-new contracts. The request comes as many employees already are operating under last month's bankruptcy court decision that cut their pay 21% through mid-February. In awarding it, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Mitchell called US Airways a "ticking fiscal time bomb." US Airways acknowledged yesterday that employees "already made significant economic sacrifices" during the company's first bout of bankruptcy, in late 2002 and early 2003, "and now they are being asked to give more." But "the greater hardship," it said, would be for the company to fail and 34,000 mainline and commuter employees "to be left with nothing." "This filing represents a final request to union leaders to work with us," Lakefield said. The holdout unions reacted with a mix of outrage and resignation. "Management is moving to shred its contracts, while at the same time claiming that it would prefer a consensual agreement with its workers," said flight attendants union president Perry Hayes, "This naked attempt at intimidation demonstrates the company's contempt for its workers and for the collective bargaining process." As of this weekend, the flight attendants and the company are "pretty far apart" on new contract terms, particularly over pay and vacation, added Teddy Xidas, an acknowledged hard-liner who has been elected to replace Hayes as of Jan. 1. For its part, the Communications Workers of America - which represents 6,000 reservation workers and gate and ticket agents - already has authorization from members to strike if its contract is rejected by the court. A top CWA official predicted such an outcome if the judge grants the company's motion, even though US Airways contends that such a strike would be illegal. "What do you have left to lose?'' said Chris Fox, president of CWA Pittsburgh Local 13302. The union and the company, she said, are nowhere close to an agreement, with the two sides at odds over the company's request to outsource as many as 800 reservations jobs. "I don't know that we will be able to reach an agreement," Fox said. "We are not in the business of outsourcing jobs." A top negotiator with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers predicted that the company's motion yesterday "is going to put a hell of a lot of pressure on both parties to come to a consensual agreement" before the judge can act. Bill Freiberger, assistant general chairman for the IAM's District 142, also said a strike is an option if the contracts are abrogated but believes it will not come to that. If the contracts are thrown out, Freiberger predicts employee morale will plummet, "the operation would probably go to hell" and the company would collapse. "It is over at that point," he said. Talks between the IAM and US Airways are slow-going, he said. A big sticking point is the company's request to outsource the duties of many mechanics, stock clerks and airplane cleaners - a move Freiberger said would cost 2,800 jobs. The IAM is not giving up hope, he added. "We are going to work as hard as we can to get a consensual agreement and try to preserve as many jobs at a livable wage as we can," Freiberger said. US Airways' second bout in bankruptcy has been exacerbated by surprisingly high fuel prices and increased competition from low-cost carriers, forcing it to keep fares low and sacrifice revenue. It is on track to lose $700 million this year, and in recent weeks the company has been "uncomfortably close" to dipping beneath minimum cash levels needed to keep its bankruptcy financing intact, according to bankruptcy documents. In recent days, the company shed some future fuel commitments to raise $46 million and obtained short-term aircraft finance savings totaling another $50 million. But the maneuvers "do not offer any long-term solutions" to the company's problems, it said. US Airways still hopes to attract as much as $250 million from an equity investor to lift it out of bankruptcy, but that can not happen, it said, without large cuts in labor costs. "But time is fast running out," it added.
    Dan Fitzpatrick can be reached at dfitzpatrick@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1752.

  13. 11/12   No backup, no sick days, postal employees say
    CBC Edmonton, Canada
    EDMONTON, Alta. - Canada Post employees in rural and suburban offices say they are unable to get time off because there is a shortage of replacement employees, and are planning job action to make their point. Marie Harke, who delivers mail in Westlock, says Canada Post promised to find backup workers to fill in for sick or vacation days by June, but hasn'tdelivered. "Friday, a lady had a stroke and her sister works in the same office as her, took her to the hospital. Canada Post's only concern was who is going to deliver the mail," Harke said. "We have to find our own help." Harke, who says she can be fired if she doesn't deliver the mail, added she had to work the day after her daughter died because she couldn't find a replacement. Workers are planning to wear shirts expressing their frustration as a first step. Canada Post says the company is following the contract and only agreed to run a relief-worker trial program in a few communities. Harke agrees it's difficult to find people willing to fill in, when it amounts to only a few days a year. But she says Canada Post is in the best position to find a solution to the problem. "In a little town, finding somebody to work now and again is very difficult because they have to have their police checks, their driver's abstract, all of this has to be done before they can come in and work," Harke said.

  14. 11/12   Citizen Power and Venezuela's Local Public Planning Councils
    Venezuelanalysis.com, Venezuela
    By Sarah Wagner
    Despite the overwhelming number of democratic transitions in Latin America during the 1980s, as well as the apparent consolidation of electoral democracy, a cursory examination of the region shows that their societies continue to be plagued by poverty, social exclusion and corruption. In order to address these deficits, one must acknowledge that democracy is more than free and fair elections; it is also about creating a healthy civil society, an active political culture, and providing ample opportunities for the incorporation of the people into the political process. The leftist governments of Lula da Silva of Brazil and of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, when confronted with the failed promises of their historically elite-controlled governments, entrenched social structures, and neoliberal economic policies, have highlighted the interrelationship between the political and the social arena by ackowledging that participation and citizenship are necessary components for the creation of a healthy democracy. In the Brazilian case, these efforts have concentrated on a project appropriately termed "participatory budgeting," which seeks to increase citizen involvement in the allocation of local government resources. In Venezuela, the goal is loftier: to complement representative democracy with participatory democracy. This effort contributes to the strengthening of democracy by providing the tools necessary for citizens to influence decisions concerning their economic and social wellbeing. In other words, the citizens develop policy and the politicians implement it, thus decentralizing power. Over the course of the past two years, citizen power has expanded in Venezuela through the implementation of Local Public Planning Councils (CLPPs). The broader significance of participatory democracy is that it addresses social exclusions and incomplete citizenship through the increased accountability of elected officials to the citizens by directly involving the latter in the political arena, redistributing power by expanding popular deliberation and participation in policy areas and redirecting revenue to address the concerns of the people.
    Porto Alegre's Experience with Participatory Budgeting
    Through the implementation of participatory budgeting the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, the people of the province of Rio Grande do Sur have deepened their level of consciousness and have taken the first step in creating a community of informed citizens who actively participate in their local government. The new Brazilian Constitution, drafted in 1988, placed significant emphasis on increasing the autonomy of the municipalities through decentralization, as well as on the promotion of popular participation. The following year (1989) Popular Alliance, a leftist coalition led by the Workers Party (PT), gained control of the municipal government in Porto Alegre, based on a platform of grassroots participation. Throughout their four terms in office, participatory budgeting was the foundation for the PT municipal governance. Participatory budgeting mobilized the citizens from the barrios by creating space for debate between the elected leadership of the municipal administration and the people. A number of sessions are held annually in order to educate the populace in order that they are capable of making informed decisions about budgeting priorities. The citizens then elect representatives who, side by side with the city adminstration, allocate resources in several thematic areas: transportation, infastructure, urban zoning, taxation, economic development and education. Forums were also established for issues such as health and public safety, leisure activities, environmental issues, draining systems, road paving, housing, land titling, healthcare, cultural facilites and long-term priorities. As a result of this new progressive agenda, the accountability of the elected officials to the citizens has dramatically increased. Rebecca Aber, in her book Inventing Local Democracy: Grassroots Politics in Brazil, observes that "the constant threat that participants would demand evidence pressured the administration to carry out only those actions that it could, at least, justify. The consequence of this kind of transparency was the total elimination within the municipal budget of the corruption and clientelism that are entrenched in most of Brazilian governmentŠIt was impossible for money to disappear, for contracts to be overpriced, for promises to be ignored, and for unnecessary investments to be madeŠ" Since the implementation of participatory budgeting, considerable headway has been made in empowering citizens by directly involving them in the political process and in delegating them the authority to make the final decision as to where the revenue of the annual budget is allocated. It must be noted that the participation of citizens in participatory democracy was met with several early failures and only later, successes. Despite these initial setbacks, it is estimated that 100,000 people, or 1/3 of the city's poor (Porto Alegre has an estimated population of 1.3 million) have taken part in this process on some level. Although participatory budgeting is unable to completely solve the massive poverty which plagues Brazil, an active and informed civil society is widely regarded as playing an unqualifiable positive role in the deepening of democracy. El Pacto de Punto Fijo: Venezuela's experience with democracy during the final part of the 4th Republic. After the fall of the military dictatorship of Pérez Jimenez in 1958, the dominant political parties of the nation signed the Pact of "Punto Fijo," establishing a fairly restrictive and exclusionary democracy in the interest of stability.[1] Despite the limitations this agreement placed on democracy, Venezuela was often refered to as Latin America's model democracy. Throughout the duration of their 41 year "pacted democracy," Venezuela's political elites successfully monopolized both the political and economic arena by marginalizing their opponents and reaping over $300 billion in oil profits. By the time this revenue had dried up, the country was sustaining an external debt of $24 billion dollars, while around 75% of the population was living in poverty. These exclusionary practices, along with the country's vastly unequal distribution of wealth, played a key role in the institutional decay and the increasing illegitimacy of the governments. César Solórzano notes that if democracy, instead of being a path to social transformation, remains in a stagnant equilibrium, serving only to maintain and consolidate the power of the priviledged, the distance between the representatives and the represented will invariably grow.[2] This observation holds true for the Venezuelan case: the post-1958 period was one of increasing distance between parties and the people they supposedly represented.
    A New Form of Governance
    The election of Hugo Chavez Frias in 1998 initiated a process of reform, in which he effectively redrew the political map of the country. "The overwhelming defeat of the traditional parties in the elections at the end of 1998, and their notable lack of support or affection in the hearts and minds of the great mass of the people, has meant the complete collapse of any organized political opposition to Chávez."[3] Within the first year of his presidency, a new Constitution was drawn up by a Constitutional Assembly and approved by over 70% of the population. Through the implementation of new laws and programs, such as the recall referendum and the missions, Chávez has reinvigorated the previously discredited electoral process. His administration also launched a series of social reforms aimed at generating grassroots participation. Article 62 of the Constitution establishes that "the participation of the people in the formation, execution and control of public matters is themeans necessary to accomplish the protagonism that will guarantee their complete development, both as individuals and collectively. It is the obligation of the State and the duty of society to facilitate the most favorable conditions for the practice of this."
    Law of Local Public Planification Councils
    Article 182 of the Constitution established the Law of Local Public Planification Councils (CLPPs) and required that the 335 municipalities implemented them before the 12th of October, 2002. The CLPPs are deliberative bodies created to respond to the needs and priorties of local citizens. Sectors of civil society such as education, health care, transportation and cultural groups, among others are currently being represented in the CLPPs. The idea behind the CLPPs is to balance the opinions of local constituents, channel their frustrations and discontent into action, and implement these suggestions into solutions. Taking into consideration that this is relatively uncharted territory, it becomes apparent that these are lofty goals, although not unattainable. Therefore, instead of feeling like hopeless pawns, capable of influencing the government only by voting for those who would represent them, citizens are empowered. Previously, power was concentrated in the hands of a few; the mayor and councilors exclusively approved the municipal budget, without bothering to consult civil society. Now, citizens not only help to develop an annual budget, they also actively supervise its implementation. The CLPPs have legal and constitutional rules they must follow. Article 185 clarifies that an executive vice president presides over the council which is composed of a mayor, governor, members of the city council, as well as representatives of neighborhood organizations and civil society. CLPPs have made elected representatives more accountable to the citizens and provided the base for social transformation on a local level. Yet, it is crucial to point out that although the CLPPs benefit the communities in that they decentralize the local government and transfer services to the communities, the citizens have obligations as well. These responsibilities are outlined in Articles 178 and 184 of the Constitution. In this sense, the CLPPs are a reciprocal agreement. By providing the people with the opportunity to directly participate and influence local planning councils, Venezuela avoids what Joseph Stiglitz[4] considers the catalyst in the failure of development projects in the Third World: the people had not been consulted or brought into the process. The view of Stiglitz is quite clear: since the people have arguably the most comprehensive understanding of their own reality, they are thus in the best position to decide how to allocate resources. Regardless of the advances with respect to the empowerment of citizens, it is important to acknowledge that there are fundamental problems with the quality and degree of participation. Some citizens are unable to attend meetings, the degree of participation varies, and the quality of participation oftentimes depends on a person's capacity to understand political and economic terminology. While it is difficult to forsee exactly how the CLPPs might overcome these obstacles, two things are clear. First, the realization of economic democracy is far more difficult to achieve than political democracy. Venezuela and Latin American nations have not been able to consolidate their democracies and will not be able to do so until the issues of participation and social justice are addressed and their economic disparities are valued at the same level as electoral competition. Secondly, Venezuela has taken an unqualified positive step towards participatory democracy. The essence of the new Venezuelan democracy is the ability of the people to participate in what had previously been a "pacted" democracy, serving only to perpetutate structural forms of inequality.

  15. 11/12   'Moral Majority' says no time off
    Rockingham News, NH
    Has the Moral Majority come to Raymond? Back in 1979 evangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell led a U.S. political-action group composed of conservative, fundamentalist Christians who pushed for the election of conservative political leaders. The Moral Majority lobbied for in-school prayer and teaching biblical accounts of the creation of the world, which many people, Christians included, believe is not the correct forum. That initiative however, had a basis of good intention. Essentially, teaching children that it is OK to believe and talk to God, even if you are in a state-owned facility and to understand that though some people think mankind evolved from apes, many believe the Bible's version of our origin. However, the Moral Majority also worked diligently to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment for women (feminism), homosexual rights, abortion, and the U.S.-Soviet SALT treaties, which called for the reduction and limitation of nuclear weapons around the world. The Moral Majority dissolved in 1989 ... or so we thought. This week, Raymond selectmen met to revise the town's personnel policy. Essentially it is an ongoing effort, with recommendations being made by Raymond's policy committee, to clearly define employee guidelines like when a worker qualifies for sick and bereavement time off. Monday's selectmen's work session began as routine housecleaning; sweeping through the verbiage that defines what constitutes an immediate family member. Town employees currently get one day off for sick or bereavement time regarding an extended family member and three days off for someone in their immediate family. To the horror of at least one selectman, the policy committee had recommended adding the words "domestic partner" into the definition of what constitutes an "immediate family" member. Those two fairly benign words incited a warm, if not heated, discussion regarding whether employees should be allowed time off to care for someone they share their life with, if in fact they are not legally married to that person. The undertone to the argument, led by Selectman and State Sen. Jack Barnes, was that "domestic partners" should not be recognized in the policy. Barnes said it is just not right. Selectman Norman Weldy Jr. agreed. The remainder of the board questioned the reasoning, but Barnes chose not to elaborate. It seemed that he thought everyone should know why. Perhaps, it was homosexual relationships that were his concern? In opposition to Barnes' argument, a citizen in attendance pointed out that the term "domestic partner" did not indicate specifically a homosexual partner. There are in fact people who live with a member of the opposite sex, (their boyfriend or girlfriend) and plan to do so for the indefinite future without the bonds of marriage. Under the current policy, if a man's girlfriend and housemate of numerous years dies in a car crash, he can not take time off to bury her and grieve. There should be a middle ground for criteria in personnel policies. Perhaps a domestic partner should not qualify as a member of the immediate family, but what about as a member of your extended family? To deny the emotional and human need to be there for a loved one, whether a heterosexual or homosexual relationship, is to ignore a fundamental aspect of human nature: love and the emotional responsibilities that come with it.

  16. 11/12   When low jobless rate turns to labour shortage
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
    By Ross Gittins
    John Howard is cock-a-hoop: unemployment is down to 5.3%, its lowest in 27 years. But is this still far too high, or worryingly low? If you want to be unimpressed by Mr Howard's "fantastic" figure, there are plenty of faults you can find. For instance, you can say that most of the 1.4 million extra jobs created since he came to power in March 1996 are only part-time. It's true. But it's not as true as it was. It's true that, over the seven years to March 2003, a remarkable 59% of the 1.1 million extra jobs were part-time. Not good. However, over the 19 months since March 2003, something fantastic has happened. Of the 260,000 extra jobs created, 88% have been full-time. That's not to be sneezed at. Another popular line from the Government's critics is to say that, even if you thought a 5.3% unemployment rate was satisfactory, it's not genuine. The official unemployment figures greatly understate the full extent of unemployment, with people who pick up just an hour or two's casual work being classed as "employed". This, too, is true. It's true not because the wicked politicians have fudged the figures - they haven't - but because the internationally agreed definition we use of what it takes to be unemployed is very narrow. But there's a logical weakness in this argument. Though it's true that the official unemployment rate understates the extent of the problem, it's always been true. It was as true when the official rate was at its peak of almost 11% in December 1992 as it is today when the official rate's down at 5.3%. So the real question is: If we established a broader, more realistic measure of unemployment, would it have fallen to the same extent as the official rate? Has the broader measure also halved in the past 12 years? Funny you should ask. The Reserve Bank had some relevant information to impart on this question in the Statement on Monetary Policy it issued this week. Let's start with the problem of under-employment. Obviously, someone who's looking for a full-time job but manages to pick up just a few hours casual work is hugely under-employed. The proportion of part-time workers saying they wanted more hours shot up to about 2.5% of the whole labour force during the recession of the early '90s and has stayed there ever since. At about the same time, the proportion of full-time workers wanting more hours jumped to 1% of the labour force, but has since fallen to 0.5%. But the Reserve says adding these two categories to the official unemployment rate to give a measure of the extent of the "under-utilisation" of labour tends to exaggerate the size of the problem. Why? Because it's likely that many under-employed workers would want only a bit more work each week, whereas an unemployed worker is more likely to want 30 or 40 hours. So the Reserve has calculated a measure of under-utilisation that weights each under-utilised person by an estimate of the additional hours they want to work. This can be compared with the unemployment rate in a way that comes closer to comparing like with like. This measure shows that the under-utilisation rate was only a bit higher than the official unemployment rate until the gap between them suddenly blew out to 2 percentage points during the recession of the early '90s. By today, however, that gap has narrowed to about 1 percentage point. So, in the time since the end of 1992, the under-utilisation rate has fallen at least as much as the official unemployment rate has. The official rate has halved and so has the extent of underemployment. Next we come to the people who'd like to be working but aren't counted as unemployed because they haven't been actively seeking a job - people the Bureau of Stats calls "marginally attached workers". The Reserve says the size of this group also leapt during the early '90s recession and hasn't declined since. It's hard to know exactly where to draw the line with these people, but they may be equivalent to as much as 10 per cent of the (augmented) labour force. Note that, for the most part, what we're talking about here is the collapse in job opportunities for late middle-aged blue-collar men, whose jobs have disappeared with the computerisation of manufacturing industry. If we make finding jobs for all those old boys the test of success against unemployment, we're dooming ourselves to an eternal F for failure. It ain't gunna happen. My conclusion is that, though our success isn't as fantastic as Mr Howard would like us to believe, only the most one-eyed critic would deny that it's something to be very pleased about. But what of the notion that we may have been too successful and that unemployment is now worryingly low? How could anyone think that? Easy. It's the fear that the present boom may have taken unemployment below the "non-accelerating-inflation" rate of unemployment (the NAIRU), meaning it's just a matter of time before labour shortages lead to wage inflation, which will oblige the economic managers to hit the brakes, slow the economy and push unemployment back up to its "natural" rate. Without using the term, the Reserve says that no one has any idea where the NAIRU actually sits. Unemployment's long been a lot lower than where we used to think the NAIRU was, so it's clear that micro-economic reform has shifted it down. And the Reserve makes it clear that, like Alan Greenspan before it, it won't be hitting the brakes purely because we may be below the NAIRU. We'll keep the economy growing until experience shows us where the NAIRU has shifted to. Implicit in this, however, is that the Reserve will be watching closely for the first signs of excessive wage settlements. That's when it will start gradually applying a bit of monetary restriction (translation: putting up interest rates). And here's the trick: the very evidence the critics produce to show that unemployment and underemployment are higher than the official figures suggest is now used by the Reserve to show the labour market isn't as tight as it seems - meaning that it doesn't yet need to start applying the brakes. But if you believe Mr Howard's claim that "we could have a four in front of the unemployment figures if we could get those unfair dismissal changes through [the Senate]", you'll believe anything.
    Ross Gittins is the Herald's Economics Editor.

  17. 11/12   Work-Life Balance: Achievable Goal or Pipe Dream?
    RedNova.com, TX
    If your organization is considering how to implement an effective work-life balance program or wants to improve its current efforts, the process and tools in this article will be invaluable. Balance: employees want it, managers need it, organizations can't afford to ignore it! Organizational success depends on people. People have multiple responsibilities, diverse needs, and often, conflicting priorities. Leading organizations need to attract and retain the best people. People need work experiences where they can reach their full potential, be fully engaged, and be able to meet their personal and professional goals and objectives. Exceptional organizations have leaders that create work environments where people can achieve work- life balance and well-being as they define it for themselves. A hundred years ago, a group of women described how finding meaningful work for a meaningful wage was one of their biggest challenges. They went on to say that if you were one of the lucky few to find meaningful work for a meaningful wage the only way you could take advantage of the opportunity was to "filch" time from family, friends, and the community. Many employees today would agree that, when it comes to work- life balance, things haven't changed much in the past century. So why is it so hard and what can we do in our lives, workplaces, homes, and communities to make it possible to achieve a sense of balance, satisfaction, happiness, and success without guilt, sacrifice, and compromise. First, it is important to understand that no one can achieve balance without support from the employer, co-workers, family, or community. Employers have spent the past two decades wrestling with the problem. Many leading organizations have begun offering flexible work arrangements such as flextime, job sharing, and telecommuting; generous maternity/parental leaves; alternative career paths; and workplace supports like convenience services, on-site childcare, and fitness programs; mental health and information and referral services; and more recently, massage, car care, and laundry services on site. Despite the innovation and intent of these initiatives, most organizations report low utilization, difficulty getting middle management buy-in, and ongoing challenges with communicating the offerings. Long-hours culture is common. Employees are convinced that you have to choose work or life, and balance is not an option. Managers are frustrated because their employees are struggling as they try to fulfill their multiple responsibilities; employees often are distracted, exhausted, or absent. Co-worker support, flexibility, and adaptability are crucial when employees are trying to find balance. Comprehensive planning, clear priorities, adequate resources, and clear communication make it possible for a team or work unit to be responsive, focused, efficient, and resilient. These co-workers and the managers that provide the leadership create the work environment that is an important element in the work-life balance equation. Immediate family, friends, and neighbours provide stability and backup when an employee is dealing with the everyday demands of raising a family, caring for a sick or dying family member, starting or maintaining a personal relationship, taking courses, engaging in physical activity, or contributing to the community. They are also important in times of crisis, whether it is an inconvenience like a car breaking down or a major life event like a death in the family. Family and friends provide the emotional and social support to cope with life and minimize work-life conflict. Access to community resources -such as childcare; after-school programs; summer camps; recreation and leisure opportunities; eldercare, healthcare, and home care that are reliable, affordable, and high quality -helps employees meet their obligations, achieve their personal and professional objectives, and effectively manage the unpredictable and unexpected realities of life. In the absence of any one of these support mechanisms, the others have to pick up the slack. When community-based childcare is nonexistent or unavailable, employers introduce workplace child development centres. When eldercare is not available, employers offer compassionate leave. When employers are inflexible or unsupportive, employees must rely more heavily on family and friends for help. Imagine trying to balance on a three-legged stool - one leg representing workplace supports (programs, policies, supportive managers and co-workers, reasonable workloads, and hours of work, etc.), one leg representing the home (family, friends, and neighbors), and the last leg representing the community (programs, services, and resources). When all three legs are strong and reliable, balance is more easily achieved. If any one leg is weak, missing, or wobbly, the ability to achieve balance becomes more stressful and harder, if not impossible, to achieve.
    Constructing Your Work-Life Strategy
    The costs of imbalance are well documented. Researchers around the world have documented the costs to individual health, organizational stability, and community well-being; however, many organizations are having trouble getting started or maintaining momentum. It's important to remember that no one person needs to take on the whole responsibility for employees' balance. The success of any work-life initiative starts with each player on the team playing his/ her part. Executives and leaders need to articulate a vision for a healthy and resilient work force, a productive and successful organization, and satisfied customers/clients. Managers need to model healthy habits and balance behaviours, such as good self- management (time, stress, and career management, healthy lifestyle choices, conflict resolution, and problem solving). Employees need to take responsibility for their own choices (diet, exercise, sleep, stress reactions, relationships, career development, and personal and professional development). Regardless of how long an organization, an HR department, or team leader has worked to address work-life issues, it is critical to complete a regular planning cycle. The typical work-life planning cycle starts like all other effective planning processes - taking stock, taking action, and taking measurements. The following five-step process can be used to assess the current situation and develop an appropriate strategy:
    1. Assess your current position; review existing programs, policies, and pilots; and if appropriate, benchmark against other organizations. A good indicator of where to focus your energies is finding the discrepancy between what HR thinks it is offering and what employees across the organization think is available. For example, formally or informally, ask employees about the organization's telework program (whether you have one or not). Their answers may surprise you. It will help you determine what is on paper versus what is acceptable in the culture. It will tell you where you may need to revitalize, re-launch, or remove certain policies or programs.
    2. Consult with stakeholders, determine levels of satisfaction, examine factors contributing to utilization rates, and review individual and organizational impact of the initiatives. Use focus groups, exit interviews, employee surveys, key informant interviews, manager forums, employee meetings, employee engagement initiatives, training reports, performance management data (360 feedback results and employee performance documents), attendance management data (sick leaves, voluntary turnover, maternity leave returns, short- term, and long-term disability data), occupational health and wellness committee reports, employee assistance program usage reports, employer-of-choice lists, recent retiree dialogues, stories, and experiences.
    3. Consider your options; talk to your suppliers; look at what is available in your community, online, or in the marketplace. The work- life field is rapidly changing. In the late 1990s new convenient services or concierge programs were popping up every month. Today it's massage services, lunch time Pilates, and yoga in the wellness centre; low-carb menus in food services; and coaching services for overworked executives. Be cautious of suppliers who are selling everything for everyone in every situation. Be aware of the new kid on the block; work-life looks easier than it is. Be leery of any "one-size-fits-all" solutions.
      Be prepared to make an investment; however, work-life solutions are not always expensive. In fact, at the top of their wish list, employees want management's acknowledgment of the work-life challenges they face and respect for the choices they make. Second, they want flexibility and control over how, where, and when the work gets done. Neither of the top two solutions cost much capital or financial investment, but they do take considerable intellectual, emotional, and time investment from HR, managers, and business leaders. Don't skimp; the return on investment is high.
    4. Articulate your plan, set your goals, document your objectives, and complete an action plan. Don't try to do it all at once. Your organization probably took decades to develop the behaviours and attitudes that are contributing to employee imbalance; employees have likely developed their unhealthy habits over years. Don't expect to undo the damage overnight. Be strategic. Target "low-hanging fruit"; look for fast fixes to little irritants first. If you don't remove the pebble in the shoe first, any journey is going to feel long and hard. Build on your quick wins to build momentum before you tackle the big issues like changing organizational culture. Be realistic. Achieving work-life balance is hard, not impossible, but it requires effort, collaboration, and cooperation.
    5. Execute the plan, establish monitoring and reporting procedures and routines, ensure accountability, provide adequate resources, and communicate continually. Measure everything so you know what you can celebrate, modify, or stop doing some things.
    The Basic Architecture
    Start with a foundation and a framework as shown in Table 1. Your foundation is the organization's vision, mission, values, strengths, and existing resources mixed with your employees' skills, talents, and interests. For your framework, use the work-life continuum. The continuum helps you focus on what is working or is not working, what you need or do not need, and what is effective or is not effective. It helps you create a vision of the future using a work-life lens.
    Figure 1: Organization Work-Life Continuum
    The continuum consists of five developmental stages: InActive, ReActive, Active, ProActive, and InterActive. Like any continuum, organizations and departments may slide backward from time to time, usually as a result of losing momentum, losing focus, or losing sight of the vision. Backsliding may also occur because of uncontrollable circumstances, such a merger, downsizing, restructuring, economic downturn, change in leadership, or rapid growth. Don't be discouraged when a slippage occurs; it is part of the change process; however, don't use it as an excuse to stop your efforts. The business case for balance remains strong; don't give up just because it is hard work. Your rewards will be worth the effort. Before reviewing the stages along the work-life developmental continuum, it is important to understand that this model is for assessing organizations or work units, not individuals. It is hard to get everyone within an organization moving along the continuum at the same pace or with the same passion and enthusiasm. Don't despair! Once the majority moves forward, the laggards will either run to catch up or leave. They may make a lot of noise, expressing how they feel about work-life issues, but that noise usually doesn't last very long. Often the late adopters become the loudest advocates when the positive results become evident. Focus on your supportive managers and passionate supporters. Stay aware of the critics and dissenters, but don't let them hijack your agenda. The amount of time it takes an organization to complete a stage varies. Determining factors include leadership, commitment, strength of the plan, and engagement of managers and employees. The five stages indicate the range, scope, and depth of involvement with work-life and well-being including:
    1. The approach taken (programmatic to strategic).
    2. The perception or thinking about the issues (work-life and well- being as a personal or women's issue to a social and economic issue).
    3. The level of commitment made in creating supportive and effective work environments and fulfilling work-life and well-being responsibilities (simply providing employment or active involvement in fulfilling social responsibilities and practicing good corporate/ organizational citizenship).
    4. The metrics and measurements used to develop the business case for action (informal observations to formal investigation and collaborative research on the issues, interventions, and impacts of work-life balance and well-being from a organizational and societal perspective).
    5. The resources allocated based on achieving certain objectives and/or realizing certain results or outcomes from a personal and organizational perspective (manage certain Stressors or factors contributing to imbalance or ill health, such as hours of work, workload, and stress to minimize work-life interference and/or role overload or to facilitate employees to achieve work-life harmony).
    InActive Stage
    InActive organizations have no formal polices or practices, informal supports, or understanding of the business case for balance. There is no leadership, and no metrics are in place to measure the costs and consequences for individuals, departments, or organizations. Employees in InActive organizations experience high levels of stress, work-family interference, and role overload. They try to address their personal and family needs alone. They are often forced to leave their jobs or turn down opportunities for advancement. Employees have great difficulty in reaching their full potential. They are often exhausted and exhibit symptoms of burnout.
    Workers are planning to wear shirts expressing their frustration as a first step. Canada Post says the company is following the contract and only agreed to run a relief-worker trial program in a few communities. Harke agrees it's difficult to find people willing to fill in, when it amounts to only a few days a year. But she says Canada Post is in the best position to find a solution to the problem. "In a little town, finding somebody to work now and again is very difficult because they have to have their police checks, their driver's abstract, all of this has to be done before they can come in and work," Harke said. ReActive Stage
    ReActive organizations have the human resources department working on the development of supportive policies (e.g., flexible work arrangements, job-sharing, or telework). They take a tactical approach by offering some programs, policies, or pilots (employee assistance program, childcare referral service, fitness facility, or subsidized cafeteria). They have begun to identify work-life issues as a priority. They tend to focus on accommodating employee needs, such as family needs (childcare and eldercare). Work-life and well- being issues are included in employee surveys, or they have conducted formal research into the issues (participated in an external study, held focus groups, etc.). Employees who take advantage of the programs are able to reduce their stress levels. Some return on investment is achieved. Resistance and reluctance continues from employees and managers.
    Active Stage
    Active organisations begin to recognise how work-family issues affect the ability of the organization to reach its business objectives. They begin to address the issues from an organizational or strategic perspective. Policies are well communicated, programs are entrenched, managers are less reluctant, there is some community involvement (local committees or work-life networks), and targeted initiatives begin the transition to work-life strategies. Senior executives recognize work-life issues as business issues and fully understand the competitive advantage they have over nonsupportive organizations. They often have a work-life task force or a person or department with responsibility for the work-life strategy. Work-life and well-being research is ongoing and formalized. Individual practices, policies, and programs are integrated and become more intertwined. A job-share team may work a compressed workweek and participate in stress reduction workshops at lunch, as well as represent flexible work arrangements on the work-life task force.
    ProActive Stage
    In the ProActive stage, managers become more supportive and organizations begin to notice the culture change. Strategically positioned and leveraged work-life programs are recognized as an important economic issue. In ProActive organizations, employee commitment is high; organizational resilience is strong; and leadership is empowering. Work and family responsibilities are seen as both important and essential for continued organizational and economic growth.
    InterActive Stage
    In the final, InterActive, developmental stage, organizations provide leadership in the community and/or within their industries. They establish collaborations and partnerships with their employees, unions, other organizations, professional associations, and community groups. They experience heightened levels of creativity and receive external recognition. They integrate their work-life initiatives with their corporate citizenship and philanthropy, and they celebrate families, individuals, and diversity. Employees experience little work-family stress or interference, express high levels of work and personal life satisfaction, have the lowest rates of absenteeism, and highest customer retention and customer satisfaction ratings. The work force is highly productive at work and in the community. These organizations and their senior executives, directors, and principles receive public recognition for the organizations' achievements and for their leadership. Research shows that organizations that successfully reach this stage along the work-life continuum can directly and indirectly identify how their work-life initiative impacts profits and shareholder value.
    The Tool Box
    Use the work-life continuum as a tool for developing, implementing, and monitoring your organization's plans. Remember that teams, departments, and business units may be in different places at different times. Some leaders, managers, and directors may be farther ahead or behind the rest of the organization. The value of the tool is the ability to identify what elements you have in each stage and to leverage those who are ahead to pull the rest along. For example, if you are firmly and consistently at the second phase of the ReActive stage, you may want to target having 85% of your organization at the Active stage by the end of the next fiscal year. To achieve that goal you will need to position your initiatives as a competitive imperative for organizational success and as a strategic business issue, so you will link your work-life initiatives to your recruitment and retention strategies, your business development goals, and your organizational development initiatives. You may expand your programs to include the full life cycle and include all personal responsibilities, such as education and career development and caring for aging relatives or ill, injured, or disabled family members. You may enhance your policies (e.g., extend leave options beyond maternity leave to include family leave, education leave, and/or personal leave). You may establish a multidisciplinary task force to monitor and expand existing programs and policies and to evaluate progress. You may join external councils, committees, or consortium\s to benchmark your progress and learn from other organizations' experience. In addition, you may develop metrics and measurements to hold individuals and managers accountable for creating supportive work environments, such as including work-life balance and wellness in measurement tools (e.g., balanced scorecard, 360 feedback, performance evaluations, team assessments, bonus and reward strategies, etc.).
    The Construction Checklist
    The checklist shown in the sidebar can be used to rate your organization on four critical work-life program components: awareness (value), perception (commitment), positioning (strategy and solutions), and action (leadership and accountability). The indicators for each component are rated using a one-to-five scale, where one means strong disagreement and five means strong agreement. The lower the score, the less progress you have made along the continuum.
    The Final Product
    Balance is an achievable goal. It is easier to accomplish with supports in the workplace, at home, and in the community. Work-life balance and well-being must be self-defined. Employers that understand the issues, take a strategic approach, and maintain their focus will produce a strong, committed, and engaged work force; effective, competitive, and resilient organizations; healthy communities; and a strong economy. Success requires leadership, solid infrastructures, accountability, excellent communication, and strong relationships with employees and the community. A hundred years from now, we will read about how extraordinary organizations created work environments so that employees no longer had to "filch" time from family, friends, and community in order to have a satisfying job and a successful career. The success of any work-life initiative starts with each player on the team playing his/her part. Executives and leaders need to articulate a vision for a healthy and resilient work force, a productive and successful organization, and satisfied customers/ clients. Managers need to model healthy habits...employees need to take responsibility for their own choices.
    Construction Checklist
    Awareness (Value) Perception (Commitment) Positioning (Strategy and Solutions) Action (Leadership and Accountability) Nora Spinks is president of Work-Life Harmony Enterprises, an international consulting and research firm, based in Toronto. She can be reached via e-mail at nspinks@worklifeharmony.ca or by telephone at 800-965-2414

  18. 11/15   Workers Feel the Growing Pains of Russia's Auto Industry
    by C.J. Chivers, NYT, A3.
    ZHEVSK, Russia, Nov. 11 - The employees are calling it "our autumn vacation," even if it has been a vacation no one wanted to take.
    Three weeks ago, after months of cheerfully announcing that production was soaring at the automobile assembly line, the managers of the Izhavto automobile company here abruptly shut down the plant. Almost all of its 12,500 workers trudged back to their Soviet-era flats, wondering what had gone wrong.
    "Nobody knows why we are not working," said Aleksandr O. Minayev, a welder waiting to be called to work. "We were working at full shifts."
    Izhavto's work pause has origins peculiar to a nation where capitalism is still young. It provides a view into a microcosm of post-Soviet heavy manufacturing industries that are on the cusp of survival, but still struggling in an awkward way.
    Those breezy production announcements were of a type. Yes, production had been up. The old Soviet plant could do production.
    But sales of its down-market cars were off. With supply not matched to demand and the factory still churning out cars, the plant ran out of places to put them. New cars were scattered pell-mell across its grounds. Someone had to hit the off switch, or the cars would have had to be stacked.
    Izhavto was scheduled to resume production on Monday, but the circumstances leading to its production overrun provide insight into the successes, pains and enduring questions accompanying the evolution of Russia's heavy industry and into the hopes that Russia's far-flung regions have for the survival of their huge Soviet plants.
    On one hand, problems at Izhavto seem to be a distillation of what can happen when a management mentality with roots in Soviet times meets the unbending reality of market law. Here was a case, the line goes, of working to a discredited model, manufacturing not to demand, but to what party bureaucrats once called "the plan."
    "They are still using the old psychology," said Gairat Salimov, a manufacturing analyst at Troika Dialog, a Russian research firm. "Producing to stock rather than producing to orders."
    Gennadi Sukhanov of CenterInvest, a Russian consulting firm that has covered Izhavto, added, "It is a general trend in Russia."
    Mr. Sukhanov noted that while Russian manufacturers were capable of making goods of modest quality, they often remained befuddled by the need for sales, marketing and service components - tools they needed to complete their reorganization from socialist times.
    On the other hand, marketing models show that as Russia's nascent middle class grows, demand for cars will climb. There are now 150 cars for every 1,000 Russians, according to an automotive sector study by Troika Dialog, but the ratio is projected to reach 230 or more cars for every 1,000 Russians by 2010.
    So the fact that Izhavto remains alive and fighting for market share is a reason for its managers to hope. In this view, Izhavto, which virtually closed in the mid-1990's, has managed to create a partly new product line and is moving quickly from infancy in the new Russian capitalism to adolescence, albeit with maddening adolescent tics.
    If Izhavto can seize a fraction of the anticipated growth, enticing first-time car buyers with its range of low-priced vehicles, it has a chance of being one of the Soviet enterprises to survive, perhaps flourish, in transforming times.
    "You can say we are already a multibrand family," said Andrei S. Maslov, the company's chief engineer, as he discussed the prospects of satisfying different kinds of customers with different types and styles of cars, a decidedly un-Soviet notion. He noted that with 850 of every 1,000 Russians still without cars, there was the potential for growth.
    "We consider Izhavto a successful and competitive company that can make its market positions stronger," Aleksei Oficerov, a vice president at SOK Group, Izhavto's parent firm, said in an e-mail message.
    The plant's history follows the trajectory of modern Russian industry.
    Under Brezhnev-era directives and the supervision of the Soviet military industry, the plant began building cars in the mid-1960's. By 1988, the plant produced nearly 190,000 cars a year, sending them throughout the Soviet Union and to Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, Syria and elsewhere.
    When the Soviet Union collapsed, the distribution system collapsed with it, and many former customers became citizens of other states, meaning the onetime domestic industry was suddenly a complicated export business. The assembly lines virtually ceased work in the late 1990's, with the company making as few as 7,000 cars a year.
    Then came new owners, who, as was common during Russia's murky privatization deals, acquired much of the firm through processes that are not publicly known.
    In 1999, under a deal that Izhavto is either unable or unwilling to describe, ownership of the state-owned firm began to be transferred to the SOK Group, a privately held Russian company that specializes in the automobile industry. It now owns 76% of Izhavto, according to CenterInvest.
    The SOK Group declined to describe the deal more fully than "commercial classified information." The company also declined to describe who owned the firm, saying in an e-mail message from a spokesman that the owners are "some private persons."
    (CenterInvest, noting this posture and other signs of the absence of financial transparency, lists shares of Izhmash, the publicly traded stock related to Izhavto, as an unequivocal "sell.")
    But all the news is not grim. After the new owners took control of the formerly state-run plant, design work and production surged.
    In 2000, 27,400 cars were made by about 6,000 workers. By 2003, the plant produced 94,200 cars and was making five models at once - from the Zhiguli, a styleless Soviet-era box known abroad as the Lada ($4,000 at car lots here) to a small pickup and a four-wheel-drive sedan, the Oda (about $6,000).
    This year, according to SOK Group and Izhavto projections, the plant will produce 104,000 cars. The work force has more than doubled from its low of 2,000.
    The company is also reoutfitting its assembly line, as part of deal with Kia, the South Korean car manufacturer, to produce within a few years as many as 40,000 Kia Spectras annually. The Spectra is a midprice car. Izhavto will try to use it to enter a broader market and says it hopes to keep production costs low enough to sell Spectras for $11,000 each.
    But for all the plans, the overrun at the plant, which has left cars scattered around its quiet grounds, demonstrated for analysts that Russia's heavy industry was still learning how to operate outside the top-down directives of a planned economy.
    "They are good at production, they know how to run their plant," said Mr. Sukhanov, at CenterInvest. But, he said, "they have no idea of marketing and sales."
    Similar worries stalk the employees, who typically earn $225 a month but receive two-thirds of their salaries while on "autumn vacation." Gennadi Shadov...a plant worker, said that as the industrial city of Izhevsk had lost jobs at its gun and motorcycle plants, Izhavto offered a chance at security he hoped he did not lose. "I just hope the plant will work until my pension," he said.

  19. 11/14   Interns' Medical Errors Affected by Work Schedules
    Insurance Journal
    The rate of serious medical errors committed by first-year doctors in training in two intensive care units (ICUs) at a Boston hospital fell significantly when traditional 30-hour-in-a-row extended work shifts were eliminated and when interns' continuous work schedule was limited to 16 hours, according to two complementary studies funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Agency for Healthcare Research (AHRQ).
    Interns made 36% more serious medical errors, including five times as many serious diagnostic errors, on the traditional schedule than on an intervention schedule that limited scheduled work shifts to 16 hours and reduced scheduled weekly work from approximately 80 hours to 63. The rate of serious medication errors was 21% greater on the traditional schedule than on the new schedule.
    The studies were published in the October 28, 2004, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
    In the first research of its kind on the impact of lack of sleep on the safety of hospital care, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston eliminated the traditional schedule that required interns‹doctors who have completed medical school and are finishing their medical training by working in the hospital‹to work "extended duration work shifts" of approximately 30 consecutive hours every other shift. Under the traditional schedule, interns in hospital ICUs were scheduled to work approximately 80 hours per week. Under the intervention schedule that was tested in the studies, the "extended duration work shift" was eliminated, and weekly scheduled work hours were decreased by approximately 20 hours. Interns also were encouraged to sleep on their time off and to take naps before night shifts.
    "The impact of sleep deprivation on performance has been well documented in other industries, but studies like these are providing evidence of its impact in health care," said Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., AHRQ's director. "This research clearly demonstrates that changing the design and structure of the systems in which clinicians practice is essential to improving patient safety."
    In this study, "Effect of Reducing Interns' Work Hours on Serious Medical Errors in Intensive Care Units," Christopher P. Landrigan, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Sleep and Patient Safety Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and his colleagues randomly assigned 24 interns to work either the traditional schedule in the cardiac care unit and the intervention schedule in the medical intensive care unit or the converse from July 2002 to June 2003.
    The change in work schedule did not diminish interns' role in ICUs or shift the burden of work to more senior staff, according to the study authors. The number of medications ordered and tests interpreted by interns did not differ significantly. In addition, the error rates for more senior residents and other staff did not increase during the study.
    The other study, "Effect of Reducing Interns' Weekly Work Hours on Sleep and Attentional Failures," examined the impact of the new work schedule on interns' sleep patterns and "attentional failures," characterized by nodding off while on duty, even while providing care to patients. Steven W. Lockley, Ph.D., and his colleagues studied 20 interns each in two 3-week ICU rotations under both the traditional and intervention work schedules. Interns worked an average of 84.9 hours per week on the traditional schedule and 65.4 hours per week on the new schedule.
    [Oh, great! They're down to average 1860 levels.]
    They completed daily sleep and work logs that were validated through observation by study staff. In addition, interns were monitored using polysomnography, a device that can objectively document sleep and attentional failures.
    The study found that under the new schedule interns worked 19.5 hours per week less, slept 5.8 hours per week more, and had typically slept more in the previous 24 hours when working. The percentage of work hours preceded by more than 8 hours of sleep in the traditional schedule was 17% as compared with 33% for the new schedule. Overall, the rate of attentional failures was twice as high at night on the traditional schedule than on the intervention schedule.
    The study concludes that interns who worked the intervention schedule were less sleep deprived at work and were able to sleep longer at home, which led to them having less cumulative and acute sleep deprivation. Interns on the new schedule were encouraged to take naps in the afternoon before overnight shifts to mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation on their ability to provide care.
    Charles A. Czeisler, Ph.D., M.D., the senior author of both papers and Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School says, "While sleep experts advocate 8 hours of sleep per 24-hour period, it has historically been difficult to achieve in medicine as patient care is an around-the-clock effort. These are the first studies to demonstrate clinically that reducing work shifts and tackling sleep deprivation will help increase attentiveness and reduce medical errors."
    Issues and research needs related to overtime and extended work shifts as potential factors for work-related stress were addressed by NIOSH in a 2004 technical document available on the web at www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-143/. Additional information on NIOSH research pertaining to work-related stress is available at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/stress/. Copies of the new studies co-funded by NIOSH and other information on sleep deprivation and safety are available at http://workhours.bwh.harvard.edu.

  20. 11/14   The greater good of less taxes
    Kansas City Star, MO
    by Jerry Heaster (816-234-4297 or jheaster@kcstar.com)
    [This is a bizarre piece of propaganda for lower taxes on the rich (and higher on everyone else; that is, on the consumer base), that in a number of instances, calls black white and white black.]
    President Bush probably wasn't the choice of many older voters.
    [That is true, and like the consideration that Bush probably wasn't the choice of many of the many new voters who turned out, adds to the suspicions that a major rigging of the election process again took place throughout the "Land of the Free," as documented on *BlackBoxVoting.org.]
    But there can be no doubt he was the best choice for those who have significant retirement nest eggs
    [on the contrary, there can be plenty of doubt, because Bush's "starve the beast" taxcuts for the rich have translated into less federal money for states and cities and harmed such services as libraries, fire departments and police protection throughout the nation (not to mention starved homeland security and our troops overseas) thus providing a lot less security for many older voters, unless they live in gated communities that subsidize or fund their own libraries, police and fire protection - depending on how you define "significant retirement nest eggs]
    and those aspiring to build a financial cushion for post-work years.
    [Anyone aspiring to build financial retirement cushion for post-work years, unless they are in the top income brackets, is apparently being greatly harmed by Bush's taxcuts for the rich, because savings rates are way down for Americans in the middle and lower income brackets.]
    If you're part of what Bush refers to as the "ownership society," the choice was obvious.
    [In other words, if you're part of the upper-income strata? Not necessarily. Bush's taxcuts for the rich declared class warfare on all the rest, and made state and lower taxes higher, and anger and violence levels higher throughout the middle- and lower-income strata, which include the vast majority of Americans.]
    The president is for lower taxes on both labor and capital.
    [But he's much more strongly for lower taxes on capital, and that is pushing costs onto labor.]
    The challenger had no clear policy beyond higher taxes on the rich,
    [no, just a restoration of the taxes on the rich that Bush cut]
    which recent history clearly exposes as counterproductive.
    [And what recent history would that be, pray tell? The Bush's huge income transfer from the lower and middle income brackets to the rich has greatly weakened effective consumer demand and that in turn has made American production much weaker than it would be if we had the many additional and more confident consumers that are now being deactivated by higher health insurance premiums, broken pension contracts, and downsizing.]
    Although time has dimmed memories when it comes to tax policy reality,
    [- funny how people with a tenuous grip on it are always talking about 'reality' -]
    we've learned an important lesson during the past quarter century:
    Lower marginal tax rates on higher-income Americans translate into the so-called rich paying a greater share of income taxes.
    [This is the voodoo economics of, is it the Laffer or the Phillips Curve? The false calculus that cutting taxes yields higher tax revenues. With this kind of 'reasoning,' who needs insane asylums? If it were true, we wouldn't have had all the cuts in federal funding for states and cities and we woudn't be getting all these stories about cuts in libraries, police forces and fire departments.]
    When Ronald Reagan became president, the top marginal income tax rate was 70% and long-term capital gains were taxed at a 50% rate. As a result, many highly compensated taxpayers traded more leisure for less work if they were able to do so.
    [which is exactly what we'd like them to do, to have better work-life balance and stay somewhat human. Heaster, however, is talking about leisure as a bad thing, never mind "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." For Heaster and his ilk, everyone should live only to work.]
    Moreover, a lot of capital was immobilized because the high cap[ital]-gains tax rate discouraged investors from taking profits and shifting capital to more productive uses.
    [What's the use of "taking profits and shifting capital to more productive uses" when there are weaker markets for all production, because you're concentrating so much of the national income in the top brackets that you've suctioned spending power away from the markets for the productive uses you wish to invest in?! In other words, you've got too much investment money and too little consumption money.]
    Since marginal income tax rates and capital-gains tax rates have been reduced dramatically, the rich pay a substantially greater percentage of all income tax revenue collected.
    [That is complete nonsense, especially when you include Bush's almost complete destruction of estate taxes.]
    Meantime, the capital markets function more efficiently as investors have become more willing to allocate money based on economic considerations rather than tax concerns.
    [As we say, who cares about capital market efficiency when there's so little to invest in either profitably or even sustainably that we've just gone through the bursting of a high-tech stock market bubble and now companies and individuals are pulling back into cash, as evidenced in the many stories we've had lately that include the phrase, "awash in cash"?!]
    The advent of tax-deferred individual and 401(k) retirement accounts and their like also have caused stock market participation to soar. When Reagan was elected president, only about 20% of all adults owned stocks. Today some 60% do, and some 70% of last week's voters are estimated to have been stock owners.
    [These estimates are nonsense. Even the claim that "the majority of Americans own stocks" was really based on data indicating that a tiny majority of American households own at least some stocks, usually through their 401Ks etc. But some households contain a lot of adults, so we cannot get even 50% of adults owning stock out of that data.]
    Many current retirees fear Bush's proposal to create a dual Social Security system allowing workers to voluntarily direct part of their payroll taxes into individually owned private Social Security accounts.
    [Why should this have anything to do with the Social Security system? - workers are already allowed to direct what would otherwise be taxed into individually owned private Social Security accounts through 401Ks and IRAs. This would just temporarily benefit the financial community, and then even it would be greatly impoverished by the further concentration and deactivation of the national income that the weakened financial security of the Social Security system would provide.]
    They somehow believe this will deprive them of their rightful benefits someday, which is a groundless fear.
    [It's not groundless at all. It's what motivated the setting up of the Social Security system in the first place, and that system has worked pretty well, though in the 1990s federal legislators criminally borrowed from the Social Security "lockbox," never repaid what they borrowed, and thereby put the system at long-term risk.]
    Today's older Americans will never be shortchanged,
    [- can't just hear the likes of Heaster unctuously crooning, "trust me, trust me" - ]
    and younger workers who aren't comfortable with the private alternative will be allowed to remain entirely within the traditional Social Security arrangement.
    [Except - pulling even more money out of the traditional Social Security "lockbox" on the advice and for the benefit of the financial community will put the it further at risk and earlier at risk. But Wall Street so badly wants to get its meathooks on more, preferably all, of the Social Security fund. Think about it. Despite their lip service to capitalism and lower taxes, they want to be subsidized by a constant flow of payroll taxes right into their "secure" and "trustworthy" stock-pyramiding schemes.]
    Meanwhile, nest egg owners and builders should be thankful for the administration's commitment to reduced taxes on both labor and capital.
    [Getting repetitive. And still suicidally short-sighted.]
    With Bush pushing more work-friendly and savings-friendly proposals in a Congress with a bigger GOP majority, it looks as though the president will have continued success with his tax reform crusade.
    [And continued failure with the economy as he weakens the nation's consumer base further and further.]
    For starters, the death tax's permanent repeal seems assured, which would symbolize a monumental defeat for class warfare politics.
    [Or rather a monumental escalation.]
    It's also assumed that the tax breaks that do so much [actually so little] to help working-couple families will be made permanent, thereby allowing these households long-term assurance they'll be able to divert more income to nest egg building and college education funds.
    [That's simply not what's already happening. American savings rates are lower than those in almost any other industrialized economy, regardless of their degree of socialist, or capitalist, "class warfare politics."]
    If the Social Security privatization plan employs a Roth IRA-style vehicle allowing after-tax savings to grow and not be taxed again when withdrawn, it should boost demand for stocks and thus provide long-term support for the market portion of all nest eggs.
    [He's really pushing demand for stocks, isn't he! As if the stock market is the basic foundational market. But then, why do we speak of the "consumer base"? It's actually consumer markets that are the foundation and base of all other markets, including jobs, business-to-consumer, business-to-business, and ... the stock markets.]
    Nest egg nurturers of all ages also would find their financial futures enhanced if the current 15% tax rate on capital gains and dividends were made permanent. The perfect solution, of course, would be to eliminate all multiple taxation of corporate income, but that may be too much to hope for unless someone of a like mind succeeds Bush.
    [With perfect accountability, we could abolish all taxes and turn to fees for service. But then the rich might have to pay for the wars of choice they're always starting.]
    The key to remember about this administration's tax policy is that it recognizes, as Reagan's did, that taxes on capital inevitably are borne by labor.
    [That's nonsense. Taxing the rich taxes the rich, not the poor.]
    This happens because real wages depend on improved worker productivity, which isn't possible without adequate capital investment.
    [That too is nonsense. Real wages do go up with productivity increases under timesizing capitalism, which automatically prevents a wage-depressing labor surplus. However, wages certainly do not go up with productivity under downsizing capitalism, because the resulting labor surplus destroys labor bargaining power and leverage, prevents wage increases, and by now, we've even reached the stage where retirement benefits, healthcare benefits, and even wages are being reduced on every hand. And capital is like anything else: The more you tax it, the less you get - and vice versa.
    [That's fine. There's far more capital = investment money today than can be sustainably supported by the consumer base.]

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

  1. State employees to get Election Day off
    [Just as called for on Take Back Your Time Day!]
    MLive.com, MI
    By Peter Luke
    LANSING, Mich. - Thousands of state workers would receive Election Day 2006 off as a paid holiday under tentative labor agreements reached by the Granholm administration and state worker unions.
    David Fink, the chief negotiator for the state, said Thursday that if approved by the Michigan Civil Service Commission, non-union employees would have the day off as well. Election Day thus would be a state holiday much like Veteran's Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
    Republicans view the move with suspicion, given that Gov. Jennifer Granholm will likely be facing re-election that day and unions traditionally back Democrats.
    The extra day off is the second major change in new labor agreements covering nearly 38,000 employees.
    Another is the offer of state health insurance benefits to the gay partners of state employees, a benefit in doubt with the passage of Proposal 2, which places a constitutional ban on same-sex unions.
    The United Auto Workers, which represents some 16,000 state clerical and technical workers, was the lead union in asking for Election Day off. UAW employees at the Big Three automakers and big suppliers have had the day off since before the 2000 election.
    "We felt this would give our members a chance to participate in Election Day," said Alan Kilar, spokesman for UAW Local 6000 in Lansing.
    But Richard Studley, a lobbyist for the GOP-leaning Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said giving Election Day off "is not a wise use of tax dollars."
    "Certainly the governor would like to have an army of politically active state-employee union members available to campaign for her when she seeks re-election," Studley said.
    That assumes state workers would eagerly work for the governor's re-election.
    Fink said given that Granholm has asked state employees for $360 million in wage concessions in the 2004 and 2005 budget years, "I don't think many people would conclude this is being done for the governor."
    He said the UAW insisted on the holiday in exchange for 2005 wage concessions that will have state employees trade 4% of their pay for days off in future years or a boost in state retirement contributions.
    Also up for re-election in 2006 is the GOP-controlled Michigan Senate. Ari Adler, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, said unionized state employees vote both ways.
    "There are a lot of union members who realize that Democrats don't have all the answers and that voting Republican isn't committing to the Evil Empire," Adler said.
    The biggest union that won't have Election Day off is the Michigan Corrections Organization that represents about 9,400 prison employees. They'll receive 4 hours of annual leave instead.
    Republicans are concerned not only about the cost of the day off, but the 10% wage increase for union workers spread out over three years. Sikkema said Granholm has to demonstrate how she'll pay for the wage hikes.
    Fink said it will be up to the courts to decide whether a health insurance benefit for same-sex couples constitutes a union and thus could be illegal under Proposal 2. He said the cost of the benefit isn't an issue because a "very, very small percentage of the workforce pursues these benefits."
    But, he added, "If these benefits are not deemed to be legal, we don't intend to implement the program."
    Patrick Gillen, an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor who helped draft Proposal 2, said it does bar such partnership benefits "because it prohibits the state from recognizing such agreements for any purpose."
    Another legal question is whether Proposal 2, which takes effect 45 days after the Nov. 2 election, will impact those three-year worker contracts if they are ratified by employees before then.
    "That too is a legal question to be decided in the courts," Gillen said.
    Contact Peter Luke at (517) 487-8888 or e-mail him at pluke@boothnewspapers.com

  2. Happy With the Holidays: Workers Surveyed Satisfied With Amount of Vacation Time
    PRNewswire via Yahoo News
    MENLO PARK, Calif. - Today's companies aren't grinches when it comes to giving their staff days off, a new survey suggests.... The poll was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 573 men and women, all 18 years of age or older, and employed.
    Survey respondents were asked, "How satisfied are you with the amount of vacation time your employer provides?" Their responses: [How sure were employees that their responses could be candid without repercussions?]
    "For many professionals, the challenge lies not in receiving days off but in finding time to take them," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam.
    [- especially with poorly skilled American managers running on crisis creation and management.]
    "People often feel guilty about spending more than just a few days out of the office for fear of inconveniencing colleagues or returning to unmanageable workloads, especially if their firms are operating with lean staffing levels."
    Although employees may hesitate to take too much time off, foregoing breaks can lead to burnout, according to Domeyer. "Instead of letting vacation days go unused, workers should schedule time off well in advance so their employers will have time to prepare for their absence," she said....

  3. How do your benefits stack up? - On everything from health plan contribution costs to number of vacation days, see how your employer's offerings compare to new national figures released by the government
    MSN Money
    By Rick VanderKnyff
    Do you have a sneaking suspicion that your contribution to your company-sponsored health plan is going up faster than it should, or that you're getting short-changed on your paid vacation?
    It's fall, the time when employers traditionally open up their benefit plans so their workers can fine-tune their decisions. One way to gauge the generosity of your employer when it comes to benefits is to compare what you get to national numbers. We've put together a little scorecard based on newly released figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    The newest Employee Benefits in Private Industry survey brings the bureau's estimates up to March 2004. We'll cite figures for all workers or all full-time workers (and tell you which), but numbers can vary significantly by region, industry, size of employer and other factors. If you'd like to crunch your own more detailed numbers, go to the bureau's Web site....
    Retirement benefits
    According to the March 2004 estimates, 59% of all workers have access to retirement benefits through their employers, and 50% participate in at least one type of retirement plan.
    While participation in defined-benefit pension plans has remained virtually flat for full-time workers, the percentage taking part in defined-contribution plans, such as 401(k)s, is climbing slowly - from 42% in 1999 for full-time workers to 50% in 2004.
    Participation rates for full-time workers (2004 estimates): Time off
    The availability of various forms of paid time off has changed little in recent years, with the exception of a steady rise in access to paid sick leave (for full-time workers, from 63% in 1999 to 70% in 2004). Access to paid time off for full-time workers (2004 estimates):

  4. SHOP AND AWE
    LA City Beat, CA
    by John Seeley
    A conference at UCLA addressed the question: Are compulsive shoppers really sick, or has credit culture given us all a case of galloping consumption?... Countering the compulsion to consume is the focus of the one-day conference on "Mental Health and Simple Living," at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute Auditorium Saturday, January 31 [2004], which was cosponsored by Seeds of Simplicity (a local group affiliated with Cornell University) and the Ashley Montagu Institute....
    Emergency
    Laura Fletcher, a single emergency-room physician in her early 30s, fixed her life without leaning on a 12-step group or a shrink. In downsizing her lifestyle, Laura leaned on some like-minded souls meeting in a Simplicity Circle. These small groups, offspring of Seeds of Simplicity, meet in almost 100 cities around the country.
    Inspired by study circles in Scandinavia, they have no creed, rules, or attendance requirements, let alone a maximum allowable income. A San Diego feng-shui teacher started one emphasizing "harmony and balance." Circles just provide moral and emotional support for people trying in various ways to let go of "the goods life" - acquisitive habits, unneeded possessions - and build their own vision of the good life, whatever that may be, says Sierra Club activist Michael Beck. Beck's circle helped him take the plunge into early retirement, despite his anxieties about the low income he faced. The Seeds of Simplicity website also urges such resistance to corporate culture as anti-sweatshop shopping and the anti-telemarketing "Do Not Call" campaign.
    Laura was seeing many patients whose ER visits, she thought, were prompted by their work-and-spend, or work-to-spend patterns. Fletcher was working a lot of shifts herself and began to reflect on what that was doing to her own mental health.
    It should have been healthy for her bank account, if nothing else, but it wasn't. Returning home exhausted at 3 a.m. every night, she had no one to call, nowhere to go, nothing better to do than check out eBay. Her frame of mind: "I needed to reward myself for the pain and exhaustion of overwork." And here were all these beautiful flowing silk skirts and chic chiffon designer dresses. "You have to be tough and sort of masculine in the ER; now here was the softer side of life," she explains. Laura loved dancing - salsa and tango - and had soon acquired more than 30 outfits perfect for the dance floor. But, while they were great deals - only half the $300 to $400 she would have paid in a store - they cost her enough that she had to work extra shifts and could almost never go out dancing. Trying them on at home was soothing, but ultimately sort of sad.
    Also sad and disquieting were a lot of patients she saw with what seemed to be pseudo-emergencies - multiple-complaint patients without measurable physical symptoms. Reporting nausea, headache, dizziness, and other ills, they had perfect vital signs; usually at the end of the visit, they wanted a note that they'd been to the hospital. There might be some somatized stress, but at bottom, Laura concluded, they wanted a "legitimate" reason they could give their bosses for taking a day off work, a break they generally needed for simple overwork. The U.S...demands longer work weeks (26% more hours per year than the average German worker) and offers less vacation time (23 days per year, compared to 38-42 days for the average Europeans) than any other developed country....
    For more information, call (877) UNSTUFF (867-8833).

  5. EA workers readying class action lawsuit against EA
    GameSpot
    Lawyer representing plaintiffs addresses "proposed class action" lawsuit seeking unpaid overtime from the world's biggest third-party publisher.
    Yesterday, a blog entry from the spouse of a worker at Electronic Arts lashed out against the game giant. "The current mandatory hours are 9am to 10pm - seven days a week - with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior (at 6:30pm)," read the post, which went on to claim EA employees receive no overtime, 'comp' time, or additional vacation for their efforts.
    Like most blogs, the veracity of "EA Spouse's" online rant was questionable at best. However, after receiving much attention online, GameSpot News decided to investigate the matter - and found there might be some truth behind the blogger's anger.
    Following a tip from an informed source, GameSpot contacted Attorney Robert C. Schubert, partner at San Francisco law firm Schubert & Reed LLP. He said that he has initiated legal proceedings to start a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of EA employees. "We are seeking unpaid overtime for a good number of [EA] employees who weren't [properly] paid," Schubert told GameSpot this afternoon. "EA contends they were exempt," Schubert said. "We contend otherwise."
    To recover the money felt owed them, said employees are trying to file a class action lawsuit against EA seeking overtime pay. On July 29, the complaint Jamie Kirschenbaum vs. Electronic Arts, Inc. was filed in San Mateo Superior Court. Kirschenbaum is one of the members of the Sims 2 design team, although his current employment status at EA could not be clarified as of press time.
    However, to initiate a class action suit, a group must first be first certified as a "class" by the court. Schubert also said that until a class is certified by the court, he couldn't say how many individuals would seek to participate in the legal action. "We haven't been certified as a class yet," said Schubert, who admitted that certification "is a big battle."
    And it looks like the lines for that battle are already being drawn. GameSpot was sent a copy of an e-mail purportedly sent to Electronic Arts employees over the summer, alerting them to the lawsuit. The e-mail went so far as to inform them that if they chose to participate in the lawsuit by joining the class, if it were to be certified, there would be no repercussions.
    The e-mail, while not yet confirmed to be authentic, frames the dispute between the proposed class and Electronic Arts as follows:
    "On July 29, 2004, a class action lawsuit was filed against Electronic Arts Inc. ("EA"). This communication responds to earlier email communications from EA management regarding the litigation. The lawsuit alleges that EA improperly classified some of its employees, including 'animators,' 'modelers,' 'texture artists,' 'lighters,' 'background effects artists' and 'environmental artists' as exempt from overtime, and therefore failed to pay those employees overtime compensation. Plaintiff's action seeks statutory penalties, damages, restitution, and injunctive relief.
    "EA denies plaintiff's claim. It is EA's position that it treats its employees fairly and lawfully, and that it has properly classified its employees within the meaning of the law. The plaintiff is seeking to bring this lawsuit on behalf of himself and to represent a proposed class of current and former EA employees as a class action. The Court has not yet certified this case as a class action."
    "If the case is certified, members of the class will be notified as directed by the Court, and may be given the opportunity to be excluded from the class ("opting out"), or to hire their own lawyers to represent them."
    "EA will not retaliate against employees for exercising legal rights, including by participating in the proposed class action."
    According to Schubert, the most recent action taken by the court was the denial of a motion by EA that would have stopped the certification process in its tracks.
    E-mails to Electronic Arts requesting comment had not been returned at press time.
    By Curt Feldman, Tor Thorsen, GameSpot

  6. Unions begin to struggle in Europe
    By Noelle Knox, USA TODAY and [photo?] by Martin Oeser, AFP
    ["Begin to struggle"???]
    BERLIN — If your company froze your pay for two years, but gave you a one-time bonus of $1,250 and job security until 2011, would you feel lucky?
    You would if you worked at Volkswagen in Germany. The new contract, reached last week, was a rare and relative victory for Europe's unionized workers, who have suffered a series of significant setbacks since June.
    For decades, labor unions in Western Europe and the United States have watched their ranks plummet. But until recently, workers in Western Europe had been able to hold on to their 35-to-38-hour workweeks, typical six weeks of vacation a year and rigid work rules. Despite the union's win at VW, many labor experts see little on the horizon to reverse the decline of union power.
    Tuesday, German business leaders launched an attack on the law that gives employee representatives half the seats on advisory boards for the largest companies. In an effort to reduce workers' input in corporate decision-making, two business associations proposed limiting labor seats to one-third.
    Bertold Huber, deputy chairman of the IG Metall engineering union, was quoted as saying, "Business interests see an historic chance to regain full control (of corporate decision-making)."
    The next blow might be weeks away. General Motors is bargaining with its employees in Europe, and has said it will lay off one in five workers. The automaker also will close a plant in Germany or Sweden in an effort to get its European operations back in the black.
    "In labor bargaining, the climate changes all the time. Sometimes, employers have the upper hand — that's what we have now — and other times, when unemployment is low, the union has the upper hand," says Paul Swaim, an economist with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
    Could this shift in power be permanent?
    "That's the big question," he says. "Maybe this time it's the start of a long-term decline in union bargaining power in Europe."
    There are a lot of reasons to think it's beginning to decline. As in the USA, the number of manufacturing jobs, the traditional backbone of unions, has declined, while the number of white-collar and part-time workers has increased. The new generation of workers is less likely to join a union, and they see fewer benefits to signing up. Government policies have been unsympathetic to unions, and employers are resisting organized labor through better human resources programs and employee communication.
    The unions are feeling it. "The political landscape is changing, not making it easier for unions," says Jorg Kother, a spokesman for Germany's IG Metall union. "Also, there has been a strong and rather unfair campaign against labor participation, discrediting workers' councils and unions, which is being led by the employers' associations."
    On top of that, unions in Europe are up against a weak economy, while the common currency used by 12 countries — the euro — is near a record high against the dollar, hurting exports to the USA. Last spring, the European Union, a political and trade alliance, expanded from 15 to 25 countries, taking in nations such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. That makes it easier for companies in Western Europe to shift work to lower-wage countries in the East.
    The combination of these social, political and economic forces could create a perfect storm in the European labor market. The consequences might be more profound than those seen in the USA, because labor unions in Europe still represent almost one in three workers, on average, and they are deeply entwined in the political and economic fabric.
    In Germany, for example, employee representatives control half the seats on the advisory boards of companies with more than 2,000 employees. In France, unions have a loud political voice in the country's policies for agricultural subsidies, investment and the like.
    "If Germany runs into troubled water (with its unions), we will have a difficult situation, because institutions may break down. This would be bitter for German society," says Ulrich Jurgens, of the WZB social science research center in Berlin.
    In contrast to the United States, where unions were born out of wretched working conditions in mills and mines, Germany's labor movement was started during the social democratic and communist government of the 1920s. Strikes are rare in Germany: Working days lost to strikes run about five per 1,000 employees a year, vs. about 43 days in the United States. In VW's 67-year history, there has never been a strike — only warning demonstrations to pressure management.
    "The Caterpillar strike (in the USA) running for years and years, people ruining their lives and striking without money, that is out of our imagination in Germany right now," Jurgens says. The contract dispute, which included a 17-month strike at the Illinois-based manufacturer of construction equipment, dragged on through most of the 1990s.
    Union concessions
    But there have been several strikes in Germany and elsewhere in Europe in recent months as workers protest company demands for longer workweeks for the same or less pay. The demonstrations, however, have been short-lived, and the unions usually have backed down against the threat of layoffs or job relocations.
    Among the recent contracts: Compared with these sacrifices, the new contract at VW looks like a triumph for the IG Metall union. (The company board also agreed to a pay freeze.) Investors were so disappointed that VW's stock lost 3% of its value in one day.
    But even VW pounded the bargaining table harder than in years past. The company, which posted a $60 million operating loss for the first nine months of the year, also has complained repeatedly about the strength of the euro, vs. the dollar.
    This week, the euro hit a record high of $1.2985. "Europe would be well advised to consider what consequences this could have on its economic activity and in particular on its exports," French President Jacques Chirac said on Friday.
    With difficult employment prospects and oil prices hovering around $50 a barrel, Europeans don't feel like buying much. Last month, the European Union cut its growth forecast for next year to 2% from 2.3%. Much of that will come from the new member countries in Eastern and Central Europe that are attracting new investment from the West and overseas.
    It's a bleak outlook for labor unions throughout Europe. They are losing bargaining power from the outside because of the economy, and from the inside because of their shrinking numbers.
    The unions are trying to appeal to new workers, says Kother, the spokesman for IG Metall. "We are trying to approach people in different ways, like small projects inside firms," Kother says. "We want to make people conscious that the union is (a) community to protect the weaker part."
    Such efforts, however, have failed in countries such as Britain.
    "A quarter of a century ago, only one-quarter of the workforce had never been in a union; now, it's half," says David Metcalf, a professor at the London School of Economics. "People have lost their taste for membership. It's the same in America."
    The only success story for union labor is in Scandinavia, where union participation is remarkably high — roughly between 50% and 80% — and stable. The unions in the Nordic countries have an entrenched collective-bargaining system, widely supported by companies and the government.
    That's the exception.
    In most Western European countries, union membership has dropped by at least 10 to 20 percentage points since 1980 (see chart). In the USA, membership has fallen to 13% from 22%.
    Despite the flagging numbers, some unions can still flex surprising muscle on wages.
    "America is interesting," Metcalf says. "With 8% (of workers) in the private sector, unions still exercise real power over contracts; there are substantial wage mark-ups. Unionized workers are still doing well, there are just so few of them. In Britain, that isn't the case; there's no wage mark-up anymore."
    The recent deals for European workers show they are facing the same trend.

  7. The Fight of Our Lives
    Alternet via ProgressiveTrail.org, OR
    by Bill Moyers
    It is important from time to time to remember that some things are worth getting mad about.
    Here's one: On March 10 of this year, on page B8, with a headline that stretched across all six columns, The New York Times reported that tuition in the city's elite private schools would hit $26,000 for the coming school year - for kindergarten as well as high school. On the same page, under a two-column headline, Michael Wineraub wrote about a school in nearby Mount Vernon, the first stop out of the Bronx, with a student body that is 97% black. It is the poorest school in the town: nine out of ten children qualify for free lunches; one out of 10 lives in a homeless shelter. During black history month this past February, a sixth grader wanted to write a report on Langston Hughes. There were no books on Langston Hughes in the library - no books about the great poet, nor any of his poems. There is only one book in the library on Frederick Douglass. None on Rosa Parks, Josephine Baker, Leontyne Price, or other giants like them inthe modern era. In fact, except for a few Newberry Award books the librarian bought with her own money, the library is mostly old books - largely from the 1950s and 60s when the school was all white. A 1960 child's primer on work begins with a youngster learning how to be a telegraph delivery boy. All the workers in the book - the dry cleaner, the deliveryman, the cleaning lady - are white. There's a 1967 book about telephones which says: "when you phone you usually dial the number. But on some new phones you can push buttons." The newest encyclopedia dates from l991, with two volumes - "b" and "r" - missing. There is no card catalog in the library - no index cards or computer.
    Something to get mad about.
    Here's something else: Caroline Payne's face and gums are distorted because her Medicaid-financed dentures don't fit. Because they don't fit, she is continuously turned down for jobs on account of her appearance. Caroline Payne is one of the people in David Shipler's new book,' The Working Poor: Invisible in America'. She was born poor, and in spite of having once owned her own home and having earned a two-year college degree, Caroline Payne has bounced from one poverty-wage job to another all her life, equipped with the will to move up, but not the resources to deal with unexpected and overlapping problems like a mentally handicapped daughter, a broken marriage, a sudden layoff crisis that forced her to sell her few assets, pull up roots and move on. "In the house of the poor," Shipler writes "...the walls are thin and fragile and troubles seep into one another."
    Here's something else to get mad about. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives, the body of Congress owned and operated by the corporate, political, and religious right, approved new tax credits for children. Not for poor children, mind you. But for families earning as much as $309,000 a year - families that already enjoy significant benefits from earlier tax cuts. The editorial page of The Washington Post called this "bad social policy, bad tax policy, and bad fiscal policy. You'd think they'd be embarrassed," said the Post, "but they're not."
    And this, too, is something to get mad about. Nothing seems to embarrass the political class in Washington today. Not the fact that more children are growing up in poverty in America than in any other industrial nation; not the fact that millions of workers are actually making less money today in real dollars than they did twenty years ago; not the fact that working people are putting in longer and longer hours and still falling behind; not the fact that while we have the most advanced medical care in the world, nearly 44 million Americans - eight out of ten of them in working families - are uninsured and cannot get the basic care they need.
    Astonishing as it seems, no one in official Washington seems embarrassed by the fact that the gap between rich and poor is greater than it's been in 50 years - the worst inequality among all western nations. Or that we are experiencing a shift in poverty. For years it was said those people down there at the bottom were single, jobless mothers. For years they were told work, education, and marriage is how they move up the economic ladder. But poverty is showing up where we didn't expect it - among families that include two parents, a worker, and a head of the household with more than a high school education. These are the newly poor. Our political, financial and business class expects them to climb out of poverty on an escalator moving downward.
    Let me tell you about the Stanleys and the Neumanns. During the last decade, I produced a series of documentaries for PBS called "Surviving the Good Times." The title refers to the boom time of the '90s when the country achieved the longest period of economic growth in its entire history. Some good things happened then, but not everyone shared equally in the benefits. To the contrary. The decade began with a sustained period of downsizing by corporations moving jobs out of America and many of those people never recovered what was taken from them. We decided early on to tell the stories of two families in Milwaukee - one black, one white - whose breadwinners were laid off in the first wave of layoffs in 1991. We reported on how they were coping with the wrenching changes in their lives, and we stayed with them over the next ten years as they tried to find a place in the new global economy. They're the kind of Americans my mother would have called "the salt of the earth." They love their kids, care about their communities, go to church every Sunday, and work hard all week - both mothers have had to take full-time jobs.
    During our time with them, the fathers in both families became seriously ill. One had to stay in the hospital two months, putting his family $30,000 in debt because they didn't have adequate health insurance. We were there with our camera when the bank started to foreclose on the modest home of the other family because they couldn't meet the mortgage payments after dad lost his good-paying manufacturing job. Like millions of Americans, the Stanleys and the Neumanns were playing by the rules and still getting stiffed. By the end of the decade they were running harder but slipping behind, and the gap between them and prosperous America was widening.
    What turns their personal tragedy into a political travesty is that they are patriotic. They love this country. But they no longer believe they matter to the people who run the country. When our film opens, both families are watching the inauguration of Bill Clinton on television in 1992. By the end of the decade they were no longer paying attention to politics. They don't see it connecting to their lives. They don't think their concerns will ever be addressed by the political, corporate, and media elites who make up our dominant class. They are not cynical, because they are deeply religious people with no capacity for cynicism, but they know the system is rigged against them. They know this, and we know this. For years now a small fraction of American households have been garnering an extreme concentration of wealth and income while large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented levels of economic and political power over daily life. In 1960, the gap in terms of wealth between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was 30 fold. Four decades later it is more than 75 fold.
    Such concentrations of wealth would be far less of an issue if the rest of society were benefiting proportionately. But that's not the case. As the economist Jeff Madrick reminds us, the pressures of inequality on middle and working class Americans are now quite severe. "The strain on working people and on family life, as spouses have gone to work in dramatic numbers, has become significant. VCRs and television sets are cheap, but higher education, health care, public transportation, drugs, housing and cars have risen faster in price than typical family incomes. And life has grown neither calm nor secure for most Americans, by any means." You can find many sources to support this conclusion. I like the language of a small outfit here in New York called the Commonwealth Foundation/Center for the Renewal of American Democracy. They conclude that working families and the poor "are losing ground under economic pressures that deeply affect household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, political participation, and civic life."
    Household economics is not the only area where inequality is growing in America. Equality doesn't mean equal incomes, but a fair and decent society where money is not the sole arbiter of status or comfort. In a fair and just society, the commonwealth will be valued even as individual wealth is encouraged.
    Let me make something clear here. I wasn't born yesterday. I'm old enough to know that the tension between haves and have-nots are built into human psychology, it is a constant in human history, and it has been a factor in every society. But I also know America was going to be different. I know that because I read Mr. Jefferson's writings, Mr. Lincoln's speeches and other documents in the growing American creed. I presumptuously disagreed with Thomas Jefferson about human equality being self-evident. Where I lived, neither talent, nor opportunity, nor outcomes were equal. Life is rarely fair and never equal. So what could he possibly have meant by that ringing but ambiguous declaration: "All men are created equal"? Two things, possibly. One, although none of us are good, all of us are sacred (Glenn Tinder), that's the basis for thinking we are by nature kin.
    Second, he may have come to see the meaning of those words through the experience of the slave who was his mistress. As is now widely acknowledged, the hands that wrote "all men are created equal" also stroked the breasts and caressed the thighs of a black woman named Sally Hennings. She bore him six children whom he never acknowledged as his own, but who were the only slaves freed by his will when he died - the one request we think Sally Hennings made of her master. Thomas Jefferson could not have been insensitive to the flesh-and-blood woman in his arms. He had to know she was his equal in her desire for life, her longing for liberty, her passion for happiness.
    In his book on the Declaration, my late friend Mortimer Adler said Jefferson realized that whatever things are really good for any human being are really good for all other human beings. The happy or good life is essentially the same for all: a satisfaction of the same needs inherent in human nature. A just society is grounded in that recognition. So Jefferson kept as a slave a woman whose nature he knew was equal to his. All Sally Hennings got from her long sufferance - perhaps it was all she sought from what may have grown into a secret and unacknowledged love - was that he let her children go. "Let my children go" - one of the oldest of all petitions. It has long been the promise of America - a broken promise, to be sure. But the idea took hold that we could fix what was broken so that our children would live a bountiful life. We could prevent the polarization between the very rich and the very poor that poisoned other societies. We could provide that each and every citizen would enjoy the basic necessities of life, a voice in the system of self-government, and a better chance for their children. We could preclude the vast divides that produced the turmoil and tyranny of the very countries from which so many of our families had fled.
    We were going to do these things because we understood our dark side - none of us is good - but we also understood the other side - all of us are sacred. From Jefferson forward we have grappled with these two notions in our collective head - that we are worthy of the creator but that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Believing the one and knowing the other, we created a country where the winners didn't take all. Through a system of checks and balances we were going to maintain a safe, if shifting, equilibrium between wealth and commonwealth. We believed equitable access to public resources is the lifeblood of any democracy. So early on [in Jeff Madrick's description,] primary schooling was made free to all. States changed laws to protect debtors, often the relatively poor, against their rich creditors. Charters to establish corporations were open to most, if not all, white comers, rather than held for the elite. The government encouraged Americans to own their own piece of land, and even supported squatters' rights. The court challenged monopoly - all in the name of we the people.
    In my time we went to public schools. My brother made it to college on the GI bill. When I bought my first car for $450 I drove to a subsidized university on free public highways and stopped to rest in state-maintained public parks. This is what I mean by the commonwealth. Rudely recognized in its formative years, always subject to struggle, constantly vulnerable to reactionary counterattacks, the notion of America as a shared project has been the central engine of our national experience.
    Until now. I don't have to tell you that a profound transformation is occurring in America: the balance between wealth and the commonwealth is being upended. By design. Deliberately. We have been subjected to what the Commonwealth Foundation calls "a fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have shaped public responsibility for social harms arising from the excesses of private power." From land, water and other natural resources, to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, and to politics itself, a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a powerful shift toward private and corporate control. And with little public debate. Indeed, what passes for 'political debate' in this country has become a cynical charade behind which the real business goes on - the not-so-scrupulous business of getting and keeping power in order to divide up the spoils.
    We could have seen this coming if we had followed the money. The veteran Washington reporter, Elizabeth Drew, says "the greatest change in Washington over the past 25 years - in its culture, in the way it does business and the ever-burgeoning amount of business transactions that go on here - has been in the preoccupation with money." Jeffrey Birnbaum, who covered Washington for nearly twenty years for the Wall Street Journal, put it more strongly: "[campaign cash] has flooded over the gunwales of the ship of state and threatens to sink the entire vessel. Political donations determine the course and speed of many government actions that deeply affect our daily lives." Politics is suffocating from the stranglehold of money. During his brief campaign in 2000, before he was ambushed by the dirty tricks of the religious right in South Carolina and big money from George W. Bush's wealthy elites, John McCain said elections today are nothing less than an "influence peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder."
    Small wonder that with the exception of people like John McCain and Russ Feingold, official Washington no longer finds anything wrong with a democracy dominated by the people with money. Hit the pause button here, and recall Roger Tamraz. He's the wealthy oilman who paid $300,000 to get a private meeting in the White House with President Clinton; he wanted help in securing a big pipeline in central Asia. This got him called before congressional hearings on the financial excesses of the 1996 campaign. If you watched the hearings on C-Span you heard him say he didn't think he had done anything out of the ordinary. When they pressed him he told the senators: "Look, when it comes to money and politics, you make the rules. I'm just playing by your rules." One senator then asked if Tamraz had registered and voted. And he was blunt in his reply: "No, senator, I think money's a bit more (important) than the vote."
    So what does this come down to, practically?
    Here is one accounting:
    "When powerful interests shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they often get what they want. But it's ordinary citizens and firms that pay the price and most of them never see it coming. This is what happens if you don't contribute to their campaigns or spend generously on lobbying. You pick up a disproportionate share of America's tax bill. You pay higher prices for a broad range of products from peanuts to prescriptions. You pay taxes that others in a similar situation have been excused from paying. You're compelled to abide by laws while others are granted immunity from them. You must pay debts that you incur while others do not. You're barred from writing off on your tax returns some of the money spent on necessities while others deduct the cost of their entertainment. You must run your business by one set of rules, while the government creates another set for your competitors. In contrast, the fortunate few who contribute to the right politicians and hire the right lobbyists enjoy all the benefits of their special status. Make a bad business deal; the government bails them out. If they want to hire workers at below market wages, the government provides the means to do so. If they want more time to pay their debts, the government gives them an extension. If they want immunity from certain laws, the government gives it. If they want to ignore rules their competition must comply with, the government gives its approval. If they want to kill legislation that is intended for the public, it gets killed."
    I'm not quoting from Karl Marx's Das Kapital or Mao's Little Red Book. I'm quoting Time magazine. Time's premier investigative journalists - Donald Bartlett and James Steele - concluded in a series last year that America now has "government for the few at the expense of the many." Economic inequality begets political inequality, and vice versa.
    That's why the Stanleys and the Neumanns were turned off by politics. It's why we're losing the balance between wealth and the commonwealth. It's why we can't put things right. And it is the single most destructive force tearing at the soul of democracy. Hear the great justice Learned Hand on this: "If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: 'Thou shalt not ration justice.' " Learned Hand was a prophet of democracy. The rich have the right to buy more homes than anyone else. They have the right to buy more cars than anyone else, more gizmos than anyone else, more clothes and vacations than anyone else. But they do not have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else.
    I know, I know: this sounds very much like a call for class war. But the class war was declared a generation ago, in a powerful paperback polemic by William Simon, who was soon to be Secretary of the Treasury. He called on the financial and business class, in effect, to take back the power and privileges they had lost in the Depression and New Deal.
    They got the message, and soon they began a stealthy class war against the rest of society and the principles of our democracy. They set out to trash the social contract, to cut their workforces and wages, to scour the globe in search of cheap labor, and to shred the social safety net that was supposed to protect people from hardships beyond their control. Business Week put it bluntly at the time: "Some people will obviously have to do with less....it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more."
    The middle class and working poor are told that what's happening to them is the consequence of Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand." This is a lie. What's happening to them is the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that in its hunger for government subsidies has made an idol of power, and a string of political decisions favoring the powerful and the privileged who bought the political system right out from under us.
    To create the intellectual framework for this takeover of public policy they funded conservative think tanks - The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute - that churned out study after study advocating their agenda.
    To put political muscle behind these ideas they created a formidable political machine. One of the few journalists to cover the issues of class - Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post - wrote: "During the 1970s, business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favor of joint, cooperate action in the legislative area." Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. And they built alliances with the religious right - Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition - who mounted a cultural war providing a smokescreen for the class war, hiding the economic plunder of the very people who were enlisted as foot soldiers in the cause of privilege.
    In a book to be published this summer, Daniel Altman describes what he calls the "neo-economy - a place without taxes, without a social safety net, where rich and poor live in different financial worlds - and [said Altman] it's coming to America." He's a little late. It's here. Says Warren Buffett, the savviest investor of them all: "My class won."
    Look at the spoils of victory: More than half of the benefits are going to the wealthiest 1%. You could call it trickle-down economics, except that the only thing that trickled down was a sea of red ink in our state and local governments, forcing them to cut services for and raise taxes on middle class working America.
    Now the Congressional Budget Office forecasts deficits totaling $2.75 trillion over the next ten years.
    These deficits have been part of their strategy. Some of you will remember that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan tried to warn us 20 years ago, when he predicted that President Ronald Reagan's real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Reagan's own budget director, David Stockman, admitted as such. Now the leading rightwing political strategist, Grover Norquist, says the goal is to "starve the beast" - with trillions of dollars in deficits resulting from trillions of dollars in tax cuts, until the United States Government is so anemic and anorexic it can be drowned in the bathtub.
    There's no question about it: The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and religious right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with structural deficits that will last until our children's children are ready for retirement, and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions except rewarding the rich and waging war.
    And they are proud of what they have done to our economy and our society. If instead of practicing journalism I was writing for Saturday Night Live, I couldn't have made up the things that this crew have been saying. The president's chief economic adviser says shipping technical and professional jobs overseas is good for the economy. The president's Council of Economic Advisers report that hamburger chefs in fast food restaurants can be considered manufacturing workers. The president's Federal Reserve Chairman says that the tax cuts may force cutbacks in social security - but hey, we should make the tax cuts permanent anyway. The president's Labor Secretary says it doesn't matter if job growth has stalled because "the stock market is the ultimate arbiter."
    You just can't make this stuff up. You have to hear it to believe it. This may be the first class war in history where the victims will die laughing.
    But what they are doing to middle class and working Americans - and to the workings of American democracy - is no laughing matter. Go online and read the transcripts of Enron traders in the energy crisis four years ago, discussing how they were manipulating the California power market in telephone calls in which they gloat about ripping off "those poor grandmothers." Read how they talk about political contributions to politicians like "Kenny Boy" Lay's best friend George W. Bush. Go on line and read how Citigroup has been fined $70 Million for abuses in loans to low-income, high risk borrowers - the largest penalty ever imposed by the Federal Reserve. A few clicks later, you can find the story of how a subsidiary of the corporate computer giant NEC has been fined over $20 million after pleading guilty to corruption in a federal plan to bring Internet access to poor schools and libraries. And this, the story says, is just one piece of a nationwide scheme to rip off the government and the poor.
    Let's face the reality: If ripping off the public trust; if distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the poor; if driving the country into deficits deliberately to starve social benefits; if requiring states to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor; if squeezing the wages of workers until the labor force resembles a nation of serfs - if this isn't class war, what is?
    It's un-American. It's unpatriotic. And it's wrong.
    But I don't need to tell you this. You wouldn't be here if you didn't know it. Your presence at this gathering confirms that while an America with liberty and justice for all is a broken promise, it is not a lost cause. Once upon a time I thought the mass media - my industry - would help mend this broken promise and save this cause. After all, the sight of police dogs attacking peaceful demonstrators forced America to recognize the reality of racial injustice. The sight of carnage in Vietnam forced us to recognize the war was unwinnable. The sight of terrorists striking the World Trade Center woke us from a long slumber of denial and distraction. I thought the mass media might awaken Americans to the reality that this ideology of winner-take-all is working against them and not for them. I was wrong. With honorable exceptions, we can't count on the mass media.
    What we need is a mass movement of people like you. Get mad, yes - there's plenty to be mad about. Then get organized and get busy. This is the fight of our lives.
    This was a speech given at the Inequality Matters Forum on June 3, 2004 at New York University.
    [As usual with complaints about inequality, Moyers has not mentioned the three most important problems with inequality -
    1. The wealthy are minimizing their own consumer base - they would be a lot richer and safer with a maximum of confident consumers supporting the value of their wealth, not a minimum. The maximum can be achieved by replacing inflation-control via high unemployment, with full employment via automatic worksharing and inflation control via incentive balancing.
    2. The wealthy have drawn to themselves all the important decision-making power while insulating and isolating themselves from any negative consequences of any of their decisions - ergo no feedback. And systems with no feedback have no in-course correction and no survivability.
    3. The wealthy are making enemies of everyone else on the planet, so they're making their position ever more unusual, conspicuous and insecure. No amount of costly security can protect them, as Americans found out on 9/11 when 19 guys with a few boxcutters and a lot of imagination snuffed 3000 of them.]
11/11/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/10 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #17 which is from 11/11 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Guangdong workers demand better conditions
    Xinhua via Xinhuanet via www.chinaview.cn, China
    BEIJING - Nearly 1,000 workers gathered at the gate of Shanlin Technology's Qiaodonghuan Road factory in Panyu District, Guangzhou City of Guangdong [Canton] Province, on Sunday, demanding to talk with the head of the company about improving their benefits and work conditions.
    The outdoor meeting, which continued from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM, blocked traffic around the factory as the workers called for timely payment of their wages, increased overtime pay and 1 day off per week.
    Shanlin's human resources officials were called to the factory, where they assured the workers that they would "properly handle" their problems and requested that they return to work. The workers eventually departed the area, but refused to return to work until the head of the plant responded to their demands.
    The officials promised to provide the workers with an answer from the top brass on Monday.
    The Standard reported on November 10 that the Shanlin employees returned to work on Monday after management promised to raise overtime pay from 2 yuan (24 US cents) per hour to 3 yuan (36 US cents), to give them two days off per month and to pay their wages on time.
    The company could not be reached for comment.
    Shanlin Technology mainly produces household electronics goods such as televisions. Workers told the Nanfang City News that with the company's business growing and orders soaring, they have been required to put in longer and longer hours but their salaries have not increased. A number of unhappy employees have already quit.
    One unidentified worker said that she was required to work from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM seven days a week, with only a short break at noon. Her basic monthly salary was 400 yuan (US$48) per month and with 2 yuan (24 US cents) per hour for overtime, her total earnings averaged about 600 yuan (US$72) each month. When the workers staged their complaint last Sunday, the factory was a month behind in payment of wages.
    Most employees said they would rather improve the working environment and benefits than quit their jobs. They believe that company profits must be climbing along with the increase in orders, and they want some of that profit invested back into the workers.
    Article 6 of China's Constitution guarantees workers remuneration for their labor. The Labor Law reinforces this principle, requiring that employees be paid at least the minimum wage set by the state regardless of corporate profitability. It also states that they must be paid their wages on time.
    The right to periods of rest is also constitutionally protected, in Article 43. The Labor Law provides more specific details, such as rights to annual paid vacations and official holidays as well as limitations on extensions of work hours. The law specifically states that workers must be given at least 1 day off per week.
    The victory of the workers at the Shanlin Technology plant comes at a time when growing numbers of workers are becoming disgruntled with conditions in the Pearl River Delta. Living costs are high, wages low and other conditions often unattractive. Many migrant workers are moving to other areas, leaving Guangdong Province and its near neighbors facing a serious and growing labor shortage.
    [Notice that, prompted by spoiled employers, gullible reporters have started talking about a labor "shortage" in a nation with millions of unemployed. Of course, it's actually a shortage of training - which employers see too many desperate jobseeking candidates to bother with.]

  2. Women seek flexible jobs - Women: flexible sked [schedule] please
    CBS News
    Jennifer Maler has always danced to the beat of her own drummer. She's single and a self-described free spirit.
    Brenda McAuliffe is married with three children. Her free time is family time.
    "I've kind of put priorities around when I want to be home, and I've managed my work schedule around that," McAuliffe told CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi.
    Here's what Brenda and Jennifer have in common: They're both accountants; they're both rising stars at the same company; and neither works 9 to 5.
    "Working full time, it was great," Maler said. "I loved everything I was doing but it was a little too much, too many hours. I wanted a balance."
    "Balance" is the new buzzword for women who don't want to be forced to choose between work and life. They don't necessarily want what's been called the "mommy track," either. These women want meaningful careers and promotions. And some companies are changing to keep them around.
    "We were hiring 50% women and 50% men and then women were leaving us more often than the men," said Deborah Holmes, from Ernst & Young's Center for the New Workforce.
    Accounting giant Ernst & Young asked what it would take to keep women from leaving. Topping women's wish list: Flexible work options, including reduced schedules and compressed work weeks.
    "Gone are the days when your workforce could be counted to come in in the morning and sit at their desks all day long," Holmes said.
    [We wish.]
    "And if you can't figure that out, you aren't going to be drawing from the top talent."
    [Unfortunately, many employers aren't interested in the very top talent. Holmes is dreaming if she thinks this is going to be a groundswell without engineering an employer-perceived employer-disciplining labor shortage via all-inclusive 'unemployment' controlled workweek reduction and automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion.]
    Linda Meric, who works as an Executive Director at the 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women, said, "Not nearly enough companies have family friendly policies."
    Meric warns that there's a difference between family-friendly and "mommy track." And, she says, a company just creating options for women isn't enough.
    "But many times they discourage employees from utilizing the policies or actually punish employees when they use them by slowing down their career advancement path," Meric said.
    But Holmes says these policies are saving her company $10 million annually, [that's great, but what does the next statement mean? -]
    and many women are now staying at a higher rate than men.
    [This doesn't make sense. Either simply "women are now staying at a higher rate than men," or "many more women are staying than before," or "many categories of women employees are now staying at a higher rate than men employees," which last is rather insignificant. At any rate, until clarified, the statement is too confused to be quoted.]
    "I'm very, very happy," Maler said of her job at Ernst & Young. "I feel like the flexibility keeps me here."
    Maler and McAuliffe have both been promoted since beginning their flexible work schedules. McAuliffe's been made partner, and has learned a thing or two about juggling clients and commitments.
    "No one really needs to know exactly where you are," McAuliffe said.
    Alfonsi asked: "But you say 'conflict,' you don't say 'I have a class meeting?'"
    "No," McAuliffe replied. "Why do they need to know that?"
    Companies have found that flexibility at work leads to higher morale, increased productivity and better retention rates.
    And for many women, that is just the icing on the cake.

  3. Haworth vacation bartering proves popular
    By Rob Kirkbride, The Grand Rapids Press via MLive.com, MI
    HOLLAND, Mich. - What is your vacation worth? Haworth Inc. employees will know firsthand under a new benefit program for 2005 that offers employees the option of buying and selling vacation time.
    The option is already proving popular. The office-furniture maker says more than 40% of employees who already enrolled for next year used the vacation bartering. And most are buying.
    "We have had about 870 people out of 3,200 that are eligible to enroll in the (vacation buying and selling) program," said benefits manager Ralph Hensley. "Of those, 723 were buying and 57 were selling."
    Employees who do not mind giving up their leisure time can sell vacation days. The proceeds can be used as taxable compensation or to purchase other benefits.
    Jim DeJonge was one of the buyers.
    The machine operator at Haworth's Holland wood plant bought an extra vacation day to use in 2005.
    "Three weeks of vacation is nice, but it's always good to have a little extra time," he said. "I am a father and a husband and I frequently have to use vacation time for non-vacation things like doctor's appointments. This will allow me to give myself a little extra time."
    Haworth will deduct a day of DeJonge's pay, spread over the entire year, to pay for the day off. It works out to about $2 a week, hardly enough to notice, he said.
    For example, if a worker is making $12 an hour, a day off, based on an 8-hour workday, would cost $96.
    In the first year of the program, workers are allowed to buy up to 3 days off. They can sell up to a week back to the company.
    DeJonge also is taking advantage of another part of Haworth's revamped plan. He will opt out of the company's health-insurance coverage and go on his wife's instead.
    His wife works for Spectrum Health. Haworth will pay him $600 a year to stay off the plan.
    Mark Craymer, senior systems analyst, was one of the vacation day sellers.
    Craymer sold a <B>week of vacation days. The pretax proceeds will be used to offset his health-care benefits for the year. Workers also can choose to have the money added to their paychecks each week.
    The 18-year Haworth employee said he won't miss the vacation. He gets 4 weeks of vacation a year and had some extra that carried over from the previous year.
    "In my case, I would have sold more," he said, noting that the out-of-pocket cost for the new benefit package is about the same as the old plan.
    Buying and selling vacation time is very unusual, said Maggie McPhee of The Employers' Association, a human resources consulting group based in Cascade Township.
    "Most of the time, when people are allowed to do something like that, it's in the case of a catastrophic illness," she said.
    "Sometimes employers will allow employees to set up a vacation bank were they can donate days to the person with an illness.
    "But to be able to buy and sell days, I've not heard of anything like that."
    Buying and selling vacation time isn't the only change to the Haworth benefit package.
    The new plan, which came out of meetings to gather employee input, includes expanded medical options.
    Workers are required to enroll on-line.

  4. Germany on the way to longer working hours
    Euractiv, Belgium
    In Short:
    This paper by DB Research looks at working hours in Germany, arguing that collective agreements must allow for greater variation in work volume: between 30 and 50 hours per week.
    Source: Deutsche Bank Research
    Ranked by collectively agreed working hours, Germany lazes in the bottom third in the European Union.
    ["Lazes"? Why should anyone in even a half-intelligent species be working over 20 hours a week in the age of automation and robotics? This is yet another article by people with their brains firmly buried in the sands of the 17th century before technology, before even the Industrial Revolution! Southeast Pacific islanders with no technology just work four hours a day for God's sake, and these morons are still reflexing mindlessly on "longer workweeks are better"???]
    In 2003 the contractual annual working time in west Germany was 1,643 hours (east Germany 1,722). The EU-15 average was 1,708.
    [That simply means that western Germans are a lot smarter than average Europeans - and a lot freer, because there's no more basic freedom than free time.]
    Working time is a problem, particularly for manufacturing.
    [Shorter working time is a problem only for incompetent managers who have difficulty defining workloads at appropriate levels and suturing shifts. But the more they learn these basic fundamental management skills of the technological era, the bigger and stronger their consumer base will be.]
    In some sectors, such as metal and engineering or printing, the 35-hour week is standard for a large proportion of the workforce - even for employees remunerated above the collectively agreed pay scale. Overall, the collectively agreed working week in west Germany averages 37.5 hours. The actual time worked, however, is approximately 6% longer than the collectively agreed hours, and is close to the EU-15 average. This is due to overtime and the fact that an increasing proportion of the workforce, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises, already works longer than collectively agreed.
    [Thus keeping unemployment up and confident consumer markets down.]
    Replacing one work week standard that is clearly in violation of the broad societal and economic interest with a less inappropriate one would clearly be suboptimal.
    [There's nothing about a 35-hour workweek that is clearly in violation of the broad societal and economic interest when German unemployment is above 10% - quite the contrary. On the other hand, it is in clear violation of the unsustainable short-term interest of the top income brackets who are apparently still stupid enough to want to foster a growing labor surplus to hold down wages - too bad it also somehow mysteriously magically holds down consumer markets and all the other markets they anchor - and lowers an economy, including the wealthy, to the same low levels of personal security as in Third World countries.]
    Instead, collective agreements must allow greater variation in work volume.
    [Workweek regulations exercise little or no constraint on productivity in a highly automated and robotized technological age. Now if you're talking about ego-grooming CONTROL over other people's lives, that's different, but the more control unimaginative, insulated and isolated plutocrats exercise over their fellow citizens, the less competitive and productive an economy becomes, not more.]
    What is needed is agreements that provide wide corridors of between 30 and 50 hours per week.
    [Why stop at the arbitrary 50-hour level?]
    Within this range employees and companies could then choose the working time best suited to their own needs. The decision on how to remunerate the additional contractual working hours should also be taken at the company level.
    [We're getting this all over the world and it's plunged us into a depression that is obscured only by measuring progress by an index (the GDP) that counts destruction and inefficiency as positives, as in the expansion of the military-industrial complex and the prison-industrial complex.]
    In recent years the bargaining parties have made considerable progress towards greater flexibility in the working hours of the individual employee. Working-hour accounts, flexible part-time shifts, project work and honour systems for job hours are becoming increasingly widespread.
    At the macroeconomic level, longer (annual) working hours without a corresponding increase in pay are absolutely essential.
    [Nonsense. At the macroeconomic level in anything but the shortest of immediate short terms, longer hours are economic suicide, because they concentrate a nation's workload on fewer consumers as the process of automation and robotization continues, and develop a widening gap between the economy's consumption capacity and its production capability. And since this is going on globally, exports are no reliable safety valve. But present-day economists are incapable of thinking more than two moves ahead in chess, so with increasing strain, they spin the spreading and deepening worldwide economic depression as a "stumbling recovery," bouyed by a lethally flawed scoring system - "GDP" - which gives points for all kinds of unsustainable, toxic activity, such as military- and prison-industrial complex expansion.]
    The idea is to help bring down Germany¹s high labour costs without sapping purchasing power. A return to the 40-hour week, for example, could cut manufacturing labour costs by over 11%. Lower labour costs would help in the short term to secure jobs that are in danger of being offshored. Even more importantly, lower costs should lead to higher recruitment. Purchasing power would increase, possibly triggering a virtuous circle.
    [Go ahead and offshore them but don't expect to access the rich domestic markets you're currently tapping and draining much longer.]
    To strengthen growth potential, the labour supply must be redefined and enlarged in all respects.
    [Yet another moron who thinks that labor supply can be as large as the ocean without wage collapse - and subsequent consumption collapse.]
    Areas for action include longer weekly working hours [work'em round the clock, all 168 hours/week!] and/or fewer days of annual leave entitlement [abolish vacations!], an earlier start to working life [bring back child labor!], and higher participation rates among women [dump kids in the street!] and older people [break all pension contracts!].
    [In other words, let's commit economic suicide even faster than we already are!]

  5. IRS Looking to Okay Phased Retirement Plans
    Electronic Accountant
    WASHINGTON - The Internal Revenue Service has issued proposed regulations that would permit distributions to be made from a pension plan under a "bona fide phased retirement program." It also would set forth requirements for the program. Such a program generally provides employees who are at or near eligibility for retirement with the opportunity for a reduced schedule or workload to provide a smoother transition from full-time employment to retirement.
    [Ah, don't they mean "reduced workload and schedule"?!]
    Under the proposed regs, a "bona fide phased retirement program" is limited to employees who have reached age 59½; employee participation must be voluntary; and the reduction must be at least 20%. Phased retirement benefits aren't permitted for a key employee as described in Section 416(i)(1)(A)(ii) or (iii). The proposed regulations would permit a pro rata share of an employee's accrued benefit to be paid under a phased retirement program. The pro rata share is based on the extent to which the employee has reduced hours under the program. The employee would maintain a dual status (i.e., partially retired and partially in service) during the phased retirement period. If adopted, the proposed regulations would apply to plan years beginning on or after the date of publication of the Treasury decision adopting these rules as final regulations in the Federal Register. The IRS noted that the proposed regulations can't be relied on before they are adopted as final regulations.

  6. Playtime hurts BC economy, 'experts' say [our quotes]
    Vancouver Sun, Canada
    Derrick Penner
    British Columbia really is the land of the Lotus Eaters where people prefer playing to working, though the province has paid a price in economic growth.
    [But when "economic growth" is measured by the flawed GDP index - which gives points for destructive activity as well as constructive and often sets up a race to the bottom - an economy is actually paying a higher real price by NOT paying a "price in economic growth."]
    British Columbians work 992 hours per year, on average, a new report from Statistics Canada shows. That is about an hour a week less than the national average of 1,056 hours per year and almost an hour a day less than the 1,259 hours per year that energetic [or stupid] Albertans put in. "Whether it's full-time or part-time, we work fewer hours on average than the Canadian population as a whole," said David Baxter, executive director of the Vancouver-based Urban Futures Institute. Economists point to recessions, a resource sector that struggled in the 1990s and a shift to part-time work as the reasons for slow economic growth. However the "West Coast lifestyle" is a strong undercurrent to the reasons, said Baxter. "People make the decision to live in British Columbia even if they don't fulfil their career aspirations," Baxter said. "And if you want to fulfil your career aspirations, [and] get up the corporate ladder, you're going to wind up back East anyhow."
    [Time for you to go back to the blindered and boring "East", ie: Alberta and Ontario, Baxter - better to switch than fight. True "misery loves company" but there are already a lot of miserable people waiting for you in Alta. and Ont. - no need to make more converts to your hell in B.C.]
    The report showed that from 1990 to 1997 in the province, "hours worked per job declined by 0.4% and that was the driver of [B.C.'s] falling [gross domestic product] per capita." Gross domestic product [GDP] per capita is the average amount of economic output per person. Things did pick up for the period 1997 to 2003, though B.C.'s average GDP growth of 1.8% was second lowest in the nation in those years.
    [A better measure would be consumer-base efficiency; in other words, average consumption per capita. Best measures would be, degree of full employment and degree of income parity.]
    (Statistics Canada also reported Tuesday that B.C.'s real GDP increased 2.5% in 2003, while the Conference Board of Canada forecast 3.4 per-cent growth for B.C. in 2004.) Lifestyle is a tradeoff taken by employees, but given by employers who are equally likely to reduce their own work hours in order to pursue outside passions, added Gary Lamphier, an Edmonton Journal business columnist who has observed the corporate sectors in both B.C. and Alberta. "On the coast, in general, greater priority is placed on lifestyle than on career and work," said Lamphier, who has lived and worked in both provinces. That manifests itself in greater latitude in the workplace for people to take time off to do what they want, whether it's cycling, sailing, skiing or mountain climbing. Lamphier said that by contrast, Alberta has a more traditional work environment with a "more traditional work ethic."
    [as in "pre-technological work ethic."]
    "What that means is that the latitude to pursue personal interests is not as great, nor is it taken by employees," he said. On the west side of the Rockies, Baxter (a self-professed enthusiastic overworker who puts in 10-to-12-hour days) said he sees signs of the coast's laid-back attitude in a financial sector where fewer stockbrokers are "on it all the time," and where civil servants retire from full-time jobs to become part-time consultants.
    [In other words, Baxter is a pathetic and dull "Jack" who is "all work and no play" and doesn't have a life.]
    John Baldwin, co-author of the Statistics Canada report titled Catching Up and Falling Behind: The Performance of Provincial GDP per Capita from 1990 to 2003, said the report didn't look into the reasons why British Columbians work less. However, he said there are many factors that would influence that, including unemployment and structural shifts in the workforce. Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for the Credit Union Central of B.C., said the GDP decline and slower growth coincide with the tough years in B.C.'s forest industry, which were characterized by layoffs and tough competition that would have reduced the hours worked in sawmills and the forests. He said B.C. also saw a structural shift toward greater part-time employment in the 1990s. "Hours worked per employee, that's just an aggregate, and the aggregate can mask a lot of very important developments going on below," Pastrick said. Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said migration into the province during the 1990s would have also skewed the results. He said the 1990s saw some of B.C.'s highest immigration levels, which added people whose "ability to contribute to GDP growth doesn't happen immediately."
    [And let's say it - who besides deadly dull and uncreative conventional economists gives a damn about GDP growth anyway? Like the IMF and the World Bank, they have turned themselves into typhoid Mary's whose ideas are based more on faith than data, despite their increasingly desperate attempts to intimidate and silence criticism with burgeoning (but highly selective and often premature) quantification and spiralling (but spirallingly trivial) econometrics. Their thought experiments are based not on whole-systems theory but instead on Marshallian partial analysis and are far too piecemeal and covertly selective to be real or useful, except for bolstering the dysfunctional and inefficient status quo, with its grotesque disparities. Of course, it is largely the wealthy "power elite" who are paying them. But as Joan Robinson pointed out in 1962 ("Economic Philosophy"), this has led to more and more theology, and less and less history and data, creeping into their "science," and their theology has gone from 50% in the 1960s to more like 70-80% forty years later.]
    Sinclair added that B.C. government cuts to the civil service and shifts of health care workers to the private sector have pushed thousands of people into part-time work. Sinclair said the fact that in October, thousands of people lined up at a Surrey recreation centre for a crack at 500 part-time longshoring jobs with the Port of Vancouver is evidence to him that lots of British Columbians want to work.
    The Urban Futures Institute's Baxter, however, takes a historical view of Statistics Canada's labour force survey to back up his theory that lifestyle plays a larger role in the choices to work more part-time and less overtime.
    [David Baxter is apparently so insulated and isolated that he thinks all part-timers are working part-time by choice.]
    Baxter said the Statistics Canada data shows that in 1997, 30% of British Columbians worked part-time compared with 25% nationally, and more British Columbians said they worked part-time for voluntary reasons. By 2003, the percentage of part-time workers still stood at 28%. "Throughout history, British Columbians have worked less than the Canadian average," Baxter said. "They are not big differences - 98% and 99% [of the national average], but the pattern is there."
    [Not when the "pattern" is well within statistical margin of error.]
    B.C.'S WORK HABITS:
    Are we slackers?
    A loaded question sure to prick West Coast sensitivities, but it must be asked.
    [Oh yeah? Why? By whom? For whom? For whose profit? For whose greater control over personal freedom?]
    Only Quebecers and Newfoundlanders work fewer hours than B.C. residents. The nation's workhorses are clearly Albertans. They average fivehours a week more than British Columbians.
    HOURS WORKED, 2003
    British Columbia 992
    Canada 1,056
    Alberta 1,259
    By those 15 years and up.

  7. Workers angry at 13-hour shifts
    ic Coventry
    COVENTRY, England - Weekend workers at Peugeot's Ryton plant claim new working hours are making their lives a misery. Shop-floor staff at the factory claim a new shift system is leaving them shattered as they struggle with 13-hour days. Bosses at the car manufacturing plant near Coventry introduced the altered system on November 1, after months of meetings with workers. Yesterday company bosses said the changes for the factory's three shifts - codenamed A, B and C - were needed following the axing of the plant's night-shift during the summer. But the controversial switch means C-shift staff are working 13-hour days on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Blue-collar workers described the change as "a nightmare" with many falling asleep in their lunch breaks. One worker, who asked not to be named, said morale at the factory had never been lower. He said: "Thirteen hours on any job is bad but when you are on a track, people are killing themselves. Some are sleeping through their breaks just to cope. "To be honest people do not care whether they are building washing machines or cars, it has got to that stage. People at the plant are very angry." Some workers claim the shifts have been imposed but bosses insist they have consulted staff. The plant's shop-floor staff had been working temporary hours since the car giant axed its night-time D-shift in the summer. Bob Fenton, the plant's communications manager, said the decision was made after months of negotiations with workers. He said: "We needed to introduce a pattern that met the aspirations of the people that work here - a four-day week for A and B shifts and a three-day week for C shift - and we had to balance that with the day job which is making cars. "We need to have that flexibility. "We have to be able to meet the demand when it arrives, stepping up production and slowing it down accordingly. "It has been quiet and as far as I know there has not been too much reaction from the staff."

  8. Increased workload burdens health care
    KEITH LESLIE, CP via London Free Press, Canada
    TORONTO, Ont. - Downsizing strategies employed by cash-strapped governments and companies alike in the 1990s have burdened Canada's health-care system with up to $14 billion a year in additional costs, a federal study concludes. The Public Health Agency of Canada report said increased workload, or "role overload," has driven costs higher and said doctor visits could be cut by 25% and hospital stays by 17% if the issue was properly addressed. "These numbers are a wakeup call to employers and governments," the study said. "The data presented in this report paint a frightening picture of how inattention to workplace health and work-life issues is impacting Canada's health-care system." Whatever savings realized from reduced corporate and government payrolls may well have already been wiped out by substantial increases in costs for health benefits and by more employee absenteeism, it said. "Simply put, Canada's ability to be globally competitive in the future depends on our ability to address this issue." The report urges employers and governments to reduce the demands on working Canadians in order to "improve the health of their work force, and reduce the tax burdens on their citizens." The research found one in four employees spends 50 or more hours per week at work, compared with one in five in 1991, blaming "organizational anorexia" for leaving organizations with too few employees to do the job. But not everyone was convinced. Doug Porter, a senior economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said the idea that people are working much longer hours is "somewhat debatable," given statistics that show the average work week has grown only slightly over 15 years. People may be spending more time away from home because of work and longer commutes, but Porter said he doubts it has had such a dramatic impact on the cost of health care. "To be able to pick a point in time and say that downsizing over this period of time cost so much to the health-care system, I think takes a real leap of faith," he said. "I'm skeptical that it would have led to those kind of increases in health care costs." The survey, funded by Health Canada, found Canadian taxpayers are subsidizing practices such as "doing more with less," basing promotions on hours at work, setting unrealistic work expectations and managing by crisis.

  9. MORE NZ'ERS WORK LONG HOURS
    New Zealand Jobs Letter
    More New Zealand workers work more than 50 hours per week than do workers in most other countries included in an International Labour Organisation (ILO) survey. The ILO study of working hours in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the United States and the European Union found that only in Japan did more workers work more than 50 hours per week. 21.3% of the New Zealand workforce works more than 50 hours per week, with Australian and US workers just behind. In contrast, in the EU average is less than 10%. The overall pattern, the study concludes, is that countries with few regulations regarding working time tend to have a much higher incidence of people working excessive hours than other countries. On the other side of the equation, the ILO report found that, as part-time work becomes increasingly prevalent, many workers are having difficulty getting enough working hours. It argues there are substantial gaps between the hours people are working and the number of hours they need or would prefer to work. The report: "There are groups of workers with excessively long hours who would prefer to work less, and at the same time there is a sizeable group of workers whose hours of work are significantly shorter than they would prefer."
    Working Time and Worker's Preferences in Industrialized Countries Finding the Balance, to be available from 28 December 2004, by Jon Messenger, published by Routledge, ISBN: 0415701082:
    http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/inf/pr/2004/47.htm

  10. New ILO book explores "Decent Working Time Deficit" in the industrialized countries
    ILO News ILO/04/47
    GENEVA - 20% or more of the workforce in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan work at least 50 hours a week, compared with fewer than 10% in most European countries, according to a new publication authored by the International Labour Office (ILO). "Working Time and Workers' Preferences in Industrialized Countries: Finding the Balance" (Note 1), produced by the ILO Conditions of Work and Employment Programme, argues that there are substantial gaps between the hours that people are actually working and the number of hours that workers need or would prefer to work. "There are groups of workers with 'excessively' long hours who would prefer to work less, and at the same time, there is a sizable group of workers whose hours of work are significantly shorter than they would prefer", saidILO expert Jon Messenger, editor of the new publication. The book includes studies from five specialists on the issue of working time in Australia, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. During the late 1990s, people working in excess of 50 hours per week in the US and Australia increased from 15% to 20% of the workforce. Among those countries included in the study, only Japan (28.1%) and New Zealand (21.3%) had a higher proportion working more than 50 hours per week. By contrast, in most EU countries (prior to the 2004 expansion) the number of people working 50 hours or more per work remains well under 10%, with figures ranging from 1.4% in the Netherlands to 6.2 in Greece and Ireland. The only exception is the United Kingdom, where some 15.5% of the workforce spends 50 hours or more at work. The overall pattern underlying these variations is that countries with relatively limited regulation of working time, such as the US, the UK and Australia, tend to have a much higher incidence of excessive hours than other countries, according to the book. On the other side of the equation, workers can have difficulty working enough hours as part time work becomes increasingly prevalent, including marginal part time work with poor employment conditions, such as no health benefits or pensions, and involuntary part-time jobs for workers who desire but cannot find a full-time job. According to data from the book, half of all US workers would prefer shorter hours while 17% would prefer longer hours. In the EU 46 per cent of those working fewer than 20 hours would prefer to work more and 81% of those with at least 50 hours of work per week would reduce the number of hours worked if they could. The publication concludes that finding the balance between business requirements and workers' needs will require working time policies along five dimensions: promoting health and safety; helping workers to better meet their family responsibilities; encouraging gender equality; advancing productivity; and facilitating worker choice and influence over their working hours. In addition to this book, the ILO has also developed a database on working time providing comprehensive information on the working time laws of more than 100 countries around the world. The database covers the laws of each country that protect the health and well-being of workers; prevent discrimination against part-time workers; help ensure that workers have adequate time to devote to other responsibilities and interests; and facilitate a balance between work and family life. This database will be available online at the ILO website in November 2004. Contact for journalists: If you need additional information regarding this issue please contact Jon C. Messenger at the Conditions of Work and Employment Programme, Tel.: +4122/799-7450, or the Department of Communication, Tel.: +4122/799-7911, 7916

  11. Judge-Executive, magistrates spar over Boyle budget
    Danville Advocate, KY
    By LIZ MAPLES
    Now is not the time for political posturing, but rather for magistrates to face Boyle County's financial crisis with a spirit of leadership, county Judge-Executive Tony Wilder told the Fiscal Court Tuesday. He also told magistrates that the county must budget its tax money conservatively because he feared another "big plant" was "teetering" and might leave. The result could cripple the county, he said. Magistrates are considering deep cuts and a payroll tax increase to relieve the county's crunch.
    Wilder was upset about comments Magistrate Phil Sammons made in The Advocate-Messenger Monday. Sammons told the newspaper that he wasn't going to "cry wolf" about a financial crisis and then give county treasurer Mary Lynn a "$9,000 raise," and that he didn't believe in "tax and spend," but rather in "cutting and watching every dime you spend."... Sammons had said earlier that he didn't understand how the county could be in "such bad shape," and then turn around and give Lynn a raise.
    "Has anyone on this court spent a day, week with the treasurer and see what she does?" Wilder asked. He told them that Lynn has taken on extra duties and education to manage grants, so that the county didn't have to hire any outside firms. He said that he was [convinced] that Lynn had worked the hours she needed to get the job done, and no more. Lynn had worked 32.5 hours a week, like all courthouse employees, and that those hours were set by the court years ago. Sammons and Hudson both said they had talked to Wilder before about increasing the work week to 40 hours. Wilder said they could do that, but then they would have to pay for all the employees extra time. Hudson said only Lynn's hours should have been increased, and that he didn't think they should raise her salary to correspond with that. "Even at 40 hours a week, $40,000 is a pretty good income," Sammons said.
    Wilder said that the assistant city manager for Danville makes $58,000 a year, and that Lynn did twice as much for the county.
    "That's fine, [Danville] has lots of money," Sammons said.
    Wilder said that he believed the magistrates misunderstood what Lynn did for the county, that Sammons had once referred to the position as clerical, which was a gross misunderstanding. "Her office is one of the most important in this county," Wilder said, later adding that he couldn't see asking anyone to work more hours without more pay.

  12. Civil servant union faces uphill battle
    By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldm.com), Korea Herald, South Korea
    Confrontations between the government and illegally unionized government employees are set to intensify as the union yesterday called an unprecedented walkout for Monday. Despite repeated warnings by the authorities that to conduct a strike vote would be illegal, the Korean Government Employees Union launched a vote Tuesday, only to be blocked by thousands of police. Although it was unable to complete the balloting, the unauthorized labor group, which was formed two and a half years ago, proclaimed it will conduct the strike as planned, and will begin an all-out battle against a government-initiated special bill relating to civil servants' labor rights. If Monday's strike materializes, it has the potential to seriously disrupt the nation's administrative services. The KGEU claims to have about 140,000 members - almost half the 300,000 low-ranking public service workers in Korea. The members work in local-government positions as well as for the national government. Nonetheless, the union appears to face an uphill battle.
    Right to strike
    At the center of the dispute lies a question on which neither the government nor the KGEU can easily give in, for different reasons. It is whether civil servants should be allowed to conduct collective actions such as strikes.... A strike could generate a strong public reaction. Netizens already have issued a blizzard of angry remarks on Internet bulletin boards about the union's efforts to conduct the illegal strike vote. A Labor Ministry poll conducted in September found that more than 70% of Koreans oppose giving civil servants the right to strike, while a majority of respondents agreed with the government's plan to grant civil servants other basic labor rights. Asked about the KGEU's planned strike, ...Yoo Jun-in, who said she has been preparing for a national exam to become a public official, reacted strongly. "I agree with the fact that civil servants should be recognized as laborers and should be given basic labor rights. But they shouldn't forget all the benefits they receive for being a civil servant," she said. "They work short hours and enjoy a five-day work week.
    [S.Korea is just reaching the 40-hour, 1940 level of the American workweek and still thinks 40 hrs/wk is "short hours."]
    I think it is selfish to ask for more, causing public distress through a strike," she added. Park Chul-jun, a...retiree, said a civil servants' strike will worsen the nation's already troubled economy and only hurt public sentiment. "At this time of trouble, civil servants are those who are supposed to care for the nation's future and make sacrifices. If they put their own interests first, who cares for the national interest?" he asked.

  13. Canada's best workers - Alberta's productivity far above average
    CanWest News Service via Edmonton Journal, Alberta
    Eric Beauchesne
    Alberta's energy isn't entirely in the ground. While Alberta has been endowed with a wealth of oil and natural gas, Statistics Canada says Alberta's economy is more productive than the other provinces, in part because Albertans put more effort into work than other Canadians. And it also suggests Atlantic Canada is less productive, in part, because Atlantic Canadians put less time into their work. "For example, Alberta, which possessed the highest 2003 GDP per capita, also displays the highest number of hours worked per person of 15 years of age and over," it said in a report Tuesday. "In contrast, the Atlantic provinces that rank among the lowest in terms of GDP per capita levels are also the provinces where the working-age population devotes less than the national average to working time." Albertans worked on average 397 more hours last year than Newfoundlanders, who worked the least number of hours, the report shows. That's the equivalent of nearly 60 working days more. Alberta's economy has been racing ahead of the other provinces' since the 1990s. "Through the 1990s and early 2000s, Alberta's gross domestic product per capita accelerated away from the national average," Statistics Canada said. "Over the same period, GDP per capita among the remaining provinces began to converge." From 1990 to 2003, Alberta's GDP soared to 140% of the national average from 117%. Ontario and British Columbia, with the highest GDP per capita at the start of the period tended to post the weakest growth, while Saskatchewan and the Atlantic provinces, which had the lowest GDP per capital in 1990, have enjoyed relatively strong growth since, it said. A separate report by an economic think-tank suggests the Alberta government can also take some of the credit for making it the most attractive province for wealth-creating investment. "Canadian investment managers surveyed overwhelmingly rank Alberta as the province with the best investment climate," the Fraser Institute said in releasing results of its latest survey of senior investment managers. British Columbia moved up a notch in the rankings to 2nd spot but scored well below Alberta, the small-c conservative think-tank said. Ontario, meanwhile slipped to third in the rankings from No.1 in the previous survey conducted in 2002, when it narrowly edged out Alberta for top spot. "The Ontario government's decision to ramp up spending at a time of multibillion-dollar deficits, coupled with personal and business-tax increases, has led to a serious deterioration in the province's investment climate," said Mark Mullins, director of Ontario policy studies for the Vancouver-based institute. The Atlantic provinces remained at the bottom of the rankings with New Brunswick in seventh spot, followed in order by Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador.

  14. WorkCover claims for paramedics up 1100%
    The Age, Australia
    By Kenneth Nguyen
    Stress and fatigue among paramedics were responsible for a 1100% blow-out in the cost of WorkCover claims made by the Metropolitan Ambulance Service, the Opposition said yesterday. The service's 2003-04 annual report, tabled in Parliament yesterday, showed claims for work-related injuries had ballooned to $1.86 million from $277,454 last year. The service had targeted a claims total of $161,000. "Ambulance officers are struggling under huge burdens with massive overtime and inadequate rest," Opposition health spokesman David Davis said. "It's no surprise that we've seen a blow-out in WorkCover claims. It's a sign of the stress in the system and the Government's poor industrial relations policies." Ambulance Employees Australia state secretary Rod Morris said paramedics were regularly working 14-hour days and being asked to come in on rostered days off. "What's really clear is that injury rates are enormous and it's mostly because we're under-resourced," he said. "It's absolutely shocking." But ambulance chief executive Greg Sasella said the service's occupational health and safety record was "actually a success story", saying that theincrease in claims was largely the result of increased paramedic numbers and improved safety education.

  15. Silver Lake OKs Pay Hikes [abridged]
    BY JEN GIBSON, Times-Union via Warsaw Times Union, IN
    SILVER LAKE, Ind. - Silver Lake town employees will see an increase in their paychecks soon. Tuesday evening, the Silver Lake Town Council approved a 2.5% raise for all town employees. Last year raises were 5%. In further discussion of a salary ordinance that was brought up in October, council members said an existing code regarding the salary ordinance was found. After reviewing the code, council members decided to make only minimal changes. To standardize them, vacation schedules will run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 for all employees. Until the change, vacation schedules went by hire dates. The council also approved removing two election days from the current vacation schedule. The days were provided in the past because voting took place at the town hall. Since voting now takes place at the fire station, the days are no longer necessary. The last change approved Tuesday stipulated that at least six weeks must pass between vacations lasting two weeks. The existing code puts a limit of two consecutive weeks on vacations for town employees.

  16. Howell Township - Six employees get improved work benefits [Abridged]
    DetNews.com, MI
    After a move to unionize township employees recently fell through, the township's Board of Trustees has authorized some improved benefits for township employees. In September of 2003, the township employees petitioned for union representation from the International Operating Engineers Union. After a year of negotiations on behalf of the employees, the union decided not to represent the employees. The board approved an improved formula for sick days and vacation, and it increased the number of paid holidays of the employees from eight to nine by adding Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The benefits cover six employees.

  17. Tapping the work ethic in fading rural towns, by John Grossman, NYT, C2.
    ...Today, \Carl\ Kelly, owner of Kelly Manufacturing, a $5.5m/year maker of aviation instruments [based] in Wichita KN...pays 17 employees $8 to $13 an hour [at their Grenola KN branch] and subsidizes their health insurance..\..a benefit that can be hard to find in the heartland....
    "We feel fortunate to have [Kelly Mfg] here. They're very community oriented," said Grenola's mayor Walter Dean, explaining that the company's prairie-style work hours allow working mothers to pretty much match the school bus schedule of their children. "If we had three Kelly's here, maybe a service station would come in."...
    ["Prairie-style work hours"??? That's the good news, we guess. Then there's the blank-check-on-your-life, sloppy-time-management bad news -]
    Mr. Kelly's brother Lynn, the Grenola plant manager for the last 4 years, boasts about the local work ethic. "In emergency situations, people will stay half the night," he said.
    [Here's hoping he has got into chronic crisis management/creation like so many American CEOs and managers, starting with pResident Bush. The way he runs his own life doesn't offer much hope -]
    He toils just as hard, at all hours. He gets up at 6 am; works at the plant from 7 to 10:15; drives 17 miles to West Elk High School in Howard KN to teach classes [huh??] in introductory calculus, principles of technology [of which he clearly doesn't know the first = technology is supposed to make everyone's life easier by bestowing more of the most basic freedom, free time]; and advanced physics for more than 2 hours; returns to the plant and works until about 5; heads back to his 2000-acre farm to feed his 120 cows and tend his wheat, soybeans, and milo; and then, often, puts in a final late-evening stint at the plant.
11/10/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/09 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #12 which is from 11/10 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Mitsubishi to reduce working week
    ninemsn, Australia
    Ailing car maker Mitsubishi will scale back to a four-day working week from Monday as part of measures to cut a backlog of about 4,000 unsold cars.
    The company said on Wednesday the change would remain in force until the end of the year.
    In an agreement with unions, it was also planned to add a week to the usual Christmas shutdown with production at the Tonsley Park assembly plant in Adelaide to stop on December 13.
    Mitsubishi said the moves would give it the opportunity to accelerate changes at Tonsley Park to allow for the production switch to an all-new car next year, the replacement for the current Magna which is suffering a sales slump on the domestic market. They would also allow the company to better balance existing stock levels.
    Mitsubishi Australia president and chief executive Tom Phillips said while Mitsubishi was looking for continued growth in its market share, it was not uncommon in the automotive industry to lower production volumes when coming towards the end of a product's life cycle.
    "Although it is disappointing to be reducing production, our people understand this is short-term pain for long-term gain," he said. "I am confident that as a result of our continuing new product releases over the next three years, including our all-new large car next year, we will resume our rightful place as one of the top brands in the automotive marketplace."
    Mitsubishi said the production changes would not affect workers at the Lonsdale engine plant, which was due to close in October next year as part of the company's global restructuring plan announced in May.
    They followed a two-week shutdown of the assembly operations in July, when workers took leave, in a similar bid to reduce the vehicle stockpile.
    Earlier this year, Mitsubishi cut production at Tonsley Park to 120 vehicles a day, down from a high of about 290 a day several years ago. That came in response to an emerging sales slump in Australia, with demand for the locally-built Magna and Verada models falling by 35% to the end of October.

  2. Unison accepts NHS pay shake-up
    Guardian, UK
    John Carvel
    U.K. - Senior NHS [National Health Service] nurses and therapists will be able to earn more than £80,000 a year under a pay deal that was given a green light yesterday from Unison, the public service union.
    Its members voted by three to one in favour of the "Agenda for Change" proposals for restructuring the salaries and conditions of more than a million NHS staff in England to establish equal pay for work of equal value.
    The deal - backdated to October 1 - will increase the NHS pay bill by at least £1bn. It was intended to give the most benefit to the lowest and the highest paid.
    Cleaners and staff on the bottom grade will gain £24 a week and fewer working hours after the Department of Health agreed to set a minimum wage of £5.69 an hour in the NHS. The old minimum was £4.85.
    At the top end, the maximum pay of nurse and midwife consultants will rise from £49,740 to £57,539. The new top rate for the most senior nurses with clinical responsibilities will range from £66,063 to £83,546 - putting them on par with many consultant doctors.
    The starting salary for newly-registered nurses will rise from £17,060 to £18,114 - almost the same as newly qualified teachers whose starting rate is £18,558.
    The health minister John Hutton said: "We have broken through the glass ceilings that held professions back in the NHS. It is an important step for the NHS to give proper reward for the jobs people do, not the title they hold."
    The deal should help avoid staff shortages by creating opportunities for training and promotion. This should make it possible for hospital managers to recruit healthcare assistants locally and help them qualify as nurses, instead of bringing in staff from abroad.
    It is designed to break down the old demarcation lines in hospitals and reward nurses and therapists for taking on jobs previously performed by doctors.
    The deal has been under negotiation for three years and has already been approved by the Royal College of Nursing. But without the support of Unison, the UK's largest union, its purpose would have been thwarted.
    Its members voted by 75.2% in favour of acceptance. Dave Prentis, the general secretary, said: "Thanks to this vote the NHS is closer to the goal of achieving a modern pay and conditions system which properly recognises and rewards the skills of the workforce.
    "It also means that no one will be paid less than £5.69 an hour, which is a major breakthrough for low paid NHS workers ... We will be discussing in particular how we extend the unsocial hours payments to all staff."
    Alastair Henderson, the deputy director of the NHS employers' organisation, said: "The Unison result is one of the final pieces in the jigsaw after years of planning and negotiations."
    Beverly Malone, the general secretary of the RCN, called the deal the biggest ever change to pay, terms and conditions for NHS staff. "The changes to the pay system will help improve services to patients by improving morale."
    Last month radiographers voted to reject Agenda for Change. The Society of Radiographers, representing 16,000 staff, said it would ask members if they were prepared to take industrial action in support of their vote. They were concerned about increases in working hours without extra pay and less money for on-call duties outlined in the package.

  3. Workers In U.S. Put In More Hours
    The Boston Globe via The Ledger, FL
    A recent Gallup poll of work habits in the United States, Canada and England indicates that U.S. employees work longer hours, but appear to be more content with their jobs. Gallup polled more than 3,000 workers in the United States, 1,005 in Canada and 1,009 in England. In each of the three countries, 50% of the respondents had full-time jobs, and most worked in a variety of sectors. However, 25% of workers polled in England held a government job compared with 17% of the Americans who took part in the survey. The goal of the survey was to examine how work/life differs in the three countries. In analyzing the data, the researchers looked at hours worked, job satisfaction, pay, promotion opportunities, rewards for good work and retirement benefits, among other things. Gallup found that Americans spend more time on the job. In all, U.S. employees reported working an average of 42 hours per week. By contrast, the Canadian respondents worked an average of 41 hours, and Britons said they usually logged 39 hours per week. Of the U.S. respondents, 38% worked more than 45 hours per week compared with 30% of the Canadians and 28% of the British workers. Those who put in fewer hours per week? Britons.
    20% said they worked fewer than 34 hours per week compared with 12% of the Americans, and 9% of the Canadians. In all, 28% of the U.S. workers said they worked 45 to 59 hours per week. By contrast, 22% of the Canadians said they logged that many hours per week, and 20% of the British workers fell into this group. The surveys also looked at how happy the workers in each country were with their paychecks, their co-workers, promotion opportunities and the recognition they received from their companies for doing a good job. When researchers looked at seven of the 10 workplace attributes studied, they found that Americans were more likely to say they were satisfied than their British and Canadian counterparts. 60% of the U.S. workers said they were happy with their bosses. However, only 42% of the British workers liked their bosses or supervisors.
    47% of the Canadians thought favorably of their bosses. Americans seem to be happier with the time they are allotted for vacation than Canadians and British workers. In all, 52% of the U.S. employees said they were satisfied with the amount of time off they receive.
    49% of the British felt that way, and 47% of the Canadians were satisfied. In all, 15% of the US workers were self-employed compared with 19 percent of the Canadians and 16% of the British. Employers will get some relief from double-digit healthcare costs in 2005, but not that much. Towers Perrin reports that healthcare costs will rise 8 percent next year, resulting in an average increase of nearly $600 per employee. The findings stem from a survey of 200 US companies, many of them Fortune 1000 firms.

  4. Heavy workloads hit health care: study
    The Globe and Mail, Canada
    By VIRGINIA GALT
    Unhealthy workloads - attributable to downsizing, long hours and unrealistic demands - are burdening the public health care system to the extent that governments should consider tax incentives for employers who promote healthy workplace practices, recommends a new study. Employees suffering from "role overload" seek medical attention more frequently than those who report a manageable balance between their work and personal responsibilities, according to a report released Tuesday by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The agency is a branch of Health Canada, which financed the report. "Canadians are subsidizing, through their tax dollars and financial support of the health care system, organizational practices such as 'doing more with less,' downsizing, basing promotions on hours at work, setting unrealistic work expectations," according to the study, prepared by business professors Linda Duxbury of Carleton University and Chris Higgins of the University of Western Ontario. The authors estimate that health-care-related costs caused by "high role overload" amount to $6-billion a year. They also estimate that medical treatment sought by employees suffering from "high care-giver strain" because of their inability to cope with competing work and home-life demands costs an additional $5-billion a year. Their calculations are based on a survey of more than 31,500 Canadians - 58 per cent of whom reported that they were experiencing high levels of "role overload," which the study defines as having too much to do in a given amount of time. "This form of work-life conflict is strongly associated with heavy work demands, longer hours at work, high amounts of unpaid overtime, greater amounts of work-related travel and a culture of 'face time' (emphasis is on 'presenteeism' as opposed to outputs and deliverables). It also represents the highest levels of ... risk with respect to poorer physical and mental health," the study said. Building on their earlier research on work-life conflict, the authors said 25% of Canadian employees now work 50 or more hours a week, compared with 10% in 1991. The authors advanced a number of possible explanations for this trend toward work intensification and overload: Profs. Duxbury and Higgins suggested that these workloads "are not sustainable over the long term" and recommended government intervention if employers do not act to lighten the load on their employees. The researchers raise valid points, said Ramona Steacy, a principal in the absence and disability management practice at Toronto-based human resources consulting firm Morneau Sobeco. But it is not easy to turn around corporate culture, or the demands of the wired work world, she said in an interview Tuesday. "Technology has done us a disservice. Ten years ago, we didn't have the opportunity to connect to our e-mail. We weren't available, we weren't expected to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week like we are now. "And that creates a real burden on workers, especially managers, because the perspective is you really ought to be on the ball, and if you were on the ball, you would have got that e-mail I left you at midnight on Saturday night and you would have responded to me on Sunday morning," said Ms. Steacy, who frequently cites the Duxbury-Higgins studies in advising her clients on how to reduce absence and disability claims. "There is work we have to do in setting boundaries, in teaching senior managers how to set boundaries and how to create an environment where boundary-setting is the norm, as opposed to the exception," she said. The study, released Tuesday, is intended as a discussion paper on the link between work-life conflict and demands on the public health care system. It said that governments currently pay "the lion's share of the costs associated with poor workplace practices through their support of the country's health care system. "To motivate employers to focus more attention on this issue, governments need to increase the tangible costs to employers of inaction in this area. They need to consider financial incentives to employers that do their part to promote workplace health and penalties for those who do not." Governments could offer tax incentives to encourage investment in workplace health promotion, the authors said. To help employees with their elder care responsibilities, "governments should consider the following kinds of support: making out-of-pocket elder care expenses tax deductible; sponsoring flexible, professionally staffed in-home and community-based respite care; and extension of the compassionate care leave benefit," they recommended.

  5. Medicos threaten action over working hours
    ABC Online, Australia
    The state branch of the Salaried Medical Officer's Federation has not ruled out taking industrial action if the Queensland Government fails to reduce lengthy working hours for junior doctors. A District Court judge has called for the abolition of brutally long shift hours after the death of a girl on the Sunshine Coast. The doctor who had been treating the 10-year-old was 20 hours into a 24-hour shift. The federation's Dr Nick Buckmaster says Queensland Health needs to set up separate awards for doctors to ensure they get adequate rest. He says they will consider industrial action if junior doctors continue to be pushed past their limits. "This is all about patient safety; it's not about trying to get an extra dollar in the bank at the end of the week," he said. "We would consider any action that is required in due course to get a system change, because what's needed is a system change."

  6. Sleepy Hospital Interns Cause Medical Errors
    Newswise (press release)
    Description
    The rate of serious medical errors committed by hospital interns fell significantly when their continuous work schedule was limited to 16 hours, according to two studies. These are the first to show reducing sleep deprivation also reduces medical errors.
    The rate of serious medical errors committed by first-year doctors in training (interns) in two intensive care units (ICUs) at a Boston hospital fell significantly when traditional 30-hour-in-a-row extended work shifts were eliminated and when interns' continuous work schedule was limited to 16 hours, according to two complementary studies published in the October 28, 2004, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Both studies were funded by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research (AHRQ) and Quality and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Interns made 36% more serious medical errors, including five times as many serious diagnostic errors, on the traditional schedule than on an intervention schedule that limited scheduled work shifts to 16 hours and reduced scheduled weekly work from approximately 80 hours to 63. The rate of serious medication errors was 21% greater on the traditional schedule than on the new schedule. In the first research of its kind on the impact of lack of sleep on the safety of hospital care, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston eliminated the traditional schedule that required interns - doctors who have completed medical school and are finishing their medical training by working in the hospital - to work "extended duration work shifts" of approximately 30 consecutive hours every other shift. Under the traditional schedule, interns in hospital ICUs were scheduled to work approximately 80 hours per week. Under the intervention schedule that was tested in the studies, the "extended duration work shift" was eliminated, and weekly scheduled work hours were decreased by approximately 20 hours. Interns also were encouraged to sleep on their time off and to take naps before night shifts. "The impact of sleep deprivation on performance has been well documented in other industries, but studies like these are providing evidence of its impact in health care," said Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D., AHRQ's director. "This research clearly demonstrates that changing the design and structure of the systems in which clinicians practice is essential to improving patient safety." In this study, "Effect of Reducing Interns' Work Hours on Serious Medical Errors in Intensive Care Units," Christopher P. Landrigan, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the Sleep and Patient Safety Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and his colleagues randomly assigned 24 interns to work either the traditional schedule in the cardiac care unit and the intervention schedule in the medical intensive care unit or the converse from July 2002 to June 2003. The study covered 624 ICU admissions totaling 2,203 patient days. Interns were directly observed by six physicians while they worked, and their charts were reviewed by two nurse chart reviewers. The change in work schedule did not diminish interns' role in ICUs or shift the burden of work to more senior staff, according to the study authors. The number of medications ordered and tests interpreted by interns did not differ significantly. In addition, the error rates for more senior residents and other staff did not increase during the study. According to Dr. Landrigan, lead author of the study, "The data from this study suggest that limiting interns' scheduled shifts to 16 consecutive hours in intensive care settings could substantially improve patient safety. Most of the 100,000 doctors-in-training in the United States regularly work 30-hour-in-a row shifts, which continue to be allowed under the scheduling reforms instituted last year by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Further limitation of consecutive work hours may be an important means of preventing medical errors." The other study, "Effect of Reducing Interns' weekly Work Hours on Sleep and Attentional Failures," examined the impact of the new work schedule on interns' sleep patterns and "attentional failures," characterized by nodding off while on duty, even while providing care to patients. Steven W. Lockley, Ph.D., and his colleagues studied 20 interns each in two 3-week ICU rotations under both the traditional and intervention work schedules. Interns worked an average of 84.9 hours per week on the traditional schedule and 65.4 hours per week on the new schedule. They completed daily sleep and work logs that were validated through observation by study staff. In addition, interns were monitored using polysomnography, a device that can objectively document sleep and attentional failures. The study found that under the new schedule interns worked 19.5 hours per week less, slept 5.8 hours per week more, and had typically slept more in the previous 24 hours when working. The percentage of work hours preceded by more than 8 hours of sleep in the traditional schedule was 17% as compared with 33% for the new schedule. Overall, the rate of attentional failures was twice as high at night on the traditional schedule than on the intervention schedule. The study concludes that interns who worked the intervention schedule were less sleep deprived at work and were able to sleep longer at home, which led to them having less cumulative and acute sleep deprivation. Interns on the new schedule were encouraged to take naps in the afternoon before overnight shifts to mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation on their ability to provide care. Researchers note that the findings of this study may apply beyond the ICU to those on other rotations and specialties as well as to more senior residents, attending physicians, nurses, and other hospital staff. "This evidence reveals that the long-standing medical tradition of scheduling physicians to work 24 or more hours in a row adversely impacts their ability to remain awake and sustain attention while caring for patients," said Dr. Lockley.
    Charles A. Czeisler, Ph.D., M.D., the senior author of both papers and Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School says, "While sleep experts advocate 8 hours of sleep per 24-hour period, it has historically been difficult to achieve in medicine as patient care is an around-the-clock effort. These are the first studies to demonstrate clinically that reducing work shifts and tackling sleep deprivation will help increase attentiveness and reduce medical errors."
    Editor's Note: For further information on sleep deprivation and safety, go to http://workhours.bwh.harvard.edu

  7. Stress in British Workplaces Results in Increased Sick Days RedNova.com, TX
    A quarter of the workforce experiences office rage. And one in 20 suffers such stress that they could qualify as psychiatric outpatients. Often the problem that can tip us over the edge is trivial, such as a difficult journey to work or a computer glitch. But Ed Radkiewicz, chief executive of workplace risk assessor Businesshealth, says problems can arise from a heavy workload or unhealthy relationships with managers or colleagues. Work-life balance or the lack of it can also make people feel exhausted or resentful. Businesshealth talked to 40,000 workers and found that 23% felt extreme anger at work and 15% were depressed or running a high risk of depression. Its records also revealed that staff absence for sickness costs bosses an average 700 pounds per employee a year, with some taking up to 18 days off. Ben Wilmott of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says that work-related stress is a growing problem and is behind the frustration and dissatisfaction that many workers feel. "The intensity of work has increased in recent years and more stress inevitably follows," Wilmott says. "It is understandable that people become angry when they have a feeling of a lack of autonomy in their job. Everyone wants to feel that they are in control of their own destinies and helping them to do so is often about effective management." Anna Oldman, a clinical psychologist who works for PPC Worldwide, a consultancy that supplies employee support services, says: "We provide anger and stress management for employees and managers and helplines offering staff advice. "But if an individual has no support at work, they should first approach their employer to see if their problem can be put right. "They can also think about resources in their local community, such as training courses and counselling. There are always solutions."

  8. Our say: Editor's notebook - Excuses, excuses[Abridged]
    Annapolis Capital, MD
    As we reported last week, a survey of 1,600 workers by Careerbuilder.com found that 35% admitted to calling in sick when they weren't, and 10% said they did it three or more times a year. We thought the story - and the list of far-fetched excuses from employees playing hooky - was amusing. But perhaps it should also be noted that American employees work longer hours and get less vacation than virtually anyone else in the affluent industrialized nations. MSNBC cites an International Labor Organization estimate that American employees, on average, work 100 hours per year more than the Japanese, who used to be considered the world-champion workaholics. Perhaps a little more vacation would mean fewer calls from accident-prone employees claiming to have been sprayed by skunks, spit on by venomous snakes or stalked by hit men.
    [Huh? (Canadian: Eh?) ]

  9. Infant formula
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
    There are lots of options when it comes to child care but you have to do your sums first, reports Lucinda Schmidt. Much attention is given to the high cost of private school fees. Paying someone else to look after your preschool children can, however, make those fees look like a drop in the ocean. Parents can avoid private school fees by choosing the public education system, but there are few cheap options for the care of young children. Unless grandparents or other relatives are happy to babysit, families with preschoolers face a difficult choice: have one parent at home full-time, or both working part-time on different days, or lose a big slab of disposable income to child-care costs. One friend, who pays for child care only two days a week, was shocked to realise it cost her $25,000 last financial year - in after-tax dollars. Another part-time working mother, in a letter to The Australian Financial Review last month, wrote that having two children in creche cost her about $120 a day, so she needed to earn nearly $60,000 just to offset the fees. In another letter a mother took issue with the assumption that nannies are just for the rich, pointing out that it cost less than paying for two or more creche places - but was still a huge expense. "I employ a nanny for my three children under four, and once I have paid the nanny and her super and WorkCover out of my after-tax salary, I take home about $2.50 an hour." These examples relate to professional women on higher than average salaries. For lower income earners, the numbers can be even more disheartening (see panel below). Leaving aside the debate about whether young children should be cared for only by their parents, the statistics show that more women are returning to the workforce after having children - making the availability and cost of good quality child care a hot issue. According to the ACTU, 57% of mothers are back in the workforce by the time their child is two, rising to 68% by the time a child is three. Estimates of the number of children in some form of paid care vary from 730,000 to 850,000, representing about one-quarter of all families with children. The main child-care choices for families with preschool children are long day care centres (also known as creches), family day care (where registered individuals use their home to care for a small number of children) and nannies. Working parents of school-age children must fork out for before- and after-school care and school holiday programs. ....The most recent consumer price index figures, released late last month, show that child-care costs rose 10.3% for the year, following a rise of 10.5% the previous year. Further rises are likely if the push to increase the chronically low pay of child-care workers is successful (and also, some fear, if the spread of private for-profit centres continues to overtake community-run not-for-profit centres).... As steep as the costs seem, there are several other factors for parents to think about when weighing up the net financial benefits of returning to work or increasing working hours. One is the Federal Government's main family payment, the Commonwealth Childcare Benefit, part A and B. In simple terms, part A benefits offset a proportion of accredited child-care fees (according to the family's total income) and part B is an extra payment to mothers who mainly stay at home (which reduces as the mother's income increases). Part A benefits start to fall once a family's income exceeds $33,000 if there is one child, $36,000 with two children and $44,000 with three children. It progressively reduces until a family's income exceeds $94,000 where there is one child, $105,000 with two and $120,000 with three - families over this threshold get a flat 16.76% of their child-care costs. Thus the real cost of child care to families is the gap between the fees charged and the benefit the family is eligible for.
    The part B benefit, giving mothers the "choice" to stay home, cuts out at the rate of 30 cents for every dollar a mother earns over $1616. (The Coalition's election campaign included a promise to allow mothers to earn up to $4000 before reducing the benefit by 20 cents for every dollar earned.)
    Some of the most extensive research on the issue of financial outcomes for working mothers was presented in a paper last year by Gillian Beer and Matthew Toohey of the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling at the University of Canberra. They looked at the proportion of an extra dollar of income lost by a family as the mother progressively increased her working hours. Factors considered included the increased costs of child care, income tax, the reduction of government benefits and the Medicare surcharge. The study concluded that low-income couples with children often gain very little disposable income when the mother increases her hours of work. Families with more children are worse affected, because they lose more benefits. And for some increases in hours, the family can be financially worse off. "Some mothers face a difficult decision to return to work or increase their hours of work," the paper warns. "The interaction of the tax and social security systems and the additional burden of increasing child-care costs mean that for some types of families, especially those on low incomes, the financial incentives to work can be quite small."
    Toohey says the upshot of the research is that families need to carefully analyse their individual circumstances to determine the net financial benefits of working. "Generally speaking, for sole parents on lower incomes, they are better off working part-time. For partnered women, they are usually better off working more hours," he says.... IS IT WORTH IT
    Low income couple
    Father earns $515 a week (about $27,000 a year), mother earns $11.70 an hour. If the mother increases her weekly working hours from 10 to 19, the family's income increases by less than $2.50 a week. If the mother goes from not working to 35 hours a week, a family with one child will gain $136 a week, but a family with three children gains only $80. Lower middle income couple
    Father earns $759 a week (about $40,000 a year), mother earns $16 an hour. If mother goes from not working to working 15 hours a week, family's disposable income increases by $122 a week with one child under five in long day care. Increasing her hours to 35 hours a week adds another $138. If the family has three children (two at school), its disposable income increases by only $50 when the mother goes from not working to working 15 hours a week, and another $130 if hours increase from 15 to 35 hours. Upper middle income couple
    Father earns $1005 a week (about $52,000 a year), mother earns $20 an hour. If mother goes from not working to working 20 hours a week, family's disposable income increases by about $210 a week. Increasing her weekly hours from 20 to 35 increases income by between $78 and $96, depending on the number of children. Danger areas: if she works 8 hours a week, family has an effective average tax rate of 75% because of income tax, child care costs and withdrawal of family benefits. Similarly, if she increases her hours from 28 to 29 hours, family's effective average tax rate is 80% because of income tax, Medicare Levy, child care costs and drop in family tax benefits.
    High income couple
    Father earns $1708 a week ($89,000 a year), mother earns $32.90 an hour. If mother goes from not working to working 20 hours a week, she increases the family's disposable income by $298-$343 a week, depending on the number of children. Increasing her work from 20 to 35 hours adds another $236 to the family's weekly disposable income. Examples show how much a family keeps after income tax, loss of benefits and increased costs of child care. Assumes each family has one child in long day care at $4.30 an hour.
    Source: Is It Worth Working Now? Financial Incentives for Working Mothers Under Australia's New Tax System, Matthew Toohey and Gillian Beer, National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, University of Canberra.
    MINDER YOUR BUSINESS
    For each of the past eight years, Hilary Jones* has paid about $40,000 on nannies for her two children. As a single mum working long hours at a law firm and with no financial help from the childrens' father, she has used a nanny four days a week, 8am until 7pm. Jones paid a recruitment agency $700 to find her a nanny, whom she then employed directly on a salary of about $14 an hour. With overtime, the nanny worked about 50 hours a week, and Jones paid extra for the nanny to stay overnight when she had interstate business trips. She also paid a WorkCover premium and superannuation, plus holiday pay and sick leave. When her nanny was away, she'd have to pay for a temporary nanny. "It's like running a small business and having an employee - except you get no tax deductions. It cost me $80,000 just to go to work. The irony is that, as a single parent, if I didn't work I'd be on government welfare," Jones says.
    *not her real name
    MORE IS LESS
    When Sam Harper's boss asked her to increase her work days from two to three, she brought out the calculator. The answer, after doing her sums, was no. After adding the extra child-care costs, income tax and a reduction in government benefits, she would be lucky to bring home another $50. That was before travel costs and the stress of getting two young children out the door by 8.30am. Sam, a legal secretary, and her engineer husband Paul already pay about $140 a week for two days of creche for their sons Spencer, 3, and Monty, 1. At $36 a day per child, that is at the cheap end of the child-care scale; the creche is at the Victorian University of Technology, where Paul is a part-time student. Non-students pay $60 a day. The downside of using a university creche is the shorter hours - 7.45am to 5.45pm - determined by students' schedules. In her previous job as a secretary in an accounting firm, Sam found it almost impossible to get to work by 8.30am and had to bolt out the door on the dot of 5pm. Sam says that most mums she knows are working two or three days because none can afford full-time care. Many supplement creche days with care by grandparents, but this is not an option for her. She would like to work three or four days when the boys are a bit older, but is not convinced it would be financially worthwhile.

  10. Why Americans Hate Democrats: A Dialogue - To win, you have to fight
    MSNBC
    By Laura Kipnis
    The day after the election, Slate's political writers tackled the question of why the Democratic Party - which has now lost five of the past seven presidential elections and solidified its minority status in Congress - keeps losing elections. Chris Suellentrop says that John Kerry was too nuanced and technocratic, while George W. Bush offered a vision of expanding freedom around the world. William Saletan argues that Democratic candidates won't win until they again cast their policies the way Bill Clinton did, in terms of values and moral responsibility. Timothy Noah contends that none of the familiar advice to the party - move right, move left, or sit tight - seems likely to help. Slate asked a number of wise liberals to take up the question of why Americans won't vote for the Democrats. Click here to read previous entries. What still seems most startling to me about the Republican victory is the strange fact that a majority of the American electorate was somehow induced to vote against its own economic interests.
    [No it wasn't. The election was manipulated by Republican-manufactured electronic voting machines with no paper trails.]
    This is quite a feat. Bruce Reed points out that of 28 states with lowest per capita income levels, Bush carried 26. The percentage of the population that Bush's economic policies favor is minuscule. Why, despite an economic climate of stagnant wages, job loss, and an increasing income gap between rich and poor, does the middle class not vote its pocketbook?
    The old left had a term for this kind of thing: "false consciousness," which meant the tendency to identify with the boss instead of your own class interests, or the way in which capitalism turns reality upside down to make it seem like the rich got that way through luck or skill instead of by sheer exploitation. These days, with millionaire faux populism as the political lingua franca, you'd get laughed out of town as an elitist for using such a hoary phrase. Instead we're treated to a lot of pseudo-explanatory language about "character" or "values," which supposedly accounts for the phenomenon of voters ignoring their own interests. Worse, liberal pundits are jumping on the bandwagon, too, hammering Kerry for not denouncing Janet Jackson's exposed breast or for having plans instead of "vision."
    OK, so what exactly is this elusive all-important quality that Kerry supposedly failed to display? In a "Mood of the Electorate" piece last Thursday, the New York Times queried voters on this question, since so many said that character mattered more to them than the war or the economy. The story's closing paragraph featured a quote from Gene Hadley, a 79-year old Bush supporter from Ohio:
    People say George Bush is a cowboy. Well, what's a cowboy but a guy in a white hat, getting things done for the downtrodden?
    [HA - then that ain't Bush!]
    People say he shoots quick. Well, listen, sometimes you have to do that, you have to be decisive. Kerry never projected that.
    [Oh no? Kerry was under fire in Vietnam. Bush never was.]
    At the risk of sounding like one of those elitist urban Democrats who fails to understand the heartland: Wait a second, Mr. Hadley - what on earth has George Bush done for the downtrodden?
    [Touche.]
    What did cowboys do for the downtrodden?
    [Touche again.]
    Perhaps Hadley was thinking of Robin Hood, whom our president also hardly resembles. At least by "shooting quick," we can assume what's meant is the war in Iraq, although that turned out to be a disaster of unprecedented proportions. So how exactly are Democrats supposed to capture Mr. Hadley's vote, if what counts as "character" is an incoherent stew of old movies, frontier mythology, and political misinformation? They can't, which is why the Democrats lost this election a long time before the 2004 campaign even began.
    [No, they lost it because neither Soros nor any other rich Dem bought voting machines manufacturers.]
    Here's an interesting little factoid that I share at the risk of sounding, once more, elitist. (Sorry.) The United States ranks 14th out of 15 industrialized countries in per capita education spending. If we have an electorate incapable of thinking rationally about its own interests, who confuse politicians with old movie heroes, don't know much about history, and lap up the administration's lies about Iraq even after they've been repeatedly exposed as lies by the media, this might have something to do with never having been educated in the fundamental skills of critical thinking. (Note that Bush's much touted No Child Left Behind initiative, favoring rote learning and standardized testing, is the formula for an even more intellectually pacified and credulous electorate.)
    But corporate America doesn't require an educated or critical citizenry. Quite the contrary. What it requires is a passive work force narrowly trained to perform specific occupations for decreasing wages, who will then overconsume lavishly in their leisure hours. It all works out rather well: Job dissatisfaction is placated by an endless succession of consumer crap (creating new jobs - though probably overseas - making more crap); intellectual boredom is assuaged by a steady diet of media crap (thanks to media deregulation); and any remaining critical stirrings are mollified by supersize portions of tasteless crappy food (thanks to an unregulated food industry). The result: a stupefied, overstuffed citizenry glued to pricey entertainment centers, whose national hobby is ridiculing Europeans for wanting shorter work weeks, resisting American imports, and denouncing the disastrous American policy in Iraq.
    The political culture of a country doesn't only take place in voting booths. It's lodged in this network of intersecting social institutions and practices - education, media, religion, workplace dignity (or lack of it), even the kind of food we eat. And at every instance, Democrats have ceded the territory or never fought for it in the first place. Into this mix add the brand of superstitious and authoritarian religiosity now dominating American life. When it comes to religion, once again, the old left had a few interesting things to say. Someone, I'm a little hesitant to say who at the moment, once called religion the "opiate of the masses." In other words, a painkiller, and an indispensable one, given the degree to which social conditions force a population to live the impoverished lives that make these kinds of substitutes for meaning and fulfillment necessary.
    Then let's add high unemployment and rampant job insecurity - useful techniques for stifling social demands and crippling whatever opposition a viable labor movement would provide. Stir in a climate of terror, which this administration has been particularly adept at milking. It's not just that voting for social progress becomes less likely under such circumstances, it's that even basic social demands start to seem threatening. The fact that a majority of the country has come to accept the persistence of vast social inequities in the face of unprecedented wealth doesn't make these conditions any less reprehensible.
    It's not that Kerry didn't have a clear message - his message was clear enough. The Democratic defeat was a direct result of the party's ongoing unwillingness to contest the direction that national political culture has taken in an era of unregulated corporate triumphalism - and too bad for them, it's a direction that obviously resonates far more with a Republican than a Democratic agenda.
    But what seems most tragic about the 2004 election is that apparently the more you take away from people - economic security, civil liberties, a semblance of political honesty from their politicians - the less they think they deserve. Which is exactly what the Republican Party offers. If Democrats lost the election by trying to offer more, the problem they're faced with now is understanding their own contributing role in fostering an electoral psychology that would reject the offer.
    Laura Kipnis is a professor of media studies at Northwestern. Her last book was Against Love: A Polemic

  11. A look at the grocer's offer
    Rocky Mountain News, CO
    Description of the changes in King Soopers' last, best and final offer to its retail clerks, dated Nov. 1. It is similar to the contracts offered to Safeway and Albertsons employees:
    Article 1
    € Deletes language that would force the company to open new stores as union shops....
    Article 10
    € Section 28: Deletes language requiring the company to provide 40-hour-per-week schedules for full-time employees....
    [Could be a plus, if full-time benefits carry down to shorter workweeks.]
    Article 17
    € Section 48: Increases the number of hours employees must work to earn vacation days. Current workers can earn five weeks of vacation after 20 years of continuous service; new hires would get up to three weeks after 8 years and stop there....
    [Whoopeedoo.]

  12. Labor gets to work on revamp - AFL-CIO considers profound changes after election losses, by Jeanne Cummings & Kelly Rayburn, WSJ, A4.
    After two bitter [rigged] presidential election 'losses' [our quotes] and decades of declining membership, the labor movement may be on the threshold of its most fundamental restructuring since the 1950s....
    [It doesn't need to restructure. Like the Democrats, it just needs to refocus ... on its power issue, creating a perceived labor shortage and getting market forces on its side by workweek reduction. Unless and until it gets refocused on this one issue - as it was between 1776 and 1940 - it is worse than useless - it is costly overhead.]
11/09/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/08 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA, and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Teachers become class experiment - One classroom, two teachers: Carrollton Elementary students experience the first year of job-sharing at the school
    Hampton Roads Daily Press, VA
    BY JESSICA HANTHORN 247-4537
    ISLE OF WIGHT, Va. [no actual "isle" is visible on any of our maps] - The plain, spiral bound notebook tells the story of the first few months of Carrollton Elementary School's new experiment. It's stuffed to the gills with printouts of e-mail and filled with scrawled notes in different shades of ink with different handwriting:
    "Do you have any cute turkey day stuff?" is written along one margin.
    "I hope you have a great day!" is scribbled in the middle of a page.
    "I finished half the report cards," another note reads.
    The notebook is a lifeline for two teachers at Carrollton who wanted to continue teaching but still spend time at home with their families. Together, they crafted a plan to share one teaching job, each working part time and splitting the duties in one fifth-grade classroom.
    Nearly a year after their first proposal, the Isle of Wight School Board approved their plan, and Wendy Miller-Edwards and Sharon Filson started job-sharing this fall. "You just have to keep communicating," Filson said as she looked at the notebook. "It's something you really have to think about."
    The two are the first in Isle of Wight County to share a job, but other local school systems have long had similar programs. Teachers who share jobs in Isle of Wight don't get health-care benefits, and the school principal and superintendent must approve each request. The sacrifice of salary and health benefits is worth it, though, Miller-Edwards said.
    She gets teary-eyed whenever someone asks how the job-sharing experiment is working. "It's wonderful," she said, grabbing a tissue and blotting at her eyes. "It's the perfect situation."
    The two teachers split the week: one works Mondays and Tuesdays, the other works Wednesdays and Thursdays. They each work a half-day on Fridays. They also divide teaching tasks, with Miller-Edwards teaching all the history lessons and Filson concentrating on science. Both teachers also get to spend half the week at home with their young children.
    Principal Garret Smith said that the first partnership is working well and that no parents have complained about it. "They're just two really strong teachers and they work well together," he said. "I'm glad because I think it's very important for this to be successful." After the first year, administrators plan to closely analyze test scores and make sure students in the class perform as well with two teachers as students in single-teacher classrooms.
    Smith said several other school employees are interested in job-sharing, and if this year continues to be a success the program could expand. Parents with children in the class say having two teachers has worked well. "If the teacher is happy, they emanate a happy feeling to the kids," said Carolyn Blanchard, who works at the school and also has a son in the class. "Everyone is just happier, and they don't feel as stressed because the teacher doesn't feel as stressed."
    Cheryl Elliott, whose daughter is in the class, said she was initially concerned about the partnership because she had come to know the Miller-Edwards classroom routine before the job-sharing started and didn't want it to change. "What it turned out to be was a nice mix," she said. "It gives them a little variety, and they get to see different teaching styles."
    Kids in the class say having two teachers is great. Students don't get as bored as they would with just one teacher, said 10-year-old Taylor Tutwiler.

  2. [One of the big obstacles to worksharing and higher pay via workweek reduction is "full"-employment-tied health insurance. Here's the best account we've seen on the state that's emerged as the most advanced part of America in removing this obstacle -] Small businesses, big role - Last in a two-part series
    By JOSIE HUANG, Portland Press Herald via Blethen Maine Newspapers
    PORTLAND, Maine - Since the state's new health insurance program DirigoChoice burst onto the commercial market Oct. 4, nearly 1,000 self-employed Mainers and their dependents have applied for individual plans.
    A more muted response has come from the program's target customers: firms with under 50 employees, where a little over half of Maine's workers are employed - many without health benefits. Only 21 employers [out of how many in this category?] have mailed in applications.
    Whether this is a bad sign for DirigoChoice, part of Gov. John Baldacci's plan to curb Maine's uninsured rate, is up for debate. His administration, which is overseeing an advertising campaign for the program launching today, tends to think it is a prelude to better things to come.
    What's clear is that DirigoChoice coordinators and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maine, the insurer hired to administer the program, need to attract a critical mass of small businesses to make the program work.
    DirigoChoice cannot consist of just individual policy-holders, a population that tends to be sicker and more expensive to cover than group markets. And by zeroing in on small businesses that don't offer coverage right now, DirigoChoice could reach a significant chunk of an uninsured population that tops 130,000.
    Premium costs are going up for all employers, but hitting owners of small firms particularly hard. They are getting less value for their dollar because they do not employ enough people over whom they can spread risk. Double-digit rate increases in recent years have forced them to scale back coverage, sharply raise employee shares or not offer insurance at all.
    The lowest rates of coverage were among the self-employed and people working at firms with 10 or fewer employees - 27% and 31%, respectively, according to a 2002 survey by the Muskie School of Public Service.
    Janiska Boudreau, owner of the Falmouth Flowers shop, says she would love to cover her three employees, but she can't afford a $600-a-month premium for herself.
    "It's absurd," Boudreau said. "It's either insure (the employees) or go out of business. I can't do it."
    Even workers at larger businesses are not guaranteed coverage. Almost one in five of Maine's uninsured work at firms with more than 50 employees.
    A movement led by Republicans and some business leaders is afoot to let small firms band together nationally and buy more affordable coverage through so-called association health plans. A small but growing group of employers are trying to lower costs by pairing cheaper, high-deductible plans with tax-free health savings accounts.
    DirigoChoice takes the opposite approach: Let government step into the private market and take some of the burden off small businesses.
    The hope with DirigoChoice is to cover as many uninsured Mainers as possible, place them on the path to preventive care and avoid expensive crises in the emergency room that lead to $275 million in unpaid medical bills each year.
    DIRIGOCHOICE CHALLENGE
    The landscape of the health insurance market in Maine hinges on the program's success, and that of other reforms of the governor's Dirigo Health act. While DirigoChoice attempts to increase access to care, other initiatives focus on reining in health care spending and promoting quality and, ultimately cost-efficiency, in health services. The plan is that the different approaches will work together to bring down costs and make health insurance more affordable.
    If DirigoChoice and other measures such as tighter limits on hospital spending do not produce savings in Maine's health care system three years into its operation, a Republican-driven provision in the law kicks in.
    The Legislature would have to consider a bill creating a high-risk pool, which would separate Maine's sickest and most expensive insurance consumers from the rest of the population. The goal is to drive down premium costs for everybody else, but critics of the strategy say the most vulnerable will be priced out of the market.
    The challenge facing DirigoChoice coordinators is explaining to small business owners why they would want to buy DirigoChoice.
    At first glance, DirigoChoice looked no better than the Anthem plan that Chris Bowe buys for his employees at Longfellow Books in Portland.
    "I appreciate the state's effort and I'd like to support it, but the reality is that it would be fiscally irresponsible for us," Bowe said.
    Its base plans are comparably priced to what's available on the market - with $1,750-deductible plans starting at $287 for a single person and $860 for a family. But income-eligible employees can get deductions on the premium, the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum costs - something unbeknownst to Bowe.
    Marketing the subsidies, which are available on a sliding scale, will be key to landing accounts, says Trish Riley, the governor's top health policy adviser and the chief architect behind the health reforms.
    The subsidies will be heavily stressed in the new ads, paid for by a near-$1 million grant from the Maine Health Access Foundation and splashed across television, radio and newspapers over the next month.
    SELLING POINTS
    David White, owner of an automotive repair shop in Bar Harbor, plans to drop his Anthem plan and sign up for DirigoChoice. He will continue paying 100% of premium costs for his three mechanics at a savings of $5,500 that he plans to convert into raises. His workers, meanwhile, would qualify for reduced deductibles and co-pays.
    "That's a beautiful thing - there is no other insurance doing this," White said.
    But the subsidies won't work as a selling point for everybody. The income eligibility cut-off is three times the poverty level - no more than $28,000 a year for a single person, or $56,550 for a household of four.
    "I have some managers who definitely make more than" $28,000, said Lance Meader, owner of the Portland sports bar Rivalries.
    DirigoChoice also must overcome other obstacles to attract businesses, especially those that have never offered insurance. To form a small group in the insurance market, an employer needs 75% participation from employees as mandated by state law. That may be a difficult quota to meet in a small business, where some employees opt out if they can get a better plan through a spouse or because they'd rather not pay the cost.
    Employers also would have to pay a one-time membership fee that varies by firm size, contribute at least 60% to the employee's premium cost, and unlike their workers, would not be eligible for any subsidies.
    But Riley says incentives have been built into DirigoChoice for small businesses. DirigoChoice, supporters say, offers a better price for a fuller range of benefits, such as 100% coverage for preventive services like check-ups and mammograms. It also will be the only insurance product in Maine for small groups and individuals that offers mental health parity, meaning that certain services must be covered like a physical ailment.
    The Healthy Maine Rewards program might be the extra boost for an employer on the fence about DirigoChoice. Once three-quarters of employees in a company pick a primary care physician and go for a check-up, they each get $100 and their employer becomes eligible for a reward, too: $1,000 if the company has fewer than 10 employees, and $1,500 if the business has more than that.
    Less tangible, but just as important, is the employee loyalty bred by the availability of affordable health insurance, Riley says. Surveys show that health insurance and vacation time are the top fringe benefits sought by workers, she says.
    "It keeps your workers healthier, they have fewer absentee days and they're less likely to leave," Riley said.
    HOW IT'S FUNDED
    While rare, Maine's health insurance program is not the first in the country to offer subsidies. But it is the first to propose such a unique way to pay for it.
    The bulk of the program will run on contributions from employers and employees like any commercial insurance program, and in the first year, $52 million in start-up funds allocated by the Legislature.
    In subsequent years, the state funds will be replaced by an annual fee on insurers' gross revenues that will be levied only if savings are produced by the health reform initiatives.
    Riley says those savings will be calculated by seeing how Maine compares to the country in terms of health spending and uninsured rates.
    Money also is expected to come from the federal government. DirigoChoice is open to Mainers eligible for MaineCare, which is being expanded to include nearly 14,000 more adults three months after DirigoChoice takes effect Jan. 1. For every state dollar spent on MaineCare, Maine receives $2 from the federal government.
    How much DirigoChoice receives in federal funds depends on how many MaineCare-eligible people sign up for the program. It's hoped that employers will want to cover these employees, even though they could just enroll in MaineCare, so that if they receive a raise they will still have coverage, and likely qualify for subsidies.
    CRITICAL MONTHS
    The coming months will be critical for DirigoChoice. December and January are the months when many businesses will have to decide whether to renew their insurance plans for another year, or - DirigoChoice coordinators hope - consider switching to another company.
    Cigna's unexpected exit from the small group market also presents a possible opening for DirigoChoice. Cigna stopped accepting new enrollees in June, and said it will terminate existing business with 3,000 members Jan. 1.
    While ever optimistic about DirigoChoice's outlook, the Baldacci administration has rejiggered its goals. When first announced last year, it was projected that DirigoChoice would insure 31,000 people in its first year and help Maine achieve universal health care after five years.
    Anthem now says that "if we meet 10,000 (businesses in the first year), it'll be amazing," Riley said. And since its original July launch date was pushed back to Jan. 1 because of delays in designing DirigoChoice, the timeline for reaching universal health care in Maine is up in the air.
    "It's going to take time, and of course, it's voluntary," Riley said. "We've got to wait and see now that we're out in the field."
    Riley says she is not discouraged that take-up of DirigoChoice by small business has been slower than by individuals.
    She says that individual policy-holders have been capped at 4,500 - prompting a surge of interest. Meanwhile, small business owners have many logistical hurdles to jump, like gauging interest in DirigoChoice among employees and filling out paperwork, she says. Each employee also must complete an application, a process that is complicated if they qualify for subsidies.
    The prognosis for DirigoChoice will be clearer in a few more months, says David Clough of the National Federation of Independent Business, which is neither opposing nor supporting the program.
    "It's premature to drop conclusions but obviously there hasn't been a big rush yet," said Clough, state director of the trade group, which has more than 5,000 members in Maine. "We really have to go through the last quarter and see what the reaction is."
    For more information on DirigoChoice, log onto www.dirigohealth.maine.gov

  3. Yes to Public Holidays, No to More Work
    Deutsche Welle, Germany
    The proposal to scrap German Unity Day sparked a wider debate about what needs to be done to boost economic growth - no one wants to lose a public holiday, but they don't want to work longer weeks either.
    When Chancellor Schröder and Finance Minister Hans Eichel suggested abolishing the Day of German Unity as a public holiday, they were unprepared for the torrent of indignation that followed. They ditched the proposal as soon as it emerged that it lacked support even within their own ranks, but while the critics made it abundantly clear what they don't want, Eichel says he still hasn't heard any reasonable alternatives.
    "I didn't hear a single persuasive and realistic option over the weekend," said the finance minister on Monday. "It's unacceptable that everyone objects to unpopular proposals but fails to come up with viable alternatives."
    A return to the 40-hour working week?
    After the government succumbed to pressure to revoke the plan, the focus of austerity measures needed to kickstart the economy shifted to the idea of reintroducing a 40-hour working week - a contentious move in a country where the 35-working week is sacrosanct.
    [It should not be sacrosanct in the sense of forever rigid and eternally frozen, as it is, but in view of the current dysfunctional concentration of the nation's workload, as manifest in its high unemployment rate, it needs to gradually adjusted further downward, not upward, in order to spread the vanishing human employment across all potentially confident consumers.]
    "Returning to a 40-hour working week would be the equivalent of scrapping eleven public holidays," said President of the German Industry Association (BDI) Michael Rogowski in the weekly magazine Focus. He also observed that both Unity Day and Labor Day could equally well be celebrated on Sunday, adding the controversial comment that Labor Day was a public holiday first introduced by Adolf Hitler.
    Meanwhile, head of the Christian Social Union Edmund Stoiber proposed cutting holiday entitlement, arguing that dispensing with one of Germany's up to 16 public holiday would have little effect. "Bavaria has the most public holidays in Germany and also the highest growth", he pointed out in Bild am Sonntag
    "Everyone in Germany needs to work more," he added. "That entails reintroducing the 40-hour working week on the factory floor and offices, and relinquishing our status as holiday world champion."
    Forfeiting another public holiday
    While the last few days have seen politicians across the board moot jettisoning just about every public holiday on the German calendar - including Ephiphany and Pentacost - the government has ruled out the proposal altogether.
    "A discussion of Germany's public holidays was begun, but it lasted 24 hours and it's now finished," said Dieter Wiefelspütz of the Social Democrats on public broadcaster NDR. He went on to contest the nation's fixation on public holiday. "Wealth is not something achieved by sitting at home or going on holiday," he added. "Wealth is achieved through hard work."
    Wolfgang Böhmer, State Premier of Saxony Anhalt, also suggested Germany has more days off than it needs, telling public broadcaster MDR that no one even knows what what the religious significance of Ascension Day is, for example.
    "If Germany celebrates these public holidays simply in order to consume alcohol and without any kind of awareness of what the day means, then it's time we began a debate," he insisted.
    His thoughts were echoed by Chairman of the Protestant Church in Germany, Wolfgang Huber. "We approve steps towards positive economic progress," he said at a Protestant congress Sunday. "But we do not accept an economization of our entire national thinking."

  4. Opel workers offer longer hours to save jobs
    Auto Industry, UK
    [Longer hours can no more save jobs than it can raise pay, because it funnels the nation's workload onto fewer people, worsens the labor surplus, and market forces take care of the rest in terms of lowering labor value and power.]
    Opel works council representative Klaus Franz has indicated his colleagues are prepared to extend a current working week ranging between 32-38.75 hours at the Ruesselheim Opel assembly plant to 30-40 hours.
    Franz said Opel workers have offered similar concessions at the Kaislerlautern and Bochum assembly plants. He is currently amidst negotiations with GM Europe management over the latter’s plans to reduce Opel’s manufacturing headcount by 10,000 or more next year.
    In another GM cost-saving move, not expected to result directly in job reductions, the metal fabricating division which includes all of GM's 17 North American stamping plants and tool and die facilities, which are spread throughout Michigan, Ohio and several other states, is be merged with the North American vehicle manufacturing division. The metal fabricating division employs almost 21,000 workers and produces body pressings for GM's assembly plants. The metal fabricating workers will join about 114,000 employees in GM's North American vehicle manufacturing division.
    (Various sources)

  5. A new progressive agenda
    Seattle Times, WA
    by Neal Peirce
    Progressives are being hard put to find an iota of silver lining in the election returns. The "most important election of our lifetimes" has handed an enlarged mandate to an aggressively conservative president. Voters consolidated right-leaning Republican majorities in Congress. Social conservatives were energized as 11 states voted to ban gay marriages.
    More younger voters did turn out, and did give John Kerry a majority of their votes. But there's some disappointment in the left's efforts to register more low-income and minority voters and actually get them to the polls. Despite significant increases over 2000, the turnout among have-nots in such key states as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania still lagged far behind voting participation of affluent voters and, it appears, the evangelicals mobilized through their churches.
    None of this means that Internet-based fund raising and organization, popularized by the Howard Dean campaign and embraced by a range of the left's "527" and related political action groups, didn't do a lot to level the playing field with a Republican campaign awash in cash.
    But for now the progressives have to face bitter domestic prospects: what they expect to be more tax and regulatory favors for the affluent and big corporations; a renewed wave of conservative appointees to the courts (and almost surely the Supreme Court); watered-down worker and environmental protections, and - to reduce the monstrous deficits triggered by tax cuts and the Iraq war - a potentially historic wave of cuts in housing and other social benefits for the poor.
    Is any or all of that changed by President Bush's pledge, in his acceptance speech, to seize his second term as an opportunity to "earn" the trust of those who voted against him? Progressives are sure to be skeptical, bracing themselves for a repeat of the first Bush term formula of aggressively conservative economic and social agendas, the now-familiar Bush strategy to vanquish opponents rather than seek common ground.
    For the left, the big message of the 2004 election has to be one virtually unthinkable in the last century: that the best opportunities for progressive policy breakthroughs exist not at the federal but at the state and local level.
    And Election Day 2004 actually produced a model: Despite determined opposition by Gov. Jeb Bush and major business interests, Floridians by an overwhelming vote - 72% - raised their state's minimum wage to $6.15 an hour, $1 over the federal level. By one estimate, that means a $434 million-a-year increase for Florida workers. A similar measure won in Nevada.
    Peter Dreier, professor of urban policy at Occidental College and a lead analyst-advocate of progressive causes, says increases in the country's long-lagging minimum-wage levels are precisely the types of issues able to attract massive middle-class support even while drawing more low-income, working class, African-American and Latino voters to the polls.
    "We're the richest country in the world but we have more inequality and poverty, less job security, less health insurance, fewer guaranteed paid yearly vacations than any other industrialized nation," Dreier notes. These are issues, he suggests, that political organizations and unions can raise, appealing to the middle class as well as low-income people.
    Kristina Wilfore, executive director the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center in Washington, echoes the point: "The progressive movement has failed to understand the states. But with the presidency, Senate and House becoming more conservative, progressive planks will only succeed through state ballot initiatives or actions of the state legislatures. Tuesday's initiative results showed how effective activists at the local level can be, even overcoming huge odds by knowing how to appeal to voters in their own communities."
    Last Tuesday's voting produced some cases in point. To pay for mental-health services, for example, California voters approved a tax on people with annual incomes of $1 million or more - about as pure a "Robin Hood" measure as one can imagine. Colorado and Oklahoma approved measures to expand health care through tobacco taxes. In Maine and Washington, tax-cut measures were defeated. Colorado approved setting goals for public utilities to adapt more wind, solar and biomass power.
    Not all states, of course, allow ballot initiatives. And when proposals helping the disadvantaged but costing the affluent reach legislatures, they're often easy prey for lobbyists.
    Still, the progressives who saw their hopes dashed in last week's presidential and congressional elections don't need to be totally depressed. Voter-driven economic populism, a new and serious focus on state-level action, and starting early and seriously to register the toughest-to-mobilize new voters: The keys to a more promising political future are at least in sight.
    Neal Peirce's e-mail address is nrp@citistates.com

  6. Divided We Stand, United We Fall into Fascism: What a Red State-Only America Would Look Like
    LiberalSlant.com
    By: Jackson Thoreau
    There are numerous proposals and maps circulating through cyberspace on whatan America divided into red and blue states would look like. There are also ideas about boycotting red states in terms of travel, tourism, companies headquartered there like Wal-Mart and products.
    Personally, I support these proposals, for the most part. I lived in Texas for 40 years before moving to much more healthier and progressive Maryland last year, and I'm glad I did. I was considering a trip back to Texas next summer to see friends and family - most of whom are right-wingers - and I have decided to cancel that idea in favor of a red-state boycott.
    Why would I want to drive 3,000 miles to hear my parents, sister, brother and their spouses complain about gays, minorities, welfare, illegal immigrants, "libruls," Clinton and other scapegoats to justify their narrow views? Why would I want to get in more heated arguments with them, which I'd no doubt win, even if it's ten on one? Been there, done that. Not much changes.
    I'd rather spend my vacation traveling to places in New England I haven't been, such as Maine and Vermont, or volunteering to help take our country back from the Christian fascists. I am also going to shop a lot more at Target, based in Minnesota, than Wal-Mart, based in Arkansas, from now on.
    And I think it's a good idea to separate into two countries, but that would never be supported by the power elite, Bush's base, who seek more land and power. We separate and divorce when we can't get along in relationships; why can't we do the same within a country? Still, I'd like to see one state vote on secession - perhaps Vermont, perhaps even Washington, D.C. - just to put some fear into the fascists.
    We need to petition our leaders in the blue states to get the ball rolling on secession or asking Canada to annex blue states, just to get this on the record. Has anyone started any actual petitions?
    It's clear that many Democrats and many Republicans are never going to get along. Calls for unity by Kerry and others are unreasonable pipe dreams. When did Republicans ever call for unity with Democrats when Clinton was president, much less attempt to work with Democrats? Why do Democrats always have to compromise and submit to Republicans? How many times do Democrats have to take it before they realize Republicans are playing them like fools?
    I know I can't stand being around most Republicans these days, especially the Christian fascists with their Bush-as-God's-candidate horseshit and neocons with their empirical dreams. I can't even stand being around many Democrats who urge me to give Bush another chance and to stop "hating" Bush. After Bush-Cheney stole the White House in 2000, I swore I would never get over that constitutional theft and I would keep fighting the Republicans. Another stolen election four years later only makes me want to step up my fight against these nazis. If that is "hate," consider myself guilty as charged. But I call it something else - standing up for liberty and justice for all, that overlooked concept that so many Americans only give lip service to, rather than actually trying to bring it about.
    Anyway, a divided America would create an interesting competition to see who could develop the better country. Blue states wouldn't have to listen to lying, cheating nazis like Bush, while red states wouldn't have to listen to intelligent, thoughtful leaders like Kerry [except when he's calling for unity with Bush]. Sounds like a fair, decent proposition to me.
    So what would a red state-only America look like? Here are a few of my predictions.
    The red states won by Bush would: Here's a link to an interesting graphic that shows that more people in states with higher average IQ's voted for Kerry, while the lower-IQ states went for Bush: http://attenuation.net/files/iq.htm.
    That could explain some things, though there are still the matters of voter suppression by Republicans and electronic machines that favored Bush. That includes the 4,000 or so votes given to Bush in Ohio by a electronic voting machine made by a company with Republican ties, the minus 25,000 votes another Ohio county reported, and the software that began subtracting absentee votes in Florida when totals reached 32,000.
    Finally, for those claiming a mandate for Bush, note that, even with six MILLION uncounted votes across the country and all the dirty tricks the Republicanazis played, his "victory" was the NARROWEST win for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
    That's right, even Clinton won by a higher margin in 1996. And Bush shouldn't even be in the position since he really didn't win in 2000.
    So divided we stand, united we fall - into fascism.
    I'll take divided, these days. So take your mandate and shove it, Bushies!
    Jackson Thoreau, a contributing writer for Liberal Slant, is co-author of "We Will Not Get Over It: Restoring a Legitimate White House". The 110,000-word electronic book can be downloaded at http://www.geocities.com/jacksonthor/ebook.html or at http://www.legitgov.org/we_will_not_get_over_it.html Thoreau also co-authored a book on Dallas history from the perspective of African-Americans, civil rights advocates, and others. The latest book to which he contributed, Big Bush Lies, was published by RiverWood Books of Ashland, Ore., and is available in Barnes and Noble and other bookstores across the country. His articles can also be found at: www.americaheldhostile.com. Thoreau can be emailed at: jacksonthor@justice.com or jacksonthor@yahoo.com

  7. Botswana, South Africa: Africa's economic lights
    Republic of Botswana
    Botswana and South Africa are the two leading economic lights on the African continent, but according to some commentators, Gaborone is shining brighter than its powerful neighbour. For instance Botswana's economy, sometimes termed "Africa's Switzerland", has grown consistently above 3% per annum since 1995. In fact, economic growth since 2000 averaged 5,5%, such that real GDP per capita expanded by 29% in US dollar terms, from 1995 to 2003. How did an economy like Botswana, that has almost 50% of its labour force employed in the informal sector, manage to grow faster than SA? Karen Ford, an economist at Absa, explains that Botswana's key comparative advantage over South Africa is the flexibility of its labour market. "The ultimate differences between SA and Botswana are in labour legislation, as highlighted by the World Bank," says Ford. Ford gives the example of the rigidity of employment index (0 = flexible and 100 = rigid), which measures the degree of difficulty in hiring new employees, dismissing redundant workers and the flexibility of working time requirements. According to Ford, Botswana ranked 25th out of the 147 surveyed countries, while South Africa took the 105th position. "With respect to the difficulty in hiring a new employee, Botswana scored 0, in line with first world countries such as Australia, Denmark, Switzerland and the USA." Regulations specifying working hours, minimum wage laws and minimum conditions of employment earned South Africa a score of 56, in line with Algeria, Paraguay and Tanzania. But Isaac Matshego, an economist at Standard Bank: Africa Desk, counters the view that over regulation of the labour market is holding SA back. Matshego says we have to look closely at what is driving growth in Botswana. "Botswana's GDP growth is driven by diamond mining (30-m currents of diamond per year), which makes it an enclave-led growth." If global prices of diamonds were to plummet or production dwindles, the Botswana economy may collapse, explains Matshego. "Contrast that with the SA economy which is diversified through the services, manufacturing and mining sectors," he says. Also, says Matshego, the two countries are at different stages of development, therefore it is not a "fair reflection" to compare the two countries. He adds that the South African labour market is not over regulated. According to Ford, the other deciding factor is that although both countries protect property rights, it is easier and cheaper to acquire property in Botswana than in South Africa. In Botswana, prospective property owners need to follow only four procedures for a property to be registered into their names, whereas in South Africa, six procedures need to be complied with, she explains. Ford says the World Bank's calculation for the cost of registering a property measures the cost of the registration procedures relative to the price of the property concerned. "In Botswana, the average registration cost, as a percentage of property per capita, amounts to 5% compared with 11% in South Africa." Ford adds that Botswana is not only growing from a lower base than South Africa, but factors such as perceived lower crime also counts in its favour. But Matshego points out that Botswana is a small society with 1,7-m people, of which 90% are homogenous. "Also, cross-border crime (by SA and Zim nationals) has increased in Botswana," he asserts. Furthermore, says Ford, exchange controls in Botswana are non-existent compared with the gradual relaxation in South Africa. "Botswana also offers tax incentives to attract foreign investors, while legislation promoting black economic empowerment in South Africa often baffles outsiders," adds Ford.

  8. German economic pessimism sets in
    Expatica, Netherlands
    BERLIN - A dramatic slump in German output has set the stage for a downbeat end to the year for Europe's biggest economy, as high oil prices and a strong euro whittle away its growth. The optimism which emerged among economists 12 months ago about Germany's economic prospects this year has faded with the 1.2% fall in September production announced Friday by the economics ministry. Economists had predicted a rise of 0.6%. The publication of the figures came after other data showed a contraction in order books, a decline in retail sales and unemployment stuck at more than 10%. Signs of slackening growth led the European Central Bank once again to leave interest rates at a post-war low of 2% Thursday with ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet saying the outlook for Germany and its eurozone partners "is surrounded by continuing uncertainty". Concern about the prospects for Germany and the other 12 members of the eurozone have been growing. There are concerns that this year's jump in energy costs by more than 50% could trigger a sharp rise in inflation and that the strong euro could hit exports. German employers have begun rolling back employee benefits and in some cases slashing their workforces or extending working hours with no extra pay, in a bid to cut costs in the face of rigorous global competition. With evidence that inflation is climbing and the euro rising, Trichet said that high oil prices "constitute a sizeable adverse shock" to the eurozone and warned about the undesirable risks for growth posed by "excessive volatility and disorderly movements" in the currency market. Analysts believe the euro will soon breach USD 1.30, after it edged up again Friday on the back of renewed market concerns about US economic growth and budget and trade deficits. Economists are concerned that the euro's rapid rise will stifle moderate growth in the eurozone by depressing exports while domestic demand remains weak. Recent German economic data appear to confirm that scenario with economists scaling back their growth forecasts as the year progressed. Fears about the impact of high oil prices and now the euro have set in. The 1.2% fall in September production followed a similar drop in August, adding to evidence that the recent strong rise in German exports was failing to boost domestic demand. At the same time, retail sales fell by more than expected in September, dropping 0.4% month-on-month and 1.4% year-on-year as high unemployment kept consumers out of the shops. While new car registrations in Germany rose 4.5% in October compared to the same month last year this was the result of new models and incentives drawing consumers into showrooms. New car registrations fell 2% in the 10 months to the end of October, the country's car industry association said Friday. Underscoring the fragile state of the German labour market, data released Wednesday showed the numbers out of work in seasonally adjusted terms climbing by 12,000 to 4.457 million in October. Equally discouraging were the German factory orders released Thursday. The economics ministry said orders dropped by 0.2% in September, with a fall in domestic orders offsetting a pickup in foreign orders. Analysts had forecast a rise. Economists are predicting that data to be released next week will show growth in the German economy easing to 0.3% in the third quarter, from 0.5% in the second. Many think it could slow even further to 0.2% in the final quarter. This week the International Monetary Fund said it was scaling back its 2004 and 2005 German growth forecasts to 1.9% in 2004 and 1.5% next year. In September the IMF forecast growth of 2.0% this year and 1.8% next. However some analysts are warning that the country's growth rate will be just 1.3% for the full year. The German economy contracted by 0.1% last year.

  9. Stitching an American Classic
    by Marti Attoun, American Profile, TN
    Jim Antosh's company maintains a bib overall tradition in Shawnee, Okla., where the Round House brand is linked to the town's railroad heritage. Clothing manufacturer Jim Antosh doesn't worry about keeping up with the latest fashion whims. In fact, his company has been sewing the same pattern for 101 years. Round House bib overalls haven't changed since 1903, when Shawnee Garment Manufacturing Co. opened in Shawnee (pop. 28,692), Indian Territory - now Oklahoma. The company is the state's oldest manufacturer, and Round House overalls are among the last made entirely in America. "Overalls will never be as big as jeans, but that's fine with us," says Antosh, 48. "We've found our niche. We're not big enough for the big boys - Levis, Wranglers - but we're plenty big enough for us." Round House overalls are found near the chicken wire and garden seed in rural feed stores and stacked on shelves of small-town department stores scattered throughout the southwestern United States. Round House overalls also are sold in bigger outlets, such as Atwoods, and online. Shawnee Garment stitched its niche during the town's railroad boom when steam locomotives for the Santa Fe and the Rock Island railroads pulled into the roundhouses in Shawnee for repairs. The maintenance buildings with giant turntables inspired the Round House brand name. Gone are the railroad workers who wore the company's hickory-striped overalls, but enough loyal customers remain to keep 55 employees sewing about 1,200 pairs each day. "They're practical. You don't have to wear a belt and your pants won't fall down. You always have a free pocket and a strap on the side for your hammer," says customer Robert Barnard, 71, a professor at Seminole (Okla.) State College who owns four pairs of bib overalls. "In the last six months, I've seen many gentlemen in Pottawatomie County buried in their overalls." The company's employees are a loyal bunch, too. Two-thirds of the employees have worked at Round House at least 10 years, and many have worked 20 years or more. Carol McDonald, 60, has been serging and hemming for 24 years. Linda Love, 61, who began sewing overalls in 1965, left to raise a family and returned in 1979. Christy Sisco, 76, retired twice and came back as a part-time worker in October 2002. Both Love and Sisco say the money can't be beat. Employees average $9 to $10 an hour, but some earn as much as $16 an hour. No one has ever been laid off. If business lags, they build up inventory or work fewer hours. Antosh credits hard-working employees with keeping the company in business. "I think if you work hard and produce, you should be rewarded," he says. Antosh, who bought the factory from his father in 1979, is as practical as his product. To save time, he visits far-flung customers by helicopter. "Most of these towns don't have airports," he says. "In Checotah, Oklahoma (pop. 3,481), I'll land at the funeral home and walk to the store." Personal service is the way for small companies to compete, Antosh says. His mom-and-pop stores can't afford to stock all sizes and they depend on a quick turnaround on orders. To celebrate the company's centennial in 2003, employees stitched the world's largest overalls. Measuring 17 feet, 4 inches long with a 174-inch waist and an 8-foot, 6-inch inseam, the whopper pair is stored on a flatbed wagon in a shed, which houses Antosh's helicopter. And speaking of size, 20 years ago the company's best-selling waist size was 34. Today it's 42. Round House overalls range from children's sizes to a 74-inch waist and come in blue, stripes, brown, black, white and camouflage. The classic carpenter's style has a nail apron. The overalls, which sold for under $1 a pair a hundred years ago, now cost $26 to $32. Yet, despite the price increase, Round House overalls are as practical as they were a century ago.

  10. Work Hard? Play Hard? It's Not the Countries You Might Think ... NOP World Compares Work/Life Balance Across the Globe - Launches Culture Score(TM) Index of Global Lifestyle Issues
    PRNewswire via mysan.de, Germany
    NEW YORK - NOP World today launched its Culture Score(TM) Index, an ongoing series that offers a global perspective on lifestyle issues across 31 countries. Focusing on Work/Life balance, the first index reveals Sweden striking the most precise balance, with 36.7 hours per week at work and 36.4 hours per week at "play." Play activities are defined as watching TV, reading, socializing with friends and spending time with children and grandchildren. Hours were self- reported, and the global averages spent per week are 40.6 hours at work and 39.2 hours at play (setting the index baseline of 100). The countries in which employed people most equally divide their time are: Mean Weekly Hours Spent At Work   Total at 'Play' Work/Life Index Sweden 36.7 36.4 97 China 40.9 40.4 98 Spain 37.8 37.3 98 Indonesia 42.9 42.2 98 Egypt 49.4 48.6 98 Employed respondents in the US and the UK report spending more time at 'play' (41.7 hours in the US per week, 39.2 hours in the UK) than at work (38.3 hours in the US per week, 36.1 hours in the UK). However, they are not among the most 'life-oriented.' The top five life-focused countries are: Mean Weekly Hours Spent At Work   Total at 'Play' Work/Life Index Philippines 32.0 41.1 75 Thailand 47.4 54.1 85 Brazil 40.7 46.4 85 Argentina 42.8 48.3 86 Canada 34.8 38.0 88 In contrast, the five countries most focused on work are: Mean Weekly Hours Spent At Work   Total at 'Play' Work/Life Index Korea 50.7 30.7 159 Hong Kong 48.6 34.8 135 Turkey 56.8 42.3 130 India 45.4 35.1 125 Singapore 44.1 34.9 122 'In today's global economy, people across the world are feeling pressure and economic tension,' says Paul Leinberger, Global Director, NOP World. 'As shown in the data, the majority of the countries who are focused more on play still spend at least 40 hours a week at work. The longer work week is becoming a social norm, transcending local culture.' The complete findings of the Culture Score(TM) Work/Life Index are as follows: Mean Weekly Hours Spent At Work   Total at 'Play' Work/Life Index Total Global Employed 40.6 39.2 100 Korea 50.7 30.7 159 Hong Kong 48.6 34.8 135 Turkey 56.8 42.3 130 India 45.4 35.1 125 Singapore 44.1 34.9 122 Saudi Arabia 43.5 36.4 115 Czech Republic 42.1 35.7 114 Germany 37.1 31.6 113 Mexico 41.6 36.2 111 Japan 38.9 34.3 110 Hungary 42.3 37.9 108 Russia 40.3 36.2 107 Poland 42.5 38.9 105 Taiwan 50.9 47.5 103 France 34.1 33.1 99 Italy 40.1 39.1 99 Indonesia 42.9 42.2 98 Egypt 49.4 48.6 98 Spain 37.8 37.3 98 China 40.9 40.4 98 Sweden 36.7 36.4 97 South Africa 33.1 34.0 94 Australia 35.0 37.0 91 Venezuela 42.6 45.5 90 UK 36.1 39.2 89 USA 38.3 41.7 89 Canada 34.8 38.0 88 Argentina 42.8 48.3 86 Brazil 40.7 46.4 85 Thailand 47.4 54.1 85 Philippines 32.0 41.1 75 About the Culture Score(TM) Work/Life Index ... The Culture Score Index Series is based on further analysis of the NOP World Roper Reports Worldwide(R) survey, which includes in-depth personal interviews with more than 30,000 people age 13 to 65 across 31 countries. The data is weighted to the sampled population in each country. The Work/Life Index for each country compares the work-life ratio for each country with that of the global population surveyed. The work-life ratio is the number of self-reported work hours, compared with the sum of self-reported play hours (watching TV, reading, socializing with friends around town and spending time with children and grandchildren) among employed people. Upcoming NOP World Culture Score(TM) Indexes will cover global issues, such as community involvement, health and spirituality. For more information about Culture Score, please contact Sara Preschel at 212-752-8338 / spreschel@psbpr.com or Anna Lovejoy at + 44 (0) 20 7890 9710 / alovejoy@nopworld.com. About NOP World ... A leading supplier of syndicated and custom research, NOP World is a wholly-owned subsidiary of UK-based United Business Media. Through industry-specific business units, it offers focused expertise across six areas-automotive, business and technology, consumer and retail, financial services, health and media. Industry specialists are supported by five Centers of Excellence. Four focus on the key stages of the marketing cycle- Market Opportunity, Brand Strategy, Marketing Effectiveness and Customer Management. The fifth-NOP World's Research Center of Excellence-provides best-in-field research design, methodologies and analytics. NOP World was formed earlier this year, by uniting US and European research leaders, including Allison-Fisher ... Market Measures/Cozint ... Mediamark Research Inc. ... NOP Automotive ... NOP Healthcare ... NOP Research Group ... RoperASW ... RoperNOP Consulting ... Strategic Marketing Corporation ... and Eurisko. About United Business Media ... United Business Media plc (http://www.unitedbusinessmedia.com/) is a leading provider of business information services to the technology, healthcare, media, automotive, financial services and property industries. UBM offers services in news distribution, market research, publishing and events to customers across the globe. Its brands include PR Newswire, the world's leading corporate news distribution service; NOP World, one of the largest market research groups globally; and CMP, the business-to-business media and exhibition group operating in hi-tech, healthcare, property, entertainment, jewelry and fashion in the US, UK, Asia and Europe. Quelle: NOP World

  11. German Economist Backs FDR, Calls For New Bretton Woods - An Interview With Prof. Dr. Heiner Flassbeck
    Executive Intelligence Review (EIR), VA
    The economist Prof. Dr. Heiner Flassbeck was Germany's deputy finance minister in 1998-99, during the early phase of the first Schröder government, and is now chief economist of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), based in Geneva. Flassbeck has become known for his strong attacks on the European Union's deflationary Maastricht Treaty, now strangling Europe's economies, and his public calls for a "New Bretton Woods," a "multilateral international monetary system with fixed exchange rates." He also proposes huge infrastructural investment programs in order to boost the world's real economy. That is not at all surprising, since Flassbeck studied in the tradition of the famous German economist Wilhelm Lautenbach, who, in 1931, had proposed the German version of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal," a government-steered investment program to overcome the Depression of the 1930s by creating real wealth and jobs.
    [We include the whole interview because of its critically important warning that economic policies currently common around the globe are recreating the consumer-base cannibalization of the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. However, we certainly don't endorse the simple-minded and failed Keynesian makework "solution" that it recommends. Instead of FDR's successful but war-eclipsed worksharing or 'sharework' policy (1938-40), Flassbeck recommends FDR's failed job creation or 'makework' policy, which puts government in the costly, inefficient and ultimately impossible position of forever struggling to offset all the work savings of all future technology so that an arbitrary and frozen definition of "full-time job" at 40 hours a week can be eternally maintained.]
    On Oct. 21, Flassbeck was interviewed in his Geneva office by EIR's Michael Liebig and Hartmut Cramer. The interview has been translated from German.
    EIR: Mr. Flassbeck, where do you see the main components of the systemic cluster-risk in the present worldwide financial and economic system?
    Flassbeck: The main current risks I see are in the immense American current-account deficit on the one hand, and the refusal of the Europeans, on the other hand, to contribute to the growth of the world economy. Therefore, a very severe crisis of the international financial system is preprogrammed. Without exaggeration: The Europeans in the last 20 years - actually already since the beginning of the '70s, when they were "released" from the Bretton Woods System - have systematically refused to play any role in the growth of the world economy. But without expansion, the world economy cannot function reasonably.
    [Oops, another dumb statement. He's presumably judging "growth" by GDP growth only, which includes many inefficient and self-blocking elements such as US unprovoked wars and massive prison building. He should be starting with consumer-base maximization via full employment, with inflation control handled by other means than fostering unemployment, job insecurity, and - recession.]
    EIR: How do you evaluate the Maastricht Treaty, which prevents, and even strangles economic growth? What is, in your view, the background to "Maastricht," and its so-called "Stability Pact"?
    Flassbeck: Basically, Maastricht is the logical continuation of the policy of the Bundesbank [Germany's central bank] in the 20 years before this treaty was signed. After 1971, when the Bretton Woods System was ended, the Bundesbank completely lost sight of the world economy and practiced a primitive "monetary nationalism," as von Hayek called it back in the '30s. And this basic national monetaristic direction was then tranferred to Maastricht. This is naturally deadly. In principle, the European Monetary Union and the euro represent a big opportunity, because we now no longer have any speculative financial flows inside Europe, and the inner-European currency casino was closed down. But on the other hand, the present monetary constitution of Europe is absolutely not adequate for solving the problems of the European economy. Quite the contrary; it contributed to causing them. With Maastricht, the national monetaristic dogma was imposed upon the whole of Europe.
    EIR: In the meantime, the failure of the Stability Pact has become evident, as can be seen in black and white, in the falling investment figures and rising unemployment figures. What possibilities do you see, to eliminate this corset of the Maastricht Stability Pact?
    Flassbeck: Presumably this will only happen with the full outbreak of the present crisis. Also in the '20s and beginning of the '30s it was, unfortunately, only after the climax of the world economic crisis, that a shift in thinking was possible. By way of Maastricht, we in Europe were forced to pursue a deflationary policy. I fear that this will be continued - up to the point that, to quote the economist Wilhelm Lautenbach, even the entrepreneurs or the neo-classical ideologues have to grasp the fact that it cannot go on this way. Only then will people see the need to shift to an expansive economic policy.
    Maastricht has destroyed the decisive option offered to us by the market economy: to overcome economic crises and other structural disparities by way of an expansive credit policy. In the U.S., this was done. This outlet was closed by Maastricht. Therefore, we Europeans are now condemned to go the wrong neo-classical, or neo-liberal way, called: "Tighten your belt!" But this wrong path leads deeper into the crisis, because with that approach you cannot solve the problem, but instead, you strangle the economy ever more.
    Naturally, you can compensate for a deflationary economic policy, as is being done now, with increased competitiveness, at least for a certain time. But this then results in extreme current-account balances: high surpluses in Europe, and the record-high American deficit, which in the end can only be compensated for by a strong devaluation of the dollar. Only then, will the European delusion, that problems can be solved by means of deflation, evaporate.
    EIR: Could you be more precise concerning American financial policy? You say it is credit-expansive, but obviously, in a quite undifferentiated way. It is not investments into the physical economy that are being stimulated, but rather the financial system as such, and consumer spending. Can you explain, what, in your view, is going wrong in the U.S. economy?
    Flassbeck: The American policy of credit expansion was not always merely consumptive and unstructured. During the '90s, investments increased enormously, even if many of these investments were made in the field of electronics and computer equipment. But for sure, not all of these were wrong investments.
    I see the problem in the fact that, since the "stock bubble" burst three years ago, we have not had any significant dynamic of investment in the U.S. any more. At the same time, we have a high consumption dynamic, which is not justified by anything, and therefore can't be sustained. Incomes didn't increase, and consumption was promoted primarily by the monetary policy of the Fed and other measures by the government. This policy should be now replaced by one where the market generates increasing investments and incomes, as well as through an orderly savings rate, since the savings rate in the U.S. is dangerously low. Any additional shock, no matter whether caused by high oil prices or rising interest rates, could now lead to a situation whereby America's consumers normalize their savings quota "overnight," so to speak - and that would be a catastrophe for the American, and therefore, the world, economy.
    EIR: Recently, you have repeatedly warned that the present international monetary system harbors the danger of a grave crisis, for example a big devaluation of the U.S. dollar. Could you, in this light, explain again your estimate of the present state of the world financial system, and your strong public call for a New Bretton Woods system?
    Flassbeck: Paradoxically, we see right now the emergence of a highly curious "Bretton Woods System." By that I mean the emergence of a huge dollar bloc, in which Asia, and also large parts of Latin America, are pegging their currencies unilaterally to the U.S. dollar. This is being done in a unilateral way, without a multilateral system, and therefore, it is not the New Bretton Woods system which I am calling for.
    The reasons for the emergence of this dollar bloc are easy to understand, as we have documented in the just published UNCTAD annual report: For many developing and threshold countries, the unilateral pegging to the dollar is the only means to create stable currency relations and thereby create reasonable conditions of investment. But this means, at the same time, that the entire burden of the present imbalance, and clearing it up, falls on those parts of the world whose currencies are still floating versus the dollar - and that is mainly Europe.
    In a very short period of time, Europe, therefore, has to face the choice of either living with a massive up-valuation of the euro - and thereby massively endangering its export markets - or, paradoxically, intervening against an up-valuation of the euro. This is what the Asians did, and of course Europe can do this too, in order to prevent an up-valuation of the euro. But in that case, this curious "Bretton Woods" would emerge - but one without multilateral rules. In fact, we then would have a worldwide dollar bloc. But this would only end up in America's practicing stronger protectionist measures, because otherwise it could not bring down its current account deficit, and could not even prevent a further increase of this deficit.
    EIR: That then forces the argument, that Europe should actively pursue the creation of a durable New Bretton Woods. In the U.S., this is being done by the economist and politician Lyndon LaRouche. In Italy, the Parliament over the last two years, several times - and in a non-partisan way - has urged the government to actively pursue the creation of a New Bretton Woods. You, Mr. Flassbeck, have clearly and publicly called for a New Bretton Woods - a multilateral, international monetary system with fixed exchange rates. How is it that the debate for a New Bretton Woods has not yet reached "critical mass"?
    Flassbeck: I believe that Europe, since the "liquidation" [an East German ironical metaphor for destruction] of the Bretton Woods system at the beginning of the '70s, simply has not understood its international role, and the enormous opportunities which a stable international monetary system offers to promote economic growth. Whoever was in power in the European countries did not recognize the significance of a functioning international monetary system for the growth of the entire world economy, and that of their own countries. I also don't have the impression, that presently the "established" politicians, who like to quarrel about almost everything, understand in any way, what is at stake here - not only economically, but also politically.
    In addition, the European central banks, above all the Bundesbank and now the European Central Bank [ECB], are completely refusing to cooperate internationally. They suffer under the delusion that they can conduct an "autonomous" monetary policy. But this is not possible in a globalized world. Nobody can presently pursue an "autonomous" monetary policy, not even the U.S. Federal Reserve, which, in my experience, did a better job at that than the ECB
    . EIR: Could one therefore say, that the European central banks, and the ECB, by way of Maastricht, are forcing the countries of Europe to conduct a policy of deflation domestically, and externally, are blocking a rational reorganization of the world financial and monetary system?
    Flassbeck: Yes, you could say that. By being absent in the field of economic policy, and with their pressure in the direction of a restrictive financial policy - especially concerning the real economy - the central banks are pursuing a deflationary course of action. Consequently, the national governments see no other chance than to undercut each other, concerning the level of their costs and taxes. And that must lead to an impasse. I have to stress here, that the governments "see" it this way, which does not mean that they don't have the chance to act differently. With Maastricht, all possibilities for a credit-expansion policy on a European and national level are, in effect, "forbidden." This absurd mixture, taken together with the refusal to assume international responsibility, will push Europe, as I believe and have written about several times, into an extremely severe situation: Europe will be confronted with the devaluation of the U.S. dollar and the up-valuation of the euro.
    EIR: Do you think that, at the point that in Europe, the economic, social, and political effects of the crisis, which we monitor daily, become fully manifest, there will be a chance that people will finally realize that things cannot go on this way?
    Flassbeck: In Germany, too, people will stop discussing secondary and tertiary political questions, and will finally also take into account the entire world and the realities of the world economy. But presumably, this will happen only - it's sad, but true - when the crisis has gone so far, that people have to recognize: It cannot go on this way!
    EIR: Do you see the possibility that other actors, like the United States, but also Asia - China, Japan, East Asia, India - Russia, or Brazil could take initiatives in the direction of a New Bretton Woods?
    Flassbeck: I think that practically all those countries are rather open to a New Bretton Woods. In principle, they are ready to go in this direction. There are already regional initiatives everywhere; in Asia, there is an intensive debate going on about monetary policy, because it is clear that cooperation is necessary. In Latin America, too, the discussion of a new monetary system is beginning, because it is being recognized there that the unilateral pegging to the U.S. dollar cannot work in the long run, and that multilateral regulation is required. And then we have the big euro bloc.
    In fact, there are only three or four currencies left. Obviously there are also other bills of paper money being printed, but they don't have any real significance for the world economy any more. Besides the Swiss franc and the British pound, none of the "small currencies" has any real significance. Almost all "small currencies" are pegged to the few "big currencies." That's the trend in a globalized world economy.
    EIR: But you certainly don't mean this in terms of the proposals of Robert Mundell and his circles, who propagate a strange "world currency." Isn't the present trend, after all, going more in the direction of the former European Monetary System [EMS], but this time on a worldwide scale?
    Flassbeck: Yes, that is exactly what we need. I regard the EMS definitely as a model for a new world monetary order. In the next 100 years, presumably we will not have a "world currency," but nevertheless, right now, we do need multilateral cooperation in currency questions. We need the mutual obligation of all states - not only the unilateral obligation of weak states toward the strong ones, but also the willingness of the strong states tohelp the weak ones.
    This became very clear in Latin America, and also during the so-called "Asian crisis." Let's take the example of the uncontrolled devaluation of the Brazilian currency, the real. The exchange rate of the real was just being floated, instead of going for an orderly devaluation, which at a certain point, had to be stopped, in order not to ruin Argentina. But the Brazilian real was being floated freely, until it had dropped much too low, much lower than would have been justified by the data of the real economy. Therefore, a huge crisis in Argentina was unleashed - with worldwide repercussions. This, in my estimatation, is almost a classical example of how not to do it. The orderly devaluation of a currency, which sometimes may be the only way to solve a severe crisis, is totally different from the free floating of a currency after having given up the unilateral peg to the dollar.
    EIR: Back to the New Bretton Woods, a model of which, in your opinion, could be the original EMS from 1979.
    Flassbeck: Absolutely. But I think the "old" Bretton Woods was much better, since it defined more clearly, under what exact circumstances a currency should be devalued or up-valued; this stupidly was not done with the EMS. The EMS rather relied on the "financial markets," and it was argued that, in respect to exchange rates, something has to be done only when a currency comes "under pressure." That this is not correct, was shown in the case of France, which in 1992, despite considerable pressure from the financial markets, did not devalue its currency, in fact.
    In a New Bretton Woods, one has to define very clearly, as was done in the old Bretton Woods from 1944, when, and where, external economic imbalances exist. Naturally, these imbalances have to be recognized officially, and to do so, we today have much finer instruments at our disposal. But, if there are indications of the fact that, after a strong real devaluation, a country has lost its competitiveness, that country must return to an exchange rate which corresponds to the state of its real economy. For that, there are simple and reasonable rules, which have to be used multilaterally, though. But if this multilateralism does not exist, we will get unilateralism, which is what we are seeing right now.
    As I already mentioned, the developing and newly industrializing countries, in fact all countries that are weak, are trying to obtain current-account surpluses. It is only this, which gives them the strength to peg their exchange rates unilaterally to another "strong" currency. Since they understandably do not want to be engaged in free floating, they have to try, from a position of strength, to fix the exchange rate of their currencies. This is precisely what China is doing at the present time; other countries are doing it too. In one sense, this is a rather intelligent solution, since this way you prevent yourself from becoming a slave of the international financial markets. Besides, this way you create very favorable conditions for exports, as well as very favorable conditions for investments domestically. But this cannot be done in the whole world, since the world as a whole, obviously, cannot create current-account surpluses.
    EIR: Let's come back to the situation in Europe, and especially to Germany. You talked about a shocking repetition of the behavior of the '20s and early '30s, in respect to what has happened during the last years in Europe in general, and Germany in particular.
    Flassbeck: With the dominant policy of "belt-tightening," we, in principle, are doing the same thing that, during the '20s and the early '30s, was considered to be the only means to overcome the economic crisis. Just by saving more and cutting expenditures anew, the governments believed then they would be better able to compete internationally, and in this way get out of the crisis by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. That didn't function, and can't function. This approach can only and always lead to deflation. And it provokes a counterreaction of other countries or economic blocs - as will happen today with 100% certainty. If it does not come in the form of a competitive devaluation, as in the early '30s, then it will come in the form of a massive up-valuation of one's own currency - we will see this with the euro.
    A big, relatively closed region like Europe, has to have its own strength for growth. The domestic market has to flourish; there have to be investments in the real economy; people have to have money to buy; and there must be private consumption - only then does an entire economy grow. Just yesterday, the six German economic institutes presented their common report, in which they state that Germany's economy this year produced an export surplus of 30 billion euro. Of course, this is a big "boost" for the economy, but even this has not sufficed to pull Germany out of the crisis.
    This shows, as I see it, how deep we are already in the deflationary crisis. Despite this "boost," income expectations of the overwhelming majority of Germans have not increased. People don't believe that in the foreseeable future their incomes will rise again - and as long as they don't believe in that, there will be no way out of the crisis.
    EIR: In 1931, in the very midst of the world depression, the economist Wilhelm Lautenbach in Germany proposed a program for boosting the economy, with very big infrastructure projects as its top priority. Today, similar ideas, concerning present national and transnational infrastructure projects exist in form of the "Delors Plan," the "Tremonti Plan," and the "Eurasian Land-Bridge," none of which, however, has gotten off the ground. What chances do you see for a way out of the crisis, if such public investment programs, which clearly create real wealth, productive jobs, and are not merely comsumer-oriented, were to be realized?
    Flassbeck: Eventually, the realization of such projects will be the only measure which will work. There simply is no other way - today, as also then, at the time of the worldwide economic crisis. At the point the deflation has manifested itself, one has to become active in the economy in a credit-expansive way - according to the rule: The stronger the policy of deflation was before, the more expansive the policy has to be now - in order to turn the deflationary powers around. Right now, we see in Japan how difficult this is: Only China's huge economic growth - a gigantic program for promoting the exports of the Japanese economy - prevented Japan from falling into a very big crisis - but it has not rescued Japan yet. In overcoming deflation, therefore, one has to think and act in huge dimensions. As I said, the 30 billion euro export-surplus in Germany this year was not sufficient to transfer the spark of the exports to increased domestic demand.
    In such a deep crisis as the present one, more is required than an infrastructure program financed by the state, although there is no way around that. At the same time, there has to be a normalization of income-expectations - i.e., the return to a reasonable wage policy. We have to turn away from the deflationary wage dumping that we see now in Germany, be it in the form of longer working hours - which is nothing but wage cutting - or many other forms, for instance, the cuts in the social system. All of this is promoting deflation. The more strongly such a deflationary policy is pushed, the more hopeless it appears to be to get out of the crisis.
    EIR: You are obviously calling for an expansive economic policy like Lautenbach's, or like Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, for Germany and Europe now. How do you see, in this context, recent proposals to use Germany's Stability Law of 1967 as a lever, since this law not only contains a whole series of potential actions, but also of obligations to act?
    Flassbeck: When the present export boom is gone - and it will evaporate - the conditions under which the Stability Law for state-sponsored measures to initiate economic growth can be used, will emerge in a much stronger way than now. Because after the export boom is over, we will again fall down to zero growth, and unemployment will increase even more. Therefore it will be mandatory then to use the Stability Law. But we have to recognize that Germany's 1967 Stability Law today is in contradiction to the Stability Pact and the Maastricht Treaty.
    EIR: Then it is merely a question of mobilizing the political will to change this?
    Flassbeck: Yes, certainly. In the end, one can always do what is necessary, if one has the political will to do so. But today, the hurdles are set much higher with a Europe which, in my eyes, has a wrong monetary constitution, since it blocks an active autonomous economic policy of a country. Therefore, it is much more difficult for a single European country today, even if, like Germany, it is one of Europe's biggest, to "break out."
    EIR: The alternative therefore, would be either: Stability Law, or Stability Pact?
    Flassbeck: Yes, you could see it that way. The Stability Law was ignored for a long time. Honestly speaking, the European Stability Pact is also being ignored right now. Eventually, politics has to be pragmatic, and neglect these "juridical hurdles" - and that is what will happen.
    EIR: In order to stimulate the discussion about an active anti-deflationary policy of promoting growth and development, the already mentioned economist Wilhelm Lautenbach is of key significance. You are one of the few experts on Lautenbach in Germany. How was Lautenbach unique?
    Fassbeck: In my eyes Wilhelm Lautenbach - one doesn't know if before Keynes, after Keynes, or together with Keynes - saw with an unbelieveable clarity (and sometimes with an even greater clarity than Keynes himself), the connections within an economy as a whole. This applies especially to the save/invest paradox. In principle, Lautenbach understood the entire economic system much better than 99.9% of all the economists in Germany who came after him. It is fatal and tragic, that the discrediting of Lautenbach already started in the '50s; at that time, it was said that there was no longer a time of crisis, and therefore, Lautenbach was no longer needed. He was called the "German Keynes," and together with Keynes, Lautenbach was also ruined.
    But Lautenbach's thinking can absolutely not be reduced to the complex of an economic crisis. In reality, he developed an economic theory which is valid for all economic conditions, not only for times of crises. His theory is simply able to explain the dynamic development of an economy, investment, much better than the neo-classical, neo-liberal theory.
    EIR: In addition, Lautenbach's memorandum of September 1931, The Possibilities for Boosting Economic Activity by Means of Investment and Expansion of Credit, is not only unique in respect to analyzing a crisis correctly, but also to overcoming it effectively. What about stimulating a real debate about this question today, a debate which was strangled for a long time, but which is being forced upon society in this time of crisis?
    Flassbeck: We will get this debate, I am totally sure. It cannot be blocked. But in Germany right now, because of the existing conditions imposed by the media and scientific community, one cannot conduct this debate without being immediately branded as an esoteric outsider.
    How many relatively well-known economists representing my position still exist in Germany today? You can count them on the fingers of one hand. In this climate, such an economic-political debate cannot emerge, let alone be conducted in a competent way. But I am sure that this will change, because otherwise, there is no way out of the crisis. Very clearly, this was shown by the developments of this year in Germany. If you get such a huge expansive promotion of exports to foreign countries, and even that is not enough to put the country back onto a path of growth, then you know how serious the situation really is. In such a situation you definitely need much more than a mere program of credit expansion; then you need a complete shift in the thinking of the political class and its accompanying media.
    EIR: How do you explain this paralysis, dogmatism, and complete one-sidedness of the economic-theoretical debate in Germany?
    Flassbeck: This has a lot to do with the fact that Lautenbach was systematically ignored in Germany. Remains of Keynesian thinking, which still existed at the end of the '70s, were eradicated by the uncritical takeover of monetarism. This, in turn, is connected to the fact that Germany's university system does not at all favor "maverick thinking," "outsider-thinking," or "other-thinking," but exactly the opposite. The principle of cooptation in German universities has the effect of always reproducing just the same schools of thought. Thinking goes only in one direction, instead of promoting an open, broad debate. Additionally, the associations in Germany, especially those of the entrepreneurs, are permanently pumping a lot of money into society, in order to steer the discussion in a certain direction. They seem not to notice the fact that in this way they are only damaging themselves in the end.
    EIR: Are you thinking in this connection of well-financed organizations like the "Initiative for a New Social Economy," or the "Convent of Citizens"?
    Flassbeck: These are only two of the many initiatives, which are all pushing in the same direction. They want to suppress any alternative thinking in Germany, and cover it with a mainstream, which only reflects something that one could call "pre-Keynesian thinking," or "thinking of the '20s." What is really astonishing about this is, that the entrepreneurial associations, which are promoting this thinking with a lot of money, are ultimately doing harm to themselves. Because it is their membership, above all the middle-sized entrepreneurs, who, in the end, suffer the consequences of this thinking. Just as the workers are suffering from the effects of the present deflationary policy.

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