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Timesizing News, November 16-22, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


11/20-22/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/19-21 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #1a which is from 11/20-22 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. 11/21   Balancing acts - Family-friendly Europe offers a model for redefining US workplace policies
    by Maggie Jackson, Boston Globe, G1.
    The flu hits. Your boss nixes a plea for telework and you use your last vacation day taking your Mom to the doctor. Where do you turn for help? Perhaps it's time to look to Europe. Europe is revitalizing economically while offering some of the world's most generous work-family benefits. A growing chorus of social thinkers and researchers is making a persuasive case for emulating European work-family supports - such as guaranteed vacations, paid family leave, high-quality child care - to help beleaguered American parents. "Their programs are economically feasible, politically popular, acceptable to employers, and they produce good outcomes for parents and their children," says Janet Gornick, coauthor of a report comparing US and European work-family policies issued last week by a nonpartisan public policy institute, the New American Foundation. Many people agree that American families are struggling. Child care can be costly and of uneven quality, partly because day-care workers earn an average $8.37 an hour, less than gas station attendants. One-third of employees feel overworked, according to the Families and Work Institute, but flexible and part-time work often carry wage penalties. Meanwhile, many families go it alone, with a patchwork of corporate supports and perhaps a willing relative to help them. All but two industrialized countries - the United States and Australia - offer paid maternity or parental leave for women, according to a study released in June by the Harvard School of Public Health. Twenty-seven countries offer paid paternity leave but the United States does not. But progress is being made. A new California law gives six weeks' partial income during family leave. Most New England states, including Massachusetts, are expected to consider paid leave bills of some kind in 2005. Currently, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act gives Americans who work at firms of 50 employees or more the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for new children or tend to serious family illness. Skeptics argue we don't want to imitate a Europe burdened by costly social supports that drag down economies. But a half-dozen European countries, including France and Germany, now rival US productivity output per hour, even while workers put in 150 to 500 fewer hours a year than the average American, according to data released last month by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Meanwhile, Europe's work-family programs have expanded. Offering the most generous European leave and child-care provisions here would cost up to 1.5% of US gross domesitc product, or $150 billion a year, estimates Gornick, an associate professor of political science at City University of New York. Certainly, we can't look to Europe as some kind of utopia. Parents over there also argue over who's cooking dinner, and Dads worry paternity leave will hurt their careers. But we should start listening to thinkers such as Jeremy Rifkin. He argues in his new book, "The European Dream" that Europe, by emphasizing sustainability, quality of life, and collective thinking, is forging the society of the future. "There's another way to live," says Rifkin. Perhaps most importantly, we should take a fresh look at Europe because in many ways we're inching closer to its sense of work-life balance.
    [A good book to help with that fresh look at Europe, according to our friend Praxedis Mayr von Baldegg, is "The United States of Europe," which reportedly has a lot more backup data than Rifkin's book.]
    We'll need to create our own mix of governmental, corporate, and private work-family solutions. But it would be foolish to ignore the success stories beyond our own borders.
    Maggie Jackson's Balancing Acts column appears every other week. She can be reached at maggie.jackson@att.net
    [A variation on the theme -]
    11/21   New old lifestyle attractive to more Americans
    BY ANALISA NAZARENO
    San Antonio Express-News via Pioneer Press, MN
    SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - Four years ago, Sylvia Chavez Sitters gave up a 17-year marketing career and said goodbye to a job with an annual salary that exceeded $200,000.
    Today, Sitters wears tie-dyed tank tops, jeans and work boots to work instead of the $700 suits and pantyhose she wore as a marketing executive for a large East Coast newspaper.
    Instead of massaging the tender egos of her superiors in corporate America, she kneads the weary muscles of thoroughbred show horses and their riders. With a relatively young practice as a massage therapist, she said she'd feel lucky if she pulled in $30,000 this year. But, she said, this life with less money and less stress is better than the one she had been leading before.
    Sitters is among a growing group of people throughout the United States who've dropped out of the rat race and are opting for a simpler life with fewer work hours, less stress and minimized consumer debt.
    Whether they're single people who've given up hard-driving careers, or two-income couples who've decided to reduce their workloads so they can spend more time raising their children, they're learning to live the lifestyles of their grandparents.
    They're buying books so they can discover how to live on less, taking classes so they can feel supported in their new endeavors and consulting financial advisers so they can decide how to prioritize purchases and make investments.
    "This is a form of living that has been around throughout the history of the United States," said Janet Luhrs, the Seattle-based author of "The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living." "It's breaking free and being freed up to live the life you want, which means breaking free of ties that bind," Luhrs said. "The ties could be credit card debt or a job you don't like. People have so much consumer debt and clutter in their houses and they get overwhelmed. Simplicity gives them the tools to break free." Luhrs is part of a network of authors, financial advisers, teachers and simple-living converts who espouse this new old lifestyle. Going from a higher income to a lower income can be a stressful process for most people, whether they're single people or couples with children. Financial advisers said it's a process that shouldn't be taken lightly. "The main thing that people have to realize is that this is going to significantly change their lives and the way that they approach things," said James Russell Parker, a San Antonio-based financial planner with the Preservation Wealth Management Group. "There has to be a real commitment to each other and the process before they commit to this drastic change in their lifestyle."

  2. 11/20   Life in the slow lane - The world is spinning a little too fast, says the author of this European best seller: a growing number of people agree - Carl Honoré: The author was moved to chill while rushing through an airport
    Book review by Joseph Contreras, with Sarah Sennott in London & Bret Begun in New York
    Newsweek NY, Nov. 29 issue
    For a man who wants the world to slow down, Carl Honore's moment of clarity came in, of all places, an airport. The Canadian journalist was leafing through a newspaper at Rome's Fiumicino airport when he spotted an ad for a collection of condensed, one-minute bedtime stories for kids. At first Honore, a self-described "speedaholic," was delighted at the idea of a more efficient bedtime experience for his 2-year-old son. Then he was horrified. "Have I gone completely insane?" he asked himself, and realized the answer was "Probably." Out of that epiphany came a best-selling book and a whole new career for Honore as an international spokesman for the concept of leisure. "I'm attacking the whole cultural assumption that faster is better and we must cram every waking hour with things to do," says Honore, who now lives in London. In a world of bottom-line bosses and results-oriented parents, he dares speak up in favor of the unabridged fairy tale.
    It's a message people seem to want to hear. Since it appeared in April, "In Praise of Slowness" has been translated into 12 languages and sold some 60,000 copies, landing on best-seller lists in four countries; a British production company has bought television rights. Honore celebrates, perhaps a bit prematurely, a worldwide disillusionment with "the cult of speed." As evidence he cites the Slow Food rebellion against McDonald's that began in Italy and has spread its gospel of civilized dining and local products even to the unlikely precincts of New York and Chicago. In a world in which some parents send their offspring to prep courses for preschool, a growing number of schools around the world—about 800—are following the advice of the early 20th-century German educator Rudolf Steiner to encourage children to play and doodle to their hearts' content, putting off learning to read until as late as 7. Devotees of tantric sex attempt to emulate the rock star Sting, who once boasted of slowing down his lovemaking to the point where it lasted for eight hours. (He later confessed to exaggerating, but the goal is still out there.) In his own life, Honore has substituted meditation for tennis and for television; he has taken off his wristwatch, which means he's less worried about getting somewhere on time and can drive there without speeding. These tokens of idleness are offset, regrettably, by the demands of being a best-selling author and guru to leisure-starved American executives, single mothers and college students who e-mail him for advice on slowing down and want it now. "Being a spokesman for slow has taken over my whole life," he says, before dashing off for another interview.
    Oddly, though, Honore's book has yet to catch on in the country that arguably needs it most, the one that gave the world the assembly line and the one-minute manager. Chained to cell phones and BlackBerrys, fueled by junk food and forced to work ever longer hours as their employers cut jobs, frazzled American workers suffer from what the Seattle-based independent television producer John de Graaf called "affluenza" in his 2001 book of the same name. It is the collective malaise of a materialistic society that equates the good life with "the goods life." "Technology is playing a factor in making lives busier around the world," says de Graaf, who runs a slowness advocacy group called Take Back Your Time. "It's all the more necessary to find ways to protect people's time off because you're on this electronic leash all the time."
    By contrast, Europeans and even the famously efficient Japanese are more receptive. Slow Food held its second biennial gastronomic fair in Turin last month, drawing tens of thousands of visitors, including Prince Charles, who took a couple of hours out of a European tour to savor a pint of award-winning pale English ale. The Slow Cities movement has won the backing of municipal officials in more than 100 towns and cities in Europe, Japan and Brazil with a lengthy manifesto urging policies to reduce noise and traffic, preserve the local esthetic and gastronomic customs and establish more pedestrian zones and green spaces. The Society for the Deceleration of Time held its 14th annual meeting in Austria last month to promote what its organizers call "a more conscious way of living." Mastering relaxation isn't something to attempt on your own, according to society member Christian Lackner. "When everyone is telling you to go faster, as an individual you do it," says Lackner. "You need a movement, a way of building a group of people who want to resist in order to make it easier to say, 'No, I won't'."
    Perhaps Americans need to be reassured that the slowness movement is not about fleeing to a cottage in rural Vermont. It's an effort to strike the right balance between work and leisure. A few enlightened companies like the accounting firm Ernst & Young are urging employees not to check their office e-mail and phone messages on weekends. Just as the election campaign reached a fever pitch in late October, leisure-minded Americans in 10 states were holding seminars on the perils of overwork and giving each other 15-minute massages on the second annual Take Back Your Time Day. The date was picked because the nine weeks that remained until the end of the year equal the amount of time the average American works in excess of his counterparts in Western Europe. For that matter, if you believe the message on their T shirts, the average American works longer than the average medieval peasant.
    But the premium on long hours and 'productivity' continues to dominate the American workplace.
    [Our quotes, because productivity prior to the Industrial Revolution may have been "per worker," but after the Industrial Revolution, productivity is definitely "per workhour."]
    Take Back Your Time has issued a six-point agenda for legislative action that would require employers to provide a minimum of three weeks' annual paid vacation and one week of paid sick leave. But—in contrast to the widespread support these efforts have in European countries—only Sen. Edward Kennedy's office has expressed interest in the proposals. For the foreseeable future Americans are pretty much on their own in the revolt against the cult of speed. Ana Veciana-Suarez vowed to stop eating at her desk earlier this year after a repairman upended her computer keyboard and a shower of crumbs fell out of the plastic rows. The Miami Herald columnist has cut back on the number of speaking engagements she accepts and no longer sifts through readers' mail at her kids' after-school football games. "I don't have to use every minute of my day in a useful way," says the mother of five. "Productivity has its own price, and it's a price that we don't often recognize." At least until we find ourselves trying to shave a few minutes from the length of a bedtime story to our children.

  3. 11/19   Indonesian maids may get day off each month
    Channel News Asia, Singapore
    By Yvonne Cheong
    SINGAPORE - Most Indonesian maids in Singapore don't get days off. But that may soon change.
    The Association of Employment Agencies says it is in talks with the Indonesian Embassy to look into encouraging employers to give maids a day off each month.
    This comes just after the embassy's push for higher wages for domestic maids - from the minimum $230 to $280.
    Lee Boon Wey has hired two Indonesian maids in the last four years, and he says he will continue to do so despite the proposed $50 wage increase.
    Mr Lee said: "I still prefer Indonesia......$50 not really affected....for me, I've got no problem because I can speak Malay.......sometimes the way they cook, maybe, I like it."
    There are others like him.
    The Association of Employment Agencies says Indonesian maids will still be popular among the Malay-speaking families who like the similarity in cultures.
    The maids are also still cheaper than their Filipino counterparts who are paid a minimum of $350.
    But the association agrees that some employers may be swayed initially.
    Margaret Leong of Asia Employment Agency said: "In fact this morning I got clients calling me and telling me that if it's like that, I might as well turn to Filipino. You know, no language breakdown."
    The Indonesian Embassy is calling for all employers to pay their Indonesian maids at least $280 starting January 2005.
    This applies to both new and employed maids.
    And though it can't be enforced, the association says agencies and market forces will play a role in ensuring that most will eventually get paid at least $280.
    And most agencies also think the wage increase is justified.
    The president of the Association of Employment Agencies, Helen Tan, said: "I believe that if an employer is comfortable or has been comfortable with an Indonesian, they will take Indonesian. Likewise, if they have been comfortable with a Filipino, they will be."
    The association is also proposing a day off for Indonesian domestic workers.
    And to help them use these days fruitfully, it's looking to providing tours and activities for the maids.

  4. 11/21   Dodging market forces gives Germany rude awakening
    By Charles Stein (stein@globe.com)
    Boston Globe
    Global competition can be a drag. It all but guarantees a steady stream of restructuring, outsourcing, and the nagging insecurity that comes from knowing someone out there may be trying to take your job. In the United States, we have embraced market forces and the results have been pretty good: The American economy has performed well, even though many individuals have suffered. But what if we'd chosen a different path? What if, instead of embracing competition, we had done our best to ignore it or insulate ourselves from the painful adjustments the marketplace demands? What would our economy look like then? It might look a lot like Germany's. And that would not be so great. The German economy grew at a 0.4% annual pace in the third quarter. Retail sales barely grew at all. Germany's recent dismal performance can be blamed, in part, on the rising price of oil and the rising value of the euro, which makes German goods more expensive to overseas buyers. But the German economy has been dismal for a long time. Over the past decade Germany grew at roughly a 1.3% annual pace, compared to 3.3% for the United States. "And we worry that we are growing too slowly," said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at Global Insight in Waltham. Germany has a long list of economic problems. Yet its central problem has been an unwillingness to recognize that it lives in an increasingly competitive world. Wages and benefits in Germany rose steadily over the decade, even as productivity grew modestly. German companies reacted by voting with their feet for cheaper production facilities in Eastern Europe. Job growth has been anemic. Germany has been slow to shift from manufacturing to services, slow to develop "new economy" industries, slow to innovate in financial services - mortgage refinancing is rare - and slow to allow competitive forces to reshape retailing. "They don't have the freewheeling, innovative situation you see in Silicon Valley," said Martin Baily, an economist and the co-author of a new book, "Transforming the European Economy." Germany has been hurt by the high cost of supporting the former East Germany. About 4% of gross domestic product is shipped east each year to boost living standards. Germany's generosity toward its former sister state is admirable. But here, too, the attempt to shelter the economy from market forces has been disastrous. Wages in East Germany are far too high, which has contributed to a jobless rate close to 20%. The neighboring countries of Eastern Europe, such as Poland, have done far better because they were forced to reinvent themselves as competitive, low-cost producers. Even in Germany, however, the times are a-changin'. In 2003, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder introduced a set of changes aimed at scaling back the welfare state and cutting the cost of doing business. Emboldened by Schroeder, Germany's big companies are taking cost-cutting to the next level. "They are telling the unions: 'Either you work more hours or we are moving to Hungary,' " said Dirk Schumacher, an economist with Goldman Sachs in Frankfurt. Earlier this year Siemens got workers at two phone factories to work 40 hours a week instead of the traditional 35 hours for no extra pay. In return, Siemens agreed not to decamp for Hungary. A few weeks ago, Volkswagen workers accepted a 28-month wage freeze and lower pay for new hires in exchange for a no-layoff provision. With wages flattening, corporate profits are rising. Schumacher argues that over time, the trend will create a healthier economy that attracts investment and jobs. In the short run, conditions are likely to get worse as nervous consumers cut back on their already meager spending. The jobless rate, currently 10.7%, could rise next year, say forecasters. On a recent trip to Germany, Baily, the economist, was struck by the widespread pessimism he encountered. Said Baily: "Germany had a pretty good long run of prosperity with generous social benefits, and people can see that is no longer sustainable." The Germans are right. What they had isn't sustainable. Wrenching adjustments lie ahead. That is the reality in a competitive world economy.
    [Are the news media into some kind of masochistic phase? What's with the apparent relish in jeremiad-izing that "wrenching adjustments lie ahead"?! Moreover, these conclusions are utter self-defeating and anti-growth rubbish. Is that so hard to foresee? In the context of constantly increasing automation, concentrating the human workload on fewer people - which is what relengthening the workweek does - is the direction that is unsustainable, because it results in fewer consumers and fewer confident consumers to provide markets for all the automation-amplified production churned out by the fewer people working longer and longer hours. And the labor surplus created by the longer workweeks and smaller workforce engages market forces in freezing and cutting wages and benefits, so even those lucky enough to still have jobs are earning less and less - and have less and less purchasing power to provide markets for all the technology-multiplied products and services they're pouring out. This is a formula for economic suicide, not sustainability. And yet we have numerous supposedly intelligent, supposedly CEO-serving economists espousing this nutty policy named in the above article. Go figger.
    [CEOs were not always this stupid and suicidal. Edward A. Filene, of Filene's Department Stores and Filene's Basement in the USA, wrote a book in 1931 called Successful Living in This Machine Age, and it begins on page 1 with A Definition of mass production, where he states, "Mass Production is not simply large-scale production. It is large-scale production based upon a clear understanding that increased production demands increased buying, and that the greatest total profits can be obtained only if the masses can and do enjoy a higher and ever higher standard of living. For selfish reasons, therefore, genuine mass production industries must make prices lower and lower and wages higher and higher, while constantly shortening the workday and bringing to the masses not only more money but more time in which to use and enjoy the ever-increasing volume of industrial products. Mass Production, therefore...changes the whole social order. It necessitates the abandonment of all class thinking, and the substitution of fact-finding [eg: market research] for tradition, not only by business men but by all who wish to live successfully in the Machine Age. But it is not standardizing human life. It is liberating the masses, rather, from the struggle for mere existence and enabling them, for the first time in human history, to give their attention to more distinctly human problems."
    [For those who hear "ever-increasing volume of industrial products" and fear for the environment, we point out that (A) we can now, as Buckminster Fuller says, easily practice "doing more with less," and (B) once we implement a workweek that automatically adjusts to maintain high-wage full employment and a universal on-the-job training system that automatically responds to overtime - no political intervention required or allowed - we realize Filene's dream of liberating people from the desperate struggle for mere existence which has usually been the leading factor in disregarding and despoiling the environment.]

  5. 11/21   Workers 'prefer money to quality time'
    by PA Reporter via Scotland on Sunday, UK
    [How carefully did they have to select this 'random sample' of just 1002 people, and how overblown is the adjective 'overwhelming' in the following sentence?]
    The overwhelming majority of people in Britain would not be willing to work fewer hours in return for lower pay, according to a survey today. Only 22% of people said they were prepared to work fewer hours for less money – with 78% saying they were not, according to a Populus poll for The Times. Either people could not afford to earn less, they enjoyed their job so much that they did not want to cut back or they were not prepared to give up spending money on things they liked, the survey said. Marginally more professionals and managers – 27% – said they would be prepared to earn less in return for more free time, while just 19% of unskilled manual labourers said they would. There was also a regional divide, with 32% of people in the North willing to cut back on their working hours compared with just 19% in the South East and 17% in the Midlands. Of those prepared to accept fewer hours, 60% of men and 56% of women wanted to spend more time with their families. Of those who did not want to change their work pattern, 52% said they could not afford it, 29% said they found their job rewarding and 14% did not want to cut back on the things they enjoyed.
    Populus interviewed a random sample of 1002 adults. [Another version -]
    11/21   Busy Britain - A work-life balance that is working
    The Times, UK
    About 25 years ago, newspapers regularly published articles asking how society would cope with all the extra leisure time with which it would soon be landed. Like other predictions of that period — the danger of a new Ice Age, the displacement of football by skateboarding and the risk that video would kill the radio star — this prophecy has not come to pass as expected. As a survey by Populus for The Times this week demonstrates, we live in a very busy Britain. Those in employment sense that they are working harder and longer. They do not, however, resent this commitment. The broad thrust of these results is that people enjoy work and socialising with their workplace colleagues, want to acquire the material rewards that work brings for themselves and their families, and are not desperately keen to work fewer hours for lower pay. While free time is relatively scarce (especially for women), it is not invisible. Most people can identify something close to ten hours of genuinely free time during the working week and a similar amount of time for the weekend. Time is spent relaxing, whether it be cooking and eating with others, music or exercising, or less active pursuits. This is not a picture that many in continental Europe, and some here, would recognise. They instead regard the world of work as essentially exploitative and the differences between a Dickensian sweatshop and the contemporary open-plan office as cosmetic. From this false standpoint the role of government is to ensure a work-life balance that involves less work. The reality, though, is that the public is more intelligent about these matters than the politicians who profess to speak on their behalf. Ministers would be wise to keep this reality in mind when confronted with demands to introduce ever more regulations into an already overregulated workplace. The principal threat here is the ambition of some nannyistas to bring many more workers within the scope of the working time directive and to dilute or eliminate the ability of individual workers, particularly in Britain, to opt out of legal limitations on work they deem restrictive. Almost ten million employees, or about a third of the labour force, could be affected. It has long been obvious that this directive is exceptionally damaging to Europe’s economic competitiveness. In Britain at least, this survey implies, it is not thought to be necessary. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown must resist any attempt to extend it. The poll, though, also has a message for domestic legislation. It reveals that some, though not all, companies are already more family-friendly than they are given credit for. Most workers do not find it very hard to take time off or to reorganise their work schedule to enable them to attend a child’s dental appointment or to watch a school play. The case for compulsion here is unimpressive. The Government should be more willing to trust that employers want contented and motivated workers. That restraint should apply before any new entitlements are pressed on businesses, which will take the easy option — they will not hire or will outsource employment. A busy Britain is a bustling Britain. If official action is required at all, it is to do the opposite of what was anticipated 25 years ago. Parliament should be making it easier for those coming up to 60 or 65 to work longer. The virtues of leisure are often overstated.
    [Not any more. For the last 30 years of global labor surplus, it's the virtues of work that are often overstated, considering this is the age of automation.]
    [Another version -]
    11/21   Britons want money more than extra time off work [or] extra family time
    The Times, UK
    By Philip Webster
    The overwhelming majority of Britons would not agree to work fewer hours for lower pay, a Populus poll for The Times reveals today. Either people cannot afford to earn less, they enjoy their jobs so much that they would not want to cut back in return for more free time or they are not prepared to give up spending money on things they like, the survey discovers. The poll, which is likely to be seized upon by political strategists preparing for a general election next May, suggests that the parties may be right to concentrate on drawing up policies to improve child care as the work-life balance appears to be growing in importance as an election issue. The two leading parties have recently published rival policies, with Tony Blair promising to provide 10 hours of care for children every working day. The poll will also be cited by the Government as justification for maintaining its opt-out from the European working time directive, which imposes a maximum 48-hour working week, in the face of opposition from the trade unions. Today's finding is likely to surprise policymakers who have assumed that people would welcome the chance of more leisure time. But it will be welcomed by ministers such as Alan Johnson, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, who have both identified the need for people to work longer to combat the imminent pensions crisis in Britain. Mr Brown has ruled out large extra payments by the state to boost pensions. The recent Pensions Bill gave £30,000 lump sum payments to workers who stay at work until the age of 70, although the retirement age remains at 65. Populus asked people whether they were personally willing to work fewer hours for less pay. Only 22% said yes and 78% said no. The sentiment was apparent across the class divide. Slightly more professionals and managers (27%) said that they would be prepared to earn less in return for more free time, while 19% of unskilled manual workers said they would. Women and men broadly feel the same. More people in the North would be prepared to scale back. There, 32% would work fewer hours for less money, compared with 19% in the South-east and 17 per cent in the Midlands. Of those prepared to work fewer hours for less pay, 60% of men and 56% of women wanted to spend more time with their families, while 25 per cent of men and 32% of women wanted more time to themselves. Of those who did not want to change their work pattern, 52% said that they could not afford it; 29% said that they found their job rewarding and 14% did not want to cut back on the thinks that they enjoyed. Only 40% of professionals said that they could not afford the change. The figures for other socio-economic groups was much higher. By contrast, 35% of professionals would not scale back because they liked their jobs while only 24% of unskilled manual workers put themselves in that category. The survey counters the assumption that working mothers are more anxious than fathers about spending time with their children. Some 18% of fathers who worked full-time felt "very anxious", but only 9% of mothers. The survey found that men had more free time than women. During the week, 55% of men had more than 10 hours' free time while the figure for women was 41%. Outside work, most people spend most time watching television; men claim to lose their temper less often than women; half of people use holidays to catch up on chores and 75% say that Sundays are no different from Saturdays.
    Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,002 adults by telephone across the country.
    LEISURE OR CASH?
    78% would not choose to work fewer hours for less money
    52% say they could not afford it
    29% say they enjoy their jobs
    [This has all the earmarks of plantation owners' doing a 'random' survey to find out how many happy slaves they have. In other words, it's the self-defeating strategy of a nervous oppressor.]

  6. 11/21   Natural resources: Getting work and life in balance
    Computerworld New Zealand, New Zealand
    Kirstin Mills, Dunedin
    Ever woken up in the middle of the night suddenly remembering something you should have done at work that day? Or perhaps you spend so much time at work that the line between home and workplace has blurred. In today’s always-on society, it’s hard to have a work-life balance. According to the International Labour Organisation, 21.3% of the New Zealand workforce works at least 50 hours a week, compared with fewer than 10% in most European countries. The report says that during the late 1990s, people working more than 50 hours a 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. In most of the EU countries the figure was well under 10%, with the UK unusually high in at 15% and the the Netherlands scoring just 1.4%. The ILO site says finding the balance between business requirements and workers' needs required working time policies along five dimensions - promoting health and safety, helping workers to better meet their family responsibilities, encouraging gender equality, advancing productivity and, lastly, facilitating worker choice and influence over their working hours.
    [They neglected the most important one = it requires reversing widespread labor surplus into a general labor shortage, at least as perceived by employers, because the market forces thereby generated are the only factors that effectively and flexibly discipline employers. Employers have to deal with two sources of market forces - (1) market forces bearing their products or services = c2b markets or the derivative b2b markets, and (2) market forces bearing on their workforce (e2b). C2b is consumer to business, b2b is business to business, and ee2er is employee to employer. B2b and ee2er are co-dependent. The bulk of the consumer markets depends on wages from employment rather than on income from investments (or government transfer payments such as welfare), and the bulk (2/3 in the US economy) of the markets for products and services depends on individual consumers rather than on other businesses. So employers who don't want to deal with both currents of market forces should quit and become employees, who only have to deal with the job market.]
    In New Zealand there is a Work Life Balance Project to get people thinking about the issue. It advises that options to improve your work-life balance are flexible start and finish times, a diverse schedule (“job shares, four-day weeks, nine-day fortnights, teleworking, home-working, term-time work”), time banking (“this means saving up your work hours as 'credit' to be taken later to fit in with home or other commitments”) and options such as study leave, leave without pay and career breaks. The site says a 2003 EEO Trust survey of nearly 500 employers showed 14% provided childcare facilities, three out of five provided a flexible work location and four out of five provided flexible work hours. In a recent Time Tip newsletter Robyn Pearce advised on a variety of 'stopping' strategies if you don’t seem to be able to get away from work. One was to put “me” time in your diary — appointments with yourself to do whatever you want to. “Then stick to them. If someone wants that space, you can say with complete truth, 'I'm sorry, I have an appointment then.' We're wired to keep appointments.” Of course, says Pearce, you can free up the time if you have to, but it helps you take “that vital second” to stop and consider. She also suggests you diary in time with family and friends. (Is it just me or is that kind of sad? Still, if you’re that busy I guess it make sense.) Pearce says you should let go of the feeling that you must be always available to your work and she says if you work from home, you should find a trigger that signals to your brain that it's “switch-off” time. The advice equally applies to people who work in an office. “It might be as simple as shutting the office door or turning off the computer. It may be changing clothes when you finish a day's work, marking at a subliminal level that you're done for the day.” What about you? Do you have a work-life balance? What tips do you have for people who aren’t able to maintain the balance they want? Or is it all a load of rubbish from lazy people who don’t want to work hard?

  7. 11/19   Spot On: Game industry comes under scrutiny for abuses
    GameSpot
    Slowly, the game industry reveals the secrets of its success: long hours, demanding managers, a culture of fear, say many. To Joe Straitiff, it was clear that video game giant Electronic Arts expected its employees to more or less live at the office. His manager hung a neon sign that said "Open 7 days" and "constantly sent out e-mails to his whole team, saying that he'd see them over the weekend," said Straitiff, who worked as a software developer at EA for about a year and a half until being fired a few weeks ago. Straitiff says his termination was partly due to his refusal to put in 80-hour weeks for months on end. "You can't work that many hours and remain sane," Straitiff said. "It's just too harsh." Brutally long hours are nothing new in the software business, where programmers are used to demanding schedules. Job-induced fatigue comes with the territory. Shipping a new release - whether in the game industry, the commercial software business or corporate IT - often means relentless hours of programming with little or no time off. But employees at EA and other game publishers are speaking out. They're saying, in essence, that the game industry is crossing the line when it comes to reasonable work hours and are challenging it to change its ways. A number of former EA employees charge that the company - one of the largest game publishers in the world, with $3 billion in revenue for the year ended March 31 - regularly pushes its employees to work 80 hours or more per week. The company is being sued for allegedly failing to pay overtime wages. EA declined to comment on the lawsuit and did not immediately comment on specific charges made by current and former employees. "As the industry leader, EA generates a lot of attention on issues common to all game developers," the company said in a statement sent to CNET News.com. "Everyone who works in a game studio knows that the hard work that comes with 'finalizing' games isn't unique to EA. EA remains committed to our customers and our employees, and will continue to do all we can to ensure EA is a great place to work." Criticism about EA's work practices comes in the wake of a Web log posting last week that made similar accusations about the company and sparked a flood of complaints about EA and the game industry in general. The comments depict an industry that expects employees to put in many work weeks of 60 hours or more, with little attention to helping employees balance work and family needs. EA isn't the only game company accused of having grueling work demands. A developer who works for a studio owned by Atari, for instance, said in an e-mail that the game developer expects its employees to work 50 or more hours per week for months at a time. "Once it starts, it doesn't let up until the game ships, which can be up to two years away," wrote the developer, who asked to remain anonymous. "It starts with 50 hours, then 60, 70, 80...they don't want people to have lives or families." An Atari representative declined to comment on these claims. Jason Della Rocca, a program director at advocacy group the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), said that despite the industry's focus on creating fun games, it has a not-so-fun underside of exhausted and stressed-out workers. Regarding EA, Della Rocca said some of the company's units have less-than-excessive work hours. But he said that pockets of the company demand overly long hours and that work conditions in the industry overall seem to have worsened as game projects have become more complex. "The games industry is a ticking time bomb for labor relations disputes and related problems." Not everyone sympathizes with game industry employees, who sometimes pull down six-figure salaries. "Go to (McDonald's) or a factory, then back to your air-conditioned offices with free coffee," one responder to last week's blog posting wrote.
    The business of fun
    Computer games have gone from the plaything of geeks to a mainstream product raking in billions of dollars. US computer and video game software sales grew 8% in 2003 to $7 billion - more than doubling industry software sales since 1996, according to the Entertainment Software Association trade group. Last year, more than 239 million computer and video games were sold, or almost two games for every household in America, the association said. EA alone last year sold more than a million units for 22 game titles, including The Sims, Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, and Madden NFL Football 2003. The Redwood City, California-based company has 4,400 employees worldwide and operations in California, Texas, and Florida, as well as in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan, according to its Web site. Making modern computer games can involve the work of a number of different specialists, including animators, software programmers, and musicians. "The most talented people in the industry come to EA because we make great games. Additionally, we offer competitive salaries, bonuses, stock options, health care and a wide variety of other benefits and work environments that are second to none in our industry," the company said in a statement. In addition, EA said it conducts a biannual survey, letting workers anonymously say where the company should make improvements. "We take this survey seriously because it comes from current employees who know first-hand what it's like to work for EA," the company said. One current employee said he and coworkers responded to such a study in 2001, making it clear that long hours were a problem. But the employee, an image production specialist who asked to remain anonymous, said he recently finished working 80 hours a week for several months straight. He said his team is facing an even more demanding schedule. "If anything, it looks as if the crunches are going to get worse before they get better," he said. The author of the original blog posting last week, the fiancee of an EA employee, added that EA recently said it no longer wishes to offer developers a few weeks off at the end of a project. In an interview Tuesday, the author said she is looking into creating a "watchdog" Web site to keep track of workplace abuses in the game industry. She also said she was surprised by the outpouring of responses to the posting. "It was a powder keg. I didn't realize how upset everyone was about this," she said. More than 2,000 comments have been posted in response to her essay, with a number of responders saying EA isn't alone in the way it allegedly treats developers. The comments echo findings from a survey earlier this year conducted by the IGDA. Game development is "all too often performed in crippling conditions that make it hard to sustain quality of life and lead too many senior developers to leave the industry before they have had time to perform their best work," the association said. Almost three developers out of five report working 46 or more hours in a typical week, according to the survey, and more than 95% of respondents said their company experiences "crunch" time. Over 18% of respondents reported having experienced crunches of two months or more, and more than a third of respondents said they work 65 to 80 hours a week during crunch time. People in the game industry generally acknowledge that "crunch time," involving unusually long hours, is often needed before major deadlines. But game industry employees argue that crunches that last for months are too much. One former EA employee in Canada, who asked to remain anonymous, earned more than $100,000 as an art director but said the company expected an oppressive amount of work hours. He said he once worked for four months without a day off and put in 80 to 110 hours per week for about eight consecutive months. EA uses a ruthless management style, the former employee said, recently firing nine people whose team delivered its game behind schedule. "They've basically created an atmosphere of fear," said the former employee, who resigned about a month ago because he didn't think he could balance family and work pressures. "Pretty much everyone at EA is scared for their jobs."
    An industry-wide issue
    The IGDA's Della Rocca said work schedules that grind down workers don't make sense. "Happy workers are more productive," he said. "Happy workers are more creative." He said the industry fails to devote enough attention at the beginning of game projects to create prototypes, which can determine what is really fun about a game. Without such initial research, last-minute interventions can be needed that increase the burden on workers, he said. Games also are becoming more complex, Della Rocca said. A decade ago, five people working for six months to a year with a $100,000 budget could create a game. Now a team might be composed of 200 people working for more than a year on a $25 million budget. But management training to handle these more complicated projects is lacking in the industry, Della Rocca said. He said EA and other industry players are setting themselves up for potential challenges related to stress-induced health problems and unpaid overtime. A tangle of rules governs what types of employees are exempt from overtime pay and how it is calculated. In California, an employer must pay premium overtime rates to an employee working more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week - unless he or she qualifies as exempt from overtime pay. Certain administrative, executive, and professional employees are exempt. Salaried workers are not necessarily exempt. The lawsuit against EA, filed in July, claims that EA improperly classified image production employees as exempt from California overtime laws. Those employees, defined to include animators, modelers, texture artists, and lighters, are "assigned to duties inconsistent with exempt status," the suit claims. Among other things, the suit asserts that image production employees "do not customarily and regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment," part of the state's test for determining a "professional" exemption. EA image production employees "regularly work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours in a workweek," the suit alleges. "They work on weekends and occasionally on national holidays, and are not paid any overtime compensation for such work." In the wake of the initial blog posting last week, there's been chatter about the possibility of unionizing the game industry. The IGDA has also joined the debate. On Tuesday, its board of directors published an "open letter" that, among other things, called on game developers to take some responsibility for bad working conditions. "Developers are sometimes just as much to blame for submitting themselves to extreme working conditions, adopting a macho bravado in hopes of 'proving' themselves worthy for the industry," the letter said. "Our own attitudes towards work/life balance and production practices need to change just as much as the attitudes of the 'suits.'" Straitiff said he's in the midst of balancing his home life and career. He is "getting over the burn-out" of long hours at EA and is enjoying playing with his 20-month-old daughter. He also muses about returning to a field he's loved since he was a kid. Armed with a Commodore home computer, he wrote his own games. He later took a pay cut to come to EA's Maxis division because he was drawn to the SimCity game. But EA was snuffing out his passion with the hours it demanded, he said. "You shouldn't be able to ask a person to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week for months on end," he said. "You really fry a person working like that."

  8. 11/19   Workaholic Aussies shun pleasures of the long weekend
    The Times, UK
    From Roger Maynard in Sydney
    It used to be known as the land of the long weekend, where workers would slip off early on Friday in pursuit of a few extra hours at the race track or around the barbie. Even weekday lunchtimes in Australia would stretch into two or three-hour sessions at the pub. They even invented a word for it: bludging, defined in the Macquarie Dictionary of Colloquial Language as the behaviour of a person who does not do a fair share of the work. But not any more. Australians have become a nation of workaholics, who put in more hours a year than Americans, Japanese and even the superefficient Germans, according to a research paper from the left-of-centre think-tank, the Australia Institute. It concludes that if all Australians went on holiday from today until the end of the year and then took their annual leave, they would still have worked the same number of hours as the average employee in other industrial countries. While sceptics overseas might raise their eyebrows at such claims, the report says they are supported by a recent survey by the International Labour Organisation, a United Nations agency. The institute found that Australian employees work 1,855 hours a year compared with an average of 1,643 hours across the developed world. The United States came second with 1,835 hours, Japan third with 1,821 and the United Kingdom seventh with an average of 1,708 working hours a year. Norway was bottom of the table at seventeenth, with 1,376 hours per year. One in five Australians works more than 50 hours a week, the fourth-highest proportion in the developed world. The number of people putting in these hours has grown faster than in any other industrialised country. Even holidays are less than the European average. Most Australians receive only four weeks' holiday compared with an average of five in Europe. The report also found evidence that many Australians struggled to take their entitled leave, with 58% of full-time employees saying that they did not take all their annual leave. Clive Hamilton, the think-tank's director, said that Australians were paying the price for their increased workload. "They are reporting higher degrees of stress, anxiety, obesity, depression and heart disease," he said. "While governments and business groups often decry attempts to achieve work- family balance as economically irresponsible, there is clear international evidence that this is not the case. On the contrary, working to the point where our personal and community bonds are weakened is not only economically inefficient, it is socially irresponsible. "If we choose to measure progress simply in terms of our personal and national incomes then we are likely to work ourselves into early graves." Unions say that the workload is the result of a de- regulated labour market that has stripped them of collective bargaining rights and handed greater powers to employers. Greg Combet, head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, blames the Government for creating an "army of low-paid workers who work exceptionally long hours". He added: "That's Prime Minister John Howard's nirvana."
    [And what is it with a ruling elite that isn't happy unless others are unhappy?]
    But in Australia's offices and factory floors, which used to echo to the gentle reassurance: "She'll be right mate," the workaholics are no longer sure such sentiments ring true. The Australia Institute said the average number of hours worked per employed person each year was as follows:
    1 Australia 1,855
    2 United States 1,835
    3 Japan 1,821
    4 New Zealand 1,817
    5 Canada 1,767
    6 Finland 1,730
    7 UK 1,708
    8 Ireland 1,690
    9 Sweden 1,625
    10 Italy 1,622
    11 France 1,590
    12 Switzerland 1,568
    13 Belgium 1,530
    14 Denmark 1,504
    15 Germany 1,482
    16 The Netherlands 1,381
    17 Norway 1,376
    [and another version -]
    11/19   Australians top list of the world's most overworked people
    AFP SYDNEY via Taipei Times, Taiwan, Saturday, Nov 20 2004, Page 5
    The image of the laid-back, sun-bronzed Aussie relaxing on the beach took a major hit yesterday with new evidence showing Australians are working the longest hours in the developed world. They are working so hard, in fact, that they risk making themselves sick, with higher than usual rates of stress, anxiety and depression, according to the research by the Australia Institute think-tank. The analysis of countries including the US, Japan, Germany and France showed Australians, even if they had used up their annual leave, could take the rest of this year off and still have worked the same average number of hours of other industrialized countries. "Whilst Australians often think of themselves as living in the land of the long weekend, they are now working the longest hours in the developed world and in fact are at risk of working themselves sick," Institute director Clive Hamilton said. He said Australian employees work an average of 1,855 hours a year compared with the developed country average of 1,643. Their Norwegian counterparts work just 1,376 hours a year on average, he added. "Australians work harder than the super-efficient Germans, the Americans and even the Japanese who are known for the phenomenon of karoshi or `death by overwork,'" Hamilton said. To bring their annual working hours down to the average, Australian employees would have to take their legislated four weeks' annual leave, then stop working from Nov. 20 until Dec. 31, he said. While the number of public holidays enjoyed by Australian workers is on a par with the average of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, the annual leave entitlement is below the European average of five weeks a year. "Australians are paying the price for overwork," Hamilton said. "They are reporting higher degrees of stress and anxiety, and obesity, depression and heart disease are on the rise." Shorter working hours in economically sound nations such as Switzerland, Germany and the Britain demonstrated that long working days were not necessary for economic strength, he added. "On the contrary, working to the point where our personal and community bonds are weakened is not only economically inefficient, it is socially irresponsible," Hamilton said.

  9. 11/19   Macroeconomic perspectives for the Norwegian economy ­ Challenges and options
    Odin, Norway
    The coming ageing of the population requires comprehensive efforts to ensure growth and welfare in Norway. Our initial position for handling these challenges is favourable compared to many other countries. Nevertheless, measures to deal with increasing expenditures, including a pension reform, are necessary, says Minister of Finance, Mr. Per-Kristian Foss.
    The white paper Perspektivmeldingen 2004 analyses the development of the Norwegian economy and the challenges confronting economic policy over the next 50 years. The white paper itself does not present solutions. However, the direction of the Government's responses can be found in its work to promote growth and Norway's competitive position, to modernise the public sector, to strengthen labour market participation and to reform the pension system.
    Over the last century, Norway has experienced a marked decrease in fertility, like most other western countries. Combined with an increase in life expectancy, this implies that the share of elderly will almost double over the next 50 years, after remaining broadly stable since the national insurance scheme was introduced in 1967.
    Two important consequences of population ageing must be stressed. A smaller share of the population will participate in the labour force, and a higher share of total income will be needed to finance public expenditures. Labour...participation is high in Norway. However, average working hours are relatively low, and measured per inhabitant, hours worked are on par with that of the EU-15. In the white paper the need to maintain a high labour supply in the years to come is emphasised.
    Petroleum extraction has made a significant contribution to the Norwegian economy during the last decades. Still, mainland production constitutes about 80% of total value added in Norway, a share that will gradually increase as a consequence of the foreseen decline of petroleum extraction. Ensuring mainland Norway's capacity for growth is thus vital. Economic policy, broadly speaking, must stimulate innovation, restructuring, new organizational structures and efficiency improvements both in the private and public sector. As labour skills are decisive, the educational system must meet high standards.
    Over the coming decades, ageing will lead to a strong increase in public expenditures, including pensions. Based on Statistics Norway's demographic projections, old-age pension expenditures are calculated to reach 16 per cent of mainland GDP in 2060 if the present system is maintained, compared to 6% today. The need for labour in municipalities and health enterprises is estimated to increase by 75% towards 2060 only to maintain the present level of welfare services.
    Given reasonable estimates of oil prices, a sustainable spending of petroleum revenues can only make a modest contribution to the financing of the expected expenditure increase. To sustain today's public services and meet future pension obligations, the public sector must deal with a gradually increasing financing gap. Compared to 2003, the financing gap is estimated to increase to around 8% of Norway's mainland GDP in 2060.
    Efforts to stimulate labour supply may substantially contribute to counter these challenges. If inflow to benefit programs is simultaneously reduced, the effects will be strengthened. Labour supply may increase i.a. as a consequence of the individual employee working more hours per week, retiring later or staying on as a part-time worker after retirement. The design of the tax and pension systems are central to increase the economic rewards from working.
    Economic growth increases total wealth, thus making an appropriate response to the budgetary challenges easier. However, productivity growth also contributes to increased wage costs and pension expenditures. Efforts contributing to more efficient production of publicly financed services, will more directly contribute to the development of the Norwegian welfare society.

  10. 11/19   GWU defends stance it took in MCESD meeting
    Malta Independent, Malta
    Michael Carabott
    The General Workers Union yesterday reconfirmed its stance against any proposal regarding employment or taxation that would be detrimental to workers. In a conference at the union's headquarters, secretary-general Tony Zarb said the GWU wanted to inform workers of what had transpired at the MCESD meeting on Wednesday and what proposals had been put forward. Mr Zarb said that during the meeting, all the representatives were asked to give their position. At one point, he said, the MCESD chairman Victor Scicluna turned to all the parties, including the government, and asked for their position on the social pact proposal and they told him they could not agree with the GWU. "At that point we realised that discussion could not continue and we left," he said. Mr Zarb did, however, say that the union would continue to take part in MCESD meetings especially since there were some hot topics for discussion coming up, including reforms in healthcare, education, the welfare system and pensions. "We are now waiting for government's next move. And we must also point out that the agreement at the MCESD meeting was that for any proposal to be approved, there needed to be consensus from all parties," he said. "Issues where consensus was not reached could be discussed again at a later stage," said Mr Zarb. He said that the union did not agree with many of the submissions, beginning with the one that proposed capping overtime hours at 100 per year and that the first four hours of overtime per week would be paid at normal wage rate. "This could lead to an increase to a 44-hour week or employers making employees work four extra hours a week, perhaps on a Sunday," he said.
    [It not only 'could' lead to an increase to a 44-hour workweek; it does!]
    If this proposal went through, said Mr Zarb, workers were facing a loss of income of between Lm100 and Lm150 per year. If this is calculated over a three-year period, it could increase to a loss of between Lm300 and Lm550. Employers' associations were proposing that overtime be capped at 180 hours per annum. There was also a proposal to remove seven days off annual leave, beginning with two days fewer in 2005, two fewer in 2006 and three less in 2007. Mr Zarb said that if one took Lm80 as an average weekly wage, this would mean a loss of Lm37 per year. He also said that the union objected to the proposals for wage increases which would be affiliated to the rate of growth of GDP. Mr Zarb said the increase would be given in the form of a bonus. However, if GDP went up by less than one%, no bonus would be given. If it went up by between one and two%, 25% of the bonus would be given. If it increased by between three and four%, 75 per cent would be paid and if GDP increased by more than four%, the full bonus would be paid. This meant that only an average of 25% of the bonus would be given to workers and would also be lost in people's pension funds. Another proposal rejected by the GWU was for feast days during the working week to count as a normal day's work and for a corresponding day's leave to be given off in lieu. This meant that those working on a shift basis would lose their premium. The union said that it did not want the government to increase direct or indirect taxes during the social pact three-year time frame unless all the social partners agreed. It said that the government had only agreed to freeze income tax and VAT. Other issues that worried the union included the transfer of government employees to public private partnerships, government's proposal to cap state workers' wage increases to only one% and the introduction of flexi-time for government employees. Mr Zarb also said the GWU was the only union to put forward a solid proposal for wage increases. The union said it had proposed that increases be given in bonus form, but withheld for three years and then distributed, untaxed, at the end of the three-year period. Mr Zarb said: "The GWU has been involved where workers have been asked to make sacrifices in their own area. But they cannot be asked to make sacrifices on a national level." Asked whether he disagreed with any devaluation of Maltese currency, Mr Zarb said: "If it affects workers negatively, then yes, we are against it." He concluded: "The GWU will do what it always has done, it will work in the best interests of workers and the whole country." Mr Zarb said that the GWU would be having a meeting with government on Saturday to discuss the budget and proposed electricity price increases.
    [And further -]
    11/19   Social pact talks impasse - GWU blames government and employers
    Valletta Times, Malta
    Natalino Fenech
    The general secretary of the General Workers' Union, Tony Zarb, charged yesterday it was employers and the government that had shut the door for more talks at the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development and not the GWU, as was being suggested "by some quarters". The union, in fact, was prepared to keep attending meetings and take part in discussions to ensure that workers' and the national interest are safeguarded, Mr Zarb said. Speaking at a press conference, flanked by all union officials, Mr Zarb said a proposal made by the GWU about how wage increases could be worked out would have saved employers Lm21.8 million over the next three years but this "was thrown out of the window" by the government and employers. Mr Zarb said the union was at the forefront of reforms, such as those at PBS and the shipyards, where workers had lost substantial amounts of money in restructuring exercises, and it was hence difficult for a union to accept some of the measures that would continue to erode workers' incomes. Mr Zarb said the union had made some calculations about how workers' income would have been affected by the proposed measures and found that workers would be losing at least Lm185 a year, or Lm555 over three years. Employers wanted the first 180 hours of overtime to be paid at normal rates while the MCESD chairman's proposal was that the first 100 hours would be paid at normal rates. Based on normal pay rates, this would mean a loss of between Lm100 and Lm150 a year. But, more seriously, the union feared that some unscrupulous employers would make employees work a 44-hour week, he said. The reduction of seven days vacation leave between 2005 and 2007 meant that those with a wage of Lm80 a week would be losing Lm37 a year. The loss of, say, three public holidays, would mean a cut of another Lm48 a year.... Mr Zarb said the union had made clear counterproposals about how wage increases should be given and this would have had huge savings for employers. This was however not accepted. He said the union was receiving many messages from different places of work that encouraged it to continue striving to ensure workers' conditions would not be trampled on. The union also appreciated the statement by the Malta Union of Teachers which, he said, showed that the GWU was not the only union to be resisting certain changes for the worst. Mr Zarb referred to minutes of an MCESD meeting held in August which said that unless there was agreement on certain issues these should not be included in a social pact and discussions about them should continue in a second round of talks.
    The government reacted to the GWU's press conference by saying that with a little more effort, a social pact could have been agreed to, paving the way for greater competitiveness and a stronger economy.
    [Ah, a "social pact" is usually by employers for the benefit of employees and the domestic consumer base. Interesting how suicidally near-sighted employers have even spun this around.]
    But this was not to be, because "one of the social partners" had declared it was no longer interested in pursuing the talks, at a time when agreement had been reached on certain parts of the document presented by the MCESD chairman. A social pact would be in the workers' interest, the government said. Greater competitiveness would mean more jobs,
    [where on earth do they get that idea?!]
    government finances being put on a more solid footing
    [not without higher wages and a more dynamic domestic consumer base]
    and the creation of wealth.
    [If just for the top brackets, it won't last long.]
    "The government is therefore not only concerned but surprised at the stance taken by the GWU, when it knows that although sacrifices would have to be made in the immediate future, the GWU's own members would benefit over a period of months.
    [Funny how it's always and only sacrifices for the poorest.]
    "Under these circumstances, it is in the national interest that the government take decisions to boost competitiveness... Nevertheless, it will keep the door ajar for further negotiations and possibly their conclusion." ["Competitiveness" - the latest fashionable cudgel the wealthy use on everyone else to further undermine their own consumer base and investments.]

  11. 11/19   West African media adopt agreement on working conditions
    International Journalist's Network
    The West African Journalists' Association (WAJA) has adopted a collective agreement on minimum working standards for journalists in the region, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported. Representatives from WAJA member organizations met in Dakar, Senegal on November 8 and 9. The union representatives drafted the agreement to encourage high professional standards in the region. They hope government ministers validate the standards at the upcoming Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting. The agreement would serve as the basis for similar agreements across the region. The document includes articles that give journalists the right to create unions and protect their sources. It sets a defined number of working hours for each country, and ensures that salaries are equivalent to public service jobs at the same level. The agreement also requires employers to set aside funds to support professional training for its reporters. "The employer shall set aside a special fund to enable journalists working for his establishment to undergo further training and keep abreast of new techniques in a dynamic profession," the agreement says. It also states that employers must pay the journalists their full salary while they participate in the training, which can take place either locally or abroad. IFJ welcomed the agreement, and called on ECOWAS ministers to validate the framework. "This unique initiative opens a window of opportunity for a major improvement of journalists' working conditions in 16 countries," IFJ projects officer Bertrand Ginet said. The agreement is available at http://tinyurl.com/3pfut

  12. 11/19   Nurses pan hosp hire rate
    New York Daily News, NY
    BY BILL EGBERT
    Registered nurses walk picket line at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital yesterday to protest its failure to hire more nurses. Nurses at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital swapped vital signs for protest signs this week as they picketed to demand that hospital management hire more nurses in the interest of patient safety. "The hospital has already admitted that there aren't enough nurses and they need to hire more," said Rich Hernandez, a registered nurse who represents Bronx-Lebanon nurses for the New York State Nurses Association. According to the group, the management at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital has agreed to hire more nurses to ease the workload of their thinly stretched nursing staff, but refuses to do so before July 2006. "How can they justify waiting for more than 18 months to fill those positions?" said Hernandez. "By not filling those vacancies immediately, the hospital is placing an unfair burden on the nurses currently working there." Constrained by the same budget cuts plaguing hospitals throughout the city, Bronx-Lebanon has asked its nurses for pay and benefit givebacks to hire the extra staff, which the union rejects as unfair. But money isn't the only sticking point. A nationwide nursing shortage is leaving hospitals across the country understaffed, with some even importing nurses from the Philippines. The chronic shortage leaves fewer and fewer nurses caring for more and more patients, making for grueling shifts and extended working hours, which drive more nurses out of hospitals. The result is a vicious cycle that makes life worse for nurses and patients. "No nurse wants to work in a hospital where she believes she can't provide the best care," said Hernandez. The nurses at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital have been working without a contract for nearly a year. The nursing lobby has held 28 negotiating sessions with the hospital management before taking to the street last Monday. Bronx-Lebanon Hospital did not return repeated calls for comment.

  13. 11/19   Northwest seeks big cuts from mechanics and cleaners
    Miami Herald, FL
    Associated Press
    BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Leaders of the mechanics and cleaners union at Northwest Airlines criticized the carrier's opening contract demands, which include sweeping cuts in pay and benefits and the unlimited right to outsource maintenance work. "It is absurd," said Jim Atkinson, president of Local 33 of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. "It's an all-out attack on the union as well as its members." The Eagan-based carrier is seeking major concessions as it tries to reduce its labor costs by $950 million a year. Two weeks ago, the pilots' union ratified a new contract that will reduce pilot costs by $265 million a year, cutting pay by 15%. Salaried workers soon will see their annual compensation cut by $35 million. Northwest declined to comment on its new proposal for mechanics. But in a recent message to employees, CEO Doug Steenland said negotiations must take into account what is happening at other large airlines. "In most cases, the changes sought are similar to those in place, or being pursued, at carriers that compete with the company," Northwest's vice president for labor relations, Julie Hagen Showers, said in a letter to AMFA last Friday. " In view of the current industry conditions ... it is imperative that the parties begin bargaining in earnest." The union, which represents 5,400 Northwest workers, met with Northwest Monday through Thursday. Both sides are expected back at the bargaining table on Dec. 8 and 9. Wages have not yet come up and Northwest's opening proposal did not include a new cost-cutting target, the union said. In early 2003, Northwest management said it needed to slash AMFA worker costs by $173 million a year, but the union declined to open talks early. That 2003 proposal included 16.7% base pay cuts for mechanics and 10.6% wage reductions for custodians and cleaners. Mechanics' pay now ranges from $50,000 to $70,000 a year; for cleaners it's $20,000 to $40,000. Northwest's new proposal does say the airline wants to reduce pay rates to make them "competitive" with other airlines, "including low-cost carriers." The current contract limits outsourcing to 38% of the airline's maintenance work. Northwest is pressing for no caps on subcontracting. Other provisions of Northwest's proposal would lift restrictions on layoffs and eliminate mandatory union membership. Northwest also wants to limit annual vacations to four weeks, instead of the current maximum of seven, and to reduce the number of paid holidays from 10 to 6. The proposal would also raise employee costs for life, health and disability insurance. "I really do hope this was not a serious proposal. It doesn't even give us a starting point," Atkinson said. Jamie Baker, a J.P. Morgan airline analyst, predicted in a report last week that the Northwest-AMFA talks will "reach a high level of public contention." However, he said Northwest management will have the upper hand in negotiations because of the threat of outsourcing more maintenance jobs. "We expect AMFA's militancy to ultimately soften - with an expected $175 million in savings achieved by mid-year 2005," Baker said.

  14. 11/20   Ken Rodriguez: Union Pacific engineers: 'We struggle to stay awake'
    San Antonio Express-News, TX
    Seven train derailments in Bexar County since May, five fatalities since June, and Union Pacific is literally asleep. America's largest railroad opens a 24-hour safety command center here while some if its engineers say they doze off on locomotives. UP increases walking inspections and re-instructs managers while some of its engineers claim they are working on two to three hours of sleep. "I nodded off several times last night," one Texas engineer told me Saturday morning. "It was tough to stay awake." The engineer fears he will be fired if he discloses his name, so we'll call him Michael. Michael says he rarely reports to work having slept more than four hours. One day in the spring, he became overwhelmed by exhaustion. "I told my wife, 'I'm dreading going to work tonight, I'm afraid I'll fall asleep and kill myself or kill somebody,'" he says. "I worry about that all the time." Michael's story is not uncommon, judging from the engineers I spoke with. They said they are sleep deprived. They receive no assigned days off. They often work 70 to 80 hours a week. Some say they've fallen sound asleep on the job. Fatigue sometimes is cited as a contributing factor in rail accidents, and staffing levels long have been an issue between the railroad and the unions representing its workers. Keith Pratt...a retired UP engineer in La Grande, Ore., says he fell asleep once, and narrowly missed a head-on collision with another train. "The night before, I didn't get much sleep," Pratt says, "Just two, three hours maybe." One former West Coast UP engineer-in-training quit, fearing a job that would have put her on call seven days a week. "I was told, 'You need to learn to go to work with sleep deprivation,'" the former UP employee recalls. "I couldn't believe it. I feared not only for my life, but I feared for my co-workers. I feared for the general public." Union Pacific, of course, fears bad public relations. Third quarter profits, after all, are down. The last thing UP wants is a wave of negative publicity, but the truth stings when it strikes right between closed eyes. And the truth is that nearly a dozen UP engineers and conductors across the country have told me they are fatigued, afraid and battling to stay awake. "If anyone says he hasn't ever nodded off, he's lying," Michael says. "That's absolutely right," adds one California conductor. "You are fatigued all the time." "I nodded off a couple of nights ago," a California engineer admits. "It's frightening. I'm not a disgruntled employee. I like my job. But Union Pacific needs to pay more attention to fatigue." Contrast these comments with a message on UP's Web site, which reads: "At Union Pacific, safety is No. 1." Engineers never know when they will be called. Deciding when to sleep is often guesswork. And sometimes, right when they prepare to lie down, they're called in to work. Here's the UP spin: Engineers are not allowed to spend more than 12 consecutive hours on the rails. Here's the reality: After a 12-hour shift, some engineers wait hours for a ride to get home or to a hotel. That's when their official day ends, sometimes 15 or 16 hours after it begins. One area engineer recalls working a 98-hour week. "It was 14 hours a day, seven days in a row," he says. Here's another UP spin: Its engineers are given a minimum of eight hours rest between shifts. Here's the reality: Engineers spend much of those off hours catching up with spouses, playing with children, doing chores, showering and eating. Little time is left for sleep. UP says engineers have ample opportunity for rest. The railroad has a chart showing that, in one recent 40-day work period, only four San Antonio rail employees worked more than 34 days. UP says the chart is typical of other systems in the country, though it did not provide supporting evidence. Nor did it provide any evidence to counter the claim that sleep deprivation is a problem. It is. The Federal Railroad Administration says fatigue was a possible factor in two local derailments. UP says it's working on the fatigue issue. How? It's conducting a long-term study with the FRA. UP, how about studying this: Your engineers are dozing. Your trains are derailing. People are dying. Wake up before the next engineer falls asleep and gets someone killed.
    To contact Ken Rodriguez, call (210) 250-3369 or e-mail krodriguez@express-news.net

  15. 11/21   Sri Lankan budget: a sign of political crisis
    World Socialist, MI
    By K. Ratnayake
    The first budget of Sri Lanka's United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government, delivered by Finance Minister Sarath Amunugama last Thursday, was a desperate attempt to stem the anger of working people over rising prices and declining living standards.
    Amunugama took nearly six hours to deliver the budget speech, which was as much a piece of political theatre, full of nationalist rhetoric, as a financial plan for the next year. Having defeated the United National Front (UNF) at the election this April by exploiting the widespread hostility to the previous government's economic restructuring policies, the UPFA had to walk a delicate line: giving limited handouts to ordinary workers while implementing policies designed to appeal to big business and foreign investors.
    In the lead up to the parliamentary session, UPFA spokesmen declared the government would present a "people-friendly budget" that would be "pro-poor" as well as "pro-growth". Well aware of the popular resentment over the role of the IMF and World Bank in imposing austerity measures on the country, Amunugama ostentatiously declared that there would be no pre-budget meetings with the international agencies. This would be, he declared, a "home grown" budget.
    The same theme was taken up in the budget preamble, which emphasised "sustainable economic and social development, based on local values and national priorities". This nationalist orientation - promoted in particular by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the second largest UPFA partner - is aimed at shoring up support for the government among layers of small businessmen and farmers hard hit by international competition.
    However, Amunugama's claim that his home-grown budget is going to stem the country's economic crisis is a sham. The government's policies have beenshaped by factors outside its control - rising world oil prices; sharpening competition for foreign investment; an end to the international textile and garment quota system; and the insistence of major donors that aid will be withheld until talks to end the country's 20-year civil war restart.
    The UPFA government may not have engaged in formal pre-budget talks with the IMF and World Bank, but these institutions nevertheless shaped the document. Nationalist demagogy aside, Amunugama was well aware that the government could not afford to alienate foreign investors and donors. Like the UNF, his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) - the main UPFA component - implemented free market restructuring during its period in office from 1994 to 2001.
    In the speech, Amunugama admitted that 70% of the rural population saw no trickle-down benefits from the economic growth of the past two decades. "In fact the share of the poorest 40% in the national income, which was 21% in the 1980, has steadily declined to 14% in 2002 - a distressing 1/3 decline in the share of income of the poor. For the richest 20% the share increased to 54%," he said.
    While the UPFA narrowly won the April election, Amunugama and the cabinet ministers are conscious that they are living on borrowed time. Rising prices, as well as planned privatisations and further attacks on social services, have fuelled strikes and protests by workers in the railways, plantations and the health and education sectors. The budget was therefore crucial to the ruling coalition, particularly the JVP, to stem a collapse of popular support.
    In the course of the election campaign, the UPFA made a series of promises that have not been kept - including a pledge to increase public sector workers' pay by 70% within three months. Concerned to defuse this potentially explosive issue, Amunugama proposed a 40% pay increase for state employees ranging from 3,250 rupees [$US32] to 9,000 rupees a month. Even then, the wage rise will be paid only in stages - 20% or a minimum of 2,500 rupees from December and the remainder in January 2006.
    The wage rise is premised on a major assault on working conditions - the undermining of the eight-hour day that until now has been sacrosanct in the public sector. The budget proposed that the working day be extended by one hour - from eight to nine hours - with no additional pay. The move will not only save on overtime payments but lay the basis for more demands for "greater productivity" and further undermine public sector jobs.
    The majority of Sri Lankan workers will not get the pay increase. Out of the total labour force, only about 13% of workers are employed in the state sector, while 44% are employed in the private sector. Although the finance minister made a face-saving appeal to extend the rise to the private sector, employers are under no obligation to comply with the "request". In the tea and rubber plantations, the biggest single private sector, the government recently sanctioned a wage deal that guaranteed a rise of just 14 rupees or 11% in the daily wage.
    Limited concessions
    Wages have already been seriously eroded by inflation. In the short period that the UPFA has been in power, the official cost of living index has jumped from 3,426 in March to 3,699 in October. The price of essential items has risen even more sharply, including for rice - which has increased by 66% from 30 to 50 rupees a kilogram - and wheat flour, which has gone from 22 to 32 rupees. Higher oil prices have added to the cost of petrol, diesel, kerosene and gas as well as transport.
    In an effort to placate public anger over prices, the government introduced a complicated three-tier system for the imposition of Value Added Tax (VAT) - dropping the tax from 15 to 5% for basic items such as sugar, vegetables and dry fish, while increasing the rate on selected "luxury" items to 18%. But the changes will do little to alleviate the suffering of the very poor while hitting sections of wage workers who will find it even more difficult to afford "luxury" items.
    Other "pro-poor" measures in the budget included limited improvements to housing loan schemes, increased health insurance and more extensive maternity leave for state sector workers, but on half pay or no pay. The budget allocations for health and education were increased by 23% and 25% respectively, yet both these sectors have been undermined by years of cost cutting under previous governments. Amunugama also promised to provide jobs next year for 42,000 unemployed graduates who are now in a low-wage training scheme and for 30,000 high school graduates who have completed their A levels. Other unemployed will have to wait until "economic development" provides them with a job.
    Virtually nothing was provided to farmers and small businessmen, beyond limited tax concessions and loan facilities for small and medium entrepreneurs. Farmers, who have been hard hit by rising production costs and growing debts, were told that the government's grandiose plans to renovate 10,000 small tanks [lakes] and initiate rural development schemes would enable them to prosper.
    Like its election promises, the government's "pro-poor" budget measures could rapidly prove to be illusory. Even before the projected increased spending, government finances were in a crisis. The projected budget deficit is 171 billion rupees, which amounts to nearly one third of total expenditure. The government plans to raise 58 billion rupees from foreign lenders but that will be contingent on the IMF and World Bank giving the budget the seal of approval.
    While declaring that there would be no talks with the international institutions before the budget, Amunugama quickly reassured the media that he would be meeting with the IMF and World Bank after its presentation. The government will of course immediately come under pressure to implement further economic restructuring. In order to appease these agencies, Amunugama pledged to rein in government expenditure as a percentage of GDP to 7.5% next year after it ballooned to 8.5% this year.
    As a number of economic commentators have noted, the government confronts severe difficulties in raising the taxes required to pay for its programs and meet the projected financial targets. A decade of cutting taxes for businesses and foreign investors has seen government revenue as a%age of GDP decline precipitously from 20.4% in 1995 to 13.2% in 2003. The latest budget projects an increase in revenue to 17.2% of GDP next year and to 19.5% by 2008 but provides little explanation as to how this substantial rise is going to be achieved.
    The budget did not foreshadow any significant increase in tax collections from big business. In fact, it contained a major concession to investors by removing the existing 15% capital gains tax and introducing instead a 0.2% tax on transactions in the share market. But if no burden is to be placed on big business then small businesses, traders, farmers, workers and the poor will inevitably be the ones to suffer - either through increased taxes, or on the government reneging on its promises.
    The main role in imposing the budget on the working class will fall to the JVP, whose MPs in the course of the parliamentary session repeatedly thumped their desks in approval at the measures. Opening of the budget debate for the government side, JVP demagogue Wimal Weerawansa heaped praise on the budget, declaring it a "new economic tactic" and denouncing its opponents as "pigs". His comments are a warning that the JVP will stop at nothing in dealing with any critics.
    The country's deteriorating economy will compound the government's difficulties. The annual cost of importing oil has jumped from $US837 million in 2003 to $1,600 million this year. The country's trade gap has widened by 67% to $1.57 billion in the first nine months of this year alone and economic growth has fallen from 5.9% in 2003 to 5% this year. The Sri Lankan rupee is continuing to fall against the US dollar even though the American currency is declining against the euro and yen.
    Conscious of the political and financial difficulties facing the government, big business has cautiously welcomed the budget and the all share price index on the Colombo stock market rose by 22 points to 1,485 points. Nawaz Rajabdeen, Federation of Chamber of Commerce senior vice president, blandly praised the emphasis on small and medium-business and said it was "an overall very favourable budget". The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and National Chamber of Commerce (NCC) made similar comments.
    Senior IMF Residential Representative Jeremy Carter, while "welcoming" the budget proposals, emphasised that capital expenditure should not be cut to pay for the deficit in current spending. In what can only be interpreted as a guarded criticism of the financial plan, he commented: "Budgets are always ambitious but the challenging task is the implementation and delivery." He hinted that the IMF's credit facility of $657 million, which was suspended in April, would be reconsidered, but only if IMF demands were met.
    The overriding concern of big business is the danger of a return to civil war. While promising to restart peace talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the government has increased defence expenditure from 43 to 56 billion rupees to keep the military on a war footing. As far as corporate chiefs are concerned, the present situation is untenable - the lack of negotiations is holding up foreign aid and defence spending is holding back expenditure on much needed infrastructure - while renewed fighting would be an economic disaster.
    Speaking on behalf of foreign investors, Adrian Lim, a manager at Aberdeen Asset Management Asia Ltd in Singapore, bluntly declared: "Peace may be a more powerful tool than taxes.... The budget is important but I am more keen to see progress on the peace process." Lim is a partner in several major blue chip companies in Sri Lanka, including John Keells Holdings Ltd. and Aitken Spence Company.
    Working people will rapidly come into conflict with the UPFA government over the budget. Already sections of workers have widely condemned the increase in working hours and are agitating against it. Most working people, already angry over deteriorating living standards, are deeply sceptical of the government's promises.
    [Another version -]
    11/20   TUs welcome Budget
    Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka
    Country's Trade Union [TU] sector yesterday welcomed the UPFA's maiden budget as a historic one but expressed their concern over the increase into the number of working hours. They said "increasing number of working hours to nine hours is against the conventions of the International Labour Organisation". General Secretary of the Ceylon Federation of Trade Union D.W.Subasinghe yesterday commended the UPFA first budget as a historic one as it is the first home grown budget prepared without the clutches of the IMF and the World Bank. Subasinghe noted that the Government servants who were expecting a relief for a long time immensely benefited from this budget as they were given an insurance, housing loan and a pay hike. "But private sector employees did not receive anything. If the oil price goes up again that will increase the cost of living heaping burden on the working class. We are planning to negotiate and increase the minimum wages of the Wages Board", he said. It is also commendable to give housing loans at concessionary rates for expatriates to build a house of their own, he concluded. General Secretary of the CMU Bala Tampoe said that it is useless if the Government prints money and then give the pay hike. There are 6.5 million people in the working class. Among them only 0.5 million are the Government servants. If the Government pay the increased pay hike by printing money will reduce the real value of money, not only affecting the government servants but also the entire six million in the working class. Majority of the workers in the private sector are earning between Rs.4000 to Rs.6000 only. They should be given a pay hike to cope up with the cost of living, he added. General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Nidahas Sevaka Sangamaya Leslie Devendra said overall it was a good budget. He said "We are not 100% happy of the pay hike but thank the Government for increase salaries. In addition, the Government has taken many positive steps from the Budget to take the country forward". Devendra noted that when giving jobs to unemployed youth they should be employed productively. Otherwise, they will be a burden on the economy. Increasing the working hours will not be advisable because the overheads of the Government institutions such as telephone, electricity and water bills will also increase. What the Government should do is not to increase the working hours but increase the productivity of the Government servants. General Secretary of the Ceylon Federation of Labour S.Siriwardane described the budget as a pleasing budget for the working class. He said that the common man had received many benefits more than any other budget in the past. In addition, poor man was provided a VAT cut on the essential items is commendable. Patron of the United Federation of Labour Dr.Vickramabahu Karunaratne said that the first budget of the UPFA shows that the Finance Minister has struggled to work within the limits placed by the JVP. But due to the shortcomings in the peace process, the Government failed to mobilise foreign funds. He said that Dr. Amunugama has produced a social populist budget. What else could we expect from a classical bourgeoisie liberal working under the dictates of Wimal Weerawansa the leader of the Desha Hithesi Peramuna. He said that the biggest failure of the budget is that the working class not only expected a pay hike but also expected a regulatory mechanism to control the prices of essential goods.

  16. 11/20   And finally: Frank Fitzgibbon: Celtic tiger struck down in prime by gloom merchants
    The Sunday Times, UK
    The nice, warm feeling generated by The Economist magazine’s statement that Ireland has “the best quality of life” of any country in the world lasted only as long as it took for Richard Douthwaite’s latest exercise in gloom and doom to land on our desks. When The Economist looked at income per capita, life expectancy, political freedom and stability, family and community life, climate, gender equality and other factors, it decided Ireland is the place to be. “Ireland comes top of the league because it successfully combines some of the most desirable factors, such as low unemployment and political liberties, with the preservation of certain cosier factors, such as stable family and community life,” The Economist concludes: “Britain, on the other hand, mixes high income per head with high levels of social and family breakdown.” Poor old Britain. But what, on the face of it, seems great news for the Irish may surprise those few hundred thousand citizens who have dug deep into their financial resources to buy overseas properties as they plan their eventual escape route from exorbitant prices, miserable weather and grinding traffic. Douthwaite, however, is an economist with an alternative take on life, and his findings will be even more of a shock. While this newspaper has spent the past few years chronicling the country’s record growth, historic employment levels and massive increase in wealth, Douthwaite and friends, fully paid-up subscribers to the glass half-empty school of economics, have refused to buy into the story, preferring instead to concentrate on the Celtic tiger’s rotten underbelly.
    According to their new book, Growth — the Celtic Cancer, Ireland’s economic miracle has coincided with increased levels of stress, longer working hours, more depressive disorders, an increase in life dissatisfaction, increased poverty among old people and children, more alcohol consumption, more drug use, more obesity, more criminal offences, more homelessness and . . . wait for it . . . more underweight babies. “Very few economists seem to appreciate that growth is not necessarily a good thing because it can be uneconomic as well as economic,” writes John Jopling in the introduction. An ideal Christmas present for someone who needs cheering up....

  17. 11/20   Grass-roots comments on Budget 2005
    Sunday Observer, Sri Lanka
    by Ranga Jayasuriya
    The public view the Budget proposals as pro-poor. Small scale businessmen in the town believe the increased purchasing power of the consumer due to the increase of public servants' salary and reduction of VAT in essential items will trickle down to them, revitalising small businesses. Samanthi Perera, an employee of the Import Development Board said she was satisfied with the proposed salary increase, which amounts to 40 per cent, of which 2,500 rupees will be given from next month. "But, the extra working hour is a problem" she said. She welcomed the reduction of VAT from essential goods, adding:"People were living with an enormous burden, this will give them some relief." Describing the budget as a "Robin Hood budget", Ranjith Kulasinghe who runs a shop selling electrical goods in Pettah, welcomed the reduction of VAT on essential commodities, at the cost of increased VAT on luxury items.This is a poor man's budget. There is nothing wrong in giving to the poor, what is taken from the rich," he said Kulasinghe said he was in agreement with the budget proposals, even though the increase of VAT on electrical items would have a direct impact on his business. But there are also dissenting voices. Azlan, who also runs a electrical goods shop, feared the increased VAT would further decline his business, already affected by the depreciation of the rupee against the US dollar. Sunil Jayantha, a three wheeler driver near the Fort Railway Station believed that "the budget would do good to the poor". He welcomed the VAT relief for lease payments for three wheelers. He said the budget had made a genuine effort to help the poor and lower class, but was doubtful whether these promises would be fulfilled. "We have to be on alert," he said. T. G. Sumanasiri, a king coconut seller opposite the Fort Railway station, was however not moved. "All benefits go to public servants, we, those who etch the day's living, got nothing," he said. Dissanayake, who runs a fruit stall in the Manning Market complained that the reduction of VAT on essential commodities had not yet trickled down tothe consumer since the wholesale seller was still keeping it. He said during the past few months his business plummeted as the soaring cost of living reduced the purchasing power of consumers. With Budget having reduced the prices of essential commodities, he expressed hopes that, his business would pick up, people would buy more fruits. A retail seller in the Manning Market, M.I.M.Nizar contemplated that it would take a week for consumers to benefit from the reduction of VAT on essential commodities. "The prices of some goods have already come down. The wholesale price of one Kilo of dhal has reduced from 68 rupees to 61. price of the other commodities will also come down in the coming days," he said. Chamath Subasinghe, a shop keeper in Pettah charged that while increasing the salary of public servants, the government had caught up on it, by increasing the working hours. "This is an added exploitation," he said. Two soldiers, Corporal Abeyratne and Lance Corporal Mohan had a different opinion. "The extra-hour is justifiable given the amount of salary increase" they said, adding "after all we got to work more, if this country is to move forward".

  18. 11/20   Son of Gough and disciples lost in wilderness
    By Michelle Grattan, Federal Politics via The Age, Australia
    Labor is like a dysfunctional family in continuous therapy. Caucus had another post-mortem on Friday - and it only got halfway through. The national executive will have its agony session on Tuesday. In Caucus, one MP beat up on new shadow treasurer Wayne Swan over his campaign line that the $600 family payment was "not real". Caucus arm-wrestled about wording during the debate on forests policy. And the party's spokeswoman, briefing the media after the meeting, got into a bog about how much of Medicare Gold was being retained. This is because Labor is trying to unshackle itself from failed election policies without leaving itself in a policy vacuum. After this purging session, Mark Latham went off to a Fabian Society dinner in Melbourne to elaborate on a theme he began in Tasmania last month - how Labor must pursue the "new middle class". Latham says he's determined to broaden Labor's base and appeal. (Let's not be cynical and ask, What was this year about, if not that?) "We will not become a niche party, a loose collection of interest groups and single-issue campaigners. Not on my watch," he said firmly. He identifies the "two fastest-growing classes" as the middle class and the underclass, with the "conventional working class" in decline. "The new middle class is here to stay, with its army of contractors, consultants, franchisees and entrepreneurs." They're the face of the decentralised economy "where flexible niche production has replaced the organising principles of mass production". These changes mean Labor must base its economic strategies on the principles of "flexibility, enterprise and upward mobility". Its policies must reward the middle class's effort and enterprise, while also helping those in the underclass get out of their predicament. Latham is trying to stretch into the Liberals' constituency, just as Howard penetrated into Labor's." "We need to foster creativity and entrepreneurship in all parts of society, from the classroom to the boardroom, and celebrate the virtues of this approach." (Can we hear John Howard saying, "Hey, aren't you stealing my line?") Perhaps the "new middle class" is, politically, Latham's version of "Howard's battlers". But they are not the same people. Howard's battlers included mostly wage earners and a lot of blue-collar workers. Grahame Morris as a Howard adviser helped craft the 1996 "battler" strategy. "They were mostly PAYE taxpayers, with kids and usually two parents at work. They mainly lived in the rings around the metropolitan areas and they were battling with mortgages. "A lot of them were blue-singlet voters." They also included people "who believed in standards and discipline" and were reacting against the perceived "political correctness" of the Keating years - "blokes who'd speak their mind in the front bar". Morris says the group to which Latham refers is "a tick up" from the Howard battlers. Latham is trying to stretch into the Liberals' constituency, just as Howard penetrated into Labor's. But Morris (now a consultant, and still very close to Howard) says the contractor group Latham is targeting "is a tough ask". These people "are small business - that's close enough to the heartland of the Liberals. That market is like the Coalition targeting the junior officials of the trade union movement." Social researcher Irving Saulwick is harsher. Latham's pitch to this new middle class "doesn't ring true", Saulwick says. It seems "so manufactured and artificial and almost denigrating of other people who had in the past looked to the Labor Party. It sounds contrived, as though they are flaying around and trying to work out what their market is. And using the language of marketeers. It's a pseudo-clinical approach. If that's the depth of his thinking, he's got a lot more to do." There's plenty of advice (welcome or not) on the way for Latham and Labor in a coming pamphlet in the Blue Book series published by the Fabians and Arena magazine. It's bluntly named "After the Deluge?". As Latham bolts off after the contractors, La Trobe University political scientist Judy Brett warns that "coalition building" is the only sensible way for Labor to go. Electoral victory depends more and more on this, given "a volatile and loosely anchored electorate". A party needs to be able to shore up "this batch of votes on the basis of a life-stage hip-pocket nerve hand-out, that (batch) on the basis of local concerns over a new freeway". Latham concentrated too much on the "middle" at the election, in the process alienating its traditional base, Brett writes. Labor needed to win not the "middle" but "the majority". "And in building majorities one needs, loosely speaking, a majority in a majority of groups. "Latham's concentration on the middle was a misguided misreading of the Australian political landscape, which the more politically canny Liberals would never have made. You shore up your core support and you seek new supporters. You do not sacrifice the one for the other." The Fabians hark back to Gough Whitlam as Labor icon - Friday's dinner remembered "the dismissal". Latham, who worked for Whitlam, has a special attachment. But Monash University's Nick Economou, has a tough message.Voters in outer suburban marginal seats, hyper-sensitive about "good governance", tend to associate Labor with the Whitlam and Keating styles - which they link to unstable government and poor economic management - rather than the more cautious Hawke approach. "The next generation of Labor leaders will have to be weaned off the Whitlam legend," he writes. (Economou clarified yesterday that he sees Latham as the "next generation" but thinks he has aligned himself too closely with Whitlam to ever be able to be seen outside that tradition "and that's a problem". More generally, "one of the problems with the Labor Party is that it has too many romantics".) Another contributor, Evan Thornley, represents the entrepreneurial spirit that Latham extols. He is co-founder of LookSmart, a highly successful web-search company founded in Australia and now based in the US. He recently bought the left-oriented Pluto Press. In his Blue Book piece he exhorts Labor to "see economic management not as an occupational hazard but as a primary responsibility and a passion". More interesting was his call a year ago for the ALP to build a new business constituency. Labor should take sides with small businesses and exporters "to create the competition that promotes export success", and with small shareholders "to clip the wings of the managerial class by attacking self-serving executive compensation and poor corporate governance". "By aligning our interests with a large number of business participants (small business, exporters, small shareholders) in addition to our traditional constituency of workers and their unions, we can tackle traditional Labor issues - employment, wages, prices and retirement income - in new ways," he wrote in Challenge, a Labor publication. Such an embrace would not be without difficulties, Thornley conceded. Many export industries are environmental offenders, while there are mixed relations between small business and unions. In contrast, Christopher Scanlon, of RMIT's Globalism Institute and co-editor of Arena, argues that Labor, by trying to put questions ofeconomic management beyond politics, stymies the electorate's appetite for a Labor agenda. Modern Labor politicians mostly regard the market economy as "a complex machine for generating surpluses" that can be used for Labor's programs, he writes. So when the Menzies government promoted home ownership it did more than create home-owners - it also created a constituency wary of adventurous, left-of-centre governments. The Hawke-Keating deregulation of the economy, he argues, has made life insecure for many people, so that many of Labor's core supporters "now find it almost impossible to contemplate a progressive reform agenda". Scanlon would like to see Labor "politicising the economy" again, including highlighting the failures of privatisation, the drawbacks of increased working hours and casualisation of the workforce, and the market-led destruction of public infrastructure such as universities. It's a prescription way too radical for Latham or any other candidate for Labor leader. But it does point us to a fundamental problem for Latham and modern Labor. The ALP can't differentiate itself on economic grounds, because the global economy determines the sort of economic policy any Australian government can pursue. Yet, however orthodox it is, it is difficult for Labor, operating from opposition and in good economic times, to sell itself as a competent economic manager. But unless it can do that, the swinging voters are too nervous to embrace a change that they feel at best would only have a marginal upside for their lives and could have severe risks for them. No wonder Tuesday's national executive meeting will spend much of its time talking about polling and advertising. The truth is that just now the question of how Labor can cast itself to look simultaneously responsible and different is nearly impossible to answer. Latham might see an answer in the contractors and franchisers, but at best they can only be a partial one, and at worst they could be a quarry beyond capture or one that demands things at odds with what other constituencies want.

  19. 11/20   Early retirement waning, moonlighting on the rise - Statistics show more than one in five Canadians put in an average of 8.5 overtime hours in a given week
    The Globe and Mail, Canada, Saturday, November 20, 2004 - Page B11
    By VIRGINIA GALT Feeling busy? You're not alone. Almost 40% of full-time students juggle work and studies, and 14% of employed Canadians do unpaid "catch-up work" at home on a regular basis. The early retirement trend is reversing and moonlighting is up. Clearly, the age of leisure is not upon us yet, according to a snapshot of the Canadian labour force released by Statistics Canada this week. More than one in five Canadians reported that they put in an average of 8.5 overtime hours in a given week, as measured by Statscan in 2003. And between 1976 and 2003, the number of Canadians working at two or more jobs almost quadrupled - to 787,000 from 208,000 - with more women moonlighting than men. But there is a downside to all this industriousness: The absenteeism rate among full-time employees has climbed to an average of nine workdays in 2003 for reasons of illness, disability or other personal or family demands, up from 7.3 days in 1997. "Several factors account for the rising trend: notably, the aging of the work force; the growing share of women in the work force, especially mothers with young children; high stress among workers; and the increasing prevalence of sick and family-related leave at the workplace," Statscan reported in its comprehensive study, The Canadian Labour Market at a Glance. Workdays missed because of illness and disability increase with age, from an average of 5.2 days for those aged 15 to 24, to 10.5 days for full-time employees aged 55 and over, according to the study. Until recently, employees were retiring earlier than in the past, "leading to concerns about labour shortages as the oldest baby boomers began entering their late 50s," the Statscan report said. In 2003, however, "the median age of retirement for both sexes reversed direction, rising significantly for men (to 63.3 years from 61.4) and marginally for women (to 60.4 years from 60.1). "The reversal seen in 2003 may indicate the beginning of a new trend, the result of rising participation rates among older men and women, and an increasing number of Canadians who are approaching the traditional retirement age of 65 and [are] choosing to remain in the labour market," the report said. Meanwhile, the proportion of full-time students who also work has risen to 39%, "whether by necessity, desire to make more money or to gain work experience." In 2003, more than half of those working students were employed as sales clerks or cashiers, food counter and kitchen helpers, clerical workers, service station attendants and food and beverage servers. While the extra income might be nice, Statscan added, it pays to stay in school: "The greater one's education, the better the chances of finding work. For example, in 2003, among people aged 25 to 64, employment rates for high-school graduates were 75.3%, compared with 81.6% for university graduates." In the past three decades, the employment rate for women has risen substantially - with 57.2% of all working-age women now employed, compared with 67.7% of working-age men - a reflection, perhaps, of enhanced maternity-leave provisions and the high representation of women in university degree programs. The study found that higher levels of education are generally associated with higher wages. In 2003, all Canadians earned, on average, $18.06 an hour before taxes and other deductions, while those with postgraduate degrees earned an average of $27.74. However, the pay gap between men and women persists at all educational levels. Women with a bachelor's degree earned 86 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2003, while women with an educational level of Grade 8 or less earned 71 cents for every dollar earned by men [at that level]." On average, female employees earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2003, up only marginally from the 81 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2001. More women than men opt for part-time work, Statscan found, but men are more likely than women to report flexible working hours - with 37% of men working flex-time, compared with 33% of women. There were about 15.7 million employed Canadians in 2003.

  20. 11/20   Japanese women no longer sad to be single - A new generation thinks you can have more fun and a better life without the burden of a husband
    AP via Taipei Times, Taiwan, Sunday, Nov 21, 2004, Page 9
    TOKYO - No matter how independent, fashionable or popular she may be, Japan's unwed woman has long been the eternal loser - lonesome during the holidays, dreaming of the child she never had, dreading the inevitable question at family gatherings: "Aren't you married yet?" But in unprecedented numbers, Japanese women are answering that question with a firm "No" - and trying to console other women about how to deal with their plight. "Women these days aren't going to marry just anybody," declared Junko Sakai, whose recent book Howl of the Loser Dogs sold more than 300,000 copies by telling Japan's single women how to survive the backlash of staying single. Marriage has certainly lost some of its allure for Japanese women - and that has meant changes for Japanese society and business. Over the past decade, the portion of Japanese women aged 25 to 29 who never married has surged from 40% to 54%. The percentage for women aged 30-34 has increased from 14% to 27%, according to government statistics. In the United States, 40% of women from 25 to 29 are single, and 23% of women from 30 to 34. The trend to stay unmarried is more pronounced in England, at 65% in the 25-29 age group, although that sinks to 39% for 30-34. Japanese men are also delaying marriage these days, but often they cite economic reasons: they have trouble finding a job that gives them the stability they need for married life, or they're more hesitant to assume the responsibilities of family. Many Japanese women, however, see a single major reason for their growing distaste of marriage: men who expect their wives to cheerfully surrender their jobs or juggle a career while single-handedly serving their husbands and caring for the kids. "It's not that we're set on being single. We're thirsting for a good marriage, but we can't find the right guy," Sakai, a single 38-year-old, said in a recent interview in Tokyo. "Men haven't changed their old mind-set. Women have grown too powerful for them." The situation is a dramatic reversal of the strong tradition in Japan that praises early marriage and criticizes women who delay marriage as unattractive and selfish. In the 1980s, a woman who hadn't found a husband by the time she was 25 was dismissed as "Christmas cake," a reference to the cake Japanese eat on Dec. 25 - or throw away as worthless on the 26th. Reflecting the trend toward later marriages these days, attention has focused on single women who hit their 31st birthday without a husband. Such women are now known as "New Year's Eve noodles," referring to the tradition of eating noodles that night. The fading attraction of marriage is having a profound impact on public policy in Japan, where the government is worried that the plunging birthrate will mean labor shortages in the future and a drop in support for the growing ranks of the elderly. The number of children a woman now has is at an average of 1.29 - a record low for Japan and far short of the 2.01 average in the United States, 1.90 in France and 1.63 in England. Chikako Ogura, professor of gender studies at Waseda University in Tokyo, doesn't see much hope in the proposals the government has been pushing to reverse the trend, such as adding child-care facilities and prodding employers to grant maternity leave. The critical problem is that people aren't getting married at all. Young women have jobs and reject a marriage that won't deliver a more comfortable life, she says. The emerging rift between the sexes reflects a widening gap between the economic realities of working women and the expectations of womanhood rooted in this nation's culture, many of which Japanese women still feel they must answer. "Women are looking for a marital partner who'll allow them to do whatever they want. They want a marriage that's perfect, economically and mentally. There aren't that many men who can offer that," Ogura said. "And they're all taken." In the old days, marriages were often arranged by families, but such practices are now generally seen as outdated and undesirable. However, no widely accepted alternative has emerged for younger people to meet the opposite sex. Once in marriage, women are finding that husbands can't be counted on tohelp out with cooking or laundry. Government studies show men spend on average less than 10 minutes a day on housework while working women put in two hours. Frances Rosenbluth, professor of political science at Yale University, says the system of lifetime employment at Japanese companies, in which loyalty and long hours are demanded in exchange for job stability, is the main reason women have such a hard time balancing motherhood and career. In a society that assumes companies hire workers for life, women, who tend to drop out of the labor market for pregnancy and child-rearing, suffer a significant stigma and add huge costs to employers. "Women are not satisfied with the old way, but they don't have a new way. They're stuck. The way they cope with that is by at least having some career before getting married. They figure once they get married, it's going to be all over," she said. The one segment responding to the growing singles trend are businesses, such as hotels and health spas. Previously, single women were shunned by the service industry as tightwads. Although the trend is decreasing, traditional-style Japanese hotels didn't even allow women traveling alone to spend the night, fearing they were looking for a place to commit suicide - so alien was the idea of an independent woman enjoying leisure. Nowadays, many single women feel increasingly free to make the decision to marry on their own, rather than simply caving in to social pressure, said Etsuko Moriyama...who is divorced. "Like a child, a marriage is like a [mixed] blessing," said Moriyama, an editor who worked on Sakai's book. "Maybe I'll get married, maybe I won't."

  21. 11/20   Imposter feeling strikes many pros
    By Hap LeCrone, Cox News Service via Indianapolis Star, IN
    A highly successful attorney and partner in his firm is sure he is not qualified for his profession. "I feel certain that the day will come when I will lose a big case in court and my whole career will begin to unravel. My colleagues, the judges and the rest of my clients will all find out that I have been 'winging it' much of the time. "I never really feel prepared for my cases and instead fly by the seat of my pants most of the time. When people who don't know me ask what I do, I have a hard time looking them straight in the eyes and saying, 'I am an attorney.' " After being notified that she had been elected Physician of the Year, the anxiety of a capable doctor rose to the point that she had to leave the room where her colleagues had gathered to congratulate her. Often driven to the point of exhaustion, she worked long hours and allowed herself no leisure time or relationships outside of work. She thought her admission to medical school, a coveted residency and a successful practice were all due to some series of complicated mistakes. She was convinced that even her unrelenting work and attention to detail would fail in the end, as sooner or later she would make an error that would reveal the fact that she possessed only ordinary skills. The psychological difficulty shared by these people is known as the imposter phenomenon. The anxieties they suffer stem from their secret belief that they have been overestimated by those around them. Their perfectionism keeps them from believing that they are successful and worthy of recognition. The imposter phenomena is genderless, and it strikes successful people in any career or endeavor. These people fear exposure of a fraud that they imagine they are perpetrating on others. The more success they feel, the greater the anxiety they experience. Their "drive" in an attempt to overcome this fear can create havoc for co-workers, friends and family. Various forms of therapy may be helpful in treating this problem. The first step is for the sufferer to recognize the problem and seek help. A sense of relief often occurs from simply knowing that many successful people are plagued by the imposter phenomena.
    Hap LeCrone is clinical psychologist in Waco, Texas.

  22. 11/21   Global testing
    LA Canyon News, CA
    Posted by Henry Meyerding on Nov 21, 2004, 20:32
    In the recent political campaign, one of the candidates made a big mistake in referring to a "global test" of policies he would use to judge the policies of his administration. Well, Americans have always been easily upset by the notion that anyone, other than their own elected representatives, would tell them what to do. Least ways, they feel that way when some other government is doing the talking. They don't seem to mind at all when it is some foreign billionaire, or multinational corporation, spending untold millions on "lobbying" our government or finding intricate, barely legal ways to support political parties. But to my mind, there is not anything worthwhile in this prejudice against submitting your conduct or the conduct of your government to comparison with other nations. We just don't do it much. We don't do it much because we don't want to know that we do not compare favorably with other nations in any way. We don't want to know that we have the longest legal work week of any industrialized nation. We don't want to know that more than 20 other nations, including Portugal, have lower infant mortality than we do. We especially do not want to hear that other nations have tougher, more protective labor laws than we do, or that other nations take environmental pollution, workplace safety, and consumer protection much more seriously than our government does. When all the other industrialized nations of the world were ready to sign the Kyoto Accords, there were only two hold-outs: Russia, because they were struggling to keep their heads above water even without trying to solve an expensive and difficult problem like global warming, and us. I'll leave you to guess why we didn't. It has always seemed crazy to me that American people seem so indifferent to their own welfare. Why wouldn't you want the toughest rules on workplace safety of any nation? The difference in financial terms between implementing real safety improvements and paying disability and insurance claims is negligible. Even if we don't work in a directly affected job, what about our kids? What about other people's kids? Industry pundits will tell you that keeping people safe and uninjured is too expensive and non-competitive. Well, so it is, as compared to slave labor. That is why so many of our goodjobs have been going overseas. We subsidize slave labor all over the world and then wonder why people don't like us as much as they used to. If our nation looked seriously at other countries and saw what they were doing not as well, and helped them to do it better, and saw where they were doing it better, and accepted their help, we would be a much better country. We wouldn't be so afraid of other people, for one thing. For another, we'd have some weight to our argument that we were doing a pretty good job of things because we'd be comparing ourselves with somebody else. Sure, we get lots of comparisons, but only get told about things we're best at or have more of. Well, in Portugal, they have fewer refrigerators and TVs per capita, but more of their babies live long enough to go to elementary school. Which is more important? What are we afraid of? That somebody else should have had a good idea we didn't give them? When we test our policies and proposed legislation against the jury of world opinion, we ought to take another really good long look at those policies and laws if they run 180 degrees away from the consensus. The court of world opinion thinks chopping people's hands off for stealing is too harsh. The court of world opinion thinks women should be allowed to vote. The court of world opinion says that access to decent minimal health care should not be out of the reach of most of the people. Now, there may be some things the court of world opinion has gotten wrong, but that's OK. There are times when you feel that you're right, even when most folks thing otherwise. Just because you consult with other people, does not mean that you'll do what they say. People who won't even ask other people what they think of an idea are usually pretty short on ideas.

  23. 11/21   Shortage fear as GPs cut hours
    NEWS.com.au, Australia
    By LAURA ANDERSON & LISA ALLISON
    South Australia's medical labour force increasingly is becoming the domain of women, who want to work fewer hours, a new report shows. The South Australian Medical Labour Force 2003 report, compiled by the Department of Health, shows the average number of weekly hours worked by women doctors fell to 34.7 last year. For men doctors, the average was 45.5. "Women GPs [general practitioners] are working in the centre of Adelaide, not in the outer north or south, and they are working part-time," Health Department clinical services executive director Brendon Kearney said. He said a finding 70.8% of interns in 2003 were women was a worrying trend. "The medical student intake in Adelaide was 73% female (this year) and in terms of hours for males and females, that is going to impact," he said. "Obviously, the number of services is going to increase and, with people working less hours, more people are going to be needed. "The only way you can tackle it is to increase the numbers (of places) across Australia." AMA SA president Dr William Heddle said if mountains of paperwork doctors had to complete for state and federal governments were slashed, working hours spent with patients would get a major boost. "We wouldn't have GPs spending half their time doing paperwork," Dr Heddle, a cardiologist, said. With an increase in the number of medical graduates nationally through increases in medical school places, more graduates would opt to stay in SA. More medical students would be South Australians. "What we have to make sure of is that the training options we have here are better than in other parts of Australia and the (medical) colleges and the government are awareness of this," Dr Heddle said. The SA based Australian Medical Students Association president Dr Matt Hutchinson said the increasing numbers of women entering medicine would produce big benefits in terms of offering patients, particularly women, a choice of men or women doctors.

  24. 11/21   Salinas prepares to shut libraries, a first in state
    San Jose Mercury News, CA
    By David L. Beck
    Salinas, whose famous son John Steinbeck once said, "I guess there are never enough books" and whose main library - named for Steinbeck - flies a banner reading "Salinas celebrates literacy," is about to become the first city in California to shut down its libraries. Barring an unexpected financial windfall from John Steinbeck-lovers around the world or the willingness of officials to sacrifice police officers and firefighters and shutter the city's largest community center and concert hall, all three libraries - the downtown Steinbeck Library, the tiny El Gabilan branch on the north side and the Cesar Chavez branch on the south side - will close before July 1. These are hard times for public libraries across California. Ever since the state began diverting property taxes from local to state use in the early 1990s, libraries have had to rely on the kindness of friends. In 1996, Santa Cruz city and county voters added a quarter-cent sales tax that enabled the library system to restore seven-day-a-week service. This year, San Jose voters agreed to continue the parcel tax that supports that system.
    Reduced services
    Meanwhile, the Santa Clara County system has been cutting hours and raising overdue fines, while in Alameda County the cities of Dublin, Newark and Union City ponied up $904,000 in September to keep branch libraries in those cities open longer. But even with its sales tax, the Santa Cruz system had to close for a week during spring break 2004 to save money. Still, the predicament in Salinas is unique. "No other municipality in California has ever closed an operating library system," said Robert McElroy, director of the Monterey County Free Libraries, "and this is not a pleasant precedent." Officials at the American Library Association could come up with only one comparable situation: In Buffalo and surrounding Erie County, N.Y., a similar budget crisis has led legislators to consider cuts that threaten the entire 52-branch system, including the main library in Buffalo. A compromise that will leave at least some branches open is considered likely, however. Salinas is one of four cities in Monterey County running separate library systems. But compared with the others - Monterey, Carmel and Pacific Grove - it is the largest, with a population of about 155,000, and the poorest.
    Mix of problems
    Administrative manager Jan Neal, who is running the library system after the full-time director's position was eliminated, blamed a combination of state raids on local budgets; a poor economy; dramatic increases in contractual benefits and payments to the state public employee retirement system; and a county government that, facing its own problems, has socked Salinas with bills for services - $1.2 million in jail booking fees, for example - it used to provide gratis. The result is that after cutting 52 full-time jobs and $8.3 million from this year's budget, in a process that officials say has involved a year and a half of public meetings and audits, Salinas still found itself looking at a fiscal year 2005-06 budget that was $9.2 million in the red. The city has halted work on such things as a new cable TV contract, suspended staff training, eliminated school crossing guards, slashed its budget for cleaning parks and trimming trees. The highway sign at the edge of town still reads, "Pop. 140,000"; new signs cost money. "This council has done a hell of a lot to deal with this budget," said an exasperated Vice Mayor Jyl Lutes after members of the public accused the council of not being "creative" or showing "leadership." "It's not like we were going to go to our budget and find $7 million. It ain't there." After Sept. 21, when the city council approved $7 million in further cuts, including the $2.85 million it costs to run the libraries, voters were given a chance to halt the bleeding. Three tax measures, including a half-cent sales tax, went on the ballot. All were general-fund-boosters needing only a simple majority to pass. If all three passed, City Manager Dave Mora said, the last round of cuts could be dropped. Only one passed, an increase in business license fees that will bring the city an estimated $1.2 million. The big one, the sales tax, lost by about 1,000 votes. And the third, called Measure B, lost by a 2-1 ratio even though it was an increase in the utility tax cap that only 61 large businesses would have paid. "The people just were clueless!" fumed Lynne Steele, head of the Friends of the Library. Others put it more diplomatically, using words like "confused" and "overwhelmed." "The ballot was lengthy. We were on the very end of the ballot, back of the last side, not a favorable position," said Marlys Maher, head of an advisory Library Commission. "We did not have the full attention of the voters, shall we say." Now, with figurative vultures coming home to roost, attention will be paid. "If they really see the libraries closed - as they will - they'll realize it's for real."
    Here's what happens next:
    € The Friends of the Library planned a brainstorming session Saturday.
    € The city council put off final cuts until Dec. 14, to give a "blue ribbon committee" time to gather ideas for raising money or altering the system. Mayor Anna Caballero, for example, suggested using the libraries as research and homework centers that don't allow books to circulate. But she warned that nickel-and-dime fundraisers - cupcake sales, she called them - however welcome, will not be sufficient.
    € The California League of Cities and Towns is offering to advance struggling communities some money due them from the state, which for Salinas would come to about $2.4 million. Plugging that money into the next fiscal year's budget could defer closing at least one library for a year - but then what? City Manager Mora has urged them not to use a one-time fix like this on a systemic problem; council members may be unable to resist when they reconsider the budget Dec. 14.
    € Library supporters may try for a special taxing district, which would require a two-thirds vote to pass.
    € The city will ask those 61 big companies to pay the extra utility tax anyway - voluntarily and temporarily.
    € And there is talk of merging the Salinas system with the county system. "Of course, we'd have to bring money," said Maher. "They can't take any charity cases."
    € Layoff notices will go out in January to 71 city workers, many of them at the library. "I'll be one of them," said Neal.
    No decisions have been announced regarding the order in which the three libraries would close, or when, or what will be done with the buildings and the collections. "The council would really want to hold onto the facilities and collections for some period of time before the drastic decision is made to abandon them altogether," said Mora.
    Contact David L. Beck at dbeck@mercurynews.com or at (831) 423-0960

  25. 11/21   Number of air traffic controllers dwindling - 7,000 expected to retire by 2012, which could strain area airports
    By Tim Darragh, Allentown Morning Call, PA
    America's air traffic controllers, already working a notoriously stressful job, are increasingly undermanned and may be asked to work even more hours on duty to ease the employment crunch.
    [more accurately, the training crunch due to CEO-greed-induced budget cuts.]
    'Shortages' [our quotes] of air traffic controllers afflict airports all over the United States, including Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley International airports. The staffing squeeze comes as millions of Americans gear up for one of the busiest travel seasons of the year. The supply of controllers probably will continue to shrink, leading to growing travel delays or, at worst, greater danger in the skies as a wave of controllers hired in the mid-1980s reaches mandatory retirement. "There's no break," said Don Chapman, a representative of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in Philadelphia, where a new, faster radar system cannot be used effectively because of the staffing shortage. "There's no end in sight. It's creating burnout." The controller shortage has its roots in the early days of Ronald Reagan's presidency. In 1981, the federal government fired thousands of illegally striking air traffic controllers, and a directive signed by Reagan barred them from being rehired. As a result, the FAA was forced to hire thousands of new controllers in a short period. Many of those controllers, brought on largely en masse, now or will soon be eligible for retirement. Chapman said the controller shortage does not mean that America's airways are unsafe. Indeed, fatal airliner crashes are down worldwide, and in the United States, aviation accidents have been on a downward trend for more than 40 years. However, a crew of controllers that is understaffed or overworked is more susceptible to mistakes that could lead to catastrophe. For instance, the National Transportation Safety Board earlier this month revealed that a close call between an Asiana Airlines 747 jumbo jet and a Southwest Airlines 737 jet in Los Angeles was the result of controller error. Federal Aviation Administration officials confirm that air traffic controller staffing needs attention. FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey recently testified that the agency will have to intensify and streamline training to get more new controllers into the work force. The FAA has adopted some initiatives, but even when controllers are hired, it takes up to four years for them to become fully certified. More important, however, the FAA has yet to produce a comprehensive hiring plan, despite being warned two years ago that between 2002 and 2012, about 7,000 controllers would retire. Furthermore, the Bush administration's 2005 budget also does not seek money to hire additional controllers.
    Severe shortage in Philly
    Air traffic controllers are the traffic cops of the skies. More than 15,000 controllers nationwide direct air traffic and determine when aircraft are permitted to depart and land at major airports. They also oversee traffic at airfields that don't have manned towers. In addition, controllers work at facilities between airports, managing the traffic in their airspace and providing weather information and suggested routes to pilots. Reduce the number of cops, and at best, the system bogs down. At Lehigh Valley International Airport, the FAA, which employs the vast majority of the nation's air traffic controllers, has authorized a work force of 30 controllers and three supervisors. Twenty-six controllers and two supervisors work at the airport. The shortage is more severe in Philadelphia, where only 88 of 109 controller positions are filled - a shortfall of nearly 20%. Adding to the stress is that more than 20 of those controllers are still working on their full certification. After controllers are approved to direct air traffic, they still need two to four years of on-the-job training. So certified controllers not only must keep their eyes on the skies, but they also are responsible for training newcomers. Sometimes that lengthy and expensive training goes for naught. One supervisory trainee recently "washed out" after two years of study, said Bill Morley, president of the controllers association at LVIA. "It can be a long haul," he said.
    'Totally exhausting'
    Morley said controllers have three radar scopes to watch the skies over LVIA. But, he said, staffing rarely permits them to operate more than two at a time. Morley said the Lehigh Valley job is complicated by the fact that pilots in training coming from New York and Philadelphia airports frequently enter the region's airspace. "On a weekend, it's - totally exhausting," Morley said. "Allentown is underrated as far as its difficulty" is concerned. The FAA would not allow a reporter to observe operations at the tower, said air traffic Manager Joe Maaser. FAA spokesmen confirmed the staffing shortages at the airports. George Doughty, executive director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, which operates LVIA, said he was unaware of any problems with controllers at the airport. "If it was something that thought would affect us, someone would havebeen talking to me," Doughty said. Philadelphia's staffing prevents air controllers from using their equipment effectively, Chapman said. The airport has a Precision Runway Monitor, a new radar system that is five times faster than conventional radar, but staffing problems prevent controllers from learning the system and using it effectively, he said. "Inefficient use of it would be an understatement," Chapman said. The FAA added duties and territory to the Philadelphia controllers' assignments in 2001 and authorized 30 additional positions to accommodate the extra demands. But only nine controllers were added since then, Chapman said.
    Efforts to stem the shortage
    FAA rules require controllers to retire by age 56. But the pool of potential retirees is much larger, because controllers are eligible to retire after they have 25 years' experience or if they have at least 20 years' experience and reach age 50. More than a third of operational controllers will meet retirement criteria by the 2006 fiscal year, the FAA said. The U.S. Government Accountability Office in June reported that the FAA has yet to implement a comprehensive work force plan, despite being warned two years ago that 7,000 controllers would retire by 2012. Other FAA initiatives to boost controller numbers quickly include raising the retirement age in some cases, reducing the use of sick leave and increasing employees' work hours, Blakey said. She said the FAA next month will report the results of a pilot program looking into increasing the number of hours controllers work at the console and in nonoperational duties. Morley was skeptical, saying controllers are "always" locking horns with the FAA over how much time they should spend directing air traffic. The administration also is looking at redeploying employees, using contract employees and other restructuring steps to address its work force needs. Insufficient numbers also could hurt pilot trainees by forcing controllers to restrict pilots' practice landings, called "touch-and-goes," Morley said. But passengers are most likely to feel the consequences, Morley and Chapman said. "Our job is to ensure safety - and sometimes, the cost of ensuring safety is the traffic moves slower," said Chapman. On the other hand, Morley added, controllers understand the need to move air traffic effectively. "It's in your nature," he said.
    Air traffic on the rise
    While the controller shortage is growing, so also is air traffic. The FAA's Transportation Services Index, a measure of freight and passenger air travel, increased to its highest level in its 14-year history, the agency reported last month. Additionally, forecasts predict that passengers traveling large carriers domestically will increase 3.6% a year and surpass pre-Sept. 11, 2001, levels by 2007. Regional and commuter air travel is expected to grow even faster. Like all domestic airports, LVIA is rebounding from a drop in air travel following the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings. LVIA is on pace to reach 1 million passengers for the year. The only year that occurred was 2000. Those factors mean that, rather than simply replacing departing air traffic controllers, the FAA should be increasing their numbers. The agency estimates that it will need 2,000 additional controller positions across the nation by 2010. The shortage, the union officials said, is not a result of low salaries. Air traffic controllers are paid well - the national average salary, excluding overtime, was $95,700 in 2002, according to federal statistics. However, keeping track of all the aircraft around the airports and beyond - controllers' coverage area is regional, not just at the airport itself - is highly stressful. "It's a great job, we all love the job, but as you get older it gets tougher," said Morley. The staffing problem gets no easier with management, either. According to the Government Accountability Office, in about seven years, 93% of today's supervisors will be eligible to retire.
    timothy.darragh@mcall.com 610-778-2259

  26. 11/21   Balancing acts - Family-friendly Europe offers a model for redefining US workplace policies
    by Maggie Jackson, Boston Globe, G1.
    The flu hits. Your boss nixes a plea for telework and you use your last vacation day taking your Mom to the doctor. Where do you turn for help? Perhaps it's time to look to Europe. Europe is revitalizing economically while offering some of the world's most generous work-family benefits. A growing chorus of social thinkers and researchers is making a persuasive case for emulating European work-family supports - such as guaranteed vacations, paid family leave, high-quality child care - to help beleaguered American parents. "Their programs are economically feasible, politically popular, acceptable to employers, and they produce good outcomes for parents and their children," says Janet Gornick, coauthor of a report comparing US and European work-family policies issued last week by a nonpartisan public policy institute, the New American Foundation. Many people agree that American families are struggling. Child care can be costly and of uneven quality, partly because day-care workers earn an average $8.37 an hour, less than gas station attendants. One-third of employees feel overworked, according to the Families and Work Institute, but flexible and part-time work often carry wage penalties. Meanwhile, many families go it alone, with a patchwork of corporate supports and perhaps a willing relative to help them. All but two industrialized countries - the United States and Australia - offer paid maternity or parental leave for women, according to a study released in June by the Harvard School of Public Health. Twenty-seven countries offer paid paternity leave but the United States does not. But progress is being made. A new California law gives six weeks' partial income during family leave. Most New England states, including Massachusetts, are expected to consider paid leave bills of some kind in 2005. Currently, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act gives Americans who work at firms of 50 employees or more the right to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for new children or tend to serious family illness. Skeptics argue we don't want to imitate a Europe burdened by costly social supports that drag down economies. But a half-dozen European countries, including France and Germany, now rival US productivity output per hour, even while workers put in 150 to 500 fewer hours a year than the average American, according to data released last month by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Meanwhile, Europe's work-family programs have expanded. Offering the most generous European leave and child-care provisions here would cost up to 1.5% of US gross domesitc product, or $150 billion a year, estimates Gornick, an associate professor of political science at City University of New York. Certainly, we can't look to Europe as some kind of utopia. Parents over there also argue over who's cooking dinner, and Dads worry paternity leave will hurt their careers. But we should start listening to thinkers such as Jeremy Rifkin. He argues in his new book, "The European Dream" that Europe, by emphasizing sustainability, quality of life, and collective thinking, is forging the society of the future. "There's another way to live," says Rifkin. Perhaps most importantly, we should take a fresh look at Europe because in many ways we're inching closer to its sense of work-life balance. We'll need to create our own mix of governmental, corporate, and private work-family solutions. But it would be foolish to ignore the success stories beyond our own borders.
    Maggie Jackson's Balancing Acts column appears every other week. She can be reached at maggie.jackson@att.net

  27. 11/21   China's textile boom gears up for competition
    By Peter S. Goodman, The Washington Post via Myrtle Beach Sun News, SC
    In China, the textile boom has been building for a decade. As the local industry began refashioning itself in the 1990s, it experienced what much of the rest of the world now fears: massive layoffs. Between 1997 and 1999, the Chinese textile industry shed more than 1 million jobs as the government dismantled a network of outmoded, state-financed textile and apparel factories and allowed the free market a much greater hand. Executives at Shanghai's Shenda Group Co. have closed 20 factories and fired 50,000 people in the past six years. Reequipped with modern machines and with only 10,000 employees left on the payroll, the company boosted annual sales from $170 million to $415 million. "We can beat any competitors in international markets," said Yao Xiyi, Shenda's general manager. "We're prepared for expansion." The transformation is industry-wide. Rich in labor and raw materials, China has also invested in the full array of textile and apparel operations, allowing it to spin, weave and dye the fabric, cut and stitch the clothing, and manufacture and attach the buttons and zippers. In 2002, China accounted for nearly three-fourths of all worldwide purchases of advanced weaving machines known as shuttle-less looms, according to a recent study by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Brother Industries Ltd., the Japanese sewing machine company, has doubled sales within China every year for the past three and expects to do so again this year. Overall, Chinese textile and garment factories bought $2.4 billion worth of imported machinery over the first half of this year, according to a Chinese trade group. With highways and ports that allow delivery to the United States in as few as 18 days - compared with 28 to 45, for example, for Sri Lanka - the result is an increasingly efficient operation that has pushed up labor productivity and pushed down the cost of its exports by as much as 30% over the past five years, according to Chinese government figures. The potential impact on world trade is demonstrable. In Japan and Australia, two major nations that have no quota restrictions, China has already captured 70% of the textile market. In the United States, quotas were eliminated in 2002 on products such as baby clothes and robes, and China's share of those U.S. imports jumped from 11% to 55% by the end of last year, according to data analyzed by Pietra Rivoli, a trade expert at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. About the same time, China supplanted Mexico as the largest supplier of textiles and apparel reaching the United States, accounting for about 17% of U.S. imports. The end of the quota system is expected to cut the price of Chinese goods even further. Companies currently compete with one another in a widely tolerated black market for shares in China's allotted exports to the United States and Europe. Shanghai Shenda officials, for example, say that they can make a pair of blue jeans for $10 but that the cost climbs to $13 after tacking on the expense of obtaining a share of the export quota. Once the quota limits are lifted next year, that expense will disappear. Countries that are serious about free trade, Chinese officials argue, should welcome the change. The apparel trade has always migrated toward lower-cost producers, and "now it's coming to China," said Gao Yong, vice chairman of a Chinese textile trade group. "This is an economic phenomenon that should not be interfered with for political purposes." With about 18 million employees in the textile industry, the stakes are as significant for China as they are for Sri Lanka and others. The estimated average wage of 68 cents an hour isn't much. But it compares well with the less than 50 cents an hour paid to textile workers in places such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and it has become a main source of support for many rural families. Though wages are higher, China remains cost-competitive because its workers are more productive, which some attribute to the country's new investments and management skill, but also to the fact that employees are forbidden from organizing independent unions and are at the mercy of bosses who often violate overtime and minimum-wage laws. "If China is going to work their people to death, have them work seven days a week, then there's simply no way Sri Lanka can compete," said Peter Wilson, a British textile industry consultant overseeing a training program for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Industry aimed at making domestic factory workers more productive.
    [Sure there is. Either have them work 24/7 or cut their workweeks to raise domestic wages and consumer spending, and bar Chinese sweatshop imports.]
    "In China, the workers have no rights," said Wang Hua, a Chinese garment factory technician who spent several years in plants in southern China and now works at a factory in Sri Lanka. "Here, if the workers are sick, if they have a problem, if they have to take care of a relative, if they get married, the boss allows them to miss work. In China, they have to work no matter what. The boss keeps much greater control." Workers in Chinese factories routinely talk of forced 12-hour shifts with no overtime pay and no days off. Government reports have documented similar abuses and blamed localized labor shortages in some parts of the country on the mistreatment of workers. A Chinese technician now working at a garment factory in Cambodia said labor strikes are a common occurrence in that country. "Here, you have Saturday and Sunday off," said the technician, Ling Li, who came to Cambodia two years ago. "In China, there's no such thing as Sunday. We work every day."

  28. 11/21   BOLI: Santa's not the only one working overtime
    Corvallis Gazette Times, OR
    By the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries [= 'BOLI'??]
    QUESTION: We are in the business of selling holiday items, so this is the beginning of our busiest time of the year. The rest of the year we are able to be pretty flexible about giving employees regular days off and scheduling them to work a consistent number of hours each week.
    Things are already heating up around here and we've had to ask employees to work more hours than usual. Occasionally we even have to ask an employee who works the swing shift (from 3 to 11 p.m.) to come back for the early shift the next morning (7 a.m.). We've started getting complaints from employees saying that we are supposed to give them more time off between work shifts. Some employees flat-out refuse to work overtime beyond their regular scheduled work hours. How much time off do we have to give employees between shifts? Can we demand that employees work overtime hours? Do we have to pay them overtime or some other kind of premium pay when they have to come in on a weekend day, regular day off or work later than their regular schedule on some evenings?
    ANSWER: In general, the law does not require you to provide a specific minimum number of hours of time off between work shifts. You also are not required to pay employees additional compensation when they have to work a day that is not part of their regular schedule or to work longer than a certain regular shift, even if the employee has to work more than eight hours during a single work shift. Employers are required to pay employees time and one-half their regular rate of pay for every hour over 40 hours in a workweek. In other words, until the employee hits 40 hours during the workweek, you have no legal obligation to pay more than the employee's usual hourly rate. You may also require an employee to work overtime or to report to work on a scheduled day off. (There are some exceptions to the general rule. Some laws do set a maximum number of hours that certain types of employees can work per day. These laws include manufacturing employees, some registered nurses, employees in canneries, dryers and packing plants, and minors. You can get more information on these types of employees from BOLI's Web site.) Of course, you must comply with provisions of any applicable union contract regarding overtime scheduling and rates of pay. Your company may also have a policy or past practice of paying a higher rate for work done on certain days (for example, on weekend days) or for work done outside regular business hours. If so, you must continue to follow that pay practice until you provide clear, advance notice to employees that you are discontinuing that kind of pay. You should also keep in mind that when employees have to work longer hours, they may be entitled to more rest and meal breaks than their usual schedule dictates in order to comply with state law. Employees must receive at least a 10-minute paid rest break for every four-hour segment worked or a "major portion" thereof. Major portion means any segment greater than two hours. This is in addition to a 30-minute (or longer) unpaid meal period for every six hours worked. (Check the BOLI Web site for more details on meals and rest breaks and a sample of break schedules for different shifts.) Naturally, employees are not likely to stay motivated or even to stick around if you constantly overwork them or pester them to work extra or unscheduled hours. Premium pay, overtime pay and other bonuses, though not required by law, are incentives that may help take the sting out of back-to-back shifts, longer work hours and other scheduling demands of the holiday season. You should consider hiring more employees if you find your business so shorthanded that you need to work employees extraordinarily long hours more often than the occasional emergency situation. Increasing your workforce may be a less costly solution; more employees working 40 hours or less per week costs less than paying the overtime rate to an undersized work force that is struggling to get it all done. In order to guard against discrimination complaints, you should be careful not to single out the same employees over and over again for unwanted overtime shifts or less desirable work times. The same goes for being conscientious about favorable treatment by continually giving the same employees overtime and extra shift opportunities at the exclusion of others who may want to work more hours. To keep things fair, many employers utilize a voluntary sign-up method of recruiting overtime and extra shift workers and demand that employees show up for overtime work only after exhausting the list of employees who want to work extra hours.

  29. 11/21   German Economy Sputters as Volkswagen, Siemens Invest Abroad
    Bloomberg
    Germany, the world's third-biggest economy, can no longer rely on exports to fuel spending at home, prompting economists to lower their growth forecasts for next year to as low as 1%. A year-long export boom ended in the third quarter and investment and spending didn't rise enough to make up the difference, dragging the pace of growth to the slowest in more than a year. Investments in Germany are weakening as companies including Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest carmaker, use their profits to build factories and hire outside their home market. "The link between exports, investment and consumption is getting weaker," said Hans-Werner Sinn, president of the Munich-based Ifo institute, who coined the term "bazaar economy" to describe the transfer of large parts of Germany's industry production to lower-wage countries. "I'm afraid the period of stagnation will continue for some years to come." The International Monetary Fund on Nov. 2 cut its 2005 estimate to 1.5% for next year, the slowest rate of expansion it predicts for any of the Group of Seven nations. Germany dragged down the pace of growth in the economy of the 12 nations sharing the euro to a quarterly 0.3% in the third quarter, prompting the European Commission on Nov. 12 to lower its estimate for the current quarter. The U.S. economy expanded 0.9% on a comparable basis in the period. Average German growth rates during the last 30 years have dropped every decade, to 1.9% during the 1990s from 2.8% in the 1970s. In the U.S., the average rate of expansion has held steady at around 3.3% during that period. Over the past three years, the pace of expansion averaged just 0.3% in Germany, compared with 1.9% in the U.S.
    Burden for Euro Region
    "Germany's weakness is a burden for the euro region," said Thomas Mayer, head of European economics at Deutsche Bank AG in London, in a telephone interview. Companies including Wolfsburg-based Volkswagen and Hanover- based Continental AG, the world's fourth-largest tiremaker, are investing in factories abroad to keep up with rising export demand, while freezing or cutting wages at home. At least 24 of the 30 companies that are members of the benchmark DAX stock index are now employing a bigger share of their workforce abroad than they did 10 years ago, annual reports show. With unemployment at a five-year high of 10.7%, consumer spending may not be able to offset a further slowdown in exports after the euro reached a record on Nov. 18. Consumer spending hasn't risen more than 0.1% in almost two years, forcing retailers including KarstadtQuelle AG to cut jobs.
    Investment Decline
    In Germany, "growth above 2% is not on the horizon, not in the foreseeable future," said Mayer of Deutsche Bank, who predicts growth will slow to 1% in 2005. Germany's traditional recovery pattern of export growth boosting investment, then employment and subsequently consumer spending, has been "clearly disrupted," he said. Investment in equipment hasn't grown more than 1.1% since the third quarter of 2000. It dropped nine consecutive quarters between the last quarter of 2000 and the end of 2002, continuing to shrink for a full year after the end of the 2001 recession. By the time investment started to pick up again, Germany was entering its next recession. To reverse the decline, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government has cut welfare payments, lowered taxes and made it easier for companies to lay off staff. It also proposed moving a public holiday permanently to a Sunday to add what Finance Minister Hans Eichel estimated would be another 0.1 percentage point to the pace of expansion. That plan collapsed within a day amid opposition from his junior coalition partner, the Greens.
    DAX Recovery?
    Companies have used the threat of layoffs and relocation to win wage concessions from unions. Robert Bosch GmbH, the world's second-largest maker of car parts, and DaimlerChrysler AG, the fifth-biggest automaker, are among German companies that agreed on longer working hours and reductions in wage costs this year. "We expect more progress on this front to give German companies a competitive edge" next year, said Lars Kreckel, an equity strategist at ABN Amro Holding NV in London, in a research report. "Consumers are paying the price and are likely to face another difficult year." Germany's benchmark DAX index has lost almost a third of its value in the past five years, compared with a 4% drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The DAX is up 4.3% this year, reaching a 28-month high during trading on Nov. 19, while the Dow Jones gained is little changed.
    Breaking the Chain
    Without exports, Germany's economy wouldn't have grown at all in the first half. A "strong" increase in investment and inventories in the third quarter wasn't enough to prevent the pace of growth slowing in the third quarter, the Wiesbaden-based Federal Statistics Office said Nov. 11. Germany will publish a breakdown of third-quarter growth figures tomorrow. The third quarter "was the start" of a domestic recovery, though "it could be that the start of this chain is already its end," said Joachim Fels, a senior economist at Morgan Stanley in London. "If exports collapse, companies could turn around and say: `I'm not investing after all, at least not here."' German growth will slow to 1.4% next year from 1.8% this year, the government's panel of economic advisers said Nov. 17. Exports will still account for about 90% of that growth, said Wolfgang Wiegard, one of the five advisers. While German companies aren't the only ones moving production to cheaper locations, the shift has a bigger impact on the German economy because industry accounts for 30% of gross domestic product, more than in any other major European economy. Services are equivalent to 68% of the economy, compared with 72% in France and the U.K. and 74% in the U.S.
    Industry Dependence
    "It's easier to weather wage competition from abroad if the service industry is more developed, as it is in France," Deutsche Bank's Mayer said. "Germany has always been very dependent on industry, and that's where increasing competition is particularly painful." Detroit-based General Motors on Oct. 14 announced plans to cut 10,000 jobs at its German factories out of a total 12,000 layoffs for all of Europe. Volkswagen's 103,000 German employees agreed to a 28-month wage freeze in order to head off the specter of 30,000 job cuts. "It's the same wherever you look: nobody's investing in Germany," said Heinz-Joachim Neubuerger, chief financial officer of Siemens AG, Germany's largest engineering company, in an interview in Munich. "That's our national problem."
    Siemens, Adidas
    Since 1992, the year that Siemens Chief Executive Officer Heinrich von Pierer took office, Siemens's domestic workforce has fallen by about 90,000 employees to 164,000 workers, while the workforce outside Germany has swelled by more than 100,000 people to 266,000 workers. Those changes include acquisitions and divestments, such as the sale of Infineon Technologies AG or the purchase of the Westinghouse turbine business in the U.S. Adidas-Salomon AG, the world's second-largest maker of sporting goods after Nike Inc., said two weeks ago it will cut 60 of the last 100 jobs remaining for mass manufacturing of shoes in its home market of Germany. The Herzogenaurach-based company will retain some 2,500 jobs in Germany, most of them in administration, out of about 17,000 jobs worldwide. "Germany hasn't managed the transition to a service economy like the U.S. or the U.K. have," said Andreas Scheuerle, an economist at Dekabank in Frankfurt and a former aide to the government's panel of economic advisers. "We're seeing a change, but only gradually."
    To contact the reporter on this story: Christian Baumgaertel in Frankfurt at cbaumgaertel@bloomberg.net.
    To contact the editor of this story:
    Heather Harris at hharris@bloomberg.net.
    Chris Kirkham at ckirkham@bloomberg.net

  30. 11/21   Christmas time, and trainee surgeons can't find teachers
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
    By Nick O'Malley
    [Looks like Australian surgeons are getting some common sense about working hours.]
    Trainee surgeons are not receiving adequate practical experience because of constant cuts in the amount of time set aside for elective surgery in public hospitals, including Christmas breaks of up to six weeks. The chairman of the NSW branch of The Australian Orthopedic Association, David Wood, said limits on surgery times meant trainees in many hospitals were not operating for 250 hours in a six-month period, as required. The chairman of the NSW branch of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Arthur Richardson, said there was a "constant decline" in the amount of time administrators made available for elective surgery. The limits include longer breaks at Christmas and Easter, shorter working hours in operating theatres and limits on the number of operating lists doctors can have each month. In addition, a shortage of intensive care beds often results in waiting lists for major elective surgery being cancelled without notice. This is because acute cases take up beds that may have been used for elective surgery patients. "It is hard on doctors to come in day after day and find themselves twiddling their thumbs for half the day, but it is impossible for patients," Dr Richardson said. In a bad month surgeons at some hospitals might find they had half their waiting lists cancelled at the last minute, he said. "Working in a major public hospital used to be considered the pinnacle of your career," he said. "Now there is a financial disincentive to do it, some surgeons don't think it is worth it. "Now you have senior consultants, people we can't afford to lose, standing down to become full-time assistants. They don't get called out in the middle of the night, their indemnity fees go down and their pay actually goes up." This year Westmead Hospital will not perform any elective surgery between December 17 and the end of January. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital's elective surgery break starts later, only days before Christmas, but the full elective surgery program will not resume until the beginning of February. Nepean Hospital will suspend all elective surgery between December 20 and January 10. Liverpool Hospital will do likewise over Christmas and new year, and scale down elective surgery to 60% capacity until the end of January. Fairfield Hospital will suspend all elective surgery until the end of January. It is understood St George Hospital will close elective surgery between December 19 and January 23, while Prince of Wales Hospital will suspend such operations between December 19 and the end of January. "The hospitals say it is because the surgeons are on holiday, but that is a lie," Dr Richardson said. He said some surgeons managed to work only 40 weeks in the year because of other restrictions in the system. Some doctors have rosters that mean they lose one operating day a month. Dr Wood said limits on elective surgery were undermining surgeon training. "The absolute reality is if you want to have more surgeons you have to have more elective surgery," he said. A hospital needed to have three surgeons on a roster to sustain a training position, he said. With regional hospitals limiting surgery, there was not enough work for that many doctors. Last night a spokeswoman for NSW Health said the department drew up an annual budget for elective surgery that took holiday periods into account. She denied surgery was limited during those periods to save money. Last week the NSW and Victorian governments traded blows with the surgeons' college over training. On Friday the college agreed to increase its allocation of NSW trainees from 65 to 74. The Government said hospitals would get enough funding to ensure trainees could complete the 7-12 years of training.

  31. 11/21   Trading equity for some serenity - A hot market is enabling middle-aged sellers to buy into a slice of paradise where work is optional
    Los Angeles Times, CA
    By Jennifer Lisle
    When Karen Cameron bought her 2,100-square-foot Camarillo tract house for $280,000 in 1988, she didn't know it would help her semi-retire within 16 years. But at age 47, Cameron and her partner, Chuck Downs, also 47, were able to sell the house for $605,000 and are building a custom home on 10 acres in Bend, Ore. Although Cameron says they will both eventually pursue some sort of part-time employment, the former human resources comptroller is now happily not working and enjoying the lifestyle change. Downs, a former graphic artist, plans to finish the house and then pursue his work as a mixed-media artist. "Life is short," Cameron said, "and you spend all these years saving and saving, and then who knows if you get the chance to enjoy it." In yet another twist on the benefits of homeownership, a growing number of longtime homeowners are cashing out of their Los Angeles-area homes and using the equity to retire early or partially, or to enhance their retirement plans in less expensive areas. "People are not necessarily waiting to retire, and retirement doesn't mean not working. They are looking around at the housing market, and with Social Security being unsure, they are realizing in their late 40s and early 50s that it can be easier to pay off the house and move to a less expensive area," said Karen Krasner, a Coldwell Banker agent in Ventura. "Any home that will sell in the $500,000 range can be used to help retire if you're going to places like Texas, Oregon, Washington and Montana." Traditionally, longtime homeowners would not consider using their home equity as part of their retirement plans, said Nathan Booth, senior advisor for the Senior Advantage Real Estate Council, a division of the California Assn. of Realtors. They would pay off their mortgages and hold on to their houses. But with median home prices in California escalating up to 22% a year over the last several years, the real estate market has allowed longtime homeowners to use their equity in new ways. "A number of them are baby boomers who wanted to retire early based on their stock portfolios. But after losing an average of one-third of their savings, many pulled their money out of the market and into real estate," said Booth, who runs training programs for senior-specialist Realtors. Booth has found that more real estate agents are focusing on seniors as their homes continue to gain in value and as investment-savvy baby boomers start to make retirement plans. In part, the trend is due to the "redefining of retirement in America," according to Sara Rix, senior policy advisor for AARP. "There are a lot of data that suggest retirement is different today. Because older people are healthier and better educated now, they have more options and more opportunities." Many, Rix said, are phasing into retirement by scaling back their work hours but plan to continue working in some capacity past age 65, enabling them to pay a larger mortgage for a longer time. "Now [the baby boomers] are at the stage where they want mobility and freedom," she said. "They feel they've put in their time and want to change their lifestyle." Some of these homeowners, like Cameron and Downs, are opting out of the urban rat race altogether and exploring new, less expensive frontiers in areas such as Idaho, Washington and Arizona. "We're really into the outdoors and the environment, and it's all here," Cameron said. "You don't have to struggle to get on the freeway or make reservations just to go somewhere." To buy the land and build a house in Oregon cost about $600,000, she said, comparable to the selling price of their Los Angeles-area home. In a variation on the trend, others are purchasing or enhancing second homes in places like Palm Desert. In many cases, retirement experts and realty agents say, they are trading up to bigger houses with the full complement of amenities. Bob Horne, a broker associate for Coldwell Banker in Palm Springs, said that he's seen a 20% to 25% increase in the number of under-65 home buyers over the last few years. Most, he said, are shopping for second homes into which they eventually plan to move permanently. In addition, he said, they are much more affluent and investment-savvy than the previous generation of home buyers. "More of them want larger and larger houses. You'd think they would be downsizing at this point, but not anymore," Horne said. "They used to want 2,400 square feet, tops. Now they are looking for houses in the 3,000-square-foot range." This, too, is a departure from past retirement patterns. "What used to be retirement is not quite like that," said Steve Goddard, a Re/Max Realtor, broker and manager based in Manhattan Beach. "People don't quit, they just slow down." For Jon Richetti, a 75-year-old retiree, the appreciation in his San Diego triplex allowed him to sell that investment property and buy a second home near Palm Desert that he'll also use as a rental. "I bought it 32 years ago for $32,000, and within four days on the market it sold for $790,000," Richetti said. To preserve their gains, the couple made an Internal Revenue Code 1031 tax-deferred exchange. This way, they delay paying capital gains tax on the profit they made from the sale of the triplex. They won't have to pay capital gains tax until they later sell the rental house they bought with the proceeds. When he and his wife, Kristen, 54, retire in two years, they plan to sell their primary San Diego residence and use the proceeds to enhance a permanent move to the desert. In the meantime, they will alternate between renting out the Palm Desert house and spending vacation time there. "The benefits are that it's a new house, and we don't have to fix it up anymore or be at the beck and call of tenants. We now have a management company handling that," he said. "And although we plan to use the house for six or seven months a year and won't make as much income from it, we may use it for our retirement." But one concern that Cameron and others expressed involves the prospect of never being able to afford their old neighborhood. "We thought about keeping the house in Camarillo and just renting for a while," she said, "because if houses keep appreciating, we may never be able to come back."
    Jennifer Lisle can be reached by e-mail at jenlisle1119@aol.com

  32. 11/21   Luddites yearn for low-tech workplace
    The Age, Australia
    [Unregulated working hours motivates resistance to technology.]
    Australian workers are increasingly technophobic with almost half yearning for a time before mobile phones, email and text messaging, according to research. A survey of 1,000 Australian office workers by recruitment agency Talent2 found 54% of them believed that technology, including mobile phones, mobile emails and laptops, made their working day far longer. It has also made workers more accessible to bosses, with 21% of respondents saying their employers text, email or phone them out of office hours to discuss business. But 76% said they did not consider those out-of-hours calls, texts or emails from the boss as out of order; rather a normal part of working life. Only 8% said they resented the intrusion. Australian workers firmly believed things had got worse at work because of technology. 39% said technological advancement had detracted from their personal lives and they would rather go back to a slower-paced time where workers could not be contacted after hours. Australians have developed a 24 hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week mentality, Talent2's Jonathon Morse said. "As a result they are putting in 40 to 50 hours a week, surrendering their leisure time because of technology such as the mobile phone and email," he said. "Mobile emails are just making things worse." Mr Morse warned employers against working their employees too hard, saying they would burn out. "There is a tangible downside to overwork from on-the-job injuries to sickies, to demotivation and mental health problems," he said.

  33. 11/19   EXPAT FILES: Baby Canadians
    CBC News Viewpoint via CBC News, Canada
    Living overseas is never easy. Getting used to a foreign culture and being away from friends and family can be difficult. We want to hear from Canadian expats all over the world. Share your experiences good and bad with our CBC.ca readers. To kick this series off, we have asked Bonnie Stewart to write three columns for us on her experiences living in South Korea.
    If you would like to participate send a short note to letters@cbc.ca.
    Bonnie Stewart, a teacher, freelance writer, and editor, has lived and worked on all three coasts of Canada, in Asia, and in Eastern Europe. Currently in Daejeon, South Korea, she teaches English at Hannam University and ponders educational technologies. During the summertime, she is a doctoral student in Media & Communications at European Graduate School in Switzerland. Her goals are to return to her home province of PEI without having to work in the Anne of Green Gables industry, and to be on Celebrity Jeopardy. Somewhere on my university campus is a customs officer wondering when I'm going to give birth, already. The lack of street names here means that mailing addresses are institution-based, and over the past year or so, a large, pastel assortment of Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, and snuggly things bedecked with bunnies have all been delivered to my office mailbox courtesy of online warehouses and Korean customs. Nine months have long since passed, but the infant items keep on coming. Fact is, I'm not actually harbouring a baby anywhere in my body or home. I have, however, reached that point in life where there are big, ripe belliesand small children shaping the lives of almost everyone else I know. As a dedicated book junkie, I like to greet these new arrivals with children's literature, preferably of the chewable sort. And since, lately, most of the little folk happen to be of the blue-eyed European- descended variety, with nary a parent gifted at reading much more than a menu in Korean, I've become Amazon's new best friend. There's a whole generation of new Canadians being born in Asia. They are not the children of the stereotypical "here for a year" expats, fresh out of school; they're being born to couples spending long portions of their 20s and 30s abroad, couples who, in some cases, have lived out their entire relationships away from Canada. Despite limited maternity leave and a lack of medicare, many of these families feel they are able to give their children a better start in life here than they would at home. This is not maternity tourism. While having a baby in a foreign country for reasons of citizenship is becoming more and more commonplace around the world, it's a one-way street in much of Asia. There are whole tour groups of pregnant women, Korea's new leisure class, who pay prettily to go to the States at about seven months and have their babies there. Most then return home to raise their young Americans, but can later send them to prestigious prep schools and American universities to study in English, without worrying about international tuition fees or student visas. Korea offers no such privileges, however, to the children born to its visitors and even its legal, long-term alien residents. While citizenship has become a tool of opportunity, belonging remains a matter of blood. Under the Confucian family law system, a blondish baby born to two freckly Canadians with legal status and "foreign" names is a tourist in Korea, not a citizen. Nonetheless, while expat parents may regret that their child(ren) born abroad can't reap the benefits of dual citizenship, the issue tends to matter less to them than the short-term security and prosperity offered to their families in the international market. Robyn Albers and husband Jonathan Fulton welcomed Joshua David into the world on Nov. 5, in Seoul. Both Canadian, they have taught abroad for seven years, in Taiwan and in Korea. They are positive about all that the past 40 weeks has brought them, but would have preferred, ideally, to have gone through the pregnancy and birth nearer home, with the support of family and English Lamaze classes. In a city of 15 million people, they had a hard time finding a hospital that didn't require Robyn to labour on a gurney, strapped into stirrups. They did land a doctor who was fluent in English and willing to honour their desire to avoid a caesarian section ­ a feat in a country where C-sections account for more than 50% of deliveries. And, in the end, mother and baby ­ and dad ­ all had a healthy, positive birth experience, and excellent care. But it cost them almost 1.7 million won, or $1,900 Cdn. Though both Robyn and Jonathan have standard health insurance, all births ­ and weekly clinic visits leading up to the big day ­ are paid for out of pocket here. Robyn's maternity leave from her job at Korea University totals 90 days. Though it's one of the top three institutions in the country, this is, to Robyn's knowledge, the first time in the school's 100-year history that it has even granted paid leave. Parental leave for Jonathan isn't an option. This is not supposed to be the Canadian dream; the birthright that social welfare architects like Tommy Douglas and Pierre Trudeau wanted to secure for the country's next generation. But for Robyn and Jonathan, it's a matter of practicality: they can better afford to pay for their son's birth here, where their MA degrees mean decent jobs, than risk heading home to uncertainty and unemployment. Despite the generosity of Canada's year-long maternity leave, and the additional cost of having a baby here, young parents finding themselves abroad for longer and longer periods of time are opting to trade in the Canadian perks for a parenting experience marked by a solid take-home wage, shorter working hours and long vacations. Robyn explains "I'm not looking forward to leaving the baby to go back to the classroom, but when I do I'll only work four hours a day, with months of vacation. At home, I'd get the year of maternity leave but then I'd work full time, year round. If we could go home tomorrow we would, but unless something secure comes up in Canada that can pay a modest mortgage, I believe we can be better parents to Joshua here." Alisa Murphy-Smith is becoming an old hand at parenting abroad. She and husband Ryan Smith had their daughter Kaili here last September, and are expecting a second child in the spring. Six years into their sojourn in Korea, they don't plan to return to Canada until their eldest is ready for school. Says Alisa, "We're really lucky because we now work at the same university. We've arranged our schedules opposite each other, so we only have to have a babysitter for about eight hours a week." They plan to enroll Kaili and the coming baby in a Korean preschool at some point, so that both get the opportunity to socialize and learn in the Korean language. As Alisa explains, they miss the proximity to grandparents and extended family, but their priority is time with their children. Here both she and Ryan get to be hands-on parents. Like Alisa and Ryan, most families giving birth abroad want their children to have some memory of Korea, some link to their place of origin, some retention of the language. Not because the children's capacity in Korean will necessarily make them more employable someday, or translate into tuition deductions or visas, but because this country has been an important part of their family history. However anxious the new parents may be about what opportunities await their eventual transition away from expat life, more than just blood ties link them homeward. The Canadian value of pluralism is central to who they want their babies ­ brand new citizens of the world, no matter what passports they possess ­ to become. These families are still involved, thousands of miles from home, in the work of raising Canadians. I hope the Robert Munsch books help a little.

  34. 11/19   Firefighters union wins ruling - Kewanee local had filed grievances over layoffs, rising insurance costs
    Peoria Journal Star, IL
    BY JESSICA L. ABERLE
    KEWANEE, Wisc.? - An arbitrator has ruled in favor of a Kewanee firefighters union that filed grievances over layoffs and increased insurance cost. City Manager Tim Hacker expressed frustration with the ruling Thursday. He said the City Council and mayor had not yet decided whether to appeal the decision that returns two full-time firefighters to active duty with back pay, reimburses all firefighters for additional out-of-pocket insurance expenses and restores demoted officers. "This guy basically is saying we're not broke enough," Hacker said. He added that the decision could have far-reaching effects and erodes the powers of local government to keep the city financially solvent. "We are very disappointed in the arbitrator's ruling, and we think there are some errors and oversights in his conclusions," Hacker said. Members of Local 513 of the Illinois Association of Firefighters are pleased with the decision, said Fire Department Capt. Duane Gillespie. But they remain in limbo until the City Council makes a decision. "We're really anxiously awaiting to see what the city's going to do here." Gillespie said the city laid off the firefighters and increased out-of-pocket insurance requirements in October of 2003, citing a nearly $1 million deficit in the insurance fund. The arbitrator ruled the unilateral decision by the city violated the firefighters' contract and did not show a legitimate economic reason to lay off the employees. The arbitrator also noted a "healthy" $1.5 million balance in the general fund. "The general fund doesn't just take care of our Fire Department," Hacker said, admitting that the decision to lay off the firefighters was difficult. The general fund balance was all but eliminated to balance the insurance fund, and the arbitrator did not take that into account, Hacker said. "I don't want to be adversa- rial, but the gentleman apparently doesn't understand basic accounting," he said. The personnel and legal issue likely will be discussed in closed session at the council's regular meeting Monday night, Hacker said. If the city can show a legitimate economic reason for the layoffs in the current fiscal year that began May 1, Gillespie said, the firefighters, while still receiving the back pay, could remain laid off indefinitely. Two additional grievance issues remain. Gillespie said the city's refusal to pay overtime when the department is reduced to a four-man shift poses a safety concern. "We've had bucket loads of double calls where the station sits empty," Gillespie said. The department used to always staff six-man shifts, but went to five with the layoffs. If a firefighter is off sick or vacation, the city will not allow overtime to bring the staff back up to five, he said. Hacker said the other remaining issue involves a firefighter who let his EMT credentials lapse. Hacker also contends that the department continues to provide adequate protection for the city and its residents. Gillespie said, "The baseline is, let's get our people back to work and get back to doing what we're supposed to be doing instead of fighting over a contract all the time."

  35. 11/19   Increases justified
    Letter to the editor by PHILLIP THOMPSON, Exec. VP, SEIU Local 517M, Lansing MI
    Daily Mining Gazette, MI
    It seems pretty disingenuous for any member of the Michigan senate, and in particular the senate majority leader, to criticize state employees' recently-negotiated pay increases of 2%, 4% and 4%, at the same time they are pocketing their 38% pay increase each and every year. While the modest pay package for state employees somewhat reflects the projected inflation increases over the next three years, by everyone's account, the senators' 38% increase was both shocking and exorbitant. Mr. Sikkema, you and your colleagues had the opportunity to vote no on your pay increases and you "took a walk." By your very inaction, the legislative pay raises were implemented and you have accepted the money each and every year since. State employees work very hard. They implement and enforce initiatives approved by the Michigan Legislature. Last year, they voluntarily agreed to concessions which included both bank leave time and days off without pay. Their recently-negotiated contacts include provisions for continued bank leave time and a phase in of the pay raises in an effort to, once again assist in the state's current financial situation. State employees are tax payers too. We all hope our state's economy continues to improve. Let's pull together in this effort rather than continuing the rhetoric that fosters division and ill will. The senate is responsible for legislation. The state employer is responsible for negotiations. And hard-working state employees will continue to provide valuable services to Michigan's citizens.
11/19/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/18 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 & 13a which are from 11/19 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. [America slips a little further back into slavery -]
    Forced to work off the clock, some fight back, by Steven Greenhouse, NYT, front page.
    Soon after Trudy LeBlue began working at the new SmartStyle hair salon outside New Orleans LA, her salon manager began worrying that business was too slow and profits were too weak.
    To keep costs down, Ms. LeBlue said, the manager often ordered her and the two other stylists to engage in a practice, long hidden, that appears to have spread to many companies - working off the clock.
    [that is, working without pay; that is, slavery.]
    Many weeks, Ms. LeBlue spent 40 hours in the salon, but was ordered to clock out for 20 of them while waiting for customers to show up, she said. During the unpaid stretches, she was told to clean up and stock merchandise....
    [The first big story we had on this unraveling was from Walmart on 6/25/2002 #1.]

  2. Insider - Keep idle thoughts at bay
    Accountancy Age, UK
    By Justin Lewis
    Author Tom Hodgkinson's book How To Be Idle seems to have struck a chord, as employees increasingly choose not to sacrifice everything to climb up the career ladder. But how do you ensure your valued staff don't pack it all in for the quiet life?
    Working in accountancy is getting harder, according to a survey conducted by Big Four firm Ernst & Young. The rising level of corporate governance regulations, stricter internal compliance procedures coupled with the growing number of litigation cases against auditors, are putting an increasing burden on partners and staff alike, leading to longer hours and more stress.
    In accountancy firms, much of the burden is falling to the middle tier, in particular junior partners or senior managers, widely considered to be the engine room crucial to the firm's success. But now, just when they have hit their career stride, increasing numbers of skilled and valuable staff members are choosing to opt out of professional life and follow less intensive career paths.
    Accountants in practice are not alone. In fact, there is a generational issue at hand as growing swathes of young, talented staff across all professions increasingly opt for a simpler life. They are no longer prepared to take a high salary as compensation for long hours sacrificed to work and career.
    There is a growing vogue for 'downshifting' and 'protirement' with employees wanting to leave high-powered jobs to pursue their real dreams or seek their pleasures from non-material means.
    This summer, a number of new books were published that labelled this the 'Idler' generation. In his book...Tom Hodgkinson, the editor of The Idler magazine, actively encourages us to try to find things more exciting and interesting to substitute for work, to relax and learn to enjoy simply doing nothing.
    All well and good, but how does it help organisations avoid employee burn-out and retain the vital members of staff whom they have expensively nurtured and have come to rely upon?
    First, it is crucial that the 'Idler' generation is not merely dismissed as a passing phase of laziness. The cause is profoundly different. It is about a change in values, even among those who have careers with traditionally long-hours. This shift means that employers will not only have to offer more in terms of time off, training and non-salary related packages, they must also recognise that for the time being they are in a seller's job market.
    With the UK economy performing strongly and inflation and interest rates at relatively benign levels, the reality is that we are virtually at levels of full employment. This gives employees far more choice and room to bargain than they had in the 1970s and 1980s. They are now much less hesitant to give up jobs that do not suit them, even if they don't have a replacement lined up.
    Younger staff are much more likely to resent permanently long hours. Most professionals are willing to put in the time to get the job done, but this isn't the same as regularly having to work beyond the legal maximum.
    Reducing working hours is easier said than done, and certainly cannot be achieved without planning and usually some extra costs. It is particularly difficult to reduce working hours in very busy, successful organisations.
    In accountancy firms, this calls for iron discipline from partners. They must monitor output and hours, ensuring that certain employees are not being put upon and that senior staff are organising their own time properly, not thoughtlessly demanding 'just one more thing' from someone hoping to go home at a reasonable time.
    It is the duty of all partners and FDs to ensure that they know who is busy (and who isn't) and that work is evenly allocated. Underperforming members of staff must be dealt with immediately. It's not efficient if senior members of the team just reallocate work to a more capable and harder-working colleague. It overburdens diligent staff, while failing to tackle the root of the problem. If everyone is working efficiently and fairly, enormous amounts of time can be liberated, which allows staff to reduce their working hours, take longer holidays - or hopefully both.
    There is a balance to be struck - employees should have enough responsibility so that their judgement and intelligence are fully utilised, but not so much that they feel over-burdened and unable to relax after work.
    Remember, there is also the legal requirement to protect staff from stress. Although stress is hard to measure and the effects vary enormously from person to person, it's easy to fall foul of the law. In many cases avoiding stress is a major cause of people downshifting.
    Those with busy careers regularly fail to take their annual holiday allowance. A well-organised firm serious about retaining its talent mustn't let this happen. Arrange cover or employ temporary summer staff. This will incur some cost, but in the long run will save a lot of money on staff recruitment and training. It's much more efficient to keep staff than to constantly have to replace those who have been lost to the idler life.
    There's more to retaining staff than money, it's about making them feel valued. Politeness, regular praise and thanks go a long way towards keeping staff loyal - and could make the difference between staff choosing to stick with the rat race or explore their inner child on a hillside in Wales.
    Justin Lewis is chief executive of stockbroking firm Corporate Synergy.

  3. Democratic Whip Argues for Higher Wages, Workers' Rights - Bonior Claims Exploitation of Employees Rampant
    The Georgetown Hoya (DC) Friday, November 19, 2004; Page A5
    By Andrew Gillette
    Former Democratic Whip David Bonior discussed the condition of today's labor force and the changing politics of organized labor at a speech Wednesday at the Law Center.
    Bonior, a firm supporter of unions, also spoke on what he perceived as the subversion of workers' rights at the hands of employers.
    "We are witnessing today more instances of employer-backed coercion to the average laborer than we have witnessed before over the past 50 years," he said.
    Bonior represented his native Michigan in the House during the Clinton years, serving as House Majority Whip from 1991-94 and Minority Whip from 1995-2002. He said that the American job market has deviated from fundamental legislation enacted by Congress, as witnessed by the unenforcement of the Wagner Act of 1935.
    He also argued that even resolutions passed by the United Nations, such as Articles 23 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are being actively usurped or ignored all together by many American employers.
    According to Bonior, every year 223,000 workers are fired unjustly for attempting to negotiate their contracts.
    Bonior said that there are many instances of employer abuse inflicted upon the laborer in the American market.
    The most prominent example of these, he said, is Wal-Mart. Bonior said that he felt Wal-Mart, which as of 2003 accounted for roughly 3% of U.S. GNP, undermines the work of laborers by forcing them to work more hours for less pay in terms of wage-adjusted income.
    American consumers, he added, are increasing the economic stratification between the wealthy and less-moneyed by supporting the Wal-Mart business model, which invariably hurts the laborer by hindering higher wages.
    "47% of the real national income has gone to corporate profits, while only 15% has gone to real wage increases," Bonior said.
    He said that one of the core questions underlying the issue of labor in America is whether free markets are better suited to the rights and responsibilities of American workers, or if America would be better served through more of an interventionalist approach involving increased government regulations on employers.
    The former reflects America's present economic system and the latter is more that of socialistic systems like those found in many European states, he said. Increasing unionization would provide for a greater degree of equality but arguably a lesser degree of economic freedom and entrepreneurship.
    He said maintaining our present structure of the pseudo-free market and providing for our present government regulation is more conducive to free enterprise but less conducive to socio-economic equality.
    "The governing laws on the union force today are very ineffective and it is heartening that people like David Bonior are fighting the good fight," Georgetown law professor James Oldham, a professor of labor law at the Law Center said.
    Bonior spoke as part of the 15th annual Henry Kaiser Memorial Lecture Symposium. The event was held on behalf of the Henry Kaiser Fund, which plans to schedule events concerning similar topics next year.

  4. Australians at risk from long work hours
    ABC ONline
    Australians work the longest hours in the industrialised world and are likely to work themselves into an early grave, a report has found.
    [Weren't the Kiwis claiming this, and simultaneously the Yanks? What is this, one-up-manship in victimhood?]
    In its report, "Take the rest of the year off day", The Australia Institute says if workers took the rest of the year off from tomorrow and then took annual leave, they still would have worked the same as the average worker in other industrialised countries.
    "Whilst Australians often think of themselves as living in the land of the long weekend, they are now working the longest hours in the developed world and in fact are at risk of working themselves sick," Institute director Clive Hamilton said in a statement.
    Australian workers clock up about 1,855 hours each year compared to the developed country average of 1,643.
    Australia also has the fourth-highest proportion of people working more than 50 hours a week, behind Japan, New Zealand and the United States.
    Dr Hamilton says workers are paying the price with their health. "They are reporting higher degrees of stress and anxiety, and obesity, depression and heart disease are on the rise," he said.
    "If as individuals and as a society we choose to measure progress simply in terms of our personal and our national incomes then we are likely to work ourselves into early graves."
    [Autokaroshi?]
    Annual leave
    Report author Richard Denniss found that Australians work on average longer than the super-efficient Germans, the Americans and even the Japanese, who have a reputation for working long hours.
    Dr Denniss writes that four weeks' annual leave is about one week under the developed countries' average and many workers also have trouble finding the opportunity to take them.
    "In a survey conducted for the Australia Institute by Newspoll in 2003, it was found that 58% of full-time employees did not use all of their annual leave," he wrote.
    "Of those who did not take all their leave, 42% cited as the main reason either being too busy at work or an inability to get time off that suited their needs."
    The report dismisses the suggestion that Australians need to work long hours to remain competitive as a "furphy".
    "Countries such as Norway, Germany and Switzerland pursue wealth so that they can work shorter hours, whereas Australians seem to be determined to work long hours in order to increase their wealth," it said.
    "The view that Australians need to work long hours in order to increase economic growth is a statement of values, not a statement about economic theory."

  5. Long working hours in 'competitive' Taiwan [our quotes - ed.]
    TToday English News
    Office workers in Taiwan seem to work a lot more than most other people around the world. According to a survey conducted by an online job resources bank; 74% of people in Taiwan work overtime and this year an average worker worked 174 hours more than last year. Some do not get overtime pay, while others worry that they may just drop dead one day.
    Busy, busy, busy. Office workers haven’t had a break from the moment they walked into the office.   74% of the employees have had to work over-time from the moment they arrive at the office.
    Eight to nine hours,” said Ms. Fu.
    Ten hours,” said Ms. Yeh.
    “I can’t even finish in ten hours,” said Mr. Lang.
    “Do you think you work too hard” asked the reporter.
    “It’s a lot of work, but I have my responsibilities and I must be accountable for my work,” said Mr. Lang.
    Just how much work exactly do employees in Taiwan have to do? On average, the accumulated overtime an average worker has had to work rose 172 hours more than last year. Meaning an individual would have had to work over 10 hours a day.
    The average amount of work hours is getting longer, and 57% of employees are actually concerned that they could drop dead from exhaustion due to work.
    “You could encounter difficulty breathing, your heart might beat faster, suffer migraines, and what you really need to watch out for is your blood pressure. These are indications that could lead to a stroke,” said Dr. Lee.
    Doctors recommend that office employees try to find time to do some physical exercise while at work in the office. When you feel exhausted you should try to take a break before your physical condition worsens. Office employees in Taiwan may just be working too hard from extremely long hours.

  6. No social pact
    Mark Micallef
    The Malta Independent
    The much awaited social pact fell through yesterday, with the General Workers Union saying it will not budge from its position taken against key elements of the 22-measure economic plan, presented at the Malta Council for Social and Economic Development (MCESD) by chairman Victor Scicluna as a draft social pact.
    GWU was not alone in its position. Both the Union Haddiema Maghqudin and the Confederation of Maltese Trade Unions (CMTU) had reservations on the measures put forward in the document, especially the ones proposing reduction of leave days and increases, over and above the cost of living adjustment (COLA) increases, in bonus form, instead of being integrated in the employees’ basic wage.
    The GWU seems to have agreed to this measure only partially, as it was insisting that after three years the bonuses given would be integrated in the basic wage.
    Representatives from the employers bodies and the government saw that this would give the economy a sudden jolt and would neutralise the improvements achieved in the three years.
    Another controversial item was the waiving of overtime rates for the first four hours of overtime, with a maximum rate of overtime hours paid at regular wage rates being capped at 100 hours per year.
    The original proposal made by the employer bodies suggested a capping of 180 hours, however this was negotiated down to 100.
    There were two options available: the increase in working hours to a possible 45 hours per week, which was not included in the MCESD report, and the reduction of vacation leave days. Sources told The Malta Independent that the option to remove two leave days per year over the next three years was not necessarily proposed as a permanent measure but could have been negotiated.
    Now the government will push forward without the social pact. “We have made ourselves available for discussions,” Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech emphasised. “Now we will have to move on and take the necessary decisions. The proposals made by the MCESD were not ideal for the government either, but we saw it as workable option.”
    The possibility of certain measures being included in the upcoming budget is not being excluded, Mr Fenech told TMID. The government now has to assume its responsibility and move on to take the necessary measures, he reiterated.
    Both the CMTU and UHM, upon leaving the MCESD offices in Floriana, yesterday afternoon, declared that they were open to negotiations and that their cards had not been exhausted yet. It is only the GWU that said it will not budge from its position.
    The GWU could not agree to a social pact that places the whole burden on the employees, GWU Secretary General Tony Zarb explained (see story: Tony Zarb issues GWU battle cry on page 1). This feeling was shared among the other unions during discussions, sources from the employer bodies told TMID. However, the other unions were ready to compromise on certain areas while GWU made its position final and would not accept any further negotiation.
    UHM secretary general Gejtu Vella also gave comments upon leaving the meeting. Visibly disappointed, Mr Vella said that it is a pity that the whole process was halted because one member had an agenda different to the rest of the members. He excluded, however, that a social pact can be reached without the GWU.
    UHM pushed for the social pact because it believes that the decisions that face the country should be taken in consensus. Without the social pact, workers will be exposed to what he called an unregulated restructuring processes. “Look at what happened to the PBS workers or the ones at the Dry docks,” he said. The union does not agree with some of the proposals, however, it is ready to keep negotiating in the interests of the workers.
    MCESD chairman Victor Scicluna greeted journalists with the words “we tried” when solicited for comments. Beyond the failure of the social pact, Mr Scicluna said that he was concerned about the future of the council itself after yesterday’s happenings. “I believe in the usefulness of the council, and think it should keep working towards achieving a consensus among social partners,” he said. “The report presented with considerable input by economist Gordon Cordina tried to find the middle ground,” he said. “However, this has to be put in the context of the positions the various social partners have been trying to negotiate.”
    This sentiment was shared by the employers bodies who spoke as a united front. Chamber of Commerce president Louis Apap Bologna said that the private sector representatives were in favour of the document in its entirety. Some minor changes were suggested as the discussions progressed, but for the most part these were cosmetic changes to the documents phraseology. “We missed a golden opportunity to make this country competitive,” he said.
    When asked what will be of the discussions carried out over the past months, Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises (GRTU) director general Vince Farrugia said that now the government has an economic plan on which a wide consensus has been reached and that they now expect it to be implemented in the near future.
    The chairman’s report follows a competitiveness document prepared six months ago. Malta’s economy is such that the biggest cost we face is the employment bill; therefore if we want to tackle the economy with measures that can be gauged and which can give predictable results we have to tackle this bill, he said.
    Since joining the EU Malta has adopted most of the social charter and therefore the social bill has increased by some two per cent, he explained. There are areas in which our standards were higher than those of the EU, such as the number of holidays, so it makes sense to start with tackling this issue. There is always a margin of error with every projection but the measures proposed in the MCESD document can at least give a predictable outcome.
    Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association president Winston Zahra said that a golden opportunity was missed yesterday. It is a great shame that everyone insists on fighting for his own little patch as opposed to the national interest, he said. The agreement on a social pact would have given a clear message to the country that all the social partners within the MCESD are willing to make sacrifices and fight for the country’s future. “This was not the case and we will end up paying the price of not reaching a consensus in the coming years,’ he said.

  7. 57% OF TAIWAN WORKERS FEAR DEATH FROM OVERWORK: POLL
    CNA via Taiwan Headlines, Taiwan
    By Y.F. Low
    TAIPEI, Taiwan - 57% of workers in Taiwan are worried that they might die from overwork and 40% think they are in poor health, according to the results of a survey released Thursday. The survey was conducted by the 9999 Pan Asia Job Bank among 6,391 workers between Oct. 11 and Nov. 9. It had a margin of error of 1.25%. Among the respondents who complained of poor health, the most common illnesses were those involving the neck and shoulders, waist and back, intestines and stomach, and liver, as well as obesity and headache. On the causes leading to their health problems, 51.15% attributed their problems to a stressful life and work, 44.3% to long work hours, 41.53% to a lack of exercise, 37.11% to nutritional imbalance, and 27.87% to irregular mealtimes. Because of these health problems, 56.53% of the respondents said they fear death from overwork, compared with 14.29% who said they do not. While 61.18% of the workers said their jobs are likely to cause their death through overwork, 20.31% were not so sure, and 18.51% said it is unlikely. The top five role models for a "healthy worker" selected by the respondents were Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, supermodel Lin Chih-ling, designer Chiang Yu-po, singer Wang Lee-hom and baseball player Tsao Chin-hui.

  8. [But now, speaking for the 18th century -]
    Companies should set own hours
    By Heike Göbel
    Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
    Sometimes, the way to the future leads through the past. Germany is slowly realizing that the country can gain nothing from nothing. In the face of economic stagnation, the world's leisure-time champions are beginning to accept one of life's unpleasant truths: that growth is based on work and a commitment to work is one of the most important requirements for strong growth. This is reflected by the doggedness and intensity with which the debate over extending work hours has been waged for nearly two years - and now the first conclusions are being reached.
    The absurd idea suggested by Finance Minister Hans Eichel earlier this month to celebrate the German Day of Unity on a Sunday each year in order to boost the government's revenues does not help one iota. The growth caused by an additional work day and the higher tax revenues produced as a result are built on such an unsteady foundation that any conscientious finance minister would not dream of basing his budget on them.
    The debate took a big step forward last year when employers in eastern Germany surprisingly were able to fend off the push by the large IG Metall union to introduce the 35-hour workweek and rob the region of one of its main competitive advantages - the longer hours allowed by collective-bargaining agreements. That prompted the western part of the country to mull over the economically foolish idea of fixing the 35-hour workweek in collective-bargaining agreements.
    [Ah, don't we mean short-view business foolish and long-term economically vital?]
    A major portion of Germany's unemployment can be traced to the concept of reducing work hours while keeping wages the same. But it takes a very long time before the recognition of a mistake actually leads to a correction - at least in Germany.
    One thing needs to be kept in mind: Since surveys have shown that the majority of employees are willing to work longer hours, even with no extra pay, the country's unions have shown their willingness to accept spectacular compromises. But the concessions made on reintroducing [ie: going back to] the 40-hour workweek are restricted. The unions do not want to have anything to do with a sweeping reintroduction of the 40-hour workweek. And vacation days - 29 on average each year - remain sacred. The thought of counting some of the many holidays as vacation time is also a taboo issue.
    But that may not be the case much longer. The debate could indeed come to a halt halfway before it is completed if the economic pressure that is fueling these changes eases. But anyone who wants to put Germany back on a high-growth course has to bring the debate on work hours to a successful [ie: disastrous] conclusion. And this conclusion is: putting the issue of work hours back in the hands of employers.
    Companies must have the freedom to base their work hours on their competitive situation. The government can set upper limits and periods for rest. But the companies themselves should control the work schedules created within these parameters. An across-the-board return to the 40-hour or even the 42-hour workweek is not necessary. All that is needed is a legal exemption in the collective-bargaining agreement that allows companies to introduce longer - or shorter - hours. As a result, companies could react quickly to the market. This is the real issue. After all, longer work hours are not an end in themselves. The concept only makes sense if the results of this extra labor have a chance in the marketplace or when it leads to lower costs because employers work longer hours for the same pay, expensive overtime hours are eliminated and machines can be used in a better way.
    Anyone who pushes for the possibility of creating longer work hours will have to live with the unions' charge that they are "job killers." This thinking is based on the deep-seated notion that somewhere there is a limited amount of work that has to be divvied up as evenly as possible in order to keep everybody happy. Nothing is farther from the truth. The real factor that determines how many jobs are created is the costs of labor. If that cost is too high, the work will be handed to machines or transferred abroad.
    The chance of longer hours without (full) compensation cuts the costs of work in Germany.
    [Not really, because it demoralizes employees, disincentivates innovation, weakens the consumer base and provides less time for shopping. It also widens the gap between productive supply and consumer demand.]
    That makes the country's jobs and products more competitive
    [no, it just makes them more 17th-century and sweatshoppy.]
    and forms the foundation for growth and more jobs.
    [No, it only forms the foundation for going backward in time. What an insult to intelligence these in-the-box thinkers are!]

  9. Building 'social capital' - Forum delves into how to maintain St. Croix Valley's quality of life
    Pioneer Press, MN
    BY KEVIN HARTER
    "Social capital," created by those who regularly go to church, vote and volunteer, is the main reason for the St. Croix Valley's high quality of life, according to an expert on community building. If that quality is to be maintained, area residents must find ways to counter societal forces, including longer commutes, more time watching TV and less community involvement, keynote speaker Lewis M. Feldstein told about 150 people Tuesday at an annual St. Croix Valley forum at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson, Wis. The third annual discussion of the valley's changing landscape, titled "Better Together: The Experience of Place," was sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, the St. Croix Valley Community Foundation and the Phipps Center for the Arts. In conjunction with this year's forum, a book group has been meeting to discuss "Better Together: Restoring the American Community," which was written by Feldstein and Robert Putnam. "Social capital, at its simplest, means who you know matters," said Feldstein, president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. "Social capital is what is in this room." People who are involved live longer, and in communities where people come together, schools do better, government works better and streets are safer, he said. "The data on social capital is stunning, and it is powerful evidence," Feldstein said. Social capital is created when people network and work together, which Feldstein called "bonding" and when one group combines with others, which he called "bridging." Commuting, he said, can be a bond and bridge breaker. The St. Croix Valley has experienced explosive growth, and many of the newcomers continue to commute to jobs in the Twin Cities, Feldstein said, which is similar in his region, the Boston to southern New Hampshire corridor.
    Data shows there is no single factor that can build social capital or bankrupt it, but negative indicators include commuting, TV, declining social and civic group membership, and two-income families working more and more hours.
    [If we did the studies, data would show there is one factor that is far ahead of any other in building social capital or bankrupting it during our lifetimes, and that is, proximity to full employment however short a workweek it takes.]
    "For every 10 minutes spent in our car, we are 10% less likely to vote, go to church or volunteer. And that's something you can't cure with a cell phone," Feldstein said.
    "TV is another killer of social capital. The more TV watching people do, the less involved they are, and the more depressed, cynical and skeptical they are," he said. A study of the 32 national chapter-based volunteer associations, including Rotary, Sons of Italy and the NAACP, found membership has been plummeting for 30 years. "Social capital is in decline. It climbed in World War II and peaked after," he said. Feldstein told the gathering that developing social capital involves networking among individuals and groups, which takes time, but if residents of the St. Croix Valley value what they have, they will find ways to reach out to old residents and new. "If we don't do it, this community, this country, will feel radically different," Feldstein said.
    Kevin Harter can be reached at kharter@pioneerpress.com or 1-800-950-9080, ext. 2149

  10. Taking liberties with holidays
    Financial Express.bd, Bangladesh
    The six-day Eid[??] holidays are over. The government and private offices, the factories and the markets and various other workplaces should have been humming with activities by now. People should have returned to their work. But have they? If the streets of the capital city are any indication of people's return to business as usual, the city is yet to wake up from its deep slumber or even hangover, if you will. Even last Wednesday, the city had a deserted look. To the casual observer, however, there was or is nothing unusual in that, for such scene is common after every Eid in Bangladesh. And no one ever questioned why it should be different either. But it is time the practice of making the holidays longer should be questioned. It is not a question of a few individuals' failure to join office after the vacation. A few instances of irregularity could be dealt with according to the existing rules of attendance in the government and the private offices. What is at issue here is not any instance of aberration or anomaly. As a matter of fact, the practice of lean attendance in the offices, especially after Eid holidays, is more a rule rather than the exception. Which is why, no official ever bothers to take the truant employees to task for being absent after their entitlement of leave is over. To all appearances, it is work - not leisureliness - that is still looked upon as something abnormal, at least, among the more enlightened sections of the population who have the privilege to work in the big urban centres like the capital city.
    [And what's wrong with that, considering the only kernel of consistent meaning in the 'work' concept is turning over control of your life for a period of time to someone else (for non-self-employed) or something else, ie: the market (for the self-employed). The Financial Express, like investors and employers everywhere, just don't want to see their power and control over other people diminishing - never mind it's a "new birth of freedom" in the most basic sense.]
    One needs to hasten to add here that the mass people who work in the fields and who do not belong to the group of the privileged are not work-shy. For they cannot simply afford the luxury of any holiday even on the Eid days. So, their more fortunate urban brothers and sisters should at any rate be thankful to the toiling millions in the countryside that they have not taken leave from their work even for a day. Otherwise, how could they (the blessed ones in the high government and private offices in the capital as elsewhere) enjoy so many days of fun and leisure? The fallout of this casual attitude towards work is bound to leave its deleterious impact on the economy.
    [This is the exact opposite of the truth in the age of automation when there is a growing gap between our technology-giantized production capacity and our weakening worldwide consumer base imposed by our frozen 1940-level workweek and its corollary concentration of technology-eroded human work on ever fewer worker-consumers. "This casual attitude" will leave a "deleterious impact" only on the stifling CONTROL over our lives exercised by investors and employers. And their obsessive-compulsive CONTROL freakiness is diminishing their markets and their wealth - in short, it's self-contradictory and self-destructive. It's time they lightened up and let go a little, before they impoverish us all.]
    Transactions in the stock market have remained low. The same was the situation in the banks. It will take some more days before full activities in the financial institutions and in the capital market begin. Which in other words means that the country remained excommunicated, for all practical purposes from an economic perspective, from the rest of the world during all these holidays and even after. The nation did only spend but not earn much, especially in terms of foreign currency, during all these days. Does the economy then afford to lavish itself with so many days without work followed by as many undeclared days off without rhyme or reason? The answer is incontrovertibly in the negative. Like the toiling poor millions, the nation they represent cannot also indulge in so many restful days. One may argue at this point: are not holidays also necessary for a healthier work culture?

  11. Philly Fed Manufacturers Say Activity Increasing
    PRNewswire via Yahoo News (press release)
    PHILADELPHIA FED REGION, U.S.A. - Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia today issued the following:
    Activity in the region's manufacturing sector continues to expand, according to firms surveyed for this month's Business Outlook Survey. Although indicators for general activity, new orders, and shipments fell from their October readings, they remain at relatively high levels.
    [Relative to what? They certainly aren't at high levels relative to what they'd be if we had full employment and confident consumers (inflation could be controlled by balancing inflationary with deflationary incentive). Here we again see the habit in the mainstream media of shouting tiny good news and whispering or ignoring huge bad news.]
    Firms continued to report a rise in prices for inputs and finished goods, although the price indexes for both fell slightly this month.
    [So firms are continuing to raise prices, sell less and sink toward bankruptcy while consumers are flocking to discount stores.]
    The region's manufacturing executives were significantly more optimistic this month about future manufacturing growth than in October.
    [But then, they're just pollyannas.]
    Current Indicators Reflect Continued Expansion
    The diffusion index of current activity, the survey's broadest measure of overall manufacturing conditions, decreased from 28.5 in October to 20.7 in November.
    [Sounds pretty bad. So quick, spin it as OK! -]
    The index has remained positive for 18 consecutive months (see Chart).
    The percentage of firms reporting an increase in activity (35%) was down slightly from last month (40%).
    The survey's other broad indicators remained positive but declined slightly. The new orders index fell almost three points, and the shipments index fell four points. Unfilled orders remained steady; about the same percentage of firms reported increases and decreases.
    The inventory index declined nine points and fell into negative territory for the first time in eight months.
    [This at least is good news, since excess inventory (ie: overproduction and underconsumption) has plagued the economy for years.]
    The percentage of firms reporting declines in inventories (22%) slightly exceeded the percentage reporting increases (16%).
    Continued expansion in manufacturing is evident in responses regarding employment. The percentage of firms reporting increased employment (20%) was higher than the percentage reporting lower employment (2%). The employment diffusion index, positive for 14 months, rose three points. About the same percentage of firms (18%) reported longer work hours and shorter work hours....

  12. 911 center dials for help - Some in St. Paul see dispatcher 'burnout'; solution uncertain
    Pioneer Press, MN
    BY MARA H. GOTTFRIED and ROBERT INGRASSIA
    ST. PAUL, Minn. - When St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington recently said the city's 911 operators and dispatchers were at their breaking point from stress and overwork, Kim Adamek knew exactly what he meant. Answering 911 calls and dispatching police, fire and paramedics "can make you sweat through your clothes," said Adamek, a shift supervisor at the downtown Emergency Communications Center. "The big thing we try to instill is you cannot make a mistake, you cannot miss anything and you cannot fall behind," she said. Although many calls are mundane - loud music, parking complaints and general police questions - the center's 59 telecommunicators and dispatchers handle an average of 2,800 calls a day and know the next call could be a life-or-death crisis: a rape, car crash or a heart attack. Staffing woes are making the job more stressful, Harrington and others say. Some City Council members have vowed to look for more funding, although the mayor's office disagrees that the situation is a crisis. The ECC's authorized strength of 61 telecommunicators and police and fire dispatchers has remained constant since 1999, but calls for service increase 8 to 10% a year, said officer Paul Schnell, department spokesman. As of Oct. 31, the ECC had received 849,681 calls this year.   85% were emergency calls. The staff also manages non-emergency numbers, fielding calls for service around the clock. Comparisons with other cities and a report from a consultant for the county show that St. Paul needs to hire at least 18 more ECC employees, Harrington said. Harrington voiced his worries this month to a City Council budget committee, saying "burnout" is becoming a crisis among the city's emergency operators and dispatchers. The staffing shortage means only one person can take vacation at a time, Harrington said. Keeping enough staff on duty leads to workers having to stay late or giving up days off. "It may well be your time to go home at 11, but the phones are ringing off the hook and you're told, 'No, you're staying,' so you stay four or five hours and you're dead when you get home," Harrington said. "The burnout just compounds itself." Employees work the extra hours because "they don't want their co-workers or citizens" in a pinch with "not having enough people to answer calls," said Emily DeBroux, another shift supervisor. Compounding the problem is a high turnover rate, which has been a national problem in such centers. As a rule, the ECC is six to eight employees short a year of its authorized strength, Schnell said. Sick leave at the ECC has been on the rise, said Dave Titus, St. Paul Police Federation president, who attributes it partly to stress and long working hours. Taking a break, even to use the bathroom, is difficult, and during their eight- to 12-hour shifts, ECC workers usually eat their meals at their desks. "You learn to swallow your food whole," said Lennea Lopez, emergency medical and fire dispatcher. Several council members said they consider the shortage a crucial budget priority and vowed to scrounge for money in Mayor Randy Kelly's proposed 2005 budget to hire at least four more operators. But the 911 matter is ensnared in political and financial issues that won't be easy to solve. Kelly pressed to keep the city's property tax levy flat for the 12th consecutive year and vetoed a council effort this fall to raisethe levy. That move leaves a council majority that's been at odds with the mayor over public safety funding with few options for finding extra cash. Plus, long-term funding for 911 operations is caught up in ongoing negotiations between the city and the county on a plan to merge emergency call centers. Nevertheless, there is a belief that Harrington, who became police chief last summer, and his new administration are working on the problems, which is promising to the rank and file, Titus said. Harrington's presentation alarmed Council Member Jay Benanav, who frequently accuses Kelly of short-changing the police and fire departments to avoid raising property taxes. "This is life or death for many people," he said. "Why are we playing with people's lives?" The staffing levels at centers in cities with similar populations to St. Paul vary from more than 130 authorized in Tampa, Fla., to 40 in Buffalo, N.Y. The centers in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Raleigh, N.C., are staffed comparably to St. Paul - with 55 and 57 operators and dispatchers respectively. Minneapolis has an authorized strength of 76 police and fire operators and dispatchers. St. Paul City Council President Kathy Lantry said council members will scrounge through the mayor's proposed 2005 budget to find enough money to hire four 911-call takers at a cost of about $50,000 each per year. But Lantry said the council's options were severely limited in September when Kelly vetoed a council-approved measure that would have allowed the city to raise the property tax levy. She also noted that even if the council set aside money to hire more operators, Kelly would not be obligated to spend it. Deputy Mayor Dennis Flaherty said the mayor's office would work with the council to find money to hire several more operators next year. "There is nowhere near a crisis in the 911 center," he said. "Yes, there are management issues that need to be addressed with the quality of job candidates, supervision and training. But I think the best long-range solution is to work with Ramsey County to create a consolidated communications center." St. Paul's call center issues are tangled up in discussions about merging 911 operations throughout Ramsey County, a complicated endeavor that faces political and financial hurdles. County officials have expressed concerns about inheriting a short-staffed operation from St. Paul, which could burden the call takers on the county side. Lantry urged the mayor to separate the merger issue and the staffing problems. While merger negotiations continue, she said there's no reason the city couldn't hire more operators. "The amount of work these people do has gone up more than 25% and we've given them no additional resources, other than to ask them to work more and work harder," Lantry said.
    Mara H. Gottfried covers St. Paul public safety. She can be reached at mgottfried@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5262. Robert Ingrassia can be reached at ringrassia@pioneerpress.com or 651-292-1892

  13. Electronic Arts workers, pointer blurb (to A5), WSJ, front page.
    ...are stepping up their criticism of labor practices at the computer-game industry's biggest publisher. [Here's the indicated headline -]
    Electronic Arts ex-worker sues in overtime feud, by Nick Wingfield & Robert Guth, WSJ, A5.
    [Clearly the Wall Street Journal is spinning this as no big deal. Let's try CNET from GoogleNewsSearch via Ken Ellis -]
    For developers, it's not all fun and games
    CNET News.com, CA
    By Ed Frauenheim
    To Joe Straitiff, it was clear that video game giant Electronic Arts expected its employees to more or less live at the office. His manager hung a neon sign that said "Open 7 days" and "constantly sent out e-mails to his whole team, saying that he'd see them over the weekend," said Straitiff, who worked as a software developer at EA for about a year and a half until being fired a few weeks ago. Straitiff says his termination owed partly to his refusal to put in 80-hour weeks for months on end. "You can't work that many hours and remain sane," Straitiff said. "It's just too harsh." Brutally long hours are nothing new in the software business, where programmers are used to demanding schedules. Job-induced fatigue comes with the territory. Shipping a new release--whether in the game industry, the commercial software business or corporate IT--often means relentless hours of programming with little or no time off. But employees at EA and other game publishers are speaking out. They're saying, in essence, that the game industry is crossing the line when it comes to reasonable work hours and are challenging it to change its ways. A number of former EA employees charge that the company--one of the largest game publishers in the world, with $3 billion in revenue for the year ended March 31--regularly pushes its employees to work 80 hours or more per week. The company is being sued for allegedly failing to pay overtime wages. EA declined to comment on the lawsuit and did not immediately comment on specific charges made by current and former employees. "As the industry leader, EA generates a lot of attention on issues common to all game developers," the company said in a statement sent to CNET News.com. "Everyone who works in a game studio knows that the hard work that comes with 'finalizing' games isn't unique to EA. EA remains committed to our customers and our employees, and will continue to do all we can to ensure EA is a great place to work." Criticism about EA's work practices comes in the wake of a Web log posting last week that made similar accusations about the company and sparked a flood of complaints about EA and the game industry in general. The comments depict an industry that expects employees to put in many work weeks of 60 hours or more, with little attention to helping employees balance work and family needs. EA isn't the only game company accused of having grueling work demands. A developer who works for a studio owned by Atari, for instance, said in an e-mail that the game developer expects its employees to work 50 or more hours per week for months at a time. "Once it starts, it doesn't let up until the game ships, which can be up to two years away," wrote the developer, who asked to remain anonymous. "It starts with 50 hours, then 60, 70, 80...they don't want people to have lives or families." An Atari representative declined to comment on these claims. Jason Della Rocca, a program director at advocacy group the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), said that despite the industry's focus on creating fun games, it has a not-so-fun underside of exhausted and stressed-out workers. Regarding EA, Della Rocca said some of the company's units have less-than-excessive work hours. But he said that pockets of the company demand overly long hours and that work conditions in the industry overall seem to have worsened as game projects have become more complex. "The gamesindustry is a ticking time bomb for labor relations disputes and related problems." Not everyone sympathizes with game industry employees, who sometimes pull down six-figure salaries. "Go to (McDonald's) or a factory, then back to your air-conditioned offices with free coffee," one responder to last week's blog posting wrote. The business of fun Computer games have gone from the plaything of geeks to a mainstream product raking in billions of dollars. U.S. computer and video game software sales grew 8% in 2003 to $7 billion--more than doubling industry software sales since 1996, according to the Entertainment Software Association trade group. Last year, more than 239 million computer and video games were sold, or almost two games for every household in America, the association said. EA alone last year sold more than a million units for 22 game titles, including "The Sims," "Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets" and "Madden NFL Football 2003." The Redwood City, Calif.-based company has 4,400 employees worldwide and operations in California, Texas and Florida, as well as in Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan, according to its Web site. Making modern computer games can involve the work of a number of different specialists, including animators, software programmers and musicians. "The most talented people in the industry come to EA because we make great games. Additionally, we offer competitive salaries, bonuses, stock options, health care and a wide variety of other benefits and work environments that are second to none in our industry," the company said in a statement. In addition, EA said it conducts a biannual survey, letting workers anonymously say where the company should make improvements. "We take this survey seriously because it comes from current employees who know first-hand what it's like to work for EA," the company said. One current employee said he and co-workers responded to such a study in 2001, making it clear that long hours were a problem. But the employee, an image production specialist who asked to remain anonymous, said he recently finished working 80 hours a week for several months straight. He said his team is facing an even more demanding schedule. "If anything, it looks as if the crunches are going to get worse before they get better," he said. The author of the original blog posting last week, the fiancee of an EA employee, added that EA recently said it no longer wishes to offer developers a few weeks off at the end of a project. In an interview Tuesday, the author said she is looking into creating a "watchdog" Web site to keep track of workplace abuses in the game industry. She also said she was surprised by the outpouring of responses to the posting. "It was a powder keg. I didn't realize how upset everyone was about this," she said. More than 2,000 comments have been posted in response to her essay, with a number of responders saying EA isn't alone in the way it allegedly treats developers. The comments echo findings from a survey earlier this year conducted by the IGDA. Game development is "all too often performed in crippling conditions that make it hard to sustain quality of life and lead too many senior developers to leave the industry before they have had time to perform their best work," the association said. Almost three developers out of five report working 46 or more hours in atypical week, according to the survey, and more than 95% of respondents said their company experiences "crunch" time. Over 18% of respondents reported having experienced crunches of two months or more, and more than a third of respondents said they work 65 to 80 hours a week during crunch time. People in the game industry generally acknowledge that "crunch time," involving unusually long hours, is often needed before major deadlines. But game industry employees argue that months-long crunches are too much. One former EA employee in Canada, who asked to remain anonymous, earned more than $100,000 as an art director but said the company expected an oppressive amount of work hours. He said he once worked for four months without a day off and put in 80 to 110 hours per week for about eight consecutive months. EA uses a ruthless management style, the former employee said, recently firing nine people whose team delivered its game behind schedule. "They've basically created an atmosphere of fear," said the former employee, who resigned about a month ago because he didn't think he could balance family and work pressures. "Pretty much everyone at EA is scared for their jobs."
    An industrywide issue
    The IGDA's Della Rocca said work schedules that grind down workers don't make sense. "Happy workers are more productive," he said. "Happy workers are more creative." He said the industry fails to devote enough attention at the beginning of game projects to create prototypes, which can determine what is really fun about a game. Without such initial research, last-minute interventions can be needed that increase the burden on workers, he said. Games also are becoming more complex, Della Rocca said. A decade ago, five people working for six months to a year with a $100,000 budget could create a game. Now a team might be composed of 200 people working for more than a year on a $25 million budget. But management training to handle these more complicated projects is lacking in the industry, Della Rocca said. He said EA and other industry players are setting themselves up for potential challenges related to stress-induced health problems and unpaid overtime. A tangle of rules governs what types of employees are exempt from overtime pay and how it is calculated. In California, an employer must pay premium overtime rates to an employee working more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week--unless he or she qualifies as exempt from overtime pay. Certain administrative, executive and professional employees are exempt. Salaried workers are not necessarily exempt. The lawsuit against EA, filed in July, claims that EA improperly classified image production employees as exempt from California overtime laws. Those employees, defined to include animators, modelers, texture artists, and lighters, are "assigned to duties inconsistent with exempt status," the suit claims. Among other things, the suit asserts that image production employees "do not customarily and regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment," part of the state's test for determining a "professional" exemption. EA image production employees "regularly work more than eight hours a day and 40 hours in a workweek," the suit alleges. "They work on weekends and occasionally on national holidays, and are not paid any overtime compensation for such work." In the wake of the initial blog posting last week, there's been chatter about the possibility of unionizing the game industry. The IGDA has also joined the debate. On Tuesday, its board of directors published an "open letter" that, among other things, called on game developers to take some responsibility for bad working conditions. "Developers are sometimes just as much to blame for submitting themselves to extreme working conditions, adopting a macho bravado in hopes of 'proving' themselves worthy for the industry," the letter said. "Our own attitudes towards work/life balance and production practices need to change just as much as the attitudes of the 'suits.'" Straitiff said he's in the midst of balancing his home life and career. He is "getting over the burn-out" of long hours at EA and is enjoying playing with his 20-month-old daughter. He also muses about returning to a field he's loved since he was a kid. Armed with a Commodore home computer, he wrote his own games. He later took a pay cut to come to EA's Maxis division because he was drawn to the "SimCity" game. But EA was snuffing out his passion with the hours it demanded, he said. "You shouldn't be able to ask a person to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week for months on end," he said. "You really fry a person working like that."

  14. Employees react to Sodexho changes
    The Emory Wheel
    By Wendy Moses
    ATLANTA, Ga. - As Emory University food provider Sodexho nears the end of its first semester on campus, some employees are pausing to evaluate how working conditions have changed under the company. Some complained that their working hours have been cut within the last month, while others said they've received better benefits than they did last year under former food provider Aramark. Sodexho Regional District Manager Dave Sauers said the company offers as many hours to employees as possible and benefits that are better than those given by Aramark. One employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said their shift was reduced by as much as four and a half hours. The employee also said that one colleague had lost two hours from all shifts. Sauers would not release information on how many hours employees work. Under Aramark, the anonymous employee said, workers were allowed to request additional hours. But, the anonymous individual said, Sodexho gets upset at employees for working even an extra few minutes. "If you wanted more hours, [Aramark] gave your more hours," the employee said. "If you didn't take your break, they'd put it back in. ... But now, if you don't take your break or you don't have time, they still take it out of your check. And if you stay maybe five or 10 minutes over, with Sodexho, even if you're doing your job duties, it's not fine." Sauers said Sodexho does its best to adjust scheduling and make hours available. Wages are competitive under Sodexho and benefits are more significant, employees and Sauers agreed. The employees asked that any identifying information be withheld, citing concern about being reprimanded for speaking publicly about the company. Their opinions are not necessarily representative of Sodexho employees in general. Some employees said their benefits and environment have improved under Sodexho. "I listen to our folks an awful lot," Sauers said. "I ask them ŒHow are we?'" He added: "It's very easy to check the temperature and the tone of a place." While some employees said the atmosphere under Sodexho had improved, others described it as a tense work environment. "When [Aramark] was here, I always wanted to come to work," one said. "I was more than happy each day. Now I feel drained." One reason for the negative environment, according to the employee, is that workers receive little or no appreciation for their work. Simple acknowledgements like a "thank you" that were offered under Aramark aren't offered now, the individual said. However, another employee said Sodexho managers have been very accommodating. "We've been having trouble with transportation lately, with MARTA changes," the employee said. "They adjust my schedule to the change of the bus. They're really nice about it."

  15. Unemployment up for first time in 18 months
    The Times, UK
    By Gabriel Rozenberg
    U.K. - The rate of unemployment has passed its lowest point and is on the rise, claimant count figures suggested yesterday.... More detailed data on working hours showed that the number of people working more than 45 hours has declined during the past two years, while the number working between 16 and 45 hours has grown.

  16. Report suggests low-pay barrier [ie: high minimum-wage] impacting on small businesses
    Startups.co.uk, UK
    17/11/2004
    The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) says successive minimum wage hikes are having a marked impact on UK small businesses. According to the group, many businesses are having to change their payment and recruitment practices if they are to cope with the rises. The UK's low-pay barrier was introduced in 1999 and has risen by about 7% on average every year since. Businesses were initially supportive, but the inflation-busting hikes have turned many against the legislation. At £4.85, business groups complain that the wage is impacting on salaries up and down the pay scale. Yesterday, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called for the wage to be frozen for a year, then raised to £5 in 2006. Trade unions, meanwhile, think it should be more like £6 by then. ACCA's survey of accountancy firms servicing around 12,000 small businesses shows that just 43% of respondents thought their clients were indifferent to the wage - the first time that more than half considered it was having a notable impact. Of the main changes that businesses had made to their working practices, 23% said they had frozen staff recruitment, 18% had reduced overtime and 17% had cut working hours.
    [Here's another reason for abandoning the "keep raising minimum wage" approach = it triggers shorter working hours anyway.]
    The proportion of members who believe that the NMW has had a negative effect on their clients' profitability has also substantially increased - 45% in 2004 compared with 22% in 2000. Professor Robin Jarvis, head of small business at ACCA says: "It is important that workers are paid a fair wage and that employees, particularly younger individuals, are not exploited. Regular 'uprates' are important to maintain the real value of a minimum wage." But he added: "Our latest research indicates that whilst the majority of businesses appear to have absorbed the costs of previous rises, the increases are having more impact on businesses profitability and work practices and this is a growing concern. "The government should consider the regional and sectoral impacts of the wage when considering the size of future increases and must be careful to ensure that the wage only rises to levels that do not have a negative effect on employment and work practices."

  17. APEC: Attitude remains the key to prosperity - APEC host Chile provides some stark contrasts with New Zealand on the path of economic development
    National Business Review, New Zealand
    by Jacqueline Rowarth
    Regional economic issues, including transparency, are high on the agenda of the 12th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting starting this weekend in Santiago, Chile. The background issues are informed by the release in October of both the World Economic Forum report on growth competitiveness and the 2004 Opacity Index from the Kurtzman Group. The concept of economic growth, desired by all countries, has dominated the efforts of the World Economic Forum for over two decades: why can some countries grow on a sustained basis for a prolonged period and pull a large proportion of the population out of poverty while others remain stagnant or actually have living standards eroded? For New Zealand, economic growth of about 3% a year has not allowed the country to keep up with improvements in the living standards of fast moving countries such as the US and Finland. For Chile, sustaining the average growth of 5.5% of the past 15 years for the next 15 will allow the country to reach the living standards of the bottom third of the developed countries ? to approach the living standard of New Zealand. The World Economic Forum Report on Growth Competitiveness ranks New Zealand 18th, just behind Australia, and falling from 14th last year. Finland, US, Sweden, Taiwan, and Denmark have been ranked in the top five most competitive countries in both years. The UK is 11th, having risen from 15th, and Chile is 22nd this year, having risen from 28th. Growth is strongly related to business competitiveness, the implication clearly being that competitive businesses have a direct effect on economic growth.
    Achieving competitive business is complex, however.
    A new study reported by the Economist Intelligence Unit in early November suggests top performing organisations have excellent communication strategies and management data leading to transparency. Transparency is the flipside of corruption and has received attention from Transparency International. The latest ranking of 146 countries indicates Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and Germany as the least corrupt countries in the World, with Chile as the least corrupt in South America (20th). The Kurtzman Opacity Index (opacity is defined as the lack of transparency in a country's legal, economic, regulatory and governance structures) ranks Finland as the least opaque country in the world, with Chile as the least opaque of the South American countries. The more opaque a country is, the less likely that country will attract foreign investment, because the risk of money being lost through co rruption is too high. With transparency must come research investment. Again, the top countries in terms of growth competitiveness invest heavily in research. Finland's government and business invest well over 3% GDP, the US invests 2.8%, the European Union 2.0% and New Zealand 1.2%. Government investment is 0.63% GDP in the European Union, 0.6% in Chile and 0.52% in New Zealand. Whereas the Chilean investment is increasing with the intention that by 2010 the government alone will be investing 1.2% GDP, in New Zealand the government research investment has not kept up with GDP.
    And then there is attitude.
    All the structures and investments in the world won't help with growth unless the people have the right attitude. New Zealand is on record as being a country of entrepreneurs who don't have the "hunger" to become rich. Companies grow to a certain size, but the step change to become international, to change from a $2 million to a $10 million company, is too great for most. Companies that do manage to make the change eventually go offshore. In Chile the hunger is high in some sectors but the disparity between the rich and poor and the consequent difference in education are difficult to comprehend and certainly limiting. A further challenge is the cultural aspects of different countries. In New Zealand the "she'll be right" attitude may be affecting the ability to achieve faster economic growth. In Chile, it is the mañana inheritance that may have that effect. The Chilean feel under pressure, reflecting huge internal competition, but much of the pressure results from their way of doing business, which in turn may reflect the disparities in education. It is a make-work country, where employment is more important than efficiency, time has its own meaning and plans change regularly. Work hours are long but interrupted; meals are large and late. People seem permanently stressed and tired. Both New Zealand and Chile have huge potential as countries because they are forward thinking. Both countries are identifying barriers to progress and working to overcome them. In Chile, education and research are receiving priority attention; as education improves, transparency is likely to increase. In New Zealand, efficiency of investment in both education and research has been evaluated and changes are occurring. But that the country is slipping down the competitiveness ranks indicates the changes are not occurring sufficiently rapidly. Chile is watching what New Zealand is doing and is avoiding making at least some of the same mistakes. The APEC meeting will allow more sharing of ideas between similar countries. It may not take the predicted 15 years for Chile to catch up. To stay ahead, New Zealand will need to adopt some good ideas and new approaches.
    Jacqueline Rowarth is director, research at Unitec. She is in Chile courtesy of the Andes Foundation and is working at the Universidad de la Frontera, Temuco, with Professor Marilu Mora and Rolando Demanet.

  18. A proposal to encourage phased retirement
    Scripps Howard News Service
    By MARY DEIBEL
    - Like other workers looking to ease into retirement, Rudy Penner wanted to cut back on-the-job time rather than quit cold turkey.
    The U.S. Treasury has proposed relaxing pension rules that would make it easier for Penner and other workers who turn 59-1/2 to tap part of their pensions while working part time. Treasury tax policy chief Greg Jenner says that the change will let "an employer retain the services of an experienced employee, while also providing the employee with the opportunity to continue active employment at a level that allows greater flexibility and time away from work." "It's a good step but a small step in the right direction: We still have a long way to go to make the phased-retirement option widespread," says Penner, a[n] economist who has studied the issue at the Urban Institute, aWashington think tank. He has cut back from five days a week to four. As drafted, Treasury's proposal requires employers to create specific phased-retirement programs that are voluntary, detailed, offered to everyone who falls into defined job categories and aren't targeted to highly compensated employees. Employees couldn't get lump-sum pension payouts, and fringe benefits such as health and life insurance would depend on whether the employee met the employer's policy for minimum hours worked, typically 1,000 a year or 30 hours a week. Current rules give workers few options for a gradual goodbye. Typically, they can't get a pension check until they leave the job or reach retirement age, often 65. Those who don't want to work full time into their 60s typically wind up quitting and getting a reduced pension check, signing on as a consultant with no fringe benefits or working elsewhere if the money won't stretch. Treasury calls its proposal "forward-thinking." But the demographic demand for it has been debated for years as 76 million baby boomers tick toward retirement and 45 million Generation Xers take their place, causing a work-force shortfall. "Unless companies find a way to retain aging boomers' skills and experience, productivity is bound to suffer," says Conference Board researcher Howard Muson. His studies for the board, corporate America's research arm, find that private employers have been slow to recognize the problem and develop policies to retain valued people. Colleges and universities have embraced phased retirement for years as a way to hold onto faculty talent and make room for younger teachers on the tenure track. "Phased-retirement plans in higher education create value for both the institution and individual faculty," according to Steven Allen, a North Carolina State University researcher whose studies show that phased retirement gives older professors and colleges themselves "more degrees of freedom." University of Colorado biology professor Marc Bekoff, 59, is in his second phased-retirement year in Colorado's state university plan, which has offered the option of part-time work with full heath-care coverage and pension funding since 1998. "I teach in the fall and love it and don't work any less, and I use the spring and summer to write and do research all over the world," says Bekoff, an animal-behavior expert whose collaborators include world-renown chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall. Older workers like the option - even if it's to allow for more leisure time: 1 in 3 employees at or near retirement age would continue working longer if their employer offered a phased-retirement program, according to a recent 1,000-worker survey by human-resources consultant Watson Wyatt Worldwide. The survey also found that 42% of older workers in phased retirement put a premium on the flexibility, but that 58% do it for the money. And why not? With stock portfolios down, and with the age for full Social Security benefits rising from 65 to 67, workers with traditional pensions need to stretch out the payoff. Today's 65-year-old can expect to live to be 80. "That's why Treasury's proposal is good-news, bad-news," says economist Alicia Munnell of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. "It's good to let productive people keep working, but it's bad to tell them 59-1/2 is a sensible time to reassess your workload and draw down your pension," Munnell says. "People are going to live forever and will need that money when they're financially vulnerable in their 70s and 80s." Another good-news, bad-news problem is how few employers and employees are likely to be affected by Treasury's proposal. When phased retirement was first discussed in the 1980s, 47% of workers had traditional pensions, but today it's down to 17%, with 58% covered by 401(k)-style retirement savings plans that depend on employee contributions, says Dallas Salisbury of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. He thinks as few as 1 million of the 25 million active workers covered today by traditional pensions may be offered phased retirement under Treasury's rules change. Urban Institute's Penner, for one, says government and business will need to take additional steps to let older workers keep working into retirement. Of his own phased retirement, he says, "I'm taking my own advice."

  19. Conference focuses on training unemployed older workers
    Knight Ridder via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via MENAFN, Middle East
    By Joel Dresang
    CHICAGO, Ill. - Teaching old dogs new tricks took center stage Thursday at the onset of a two-day conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Labor economists and policy-makers from around the country discussed the effectiveness of training older workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Statistically, older workers face longer periods without work after a job loss and suffer greater wage losses when they work again, researchers told the conference. However, some studies suggest that workers with multiple skills and those who earn credits at two-year community colleges could improve their prospects. Each year, between 1 million and 2 million American workers lose their jobs, and the numbers may be growing in part because of global trade and technological changes, Charles Evans, director of research and senior vice president of the Chicago Fed, said in opening remarks. For workers 50 and older, finding a new job is difficult and wage losses average 39% two years after job loss, according to one study, or about twice the rate for younger workers, said Todd Elder, a labor economist at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. In his research, Elder has found that older workers often are willing to accept huge wage cuts for full-time jobs when it means getting health insurance. He also found that although some older workers take longer to get new jobs because they prefer more leisure time, for the most part, the hiring market for such workers is weak. "It seems like we should be worried," Elder said. "It seems like lack of market opportunities might be what's going on here." Peter Kuhn, an economist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, presented research suggesting that workers who use a variety of skills in their occupations are more likely to get rehired faster and lose less wages after a job loss. "I think we want to think as a society about what makes people more adaptable," Kuhn said. "The pace of change is quickening." In a study of 6,500 dislocated workers in the state of Washington, three researchers found that a year of training through community colleges boosted long-term earnings by about 7% for older men and 10% for older women. The returns on the training were even higher for workers who were younger, had more education and pursued technical fields. "For the group of people who decided to go into training, I think they did pretty well for themselves," said Daniel Sullivan, one of the researchers, vice president and economic adviser for the Chicago Fed. Although policy discussions were scheduled for the second day of the conference, the opening presentations prompted some talk about how to address the plight of older workers. Tom DeLeire, an economist at Michigan State University, said considering the differences in workers' skills, preferences, opportunities and costs, perhaps training vouchers could help ease the transition from job loss to re-employment. "Should we give old dogs a voucher with which they can learn new tricks, if they choose?" DeLeire asked.
    [All this sweating the details and micromanagement over training. It's not just older workers. It's everyone. And the process needs to be automated. As in Timesizing Phase Two and Phase Three.]
    He referred to the Bush administration proposal to provide Personal Re-Employment Accounts of up to $3,000 for individuals who lose their jobs. The money could be used for training, child care, relocation or other expenses that would help workers get employed again. DeLeire noted that the accounts are available in nine states as part of a $9 million pilot project. Originally, they were proposed as a $3.6 billion nationwide program.

  20. [And another rant from Mises.org on the same subject as Joan Robinson's 1962 classic, "Economic Philosophy" -]
    Economics: Vocation or Profession?
    Mises.org
    By Joseph T. Salerno
    [Posted November 17, 2004]
    Should economics be pursued as a profession or a vocation? Below I argue that this choice of subjective orientation is enormously important, and tends to dictate whether an economist will serve the cause of truth and freedom, or waste his or her talents on convenience, ephemera, and statism. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gives one definition of "vocation" as "The work or function to which a person is called; a mode of life or employment regarded as requiring dedication." The eminent semanticist S.I. Hayakawa also emphasizes "dedication" as the distinctive feature of a vocation which differentiates it from a profession. In praxeological terms, a vocation involves what Ludwig von Mises called "introversive" labor while a profession involves "extroversive" labor. The essence of introversive labor is work undertaken solely for its own sake and not as a means to a more remote end. Extroversive labor, in contrast, is performed because the individual "prefers the proceeds he can earn by working to the disutility of labor and the pleasure of leisure." One of the "two most conspicuous examples" of introversive labor, according to Mises, is "the search for truth and knowledge pursued for its own sake and not as a means of improving one's own efficiency and skill in the performance of other kinds of labor aiming at other ends." The second is "genuine sport, practiced without any design for reward and social success." It is not that the effort expended by the "truth seeker" or "mountain climber" does not involve the disutility of labor, rather "it is precisely overcoming the disutility of labor that satisfies him." Thus genuine truth seeking in any scientific discipline qualifies economically as "consumption"and its pursuit as a vocation. The pursuit of almost any vocation, says Mises, requires "not only the personal efforts of the individuals concerned, but also the expenditure of material factors of production and the produce of other peoples' extroversive . . . labor that must be bought by the payment of wages." In other words, the search for new truth in economics, as in any pure science, necessitates, in addition to introversive labor, an institutional framework composed of a structure of complementary goods that has been deliberately and rationally constructed by one or more property owners. The founding members of the Austrian school pursued economic research neither for pecuniary gain nor because they sought professional recognition or an influence on public policy. According to Mises, "When Menger, Böhm-Bawerk and Wieser began their scientific careers . . . [t]hey considered it as their vocation to put economic theory on a sound basis and they dedicated themselves entirely to this cause [emphases are mine]." These three eminent Austrians, therefore, were not economists by profession but by vocation. The "vocational" economist takes a position in academia or works in some other profession such as banking, journalism, industry or government in order to obtain the concrete means necessary to sustain and complement his efforts to discover new truths or expound and apply established truths in his economic research and writing. The "professional" economist, in contrast, aims at earning a livelihood, eliciting acclaim from peers, achieving public fame, shaping political policies or, most likely, a combination of these ends. Thus the difference between the vocational economist and the professional economist is not their objective method of earning a living but the subjective ends aimed at, which are unobservable. Nonetheless, despite the subjective element involved, the two kinds of economists can be readily distinguished from each other by scrutinizing the disparate views they express toward economic research, particularly its truth content and perceived rewards. Vocational economists like Murray Rothbard are not allergic to using the unfashionable terms "truth" and "law" when characterizing the science of economics. For Rothbard economics is a substantive body of immutable and universal causal laws that are logically deduced from the incontrovertible fact that people employ means to attain their most desired ends. As such, Rothbard held that "all these elaborated laws [of economics] are absolutely true" and that "economics does furnish . . . existential laws." Furthermore, in the 1950's and 1960's, Rothbard was working on Austrian economics in obscurity and virtual isolation. He did not obtain a full time academic position until 1966 and, before then, was earning a precarious living on foundation grants while he soldiered on in building up the Austrian theoretical edifice. Yet Rothbard revealed in an interview in 1990 that he had been quite content during this period: "Any chance to write a book or meet new people was terrific." These are the views and the attitudes of the ideal vocational economist.
    The Problem of the Professional
    Paul Samuelson is the exemplar of the modern professional economist. When Samuelson once grandiosely declared, "I can claim in talking about modern economics I am talking about me," he spoke truer than he knew. In his approach to economic research Samuelson is a self-proclaimed follower of the "views of Ernst Mach and the crude logical positivists." These so-called philosophers of science contended, "good theories are simply economical descriptions of the complex facts of reality that tolerably well replicate those already-observed or still-to-be-observed facts." Of course economic theory formulated as a shorthand summary of a past sequence of observable and non-repeatable historical facts cannot possibly elucidate the immutable causal laws that operate and interact to produce a unique and complex economic phenomenon at a later moment in history. Nonetheless, Samuelson embraces this view of economic theory: "Not for philosophical reasons but purely out of long experience in doing economics that other people will like and that I myself will like. . . . When we are able to give a pleasingly satisfactory 'HOW' for the way of the world, that gives the only approach to 'WHY' that we shall ever attain." Samuelson and Solow's formulation of the now discredited stable Philip's Curve tradeoff between inflation and unemployment is an example of such Machian theorizing in action. Without doubt, the Philips Curve for a time was well liked by Samuelson, Solow and other professional economists and even used by policymakers, but its truth content in the face of the stagflation that developed in the 1970's was exactly nil. Ultimately, however, the professional economist need not fret overly much about whether he can harvest a grain of truth from such unrealistic models, because his reward for pursuing economic research lies elsewhere. According to Samuelson , "In the long run the economic scholar works for the only coin worth having‹our own applause." Elsewhere, Samuelson described scientists, including professional economists, as being "as avaricious and competitive as Smithian businessmen. The coin they seek is not apples, nuts, and yachts; nor is it coin itself, or power as that term is ordinarily used. Scholars seek fame. The fame they seek . . . is fame with their peers‹the other scientists whom they respect and whose respect they strive for." Samuelson's account of the extroversive reward sought after by modern professional economists clearly‹though perhaps unwittingly‹reveals that their research endeavors are not governed primarily by a search for truth.
    Why We Must Choose
    Mises gives a compelling sociological interpretation of why academic researchers in the aprioristic sciences such as economics and philosophy are diverted from seeking truth to striving after other ends. As universitiestraditionally developed, the professors were not only supposed to teach but also to make original contributions to their science. Yet, as Mises noted, very few individuals living during any historical epoch are endowed with such ability. In empirical sciences, whether of the natural or historical variety, however, the illusion that all academic researchers contribute something valuable to their science can be plausibly sustained because there is no visible distinction between the scientific methods employed by the creative genius and those resorted to by the inferior researcher.
    As Mises explained:
    The great innovator and the simple routinist resort in their investigations to the same technical methods of research. They arrange laboratory experiments or collect historical documents. The outward appearance of their work is the same. Their publications refer to the same subjects and problems. Research in economics is quite different: it requires sustained, rigorous and systematic thinking, a faculty which very few possess and even fewer are willing to exercise. This is true of both the creative genius who constructs a great edifice of economic theory as well as those who seek to refine, extend and apply his system to new problems. His students and followers must also expend many years of their life and a great deal of rigorous mental effort in mastering the entire theoretical system before they can make even minor contributions to economics. Therefore, Mises concluded, in economics:
    (T)here is nothing that the routinist can achieve according to a more or less stereotyped pattern. There are no tasks which require the conscientious and painstaking effort of sedulous monographers. There is no empirical research; all must be achieved by the power to reflect, to meditate, and to reason. There is no specialization, as all problems are linked with one another. In dealing with any part of the body of knowledge one deals actually with the whole.
    Those aspiring economics professors who lack the intellectual faculties or temperament needed to conduct systematic theoretical research therefore must find another field in which to make their required research contributions. For example, in the German-language universities of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these men turned to economic history and descriptive economics. Mises's perceptive sociological analysis explains the rise to dominance and entrenchment of the German historical school in the universities as well as its hysterical antipathy toward economic theory. According to Mises:
    The fiction that in the sciences all professors are equal does not tolerate the existence of two types of professors in economics: those who work independently in economics [as original theorists]; and those who come from economic history and description. The inferiority complex of these "empiricists" gives them a prejudice against theory.
    By the 1920's the German historical school was on its last legs but still ensconced in the professorial chairs. The members of the third generation of the school were a dull and undistinguished lot except for Werner Sombart, who had been a student of Gustav Schmoller's, the leading German historicist of the second generation. Mises, who knew Sombart personally, portrayed him as the quintessential professional economist. It is worthwhile quoting in full Mises's entertaining and eviscerating description of Sombart, because the personality that emerges is the antithesis of the vocational economist: Werner Sombart was the great master of his set. He was known as a pioneer in economic history, economic theory, and sociology. And he enjoyed a reputation as an independent man, because he had once aroused Kaiser Wilhelm's anger. Professor Sombart really deserved the recognition of his colleagues because to the greatest degree he really combined in his person all their shortcomings. He never knew any ambition other than to draw attention to himself and to make money. His imposing work on modern capitalism is a historical monstrosity. He was always seeking public applause. He wrote paradoxes because he could then count on success. He was highly gifted, but at no time did he endeavor to think and work seriously. Of the occupational disease of German professors‹delusions of grandeur‹he had acquired an elephantine share. When it was fashionable to be a Marxian, he professed Marxism; when Hitler came to power, he wrote that the Fuehrer receives his orders from God! (Mises 1978, pp. 102­03) Professionalist aspirations and the culture it engenders are not only inconsistent with truth seeking in economics, however, they are positively antithetical to it. For the professionalization of a scientific discipline, particularly a social science like economics, almost always proceeds hand in hand with the expansion of government interventionism. As Mises put it "The development of a profession of economists is an offshoot of interventionism." The reason for this inevitable connection rests on two facts. On the one hand, the State requires a class of intellectuals and specialists for designing, implementing, and providing rationalizations for various interventions into the market economy. On the other hand, those intellectuals who seek the regular income and prestige that accompany the professionalization of their discipline are ever ready to oblige, because the ability of an intellectual to earn his living researching and writing in his chosen field on the free market is always precarious at best. As the interventionist State expands, it reinforces the need for trained experts and the university system obtains increasing subsidies from government to initiate and expand graduate programs that will provide such personnel. The lucrative positions in these programs are naturally bestowed on those economists who spearhead the drive to professionalize and are, therefore, most active and outspoken in their support of government interventionism. In the U.S. the most extreme and thoroughgoing instances of domestic interventionism occurred during the two World Wars of the twentieth century. It was therefore no surprise that the movement to professionalize American economics, which began in the 1880's, experienced quantum leaps during these war crises. For when the State goes to war it needs professional expertise to plan and direct the massive mobilization of the resources it requires. This translates into a cornucopia of lucrative and prestigious jobs for economic experts and specialists in the bureaus and advisory boards of the political planning apparatus that centrally directs the war economy. In his brilliant book on the professionalization of American economics, Michael Bernstein identifies the central role played by World War II in the ultimate success of this movement, perceptively observing:
    Under the novel and unrelenting demands posed by national mobilization, modern economic theory had proved its worth. . . . Not individualism but rather statism provided the special circumstances within which the high hopes and great expectations of generations of professionalizers could be realized. . . . It is one of the great ironies of this history that a discipline renowned for its systematic portrayals of the benefits of unfettered, competitive markets would first demonstrate its unique operability in the completely regulated and controlled economy of total war.
    Of course their wartime experience led economists to recognize the potentially great material benefits that would accrue to them from a permanent alliance between their profession and the centralized American State. They responded by formally reorganizing the discipline and reshaping its educational methods and requirements so as to accommodate the prospective needs of the emerging postwar "national security state." Bernstein gives an incisive account of how the American economics profession finally established itself in service to a centralized and interventionist leviathan State:
    World War II provided the first systematic demonstration of the beneficence to be won from the largesse of the central government . . . . As a matter of course, there emerged a determination to evaluate and reconfigure educational programs in the field, more rigorously stipulate its varieties of expertise and methodologies, and pursue consensus about its central principles and policy orientations. That is to say, that out of the crucible of national mobilization came the beginnings of a professional identity and self-confidence that, while resolutely sought after since the late nineteenth century, had, up to that point, been elusive and fleeting. Bernstein goes on to identify some of the arcane sub-disciplines within professionalized economics that were developed in response to the needs of the emerging American super-state during the Cold War era which helped to maintain it on a permanent war footing. The "decision-making sciences" such as linear programming and operations research were developed during World War II to solve the logistical problems associated with supplying overseas troops in different theaters of operation. Game theory was reoriented and refined to assist in the solution of strategic military problems associated with the Cold War conflict‹with generous funding from the Department of Defense and especially the Office of Naval Research.
    And the development of both mathematical growth theory and the practical application of Keynesian macroeconomics embodied in the Kennedy-era New Economics were in large part stimulated by Cold War concerns. As Bernstein (2001, p. 108) notes with regard to the Keynesian New Economics:
    "American economists found themselves poised to participate in the realization of some of the most significant statist aims of the cold war era . . . a vigorous national economy was essential both to equip the armed forces and to demonstrate the superiority of American capitalism."
    The remarkable proliferation of hyper-specialized fields that occurred during and after World War II led to a disintegration of economic theory, signified by the disappearance of the general economic treatise. No longer was there an integrated system of general economic principles that was held in common and applied to the analysis of all policies and problems by those who called themselves economists. Now each sub-field of research had its own special theory which was more or less sealed off from general economic theory. Even general theory itself was now compartmentalized into microeconomics and macroeconomics. This specialization or, more accurately, disintegration of economics compounded by the postwar trend toward a positivist approach to economic theory, whether of the Samuelsonian or Friedmanite variants, destroyed the formidable barrier that had previously confined professional economists with no faculty or vocation for theoretical research to economic history and descriptive economics. They now began to abandon these peripheral areas and to invade what was once the domain of economics proper in droves. Though failing to master the great praxeological system of economic theory that had taken shape in the interwar years, these postwar economists could now undertake research in the splintered, ultra-specialized areas of growth theory, labor economics, industrial organization, oligopoly theory and so on ad infinitum. However, the unrealistic theoretical models constructed by professional economists then and now can never elucidate the essential laws governing the actual market phenomena associated with their disjointed fields of research. For as Mises pointed out: "The economist must never be a specialist. In dealing with any problem he must always fix his gaze upon the whole system. . . . Economics does not allow of any breaking up into special branches. It invariably deals with the interconnectedness of all the phenomena of action."
    A Fiat Profession
    Our discussion thus far leads to an important general point. The economics profession is a fiat phenomenon in the same sense as inconvertible paper money. Neither would or could exist on a market free of a specific pattern of government interventions. Government cannot directly command and coerce a newly issued fiat money into circulation in the market economy. Government must first impose a series of interventionist measures such as legal tender laws, repeated suspension of convertibility between paper promissory notes and the underlying gold money, the refusal to enforce gold clauses in private contracts, the banning of the private ownership of gold, etc. These interventions distort market processes and prepare the way for the gradual emergence of fiat money. The same is true of the emergence of the economics profession. Government has no power to directly design and establish a profession with its peculiar and intricately interwoven customs, conventions, research culture, and institutional infrastructure. Nonetheless, a natural vocation like economics can be transformed into a profession as a result of the distortion of market processes and the disturbing of property arrangements caused by wars, political usurpation and subsidization of higher education, and the establishment of centralized bureaus and agencies to implement and oversee economic interventions. The medical profession is therefore a natural profession that would exist on a free market because it has a natural clientele; the economics profession, along with most other social science professions, is a fiat profession that has no free market clientele and would exist as a truth seeking vocation in the absence of a particular historical pattern of government interventions.[1] To sum up: the vocational economist strives to master the system of economic theory as handed down by the great system builders and innovators of the past. Once this mastery is achieved, then, depending on his ability, he is poised either to expound and apply this theoretical system, to contribute a few important innovations, or to present a thoroughgoing reformulation that embodies a number of major advances. There are very few individuals who are capable of successfully embarking on even the first of these paths. Moreover, regardless of which path is taken, the vocational economist is driven forward by a thirst for truth which is never slaked. He seeks to know ever more about what Rothbard termed "the structure of reality as embodied in economic law." Furthermore the extroversive labor he performs for a livelihood, regardless of the field, is merely a means to this and other consumption ends that rank high on his value scale. All other things equal, he is indifferent toward a position in academia except as it provides a more efficient method of pursuing his vocation. Public acclaim and the recognition of his peers, if they come, are not sought after by him but are at most valued byproducts of his activities. Finally, the vocational economist measures progress in his discipline by the quantity and quality of minds that have mastered economic theory, because his own search for truth is facilitated by subjecting his work to the critical evaluation of others pursuing the same calling. Contrariwise, the professional economist aims, in his research activities, at a number of extroversive ends. These include the approbation of his colleagues, public fame, intellectual influence in shaping government policies, professional advancement and prestige, and, of course, raw power and money. To a great extent, these ends are attainable only with government subsidies and largesse and so he naturally supports an expansive and interventionist state. His natural roosting place, to which he continually returns after his lucrative stints in government service, nonprofit think tanks, and international bureaucracies are the large universities that are subsidized or directly controlled by government. He views progress in economics as a matter of the multiplication of its sub-disciplines and specialized bodies of theory, the increase of the sheer number of bodies in graduate programs, and especially the expansion of opportunities to obtain lucre and positions of power in advising the interventionist, Welfare-Warfare State. As Mises perceptively noted as early as 1949, professional economists "rival the legal profession in the supreme conduct of political affairs. The eminent role they play is one of the most characteristic features of our age of interventionism."
    Joseph T. Salerno teaches at Pace University, is senior scholar of the Mises Institute, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. This is revised and excerpted from the Ludwig von Mises Lecture, Austrian Student Scholars Conference, Grove City College, Grove City, PA, November 5­6, 2004. jsale@earthlink.net
11/18/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/17 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. B.C. Safety Authority tentative agreement reached
    BCGEU, Canada
    BRITISH COLUMBIA, Canada - Your Bargaining Committee reached a tentative agreement with the employer on November 10, 2004. The new British Columbia Safety Authority (BCSA) melded agreement will be in effect until March 31, 2006.
    The tentative agreement is a meld of the Extended 13th Master with applicable provisions of the Components 6, 12 and 20 Collective Agreements. In reaching an agreement, the employer withdrew the last of its concession demands for a reduced vacation for new employees.
    The tentative agreement essentially continues existing terms and benefits of the four collective agreements as they apply to employees of the Authority, with the exception of the 40 hour work week for Engineers, Safety Officers, and Certification and Licensing Analysts. These classifications remain on flex time as per the language of the Environmental, Technical & Operational Agreement. The 35 hour modified work week continues for Administrative and Information Technology employees.
    As the tentative agreement changes hours of work for Technical employees, a ratification vote will take place. A bulletin will be mailed out shortly to each member outlining details of the tentative agreement.
    The bulletin will contain a schedule of information meetings and ratification vote procedures.
    Your Bargaining Committee thanks you for your patience and support throughout the successorship process.
    In Solidarity
    Your Bargaining Committee
    Dolly Zawaduk (250) 861-7313
    Eric Skehor (250) 897-7531
    Don Ballard (250) 426-1276
    Colleen Fitzpatrick (604) 291-9611

  2. [ (T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral) "The last temptation is the greatest treason:
    to do the right deed for the wrong reason" -]
    Escalating costs prompt reduction of library hours
    Waterbury Republican American, CT
    By Will Siss
    [What should they have done? - controlled costs or escalated taxes on the rich, who constitute the Great Leak Upwards and are now getting virtually a free ride with tax breaks, no estate tax, and 700 times what ordinary employees make.]
    Rising utility bills. More expensive subscriptions. Increasing maintenance costs. Faced with such escalations, the trustees of Howard Whittemore Memorial Library in Naugatuck decided, for the second time in two years, to cut public hours this fall. The library is not alone in its plight. Regionally, library directors say cutting hours may be the only way to stay open at all. The American Library Association is trying to galvanize community support for increased library spending in the face of shrinking budgets and rising expenses. "Gas and water prices are up, repairs are always going up, (maintenance for) our computer networks has gone up," Robert Hill, chairman of the Whittemore Library's board of trustees, said. "It's important to me that the library isn't critical of the town. We love Naugatuck. The people here are wonderful. I wish there was a lot more money for the library, and maybe there will be. But this is what we didn't want to happen." On Oct. 1, the library began closing at 5 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays instead of 8 p.m. That cut the library's weekly hours of operation to 46, two below the state average. Last year, the trustees decided to eliminate the library's Sunday hours, noon to 3 p.m., citing budget cuts. In 2002, the borough cut $5,000 from the library's $545,000 budget, and has not increased that line. Hill said costs to repair and insure the 110-year-old building continue to rise, and the library's endowment has not increased enough - primarily because of low interest rates - to make up the difference. The trustees dealt with the shortfall first by cutting 30 magazine subscriptions, saving about $2,000. They also didn't fill five full-time staff positions after those workers retired. "Cutting hours was a last resort," Whittemore Library Director Joan Lamb said. "We could say, 'OK, we'll be open, but won't buy any books.' It's the only option we have." The nonprofit Watertown Library Association - anticipating a cut in its budget - decided in August to close its main branch on Mondays, and to close an hour earlier Tuesdays through Thursdays, cutting its weekly hours of operation from 63 hours to 48. It also cut all new audio books and eliminated 12 periodicals. The vote Nov. 2 to pass the town and school budgets left the library with $14,520 less than the $689,520 it received last year, Watertown Library Director Joan Rintelman said. "Cutting hours is a legitimate way to save money," Rintelman said. "It's the only way we could have gotten by. People would like us to be open more, but they understand the spot that we're in. They're not happy with the closures." Watertown finances the library's operating budget; through aid from the state and fund-raisers, the library pays for electricity, oil and staff benefits.
    Aid drops, costs rise
    The Naugatuck and Watertown libraries' operating budgets are less than the statewide average of roughly $780,000, based on 180 of the state's 194 public libraries and branches, according to Joanne Turschman, data coordinator for the state library. About 62% of an average library's budget goes to salaries, and library materials make up 12.5%, Turschman said. The other 25% covers operating costs including utilities and maintenance. Each of the state's 164 principal public libraries - a municipality can designate only one - that meets eligibility requirements can receive annual state grants. The 2003-05 governor's budget allocates yearly grants of $347,109 for qualifying libraries. This is a drop from $472,109 in fiscal year 2001, according to the American Library Association. While utility bills and magazine subscription rates are higher, book prices generally have not increased, according to the School Library Journal, a trade publication for librarians. The average cost of hardcover children's and young adult books rose 73 cents between 2002 and 2004, to $19.31, but paperback books for the same demographic decreased by 45 cents in the same time period. Prices for hardcover adult titles, excluding mass market, also decreased: fiction books by $3.15 and nonfiction by $5.44. Emmett McSweeney, acting director of Waterbury's Silas Bronson Library, said the library shaved hours off its schedule about two years ago. "It's inevitable, especially with municipal libraries, because of difficulties of (municipalities) maintaining their tax bases," McSweeney said. "We've had to find ways to stretch a dollar, and I think it will continue for some time." The public still complains bitterly about the cuts, particularly on Saturdays, when the library closes at 2 p.m., McSweeney said. "Library hours traditionally have stayed the same for decades on end," he said. "They are doing serious research on the weekend hours. In the four hours we're open on Saturday, we do the same circulation of an eight- or 10-hour day."
    Campaigns to stop cuts
    The American Library Association, the nation's oldest library association, based in Chicago, has noted a decrease nationally in public library hours over the past three years. Carol Brey-Casiano, president of the association, said she's rallying grass-roots organizations to advocate for more private and public money to change that. "Reducing hours is one of the last things I turn to," said Brey-Casiano, a librarian in the El Paso, Texas, Public Library.
    "It's always a difficult decision, when budgets are cut, where the cuts should be made." Brey-Casiano, recently appointed to a year-long presidency, said the association's "Stand Up and Speak Out for Libraries" and "Save America's Libraries" campaigns work toward creative ways to raise money. She saw the fruit of such labor recently in nearby Fabens, Texas, where supporters of the El Paso Public Library protested proposed budget cuts that would have led to that branch's closing. In September, after supporters submitted a 450-signature petition, county commissioners voted to restore annual funding to the library. "It's very serious for libraries to cut their hours," Torrington Library Director Karen Worrall said. "We cut our hours once in '94. Even when we got them back in '98 and '99, it takes a while" for patrons to return. Torrington Library, which operates from endowment income, receives only $27,400 from the city, and is considered a semi-public, or association, library. It's financed by several sources, including private donations.
    "Definitely, cutting hours is preferable to cutting staff when you have good staff and a team that's working well," Worrall said.
    [Now that's a good reason for cutting hours = timesizing, not downsizing.]
    "It's not something that you do lightly."
    For the small Beacon Falls Public Library, town support comes from a roof over its head. It shares its building with the Town Hall; when Town Hall closed Fridays from March through June this year to save money, so did the library. The advantage to sharing the space is that the library does not have to ask for money for utilities or maintenance, director Marsha Durley said. "Unfortunately, Friday is the day the library is most heavily used," Durley said. "When the budget passed, we went back to regular hours. We moved our story time from Friday to Wednesday, which was a wonderful choice. We didn't know how we were going to do it on shortened hours. Attendance dropped some because we changed routines on people. When we got back to being open on Fridays, people were relieved." Durley said she would love to see the town get its own library building, but without an endowment, it seems like a long shot. "We have an active building committee, we have hopes and dreams," she said. "But the economic climate has to be taken into consideration."

  3. Working More to Keep Germany's Holidays - Looking for the magic formula in the holiday debate
    Deutsche Welle
    The raging debate in Germany over public holidays in recent weeks recalled similar dispute almost a decade ago. The difference? Germans are serious about working more.
    [Any nation that's "serious about working more" in the age of automation and robotics is serious about work concentration and consumption collapse, instead of spreading and sharing the vanishing work and maintaining and growing their consumer base.]
    In 1995, the conservative government of Helmut Kohl, looking for ways to finance a revolutionary nursing care insurance package, urged states to cut the Day of Prayer and Repentance, a religious holiday celebrated across the country. The debate at the time was fierce, but the resistance of church officials in all but one of Germany's 16 states proved futile for the holiday that would have been on Wednesday. Nine years later, a similar discussion erupted over the proposal from Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government to move Germany's National Unity Day, celebrated on Oct. 3, to a Sunday. Unlike 1995, the proposal this time failed, but it has sparked a discussion on working more that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
    Holiday cuts don't spark economy
    [Oh yes they do. Besides offering people time to shop, they force employers to hire a few more people to handle the workload instead of working through, and those few more people are a few more domestic confident consumers. Keep applying efficiency to your workforce instead of just your other costs in the technological age, and you produce the situation we already have all over the world = huge tech-amplified production capacity and weak markets to buy all the stuff the robots are producing. As Reuther retorted to Ford when Ford said, "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - "Let's see you sell them cars."]
    No European country has more national and religious holidays than Germany, where states decide what holidays to observe. All 16 states have at least nine holidays, with the number in religious Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the country's most dynamic economies, climbing up to 14 in some places. Proponents of cutting a holiday, which included Finance Minister Hans Eichel and Schröder, argued that eliminating the holiday would allow for one more work day and that would bring in roughly €2 billion ($2.6 billion). Though the figure sounds impressive, most economists said it only holds if the economy is doing well - which is definitely not the case at the moment in Germany. "How do more working hours help a company that doesn't have enough commissions?" Holger Schäfer, a labor market expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Cologne told DW-WORLD. Schäfer argued for a bit more flexibility in the collective bargaining agreement between industry and labor as a way of increasing productivity when it is direly needed. Taking away a holiday, he said, did not. "When you're talking about 220 potential working days a year, one day less is not that much," he said.
    Facing a new economic reality
    But the discussion in recent weeks has nevertheless had an effect: Both employers and their workers are realizing that the new economic reality requires massive changes. Already, there is talk of forcing employees who take cigarette breaks to work extra to make up for lost time, and the introduction of longer work weeks seems unavoidable, say analysts. "I think people would prefer to leave holidays and vacation days alone and instead work longer hours," Michael Schröder, an economist at the Center for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim, told DW-WORLD. All agree that the country's political leaders are not likely to put additional holidays on the chopping block any time soon. "I think they've come to the realization that that's not the best way to consolidate the budget," said Schäfer.

  4. Belgians work more for same money
    Expatica, Netherlands
    BRUSSELS – The average Belgian is earning roughly the same salary as two years ago, but working longer hours, according to a study published on Wednesday.
    [So Belgium too has joined the Race to the Bottom. At least Europe is a few years behind the U.S. in this self-mutilating masochism.]
    Belgians earn about EUR 2,600 gross a month and generally work an extra six hours a week, which are rarely paid. The figures come from the fourth survey of salaries, published by job agency Vacature. The report concluded that the most lucrative areas to work in are chemistry, the pharmaceutical industry and the energy sector. IT professionals no longer have the fastest increasing salaries. Those working in marketing, management and engineering have enjoyed the biggest pay increases. In general, though, the number of workers who have been given a pay rise of more than 6% in the course of the last year has fallen compared to 2002. And whereas the average contract is for 37.7 hours a week, the actual working week is 43.5 hours. The overtime is paid for in only 5.5% of cases. In a third of cases, workers get time off to make up for overtime. The study also appears to confirm that workers with degrees attract bigger salaries than those without. The average university graduate earned 10% more than someone without a diploma. The good news is that Belgians seem relatively satisfied with what they earn, with more than half those interviewed rating 7 or 8 out of 10 their degree of happiness over their pay.
    [With those priorities, which support job cuts over paycuts, they'll soon see their pay fall as more and more of them lose their jobs and get desperate enough to offer employers cheaper work than those still employed.]
    However, there was bad news for women in a second survey published by human resource company SD Worx. It found women workers earning 4.7% less than their male colleagues and the pay difference increased with age.

  5. Proposal to cut leave, overtime hours
    Valletta Times, Malta
    Natalino Fenech
    A draft social pact to be discussed this morning proposes a seven-day reduction in vacation leave over three years and giving workers normal pay for the first four hours of overtime every week until 2007.
    [In other words, overtime doesn't start till four hours later each week. This is another big step backwards, this time from little Malta, where you'd think employers would have a little more common sense, feeling for their fellow citizens and neighbors, and concern for their tiny economy.]
    Social partners meeting at the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development are set to convene at eight this morning to discuss the proposed draft, sent to them by MCSED chairman Victor Scicluna on Monday night. At 10 am. they will then be given a presentation on the electricity surcharge options by Investments Minster Austin Gatt and the Parliamentary Secretary in the Finance Ministry, Tonio Fenech. The six-page draft document was last night discussed by the unions within the Confederation of Malta Trade Unions while employers also met in preparation for this morning's meeting. In a nutshell, the proposals, aimed at stimulating the economy, would mean a reduction of seven days in workers' vacation leave between 2005 and 2007, when the pact would expire. Two days would be lost in each of 2005 and 2006 and three in 2007. Until 2007, no overtime rates would be paid for the first four hours of overtime worked in a week; the extra hours worked would be paid for at the normal rate. This would be capped to a maximum of 100 hours per year per employee. Another proposal is to substitute a number of public holidays by optional vacation leave following consultation with political parties and the ecclesiastical authorities. To eliminate distortions in the income tax system, it is proposed that part-time tax benefits shall be available to both members of a married couple in cases of joint computation. To improve participation of women in the labour force, the government would implement measures to enable quality child-care to be provided. The government would also implement measures to effectively eliminate abuse in invalidity benefits. Regarding the wages policy, the text proposes that as from January 2006, wage increases in excess of the cost-of-living adjustment would be in the form of non-cumulative cash payments. This should also apply to existing and prospective collective agreements signed throughout the duration of the pact. The draft pact proposes a complicated system of cash payments, parts of which would be incorporated in the wages according to GDP growth. The proposed pact says that unemployment benefits should be transformed to effectively lead to participation in the labour market. Unemployed persons aged 25 or under should be requested to take six-month placements with firms in the private sector. Older persons would be given training to acquire skills that could lead to employment. Unemployment benefits would be conditional on participation in courses. Private sector employers would contribute to a fund for the retraining of workers, amounting to 1c per hour per employee - 8c per employee in the private sector per day or 40c per employee a week. The document also speaks of a reform of the student stipends system, through which a differentiated system of stipends would be introduced, providing incentives for studies in areas of major need. In the case of taxation, the draft pact says the government should commit itself not to increase income tax and VAT rates. The government should also extend the voluntary tax agreements systems based on benchmarking to all self-employed. The proposed pact also speaks about the need to reduce excess government employment through public-private partnerships and incentivise re-deployment. It also proposes that increases in government expenditure on its wage bill should not exceed 1% annually for the duration of the social pact. Finally, it proposes more effective scrutiny of developments in government recurrent and capital expenditure programmes by a working group of the MCESD.

  6. IFA launch bid to combat stress among farmers
    Ireland Online, Ireland
    Leaflets are to be distributed to farmers across the country to help combat growing levels of stress and isolation, it was revealed today. John Dillon, president of the Irish Farmers Association [IFA], said a significant factor in pressure levels among farmers was the fact they generally worked alone. He said this affected not just their physical health but also their mental state. "Whereas in the past the whole family was involved in the farm enterprise, today family members are increasingly working off the farm leaving farmers to cope alone with spiralling stress levels," Mr Dillon said. "The pace of change in farming is greater than ever with the introduction of the Fischler Common Agricultural Policy Reforms. "Long working hours, uncertain market prices and the complexities of ever-changing EU regulations are adding to the pressures on farmers." A new IFA leaflet on 'Dealing with Stress', sponsored by VHI Healthcare, will be distributed among the association's members. Mary McGreal, IFA farm family chairwoman, said: "It will increase the awareness of farm stress by helping farmers to recognise the symptoms. It also offers important advice on how to cope and where to get help." The leaflet urges farmers to take a break from their routine, identify someone to talk to about problems, ensure they think positively and ask for help if they need it. It highlights common sources of farm stress which include paperwork, financial strain, stock depopulation, CAP reforms and caring for elderly relatives. The leaflet points out some of the most common symptoms of stress such as digestive upsets, heart palpitations, increased consumption of alcohol, irritability, depression and insomnia. The Southern Health Board recently acknowledged the level of stress and depression among the farming population with the launch of a new helpline, 1-800-742-645, for those living in rural areas.

  7. Police frugal, oversight board told - Chief, union point to $500,000 savings in overtime
    Waterbury Republican American, CT
    By Cara Rubinsky
    WATERBURY, Conn. - The police department has saved an estimated $500,000 a year in overtime by implementing recommendations in an efficiency study commissioned 18 months ago by the state oversight board.
    In an effort to avoid a contentious battle similar to the one that ensued when the oversight board imposed a fire union contract earlier this year, Police Chief Neil O'Leary and the police union have worked together on implementing many of the recommendations in the $170,000 study.
    The police contract expires on June 30. The oversight board, created [as arbitrator] in March 2001 to help the city work its way back from a $100 million deficit, has sweeping powers to impose contract provisions...if the police union and the city cannot negotiate an agreement the board finds acceptable....
    O'Leary told the subcommittee Tuesday that the police department has implemented most of the 66 recommendations in its study, including revising the policy and procedures manual, which had not been updated since 1973. Some other recommendations, such as having civilians work in the dispatch center instead of officers, cannot be implemented until a new contract is negotiated or imposed.
    Many of the recommendations were intended to cut down on overtime, which is $1.8 million in the $24.9 million department budget for this year, compared with $2.1 million in last year's budget. The total city budget is $325 million.
    The biggest change has been a switch to a practice known as discretionary hiring, in which captains are allowed to decide whether to pay officers overtime to cover for other officers who are out sick or on vacation. The department has 320 officers.
    Previously, all spots were filled without consideration of whether those officers were really needed.
    [Brilliant.]
    Based on recommendations in the study, the command structure was also changed to make covering for absent high-ranking officers less costly. Previously, if the captain in charge of a shift was out, another captain came in on overtime or a lieutenant was paid the difference between his or her salary and a captain's. Now lieutenants cover for captains and are paid a differential only if the captain is out more than three days....
    [Meanwhile, another department is stepping backward -]
    Firefighters, meanwhile, saw their work week extended from 42 to 50 hours and their schedules change dramatically. Previously, firefighters worked three days, had three days off, worked three nights, and had three days off. Now they work 24 hours, are off 24 hours, work 24 hours, are off 24 hours, work 24 hours and then are off for four days. In any 27-day period, they have one additional day off. The changes are designed to cut down on overtime [pay], which totaled more than $2 million in last year's $315.2 million city budget.
    [Cutting overtime pay by growing the workweek is a ticket to fewer consumers and economic depression.]
    The fire union says the amount is high because the city made a conscious decision not to hire enough firefighters, while the city contends sick-time abuse is to blame....

  8. ["Sometimes the magic works."]
    Miracle Mart changes policy
    KXMA, ND
    BISMARCK, N .D. - The chief executive officer [CEO] of Bismarck-based Miracle Mart Incorporated says the grocery chain has changed policy to avoid a "gray area'' in federal overtime regulations. It comes after the company paid more than $84,000 in back overtime wages to 40 employees after a federal Labor Department investigation. The Bismarck-based company also has paid more than $4,000 in fines for child labor violations. Miracle Mart COO [= chief operating officer - same as CEO in this case??] Jerry Gentz says the company did not purposely violate any laws. He says the child labor violations were minor and were the result of oversight problems - not the company's policies. As for the overtime dispute - Gentz says Miracle Mart does not agree with the Labor Department's findings. But he says policy has been changed so that salaried department managers will get time-and-a-half pay for the 5 hours they're required to work past a normal 40-hour work week. Richard Habura with the Labor Department says Miracle Mart did not deliberately violate any laws. And he says the company cooperated with the investigation. Miracle Mart has stores in Bismarck, Mandan and Minot.

  9. Management Matters - Bonuses sometimes do more harm than good
    by Steven Nahrwold, Elkhart Truth, IN
    Many companies have had very profitable years and want to say thanks to some or all employees through a profit sharing/bonus plan. I don't claim to be an expert in benefits, but I have some knowledge about the psychology of money and have thus observed how often companies don't get the biggest benefit from out-of-cycle-payouts. In fact, some organizations actually shoot themselves in the foot with this money. They damage morale and motivation. First of all, it's not really the money. It's the money relative to that received by others who are perceived as being in the same category or group. Did you ever see kids and money, candy or gifts? They not only see what they got, they quickly check to see what others got to make sure they weren't cheated. If others got more, they felt cheated. As we grow older, such rigid egalitarianism gets modified, but it still exists for those who we see in our own category, usually defined as same job level and performance rating. We can accept different individual rewards if they are based on logical, external criteria which are shared openly. For example, the maximum percentage of one's income allowable in a bonus should be the same for all in the same job grade (or range of grades). Differences in possible percentage can exist between different job grades as that is the way companies distinguish levels of strategic importance in the organization. That's right - higher job grades with presumably higher technical knowledge and overall competency are of greater strategic value than more easily replaced unskilled workers. Of course, all employees are valuable and should be treated that way by management. But more skills/pay/strategic value/bonus percentage is not seen by most as unfair. If less-skilled employees improve their skills and level of contribution, you can bet they, too, will expect a higher percentage of the payout. Mostly, the higher percentages exist among the exempt employees and, in most cases, they not only bring more skills (including management ones), they also tend to work longer hours without overtime pay. In many companies, middle and upper managers put in 40 to 60% more hours every week than their employees. I've known many who put in 80 hours a week, which is 100% extra. Let me clarify: a higher salary represents a higher level of responsibility and strategic value. A higher bonus percentage reflects their high contribution of time.
    [So here we have a self-styled "organizational consultant" who still equates face time with productivity in the age of automation.]
    Now while each job grade gets the same potential percentage of pay in bonus, the actual figures should be tied to individual performance. Thus, while all grade 8 employees may be eligible for 10% of annual salary bonus, some may get 3%, 6% or 10%, depending on their review. The snag in the system is when employees feel performance ratings are not made impartially, but reflect politics from above or subjective criteria by bosses such as likability, common interest or outside socializing. That's unfair, abhorrent and demoralizing at any level and can ruin an organization. Year ago, Ford reportedly just gave each employee the same amount. That sounds nice but I doubt it did the morale and motivation as much good as it could have. For one thing, it was probably mandated by union contract and thus viewed more as an entitlement. Second, the fact that everyone got the same amount takes away the reinforcement to make greater individual effort. In short, make sure that every person in a specific job grade (or range of grades) with the same performance rating gets the same amount of money. Somehow, most find out what others have received. Dr. Nahrwold has a part-time office in Elkhart for individual and organizational consultation. He can be contacted at (708) 482-3205 or by writing to 101 Stonegate Road, LaGrange Park, IL 60526.

  10. Mich. employees vote on new contract - State officials question whether the state can afford 10% pay increases for 38,000 workers
    By David Eggert, AP via DetNews.com, MI
    Sharon Rivera, president of the United Auto Workers Local 6000, criticizes Senator Sikkema, who got a 38% raise four years ago, for opposing the pay raises. [photo by Al Goldis]
    State pay raises
    A look at proposed pay increases for unionized state employees (by fiscal year):
    2006 - 2%
    2007 - 4%
    2008 - 4%
    LANSING, Mich. - In temporary voting sites ranging from the Grand Rapids UAW office to Lapeer's West Street Grill, state employees this week are continuing to decide whether to ratify a new labor deal that includes a 10% pay raise spread over three years, beginning next November. But in a time of tight budgets, it has led Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema to question whether the state can afford wage increases for 38,000 unionized employees. The agreement was reached between five labor unions and the top negotiator for Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration. "Show me the money," Sikkema, R-Wyoming, said of the pay agreement, which will increase state spending by an estimated $219 million over the next three fiscal years. Sikkema said the pay raise will force state departments to cut spending in other areas, and criticized Granholm for agreeing to it. "State employees may deserve a raise," he said, "but taxpayers deserve to know how the governor will pay for them. This is exactly how deficits occur, when government floats a check and assumes the taxpayers will cover it." Sikkema's stance prompted an angry response from Granholm and the unions. "We believe Senator Sikkema is making scapegoats of state employees for political purposes," Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said. Granholm proved she was fiscally responsible by cutting $3 billion from the state budget in recent years, Boyd said. Some of those savings have come through early retirements and unfilled job openings. Boyd notes that 8,000 fewer people work for the state than four years ago. The unions point out that legislative staff workers - including Sikkema's - got pay raises this budget year. They also cite the 38% salary increase lawmakers gave themselves. "It's highly hypocritical that Senator Sikkema, who got a 38% raise four years ago, would be attacking state worker unions," said Sharon Rivera, president of United Auto Workers Local 6000. The union represents 16,800 employees in human services and administrative support - social workers, nurses, prison teachers, probation officers and clerical workers. State employees regularly have received pay raises over the years, usually in line with inflation. Some employees point out that, even during the state's economic boom times in the late 1990s, annual pay raises for unionized workers usually were only in the 2 to 3% range. Last year, as the state struggled to balance its books because of lackluster revenues, union workers agreed to concessions. They now work 40 hours a week but are paid only for 38.
    [Sounds like a raw deal regardless of following polished rhetoric -]
    Two hours are banked and either used toward vacation time or paid to employees when they retire or leave state service.
    [So if a lot a employees happen to retire at once, as in the case of air traffic controllers, we have a "train wreck."]
    The concessions also included unpaid days off, but those ended when the new fiscal year started Oct. 1. Under the new deal, the so-called banked leave program - with a few revisions - will be extended through November 2005, saving the state about $111 million. There's also a phase-in of the pay raises - 2% in the fiscal year that starts next October, 4% in the fiscal year that starts in October 2006 and 4% in the one that begins in October 2007. Half of each year's raise would be given in October, with the remainder coming in April. Next year's pay raise is smaller than those in the last two years of the contract because the state's economy is expected to be less robust next budget year. That's another adjustment to help the state with its financial struggles, Rivera said. "People are very upset being asked to forgo pay for the second year in a row," she said. The concessions, she said, essentially negate last year's 3% raise and this year's 4% increase because the banked leave program takes away two hours of pay each week.
    [So, another fancy phrase to rob the middle class while senators get outrageous raises. So whom are they now representing in this "representative democracy"?]
    "We provide services that are very difficult. We work in prisons and with the mentally ill. We protect children that have been abused. It's incumbent upon the state to pay us appropriately for those services," she said. While the labor deal makes no changes to health care deductibles or premiums, it does include changes to the prescription drug plan. David Fink, the state's top labor negotiator, said UAW union members will be required to buy generic drugs instead of costlier brand-name versions. Other employees will start participating in a three-tiered system that has a $7 copay for generic drugs, $15 for brand-names and $30 for brand-names for which generics or other brand-names are available. Fink wouldn't disclose specifics but said the state will save a significant amount of money with the prescription drug changes. The agreement also lowers the entry level salary for new employees. "In the long run, that's a very significant amount of structural savings," Fink said. Sikkema, however, said the deal is a step backward. He said it's unwise to commit to spending money the state doesn't have. Granholm spokeswoman Boyd said the governor expects the pay raise to be covered by normal growth in tax revenues over the three-year period. There's no clear answer on which side is right. But Tom Clay of the Citizens Research Council, a nonpartisan public policy think tank based Livonia, said the pay increases are similar to what the last governor, Republican John Engler, gave employees in the current three-year deal. "They are certainly not excessive compared to what we're seeing around the country," Clay said. He noted, however, that the budget outlook is grim for fiscal 2006, the first year of the proposed contract. Revenues for the fiscal year that ended this past Sept. 30 could be short by $140 million, causing a deficit in the current fiscal year. The state could face a $1 billion deficit next budget year, Clay said. Granholm is expected to present her spending proposal in February or March for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, 2005.

  11. Upbeat voice of enterprise
    Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand
    New Business New Zealand chief Phil O'Reilly is a man who believes this country's companies are well placed to be nimble in the market place, writes Sue Allen. Phil O'Reilly is a big bloke ­ but he moves fast. Two weeks ago he landed back in Wellington after four years with Westpac Bank in Sydney to take up his new job as chief executive of business lobby group Business New Zealand. Within 24 hours this man with a whirlwind, jovial personality was at his first meeting with the head of the Council of Trade Unions, Ross Wilson. By the end of his first week he had "officially and unofficially" met government ministers and senior officials, given a host of interviews, been invited to a few cocktail parties, tried to buy a car and was looking at houses. Having spent 10 years in Wellington during the 1990s in the high-profile role of executive director of the Newspaper Publishers Association, he returns to the capital with a reputation for being able to work the political and social circuit; one person described him as a "legendary luncher". He is also known as an effective political lobbyist, having championed the cause for New Zealand's print journalists and newspaper publishers over meaty issues like the freedom of the press to cameras in court. While Europe was reeling from the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and debating the role of the paparazzi and the invasive behaviour of tabloid journalists, O'Reilly and the NPA were fighting a rearguard action to protect the New Zealand media from being hog-tied by what is now the Privacy Act. Before that, he was chief advocate with the Auckland Employers Association for commercial printing and packaging, security and cleaning during the difficult phasing out of national awards in the late 1980s. His time at the NPA, he says, taught him a lot about the "yellow brick road" of political lobbying and the idea, gleaned from a book about corporate survival called Built to Last, of the "big, hairy, audacious idea". "The proposition is that when you start something you are not quite sure how you will get to the end of it. Well, I quite like that. You know you've got to solve the problem but you are not sure how to do it, and lobbying and representation are generally like that." Being too dogmatic does not allow for changes, possibly even to the extent of a change of government, or for other points of view. As the policy and lobbying arm for employers and the main spokesman for Business New Zealand's 14,500 direct employer members, O'Reilly will be kept fully occupied making sure the voice of businesses is being heard by the Government. After four years in Sydney as head of employment policy and communication at Westpac Bank, he says he returns to New Zealand with two things he did not have when he left: more business acumen, having worked for a large corporate, and a sense of perspective. The former, he hopes, will allow him to talk for business in a way that makes sense. "I understand a little about how they work and why they do what they do,and I think that enables me to speak on behalf of business in a way that I hope they will say, whether or not I agree with him, I understand what he's saying." While at Westpac, he was responsible for developing policy on things like employment relations, workers' compensation and health and safety for the bank's 22,000 Australian employees. Having gained a sense of perspective, O'Reilly says one thing that is now obvious to him is that New Zealand businesses are well placed to be nimble in the marketplace, given the right regulatory framework. Like Australia, he says, New Zealand has all the plus sides for businesses, the rule of law, a lack of corruption and a reasonably efficient bureaucracy. What it has in addition is a lack of federalism, a high proportion of small businesses which are able to pick up on new investment and product opportunities, an outward-looking approach, multi-skilled managers, close-knit networks and Australia as a marketplace next door. "Would I seek to do this job in Australia? Well, at the end of the day I'm a New Zealander, and my passion is for this country" - Phil O'Reilly, chief executive Business New Zealand "So there are a bunch of ways New Zealand can be nimble from a business perspective. So one of the things I have already started talking to both ministers and government officials about is using that as a test." Although some government policy enables nimbleness, "in some ways it certainly doesn't", he says, citing New Zealand's labour laws as a prime example of areas where legislation gets in the way. By taking a thematic approach, he hopes Business New Zealand will be able to change "the nexus of debate" and put issues in a different light. "(This is) so all the parties can see that there is a context to what we are saying; we are not just saying the labour laws are rubbish because the CTU likes them, there is actually a reason." But getting the Government to tune back in to the voice of business may take some doing. Right or wrong, the feeling around town is that Business New Zealand ­ formed from the merger in 2001 of the New Zealand Employers' and Manufacturers' Federations ­ has been ineffective of late down at the Beehive, despite its continued criticism of Government policies. O'Reilly also has another mission: to put the "mana" back into the organisation and into business. "I have in my mind, as a new opportunity for Business New Zealand, not only to advocate the interests of business, but to show the Government and the public how businesses can be heroes, how business can be pretty cool." He falls back on the example of the apocryphal pub in Eketahuna. It may sponsor the local footie team, but its real role as a business is that the local painter paints it, it employs some cleaners and some bar staff and pays some local and government tax and "makes people's lives better than they would otherwise be". "And that's not to get all teary-eyed about it, the idea is to be quite practical and draw the links between normal sensible business activity and a better community, and to me that is a great story to tell." He is also looking forward to getting involved in the debate on corporate tax rates, recently brought to the fore as a pre- election issue by the Progressive Party. Work-life balance, he thinks, will also become a hot potato, particularly if Associate Labour Minister Ruth Dyson presses ahead with threats to introduce legislation if businesses fail to act. He gives various examples. One person may be a young thruster who wants to work long hours and become head of the company. Another may have sick children or have an elderly parent so they want shorter, more flexible working hours. Another person may be older, without children to support, and want time off each year to travel. "Each one of those things is different, each one is legitimate, and each one of them is right for the person concerned. "The problem with laws is they pick winners. If (the Government) says what we are going to do is favour families, that is legitimate, but you cut out the young thruster and the empty-nester if you do that." When asked why he decided to pack up his home in Sydney and return to Wellington with his Australian partner, Julie, he says it was a question of looking at where he contributed best. Working at Business New Zealand was the perfect role. "Would I seek to do this job in Australia? Well, at the end of the day I'm a New Zealander, and my passion is for this country."

  12. Swedish banks face million-crown fines
    The Local, Sweden
    Swedish banks face million-crown fines
    Ingrid Bonde, director-general of the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen) is expected to impose a fine of 1,000,000 crowns each on SEB and Handelsbanken for their poor customer information and costly fees for foreign payments.
    Private life important for new recruits
    Shorter and more flexible working hours are increasingly important for male university graduates to venture into a career, according to a recruitment survey conducted by Elisabeth Wallace, managing director of the recruitment agency Wallace & Co. The survey shows that men nowadays prioritise their families more than before.

  13. Boomers may add to pains
    Dallas Morning News via Press-Enterprise, CA
    By Danielle DiMartino
    Blast those baby boomers! Things are bad for the 4 million unemployed whom previous recoveries would have put back to work by now. But they could get worse. Sheryl King is a senior economist at Merrill Lynch in New York. In a recent report, she explored the demographically seismic shifts documented in the last three years since the current recovery started. Despite the recovery, the labor force participation rate is still down. "Bucking this downward trend have been workers age 55 and over who have increased their labor force participation by 4 percentage points since early 2000," Ms. King wrote.
    Posing a problem
    In other words, unlike every other age group, the percentage of baby boomers in the makeup of the labor force has actually increased. Whatever the reason, I wouldn't expect the trend to reverse itself any time soon, as one company after another pulls the health care rug out from under retirees. That doesn't bode well for the rest of the workforce. The overall labor participation rate has fallen to a 16-year low of 65.9%, from a peak of 67.3% in early 2000. "If not for the 1.4 percentage point decline in the labor force participation rate since January 2000, the unemployment rate would have remained unchanged at 6.3%," its peak of last summer, Ms. King added. Those who've been hit the hardest are the youngest workers, many of whom have chosen to continue their studies until the job environment improves.
    Vacation time?
    "If the economy were to generate 200,000 jobs per month ‹ the average so far this year ‹ then it would not be until mid-2007 that we would expect to see the unemployment rate drop below 5%, which is widely considered to be the full-employment rate," Ms. King said. With that in mind, she figures the Fed can relax and take "an extended vacation from its rate-hiking exercise." And if the employment growth instead reverts back down to monthly gains of 150,000? That reflection of a weakening economy implies the unemployment rate could allow the Fed to remain on hold all the way until 2008. As for the baby boomers, many are just coming to grips with the fact that banks can be kind enough to raise the rate at which they lend after Fed rate hikes, yet leave the meager interest paid on savings deposits basically steady. Something tells me the future will bring many more back into the labor force fold.

  14. The Working Poor
    Gotham Gazette (NY) November, 2004
    by Linda Ostreicher
    [Interesting name. Looks like out-stretcher or ostricher. But it's really from ost-reich or east-reign, meaning east-state or -tribe, as opposed to westreich, nordreich and suedreich.]
    NEW YORK, NY - Last year, about one in three low-wage full-time workers in this city experienced one or more of these hardships:
    € their gas, phone, or electricity was turned off because they couldn't pay the bills;
    € they used a food bank or pantry to avoid going hungry;
    € they couldn't pay the rent;
    € or a prescription cost too much for them to fill it.
    In The Unheard Third: Bringing the Voices of Low-Income New Yorkers to the Policy Debate, the Community Service Society and the United Way of New York City document the street-level effects of New York's inadequate minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. Many of the working poor saw their wages or tips go down last year, had their hours cut back, or lost their jobs entirely. Statewide, over 88% of families supported by low-wage workers are headed by at least one adult over the age of 25; the minimum wage is not limited to teenage workers. Those earning the least also receive the fewest employment benefits, which are taken for granted by higher-paid workers. Nearly two-thirds of low-wage workers reported having no paid vacation days or sick days. Almost half had no health coverage, with the majority lacking prescription coverage for themselves and/or health coverage for family members. The working poor have no need of financial advisors: Only one-third are offered a pension or 401(k) retirement plan, and most have less than $500 in savings. There is little margin for emergency needs here. A parent who misses work to care for a sick child loses money every day and risks being fired. A few extra dollars a month for subway fare, or a 4% rent increase, means the family must do without another essential item.
    Food Stamps Are Back in Favor
    Under the Giuliani administration, food stamps were considered a form of welfare, and the city sought to "wean" working recipients from them. The Bloomberg administration has indicated more willingness to extend food benefits. The city's Human Resources Administration is collaborating with a food stamp outreach initiative of the Community Food Resource Center, with participation by Pathmark Supermarkets. The center will post advocates at supermarkets to educate shoppers about food stamps, screen them for eligibility, and help them fill out applications.
    Little Help from Education and Job Training
    While federal job training programs have a good record of helping graduates find and keep jobs, they are not reaching those New Yorkers who need them most. Statewide, less than one-third of 1% of adult high-school dropouts complete job training programs. The city's Local Law 23 mandated access to job training and education for welfare recipients, but the Bloomberg administration has not implemented the law, nor has it complied with a 2003 court order to provide a list of approved training programs to welfare recipients interested in enrolling. Nearly 80% of welfare recipients didn't know that there were educational programs open to them, according to a survey by the Urban Justice Center and Families United for Racial and Economic Justice. For every two respondents who attended school last year, another seven were interested in doing so, but did not. One unemployed woman had enrolled full-time in college before becoming eligible for welfare. She reported that a welfare worker told her that she would have to give up school in order to meet the work requirement. This was a direct violation of the city's obligation to make a reasonable effort to accommodate the class schedule of a recipient enrolled in school. Over 300 welfare beneficiaries were surveyed for the report, at ten of the city's Job Centers. Such a survey would be more difficult today, now that an appeals court has upheld the city's ban on the presence of advocates in job centers, unless they are on "official business," as defined by the Human Resources Administration. (See "A Ban On Welfare Advocates At Welfare Centers," by Emily Jane Goodman, Gotham Gazette, September, 2004.)
    Better Days Are Not Ahead for the Working Poor
    Currently, the working poor have limited opportunities to climb out of poverty, according to Between Hope and Hard Times: New York's Working Families In Economic Distress (In PDF Format), by the Center for an Urban Future and the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy. The authors found that even before the recent recession, median household income dropped in all four outer boroughs during the 1990s. While the United States as a whole saw a slight drop - 1.3% - in the number of low-income households during that decade, New York State had an increase of 2.7% in its number of low-income households. The hardships faced by low-income households are increased by New York City being one of the two most expensive places to live in the country. The cost for just three commodities‹education, housing, and child care‹illustrates the difficulty of working your way out of poverty. A community college degree adds an average of $7,000 to a worker's annual income, but tuition increases keep moving education further out of reach. New York City community colleges raised tuition to $2,800 a year in 2003. Students who work and go to school part-time aren't eligible for the major source of financial aid: the Tuition Assistance Program.
    Planned Shrinkage of Housing for the Poor
    New York City's permanent housing emergency continues to grow worse. Large new public housing projects are no longer being built. Poor tenants have come to increasing rely on Section 8, a federal program of vouchers that pay part of the rent, but there is a long waiting list for the program, and a likelihood that its funding will be cut next year. (See Affordable Housing in 2004 by Joe Lamport)
    Inadequate Child Care
    The city provides child care subsidies for 105,000 children; it is estimated that another 100,000 are eligible, but not receiving a subsidy. Low-income parents usually turn to unregulated care, such as leaving children with a relative or neighbor. Even among families using subsidized day care, 38,000 children are in unregulated care. Unregulated settings rarely offer the learning activities provided in more formal child care settings, so children entering school from unregulated day care start out with a disadvantage.
    Work Supports as a Subsidy to Employers
    Housing vouchers, child care subsidies, food stamps, and publicly funded health coverage can be seen as subsidies that benefit employers by allowing them to hire workers at salaries too low to live on. If government chooses to use tax dollars to help employers, there should be some criteria for this assistance. Perhaps businesses could be required to pay a living wage, with essential fringe benefits, unless they passed a means test based on their profit margin or on the salary of the highest-paid executive.
    Linda Ostreicher, a former budget analyst for the New York City Council, is a freelance writer and consultant to nonprofits.

  15. Workers decry ARAMARK pressure - Employees working at the East Campus Marketplace are upset about several of ARAMARK's policies
    The Duke Chronicle, N.C
    by Matt Sullivan
    With another probable lashing of ARAMARK Corp. on the tip of Duke Student Government's tongue, employees at the East Campus Marketplace are already crying foul over bullying, firing and benefit cutting from managers working for the company, which has operated major dining operations for the University over the past three years. After significant turnover in management this year, a dozen Duke workers at the freshman dining hall, who are among the highest-paid and most experienced of food service employees on campus, said they felt overworked and underappreciated. A recent surge of alleged harassment from ARAMARK bosses has fostered a "back of the bus" mentality, workers said, leaving staff morale and opportunities for promotion at a desperate low. "When we started this job, we got a job here at Duke," employee Dorothy Laney said. "Duke chose to get ARAMARK here, but how do we move up with Duke when ARAMARK is right here blocking us? We can't do shit, we can't move!" Officials from Duke Dining Services and ARAMARK cited last week's firing of a 19-year employee at the Marketplace as a jumping-off point for the latest clamoring among Duke staff members. A flare-up between the employee and one of the eight Marketplace managers from ARAMARK, during which she said she flipped her boss' tie, led to her immediate termination; she was back to work this week after one of several grievances won last week by Local 77 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. But servers, chefs and cleaning personnel alike remain immediately frustrated with last week's apparent revocation of their "birthday pay," an extra paid vacation day that workers often take advantage of during student vacations. Kim Davis, ARAMARK's new resident district manager, said while his staff has brought it up with employees, no policy change has been instituted yet. "We want to open up lines of communication so that employees and managers can make sure that their voices are heard," Davis added. When it comes to student-employee interaction, however, Marketplace workers said ARAMARK managers have restricted their parlay with freshmen across the board, recently forcing them not to congregate outside the front of the East Union Building during breaks. "They say the students don't want us out there," said Jermall McRae, a cook who has worked at the Marketplace for nine years, beginning at age 16. "They say the students are looking at us as being nasty or whatever because we eat in front of you and then we're going behind the line and serving you‹that's what you're all thinking. They're basically speaking for the students." Tonight the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee will present the findings of its 400-student survey to Duke Student Government, looking into quality, customer service, dietary needs and the selection ARAMARK offers at the University, with a particular focus on the Great Hall and the Marketplace. Senior Lindsey Paluska, the DUSDAC co-chair who will make the presentation, said half of the 200 freshmen who responded deemed customer service at the Marketplace worse than at other eateries, but she noted that "a lot of those issues have to do with training initiatives and things along those lines." Senior Pasha Majdi, president of DSG, insisted that tonight's message to ARAMARK would be more specific than February's blanket vote of "no confidence." "I think the theme this year in our evaluation is how many times we've asked for improvements and how many times we haven't seen that followed through," he said. "And one thing we're going to be talking about, in part, is training of employees and the investment that ARAMARK puts in the Duke employees." But workers at the Marketplace said multiple training programs and benefit incentives have slowed dramatically since the beginning of the school year. Davis said he is "still formulating plans" for a follow-up training session to the one in August but adapting to growing concerns "would not be an overnight change." Marketplace staffers, however, insisted that since Davis replaced ARAMARK's former on-site representative David Randolph this fall, incentives like the DevilBucks reward program and even allowances for paid medical and family emergency leave have declined. "Everything that was promised to us from ARAMARK, such as training, incentive programs, all that stuff‹when Dave left, that left with him," employee Anthony Walker said. "They don't want to go by what they set." Jim Wulforst, director of Dining Services, would not go so far as to speculate on the future of Duke's partnership with ARAMARK, whose five-year contract expires next year but includes provisions for termination. He noted that the recent Marketplace firing and re-hiring "has bubbled up a lot of things that people are unhappy about." "The reason our union employees bought into the initiative to bring ARAMARK to Duke was we were looking to a company that had global reach, that had training programs and opportunities that we didn't have," Wulforst said. "Some of those deliverables are a concern of both the employees and the customers. We continue to work closely with ARAMARK, and all we expect from my side of the fence is that they deliver the program that we and the customers believe in."
11/17/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/16 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #16 which is from 11/17 hardcopy), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Two for the price of one
    New Zealand Herald
    By ANGELA McCARTHY
    Friends Jane and Ellen have job-shared their office and reception role at a university for six years. Originally a part-timer, Jane was asked to work full-time. That didn't suit her lifestyle so she proposed the job-share idea to her boss.
    Jane says they try to avoid dumping work on each other and keep in close communication, sharing information in a daily log book. "It is about personalities working well together, taking combined responsibility and having a no-blame policy," says Jane. "We decided from the start to share any problems and work things through ourselves. But we couldn't do this if we didn't totally trust each other and I think that trust would possibly take a while to build up with a stranger."
    Not all job-shares work. Margaret suggested a job-share when she was asked to go full-time in her conference administration role for a small, not-for-profit organisation. Her manager agreed and recruited a second person for the two-day/three-day share. Margaret got on well with her new colleague although at times she needed to follow up her work.
    "She wasn't as methodical or as quick as me but that didn't worry me because I was keeping the hours I wanted so I could also spend time with my preschooler."
    It began well but then management started "getting picky. The accountant hauled us over the coals about a missing invoice, saying the mistake happened because we were job-sharing. But it could have happened to anyone and we'd sorted it out before it became a problem".
    Margaret began to sense the loss of support for the arrangement. When she became pregnant and applied for maternity leave, her job-share colleague resigned shortly after. The organisation replaced them with a full-timer, offering Margaret a part-time position after maternity leave.
    "I decided not to go back because I felt there was too much bad feeling about the job-sharing situation."
    She believes the job-share would have worked if other staff had supported it more, and says it became a red herring to cover management problems. "It is important that management and the wider team are flexible towards job-share arrangements," says Deloitte tax division manager Georgina Bridge, who set up a job-share arrangement to avoid losing talent.
    A secretary returning from maternity leave didn't want to work full time and asked about job-sharing. Although Bridge was advised it hadn't worked in previous situations, she felt she should give it a go. Besides, it fitted well with Deloitte's work-life values.
    That was 18 months ago and the job-share is now into its second combination of personnel. "It works because the people involved want it to work and are very conscientious. They try hard to ensure that no work is left at the end of the day for the next person."
    Once a month, the person doing fewer hours comes in an extra day to help her other half with monthly invoices. This increases the sense of the team within the office, says Bridge, who tries to schedule team meetings, morning teas or lunches on that day each month.
    "Having support from the rest of the team is very important," she says. "It also helps if the pair is on the same pay rate."
    Remuneration is an important factor, says FX Consultants' director Stewart Forsyth, because people want to feel there is equity. "It is not whether you see a huge link between what you're doing and the rewards, but whether you're getting paid similar to other people who are performing at your level."
    Management must be clear about valuing the people and the job appropriately, he says. "It is quite possible that there will be pay differential but what is important is that the rationale behind the pay is clearly understood."
    Another issue to watch out for is lack of communication between either the job-sharers or the wider team. "You also want to avoid finger-pointing and to encourage problem-solving when things go wrong," adds Forsyth.
    KC Temps successfully ran a receptionist job-share position within their office for four years. "In the mornings, reception needed phone and reception skills. In the afternoons, more secretarial support was required," says KC Temps' client services manager Alexis Siermans.
    "The job returned to a single, full-time role this year because the role changed due to increased web recruitment applications."
    Siermans says job-sharing tends to alleviate issues, such as cover for family or personal illness and school holidays. "I think you also get more productivity out of people because you have two fresh people over one day."
    However, there can be heightened disruption if one half leaves, as it is harder finding a temp for half a day and the afternoon roles are harder to fill, she adds.
    The recruitment company mainly gets requests for frontline job-share roles, but Siermans believes job-sharing would work well in other areas, such as sales and product management.
    She also sees opportunities for employers to use job-sharing to help people struggling to overcome employment weaknesses. For example, someone with industry experience could job-share with someone with no industry experience. Someone with New Zealand experience could be teamed up with someone without, she says.
    When employers recruit for job-sharing roles Siermans advises employers to define tasks carefully within the job-share and to look for excellent communicators who are team players. "You can't be Ms Control Freak or Ms Autonomy in a job-share."
    Karma Button, who took over the afternoon part of a job-share with Sue Ruttle at Mitre 10's support centre six months ago, says systems and communication are vital. They have a 15- to 20-minute hand-over period in the middle of the day that allows them to communicate face-to-face. They also keep a running diary from one day to the next. "I put in everything Sue needs to know and [details of work] I haven't finished. Then she ticks it off as she goes."
    The job-share role has existed successfully for about three years, says Mitre 10 support centre manager Brendon Mills. The rationale was to ensure high-quality customer service all day, something difficult to achieve for one person on a long shift. To help compatibility, Mills includes the incumbent receptionist in one interview when recruiting.
    Button liked that approach. "At the interview I felt I'd get on well with Sue. Establishing a good working relationship from the start is essential."
    Mills says the job-share means there is always experienced cover when someone is ill, and there are no problems covering lunch breaks. "As well, two heads are better than one when looking for solutions to problems."
    What is job-sharing?
    Job-share is a system where two people take the responsibility for one full-time position, dividing work, pay, holidays and other benefits.
    Benefits of job-sharing Source: University of Western Australia
    How to job share

  2. Employees might cut hours, and collect part of pensions
    By EILEEN AMBROSE, Baltimore Sun via Houston Chronicle.
    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 may feel 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, Treasury, along with the IRS, proposed new rules that would allow workers to cut their hours and collect part of their pensions at the same time.
    'Testing the waters'
    "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, Treasury's benefits tax counsel.
    The way that regulations for traditional pensions are now 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 normal retirement age, often 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 they can collect a pension and then go work somewhere else.
    Under proposed regulations, employers would be able to keep these workers by allowing them at age 59 to begin working fewer hours and collect a percentage of their accrued benefits, without taking nearly as large a long-term hit as they would by retiring early under today's rules. These 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. "Retirement used to mean full time on Friday, and starting Monday I never work again. That certainly has changed."
    More flexibility
    But while this phased retirement promises to give workers more flexibility, it might not be the best financial 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 continued working full time until their normal 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 just quitting and withdrawing pension benefits early, she said.
    "The bad news is the notion that 59 is the right age to even consider leaving the work force," said Munnell, noting that someone at that age would need to cover living expenses for another 25 or 30 years. "I wonder if it gives the signal that is reasonable to think of withdrawing at 59 1/2 ."
    Bill Bortz, associate benefits tax counsel with the Treasury, said phased retirement can actually help workers find out whether they can afford full retirement. Workers might discover they need to increase their 401(k) contributions or go back to work full time, he said.
    They may also find out whether they even like retirement, Bortz said. "It's a way of experimenting," he said.
    The Treasury and IRS are accepting public comment on the proposed regulations through early February. Final regulations could be adopted as early as next year.
    As now proposed, the tax code would be amended so employees can get a share of their accrued benefits early based on how much they reduce their work hours. For example, workers cutting their hours by 20% would get 20% of their benefits.
    The employee would have to be at least 59, the same age that workers in 401(k)s and similar type plans can begin pulling money out of their accounts without early withdrawal penalties. Certain key managers or business owners could not participate.
    Bona fide program
    Additionally, workers must be enrolled in a bona fide phased retirement program, defined as a written, employer-adopted plan. The program must be voluntary, and the worker would have to reduce hours by at least 20%.
    These workers would still accrue benefits, despite logging in fewer hours. And their smaller salary would not affect the formula for determining final benefits, officials said.

  3. Feeling pressed for time? Then turn off the TV, and stop cleaning the bathroom so often
    BY KEVIN HORRIGAN, St. Louis Post-Dispatch via KRT via Fort Wayne News Sentinel, IN
    [What if we already never clean the bathroom - unless it really gets gross?]
    America's way too busy watching television to worry about wasting time. While Americans were busy with the World Series and the presidential election, they may have overlooked Time Day on Oct. 24, a day set aside every year by environmentalists and shrinks selling time-management books to remind people they're too darned busy. I always have thought most people had just the opposite problem. Sure, Americans say they're too busy, but a nation that has time for golf, 3-hour-and-45-minute football games and "The Rebel Billionaire" is not too busy. Now comes the National Bureau of Labor Statistics - a government agency whose very name causes most Americans to doze off - to back me up. It seems that the average American spends more than 11 out of every 24 hours either sleeping or watching television. The American Time Use Survey, or ATUS, reports that on an "average day" in 2003, Americans age 15 and up spent 8.6 hours sleeping, 5.1 hours engaged in leisure and sports activities, 3.7 hours working and 1.8 hours doing household activities. The rest of the time they spent on other things, including eating and drinking, attending school, shopping or griping about being too busy. Right away you can see flaws in the survey. Including teenagers in the poll obviously skews the sleeping results higher and the work results lower. The average teenager also spends three hours a day in the shower. So let's go to the results for "employed persons." ATUS reports that the average employed person worked 7.6 hours on workdays. Men worked 8 hours a day; women, 7.1 hours. This is where the real value of the ATUS survey can be seen. It clearly explodes a lot of myths about differences between how men and women spend their time. ATUS suggests that the 54-minute gap between a man's work day and a woman's can be explained by the fact that more women than men work part time. A better explanation could be that men just naturally work harder than women, who often are offering one another nurturing, emotional support in the ladies room while their male colleagues are toting that barge and lifting that bale. On the other hand, on an average day, 84% of women report doing household activities such as cooking, housework and lawn care, as compared with only 63% of men. Women report spending 2.3 hours a day on these chores, as compared with 1.33 hours for men. Again, there are interpretation problems. Women always claim that the "burden" of taking care of the house falls on them, whereas an alternate explanation is that men get their share (and more!) of the work done faster. Women, for example, waste time cleaning bathtubs, while men know that if natural flow of water cut the Grand Canyon, over time it also will clean a bathtub. Also, to my knowledge, women don't actually do lawn work. The ATUS report says that women spend about an hour a day on housework, while men get their share done in less than 15 minutes. Also, women report spending an average of an hour a day caring for children in the household, compared to 15 minutes for men. Again, the discrepancy can be explained by natural male efficiency, i.e. telling a child to "spit on it" when he scrapes a knee instead of spending precious time on first aid and succor. Also, women tend to change their own and their children's clothing with unnecessary frequency. Men average 10 minutes a day less sleep than women and spend 13 minutes less per day on "personal care" (bathing, grooming, etc.), although those guys on "Queer Eye" probably skew the curve. Where men really shine is in the all-important category of leisure and sports, watching 20 minutes more per day of television (2.75 hours to 2.41 hours). This is not to say men don't keep themselves physically fit, spending a grueling 23 minutes a day working out to only 12.6 minutes for women. And as to the frequently heard complaint that "we never talk," men actually spend almost as much time as women (43 minutes to 50 minutes) on "socializing and communicating." It is possible that men could be spending those 43 minutes a day communicating with other men about, say, the shortcomings of a football coach, instead of talking with their wives, but not likely.
    The National Bureau of Labor Statistics thinks its time-use survey will be handy in developing national labor policy, though I think it will be even handier around the house:
    Her: "How about taking out the trash?"
    Him: "Sorry, I've only got 2.5 hours of television in so far today, and I have to get to bed early if I'm going to get my 8.6 hours."
    This will be a wonderful conversation starter.

  4. Working More to Keep Germany's Holidays - Looking for the magic formula in the holiday debate
    Deutsche Welle
    The raging debate in Germany over public holidays in recent weeks recalled similar dispute almost a decade ago. The difference? Germans are serious about working more. In 1995, the conservative government of Helmut Kohl, looking for ways to finance a revolutionary nursing care insurance package, urged states to cut the Day of Prayer and Repentance, a religious holiday celebrated across the country. The debate at the time was fierce, but the resistance of church officials in all but one of Germany's 16 states proved futile for the holiday that would have been on Wednesday. Nine years later, a similar discussion erupted over the proposal from Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government to move Germany's National Unity Day, celebrated on Oct. 3, to a Sunday. Unlike 1995, the proposal this time failed, but it has sparked a discussion on working more that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
    Holiday cuts don't spark economy
    No European country has more national and religious holidays than Germany, where states decide what holidays to observe. All 16 states have at least nine holidays, with the number in religious Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the country's most dynamic economies, climbing up to 14 in some places. Proponents of cutting a holiday, which included Finance Minister Hans Eichel and Schröder, argued that eliminating the holiday would allow for one more work day and that would bring in roughly €2 billion ($2.6 billion). Though the figure sounds impressive, most economists said it only holds if the economy is doing well - which is definitely not the case at the moment in Germany. "How do more working hours help a company that doesn't have enough commissions?" Holger Schäfer, a labor market expert at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Cologne told DW-WORLD. Schäfer argued for a bit more flexibility in the collective bargaining agreement between industry and labor as a way of increasing productivity when it is direly needed. Taking away a holiday, he said, did not. "When you're talking about 220 potential working days a year, one day less is not that much," he said.
    Facing a new economic reality
    But the discussion in recent weeks has nevertheless had an effect: Both employers and their workers are realizing that the new economic reality requires massive changes. Already, there is talk of forcing employees who take cigarette breaks to work extra to make up for lost time, and the introduction of longer work weeks seems unavoidable, say analysts. "I think people would prefer to leave holidays and vacation days alone and instead work longer hours," Michael Schröder, an economist at the Center for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim, told DW-WORLD. All agree that the country's political leaders are not likely to put additional holidays on the chopping block any time soon. "I think they've come to the realization that that's not the best way to consolidate the budget," said Schäfer.

  5. All fired up
    By Sarah Villicana, The Porterville Recorder, CA
    "Want to keep your fire station fully staffed?" That's the question firefighters are posing as they take to the streets to relay an important message to local residents concerning the bleak future of county fire services. Sighting a $1.8 million budget shortfall, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors has decided not to meet the rising cost of CDF-contracted fire protection services. As a result, Tulare County Fire Chief Dave Hillman is recommending the elimination of full-time staffing at some county stations. "Even as a volunteer, I know this isn't a good idea," said paid-call firefighter Curtis Mitchell, who was handing out flyers Monday afternoon on the corner of Prospect Street and Henderson Avenue. Mitchell is among several local firefighters disappointed with the Board of Supervisors for voting not to pay for a cost increase they have known about for years. Volunteer firefighter Jesse Andrade of Station 20 talks to a shopper in the Wal Mart parking lot Monday afternoon as he joined other concerned firefighters who handed out informational fliers regarding the restaffing of several stations with volunteers. (Recorder photo by John Tipton) The budget gap is a result of a five-year labor contract between the state and CDF workers. The agreement does not raise their base salary, but gradually increases overtime pay to meet federal standards based upon a 56-hour work week. The Board of Supervisors argues that there simply is no money to cover the expense and fire protection services will suffer as a result. "People don't realize what it means to go to volunteers only," said Mitchell. What it means to residents in the greater-Porterville area is slower response times, higher insurance rates and a greater risk of damaged property and loss of life, firefighters said. West Olive Station No. 19 and Doyle Colony Station No. 20 are both expected to lose their entire full-time staff before the end of the year. The two Porterville stations are the busiest in the county. "We want the community to be aware of what's going on," said Chad Mitchell, a full-time CDF engineer at the Doyle Colony Station. "These volunteers have regular jobs and they are not always going to be able to drop what they're doing and respond to a fire." Paid-call firefighter Marty Hamilton said he responds to as many calls as he can but does not believe he and other volunteers can absorb the lost full-time positions. "I work full time but I go where I can," Hamilton said. "They want us to respond 20% of the time and I probably make it only about 10%." Mitchell said he is concerned not only for his job, but also for his family. "This thing is a done deal and my family is going to be affected," he said. "If there is a fire you will have a truck respond, but the volunteers may or may not come." Even if no volunteers answer a call for service outside city limits, engines from other communities will respond. However, problems are likely if it takes an engine 15 minutes to respond to a blaze outside of town or when a fire burns Porterville homes while city engines are busy with a county call. "Closing down stations will have a huge impact on city departments," said CDF union representative Billy See. "The Board of Supervisors has drawn a line in the sand and we don't have any control. We live here, we grew up here and we want to protect our communities." According to See, reduced staffing at county stations will also eliminate 24 jobs, including 14 or 15 full-time limited-term employees. "That alone is 14 or 15 families that are going to be affected," said See. "We will try to secure them a paycheck someplace else, but they may find themselves having to commute to Riverside three days a week for work." County firefighters opposed to volunteer-run fire stations can be seen handing out flyers at various locations in Porterville through Friday.
    To voice your opinion on funding for fire services in Tulare County, the firefighters are asking supporters to call the Board of Supervisors at 733-6271.
    Contact Sarah Villicana at 784-5000 or svillicana@portervillerecorder.com

  6. Swift plant employees may strike in Greeley
    Denver Post, CO
    By Robert Barba
    If the 2,300 workers at the Swift and Co. meat processing plant in Greeley turn down a contract proposal Saturday, there will be a strike. The Swift plant is the nation's second largest, supplying beef to grocery stores across the country. The workers' contract expires at midnight Saturday, and Dave Minshall, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, said the workers will walk out if an agreement isn't reached. "Talks are going nowhere," he said Monday. Negotiations are ongoing this week. Swift has a policy of not discussing labor negotiations, said Jim Herlihy, vice president of communications for the company. "We are optimistic that an agreement will be reached," he said. The proposed contract asks workers to make concessions in time off, health-care costs and overtime pay. "They feel they should be rewarded for their hard work instead of being penalized," said Ernest Duran, president of the UFCW Local 7. "The workers are very united." Some of the contract changes the workers disagree with are: Taking away overtime pay from workers who put in more than 8 hours a day. The workers would still get overtime if they log more than 40 hours in a week. An increase in health-insurance premiums and co-payments, despite decreases in coverage. Elimination of "wellness days," which are days off granted to workers for each 70 days of perfect attendance. Elimination of 15 unpaid personal days a year. Another key issue for workers is a plan by the company to cut the minimum work week by four hours, said Fernando Rodriquez, union director for the plant. Currently, the company can reduce employees' schedules to 32 hours a week for up to 13 weeks. Under the new contract, that could be changed to 28 hours for up to 26 weeks. "They can't expect people to work half a year on 28 hours and survive," Rodriquez said.
    [Ony if their hourly wage increases to compensate.]
    Duran said the Swift negotiations are the same scenario as the contract negotiations between grocery workers and King Soopers, Safeway and Albertsons, which have been going on over the last several months. "Working people are getting less and less," Duran said. He said companies are, in effect, telling workers: "We want you to do more, and we want you to do more with less." Duran said the major difference between the grocery and Swift contract proposals is that Swift offers no justification for its cuts. The grocers point to competition from non-union mass merchandisers such as Wal-Mart for their cutbacks.
    Staff writer Robert Barba can be reached at 303-820-1209 or rbarba@denverpost.com

  7. Firefighters to work under new pact, at least until court issues ruling
    Waterbury Republican American, CT
    By Cara Rubinsky
    WATERBURY, Conn. - Firefighters will continue working under a new contract imposed by the state oversight board until the state Supreme Court decides whether the union can ask a lower court to allow it to revert to the old contract. Waterbury Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Gallagher vacated the contract last month, citing a problem with the way the oversight board arbitrated it. The city and the oversight board appealed to the state Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case but has not yet set a timetable. A decision is not expected before the end of the year. The city is counting on the new contract to save $1.5 million in the $325 million budget for fiscal year 2004-05. Most of that savings is from reduced overtime. Even one year with a deficit means five more years under the control of the oversight board, created in March 2001 to help the city recover from a $100 million deficit. The legislation that created the board also gave it power to impose contract provisions. Firefighters continue to work under the new contract, which took effect Sept. 11 and extended their work week from 42 to 50 hours. The oversight board contends Gallagher's decision is automatically stayed and firefighters must work under the new contract until the Supreme Court rules. The fire union says that is not the case. Firefighters were due in Waterbury Superior Court on Monday to ask a judge to allow them to go back to working under their old contract. But the Supreme Court granted a motion filed by oversight board attorneys to stop that proceeding temporarily. The Supreme Court now must decide whether to grant an oversight board request to permanently stop that and all other proceedings at the lower court level until the Supreme Court issues a final decision. A hearing date has not yet been set. Daniel French, fire union president, said union members will meet with their attorney to determine how to proceed. Meanwhile, oversight board members expect to meet this week to discuss whether parts of the contract must be revisited because firefighters have exceeded the maximum amount of sick time they are allowed under the agreement. In the past seven weeks, 250 firefighters have used an average of 31.8 hours of sick time each, according to figures provided by the city. If the average sick-time use per employee exceeds 24 hours, or one shift, in any three-month period, the contract allows the city and oversight board to revisit not only the sick-time rules but also provisions that govern seniority, overtime, vacations and wages. If board members decide the contract should be reopened, the city and the fire union will have 30 days to negotiate a solution. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement the oversight board finds satisfactory, the board will arbitrate that section of the contract. Firefighters say the sick-time provision is problematic because it does not distinguish between sick days used for catastrophic injuries or illnesses and sick days used for routine purposes. City officials contend their sick-time estimate is conservative because they included 19 firefighters who intend to retire in the total number of firefighters on the job - about 250 - but did not include any sick days they have used when computing the averages. They also say most sick days have been taken on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, leading them to believe not all sick time is being used for legitimate purposes.

  8. Work hard, play hard? - Not quite - Americans on average have more leisure time than hours spent at work, survey says
    CNN/Money via CNN International, GA
    [So what. It's not how much work per person compared to leisure per person that matters, but how much work per person there is in America compared to work per person in other developed economies that matters. (If the US has a lot more, there's something wrong with its efficiency, regardless of its rhetoric.) And even more important, it's how much work per person there is in America for those who can still find jobs in spite of the still-common downsizing in response to automation, compared to the number of those who can't because of the still-common downsizing response to automation.]
    NEW YORK - Trying to find the right balance between work and play? A recent study suggests that Sweden may have the right answer. NOP World, a New York-based market research company, said Tuesday that the Scandinavian nation struck the most precise balance between work and leisure. Swedes spend about 36.7 hours a week at work and 36.4 hours at "play" - yielding the smallest gap of the 31 countries surveyed. "In the U.S., you hear a lot about being overworked. But if you look at the numbers, Americans actually spend more hours at 'play' than at work," Diane Crispell, executive editor at NOP World, told CNN/Money.
    [A truly meaningless measure. What's NOP stand for? National Oppression Planners?]
    Americans, on the average, spend 41.7 hours a week at "play" and 38.3 hours at work, according to the study. NOP World said "play" activities are defined as watching TV, reading, or socializing with family and friends. Cultural differences may also have played a key factor in the NOP World's "Culture Score" index. "People tend to work more in Asia than other regions of the world," Crispell said. The index shows that people in Taiwan work 50.9 hours a week, on average, South Koreans clock about 50.7 hours, and those in Hong Kong spend about 48 hours at work. Those are all well above the global average of 40.6 hours at work, according to the study. Countries that spend more time at "play" included Thailand (54.1 hours), Egypt (48.6 hours) and Taiwan (47.5 hours). The global average - 39.2 hours.
    NOP World said hours at work and at leisure were reported by the people it surveyed - about 1,000 people in each country.

  9. [Here's yet another rebuttal to "technology creates more jobs than it destroys" -]
    Ready to Take On All Competitors and Markets
    Washington Post, Wednesday, November 17, 2004; Page A19
    by Paul Blustein and Peter S. Goodman
    In China, the textile boom has been building for a decade. As the local industry began refashioning itself in the 1990s, it experienced what much of the rest of the world now fears: massive layoffs. Between 1997 and 1999, the Chinese textile industry shed more than 1 million jobs as the government dismantled a network of outmoded, state-financed textile and apparel factories and allowed the free market a much greater hand.
    Executives at Shanghai's Shenda Group Co. have closed 20 factories and fired 50,000 people in the past six years. Reequipped with modern machines and with only 10,000 employees left on the payroll, the company boosted annual sales from $170 million to $415 million.... The transformation is industry-wide. Rich in labor and raw materials, China has also invested in the full array of textile and apparel operations [ie: machinery], allowing it to spin, weave and dye the fabric, cut and stitch the clothing, and manufacture and attach the buttons and zippers. In 2002, China accounted for nearly three-fourths of all worldwide purchases of advanced weaving machines known as shuttle-less looms, according to a recent study by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Brother Industries Ltd., the Japanese sewing machine company, has doubled sales within China every year for the past three and expects to do so again this year. Overall, Chinese textile and garment factories bought $2.4 billion worth of imported machinery over the first half of this year, according to a Chinese trade group. With highways and ports that allow delivery to the United States in as few as 18 days - compared with 28 to 45, for example, for Sri Lanka - the result is an increasingly efficient operation that has pushed up labor productivity and pushed down the cost of its exports by as much as 30% over the past five years, according to Chinese government figures. The potential impact on world trade is demonstrable. In Japan and Australia, two major nations that have no quota restrictions, China has already captured 70% of the textile market. In the United States, quotas were eliminated in 2002 on products such as baby clothes and robes, and China's share of those U.S. imports jumped from 11% to 55% by the end of last year, according to data analyzed by Pietra Rivoli, a trade expert at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. About the same time, China supplanted Mexico as the largest supplier of textiles and apparel reaching the United States, accounting for about 17% of U.S. imports. The end of the quota system is expected to cut the price of Chinese goods even further. Companies currently compete with one another in a widely tolerated black market for shares in China's allotted exports to the United States and Europe. Shanghai Shenda officials, for example, say that they can make a pair of blue jeans for $10 but that the cost climbs to $13 after tacking on the expense of obtaining a share of the export quota.
    [Whose export quota?]
    Once the quota limits are lifted next year, that expense will disappear. Countries that are serious about free trade, Chinese officials argue, should welcome the change.
    [In other words, "You slaves should be happy slaves!" The Chinese had more common sense under Mao.]
    The apparel trade has always migrated toward lower-cost producers, and "now it's coming to China," said Gao Yong, vice chairman of a Chinese textile trade group. "This is an economic phenomenon that should not be interfered with for political purposes."
    [What nonsense. Unregulated-market-driven concentration of work and money will always shape into a race to the bottom with crushing poverty and starvation for the vast majority of humanity, and that means a strangled consumer base and stunted returns for investors.]
    With about 18 million employees in the textile industry, the stakes are as significant for China as they are for Sri Lanka and others. The estimated average wage of 68 cents an hour isn't much. But it compares well with the less than 50 cents an hour paid to textile workers in places such as Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and it has become a main source of support for many rural families. Though wages are higher, China remains cost-competitive because its workers are more productive - a fact that some attribute not just to the country's new investments and management skill, but also to the fact that employees are forbidden from organizing independent unions and are at the mercy of bosses who often violate overtime and minimum-wage laws.
    [Note how deep Communist China's commitment to labor was = only skin deep.]
    "If China is going to work their people to death, have them work seven days a week, then there's simply no way Sri Lanka can compete," said Peter Wilson, a British textile industry consultant overseeing a training program for the Sri Lankan Ministry of Industry aimed at making domestic factory workers more productive. "In China, the workers have no rights," said Wang Hua, a Chinese garment factory technician who spent several years in plants in southern China and now works at a factory in Sri Lanka. "Here, if the workers are sick, if they have a problem, if they have to take care of a relative, if they get married, the boss allows them to miss work. In China, they have to work no matter what. The boss keeps much greater control." Workers in Chinese factories routinely talk of forced 12-hour shifts with no overtime pay and no days off. Government reports have documented similar abuses and blamed localized labor shortages in some parts of the country on the mistreatment of workers. A Chinese technician now working at a garment factory in Cambodia said labor strikes are a common occurrence in that country. "Here, you have Saturday and Sunday off," said the technician, Ling Li, who came to Cambodia two years ago. "In China, there's no such thing as Sunday. We work every day."

  10. [And yet another rebuttal to "technology creates more jobs than it destroys" -]
    County schools go high tech
    The Free Lance-Star, VA
    By AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
    Multiple cries of "He started it" may become an echo of the past for areahigh school principals. Instead of turning to students for answers after school fights, Spotsylvania County educators can now turn to their computers. As of the fourth week in September, all five of the county's high schools had Web-based security cameras staking out the hallways. Donald Alvey, director of secondary education for Spotsylvania, said each principal could choose up to 32 locations for the cameras. Now, Alvey says, "instead of having to wade through 16 different stories" after an argument, the school principal can just click on the computer. On the screen, the principal can look at the frames leading up to the argument and see who really did start the fight. Principals, Alvey and the Sheriff's Office all have access to the camera's recordings. The cameras record constantly but only save images when they perceive motion. Alvey said the cameras don't have a sophisticated sense of motion, however. The Sunday before school started, Alvey noticed the cameras had archived frames of Riverbend High School. He knew no one had been in the school, so he took a look. He noticed shadows moving through the commons area as clouds passed over the skylights. From his office, Alvey can check on all the schools. Individual principals have access to their own images. Already, the images have helped in a few school incidents. Recently, Alvey received an e-mail telling him one of the cameras at Riverbend was offline. He went to the archives and saw a student dressed in black putting a sticker over the smoke-glass dome that covers the camera. The next morning, the student and his parents were in the principal's office. The camera clearly identified the student. Alvey could even recognize witnesses, had he needed them. The county's middle schools are already planning for cameras in their schools. Alvey said elementary schools also would eventually have the surveillance system. The cameras give students a sense of security, Alvey said, adding that the surveillance system is a good investment. "We don't have to pay it overtime. It doesn't have to have days off. It doesn't have to have a lunch break," Alvey said. "It's always on, as long as we have electricity."
    To reach AMY FLOWERS UMBLE: 540/374-5000, ext. 5764 aumble@freelancestar.com

  11. Cut Red Tape, And Let Poor Countries Walk Unaided
    Johannesburg Business Day via AllAfrica.com, Africa
    OPINION by John Kane-Berman of Johannesburg
    ANC Today, the party's weekly newsletter, is running a series of articles on the role of aid in eradicating poverty. President Thabo Mbeki nevertheless seems fed up with the failure of rich countries to confront the "permanent hurricane of poverty" threatening the "poor and powerless". He told the United Nations in September that it wasperhaps time for the latter to "abandon our wheelchairs and begin to walk unaided". Poor countries should never abandon attempts to secure easier access to rich markets for their exports, but Mbeki's suggestion about "walking unaided" warrants a closer look. Poor countries can walk unaided. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) of which Mbeki is the founding father recognises one of the key ingredients of the formula for economic growth: good governance. A recent report, Doing Business in 2005, contains further pointers. Co-sponsored by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), it is based on a study of regulatory performance and reforms in 145 countries. Its most important finding is that poor countries can raise their rates of economic growth as many as 2.2 percentage points simply by cutting red tape. This is something entirely within their powers. They do not need the co-operation of the UN or the rich countries. In Mbeki's words, they can do it "unaided". Among the indicators the report examines are the starting and closing of businesses, hiring and firing of workers, enforcing contracts, obtaining credit, registering property, and protecting investors. It finds that businesses in poor countries bear heavier regulatory burdens than those in rich ones. Administrative costs in poor countries are higher, and administrative delays longer. At the same time, property rights are less well protected in poor than in rich countries. Not only do rich countries have less red tape, they are doing away with it faster. Last year rich countries undertook three times as many reforms in their investment climates as poor ones. Some of the leading reformers were European nations. These included not only countries newly freed from communism such as Lithuania and Poland, but also rich ones such as Norway and Belgium. Altogether 58 countries liberalised business regulation or strengthened the protection of property rights. One of the reformers was Ethiopia. It cut the administrative costs of starting a business 80%, procedures from eight to seven, and the number of days from 44 to 32. The result was a big jump in business registrations. Another reformer was Namibia, which introduced more flexible working hours, making it easier for firms to expand production. However, some African countries, such as Malawi, made it more expensive to start a business. The World Bank study found that Africa accounted for only eight of the 58 liberalising countries, despite the fact that African countries still have the most obstacles to doing business. Indeed, 16 of the 20 countries with the most cumbersome business regulations and weakest protection of property rights are in Africa. According to another study, published by the United Nations Development Programme, Norway has the world's highest human development index while Nigeria is way down the list at number 151. The study, Doing Business, notes that it takes less than a day to record a property sale in Norway but 274 days and 21 procedures in Nigeria. This column has previously pointed out that both the number and the proportion of people in the world living below the extreme poverty line of $1 a day have dropped in the past 20 years. The major exception is subSaharan Africa, where extreme poverty has been spreading over the same two decades (Business Day, July 27 2004). Doing Business makes it clear that Africa will fall further behind unless it liberalises the business climate. According to Michael Klein, speaking for the World Bank and the IFC, "Poor countries that desperately need new enterprises risk falling even further behind rich ones, who are simplifying regulation and making their investment climates more friendly." The implications of Doing Business are profound. Much popular theory has it that poverty in poor countries is mainly the fault of the rich countries.
    [Now that John Perkins has published "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," this is no longer just a theory.]
    It seems instead that a critical step towards liberation from poverty is liberation from red tape.
    [Red tape is just another form of makework that cannot be eliminated without the collapse of the consumer base and its dependent economy until systemic worksharing is implemented.]
    Kane-Berman is the CE of the South African Institute of Race Relations.

  12. Full text: Charles Kennedy's speech - The Liberal Democrat leader's speech on crime and anitsocial behaviour at the National Liberal Club in London
    Guardian, UK
    Since Labour took power we have had 26 government bills, hundreds of initiatives, and thousands of targets all designed to make good on Tony Blair's famous soundbite: "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime." And we can expect more in the next Queen's Speech. Labour is making no secret that this will be a battleground at the election. And the party's extraordinary behaviour during recent byelections suggests it will seek to caricature and mislead the public about what its opponents have to say on these matters. I would like to use this occasion to set out what it is that the Liberal Democrats are really saying - as well as to debunk some of the Labour myths. The reality is that the government has been tough on rhetoric, but weak on solutions. Its approach is piecemeal, knee-jerk, headline chasing, focusing on the symptoms - the criminals - at the expense of sound policies aimed at tackling the disease - crime itself. This has made Labour particularly ineffective at making good on the second part of that sound bite - tough on the causes of crime.
    Labour's failure
    By attempting to paint solutions designed to tackle the roots of criminality as "soft" - as they did consistently in Leicester, Birmingham and Hartlepool - Labour seeks to deflect the real debate about how to deal with crime, security, law and order. The Conservative party and some of the tabloids have long been adept at this. And moral outrage is always a powerful political tool. But by creating a climate of fear, and stoking public anger; by ratcheting up the rhetoric and then resorting to gimmicky quick-fix solutions, the public rapidly loses sight of the real facts. Do not misunderstand me. Crime and public disorder are sources of misery and real concern to far too many people trying to live a normal life in Britain today. The British Crime Survey estimates that around 13 million crimes are being committed a year. The true figure is probably much higher, but even on that partial assessment that is 35,000 crimes a day, 7,000 of them crimes of violence. And of these only around 3% result in caution or conviction. So the vast majority of crime goes unpunished. My colleague Mark Oaten [the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman] sums up the Liberal Democrat approach to these problems in the phrase "tough liberalism". The real, effective solutions to crime are liberal solutions - punishment and rehabilitation. But action to tackle re-offending, or to guide those headed for a life of crime into lawful productive lives, is certainly not a soft option, in fact it is not an option at all. It is essential if we are going to reduce crime. We must balance our response. We must certainly punish crime, where punishment is required. But we cannot stop there. We should also work on prevention; only that way will the crime rates permanently come down. That is tough liberalism.
    Asbos, local justice and the Liberal Democrats
    I can best demonstrate "tough liberalism" by putting it in context. One of the most high-profile social problems today is antisocial behaviour. Its effects can be debilitating to communities and particularly worries older people. It's not simply a problem of intimidating behaviour. Graffiti, littering, noise pollution, and decaying urban spaces all contribute to the feeling that our communities are slipping out of control. Labour likes to reduce this complex social problem to a tabloid crusade against yobs. We hear little of the other side of the coin; little about our culture of long working hours and weaker parenting where young people are increasingly drawn to their playstation rather than the playground. Our Liberal Democrat approach takes as its base the need to identify the causes of antisocial behaviour as well as the offenders. And we say the use of punishment tools must always be evidence-based. There's no doubt that the antisocial behaviour orders that were introduced in 2000 have been successful in many communities in providing short-term relief. We supported them. As a sticking plaster, Asbos can work, as can the judicious use of dispersal orders. But unless there is also a strategy for changing the behaviour of offenders, we either push the problem behind closed doors, or shunt it from one community to another. Currently Asbos have a 36% failure rate. That's much too high. One reason for this is that they rarely contain effective measures to change behaviour; instead they focus on exclusion and punishment. Let's take an example. A man with mental health problems was given an Asbo forbidding him from begging in the centre of Birmingham. I don't doubt that his behaviour was intolerable. It needed to be tackled. But his mental problems meant he never fully understood the terms of the order. He ended up serving five years for an offence which would normally attract a fine. The effect of this Asbo was simply to remove the individual rather than solve his problems. That's why Liberal Democrats are now calling for Asbo Plus. This is "tough liberalism" in action. Where there is a need for an Asbo, you issue it. But it must only be used in conjunction with action to tackle the underlying causes of these problems. There is no point in simply issuing a young person with an Asbo banning them from the town centre if that is the extent of our efforts to change their behaviour. There are plenty of things we should try before we even get to an Asbo. But even when we reach the point where there is no alternative but to lay down some clear restrictions on behaviour, the interventions must not stop. Youth workers to sort out attitudes and to divert them into positive activities. Social workers to encourage families to pull together. Drug workers to tackle substance misuse. Education and training for those who are excluded from school or unemployed. Asbo Plus is a direct challenge to Tony Blair and David Blunkett. Punishment and prevention. But the tough liberal approach to such problems doesn't stop there. Liberal Democrat councils have done much innovative and pioneering work to tackle antisocial behaviour. Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, designed by the Liberal Democrats in Islington, are an effective alternative to Asbos when antisocial behaviour is in its early stages. Our Lib Dem emphasis on the importance of community also comes into play here. We believe that local communities have a central role in finding a solution to antisocial behaviour. Community Justice Panels - made up of victims and volunteers from the local community - are potentially an effective way of modifying behaviour. Offenders arrested for minor crimes like graffiti, vandalism or being drunk and disorderly would be given a choice - go to court in the normal way and face a criminal record, or go before a panel of local people. The offender would be expected to explain and apologise for his actions, and agree to a programme of work or reparation to make amends for the damage he has done. Where the offence affected individual victims rather than the community as a whole, the offender would be expected to compensate them. The scheme would give the public an unprecedented say in the way that local crime problems are dealt with, as well as offering offenders a way to pay back for the harm they have done to their community. This is not a soft option. Going before one of these panels would be a very uncomfortable experience. I want offenders to see the anger and hurt they cause to those living in their streets and their communities. And it's not just about punishment - it offers the offender something that a court appearance cannot - a chance to earn back the respect of the community and demonstrate that he or she can act responsibly.
    Punishment and prison
    Reducing re-offending rates must become the priority in our prison system. Prison is of course about punishment. But rehabilitation should be at the forefront of the strategy for cutting crime. Today, of those who are caught and convicted, an increasing number are being fast-tracked into the prison system. Ten years ago, magistrates were sending one in twenty convicted criminals to prison; now that figure is one in eight. Our prison population is at record levels and has grown by 20% since 1997. It's hard not to conclude from these figures that overcrowding is a price Labour believes worth paying, presumably because it creates the illusion of security. Once inside, suicides rates are at an all time high; and re-offending levels are running at 59% overall, with a depressing 71% re-offending rate for 18-21 year olds. If the Blunkett tactics are failing, what's the alternative? One obvious answer is to provide offenders with the skills and the qualifications they need to go straight when they get out. It is an appalling truth that half of all our prisoners have the skills of an 11-year-old in reading; two-thirds have the skills of an 11-year-old in numeracy; and a staggering four-fifths in writing. Too many cannot write a CV, operate a computer or conduct themselves in an interview. Let's get them out of their cells and into the prison classrooms and workshops. Indeed we could link such a regime to early-release schemes as a practical incentive to learn. This isn't a "soft" option. And it is certainly likely to have a greater dividend in the long term than simply reserving a cell for when they return.
    Cutting crime
    Current crime levels are far too high. We can and should increase visible police presence. We can and should catch and convict more criminals. But crime will always be with us. What both Labour and the Conservatives have failed to understand is that in order to develop effective policies we need to understand how our society is changing. The United Kingdom is not alone in experiencing large increases in crime in the last 50 years; the same is true of nearly all industrialised democracies. The reasons for that are not as mysterious as some suppose. The way we live our lives has changed: Altered patterns of work and travel have loosened the tight knit geographic communities; A materialistic consumer culture that gives rise to new jealousies; Family structures are changing; The decline of deference and automatic respect for tradition; Alienation is driven by the growing divide between rich and poor. We live, increasingly, in a society of strangers. We are more likely to switch on the TV than to chat with a neighbour; we are not looking out for each other, or each other's children, in the way that we used to. Fear of strangers is drummed into us from our school days onwards, reinforced by a media which thrives on our insecurities. I believe this alienation is fundamental to the crime problem. Crime is easier if the victim is anonymous, and if there is no community to censure criminal behaviour. And punishment is easier if the criminal is anonymous. We become wary of giving them a second chance because we do not truly believe they can be rehabilitated, or at least we feel it is not worth taking the risk. So if we are really to be tough on the causes of crime, we must take steps to rebuild our communities; and we can actually do this, even as we punish offenders. For example, non-violent offenders should be made to do supervised, compulsory work in the community, with the community helping to choose the work that is done, as a form of pay back. That way, instead of locking the problem away for a few weeks, we give communities the reparation they deserve - improving the quality of life in run-down areas as well as demonstrating to the offenders that they can do something positive with the lives. In addition, I want to see offenders brought face to face with their victims wherever possible, so that the criminals can see the hurt they have caused and understand that their actions have consequences for others. I believe the time for such an approach is right, both politically and practically. New tagging and tracking technology allows for an unprecedented level of security in addition to the supervision skills of the probation service. If we need to, we can pinpoint an offender's location electronically, and if they breach the conditions of their sentence we can add further restrictions on liberty before we consider prison.
    The policing challenge
    The world is moving on and our policing methods should move with it. The internet, electronic finances, identity fraud, the rise of gun crime, the new threat of international terror, and a new generation young people with money to spend and the problems with binge drinking that come with that. 21st century problems, which cannot be dealt with by 20th century methods. These, of course, are in addition to the same old problems burglary, street crime, rape, and murder. So our police forces are faced with multiple challenges, old and new. The government has made some progress on modernising the police force. Police numbers have grown and the innovation of Community Support Officers has been successful. The Liberal Democrats would increase this trend with 10,000 more police. The Policing white paper announced last week has much in it to commend it: an approach that builds closer links between local people and local police; a return to more visible policing focussing on prevention as well as detection; and the establishment of the Serious Organised Crime Agency. Indeed, while on their leaflets, Labour condemns the Liberal Democrat approach to crime, it is actually adopting many of our proposed modernisations and reforms of the police. But Labour's biggest failure with the police has been the ineffective attempts to reduce the burden of bureaucracy and paperwork that pins officers to their desks and in the courtrooms, rather than sending them out on the streets. The admission by the home secretary that 12,000 police officers, almost 10% of the force, are currently tied up by dealing with paperwork is a sad indictment of Labour's obsession with targets. But there are solutions to the paperwork mountain that do not undermine the necessity for thoroughness and accuracy, and at the same time do not endanger civil liberties by police action going unrecorded. Why are we set to spend £3bn or more on a high-tech identity card system, which is unproven and unlikely to provide the cure for all ills as the government appear to claim, and yet our police are expected to take to the streets with a radio, truncheon, and notebook? Technological breakthroughs such as handheld computers must be deployed in the fight against crime. Voice recognition software could allow officers to file reports remotely allowing them to remain on patrol longer. Visible policing is not only a public demand but is also an operational necessity. Abstractions from local areas to deal with major incidents elsewhere, the demise of magistrates' courts in small towns and the loss of many local police stations have all served to drag officers off the streets and out of the communities they serve. The connection of the force to its community is crucial for re-establishing visible policing, reducing crimes of opportunity and petty thuggery. And the cooperation of the community with police officers is essential in detection and securing conviction. That is why the Liberal Democrats have set out plans for a minimum policing guarantee as part of an overall Policing Contract between local police authorities and the communities they serve. It could stop the trend to cut back on police in rural areas. It could greatly increase accountability and achieve a better rapport between officers and local people. And it is to local people that criminals, especially petty criminals, should be ultimately answerable to.
    Conclusion
    Despite all the rhetoric, the fact is that Labour's approach to crime has failed. It has fed rather than diminished the climate of fear. It has led to a record prison population and record re-offending rates. It has been tough on crime, but soft on the causes of crime.
    HG Wells once said: "Crime and bad lives are the measure of a state's failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community." Labour's crime has been to resort to the quick fix, with no long-term strategy to bring local communities into the process so that people can be part of the solution rather than powerless victims. And as I have set out today, the real liberal approach to law and order issues can be tough - very tough - without descending into populist illiberalism. That is the task we are setting ourselves. We are sure it can work.

  13. Exhausted workers 'can become too tired to sleep', doctors say
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
    By Jacqueline Maley
    Work-related "burnout" is as much a result of sleep deprivation as it is of stress, says an international expert. Despite being dog-tired, employees who were burnt out, or suffering from extreme exhaustion, were 50% more likely to suffer spontaneous sleep interruptions, which prevented them moving to the deep sleep necessary to wake up refreshed. The study showed for the first time that the more tired exhausted people become, the worse their sleep quality, said Professor Torbjorn Akerstedt, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Previously, doctors thought the burnout phenomenon was due to increased levels of stress hormones in the body. The research, to be presented today to the Annual Sleep Loss Symposium, involved 24 employees of an IT company, and was followed up by a study of 32 patients on sick leave for more than three months. Professor Ron Grunstein, the symposium director and head of sleep research at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, said the research can be extrapolated to Australia, where long work hours are becoming increasingly prevalent. "We know that sleep disturbance and lack of sleep are both key features of burnout," he said. "If you can intervene and improve people's sleep quality before they get full-blown exhaustion, you can prevent the condition from getting worse."

  14. [Yet another pressure to switch from always too-little too-late makework to automatic worksharing -]
    Graduates opt for more study
    The Australian, Australia
    Martin Birchall
    The past three years have been difficult for students in Britain. The introduction of tuition fees at British universities has pushed graduation debts to record levels, the student population continues to expand relentlessly, yet the number of graduate-level jobs available dropped in both 2002 and 2003. The results of the latest survey of Britain's final year students, The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2004, show that fewer university leavers there expected to find graduate employment this year than at any time in the past decade. Interviewed just 12 weeks before graduation, little more than one-third of finalists in Britain thought they would be starting a graduate job at the end of their studies, a noticeably more pessimistic outlook than students in Australia and New Zealand, where more than half of new graduates expect to find work. Huge numbers of British students opt instead to remain at university for further study, often driven by the belief that a first degree is no longer enough to secure a good job in such a competitive graduate market. The survey was based on face-to-face interviews with 15,915 final year students at 30 of Britain's leading universities and was conducted by High Fliers Research, producers of The Australia and New Zealand Graduate Careers Survey 2004, which is being launched this week at the Australian Association of Graduate Employers annual conference in Melbourne. High Fliers Research is an independent market research company that has specialised in student and graduate research in Britain since 1994 and has begun similar studies in Australia and NZ. The British research shows that in terms of simple arithmetic, undergraduates are quite right to be concerned about their prospects in the job market. The total student population has rocketed from producing an annual supply of 180,000 graduates 10 years ago to more than 300,000 in 2004, yet the total number of graduate jobs has increased by less than 10 per cent over the same period. Estimates of the job market suggest there are fewer than 80,000 graduate jobs available to university leavers each year, barely enough for one in four new graduates. Despite this explosion in the graduate population, there is still fierce competition between the top employers in Britain to hire the "best of class" and many organisations still struggle to fill their vacancies with high-calibre candidates. Many of these difficulties can be traced back to supply and demand: The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2004 shows more final year students had applied for jobs in the media, marketing, teaching, investment banking and consulting than any other area, although these are not the areas where most graduate jobs lie. The reality is that fewer than 5% of graduate vacancies in 2004 were for positions in the media, marketing or consulting. The two largest recruiters of graduates in Britain – accountancy and engineering – consistently fail to make students' top choices, despite offering tens of thousands of vacancies each year. These results are in sharp contrast with the Australian market, where there is a much better alignment between vacancies and graduates keen to fill them. One of the main reasons for the difference is that more than three-quarters of graduate jobs in Britain are advertised for applicants from any degree discipline, whereas many more degree courses in Australia are vocational. For example, within Australia at least 80% of finalists who apply for positions in accountancy have taken an accounting major for their degree. In Britain, less than 5per cent of those who join one of theaccounting firms known as "the big four" have studied accountancy at university. They are more likely to have taken degrees in maths, management studies, engineering, science or arts subjects instead. Overall, this means that British students can have a much wider choice of potential employment and often choose graduate destinations quite unrelated to their degree studies. There are differences too between the priorities that Australian and British graduates have for their first job after university. In Britain, fewer than one-quarter of graduates at the top universities plan to work near that institution. More than one-third of the class of 2004 hoped to move to London for theirfirst job, motivated in part by a better choice of employment and the promise of higher starting salaries. In Australia, up to 70% of graduates expect to work close to where they have been studying, a result of so many students opting to attend a university in their home city or state. Money remains a key motivator for British graduates and the average starting salaries for new graduates are about $45,000 – $10,000 higher than equivalent Australian salaries – but many are also looking at the work-life balance that employers offer. This simply wasn't an issue five years ago but almost 70% of students graduating in 2004 said it was important to them that they never had to work evenings or weekends as graduates and many indicated they might be prepared to accept a lower starting salary in return for shorter working hours or extended holiday allowances. In terms of job hunting, students in Britain and Australia are now heavily reliant on the internet for information on individual graduate employers and to make job applications. One obvious difference, though, is that British employers are much more likely to focus their recruitment campaigns on campus, through careers fairs or presentations. At Oxford and Cambridge, the two British universities most often targeted by graduate recruiters, it isn't unusual for at least 150 of the bigger employers to hold presentations aimed at final year students during the recruitment season, bringing a very direct and personal approach to their promotions. British students can also turn to more than 100 graduate careers guides and directories for help during their job search. By contrast, in Australia there are just three or four main guides available. The research also shows that there are some noticeable differences between the types of organisations British and Australian graduates aspire to work for. When asked "Which employer do you think offers the best opportunities for graduates?" the Australian league table of graduate employers for 2004 is dominated by the big four accounting and professional services firms. Although the equivalent table for British employers is also headed by an accounting firm this year, previous No.1 employers include the British Government, consulting firm Accenture and retailer Marks & Spencer. The good news for students in Britain is that the job market appears to be recovering well. The latest reports from leading employers suggest that vacancies increased for the first time in three years in 2004 and that the outlook for the class of 2005 is better still.
    Martin Birchall is survey director at High Fliers Research, an independent market research company conducting student and graduate research in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

  15. Carillion Transport on Track With Workbrain - Leading UK Rail Organisation Aims to Optimise Workforce Processes and Improve Operating Efficiency
    PRNewswire via New Ratings
    LONDON - From its European Customer and Partner conference, Workbrain Corporation (Toronto Stock Exchange: WB) today announced that Carillion plc (London: CLLN) has selected Workbrain to optimise workforce processes for thousands of employees within its rail division. Carillion Transport, one of the United Kingdom's largest road and rail infrastructure organisations, is deploying Workbrain solutions to more effectively manage its widely distributed workforce. The project will help Carillion achieve key operating objectives across its expansive rail infrastructure operations, including greater alignment of labour with field requirements and compliance with both company and government workforce regulations. "Workbrain demonstrates a unique ability to meet the complex workforce requirements of the rail industry," said Carillion Director of Resource Management Ed Gardiner. "Ours is a dynamic, distributed labour environment that makes labour forecasting, deployment and tracking a considerable challenge. Workbrain will allow Carillion to optimise these processes to deliver significant operating efficiencies." Carillion managers, who previously built employee schedules manually, will benefit from Workbrain's rostering application, which generates accurate labour forecasts and schedules to ensure efficient workforce deployment. The rostering application combines job requirements, employee availability, employee skills and other criteria to schedule the right employees to meet requirements in the field. In addition, Workbrain's integrated time and attendance functionality will enable automatic time sheet production and will streamline time authorisation processes for Carillion. The Workbrain deployment will also help Carillion ensure compliance with European Working Time Directives and internal safety-related rostering rules - measures that protect workers from excessive work hours, inadequate rest and disruptive work patterns. By factoring these regulations into the schedule creation process, accurately monitoring employee time and providing a full audit trail of time worked, Workbrain will allow Carillion to maintain demonstrable compliance and ensure employee safety. "By providing greater workforce visibility and generating rosters in accordance with European Working Time Directives and company policies, Workbrain solves the deployment challenges faced by highly distributed infrastructure services organizations," said David Ossip, president and CEO of Workbrain Corporation. "We look forward to helping Carillion optimise their workforce supply chain to improve front-line operating performance."
    About Carillion plc
    Carillion provides a broad range of business, transport and construction services to commercial and public sector clients in the UK, France, Sweden, Canada and the Middle East.
    About Workbrain
    Workbrain develops, markets, implements and supports software that helps large organisations optimally deploy and manage their workforces. Customers such as British Airways, Delphi Automotive and Russell Corporation have chosen Workbrain's industry-focused workforce management solutions to automate labour forecasting, employee schedule optimisation, time and attendance, employee self-service, and workforce analytics. For more information, please visit www.workbrain.com.
    Forward-Looking Statements
    This news release contains forward-looking statements which are not historical facts, but are based on certain assumptions and reflect Workbrain's current expectations. These forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations. Workbrain disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Given these risks and uncertainties, investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements as a prediction of actual results.
    Workbrain is a trademark of Workbrain Corporation. All other product or company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.
    (c) Copyright 2004 Workbrain Corporation. All rights reserved.
    Workbrain Corporation
    John Arvanitis, Workbrain Corporation, tel +44-207-484-5512, jarvanitis@workbrain.com

  16. Online today - Working hard? news pointer (to WSJ.com/JournalLinks), WSJ, front page.
    Europe puts a premium on leisure time, but global competition may force a change in philosophy. See how U.S. and European workweeks compare.
11/16/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/15 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. Gov't plans to scrap shorter working hours target
    Kyodo News via Japan Today
    TOKYO — The government plans to scrap its target of reducing average annual working hours below 1,800 hours in order to better reflect employment conditions in Japan and encourage employees to take more paid days off, government sources said Monday. Targeting average working hours has become meaningless due to an increase in the number of part-time workers, the sources said.
    [If their original goal was not to redefine "full time job" downward so that full-time benefits could be acquired with a shorter workweek, then their goal was meaningless from the start. At any rate, it appears that Japan as well as U.S. is cutting hours, but not in the best way.]

  2. Welcome to the New Cold War
    by Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com via truthout, CA
    It's Chirac vs. Cheney, SUVs vs. minicars, and pommes frites vs. freedom fries in the new transatlantic culture war. But here's what you don't know: In the global conflict for moral and economic supremacy, Europe is winning.
    A specter is haunting America, and it ain't the specter of communism (however much George W. Bush and company might like to describe it that way).
    [More relevantly, what about the specter of terrorism? Maybe it ain't that either.]
    Barely a decade after the definitive collapse of the Soviet bloc, the United States finds itself in a new cold war, one being fought simultaneously on economic, political and cultural fronts, and one it is by no means certain to win. The unipolar world of uncontested American hegemony that we were told to expect into the indefinite future has come to an end; it lasted just about long enough for us to scratch our heads and wonder whatwas happening next.
    Yes, "Old Europe," to borrow Donald Rumsfeld's famous quip, is back, and it's looking pretty spry for its age. As Americans are finally beginning to notice, Europeans (or most of them, anyway) have reconstituted themselves into an enormous transnational superstate of 25 nations, 455 million people and an $11 trillion economy. This is, of course, the European Union, and its aims have become much broader and deeper than the stuff you've probably heard about, like allowing citizens to drive from Seville to Sicily without a passport, or to use the same anonymous-looking currency to buy a pint of Guinness in Cork and a glass of ouzo in Crete.
    American heavyweights like Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger, by the way, publicly predicted that the euro, now the common currency of 12 European countries (with many more to follow), would never work. This week the euro is trading at an all-time high of about $1.30 against an ever weaker Bush-economy dollar. Other confident-sounding things that you hear Americans say about the EU - that it's plagued by a sclerotic bureaucracy, that it squelches entrepreneurship and initiative with over regulation, that its cradle-to-grave welfare states are dragging down its economy - should be viewed with similar skepticism.
    It might sound alarmist to use a freighted term like "cold war" to describe our relationship with an entity whose raison d'être is to avoid all war and resolve all conflict. The political leaders of the European Union are certainly willing to be partners with the United States, and potentially to be friends as well. (Realpolitik dictates that both sides will continue to insist that the relationship is warm even when, as now, it is anything but.) But elites on both sides of the pond now know what the stakes are, and they are also willing to be competitors, even fierce rivals. If the original idea behind a united Europe was to redeem the old continent from poverty, devastation and centuries of self-destructive warfare, more recently the goal has been to build a "good superpower," one that stands as an economic and ideological counterweight to the American colossus.
    Once you grasp that this transatlantic cold war is not only happening but rapidly intensifying - as Jeremy Rifkin and T.R. Reid, the authors of two almost simultaneous books on the European conundrum, agree - you see the major news events of the last year or two in a different light. Both the Iraq war and this year's presidential election, for instance, start to look like key symbolic episodes in the U.S.-Europe conflict.
    What was the contest between Bush and John Kerry, after all, if not a proxy war between pommes frites and freedom fries, a referendum on Europe conducted among the American electorate? Kerry, we were told, spoke French and "looked French." These gibes might have played as humor on Fox News, but they were in deadly earnest.
    The French, of course, sank Bush's hopes for a truly international coalition against Iraq and became the American right's chosen exemplar of global treachery and cowardice. (Frenchness, you might say, is the new communism.) The French are also the principal architects of the European Union - suddenly, clearly, our greatest rival for economic and moral supremacy in the world - and if Karl Rove and Karen Hughes weren't thinking about that consciously, the thought wasn't far below the surface.
    Kerry was an internationalist and a secularist (at least by American standards) running against a man who wrapped himself in the flag and was guided by divine inspiration. Bush didn't just run as an American; he pretty much ran as America, which Rifkin calls a nation "living in two seemingly contradictory realms at the same time," those being the evangelical Protestant faith in salvation and the rationalist drive to accumulate wealth and build industry. That cast Kerry in the role of Europe - intellectual and irreligious, faintly stained by the ghosts of socialism and Catholicism, with a belief in universal human rights and negotiated solutions, but not much in the way of a transformative spiritual vision.
    That might be all anyone needs to know about how close the election was, or how it turned out. There is a large class of people in this country who are sympathetic to the "European dream" of a managed market economy in which cooperation is emphasized over competition, leisure is privileged over work, and the social costs of capitalism are closely regulated - and you know who you are, gentle readers. But to most Americans "freedom" still means untrammeled private-property rights, open markets, workaholism and the belief that somehow we'll all die rich.
    Going back 18 months, one of the strategic considerations driving the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq was surely the opportunity it presented to drive a wedge between pro- and anti-[Iraq war] politicians in Europe. By peeling away Britain's Tony Blair, Spain's José Maria Aznar and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi from the antiwar EU consensus, the Bushies may have hoped to disrupt the idea of a Europe that spoke with one voice on foreign policy and military action (an expressed EU goal) for a generation to come.
    [But Spain, still a democracy, soon replaced Aznar with anti-Iraq war Zapatero, and Berlusconi has been having continuing trouble over his gangster past. The Brits are simply a total disgrace to the human race for not dumping Blair.]
    As Reid, a longtime Washington Post correspondent, discusses in his book "The United States of Europe," the strategy seemed to work, at least at first. Those three prime ministers agreed to go along with the American war, and various other European leaders hemmed and hawed, trying somehow to split the difference between the Bush-Blair position and the vehement antiwar stance of French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
    But then surprising things started to happen. When it came time to twist arms on the U.N. Security Council over the vote to authorize military action, the Americans were outfoxed. Most of the poorer nations on the council received substantial foreign aid from Europe - the EU gives almost three times as much aid to developing countries as the U.S. does - and proved more amenable to lobbying from the French and Germans than from the British and Americans. Bush and Blair needed nine votes and could never get more than four; at least in that limited arena, Reid writes, "Europe's political clout proved stronger than American military might."
    Furthermore, the Iraq war became a galvanizing and radicalizing event for an entire generation of younger Europeans and, in Reid's judgment, led them to see themselves as Europeans, above and beyond their national identities. While the European political elites dithered in the spring of 2003, the European people streamed into the streets by the millions, in a nearly unanimous rejection of the Iraq war in particular and the interventionist Bush foreign policy agenda in general. (And, for good measure, what most Europeans perceive as America's promiscuously wasteful culture of burgers, SUVs and obesity.) Opinion polls revealed an explosion of anti-American sentiment, even in nations like Britain, Italy and Poland that remained officially within the "coalition of the willing." In several European countries, the United States is viewed as more dangerous to world peace than Iran and North Korea, and George W. Bush may be even less popular in Scandinavia, for example, than he is in the Arab world.
    These young Europeans, Reid believes, now have a sense of their own political and economic power, and they have built a pan-continental "Euroculture" that borrows what it likes from American pop culture but now stands independent of it. "For many Europeans today," he writes, "the familiar concept of 'the West,' the transatlantic alliance with shared values and common enemies, is a relic of the last century." In this century, their goal is to challenge the American claim to global supremacy, at least in moral and political terms.
    Indeed, what struck me on a recent visit to Germany is how un-American Europe still feels, despite all the stories we hear to the contrary. Sure, you can eat at Pizza Hut or shop at Wal-Mart in Hamburg, and teenagers affect last year's hip-hop fashions and wear Yankee caps. (Sorry, Boston - your triumph has not penetrated the Old World.) But those things, removed from their original context, have become, like Madonna or David Beckham, floating signifiers of a global culture that transcends nationality. The organic rhythms of the place feel nothing like the fevered consumption overdrive of American cities and suburbs: Bars and cafes remain busy long past midnight seven nights a week, but if there's any place in Hamburg where you can buy groceries or children's toys or paperback books after lunchtime on Saturday, I didn't find it.
    "Europe's time is almost here," Reid quotes current EU President Romano Prodi as saying. "In fact, there are many areas of world affairs where the objective conclusion would have to be that Europe is already the superpower, and the United States must follow our lead." It's stuff like that that has Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the rest of the neoconservative cohort gnawing on the executive branch's fine European furniture late at night. They're smart enough to know that Prodi has a point - even if they'd scoff at him in public - and there isn't much they can do about it.
    After adding 10 new Eastern and Central European nations last May, the European Union now has a much larger population than the United States, and a slightly bigger economy. As Jeremy Rifkin argues in his dense and contentious new research-driven tome "The European Dream," the United States remains ahead in per-capita GDP, but the difference is not as significant as it looks.
    Much of American "productivity," Rifkin suggests, is accounted for by economic activity that might be better described as wasteful: military spending; the endlessly expanding police and prison bureaucracies; the spiraling cost of healthcare; suburban sprawl; the fast-food industry and its inevitable corollary, the weight-loss craze. Meaningful comparisons of living standards, he says, consistently favor the Europeans. In France, for instance, the work week is 35 hours and most employees take 10 to 12 weeks off every year, factors that clearly depress [the quality-of-life misindicating] GDP. Yet it takes a John Locke heart of stone to say that France is worse off as a nation for all that time people spend in the countryside downing du vin rouge et du Camembert with friends and family.
    [But plenty of mainstream English-language economists apparently have 'John Locke hearts of stone.']
    "The European Dream" is the richer of the two books, as Rifkin - the author of such previous big-idea volumes as "The End of Work" and "The Biotech Century" - mines deep lodes of history and sociology in search of the origins of the cross-pond cold war. But if you just want a reader-friendly survey of how the European Union was born (out of a modest Franco-German coal and steel accord after World War II), how it grew into the titan we see today, and what it's really like, Reid's personable[?? - try 'accessible' or just 'readable'] "United States of Europe" is the better choice.
    To the question of what the European Union actually is, neither author offers more than a conditional answer, largely because Europeans aren't quite sure themselves. I called the EU a "superstate" earlier, but it isn't a nation-state in conventional terms. It doesn't physically control any territory, it has no authority to tax its citizens, and it has only very limited police powers. It does, however, have an elected legislature and an executive branch, a court system and a central bank, all of which can override the laws of its 25 member nations. (It also now has its own military, the 60,000-strong European Rapid Reaction Force, or "EuroArmy," a development that led to much gnashing of teeth in Washington.)
    At least some of this ambiguity is intentional; the EU looks different depending on who's looking. To the Euro-enthusiasts of France, Germany and the Low Countries, the EU is a grand federal state capable of transcending age-old problems of nationalism and sovereignty. To more standoffish nations like Britain and Sweden (neither of which has adopted the euro), it's a loose confederation of countries that remain largely autonomous. Rifkin calls it "the first really post-modern governing institution," amplifying that at another point to "the first post-territorial governing region in a network-linked global economy." (Much as I enjoyed his excursions through the historical and philosophical framework of the U.S.-EU clash, his tendency to wax lyrical with business-school buzzwords made me want to check whether I still had my wallet.)
    If the EU has no intention of confronting America's military supremacy, that, Rifkin and Reid would agree, is actually Europe's ace in the hole. Let the Americans pour endless billions in taxpayer dollars down the Pentagon's money sink, the Europeans reason. As they see it, the key to future peace and prosperity lies elsewhere, in constructing complex webs of social interaction and economic cooperation that will undermine nationalism and fundamentalism of all stripes. While the United States foots the bill for the intractable conflict in Iraq and piles up huge budget and trade deficits, Europe has spent money on other priorities.
    Whatever your intellectual and emotional responses may be to this burgeoning transatlantic conflict, it's difficult for any American to read Rifkin's book and not feel ashamed. The U.S. has fallen significantly behind the EU's Western European nations in infant mortality and life expectancy, despite spending more on healthcare per capita than any of them. (While 40 million Americans are uninsured, no one in Europe - I repeat, not a single person - lacks some form of healthcare coverage.)
    European children are consistently better educated; the United States would rank ninth in the EU in reading, ninth in scientific literacy, and 13th in math.   22% of American children grow up in poverty, which means that our country ranks 22nd out of the 23 industrialized nations, ahead of only Mexico and behind all 15 of the pre-2004 EU countries. What's more horrifying: the statistic itself or the fact that no American politician to the right of Dennis Kucinich would ever address it?
    Perhaps more surprisingly, European business has not been strangled by the EU welfare state; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Europe has surpassed the United States in several high-tech and financial sectors, including wireless technology, grid computing and the insurance industry. The EU has a higher proportion of small businesses than the U.S., and their success rate is higher. American capitalists have begun to pay attention to all this. In Reid's book, Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford explains that the company's Volvo subsidiary is more profitable than its U.S. manufacturing operation, even though wages and benefits are significantly higher in Sweden. Government-subsidized healthcare, child care, pensions and other social supports, Ford says, more than make up for the difference.
    The new EU constitution, currently being considered by the member states, is an unwieldy, jargon-laden document that runs to 265 pages in English (and even more in Spanish and French). It should also serve as an inspiration to progressives around the world. It bars capital punishment in all 25 nations and defines such things as universal healthcare, child care, paid annual leave, parental leave, housing for the poor, and equal treatment for gays and lesbians as fundamental human rights. Most of these are still hotly contested questions in the United States; as Rifkin says, this document all by itself makes the European Union the world leader in the human rights debate. It is the first governing document that aspires to universality, "with rights and responsibilities that encompass the totality of human existence on Earth."
    While Rifkin and Reid are unabashed Euro-boosters, both would urge Kerry voters rendered starry-eyed by the EU dream to ponder long and hard before pleading for asylum at the nearest consulate or scouring your family tree for relevant European ancestry. (Speaking as a dual-passport holder myself, I'm sticking it out - at least for now.) For all the grandeur of its new vision, Europe still has relatively high unemployment and relatively sluggish economic growth. The continent faces major structural problems, most notably a declining birth rate and a long-standing hostility to immigration, which has led to a population that is aging much faster than America's. While the European welfare state is certain to remain generous by American standards, significant renegotiation of rights and benefits will be necessary unless this demographic time bomb can somehow be defused.
    Despite its deepening inequality, the United States remains to a large extent a more dynamic and less class-bound society, and it still offers individuals that opportunity for constant reinvention that lies at the heart of our national dream. Rifkin in particular believes that the new cold war with Europe will be good for America in the long run and may help rejuvenate the American left (even if the next four years are likely to get pretty ugly). Americans may need to be taught, by example, that unfettered corporate capitalism, regressive taxation and a bare-minimum social safety net are not the only way to guarantee prosperity - and perhaps that our definition of what constitutes prosperity could stand some scrutiny.
    While America has been gnawing on its own innards for the last decade or so, feuding internally over White House blow jobs, flawed elections, the threat of terrorism, the ill-fated war in Iraq and an angrily polarized public discourse, Europe has quietly been cohering into an impressive whole, the world's newest superpower. For all its layers of bureaucracy and all the challenges it faces, the EU has forged a harmonious society on a continent that spent most of history at war with itself.
    The rise of the European Union may in fact, as Rifkin says, represent a new phase of history, and we barely saw it coming. While the outcome of this new cold war between Europe and America is far from clear, we should feel humbled by the way it's gone so far. The EU has succeeded so dramatically in its ambitious goals that the utopian dreamers of the last century who dared to imagine a peaceful, prosperous, united Europe seem eerily prescient now. If nothing else, it's an object lesson in the power of vision.
    "I am a democrat," James Joyce wrote in 1916, while an entire generation of Europe's young men were slaughtering each other in the fields of Flanders. "I'll work and act for the social liberty and equality among all classes and sexes in the United States of the Europe of the future." People read that and laughed bitterly. Europe seemed poisoned by mustard gas and history; America was the land of liberty, democracy and the future. Nobody's laughing now.

  3. At tech firms, time again for flextime?
    CNET News.com, CA
    By Ed Frauenheim Brad Short comes up with key design ideas for Hewlett-Packard printers from a lounge chair in his backyard.
    And if he's feeling uninspired, he doesn't hesitate to stop working for a spell. He'll return to his duties later. "Not everyone can be innovative in a very structured, 9-to-5 type office environment," said Short, a lead mechanical-design engineer in HP's printer group. At home, "you stop watching the clock," Short explained. "It now becomes more of a focus on getting the task done."
    Short isn't alone in having an unconventional work arrangement. In the wake of the dot-com crash, some technology companies clamped down on telecommuting options. But thanks to better technology, employee desires and a focus on results, a number of firms in the industry are giving more workers flexibility in the way they do their jobs.
    What's new: Tech companies such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Network Appliance are giving employees more options about when and where they work.
    Bottom line: Despite some hurdles, job-sharing, flextime and telecommuting are helping some workers improve their productivity while spending more time with their families....
    Data storage equipment specialist Network Appliance lets Katy Mann and Pamela Sotnick share a sales position. Mann works Mondays and Tuesdays, Sotnick works Thursdays and Fridays, and they alternate Wednesdays. The two women began sharing a job at Cisco Systems in 2000 and came to NetApp as a unit about two and a half years ago. NetApp had never hired a job-sharing sales team before Mann and Sotnick, but the duo has erased any doubts: They ranked first in sales in the Americas last year and sold more than $24 million in NetApp gear last quarter. Both women wanted reduced hours on the job so they could spend more time raising their young children. And they find that their odd setup - which includes a single phone number, a single e-mail address and a dual-sided business card - gives them a head start in landing deals.

  4. From Blog Entry to Class Action Lawsuit
    DevShed, UT
    "My significant other works for Electronic Arts, and I'm what you might call a disgruntled spouse." So starts the blog entry of an unhappy wife. But the details are enough to make anyone wince: mandatory hours of 9 AM to 10 PM, seven days a week - that's right, a MANDATORY 90+ hour work week. With NO overtime, NO compensation time, and no additional sick or vacation leave. If that sounds illegal, guess what? At least in some industries, it is. GameSpot picked up the story, and discovered some truth behind the rant. Law firm Shubert & Reed has initiated legal proceedings to start a class action lawsuit on behalf of some EA Games employees. EA claims the employees were exempt from overtime pay, but the law firm says otherwise. It's true that these people are not getting paid sweat shop wages, but they're certainly being treated like sweat shop employees (or worse). Exempt or not, no company should treat its employees like this as a matter of course. Think about it the next time you go shopping for video games.

  5. More hours, more rewards
    The Boston Globe via Fort Worth Star Telegram, TX
    U.S. employees work longer hours
    [no surprise so far]
    but appear to be more content with their jobs, a recent Gallup poll of work habits in the United States, Canada and England indicates.
    ["Appear" is the operative term.]
    Gallup polled just over 3,000 workers in the United States, 1,005 in Canada and 1,009 in England. The survey's goal was to examine how work life differs in the three countries. Gallup found that - Americans seem to be happier with the time they are allotted for vacation than Canadians and British workers.
    [What "time they are allotted for vacation"? Alone among the industrial economies, the US has no legislation allotting any vacation time, and many Americans take less than the time their companies offer anyway. This is meaningless data.]
    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.
    [This too is a meaningless question without prior questions to find out how insecure they feel in their jobs, how much they fear their bosses and how much pressure they feel to give 'the right answers' on the Gallup poll. Many Americans have noticed that Gallup has become politicized, partisan, rightwing and backward recently.]

  6. Life on a Mississippi Tugboat
    Macomb Eagle, IL
    By RUDY KEMPPAINEN
    At first glance, living and working on the Mississippi River might seem like an idyllic, if not romantic, way of life. But, for those who do it, the truth is often less favorable.
    For the standard nine-man crew of a tugboat, it means 12-hour work days, with no days off for an entire month. Two rotating crews serve each tugboat along the river, with an average 30 days onboard, followed by 30 days off.
    Each member of the crew, with the exception of the cook, is required to do two six-hour shifts per day ­ one during the day, the second at night, during their 30-day tour. The crew is divided into positions of ship's captain, pilot and deck hands. Either the captain or the pilot must be on duty in the wheelhouse, high above deck, at all times.
    Deckhands have what may be the toughest jobs on the river. In addition to handling ship and barge tiedowns when going through river locks, they must also continuously watch over the chain of cargo barges the tugboat is shepherding through the river. They are in charge of reporting any significant irregularities to the captain or pilot on duty. The deck hands also work to assure the cleanliness of the boat's galley and general quarters during their watch....
    As one deckhand explained, "We only have time for a shower, grab a bite to eat, and then sack out for a few hours, before we have to be back on duty again." The same deckhand said many crew members often subsist on four hours of sleep per day during their average 30-day tours on the river. The actual durations can run anywhere from 26 to 34 days, depending where on the river they happen to be, along with the availability of returning replacements. Crew members who take extra time are then eligible for comp time onshore to make up for this extra time spent onboard.
    For crew members with families, the prolonged time away can prove stressful, especially during holidays. But the attitude appears generally philosophical. "I've got two kids at home that I got to take care of," one deckhand said. "And this is how Daddy gets it done."
    The same deckhand conceded the shore time scheduling, with 30 days off, also has its drawbacks. With a grin, he said, "When my month onshore is about done, my wife is ready to pack me back on the boat."
    As mentioned earlier, the ship's cook is the only crew member not obliged to [work] the six hours on / six hours off schedule. In charge of all ship meal preparations, the cook essentially sets his own schedule onboard. But that schedule entails the preparation of three meals per day,maintaining the direct cooking area....
    When one sees a tugboat on the river, one almost assumes a serenity which isn't always there. Behind the scenes, the bustle of activity actually continues unabated both day and night....

  7. Gov't plans to scrap shorter working hours target Japan Today, Japan Gov't plans to scrap shorter working hours target Tuesday, November 16, 2004 at 02:04 JST TOKYO - The government plans to scrap its target of reducing average annual working hours below 1,800 hours in order to better reflect employment conditions in Japan and encourage employees to take more paid days off, government sources said Monday. Targeting average working hours has become meaningless due to an increase in the number of part-time workers, the sources said. (Kyodo News)
    Japan Today Discussion - Post Your Opinion!
    samrinoma (Nov 16 2004 - 12:46) - Yeah, way to go Japan.
    reallyreal (Nov 16 2004 - 15:31) - Bleed 'em 'til they drop as usual! Suffering as only the Japanese could know it.
    SMPP (Nov 16 2004 - 17:23) - Work smartly. There are so many misimpressions on Japanese working hard until midnight. But what actually going on is simply waste of time and company resouces in the office. There are so many effects also for this in worker social life such as
    1. World highest smoking and alcohol rate
    2. World highest anxiety related disorder patient
    3. World highest suicide rate
    The main trouble comes from poor and inefficient management, slow decision making and pretending...to work smartly = 21st Century Samurai
    dan0119 (Nov 16 2004 - 23:10) - SMPP, you are right on the money. Screwing around till whenever doing absolutely nothing. I worked for a Japanese company in the US that operated like that movie, "Gung Ho". Just curious: these young Japanese (HS age and younger), do you see them sitting around jacking off all day doing nothing like the current salary men do, or do you see them getting with the program like the rest of the Capitalistic world?
    [So, The Program of 'the rest of the Capitalistic world' (but see article above on Europe) would be unlimited workaholism so your CEO can get 800 times what you make instead of 'just' 700?]

  8. Gaming's growing pains - Video game developers and publishers square off in a series of bitter battles
    CNN/Money
    by Chris Morris
    NEW YORK ­ ...To be blunt: Relations between developers and publishers have never been more unstable. Developers are speaking out privately and publicly about unpaid overtime and mistreatment by managers.
    'Crunch time'
    "Crunch time" has been a well-known industry secret for years. Basically, in the weeks - sometimes months - leading up to a major milestone, developers are expected to go into overdrive, working as long as it takes to get things done. A recent survey by the Independent Game Developers Association found "crunch" hours to be anywhere from 65 to 80 hours per week. In extreme cases, workdays can last up to 15 hours.
    In June, Neil Aitken, a former employee of Vivendi Universal Games, sued the publisher, saying the company had ordered him and several co-workers to falsify timesheets to show they only worked eight hours instead of the 12 or more they regularly did during crunch times. Vivendi (Research) declined to comment on the suit.
    Recently, industry giant Electronic Arts (Research) found itself the target of a class action lawsuit seeking unpaid overtime on behalf of a group of EA employees. (The California Superior Court overseeing the case has yet to certify the class, however.) At issue is whether certain employees are really exempt [=excluded] from overtime pay.
    In an e-mail to employees, EA denied the claims in the suit, saying "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."
    While the suit has a long way to go before it reaches resolution, EA is taking a very public drubbing from people claiming to be employees and spouses of employees in well-circulated Web postings. These people claim that crunch time hours are beginning to seep into non-crunch periods.
    ["Beginning"? Not when American management skills have deteriorated to crisis management now for decades, spoiled by the automate-downsize cycle and disempowering labor surplus of at least the last two decades.]
    Of course, whether these claims are legitimate or not is impossible to prove. Since these began circulating last week, though, I have heard from several developers who said the postings were on target. Because those developers (or their spouses) work at EA, they requested anonymity.
    EA did not return calls for comment.
    Of course, long hours aren't exclusive to any publisher. There are some whispers already about unionization in the gaming industry ­ the repercussions of which remain unknown. Games already cost an extraordinary amount to make, with today's top titles regularly seeing development costs of $10 million and more. It's no secret that pretty much everyone works too much and is too stressed out these days. So why all of the attention on game developers? Incredibly long work-hours are burning out many bright, creative developers before they have a chance to mature and contribute their best work. The battle between developers (and I'm using that term to encompass anyone who contributes to the making of a video game) and publishers isn't likely to end soon. And it's likely to get a lot uglier before it gets better.
    Morris is director of content development for CNN/Money - and welcomes comment from both sides of this battle.

  9. Cadets learn keys to success at Fire Training Academy Annapolis Capital, MD Cadets learn keys to success at Fire Training Academy By ERIC HARTLEY, Staff Writer ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. - Sheldon Neal is confident: If he can handle 17 weeks at the county Fire Training Academy, he figures, he can handle anything. This spring, [Neal] was finishing up work for a degree in psychology and mentoring schoolkids when he heard Anne Arundel County was hiring firefighters. The thought of saving lives drew him in. "'Firefighter' to me was a red engine," he said. "I didn't even know the difference between an engine and a truck." Three months into their training, Mr. Neal and 48 other firefighter cadets know a lot more than that.
    Many days, they trudge home exhausted after 10 hours of classroom and physical work. ...When they have a test coming up, the cadets often get together for evening study sessions.... In January they'll graduate....
    In addition to the 49 cadets being trained as firefighters and basic emergency medical technicians [EMT], there are 22 now in intermediate EMT training. They begin firefighter training Jan. 3....
    ...One of the instructors' major tasks is to get the cadets used to spraying less water. Too much can create too much smoke, hindering visibility. "All you want to do is knock the fire down," Lt. Popp said. "We have to teach them, just a quick burst."... The current class is one of the largest in county history, part of a major push to hire new firefighters that will continue for several years because of a new union contract that cuts working hours starting in 2007....
    ehartley@capitalgazette.com

  10. An outspoken doctor - Female doctor spoke out for causes she supported
    Kentucky Post, KY
    Louise Southgate was not the kind of person who let what other people thought affect her. An outspoken proponent of women's rights, she had honed her skills in the best schools in Europe and graduated from medical school when few people even went to college and virtually no women became doctors. Considered one of Northern Kentucky's outstanding physicians, she had a medical office building in Southgate named in her honor in 1990, almost 50 years after her death.
    Born in 1857, she was the daughter of a doctor...and great-granddaughter of a Covington pioneer who operated the first ferry between Covington and Cincinnati.... Southgate began a medical practice in Covington after graduation. She took two trips to Europe to learn the most recent medicines and procedures.
    ...Southgate was part of a Northern Kentucky group called the Women's Emergency Association, which collected food, tools, clothing and money for families in Eastern Kentucky. When a group went to Hindman to deliver the donations, Southgate went along to provide medical service at least twice - in 1905 and 1906.... Southgate also lent her support and speaking ability to a state-wide suffragist convention held Nov. 15 and 16, 1910, at the Carnegie Library auditorium. She spoke on the sisterhood of women.
    Southgate also backed efforts to reduce the working hours of young women in clothing plants. A Kentucky Post account in 1912 said women in mills often worked 11 hours a day, five days a week, and with overtime many worked seven days, 13 hours a week....
    Southgate lived at 124 Garrard St., Covington, in the 1920s. [She] retired from her medical practice a [around 1931]. She died on Aug. 15, 1941, at her sister's home at Bracht Station in southern Kenton County. She was 84 years old....

  11. Japanese women staying single by the droves
    AP via The Malaysia Star, Malaysia
    TOKYO - No matter how independent, fashionable or popular she may be, Japan's unwed woman has long been the eternal loser - lonesome during the holidays, dreaming of the child she never had, dreading the inevitable question at family gatherings: "Aren't you married yet?'' But in unprecedented numbers, Japanese women are answering that question with a firm "No'' - and trying to [advise] other women about how to deal with their plight. "Women these days aren't going to marry just anybody,'' declared Junko Sakai, whose recent book "Howl of the Loser Dogs'' sold more than 300,000 copies by telling Japan's single women how to survive the backlash of staying single. Marriage has certainly lost some of its allure for Japanese women - and that has meant changes for Japanese society and business.
    Over the past decade, the portion of Japanese women aged 25 to 29 who never married has surged from 40% to 54%.
    The percentage for women aged 30-34 has increased from 14% to 27%, according to government statistics.
    In the United States, 40% of women from 25 to 29 are single, and 23% of women from 30 to 34.
    The trend to stay unmarried is more pronounced in England, at 65% in the 25-29 age group, although that sinks to 39% for 30-34.
    Japanese men are also delaying marriage these days, but often they cite economic reasons: they have trouble finding a job that gives them the stability they need for married life, or they're more hesitant to assume the responsibilities of family.
    Many Japanese women, however, see a single major reason for their growing distaste of marriage: men who expect their wives to cheerfully surrender their jobs or juggle a career while single-handedly serving their husbands and caring for the kids.
    "It's not that we're set on being single. We're thirsting for a good marriage, but we can't find the right guy,'' Sakai, a single...said in a recent interview in Tokyo. "Men haven't changed their old mind-set. Women have grown too powerful for them.''
    The situation is a dramatic reversal of the strong tradition in Japan that praises early marriage and criticizes women who delay marriage as unattractive and selfish.
    In the 1980s, a woman who hadn't found a husband by the time she was 25 was dismissed as "Christmas cake,'' a reference to the cake Japanese eat on Dec. 25 - or throw away as worthless on the 26th.
    Reflecting the trend toward later marriages these days, attention has focused on single women who hit their 31st birthday without a husband. Such women are now known as "New Year's Eve noodles,'' referring to the tradition of eating noodles that night.
    The fading attraction of marriage is having a profound impact on public policy in Japan, where the government is worried that the plunging birthrate will mean labour shortages in the future and a drop in support for the growing ranks of the elderly.
    [Labor 'shortages' in the most automated economy on Earth - and recently with higher official unemployment rates than usual? When are we humans going to get our heads out of the pre-technological era?]
    The number of children a woman now has is at an average of 1.29 - a record low for Japan and far short of the 2.01 average in the United States, 1.90 in France and 1.63 in England.
    Chikako Ogura, professor of gender studies at Waseda University in Tokyo, doesn't see much hope in the proposals the government has been pushing to reverse the trend, such as adding child-care facilities and prodding employers to grant maternity leave. The critical problem is that people aren't getting married at all. Young women have jobs and reject a marriage that won't deliver a more comfortable life, she says.
    The emerging rift between the sexes reflects a widening gap between the economic realities of working women and the expectations of womanhood rooted in this nation's culture, many of which Japanese women still feel they must answer. "Women are looking for a marital partner who'll allow them to do whatever they want. They want a marriage that's perfect, economically and mentally. There aren't that many men who can offer that,'' Ogura said. "And they're all taken.''
    In the old days, marriages were often arranged by families, but such practices are now generally seen as outdated and undesirable. However, no widely accepted alternative has emerged for younger people to meet the opposite sex.
    Once in marriage, women are finding that husbands can't be counted on to help out with cooking or laundry. Government studies show men spend on average less than 10 minutes a day on housework while working women put in two hours. Frances Rosenbluth, professor of political science at Yale University, says the system of lifetime employment at Japanese companies, in which loyalty and long hours are demanded in exchange for job stability, is the main reason women have such a hard time balancing motherhood and career.
    [It's news to us that anyone still thinks the system of lifetime employment still exists in Japan.]
    In a society that assumes companies hire workers for life [huh?], women, who tend to drop out of the labor market for pregnancy and child-rearing, suffer asignificant stigma and add huge costs to employers.
    "Women are not satisfied with the old way, but they don't have a new way. They're stuck. The way they cope with that is by at least having some career before getting married. They figure once they get married, it's going to be all over,'' she said.
    The one segment responding to the growing singles trend are businesses, such as hotels and health spas. Previously, single women were shunned by the service industry as tightwads [huh?].
    Although the trend is decreasing, traditional-style Japanese hotels didn't even allow women traveling alone to spend the night, fearing they were looking for a place to commit suicide - so alien was the idea of an independent woman enjoying leisure.
    "The options for Japanese women have grown more diverse, rather than the old formula of marriage being the only way to happiness,'' says Kaori Haishi, a...food critic who has set up a Web page with other women to recommend restaurants and hotels friendly to solitary females.
    Nowadays, many single women feel increasingly free to make the decision to marry on their own, rather than simply caving in to social pressure, said Etsuko Moriyama...who is divorced. ...Said Moriyama, an editor who worked on Sakai's book, "Maybe I'll get married, maybe I won't.''

  12. The freelance economy
    by BONNIE ERBE, Scripps Howard News Service via Modesto Bee, CA.
    Think you're going to retire "fat and happy" with a corporate pension payout delivered as promised? Many Americans need to think again. As the cost of employee benefits tilt toward Jupiter (i.e., skyward), some major corporations are shedding burdensome costs through bankruptcy. Others are flat out dropping expensive perquisites that until recently were considered obligatory to lure the best workers. In fact, even the paid vacation may soon go the way of the typewriter.
    I call this phenomenon the freelance or hourly economy. It's alluring and rife with self-enrichment possibilities for financially nimble Americans and high-earners who can aptly avoid the icebergs. But it's a bed of brambles for less-educated folks and low-earners whose personal finance navigation tools never existed or are out of date.
    [This is actually good news for the ultimate worksharing solution, because one of the big obstacles to worksharing via workweek reduction has been the rigid attachment of benefits to "full-time work" defined as a minimum 40-hour workweek.]
    Here come some numbers, so grab your pencils and eyeshades. According to the global outsourcing and consulting firm, Hewitt, during the past 13 years the percentage of employers offering old-fashioned defined benefit plans has dropped almost by half. That is, companies offering the traditional, "You come work for us for so many years and when you retire at a certain age we give you a pre-determined amount annually for retirement." Hewitt reports in 1990, 83% of employers lavished these types of benefits on workers. Last year, that percentage had dropped to 45% or less than half. A pro-union group, the Labor Research Association, claims what defined benefit plans are left are largely the province of unionized workers, or non-union workers who work at heavily unionized companies. Its Web site states, "Only 14% of private-sector nonunion workers are covered by a defined benefit plan, and many of these receive coverage only because they work at companies where large portions of the workforce are unionized ..... Among private sector union workers, 69% are covered by a defined benefit plan, but many of these are concentrated in the shrinking industrial sectors." To wit, the airline industry, the steel industry and others that are laying off workers a lot faster than they're bringing in new hires. Not just the defined benefit pension, but also the paid vacation, is apparently on the respirator. The Society for Human Resource Management surveyed 450 companies in 2003 and again this year and found only 68% of them now offer paid vacations, down from 87% the previous year. That's a precipitous drop in one year and a sign all sorts of perks are on the endangered species list. Where paid vacation goes, so too goes paid leave. Only 29% of those companies offered it this year, compared with 68% the year before. That's too slippery a slope for this athlete to attempt to conquer. What's a worker to do? Three words of advice: prepare, prepare, prepare. That means saving a lot more than we are at present. In fact, it means reversing a serious slide in Americans' collective personal savings habits. According to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Affairs, personal savings as a percentage of disposable personal income- i.e., the money we have in our possession after paying taxes- fell to a seasonally adjusted four-tenths of one% in the third quarter of this year declining from 1.9% for the same quarter last year. America's savings rate has always trailed behind most other industrialized countries. But this year's drop appears, anyway, to be nothing less than a bungee jump off a tall bridge. Lack of self-sufficiency in the savings department would seem to make Americans all the more dependent on corporate largess to dodge poverty in retirement. Why are companies in such a cost-cutting mode? Most analysts say globalization is increasing competition on wages and benefits. Outsourcing is having an impact as is a feckless stock market. Domestic policy may soon increase pressure on future retirees if the president's as-yet unrevealed plan to partially privatize Social Security becomes law. The educated among us will fare just fine. But perhaps policymakers ought to consider requiring personal finance courses in public high schools and GED training. That way, all Americans leave high school able to balance their checkbooks and with a command of the importance of saving and investing.
    Contact Bonnie Erbe at bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com

( Here's the current search pattern used by our backup, Ken Ellis - he's now experimenting with nine search runs:
"work sharing", OR overwork, OR overworking, OR "work-sharing", OR "job-sharing", OR "job sharing", OR "work week", OR workweeks, OR "work-week", OR "work-weeks", OR "working week", OR "working weeks", OR "work-time", OR "worktime", OR "decreases hours", OR "shorter schedule"
"cut hours", OR "cutting hours", OR "more hours", OR "reduce hours", OR "reduced hours", OR "reduces hours", OR "reducing hours", OR "hours reduction", OR "40 hour", OR "40 hours", OR "forty hour", OR "forty hours"
"decrease hours", OR "decreased hours", OR "decreasing hours", OR "fewer hours", OR "schedule reduction", OR "long work", OR "long hours", OR "long days", OR "long workdays", OR "long workday", OR Nucor, OR "Lincoln Electric"
"days off"
"work hours", OR "working hours", OR "shorter hours", OR "shorten hours", OR "shortened hours", OR "shortened work"
"free time" labor OR workers OR employees
leisure labor OR workers OR employees
vacation OR vacations labor OR workers OR employees
overtime, OR "extra hours", OR "time off", -sports -coach -coaches -coaching -football -soccer -baseball -olympics [on hold] )




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