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Timesizing News, November 27-30 (& December), 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080

11/30/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/29 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. CTA drops 18-hour "working window" plan; Endorses mandatory EOBRs = 'black boxes' for trucks
    Today's Trucking News
    OTTAWA, Canada - In a surprise move, the Canadian Trucking Alliance [CTA] has dropped its proposal to extend the "working window" two more hours as part of the upcoming Canadian hours-of-service rule and has also weighed in on the side of electronic on-board recorders for trucks. In a statement issued today, CTA's CEO David Bradley states that CTA has no quarrel with the current HOS proposal of limiting driving time to 14 hours - which is already "a 24% increase in daily rest time as compared to the existing rules." He said that the trucking group's plan that would have extended a driver's daily "working window" from 16 to 18 hours is not, "as has been incorrectly reported by some in the media," for the purpose of seeking longer driving times. Nonetheless, CTA is dropping its pursuit of the controversial proposal because of lack of sufficient widespread industry support and vocal opposition from unions and independent truckers. This summer, the CTA was able to gain the initial support of the Council of Ministers, which directed the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) at a meeting in Quebec City to review the impacts of the 18-hour working window and to report back within 60 days. The CTA - which argued that the extension addressed truckers' concerns over time available to cope with delays - was hopeful that the amendment would be included in the final regulation, expected early next year. The announcement comes at the same time a report issued by a review panel from the scientific community recommended that the two-hour extension not be included in the final HOS rule. (See today's previous TodaysTrucking.com story for more details). The report states that "proactive measures to address operational problems should be proposed which safeguard the health and safety of drivers and the public, rather than long split shifts (windows)." The expert panel also concluded that the proposal is not "consistent with the 24-hour day, which was a core, scientifically supported recommendation" of Canadian and U.S. expert panels going back to 1998. And without the use of a sleeper berth, the additional two hours off duty is unlikely to be used for recuperative sleep. The CTA press release didn't mention if the expert panel's report was a factor in the lobby group's decision to abandon pursuit of the two-hour extension. Meanwhile, the CTA has also officially endorsed the mandatory use of electronic on-board data recorders - sometimes called "black boxes" - for all trucks governed by the National Safety Code and where a commercial drivers licence is required. "It's imperative from a safety point of view, which of course is paramount, but also in terms of providing responsible carriers with a level playing field with competitors who might otherwise choose to bend or break the rules to increase driving time," Bradley said in a release. CTA is urging the federal and provincial governments to enter into a joint government-industry memorandum of understanding on how best to make EOBRs a reality. "The days of the paper log book should be numbered," Bradley said. Today's Trucking first reported this summer that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will seriously look at reintroducing the possibility of EOBRs as part of the mandate handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals to amend aspects of the HOS regime that came into effect on Jan. 4. The agency is requesting comments on the potential for EOBRs until tomorrow. "There's been years of research on EOBRs, however it's only been in the last several years that there's been advancements in the technology that we haven't taken a look at yet and need to explore," FMCSA spokesperson David Longo told Today's Trucking recently. "There's a void there that we need to fill, starting with public comment." Sources in both Canada and the U.S. have told Today's Trucking that mandatory EOBRs will in all likelihood be introduced by regulators in the near future in an attempt to appease the courts and other opponents who insist the current rules aren't safe enough for the public and drivers. In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals threw out the hours-of-service rule and sent it back to FMCSA for review because the agency failed to comply with a statute requiring the agency to consider the impact of the rule on "the physical condition of the operators." While it didn't officially rule on EOBRs, it did show scorn over, among other issues, the FMCSA's decision not to include the devices in its final HOS proposal the first time around. The reasons the FMCSA gave in dismissing 'black boxes' - that neither the costs nor the benefits of EOBR systems are adequately known; that read-out procedures created by different EOBR vendors are incompatible; and that EOBRs are a direct assault on drivers' privacy - were not sufficient, in the opinion of the court.

  2. A time for flexibility
    Washington Post
    By Abigail Trafford
    What do retirees and mothers of young children have in common?
    They both want jobs with flexible [ie: reduced] schedules.
    Working moms - and dads - want flexibility in meeting the demands of raising a family while meeting the expectations of the boss. Men and women who plan to work after retirement want flexibility so they can meet their personal need to regenerate with education, travel, volunteer service and caring for relatives - even as they fulfill the needs of an employer. Flexibility means part-time work, episodic work, job-sharing and general policies that help people manage their private lives. It's a workplace culture that focuses on getting the job done rather than punching time on the clock.
    But a good job with flexibility is hard to find. Senior Services of Albany, N.Y., a nonprofit agency that provides programs and services to older men and women in New York state's capital region, took a first step when it devised a high-level, part-time job to create a new department of volunteers. The leading candidate had recently retired after 20 years in state government. But the woman also wanted to take month-long chunks of time off without pay to travel with her husband. Could the job get done in these circumstances? "It was a risk we took," said Ann G. DiSarro, executive director of Senior Services. But it was worth a try. "We're like a small business. We're not in a bureaucracy with standards for time off. It was easy for us to do. The exchange is, you get a person who is very qualified for the job." Over the next five years, Robyn Potter, mother of three, grandmother of six, put together a new base of volunteers. She expanded the Meals on Wheels program by using capable men and women who were mentally or physically disabled to deliver the meals to the isolated and the frail, a system that benefited both givers and receivers and saved money on hired drivers. She developed training protocols and built up a network of volunteers in schools, churches and community centers. Meanwhile, she took long trips with her husband as part of the Earthwatch study program, monitoring various species of wildlife, from the platypus in Australia to the black rhino in Kenya. Potter quickly saw that the job was cyclical, so she scheduled her trips six months in advance during down periods. The agency never had to hire someone to cover for her. She also brought to the job the advantages from a lifetime of experience. The ability to work independently, organize well and follow through stemmed from "my work experience, my experience as a volunteer, my experience as a mother," she e xplained. She and her husband had adopted two hard-to-place children and become community advocates to get them needed services. She learned to juggle, set priorities and be persistent. "You need those don't-give-up skills," she said. "You learn what to let go of, what you need to follow through on. . . . You just keep making phone calls." The result of her hiring by Senior Services was win-win. "She did these exotic travels and we got a great volunteer department," DiSarro said. "It was a give and take on both sides that worked out for both of us," said Potter. "Most employers do not take that risk." Research by Phyllis Moen, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota, shows that people in their fifties and sixties and beyond want to continue to work, but they don't want to continue in their old jobs. They want new jobs - usually ones with flexibility. When I had my first child in 1967, it was assumed that I would quit my job. That assumption has been overturned, as moms flooded the workplace, breaking down barriers against women and promoting family-friendly policies. A similar evolution is occurring with retirees. Until recently it was assumed that a person who retired after a long career would stop working, go to Florida and play golf. Today, older men and women may want to play more golf and enjoy more leisure, but they also want - and need - to work. There's a natural alliance between working parents and retirees to create more opportunities outside the traditional full-time mold and break down prejudice against part-time workers. Together, these two populations representing millions of Americans could form a critical mass for change. We've all come a long way - but there's a long way to go.

  3. EU 'punishing' UK over labour market
    Financial Times, UK
    By George Parker in Brussels
    Denis MacShane, Britain's minister for Europe, yesterday accused the rest of the European Union of trying to "punish" the UK for having a flexible and successful labour market. Mr MacShane told EU ambassadors in London there was a determined effort to contain Britain in a "made-in-Brussels straitjacket". The strident comments came from a minister who often criticises colleagues for "bashing Brussels", because of the damage it does to the campaign to ratify the EU constitution. Peter Mandelson, the new EU commissioner for trade, recently warned of the dangers of "exaggerated gloating" about the strength of the UK economy. But Mr MacShane's comments reflect frustration in London at European criticism of the UK labour market, where the jobless rate of 4.6% is less than half that in France or Germany. Britain is particularly opposed to pressure from the Commission and EU member states to redefine its "opt out" to European legislation limiting working time. Mr MacShane told the ambassadors: "I am surprised at the desire of so many in Brussels to punish Britain. As you know we have one of the best performing economies, especially in the labour market field."
    [Not really. Loads of hidden unemployment, same as U.S.]
    He said Britain's labour laws were generating jobs [employment-funnelling does not generate jobs], creating wealth [funneling wealth to top brackets is not 'creating wealth'] and were sustaining high levels of trade union membership.
    [Britain does not have high levels of union membership. Neither does longer-hours USA.]
    "There is a concerted effort by key players in Brussels - on the European Commission, in the Council of Ministers and the European parliament - to take Britain in the direction of rigid labour markets.
    [BS - labor hours that can only get longer are hardly flexible.]
    Some want a made-in-Brussels straitjacket, by imposing bureaucratic inflexibility on the ability of workers and employers to shape working hours that suit individual needs of employees."
    [What hypocritical propaganda! Employees have less and less control as technology-diminished employment funnels onto fewer longer-working people and leaves more and more under- and un-employed. "Individual needs of employees" get less and less consideration.]
    Mr MacShane urged the ambassadors to convey to their governments the need to "say goodbye to out-of-date thinking from the 1980s about how work time should be organised".
    [MacShane is a McJobs thinker - no concept of whole-systems thinking or what real up-to-date thinking would be:
    1. automatic conversion of overtime to training&hiring - see Timesizing Phase 2 and Phase 3.
    2. automatic adjustment of the workweek against unemployment, redefined to include the whole problem of non-self-support (unemployment, welfare, disability, homelessness, incarceration...) - see Timesizing Phase 4 and Phase 1.]
    Britain is also fighting moves by the Commission to regulate the temporary workers' sector, which the UK regards as a flexible route into the workplace.

  4. Dispute surfaces over bus safety
    The Grand Rapids Press, MI
    By Matt Vande Bunte
    CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. - Who[m] do you believe? The Cedar Springs School Board at its last two meetings has heard reports on the new busing procedures. A driver says the new system is unsafe. An elementary school principal says things are going just fine. The school board is left to decide. And right now, the board president sides with administrators, calling driver criticism of the new system an understandable "negotiation strategy." "There's just a lot of anxiety on (bus drivers') part that they need to do something to get those hours back," Carolee Cole said. Budget cuts this year took away employment benefits for drivers by reducing their working hours below full-time. In order to do that, officials had to overhaul busing, going to a single run instead of separate runs for elementary and secondary students. Cyndy Marek, a bus driver and union vice president, urged board members last month to ride a school bus to see for themselves that "we're still having transportation problems." Lower wages and no benefits are leading to high turnover, she said, putting less-experienced drivers on the roads. "I don't understand where they say there isn't a safety problem here," Marek said. Last week, Cedar View Elementary School Principal Michael Duffy reported that the number of troublesome incidents such as fights and bad language are "not anything more than we normally have." In addition, the new school schedule that goes along with the busing changes is boosting student productivity because they are less tired at the end of the day, he said.

  5. Wal-Mart ways
    In the Public Interest via ProgressiveTrail.org, OR
    by Ralph Nader
    Law-breaker, union-buster, tax-escapee and shifter of costs to others, the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, announced last week that it would respect the wishes of its Chinese workers to form a union. As is usual with Wal-Mart announcements, a substantial overstatement is working here. In China, unions are not independent; they are government-controlled with the Chinese communist party turning them into what would be called "company unions" in the U.S. With 40 stores in China already, Wal-Mart understands that these essentially Communist Party-controlled unions serve as a controlling mechanism over workers ­ a one-stop system which often have an in-company manager in charge. China is seen by Wal-Mart as the future. With the U.S. market approaching saturation (Wal-Mart has 3,600 big and bigger stores here), the company with the biggest gross revenues in the world - $258.7 billion last year ­ is importing more from Chinese factories then is the entire country of Germany. Its message to U.S. suppliers is that if they cannot meet the "China price," they should close down in America and open up in the world's largest communist dictatorship. Astonishing, isn't it, that this giant capitalist corporation is using this Communist regime as its labor enforcement arm to drive down wages and benefits in the U.S. In Western Europe, Wal-Mart has to treat its workers better than it treats its American workers. European labor laws are much tougher than those in the U.S.   Wal-Mart has to give its workers paid vacations (from 4 to 8 weeks depending on the country), better benefits and working conditions. There is no "off the clock" work [see 6/25/2002 #1] or wages not fully paid for long periods of time. Wal-Mart has even agreed to collectively bargain with a large German union. In the country of its birth, Wal-Mart is wrecking havoc with worker standards of living. It forces other large grocery chains to demand from their unionized employees lower wages and benefits to be able to compete with Wall-Mart's race to the bottom. This direction is a historically tragic reverse for the U.S. economy that before World War II featured rising wages that increased consumer demand and improved livelihoods. Increasingly, Wal-Mart's immense arc of influence here is pushing wages and benefits downward. With hundreds of thousands of its nearly 1.4 million workers making under $7.50 an hour, before payroll deductions, (the average wage is between $7.50 and $8.50 an hour), the average-on-the-clock workweek is only 32 hours. Since Wal-Mart defines anyone working fewer than 34 hours per week as part-time, they have to wait for two years before qualifying for health insurance whose co-payment takes one-fifth of the average paycheck. Get the idea of what is meant by the Wal-Mart way. Waiting periods are key to Wal-Mart's phony health insurance boasting in their television ads. Impoverished employees don't stay, with turnover rates for these hourly employees at 50% to 100% at many stores. Wal-Mart is devilishly ingenious in thinking up ways to have taxpayers fill in its wage gap. Put them on partial welfare, says the very well paid company bosses who make millions of dollars each per year. These workers are given advice on how to apply so that taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart's profits. For example, in Georgia, over 10, 261 children of Wal-Mart employees are enrolled in the state's Peachcare program for health insurance in families meeting federal poverty criteria. According to the report, Everyday Low Wages, one 200-person Wal-Mart store could cost federal taxpayers over $420,000 per year. These costs include subsidized lunches, health insurance and housing assistance, federal tax credits and deductions for low-income families, among other examples of Wal-Mart's freeloading. Enough is never enough for this corporation. It often demands substantial local tax breaks from municipalities as a condition for locating there. Although successful local opposition is blocking dozens of Wal-Mart location plans, this corporate welfare King still manages to escape its fair share of taxes, while local home owner and small businesses ante up for local public services and assume Wal-Mart's share. That is, small businesses that manages to remain in the hollowed out Main Streets that are the aftermath of a Wal-Mart opening. Minimal thinking by consumers say Wal-Mart is a bargain; maximum thinking starts adding up the local, national and global costs of this Goliath depressor of purchasing power by workers. For more information on these cost burdens, see the website WalMartWatch.com which also shows how communities have stopped the Wal-Mart invasion.

  6. Push comes to shove for United - As the next round of labor talks begins, the airline is playing hardball, seeking work-rule rewrites that would change life on the job for thousands
    Crain's Chicago Business, IL
    By Julie Johnsson
    As it seeks another round of pay cuts with its unions, United Airlines is pushing for sweeping revisions in rules that govern how its 60,000 employees perform their jobs. The proposed work-rule changes are spelled out in term sheets the airline gave unions earlier this month. If approved, United would outsource more jobs, eliminate seniority and job-protection provisions for ground personnel, force pilots to work longer hours and scrap mandated rest for flight attendants. How much United ultimately gets will be determined by negotiations with its unions, which begin this week, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago, which has set an early January deadline for United and its unions to reach an agreement. If talks fail, the court could impose the contract terms sought by the Elk Grove Township-based airline. United seeks to trim another $2 billion from expenses, including $725 million in wages and benefits, to obtain financing to exit bankruptcy.
    Hard times, hard line
    While it wants to slash employee wages - again - United Airlines also proposes sweeping changes in rules governing how workers do their jobs.
    Changes that would affect all employees
    Temporary pay cuts*: 4% from Jan. 1 until bankruptcy exit; 4% for up to six months after bankruptcy exit if United violates debt covenants Sick leave: Paid at 70%, not 100%, of employee's hourly rate Occupational injury: Pilots
    Union: Air Line Pilots Assn.
    Pay cut: 8%
    Total concessions: $191.2 million
    What management wants
    € Boost maximum workloads to 95 hours a month for 747, 777 pilots
    € Designate junior pilots, paid at a lower wage, as relief pilots on long-haul international flights
    € Outsource cargo flights
    What it would mean for workers
    € United will need fewer of its costliest pilots
    € Could pit 747 pilots against younger counterparts
    € Cargo flights to be flown by non-union pilots in non-UAL planes
    Flight attendants
    Union: Assn. of Flight Attendants
    Pay cut: 6.2%
    Total concessions: $137.6 million
    What management wants
    € Lift rules barring flight attendants from flying more than eight hours in a 24-hour period
    € Duty time increased to 14 hours scheduled, 16 hours actual
    € International work rules dropped for flights to Caribbean, Central and South America; minimum layover reduced to 22 hours
    What it would mean for workers
    € Working back-to-back-to-back transcontinental flights
    € More unpaid hours idle at airports
    € Lower pay, less rest on overseas flights: hardships for older flight attendants
    Union: Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Assn.
    Pay cut: 5%
    Total concessions: $101.2 million
    What management wants
    € Outsource plant and ground equipment maintenance, fueling and cabin workers
    € Furlough workers without regard to seniority
    € Perform heavy maintenance offshore
    What it would mean for workers
    € Layoffs for everyone but line mechanics
    € United can close repair stations without offering veteran workers jobs elsewhere
    € No FAA checks on offshore repair work
    Ramp workers/ticket agents
    Union: International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    Pay cut: 7%
    Total concessions: $180 million
    What management wants
    € Greater use of part-time workers
    € Outsource food-service work, mail, cargo-running, security and fueling
    € Eliminate job-protection and no-furlough provisions
    What it would mean for workers
    € Fewer full-time workers
    € Heavy cuts for all but gate agents, baggage handlers
    € Hello, layoffs!
    *Temporary pay cut would be in addition to other proposed pay cuts
    Source: Union documents
    The nation's No. 2 carrier may be willing to exchange some of the proposed work-rule revisions for greater wage cuts. That was the case last year, when the airline dropped many of the concessions it sought after unions agreed to a $2.5-billion pay cut. "This is an initial proposal," says a United spokeswoman. "We've identified a cost savings that we need from each employee group. How we get that number is open to discussion and negotiation." Some employees privately grumble that the work-rule revisions are aimed more at busting United's unions than wringing significant new savings.
    Indeed, United's proposals would likely weaken unions by giving management greater latitude to lay off workers and outsource jobs. If United succeeds, other mainline airlines are likely to seek similar concessions. "They get rid of these (existing work rules), it changes 40 years of bargaining. It destroys our careers," says an Assn. of Flight Attendants spokeswoman. The union has voted to authorize limited strikes if courts abrogate its contracts with United, US Airways, ATA Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines, all of which are in bankruptcy. While United needs to minimize worker discontent, it holds the upper hand since the Bankruptcy Court will likely side with the embattled airline if talks fail. That leaves United's unions with little leverage aside from threatening to strike, which would likely destroy United as a similar move wiped out Eastern Airlines a decade ago. "The strike option is playing with fire; it's foolish at this point," says transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman, a professor at DePaul University. However, United has a history of taking full advantage of employee concessions, which may make workers willing to engage in such brinkmanship. After mechanics agreed to let the airline outsource heavy maintenance last year, United moved all such work to outside vendors. Now, United seeks to outsource all plant and ground equipment, fueling and cabin workers, moves that would gut its ground workforce. "I don't care if you pay us $80 an hour," says Richard Turk, a mechanic and communications officer for Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Assn. Local 9, which represents about 3,800 United mechanics on the West Coast. "If only eight of us are left working, it really doesn't do any good."

  7. Chirac rival takes over the French ruling party - 'Reformist' [our quotes]: Energetic, quick-witted and frank Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as head of the ruling UMP by a wide margin, taking him a step closer to the presidency
    AP via Taipei Times, Taiwan
    LE BOURGET, France - French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has taken one step closer to a bid for the presidency, taking the helm of President Jacques Chirac's party. In a multimillion-dollar, American-style political show, Sarkozy on Sunday was named president of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), kicking off a new era for Chirac's right.... At least 15,000 UMP members packed the hall of Le Bourget airport northeast of Paris for the party's changing of the guard. Thousands of others followed the proceedings on screens from adjoining areas. The press compared the spectacle, featuring show-biz stars, to the crowning of a king. In an address to the crowd, Sarkozy, elected for a three-year term, said he will work so that UMP is the source of a rebirth for the "essential values" of France - respect, work and country. UMP, created in 2002 in an alliance of Chirac's conservatives and some centrists, has been losing elections ever since. It replaced the traditional conservative Rally for the Republic, a neo-Gaullist party created by Chirac. Sarkozy made clear that, in giving the party new momentum, he wants to do away with the status quo, which he called "our adversary." "I want to remain a free man," Sarkozy said. "Things are going to change," he added later. "We will not disappoint." However, Chirac sent a warning in a message to the party, insisting that the "union" between conservatives and centrists upon which the UMP was founded must be preserved. "Today, you are the vigilant guardians," Chirac said in the message read out quickly by Sarkozy. "Nothing, ever, must put this [union] into question." Chirac said he counted on the "vitality, efficiency, commitment of Nicolas Sarkozy" in his new job. Sarkozy, once part of Chirac's inner circle, betrayed the president by backing Edouard Balladur for president in 1995 rather than the winner Chirac. He retreated for seven years from the political scene to be brought back in 2002 as interior minister. Energetic, quick-witted and frank, Sarkozy is said to have wanted the prime minister's job, but he quickly moved to center-stage with a law-and-order program against delinquents and bold moves to bring France's huge Muslim population into the mainstream. Sarkozy took a deep jab at the 35-hour work week put in place by the former Socialist government, saying he wants a "profound reform" of the law. Work must be "rehabilitated" and "the France of work" must be "at the heart of all politics," he said. "We must invent and symbolize a French model of success inspired by no other model but [able] to inspire others," he said. Neither skin color nor social origins should stand in the way of success, he added. Sarkozy outlined a project to make the UMP a truly popular party, saying he will spend three days a month in various French regions, meeting farmers, factory workers and civil servants and encouraging the party's youth movement to connect with high schools. "Together, we will develop the great popular movement you have dreamed of," Sarkozy said. "A new horizon is before us." Speaking like a statesman, Sarkozy also addressed international concerns, lauding former communist-era leaders of eastern Europe like Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel for making "liberty triumph" - and getting heavy applause for also praising Pope John Paul II. As expected, Sarkozy won the Nov. 15 to Nov. 21 election for UMP president by a wide margin. He took 85.1% of the vote, the head of the election commission Robert Pandraud announced on Sunday, when results were made public. Sarkozy has never said he seeks the presidency and, to much applause, promised his "loyal and full support" in 2007 to "whoever it is" that can best rally to unite the French.

  8. Mobility means 'nowhere to hide' [ie: rest] - Latest survey forsees wireless future, but is it a better future?
    Techworld.com, UK
    By Matthew Broersma, Techworld
    Greater mobility is associated with higher productivity, according to a Cisco-sponsored survey published today by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Those who are away from their desks most of the time say they're more productive than their stationary colleagues. But while mobility looks to be the future - only 11% of respondents said they will spend more time at their desk two years from now - the survey found that many are troubled by the impact mobile technologies are having on their lives. Three-quarters said the blurring of personal and work time was a key negative aspect of mobile technologies, commenting that they felt "on call" 24 hours a day, had less "thinking time" and had "nowhere to hide".
    26% said more access to corporate communications would increase their daily work hours, with one respondent commenting: "It would increase stress and make life more difficult... total accessibility is not conducive to good decision-making." Another 20% said more access would reduce their work hours. Despite such problems, 73% admitted that access to mobile tools in places where they currently have little or no access - in the bath, perhaps? - would increase their efficiency and reduce response time to problems. Working away from their primary work space (almost always an office desk) doesn't in itself make workers more productive - 66% said they felt "very productive" at their desk, compared with 36% who felt that way working from home, and only 15% feeling the same when working elsewhere in their own companies, at other company locations and at supplier sites. The least productive locations were during the daily commute, at a neighbourhood cafe or on a business trip. Instead, the flexibility to work in various locations seems to be a productivity boost: those who spend more than half of their working time away from their office desk said they were more productive than those who were more stationary. The survey also found that the quarter of respondents who were "very satisfied" with their companies' provisions for mobile working reported higher levels of productivity. However ambivalent workers might feel about mobile working, most expect it will become a more important part of their jobs.   39% expected to telecommute more from home two years from now, and 42% expected to work more while travelling on business. The survey covered 1,500 respondents over the summer, with 45% from western and eastern Europe, 26% from the Americas and 22% from the Asia and Australasia area. The respondents were mainly from the IT, telecoms, finance, healthcare and biotech industries, with the largest group between 35 and 44. Nearly a third were executives from large enterprises, with 19% being CEOs, presidents or managing directors.

  9. For many workers, it's home, suite home - Corporate apartments (employer-paid housing for workers on long assignments) are coming back
    USA Today, VA
    By Chris Woodyard
    Sherry McMahon, a nurse from Tulsa, lives in a corporate apartment in Calif. [caption of photo By Bob Riha Jr., USA TODAY]
    After falling in popularity after Sept. 11 and during the 2001 recession, more businesses are returning to the idea of apartments as an alternative to rising hotel rates. The industry that provides corporate apartments has been in a steady upswing as business travel has returned, says Terry Flahive, president of the Corporate Housing Providers Association. Employers get a cheaper place to house workers in big metropolitan areas. Workers get a regular apartment that offers more space and is homier than a hotel room. Travel consultant Smith Analytics identifies 11,000 corporate apartment units in the big city markets it tracks. Smith shows demand up slightly this year over last. Employees or consultants who work weeks at a time on assignment stay in fully furnished apartments instead of hotel rooms. Instead of arranging for units directly with a landlord, some companies or individual business travelers contract with companies that specialize in finding, furnishing and renting corporate apartments. In a fragmented market of companies that provide corporate apartments, a few big players have emerged. They include BridgeStreet Corporate Housing Worldwide, Oakwood Worldwide and Marriott's ExecuStay. Aiding the rebound:
    € Higher hotel costs. As average hotel rates reach about $200 a night in New York, a corporate apartment can look more like a bargain. That's true in other big cities like Washington and Los Angeles, too. Oakwood is seeing a 20% increase in occupancy this year "because hotels have been raising prices," says spokeswoman Jessica Shih.
    € Fewer permanent staff. The jobless recovery has meant Corporate America is trying to get more work from fewer employees. That has meant hiring more consultants and temporary workers who can be brought in for specific projects ‹ perfect candidates for corporate apartments. ExecuStay says the average stay of workers in its units is about 3½ months.
    € Military housing. Corporate apartments around military bases have been bulging since wars began in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the buildup, some bases have had to turn to apartments outside their fences to house the overflow.
    Providing such housing can involve a variety of arrangements. Some companies, like BridgeStreet, simply rent unfurnished units in cities where the corporations want them. It furnishes them right down to dishware and premium cable TV channels. Others, like Oakwood, own a large number of the apartment buildings where they house workers. ExecuStay is turning the development of corporate housing into a franchise opportunity. Whatever form it takes, the financial end of the deal is usually pretty simple. The providers bill the corporations either monthly or at the end of a guest's stay. BridgeStreet President Lee Curtis says his units have an advantage over extended-stay hotels. The typical BridgeStreet property is bigger and has more amenities, like full-size kitchens, he says.
    There are some disadvantages for workers. Besides only occasional maid visits, there is no hotel room service. But it is more like home. The providers say they try to make sure guests don't get homesick. Oakwood hosts holiday brunches and musical performances. It decorates for the holidays and holds mixers and craft classes.
    Providers say December is a great time for travelers to try out corporate apartments at a discount. Corporate tenants often head home to their families, leaving many apartments empty. BridgeStreet, for one, is offering one-bedroom apartments for $90 a night in Chicago, $125 a night in San Francisco and $195 a night in New York through mid-January. Those rates can be up to half off what a comparable hotel room would cost, says BridgeStreet's Curtis. The units are offered at www.bridgestreet.com. Oakwood is offering holiday discounts through Jan. 9 on properties throughout the country to corporate travelers and leisure travelers who plan to stay more than two days on their trips. Details are on a special Oakwood Web site: www.familyplacetostay.com

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

11/27-29/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 11/26-29 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. 11/27   LIFE'S A BEACH: But with modern technology, work is never far away, even on holidays - We're no longer a land of long weekends
    Queensland Sunday Mail, Australia
    DARYL PASSMORE If you're hanging out [Aussie: "waiting"] for Christmas, longing for a few weeks relaxing at the beach, you're probably not alone. A new report says many of us should already be kicking back, having ended the working year last weekend. The Australia Institute nominated November 20 ­ which was last Saturday ­ as "Take The Rest Of The Year Off" Day. It says if the average Australian worker took extra holidays from then until the end of the year, they would have worked the same number of hours as counterparts in other industrialised nations. Aussies now work the longest hours in the developed world ­ 212 hours, more than five weeks, above the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development countries' average. The laid-back Norwegians put in 479 hours, or 12 weeks, a year fewer than us. "While 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 ourselves sick," report co-author Dr Richard Denniss said. "Australians work on average longer than Germans, Americans and even Japanese, known for 'karoshi', or death by overwork." Dr Denniss said the trend was driven by changing social norms. "How many people come back from Christmas holidays saying, 'I want to work even more hours this year?' "But people are thinking, 'Everyone else seems to be staying late' ­ or the management culture is such that they are given a quota of work and have to put those hours in to get it done." The loss of support staff such as secretaries in the past 10-20 years had increased the workload. "The modern workplace culture is that those sort of jobs are a waste but it's far more wasteful having people earning $80,000 standing at the photocopier," he said. Four out of 10 full-time workers said they would like to do fewer hours, rising to 57% of those putting in 50 hours or more a week. A 35-hour working week was the most popular preference. A study four years ago showed one in five full-time workers in Australia put in 50 hours or more a week. But a recent survey found this had risen to one in three. And the International Labour Organisation says the numbers doing that are growing faster here than in any industrialised country. Dr Denniss said overwork was bad for the individual and the employer. "Longand stressful work hours have negative impacts on physical and mental health and relationships," he said. "Australians are reporting higher stress and anxiety. Long hours are related to an increased incidence of workplace accidents and higher staff turnover and lower morale." Australia's 10 or 11 public holidays a year are about the OECD average but our four weeks' annual leave is less than the European five. Some countries have six. And Dr Denniss says 60% of people fail to take all their leave entitlement. Australians had to stop confusing materialism with standard of living if they were to break out of the overwork trap, he said.
    € Has your job taken over your life? Write to: "Overwork" at The Sunday Mail, GPO Box 130, Brisbane 4001; fax 3666 6787; e-mail smletters@qnp.newsltd.com.au

  2. [Hey, Aussie doctors are swinging with it -]
    11/26   Medicare sweetener has added to GP woes
    Sydney Morning Herald, Australia
    By Mark Metherell
    AUSTRALIA - The Federal Government's "100% Medicare" sweetener to doctors is unlikely to turn around the fall in services by general practitioners, government forecasts show. The Coalition's $1.7 billion election pledge to pay GPs an extra $4.60 per service was designed to improve access to and affordability of GP services. But the Health Department's own estimates show it does not expect any growth in services. The overall cost of the new measure is forecast to fall slightly over the next three years - from $505 million next financial year to $504 million in 2007-08. The department has acknowledged there is an underlying decrease in GP services. It says there is also an overall trend towards fewer short and standard consultations by GPs and proportionally more longer consultations. The figures have surfaced amid fresh evidence that Australia is struggling to fill vacancies for GP trainees. The GP training agency, GPET, says there are 600 government-funded training places for next year, but it has been able to fill only 530 of them. More broadly, there are about 1400 medical graduates each year to fill a total 1750 places available, including those for medical specialists, said the agency's chief executive, Bill Coote. "From our projections we have deduced that it will certainly be very difficult to fill all our places in the next two years and to convince doctors to join the training program with so many options available to them," Dr Coote said. "If there is a continued shortage it might make it even more difficult to attract doctors into areas of need, such as rural areas." The Federal Government has committed to increasing doctor numbers by 1500 over four years, including through recruitment of overseas-trained doctors, and expanding medical school places by 246 a year. The Government and professional organisations are also working to expand the role of nurses in routine medical care to offset the squeeze on doctors. A survey published this week found that even though the number of doctors nationwide rose by 12% to 54,000 between 1997 and 2002, supply of services has declined because doctors are generally working shorter hours. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said the reasons for the shorter hours were complex but were likely to include an ageing profession, a growing proportion of women doctors and a general resistance to working more than 50 hours a week. The steady decline in services is borne out by Medicare statistics which show that in NSW patients see GPs an average five times a year. That compares with four visits less than nine years ago. Labor's health spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said that while doctor shortages represented part of the problem, the decline in bulk-billing in many areas was also a likely reason. This meant patients who could not see a GP for reasons of cost or availability were left with their illness undiagnosed, or forced to go to a public hospital emergency department. The chairman of the Australian Divisions of General Practice, Rob Walters, said the projections of continued shortages represented a huge challenge and raised more urgently the question of "what do we allow nurses to do?" [Australian doctors (article above) are showing the way for their benighted fellow employees (article below) -]
    11/27 We're no longer a land of long weekends
    Queensland Sunday Mail, Australia
    If you're hanging out for Christmas, longing for a few weeks relaxing at the beach, you're probably not alone. A new report says many of us should already be kicking back, having ended the working year last weekend. The Australia Institute nominated November 20 – which was last Saturday – as "Take The Rest Of The Year Off" Day. It says if the average Australian worker took extra holidays from then until the end of the year, they would have worked the same number of hours as counterparts in other industrialised nations. Aussies now work the longest hours in the developed world – 212 hours, more than five weeks, above the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development countries' average. The laid-back Norwegians put in 479 hours, or 12 weeks, a year fewer than us. "While 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 ourselves sick," report co-author Dr Richard Denniss said. "Australians work on average longer than Germans, Americans and even Japanese, known for 'karoshi', or death by overwork." Dr Denniss said the trend was driven by changing social norms. "How many people come back from Christmas holidays saying, 'I want to work even more hours this year?' "But people are thinking, 'Everyone else seems to be staying late' – or the management culture is such that they are given a quota of work and have to put those hours in to get it done." The loss of support staff such as secretaries in the past 10-20 years had increased the workload. "The modern workplace culture is that those sort of jobs are a waste but it's far more wasteful having people earning $80,000 standing at the photocopier," he said. Four out of 10 full-time workers said they would like to do fewer hours, rising to 57% of those putting in 50 hours or more a week. A 35-hour working week was the most popular preference. A study four years ago showed one in five full-time workers in Australia put in 50 hours or more a week. But a recent survey found this had risen to one in three. And the International Labour Organisation says the numbers doing that are growing faster here than in any industrialised country. Dr Denniss said overwork was bad for the individual and the employer. "Long and stressful work hours have negative impacts on physical and mental health and relationships," he said. "Australians are reporting higher stress and anxiety. Long hours are related to an increased incidence of workplace accidents and higher staff turnover and lower morale." Australia's 10 or 11 public holidays a year are about the OECD average but our four weeks' annual leave is less than the European five. Some countries have six. And Dr Denniss says 60% of people fail to take all their leave entitlement. Australians had to stop confusing materialism with standard of living if they were to break out of the overwork trap, he said.

  3. 11/26   Supply shortages eat profits
    Asahi Shimbun, Japan
    The Asahi Shimbun
    A shortage of materials, such as steel and synthetic resin, is eating into the profits of many manufacturers. Sharply growing global demand, especially in China, is making it harder for large purchasers, such as automakers, shipbuilders and consumer electronics makers, to get their hands on needed materials. The limited supply has forced some makers to suspend production and reschedule product deliveries. Nissan Motor Co. reported Thursday it will hold up operations at three assembly plants late this month and early next month due to a lack of steel. An unexpected increase in vehicle exports is also squeezing automakers, which account for about 20% of total domestic demand for steel products. An executive of a major steelmaker said both automakers and steelmakers had underestimated vehicle production for the current fiscal year. And with their plants already operating at full capacity to meet the sharply growing demand, steelmakers are hard-pressed to increase production. Shipbuilders suffered shrinking profit margins as steel prices rose by about 5,000 yen, or 10%, per ton in the spring. Major shipbuilders such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. posted losses in their earnings reports for the half year through September, mainly as a result of the price hike and the rising yen. Since early this year, those companies have taken countermeasures, such as increasing the number of days off at their shipbuilding yards.
    [= timesizing, not downsizing = worktime that fluctuates with reality, such as demand/revenue for corporations or demand/unemployment for governments.]
    Rising synthetic resin prices are also eroding profits of major manufacturers. Hitachi Ltd. forecasts its operating profit in the current fiscal year through March will shrink by 57 billion yen due to higher priced plastic and steel materials. Meanwhile, suppliers are reluctant to boost their production capacities. Having struggled to eliminate oversupply for years, steelmakers are very cautious about building new capital-burning blast furnaces. And having gone through a tough realignment period in the late 1990s to survive global competition, petrochemical companies have no appetite for investing in large-scale domestic production facilities.

  4. [Page down about 4 times to see our outline of the Timesizing solution before you drink the hemlock over this lengthy litany of pessimism.]
    11/26   Taking The Dumbing Down of America
    [Does he mean taking the dumbing down of America down? or taking on the dumbing down of America? or talking about the dumbing down of America?]
    Collective Bellaciao, France
    by Manuel Valenzuela
    Part I
    Something is amiss in the great nation called America. Ominous sirens warning this reality can be heard emanating loudly through invisible winds of change circulating our towns and cities. The American people are being strangulated; unbeknownst to the masses they are being transformed and conditioned, becoming the entity the elite have long sought, the culmination of decades of social engineering designed to make of hundreds of millions the slaves of times past and the automatons of the future. Yet in this present day we find ourselves in, struggling to comprehend a world gone mad, unable to discern neither the direction we are headed nor the inevitable course time is guiding us on. It is because of what has been done to us, and is presently being done to our children, that we fail to comprehend the severity of the road that lies ahead. Quite successful have the elite become in shifting the balance of power from the masses to themselves. How, one might wonder, has this been accomplished, especially when we are the many and they the few? It is through the dumbing down of America, the methodical destruction and purposeful elimination of the means by which a society educates and enlightens itself. The evisceration of a system that extols accountability and dialogue, opens up the gates of opportunity with the keys of ability and questions authority and seeks debate is in full swing. A system that in theory creates a wealth of knowledge, illuminates talent, births an informed citizenry and creates free thinking, analytical minds has been slowly implemented for the last several decades. The dumbing down of America continues into the present, unrelenting and unhindered, squashing the masses for the benefit of the elite. A giant threat to the system is being disposed of, systematically and without remorse, making of America and its citizens yet one more cog in the engine called capitalistic exploitation of humanity. What has happened to the Pax Americana? Here stands the Pax Americana, the most imposing Empire that ever rose from the short reign of human civilization, responsible for placing the entire manifestation of world citizens at the threshold of perilous danger. It is the Pax Americana that has unwound the stitches holding a volatile world together, the nation that has over the last fifty years caused so much damage to the peoples of the globe. The karma of ceaseless negative energy is coming back to haunt an empire whose actions, while helping enrich its own belly and those residing in its entrails, have decimated untold millions whose only crime was being born in lands destined to suffer the harsh exploitation of America and its capitalistic pandemic. How has a once admired and loved leader of nations fallen from grace in such a short period of time? What has happened to a populace living in the wealthiest nation in human civilization? Why has the United States transformed itself into the malicious beast the world sees through frightful eyes? Gluttony and materialism have enveloped all corners of the United States, from Pacific to Atlantic Oceans, from the border with Canada to the one with Mexico. The vices of consumerism and greed are all-encompassing, years ago having replaced virtues long since gone. The clandestine enslavement hidden in mass production and ever-longer working hours has in the last few decades become the value by which we measure one's worth to society. The ability to question authority has vanished in a haze of indifference, even as the evaporation of the American mind continues unabated. Government has been transformed right in front of our eyes, becoming not democracy but corporatism, the marriage between the corporate and government elite. Our freedoms and liberties are in shambles, now fragile porcelain being decimated by the thundering herd of bulls in Washington. The government of, by and for the people is now comprised of leaches flourishing in rotten swamps, prostitutes roaming bordellos masquerading as palaces of governance and fecal matter prospering in the nation's sewers. Corporations and their minions we help elect dominate and transform society, leading us into the black holes they easily maneuver us into. We are being used and abused, yet with the dumbing down of America easily controlled beings we have turned into, comatose to the danger we have embraced and oblivious to the strings attached to our appendages. Something eerie seems to have engulfed us in the land of the free and the home of the brave. From the land where all men are created equal has equality disappeared; from a nation espousing freedom has freedom been eviscerated. Once brave dissenters and seekers of accountability have gone missing, allowing free reign to those endowed with power. Free-thinking and analytical minds are as rare as the great apes humanity is making extinct. Rare is the citizen not captive to fear, insecurity and intimidation. The ability to question authority or to seek accountability has collapsed along with the towers of the World Trade Center. A world existing beyond the borders and shores of America, containing six billion fellow humans, has been forgotten and disregarded as ignorance to cultures, nations, beliefs and ethnicities is conditioned into our minds practically from birth. Something is amiss in a nation where one would expect the plenitudes of Empire to trickle down into every man, woman and child. To bestow upon its citizens the tools needed to seek true freedom of thought and a path towards enlightenment would be expected of an American utopia that is more often preached rather than practiced. Yet the question arises as to the cause of why hundreds of millions continue to fall downwards into empty wells of promises unkept instead of reaching for the zenith of those fulfilled. What mechanisms left to erode the citizenry of free thought and freedom of mind have been allowed to linger in American society, and how have they been allowed to remain when the reality of what has occurred continues to degrade the Pax Americana from the inside out?
    Conditioned Producers and Consumers
    [Before he muddies all this with the usual time-blind, no-exit, squirrel cage of complaint and what passes for diagnosis these days, let's outline the Timesizing solution here. Timesizing analyzes the big immediate problem as a huge technologically amplified overbalance of production capability made worse by job-insecure employees working longer and longer hours - if they're still employed. The root of the problem is the common CEO response to technology = downsizing, where they never seem to connect the dots from their downsized employees to their downsized consumer markets. The next problem is degrading quality despite consumption of those who still have purchasing power, a quality drop due to obsessive-compulsive long-hours production that hammers the natural environment and work-life balance. Timesizing solves this in a two-step process. In "first gear," it solves employee job insecurity and weak consumer markets by reemploying and thereby reactivating all our deactivated consumers via the simple expedient of enforcing our current 40-hour workweek maximum with automatic overtime-to-hiring conversion or where necessary, automatic overtime-to-training&hiring conversion. This is Timesizing Phase Two and Phase Three. This may or may not be enough to provide full employment (defined by referendum in Phase One). Either way, we shift to "second gear," which is guaranteed to provide full employment - and at the same time ease 'face-time'-based hyper-production that is devastating the environment and work-life balance. Second gear involves simply resuming our gradual 150-year reduction of the workweek which we abandoned during World War II 65 years ago and allowing automatic conversion of overtime into jobs to start as far below the 40-hour standard as it takes to achieve full employment. Any anxiety that the reduction is going too far is handled by switching the pressure for full employment to a "population variable" in Phase Five, such imports/outsourcing, immigration, births. Now, after that brief pointer to a positive and optimistic solution, we return to this guy's pessimistic and lengthy diagnosis -]
    Spawned from the assembly line called human procreation we open our eyes to a world ready to transform our life energies into expendable disseminators of the patterns of production and consumption that will mark our time on Earth, in essence becoming the reason for our existence. To the system called capitalism we become nothing more than a number which will in time be exploited to the full extent envisaged by man. We are given social security numbers, digits that will follow us through the journey from newborn to cadaver. To the system we are this number, easily traceable, easily conditioned. Television begins to inculcate us with rampant bombardments of advertisements, thereby beginning to condition the young, innocent mind to a life trained for consumption. The foods we eat and the products we buy begin establishing the tastes we will forever enjoy. Associations of pleasure, ingrained tastes and smells, nostalgia of fantasy and perfection enter the young brain. It is because of this that corporations want to hook us from the first moments of infancy so loyal lifelong consumers we become. To the innocent and pure mind television thus becomes the window to a world that is neither real nor complicated. The virgin brain sees in the shows it is blitzkrieged with a fiction that in reality does not exist. It sees perfection, fantasy, beauty, consumption and loyal acquiescence, and, with the passage of time, seeks to emulate this world in a false belief that it can be attained. Ingrained in this principle is the belief, channeled by corporations, that to achieve what can never be a person must consume and produce, be obedient to authority, friendly to her corporate masters and eager to embrace what society dictates. The dumbing down of America thus begins. As television becomes parent, teacher, role model, babysitter and entertainer to the child, given the abandonment of historical parental roles thanks to society's pressure to produce and consume, everything shown becomes everything learned, thus habituating a child to the role corporations have decided to bestow onto him. When everything seen on the screen is created, controlled, manipulated and disseminated by the corporate world the child's perception of what reality encompasses will indeed also conform to the corporate vision. After image after image, fantasy after fantasy, conditioning after conditioning, the young human mind has no choice but to accept the commands of the brainwashing taking place right in front of his or her baby eyes. It follows that children learn every behavior from their parents as well. From the very beginning entrenched behaviors to produce and consume become ingrained in the young brain. The long hours at work, the short amount of time spent with the child, the abandonment of parental roles and supervision, the incessant drive for consumption, the wasting of money and pursuit of material possessions, the behaviors of stress, depression, unhappiness, anger and frustration are all absorbed by a mind that in infancy acts like a sponge, learning human society from those closest to its environment, whether it is family or television. In adulthood, these same behaviors will be manifested, thereby helping fulfill the role of producer and consumer the corporate world has reserved for yet one more human energy sprouting from the conveyor belt of procreation. Thanks to the television and parental subservience to the same system of their youth, one's progeny will become the bogged down producer of the same products he or she will later voraciously and seemingly without conscious consume. The vicious circle that is the virus of American capitalism infects seemingly from birth, inoculating children to the vices of exploitation from which they will forever derive their existence. It is at the height of innocence that the forces of capitalism attack, attaching themselves in the depths of a human brain, dissolving precepts not in tune with its compulsive and exploitive self. Once attached the virus is not easily displaced, thereby becoming personality as well as behavior. From the cradle to the grave, destiny in today's America is guided by the corporate world and its sinister virus, helping not its host but its disseminator, unleashing wave after wave of unhappy and exploited producer and easily conditioned and controlled consumer.
    Consequences of a Controlled Populace
    Education in the United States has become an exercise in government and corporate brainwashing, used to achieve a citizenry devoid of analytical and free-thinking minds. The purpose, quite simply, is to retain the class warfare structure that has marked American society for decades. Education has become a tool used to make the wealthy richer and the poor more indigent. It is now a mechanism to separate the have nots from the haves, the higher castes from the untouchables. As it stands today, though certainly being eviscerated more and more daily, education is making of the masses impotent creatures of indifference, happily droned into complacency and deprived of a knowledge that once served to curtail the power of the elite that run the nation. The result is the age of corporatism, the age of unfettered and unaccountable power and the control of the masses through media manipulation, societal fabrication and education eradication. As the world slowly passes through the sands of time the people of the United States, those living inside what has become a most hated geopolitical entity, are seeing the result of being dumbed down and of letting incompetents, warmongers, profiteers and deranged zealots run unfettered and unopposed, ransacking the globe, its people and land in the process. Today we see the ramifications of a citizenry that has allowed itself to be made ignorant through its submission to those in power whose purposeful malfeasance continues to destroy the very essence of knowledge that grants freedom to enslaved minds. Iraq and the coming disaster in the Middle East are a consequence to the decimation of education in the United States. George W. Bush is a consequence of the dumbing down of America, to which he owes his very position perched like the vulture he is atop the dying tree of America that has been contaminated by his inept and infected claws smeared in human blood. Those in power have succeeded in making the masses a herd of sheep following the shepherd straight into the slaughterhouse, unaware of the destiny that awaits them nor of their role in the furthering of death, destruction and violence now gripping the world. Like a deer caught in headlights, the masses are hypnotized, unable to see beyond the sight of their own meeting with a fate conditioned into our brains from infancy that is destroying freedom, knowledge and our ability to question the evils being done in our name. America today and the world tomorrow are a manifestation of this truth. Ignorance has replaced knowledge, resulting in power running amok, incapable of being restrained, mutating and growing, feeding off our inability to escape the debacle currently gripping our collective mind.
    Brainwash Education
    The education system in America has been carefully eroded over the course of time, altered in such a way as to make creative and curious children barren and submissive adults indifferent to the world around them. The system now in place begins robbing a child's ability to think for himself or herself from the very start of the education process. The class structure itself eliminates individuality, personality and energetic ability, as one teacher must educate many students competing for attention. It is here when talents that need to be discovered get ambushed instead. Yet with a class structure that has endured for decades, the child must become part of the whole, learning from books laced with government and/or corporate propaganda. In many school districts, mostly poor ones strapped for cash, books can be dozens of years old, lacking modern thought or progress. Many books are tools created by entities with special interests that have as a purpose the teaching of their ideology or the furthering of their goals. The absurd teaching of creationism is one such example. Many corporations now create and donate books to school districts that contain references and examples to their brand names and product descriptions. Even in school children cannot escape the growing omnipresence of the corporate Leviathan which thirsts to program the innocent the way it sees fit. Indeed, the young mind is needlessly brainwashed with a history of a nation that in many instances contradicts and even subverts the true historical reality of the United States. Only the 'good' that America has fostered during its rapid and short rise is taught, without ever dealing with therequisite bad inherent in an Empire that has laid claim to land and man during years of brutal conquest, both militarily and economically. Glossing over national heroes, mythifying them into deities and transforming them into perfect human beings is the role of the school book, brainwashing the young to a fictional perfection when reality begs to differ. Yet humanity must be balanced and its reality etched in stone so that future generations learn the human condition as well as its civilization. The genocide of indigenous Americans is whitewashed; the slavery of blacks that lasted hundreds of years, oftentimes suffering barbaric treatment at the hands of their white masters is easily covered up in a few paragraphs, deceiving readers to the true horrors their ancestors committed or suffered. The subservient role women were placed under for centuries is hardly mentioned, and the great civil rights movement that helped change history for the better never gets the coverage it deserves. The war crimes and crimes against humanity America has perpetrated worldwide to millions of anonymous people under the rubric of freedom and democracy is never mentioned, rather, they are sugarcoated and glamorized, serving as examples of America's 'great history.' Also, the corrosive and damaging effects of American capitalism disguised as democracy that has condemned untold millions to the dustbins of history is manipulated to look like a chivalrous attempt to save lives and free nations. Brainwashing unquestioned patriotism into our young one's minds government controlled education furthers the squashing of dissent and the questioning of our sovereign's motives. We are conditioned that our elected leaders are gods walking among men, to be trusted and never to be questioned. Their intentions are always noble, their reasoning pure. Dissent and debate, protest and curiosity are seen not as patriotic manifestations of an informed citizenry but rather as an alien afterthought not worthy of nationalistic pride. The ingraining of loyalty to flag and country, even when committing evil worldwide, is to be allowed to continue, eventually becoming the means by which the state is allowed to declare war, economic genocide and market colonialism, without so much as a whisper from its constituency. The elite therefore bask in the glow of the radiant beam called patriotic fervor, indoctrinated from childhood, lasting until death. Preaching the noble deeds yet hiding or disguising the evil ingrained in empire building serves only to alter history and manipulate the young, eroding our future in the process. To understand humanity in past, present and future an entire history must be taught, both good and bad, thereby creating in our future citizens the ability to grow wise to the mistakes of times past in order to comprehend the ever-changing and oftentimes complex conditions of the present. To not teach the truth of what has come before is to leave behind the keys to unlocking the door of the human condition, essentially condemning our children into repeating the errors that continue to bear witness to unnecessary suffering, death, destruction, violence and war. The fruits of our past mistakes can be seen in our history; the essence of the human condition lies written for all to see. American education serves no purpose if the result of its actions leads to a replay of years gone by; it becomes an exercise in futility when our future repeats the blunders of their ancestors and the follies of those who once led. Brainwash education is the means to an end, a device that entraps rather than make free. It is a valuable tool to exert hegemony over the populace. When begun from the first years of youth, becoming attached and most difficult to extract, brainwashing to suit the state and the elite's goals is a dangerous device. When combined with the 9/11's of history, it takes on a life of its own, becoming a Molotov cocktail ready to explode in seething rage. The system would not have it any other way.
    Part II
    Made Ignorant to a World Beyond our Borders
    American education makes no attempt to expose the wonders of a world existing beyond its borders to its children. The outside world and its plethora of diverse people are hardly mentioned, easily summarized in brief mentions of world history. The ignorance of cultures, religions, ethnicities, nationalities and beliefs that has ensued has made America a nation neither curious to a grand spectrum of peoples nor understanding to the vast complexities of an ever-changing world. Failing to understand what exists beyond our oceans, American children, through the damaging effects of the nation's dilapidated educational system, become isolated from the world community and the fraternity of peoples. It is understanding the world and becoming part of it that prevents the Iraq's and Vietnam's of history from ever arising. It is knowledge of a world and its people that creates peace and good-will. Ignorance, on the other hand, fosters only exploitation, indifference and arrogance. Iraq today is the result of this failure in American education. Abu Ghraib and its war crimes is the result of a system that isolates, indoctrinates and makes ignorant to the lives and realities of six billion people whose world is larger than that of our own borders. The debacle in Iraq is a manifestation of American ignorance to a world and its diverse peoples; Iraq's daily explosions are testament to its failure to understand the people it is occupying and the anger emanating from the arrogance and ignorance of its soldiers. The failure of American education to teach about a world existing beyond the confines of its own grandeur is exemplified today by an Iraq that is the catalyst to a most dangerous era in American history. Societies that are ignorant to the greater world around them suffer a dereliction of humanity and the far reaching implications their actions tend to unsettle. From the actions of ignorance rise the reactions of those ignored. America's failure to educate its children to a world beyond its shores, in a world coming closer together is a travesty, and an error, especially for an Empire whose grip is all-encompassing, its power circulating around the globe. A leader of nations and an Empire such as America must learn and understand the world it dominates and the people it controls. For it to govern wisely its citizens must be brought into the sphere of a world community that is both heterogeneous and aware of the dangers the Pax Americana is capable of releasing. For it to avoid the wrath seen today its ambassadors and representatives must be educated to the songs of the world and the tunes of human civilization. In order to prevent the never-before seen levels of hatred, animosity and anger directed at the United States and the blowback that is now being manifested the American education system must open itself up to the outside world. If it remains isolationist and ignorant, preferring to enclose itself in the bubble it continues to lock itself into, the karma we are witnessing will be but the tip of the iceberg. Ignorance leading to exploitation can only go so far; a world beyond our borders exists, and must be taught, learned and understood. For if the Empire's people fail to grasp the lands and peoples beyond their borders, preferring instead to live in the comfort of their own existence and the ignorance of their upbringing a world that was never known will be once more forgotten, and the blowback birthed by our ancestors will be made that much more difficult to comprehend.
    Separate and Unequal
    The purposeful inequality inherent in American education is created by design, fostered by an elite that manipulates in society a separation between rich and working class. It is abundantly clear that education systems in America are nowhere near to being equal. On the contrary, theirinequality stems from a government and the elite that control it that seek to maintain the status quo of preventing millions of children from ever advancing beyond the caste they are born into. Without opportunity, ability is wasted and those capable of threatening the power structure as it exists at present are left to rot in the cesspool created by those social engineers sealing the destiny of millions of Americans. Maintaining separate and unequal education systems assures the elite, government and corporations of millions of exploitable slaves that through no fault of their own are condemned to a life stuck in the working class, living off low wages, surviving on a day to day basis, uneducated and ignorant to the exploitation they are subjected to. The millions that fate has placed in corrosive school districts starving for pennies from the government are subjected to an education that is shameful at best and a crime against humanity at worst. Unequal distribution of tax schemes makes it impossible for children born into poor neighborhoods from ever getting the education the few elite children of privilege are guaranteed. With rotting school districts that cannot afford good teachers, books, buildings, administrators and a semblance of hope children receive substandard education levels that forever alter their ability to learn and advance in society. When this is compounded year after year the ramifications are severe, serving to quash all ability and potential opportunity. It is this level of education most American children, both urban and rural, are subjected to, forced to endure the worst inequality of teaching found in the developed world. When the elite that run the nation are deciding futures, however, this is to be expected. Their corporations need low-class workers; their armies need soldiers; their government needs slaves. By maintaining separate and unequal education systems, in essence two completely different systems, one reserved for privilege, the other for future serfs, the elite are assured of control, exploitation, power and growing wealth, mostly at the hands of the slaves they have created. The masses, having been trained from birth to become the slaves of the nation's capitalists, are subjected to years of subservient education mechanisms that encourage and indeed guide us toward exploitation. The dreams and hopes of childhood are thus eviscerated as the reality of the environment and education we are born into collides with once creative talents and utopian goals. Born into environments offering the worst in American education creates in the masses ignorance to the plight our government is subjecting us to. We are made unaware and become indifferent to the massive crime being perpetrated by government officials who help foster separate and unequal education and even encourage it by their unwillingness to make right what has been made wrong. The continued apathy of our government to the vastly different levels of education is proof that it is complicit in the manufacturing of an entire class of slaves produced to be exploited by the powerful few. To continue a system that is so dastardly in its scope and so damaging to millions is to acknowledge the purposeful disregard our government has in alleviating a reality that in this nation at least does not need to exist. It is shameful, it is wrong, it is a crime. An assembly line of slaves has been created, socially engineered through years of manipulations and exploitations, breeding ignorance, robbing opportunity, erasing talent and harvesting entire generations of worker bees. For America the beautiful needs slaves to work and enrich the elite, it needs soldiers to wage war in the name of capitalism, it needs ignorance to continue its sovereignty and castes from which to maintain the balance that has kept those in power at the top for generations. Separate and unequal, the secret ingredients to the American juggernaut; separate and unequal, the oil that assures the mighty engine of capitalism from ever corroding and malfunctioning. Through the backs of the masses the elite survive; through the exploitation of the many the few thrive.
    Leaving all Working and Middle Class Children Behind
    The dumbing down of America continues its injurious path through the policies of George Bush, who is quietly decimating the talents and energies of the nation's youth. Wishing all children to become the bumbling idiot that characterizes his existence, his policies have washed away what remained of viable education. The dumbing down of America has only picked up its pace as children today are being deprived of the tools necessary to think for themselves. Forced by the government to teach to standardized tests, school districts are erasing the arts and other important classes from curriculum. Instead, teachers are being forced to prepare their students to passing the test that determines financial reward or punishment. This form of education is leveling critical thinking, analytical skills and free-thinking minds. It is destroying education as we know it, along with the futures of millions of children who are being made automatons lacking a mind to question the world around them. This sinister mechanism is purposefully being implemented to dumb down American children. It is yetanother tool those in power are using to create a nation devoid of free thought. Teaching to the test entails sacrificing all subject matter not included in the test itself. As a result, vital tools such as music, art, languages, social sciences, philosophy, health and other liberal arts are being ignored, thrown away into dark closets of indifference. Worthy teachers now have their hands tied down, unable to bring out the blossoms of talent from their students. Instead, they must partake in the manipulation of America's children, becoming the instructors to a new generation of students those in power want desperately to transform into unthinking sentinels easily manipulated and controlled. America's teachers, already underpaid and under funded, battling a system eager to destroy youth, must now see the seeds they sow become homogenous crops succumbing to ignorance, eroding all semblance of individuality and wasting away once fruitful and talented lives. All children are being left behind, and American society will pay the ultimate and most severe price. Fostering Ignorance, Creating Sheep, Cementing Decline
    Children are brainwashed at a very early age to follow the dictates of the state, to become the obedient drones the state needs in order to survive. Curriculum programs prevent the free-thinking mind from ever emerging even as such paramount subject matter such as art, foreign language, music and philosophy are being eliminated or never implemented. It is at a very early age when these classes can make a such a vital difference in children, in essence granting an enormous head start towards a long lasting, happy life. It is at early youth that the human brain absorbs everything that is taught, it is at this stage in development when positive and all-inclusive education bears fruit. Yet American children, living in the wealthiest nation on the planet, are being denied the essential tools needed for human progress tomove forward, individuals to prosper and for a nation to thrive. Becoming an exercise in futility, education has become a weapon to militarize millions of children to the tune of the government, robbing them of the free-thinking and analytical mind whose questioning of government and individual thought the elite want eliminated. In today's America, no child must be allowed to think or understand what is being done to them and the society they inhabit. Every child being taught must march in lock-step with millions more, becoming benign drones made ignorant to a process robbing them of their existence, neither challenging those in power or absorbing the ingredients necessary to develop a mind that may one day become the ultimate weapon for freedom and salvation. As in all state systems, in order to have subservient citizens, the young must be programmed early on to the dictates of those in power. In America, these entities are the elite capitalists that have transformed democracy into corporatism. Entire generations of people have become an enormous herd of sheep, unaware of the slavery that grips them and the exploitation that befalls [ie: besets?] every waking hour. The corporatist state has accomplished the ignorance of its citizens, now ruling unobstructed and unaccountable, free to unleash wave after wave of crimes, both upon those it rules and those it conquers. The majority of the American people now fail to question authority, debate policy, seek accountability or demand answers. Indifferent we have become to the dangerous ways of our government or to our own plight. Every generation has seen its ability to understand, question and analyze dwindle with each subsequent decade that passes. Soon the day will arrive when complete drones our descendants become, completely subservient to the will of the rulers, shackled in chains of ignorance, transformed into exploitable energies deficient of free-thinking minds. The only vestige of freedom left is that of the mind, a realm never before touched by the claws of the state and the powerful. Yet this freedom is disappearing, for the state has found a way to annihilate a freedom once thought untouchable. Free-thought is fading fast from an American psyche that once espoused the belief in the power of the individual. In its wake lie hundreds of millions of energies whose minds have been captured in a war we failed to realize we were being subjected to. Free-thinking minds are being made extinct, suffering from years of social engineering and artificial conditioning. More and more we are failing to understand what is being done to us and our children. With each passing day the corporate Leviathan absorbs more of our collective brain, inculcating us with garbage, conditioning us to its version of what American society should be. The wretched symptoms of capitalism are devouring our very existence, making us the sheeple the system feeds off of. We are being herded to the slaughterhouse, ready to be gutted and mass produced, sold to the hungry wolves and vultures concomitantly ready to feast off our once vibrant energies.
    Tell the Children the Truth
    The time has come to tell the children the truth. The time has come to tell them that most are condemned to castes, unable to escape, destined to be exploited, destined for modern man's version of slavery. The time has come to tell the children of privilege that they are being trained to become the exploiters of the masses, becoming condoners of subservience, inequality, injustice, corruption and thievery. We must awaken from this lethargy catapulting us into a future missing freedom and individuality, happiness and a worthy existence. The dumbing down of America cannot be allowed to continue, for if it does, George Orwell's prophetic vision will become George Bush's sinister reality. It is time to tell the children the truth. It is time to liberate ourselves from a system that is making us all automatons. Freedom of thought, freedom of mind and freedom to live are our goals. The elimination of the virus inflicting ignorance and enslavement upon us and our children should be our mission. The time to retake the American mind is upon us, and this starts with telling our children the truth of what our indifference, subservience and inability to act is condemning them to. For knowledge is power, the kryptonite that weakens the energy leading us to nothingness. They know this, which is why the dumbing down of America is taking place. Knowledge is a threat to their existence and continued control, which is why they want it destroyed. Education is liberation, something they want desperately to avoid. An enlightened populace is their nightmare; an ignorant citizenry their wet dream. It is through the awakening of the masses that mountains are moved and canyons crossed. It is through the slumber of the masses that evil awakens. It is through our collective energy that those in power have no future and no place left to hide. The future America is in our hands: either the dumbing down continues or the awakening commences. Mr. Valenzuela's new novel is now on sale through Authorhouse.com at Echoes in the Wind Sales Page. A philosophical, eduational and spiritual story onhumanity and our civilization, as relevant as today's headlines, this book is almost 600 pages in trade paperback form on sale internationally through secure web page transaction. Additionally, the novel is now available on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, as well as other online book sellers. If preferred, the novel can also be ordered at any local brick and mortar bookstore worldwide through the book's ISBN number, 1418489905.
    Manuel Valenzuela is social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst, Internet columnist and author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel now published by Authorhouse.com. A collection of essays, Beyond the Smoking Mirror: Reflections on America and Humanity, will be published in early 2005. His articles appear regularly in alternative news websites including informationclearinghouse.info. His unique style and powerful writing is read internationally and seeks to expose truths and realities confronting humanity today. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at manuel@valenzuelas.net. A collection of his work can be found visiting his archives and by searching the Internet.

  5. 11/28 Europe's workers' paradise faces change - Employees begin to see their famed benefits going
    By MICHAEL WOODS (mwoods@nationalpress.com), Toledo OH Blade
    BARCELONA, Spain - When Kristin K. Lay began planning a May, 2005, wedding here, she discovered a clause in Spanish employment law that seemed mind-boggling to someone used to the American way of work.
    She and fiance Bart-Jan H. LePoole, it seems, are entitled to a "honeymoon leave" - 3 weeks of vacation with full pay.
    "I was surprised," said the chemistry teacher at an international school here. "I had never heard of a benefit like this. In the United States, we would have had to wait and plan the honeymoon for summer or Christmas."
    If the two eventually start a family, they can share 16 weeks of paid maternity leave, also required by law. They'd have more in other countries. Sweden, for instance, provides 360 days of maternity leave at 80% of full salary.
    Such generous perks, common throughout Europe, are only the icing on an employment cake that would make many an American worker drool.
    Europe earns its reputation as the leisure society, where law and custom run against the live-to-work tide in the United States. Europeans "work-to-live," thanks to workweeks as short as 35 hours, 40 days of paid vacation, cash bonuses to fund vacation travel, and other benefits.
    [The bizarre truth is, that shorter hours are not a benefit or a luxury in the age of automation and robotics - they are a necessity for there to be any markets left for the huge productive output of the automata and robots. Strange how few CEOs realize that.]
    During the last few months, however, new labor agreements in Germany, France, and other countries have convinced experts that the tide has begun to turn. After embracing American music, movies, and fast food menus [just a tad exaggerated], Europe is eying the American way of work.
    "In Germany, there is a clear trend to longer working hours," said Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer, who directs a noted industry research center at the University of Gelsenkirchen.
    [In short, he panders to shortsighted employers.]
    "The 35-hour work week will be given up step by step and in my opinion in about 2 years will no longer exist in Germany."
    Other benefits also are on the endangered list, Mr. Dudenhoeffer said. German workers now are guaranteed 30 days of vacation each year, plus time off with full pay for about 10 national holidays. As the German workweek moves toward American's 40-hour level, employers will whittle away at holidays and vacations, Mr. Dudenhoeffer predicted.
    Martin Werding, who heads the labor department at Germany's Institute for Economic Research, said the trend toward working longer hours at constant pay actually began in the late 1990s. But, it involved small local and regional companies, and got little public attention.
    In 2004, however, big global companies such as Siemens, DaimlerChrysler, and General Motors' Opel division launched efforts to stretch workweeks for tens of thousands of employees. An invisible trend suddenly got a higher profile.
    "It is highly likely that this will invite managers in many more firms to take up negotiations for similar agreements," Mr. Werding said. "The trend will certainly gain momentum."
    Harley Shaiken, a University of California-Berkeley professor who specializes in labor economics, sees it as Europe's own particular solution to a problem that industry faces everywhere: How to cut labor costs and stay competitive.
    "In the U.S., the drive to cut costs is more targeted to lower wages and reduced benefits - especially health care," Mr. Shaiken said. "Employers have targeted the shorter work week in Europe because they view it as more achievable than say cutting jobs or lowering wages. I suspect we will see fierce and continuing employer pressure to extend the work week throughout Europe."
    Things are cushy for workers in many European countries. Each year, Europeans work up to 12 weeks less than Americans, according to the International Labor Organization, a United Nations Agency. vacations are guaranteed by law, not set by individual companies. They also are generous and transportable, so that the newest hire still gets a minimum 20 days off in many countries. Americans, in contrast, average 10 days of vacation annually, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    European "bank holidays" expand leisure time by a dozen more days in some countries, with "the bridge" a time-honored practice. When a holiday falls in mid-week workers can carry it over to a Friday or Monday for a long weekend. In some offices, coffee breaks are a time to stretch the legs and shorten the workday with trips to the corner caf.
    But the situation in France and Germany, where workers are among the most pampered on Earth, brought things to a boil. A French law in 2000 cut the workweek from 39 days to 35. It now covers two out of every three workers. The goal was to create jobs and cut unemployment. If workers put in fewer hours, more workers would be needed for the same number of jobs. French workers also get 25-30 days of vacation plus a dozen bank holidays.
    Over the border in Germany, the 35-hour workweek has been enshrined in custom and labor agreements, rather than law. Even a new-hire factory worker averages 30 days of vacation and a slew of national holidays.
    The bottom line fortifies America's live-to-work reputation. French workers put in an average of 1,453 hours in 2003, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Germans worked 1,446 hours. The average American logged 1,792 hours - 339 hours more than France and 346 more than Germany.
    Europe's siesta began to end in June, when unions at two Siemens mobile telephone factories in Germany signed a landmark contract. They agreed to increase the workweek from 35 hours to 40 - with no extra pay. Workers also gave up bonuses that many used to finance vacations. Instead, they will get bonuses based on productivity, intended to encourage harder work.
    In July, French workers at the Robert Bosch auto parts plant in Lyon agreed to work 40 hours for the same pay, in a challenge to the French workweek law. The French government so far has not opposed the contract.
    Momentum grew during the summer. Security guards, cafeteria workers, and other support staff at DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes division in Sindelfingen, Germany, agreed to work 39 hours for 35 hours' pay. Assembly line workers will continue on 35-hour schedule for now. In Belgium, the Marichal Ketin steel company told its staff to work 40 hours instead of 36 at no extra pay.
    Last week, 32,000 workers in General Motors' European Opel division offered to extend their workweek to 40 hours without a pay raise. It would save 10,000 job cuts that GM Europe says are needed to reduce production costs.
    Other global and regional companies announced plans to extend their workweeks. Some governments are moving in the same direction. The Bavarian government, for instance, increased the workweek for 140,000 civil servants to 40 hours to 42 without extra pay. Germany wants to extend the workweek for federal government employees from 38.5 to 40 hours. The German national railroad wants conductors and engineers to work 6 more hours without extra pay.
    Government leaders, including German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac support, a longer work week. Dutch economy minister Laurens Jan Brinjhorst has urged a return to the 40-hour workweek throughout The Netherlands.
    The move away from a leisure society began with concern about loss of jobs to China and other Asian countries with lower labor costs, Mr. Werding said. It shifted into high gear in May, when 10 new countries joined the European Union.
    They include Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary where workers are less pampered. Wages in the Czech Republic, for instance, are 40% less than in France or Germany. Employees work longer and get less vacation.
    Concern about moving jobs to Eastern Europe helped several companies, including DaimlerChrysler and Siemens, got longer hours and other concessions from workers.
    "Extending working hours without adjusting pay is an elegant approach to reducing labor costs," Mr. Werding noted. "Workers at least suffer no loss in their regular income."
    Government officials in France and Germany already have floated trial balloons about reducing the number of holiday and vacation days. However, those perks and social benefits like honeymoon and maternity leaves so far remain untouched.
    Mr. Dudenhoeffer doubts whether such leisure society mainstays will be around in present form when wedding bells ring and holidays beckon for Europeans in the future. Within the next 5 years, he predicted, those perks will start looking more like their American counterparts.
    [It's interesting how American reporters accept this kind of news so passively, or with a misery loves company attitude, rather than "ohoh, if it's rolling back there, we'll NEVER get it." Seems Americans have already resigned themselves to becoming slaves again - they've already given up, surrendered, to mass poverty. So much for the "Land of the Free."]

  6. 11/26   Workers in China shed passivity - Spate of walkouts shakes factories
    By Edward Cody
    DONGGUAN, China - Heralded by an unprecedented series of walkouts, the first stirrings of unrest have emerged among the millions of youthful migrant workers who supply seemingly inexhaustible cheap labor for the vast expanse of factories in China's booming Pearl River Delta. The signs of newly assertive Chinese workers have jolted foreign and Chinese factory owners, who for the last two decades have churned out everything from Nikes to baby dolls with unbeatably low production costs. Some have concluded that the raw era in which rootless Chinese villagers would accept whatever job they could get may be drawing to a close, raising questions about China's long-term future as world headquarters for low-paid outsourcing. "One dollar, two dollars, it used to be they didn't care," said Tom Stackpole, originally from Massachusetts, who is quality control director here for Skechers USA Inc. and has been involved in shoe manufacturing in southern China for a decade. "That has passed."
    Violent strikes
    Stella International Ltd., a Taiwanese-owned shoe manufacturer employing 42,000 people in and around Dongguan, faced strikes this spring that turned violent. At one point, more than 500 rampaging workers sacked company facilities and severely injured a Stella executive, leading hundreds of police to enter the factory and round up ringleaders. "We never had anything like that before," said Jack Chiang, Stella's chief executive.
    € Eight people slashed to death at Chinese high school
    € China approves testing for potential AIDS vaccine
    Chiang suggested that several factors have contributed to the shift in attitude. On the one hand, he acknowledged, assembly-line wages have not risen in recent years nearly as fast as the cost of living. On the other, image-conscious U.S. retailers who buy Dongguan's shoes have demanded better treatment and human rights counseling for the workers, encouraging them to step up and make demands for change. Finally, Chiang added, broader general freedoms in the country have reduced the Chinese people's traditional fear of authority, and not just among factory workers. Protests by farmers and others, many of them violent, have broken out with increasing frequency across the country in recent months. The growing assertiveness of factory workers has posed a particular political problem for the governing Communist Party, which ideologically should champion poor laborers struggling against capitalist managers. But local governments have become shareholders in many of the factories, steering officials toward the management side of labor relations. "The government is the largest boss in the area," said Liu Kaiming, a labor analyst and director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation in nearby Shenzhen.
    Lack of representation
    Apparently eager to show solidarity with restless workers, the government-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the only legal union in the country, recently issued a reminder that the law requires foreign as well as Chinese companies to accept federation branches wherever workers demand it. The official federation announced Thursday that Wal-Mart, the American merchandizing giant, had agreed to allow unions in its factories in China. But factory owners and workers in the Pearl River boom zone said the official union does little to represent labor, even in the rare cases when branches are formed, because it is a spinoff of local governments that own or rely on the businesses. In one factory, Liu recounted, the union head was both a management executive and a senior official in the local government. Even when they do not directly own companies, local governments have a high stake in preserving the Pearl River Delta's role as a magnet for U.S., Japanese and other firms seeking cheap labor unencumbered by unions. Foreign companies have invested more than $50 billion in the region over the last five years, contributing to a 14% growth rate in the local economy, compared with 9% countrywide. The result has been a near-total lack of representation for the millions of workers, most of them 18- to 22-year-old women, who toil on assembly lines more than 60 hours a week for wages that amount to about $120 a month. According to standard practice, most live at their factories in company-provided dormitories and eat in company cafeterias - and then hand back a third of their pay for food and lodging. Some villagers, unhappy with such meager leftover savings, have gone home, and factory managers have begun to encounter labor shortages for the first time. Although recruits are still abundant for most areas, they said, the most sought-after workers - young women with high school educations - have become scarce in recent months, particularly in Dongguan's low-paying shoe industry.
    Sense of frustration
    Conversations with workers outside Dongguan plants one recent day revealed a sense of frustration about having no place to turn with complaints about overtime, wage levels or the quality of their food. The conversations - guarded because of workers' fears of retribution - also displayed little hope of improvement because, in their view, management enjoys overwhelming power. "There is not much communication between the top management and the workers," said Mao Wei...who came to Dongguan a year ago from Shaanxi province to work in the region's numerous shoe factories. Mao said workers have little contact with anyone above their line supervisors, who themselves have little standing to forward complaints or demand higher wages. "Most migrant workers have to give up their rights to keep their jobs," said another 20-year-old factory worker, who wanted to be called only Miss Chen. "But to be frank, we are not here for rights. We are here for money. I have to wire money back every month to support my family." With no channels of communication from the assembly line to the manager's office, the only outlets for worker dissatisfaction have been walkouts and confrontations. According to Stackpole, the shoe industry in the Dongguan area has encountered 10 or 12 walkouts over the last year, previously unheard of during his long experience in the region. "As translated to us, they just wanted someone to listen to them," Stackpole added. The walkouts were organized in advance but not by formal labor groups or permanent worker committees, he said, and most were resolved without violence within a few hours. Nevertheless, they signaled that docility among Chinese migrant workers can no longer be taken for granted.
    Strikers arrested
    In the latest unrest, about 1,000 workers staged a walkout on Nov. 7 at the Shanlin Technology appliance factory in nearby Guangzhou, demanding higher overtime pay and more days off, according to the government-run New China News Agency. The workers returned to the assembly line a day later after receiving assurances that overtime pay would rise by 12 cents to 36 cents an hour and that they would get two days off a month, the agency reported. Chiang said the first of his company's two walkouts erupted in March over complaints about food in the company cafeteria and an error in the amount of wages docked for vacation time during the Chinese New Year. The second, which produced the violent rioting and injuries, occurred a month later, encouraged by local employment brokers who used to earn commissions for job placements but had been replaced by a company employment office, he said. "I had my head in how to make beautiful shoes," he explained in an interview. "I wasn't paying enough attention to" the human resources department." Police arrested 10 workers this summer after investigating the two strikes. Five were recently sentenced to jail terms, and the others await sentencing. Stella has offered to pay support to their families and announced that it backs efforts by their Beijing-based lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, to lodge an appeal. In the trial of one worker, Chen Nanliu, Gao conceded that what happened at Stella's factories was "inappropriate." But he blamed the explosion on "clear and pressing social causes, namely the fact that our society today permits and encourages the most naked forms of social injustice." In a provocative summation to the court, Gao compared the lot of Dongguan shoe workers to that of pre-communist Chinese laborers, who he said were victims of capitalist exploitation under the U.S.-backed Nationalist government until Mao Zedong's communists triumphed in 1949. "What distinguishes the present situation, however, is that in those days the Communist Party stood alongside the workers in their fight against capitalist exploitation," he added, "whereas today the Communist Party is fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with the coldblooded capitalists in their struggle against the workers."
    Airing complaints
    At the factories, workers have circulated copies of Gao's statement for reading in the dormitory, according to Robin Munro, an activist at the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin. Stella's management, meanwhile, has organized an "executive mailbox" where workers can drop written complaints. It started a magazine to air workers' views and fostered new workers' committees, which, according to Chiang, can meet with management to forward workers' concerns to the top. "We would never have done this kind of thing a year ago," he said. Ironically, Stella factories have earned a reputation among local workers as one of the better places to find a job. With landscaped grounds and well-maintained buildings where young men and women walk about with color-coded shirts that denote their tasks, Stella compounds in some ways resemble Chinese university campuses. "Many workers want to find a job here," said Chen Hua...an Anhui province native who lined up for an interview in front of a Stella plant. "The competition is keen."

  7. 11/26   Attention News Editors: MEDIA INVITATION -
    Press conference on truck drivers' working hours
    CNW Telbec (Communiquιs de presse), Canada
    MONTREAL, Quebec - Media representatives are invited to meet the Honourable Jim Karygiannis, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, and Robert Bouvier, President of Teamsters Canada. The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on Monday November 29, 2004 in front of Montreal's Intercontinental Hotel, two steps away from the FTQ's Convention. Both men will hold a press briefing in front of the hotel, next to the Teamsters Canada truck to explain the potential consequences of increasing working hours in the trucking industry. Mr. Karygiannis will then travel aboard the Teamsters Canada truck for the run from Montreal to Ottawa via Toronto. The goal of the operation is to raise awareness among parliamentarians as well as the general population of truck drivers' daily working conditions. The invitation was made by Teamsters Canada following the Ministry of Transportation's proposal to extend truck drivers' working hours to 18 per day.
    [The Ministry of Transportation has gone nuts and is endangering Canadian motorists.]
    The Teamsters find the idea ludicrous and are opposed to having truck drivers work 18 straight hours per day.
    Event: Press conference on working hours in the trucking industry
    Date: Monday November 29, 2004
    Place: Intercontinental Hotel, Montreal
    360 St. Antoine West
    Montreal, QC H2Y 3X4
    Time: 7:30 a.m.
    Visit our Website for more information: www.teamsters-canada.org
    For further information: Phil Benson, (613) 292-9786 (English); Larry McDonald, (905) 502-0062 (English); Stιphane Lacroix, (514) 609-5101 (French)

  8. 11/26   Health - Stress and Illness Rising in UK Workplaces - Unions
    Reuters via Yahoo News
    By Gideon Long
    LONDON - Britons, slaves to some of the longest working hours in the European Union, are suffering growing levels of stress, back strain and other work-related injuries, the country's trade unions said on Friday. The problem is exacerbated by the failure of nearly half of British employers to carry out adequate assessments of the risks faced by their workers, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said. "The top five workplace hazards are all easily preventable, yet too few employers seem to be getting to grips with (them)," TUC general-secretary Brendan Barber said. Employers hit back, saying the TUC's findings were based on anecdotal and subjective evidence, compiled by the Congress' own safety representatives rather than independent monitors. "We've had enough of these sort of surveys," said Dr Janet Asherson, head of health and safety at the employers' body, the Confederation of British Industy (CBI). "We need really to base our policy making decisions on hard facts and medical and scientific evidence," she told Reuters. The TUC found incidence of stress had risen 2% in the British workplace in the past two years. Complaints of repetitive strain injury (RSI) were up 3% and back strain 4%. Some 58% of employees complained of stress, 40% of RSI and 35% of back strain. The CBI questioned the figures, compiled by 4,521 TUC safety representatives at workplaces across the country. "They are based on self-diagnosis," Asherson said. "We need to have medically validated diagnoses to make sure we are all talking about the same thing." The TUC found that while over 90% of employers carried out regular risk assessments to try to limit workplace illness and accidents - as they are required to do by law - nearly half the assessments were inadequate. The CBI questioned the TUC's definition of inadequate. "The view of a (trade union) work and safety representative is very subjective," Asherson said. "At the end of the day, the real test of any risk assessment is whether it is deemed adequate in the eyes of the law." The CBI could not provide figures of its own to counter those of the unions. Britain is sometimes viewed as the sweatshop of Europe, with a "long hours culture" more akin to that of the United States than its EU neighbors. The average fulltime British employee works a 43.7-hour week - longer than in any comparable country in the EU. Britain has led opposition to a European Commission proposal to tighten an EU law which limits the working week to 48 hours.

  9. 11/26   Sweat, Fear and Resignation Amid All the Toys
    The Los Angeles Times via truthout, CA
    By Abigail Goldman
    Despite Mattel's efforts to police factories, thousands of workers are suffering. Just off a wide dirt road that leads to a densely packed jumble of factories, workers behind one guarded metal gate toil seven days a week, sometimes as many as 24 hours straight, making toys for about 20 cents an hour. It is a pace that makes them almost numb to the poor ventilation, the lack of bathroom breaks and a fear that they will be beaten if they complain. Sweatshops aren't unusual, of course, in a country that possesses a large and cheap workforce and a permissive government hungry to attract big business. What makes this situation notable is that these workers make products for a company widely considered one of the most socially responsible American firms: Mattel Inc. The El Segundo-based toy manufacturer was one of the first U.S. companies - and the only major player in its industry - to establish an independent system for monitoring and publicizing how factory workers are treated. In fact, Mattel routinely checks and rechecks hundreds of plants around the world, aiming to ensure that they comply with its 112-item code of conduct. The seven-year effort has paid off - at least to a point. When it comes to limiting work hours, ensuring fair pay and improving health and safety standards, "Mattel is one of the best," said Chan Ka Wai, associate director of the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee, which has done extensive investigations into working conditions in the Chinese toy industry. Yet for all of that, tens of thousands of workers who make Mattel products still suffer. One big reason is that half of the toys displaying Mattel's familiar red logo are made in facilities, like the one here in an industrial area of Shenzhen, that the company doesn't own. "Mattel has no way to know the truth about what really goes on here," said a 24-year-old worker at the Shenzhen factory. "Every time there is an inspection, the bosses tell us what lies to say." Labor advocates agree that the situation is difficult. Mattel may be doing a lot to turn its own factories into showplaces, Chan said. "But their vendors look very different," he added. As increasing numbers of Western manufacturers shift production to China and other developing countries, Mattel's experience underscores how difficult it is to guarantee humane working conditions and still make the ever-cheaper goods that consumers demand. It also raises the question of how much responsibility a single company should bear when it operates in parts of the world where poverty is omnipresent and the exploitation of workers is rampant. The Times interviewed workers at 13 factories in southern China, Indonesia and Mexico that make Mattel products, including company-owned facilities and contractor-run plants. Visits to five of the factories were arranged by Mattel. The Times talked independently with employees at the other plants, where workers agreed to tell their stories only if they and their employers were not identified by name. Many said they were worried about retaliation from supervisors. Others expressed concern that if Mattel knew about the conditions, the company would cancel its contracts, casting the workers onto the streets. "It's good that they monitor, but not if it costs our jobs," said the Shenzhen factory worker, who has performed a variety of tasks for a Mattel contractor in the last two years, most recently stamping eyes onto plastic animals. "It's better to have bad conditions than no job at all." Inside Vendor No. 5
    Across Guangdong province, on the northeast outskirts of the Guangzhou city limits, Li Xiao Hong helps churn out toys at one of Mattel's best-regarded contractor factories. Vendor No. 5, as it's known, boasts dorms with TV rooms, a library, sports facilities, classrooms - even karaoke machines to help Li and her co-workers unwind after a long stint on the factory floor. Still, conditions are far from ideal. The plant's work areas are so poorly lighted that they seem permanently shrouded in gray. A strong smell of solvent wafts across the facility as rows of workers hunch over pedal- operated sewing machines and gluepots. Li is the fastest worker on a long, U-shaped assembly line of about 130 women who put together Mini Touch 'n Crawl Minnie, a scampering version of the Disney character activated by a baby's nudge. Li moves with lightning speed - gluing the pink bottom, screwing it into place, getting the rest of the casing to adhere, tamping it down with a special hammer, pulling the battery cover through its slats, soldering where she glued, testing to make sure the leg joints on the other side still work, then sending it down the line. The entire process takes 21 seconds. She generally works 5 1/2 days a week, up to 10 hours at a time. Her monthly wage - about $65 - is typical for this part of China, enough for Li to send money back home to her poor farming family in Henan province and to afford a computer class in town. But Li pays a heavy price: Her hands ache terribly, and she is always exhausted - a situation to which the 20-year-old seems resigned. "People at my age should expect some hardship," said Li, clad in bluejeans and a pink factory blouse, which she left unbuttoned to reveal a white T-shirt emblazoned with the silhouette of Mickey Mouse. "I should taste bitterness while I'm young." Besides, many here apparently have it worse. Last year, Mattel's independent auditors noted that the overtime extracted by Vendor No. 5 often exceeded the maximum allowed under Chinese law and under what Mattel calls its Global Manufacturing Principles. The extra hours, inspectors found, were not completely voluntary because workers were forced to seek permission to leave after their regular shifts, another violation of Mattel's rules. Some were found to have worked for nearly three weeks without a day off, which ran afoul of both Chinese law and company mandates. Robert A. Eckert, Mattel's chairman and chief executive, said he wasn't surprised that some contractor factories had violated Mattel's wage-and-hour restrictions. What's important, he said, is that the company work with its business partners to recognize and correct the problem. So far, Mattel has terminated 33 suppliers for violating its standards, while refusing to add 28 others to its list of approved vendors because they failed to meet the company's code. Eckert made clear, however, that firing factories isn't the goal. "Our job is to fix it," he said. "We're not in the business to try to cut off plants."
    Establishing Standards
    Mattel began monitoring factories almost two decades ago, when it focused on issues of health and safety, and greatly expanded the notion of what it should be accountable for in the mid-1990s. It was a time when activists around the world were stepping up campaigns against Nike Inc., Gap Inc. and others for allegedly using sweatshop labor outside the United States. For Mattel, the stakes were particularly high. A worker abuse scandal like the one that tarred Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Kathie Lee Gifford clothing line in 1996, when activists found that items were made by children working in deplorable conditions, would be especially disastrous for a maker of kids' toys. Negative headlines would scare off customers and spook Wall Street. "There isn't a reward for doing the right thing," noted Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst with Harris Nesbitt in New York. "But there is a penalty if you get caught doing the wrong thing." Mattel later added a "social compliance" component to its program, which included a strict set of rules about working hours, wages, factory conditions and age requirements. The company formalized these standards in 1997 when it established the Mattel Independent Monitoring Council, a nonprofit group of observers funded by the company but administered through the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York. The group, now called the International Center for Corporate Responsibility, was charged with monitoring factories and publishing detailed reports as a check on Mattel's internal audits. Critics have questioned the monitors' independence. For its part, Mattel points out that it is the only major toy company to release outsiders' findings. (Its largest competitor, Hasbro Inc., has said that all its contractors must comply with International Council of Toy Industries ethics guidelines, modeled largely on Mattel's program, by the end of 2005. But Hasbro does not make public its independent auditors' reports.) Beyond scrutinizing its vendor plants in the developing world, Mattel has also built its own first-rate facilities, complete with comfortable living quarters for its workforce. The factory floor at Mattel Die-Cast China in Guanyao is bright and airy. Instead of the usual snaking assembly line, where workers perform the same task over and over and over, many MDC employees move around to different stations, often making an entire toy themselves; this helps eliminate painful repetitive-stress injuries. MDC's residence halls are more modern and nicer than dorms at top Chinese universities. In their off hours, workers crowd into the television rooms on each floor or play badminton on outdoor courts. Some head to the gym or to computer centers to practice lessons they learn in free classes offered on site. The quality of life here is written on the face of nearly every MDC worker: They smile, a rare expression at other plants. "People can sense the difference if you're pushing them for the bottom line or for themselves," said Rug Burad, the general manager of the plant, where Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars originate. "You want them to be their best so they produce the best. That's the priority."
    Crowding in Indonesia
    Even at Mattel's own factories, change doesn't come overnight. On the eastern side of Jakarta, past the garbage-strewn streets in the main part of the city, Mattel's twin Indonesian production facilities rise up out of the green fields like gleaming, white-tile temples. The Dua and Satu factories - where half of the world's more than 100 million Barbie dolls are made each year - consist of low-rise buildings connected by walkways with lush overhanging plants. The campuses, built in the early 1990s, feature computer rooms, a library, a health clinic, sports fields and a community garden. Management here has given a nod to both fun and faith: The complex includes a disco as well as two mushollas, prayer rooms for the workers, 90% of whom are Muslim. Still, most of the dorm rooms, which house about 40% of the factories' 10,000-plus workers, fail to meet Mattel's guidelines for the maximum number of workers per room (16) and the minimum amount of personal space allotted to each (20 square feet). Instead, the rooms are crowded with four rows of four bunk beds lined up side by side, mattress to mattress. For all but those in the outside beds, getting in and out can require a feat of gymnastics. Mattel is moving to a less crowded format - two bunk beds in a row, each with a lamp, fan and curtain shielding the bed from the open area - to come into compliance with its own guidelines. But those changes, Mattel said, take time. "We can point to deficiencies in the system," said Jim Walter, Mattel's senior vice president of worldwide quality assurance, who oversees the ethical manufacturing initiatives, "but I'm going to look at how far we've come." For some, it's still not far enough. In 2001, a report by the Hong Kong Christian Industrial Committee rapped Mattel, along with Hasbro, Walt Disney Co., Wal-Mart and others, for making toys in brutal Chinese sweatshops. The National Labor Committee in New York, the group that exposed the problems with Wal-Mart's Kathie Lee Gifford clothing line, followed with another critique the next year. Marie-Claude Hessler-Grisel, a French human rights advocate, still sees many of the same problems that were highlighted in those reports. Hessler-Grisel says she appreciates that Mattel has poured more than $500 million into its own state-of-the-art facilities and spends about $10 million a year on monitoring factories, upgrading plants and training contractors. But given that Mattel earned more than $500 million last year on sales of nearly $5 billion, she expects the company to do a lot more and to do it faster. "These workers can't wait forever for a change," she said. "I have nothing personal against Mattel," added Hessler-Grisel, a tiny woman with short gray hair and red-rimmed glasses. "You always go after No. 1, and it trickles down."
    Enjoying a 'Day Off'
    Around the world, workers at factories making Mattel toys complain about one thing above all else: the grueling hours. Mattel's rules state that the most anyone can work is 12 hours a day, six days a week - and that's only for very limited periods and when overtime is voluntary. Regular workdays aren't supposed to exceed 10 hours a day, including overtime. What's more, factory employees are not supposed to work more than 13 days in a row. But according to more than a dozen workers, the reality is something else. Near Shenzhen, outside a large vendor plant, two 20-year-olds eating a lunch of boiled noodles recounted how they routinely worked 11 hours a day, six days a week. The worst time, they said, comes during the monthly changeover, when their group goes from the day shift to the night shift - and they must plow straight through, with barely a break in between. In Indonesia, a...woman who worked at Mattel's Jakarta plant talked about friends and colleagues who have assembled Barbie dolls for 30 days straight without time off. Even at a Mattel-owned plant in Guanyao, where the hours are within company guidelines, workers are so fatigued that those who return early from lunch sleep at their spots on the assembly line, their heads resting on their hands. In environments like these, the slightest break can seem like a tremendous perk. Near the city of Dongguan, two young women recently sat in a fourth-floor room sectioned off by crude corrugated-metal walls. They have little to show for their drudgery; they share a mattress and a hot plate. But they said their life at a Mattel contractor factory had been good. Unlike at the last plant where they worked, the Mattel vendor gives them a "day off." But as the two friends described their "day off," it became evident that they don't get anything close: On Sundays, they explained, they get to leave work at 5 p.m., having put in eight hours instead of the typical 12. "That's a gift," said one of the women, a migrant from Henan province who frequently flashed a broad, toothy grin that made her look even younger than her 20 years. "You don't have to work through the night."
    Fear of Retaliation
    At the Shenzhen factory, where about 1,000 people are employed, it seems everybody knows the drill. Before Mattel comes through twice a year for inspection, workers said, managers promise to pay them time-and-a-half if they repeat the company line: that they work just eight hours a day, six days a week, as allowed by Chinese law. In truth, they slog for far longer than that. Inside a tiny metal-walled shed a short walk from the factory, the...worker reclined on his bed with his fiancee by his side and recalled how he was recently ordered to work 24 hours straight without rest. "On the second morning we just kept working," he said, wrinkling his nose as the eye- watering vapors of cooking peppers drifted through the room from a building a few feet away. His fiancee pressed the tummy of a defective Winnie the Pooh that she had rescued from the trash at work. The bear meowed three times - she had sewn in a computer chip from a pet toy that someone had found on the factory floor - and the woman laughed. If all goes well, the couple said, they can each earn about $65 a month, half of which they send home to their families in rural China. Newcomers and slower workers, they pointed out, sometimes get no pay at all: There is nothing left after charges are subtracted for meals and rent, as many workers live in company housing. The couple said they and their colleagues sometimes thought about complaining, but the memory of what happened last year to one who did always stopped them. At first, they said, the worker was shouted down by the floor manager. Then, about 8 p.m., as he was leaving the factory, he was stabbed repeatedly by a group of men. Mattel said it was unaware of any such incident. Few people saw the stabbing, and no one knew what ultimately happened to the victim, the couple said, although some heard his screams. They didn't dare help or call the police, they said, lest they suffer the same fate. Squalor in Mexico
    More than 7,000 miles from China, along the U.S.-Mexico border, a 41-year-old Mattel factory worker rocked back and forth on a rusted metal chair and talked about life at the job site - and beyond. The Tijuana facility where this woman earns the equivalent of $50 a week, Mattel's Mabamex plant, is clean and well maintained. The company strictly enforces its work-hour rules here, and she has few complaints. Mabamex appears little different from factories on the U.S. side of the border. But outside the 550,000-square-foot factory, the scene of squalor is all too familiar: Like most maquiladoras - assembly plants that produce goods principally for export - Mabamex is surrounded by the hovels where its workers live. The dwellings are made of sheets of scrap metal and prefabricated wooden walls - often, discarded garage doors from across the border. Few homes have anything other than earthen floors. Fewer still have running water. Most bathrooms consist of a system of buckets and open rivulets, which wash the waste downhill. The Mattel worker, a mother of four, said she would like to move her family somewhere nicer. But given her salary, there is very little that she can do. "When we collect our checks, we feel bad about how little money we make," she said. "We feel the pressure." For a company like Mattel, it is a tricky proposition figuring out what its obligation to workers - as well as to society at large - should be. "Is it Mattel's responsibility to determine and pay a living wage? I don't think so," said Walter, the company's quality assurance chief. "But should Mattel prompt a local government to determine what a reasonable wage is? We should have some impact on that." The struggle between morality and profitability goes right to the top of the company. "Do we want to make people's lives better? Absolutely," said Eckert, Mattel's CEO. "Do we want to unilaterally do things that make us uncompetitive and therefore our products don't sell and therefore nobody gets employed? No." Few, if any, of the Tijuana maquiladoras do better for their workers than Mattel does, said Alfredo Hualde, director of the Department of Social Studies at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a research institution in Tijuana. Hualde notes that to have even the most basic amenities - sanitary drinking water, indoor plumbing - the 150,000 maquiladora workers would probably need to see their pay doubled. And that's unimaginable when the Mexican government is doing all it can to keep factories from fleeing Mexico for cheaper locales such as China. "The main objective is to keep the maquilas here in Mexico to create employment," Hualde said. "The quality of the employment is secondary."
    When the Factory Closes
    At the Shenzhen factory, the man who worked 24 hours straight learned during the summer that there is something worse than laboring in terrible conditions: being out of a job. Work at the plant started to dry up, and the man went 22 days without getting paid. Eventually, he landed a new job at a nearby eyeglasses factory. The management is fair, the hours are blessedly shorter, and the pay is better, he said. He and his fiancee were even able to move into a slightly larger apartment with tile, instead of concrete, floors. His fiancee hasn't been so lucky, though. When the Mattel contractor finally closed in August, the only job she could find was at a nearby toy factory - another Mattel supplier. Conditions there, she said, are worse. The hours are longer and the wages lower. Workers are instructed to keep two timecards so that auditors can't detect the illegal overtime and insufficient pay. There is no clean drinking water at the factory, she said, and no food for those who, like her, often work the graveyard shift. The woman longs for the day she can leave, she said. But she doesn't know when that will be.

  10. 11/26   German GfK Consumer Confidence Rises Ahead of Christmas Holiday
    by Christian Baumgaertel in Frankfurt at cbaumgaertel@Bloomberg.net
    German consumer confidence rose this month as shoppers in Europe's largest economy became more willing to spend ahead of the Christmas holidays, the GfK market research company said. GfK's index of consumer confidence, which aims to forecast household spending one month in advance, rose to 2.7 points this month from a revised 2.4 in October, the Nuremberg, Germany-based company said today in a faxed statement. A sub-index gauging consumers' willingness to buy rose to minus 24.4 from minus 28.6. "There's hope that Christmas business will pick up," GfK Chief Executive Officer Klaus Wuebbenhorst said in an interview. "The question is whether we'll be able to still benefit from this next year." German consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, hasn't increased in more than a year amid unemployment at a five- year high and rising oil costs. Hermann Franzen, president of HDE association of German retailers, last month said an expected 1.5% gain in Christmas sales this year will be too little for a "turnaround." KarstadtQuelle AG, the country's largest department store operator, plans to cut some 5,000 jobs and close 77 smaller stores. Workers as companies including Siemens AG, Robert Bosch GmbH, Volkswagen AG and DaimlerChrysler AG this year agreed to wage concessions such as longer work hours and reductions in bonus payments to secure their jobs. "The German Santa Claus is not bringing many presents on Christmas Eve," said Andreas Rees, an economist at HVB Group in Munich. "We see substantial downside risks to our already cautious forecast for private consumption in the fourth quarter."
    Slowing Growth
    A measure of shoppers' income expectations slipped to minus 15.8 in November from minus 15.5 in the previous month and a sub- index tracking consumers' expectations for the economy declined to minus 17 from minus 16.5, the GfK report showed. The economy grew at the slowest pace in more than a year in the third quarter, expanding 0.1% from the previous three- month period, as an increase in investment struggled to offset a drop in exports. Consumer spending stagnated last quarter. "We'll probably have modest growth in consumption this year and there's hope for a slight increase in 2005," said GfK's Wuebbenhorst. "It would be important for the development of the economy overall."

  11. 11/26   Survey: Workers happy with vacation benefits
    Las Vegas Sun, NV
    By Alana Roberts (alana.roberts@lasvegassun.com)
    One of the best things about work is earning time to get away from it, workers say. Now that the holiday season is here and many workers begin to prepare for time off, local workers say they have mixed opinions about the amount of vacation time their jobs allow. "Our vacation accrues with our holiday pay," Kevin Starcovic...of Henderson said. He said at his job as an optical scanning technician at HCA Inc.'s business offices in Las Vegas, he earns vacation time throughout the year. He has worked at HCA for a year. "It's taken out of the same bank (with) sick and holiday pay. It equals to a little over two weeks a year. Two weeks is nothing," Starcovic said. He spoke during a recent evening shift manning the fitness room desk at his part-time job at the city of Henderson's Downtown Recreation Center. That job doesn't offer any paid vacation time. Starcovic's comments differed from those of Erin Dillon...of Henderson, who spoke after finishing a fitness training session at the recreation center the same evening. Dillon is a regional manager at Marriott International Inc. She has worked at Marriott for 11 years. "I get a lot of vacation time," Dillon said. "I don't take vacation. I'm a workaholic; I'd rather save it. I probably take less than two weeks a year. I actually have five weeks. I'm happy with the vacation time, I just don't take it." Although local workers offered mixed opinions about their vacation time, a survey commissioned by staffing firm OfficeTeam shows a majority of workers are satisfied with their vacation time. The company used an independent firm to poll 573 U.S. workers about their satisfaction with the amount of vacation time they get from their employers. Of those polled, 59% said they were very satisfied with it. Maureen Carrig, an OfficeTeam spokeswoman, said the results are an indication that many[?] companies offer enhanced vacation time to entice workers. OfficeTeam, which staffs workers in administrative roles has three offices in Nevada, one in Las Vegas, another in Summerlin and a third in Reno. "During lean years when companies didn't have budgets to offer raises and bonuses, many offered vacation days to employees," Carrig said. "I think what we're seeing is employees felt their work-life balance was being met," she said about the survey. However, Starcovic said the standard two-week vacation offering many American companies give employees after a year pales to the four-to-six paid weeks of vacation time many European companies offer employees. "We have some European friends," Starcovic said. "You set aside money while you're working. When you take your vacation they pay you (with the accrued money saved from the rest of the year)." Ann McGinley, an employment law professor at UNLV's William S. Boyd School of Law, said the European standard may be undergoing a change. "In Europe, ironically, they're moving toward the American model," McGinley said. "Companies in Europe say they can't compete because American companies are moving there." McGinley said more generous vacation time makes for less-stressed employees. "I think the European model is healthier," she said. "Most European companies give at least four weeks in addition to holidays. I think it would be best to be somewhere in between (the American and European models)." She also said vacation is important to the image employees have of their companies. "They're more important for the long term," McGinley said. "Employers don't seem to expect employees to stay. If we were to go back to the old ways, if we wanted to keep people that would be a way of reducing educational costs. Good employment policies, including good benefits, which would include good vacation time, is a way of doing that." Rick Vaillancourt, former president of the Southern Nevada Human Resources Association, and president of human resources consulting firm Training and Development Consultants, agreed with McGinley's comments. "I think largely they're (workers) more concerned about a benefit package," Vaillancourt said. "I agree, most people are reasonably satisfied with their vacations. I think the focus has largely been on the (health) benefits. I think in the trade off of health benefits verses time off or increased vacation time, the health benefits would win hands down."

  12. 11/28   Pa. Turnpike: No holiday for drivers, tolls to be collected
    Philadelphia Inquirer, PA
    By Jere Downs
    As Black Friday shoppers crammed into the King of Prussia mall, a pro-union Santa stood vigil with striking Pennsylvania Turnpike toll collectors nearby on day three of their first-ever strike. At 380 pounds, the bearded, 60-year-old retiree and friend of striking workers was the picture of Santa, albeit with a Teamsters shirt beneath his red coat and a picket sign shoved under his wide black belt. "My deer will not cross a picket line," Drexel Hill resident Tom Anthony warned as he waved to motorists at the Valley Forge interchange. "It will be a sad Christmas if Santa cannot come to the Northeast." Motorists will first have to get through Sunday, when the Turnpike Commission will use managers and temporary workers to collect $2 for cars journeying home from Thanksgiving celebrations and $15 from commercial freight. The commission decided against waiving tolls all day Sunday, one of the busiest days of the year. "When we do have a traffic situation at an interchange, backing up the ramp down to the main line, we will waive the tolls," Turnpike Commission spokesman Bill Capone said Friday. Capone and striking workers expressed hope that the strike, sparked by a dispute over health benefits and job security, would end soon. The Teamsters contract - covering toll collectors, maintenance workers, and office staff in Locals 77 and 250 - expired in October 2003. There have been no talks since Wednesday. The commission has suspended health benefits for about 2,000 workers, a common practice during strikes. The proposal rejected by workers offered management-level health insurance, an upgrade, with the caveat that it could be changed at any time during the contract. The commission is also seeking to add more "supplemental" toll collectors - currently about 30% of the workforce in our region - who labor full time without sick pay or vacation benefits. The contract proposal also included a 2.5% raise annually for three years. The commission has rejected a worker proposal that the pay increase be retroactive to last year. Teamsters representatives were unavailable for comment Friday. About 220 managers have been working 12-hour shifts at the tolls, joined for the first time Friday by 40 temporary workers. The Turnpike Commission is paying an agency $16.25 an hour for each nonunion worker hired and expects to employ 30 more, Capone said. Supplemental toll collectors, even those with five or six years on the job, are paid a base of $15.76 an hour. Workers at the Valley Forge interchange estimated that there are 93 supplemental workers and 240 "permanent" toll collectors in our region. Permanent toll collectors with three years of experience earn $18.69 an hour (plus overtime on holidays), paid vacations, and sick pay. The dispute has caused a dilemma for some truckers. Many union drivers are not crossing the picket line, which is effectively 531 miles long. Nonunion truckers sympathize, but clutch eagerly at a cross-state toll of $15 - a $125 savings on the usual charge for a 40-ton rig. "If I can run the entire turnpike for $15, I will do so gladly with a big smile on my face," said Lee Klass, 56, of Portland, Ore. Klass later called back to say he had changed his mind. "If workers go out, they go out for a good reason," he said. "I would not cross a picket line. It's one of my core values." Since deregulation of the industry, America's truckers, on average, work harder and earn less than they have during the last four decades, according to former trucker Michael Belzer, a labor-relations expert at the University of Michigan and author of the book Sweatshops on Wheels. Even so, some truckers are ready to show solidarity with fellow Teamsters.
    Gerald Sullivan of Northeast Philadelphia hauls the U.S. mail for Mail Contractors of America, an Arkansas-based firm. Sullivan, who helped fellow employees organize his shop with Teamsters Local 470 of Philadelphia, vowed to avoid the turnpike on his daily run to Springfield, Mass.
    Contact staff writer Jere Downs at 610-313-8128 or jdowns@phillynews.com. Inquirer staff writer Dwayne Campbell contributed to this article.

  13. 11/27   Workplace issues: Today's moms seek the best of two worlds - Mothers develop strategies to balance needs of families, jobs
    Indianapolis Star, IN
    By Dana Knight (317-444-6012 or dana.knight@indystar.com) Lori White's heart was being tugged by two opposing forces.
    One: a successful career she had spent eight years building.
    The other: a beautiful baby boy who had been in her life three months.
    "I didn't feel like I was ready to totally quit working," said the...hiring coordinator for the Marion Superior Court Probation Department. "But I felt this kind of strong calling like I needed to spend as much time as I could at home with my son." After 12 weeks of maternity leave, she made the plea to her employer for what she calls the best of both worlds - part-time work. She struck a deal that puts her in the office three days a week and off work, at home, two days with 1-year-old Zachary. Her inner struggle is one nearly 4 million new moms face each year. Stay home. Go back to work. Work from home. Go part time. Take an extended leave. Switch jobs. Many baby boomers didn't have this problem. The mothers either left work to raise their families or they blazed new career paths. "Boomers were able to fit pregnancy in between promotions," said Betty Wong, executive editor of Working Mother magazine. "Gen Xers don't feel it's an either-or situation. They don't see any problem going in and out of the work force." Consider these stats:
    € The number of women going back to work after having babies is declining,after decades of rapid growth, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1980, 38% of women who had had a child in the past year were in the labor force. By 1998, that number jumped to 58.7%. In 2002, the latest figures available, it dropped to 54.6%.
    € Part-time workers' share of the labor force is rising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers putting in fewer than 35 hours per week accounted for 23.9% of the work force in 2001, up from 18.3% in 1996.
    € Doing the job at home is a booming business. In 2000, 4.2 million people worked from home, up from 3.4 million in 1990, says the Census Bureau. That increase is double the growth of the overall work force during that decade.
    "It's a definite possibility that a large number of these people working from home are mothers," said Julia Overturf, demographic statistician with the Census Bureau. "The people who would want to have more flexibility in their work hours would be mothers."
    Making it work
    Flexibility is a must for most new moms, but it often means giving up something. That may be simply a loss of income. But some working mothers with flexible schedules give up much more - promotions, raises and even respect in the workplace, said Riki Wilchins, executive director of the Washington-based Gender Public Advocacy Coalition. They become known by their employers as second-class employees. "It's a gender stereotype of the worst kind," Wilchins said. "With millions of working women balancing work and family, the prejudice that devotion to one will automatically pre-empt the other is simply horse-and-buggy thinking." Women must take a stand. "Some women have this fear that if you have a child and you don't work 60 hours a week, they are going to think you are putting your child above your job," she said. White said she was willing to do whatever it took to "make this work." She took a $1,200-a- month salary cut going part time. Financially, the career- after-children decision is one of expenses added versus lost income. Expenses such as day care, wardrobe, lunches and transportation to work. Most experts say unless a mother is making more than $35,000 a year, it's not worth it to work. For example, a married woman with two children, working full time and earning $2,000 a month, will lose $400 in income tax, FICA, Medicare and SDI withholding. Child care costs another $800 to $1,000 a month. Most mothers, if it worked financially, would rather spend more time with their children, according to the Sloan 500 Family study, a survey of 500 American families. Nearly two-thirds of moms who work full time said they would rather be part time, according to the survey. About 40% of those mothers said job and family life conflict almost all the time.
    What about dads?
    Fathers have similar feelings, according to a new poll of 500 men by Best Life magazine. 46% said they would take a pay cut if they were assured of being able to leave work each day by 5 p.m. Another 38% said if they could get one extra hour a day, they would spend it with their children. Ryan Fannin said it's tough working 40-plus hours each week, knowing what he is leaving behind. "When you're having a hard day at work, you're like, 'Oh man. Why can't I be at home right now?' " said the...manager of football information systems for the Indianapolis Colts. "Because you know what you're missing." What makes him feel better is knowing that his wife, Gina, is at home full time caring for 19-month-old Trevor. Gina Fannin...left her job as a research technician at the Institute for Psychiatric Research at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to stay home. "I've just always had in my heart that I wanted to stay at home," she said. "My mom always stayed home with us. I just thought it was really important to be there if I could." When she and her husband discussed the situation at the end of her maternity leave, they realized staying home wasn't going to work financially. She extended her leave for a week, to buy some time. Meanwhile, Ryan Fannin received a raise that covered their needs. "It was a blessing," said Gina Fannin. Trevor has sleep apnea, asthma and acid reflux. He didn't sleep through the night until he was almost 17 months old. Fannin said she needed the flexibility that being at home full time brought.
    Working from home
    Flexibility was also a requirement for...Molly Johnson, a general litigation attorney specializing in probate law. But she found hers by keeping a career and working from home. "I absolutely had thought I would always be career-minded," said Johnson, who is expecting her second child in April. "My priorities changed after Caleb." Johnson resigned while on maternity leave to care for Caleb, who now is 2. Within months, she had found a job at the Downtown Indianapolis law firm of Curtis E. Shirley that allowed her to work from home. "I love having a career, and I would miss it horribly," she said. Some weeks she works 60 to 70 hours. Some days she is away from home taking depositions or attending a trial. But, for the most part, she is there to watch "Sesame Street" with Caleb or play in the fallen leaves outside. "If you sit down, have your priorities straight, it's absolutely possible as a mother and a woman to have a truly fulfilling and rewarding experience," she said. The possibility of getting that balance relates to the mindset of corporate America, said Working Mother's Wong. "Luckily, companies are realizing they need to cater to these women to meet their needs," she said. Some top companies that cater to women are going to extremes, like offering up to three years off after a baby with a guaranteed job when the mother returns. They are putting fitness centers and massage therapists into the workplace. Most importantly, they are working with women to make sure their schedules fit the needs of their families.
    Supportive employer
    At Ernst & Young, the accounting and consulting firm, all employees are encouraged to build their careers around personal commitments, said Shari Alexander Richey, a tax consultancy partner. "We believe flexibility is about choice - it's about making a life, not making a living," said Richey, 38, who serves on the firm's Gender Equity Task Force and has two children, 3 and 5. "If we can have happy people, we can have happy clients." Among Ernst & Young's offerings are paid maternity and paternity leave and adoption financing. All employees have laptops so they can work anywhere - and are given 24-hour technical assistance. Fifty employees in Indianapolis have designed their own work arrangements. These include job sharing, compressed work weeks, reduced schedules, telecommuting and flex time. "I would say we're pretty liberal in terms of making sure our employees work when and where they want to get the job done," said Richey. The cost to companies who don't work to keep good employees is staggering. A woman who makes $50,000 a year, then bolts because she's not happy, costs her employer $16,875, according to Advantage Hiring. The cost includes overtime paid to cover the needs of the vacant position while searching for a replacement, advertising the job, interviewing and training the new employee.
    Back at work
    Jackie Thurnes...puts her daughter above her job - and everything else - yet she is making it work as a career woman. "The biggest thing is that she's No.1 definitely - no ifs, ands or buts about it," said Thurnes, associate director of enforcement for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. "The things you used to worry about at work are not a big deal anymore." Thurnes said financially she needed to return to work. "It was just pretty much a given I would go back," she said. "It's pretty hard nowadays, for financial reasons, to not go back. If I had the choice, I would be here (at home)." Since she can't be at home, Thurnes has changed her work life to fit her 9-month-old daughter's needs. The NCAA allows her to go to work late or take time off when she needs to. Thurnes also has cut her travel by 50%. Moms who don't have any choice but to work have to let go of that inner struggle, said Gail Blanke, author of "Between Trapezes: Flying Into a New Life With the Greatest of Ease." "She has to let go of the guilt - maybe I should be home," she said. Blanke said to look at work as an adventure and a chance to set an example for the child. "Interestingly enough, the same kind of qualities we're asking women to utilize as they raise their children are the same wonderful qualities that the best leaders exude," she said. "It's not more complicated than that. It just shows that work and life are intertwined."
    Meshing work, life
    Angi Johnson...is trying to mesh the two successfully. After having daughter Magdalene, now almost 9 months old, she switched jobs. Johnson went from being a supervisor at a mobile crisis unit for abused and neglected children to a position as a home-based counselor. Instead of being in the office 40 hours a week, Johnson will work mainly from her Indianapolis home and have the flexibility to set her own hours. "I'm taking a pay cut, but it's the best thing for my family and me right now," she said. "I didn't like being away from her that long. Now I won't have to be."

  14. 11/27   'Day of rest' re-evaluated - Sundays in the Tri-State - like much of America - have shifted from a day of relaxation and religious observance to, frankly, just another day of the week
    Evansville Courier & Press, IN
    And on the seventh day, God rested. But today, few take his cue. Sundays in the Tri-State - like much of America - have shifted from a day of relaxation and religious observance to, frankly, just another day of the week. Churches may fill their pews on early Sunday mornings, but the aisles at Wal-Mart are just as crowded. And the post-service dinner at Grandma's house in the country? In many cases, it has been replaced by a trip to a steakhouse for a $9.99 sirloin special, or three hours at the pub, eating appetizers and quaffing beer, surrounded all afternoon by television sets broadcasting the day's professional football games. It's just not your father's Sunday anymore. The idea of a weekly day of rest goes back to the book of Genesis. There, God creates the Earth and its creatures in six days. On the seventh, he rests. God didn't need the day off. In Isaiah, audiences later are told, "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?" "God didn't rest because he was tired," said the Rev. Ron Osborne of Evansville's Keck Avenue Southern Baptist Church. "He did it for the same reason a musician takes a pause in music. It's not because he's tired. It's for reflection on what's gone before and what's yet to come." For Karen Clark of Evansville, Sunday simply can't be a "pause in music." Clark said she works Monday through Friday, and sometimes has to work overtime hours on Saturday in a retail job. Sunday, from sunrise to sunset, is the one day she can count on each week to be open for all the "little things" that pile up through the week. "That's my laundry day, my shopping day, my car-washing day and, during the summer, it's my lawn-mowing day," Clark said. "It's the one day I can throwmyself at all the stuff I didn't get done during the week because of my job." The department store where Clark works is open on Sundays, like most other businesses in the Tri-State. But even though Sunday has turned into the second-busiest shopping day of the week - trailing only Saturday - there are businesses that close for the day. In Indiana, liquor stores are shuttered on Sunday, as are car lots. In Illinois and Kentucky, liquor stores are allowed to be open, but car lots there are closed, as well. A person can buy a beer in Indiana on Sunday, but it has to be at a restaurant or bar that also serves food. In Kentucky, a state appeals court decided this summer to overturn a ban on Sunday liquor sales across the Bluegrass. The decision opened the door for municipalities to allow packaged liquor sales on Sunday. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, 19 states do not allow Sunday sales. The Sunday restrictions are part of each state's "blue laws" - restrictions on what businesses and activities can and cannot take place on the seventh day of the week. The origin of the term "blue laws" is attributed to various meanings, from the color of the paper on which the laws were printed to a suggestion of staying "true blue" to the letter of the law. There is also the definition of "blue" that means risque or indecent - comedians often refer to telling dirty jokes as "working blue." Historians have traced the first American blue laws back to the early 1600s, when the Virginia colony made a law requiring church attendance. In the Tri-State, blue laws deal mainly with alcohol and automobiles. And some of the owners of those businesses don't seem to mind being out of operation for a day. "Customers like a day when they can just walk around on the car lots and kick tires at their leisure," said Tim Dowling, executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers of Indiana. Butch Hancock, president of Evansville's Kenny Kent Toyota Lexus Mitsubishi, said he has never had a customer ask him, "Doggone it, Butch, why aren't you open on Sundays?" "I think it's a quality of life issue," Hancock said. "A lot of us are here from 8 a.m. until 10 or 11 o'clock at night. It's nice having that one day off. "It's not the same as it was 25 or 30 years ago," he said. "When I was a kid, grocery stores were closed on Sundays. Things have changed to accommodate people." Local clergy wonder whether that's a change for the better. They point out that the day of rest was codified in the Fourth Commandment, offered to Moses in Exodus. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," God declared to Moses and the Israelites. "It's commanded," said the Rev. Phil Hoy, of Henderson's Zion United Church of Christ. "The command is for our sake. We are such fools we don't think we need it, and that's a huge mistake on our part. If we don't give that to our children, we're cheating them." For Christians, the Sabbath was shifted from Saturday to Sunday to reflect Jesus' resurrection on Easter Sunday. "The shift over went from the Sabbath to Sunday, the day of Resurrection and that become the holy day," Hoy said. "With it came the functions of the Sabbath - the day of worship, the day of rest, and depending on the group, a day for restoration." And while grocery and department stores may now be open on Sundays, Hoy said he and his wife try not to shop then. "I still don't feel good about that for this reason: I'm really concerned about work schedules people have, work schedules that keep them from personal life or family life. ... My own personal concern comes back to: What's a work week?" The average American worked 46 hours a week last year, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation.
    [Clashes with 43-hour figure above (story #3)?]
    The number continues to increase each year, threatening churches just as much as their parishioners. Churches, themselves, are finding it increasingly difficult to schedule church-related work. "One of the problems, coming from a liturgical denomination, is trying to find a time to schedule a confirmation class," Hoy said. "It's has become very difficult." When Hoy graduated from seminary in 1962, he could schedule confirmands for a two- or three-hour session. Now, finding that block of time that isn'tprogrammed with sports, extracurricular activities or studies is almost impossible. "We are just so organized. I think we're over-organized," Hoy said. But maybe God wouldn't mind if these man-made restrictions were lightened. "God never intended for the Sabbath Day to be a burden to us," Osborne said. "It was given to us as a blessing. It was meant as a reflection on the goodness of God, of the grace of God." As Jesus told his followers at the end of the second chapter of Mark, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." But it's not as simple as saying we're not going to work on Sundays. "There's no turning back the clock. I don't think it's possible we'll ever see society turn back to the way it was in the '40s or '50s," Osborne said. "Our society is so profit-driven and market-driven. Unfortunately, it's business and profits before nearly anything."

  15. [A rationalization of cutting welfare? -]
    11/27   Actually, reform frees those trapped in the net
    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WI
    One hundred and fifty years ago, a new system of agriculture sprang up called tenant farming. The premise sounded good. Poor farm laborers with no work to do would be given a piece of land to farm - and the tools to farm it - from a land-rich but cash-poor property owner. The profits from the produce of that land would be shared between the two, to their mutual benefit. In reality, the landowners often burdened the workers with additional charges and mountains of debt. In the end, instead of enjoying the dignity of work and profit, tenant farmers found themselves trapped in an insidious new form of dependency and servitude under the crushing weight of their debt to the landowner. Today, defenders of the welfare state risk a similar error when they argue against tax relief and welfare reform. They make well-meaning arguments for more taxpayer-funded social programs aimed at lifting individuals out of poverty. But they fail to realize that the very weight of the expanding tax burden necessary to fund those programs keeps low-income individuals and families bogged down in their poverty. Today, we risk trapping low-income individuals in a client-status dependency by creating a tax climate that makes the cost of leaving dependency behind so high it is impossible to attain. They remain tangled in a system that was intended to be a safety net to keep them from falling down but has instead become a snare that keeps them from rising up. Fortunately, policy-makers from conservatives like former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy G. Thompson to liberals like former President Clinton have concluded that the best way to help people in poverty is not to make dependency cozier, but rather to move toward independence by making work more rewarding. The best anti-poverty program ever designed is a job. Wisconsin's welfare reform, W-2, was built on simple logic: All able-bodied adults who need taxpayer-funded assistance should be able to achieve long-term independence through work and to support their families and children. To assist in reaching this goal, the taxpayers provide generous child care and health care benefits to sustain these individuals while they are making the transition from dependency to work. The results have been remarkable. Wisconsin welfare caseloads dropped from more than 52,000 right before W-2 began to only 10,000 today. The caseload drop is only part of the story. A University of Wisconsin study of the program, funded by the federal government under the Clinton administration, compared results from individuals receiving benefits in 1998 with where they stood a year later. Researchers found:
    € Of those who enrolled in W-2, almost 70% were off payments only 12 months later;
    € The average wage of those who went to work increased from $7.30 to $8.10 in just one year;
    € Not only did wages go up, but people worked more hours, so that one year later, wages increased more than $2,000, and average family income (from all sources) increased from $12,100 to $14,800 per year.
    Sadly, even as our success in reforming welfare moves more and more people from the world of dependency to the world of work, Wisconsin's high tax burden threatens to keep these individuals and families trapped in poverty. Because of our tax burden, per capita income in the Wisconsin is well below that of our neighbors. Simply put, after government takes its cut, there is less money left in a Wisconsin worker's paycheck than in any of our neighboring states. That fact hurts every worker in Wisconsin, but it hits those just making the jump from poverty to the world of work the hardest. In Wisconsin, we work longer hours and hold down more jobs than anywhere in the country. Our labor participation rate - the percentage of our employable citizens who are in the work force - is the highest in the country. But our workers are still merely treading water because our tax burden is one of the heaviest in the nation. This situation is economically untenable for the long term. Without change, more and more of our job creators and more and more of our best workers will simply vote with their feet and take their jobs, skills, wealth and ideas to states with more reasonable tax climates. But economics is only one reason why I am such a strong supporter of taxpayer protection measures that place constitutional limits on how fast the size and cost of government can increase. I also am fighting for these limits because I believe it is fundamentally wrong to ask workers to make tough decisions in their family budgets simply because we are unwilling to set priorities and make tough choices in government budgets. Tax policy does not function in a vacuum. When government puts a certain policy in place, there is always some response from the marketplace. When we raise taxes on workers, they have less money to spend on their needs, they have less time to spend on their families, they have less economic independence, they are less free. When both parents in a family are forced to work merely to keep their family income from losing ground to their tax burden, our children are harmed, our families are weakened and our society pays the price. When we place high taxes on businesses, they pass those costs on to their consumers, once again forcing individuals to work longer and harder for less real economic freedom. By the same token, when we reduce the tax burden, we increase personal freedom, economic freedom and the dignity that goes along with them. We empower our citizens to make their own choices. We make our society stronger. We make our citizens more free. Proposals to link increases in government taxes and spending to increases in personal income make sense because they ensure that your tax bill cannot grow faster than your paycheck. That helps every taxpayer, but none is helped more than those on the low-income end of the economic spectrum. Those who argue against welfare reform and tax reform like to couch their arguments in terms of "compassion." But it is an odd and tragic form of compassion that offers individuals a take-it-or-leave-it choice between security and freedom. Unfortunately, that is exactly the choice those advocating expansions of the welfare state and increases in the tax burden are offering. They are the modern equivalent of property owners offering tenant farmers a secure place on the land at the cost of economic and personal freedom. I believe true compassion springs from recognizing the inherent human worth and dignity of every individual and encouraging each individual to maximize his or her potential in a free society. Our goal should be to display that kind of compassion by working to end the cycle of dependency, reforming welfare and reducing Wisconsin's tax burden so all our citizens can enjoy the maximum economic benefit from the work they do. If we achieve these goals, we can ensure that, in Wisconsin, we have a properly functioning social "safety net"; one that helps those who have fallen bounce up and not one that keeps those striving to rise tied down.
    Rep. John Gard (R-Peshtigo) is speaker of the Assembly.

  16. 11/27   Parents deserve a new deal, too
    Fiona Millar
    The Observer via Guardian, UK
    It is a thrilling time to be a parent. We are truly at the heart of the 'agenda'. Politicians, when they aren't fining us or serving parenting orders on us for not doing a good enough job, are fighting over who can best meet our needs. The expansion of childcare places since 1997 is rightly a source of great pride for the government, as is the imminent announcement about delivering the next tranche. The Tories have been drawn into the battle for families' hearts and minds. We should be in clover. But are we? While all this activity is welcome, the provision of childcare is only one piece in a big jigsaw of policy and cultural shifts that parents need. At the moment, the debate about childcare takes place against the sterile backdrop of work. We are forever subtly reminded that being productive cogs in the economic machine somehow makes us better citizens. The exhausting mantra of 'hard-working families' in political debate underlines the idea that good services are a reward for all this graft. But family life is about more than just work. It is about caring, leisure, having time to talk, even to do nothing. The number of women in work has shot up over the past 30 years but they are not all pursuing high-flying careers or aiming at the glass ceiling. The average family now needs 1.5 incomes to survive and many women work through need or to enhance less tangible aspects of family life. Government rightly identified that schools are a huge, wasted resource out of hours and should be used more flexibly, but education and care are two different things. The unfortunate term 'educare' conjures up images of toddlers being woken from afternoon naps to take their three-year-old Sats before being allowed a bit of play. Work-life balance seems to be being delivered on a factory line. Most parents understand the value of pre-school education, especially to offset disadvantaged home lives, but two or three hours early-years' education is not the same as round-the-clock group childcare. And while there are children whose home lives are so impoverished that being in a nursery aged 0-two may be an improvement, the jury is out on whether it is the right environment for all small children. Justifying wider childcare policies on the basis of research such as last week's Effective Provision on Pre-School Education report only muddies the water. The confusion parents still feel about managing the work-life dilemma was accurately revealed in the UK Family Trends study by the National Family and Parenting Institute. Far from having it all, women in particular still feel 'role strain'; uncomfortable about working and about staying at home, unsure about nursery provision during office hours and conscious that political solutions still don't address the relationship between work and care. Keeping schools open for an extra four hours is not enough. A bigger cultural shift is needed. It includes resolving the pay gap so women can afford to work fewer hours, educating or even obliging employers to offer flexible working patterns and guaranteeing high-quality childcare. As someone who has suffered 'role strain' for almost 18 years and can boast of having tried just about every kind of working pattern, I can vouch for the fact that childcare is only half the problem. It's the little things that compound the stress. What happens when children are ill, when transport lets you down and small children need carting to different carers, when you have to tell an employer you want to be at the school assembly or take your child to the doctor? None of this is encompassed in 'educare' and will only be addressed by politicians who genuinely share with parents the view that personal relationships and care are as important as work and can convey that to employers. I recently asked a younger friend, struggling to get home from a yearned-for new job in time to care for her daughter, why she couldn't tell her new employers she had to get home for her child. Her reply? 'I can't. It's not part of the deal.' We've had a new deal for schools and a new deal for jobs. Now it is time for a new deal for parents.

  17. 11/27   Staff 'buy' extra holiday time
    The Sunday Times, UK
    Sarah-Kate Templeton
    TIME is becoming more valuable than money. Employees in some of Britain's biggest companies are taking advantage of new schemes that allow them to sacrifice part of their salary in return for extra holiday. The cash for holidays deals are offered by companies such as Nationwide, Lloyds TSB and Cadbury Schweppes. According to the preliminary results of research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), due for publication early next year, 8% of employers now offer staff the opportunity to buy extra holidays. Until recently the practice was virtually unknown, with companies allowing workers no more than the maximum paid entitlement. But there has been growing pressure in the workforce for longer holidays, a fact highlighted last week when London Underground managers gave in to union demands for a record 52-day annual holiday entitlement for station staff. The annual Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For research, which captures the opinions of more than 58,000 employees across 228 companies, confirms that a growing number of workers are opting for more time rather than cash. Given the choice, 44% chose money and 36% preferred time off. In the 1970s and 1980s higher pay, rather than more holiday, was the priority for the vast majority of workers. Now, complaints from employees are often more likely to be about long hours. British employees work among the longest hours in Europe and have some of the shortest holidays, although they work fewer hours than their counterparts in America and Japan. In France and Germany, employees enjoy about six weeks' holiday plus 11 bank holidays. American and Japanese workers, by contrast, take two weeks' holiday a year. On average, British companies offer 25 days of paid holiday a year plus eight bank holidays. The new unpaid entitlements enable workers either to enjoy an extra week off or to take several long weekends during the year. Charles Cotton, who researches pay and benefits for the CIPD, said: "Employers report that the ability to buy holidays is one of the benefits employees value most. If they want to take more Friday afternoons off to go surfing or something, this allows them to do it." The study looked at 572 organisations in the private and public sectors, employing 1.5m people. Out of its 15,000 employees, 3,500 Nationwide staff this year opted to trade in part of their salaries for more holiday. Paul Bissell, senior rewards manager at Nationwide, said: "Increasing numbers of our employees are buying holidays. Leisure time and leisure pursuits have become more important to people than money. "Ten or 20 years ago a good basic salary, a pension and a few days' holiday was what attracted high-quality staff. Now employees are more selective." Laura Scott...from Purton, near Swindon, Wiltshire, a senior analyst with Nationwide, sacrificed five days' pay for an extra week's holiday. Scott, a keen horsewoman who plays polocrosse - lacrosse on horseback - says the extra holiday enabled her both to compete during the summer and go on holiday to America. "I value my holidays," she said. "I am quite happy to take a small salary cut if it means I can take five extra days off." For Philip Pashley...from west London, an internal communications manager with Centrica, the services company that owns British Gas, it was the attraction of spending more time with his young family that persuaded him to swap three days' pay for time off. "Our daughter Olivia is 18 months old and my wife is expecting another baby," he said. "The chance to spend more time with my children offsets the slight reduction in salary. "My wife and I are from Yorkshire and so our parents live quite a distance away. Extra time off means we can visit them for more long weekends and gives them more chances to see their granddaughter."

  18. 11/28   HSABC endorses adjustment plan for lab redesign - Deal signed with Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
    National Union of Public and General Employees, Canada
    Vancouver - The Health Sciences Association of B.C. [in the National Union of Public and General Employees] (HSABC/NUPGE) and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority have reached an agreement 'without prejudice' on a wide-ranging package of measures to mitigate the impact of laboratory restructuring. Restructuring will occur in the laboratories at Lions Gate Hospital, Richmond Hospital, Vancouver Hospital - 12th and Oak Pavilions, and Vancouver Hospital - UBC Pavilions. The authority's objective is to meet workforce reduction targets through attrition ‹to the greatest extent possible. The parties have scheduled a series of meetings to explain the situation and to carry out a "Voluntary Canvass/Expression of Interest." Meeting times and locations will be publicized as soon as locations are finalized. The purpose of the canvass is to identify potential vacancies that will help avoid displacement. Voluntary options include a labour adjustment incentive (ranging from a benefit of eight to 20 weeks salary), a phased retirement initiative (of up to one year), job-sharing, transfer and other proposals. If an application is approved by VCHA, an offer will be made for the employee's consideration. The canvass will also be conducted at the laboratories at Pemberton Health Clinic, Powell River General Hospital, St. Mary's Sechelt, and Squamish General Hospital, for the same purpose.
    Filling reorganized positions
    A process has also been developed for filling the reorganized positions. Some positions will be assigned; some are limited to competition between incumbents and some will be posted, either at the four sites undergoing restructuring or at all eight VCHA sites listed. In some cases, first consideration will be given to affected employees in positions of Grade 3 or higher. The VCHA will then identify those employees whose positions remain to be deleted, and will issue displacement notices. The VCHA will not issue layoff notices to laboratory employees prior to January 2005. The parties have adopted a bumping process for the purposes of implementing the changes at the four sites undergoing restructuring. The process is described in the adjustment plan, and is to be used by employees who have been issued displacement notices. Training opportunities are subject to operational requirements and will be offered on a priority basis where it serves to avoid the layoff of an employee who has seniority over another employee.
    Wage protection
    Wage protection is provided subject to certain requirements concerning bumping. Salary structures for certain positions have also been established. The laboratories at the four hospitals will operate as one operational unit for the purposes of the collective agreement, except as otherwise provided in the adjustment plan. Seniority lists of all technologists in the four laboratories will be merged into one list by dovetailing. The full text of the adjustment plan will be available at the upcoming meetings.

  19. 11/28   French Finance Minister Takes Over Ruling Party Leadership - Sarkozy to Lead France's Ruling Party - Election Puts Popular Finance Minister in Position to Run for Presidency
    By Keith B. Richburg
    Washington Post Foreign Service via Washington Post, DC
    PARIS - France's energetic and outspoken finance minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, took over the leadership of the country's ruling party Sunday, giving him a vehicle and platform to launch a presidential campaign in 2007 and setting up what is likely to be two years of intense political combat with the incumbent president, Jacques Chirac. Chirac, who turns 72 on Monday, has hinted that he might run for a third term, but Sarkozy, 49, has spoken out loudly - some say impolitely - about the need for a younger generation of leaders to take charge and implement economic and societal reforms. Chirac had initially tried to block Sarkozy's ascent to the helm of the ruling party, the Union for a Popular Movement, but on Sunday he warmly congratulated his younger rival. French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was surrounded by reporters as he left his last cabinet meeting on Wednesday. As the new party chief, Sarkozy must resign his cabinet post. (Remy De La Mauviniere - AP) Sarkozy was named the party's president at an American-style party convention complete with French tricolor flags, music and a giant video screen on which speakers were shown. The election was actually held a week ago, but the results were announced Sunday, showing Sarkozy the runaway winner with 85.1% of the votes cast. The tightly organized production, which some news media dubbed a "coronation," seemed set not only to showcase Sarkozy's status as France's most popular politician, but also to burnish his image as a modernizing politician willing to break with tradition. Chirac did not attend but was represented by his wife, Bernadette Chirac, who rarely makes political appearances. Sarkozy offered her a kiss when receiving the election results and hugged his other main rival, the prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin. Sarkozy's election to the party post means he will have to resign as finance minister on Monday, after just eight months on the job. Chirac - in a bid to curb Sarkozy's rising popularity - declared last summer that no cabinet member would be allowed to hold the party presidency. Without a high-profile government job, Sarkozy faces the challenge of keeping himself and his ideas in the news media for the two years before the presidential race begins in earnest, analysts said. But staying in the headlines has not proved difficult for Sarkozy, as he has shown himself willing to tackle old orthodoxies and offer sometimes controversial solutions to some of the most vexing issues facing France and Europe. For example, with tensions now rising over Europe's Muslim communities and questions being raised about past integration policies, Sarkozy has proposed allowing state funding for mosques as a way to curb foreign financing of them. The idea, which would challenge France's strict separation of church and state, has been criticized by Chirac. In his acceptance speech Sunday, Sarkozy showed no reluctance to embrace contentious positions. Among other things, he proposed a "profound reform" [ie: destruction] of France's 35-hour workweek, a centerpiece of the last Socialist government's economic policy. It is popular with workers, but businesses have decried it as too costly. "I am ready to carry your energy, I am ready to embody your hopes," Sarkozy said. "I am ready because I know that deep inside, France no longer fears change, but is ready for it." Sarkozy's rise to the top of France's largest political machine - a party begun, under another name, by Chirac nearly 30 years ago - is an unlikely success story for France, where most politicians come from the same elite social class and the same school, the Ecole Nationale d'Administration. Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian immigrant father and a French mother with Jewish roots. Sarkozy also is a lawyer, not a professional administrator from the prestigious school. His popularity soared after he became Chirac's interior minister in 2002 and he launched a crackdown on crime by borrowing from New York City's "zero tolerance" policy. He also earned plaudits from French Jews for being among the first to speak out forcefully against anti-Semitic attacks in France.

  20. 11/28   15% pay hikes on the way for city workers
    The Union Leader, NH
    MANCHESTER, N.H., U.S.A. - Two-thirds of city workers are scheduled to receive a more than 15% pay increase over three years under the Manchester pay system and the contracts approved by most unions, officials and records say. The system was set in 1999 and aimed to remove inequity and politics from payroll. But many Manchester officials say the cure needs to be cured. "Most city employees in the last few years are enjoying pay increases that are not enjoyed by the private sector," said Alderman Paul Porter of Ward 6, a retired city assessor. "The whole pay scale has gotten out of hand." Named Yarger-Decker for the consulting firm that recommended it, the pay scale grants two yearly raises: one a step increase, the other a cost-of-living adjustment negotiated through collective bargaining. Together, they mean most city workers will receive 5% pay hikes for this and each of the next two fiscal years, officials said. That's a raise of 15.7% in three years, as the increases are compounded. It is also typical of the pay system, officials said. In 2000, Public Works Director Frank Thomas earned $96,797. In 2003, his salary was $119,983 - a 19.3% increase, a study of city pay shows. Finance Officer Kevin Clougherty's salary rose from $90,523 to $108,334 over the same three years, a 16.4% rise. Dramatic at the top level, city officials said similar increases span the system. Mayor Robert Baines said the city needs to revisit Yarger-Decker - again by comparing Manchester pay to that of similarly sized cities. He said he plans "shortly" to ask aldermen to approve a review. "You go through an analysis and then you go through a political process," said Baines, who argued the recent three-year contracts give the city time to work through any pay discrepancies. The system includes other increases beyond the steps and COLAs. Longevity steps inject another 3% pay raise every fifth year an employee works for the city. Any worker who is promoted must receive a 10 percent pay increase. Workers also receive a roughly 3% step raise if they go back for more education during their career. "The Yarger-Decker program as far as I'm concerned was probably not the right way to go," said Alderman George Smith of Ward 10, a retired city utility inspector. "It's probably bankrupting the city." But while increasing at a faster rate, Manchester government pay still remains lower than the private sector, studies by the New Hampshire Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau said. Manchester employees were paid an average $686 a week in the first quarter of 2004, or $35,700 a year. The city's private sector paid 10.6% more ‹ an average of $761 a week or $39,600 a year, a census of employment and wages said. Private-sector wages in Hillsborough County went up 6.2% in the past three years. Statewide, wages increased 5.8% in the three years from the first quarter of 2001 to the first quarter of 2004, another report by the bureau said. Yarger-Decker covers all city employees, with the school district having its own system. The system classifies workers by 34 grades based on skill and job, from an annual low of $12,044 to a high starting salary of $112,318. The 13 steps cover workers' first 12? years, granting a 3% raise for each step. The COLA for this and the next two years is 2%. All but one city union - Water Works - has accepted the offer, while it was unilaterally granted to unaffiliated employees by aldermen. Clougherty and Deputy Finance Officer Randy Sherman said the pay raises do not correspond to budget increases, as newly hired workers replace much higher paid senior employees, keeping salaries down. Many of the highest paid employees are reaching or at their final step, they added. "It doesn't add that much every year," said Sherman. "You're going to have to expect you'll give some sort of pay increase every year." Fully 20% of the city's 1,245 employees had reached the final step by June, records show. Another 285 are scheduled to reach it by contract's end on June 30, 2007, according to records. Others say the system remains out of whack. At-large Alderman Mike Lopez said he's unconvinced the eventual caps projected under Yarger-Decker will actually come. When top jobs open through retirement, the city tends to reclassify them with higher pay, Lopez said, doing so in the name of attracting quality candidates. "It probably won't be in my lifetime that it's proven," Lopez said. He added Yarger-Decker's increases come without ties to productivity or performance. "I can remember when department heads didn't necessarily get 3% (step increases)," Lopez said. "If they performed well, they got bonuses." Alderman Mike Garrity of Ward 9 shares his nostalgia. "It was not too long ago that you worked for the city to get great benefits and great job security," Garrity said. "Now we have great pay as well as great benefits and great job security. Human Resources Director Virginia Lamberton disputed criticism of Yarger-Decker, though she said it is not flawless. The system will self-reform, Lamberton said, as more and more workers lose their step increases as they max out on Step 13. When that happens, she said, union officials will become willing to bargain away some of their wage benefits to get higher rewards for longevity. "The aldermen say, 'That damn Yarger-Decker,'" Lamberton said. "Well, it's just a pay matrix." Baines also defended the system, which was put in place under his predecessor, Raymond Wieczorek. Baines maintained Yarger-Decker has been shorn of many of its more onerous aspects during his tenure. Before, COLAs were automatic and tied to the northeastern consumer price index, which includes Boston, Baines said. Now they are negotiated. Also, a much-maligned bonus system was eliminated. "Yarger-Decker is relatively new and midway through it we did another review," Baines said of his efforts as mayor. He added with a pitch toward consolidations: "The real way that we are going to save money is to restructure the way we do government." Mike Roche, the head of a union that encompasses city Water Works and three private utility companies in the state, said the problem is high salaries atthe top of Manchester government - not Yarger-Decker. A 10% increase means more when someone making $100,000 a year receives it, he said. "Yes, it happens to a person making $400 a week," Roche said. "But it doesn't have the same impact on the meter payer or the taxpayer. It all goes back to cost and 'how can I afford that?' " Roche said the city should have a salary cap, as it did in the 1980s. The idea the average city worker is overpaid doesn't fit for utility workers, at least, he said: Private companies tend to pay 10 to 15% more. Stephen Abbott, a member of the Concerned Taxpayers of Manchester, said city salaries need to be scrutinized to make sure they fit with the market. "They may work very hard for their money, but it does seem to be a lot to be paying employees," Abbott said. "All I can say is it adds up and it shows in the tax bill." Yarger-Decker was set up to reward workers who commit to Manchester, preserving institutional knowledge while attracting highly qualified applicants, officials agreed. Before, pay raises depended heavily on city unions - some powerful, some weak - with workers at the same jobs earning different sums depending on their department, officials said. Some assistant directors had higher salaries than their bosses. Manchester had numerous pay scales depending on department, a nightmare for a city seeking to award fair wages. "You don't want to have that in a government situation," said Lamberton, who noted a secretary might make $10,000 in one department, but $15,000 in another. "It creates a problem for equal pay for equal work." Changing the system again will be difficult, officials admit. Under collective bargaining, city unions can reject offers that are worse than the status quo. One effort this year lacked support. When Garrity and Alderman Frank Guinta of Ward 3 proposed a budget that would cut workers' increases, it did not get far as Baines warned it could lead to a lawsuit by city unions. Yarger-Decker upped the work week from 35 to 40 hours. Lopez said one thing to look at is whether the extra hours are productive or whether the city could save by cutting back.

  21. 11/28   Wal-Mart Tests Unions in China, Just As China Unions Test Management
    FinancialWire via financialwire.net via COMTEX via Investor's Business Daily
    Just when Wal-Mart (WMT) thought it was safe to embrace unionism ' in China ' Chinese workers have found their John L. Lewis [US labor union leader] soul. Traditionally passive, Chinese unionists, who make everything from widgets to Nike (NKE) shoes, are suddenly turning aggressive and refusing to work at low wages so yankee dogs can live high on the hog. As Chinese workers look towards equality, of course, U.S. manufacturers may find it economically feasible in the long-term to return jobs to the U.S., boosting American employment rates. Stella International is a Taiwanese shoe manufacturer that employs 42,000 in China. Upwards of 500 angry workers recently rampaged through the company's facilities. U.S. retailers demanding better treatment and human rights for workers are said to be partly to "blame" for the newfound worker activism. Most workers are women, aged 18 to 22, who work on assembly lines for over 60 hours each week for salaries of about $120 a month. Most of them live in company dormitories and eat in company cafeterias, which can cost up to one-third of their meager paychecks. As villagers leave these conditions and return home, labor shortages are starting to occur. Earlier this month, some 1,000 workers walked out at an appliance factory in Guangzhou.; Among their demands: more overtime pay and more days off. They returned only after being granted overtime pay raises of $0.12 to $0.36 per hour and two days off each month. Wal-Mart may soon dream of a good old-fashioned AFL-CIO union back home.

  22. 11/28   Opinion - Workers surveyed say vacation time adequate
    Amarillo Globe News, TX
    By Dwayne Hartnett (dwayne.hartnett@amarillo.com)
    How many times have you heard a co-worker say, "I could use a vacation." The usual reply is, "Me, too." Based on that, it would appear most people in the workplace think they don't accrue enough vacation time. Time off, if you will, from work. For sure, few American companies give their employees as much time off as European firms do. The usual amount of "holiday" time, as the Europeans call it, is usually a full month in the summer months and an extra week at Christmas and Easter. That might make American companies sound like Grinches. Wrong. According to a new survey, most American companies aren't Grinches when it comes to giving their employees time off. 59% of employees polled by Office Team, a leading staffing service with operations in Amarillo and Lubbock, say they are satisfied with the amount of vacation time their employers provide. Another 25% say they are somewhat satisfied. Only 15% express discontent. The poll was developed by Office Team, which specializes in highly skilled administrative professionals. The company is a division of Robert Half International and is headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif. The company is also the parent for Accountemps, which also has offices in Amarillo and Lubbock. Conducted by an independent research firm, the survey included responses from 573 men and women, all 18 years of age or older, and employed. The respondents were asked: How satisfied are you with the amount of vacation time your employer provides? Their responses:
    Very satisfied 59%;
    Somewhat satisfied 25%;
    Not very satisfied 8%;
    Not at all satisfied 7%;
    Don't know/no answer 1%.
    The survey produced some additional, albeit expected, information, according to Diane Domeyer, Office Team executive director. "For many professionals, the challenge lies in not receiving days off but in finding time to take them," Domeyer said. "People often feel guilty about spending more than just a few days out of the office for fear of inconveniencing colleagues or returning to unmanageable workloads, especially if their firms are operating with lean staffing levels." Although employees may hesitate to take too much time off, passing up breaks can lead to burnout, according to Domeyer. "Instead of letting vacation days go unused, workers should schedule time off well in advance so their employers will have time to prepare for their absence," she said. Office Team services Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle out of its Lubbock office. Kayla Batenhorst, branch manager for Office Team in Amarillo and Lubbock, said local results mirror the national scene. "They are pretty synonymous with the results published from the survey," she said. Batenhorst agreed with Domeyer, especially on workers facing burnout, saying, "When a worker winds up experiencing burnout, it doesn't help him or her or the company they are working for." Batenhorst said the tenure of the company involved can affect the way the issue is handled: "Some employees fear that if they take too much time off from a new job with a new company, they will be replaced." That's highly unlikely with today's labor laws and relatively low unemployment. Not many companies are willing to lose an employee they have spent money training over something as petty as time off. It does happen. But not as much as in the old days. There were Grinches back then. Domeyer said these tips can lead to a smooth - and guilt-free - vacation:

  23. 11/28   Red tape claim is red herring, says TUC chief - Barber rejects jibe from employers' body and backs productivity drive
    Guardian, UK
    Larry Elliott
    The government should reject the CBI's "flimsy" complaints about red tape and instead concentrate on the real challenge of turning Britain into a high-productivity economy capable of meeting mounting global challenges, says the head of the TUC. Brendan Barber retaliated in an exclusive interview with the Guardian to the jibe from Digby Jones - the CBI's director general - that unions risked becoming irrelevant when he accused the employers' organisation of firing at the wrong target. Speaking ahead of Gordon Brown's pre-budget report on Thursday, which will sketch out the long-term challenges for Britain, Mr Barber said the unions had a key role to play in the necessary transformation of the economy in the coming years. The TUC general secretary said relations with the government had improved since the deal agreed at Warwick this year on worker-friendly policies to be pursued by a third Labour administration but expressed irritation at the CBI's influence over ministers. "The government is too respectful to the flimsy arguments of the CBI on some occasions. Britain is one of the most lightly regulated economies in the world, yet if you listen to the rhetoric of the CBI, an employer can't get through the door for all the government regulations that have been delivered by the postman that morning. "The CBI is firing at the wrong targets. The real challenges for a successful economy are to get investment right, to get more high performance workplaces, to build high trust relationships and to get communications right. The workforce has to be involved in major changes, and there has to be sustained investment in skills." Mr Barber said there was a strong correlation between the modernising agenda and trade union recognition. "Trade union representation is a vital part of the mix. Banging on about regulation, red tape and all the rest of it is shooting at the wrong target. Digby was a bit silly to say that unions risk becoming irrelevant. I didn't take it too seriously. Digby doesn't mind being a bit provocative, as is his wont." Countering the argument that unions might become irrelevant, Mr Barber said unionised workplaces paid better, were more likely to invest in skills, were safer and were more likely to have equal pay and flexible working. The real challenge was to deliver a high performance and high productivity economy. "It's about real flexibility not just about hire and fire. The sterile argument about red tape is not meaningful. If we want to address that central challenge we can't have the relentless drip-drip from the CBI and other employers' lobbies complaining about regulation." One of the tests of strength between the TUC and the CBI is the EU's working time directive - whether workers should be allowed to work more than 48 hours a week. Mr Jones has described attempts by unions to regulate working time as a return to the 1970s, but Mr Barber said: "People who work long hours don't always have free choice. Pay structures force them to work unduly long hours. Would they like to work shorter hours? You bet they would. A third of those who have signed opt-outs allowing them to work more than 48 hours said they were under duress when they did so. "Britain works the longest hours in Europe. Working time should be better managed, but the row has allowed employers to sidestep the issue rather than getting their act together."

  24. 11/28   Here for the long run - Americans are living and staying active longer, but increasing longevity could create problems for society
    Newsday, NY
    [We view current increasing American longevity as a temporary function of recent medical advances coupled with the still high retirement support available to older Americans. Once the slashed retirement support cuts in, Americans will start dying younger and younger, as other Third World residents do.]
    Rhoda Kaye's friends from her days in community theater - "the girls," she calls them - are all in their 80s now. But just try keeping up with them. Over French toast and tuna melts at The Three Star Diner in Queens last month, Jacqueline Barsh, 80, suggested they stage a reading of a new play. Kaye, 85, would be perfect for one of the parts. Sylvia Popkin, who's 87 - and still sings a cappella at a shelter for battered women each Mother's Day - will be the 'producer.' By the way, Kaye said over coffee, the fashion show she participated inraised thousands of dollars for charity. (She modeled a white sequined evening gown with flutter sleeves.) These octogenarians are the new face of aging in America. People are living longer - and remaining active and independent for longer, as well. Average life expectancy is 74 for men and almost 80 for women, up from 48 and 51, respectively, in 1900. As more seniors stave off the infirmities and disabilities of old age, and a lower percentage become chronically disabled or institutionalized, they are enjoying a greatly enhanced quality of life. But while many people may relish the idea of a long life - usually with the proviso that they retain their health - increasing longevity has potentially ominous implications for society as a whole. In 2011, the first baby boomers will turn 65 - a date to be marked by the ballooning of the ranks of senior citizens, with resulting pressure on such resources as health care, private pension and Social Security. Even as scientists continue to unravel the molecular and genetic secrets of aging, some ethicists and futurists are beginning to ask whether longevity is an inherently good thing - and whether we're prepared for the consequences. For as the elderly will occupy an ever-greater proportion of the population - many with years of health and independence - millions more will need care for chronic debilitating illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease and arthritis. "Are we going to have large numbers of vigorous, healthy, involved, very productive people - or lonely, bored, not very healthy and dependent people?" asked Dr. Donald Louria, professor of preventive medicine and community health at New Jersey Medical School. Loria hosted a daylong conference at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in the spring on "Creating Very Old People: Individual Blessing or Societal Disaster?" He posed the potential plight for individuals: "Suppose we can rejuvenate the body, and not the mind? Or the mind, and not the body?" And George Roth, a former National Institute of Aging scientist, suggested that vitality, not longevity, should be the goal. "You don't want to live to 120 if you're going to be sick for 50 years," he said. But researchers no longer believe that prolonging longevity necessarily leads to a prolonged period of debilitation. Several large studies have shown that as life expectancy has increased over time, the period of disease and disability that typically precedes death has generally been postponed and compressed, said Dr. Richard Suzman, associate director for behavioral and social research at the National Institute of Aging.
    Less likely to be disabled
    The percentage of chronically disabled elderly is declining: A national long-term care survey found a drop from 25% in 1984 to 20% in 1999. And for super-seniors - those 90-94 - the news was even better: 47 percent were severely disabled in 1984, but only 39% in 1999. (The survey classifies people as severely disabled if they are unable to perform everyday activities such as eating, dressing and bathing without help.) Rhoda Kaye and her friends are going strong. Kaye still drives and manages her own household in Queens Village, and until a few years ago she sang professionally. She recently had cataracts surgically repaired, but other than that her medical problems are those of midlife: slipped discs and high blood pressure. She has started working out with weights, after successful therapy for back problems at Parker Jewish Geriatric Institute in Lake Success. "I'm into the health scene," she said. "I only cook with olive oil or canola oil and I'm extremely careful about everything I eat; I'm practically a vegetarian ... And I wash my hands 100 times a day!" Her friends are similarly active: Barsh, an off-Broadway actress who lives in Great Neck, goes to a gym twice a week and takes a jazz dance class. Popkin, of Glen Oaks, makes the rounds visiting her five children, sevengrandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Ann Rennick, 86, of Queens Village is a bridge fiend who plays at senior centers and hosts parties: She's even talked the ladies into playing for money - a quarter each. Dorothy Harrison, an 81-year-old Sea Cliff woman who still does volunteer work at North Shore Hospital at Glen Cove, attributed her good health to excellent care that wasn't available to blacks years ago. Her own mother died at 38 of a heart attack apparently caused by high blood pressure; Harrison said she takes medicine to keep her own pressure in check. "My doctor does a very thorough workup, not like in those days, when you paid the doctor two dollars and he told you everything was OK," Harrison said. "I feel like I'm in my late 40s."
    Inequitites persist
    Average life expectancy for blacks is 72.2, however, five and a half years lower than the 77.7 for whites. Other inequities persist as well, according to a recent Federal Interagency Forum aging report that found only 52 percent of older blacks and 36% of older Hispanics had a high school education, compared to 76% of older whites. It also found the median net worth of older white households was $205,000 in 2001, five times higher than that of blacks, $41,000. As for men, while their life expectancy is not as long as that of women, the gap has begun to narrow, declining steadily from the 7.5-year gap in women's favor in 1980 to a 5.5-year gap in 2001, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Rocky Imerti, 81, who lives in Glen Cove and is president of a social club and financial officer for his American Legion post, says remaining active is key. "I didn't do much at first after retiring, but I couldn't think right," he said, adding he still does his own yard work, even chopping wood. "Hard work never killed anybody." The impact extends beyond the plight of individuals. The oldest-old - those 85 and older - are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts there will be 15 million Americans in that category by 2040, more than quadrupling the 3.6 million in 1995.
    A third to be at least 50
    People 65 and over, now just under 13% of the population, are expected to reach 20% by 2030. And just 16 years from now, a third of the country will be at least 50. Dan Perry, who heads the nonprofit Alliance for Aging Research, says we have no choice: Older people are here to stay, and steps must be taken to improve the quality of their lives. "It's not like we're suddenly going to be invaded by aliens from outer space - these people are here now," Perry said. But some scientists say too little is spent on longevity research. "For every $100 NIH [the National Institutes of Health] spends on research in biomedicine, exactly 6 cents are spent" on research focusing on the mechanism of aging, said University of Michigan researcher Dr. Richard Miller, who studies genetics and aging in strains of mice that live 40 percent longer than ordinary mice. "If what we do in mice were applied to people, many 100-year-olds would be as vigorous as today's 75-year-olds." Dr. Miller admits his estimate is subjective; in fact, the National Institute of Aging receives about 3.5% of National Institutes of Health total funding. But officials say the funding pays for research that focuses primarily on improving the health of older people and curing Alzheimer's, not on longevity per se, though the two areas overlap. Some biomedical ethicists, futurists and even aging experts oppose research designed solely to increase longevity. They say most advances in lifespan over the past century are due to such developments as water purification and better sanitation, nutrition, and housing. Medical advances have contributed in recent decades as heart disease and the dangers of smoking have become understood. Society will do well to invest resources in early childhood development and education and improved prenatal care - all of which are associated with better health outcomes and longer life, according to Dr. Robert Butler, president of the International Longevity Society in Manhattan, a research and public policy center affiliated with Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Education, in particular, plays a powerful role in predicting longevity, for reasons that are not entirely understood. Simply extending the lifespan could lead to "social disaster," said Daniel Callahan, an ethicist at the Hastings Center. He foresees nasty intergenerational battles over prime jobs as one possible outcome - a trend already evident at universities today, he said, where there is intense competition for each tenure track position that opens up, as older professors remain on the job. "Evolution is kind of smart that it knocks off those of us who are elderly to make room for the young," said Callahan, quickly adding that he is a senior himself. "I'm 74."
    Dementia could strike many
    Other experts worry about the increasing number of frail centenarians whose care will fall on the shoulders of adult children who are 60 or 70 themselves. Among the so-called 'super-old' will be many with dementia, since advancing age is the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's. The disease affects half of those over 85. An estimated 4.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease today, a figure that has doubled since 1980 and will grow to at least 11 million over the next 45 years, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The cost of care each year is estimated at $100 billion. The burgeoning senior ranks will put more stress on the health care system, increasing the demands on Medicare, which covers everyone 65 and older and is already facing a deficit. Research shows the elderly use about 30% of the nation's health care dollars, and those 85 and over rack up more than double the health costs of 65-year-olds. Parkinson disease, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and almost all types of cancer increase with age. The increased health care needs will inevitably drain government resources away from the needs of younger generations for such basics as education, warned Bruce Vladeck, professor of health policy and geriatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a former administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid. "We will spend more on what elderly people need, and less on everything else," Vladeck said. Private pensions and the Social Security system will be stressed as the ratio of workers to beneficiaries continues to fall: It was 16-to-1 in 1950 and is 3.3-to-1 today. Within 40 years it will be 2-to-1. Government reports have predicted Social Security will experience shortfalls by 2018 if adjustments aren't made. The threatened programs are the very ones that are lifelines for many senior citizens today. Fewer elderly live in penury now than in the past, as the percentage of elderly in poverty has declined from 35% in 1959 to 10% in 2002.
    Postponing retirement
    One of the questions futurists ask is whether workers will continue to retire by age 65, only to survive - and collect pensions and Social Security - for another 30 to 40 years. They may elect to postpone retirement, but many older people are plagued by losses of function, especially sensory losses. Close to half of all older men and nearly one-third of older women have trouble hearing without a hearing aid, surveys show, and vision problems affect almost one in five, even with glasses or contact lenses. Some experts say more research needs to be directed at developing simple devices that will improve quality of life - like better hearing aids. Often it has been the low-tech inventions - canes and walkers, not to mention adaptive housing, elevators and microwave ovens - that have been critical in enabling the elderly to maintain independence. Preventive care and exercise help many maintain their mobility and independence, and the Glen Cove Senior Center's morning exercise classes have a steady following. Many routines are done in a seated position, using balls, weights or bands, to maximize participation. The focus is on building strength in the extremities and improving balance and coordination, skills that can prevent falls. Fay Graziose, who's 85, has been coming to the center for 23 years. "I had open heart surgery five years ago, and came right back to the exercise class," she said. She and her younger sister, Rose Trotta, who's 80, belong to a singing group ("The Stardusters") that performs at local community centers. "I sing, and she plays piano or keyboards," Graziose said. Olga "Jo" Plaut, who lives in Glen Head and just turned 80, squeezes the classes into her busy schedule of volunteer work at the local hospital emergency room and at a thrift store, a Great Books reading group and season tickets to several classical concert series. "It's hard to get old - it's hard work," she said. "I'm not a person who gives up easily. If it hurts here or it hurts there ... You push yourself, and you go on." Some demographers believe life expectancy has yet to reach its ceiling. In the future, they say, individuals will adjust the mix of work, leisure and education to accommodate a longer life span. Retirement may be postponed until 70 or even 80 to alleviate the financial concerns of an extended pension. Instead of life's route consisting of about 25 years of education, 35 years in the workforce and "the final 40 years in enforced leisure," says James Vaupel, a member of the U.S. National Advisory Council on Aging, younger adults could reduce work hours while they have small children but invest more in their careers later in life. The NIA's Suzman acknowledges that longevity presents its share of challenges - but "at the same time, I'd say it's one of the triumphs of the last century."

  25. 11/28   EDITORIAL: Nevada's elite class - More evidence that public sector workers in the Silver State have it too good
    Las Vegas Review-Journal, NV
    [The state containing Las Vegas, the capital of pleasure and leisure, is COMPLAINING about somebody having it "too good"???]
    Nevadans received another warning last week about the looming fiscal crisisthat will result from the stratospheric salaries paid to local government workers. A Reno Gazette-Journal analysis of the Census Bureau's 2003 Annual Survey of State and Local Government Employment and Payroll found Nevada's public-sector work force has the fifth-highest average salary in the nation. Among the findings: firefighters rank second nationally, police rank fifth and teachers rank 15th. Through the wonders of collective bargaining, municipal and county workers have become the elite class in Nevada. On average, they are paid substantially more than the private-sector worker. They enjoy annual pay increases that vastly outstrip those awarded in the business world. They have more holidays and more vacation pay. They can accrue vast amounts of sick leave, and they pay little or nothing for their health insurance. They have a lucrative defined-benefit pension plan that guarantees their high pay will continue into early retirement. Nowhere in the private sector can such sweet guarantees be found. Predictably, those with a stake in the gold mine of government employment downplayed the Gazette-Journal's findings, which echo figures reported in this newspaper for years. Officials talk of the need to offer "competitive" pay, lest their entire payroll dump their four-bedroom homes and flee for greener pastures. Terry Hickman, president of the Nevada State Education Association, had the gall to tell the Gazette-Journal that the state's sizable contribution to each teacher's retirement "is not a salary." Tell that to anyone whose employer doesn't match 401(k) contributions. In Clark County, the skyrocketing costs of employee salaries and benefits has left the government virtually unable to expand its services to meet theneeds of the valley's ever-growing population. Voters had to approve a sales tax increase to put more police on the streets. Eventually, all Nevadans - including public workers - will pay dearly for the lucrative salaries and benefits that pervade government employment in the Silver State. One need only look at the city of San Diego and major U.S. airlines, which are flirting with bankruptcy because of the high cost of employee salaries and pensions. The lesson: Don't bet your future on promises that can't be kept. Nevada's elected leaders, union officials and public workers can whistle while they cash their checks for now - the state's economy and population are growing at a healthy clip while unemployment is at its lowest rate on record. One day, harder times will return, and taxpayers aren't likely to feel pity for those who have lived so well at their expense.

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