Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, July 2009
[Commentary] ©2004-09 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
7/31/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Shorter lines, better discounts at Disney World thanks to national recession, by Peggy Macdonald, Examiner.com.
ORLANDO, Fla. - Shorter lines and lengthened promotional discounts on resort hotels and dining plans are among the benefits travelers to Walt Disney World enjoy as the national recession lingers.
Although the Christmas and New Year's Eve 2008 holiday season remained strong at Disney World, attendance at Disney theme parks and resort hotels has declined dramatically in 2009.
Magic Kingdom cast members report that for the first time in years, Disney did not "close the gates" on July 4, referring to the traditional practice of closing the gates to Disney theme parks when attendance reaches the highest permissable level. The 4th of July is typically one of Disney World's busiest days, and the gates to all four of Disney's theme parks usually close by the early afternoon.
Park attendance also declined sharply after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania; and during the busy 2004 hurricane season, when Disney World closed its theme parks on select days for the first time in Disney World history. The current recession has resulted in the layoffs of thousands of cast members, reductions in sceduled hours for cast members, and a noticeable dip in travel to Disney World.
Summer travel typically generates heavy traffic at Walt Disney World's theme parks and resort hotels. As the national recession wears on, however, the world's greatest tourist destination is taking a hit. Traffic at the Magic Kingdom's gift shops has remained slow this summer, according to cast members. Lines for the monorail to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot tend to be slow during what would have been peak hours before the recession. Yet lines for the ferry boat to the Magic Kingdom have been slightly longer than usual in the wake of the fatal monorail crash July 5.
[Whoa - didn't hear about THAT!]
Disney's profit margin continues to wane as the recession lingers, yet this is good news for travelers. Disney World has extended its free dining promotion for guests who stay at Walt Disney World resort hotels for 3 to 14 nights for travel through December 17. With fewer people traveling to Disney World, Disney passholders and Florida residents can plan spontaneous trips to Disney and still take advantage of discounted resort hotel rates and greater availability at Disney's themed restaurants.
- Six ways bosses can cut your pay – and what to do about it, by Laurent Belsie, Christian Science Monitor.
Did you survive the massive layoffs of 2008 and early 2009? Congratulations. Now, watch out for the pay cut.
It probably won’t come as a direct salary or wage reduction. Managers know that’s demoralizing. So they’re finding other, more creative ways to trim. Here are six to watch out for:
1) Delay the start date. Some law firms are waiting months before bringing their new hires onboard and, in some cases, lowering starting salaries, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported in its survey of business conditions released Wednesday.
2) Raise the pay, lower the benefits. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston said while two-thirds of the companies it surveyed had raised worker pay this year, some had also cut benefits or announced delays in future raises.
3) Cut the retirement plan. Media General, owner of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch and other newspapers, announced in January that it would stop matching employee contributions to their 401(k) retirement plans at least through the end of the year. It joins more than 260 US companies that have announced plans to change or suspend matching contributions, according to the Pension Rights Center.
4) Slash the hours. Hardinge, a machine toolmaker in Elmira, N.Y., could have laid off 20 people but instead chose to cut the work week for most of its workers to four days. It’s an increasingly common technique that private employers and, especially, state and local governments, are using to save money while holding on to their workers. The mandatory furlough – say, a week off with no pay – is a variation on this.
[Number 4, my favorite number. The sacred number of native Americans - the four directions! (never mind Up and Down). Interesting four-letter words! The four persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, Comforter, Joker)...]
5) Lease the workers. It’s not just US companies facing recession pressures. British telecommunications giant BT is encouraging its work force to work elsewhere temporarily. (I’m not making this up.) In the past, BT let its employees work for government agencies and charities (who picked up the tab). Now, it’s urging them to work for other private companies. Not direct competitors, a spokesman told the Daily Mail last month, but those in “like-minded industries.”
6) Make ‘em part-timers. BT, again. Full-time workers get a £1,000 bonus ($1,650) if they switch to part-time status. There’s a perk for parents: They can take all of summer vacation off to spend with their children.
These strategies are emerging now because many corporations have already engineered massive layoffs and don’t want to have too few workers when the economy rebounds.
“Companies have recognized they don’t want to cut any more of their workers,” says Steve Gross, global rewards consulting leader at Mercer consulting firm, in a telephone interview. But a recovery is too distant for managers to tough it out without cost cuts, so they’re looking for ways to trim compensation, he adds.
Worldwide wage pressure
It’s a global phenomenon. Compared with the previous six months, fewer companies are planning layoffs through the end of the year, according to Mercer, which surveyed in May more than 2,100 employers operating in over 90 countries. But moves to cut employee compensation are on the rise, Mercer’s data show (click on chart above).
Although companies all over the world are trimming compensation, the trends are most acute in the United States, according to the survey. For example: Six in 10 US companies reported that they had trimmed 2009 bonuses. Some 18 percent planned to ask their employees to work fewer hours or take a pay cut in the following six months, up from 11 percent in the previous six months; 15 percent planned to use more temporary or part-time workers, up from 13 percent.
Some firms are also cutting pay directly, but it’s not a popular option. “Very few companies, it’s still in single digits, actually cut wages,” Mr. Gross says.
A first for white-collar Americans
Many hourly workers, especially those in hard-hit manufacturing industries or the airlines, have battled such compensation cuts on and off for the past three decades. They often had contracts and unions to help limit the givebacks. Many European and Latin American nations have worker-protection laws that limit what employers can do. But salaried American workers in white-collar industries, many of whom have never faced such Depression-era moves, are largely unprotected and on their own.
So what can you do in the face of a benefit trim or salary cut?
If your employer has cut your hours because business has dried up, that’s not necessarily a bad sign. Your hours may well increase once business picks up, Gross says. If she cuts your salary, that’s a signal that that pay may not necessarily come back once things improve.
“When your supervisor breaks the news to you about your pay cut, do not accept anything immediately,” writes Caroline Potter for Yahoo! HotJobs. “What you want to do is buy yourself some time. Why? You need to find out all the facts surrounding a salary reduction before you accept it.”
A tough assessment
Take a hard look at your company and industry, decide whether it’s better to stay or leave, and then negotiate with your current boss – or look for another job.
When you’re ready, ask your manager how long it will last, what impact it might have on other benefits, and whether its being applied across the board, writes Paul Barada, a salary and negotiation expert at Monster.com
Eventually, you may be able to ask to recoup your lost pay, writes Tara Weiss of Forbes.com. But come prepared with examples to show your manager why you deserve it.
These days, nothing in the workplace is guaranteed.
- Plumetting revenue forcing Ultralife to cut expenses 10 percent, by Matthew Daneman, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Wayne County, NY.
Faced with sizable operating losses, Ultralife Corp. is taking steps to cut its operating expenses 10 percent by year's end.
The Wayne County-based power source and communications equipment manufacturer laid off more than a dozen employees in early July and started a four-day work week, said Chief Financial Officer John Casper. The company also is cutting back on discretionary spending such as travel and use of consultants, Casper said.
The steps are designed to reduce its quarterly operating expenses from $13 million to $11 million by year's end, he said.
For the three months that ended June 28, Ultralife had sales of $39.6 million — less than half the $87.9 million it booked in the same three months a year earlier. According to Ultralife, the drop was due to lower revenues from its advanced communications systems. Partially offsetting that drop was a $7 million increase in revenues from rechargeable and non-rechargeable power products.
For the quarter, Ultralife had a net loss of $7 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with a profit of $6.4 million, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier.
Ultralife stock closed Thursday at $5.87, down 33 cents, or more than 5 percent.
In a statement, CEO John D. Kavazanjian said revenues were particularly hit by delays in government and Defense Department orders and by the recession.
For the second half of the year, Ultralife is predicting revenues of $100 million to $130 million and profits of $1 million to $10 million.
Ultralife employs more than 750 at its Newark manufacturing plant and headquarters.
- Are [EU 48 hrs/wk limits on] doctors' hours a danger to patients? by Carol Lewis [no relation to Lewis Carroll], London Times via TimesOnline.co.uk.
[First, arguments for long doctors' hours ('YES'). Afterward, arguments for shorter doctors' hours, if you call 48 hrs/wk 'short' ('NO')]
Mr John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons
The European Working Time Directive was designed for the wellbeing of manual industrial workers and lorry drivers. Other workers such as those on oil rigs and in domestic service are not covered. Yet doctors are bound by it. For some medical groups this is not an issue because they can work 48 hours a week comfortably — GPs who are not on call, for example.
But surgeons have to do both elective surgery and have an out-of-hours responsibility for emergency surgery. In accident and emergency centres (A&E) the work is intensive, 24 hours a day and doctors need to work shifts. There are not enough doctors to work a 48-hour week.
Out-of-hours operations are urgent cases and you need to have senior people instantly available. Whereas you might have had a team of three in the past, now you might have just one doctor having to work frantically. The patient sees thin layers of cover and frequent handovers between doctors.
Handing over a patient is complicated. Patients get confused and frightened because they have to repeat their stories. This is dangerous — as was demonstrated in Mid Staffordshire where there was only one doctor working for 12 hours with a consultant covering from home. Another inquiry into post-operative deaths for renal failure found the directive was implicated in half the cases. High frequency handovers and rushed doctors on exhausting shift systems are real risks to patient safety — far more than the total number of hours worked. There is no credible evidence that a 48-hour limit offers any benefit.
Another EU directive states that when you are in the hospital you are in work. When it is quiet, doctors are often resting or asleep. But if you sleep for eight hours it is counted as “work”.
The directive will be a disaster for training. Surgery is a craft. When training you need to be shown procedures and carry them out under close supervision for a large number of operations. Under the directive, most junior doctors’ hours are used to provide out-of-hours calls. We heard about one trainee who in one four-week period had just one session with a consultant.
In America they have had the same debate and decided on 80 hours. We think 60-65 hours (including time spent on-call) is workable with fewer handovers and it is much safer for patients. The Government could negotiate an “opt-out” or choose to ignore the directive as many other European countries have. Many EU directives have been broken in the financial sector, eg, nationalising the banks. If they can do it to save the economy, why not the NHS? It is better that doctors opt out as a group. NHS Trusts do not like individuals opting out. They cannot organise rotas unless everyone works the same hours.
If there is a swine flu epidemic the directive will cause mayhem. Beds will be needed, operations will be delayed and the extra hours that doctors need to work will have to be paid back later, closing down large areas of the NHS.
Dr John Coakley, medical director at the Homerton Hospital in London
When my father was training as a doctor he used to work 120 hours a week.
[Just a few years ago, the USA cut medical trainees' hours from 120 to 80/week - what a comfort!]
Most of my training was 72-84 hours a week and he thought I was getting an easy life. Now my son is a doctor and I think he is getting an easy life. The hours are being whittled down as expectations change. This is a good thing for work-life balance.
For a junior doctor at the start of his or her career, the new directive is good, but senior doctors have a tendency to look down and say “these young doctors are not getting enough training”.
Working too much is bad for anyone. If a surgeon has worked for more than 12 hours I do not want him operating on me. Doctors are no different to lorry drivers. They have the same body clocks: they are dangerous when tired. There have been several deaths attributed to tired doctors. Working a 48-hour week with limited shift lengths is safer for the doctor, which means less harm to patients.
[Gawd, where did they FIND this guy - he's soooo SENSIBLE!]
The directive doesn’t apply to senior executives but is there to protect employees. Typically junior doctors have no control over their work. Consultants are capable of putting pressure on juniors to work excessive hours. A lot of the time I spent doing an 80-hour week I was in bed in the hospital. As a taxpayer I don’t want to pay a doctor to lie in bed on the off chance they might be called. They can go home and be called in as necessary. Again a better work-life balance.
Long hours do not deliver better training or experience. When I was training I did the occasional 100-hour week, but most was not in the presence of the consultant. We were hanging around for long hours picking up experience as we went, with very little senior support. With the right system you should be able to deliver good training in a shorter working week.
We cannot carry on doing things as we used to. At Homerton we have changed the way we deliver training and emergency admissions in preparation for the new rules, by allowing junior doctors to spend four and a half months doing their speciality with no on-call, weekends or emergency admissions — only training. They then spend six weeks doing only emergency admissions. Training has improved and our mortality rate has gone down.
[There's the bottom line which is missing from the contrary arguments above.]
Handovers have been with us since 2003 when the maximum shift length was set at 13 hours. The key is to supervise them properly. If you look at the directive as employing more doctors to plug the rota gaps you will fail. It will lead to huge financial overspend and poor training.
The 48-hour week is averaged out over six months. If there is a particular night you stay longer because something interesting happens or you want to learn something that is fine.
Most of Europe does less than a 48-hour week. These are health and safety rules for protecting employees. Doctors are human beings, therefore they should be subject to the same rules as everyone else.
[Amen to that!]
- Germany's jobless queue set to hit 4.7 million in 2010, TheLocal.de.
Unemployment in Germany will climb even further than previously feared, with 4.7 million people out of work in 2010, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) predicted this week.
[Ah, let's see - something like Deutsche Institut fuer Wirtschaftsversuch? - we're guessing here...]
The Berlin-based institute estimated that at least 1 million more people would lose their jobs over the next 12 months.
As the worst recession since World War II takes a firmer grip on Europe’s biggest economy, the government’s own figures revealed this week that unemployment had risen to 8.2 percent in June, with nearly 3.5 million people out of work.
“In almost every sector of the economy, productivity has fallen in 2009,” the DIW report states.
With exports barely showing signs of recovery, the growth prospects for 2010 were looking dimmer than before with the economy recovering by 0.5 percent if at all, the report went on.
“Production has, after a free-fall, bottomed out,” DIW president Klaus F. Zimmermann said in the statement. “Indeed, there is the threat of a longer cyclical low without a foreseeable end. The most optimistic outlook offers only a small rise.”
“In the next year, the jobless figure will probably reach double figures and the number of people without work will climb to an average of 4.7 million for 2010,” he continued.
The Kurzarbeit mechanism, in which the government subsidises companies to put workers onto shorter hours rather than lay them off, had probably reached the limit of its effectiveness, Zimmermann said.
[Only if you keep imposing on general tax revenues on a 'temporary' basis. But switch to a permanent confiscatory tax on overtime (OT) profits, with an exemption for reinvestment in OT-targeted training&hiring, and the Kurzarbeit (short work alias worksharing) is effective and sustainable indefinitely and without limit.]
The Local (firstname.lastname@example.org)
7/30/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Peculiar city staff's payroll cut, by Allen Edmonds and Brad Seiner, Cass County Democrat Missourian.
[We are not making this up. There is actually a town in Missouri called "Peculiar."]
Following last week’s vote by the Peculiar Board of Aldermen to find a way to cut 10 percent of the city staff’s payroll, board members agreed Tuesday night during a special meeting on just how to accomplish the task.
The board unanimously ruled in favor of a furlough package, adopting a resolution that will provide an across-the-board policy to all, full-time staff members.
Peculiar city administrator Brad Ratliff was instructed on July 21 to come up with ways to cut the payroll by 10 percent, he said. Ratliff came to the meeting Tuesday night with two choices: first, an across-the-board 10 percent salary reduction for all employees; and second, the furlough package.
The furlough will not decrease the amount of money staff members will make per hour worked, but will decrease the amount of hours worked so that a 10 percent reduction in pay results. The furlough will go into effect during the first pay period of August and will run through Oct. 1, 2010.
The city’s three exempt employees, including Ratliff, will take one full week off with no pay every 10 weeks, according to the policy. That will work out to six weeks off with no pay during the next 14 months. The remaining nonexempt employees must take one half day every week or one full day every two weeks (or pay period) without pay.
Ratliff explained the amount of funds the city would be saving through both packages. With the 10-percent across-the-board salary cut, the city would save $157,987. The furlough package actually saves the city more money, bringing the total to $161,000.
“This was considered by the board as a palatable option as (opposed) to eliminating positions and putting people out of work all together,” said Ward 2 Alderman Holly Stark.
Several city staff members were on hand Tuesday night, hoping to voice their opinions and ask questions regarding the cuts. Jim Dorion, a police patrolman, and Ty Erickson, city codes officer, told the board they believe the furlough is the better of the two options for the city’s employees because it would not effect their vacation, sick leave or benefits.
“In the furlough position, among employees, it’s more to their favor,” Dorion said.
Erickson gave his opinion, then told the board, the next time there is a need to cut budget, come to the employees first.
“When you’re re-doing your budget, these people seated right out here have the best ideas for how to save money,” Erickson said.
Even by implementing the furlough, the city will still fall short of revenue to keep the current budget balanced, Ratliff said.
“Is this going to bring us to the break-even point now?” Ward 3 Alderman Jim Antonides asked.
Mayor Ernie Jungmeyer said no, and Ratliff said the city will still be down about 7 percent for the year.
“We’re already as low as we’re going to go,” Jungmeyer said, when asked whether there would be more changes the remainder of the fiscal year. “We will be saving a little bit here and there, it’s not enough to cut into (the deficit).”
Jungmeyer said Peculiar will continue searching for more ways to save bring in revenue, saying “the city is actively pursuing every method of additional revenue we can.”
One idea from the board came from Ward 1 Alderman Oren Bates, who wondered if there was any contract labor city employees could do. But, Stark said, it would be difficult to put a heavier workload on employees who now have a shorter work week.
“That’s an idea, but I want you to think about it,” Stark said. “You’re wanting these folks to take on more job responsibilities in four hours a week less time. I don’t think you have a lot of people sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Everybody’s supposed to be busy all the time, now you’re taking four hours out of their work week, saying “you still have to get the same amount of work done.”
“I think you need to be careful about saying what more we can we pile on them,” she said.
The conversation turned to balancing the budget. The city presents a budget at the beginning of the fiscal year, hoping to bring in enough revenue for the numbers to balance. Every quarter, Ratliff and the board discuss budget amendments and ways to continue the balancing process.
Stark asked if the board passed a balanced budget to start the year. She was answered with a “yes.”
“And through each quarterly budget amendment, our budget has continued to balance?” Stark asked. “So, it’s just been this last quarter that blind sided us?”
“The belly dropped out,” Ratliff said.
The news of a shortfall hit the board hard and took members by surprise, according to Antonides.
“I’m at the point now where I would like to see a monthly breakdown of where we’re sitting because this quarter fell into our laps a lot faster than we anticipated,” Antonides said. “I got the feeling we were sitting
OK, then all of a sudden it’s like we didn’t see something not happening.”
Following the July 21 directive from the board, Ratliff met with the city’s staff to come up with ideas, giving the employees some say in the matter, Ratliff said. Ward 1 Alderman Steve Smith and Ward 2 Alderman Pat Roberts praised to the staff during Tuesday’s discussion.
“I just wanted to thank staff,” Roberts said. “I’m just thrilled that you guys came up with a solution. Having to talk about pay cuts, it’s just a horrible place to go. If we can find a way around it and get through this time and come out in the end and keep ourselves whole and at the current level ... I think all of you know how much I value you as a staff.”
- European Truck Maker's Profit Slides 95 Percent - Sales, orders slump with no turnaround in sight for MAN SE, by Bruce Barnard, The Journal of Commerce Online.
MAN SE rounded off a miserable reporting season for Europe’s truck makers by unveiling a 95 percent plunge in second quarter net profit amid plummeting sales and orders.
The Munich-based truck and engineering group earned $30.8 million in the three months to June 30 against $618.8 million a year ago as sales slumped 20 percent to $4.3 billion.
Operating profit fell 73 percent to $202 million.
“The global recession had a similar effect … in the second quarter as at the beginning of the year,” said MAN chief executive officer Hakan Samuelsson. “Incoming orders are low and a turn round is currently not in sight.”
Samuelsson said the truck unit suffered a “severe setback” with a second quarter order intake just 38 percent of the year earlier figure.
Truck orders in the first half collapsed 65 percent to 17,390 units from 54,227 units in the 2008 period, prompting the company to halt production for 10 weeks and introduce shorter hours through the rest of the year.
First half truck sales shrunk 57 percent to 21,296 units from 50,070 units and revenue was down 44 percent at $3.64 billion. Sales in Russia have virtually ground to a halt, MAN said.
The truck division booked a first half operating profit, however, of $25.2 million thanks to the contribution of MAN Latin America, the Volkswagen truck and bus operation in Brazil which MAN acquired for around $2 billion in March.
MAN said it is continuing to grow its truck business despite the global economic crisis. It recently agreed to take a stake of 25 percent plus one share in Sinotruk, China’s leading heavy truck maker.
“This creates an even broader base for our successful international growth – in particular in the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries,” MAN said.
Looking ahead, “our results remain under pressure and we are not expecting an improvement in the short term,” Samuelsson said.
Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.
7/29/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- House Proposal Aims to Boost Airline Safety, by CHRISTOPHER CONKEY and ANDY PASZTOR, WSJ, A2 & online.wsj.com.
WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of lawmakers plans Wednesday to introduce legislation aimed at curbing pilot fatigue and beefing up training, as part of a far-reaching bid to improve airline safety.
Responding to a high-profile commuter plane crash earlier this year, lawmakers are slated to introduced a bill in a House committee focusing on human errors that can lead to airline accidents. The legislation envisions overhauling the way airlines hire, train and manage their flight crews.
The proposal drew criticism Tuesday from an airline-industry group, but it has bipartisan support from senior House members, and the Senate is considering similar but less-sweeping measures.
Congress is targeting airline safety after the National Transportation Safety Board called attention to mistakes by apparently tired pilots at the controls of Colgan Air flight 3407, a commuter plane that claimed 50 lives when it crashed outside Buffalo, N.Y., in February. The NTSB is still investigating the crash.
House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D., Ill.), the main sponsor of the House bill, called his proposals "a serious effort to consolidate what we know industrywide about aviation safety." Some of the proposals could entail significant extra costs for carriers, along with substantial management changes inside the Federal Aviation Administration.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D., W.V.) said the Senate must "take the necessary steps now to make certain that one level of safety exists across the entire commercial airline system." Mr. Rockefeller and other FAA critics have said commuter pilots often work more grueling schedules and receive less training than pilots at larger airlines, but regional carriers contend they all meet minimum safety standards.
Details uncovered in the NTSB's Colgan investigation portrayed the two pilots as distracted and ill-equipped to prevent and respond to the midair stall that occurred as the plane descended toward Buffalo in icy conditions.
The House bill would require the Federal Aviation Administration to update and tighten regulations covering everything from cockpit training and pre-employment screening to the sharing of voluntary safety data among large carriers and commuter airlines. It ratchets up pressure on both the FAA and airlines to embrace changes long demanded by pilot union leaders and independent safety experts.
Among other requirements, the House bill calls for carriers to tailor training for pilots based on their experience and type of aircraft they are flying. The FAA also would be required to do more to oversee remedial training of pilots who performed poorly on flight tests, and airlines would have to set up formal mentoring programs to help junior pilots.
To crack down on sleepy pilots, the legislation orders the FAA to draft new scheduling rules and fatigue-prevention plans within a year based on the latest sleep research. In a controversial move that could alienate some airline employees, the bill also calls for regulators to consider potentially negative safety consequences from pilots who routinely fly long distances and may report for duty already fatigued.
Going further than other air-safety bills in recent years, the House package sets higher minimum experience levels across the board, affecting newly hired pilots. And it calls for re-evaluating the traditional length of training periods.
For the first time, regulators once a year would be required to specifically tell Congress how they are carrying out safety recommendations from the NTSB.
The main trade group representing U.S. airlines took issue with the House bill. Air Transport Association President James May said airlines and regulators are already "fully engaged in determining the best course of action in response to the Colgan Air accident."
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency is working on revamped fatigue rules, has updated some pilot-training regulations and continues to hold public workshops across the U.S. addressing other issues raised in the House bill.
Spokesmen for Colgan Air Inc. and Continental Airlines Inc., Colgan's partner in the flight that crashed near Buffalo, declined to comment.
Write to Christopher Conkey at firstname.lastname@example.org and Andy Pasztor at email@example.com
- Fort Myers hammers out budget, by gabriella souza, The News-Press.
The Fort Myers City Council plans to raise the tax rate by 24 cents to $7.40 per $1,000 of taxable property.
That would save the city about $1 million, and homeowners will save as well, council said, because property values have dropped 20 percent in Fort Myers. Property values directly affect the amount of property taxes paid by homeowners.
But the tax rate increase could be tentative, council said, depending on how discussions go with the city's employee unions.
"Our feeling is we can always go lower," said Councilmen Warren Wright.
The final budget will be approved in September.
The city is preparing to cut $9.9 million from a $87.5 million budget because of the drop in property values. On Tuesday, staff presented different scenarios so the city would not have to charge homeowners a $165 fire assessment fee.
To make up the $4.8 million the city would earn from the fee, 21 firefighters and eight police officers would have to be laid off, all employees would have to take a 10 percent pay cut and $500,000 would be transferred from reserves, said Budget Director Chris Tenney.
Tenney also presented how much the city would save by shortening the city's work week.
Cutting the work week to four, eight-hour days - a 20 percent pay cut for city employees - would mean a savings of $3 million.
If it was dropped to four, nine-hour days, it would mean a 10 percent pay cut but $1.38 million in savings.
7/28/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Hapag-Lloyd May Get EU300 Million Credit, Ahrons Says, by Brian Parkin and Andreas Cremer, Bloomberg.
HAMBURG, Germany - Hapag-Lloyd AG, Germany’s largest container-shipping line, will get an emergency credit of 300 million euros ($429 million) provided all its shareholders agree, a lawmaker said.
The cash injection will be part of a 1.75 billion-euro rescue package by lenders and shareholders including TUI AG to secure Hapag-Lloyd’s long-term viability, Barbara Ahrons, a Christian Democratic Union member of Hamburg’s parliament, said in a telephone interview today. The port city of Hamburg is the company’s second-biggest shareholder after travel company TUI.
“We have a solution for Hapag,” Hamburg Finance Senator Michael Freytag told reporters before a meeting of the city’s all-party budget committee which is scheduled to vote on a first batch of aid. “I believe Hapag can breathe freely.”
Hapag-Lloyd has announced shorter working hours to counter a slump in container shipping and freight rates, a result of an increase in the supply of new vessels and slowing world trade. A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, owner of the world’s biggest container shipper, said last month that cargo volumes may drop more than 10 percent this year and show no growth in 2010 as the industry suffers a “completely unprecedented” decline.
TUI owns 43.3 percent of Hapag-Lloyd, according to the shipping line’s Web site. The Albert Ballin investor group, which includes the Hamburg city government, German billionaire Klaus Michael Kuehne and M.M. Warburg & Co., has a 56.7 percent stake. Hamburg alone has a holding of about 23 percent.
Hapag may gain the cash injection by selling its 25.1 percent stake in Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG’s Altenwerder Container Terminal to an existing shareholder, Ahrons said, without elaborating. Altenwerder is Europe’s most modern container terminal.
Hapag shareholders are seeking as much as 750 million euros in fresh capital for the company, of which TUI may shoulder 325 million euros and Albert Ballin 425 million euros. Hamburg would pay 170 million euros, according to a statement by Ahrons on July 24.
German banks will be asked to provide an additional 1 billion-euro loan backed by the federal government, Ahrons said, confirming newspaper reports. Lawmakers in Hamburg, one of 16 German states, will decide today on the scope of initial financial help for Hapag.
To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Parkin in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org; Andreas Cremer in Berlin at email@example.com.
- German car parts company Schaeffler wants to save €50 million at Schweinfurt plant, by GEORGE FREY, AP via Chicago Tribune.
FRANKFURT, Germany — German car parts and ball bearing company Schaeffler KG said Tuesday it aims to save €50 million ($71 million) in personnel costs at its Schweinfurt plant, but guaranteed jobs at the facility until at least the end of June 2010.
The Herzogenaurach-based company said in a statement it had agreed with workers' representatives to a deal that will achieve the savings through means including attrition and the continuation of shorter hours programs.
However, the deal is contingent on the economy improving and demand for cars and car parts picking up, the company said.
Schaeffler, which is family owned, said it expects markets to show more improvement in 2010, but if that is not the case, the company has agreed with the workers' representatives that more cost savings measures can be undertaken, including job cuts.
The Schweinfurt agreement comes after Schaeffler said earlier this year that it would reduce personnel costs overall in Germany by €250 million. The company said Tuesday it intends to reach deals with labor representatives at its other locations quickly.
The company also said it forecasts a 16 percent decline in 2009 revenue to €7.5 billion from €8.9 billion in 2008, and that it expects the bearings and car parts market to return to 2008 levels only in 2012 or 2013.
Schaeffler acquired much larger rival car parts and tire maker Continental AG in January, which indebted Schaeffler heavily just as the financial crisis was taking hold of car markets.
Hannover-based Continental said earlier this month that its preliminary pretax profit slid 91 percent to €39 million during the second quarter as sales slowed nearly 30 percent on weaker demand from auto makers.
Continental releases its full earnings report on Thursday, and could provide further details about how it and Schaeffler will be combined in future.
Shares of Continental closed up less than 1 percent at €25.73 in Frankfurt.
7/26-27/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Miami City Ballet to receive grant from NEA for $50000, by Onelia Collazo Mendive, Miami Theater Examiner via 7/27 Examiner.com.
Miami City Ballet was recently informed that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded the Company $50,000 for direct support through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
The funds will go to add an additional work week for all MCB dancers. As part of a 25% reduction in Miami City Ballet’s budget, the Company had cut the number of contract weeks for dancers from 38 to 35 for the upcoming season.This grant award allows for the addition of another work week, providing dancers with a total of 36 paid weeks.
“This is an example of how our government’s economic stimulus funds are helping to offset the negative impact that the recession is having on artists.We appreciate the work that the NEA has done to help us during these difficult times,” said Edward Villella, founding artistic director, Miami City Ballet.
- Advisers struggle to maintain service amid cutbacks - As staff members work fewer hours, priorities [to return] calls and e-mails, by Lisa Shidler, 7/26 InvestmentNews - New York,NY,USA.
[Whoa, primitive timesizing comes to the investment industry!]
Financial advisers who have cut back on the work hours of their support staff to economize are reordering their service priorities to make sure clients aren't neglected.
[This is another big advantage of cutting hours, not jobs - more attention to priorities.]
At the top of to-do lists are returning client phone calls and e-mails, while marketing and non-client-related correspondence have fallen to the bottom, said practice-management experts who are urging advisers to think through their processes and rewrite job descriptions before reordering work flow.
“We're telling advisers to clearly define every step in the service process and make sure it's all covered and that the reduction in staff [hours] isn't affecting that process,” said Sal Zambito, a San Diego-based senior vice president of business consulting for LPL Financial of Boston.
“We look at every step and see if it can be delegated, automated or eliminated. We've seen it work,” Mr. Zambito said.
“When an adviser gets to a point where they need to eliminate hours, we work with them to make sure their business is set up properly, so it won't have an impact on service.”
Mr. Zambito warns advisers not to proceed with any change that would adversely affect client service.
“The last thing you want is phones not answered or a client's concern not to be addressed,” he said.
Service delivery is becoming an issue at the roughly 15% of advisory firms that have reduced the hours worked by staff members, said Stephanie Bogan, president of Redlands, Calif.-based Quantuvis Consulting Inc.
Compounding the problem is the non- standardization of service delivery at most advisory firms, said Scott Slater, a managing director of business consulting at The Charles Schwab Corp. of San Francisco.
For instance, advisers frequently have no consistent process to prepare for annual client reviews, making the process more time-consuming, he said.
“Advisers need to identify their three or four major time-consuming tasks, one of which, we know, is preparing for the annual client meeting,” Mr. Slater said. “Then they need to walk through the process and analyze it; next, determine the best work flow and determine if there are [any] steps that can be cut that aren't adding value. Most firms haven't done that.”
Recently, Rick Kahler, an adviser and owner of The Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, S.D., cut the workweek of two of the firm's four full-time employees to about 25 hours. The cutbacks, made after reviewing the firm's processes, have strained operations.
“We all know the workload hasn't gone down, so it's meant that I've worked more. I'm doing more in the trenches,” Mr. Kahler said.
For example, he now takes his own notes at meetings, updates his website and creates his own podcasts — tasks he used to delegate. In addition, the firm's operations manager now puts in 60-hour weeks.
[This is the danger of implementing worksharing on a crisis basis instead of step by step as per Timesizing.]
Despite the strain, Mr. Kahler doesn't think the quality of customer service at the firm, which manages $100 million in assets, has suffered.
At Roseland, N.J.-based Access Wealth Planning LLC, which manages $175 million in assets, the firm's seven staff members will be working four days a week until yearend, said owner Bruce Milove.
The decision to cut hours was made to avoid layoffs, and while he doesn't think that customer service standards have slipped, he conceded that the reductions have made the office less efficient.
For instance, instead of letting an assistant handle client e-mails and letters, Mr. Milove is handling correspondence himself.
“In this market, where clients are hurting, you have to provide stronger service to maintain clients,” he said. “You never want to give them an excuse to leave you.”
When making cuts, advisers must be careful that no critical job is forgotten, said Joni Youngwirth, managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.
“Certain positions, such as marketing, are less critical to day-to-day operations,” she said. “Some advisers have taken marketing tasks and divided them among the staff.”
Matt Oechsli, president of the Oechsli Institute in Greensboro, N.C., urges advisers to take a cautious approach to layoffs and reducing employee work hours.
[And here come's the understatement of the century -]
“The financial services industry as a whole is not well-run,” he said. “When things are going well, they spend money with arrogant disdain, and when things don't go as well, they're finger-pointing about who is to blame, and cut back without any strategy.”
[Hey, if you're gonna cut back without any strategy, cutting hours and maintaining jobs, instead of cutting jobs and digging a hole for markets to roll down, is a pretty good non-strategy!]
Ironically, cutbacks may not provide the savings advisers anticipate, said Brian Hamburger, founder and managing partner of MarketCounsel LLC in Englewood, N.J., which works with 800 advisory firms.
He said that a 10% reduction in staff hours doesn't translate into 10% savings, because employee benefits still must be paid, resulting in net savings of only about 3%, he said.
[So prorate benefits, genius.]
It would be better for advisers to lay off a few workers rather than ask all employees to work fewer hours, Mr. Hamburger said. “Firms often make this mistake, because they don't want to make difficult decisions,” he said.
[Yeah, they're cowards and Hamburger alone has guts (no pun..). Wait till he himself gets canned - he'll sing a different tune. (How many mixed metaphors is that?)]
E-mail Lisa Shidler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Is Kevin Rudd On The Mark? 7/27 FN Arena News.
AUSTRALIA - Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has taken the rare step of writing an essay for the benefit of the electorate on just how tough times may yet become in Australia. While one cannot criticise a PM who makes a point of speaking directly and candidly to his people, one must also be cognisant of the politics involved.
From the point at which the GFC really hit in earnest last year, the government has issued forecasts of a rather grim nature. Indeed, private sector economist consensus at the time was not quite as dire, and gradually in 2009 that consensus has improved. The government, on the other hand, has mostly stuck to its numbers. As any Treasury Department official will tell you, economists plug parameters into a model which then arrives at economic forecasts. Governments, however, start with the forecasts they want and ask their bureaucrats to work backwards towards the various parameters.
It thus made sense earlier this year for the government's outlook to be pessimistic given it was forced to bring down a budget that swung Australia abruptly into fiscal deficit after a decade of surpluses. The size of the budget naturally came under criticism, particulalrly from a blindly adversarial Opposition, but in reality it was small beer compared to budgets being fashioned in the rest of the developed world. Nevertheless, the electorate needed to feel drastic measures were necessary for drastic times.
If it turns out that the government's forecasts were too bearish after all, then rather than blame poor forecasting the government will take credit for acting decisively and successfully. The government has then forecast for relatively strong economic growth in 2011, which will work out nicely in an election year. But we have to get there first, following a likely dour 2010. Global "green shoots" and an apparent return to strong economic growth in China have fuelled a big surge in confidence measures in Australia, initially sparked by having so far avoided a "technical" recession. The US, for example, will this week issue its first estimate of second quarter GDP movement, which is tipped to be the fourth consecutive quarterly contraction.
The most important point to note about Australia's slightly positive March quarter GDP result, however, is that the surprising result was impacted by a surge in Chinese iron ore buying at last year's prices. This year's prices are at least 33% less (albeit yet to be settled with China) and already economists have been caught out by big drops in subsequent monthly trade balances. There is every possibility the June quarter could see a return to negative GDP. Such a result may yet be avoided given the effect of the government cash stimulus and housing grants, but it could be a close run thing. By the September quarter nevertheless, the cash handouts will be a memory, and by the December quarter the housing grants are downgraded. This leaves only a ramp up in infrastructure stimulus to carry the can.
None of this will be lost on Kevin Rudd. Saturday's treatise was largely setting Australians up for a period of dreaded stagflation - negative economic growth combined with rising inflation. Or even if the GDP manages to stay above the flat line, the lagging rise in unemployment will make it "feel" like a recession. The apparent rapid turnaround in Asian growth - thanks again to stimulus - will indeed put upward pressure on commodity prices, particularly if the US dollar continues to slide on money over-supply (huge fiscal deficit) fears. So Rudd is not barking up the wrong tree.
Unemployment has long been expected to rise in Australia, as that's what always happens in recessions, technical or otherwise. Businesses look to cut what costs they can first, run down inventories and so forth, before finally having to make that unpleasant decision to let employees go. When recovery is apparent, businesses wait to be sure before rushing to restaff. That's why unemployment is a lagging factor, and that's why Rudd has issued his warning.
Yet the government's ultimate forecast is for 8.5% unemployment, which even at the time seemed pretty grim. Now such a figure is looking almost unattainable, given the unemployment rate to date is only a stoic 5.6%. Before the boom times took the unemployment rate into the fours, five percent was considered "full employment" (given a healthy economy needs a constant reserves bench of labour to help avoid wage inflation). Thus 5.6% seems hardly the stuff of recessions. Is there just a very serious lag, or are there other factors at work?
The data, and anecdotal evidence, tell the tale. Businesses are cutting back working hours rather than cutting actual jobs, where possible. Having struggled to find staff at the right price during the boom times, businesses are reluctant to now let them go only to face the same problem again in a recovery, and particularly if that recovery comes about sooner than first expected. Sacking employees can also mean costly redundancy pay-outs, meaning actual cost savings may not be felt before the economy turns around, in which case they would be wasteful. So what we are seeing instead is a small rise in the unemployment number, but a noticeable drop in hours worked. Staff are being asked to work shorter hours, four-day weeks in some cases, and to take unpaid leave where possible. This seems like an unfortunate but necessary trade-off against losing one's job outright, and also means bosses can portray a "we're all in this together" stance.
What it also means, however, is that the unemployment number is not offering a traditional pointer to a subsequent fall in consumer spending. Resilient employment should suggest a buffer to a consumer spending collapse, but less hours means less wages, and that has the same effect. Furthermore, one must remember that the official unemployment number measures the number of people on the dole, not the number of people actually out of work. Given the high level of "professional" lay-offs, such as in the financial industry, there clearly would be a significant number of people looking for work but not yet stooping to the demeaning process of applying for the dole. In other words, the unemployment number may never get to 8.5%, but a lesser number could be misleading.
So Kevin Rudd is possibly still being pessimistic in his unemployment consideration, but not unrealistic in the greater scheme of things.
Turning to inflation, Rudd is very right in suggesting inflationary pressures are possible. The Reserve Bank has held its cash rate unchanged at 3% now for three months given that "sticky" core inflation measure of 3.9%. Yet the RBA is not about to raise the interest rate again given the extent of disinflationary pressure from excess production capacity (idle factories) and excess labour (rising unemployment), and from still falling business investment. Such deflationary pressure is apparent across the globe at present, and is the excuse governments have used to justify their massive fiscal deficits. Monetary stimulus is serving to reduce deflation rather than spark inflation - so far.
Now that it appears China may well lead the global drive out of economic weakness, thus directly benefiting Australia, economists have decided that perhaps 3% will be as low as the cash rate will go. Thereafter, and just as Rudd suggests, price inflation may reappear. The headline CPI has now fallen under 2%, but that reflects a period of lower food and petrol prices and extensive discounting from retailers stuck with excess inventory. Commodity prices in general are now back in an upswing, and inventory restocking is expected around the corner. If Australian consumers back their own newfound confidence, there is a good chance price inflation will start to swing back up. And that will mean (although probably not until 2010) that the RBA will need to raise its cash rate.
So again Kevin Rudd is not talking rubbish. However, there is one area where he can certainly be questioned. As part of his treatise, Rudd suggested further "severe" budget cuts would be needed to avoid a spiralling fiscal deficit. Again this smacks of political consideration. Deliver a tough budget in 2010 which the excuse again of economic hardship, and then deliver a sweeter budget in 2011 - the election year. Because realistically, the budget is tracking pretty well.
The economists at UBS note that the FY09 budget is already tracking at around a $16bn lower deficit than the numbers suggested in May. This is comprised of an $11.49bn reduction in expenses, and a $4.65bn better revenue result than the May budget forecast. UBS believes a good $10-15bn of this figure simply reflects economic conditions being better than the May budget numbers had forecast. Lower than expected unemployment, for example, is resulting in smaller transfer payments, while stronger than expected retail sales are providing more GST revenue. The government projected a $32.9bn FY09 deficit in its May budget. In May the deficit had only reached $12.3bn, or $20.6bn better than forecast. Throw in a seasonal $3-5bn loss in June, and you arrive at UBS' $16bn "better" number.
The government's GDP forecast for FY09 is for 0% growth. This implies, suggests UBS, an "implausibly weak" June quarter of negative 3.2% growth. UBS is forecasting 0.7% positive growth in FY09, as well as 0.4% in FY10 to the government's negative 0.5% forecast. Most Australian economists have been revising up their earlier forecasts to a less drastic result.
There is a lot of pressure on the US Federal Reserve at present to provide news of its intended "exit strategy" from its monetary stimulus (being zero cash rate and quantitative easing). America fears a sudden burst of excessive inflation if economic recovery eventuates because of the sheer extent of money supply being created by both the Fed and the Obama Administration's enormous budget deficit. In the latter case, Obama's universal healthcare policy is wavering given doubt from even the Democrats.
Australia would also be at risk of monetary inflation were its budget to remain excessive. Inflation is driven from both the demand side - price inflation of goods - and by the supply side - money being pumped into the system. According to the UBS research, the latter is already apparently under control.
This is thus good news for those with mortgages, given the RBA takes fiscal measures very much into account in its own monetary policy decisions. Thus while Rudd is right to warn of potentially higher petrol prices, for example, there will yet potentially be an offsetting influence on the money supply side. This means bond yields will not be under so much inflationary upward pressure, and thus the RBA has a bit of leeway on its eventual need to raise its cash rate.
When all said and done one might take Rudd's letter to be leaning to the negative in order to look positive down the track. At the end of the day Australia would rather a quick return to economic growth, but there will be a lingering hangover. Perhaps the November budget update might bring a less cautionary tale, provided nothing untoward happens in the meantime.
7/25/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Claremont approves $2.32 million in budget cuts, by Wes Woods, Contra Costa Times - Walnut Creek,CA,USA.
CLAREMONT, Calif. - In a budget workshop that lasted several hours Saturday, the city approved budget cuts of more than $2.32 million.
Senior Civil Engineer Kirk Phillips, president of the Claremont professional employees association, told the council "of course we don't like to see pay cuts, position elimination, things of that nature that affect our employees but we do understand city is in situation where they have to make some hard decisions, hard choices. And we want to be a part of the solution."
The city also expects the state will take more than $2 million from its Redevelopment Agency and Proposition 1A property tax funds.
Proposed changes, still to be discussed with employee associations, that were approved in 4-1 vote included a 38-hour work week and City Hall being open from Monday to Thursday for 9 1/2 hours a day.
"We don't like taking a 5 percent pay cut but we do feel a four-day work week is a good compromise," Phillips said to the council. Employees could pick up a part time job or spend time with their family, he added.
Also approved in the vote were that older employees would be offered incentives for early retirement, including a cash buyout and medical coverage to be extended from one to two years.
Councilman Peter Yao voted against the proposed changes. His objections were the cost of the Public Employees Retirement System "Golden Handshake" retirement package, where an employee receives two years of PERS
service credit, and a larger police department budget in 2009-10 than in 2000-01, despite a similar budget projection.
"I can't honestly support it," Yao said, adding he felt the proposal was a temporary and not permanent fix.
[- but don't hold your breath.]
Phillips, who spoke in favor of having all the retirement packages available, and other councilmembers disagreed.
"With the looming picture of employee layoffs coming and the the camaraderie we feel here, they ... they're torn," Phillips said with his voice wavering with sadness. "Because they don't want to see fellow employees laid off and see the impact it has and think they may be a cause of that. From their standpoint, they're willing to consider the retirement even though they're not ready to."
[Same goes for shorter work week as for shorter work life = earlier retirement. And if we shorten the work week enough to provide full employment however short a week it takes, then we can quit shortening work life completely, since we'll all be "retiring" every week for a three-four-or-five day weekend all our lives - for more pay since there'll be no labor surplus to proliferate resumes and push pay down.]
City manager Jeff Parker said the recommendations included an undetermined number of layoffs, which would be determined by October.
Also Saturday fees were raised for preschool/tiny tots children's programs to $813 per month, up from $640.
The Police Department's Drug Abuse Resistance Education and School Resource Officer programs were also combined into one position and while DARE will no longer be provided to private schools.
Fee-based facility rentals, such as Taylor Hall, the Joslyn and Blaisdell Community Centers, were approved except those renters must pay true costs, such as more than $4,000 for Taylor Hall.
- Hayes budget cut 45 percent - Hayes center board devising ways to save money, generate income, by Leslie Bixler, Fremont News Messenger - Fremont,OH,USA.
FREMONT, Ohio -- The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is putting plans in place for the 45-percent budget cut from the state, which will include more support from the board and community.
Tom Culbertson, executive director of the presidential center, said that in 2001, the state's line item for the center was $746,180 and for each of the next two years will be $281,043.
He said the cuts are drastic and the board of trustees is coming up with ways to deal with the shortfall.
The center's operating budget is $1.3 million annually and that $281,043 figure represents 21-percent of the budget.
"More funding will be through fundraising and raising admission prices by 25-percent, which hasn't been done since 2002," Culbertson said.
He said it costs $6 for an adult and that will be increased to $7.50 for an adult per building.
Currently, the Hayes Presidential Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays and federal holidays. But starting in September, the center will be closed on Mondays, leaving employees with a four-day work week.
Stephen A. Hayes, president of the board of trustees, said the situation is unfortunate [but more fortunate than layoffs!] and the board has to be responsible and take action. He said the board and the community will have to come together to support the center.
The Dillon House may only be used for the tea parties. Starting in January, it may no longer be available to rent for events and there may be no overnight stays for members. However, Culbertson said they are still debating some of those issues.
Overall, the center is making typical cutbacks on purchases such as periodicals, books, reducing the size of publications and the mailing list along with simply adjusting the thermostat.
"The board wants to pursue a fundraising push to reach out to people in the community," Culbertson said. "People have been so supportive. We're trying to find major corporations or individuals to put up a challenge to raise money."
The center, he said, will really be gearing up for next year's fourth of July event known as the first Wine, Wickets and Wheels event, which will feature a pro golf croquet tournament, a super size croquet tournament, wine auction and a Mercedes Benz car show.
Despite the tough times, he said memberships are steady and sponsorships are doing well.
"We are feeling the pinch from the state and the economy," Culbertson said. "We hope we're considered a valuable aspect in the community."
Other events the center relies on includes the concerts, civil war encampment and the Easter egg roll.
About 46,000 people visit the center each year, and Culbertson said gate receipts amount to 10-percent of revenue, which is above average in the industry.
7/24/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Mercedes to return to 4-day workweek, By Patrick Rupinski, Tuscaloosa News (subscription) - Tuscaloosa,AL,USA.
VANCE, Alabama - Mercedes-Benz employees in Vance will be back to a four-day workweek, starting Monday, Aug. 10. The shorter workweek is scheduled to run until the end of October.
“We made this decision to avoid producing more vehicles than can be sold,” said Felyicia Jerald, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz U.S. International in Vance.
“With this four-day production schedule, team members’ [employees’] hours will range from 30 to 36 hours over the next few months,” she said.
“Many of our team members have indicated that they prefer the four-day schedule. Although this isn’t an ideal situation, everyone seems to understand the conditions of the market and why these adjustments are needed.”
The Vance plant employs about 3,000 people, according to Mercedes.
Jerald said no layoffs are planned, though employees will work fewer hours.
Mercedes is the largest manufacturing employer in Tuscaloosa County. Its production, however, affects more than just its own employees. Area automotive parts suppliers tie their production and employment to the production at Mercedes. As Mercedes cuts its production and employees’ hours, many automotive suppliers in West Alabama are expected to do likewise.
The economic downturn has taken a toll on automotive sales including the sport utility vehicles made in Vance.
In the first half of the year, U.S. sales of Mercedes’ M-Class were down 39 percent; the GL-Class were down 44.5 percent and the R-Class were down 58.4 percent. All three types of vehicles are made in Vance.
U.S. sales of the SUVs made in Vance totaled 18,949 vehicles in the first half of this year, compared with 33,630 vehicles a year earlier, according to Mercedes. Sales figures for Vance-made SUVs sold abroad were not available.
Mercedes cut its production last year as the economy deteriorated and auto sales dropped. Last summer, it offered early retirement buyouts to its employees, and in October, it moved to a four-day workweek. It extended its Christmas shutdown from Dec. 11 to Jan. 20, when employees returned to the Monday through Thursday workweek. The Mercedes plant then had a four-week production shutdown from May 25 through June 22, when employees returned to a five-day workweek, but with reduced hours each day.
Reach Patrick Rupinski at 205-722-0213.
- A Brief History of The Minimum Wage, by Laura Fitzpatrick, TIME - USA.
With the U.S. trillions of dollars in the hole, 70 cents an hour sounds like chump change. But it's a big boost for the millions of workers who earn that much extra as of July 24. The increase is the third and final uptick in a hike that has since 2007 boosted the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25. In total, the extra $2 and change translates into a yearly raise of some $4,400 for a full-time minimum-wage worker, nosing his or her family of four above the poverty line.
The minimum wage was first instituted in Australia and New Zealand in the 1890s in response to frequent, bitter strikes and was adopted by Massachusetts in 1912 to cover women and children. With voters seeking a bulwark against the Great Depression, wage-hour legislation was an issue in the 1936 Presidential race. On the campaign trail, a young girl handed a note to one of Franklin Roosevelt's aides asking for help: "I wish you could do something to help us girls," it read. "Up to a few months ago we were getting our minimum pay of $11 a week...Today the 200 of us girls have been cut down to $4 and $5 and $6 a week."
Roosevelt rode back into office in part on a promise to seek a constitutional way of protecting workers; in 1923, the Supreme Court had struck down a Washington, D.C., minimum-wage law, finding it impeded a worker's right to set his own price for his labor. The first federal minimum-wage law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1938, with a 25-cent-per-hour wage floor and a 44-hour workweek ceiling for most employees. (It also banned child labor.)
[The wage 'floor' would have been completely unnecessary if they had finished passing the 30-hour workweek ceiling in 1933, because that would have dried up the labor surplus and market forces in response would have raised wages flexibly without government intervention.]
Outside of Social Security, said Roosevelt, the law was "the most far-sighted program for the benefit of workers ever adopted." Wages must ensure a "minimum standard of living necessary for health, efficiency and general well-being," the act stipulated, "without substantially curtailing employment."
Ever since, however, critics and supporters have slugged it out over the minimum wage: some say it destroys jobs by making it too expensive to keep workers. University of California professor David Neumark estimates that the July 24 hike will end up costing some 300,000 jobs for young adults and teens by making their employment prohibitively expensive for enterprises already facing rapidly eroding profit margins.
Other economists note, however, that because a majority of minimum-wage earners work in outsourcing-resistant service jobs, businesses will have a hard time handing out pink slips en masse. Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found that after an 80-cent New Jersey minimum wage hike in 1992, employment in the state's fast-food restaurants rose slightly faster than in Pennsylvania, where the minimum wage did not change. (The law's effects showed up, instead, in prices: the tab at New Jersey fast-food restaurants grew about 4% faster than at greasy spoons in Pennsylvania.) Instead of killing jobs, minimum wage supporters argue, the wage floor increases productivity and boosts consumer purchasing power. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that the July 24 hike to $7.25 will, over the course of the next year, pad consumer spending by more than $5.5 billion.
As a result of the sparring, the value of the minimum wage in real dollar terms has risen and fallen on political tides, peaking in 1968 when an hour's pay bought nearly 5 gal. (19 L) of gas. By 2006, it paid for less than 2 gal. (8 L); meanwhile, some states raised their own standards (Washington mandates $8.55 an hour). Thirty-one states will have to increase their minimum wages as a result of the July 24 increase, while 19 states and Washington, D.C. already had a minimum wage of $7.25 or higher.
Supporters of the boost say it will help the country's neediest at a time when they have been falling further and further behind. From 1973 to 2007, as the minimum wage fell 22% in real dollars, domestic corporate profits jumped more than 50%—bloating the gap between rich and poor and fueling calls for a $10-an-hour "living wage" by 2010. For now, though, an extra 70 cents is as good as it gets.
7/23/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- A word for sponsors of financial mess, by Garry Emmons, BG, A17.
WALL STREET’S recently announced record profits have reignited public fury over compensation for corporate executives. But beyond anger, what’s really at issue is an attitude, and the behavior it enables. I’m reminded of what I once saw in a coastal village in northeast Brazil. The tide had gone out and instead of a sandy bottom, the boating party’s revelers had to wade over sharp stones and jagged shells to reach the shore. The wealthy host, the portly patrão who had organized the outing, called over one of his “boys,’’ a fisherman by trade. “Carry me,’’ he said. “Carry me ashore.’’ The fisherman, barefoot, silently did as he was told.
Impunity. It’s a word heard in the Third World, when the huge, poor majorities describe their lot in life under the wealthy minority that runs things. Until recently, the word wasn’t really part of America’s vocabulary. But it is now.
Even before the current financial crisis, the United States had the largest income gap in the developed world, and the leveling effects of globalization on America’s standard of living had been apparent for some time. The middle class was barely hanging on. And then, suddenly, the tide went out. Overnight, Americans became outraged. They began to use terms like “arrogant’’ and “entitled’’ to vilify the financial and corporate elite they viewed as responsible for decimating their lives. But these words, focusing as they do on a self-centered mindset, miss the larger point. Impunity - acting as if answerable to no one - is a behavior those egocentric attitudes enable. Impunity is an action, one that tears at the fabric of society.
The veneer of wealth - calming, distracting, cushioning - has withdrawn from around us. The cruder forces at work have become more visible, as they are glaringly so every day in the Third World. A broad swath of America woke up to see that maybe this country too has a self-serving, wealthy elite that wields an outsized influence over the political process, a situation not so different from elsewhere in the world. Too big to fail, too important to be denied, they will have their way. Impunity.
Not long ago, I had a conversation with a man who has spent decades on Wall Street. He was explaining why Wall Street executives truly believe they deserve the excessive compensation so many of them received over the last decade. The top firms, he said, are filled with extraordinarily smart and talented individuals - in his words, repeatedly, “the best people.’’ They work long hours in demanding situations involving high stakes and great risk, in a brutally competitive environment, making deals that help society as a whole, all of which the market deems worthy of rich rewards.
Put aside questions of how much net social value Wall Street has actually produced during this era of financial engineering, paper profiteering, and eventual disaster. Put aside, too, the idea that enormous failure should still be rewarded with enormous compensation. One point is tellingly absent or ignored in the Wall Streeter’s argument: There are countless people in other lines of work who are equal or superior to Wall Street executives in terms of brains and hard work, who labor long hours in brutal conditions in risky, high-stakes situations doing things that also, and perhaps more obviously, benefit society. Implicit in the Wall Street veteran’s words is the notion that despite all that we have experienced and learned in the last few years, Wall Street people are better, and deserve much more, just because of who they are and where they work.
Stunned and stumbling, Americans are struggling to find the words to explain what has happened to them and to the middle-class way of life that once defined their country. My fellow Americans, welcome to globalization; welcome to the rest of the world. And say hello to impunity.
Garry Emmons is a Cambridge-based business writer.
- Job cuts outpace GDP fall - Break from historical pattern suggests unemployment could weigh on recovery, by Jon Hilsenrath & Deborah Solomon, WSJ, A3.
[This article exemplifies the tendency of contemporary economists to regard employment as a sidecar to the main economy - an annex - an optional add-on or extra - whereas employment is actually the basis and foundation of all the rest of the economic system including money itself, which symbolizes the average value of an average citizen's average accountable time unit.]
WASHINGTON - The job market is doing even worse than the overall economy
[as if the job market isn't the root and trunk of the overall economy!],
prompting concern inside and outside the government that deeper-than-expected joblessness could persist once the recession ends.
[I.e., "deeper than" spinnable as ignorable? Note the fantasy that a recession can really end without full employment, that such a contradiction or oxymoron as a "jobless recovery" can ever be anything more than superficial cheerleading rather than deep-structure sustainability.]
Breaking from historical patterns, the unemployment rate -- currently at 9.5% -- is one to 1.5 percentage points higher than would be expected under one economic rule of thumb, says Lawrence Summers, President Barack Obama's top economic adviser.
[And what "one economic rule of thumb" would that be, pray tell? Bad writing. These 'journalists' do not tell us until much later (below) - look for "Okun's Law" in bold print.]
Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost 6.5 million jobs, 4.7% of total employment. The unemployment rate has jumped five percentage points, while the economy [ie: the GDP] has contracted by roughly 2.5%.
[This is merely an indication of how distorted and rosily biassed our main economic indicator (GDP) still is.]
In recent days, Mr. Summers, White House budget director Peter Orszag and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke have all talked publicly about the unusual disconnect between growth and employment. Stubborn unemployment could be a political problem for Mr. Obama, who pushed hard for a $787 billion stimulus plan this year and has already been criticized by Republicans for failing to stem the rise in the joblessness.
[You cannot increase employment by transfering money to the richest. They spend the tiniest percentage of their income of any of the brackets.]
Though today's disparity between [spindoctored but unfounded] growth and jobs is especially stark, a jobless recovery wouldn't be new [or real]: The past two recessions were marked by firms reluctant to resume hiring right away after demand recovered ["demand" for what and from whom?]. The current disconnect could reflect an unanticipated surge in productivity -- companies finding ways to increase output with fewer workers.
[Such output would be unmarketable without a parallel surge in employment and wages]
That could set up the economy to 'grow' rapidly in future years [our quotes]. Rising productivity is the linchpin of economic growth and rising living standards.
[No-o-o. rising marketable productivity is the linchpin of economic growth and rising employment and wages are the linchpin of rising living standards.]
But there are darker scenarios. Struggling workers, whose wages also are being squeezed, could drag a fragile economy back into deep recession.
[This language is getting close to "blaming the victims."]
"Final demand and production have shown tentative signs of stabilization," Mr. Bernanke told lawmakers this week as part of the Fed chairman's semiannual report to Congress.
[What if "final demand" b2b is not supported by initial demand c2b? - as the next statement suggests -]
"The labor market, however, has continued to weaken."
Job insecurity could lead consumers to further pull back spending, he said, calling it "an important risk to the outlook."
["Could" lead? - we'd say "certainly will lead" - it's a given!]
The latest data imply productivity is pushing higher.
["Imply"?? And again, productivity is meaningless unless it's marketable productivity.]
Macroeconomic Advisers, a St. Louis forecaster, estimates productivity grew at a rapid 5% annual rate in the second quarter. While painful for workers who lose jobs, advances in productivity could help get the economy on steadier footing.
[Not when management uses advances in productivity to downsize the markets for that same productivity, instead of timesizing the markets, which maintains or upsizes them and gives employees more time to shop.]
When productivity rose in the 1990s -- thanks partly to technological advances -- the economy boomed, lifting wages.
[Where's the evidence to back up these assertions? Real wages have been falling since the late 1970s, and there is no evidence that productivity lifts wages, except CEOs' "wages." Quite the contrary, the evidence is all on the side of productivity followed by downsizing (instead of timesizing) depressing wages by worsening the general labor surplus.]
Some companies are reaping gains as they clamp down on labor costs.
[Think about it. This is an inherently temporary, market-weakening and company-shrinking strategy to "reap gains."]
While corporate profits are down from a year ago, many of the biggest companies reporting income figures for the second quarter are ahead of expectations because they have cut costs so aggressively.
[Or because they have set such low expectations!]
Caterpillar Inc. this week raised its profit forecast for the year, crediting cost-cutting efforts. The company's second-quarter profits were $371 million, down from $1.106 billion a year earlier, but it said it squeezed operating costs by $4.5 billion from a year earlier. Layoffs and early retirements have reduced its work force this year by 17,100,
[- reduced its workforce AND its customers' customers, because its workforce IS its customers' customers.]
15% of the total, and it is instituting "rolling layoffs" in which it has been furloughing workers a few weeks at a time.
[This is the seed of capitalism's salvation, because not only does it contain the seed of its own destruction (Marx - or by now the whole metastatized cancer of its own destruction), but also the opposite. Furloughing workers a few weeks at a time is one way of timesizing, not downsizing, and when companies like Caterpillar switch exclusively to that, this recession will bottom out and not a moment before that - except in the imaginations of our concentrated media ownership.]
"When the economy turns around and demand picks up, we're much better suited to ramp back up because we're not looking at bringing on many new people and getting them up to speed," says Jim Dugan, a Caterpillar spokesman.
[Economies don't "turn around and demand pick up" UNTIL plenty of companies bring on many new people and get them up to speed.]
Kellogg Co. said in May that net income for its first quarter rose 1.3% as cost-cutting offset falling revenue.
[Cost cutting is like governments that sell off public assets - you can only sweeten your accounts once that way, then those assets are gone.]
International Business Machines Corp. said second-quarter profit rose 12% despite falling revenue. The secret: It is cutting costs by $3.5 billion this year.
[Keep pouring that profit into the pockets of the top executives and investors who were already spending all they cared to before they got the last $10 million and next quarter you'll have an even harder time cooking the books to pull profit out of the shrinking hat.]
For now, administration officials are taking a wait-and-see approach, and they insist they have no plans to push new measures to counteract job losses.
[Thank God if all they can think of is transfering billions to the topmost brackets and tightening the strangulation of spending. They should be stepping through the Timesizing program, starting at Phase One.]
Officials say the $787 billion economic-stimulus package will have a bigger impact over the next six months.
[No it won't.]
The "two-year program that we put in place was one that had gathering and increasing force over time," Mr. Summers said in an interview.
The disparity between the job market and economic growth has other important implications. For Fed officials, it implies that there will be little upward pressure on prices and wages -- in other words, little inflationary pressure -- giving officials reason to hold off on raising interest rates any time soon.
[No upward wages for the "bottom" 90% of the population? No increased spending and demand and no recovery!]
Employers' unusual behavior seems to have intensified as the economy has stabilized.
[It hasn't stabilized at the deep structure level where downsizing is still common.]
When the government releases its estimate of second-quarter gross domestic product [GDP] next week, economists expect it will show a contraction of less than 2% at an inflation-adjusted annual rate. During the same three months, employers cut payrolls at an annual rate of more than 4%, eliminating 1.3 million more jobs.
[At last we get the figures. Bad writing.]
That kind of disconnect violates an economic rule of thumb called Okun's Law, after the late economist Arthur Okun, which holds that every two-percentage-point drop in the economic[GDP]-growth rate corresponds with a one-percentage-point rise in the unemployment [UE] rate.
[Fine except is it clear that the rise in UE leads and causes the growth drop?]
In most downturns since World War II, businesses were slow to reduce their work forces in response to inventory buildups or slowing sales. In the recessions of the early 1990s and the early 2000s, though, businesses moved more quickly to cut early in the downturn and were slow to rehire.
[Thereby deepening and prolonging the downturns and making them cumulative and making it ever more difficult to define and claim a recovery was occurring.]
"You certainly have the impression that businesses in general have learned to slash payrolls and employment faster than in the past," said Paul Volcker, the former Fed chairman and an economic adviser to Mr. Obama. "There's been a steep decline in business activity without the conventional impact on profits.
[That's because our brand of capitalism has turned seriously suicidal - we incentivate growth and we incentivate failure - Chainsaw Dunlap destroyed companies such as Sunbeam - all the way to the bank.]
Somehow, companies have managed to keep productivity higher than you might have thought given economic activity."
[Again, productivity is meaningless unless it's marketable, and it's always billed as "very hard to quantify" anyway - conveniently enough for CEOs and directors desperate to seem worth the huge salaries and bonuses they keep voting one another.]
Write to Jon Hilsenrath at email@example.com and Deborah Solomon at firstname.lastname@example.org
- In Economic Recovery, Not So Fast on the New Jobs - Employment Slow To Rebound After Recent Recessions, by Annys Shin, Washington Post - United States.
The recession is expected to end sometime this year, but it could take far longer before millions of unemployed Americans notice.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told congressional lawmakers during two days of testimony this week that he expects the economy to start adding jobs by the end of the year but it will take a while for the unemployment rate to go down.
Fed leaders in their latest forecast released earlier this month said the unemployment rate, now at 9.5 percent, could hit double digits by the end of the year.
Unemployment typically keeps rising even after recessions end as employers hold back on hiring until they are sure a recovery is underway. But economists worry that the worst recession of the post-World War II era could be followed by what they call a "jobless recovery," where output, or the gross domestic product, increases steadily while employment lags behind.
"We do expect to see positive job creation near the end of this year, early next year, but it's going to take a while, given the pace of growth, for the unemployment rate to come back down to levels that we would be more comfortable with," Bernanke told lawmakers Tuesday. "So, in that respect, it should take some time for the labor market to return to normal."
Jobless recoveries followed the previous two recessions in the early 1990s and 2000s. In the 18 months that followed the 1991 recession, payroll employment increased less than 1 percent. In the same period after the 2001 recession, payroll employment fell by less than 1 percent. By contrast, over the 18 months after the 1982 downturn, payroll employment rose more than 6 percent.
Economists are watching closely for any changes in productivity to see whether the pattern of the previous two recessions will be repeated. Surges in productivity followed the last two recessions, making it possible for employers to postpone hiring.
"If productivity growth is rapid, it means employers have discovered ways to produce more goods and services in the same hours. They don't need to add to payrolls," said Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution. "It takes a bigger increase in GDP in order to generate a robust improvement" in unemployment.
It would take a booming economy to persuade Mark Scott, president of Mark IV Builders, to put out the help-wanted sign again. He has kept his home building and remodeling firm in Bethesda alive over the past 18 months by cutting his workforce from 26 to 10 people, getting rid of perks such as subsidies for continuing education courses and scrutinizing every payment that goes out the door.
"We're more efficient. And the stress of that is pretty high," he said. "Can we do it long term? I guess we have to do it as long as we can."
A jobless recovery is not necessarily inevitable, said Robert Shimer, an economist at the University of Chicago, who noted that the last two recession were much milder than the current one. The recession of the early 1980s, which is closest in severity and duration to the current one, was followed by strong job growth. "Why should we be sure that [the current downturn] will look more like the recent episodes?" he said.
Some employers are gearing up to hire again. Jim Zawacki, the owner of GR Spring & Stamping, an auto supplier based in Grand Rapids, Mich., has had to lay off a third of his workforce, slash the workweek from 40 to 32 hours, give up his company car and take an 80 percent salary cut. But he has been able to pick up business from other competitors that have gone under. He said he could start hiring if business that has been booked for later in the year comes through.
"As long as [customers] don't cancel or slow down . . . we should start seeing [improvement] in September," he said.
Jobless recoveries might be easier to predict if economists better understood their causes. For now, theories abound. Some economists suggest such recoveries have something to do with structural shifts in the economy; others blame the burden of rising health-care costs on employers.
This recession has its own quirks that lead some economists to think a jobless recovery is more likely.
The economy has shed more than 6 million jobs since the downturn began in December 2007. Taking population growth into account, the economy will have to add about 8.8 million jobs to restore employment to pre-recession levels, the Economic Policy Institute has estimated. But many of the usual engines of economic growth are stalled. Businesses have more capacity -- equipment, locations, inventory -- than they know what to do with and thus little reason to invest. Consumers who have lost a record amount of wealth have shut their wallets. The global slump means less demand for U.S. exports.
In addition, the collapse of the housing market has also slowed migration in the United States, which in the past has helped bring down unemployment as workers relocate for jobs, said Harvard economist Larry Katz. Falling home prices have made it harder to sell and forced more people to stay put. And the housing meltdown has hurt Sun Belt economies such as Florida and California that until recently were a haven for Rust Belt refugees.
The recession has also produced a record number of so-called "involuntary" part-timers who would work more hours if they could. That could delay hiring, economists say, because employers tend to increase hours of existing employees before adding workers.
Scott, the owner of Mark IV, said that is what he will do if business picks up. "I would put my guys on overtime before I'd hire additional for quite a while," he said.
[Exactly what we need to change.]
Staff writer Neil Irwin contributed to this report.
7/22/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Lathrop mayor, & city council cut their pay by 10 percent, by Rose Albano-Risso, Manteca Bulletin - Manteca,CA,USA.
LATHROP, Calif. – Members of the Lathrop City Council have volunteered to give up 10 percent of their stipends in solidarity with the employees who are being hit with the same amount of pay cut as part of the effort to reduce the $2.5 million budget deficit this year.
Mayor Kristy Sayles started the ball rolling after the council unanimously voted to approve the furlough program for city employees which will reduce their work week to 36 hours instead of the normal 40 hours a week. The shorter hours translate to a 10 percent reduction in the employees’ salaries.
The 10 percent likewise translates to $525,000 saved in the general fund, bringing the budget deficit down thus far to $675,000.
That may still go up with the prospect of a financially ailing state “borrowing” as much as $730,000 from the city’s property taxes ($430,000) and gas taxes ($300,000) this fiscal year. As City Manager Cary Keaten put it during Tuesday night’s council meeting, that projected $730,000 loan to the state is “an enormous amount of money” that’s being taken from the city’s general fund.
It was that grim fiscal scenario which prompted the mayor to start the ball rolling. “I’ll be the first to ask for the same 10 percent cut in my pay check until this is no longer needed,” Sayles said.
She told city staff to expect her e-mail today with that instruction.
“This has been a difficult process, starting with the layoff (of city employees) that we did,” she said, and thanked all of the staff “who agreed to give up a day’s pay” to help the city bridge the budget deficit.
Council member Sonny Dhaliwal went as far as to inquire if the council members could act on the 10 percent pay cut that evening. However, City Attorney Salvador Navarrete explained that this is not an item calling for council action but rather a decision that council members should do individually. Dhaliwal said he also agreed to the voluntary 10 percent council stipend cut.
Vice Mayor Martha Salcedo and council members Christopher Mateo and Robert Oliver did not make any comments during the meeting. However, Mateo and Oliver stated after the meeting that they will volunteer to accept the same 10 percent stipend reduction.
Each council member, including the mayor, receives a monthly stipend of $300 and nothing else, said Cari James of the city finance department. Unlike some cities such as Manteca, Lathrop council members do not have health benefit packages or gas mileage refunds. However, they do get gas refunds when they have to attend official business trips, James explained.
To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail email@example.com or call (209) 249-3536.
- Siemens to Run Down Order Book at Energy Division (Update3), by Richard Weiss, Bloomberg - USA.
Siemens AG, Europe’s largest engineer, will be forced to run down the order book at its energy division in the first half of its next financial year as investment tails off.
The unit’s book-to-bill ratio will probably fall below one during the six-month period starting in October, Chief Financial Officer Joe Kaeser said today in Munich. That means new orders will come slower than existing bookings are converted to sales.
Siemens faces falling orders and a “noticeable” drop in earnings in the third quarter compared with both the year- earlier period and the previous quarter, Kaeser said. Investors watch order levels at European industrial companies such as Siemens for signs the recession is easing and that businesses are once again investing in machinery and components.
So-called “short-cycle” businesses spanning light bulbs to building controls should start to improve from fiscal second half, said Kaeser. The period starts in April 2010.
“We will reduce excess personnel by shorter work weeks, and we believe we will be able to continue doing that until the short-cyclical business experience a revival in demand,” he said. “We will not see the record volumes of fiscal 2007/2008 for the time being.” One reason why Siemens will try to put employees on shorter shifts rather than cut jobs is that the company cannot afford to “miss out on the revival in demand” expected in the future, Kaeser said.
“We got the impression the CFO wants to lower the expectations somewhat for Q3” before the July 30 earnings report, said Karsten Oblinger, an analyst at DZ BANK AG in Frankfurt, in a note to clients. He rates Siemens shares “buy” and sees the fair value at 60 euros. “The next main trigger for the share price will come tomorrow,” when ABB Ltd. reports earnings, he added.
The energy unit had the strongest book-to-bill ratio of Siemens’s three main businesses in the second quarter at 1.29. The industry division, Siemens’s largest, was at 1.02, and the health care unit was below 1, indicating lower future sales. The company said earlier that it expects energy orders to outstrip sales in the second half of the current fiscal year through September.
Siemens’s mobility division, which makes metro systems, locomotives and high-speed trains, will show “a very strong rise in order intake this year and next,” Kaeser said.
Mobility had the highest increase in order intake among Siemens’s six industry divisions at 21 percent. Siemens supplies Deutsche Bahn AG, Germany’s state-owned railway, with inter-city trains with a top speed of 400 kilometers (249 miles) per hour.
Siemens plans 1,400 job cuts beyond the 17,000 announced last year as Chief Executive Officer Peter Loescher battles against a global recession to meet a goal of beating last year’s 6.6 billion euros ($9.4 billion) in so-called “sector profit” at its three main units. About 19,000 workers are currently on reduced hours.
The German maker of power turbines and medical equipment rose 45 cents, or 0.8 percent, to 54.15 euros in Frankfurt trading today. The stock is up 2.8 percent this year, valuing the company at almost 50 billion euros.
Net income at Siemens probably fell 35 percent to 926 million euros in its fiscal third quarter, according to the average of 10 estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Sales totaled 18.8 billion euros, a decline of 2 percent, according to 14 estimates.
U.S. rival General Electric Co. reported a 44 percent drop in major equipment orders in the second quarter, and Chief Financial Officer Keith Sherin said he expects a decline of about 25 percent for the year. GE shares have lost 28 percent this year.
Renewable energy was the only one of Siemens’s five energy businesses where order intake rose in the fiscal first half. Siemens is helping draw up a blueprint for a $555 billion project, together with Munich Re and 10 others, to bring solar power from the Sahara Desert to European homes.
To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Weiss in Frankfurt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- BC truckers complain they're pushed beyond safe limits, by Kathy Tomlinson, 7/21 CBC News via CBC.ca - Toronto,Ontario,Canada.
British Columbia Province, Canada - Three B.C. truck drivers have come forward to warn that public safety is at risk on North American highways as drivers are pushed to stay behind the wheel longer than the law allows.
In written complaints to federal and provincial authorities, the drivers claim the company they worked for compelled them to drive beyond legal time limits.
"I was threatened with suspension if I didn't do it," said truck driver Ray Bouliane.
He drove tractor-trailer units for Kerver Trucking Ltd., a subcontractor that owns and operates more than a dozen trucks for DCT Chambers Ltd. of Vernon, B.C.
Chambers, the larger company, dispatches the drivers who work for Kerver and other subcontractors, primarily to pick up and deliver wood chips throughout B.C. and the western United States.
Bouliane filed formal complaints with the Canada Industrial Relations Board, as well as Worksafe BC and the Ministry of Transportation, claiming he was forced to quit his job to avoid compromising safety on the road.
'It just scared the daylights out of me.'—Truck driver Ray Bouliane, on cross-border trip
"During training, I rode in one of the trucks — as a ride-along — with a guy who was driving eyes wide open, looking straight ahead, but he didn't know that all the traffic had stopped in front of him," said Bouliane.
"It just scared the daylights out of me because we hardly made it. We hardly stopped before those cars."
Bouliane's complaints detail how he quit last winter, after he refused to drive from Castlegar, B.C., to Lewiston, Idaho, and back, dispatched by Chambers, which he said would take 16 hours in winter driving conditions, including loading, unloading and weigh-scale time.
"I really needed my job, but I also needed to protect my safety, public safety and my driving record," said Bouliane.
It is illegal for anyone to drive a commercial truck for over 13 hours in Canada, 12 hours in the U.S. Drivers are allowed an additional one-hour maximum of on-duty time for loading and unloading.
Two other drivers formerly employed by Kerver have also sent statements to the authorities. They complained they were also expected to drive beyond legal limits — and did. Both also said they then falsified their driver logbooks, by recording shorter hours, to cover up the extra, illegal time on the road.
'Wild West mentality'
"Falsifying my logbook was a requirement of the job," wrote Glen Boesel, who quit in June. "It was a Wild West mentality, and when I first started I was shocked."
Truck driver Ray Bouliane filed formal complaints claiming he was forced to quit his job to avoid compromising safety on the road.Truck driver Ray Bouliane filed formal complaints claiming he was forced to quit his job to avoid compromising safety on the road. (CBC photo caption)
"I was told not to refuse any work, even if it meant I would be over on my hours. Dispatch sent me on trips near the end of my shift, knowing I would go over [the legal limit]," Boesel added in his written statement.
"I was told [by Kerver] to log illegal hours on the weekend under the boss's name. I would also say I started later than I actually did and make the runs shorter than they are," he explained.
James Beasley, who was fired in February for damaging trucks while loading, said in his written complaint he was sent on a run to Idaho in severe winter weather that took him 16 hours.
"I was swerving and everything," Beasley told CBC News. "Kerver Trucking will not let you overnight anywhere. I flubbed my logbook to make it look like it was 13 hours."
Beasley claimed his supervisor also told him to keep driving without adequate rest after he had reached his weekly legal limit of 70 hours.
"I later learned he had put me in a position where I could have been fined for a logbook violation and have a mark placed on my National Safety Code record," Beasley wrote in his submission.
No comment from trucking firms
Pat Ramsey, who runs Kerver Trucking, did not return calls from CBC News requesting an interview. David Chambers, vice-president of DCT Chambers, refused to be interviewed or provide any comment.
A spokesperson for B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation, which is responsible for enforcing the rules of the road for commercial vehicle operators in the province, told CBC News that Kerver Trucking's safety practices were audited in June — including its logbooks — and the results were "not satisfactory."
Because of that, Jeff Knight said, Kerver is now operating under a conditional licence, pending another audit.
He said if Kerver Trucking's practices do not improve within six months, the ministry will hold a "show cause'' hearing that could remove the company's licence for good.
Beasley, Bouliane and Boesel also claim in their complaints that the trucks they drove were often in disrepair.
"It's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt," said Boesel.
Truck in flames started forest fire
He said he had a very close call last summer, when the indicator light in his truck went on and the cab quickly filled with smoke. Boesel said he jumped out seconds before the truck was engulfed in flames.
The truck Glen Boesel was driving last summer burst into flames. The truck Glen Boesel was driving last summer burst into flames. (CBC photo caption)
The blaze disintegrated the tractor and started a forest fire near Lake Roosevelt in Washington State.
"And before that truck burned, the shifter boot was not attached, allowing exhaust gases and burnt oil from the exterior of the engine to enter the cab. This can cause dizziness and drowsiness. I would blow my nose at the end of the shift and it would be black," Boesel wrote.
The truckers said there were also several rollovers of wood-chip trucks in 2008. Internal memos from DCT Chambers on two of those incidents blame the drivers.
"Driver came into a 50 km/h corner at 62 km/h hugging the yellow line and met an oncoming vehicle doing the same thing," reads a memo from June 2008. "Driver made a correction…thus causing the rollover."
Another Chambers memo about a different rollover that same month states the cause as "driver inattention to the road, along with speed."
"That was happening all the time," said Bouliane. "People were overdriving corners. Feeling rushed, probably feeling rushed."
There's too much pressure dumped right on the drivers," he added. "By the end of your shift, you are tired. You are really tired."
Industry group wants electronic monitoring
B.C. Trucking Association president Paul Landry, whose group represents industry, told CBC News he has no way of knowing how many drivers falsify logbooks or drive too tired, but he believes it is a small number.
"If a driver is fatigued and drove off the road, for example, the typical explanation will be there was an animal on the road and they took evasive action, that sort of thing. So it's a very difficult thing to measure," said Landry.
B.C. Trucking Association president Paul Landry said paper logbooks should be replaced with an electronic system. B.C. Trucking Association president Paul Landry said paper logbooks should be replaced with an electronic system. (CBC)
Landry said he could not speak to the truckers' specific claims about their former employer.
However, he said the BCTA has been lobbying governments for years to make it mandatory for driving time to be monitored electronically in every truck in Canada. Theoretically, he said, a uniform monitoring system would make it impossible for drivers or companies to get away with pushing over the driving time limits.
"There's no question, eventually logbooks will be replaced by electronic monitoring and we believe that will create a level playing field for our industry," said Landry.
"I think both industry and government share the blame for not advancing this as a proposition. I think governments will be receptive to the need to develop a standard."
The B.C. Ministry of Transportation audited 333 commercial vehicle licence holders last year for potential violations, a small fraction of the 26,000 licence holders provincewide. Seventy- one per cent of those companies failed their audits, and had their licence status downgraded to either conditional or unsatisfactory.
"A lot of people do a lot of things they shouldn't do," said Bouliane. "If you are already looking at your bills, thinking, 'Well, I'm not going to make it,' you might just decide, ' I'm going to take a chance.'"
7/21/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- More not making it in Massachusetts - Bankruptcy filings on rise as consumer debt, job cuts, and foreclosures hit home, by Todd Wallack, Boston Globe, B5.
The recession has pushed more Bay State residents into bankruptcy, with the number of new filings up 35 percent in the second quarter over the same period last year, and more than doubling over the past four years.
Several bankruptcy lawyers said the duration of the economic downturn has forced many who are unemployed or underemployed to burn through savings and rack up credit card debt and other loans until they feel they have no alternative to filing for bankruptcy protection.
Some say the problem has worsened as credit card companies ratchet up interest rates on outstanding balances and tack on other fees, leaving borrowers with a ballooning amount of debt they can’t repay.
“We are having a snowball effect,’’ said Anthony Frate, a Stoneham lawyer who represents consumers filing for bankruptcy. “People try to hang in there for a while, but they can’t anymore - particularly when credit card companies are jacking up their interest to 25 percent or 30 percent. People are just overwhelmed.’’
In June alone, 1,837 individuals and businesses filed for federal bankruptcy protection in the state, compared with 1,365 in June 2008 and just 733 in June 2006, according to figures from a bankruptcy data provider, Automated Access to Court Electronic Records, based in Oklahoma City.
Bankruptcy filings have accelerated in the past few months after people exhausted their savings, severance, and other sources of income, attorneys said. Some said they expect filings to increase even more because bankruptcies often occur later in a down economic cycle.
“People don’t file bankruptcy when they are still getting unemployment benefits. They file when their unemployment runs out.’’ said Robert M. Josephs, a bankruptcy attorney from Jamaica Plain. Most of his clients filed for bankruptcy after they couldn’t pay their credit card bills. Others faced legal judgments because they couldn’t pay other loans.
For instance, Josephs cited one client who was forced to file for bankruptcy after she couldn’t pay her mortgage. The mortgage company not only foreclosed on her East Boston home, but sued and won a $150,000 court judgment for the remaining money it was owed. “She was never going to be able to pay that,’’ Josephs said.
The unemployment rate in Massachusetts stood at 8.6 percent in June, a 17-year high. But even those who still have jobs are coming under financial stress: Some are being asked to take salary reductions and unpaid furloughs, work shorter weeks, and take other steps that reduce their income.
The vast majority of bankruptcies are filed by individuals. But many businesses are failing as well, ranging from local car dealerships and other retailers to real estate companies and biotech firms. Through the first six months of this year alone, there were 627 commercial bankruptcies, compared with 958 in all of 2008, according to the bankruptcy data provider.
And individuals are increasingly opting for Chapter 7 - a type of bankruptcy that allows filers to wipe out their debts entirely - rather than Chapter 13, under which filers restructure their debts and work out repayment plans.
High-income earners are barred from filing for Chapter 7 under the theory that they should be able to repay their debts.
According to a report issued yesterday by Warren Group in Boston, the number of Chapter 7 filings surged 58 percent in Massachusetts in the second quarter of 2009, while Chapter 13 filings actually decreased.
Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of Warren Group, said he thought more people qualified for Chapter 7 because the worsening economy is pushing people out of work or trimming their paychecks.
“It’s easier to qualify for Chapter 7’’ when your income is lower, Warren said.
Todd Wallack can be reached at email@example.com.
- A third of German plastics firms reduce hours, By Charlotte Eyre, European Plastics News.
Some 32% of German plastic packaging firms introduced short-time working in the first half of 2009, highlighting the devastation wrecked by the economic downturn, says an industry association.
According to the survey, carried out by Germany's IK plastic packaging association, Germany’s economic problems are likely to continue throughout the year, as 26% of companies questioned say they will maintain the shorter working hours. In addition, some 26% of companies have this year laid off workers due to market conditions.
The IK group says plastics firms will face a marginally more profitable third quarter, although overall growth will be hampered by higher raw material prices. Some 15% therefore plan to cut more jobs during that period.
The association says that “additional structural adaptations within the industry will be necessary in order to secure the future of a great number of companies”.
Earlier this year, the IK group polled a number of German plastic packaging firms, 60% of which predicted declines in output and exports this year. The companies said their situation is “extremely tough” and that their profits would deteriorate.
Companies that have introduced short-time working in Germany include BASF, which last month reduced hours for 1,000 employees at 20 production plants and associated service units at its site in Ludwigshafen. Windmöller & Hölscher, a German blown film specialist, said in May it will maintain shorter working hours at its Lengerich plant until at least the end of the year.
- Not so fast - The argument for slowing down in virtually every aspect of life, by Don Aucoin, BG, G10.
[This movement is a relative of the shorter worktime movement - the sustainability of the economy is not really a matter of slowness but of sharing = including everyone as a participant and beneficiary. Plus we have dropped the people's ages bizarrely provided in this article, as irrelevant to the article and unworthy of a non-ageist society.]
Rev. John Gibb Millspaugh had big plans for his trip to Utah last month.
He was going to be in Salt Lake City to talk at a Unitarian conference about the importance of slowing down to examine the spiritual implications of food choices. Afterward, Millspaugh figured he and his wife, Sarah, would hit as many tourist sites as possible.
But at the last minute, he decided to take his own advice: The Millspaughs, who are co-ministers of the Winchester Unitarian Society, narrowed their vacation itinerary to a single bird sanctuary and a couple of national parks in Moab.
“When I spend more time in fewer places, and allow myself to have a deeper encounter rather than checking off a checklist of places I’ve visited,’’ said Millspaugh....“I develop a profound awareness of why it was on my list in the first place.’’
While Millspaugh’s conference talk touched on, among other things, the principles of the “slow food’’ movement, when he scaled back his vacation, he was joining another fledgling movement: slow travel.
Slowing down, an idea that might have sounded downright un-American not that long ago, is - you should pardon the expression - gathering speed. Slow food and slow travel are part of a broader slow movement that has expanded to slow cities, slow parenting, slow homes, slow marketing, slow reading, slow transportation, slow craft, slow art, slow energy, slow math, slow science, even slow money.
“There’s no question that it’s got a foothold in the US,’’ said Carl Honoré, a Canadian journalist whose two books, “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed,’’ and “Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children From the Culture of Hyper-Parenting,’’ have made him a quasi-spokesman for the whole idea. “It’s on the cultural radar.’’
The popularity of slowing down could stem from its implicit challenge to the assumptions that undergird the rat race. After all, when more than seven million Americans have lost their jobs since December 2007, bringing the total number of unemployed to 14 million, the idea of the rat race loses some status.
That doesn’t mean that for a nation that’s always been in a hurry, it will be easy to get the iPhone-tapping, Kobe-beef eating, SUV-driving, jet-setting, status-obsessed speedsters to hit the brakes. Americans have operated on the principle that faster is better from the Industrial Revolution to the assembly line to the Jet Age to the Internet to the BlackBerry.
Against such ingrained habits, the slow movement says, essentially: slow down and live better. Honoré calls it “a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better.’’ He emphasizes that does not mean shifting from the fast lane to the breakdown lane, but rather finding “the right speed’’ for life’s tasks, and “living life rather than rushing through it.’’ The slow movement urges changes in lifestyles and workplace habits that move away from multitasking, competition, and compulsive consumerism.
[And long hours? and compulsive workaholism?]
The end result, advocates say, will be better physical and mental health, and more social interaction that can tighten bonds between individuals and their communities. The movement’s guiding precept is this: Savor experiences rather than marking them off your mental checklist before racing on to the next thing. “Once you get this simple idea in your head,’’ Honoré says, “it affects everything you do: sex, parenting, exercise, travel, design, food, medicine, you name it.’’
Slow food, for example, means taking the time to prepare meals with fresh food from local sources rather than gobbling fast-food or having rare sea bass shipped from halfway around the world, and then taking the time to appreciate both the taste of the food and the companionship with family and friends. Slow parenting means that mom and dad let their kids be kids rather than turn childhood into a pressurized competition on the fast track toward academic success. The design principle of slow cities can be summarized as more open space, fewer cars, more pedestrians. Slow money’s aim is to, in the words of the Brookline-based Slow Money Alliance, “reconnect investors to that in which they are investing and to the places in which they live.’’
“A year ago people would have just laughed, saying there is no such thing as money that is too fast,’’
said Woody Tasch, chairman and president of the alliance, a network of investors and entrepreneurs who support small, independent, local enterprises.
But now, Tasch said, investors are listening, not laughing. “I’ve been thinking about this for 30 years, but I’ve never had the opportunity to talk about it in public and have it so immediately understood,’’ he said.
The chastened national mood has some slow advocates hoping Americans will turn their backs on the culture of acceleration. “We have been living a very fast life, and it certainly has come back to bite us, with the economic blowup of the past year,’’ says Willow Blish, a leader of Slow Food Boston. “That has made people rethink their lives a little bit more.’’
“This is a crisis triggered by people going way too fast,’’ Honoré says. “Everyone was charging along in a stampede, in pursuit of fast profit. And look at the apocalyptic mess it’s landed us in.’’ The idea, he says, that “progress equals acceleration’’ was already under assault from many younger people who are seeking deeper meaning in their careers and questioning the old notion that he-who-dies-with-the-most-toys-wins.
But not everyone is eager to jettison the hare and emulate the tortoise. Wasn’t it the actress and author Carrie Fisher who wryly served up our de facto national motto? “The trouble with instant gratification is that it takes too long.’’
“The historical record shows that people have never opted for slower,’’ says Stephen Kern, author of “The Culture of Time and Space: 1880 to 1918’’ and a history professor at Ohio State University. “The logic of history is driven by speed. And when the economy gets bad, people are doing things as fast as possible because faster is cheaper.’’
Even some analysts sympathetic to the broader goals of the slow movement question whether it can ever fully take hold in the United States. “For some people it’s not going to feel good at all. It will be, where’s my BlackBerry? said Bella DePaulo, a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California Santa Barbara. “I think the slow movement folks will find each other and do their thing and mostly be ignored by everybody else.’’
Or maybe “everybody else’’ will see more people slowing down and feel tempted to join the crowd.
Blish...a Pilates instructor and nutritional consultant, says a growing stream of people are tapping into the resources provided by Slow Food Boston, including sessions on how to preserve food from harvest, how to make jam, how to prepare Neapolitan cuisine from scratch, and how to make tomato sauce and salsa. Millspaugh, the minister, has found an eager audience in hundreds of congregations across the country for an “ethical eating’’ study guide that illustrates how changing to a “slow’’ approach to eating can align with their values by, for example, embracing organic food and cutting down on “resource-intensive’’ food types like meat. Tasch says a “slow money’’ approach that created investment strategies for valuable local institutions could benefit renewable energy projects, education programs, and even the struggling newspaper industry.
Internationally, the slowness movement is likewise gaining adherents. Geir Berthelsen, founder of the Norway-based World Institute of Slowness, said more corporations in Europe are asking his advice for ways to change how their workplaces function. “The financial crisis is a consequence of a fast society,’’ said Berthelsen. “Too much in the window, and nothing in the stockroom.
[Actually, there's too much in both the window and the stockroom in a recession, which is a crisis of underconsumption and overproduction, alias "excess inventory."
The focus has been on the end product, not the process.
[Timesizing reverses this by creating a lot more job options so people can gravitate more easily to jobs they enjoy here and now, instead of just doing it for the money to spend...tonight, this weekend, next month on vacation, or next year in retirement.]
“In a fast company, they are in a firefighting mode. They are reactive; they don’t have time to think,’’ said Berthelsen. “You will have people being creative and inspired if you take away the short-term focus.’’
For all its emphasis on slowness, the institute is quick to spot an opportunity: It is branching out beyond its think-tank origins to launch “Slow Production,’’ whose stated aim is to “bring about change within the world of producing goods, foods, and services for people’’ and whose hallmarks are billed as “transparency, simplicity, consciousness.’’ This fall, Berthelsen said, the institute will introduce “Slow Coffee’’ in the United States.
As for Millspaugh, he says his go-slow approach deepened his vacation experience in Utah, and taught him this lesson: “I see more and experience more when I see less, in a way.’’
7/19-20/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Reed touts plan to expand WorkShare, By JIM BARON, 7/19 Woonsocket Call - Providence,RI,USA.
CUMBERLAND, Rhode Is. — WorkShare is catching on like wildfire.
The program, which allows companies to reduce employees’ hours and pay without laying them off altogether with the state’s unemployment insurance program making up a portion of the lost wages, is ballooning from 3,700 participating employees in March, to 7,500 in May to nearly 18,000 in June, according to figures from the state Department of Labor and Training.
Employers get to cut labor costs in lean times. Employees get to keep their jobs and their benefits, such as health insurance, while getting reimbursed for a portion of their lost wages, and the state does not have to pay the full cost of unemployment for workers who would otherwise be laid off, and gets the benefit of their continued taxes and spending in the local economy.
If, for example, the employee is cut to a four-day work week, he or she is able to collect 20 percent of the weekly unemployment compensation for which he or she is eligible.
Cheryl Merchant, CEO of Cumberland’s Hope Global, said 80 percent of Hope Global’s customer base is in the automotive industry,” so “the economy has affected Hope Global in a very severe way.” She called the WorkShare program “a very fundamental part of our survival.”
Fighting to keep its most talented employees in the face of a down economy, the company took several steps, including adopting a four-day work week last winter in an effort to avoid layoffs. By May of this year, all of the company’s workforce was back on a full work schedule.
Ann DaCosta, who has worked for the company for 21 years, and her husband, Yves, a 31-year employee, both went on WorkShare last winter.
Ann DaCosta said “if it were not for WorkShare, I don’t know if my husband or I would have a job right now.” She said the program “enabled us to have a reduced work week but keep all of our benefits. That is an important thing because as we all know, heath insurance rates right now, to go out an purchase them on your own is very difficult.
“If not for the WorkShare program,” she told a press conference at the company’s Martin Street headquarters, “we may have had to go on full unemployment. Those rates would not have allowed my husband and I, or any of the employees of Hope Global, to meet our monthly obligations. That could have resulted in us (defaulting) on our mortgage, not having a home.”
If they could not afford health insurance, she added, they could have wound up in a program where the state would have to foot medical bills if someone in the family became sick.
“I believe the WorkShare program is a win-win for the employee, the employer, because it allows them to keep the dedicated people who know the company, it also benefits the state, because if I am not paying my bills, I am not stimulating the economy.”
Noting the success of WorkShare in Rhode Island and 16 other states, Sen. Jack Reed plans to introduce legislation that would provide federal funding to help compensate states who already operate the program, and to expand it to states that do not currently offer it.
“Work share programs provide businesses with the flexibility to reduce hours instead of cutting jobs,” said Reed. “This plan will help prevent layoffs, make businesses more productive, and save taxpayers money by keeping people on payrolls and off unemployment benefits. My goal is to expand this program to allow more companies to take advantage of it and help more employees keep their jobs and their benefits as we work our way through these tough economic times.”
The senator said that every dollar put into WorkShare results in $1.69 added to the economy a year later.
Reed’s planned legislation would establish a temporary program to provide partial federal-funding of short-time compensation benefits for up to 26 weeks to states like Rhode Island that operate work share programs. States that encourage employers to maintain health and retirement benefits would receive a larger share of federal funds. Reed’s bill would also provide $3 million for competitive start-up grants to states that do not currently have work-share programs to get them off the ground.
Al Lubrano, chairman of the RI Manufacturers’ Association and CEO of Technical Materials Inc. (TMI) in Lincoln, had high praise for the program as well.
“As people who live and work in Rhode Island, we are extremely fortunate to have WorkShare,” he said.
Lubrano said the automotive industry is 40 percent of TMI’s business, and the bulk of the rest is in the also-struggling electronics industry, “so we’ve been devastaed for the first two quarters (of the year) but WorkShare has allowed us to keep key employees. It’s a great program and speaking for the manufacturing community it is a tremendous benefit and one of the things that we should be very proud Rhode Island has done right.”
John Gregory, president of the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, said local chambers and other industry groups have been encouraging their members to participate in WorkShare, which is one of the reasons for its exponential growth.
Because of the program’s expansion, Gregory said, employers may have to pay higher unemployment insurance rates in the short term, but the success Hope Global has had with it demonstrates the plan’s benefits.
“We’re really concerned about “buy local” initiatives, Gregory told The Call. “The people who are not on WorkShare probably are not buying, period. By being almost whole with the WorkShare program, it is not only mortgage payments, but they shop. It has that ripple effect of helping that local retailer or hardware store or convenience store. We’re telling everybody about this program.”
[Here's the Senator's 7/17 *press release.]
- Shorter hours won't mean free parking, by Will Richmond, 7/20 The Herald News, Fall River MA.
Fall River, Mass. — The reduction of hours for the city’s four parking control officers does not mean there will be free parking for the next year.
The city’s staff of parking officers is one of the groups affected by the recent reduction in employee hours, which took effect July 1 as the city attempts to offset a budget shortfall.
Ines Leite, spokeswoman for Mayor Robert Correia’s office, said there are now just two officers assigned to duties on Mondays and Fridays. All four officers work Tuesday through Thursday. She said two officers are assigned to a Monday-through-Thursday work week, with the other two working Tuesday through Friday. Each officer works a 32-hour work week and receives a 30-minute paid lunch break.
Leite said the officers are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, but were not among those who voted to accept the reduced workweek proposal in early July.
While citywide coverage remains in effect five days a week, Leite said the two officers on Monday and Friday are responsible for covering a wider area. She said the city is divided into four sectors, with each officer responsible for covering one section during shifts Tuesday through Thursday. She said on Monday and Friday each officer will handle two sectors.
Leite said the move to stagger shifts was done to ensure the city would not lose a full day of parking oversight.
“A staggered work schedule does present a potential loss of revenues, but there would be a complete loss for that one day without it,” Leite said.
She said it is difficult to determine if the city is losing parking revenues by having two fewer officers two days a week because the reduced shifts have been in effect for less than four weeks. Leite also noted that parking violation payments reach the Traffic Department at various times as violators return tickets throughout the year.
“We haven’t reached the end of the month to do a comparison, so we don’t have all the numbers yet,” she said.
Although officers are working on Fridays, the city’s Traffic Department is closed. Despite that closure, Leite said a system remains in place for anyone needing to report a problem with city meters. She said anyone with a problem meter should call 508-324-2579 and leave a message that includes the location and the meter’s number. A maintenance person will then respond on Monday to fix the problem. Leite also suggested that contact information be provided in the message if a reimbursement is being requested.
E-mail Will Richmond at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Wages to rise above inflation, by Ben Schneiders, 7/20 The Age - Melbourne,Victoria,Australia.
AUSTRALIA - Wages are defying the economic gloom, with employers agreeing to hundreds of deals that are well in excess of inflation — even in distressed parts of the economy such as manufacturing.
An Age analysis of more than 100 collective wage agreements lodged since April has found that while many smaller businesses are effectively freezing wages, others are granting increases of as much as 6 per cent in the next year.
The nationwide survey by The Age found average wage increases of 3.7 per cent for the next year — well above the most recent consumer price index increase of 2.5 per cent and the subdued outlook for inflation.
The solid wages growth comes despite the global recession being regarded as the worst since the Great Depression and in a climate of rising unemployment in Australia, where many employers are cutting the hours of staff.
Today the ACTU will host a summit where unions will warn that the crisis is not over and more needs to be done to protect jobs and entitlements.
But big employers including Cadbury-Schweppes, Qantas, James Hardie and Telstra appear to be confident, agreeing to deals that lift wages by 4 per cent and above for some staff.
In the Victorian building industry scores of employers have agreed to a deal with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union that lifts wages by 6 per cent in the first year and at an average rate of 5 per cent a year over three years.
A senior building industry source said the industry had been lucky it had been able to absorb the wage rise as some of the stimulus spending had gone through to construction. Earlier this year it looked like the industry was heading for a big reduction in work and employment, he said.
However, Australian Industry Group national industrial relations director Steve Smith said wage settlements in manufacturing had eased from about 4 per cent in recent years and deals were now growing at a slower pace.
"In some cases there are companies that have wage freezes for blue collar and white collar staff," he said. "There are lots of examples of people working shorter hours."
While negotiations are tough in manufacturing, the most recent figures from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations found that in the first three months of 2009 wages for employees on collective agreements rose 4.1 per cent.
Construction, utilities and mining was where wages growth was strongest while manufacturing, wholesale trade, cafe and restaurants and agricultural agreements were below the average. Ford, which made redundant more than 800 workers in the past year, is pushing for a wage freeze for 3000 production employees.
The figures confirm a recession or downturn is a good time to be employed, whereas last year, before unemployment rose sharply, wages failed to keep pace with inflation.
Another feature of some collective agreements was that they were linked to decisions of the Fair Pay Commission — meaning that any rises have been cancelled by the commission's decision to freeze wages. That decision will flow through to up to 1.3 million award-reliant workers.
7/18/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Tightening the belt a painful process in Avon Park, By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY email@example.com, News-Sun - Sebring,FL,USA.
Avon Park, Fla. - Turnout for the Saturday budget workshop was a little disappointing for those who hoped for citizen participation, as the room was not full.
City Manager Sarah Adelt opened the meeting with a written statement which she read for the record, explaining for the city council and the public the reasons for the choices she and her staff made in creating the budget.
She reminded the audience of the challenges facing all governments at this time, dealing as they are with decreased revenues and rising costs.
Avon Park had to cut $300,000 from its budget, which meant, "it was necessary to look at every revenue and expense," Adelt said
To that point, she said, "One area that we would invite you to review is the outstanding fire assessments in the amount of $19,061.50 and if you know any of these people or organizations, please ask them to pay their share."
When discussing cost-cutting measures, Adelt said, "Reduction of city employees was the last avenue taken due to them being our greatest asset.
"It would be easy to say if everyone took a 10 percent reduction pay we would only have to find another $75,000 or less in services to be cut but, that is not the case since two of our three unions have not come forth with any salary reductions."
Instead, Adelt said, non-union employee salaries were cut -- upper management by two percent (because they are on call 24/7 and will be responsible for any overflow work resulting for smaller staffs), and middle management salaries were cut to reflect a 32-hour work week, although they will be expected to work until a job is done.
Non-union hourly wage employees will be furloughed eight hours every 60 days.
Adelt made clear she welcomed any wage reductions volunteered by union workers, but warned she still could not promise to save jobs.
Adelt went on to explain that the sewer and water fund are designed to be self-sustaining, but "as you are aware," she said, "ours are not at this time."
In fact, she added, "The water/sewer fund has cost the general fund over $1 million in transfers for over four years ... Without the 30 percent increase in utility rates, we would experience a shortfall of over $800,000,"
Finance Director Renee Green warned the council that the increase in rates should not be counted on to produce more revenue for the city, because water consumption is expected to decrease as the cost rises.
Regarding outsourcing work, Adelt said "we get each of these services done for less than it would cost the city to employ one person and maintain the equipment and supplies." She added that there were issues regarding safety worker compensation liability as well.
Adelt then addressed the issue of the GSG contract that provides an individual to act as both public works director and working foreman. She said the contract is scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, and she hopes to have both a chief plant operator and a public works director hired by then.
She said the city has saved money even though the contract cost $2,500 weekly, because the contractor was filling two jobs and a new trainee will not be hired until after the contract expires.
In the meantime, she said, the wastewater treatment plant was estimated to be working at 40 percent capacity, and is currently working at between 70-75 percent. It should be at 80 percent capacity within 60 days.
Adelt warned the city council that there has been no preventative maintenance program at the plant for some time, and one will have to be developed.
As to cutting back on the utility billing window, she said "with the advancement of technology it has become less necessary to utilize two full-time employees, 80 hours a week, to service the public. Other utilities such as phone and electricity cannot be paid in person in Avon Park. Our utility bills can be paid through many ways, including two drop boxes, electronically, and mail. We have added e-billing in the last month."
Adelt reported good news with the solid waste enterprise fund, which is self-sustaining.
However, because of budget constraints two individuals would have to be laid off. "It is not being suggested," Adelt said, "that garbage or dumpster schedules be changed." Instead, the pick-up of yard clippings and bulk trash will be limited to two times a month, as it is in other municipalities.
Another extra expense this year will be the city election. Because the county is not holding an election this year, the city must bear the entire expense. Adelt warned because of budget constraints, the city could not afford the cost of providing for early voting.
While six new police vehicles had been provided for in the budget, Adelt said she wanted to discuss the possibility of "swap-seating" the officers, as each only works 15 days a month. "It may be imperative that vehicles are shared among officers," she said.
Due to time constraints, this article does not include all the issues raised by Adelt. Obviously, neither does it include the reactions to them. See www.newssun.com later this week or read Wednesday's News-Sun for more.
- 6,150 unionised jobs lost in H1 [first halfyear], uncertainty looms, By JOYCE HOOI, Business Times via BusinessTimes.com.sg - Singapore.
SINGAPORE - The unionised sector shed 6,150 jobs in the first half of this year - and faces a second half fraught with uncertainty and empty order books.
Echoing gloomy national data, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) disclosed yesterday that 4,744 workers were retrenched from the sector in Q1 - the highest quarterly tally since 1998. 'The first quarter of this year was extremely challenging,' NTUC's industrial relations director Cham Hui Fong told reporters.
In the economy overall, 12,600 jobs were shed in Q1 - another record - according to numbers released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in April. Retrenchments in the unionised sector moderated in Q2 when 1,406 workers were axed - a two-thirds drop from Q1. The manufacturing sector bore the brunt of retrenchments in H1, accounting for 75 per cent of all jobs shed.
Professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) were hit hard, making up 22 per cent of those retrenched, compared with 12 per cent during the Asian financial crisis of 1998.
As for shorter workweeks and temporary layoffs, numbers were also bleak in H1, with 31,177 workers affected - higher than the 14,898 in full-year 1998 and approaching the 45,561 in full-year 2001, post-Sept 11. 'We are pushing for a shorter workweek first to save jobs before firms resort to retrenchment to keep costs down,' said NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say.
[Well, Singapore does have a *worksharing program ("SPUR") to help them if they get their shorter workweek.]
Most shorter workweeks and temporary layoffs occurred in Q1, before tapering off sharply in Q2.
Despite the more heartening Q2 figures - attributed to the Jobs Credit scheme and improving business prospects in some sectors - the light at the end of the tunnel could well be that of an oncoming train for some industries.
NTUC expects the plastics, machinery, textile and electronics industries to face tougher times in H2 than H1. 'For some of the plastics firms, orders are not coming in after August, and some of them are expecting big losses this financial year,' said NTUC's Ms Cham. 'They will be implementing more severe cost-cutting measures but we do not know the extent.'
The closely watched electronics sector, meanwhile, is expected to provide little solace in Q4, with order books filled only until September. The industry is hard-pressed to project Q4 figures, despite traditionally being able to have a year-end forecast by July.
At the other end of the spectrum, pharmaceuticals and education will do better in H2, says NTUC.
The gloomy business outlook is set to make itself felt in retrenchment figures in H2. In fact, NTUC said unions have been receiving notifications of impending retrenchments and signs of shorter workweeks to come. It expects the next wave of retrenchments to range from the hundreds to the thousands, mostly in the manufacturing sector.
In May, NTUC raised $23.2 million for those affected by retrenchments and shorter workweeks. So far, almost $10 million has been disbursed to the unions in the form of U Care Immediate Assistance, U Stretch vouchers and a scholarship/bursary top-up scheme.
Mr Lim urged unions and firms yesterday to stay the course in helping the sector keep below the 29,000 retrenchments recorded at national level in 1998. 'We need to cut costs and save jobs to prevent record retrenchments for the whole year,' he said. 'We also need to switch gears. The longer we are in the downturn, the more emphasis we should place on new capabilities and growth.'
7/17/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- N.J. bill would help workers whose hours are shortened - ‘Work share’ would restore some employees’ lost wages, by Athena Merritt, 7/17 (modified 7/20) Philadelphia Business Journal via philadelphia.bizjournals.com
TRENTON, N.J. - Legislation introduced in New Jersey last month could give struggling employers a means of avoiding layoffs. Proponents hope to make it law by early next year at the latest.
The proposal, known as “work share” would enable employers to reduce workers’ hours and have the affected employees recoup a portion of the lost wages through unemployment benefits. To participate, employers would have to have a minimum of 10 full-time workers, reduce their weekly hours by at least 10 percent, sustain their existing benefits and not hire any additional employees.
Though the legislation (Senate Bill 2895) was introduced by Sen. Marcia A. Karrow, R-Warren/Hunterdon, who is leaving, having not won the Republican nomination, fellow sponsors are committed to it.
“We’re in some very difficult times right now for a lot of reasons, and I look at this first and foremost as a way to keep people employed and hopefully on the other side of the equation we can help hold off businesses from leaving New Jersey,” said Assemblyman John DiMaio, R-Warren/Hunterdon, who introduced the companion measure (Bill 4126) in the Assembly.
The legislation would provide an option for employers to cut salary costs, but hang onto highly skilled workers, Melanie Willoughby, senior vice president of government affairs for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said. Employers are already struggling under a $340 million tax increase that hit on July 1 to shore up the state’s unemployment compensation fund, she said. About 350,000 are collecting state and federal unemployment compensation benefits in the state, compared to around 120,000 over the same period last year.
“It works itself out because you keep the employee in the work force, you are still paying them a portion of their salary and they are paying into the unemployment fund so it’s actually a win-win to everyone,” Willoughby said.
Currently, 17 states participate in work share programs. Pennsylvania and Delaware are not among them. With the state of the economy it’s likely other states will begin offering them in the future, Neil Ridley, senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, said.
“I think because of the severity of the recession and actually the increasing attention to this approach in the last six months to a year, I expect more states to move in this direction,” Ridley said.
“It’s encouraging that New Jersey is moving to adopt a shared work program because I think it’s an option that really should be in place for employers and workers in as many states as possible,” he said.
While the programs do help employers to hang onto employees during an economic slowdown and help keep employees employed and receiving benefits, there are downsides, Ridley said.
“From a state perspective it is more complex to administer than the regular unemployment program,” Ridley said.
firstname.lastname@example.org | 215-238-5149
- Hailey, Bellevue already have shorter workweeks, by Tony Evans, Idaho Mountain Express and Guide - Ketchum,ID,USA.
The city of Hailey has no plans to follow the county's recent decision to close all government offices on Fridays to save money. Yet city officials say individual departments have shown benefits from switching to four-day workweeks last year.
While Hailey workers are still putting in 40 hours each week [four 10-hour days?], Bellevue employee hours have dropped to 32 due to budget shortfalls.
Parts of the Hailey city government are already on a four-day workweek.
[Yep, four 10-hour days, a pattern that is irrelevant to really cutting the workweek and moving toward fuller employment ande markets on a lower-workweek (and higher-pay!) level - higher pay cuz lower-workweeks mean lower labor surplus, which has been holding down wages].
City Administrator Heather Dawson said about one year ago the 20-member public works department began shutting down on Fridays. Public works employees service the water, streets and parks departments.
Dawson said the four-day work schedule increased efficiency by reducing the number of weekly set-up and break-down periods for city construction projects. Staff were able to work longer on the days they were on the clock.
"This saved the city money," she said. She was unable to say how much.
Dawson said the council's decision to shorten workweeks was based on the city's goal of reducing carbon emissions from city buildings and vehicles by 15 percent by 2015.
"The employee commute was factored into this goal of reducing emissions," she said. "The change also provided a cost benefit to employees during a period of high gas prices."
The Hailey City Council voted this spring not to extend four-day workweek schedules to the rest of City Hall employees. The council determined that shutting the entire building for three days would not be as cost-effective as shutting down individual departments.
"The council agreed that any savings would not be enough compared to the customer service we would lose by not being open five days a week," she said.
Bellevue moved to a four-day workweek in February.
City offices are closed on Mondays, and city employees are working 32-hour workweeks due to budget constraints.
"Our employees have seen 20 percent reductions in salaries," said City Administrator Tom Blanchard. "We are pretty nervous about it."
Tony Evans: email@example.com
- Toyota to build Auris hybrid in Britain, Agence France-Presse.
TOKYO — Japan's Toyota Motor said Friday that it would start making a hybrid version of its Auris hatchback in Britain next year, giving a much-needed boost to the country's ailing auto industry.
Toyota, the world's largest automaker, said the move aimed to harness growing global demand for fuel-efficient vehicles.
The cars -- Toyota's first hybrids built in Europe -- will be produced at plants in Deeside and Burnaston in central Britain, where the non-hybrid Auris is already built.
The announcement offers a ray of hope for the British economy, which has been badly hit by the global economic downturn.
Automakers like Nissan have announced job cuts at their production sites in Britain and others like Jaguar Land Rover have brought in shorter hours and pay freezes.
Toyota said it had sold more than 37,000 Auris cars in Europe since the model was introduced two years ago. They are also produced at plants in Turkey.
The company is betting on the popularity of gas-electric cars to drive a recovery from its first ever annual loss.
Toyota's revamped Prius hybrid has been the top-selling car in Japan for the past two months, in part due to government tax incentives.
7/16/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Shared work policies against the meltdown,
blog host? Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation via blog.p2pfoundation.net
Proposals for anti-meltdown policies, partially inspired by the New Deal in the 1930's, post by Dr. Janet Hively, On the Commons via blog.p2pfoundation.net
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - To create a commons-based society, people need more than exposure to new ideas. They need tangible ways of practicing and living out these bright possibilities. Old habits about how we organize and pay for work maintain the sharp divisions between rich and poor and tie us to the consumer values of the market-based society. At this time when unemployment due to layoffs is growing, we should try out some new ways to share the work and spread the wealth.
Here are three examples:
1. Shared Work
New York State’s Department of Labor (DOL) generated most of the innovative ideas for the New Deal in 1933, and today it is still a source of innovative new programs. One of them, the *Shared Work program, helps employers survive recessions and seasonal business adjustments by providing an alternative to laying off full-time workers. Instead of cutting staff, an employer can reduce by 20% to 60% the number of hours of all workers, or those of a select work group. Under an approved plan, employees may collect partial Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. To qualify, an employer must have at least five full-time employees and have paid UI tax contributions for at least four consecutive calendar quarters before applying.
Through the Shared Work program, employers demonstrate that they appreciate valued employees and want to keep them on despite tough times. It is costly to find, hire and train new workers. It is also costly to pay overtime to employees who work longer hours to make up for people who were laid off. Most important, it provides stability and hope for valued workers who would otherwise be laid off.
The Shared Work approach could make a huge difference as a federal policy. It would also be useful to brainstorm other ideas of spreading the workload so that more people can be employed and earn enough to meet basic needs in this period of recession.
2. Reduced Hours
In 1930, the world’s leading producer of ready-to-eat cereal, the Kellogg Company, announced that all of its nearly 1,500 workers would move from an eight-hour to a six-hour workday. The company president, Lewis Brown, and owner W.K. Kellogg noted that if the company ran, “four six-hour shifts…instead of three eight-hour shifts, this will give work and paychecks to the heads of 300 more families in Battle Creek.” At a time when the country was sliding into the Great Depression, this was welcome news to workers.
As Benjamin Hunnicutt describes in his book Kellogg’s Six-Hour Day, Brown and Kellogg wanted to do more than save jobs. They hoped to show that the “free exchange of goods, services, and labor to the free market would not have to mean mindless consumerism or eternal exploitation of people and natural resources.” Instead, “workers would be liberated by increasingly higher wages and shorter hours for the final freedom promised by the Declaration of Independence – the pursuit of happiness.”
The company leaders argued that men and women would work more efficiently on shorter shifts. With more people employed, the overall purchasing power of the community would increase, thus allowing for more purchases of goods, including cereals. Kellogg’s vision was of a commons-based society from a business perspective.
Frances Perkins, New York’s Secretary of Labor, was interested in cutting working hours when she was named the U.S. Secretary of Labor by President Roosevelt in 1933. She and her friend, Senator Hugo Black, both influenced by the Dahlberg book and the Kellogg example, drafted legislation requiring a 30-hour workweek. Although Roosevelt at first appeared to support Black’s bill, he was heavily lobbied by the business leaders and backed down. Later, he and Perkins gained approval of the 40-hour week that is still the standard seventy years later.
Several Western European nations with strong unions, have legislated shorter workweeks. Here in the U.S, a growing number of workers seek out part-time rather than full-time employment for an assortment of reasons: older adults seek bridge jobs, young adults seek jobs to support their education, parents seek jobs that complement their children’s school schedules, adult children seek jobs that complement caregiving for their parents, and so forth. Rather than focusing on a standard for workweek hours, Americans would benefit by removing barriers to fully flexible work schedules, which could be adapted to productivity outcomes and employee needs.
First and foremost for any shared work plan, neither health care nor retirement benefits should be tied to employment. In Western Europe, both are provided by the government from tax payments. The U.S. should adopt similar policies. Small business owners are now restrained from hiring more workers by regulations requiring payment for benefits that should be universal. Stipends for Young and Old. In comparison to the 20th century, there are limited opportunities in the 21st century for adolescents to be employed. Too many lack work experience with the supervision that teaches lifelong skills, habits and attitudes related to productivity. Similarly, there are limited opportunities for older adults to find employment. Many millions of older adults are finding it hard to live on Social Security now that they have lost much of the supplementary savings they had counted on. They need employment to supplement their retirement incomes.
Older adults receiving Social Security payments and adolescents who are still family dependents should receive minimum wage stipends for providing hours of part-time service employment through public and non-profit agencies. Some of the older adults receiving stipends could coordinate primarily intergenerational programs that will teach skills by assuring training and coaching, performance feedback, etc.
In the process of shifting from a market-based to a commons-based society, it’s important to develop and harness the full potential of human capital. Whatever the age of the worker, every position in a stipend program should be structured to match jobs with participant strengths and interests, teach 21st century work skills, and document performance outcomes so that stipend work will build bridges to ongoing employment.
Here is another useful parallel between now and the ‘30s. Between 1936 and 1939, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) paid over $7 billion to more than three million jobless citizens for “work relief to restore human dignity.” Harry Hopkins, the WPA Director, insisted that the work provided should match the skills of the unemployed. Artists were employed to paint murals in public buildings, sculptors created park and battlefield monuments, and actors and musicians were paid to perform. Critics created the word “boondoggling” to describe some of these “white-collar” WPA projects. But the artists’ projects merged with more utilitarian schools and roads, stadiums and parks as a humanist legacy for future generations.
Those of us who seek tangible ways to shift from a market-based to a commons-based society need to get involved in shaping implementation of the stipend volunteer service programs approved through the Serve America Act as well as the stimulus jobs created through the Economic Recovery Act. If properly managed, the federal funds will stimulate human resource development that fits the social and economic needs of this 21st century society.”
- Sacrifices that saved someone's paycheck, Boston Globe via globe.com.
As the nation's unemployment rate nears 10 percent, companies big and small are continuing to lay off workers and cut employee benefits.
But amid the economic chaos, some jobs and benefits have actually been saved. In some cases, co-workers and business owners have given up pay, taken unpaid furloughs, or even ponied up their own cash to help those who work for them.
Take a look at some of the efforts that people around the country have made to help keep friends, colleagues, and, in some cases, total strangers employed, and then let us know if you'd do the same.
[There follows 16 webpages you can click on to get specific articles. With infinite good intentions and finite time and energy, we plan to thread the timesizing-related articles back into our archives, but meanwhile, here's the *Boston Globe's online version with the 16 webpage links for as long as it's up.]
- Sunday work hours increase in French vote, AP via BG, A3.
PARIS - France’s lower house of Parliament yesterday approved a divisive bill to allow more stores to stay open - and more people to work - on Sundays.
The bill, passed in a 282-to-238 vote yesterday, now goes to the Senate for debate.
Expanding Sunday working hours is one of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s reform pledges. Supporters of such a move say it would give the French economy a much-needed jolt as the nation wrestles with recession.
France’s leftist opposition, however, calls it an affront to labor protections, and traditionalists decry it as an attack on the time-honored day of rest.
[It's high time that leftists, laborites and progressives learned that there is a HUGE DIFFERENCE between hours per job or per business and hours per person, between workweek per job or business and workweek per person. Hours or workweek per job or business is a private-sector, free-market call and is sustainably decontrollable wherever such controls arise. Hours or workweek per person is public-sector, government call and is sustainable controllable = governable = limitable wherever such controls are missing, as in China and other backward, savage, self-braking, jerry-built, consumer-via-employee-bashing, third-world economies.]
Under the new measure, shops in France’s three-largest metropolitan areas - Paris, Marseille, and Lille - would be permitted to open on Sundays. Employees would have the choice to refuse Sunday working hours, and employers must pay those who agree to work double overtime.
[France has a louzy US-style overtime design, and without a good one, workweek adjustment is useless in pulling and keeping you out of recession. Trying to disincentivize overtime for the company with high payroll costs is vitiated today by high-cost benefits per person, while simultaneously incentivizing employees with double pay is just plain sabotages the whole intended function of the overtime design in terms of overtime-to-jobs&markets conversion. All overtime must be converted into jobs (and training if necessary to get immediate hirees). And all overtime profits, relative to hiring in more people working within the straight-time-per-person workweek, however short, must be reinvested in the consumer base via overtime-targeted hiring (and training if needed). If the company isn't willing or able to perform this reinvestment, then 100% of their overtime profits are taxes away from them and the government attempts to perform the conversion of overtime-to-jobs&markets conversion that would have been better if the company had done - but economy-deteriorating if no one does (= France's and our US situation).
French workers, PICK YOUR BATTLES more strategically. Sunday business hours are irrelevant to your real fight = hours per week per person.
Compare this story four pages later today where they're beginning to really waste their political capital -]
French workers facing layoffs adopt increasingly dire tactics - Unions hold boss hostage, threaten to blow up plants, by David Jolly, NYT via BG, A7.
...prepared to detonate gas canisters around the building...once government and company officials agreed to talk, the strikers acknowledged..that it was a hoax [to get their claims for high severance heard, having already resigned themselves to layoffs, ie: downsizing instead of timesizing = they've given up the ship]...
7/15/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- City Hall poised to lay off 431 - 2 unions hold out after all others make deals, posted by Dan P. Blake at 12:45 pm, Chicago Tribune - United States.
Mayor Richard Daley holds a news conference Tuesday with labor leaders to pressure two unions to reach deals. (photo caption)
Two years after buying labor peace with 10-year contracts that featured healthy raises, Mayor Richard Daley has successfully forced most city labor unions to accept pay cuts as he tries to balance Chicago's budget.
As a Wednesday deadline loomed for labor leaders to strike deals on cost-cutting measures, only two unions were still holding out late Tuesday. City Hall was poised to lay off 431 workers represented by the holdout Local 726 of the Teamsters union and Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Daley declined to say Tuesday what city services would suffer if the layoffs take place. But his administration later said the 141 Teamsters workers drive trucks in eight city departments, primarily Streets and Sanitation, Water Management and Aviation. Of the 290 ASFCME workers on the chopping block, 120 work in city libraries stocking books, and the rest work in lower-level administrative jobs across 28 departments, according to City Hall.
The mayor originally threatened to cut 1,504 workers but has since reached deals with 25 unions to avoid layoffs for their members. The administration has said the city faces a more than $300 million budget shortfall and hopes to save $24 million through layoffs and concessions.
The givebacks include a combination of unpaid holidays, furlough days, comp time instead of overtime and a 38-hour work-week for some employees, said Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon, who appeared with Daley at a news conference Tuesday to pressure the holdout unions.
"If we do not come to an agreement by midnight today, then [Wednesday] will be the last day on the city's payroll for 431 union-represented employees," Daley said.
Shortly after, AFSCME Executive Director Henry Bayer told reporters that his union's membership already voted to reject the city's proposal.
"We are not going to let the mayor, or anyone else, dictate to our members what's acceptable to them," said Bayer, whose organization represents 4,500 city employees. He called on the mayor to consider an alternative proposal from the union that would result in the same savings, but he declined to provide details.
"There will be an effect on services," Bayer said. "Services will be diminished, and it's unnecessary, if the mayor and the city would accept our approach."
Jack Hurley, the Teamsters' recording secretary, said Tuesday afternoon that he was not expecting a last-minute deal.
"We're not anticipating anything, unless the city comes through with something," Hurley said. "Our membership expressed clearly the desire to tell the mayor, 'No.' "
Hurley said the deal would have required Teamsters workers to agree to make 8 holidays unpaid, substitute comp time for overtime and shorten workweeks. Some drivers accumulate overtime during storm cleanups and snowstorms, he said.
Still, the Teamsters met privately Tuesday evening to discuss the pending layoffs. An AFSCME spokesman said a meeting with the city late Tuesday did not produce an agreement.
[So what happened?]
Daley lays off more than 400 city workers after deadline passes, Posted by Dan Blake at 12:45 pm; last updated at 5:15 pm.
Mayor Richard Daley's administration today laid off more than 400 city workers after two unions did not agree to cost-cutting measures before a 5 p.m. deadline...
[Here we see a pattern: suicidal union disunity - part of the labor union is too suicidally short-sighted and selfish and belligerent to stand with their fellow union members and wield their power to cut hours and with it, their disempowering. wage-sinking, huge surplus of labor hours in the job market as automation and robotization proceed. See also story #3 today (below).]
- Twinsburg: Officials cut part-time positions, go to 36-hour work week, Posted By: Kim Wendel, WKYC-TV - Cleveland,OH,USA.
TWINSBURG, Ohio -- This time, the layoffs and cutbacks aren't at the Chrysler Stamping Plant but in and around city hall because of the plant's closing next March.
Facing a shortfall in the general fund next year of about $2 million in revenue when the plant closes in March, city hall officials are pro-actively laying off 30 part-time employees by Aug. 3, as well as implementing a 36-hour work week.
On Tuesday, before that night's city council meeting, Mayor Katherine Procop sent out a memo to department heads and city council that detailed the elimination of at least 30 positions within the fire and police departments and parks and recreation department.
That number includes 25 part-time firefighters. The city has 29 full-time firefighters.
The others are two clerk/receptionists and a senior van driver in the parks and recreation department; a police department secretary; and a fire department secretary.
When the summer ends, Procop also said other part-time seasonal employees could be eliminated as well.
Procop said the 36-hour work week would "not be implemented in those unions that have voted for the 3 percent wage concession, as well as non-union employees who will have the 3 percent concession imposed by ordinance."
"As you know, union employees were given the opportunity to take a 3 percent concession on their 2010 salaries in lieu of department layoffs," Procop said. "Only the Teamsters have expressed their willingness to accept the 3 percent concessions."
- Albany County Clerk trims hours, by Carol DeMare, Albany Times Union - Albany,NY,USA.
ALBANY, NY -- County Clerk Thomas Clingan will close the Clerk's Office at 4:15 p.m. in July and August as part of the county furlough program.
By closing 30 minutes earlier, weekly hours are reduced from 35 to 32 1/2, Clingan said.
Under state law, the office must be open five days a week.
"We have to be open every day between 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. except Saturday, Sunday and holidays. The exception is during July and August, when we can close earlier.''
At the county Hall of Records, which is under the clerk's office, closing will also be 30 minutes earlier, at 4 p.m. The Hall of Records opens at 8:30 a.m.
The new hours started July 10 and will continue through Aug. 27, Clingan said.
County Executive Mike Breslin announced a series of furloughs last month as a deficit-reducing measure. He asked other elected county officials who head departments to follow suit.
Several agencies under the executive will furlough workers one day a month, beginning late next month and running through the rest of the year for a total of five days. Breslin said the furloughs will go toward closing a $20.5 million budget gap.
"We looked at all the different ways we could at least meet the spirit of his furloughs and what we came up with was to close half an hour earlier," Clingan said. Employees, including Clingan, will lose a half-hour of pay each day during the next two months as a result of the shorter hours.
Sheriff James Campbell put a self-imposed freeze on certain jobs in both law enforcement and at the county jail. That could save up to $500,000, he said.
Mary Duryea, a spokeswoman for Breslin, said the district attorney, comptroller's office, the board of elections and the coroner's office are not participating in the furloughs.
Unionized county workers demonstrated outside and then packed the County Legislature meeting Monday night to protest the furloughs even though the Legislature had nothing on its agenda dealing with the issue.
[Roughly only half the union movement has ever realized that shorter hours is their power issue - get that and you get everything, because shorter hours cuts the surplus of labor hours in the job market and thereby harnesses market forces on labor's side, getting employers bidding against one another for good help instead of choosing the cheapest of 5000 desperate resumes for 5 open positions. This very day we have story #1 above plus the following two additional stories that we found on a single Google News Search email which demonstrate the split position on shorter hours that has kept the union movement divided and allowed them to sink from 35% to less than 13% of the workforce =
PRO (solidarity, strategy, sustainability): Business news in brief, Philadelphia Inquirer - Philadelphia,PA,USA.
..Union employees voluntarily accepted a reduced work week that cut pay by 6 percent in April, Walmsley said. Salaried employees, including doctors, took 12 1/2 percent cuts...
CON (no solidarity, no strategy, no sustainability): Allentown union rejects city's latest offer, Allentown Morning Call - Allentown,PA,USA.
..However, the latest Pawlowski offer called for the reduction of the 40-hour work week to 35 hours, which amounts to a second pay cut...]
Outside the Albany County Courthouse where the Legislature chambers are located, were members of the Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation. The workers said Breslin instituted the furloughs -- one day a month from August through December -- without negotiating with their unions.
[Gee, he musta assumed they'd have some common sense in a choice between trimming hours or chopping jobs.]
Tom Comanzo, Capital Region coordinator for PEF, noted the furloughs don't make sense for probation officers.
"If you're on probation, would you like to know your probation officer is furloughed every month, meaning there is no one to report to, no one will be looking for you and there is no one to supervise you?"
[Ah, this 'reductio ad absurdum' does not follow logically at all - what about all the hourscuts we made from 1776 to 1940 when we cut the workweek in half?? There are always some people with a swollen sense of the importance of their own job that they resist any workweek adjustment - American physicians are among the worst...]
Inside, at the public forum before the start of the meeting, Jeff Ray, an addiction counselor for the county Department of Mental Health and president of the CSEA unit at that department, spoke about the essential work his department does. Several others spoke, all to applause from the standing room only chambers.
Comptroller Michael Conners, who showed up to support the workers, said he feels his 15 full-time employees and seven part-timers are essential and he will not
[Then he'd prefer layoffs instead? Some "solidarity"!]
"There are other ways to save," he said.
[Such as ... layoffs?]
Conners said his reading of the County Charter allows "the county executive to propose a deficit reduction plan, but the Legislature has to approve it."
Deputy County Executive Mike Perrin disagreed.
"We worked with the county attorney and consulted with outside counsel on the matter, and we're comfortable it can be done administratively, much like a layoff," Perrin said.
[Good Lord, if layoffs could be done administratively but not the much-less-traumatic option, hours cuts, we'd have a really suicidal situation.]
The unions were notified before Breslin went public on June 26 with the furlough plan. In past years, Breslin has, while announcing his operating budgets, either eliminated positions that were vacant and one recent year, he suggested layoffs. The county Legislature, in reviewing the budget, removed any possibility of layoffs.
[..leaving only hours cuts, or, oh horror = higher graduated income taxes on the rich.]
All agencies under Breslin's direction, with the exception of the Albany County Nursing Home and the Sewer District, will participate in the furlough.
Carol DeMare can be reached at 454-5431 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Note also today -
SKF Quarterly Profit Beats Analyst Estimates on Currency Gains, Bloomberg - USA.
SKF AB, the world’s largest maker of ball bearings [is based in] Gothenburg, Sweden. ...A further 1,100 employees are set to leave as part of already announced programs and on June 30 SKF announced another 900 job cuts as it lowers output to match falling demand. About 18,000 people are working shorter hours.
To contact the reporters on this story: Antonio Ligi in Zurich at email@example.com; Toby Alder in Stockholm at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
7/14/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Texas should not be lowering education bar, ediitorial, Corpus Christi Caller Times via caller.com - Corpus Christi,TX,USA.
CORPUS CHRISTI — Should Texas students have a semester of health education so they can learn about nutrition and the value of a healthy life style? Or should they have the choice of taking another elective instead so they can learn another language, or learn more about the world, or about science? The answer is, of course, they ought to have both.
Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, given the constrictions of a school year created when most kids worked on farms, could only have one choice and he chose to give students the opportunity to take another elective in their high school curriculum.
Yet, as The Economist points out, the United States has one of the shortest school years of any industrialized nation. The school year doesn’t allow enough time for today’s students to learn everything they will need to be competitive in the 21st century.
The decision by the commissioner to eliminate one positive educational element in favor of another is an indication that the real problem is that we need to expand both the school day and the school year.
As the British publication The Economist pointed out, the 180-day school year in the United States is far shorter than the 195-day school year that most industrialized countries have and students in some Asian countries, such as Korea, spend almost a month more in school than do Americans.
[So at least young Americans are being conditioned to *longer vacations, even if the US is also the only industrialized country that doesn't have a minimum vacation law.]
The Texas education commissioner was acting in response to a measure passed in the Texas legislature that reduces the number of required classes and gives students a chance to take more elective courses. Under the new requirements for the Recommended High School Program, elective requirements are increased from 3.5 credits to six credits; each credit equals two semesters of course work. The minimum number of credits for the Recommended High School degree remains at 26 credits which meant that something had to give.
What falls by the wayside is the semester of health education, semester of physical education and two semesters of computer technology that were previously required. Students will still have to take two semesters of physical education. The new requirements, Scott told superintendents in a letter released last week, will go into effect with the fall semester.
Students may still take health education, or another semester of P.E., or computer technology. They just won’t be required and will be counted as electives. But that also means that students may choose to take more language courses, or fine arts, or the range of other electives available at their high school.
In a state where obesity and diabetes is prevalent, no longer requiring health education or more physical education for every student could be the wrong step. If a student’s education is the better for being exposed to more arts education, then it is equally true that the collective student body is healthier by knowing more about good nutrition and healthy living habits.
But only so much can be squeezed into the confines of the short American school day and the school year. The Economist noted that the American school week of 32 hours compares poorly with the 44 hours spent in school by Belgian kids over the week and the 60-hour week in Sweden.
[A generation from now when these kids hit the shorter workweek, this could mean trouble ahead for worksharing in Belgium and Sweden. People should not have kids if they're going to try to use long "education" hours per week to get their kids outa their hair.]
Perhaps that’s because for all of the words spoken in support of better education, the actions say that’s not always true. Witness the Legislature’s delaying of the start of school from early to late August, supposedly done to save energy but a nice gift to the tourist industry. Yet the long summer recess acts, as the British magazine wrote, “like a mental eraser” on what kids had learned during the previous academic year.
It should be unnerving to Texans to think that elsewhere in the world, especially those parts of the world that are in competition with Americans, students are spending more hours and more days in school while we are removing required courses from the school academic load so our children won’t be overtaxed in class.
- What Work/Life Balance? by Althea Chang, MainStreet.com - New York,NY,USA.
If you’re struggling to find a balance between work and home life, you may be facing a losing battle, according to one former executive.
"There's no such thing as work-life balance," said former General Electric CEO Jack Welch (Stock Quote: GE). Welch, suggesting that taking time off from work to raise children may hamper a woman’s ability to climb the corporate ladder. "We'd love to have more women moving up faster, but they've got to make the tough choices and know the consequences of each one."
According to The Wall Street Journal, Welch made these statements at the annual meeting of the Society for Human Resource Management.
Welch did admit that taking time off the raise a family could make for a good life, and doesn’t mean you can’t have a good career. It’s just that one’s chances being a high-level executive may be lower, he said.
Welch’s comment comes after a poll found that fathers were less willing to be stay-at-home dads – even if they could afford it - preferring instead to take on the provider role.
According to the survey, which was conducted by job search site CareerBuilder.com, despite a tough economy, 30% of fathers polled said they’re willing to take a pay cut to spend more time with their children. That’s down from 37% last year.
[A recession with wages down and insecurity up is not the most meaningful time to be asking this kind of lifestyle "choice" question.]
On the other hand, 39% of working dads said they spent two hours or less per day with their children during the workweek, and 14% spent an hour or less per day with their kids.
Half of working dads said they have missed a significant event in their child’s life in the last year due to work, and 28% said they’ve missed more than three significant events, the survey found.
Still, almost 82% of men said they spend more time with their children than their fathers spent with them.
[For stronger family values, you need more family time. And the robots are providing it if only we switch from downsizing in response to them - to timesizing.
7/12-13/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Robots unplugged - In Japan, machines for work and play are idle, By HIROKO TABUCHI, 7/13 New York Times, B1.
KITAKYUSHU, Japan — They may be the most efficient workers in the world. But in the global downturn, they are having a tough time finding jobs.
Japan’s legions of robots, the world’s largest fleet of mechanized workers, are being idled as the country suffers its deepest recession in more than a generation as consumers worldwide cut spending on cars and gadgets.
At a large Yaskawa Electric factory on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, where robots once churned out more robots, a lone robotic worker with steely arms twisted and turned, testing its motors for the day new orders return. Its immobile co-workers stood silent in rows, many with arms frozen in midair.
They could be out of work for a long time. Japanese industrial production has plummeted almost 40 percent and with it, the demand for robots.
At the same time, the future is looking less bright. Tighter finances are injecting a dose of reality into some of Japan’s more fantastic projects — like pet robots and cyborg receptionists — that could cramp innovation long after the economy recovers.
“We’ve taken a huge hammering,” said Koji Toshima, president of Yaskawa, Japan’s largest maker of industrial robots.
Profit at the company plunged by two-thirds, to 6.9 billion yen, about $72 million, in the year ended March 20, and it predicts a loss this year.
Across the industry, shipments of industrial robots fell 33 percent in the last quarter of 2008, and 59 percent in the first quarter of 2009, according to the Japan Robot Association.
Tetsuaki Ueda, an analyst at the research firm Fuji Keizai, expects the market to shrink by as much as 40 percent this year. Investment in robots, he said, “has been the first to go as companies protect their human workers.”
[Is that another 40%?]
While robots can be cheaper than flesh-and-blood workers over the long term, the upfront investment costs are much higher.
[And what are you investing in? Cheaper production costs and ... smaller markets! cuz robots don't buy stuff.]
In 2005, more than 370,000 robots worked at factories across Japan, about 40 percent of the global total, representing 32 robots for every 1,000 manufacturing employees, according to a report by Macquarie Bank. A 2007 government plan for technology policy called for one million industrial robots to be installed by 2025. That will almost certainly not happen.
“The recession has set the robot industry back years,” Mr. Ueda said.
[The robot industry is the supreme market-weakening industry - cuz robots don't buy stuff. Call it luddism or whatever you want, but the only way to avoid killing your markets by injecting robots is trimming the workweek and sharing the vanishing unautomated employment among everyone who needs a job = everyone without a private income. Hire a human and you get a two-fer = a producer and a consumer. Install a robot and you just get a producer. No consumer. Unless you cut the workweek and share and spread around what's left of the human employment. This was the promise of technology after all. To give people more of the most fundamental freedom = free time, without which the other freedoms are inaccessible and meaningless.]
That goes for industrial robots and the more cuddly toy robots.
In fact, several of the lovable sort have already become casualties of the recession.
The robot maker Systec Akazawa filed for bankruptcy in January, less than a year after it introduced its miniature PLEN walking robot at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Roborior by Tmsuk — a watermelon-shape house sitter on wheels that rolls around a home and uses infrared sensors to detect suspicious movement and a video camera to transmit images to absent residents — has struggled to find new users. A rental program was scrapped in April because of lack of interest.
Though the company won’t release sale figures, it has sold less than a third of the goal, 3,000 units, it set when Roborior hit the market in 2005, analysts say. There are no plans to manufacture more.
That is a shame, Mariko Ishikawa, a Tmsuk spokesman, says, because busy Japanese in the city could use the Roborior to keep an eye on aging parents in the countryside.
“Roborior is just the kind of robot Japanese society needs in the future,” Ms. Ishikawa said.
Japan’s aging population had given the development of home robots an added imperative. With nearly 25 percent of citizens 65 or older, the country was banking on robots to replenish the work force and to help nurse the elderly.
But sales of a Secom product, My Spoon, a robot with a swiveling, spoon-fitted arm that helps older or disabled people eat, have similarly stalled as caregivers balk at its $4,000 price.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries failed to sell even one of its toddler-size home-helper robots, the Wakamaru, introduced in 2003.
Of course, less practical, novelty robots have fallen on even harder times in the downturn. And that goes for robot makers outside Japan, too.
Ugobe, based in Idaho, is the maker of the cute green Pleo dinosaur robot with a wiggly tail; it filed for bankruptcy protection in April.
Despite selling 100,000 Pleos and earning more than $20 million, the company racked up millions of dollars in debt and was unable to raise further financing.
Sony pulled the plug on its robot dog, Aibo, in 2006, seven years after its introduction. Though initially popular, Aibo, costing more than $2,000, never managed to break into the mass market.
The $300 i-Sobot from Takara Tomy, a small toy robot that can recognize spoken words, was meant to break the price barrier. The company, based in Tokyo, has sold 47,000 since the i-Sobot went on sale in late 2007, a spokeswoman, Chie Yamada, said, making it a blockbuster hit in the robot world.
But with sales faltering in the last year, the company has no plans to release further versions after it clears out its inventory of about 3,000.
Kenji Hara, an analyst at the research and marketing firm Seed Planning, says many of Japan’s robotics projects tend to be too far-fetched, concentrating on humanoids and other leaps of the imagination that cannot be readily brought to market.
“Japanese scientists grew up watching robot cartoons, so they all want to make two-legged companions,” Mr. Hara said. “But are they realistic? Do consumers really want home-helper robots?”
Robot Factory, once a mecca for robot fans in the western city of Osaka, closed in April after a plunge in sales. “In the end,” said Yoshitomo Mukai, whose store, Jungle, took over some of Robot Factory’s old stock, “robots are still expensive, and don’t really do much.”
Of course, that is not true for industrial robots — at least not when the economy is booming.
Fuji Heavy Industries argues its robots are practical and make economic sense. The company sells a giant automated cleaning robot that can use elevators to travel between floors on its own. The wheeled robot, which resembles a small street-cleaning car, already works at several skyscrapers in Tokyo.
Companies can recoup the 6 million yen investment in the cleaner robot in as quickly as three years, a Fuji spokesman, Kenta Matsumoto, said. The manufacturer has rented out about 50 so far.
“A robot will work every day and night without complaining,” Mr. Matsumoto said. “You can even save on lights and heating, because robots don’t need any of that.”
[They also don't need to buy anything, such as all the products and services they're providing. As Walter Reuther said to Henry Ford at the end of the new-factory tour when Ford said, "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - "Let's see you sell them cars."]
Makiko Inoue contributed reporting from Tokyo.
- Porsche, Volkswagen, Siemens, Infineon: German Equity Preview, By Claudia Rach, 7/13 Bloomberg - USA.
The following is a list of companies whose shares may have unusual price changes in Germany. Stock symbols are in parentheses, and share prices are from the previous close.
The DAX declined 1.2 percent to 4.576.31 on July 10.
Deutsche Telekom (DTE GY): Vodafone Group Plc has set Europe’s largest phone company a mid-July deadline to agree on cooperation on the high-speed VDSL network in Germany, Focus magazine said, citing no one. Telekom shares fell 1.2 percent to 7.98 euros.
Escada AG (ESC GY): The German maker of luxury clothing for women is in talks with bankruptcy experts, a step that prepares for a possible insolvency if investors don’t back a refinancing plan, Welt am Sonntag said, citing Chief Executive Officer Bruno Saelzer. The shares advanced 7 percent to 2.70 euros.
Infineon Technologies AG (IFX GY): Europe’s second-largest chipmaker may sell its wireless communication and smartcard units, Martin Kimmich, an IG Metall labor union member, told Euro am Sonntag. The shares rose 5.4 percent to 2.72 euros.
Porsche SE (PAH3 GY): Qatar offered about 7 billion euros ($9.8 billion) for a stake in the carmaker and stock options in Volkswagen AG, Spiegel said, without citing anyone. Separately, the Berliner Morgenpost said the Persian Gulf State would invest in a joint company of VW and Porsche only after all conflicts between the two carmakers were resolved. The shares gained 0.4 percent to 42.34 euros.
Q-Cells SE (QCE GY): Charles Anton Milner, chief executive officer of Germany’s largest solar company, expects market conditions to improve in the second half of the year after prices slumped in the solar energy industry, WirtschaftsWoche magazine reported. The shares fell 2.5 percent to 12.68 euros.
Siemens AG (SIE GY): Europe’s largest engineering company had unexpectedly weaker orders in its transmission unit in June and may extend shorter working hours, Euro am Sonntag said, citing works council leader Lothar Adler. Separately, Siemens aims to become the market leader for solar thermal energy, Spiegel said, citing Chief Executive Officer Peter Loescher. Siemens shares fell 1.7 percent to 46.43 euros.
Volkswagen AG (VOW GY): Europe’s biggest carmaker used loopholes in the German tax system to lower its tax payments. It used the money save to raise its offer for a 49.9 percent state in Porsche by about 1 billion euros, Focus said, without citing anyone. Separately, the Spiegel magazine reported VW raised its offer for the Porsche stake clearly to more than 4 billion euros. The shares fell 1.9 percent to 213.20 euros.
To contact the reporter on this story: Claudia Rach in Berlin at email@example.com
7/11/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Stimulate or stimuless, Janet Whitman, Financial Post via FinancialPost.com - Toronto,Ontario,Canada.
In the United States, a surge in pink slips is sparking speculation that Barack Obama, the U. S. President, is cnsidering another multi-billion dollar package of spending and tax cuts aimed at reviving the ailing U. S. economy. The cries for more money come less than five months after the U. S. Congress approved a US$787-billion economic stimulus package, but also as U. S. unemployment is poised to head above 10%, the first time it will have hit double digits in decades. Two U. S. economists offer their views.
THE BULL CASE FOR MORE STIMULUS
Economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think-tank in Washington, D. C.
David Rosnick says another stimulus package is "critical" as American job losses mount.
"We definitely need something big at this point," he says. "When the Obama administration projected where we were going to be when the last stimulus package passed, it certainly wasn't anticipating this kind of unemployment. It was expected to peak at 9% absent any stimulus and we're already past that."
Americans have been handed more than 6.5 million pink slips since December 2007 and the country has seen negative job growth over the past nine years, the first such stretch since the Great Depression, he says.
Part of the problem with the current stimulus package is that much of the money is earmarked for states, which are struggling with massive budget deficits. "They're planning to cut back, so it's not something that's going to fuel demand," Mr. Rosnick says. "It's basically triage."
To target the money more directly at consumers his think-tank is advocating a new stimulus scheme called "pay-for-play."
Under the plan, an employer could get a tax credit of around US$2,500 per employee for paid time off, which could take the form of vacation or a shorter workweek.
[This is a jerky worksharing program being reinvented here.]
"The workers would still be dependent on goods and services, so other workers would need to be hired," says Mr. Rosnick. "There's no reason it couldn't go into effect quickly. It just requires an adjustment of thinking.... In this country, unlike most other developed countries, work hours are not declining and people don't take vacations, so people who do work are working harder and those who are looking for jobs are out of luck."
Mr. Rosnick said he's not concerned that another stimulus bill would add to the United States' already bloated deficit. "Even if you're talking about another US$1-trillion in debt, in the long run ... it's health-care costs that are setting up the economy for disaster. It doesn't matter what you do if those costs aren't reined in."
THE BEAR CASE AGAINST MORE STIMULUS
Distinguished fellow and economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative think-tank in Dallas and Washington, D. C.
Bob McTeer says another stimulus package would be a huge waste of taxpayers' money.
"We've proved already that we're lousy at it," he says. "We passed a US$787-billion stimulus package that's not really doing anything much except running up a huge debt. All the talk of 'shovel-ready' projects seems silly because there weren't any."
Mr. McTeer, who argued that the first stimulus package should be large and come soon, likens the Obama administration's effort to shooting wild hogs with a shotgun. "A shotgun has firepower, but it's too scattered.... It's not a matter of doing no good. It's a matter of spending that much money and increasing the deficit as much as they did and for so little good."
Existing jobs, such as positions for teachers and firefighters, are being preserved, but newly created jobs are few and far between, he says.
For now, it makes sense to wait and see what positive effect the current effort might have before contemplating another pricey bill, says Mr. McTeer, who's been blogging on the topic at www.bob-mcteer-blog.com."We're married to this stimulus package for better or worse," he says. "You might argue that the first one was not designed to kick in as soon as people claimed, so it would be kind of foolish to say, 'Let's pass another one,' only to have the old one start working a bit.
He doesn't buy the argument that the likely jump in U. S. unemployment over 10% over the next few months is coming as a surprise to the Obama administration. "I've always assumed it would go over 10% or hit 11%," he says.
Mr. McTeer says that the U. S. government has plenty of other initiatives that may not have a "stimulus" label attached, but could help revive the economy, such as monetary expansion by the U. S. Federal Reserve and a possible troop surge in Afghanistan. "It's just stimulus by another name," he says.
- [UK -] Cashstrapped employers are reducing working hours as a means of retaining workers, by Gráinne Gilmore, London Times via business.timesonline.co.uk.
The number of people working shorter hours or taking temporary leave from work at the request of their employer has trebled in the past year as the recession takes its toll on the UK’s workforce.
Cash-strapped companies have been encouraging employees to work fewer hours or take leave on reduced pay in a bid to cut costs without making widespread redundancies.
While this does keep workers in their jobs, it erodes their income, leaving families with less money to spend each month.
[Thus the UK as a whole needs to get into the 21st century with Wales and the major European economies and US states with a worksharing program to cushion the hours cuts.]
Some 123,000 workers were working “short-time” between January and March this year, up from 36,000 in the same period last year, the most recent official figures show. Men were the worst [or best, compared to layoff] affected, with a 286 per cent rise in the number of short-time male workers.
The figures come only days before new unemployment figures are expected to show a further jump in the jobless total. Economists forecast that an additional 41,700 people signed up for unemployment benefits in June, taking the total to 1.58 million. The pace of unemployment has, however, slowed appreciably since the beginning of the year, when the number of people claiming benefits surged by up to 137,000 a month.
Despite the increase in short-term working, analysts believe that the overall jobless figure, which includes people who are not claiming benefits and is expected to have hit a 13-year high of 2.3 million in June, will continue to soar to more than 3 million next year.
Some analysts said that the increased prevalence of short-time working had played a part in the slowdown, with companies trying to hold on to their workforce so they were in a strong position once the recovery began in earnest.
Colin Ellis, chief UK and European economist at Daiwa Securities, said: “Short-term working [this guy can't even get the terminology right!] means that companies can avoid redundancies, and save on the search costs of increasing their workforce once again when the economy picks up.”
But short-term working [oops, the reporter propagated the mistake] still hits the economy as household incomes drop. “Either way, firms are cutting costs, household incomes fall and that hits spending, which is the engine room of the UK economy,” Mr Ellis added.
Workers in the manufacturing sector have been the hardest hit by the increase in short-time working [back to the correct phrase] as factories have slowed production. Car manufacturers have been at the forefront of this move - Honda shut its factory in Swindon for four months.
About 18 in every thousand workers in the manufacturing sector are working short-time, up from about three in the first three months of last year.
But it is not only factory workers who have been affected. The number of managers and senior company officials working shorter hours has quadrupled in the past year, while the number of professional workers on shorter weeks has more than doubled.
Unions are lobbying the Government to implement a short-[time] working subsidy in a bid to further stem the rise of unemployment. Under the scheme, workers who were put on a short working week would have 60 per cent of their wages for the days not spent at work paid by the Government.
[Bingo. Get the whole UK into the 21st century and not just *Wales.]
The CBI, Britain’s biggest employers’ organisation, said that such a move would be too big a drain on the public purse.
[Oh yeah? You'd rather have your unemployment insurance fund alias "jobseekers' allowance fund" totally impacted? Dumba dumbdumb!]
It has proposed allowing employers to let workers take “holidays” of up to six months on £130 a week, with the Government and the employer equally splitting the cost.
[Bunching up the problem is not going to help economic recovery.]
* Have your say
So the government figures for the number of people presently in gainful employment are technically wrong and misleading - some of them are only partly in work. Government should now switch to reporting the number of hours of work being done in this country as a measure of employment levels.
[And divide it by the total adult population needing work (ie: not on private incomes) and redefine the resulting number of hours per person as the appropriate full-time workweek for the UK overall at its current levels of technological progress and efficiency.]
Sue Doughty, Twyford, uk
[Thank you for this insight, Sue Doughty of Twyford, wherever that is, it's in neither of our Atlases (we're in Boston, Mass. and heading up to the Quebec side of Ottawa on Tues.) - you're absolutely right and you've provided a basis for the next obvious step as described right above. And wages won't go down but up because this way you're totally eradicating the general, officially denied labor surplus which has been depressing general wage levels since the baby boomers replaced the killoff of World War II around 1970 (at least that's how it worked in the U.S., when wages immediately stagnated and started to sink and have been sinking for the last nearly 40 years.]
7/10/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Even the Employed Lose with Hour and Wage Cuts - Job losses tell only part of the story. Economists worry that falling work hours and pay will produce "the mother of all jobless recoveries", By Moira Herbst, BusinessWeek.com - USA.
[Note that there's no such thing as a jobless recovery unless you continue the nonsense of not needing markets = obsess about productivity, never mind marketable productivity.]
In some respects, Kristi Pohly is lucky. The 33-year-old marketing manager still has her job at Pharmatech Oncology in Denver, having worked there for more than six years. But the recession has hit Pohly from another angle. At the beginning of June, she and her co-workers took a 25% pay cut and switched to a 32-hour workweek. Pohly had been earning $55,000 at Pharmatech; her pay is now $41,250, or about $400 per month less on a take-home basis.
To keep up with the $1,100-per-month mortgage on her house, Pohly took in a roommate at the beginning of that month. The transition, she says, hasn't been easy. "We are working 20% less, but getting paid 25% less. Morale has pretty much hit the floor."
Pohly's plight reflects patterns emerging in the job market that go beyond the headline unemployment rate and job-loss numbers. In addition to the loss of 467,000 jobs in June, economists worry about the impact of stagnating or falling pay and reduced hours of workers.
Shortest Workweek on Record
Buried in the June jobs report is this critical bit of information about the labor market: The average workweek for the month fell 0.1 hours, to 33 hours, the lowest ever recorded for data that go back to 1964. Average weekly earnings, meanwhile, actually fell to $611.49 in June, from $613.34 in May.
[This would be different if we redefined "full time" downward to levels more appropriate to our high level of technology = automation and now robotization.]
Hourly earnings remained flat. Economists say the combination of reduced hours and pay, along with continued job losses, could significantly slow a recovery as even the employed lack the means to boost their spending.
"The amount of money taken home is not about the number of jobs but about hours worked," says Mike Englund, chief economist for Action Economics, an economic forecasting firm.
[This genius has it absolutely backwards. If the money was about hours worked, the Chinese with their 18-hour days, slaves even moreso, would be the highest paid in the world, and they're the lowest because too few jobs, too many jobseekers. (Doesn't Mike Englund believe in market forces and supply and demand. What kind of topsy turvy BS has he persuaded himself of??) However, if we (and the Chinese - and slaves - the Black Death is what ended serfdom in England with an acute serf-empowering labor shortage/job surplus) had a greater number of jobs than job candidates, the money would get better and better - by market forces - no government intervention. This was the situation during World Wars I and II (and the plague years) and their labor shortage = too many jobs and too few jobseekers, raised wages and sent the national income flying out to the millions who actually needed and wanted to spend it, and the rising demand raised marketable productivity and floated all ships, even those of the wealthy, who now had marketable productivity for sustainable investments.]
"The contraction in underlying income [of those working] is pretty powerful. The job market is continuing to contract at a rapid clip."
David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist for Gluskin Sheff & Associates (GS.TO), a Toronto wealth-management firm, also draws gloomy conclusions: "The combination of job loss and decline in hours worked [in June] means there was effectively a decline of at least 800,000 jobs." He says if these trends continue, the economy will enter a downward spiral of lower consumer spending and falling prices, or deflation. What's worse, unemployment may not peak for another two years. In that case, Rosenberg says, we are destined for "the mother of all jobless recoveries."
Footing More of the Bill
Cuts in pay and hours are rippling throughout the economy in businesses large and small and industries from mining to retail. It is well known that such large employers as FedEx (FDX), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), and Best Buy (BBY) have trimmed pay. But the trend is also playing out at countless small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
With donations and grant awards reduced, the staff of SAVE, a suicide prevention nonprofit in Bloomington, Minn., is enduring a number of cuts. On top of a salary freeze that's been in place since May, staff will get salary reductions of 10% to 20% beginning July 22. As of July 15, SAVE staff will see the elimination of such benefits as their 3% employer 401(k) match, and long- and short-term disability and life insurance.
They'll also have to start footing the bill for 25% of their health-insurance premiums, which had been fully paid by the organization.
Daniel Reidenberg, executive director of SAVE, says he's also considering reducing staff hours. But he is worried about potential consequences. "Rising anxiety and depression means the need for our services is greater than ever before," says Reidenberg. "It's the worst possible time for us to be cutting back."
"A Step Back"
For many workers, hours have already been cut. As of July 10, Matt Garville, 23, will no longer be working Fridays at his job as an account coordinator for a Manhattan public relations firm. That means a 20% salary cut, along with the loss of his health benefits. Having graduated from Fordham University in 2008 with a degree in economics and journalism, Garville started working at the firm just three months ago. "I really like it here, but I am worried," he says. "I thought their hiring me meant it is [a] relatively stable [job]. I guess not."
Garville says the pay cut means he won't be able to afford moving from his parents' home in Old Tappan, N.J., into New York City to live with friends. "It's a step back," he says of the pay cut. "No one wants to take a step back." He is trying to make the best of the situation by making use of his newly spare time. He says his order of business on days off will be running errands he previously didn't have time for, like getting his hair cut and his DVR player fixed. "Then I'll be networking," he says. "These days, no job is secure."
With the job market on such shaky ground, it can be hard for many workers to believe the economy is producing "green shoots" that point to better days. While Action Economics' Englund is still hoping for a return to positive economic growth in the third quarter of this year, he says troubles in the job market could jeopardize that timing. "If income isn't growing and if hours worked don't rise in the second half of the year, it's going to be hard for the consumer to recover," says Englund.
Herbst is a reporter for BusinessWeek in New York
- In China, What Workers Want, by Sky Canaves, Wall Street Journal via wsj.com/chinajournal - USA.
A new report from the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin takes an in-depth look at how China’s workers movement developed in 2007 and 2008, years which saw the introduction of new legislation intended to protect workers, including a new labor contract law, and a corresponding increase in employees’ awareness of their rights, along with an economic slowdown that threatens jobs.
Government figures show that the number of labor arbitration cases nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008, from 350,000 to 693,000. A senior official from China’s Supreme People’s Court said 2008 saw a 95% increase in labor disputes in the courts, though detailed figures haven’t been released. Meanwhile, reports of worker unrest, protests and strikes have become a regular feature of the news from China.
And what are workers fighting for? In the recent unrest at a toy factory in southern China, which was apparently the spark for deadly riots 2,800 miles away in Urumqi, a rumor that Uighur workers had raped Han women may have kindled existing tensions among Han workers who felt that they were being pushed out by Uighurs who were willing to work for lower pay.
In its report, China Labour Bulletin analyzed 100 reported incidents of protests by workers that it said represented the broader labor situation, and identified several basic causes noted below:
• Rights protection: More than a third of the protests involved a clear violation of the workers’ rights, such as non-payment of wages, social security contributions or severance pay.
• Improved conditions: Another third of the protests went beyond basic rights protection and involved demands for better contract terms, including higher pay, shorter hours or more generous benefits.
[Whenever workers prioritize higher pay instead of shorter hours, they wind up with neither, because they're just demanding a higher price for a surplus commodity - themselves - but whenever they prioritize shorter hours instead of higher pay, they wind up with both, because they cut the surplus of...themselves...and harness market forces to discipline management and get employers bidding against one another for good help = and pay and benefits go up by market forces in response to a peceived labor shortage, and the national income and wealth spread out to the millions who actually want and need to spend it, and "the rising tide floats all ships" just as during old-fashioned "wartime prosperity," including investors', who now have lots of marketable productivity to invest in, instead of just ... productivity.]
In some cases, workers fought back against changes proposed by employers who didn’t first seek their consent. (Some changes to working conditions require employee consent, though in practice employers sometimes act unilaterally.)
• Financial difficulties on the employer’s side: Twelve out of the 100 protests were triggered by sudden factory closures and/or the owners’ disappearance. When this happens, workers often feel they have little recourse but to protest publicly and hope that the attention prompts local authorities to settle the matter. In another 14 cases, workers protested in response to measures taken by the management to save money, such as pay cuts, replacing existing employees with new, less expensive workers, or refusing to pay severance.
And in the vast majority of cases, the protests were peaceful. According to the report, only five of the 100 cases resulted in property damage or physical clashes between workers and managers, and those involved long-simmering resentments among workers.
7/09/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- CBS: Parttimers less satisfied with working hours than fulltimers, Statistics Netherlands via Web magazine via cbs.nl/en-GB.
Netherlands - In 2008, the large majority of workers in the Netherlands, nearly 86 percent, were satisfied with their working hours. Employees working full-time were more often satisfied than those with a part-time job.
Just over one in ten people who work for 35 hours a week or more would like to work longer or shorter hours; most of them want to work less.
About two in ten part-time workers were not satisfied with their working hours. Employees with relatively long part-time hours were slightly more satisfied than employees who worked for only a few hours. In both groups, most workers who were not satisfied wanted to work for more hours.
[Get a life, you wimps!]
[graph of Workers who want to work longer or *shorter hours, 2008]
- Denso to cut up to 800 jobs at Hungary plant -MTI, Reporting by Krisztina Than, Reuters - USA.
BUDAPEST, Hungary - Japanese car parts supplier Denso Corp (6902.T) will lay off up to 800 workers at its Hungarian plant by the end of September, national news agency MTI reported on Thursday, citing the company.
Denso's Hungarian unit blamed the job cuts on the difficult business environment, MTI said.
Denso currently employs 4,100 people at its plant in Szekesfehervar, about 60 km west of Budapest.
It has already cut overtime hours and reduced shifts and in January switched to a 4-day work week.
"Despite all this, due to extraordinary difficulties in the business environment job cuts are unavoidable for the company to be able to preserve conditions for long term operation and competitiveness," MTI quoted Denso Hungary chairman Yukimasa Ohoka as saying in a statement.
From October, Denso plans to return to a five-day work week.
7/08/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Teacher Assistants Ponder Fate, By BRENDA BUCHANON, The Dunn NC Daily Record via myDailyRecord.com - Dunn,NC,USA.
Depending on what state lawmakers do, Sampson County School officials may have to make a hard decision on whether to cut jobs or cut hours.
[Not a tough one - want to all sacrifice together, preferably starting at the top, or do you prefer more poverty and anger and crime? There is a future together in worksharing. There is no future in downsizing.]
So those most affected by the decision were posed that question during a meeting of all teacher assistants Tuesday morning.
Sampson County Schools Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Dr. Wendy Cabral asked for feedback of the more than 100 school teacher assistants assembled. "This affects you and the board wants your input," she said.
And two Midway district teacher assistants voiced their opinion readily.
"I am willing to take a shorter bus route and number of hours. I'd hate to see people without money," said Midway district teacher assistant Betty Autry.
Another teacher assistant, who requested anonymity, said, "I prefer to save everybody's job. I will make a sacrifice and feel at peace. I'm a Christian. God provides for me daily and if everyone can have their positions saved, I will make that sacrifice."
The Sampson County Board of Education passed an interim budget last month until a state budget is in place.
Depending upon what the state does, the school system wants to have a plan in place so they can meet their payroll in August.
The State Department of Public Instruction advised school systems to work with their budgets along the lines of the state House budget as of June 13. The House budget designates that 25 percent of teacher assistants will be cut this year - instead of paying for assistants in kindergarten through third, the state may only fund kindergarten through second.
That means for Sampson County approximately 26 teacher assistants of the 103 paid from the state allotment from which teacher assistants are paid could lose their jobs.
Although the third grade assistant positions are in jeopardy, if cuts are made, all teacher assistants in Sampson will be examined: exceptional, kindergarten through third and high school assistants.
If positions are cut - and not hours - the principals will make their recommendations to Sampson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker.
The superintendent would first reduce staff through normal attrition, then, based on criteria of job performance, degrees, licenses, seniority in the same or related positions within the school system and other criteria the superintendent deems relevant.
Dr. Cabral said seniority would not guarantee anyone a job.
If a decision is made to cut hours instead of jobs, Dr. Cabral said teacher assistants would work six hours per day and could keep their bus routes only if they worked as assistants and drive no more than 30 hours per week.
"It's the overtime pay," Dr. Cabral said that makes the difference. "If we do six hours a day, no bus overtime, we can maintain all the positions. Instruction is the highest priority, not driving the bus. We may have to hire outside bus drivers to keep from paying overtime."
[Excellent. This is the future. Convert overtime into jobs.]
Dr. Cabral said as long as the assistants worked 30 hours per week, they would retain full benefits including health insurance.
The teacher assistants must notify Dr. Cabral by Thursday night of their choice. If the state reaches a budget by the next school board meeting July 27, the school board will make the ultimate decision then.
- Retailers focus on standout items to spur spending, By ANNE D'INNOCENZIO, The Associated Press.
NEW YORK — Americans are increasingly shopping in their own closets for new looks, so merchants are diving in to help out.
Clothing retailers are spotlighting a number of bold items this fall — from leather pants and jackets with structured shoulders to sequined tops and skirts — to persuade strapped consumers they can update their wardrobes without buying a new look head to toe.
At luxury merchant Neiman Marcus, for example, employees are explicitly asking shoppers about what their wardrobes already include, instead of just helping them stuff their closets with new things. But persuading financially squeezed shoppers to open their wallets without dangling fat discounts continues to be challenging.
Data on retailers' same-store sales for June, to be released Thursday, are expected to show another month of stagnating sales. And federal job data released Thursday that showed rising joblessness and shrinking wages for those still employed spurred worry over shoppers' spending later this year and into the holiday season.
Merchants rely more now on shoppers' paychecks to fuel purchases because their two other key sources of funding — credit cards and home equity loans — have shrunk. But, seeing their earnings dwindle, shoppers are continuing to seek 70 percent discounts.
Anything they buy at regular price must stand out.
"People are not buying the whole trend look," said Jennifer Talbott, spokeswoman for Intermix, a 24-store chain with most of its stores in New York. "But they still want to look fresh and update their wardrobe."
Talbott noted the new fall items can be paired with last fall's trends. For example, Intermix will suggest shoppers pair this fall's military jackets with last year's peasant blouses.
"There are always going to be a plethora of trends, but right now, it's about creating a desire," said Hope Greenberg, fashion director for Lucky Magazine.
Retailers are expected to post a 4.5 percent decline in same-store sales for June compared with a year earlier, about in line with May's decline of 4.6 percent, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs Index.
Same-store sales are sales at stores open at least a year and considered a key metric for the industry. The results released Thursday will exclude business at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which stopped reporting same-store sales monthly after it released data for April.
"There is no catalyst to spend for the second half," said Ken Perkins, president of retail consulting firm Retail Metrics LLC. "If fall business stinks, then all bets are off for the holiday shopping season."
Retail analyst Jennifer Black expects same-store sales declines to continue through the fourth quarter. Declines are expected to ease in September through December, when results will be compared with last autumn, when consumer spending went into freefall after the financial meltdown ballooned. Even though spending is stabilizing — at weak levels — a small decline is expected because stores have cut their inventory as much as 20 percent and lowered prices, she said.
The Labor Department reported last week that employers cut 467,000 jobs in June, more than expected, and the jobless rate reached a 26-year high of 9.5 percent. Wages shrank to their lowest in nearly a year as stores furloughed workers and employers reduced work hours to an average 33-hour work week, the lowest on record since 1964.
[So it's happening anyway, but not the best way.]
And rising unemployment pushed consumer loan delinquencies to a record high in the first quarter, according to data released Tuesday by the American Bankers Association.
Job worries caused consumer confidence, as measured by the nonprofit Conference Board, to drop in June, reversing a three-month upward trend fueled by a stock market rally that also is fizzling.
Lucky magazine's Greenberg said consumers are focusing on items they love instead of fitting into a trend. "They want something with lasting appeal," she said.
Neiman Marcus spokeswoman Ginger Reed said the store will play up a number of standout items from leopard print to motorcycle jackets while pushing the color red in items from handbags to shoes.
Richard Erani, president of Chuckies New York, which operates two designer shoe locations here, said it's focusing on open-toe ankle boots and chunky sandals, merchandised with thick tights, looks he believes shoppers don't have. Like many luxury stores, Chuckies will be offering less expensive items — though most of its shoes will still run $700. Chuckies has struggled with about a 25 percent drop in sales this year compared with last, and Erani hopes the new sharpened focus will spur sales.
"I feel it is going to be better," he said.
[Well yeah, it is ... eventually ... but only if we multiply our customer base by spreading around the vanishing unautomated work and leaching out the hyperconcentration of the money supply in the top tiny fraction of the population who can only spend a tiny fraction of the money.]
7/7/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- The Labor Market Is Worse Than You Think, by Daniel Indiviglio, Atlantic Online via business.theatlantic.com - USA.
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its new official unemployment rate for June of 9.5%. I explained that, if you include discouraged workers, that number is actually 10%. And if you include "marginally attached" workers, that number is even higher. But what about workers being asked to cut back hours? Laura Conaway over at NPR's Planet Money blog (hat tip: Matthew Yglesias), tells us that the news gets worse.
She refers to the following chart:
Average weekly hours of production workers, in June 1999-2009 [approx. cuz eyeballed from chart]:
34.4, 34.3, 34.0, 33.9, 33.6, 33.6, 33.7, 33.9, 33.9, 33.6, 33.0
And says: "Viewed a certain way, the drop in the average American workweek looks small -- very, very small. In June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, production and nonsupervisory workers spent one-tenth of an hour less on the job than they had in May. Six minutes? How big a deal is that? Here's how big: It's 'the lowest level on record for the series, which began in 1964,' the BLS says."
[So shorter hours is happening anyway, but not in a way that gives everybody a share of the vanishing human employment as automation and now robotization proceed.]
I dug into the historical BLS reports. In November 2007, before the recession began and unemployment was a measly 4.7%, the average weekly hours of production workers was up at 33.8 hours. Let's use that as a reasonable baseline for what average weekly hours should be. I think that's generous, if you look at the graph. In June it was 33.0 hours.
There are a number of ways to interpret how this change really affects employment. Here's how I'd do it. First, the percentage change between 33.8 and 33.0 is a decrease of about 2.37%. But let's multiply that by the June 2009 employment level of 90.0% (the level that takes discouraged workers into account). After all, if you're unemployed, you can't work less. That means in June, if hours were reduced from our baseline of 33.8 to 33, the subsequent decrease in employment would have been around 2.1%. Or unemployment leaps to 12.1%.
[And if we also include the other burdens on taxpayers - welfare, disability, homelessness, incarceration, forced retirement, and forced "self-employment" with no clients - we're above 15% easy.]
You can quibble about whether this quantitative experiment is really meaningful, but I think it is. The idea is that, if hours were not cut, then the unemployment level alone would be a good indicator of the labor market's health. But if you take those cut hours into account, you can better determine the true condition of the labor market. Through my methodology, that's quite a bit uglier.
[Amen to that - the usually published version of the American unemployment rate has been repeatedly weakened throughout the years so that it's basically just another placebo to keep the public somnulent and incumbent politicians incumbent.]
- Morgan Co. trying to balance budget, by Brian Gadd, ZanesvilleTimesRecorder.com - Zanesville,OH,USA.
McCONNELSVILLE, Ohio — Several Morgan County government employees and their departments will go to a four-day work week beginning July 13 as commissioners look to plug a budget deficit.
The County Commissioners passed a resolution Monday morning which will close all but the sheriff’s and engineer’s offices every Friday for the rest of the year. The Department of Job & Family Services will also be exempt since most of its funding is through the state.
The move will save the county about $47,000, Commissioner Dean Cain said, but there is still work to be done to balance the county’s $3.1 million general fund budget.
He said a pending balance with the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail in Nelsonville — Morgan County owes more than $300,000 for its share of medical expenses and inmate housing — “is just part of it.”
“We’re also losing another $35,000 in Local Government Funding from the state. Small counties like ours really depend on that. And our tax revenue is just not where we would like it to be, so we’ve got to adjust the budget,” Cain explained. “We’re in deeper than what we just cut.”
He said approximately 17 employees will be on the four-day work week.
Commissioners still need to consider $130,000 more in cuts to break even, Cain added.
7/05-06/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Grappling with part-time work - With their hours slashed, some are struggling to fill the gap, 7/05 Boston Sunday Globe, G1.
REVERE, Mass. - They still have their jobs, but the recession has not spared them.
In this seaside city north of Boston, housing inspector John Ferrara can no longer afford annuals or mulch for his garden. William Ash, the deputy director of community development, has trouble putting aside money for his teen sons’ college educations. Cheryl Leon, a paralegal in the city solicitor’s office, has stopped giving her three children allowances.
In a downturn dominated by layoffs, only scant attention has been paid to the lesser victims, the ones who keep their jobs, but with fewer hours and lower pay. They are part of a dramatic spike in the number of Americans involuntarily working part time - a figure that far surpasses the increases in part-time labor noted in previous recessions. For Ferrara, Ash, and Leon, that means a four-hour reduction in their workweek and weekly paychecks that are $100 to $150 thinner.
[Yet paradoxically, if we quit straining to fill an obsolete 40-hour workweek in the age of robotics and ALL cut the workweek, the reduced surplus of labor hours on offer in the job market would re-raise wages = 40 hours pay for 36 hours work. Cut hours deeper and wages would rise further, and start to centrifuge the black hole of money in the top 0.01% of the population to where it could find sustainable investments in marketable productivity.]
“I’m very lucky to still have a job, but it’s a huge impact on my family,’’ says Leon, 40, of Revere. “You think about it when you shop, what you buy. You think about clothes shopping and what my kids might want. My 14- and 16-year-olds are working where I might not have pushed for them to work through the summer. It’s important that they understand they have to contribute as well.’’
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 9.1 million Americans working part time for economic reasons, more than double the 4.5 million in 2007. That compares with a 50 percent rise in the recession of 1981-82 and a 25 percent increase in the recession of 1990.
The current jump is driven not by people who can find only part-time work, but by folks like the roughly 100 Revere municipal workers who have had their hours cut, either since February or starting this month.
Almost 7 million people, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, have seen their hours reduced, up from 3 million in 2007. They’re bargain-hunting more and eating out less. They’re using the found time to catch up on chores, go to the beach, or moonlight.
For the economy as a whole, the glut of part-time workers could slow any recovery.
“At no time have we ever seen an increase of that magnitude, which is why labor markets are far weaker than the unemployment rate is telling us,’’ says Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies.
“When the economy turns around if you have so many people that are in slack work, you’ll say, ‘I don’t need to hire anybody new. I need to work my existing workers more.’ It’s going to be a lot harder to bring the unemployment rate down.’’
The reasons behind the big increase are unclear. Employers may worry about laying off experienced workers. Demographics might also be a factor.
“There’s a big bulge of older workers, people with skills that you value, so it would make more sense to try to keep someone like that on staff,’’ says Dean Baker, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.
That’s what Adrian Fuchser, general manager of Schneeberger Inc., a high-tech manufacturer in Bedford, thought this spring when he put his office staff of eight, including himself, on a four-day workweek rather than lay off three people. The company registered for the state’s WorkSharing program, making employees eligible for unemployment benefits for the hours lost, which means their pay is down 10 percent instead of 20. “I don’t want to lose the talent,’’ Fuchser says. “Once the economy is picking up, I would miss them.’’
His operations manager, Linda Aylward, 41, of Melrose, now carefully sticks to shopping lists. “And I stay out of the mall,’’ she says. “If anyone knows me, they know I’m a mall person. Stay out of the mall - rule number one.’’
Her colleague, customer service representative Kelli Hooke, has cut back her cable service, persuaded her landlord to postpone an anticipated rent increase, and found occasional baby-sitting jobs. “Concerts and stuff like that - who can afford to continue to do that?’’ says Hooke, 40, of Burlington. “Dave Matthews, my favorite, was at Fenway. Last minute somebody had $100 tickets. I couldn’t justify spending that.’’
The surge in part-time numbers also reflects a trend Susan Lambert, an employment specialist at the University of Chicago, has seen over the past two decades. Businesses, using computer systems and other methods, adjust staffing quickly to accommodate shifts in demand.
“Firms have new tools to keep that link tight,’’ Lambert says. “Even before the recession, especially in service industries, you would see that when sales go down in stores, workers are sent home.’’
Sarah Mayer, 20, who is entering her junior year at Massachusetts College of Art, has worked at Eddie Bauer in Burlington for four years. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last month, but Mayer saw signs of trouble earlier. She gave up her apartment in Lowell over the winter and moved home to Tewksbury after her weekend hours dropped from 16 to 11. She had expected to work full time this summer but instead pulls only about 20 hours a week. Last summer, she made $750 to $800 every two weeks; this summer, she earns $450 to $500. She’s tried without luck to find an additional part-time job.
“I’m taking out a lot more student loans,’’ Mayer says. Her debt has risen to $30,000. “I anticipated $30,000 for the entire time I’m in school.’’
Back in Revere, Mayor Thomas Ambrosino cut the hours of 45 municipal employees in February and last week announced that, at least until Labor Day, City Hall will not open its usual half-day on Fridays.
Kevin Dacey, 39, principal clerk in the city auditor’s office, has lost $100 a week to reduced hours. “You try to look at the sales at the supermarket,’’ he says. “I still have to do my job. Most days I work through my lunch hour so I can make up the hours. I used to stay late. I try not to do that.’’
Board of Health secretary Noreen Cristiano, 60, feels the pinch, too. Yet the extra free time brings a bright side.
“Let me put it this way,’’ Cristiano says. “I’d love to have the hours back, only because I’m working toward my pension. But it’s an absolute silver lining spending time with my grandchildren.’’
Irene Sege can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The green shoots are dead - The latest jobless figures show America's economy is stuck in the doldrums - The US urgently needs a new stimulus injection, by Dean Baker, 7/06 guardian.co.uk - UK.
[no it doesn't - it needs a shorter definition of "full time workweek" more appropriate to its higher-than-1940 level of technology, 1940 being the year that the downward fluctuation of "full time" was chocked at 40 hours so it couldn't go down any further.]
The June US employment report should convince even the determinedly ignorant that the time has come for another round of stimulus for the American economy. The economy is continuing to shed jobs and work hours at a very rapid pace. The unemployment rate is virtually certain to cross 10% by the end of the summer and will likely hit 11% before we are very far into 2010. This is a scenario much worse than the Obama administration had expected when it crafted its stimulus package. It is time for it to adjust its plans accordingly.
When the Obama administration put together its stimulus package in January, it was projecting that, in the absence of any stimulus, the unemployment rate would peak at just over 9% early in 2010. With the unemployment rate reaching 9.5% in June, they clearly underestimated the size of the downdraft hitting the US economy.
The June data showed the economy shedding 465,000 jobs – but even more striking was the fact that hours worked fell by 0.8%. This rate of decline in hours worked is the same as in the period of economic free fall from October to April. It's good that employers cut back hours per worker, rather than lay people off, but it still means that the demand for labour is plummeting. If hours per worker did not change, this would be equivalent to a loss of more than 900,000 jobs in June.
While few would argue that the economy is already turning, some economists maintain that we have to wait longer to feel the full effects of the stimulus package. To refute this argument we need only look at the size of the package.
More than 60% of the stimulus package ($480bn out of $790bn) was in the form of either tax cuts or mandatory spending such as expanded unemployment benefits. These tax cuts and spending measures have already fully kicked in. While most of the money has not yet been spent, we are already paying taxes at a lower rate, due to the tax cut, and collecting higher benefits as a result of the stimulus package.
Consumption in April, May, and June was undoubtedly higher as a result of these stimulus measures, but there is no reason to believe that they will provide further additional boost in July, August, and September. In other words, we are now feeling the benefits of this stimulus, and we will continue to feel the benefits. But it is just not sufficient to offset the downward momentum from the collapse of the housing bubble.
If we expect a further boost from the stimulus, then it has to come from the direct spending portion. As many commentators have rightly noted, most of this money has not yet gone out the door. However, the amount at issue is too small to have much impact.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that we will spend $110bn from this portion of the stimulus package in the fiscal year beginning in October. However, almost $30bn of this spending is designated as a state and local fiscal stabilisation fund. This money will prevent cutbacks at the state and local level. This is very useful spending, but this money is just preventing further contraction, not pushing the economy forward.
That leaves us with just $80bn as a net stimulus for 2010 compared with current tax and spending levels. This is just a bit more than 0.5% of GDP. It is less than one-fifth as large as the falloff in housing construction from its peak at the height of the bubble. It is only a bit more than one-tenth as large as the falloff in consumption due to the disappearance of housing bubble wealth. In short, it cannot possibly be large enough to turn the economy around.
This is why we badly need a third stimulus package. There is nothing on the horizon to prevent the unemployment rate from staying high long into the future. As I have written before, the obvious form for a third stimulus would be an employer tax credit to give workers paid time off.
This "pay for play" tax credit would give employers an incentive to shorten work time with paid family leave, paid sick days, paid vacations and/or shorter workweeks. It is likely to have an impact very quickly, since employers would be throwing money away by not moving as quickly as possible to take advantage of the tax credit. As a result, it would both put more money into the economy and also redistribute employment so that fewer workers are unemployed. If we all worked five per cent fewer hours, then seven million more workers could have jobs at the same level of demand.
[Dean Baker has just reinvented the Robien Law in France in 1995-96 and is proposing the same function as many countries' and US states' worksharing programs are doing with subsidies from their unemployment insurance funds instead of Dean's tax credits. The Timesizing Program suggests doing it with carrots or sticks from an overtime tax with an exemption for OT-targeted hiring and if needed, training.]
The people who make economic policy gave us this recession because they were too bullheaded to see an $8,000bn housing bubble right in front of their face. There are ways to get us out of the mess they created, if our leading economic policymakers could finally start to open their eyes and think seriously about the economy.
7/04/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Artists Brace For State Budget Cuts - Reduction In Funding Hurts Many Ways, by Rinker Buck, Hartford Courant via courant.com - United States.
Connecticut's image has always been defined by attractive downtown greens, strong schools and lively local arts, but now one leg of that stool might fall as economic recession pervades American life.
To balance the state budget, Gov. M. Jodi Rell has proposed eliminating about $30 million in state arts and tourism grants to local government and arts institutions over the next two fiscal years. Rell has also proposed collapsing the state Commission on Culture and Tourism into the Department of Economic and Community Development. The extent of the cuts will not be clear until final budget proposals are worked out with legislative leaders this summer.
But local and regional arts groups aren't waiting for the torturously slow budget process to end. Certain that cuts to the arts are inevitable, they are already dramatically curbing their spending.
"Arts organizations have already seen anywhere from a 25 percent to a 40 percent reduction in their regular gifts from corporations and foundations, and private giving is also way down," said Cynthia Clair, executive director of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. "It doesn't make sense to sit around and wait for more cuts in state arts funding, so groups like Creative Arts Workshop and the New Haven Symphony Orchestra are cutting back on their hours or the size of their staff."
Clair said the arts council has reduced costs by cutting back to a four-day work week. Arts council employees are receiving unemployment benefits through the *Connecticut Department of Labor's shared work program, which reimburses employees for the portion of the work week they didn't work because of reduced business demand or budget cutbacks.
[See all 18 states that have shared work programs, most with websites, plus a number of other countries, at the top of our Links page.]
In Hartford, the Hartford Stage, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra have all announced cutbacks that include leaving job vacancies open, remaining closed an extra day a week and cutting the salaries of top executives.
Arts groups are particularly concerned about Rell's proposal to fold the state's Commission on Culture and Tourism into the Department of Economic and Community Development. In the past, the bulk of federal grants for the arts were funneled through the independent commission, and it's unclear whether another state agency will qualify to receive federal grants.
Federal arts grants are also predominantly matching programs, meaning the federal government matches dollars spent by the state. But with Rell proposing a sweeping cut in state art grants, Connecticut would no longer qualify for the federal portion of the grants.
Local arts groups say almost $12 million in proposed cuts to statewide and local tourism marketing will also deeply affect the arts.
"It's important to realize that tourism cuts are almost as bad as direct cuts to arts groups because without those funds, I can't support groups like the Farmington Valley Visitors Association," said Martin Rotblatt, the executive director of the Farmington Valley Arts Center in Avon. "They are one of our best ways of letting everyone know about arts events."
Rotblatt's group provides education programs in the arts, a gallery and arts store and 20 art studios for working artists. Expecting state cuts in funding, he has cut back on newspaper advertising for events, did not print a catalog promoting his programs this summer and is deciding against sending a brochure to the 3,000 arts enthusiasts on his mailing list.
"To have a viable arts community, you at least have to let people know that the arts are there," Rotblatt said. "Well, we're not doing that very much now."
- Raising morale in a sinking economy, by Tavia Grant, Toronto Globe and Mail - Canada.
[Also on morale, check out the Dilbert strip in tomorrow's (7/05) Sunday funnies, where Dilbert starts out being worried that he won't get a raise this year but that pales in comparison with the other stuff his boss tells him he should be worrying about instead; to wit, that he might lose his job in the next round of layoffs, or that the entire company might go out of business or that the global economy might collapse or that the only viable livelihood in the future involves cannibalism.]
Plunging morale is the biggest challenge facing employers today, a new study has found. As employers focus on reviving revenue, cutting costs and dealing with immediate financial pressures, what can managers realistically do to make staff feel better?
MORALE: n. 1. The mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand. 2. The level of individual psychological well-being based on such factors as a sense of purpose and confidence in the future. --Merriam-Webster Dictionary
WHY IT MATTERS
Ignoring “shell-shocked” employees who are worried about their jobs, families or personal finances can directly hurt the bottom line, says Janice Rubin, an employment lawyer at Toronto-based Rubin Thomlinson LLP, the firm that conducted the survey on morale.
Falling morale can cause more mistakes, an increased lack of safety on the job, higher rates of harassment, anger, bullying, sick days and short and long-term disability due to stress leaves, along with a drop in productivity and higher turnover, she says.
University of Western Ontario psychology professor Natalie Allen has published numerous academic articles on work attitudes. Here's her take:
Three approaches that can work:
1. Communication: Send clear, unambiguous and well thought-out messages to staff about what's going on, and what's expected. It cuts stress, boosts transparency and shows the human side of managers, too.
2. Equity: A sense of fairness has a direct influence on how much you love your job. Practically, this mean communicating in a kind, respectful way, letting people voice complaints without repercussions, explaining the rationale for job cuts, and making those cuts as fairly as possible.
3. Praise: Verbal feedback and showing an interest in people's work has a direct effect on morale because it boosts their sense of competence. Giving workers a chance to build skills – by moving around an organization or working with different people – also helps them feel less trapped in their jobs.
Three approaches that can backfire:
1. Social events: They're fine, if employers follow the other guidelines. By themselves though, “I'm not convinced money spent on frills like company barbeques is well spent,” Dr. Allen says.
Sure, they're fun while they happen. But a few hours later, as the effect wears off, “people think, ‘That was a nice splurge. But it would have been nicer to keep Mary, who we got rid of two weeks ago.' It festers.”
2. Tolerating slackers: Time pressures don't mean managers should ditch the scrutiny of performance. “Don't let good employees carry poorer performers” but rather intervene if workloads appear uneven. Letting some people get away with less work can breed resentment among harder-working colleagues.
3. Ditching normal practices: Just because there's a downturn, that doesn't mean you should abandon your normal approach to management. “Don't forget that how well you manage (or how your organization treats people) in tough times sends a powerful message – that may well matter when times get better. Act accordingly.”
ONE COMPANY'S APPROACH
Cole Engineering Group Ltd.
Civil engineering firm, 70 employees
Like many companies, demand sagged in the first quarter of this year. The company needed to cut costs, fast, including some temporary layoffs and chopping hours for remaining staff. Anxiety levels were rising.
Fearing morale would fall off a cliff, Cole took a number of steps this spring:
Added meetings: It introduced new, monthly face-to-face “status update” meetings between staff and executives to convey that there were no secrets at the company.
Cut hours with input: Rather than forcing a new, reduced-hour workweek, it asked workers to themselves to figure out how to trim their hours. Some cut daily hours, others cut number of days they worked each week.
[We'll continue down until this approach makes its way up the list - indeed, sharing the vanishing work is the most empowering and morale-boosting thing we can do in this accelerating cascade of our jerry-built, way top-heavy economic edifice. And as for actually, sustainably balancing the top and the bottom and reversing the collapse, work sharing is the ink and paper of the list, not just the first item on it.]
Surveyed staff: The company conducted an internal survey to figure out what “small annoyances” were bothering staff and could be alleviated (uneven workloads were one aggravation, so the company encouraged different departments to share the load).
Instilled hope: When layoffs occurred, affected staff were told it wasn't their fault, that hopefully they would be hired back, and that they were still welcome at the office and at social events.
Kept up events: Simple social events -- skating, wintry bonfires and barbeques -- were maintained, along with the company's wellness program, which provides on-site chiropractics, massage and nutritional advice.
Let the dog roam: One employee's golden retriever was still allowed free range of the building, where he attends the occasional meeting.
Despite the layoffs and rockier economic climate, staff turnover has remained low, says Janice Kellar, director of human resources. Absenteeism hasn't flared up either this year, she says.
“I would say we saw a boost in employee productivity and initiative. With the heightened awareness of the lull in business, the team was visibly conscious of doing everything they could in their own ways to help weather the storm.”
As for the dog, she says “he has a calming effect” on the organization.
BY THE NUMBERS
70: Percentage of 219 Canadian businesses polled that say morale is currently their biggest workplace challenge.
42: Percentage of Canadian employers that say the economy has increased stress levels.
49: Percentage of Canadian chief financial officers who say they have increased the frequency and quality of communication to help boost morale.
Sources: Rubin Thomlinson LLP June survey of employers; Robert Half April survey of finance and human resource managers; Accountemps February survey of Canadian CFOs
- British Airways prepares to make new cuts - BA is planning more job reductions and a further decrease in capacity as the airline tries to preserve its cash, by Ian King and Dearbáil Jordan, London Times Online - UK.
British Airways announced plans last night to cut its spending by one fifth and to cut capacity as it tries to preserve cash.
BA, which six weeks ago reported a record loss of £401 million, also confirmed that it was looking to reduce its workforce by the equivalent of 3,700 full-time jobs this year. That is on top of the 2,500 posts cut by BA, which remains in talks with unions, between June last year and this March.
The airline said that it would cut capacity from April to October by 3.5 per cent, up from the intended 2.5 per cent reduction, and that it would cut its winter schedule by 5 per cent, instead of the previously intended 4 per cent. It added that it expected a five-month delay in the delivery of its first six Airbus A380 aircraft, although they will still be delivered in 2012, while arrival of the remaining six on order would be delayed by two years until 2016.
BA also said that it would ground its remaining three mainline Boeing 757 aircraft next summer and a further three Boeing 747-400s in winter next year.
In all, the airline said that capital expenditure during the current financial year, which ends next March, has been cut from £725 million to £580 million, adding that it was likely to remain at this level for 2010-11.
The news came as BA, which last week revealed that about 7,000 staff had volunteered to work shorter hours or take unpaid leave in support of its cost-reduction programme, reported that passenger numbers in June were down 3.8 per cent on the same month last year.
But in “premium traffic” — the first and business-class where BA makes most of its profits — the numbers were down 14.9 per cent. Non-premium flyers declined by 1.3 per cent. The load factor, an indicator of how many seats have been filled with paying passengers, was 79.6 per cent, against 81.4 per cent in June last year.
The company added: “Market conditions continue to be very challenging, with trading at levels well below last year. However, on an underlying basis, both premium and non-premium volumes and seat factors have now been stable for more than three months.”
BA was the biggest climber on the FTSE 100 share index yesterday, its shares rising 6½p, or 5.5 per cent, to close at 121.83p.
- Shorter work week keeps jobless down, AP via New Zealand Herald via nzherald.co.nz - New Zealand.
FRANKFURT: Germany's jobless rate edged down to 8.1 per cent in June, official figures showed yesterday, posting a weak seasonal improvement as programmes to put workers on shorter hours helped stabilise employment in the recession.
The Federal Labour Agency said the unadjusted jobless rate was down from 8.2 per cent in May, with the total number of people registered as unemployed dropping by 48,000 to 3.41 million.
However, Germany had a quarter of a million more people unemployed than in June 2008.
The labour agency said German companies' use of shorter working hours to protect jobs during the downturn had kept unemployment numbers from rising even more.
"Despite the massive downturn in production, the current changes are still comparatively moderate; in particular, the strong participation in short-time programmes stabilised the job market," the agency said.
However, the labour market typically lags behind the economy, and the agency was expecting more pressure on jobs as the crisis continues to cut into demand for products from Germany, the world's top exporter.
The German economy - Europe's biggest - is expected to shrink by 6 per cent or more this year and post at best minimal growth in 2010.
In seasonally adjusted terms, the unemployment rate edged up to 8.3 per cent in June from 8.2 per cent in May and the number of people out of work increased by 31,000 - up from an increase of 7000 the previous month.
That "contrasts with a much more rapid pace of monthly increases of 54,000 during December-April," Timo Klein, an analyst at IHS Global Insight, said in a research note.
However, he said he "expects seasonally adjusted unemployment to rise throughout 2009 and 2010, with monthly increments most likely to pick up during the second half of 2009".
German companies that are using or have used short-time working arrangements to preserve jobs include chemical maker BASF SE, steel producer ThyssenKrupp and car makers Daimler and BMW.
The labour agency said since October 110,000 German companies have announced plans for more than 3 million people to work shorter hours.
It noted that such plans are not necessarily implemented, and estimated between 1.3 million to 1.4 million people are working an average of about two-thirds their normal hours.
7/03/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Unemployment reaches 9.5 percent, By Jane M. Von Bergen, Philadelphia Inquirer - Philadelphia,PA,USA.
Even as economists and pundits talk wistfully about the barest hints of recovery, the nation's payrolls continued to disgorge workers: 467,000 of them in June.
The unemployment rate continued its steady upward creep to 9.5 percent, a 26-year high.
Included in yesterday's statistics from the U.S. Labor Department was Stacy Fleming, a senior staffing consultant at Rohm & Haas Co., of Philadelphia. He lost his job Tuesday.
Fleming, a casualty of Dow Chemical Co.'s acquisition of Rohm, left work in the morning Tuesday and by late afternoon was attending a session by the Philadelphia Human Resource Planning Society on "Job Search in a Recession."
"My boxes are still in the car," said Fleming, of Montgomery Township, who himself has laid off about 30 or 40 people over the course of his career in human resources.
"You have to make sure everyone leaves with dignity," he said.
All told, 14.7 million people were unemployed in June - more than twice as many as at the start of the recession in December 2007.
Adding in employees forced to work part time, those too discouraged to look, and those who want a job but have not looked hard lately, the unemployment rate rose to 16.5 percent.
The average length of unemployment was up to 24.5 weeks, with 29 percent unemployed more than 27 weeks.
Particularly hard hit were teenagers, with 1.6 million young people ages 16 to 19 looking for work. That brings their unemployment rate to 24 percent, up from 18.8 percent a year ago. For young African Americans, the unemployment rate was 37.9 percent in June.
"While teenagers comprise only 4 percent of the workforce, they made up over 22 percent of the increase in unemployment in June," said Joel Naroff, the Bucks County-based chief economist with TD Bank N.A.
The unemployment rate among slightly older workers, those ages 20 to 24, is 15.2 percent and includes recent college graduates as well as people such as Daniel Quinn, 20, of Philadelphia's Mount Airy neighborhood.
"Every day in June I went around with resumes and no luck. I went to retail stores, restaurants, pretty much every place in Plymouth Meeting mall, Willow Grove mall, nothing," said Quinn, a communications major at Temple University.
The report revised May and April statistics. Layoffs in May turned out to be smaller, 322,000 vs. the 345,000 first reported. But job cuts in April were a bit deeper, 519,000 vs. 504,000.
With joblessness rising, President Obama said he was "deeply concerned" about unemployment and conceded that too many families are worried about "whether they will be next."
The report coincided with the weekly tally of newly laid-off workers filing for unemployment insurance. The number dropped last week, the government said, a sign job cuts are easing.
The Labor Department said initial jobless benefit claims fell 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 614,000. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out fluctuations, dropped to 615,250, the lowest in almost four months. The number of continuing claims for unemployment insurance dropped 53,000, to 6.7 million.
Consumers and businesses have sharply cut back spending in response to the bursting of the housing bubble and the financial crisis, sending the economy into the longest recession since World War II.
To cope, some companies have cut hours. The average workweek now runs 33 hours, the lowest since 1964.
Companies, trying to reduce costs, have cut a net total of 6.5 million jobs since the downturn began.
The cuts came in a wide variety of sectors. Construction lost 79,000 jobs in June, and it has yet to see an increase in hiring from the federal stimulus plan. Manufacturing continued its decline, with 26,500 jobs in motor-vehicle manufacturing among the 136,000 gone in June. About 118,000 jobs were lost in business and professional services, with 62,000 jobs lost in administrative and support services, including 37,600 in temporary jobs lost. Hiring in education and health services rose 34,000.
- More Gloom Lurks Beneath Weak U.S. Payroll Data, by Liam Denning, Wall Street Journal, C10.
[- wherein the Wall Street Journal inadvertently endorses timesizing, not downsizing.]
June's payrolls numbers contradict the "green-shoots" thesis. Worse, the data suggest that when they do appear, they won't exactly shoot up.
Since the U.S. officially entered recession in December 2007, 6.9 million jobs have been lost, on a seasonally adjusted basis. More bad news lies beneath Thursday's headline numbers. The average workweek fell to 33.0 hours, the lowest ever on record and 0.8 hours less than before the recession began.
If Americans still were clocking those extra 48 minutes a week now, then the same aggregate amount of work could get done with 3.3 million fewer employees. The implication is that, were it not for shorter workweeks, the unemployment rate would be 11.7%, not the official 9.5%.
[This reporter is very clever. The implication also is that if Americans were clocking a lot fewer minutes a week now, then the same aggregate amount of work could get done with many millions more employees, ideally full employment and maximum markets - and maximum marketable productivity - and maximum sustainable investments. And there would be a much more intelligent way of blocking runaway inflation than today's stupid method of raising interest rates, fostering unemployment and clobbering growth.]
Stealth underemployment also is evident in the rise in the number of workers taking part-time jobs due to the slack economy. Their ranks have doubled in this recession, to about nine million, or 5.8% of the work force.
The likelihood is that when economic activity picks up, employers will choose to increase hours on existing workers and bring back part-time workers to full-time status before making new hires.
That sets up a recovery that could rival the previous upswing in terms of joblessness. The difference between any coming upturn and the one that ended in December 2007 is that struggling workers will have less credit available to maintain spending habits. Paradoxically, labor's woes likely will enable many firms to beat near-term earnings expectations, as wage costs dwindle or stagnate. But the unavoidable conclusion is that the consumer-spending power needed to fuel a sharp rebound in the economy just isn't there.
Write to Liam Denning at email@example.com
7/02/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Sales-tax vote was one to cut spending, letter to the editor by Tye Rudy of Jacksonville, Jacksonville Daily News - Jacksonville,NC,USA.
This is in response to a recent letter from Stephen Kirkpatrick headlined, "There was a chance to hold down taxes." There are two aspects of Kirkpatrick's letter I would like to address.
First is the local sales-tax resolution that was on the November 2008 ballot. Kirkpatrick implied that citizens that voted against the local salestax increase last November were asking for a property tax increase. This argument, however, assumes a tax increase was needed and justified. Most people that I know were asking for Option C, a reduction in county government spending. Additionally, the sales-tax resolution was being misrepresented by many who were advocating for it to be approved by voters. Many former and current county commissioners spoke of the local sales tax as a "fairer" form of taxation for many of the reasons cited by Kirkpatrick: everybody pays and they choose when to pay - when they buy something.
If, however, it was being sold to the taxpayer as a "fairer" form of taxation, why were no commissioners willing to sign a pledge to reduce the property-tax rate equal to the revenue generated by the sales tax if the resolution was approved by voters? The explanation is simple; they merely wanted additional revenue and not just a "fairer" means of collecting the same revenue.
Secondly, I would like to address the idea that the only additional cuts that could be made to the county budget were closure of branch libraries and the wholesale elimination of programs. All items presented at the June 15 commissioners meeting for further cuts to the budget were all-or-nothing options. For example, closure of library branches - why not have the library branches open an hour later and consider other lesser measures if a cost savings could be achieved. All of county government moves to a four-day, 36-hour work week - this would not make sense for the Register of Deeds office as they generate fee revenues in excess of their operating budget. It would also not make sense for the permits and inspections office - its activities impact local development and local jobs. That should not prevent an examination of the impact of other departments of county government adopting a reduced work schedule and the associated cost savings to the taxpayers of the county.
Most who opposed the tax increase believe in the principles of limited government, low taxes and that an individual can decide better than government how to spend the fruits of his or her labor. I plan on keeping my red shirt handy and continuing to fight government excess wherever it rears it ugly head.
Editor's note: Tye Rudy is president of the Onslow County chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
- US Economy: Job Cuts Deeper Than Forecast, Unemployment Rises, By Shobhana Chandra, Bloomberg - USA.
Employers in the U.S. cut more jobs than forecast in June and the unemployment rate rose to the highest in almost 26 years, offering scant evidence the Obama administration’s stimulus package is putting Americans back to work.
Payrolls declined by 467,000 last month following a 322,000 drop in May, according to Labor Department figures released today in Washington. The jobless rate rose to 9.5 percent, the highest since August 1983, from 9.4 percent.
Stocks tumbled and bond yields fell as investors bet the 18th straight month of job losses will further sap consumer spending, weakening a recovery from the deepest recession in half a century. The economy has lost about 6.5 million jobs since December 2007 as companies from General Motors Corp. to Kimberly-Clark Corp. reduce costs.
“Companies are laying off people and not hiring them back,” said Roger Kubarych, chief U.S. economist at UniCredit Global Research in New York, who forecast payrolls would decline by 450,000. “This leaves us with a weak, irregular recovery.”
Stocks slid, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closing down 2.9 percent at 896.42 in New York. Treasuries rose, sending yields on benchmark 10-year notes to 3.50 percent at 4:31 p.m. from 3.54 percent late yesterday.
The growing ranks of the jobless are allowing companies to restrain wage growth [as if 'wage growth' is bad? without it, no market growth! connect the dots!] and reduce the work week, eroding the consumer spending that makes up about 70 percent of the economy, today’s report suggested.
[So it's happening anyway, so why not get a grip on workweek reduction, and harness it to finger the points in the weak economy where demand is still strongest and channel human capital to those points. How? Convert overtime into jobs. Cut the workweek a bit. There'll be more overtime. Convert the new overtime into jobs. Keep doing this until you have unemployment back down to your target - preferably set by a regular referendum of your affected population instead of by some insulated "experts,"]
“Workers’ bargaining power for wages is evaporating,” said Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody’s Economy.com in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “Outright declines in wages could unravel the recent stabilization we’ve seen in consumer spending and home sales.”
The average work week fell to 33 hours, the lowest level since records began in 1964, from 33.1 hours in May, today’s report showed. Average weekly hours worked by production workers rose to 39.5 hours from 39.4 hours, while overtime held at 2.8 hours. That brought the average weekly earnings down to $611.49 from $613.34.
Workers’ average hourly wages held at $18.53 for a second month. Hourly earnings were 2.7 percent higher than June 2008, the smallest gain since September 2005. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had forecast a 0.1 percent increase from the prior month and a 2.9 percent gain for the 12-month period.
President Barack Obama called the report “sobering news” and said it would take “more than a few months” to turn the economy around.
“While there are continuing signs that the recession is slowing, this is not much comfort to Americans who have lost their job,” Obama said in a Rose Garden appearance after meeting energy business leaders.
The payrolls decline in June was still well below the peak of 741,000 jobs lost in January, suggesting the economy remains on track for a recovery later this year, economists said.
“The huge job losses of the first quarter are well behind us now,” said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial in New York. “We continue to expect positive economic growth in the third quarter.”
The economy is forecast to start growing again in the second half of this year, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg in June. They predicted a growth rate of 0.5 percent in the July to September period and 1.9 percent in the final three months of 2009.
A gain in orders placed at U.S. factories reinforced signs that the economy may be stabilizing. Factory orders climbed for a third time in four months in May on rising demand for aircraft, machinery and computers, a separate report from the Commerce Department showed today. Bookings gained 1.2 percent, the most since June 2008, after a 0.5 percent increase in April.
Payrolls were forecast to drop 365,000 after a 345,000 decrease initially reported for May, according to the median of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. Estimates ranged from declines of 150,000 to 500,000. Job losses peaked at 741,000 in January, the most since 1949.
The jobless rate was projected to climb to 9.6 percent from 9.4 percent. Forecasts ranged from 9.3 percent to 9.7 percent. By the end of the year, unemployment will reach 10 percent, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed last month.
Today’s report showed factory payrolls fell by 136,000 after decreasing 156,000 the prior month. Economists forecast a drop of 150,000. The drop included a decline of 26,500 jobs in auto manufacturing and parts industries.
More firings are in the works following the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler LLC as shutdowns ripple through auto-parts makers and car dealers. Payrolls at builders fell 79,000 after decreasing 48,000.
Service industries, which include banks, insurance companies, restaurants and retailers, subtracted 244,000 workers after falling 107,000. Retail payrolls decreased by 21,000 after a 17,600 drop. Financial firms reduced payrolls by 27,000, after a 30,000 drop the prior month.
Government payrolls decreased by 52,000, the biggest decline since July 2007, after dropping 10,000 the prior month.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he’ll force state workers to take a third unpaid day off every month to conserve cash and will order lawmakers into an emergency session to tackle the state’s growing budget deficit.
The decrease reflects the layoff of workers hired on a temporary basis to prepare for the 2010 census. The U.S. Census Bureau has said it will hire more than 1.4 million people over the next year to conduct the population count that happens once every 10 years.
Incomes Propped Up
Tax cuts and Social Security payments under the stimulus plan propped up incomes last quarter, supporting household purchases. Consumer spending rose in May as earnings climbed 1.4 percent, the most in a year.
Still, the wealth destruction caused by the housing and stock-market slumps prompted Americans to rebuild nest eggs. The savings rate in May surged to a 15-year high.
Household purchases dropped at a 0.6 percent annual rate last quarter before growing again in the second half of the year, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg in early June. Purchases rose at a 1.4 percent pace in the first three months of 2009.
The auto industry isn’t alone in trimming jobs. Kimberly- Clark, the maker of Huggies diapers and Kleenex tissues, plans to cut 1,600 jobs worldwide by year-end. About 800 salaried employees will leave Deere & Co., the world’s largest maker of agricultural equipment, under a voluntary program.
“These actions, while difficult, are necessary to help us emerge from this demanding economic environment,” Kimberly- Clark’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Falk said in a June 25 statement. The company’s net income has declined for six straight quarters.
3M Co., the maker of Post-it Notes and Scotch Tape, reduced positions and offered early retirement to workers, while Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker, is cutting jobs following the acquisition of Rohm & Haas Co.
The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits last week fell in line with forecasts, Labor also said, indicating firings remain elevated. Initial jobless claims dropped by 16,000 to 614,000 in the week ended June 27, from a revised 630,000 the week before.
Revisions added 8,000 to payroll figures previously reported for May and April.
To contact the reporter on this story: Shobhana Chandra in Washington firstname.lastname@example.org
7/01/2009 bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Euro-Zone CPI Posts First-Ever Drop - Euro-Zone Inflation Slips Into Negative Territory, By JOELLEN PERRY, Wall Street Journal - USA.
FRANKFURT -- Euro-zone inflation slipped into negative territory in June, highlighting the challenge European Central Bank policy makers face in balancing a mandate to contain price declines with their desire to hold off on more measures to ease the recession.
Consumer-price inflation in the 16 countries that share the euro currency fell 0.1% this month, down from May's flat reading, according to a Tuesday estimate from European statistics agency Eurostat. June's rate is the lowest since comparable records began in 1997. Economists at the Royal Bank of Scotland estimate inflation in Europe's economic heartland hasn't been as low since 1953.
The bulk of the June decline likely stems from lower energy prices, but economic weakness also is helping pull down prices. ECB policy makers, who are slated to meet Thursday, aim to keep annual inflation just below 2%. They have long warned that energy prices would push the bloc's inflation rate into negative territory for a few months this summer. The central bank maintains that deflation -- a prolonged decline in wages and prices -- is unlikely, though some economists say the risk is rising.
Data out Tuesday underscore the grim state of the euro-zone economy, despite some recent signs of stabilization. Germany's seasonally adjusted jobless rate rose to 8.3% in June from 8.2% in May, according to the Federal Labor Agency. Government-sponsored salary subsidies for employees working shorter hours have helped contain unemployment in Europe's largest economy, but economists warn waning global demand will spur mass layoffs and push the jobless rate above 10% by mid-2010.
Spanish house prices fell 7.6% in the first quarter of this year compared with a year earlier, the fastest pace since records began in 1995 and well above the 5.4% drop logged in the final three months of 2008, the National Statistics Institute reported. In Ireland, which like Spain is struggling amid a burst housing bubble, annual economic output slipped 8.5% in the first quarter of 2009, worse than the 8% fall in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to its Central Statistics Office.
Outside the euro zone, the U.K. economy posted its sharpest decline since 1958 in the first quarter, suggesting the recession has been harsher than thought previously. The Office for National Statistics reported the economy slumped 2.4% in the first quarter compared with the quarter before, as a steep decline in construction activity helped push output down from an initial estimate of a 1.9% decline. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne said Tuesday the data revision didn't change the government's view that the economy will start growing again by year-end.
The dismal euro-zone data highlight the dilemma ECB rate-setters face as they meet Thursday. Policy makers have signaled they aren't inclined to cut their key rate below the current record-low 1% or expand their lending programs, which include a €60 billion ($84.48 billion) plan to buy low-risk bonds, without a substantial deterioration in the economic outlook. Analysts expect the ECB's key rate will stay on hold through year-end.
There were signs Tuesday that the ECB's move last week to lend euro-zone banks €442 billion in one-year funds is helping ease money-market strains. A benchmark for the rate at which euro-zone banks lend to one another for three months—which is a key gauge for household and business loans across the bloc—fell to a record low of 1.099% Tuesday from 1.108% Monday.
But bleak lending data suggest banks aren't passing along the ECB's measures to the real economy in full. ECB data Tuesday showed annual growth in loans to the private sector slowed to 1.8% in May, down from 2.3% in April and the lowest since records began in 1992. The fall bolstered some economists' contentions that the ECB will need to unveil more measures to counter a rising deflationary threat.
"None of the ECB's operations to date has been successful in pushing credit growth in the economy," said RBS economist Jacques Cailloux. "We think credit growth will be negative toward year-end and will stay negative for a long time, which is one of the reasons we think [the ECB] might be forced to implement other asset-purchase programs."
—Jonathan House in Madrid and Laurence Norman in London contributed to this article.
Write to Joellen Perry at email@example.com
- New spike in Russia's jobless rate seen in Sept, By Gleb Bryanski, Reuters via guardian.co.uk - UK.
MOSCOW - Russia's top employment official warned on Wednesday a new spike in the jobless rate will take place in September, while the World Bank said the situation in the labour market has stabilised but remained difficult.
Yuri Gertsii, head of the country's Federal Employment Service, said Russia will have 2.6 million people officially registered as unemployed by the end of the year, nearly 400,000 more than at the end of May.
Companies have been slashing jobs, salaries and working hours as lower oil prices, falling world demand for commodities and the global credit crunch have tipped Russia into its first recession in a decade.
May brought some first signs that the bottom may have been reached with the official unemployment rate falling for the first time in months, but with little evidence of industrial revival the reversal is not seen as sustainable.
"From September we expect growth in unemployment," he told a press briefing, noting that seasonal workers will lose their jobs at the end of the summer while many new university graduates will also join the ranks of the unemployed.
The Russian government is trying to perform a balancing act between the interests of businesses, which view layoffs as a way to cut costs and return to profitability, and potential social unrest caused by unemployment and wage arrears.
The most prominent cases of unrest in crisis-hit Russia -- demonstrations in the Far East after a decision to raise import duties for foreign-made cars and a highway blockade in the town of Pikalyovo -- were caused by unemployment and wage arrears. The government plans to throw over $3 billion in 2009 at fighting unemployment through raising benefits, re-training and public works, but the World Bank says the figure needs to be even higher and will help boost consumer demand in Russia.
Russia's labour market was seen as overheated before the crisis with the jobless rate at a historical low and real wages demonstrating double-digit growth. Russia has also drawn large number of migrant workers from neighbouring countries.
IMPOSSIBLE TO FIRE A WORKER
[Then remove the fear - and danger - of cutting markets by firing by holding the private-sector collectively accountable for purchasing its own output by implementing aggregate-level full employment via fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against unemployment and automatic overtime-to-jobs conversion.]
At the end of May, Russia had 2.21 million officially registered as unemployed. But the total jobless figure -- measured according to International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition -- was much higher, at 7.5 million.
The discrepancy occurs due to firms forcing their workers to take unpaid leaves or shorter hours. The report said up to 25 percent of all workers in the manufacturing sector have been affected by various forms of shortened working time.
Manufacturing job cuts continued in June but at their slowest pace in eight months, the VTB Capital Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) showed on Wednesday.
Gertsii said the closure of Russia's gaming halls and casinos [ID:nLS443312], effective from Wednesday, will not have a big impact on unemployment figures.
He said the service had 1.2 million unfilled vacancies. The World Bank report said wage arrears have not become a common response to the crisis despite a significant increase by the end of 2008 while real wages, another form of crisis adjustment, saw only a moderate decrease.
Some businessmen complain that administrative pressure from regional officials, seeking to windowdress their jobless figures to please the Kremlin, stops mass layoffs, which are badly needed by firms that are seeking to cut their costs.
"It has become impossible to fire a worker," said Boris Titov, head of medium-sized business lobby Delovaya Rossiya.
Unlike in many other markets, Russian trade unions are weak and do not play a significant role in the labour market.
The World Bank sees total unemployment reaching 13 percent of the work force by year-end, while analysts polled by Reuters forecast 11.5 percent.
Gertsii declined to forecast the year-end total unemployment figure saying the government agencies had to standardise their calculation methods.
(Writing by Toni Vorobyova and Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Andy Bruce)
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