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Timesizing News, September 2009
[Commentary] ©2004-09 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 117, Harvard Sq PO, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080
9/30/2009 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 -
- France Telecom suicides spark concern, by Eleanor Beardsley, 89.3fm KPCC via Southern California Public Radio via scpr.org
The death of a French Telecom employee this week marks the 24th person in the company to commit suicide in the past 18 months. Some say huge layoffs brought on by the economic downturn could be a major factor in the large number of suicides. The company's chief executive, Didier Lombard, faces calls for his resignation.
While the economic crisis is taking its toll on workers everywhere, it seems to have been particularly deadly for one French company: In the past year and a half, there have been 24 suicides at France Telecom. And many of the employees who took their lives directly blamed the company in suicide notes.
The latest death came on Monday when a 51-year-old man jumped from a highway bridge in the French Alps. The employee, who was married with two children, left a note blaming the work atmosphere for his decision to end his life. Eight suicides have taken place since the beginning of the summer alone. One young woman jumped from her office window. Another man hanged himself in his cubicle.
Calls For CEO's Resignation
Sad and angry workers gathered at France Telecom offices around the country this week, including its headquarters in Paris.
Gauthier Rollin, 52, has been employed by the company for 20 years. He says the work environment has been unbearable since France Telecom was privatized a decade ago.
"France Telecom has spent its time breaking up teams and breaking down solidarity," Rollin says. "They cultivate individualism and selfishness. So the support you might have found amongst colleagues in difficult times is not there. France Telecom manages its employees like cattle."
A former state monopoly, France Telecom was privatized in 1998 and now competes on the world market. It has undergone several major reorganizations in recent years and cut 22,000 jobs in the past two years. But company officials say those were voluntary departures and that the firm is the only telecom giant not to have carried out mass layoffs
France Telecom's chief executive, Didier Lombard, is facing calls to quit. There are also calls for an inquiry into working conditions blamed for pushing staff over the edge. Lombard was booed as he arrived at headquarters Tuesday.
"The pressure is necessary because we have to compete on the world market," Lombard told reporters. "But there is a way to be more humane in doing so."
France Telecom has suspended the company's "Time to Move" program, which forced managers to change posts every three years. It has also put in place a team of psychologists to help workers.
Vicious Globalization Or Cynical Management?
The suicides have become the talk of TV news shows and newspaper editorial pages. In a country where five weeks of vacation and the 35-hour workweek are supposed to cut down on work stress, there has been much fulminating over the cause of the suicides.
[We would take a wild guess and say it's probably not the 35-hour workweek or the five weeks vacation. Could it possibly be, perhaps, the breakdown of teams and solidarity and treating people like cattle? ...and then there's those 22,000 layoffs ...and then there's the culture of constant reorgs = the sign of truly incompetent management who have no better strategy for making themselves look OK than to keep everything and everyone else in turmoil and looking bad.]
Workplace lawyer Christophe Mesnooh says they may be linked to France Telecom's specific situation.
"Because of France Telecom's change in status from a public company to a private firm subject to free-market forces, the management had the heavy task of explaining this new world to its employees," Mesnooh says. "And the irony is that the company has communicated much better with the market and its competitors than with its own employees."
As the debate rages whether the suicides were provoked by vicious globalization, the company's cynical management, or mollycoddled state workers being made to face up to reality, France Telecom seems to be doing its utmost to avoid another one. One trade union has suggested the government levy a suicide tax on companies to make sure they maintain a decent work environment.
- German unemployment falls again, defies forecasts, by Holger Hansen and Brian Rohan, Reuters via Forbes.com
BERLIN - German unemployment fell for a third consecutive month in September as statistical changes and government measures cushioned the labour market in Europe's largest economy.
The number of jobless fell by 12,000 in seasonally adjusted terms this month, good for a rate of 8.2 percent, the Labour Office said on Wednesday. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a rise of 20,000.
The Labour Office said, however, that without special effects, unemployment would have risen by 10,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis and cautioned that the figures did not point to a change in the overall trend of rising joblessness.
Economists expect joblessness to rise in the coming months and peak next year, but they have backed off from earlier doomsday scenarios that it could climb to above 5 million.
A government subsidy scheme, known as *'Kurzarbeit', that encourages companies to reduce the hours of their workers instead of firing them has prevented mass layoffs during the deepest part of a sharp industrial downturn.
Now, production and exports are picking up, providing hope that the worst can be avoided, although there is a fear that with the German election out of the way, firms could be more aggressive in laying off staff.
'Although September's fall in German unemployment was flattered by yet more statistical changes, the labour market still appears to be holding up better than elsewhere,' said Jennifer McKeown at Capital Economics.
'Unemployment was rising by around 60,000 per month earlier this year and it was clear even then that government incentives for firms to keep workers on shorter hours were preventing the sharp increases seen in other euro-zone economies,' she added.
The lastest available data from Eurostat shows Germany's seasonally adjusted jobless rate stood at 7.7 percent in July, compared to 9.8 percent for France and 18.5 percent in Spain.
The number of workers participating in the short-term work scheme in Germany stood at 1.43 million at the end of June, a rise of 300,000 from March, a Labour Office official told Reuters this month.
NO JOB MARKET UPTURN AHEAD
The economy has shown signs of recovery after it pulled out of its worst postwar recession in the second quarter of this year, with forward looking indicators suggesting growth will continue in the following three-month period.
Consumers have shrugged off worries over joblessness, with their morale rising to its highest level in 16 months heading into October on growing confidence the economy has passed its low point, according to the GfK research group.
German business sentiment also rose in September, hitting its highest level in a year, while in July exports rose for a third straight month and manufacturing orders increased more than expected.
But some areas are faring better than others, with the battered industrial sector slimming down and struggling in particular to get back on its feet.
Industrial conglomerate Siemens ( SI - news - people ) said it is looking at job cuts after its order intake fell more than a fifth in the three months through September and signs of a recovery have yet to surface.
Economist Peter Meister at BHF said the economy has built up overcapacity that would soon have to be unwound.
'Even when the economy picks up we won't see an upturn in the job market. Unemployment will keep the new government busy in the next few years,' he added.
(Additional reporting by Joerg Voelkerling, editing by Mike Peacock and Toby Chopra) Keywords: GERMANY UNEMPLOYMENT/
(firstname.lastname@example.org ; +49 30 2888 5223; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com )
9/29/2009 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 -
- Economic Relief for California Employers: Reducing Exempt Employees' Workweeks and Their Salaries Does Not Violate Salary Basis Test, Linex Legal (registration)
Source: Bingham McCutchen LLP - Employers seeking ways to cut costs in California, according to an August 19, 2009, Department of Labor Standards Enforcement ("DLSE") opinion letter, may now reduce exempt employees' workweeks from five to four days, accompanied by a 20 percent reduction in pay, so long as the employees continue to receive the current minimum monthly salary requirement. The opinion letter was in response to an inquiry by an employer experiencing economic difficulties who sought to reduce hours and salary until economic conditions improved.
..An employer may not make deductions from the employee's pay if the employee does not come to work on a given day in the newly defined workweek...
- Nature Center, Marble Hill conservation office face cuts, by Rudi Keller, '9/30' Southeast Missourian via semissourian.com
Missouri - The Conservation Campus Nature Center in Cape Girardeau County Park North will operate on shorter hours and the Marble Hill field office of the Missouri Department of Conservation will close due to cost-cutting measures.
The cuts, part of a statewide effort to reduce department spending by $7.5 million annually, will not take place immediately, said Joe Jerek, a spokesman for the conservation agency. Instead, office closings will take place as leases expire and the cuts at nature centers will be implemented after consultation with staff on how to best serve the public, Jerek said.
The department's goal is to have all the cuts implemented by July 1, 2011, the department said in a news release announcing the changes. In all, 13 offices statewide will close and six of the seven nature centers will cut operations to five days a week, the department announced.
The center in Cape Girardeau currently operates five-and-a-half days each week, so the reduction in hours shouldn't be dramatic, Jerek said.
The conservation department relies heavily on receipts from a one-eighth cent sales tax to fund its operations. Another major source of revenue is the fees on hunting and fishing permits. The plan announced Tuesday is part of an attempt to cut $7.5 million from the $145.5 million annual operating budget approved by lawmakers.
Most of the offices slated for closing have six or fewer employees and the staff spends most of their time working in the field, department director John Hoskins said in the news release. "It just makes sense to have them work from other MDC facilities in the region or even from home," he said. "In other locations, it simply will save money in the long run to house staff elsewhere."
The plan is both a reaction to the economic recession, which has reduced sales tax revenue, and part of a long-term goal to balance staffing costs with other expenses.
"Simply put, less revenue means we need to reduce expenses and staffing levels, which means we must adjust the number of facilities we have and the levels of services we can provide," Hoskins said. "We have to live within our means just like our fellow Missourians."
2289 County Park Drive, Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Marble Hill, Mo.
9/27-28/2009 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 -
- Top Small Workplaces - In a difficult economic year, these companies managed to keep their employees a priority, by Kelly Spors, 9/28 Wall Street Journal, R1.
Choosing the Best
Last fall, The Wall Street Journal and Winning Workplaces, an Evanston, Ill., nonprofit that helps small and midsize companies improve their workplace practices, began seeking nominations. We asked for no more than 300 words on why each nominated employer should be considered a Top Small Workplace. The criteria: They must employ 500 or fewer people, have annual revenue not greater than $200 million, be based in North America and be independent—not part of a larger corporation.
We received 629 eligible nominations by the Jan. 30 deadline.
Each nominee that fit the criteria was then asked to fill out a lengthy application, answering in detail questions about topics such as staff turnover, annual revenue, employee-engagement efforts and training. We received 329 completed applications.
Winning Workplaces organized teams of three people—including Winning Workplaces employees—to read over each of the applications. The readers independently reviewed and scored the applications on key topics, including company investment in employees, how the company measures the success of its management practices, employee engagement in the workplace and teamwork.
Through this process, 35 applications were selected as finalists.
The finalists each provided names of employees, advisers, attorneys, accountants and customers, who were interviewed to give a fuller picture of each company. Their interviews were then added to the applications. Finally, The Wall Street Journal and Winning Workplaces selected an eight-person panel of workplace and small-business experts. Each judge read through about one-third of the finalist applications. The panel met on June 30 in Evanston, Ill., to select the 15 Top Small Workplaces.
--Kelly K. Spors
It's the kind of year that separates great small businesses from good ones.
For many companies, tough economic times inevitably end up pushing the work environment to the back burner. Benefits are slashed, innovative programs are dropped, employees get shut out of big decisions. Employees are lucky to have a job, many bosses figure. Anything extra is unaffordable.
But other companies view things differently. For them, a commitment to employees' well-being and development in times like these can pay off handsomely—both now and in the future. Companies with low turnover and high employee satisfaction and engagement are better positioned to save money and devise innovative ways to navigate the crisis. And they set up the company to do even better when the economy turns around.
For the third year in a row, The Wall Street Journal teamed up with Winning Workplaces, an Evanston, Ill., nonprofit that helps small and midsize companies create better work environments, to identify 15 small employers who have built some of the most exemplary, innovative workplaces.
Many of these winning employers faced tough times this year. Indeed, several laid off employees or cut benefits and pay. Even so, they didn't ditch their commitment to maintaining the best possible work environments. They used their strong people practices to fight the recession with empathy and open communication, and involved employees in cost-cutting and other key decisions. Many improved their hiring, professional development and retention practices so they could emerge from the downturn stronger.
So, what are these stellar small businesses, and what practices set them apart? Take a look.
BARFIELD, MURPHY, SHANK & SMITH PC
BUSINESS: Public accounting
BASED: Birmingham, Ala.
2008 REVENUE: $13.3 million
Lots of companies toss around the term "work-life balance." But few walk the walk as much as Barfield, Murphy, Shank & Smith.
The company goes to great lengths to accommodate employees' personal needs and has allowed several employees to work remotely when their spouses got jobs in other cities or states. Employees can also scale back weekly hours for personal reasons and are encouraged to attend family or school events if they occur during the workday. The benefit to the company: Employees rarely leave, so the company pays little to recruit and train new workers, says Don Murphy, managing partner and co-founder. Turnover was about 2% to 3% annually the past five years.
Jaclyn Collins, a 32-year-old tax manager who has worked at BMSS for nine years, started working full time from home in 2008 when her husband got a job outside of Birmingham. The company even paid for her virtual office, including fax machine, printer and various other supplies. When she had her first child a few years ago, she asked to scale back to a 32-hour workweek. Her boss agreed "without hesitation," she says.
"The most advantageous thing that they offer for employees is being able to adapt to individual needs," she says. "A lot of workplaces I think have the idea that one thing will work for everyone."
Other work-life perks: From April 15 to Labor Day, employees get alternate Fridays off with pay. Every 10 years of employment, they get a four-week paid sabbatical. Even during busy tax season—when accountants work long hours and sometimes weekends—the company tries to make personal life easier. It has a professional valet on staff to run personal errands for employees, such as handling store returns. A dry-cleaning service stops by twice a week to pick up and drop off clothes. And the company sometimes brings in sitters to watch the kids.
RAILROAD ASSOCIATES CORP.
BUSINESS: Railroad engineering and contracting
BASED: Hershey, Pa.
2008 REVENUE: $7.5 million
Michael and Jack Kennedy grew up working for their father's railroad contracting business. So, when the brothers started their own contracting firm—which repairs railways in several northeastern states—they weren't lost for ideas.
One of them: Reduce workplace bureaucracy and push decisions down to front-line employees. Rather than hire middle managers to field calls from job sites and make decisions, the brothers handle calls themselves and urge site workers whenever possible to solve problems on their own.
Not having that layer of middle management improves communications and employee accountability—and saves the company $500,000 annually in salaries and other overhead costs, estimates Michael Kennedy.
But employees must be trained well enough to make decisions and take initiative. Railroad Associates—also known as Trac—provides a lot of on-the-job training to new employees, often through on-site mentoring and various courses. In addition, the company just rolled out an intranet system that employees can access via laptop to get information, including job budgets and scheduling information, to help them make better decisions.
Aligning employees financially with the company also creates an ownership mentality, Mr. Kennedy says. Trac provides an employee stock-ownership plan, through which nonmanagement employees own about 40% of company stock. Each year, employees are eligible for an individual bonus capped at 50% of their pay based on three things: customer feedback, safety records and whether they finished projects on time.
The Kennedy brothers also try to win employee commitment by treating workers like kin—which means offering great benefits and scheduling flexibility when they have family or school events to attend. For one thing, the company pays 100% of health-insurance costs for employees and their dependents.
Brian Hiltz, the 32-year-old truck driver for the company, recalls a couple of years ago when his young daughter needed back surgery in Philadelphia. Rather than dock his vacation or sick time, Michael Kennedy told him to take off all the time he needed. They'd decide how to compensate for missed work later on.
"He covered for me that entire week while I was off," Mr. Hiltz says. "How often is the president of the company going to jump in and run a tractor trailer for a week?"
--Ms. Spors is a writer in Minneapolis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ANALYSIS - Can Germany reform its economy?, by Tim Weber, 9/28 BBC News via news.bbc.co.uk
[Like it needs to half as much as long-hours, labor-surplused, high unemployment/low consumption-per-capita, Britain?!]
On the face of it, Germany's general election has delivered a clear mandate for economic reforms: neo-liberal but socially conservative, in favour of free markets and less regulation, hoping to boost the economy by lowering taxes.
[Yeah right, "free" markets with the workweek rigidly controlled at a mid-1980s level.]
This may be a surprise, given Germany's history of maintaining a highly regulated "social market economy," and the fact that its export-focused industry is suffering badly because of the market failure that has devastated industrialised economies the world over.
[Oh there's an unexpected admission!]
Pushing hard for reforms will be the junior party in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, the liberal, self-proclaimed "pro-business" FDP. Boosted by strong election gains, its leaders say that they will force their business agenda into the pact that will outline the coalition's policies.
In contrast, Mrs Merkel's party, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party CSU, lost votes, slumping to its worst showing at the polls in 60 years.
The liberals' election manifesto, however, is unlikely to survive contact with both Germany's economic situation and the realpolitik of coalition politics.
Germany's economy may be growing again - earlier than the US or the UK - but it also saw a sharper contraction than many other countries, and economic growth does not immediately translate into more jobs or higher tax revenues.
The state of Germany's public finances is dire. Already CDU politicians are warning their liberal partners-to-be that tax cuts are unaffordable right now.
Government spending is the other tough issue. Unemployment has been kept artificially low, with 1.4 million workers put on "Kurzarbeit" - where they work shorter hours while the government makes up some of the lost salary.
[Oh here's an interesting distortion - haven't seen this one before - unemployment is "artificially" low because Germany is not maintaining an arbitrarily long workweek that's been artificially frozen for decades despite waves of worksaving technology!]
However, at many companies the arrangements for this salary subsidy are about to reach their statutory maximum duration. Unless the government is prepared to accept a sharp rise in unemployment, the FDP's neo-liberals will have to swallow their economic principles and accept more market-distorting state intervention.
Furthermore, the realities of German coalition building means that the FDP's political leverage will be fairly limited. FDP leader Guido Westerwelle firmly nailed his party's flag to the CDU mast.
There is no alternative coalition partner for him to fall back on, while the CDU could arguably (albeit reluctantly) continue its grand coalition with the Social Democrats.
Is Angela Merkel a reformer?
So what about Chancellor Merkel's ambitions? Four years ago, when the grand coalition got going, it pursued an ambitious agenda of economic reform. After a few early successes, it quickly got bogged down in squabbles over money and the protection of special interests.
Mrs Merkel, ever the seeker of consensus and campaigning on the promise of staking out the middle ground, did little to push reform.
Now conservative commentators in Germany are wondering whether Mrs Merkel will discover a taste for reform at last or whether she is a consensus-seeking social democrat at heart.
Chances are that she will turn out to be the true heir of the CDU's previous chancellor, Helmut Kohl. He was notorious for "sitting out" conflicts and avoiding bold economic decisions.
It would be politics as usual for Germany. But it is unlikely to be the recipe for leading Germany out of the economic quagmire.
- Call for urgent 'flexi' work dialogue, by Edmond Campbell, 9/27 Jamaica Gleaner via jamaica-gleaner.com
KINGSTON, Jamaica - Fears of more jobs cuts have prompted Labour and Social Security Minister Pearnel Charles to make an impassioned plea for urgent dialogue between employers and workers for the implementation of 'flexi' work arrangements.
"I have been receiving thousands of redundancy letters from employers across the (country)," Charles last Thursday told a sitting of a joint select committee of Parliament considering a green paper on flexible work arrangements.
Charles encouraged employers and employees to "start serious discussions on flexi workweek at in an effort to cut cost and save jobs, rather than the cutting of jobs to save cost".
The labour minister said he did not want employers and workers to believe that the committee was imposing on them flexi workweek.
"For me, from where I sit at the Ministry of Labour, it's going to take some time before the rain comes and the grass starts to spring green again," Charles said in relation to the global economic recession.
Committee member, Senator Norman Grant, while supporting his colleague's recommendation, reminded the committee that there was a serious downturn in economic activities, which was impacting negatively on businesses.
"In times like these we have to place more focus on how employers and policymakers can start to shape persons who would be out of a job in another one, two, three or four months," Grant said.
He said employers and government should find ways to assist workers who have lost their jobs to start their own businesses.
Navel Clarke, a trade unionist and committee member, said he supported flexi workweek arrangements. "It has potential for the growth and development of the country," he said.
Charles urged his colleagues to join with him in his call for both labour and capital to complete talks on flexi-work arrangements.
"Some of the kind of money I see people pay for redundancy, I wonder if their company value more than that. If you have so much money to pay out for redundancy you should be looking towards job creation and productivity," Charles stressed.
The committee had been deliberating on flexi workweek since last year, but talks on the issue first started in 1997.
Many church leaders have expressed opposition to a seven-day flexi workweek, arguing that this move could deprive the individual of his day of worship.
Ministry of Labour officials told the parliamentary committee that nine pieces of legislation would have to be amended to facilitate the flexi workweek policy.
However, Marlene Aldred, legal adviser in the attorney general's chambers, said the number of laws to be amended to give effect to flexi time surpassed nine.
violating the law
Charles told the committee that at present many women outside of the essential services were violating the law by working at nights. He said one of the amendments being sought would clear the way for women to work at nights without contravening the law.
The attorney general's chambers has been asked to carry out an overview of the laws that would need amendment to pave the way for flexi-work arrangements.
9/26/2009 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 -
- To those who kept jobs, recession brings pay cuts, fewer hours, by Peter Passi, (?9/26? '9/27') DuluthNewsTribune.com
If you managed to hold onto your job during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, there’s a good chance your earnings have languished. Many workers have seen their pay frozen or even cut at a time when it seems they’re working harder than ever.
That hurts, says Sgt. Jon Haataja, president of the Duluth Police Union, a bargaining unit that recently ratified a contract providing no pay increases for the coming year.
“It goes without saying that when everything continues to go up in cost and wages stay the same, people will need to readjust their spending habits,” he said.
But Haataja considers now a time for shared sacrifices.
“Look at the private sector and all the people either being laid off or having their hours reduced,” he said. That affects his union because it causes consumers to rein in spending. In turn, the city collects less sales tax at a time when the state aid it receives also is declining.
“We felt it was the responsible thing to do to give the city time while it figures out how to weather the current storm,” he said — hoping “that the economy turns around in 2010.”
AVIATION LOSES ALTITUDE
The recession hit the aviation industry particularly hard, prompting Duluth’s largest manufacturer to trim about 550 people from its payroll in the past year. Many of the 620 Cirrus Aircraft employees who remain on the job have endured temporary furloughs or reduced hours. Meanwhile, salaried staffers have seen their pay cut 5 percent to 20 percent, said Todd Simmons, Cirrus’ vice president of marketing.
“There’s been a sense of collective sharing in getting through this tough time,” he said.
Simmons said reducing pay or hours rather than letting go of staff has been the company’s preferred method of dealing with the need to cut costs.
Yet there is a ripple effect. Cirrus’ reduced production has affected supplier Northstar Aerospace of Duluth. And that company lost more business when Eclipse Aviation of Albuquerque, N.M., another key customer, sought bankruptcy protection this year.
“We’ve been on a real rollercoaster, trying to match our expenses to our revenues,” said John Eagleton, Northstar’s president and CEO.
The company now employs about 30, down from 115 in 2008, and production workers are logging just 36 hours per week. Northstar’s office and salaried staff have seen their wages trimmed by 10 percent to 20 percent this year.
“We had a near-death experience,” Eagleton said. “I think we even saw the white light coming for a while there, but we’re still here because we made the difficult decisions we had to.”
MEDIA, MINES & MEDICINE
Industries of every stripe have similar tales to tell.
Facing a difficult advertising market, Merry Wallin, market manager for Gap West Broadcasting Duluth, said her company reduced pay by 5 percent across the board in the spring. She noted that corporate executives with the company accepted even deeper cuts in excess of 10 percent.
“It was received in a very positive, understanding way by staff,” Wallin said. “I was proud of the way our employees pulled together.”
Forum Communications, the parent company of the Duluth News Tribune, announced plans for a wage freeze entering its new fiscal year Oct. 1. The freeze will not immediately affect union employees under the terms of previously negotiated contracts. The company also has suspended matching 401(k) plans of unrepresented employees.
“The economy has not yet turned at this point,” said Ken Browall, publisher of the Duluth News Tribune. “But we expect to see more of a rebound in the third and fourth quarter of 2010. We’re starting to see some hopeful signs, but we’re not there yet.”
The Iron Range has faced its own challenges.
At United Taconite, Steelworkers this year agreed to collectively accept a 32-hour work week to avoid layoffs. Owner Cliffs Natural Resources recently delivered welcome news that it will ramp back up to a 40-hour week at its mine operations in Forbes and the Eveleth processing plant.
At other mine operations — including Arcelor Mittal’s Minorca plant near Virginia and Minntac of Mountain Iron — some workers accepted voluntary temporary layoffs to keep younger colleagues employed. There, too, workers are beginning to return to work en masse.
Some workers could be feeling the effects of the economic downturn for years to come, however, even if they retain their jobs.
About 1,400 workers providing support services to SMDC Health System’s hospital and clinics have been asked to accept a freeze on wages for the next three years, said Kevin Nendick, president of United Steelworkers Local 9460, the union that represents them.
Expect tough negotiations to come.
- Times buyout is back - More staff cuts loom, by HOLLY SANDERS WARE and KEITH J. KELLY, New York Post
More cuts coming.
The job-cut knife is again being brandished at New York Times Co., as the struggling newspaper publisher prepares to launch another round of employee buyouts to further trim costs.
The Times told its biggest union that it is willing to offer buyouts rather than laying off workers because members had "stepped up" to help the paper earlier this year by agreeing to a temporary pay cut proposed by management.
The New York Newspaper Guild said in a memo to members that the Times promised to honor their agreement and end the 5 percent pay cut on Jan. 1. The Times imposed a similar pay cut on non-union workers but didn't say whether it would restore their pay.
The Times and the Guild said they would meet again to discuss the details of the possible buyout offer, including the number and the timing.
The meeting between the Times and the Guild "took place in the spirit of cooperation," according to the memo, and was part of the process both sides agreed to last spring when they hammered out the pay reduction.
At the meeting, the Guild said it also supplied some ideas for trimming costs, such as instituting a four-day work week, being more flexible with comp time and reducing paper use in the building.
Last year, the Times laid off workers to reduce newsroom headcount by 100 after failing to get enough workers to take voluntary buyouts. The Times didn't disclose how many were voluntary versus involuntary.
Cost-cutting has helped the Times stay afloat -- and post a surprise profit in the second quarter -- but the paper is still burning through cash, and remains mired in a severe ad slump along with the rest of the industry.
The Times, which has slashed jobs and sold assets to weather the downturn, is seeking a buyer for the Boston Globe after achieving $20 million in union concessions.
Negotiations with the Boston paper got off to an ugly start when management threatened to shut down the money-losing New England daily unless the unions agreed to bargain. The Boston paper's largest union eventually approved a package of cuts, but only after narrowly voting down a similar proposal.
9/25/2009 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 -
- Consider the 4-Day Workweek, by Sarah Rich, Core77.com
When I was in first grade, the highlight of each week was Free-day Friday—a span of seven glorious hours when we got to choose whether to assemble tangrams, read Frog and Toad, or play tunnel tag. It was a simple redesign of the standard week but the benefits were far-reaching. As a tool for easing the daily grind, it's a hack we could learn from.
Among professional adults, engaging in leisure activities on a workday is called "playing hooky." Unless you are employed by the state of Utah. Just over a year ago, Utah launched an experiment, changing the government employee work schedule from five days per week to four, and increasing daily hours to ten. With a full 12-month cycle behind them, analysts were able to draw conclusions about how this system affected people, the planet, and the state's budget (also known as the triple bottom line), and it turns out that Free-day Friday is a win-win-win for grown-ups too.
According to Scientific American, by decreasing the need for lighting, janitorial services, air conditioning, heat, and electricity, Utah saved money and shrank their annual carbon footprint by over 6000 metric tons (not including the CO2 eliminated by reducing the number of commuters driving to work on Fridays, which bumps that figure up considerably). On top of all that, while the wellbeing of workers tends to be an afterthought in many sweeping employment policy changes, the 4-day workweek has left most state employees positively jubilant. With their free day they are able to enjoy more family time and relaxation, and to focus on personal health with some extra time for exercise, reducing the number of sick days they have to take during the year. A surprising number of Utah residents are also using their additional day to volunteer in their communities. Research shows that 43 percent of the state's adult population volunteers, compared to a 28 percent national average. For residents trying to complete an education while holding down a full-time job, the free Friday also affords time for study and daytime classes.
For design firms and studios looking for office-wide sustainable solutions, free-day Friday is the ultimate hack.
Sure you can put a compost bucket next to the water cooler and replace the water cooler with a water filter; you can create a paperless memo system and replace your task light bulbs with LEDs; you can set up bike storage for motivated commuters and eliminate paper coffee cups. You can even start an e-waste recycling program. And you should. But even if you hack your office into sustainable bits, the results might not compare to keeping tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people out of the office one day per week.
An article at The Oil Drum presents some hypothetical figures for the energy saved by giving all 133 million American workers a free Friday, perhaps most strikingly an estimate that we could save over 8 million barrels of crude oil for every 4-day week. The implications for human safety and lives saved through fewer traffic accidents and less exposure to pollutants should also not be overlooked. (For sixteen more compelling reasons check out the article.)
Even more significant than the money saved by the state was the money saved by individual employees when they cut 52 round-trip commutes out of their year. Like all good green solutions, the environmental upshots of this change were secondary to the positive impacts on stress levels and bank statements. As hacks go, implementing a national 4-day workweek policy is not exactly DIY [do it yourself??], but with an extra day of freedom each week, you'll have plenty of time to scheme green solutions before Monday rolls around again.
Sarah Rich is an editor at Dwell and director of content for Dwell.com. She lives in San Francisco.
- Glenn officials continue budget debate, by RYAN OLSON, Enterprise-Record via ChicoER.com
WILLOWS, Calif. — As budget hearings continued for a third day, Glenn County supervisors and others put increased scrutiny on a proposal to cut the workweek to 36 hours.
Cutting the workweek by four hours — and employee pay by a corresponding 10 percent — could save up to $884,000 and help avert 18 layoffs. The job cuts, worth about $1 million, were slated to help eliminate a $2.3 million shortfall in the county's $22.5 million General Fund budget.
Several employees spoke to the cuts during the Thursday hearing at the Glenn County Courthouse. Audio from the meeting was also available over the Internet.
Deputy probation officer Michelle Peters, also president of the county Peace Officers Association, noted that the ongoing contract negotiations had discussed an 8 percent cut. Also, negotiators representing employees wanted the cuts to end by a specific date, but the county refused.
County Health Services Agency director Scott Gruendl suggested enacting the cuts now and reviewing the situation later in the year, in case the economy improves and county revenue increases. He was optimistic about the economic potential.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we have a lot going on that is actually going to produce jobs over the next several months," Gruendl said.
Board Chairman Michael Murray noted the board was worried about setting a date and then not being able to financially deliver when the time came. Instead of a date, he suggested the possibility of setting financial benchmarks.
"We don't want to take something from the employees and then not give it back," he said.
Board Vice Chairman Tracey Quarne was interested in the cutbacks necessary to eliminate the remaining shortfall. With layoffs possibly off the table, he wanted to know if the remaining General Fund cuts to each department were proportional to each one's share of the budget. Finance Director Don Santoro noted the department cuts were no longer proportional. He said the board had indicated priorities such as preserving public safety.
As part of the public safety issue, the board discussed the situation at Juvenile Hall. Chief probation officer Brandon Thompson noted the facility would have to go from 21 beds to 10 unless $83,338 was found to hire two counselors.
Thompson asked for more time to study his department's budget and prepare additional numbers.
Supervisors continued the budget hearing until 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Glenn County Courthouse, 526 W. Sycamore St.
Staff writer Ryan Olson can be reached at 896-7763 or email@example.com.
9/24/2009 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 -
- Work-sharing program saves employers money, helps prevent layoffs, by Kevin Spradlin, Cumberland Times-News,Maryland via times-news.com
CUMBERLAND, Md. — Maryland businesses have a longstanding, but little used, program that can help avoid laying off workers during the recession.
Sharon Mike, of the Office of Unemployment Insurance with the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, works in the Cumberland claims center. During an Economic Development Committee meeting Thursday morning at the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce building, she said more and more employers across the state, are using *the state’s work-sharing program to keep a trained work force while lowering payroll expenses.
“This is a very little-known, little-used program,” Mike said to more than a dozen committee members and business professionals. "We had maybe five employers use it ... until the past two years. Now, there are 75 to 80 employers” across Maryland."
The program works like this: An employer files a work-sharing program application with Mike’s office detailing how the employer wants to reduce payroll. The plan is reviewed and, ultimately, approved. Many businesses, Mike said, are choosing to eliminate 20 percent of hours worked by going to a four-day work week from a five-day work week.
The company meets its goal of reducing payroll and retaining its workers. And the full-time employees who are otherwise eligible can currently collect up to $380 of unemployment.
“It doesn’t meet the total weekly wage they used to have,” Mike said, “but for employees, just to keep their jobs is a definite plus.”
Mike said similar to an automobile owner’s auto insurance, if a claim is filed, the premium can increase the following year.
Those premiums are probably going to increase anyway, Mike said, next year. The state’s table of rates range from A, the lowest rate, to F, the highest rate. Table B has been used this year and the state is expected to use tables E or F next year, she said.
“It’s significant,” Mike said.
So are the benefits paid to individuals. The state paid out approximately $750 million in 2008. This year, that amount projects to be about $1.2 billion. The office’s reserve trust has plummeted from about $1.1 billion to $400 million, “which is nothing,” Mike said.
Mike said if a company works with a union contract, the union must also approve the work-sharing program. So far, that hasn’t been much of a problem during this economic downturn, she said.
For a company to qualify for the program, it must plan to reduce workers’ hours by at least 10 percent and have at least two full-time employees. Businesses can submit a plan that impacts one division of the company or everyone on their payroll.
“It gives the employers some options,” Mike said. “It’s an individual decision. Some employers feel better doing layoffs. It’s certainly the employer’s decision to make.”
Mike said the current economic climate gives companies a little flexibility in the plans they submit to her office.
“There are probably some plans approved now that may not have been approved previously,” Mike said. “We want to keep businesses in business.”
For employees, new eligible unemployment claims can receive a weekly maximum $410, an increase of $30, beginning Oct. 1 and a maximum of $430 beginning in October 2010.
Barb Beebe, of Allegany College of Maryland, asked how the program impacts health insurance benefits. Mike said that’s up to the individual employer.
[Compare the right-center's worksharing legislation in France in 1995-96 - the "Robien Law" offered seven years of corporate taxcuts to employers that would cut hours 10% and hire 10% more staff, but left pay arrangements up to the individual employer. After six months, 110 employers had taken advantage of the program, and one third gave 100% pay for 90% work, one third gave 90% pay for 90% work, and one third came out somewhere in the middle.]
Kim Leonard, committee chairman and president of Aircon Engineering, said many companies are using the economic crisis to downsize their work force. The recession, he said, “gives them a way to do it.”
Contact Kevin Spradlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Great Recession's labor legacy: shorter workweeks, grayer work force and less job security, by CHRISTOPHER LEONARD & JAY REEVES, Associated Press via Los Angeles Times via LAtimes.com
[What about the countervailing trend of laying off higher-paid grayer employees and replacing them with lower-paid twenty-somethings?]
Going to work may never be the same again.
The Great Recession has reshaped the American workplace and work force in ways that will last years, if not longer.
The work force is graying as college graduates can't find jobs, young workers get laid off and older workers delay retirement. People in white-collar jobs are feeling increasingly vulnerable to economic downturns, an insecurity that blue-collar workers have known for years.
Perhaps the most enduring change is the permanent loss of millions of jobs across the manufacturing, services and retail sectors.
For textile factories and service sector employers like customer service call centers, the next wave of significant job creation will occur abroad, where labor is cheaper. That trend was under way before the recession and will accelerate, according to labor economists. Americans who would have held these jobs will have to retrain themselves for other jobs, such as assembling microchips and medical devices.
For retailers, growth will be limited by more cautious consumer spending, in part because the days of easy credit are over. That means fewer retail clerks milling about stores around the holidays, and fewer merchandise buyers and other staff jobs at headquarters.
"We're in a very deep jobs crisis, and we're not coming out of it," says William George, professor of management at Harvard Business School. "It's too glib to say that jobs are a lagging indicator" and that hiring will return to normal once the economy does, he says.
The national unemployment rate, now 9.7 percent, is forecast to rise above 10 percent before the end of the year and isn't expected to return to a "normal" level near 5 percent until 2014.
Of course, layoffs aren't the only thing transforming the workplace.
The need to cut costs deeply and quickly has forced businesses to get creative — not just go the easy route of layoffs. It's the central responsibility of managers these days, says Alec Levenson, a research specialist with the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California.
[Creative? What's so creative about the oldest, triedest and truest route in the history of the American economy? What's weird is the last 69 years when we've frozen the workweek after cutting it in half from 80 to 40 over the previous 160 years.]
Through furloughs, fewer shifts and other cutbacks, employers have reduced the average work week to a near-record low of 33.1 hours.
About 400 workers at Nebraska meatpacker Premium Protein Products were told this week they will remain on unpaid furloughs for at least another two weeks, having been on unpaid leave since June. States also have joined in, with Utah State University asking employees to take a furlough next summer after taking a weeklong furlough last spring.
Reducing hours of all workers instead of eliminating jobs of a few is a strategy that had slowly been gaining favor in recent years because it saved companies money in several ways: It reduced the need for severance packages, as well as the cost to rehire and train these new workers once the economy rebounded.
The practice became much more widespread during last year's financial crisis and is likely to be repeated in future recessions, says Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
[Likely to be repeated in future recessions?? It's been repeated in every recession in history - but then, Americans don't know their own history.]
Workers aren't necessarily complaining.
Bonnie Gerard, a business developer with the Knowledge Institute consulting firm in Exeter, N.H., has seen her work week cut from five days to four. That's made it harder to keep up with paying bills. But it beats losing the job. And, she acknowledges, it's made her more efficient.
"It keeps you more focused on the days you're here," she says. "You've still got the same goals, whether you're here four days or five days, and you've got to do the work."
No matter how creative companies get at cost-cutting, or how strong the recovery is, millions of jobs will never come back, George, the Harvard professor, says.
[And if millions of jobs will never come back, the word "strong" can never really be used to describe the "recovery," which will always be more spin than reality until we replace downsizing with timesizing = cutting jobs with cutting hours and keeping everyone employed and spending, then cutting hours deeper, re-employing and re-activated all our de-activated consumers.]
Over the past year, the U.S. non-farm payroll has shrunk to about 131 million people, a decline of more than 5.8 million auto workers, stock brokers, bankers, landscapers, carpenters, truckers, journalists, mechanics, cooks, maids and more. More than 1.6 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared in the last 12 months, along with 1 million construction jobs and 435,000 financial sector jobs.
In low-skilled manufacturing, the U.S. can't compete with countries like China, India or Mexico where labor costs are a fraction of those here. Likewise, cost pressures will continue to push information technology jobs overseas.
American workers will need to be retrained in the coming years to have a shot at the jobs that will be created.
[What "jobs that will be created" and by whom?]
George says these jobs will require specialized knowledge, such as how to install energy-saving systems in buildings.
[They'll have robots to knock down old buildings and robots to build pre-fabricated buildings with pre-installed energy systems. Got any other bright ideas to save the myth of infinite work (never mind finite willingness or ability to pay for it)?]
Community colleges and vocational schools that train people for such jobs could become as important as four-year universities.
[How about direct, on-the-ground overtime-to-training&hiring conversion throughout the economy?]
Plenty of today's unemployed could benefit from such training.
"There are a lot of good people who are really stuck," says John Challenger, chief executive of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "They've been out of work for a long time, and that's made it all the harder for them to compete because they have to explain why they have not been chosen."
A record 4.98 million people had been out of work 27 weeks or longer in August, in part because this recession, which started in December 2007, has stretched longer than any since World War II.
That has forced a record number of people into part-time work. People forced to work part-time jobs because they can't get full-time positions has jumped 54 percent from a year ago to 9 million.
[Here's another way in which shorter hours are happening anyway, but not the best way.]
For those who still have a full-time job, flexibility is key.
At a factory that makes foundry equipment in suburban Birmingham AL, teams that once did specific jobs — welding, grinding castings, fitting parts, assembling machines — have had to learn multiple skills.
The shop, which once had 150 workers, now employs only 30.
"The ones we have now have to do it all," foreman Gerry Peoples says. That includes sweeping the floors since the janitors were laid off. "This is probably going to linger for years," says Peoples, who has survived two rounds of cuts and is down to a 32-hour work week.
About 40 percent of workers are now over 55 or older, the highest level since it was 40.8 percent in 1961, according to a Pew Research Center survey released this summer. More workers are delaying retirement for economic and personal reasons, locking up jobs that are sought by younger workers entering the work force.
[Only with worksharing a la automatic adjustment of the workweek vs. unemployment can we get away from this kind of agism.]
Years ago, Jerry Bannister, 67, anticipated a more leisurely routine at his age. He oversees 10 maintenance workers at the Mays Chapel Ridge retirement community and has no plan to quit soon. He took the job seven years ago, after working 38 years at a Bethlehem Steel plant.
His Social Security and retirement benefits might be enough to live on, but he couldn't quit without making big changes to his lifestyle, such as cutting out vacations and golf.
"When I get to a point where I say, 'You know, I'm as old as the residents,' then it's time to step down," Bannister says.
Fewer workers these days feel as confident as Bannister does about controlling their destiny.
Job security has diminished after every recession since the 1970s, says David Lipsky, professor at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
As workers fought to get their jobs back, unions dropped long-held contract provisions like cost-of-living adjustments and job-security clauses, he says. That contributed to declining union membership, further weakening workers' bargaining position with employers.
Among white-collar workers, job security began to disappear in the recession of the early 1990s as technology allowed jobs to be shipped abroad. It may be gone now.
Over the past year, the unemployment rate jumped 64 percent for managers and professionals like lawyers, doctors and fund managers. That compares with a 56 percent increase in overall unemployment, according to Labor Department data.
Among people with a bachelor's degree or higher, the unemployment rate is still low at 4.7 percent, but it's up from 2.7 percent a year ago.
For some younger white-collar workers, job insecurity is so high that just hanging on has replaced asking for a raise or a promotion.
Rusty Meador, 35, a development manager at Plantation Building Corp., a construction company in Wilmington, N.C., walks past empty desks daily. He once worked in the office as a general manager and had a team of project leaders who reported to him from the field. Now he's back on job sites, doing the work of laid-off colleagues — without a word of complaint. Even if the economy turns around, the memory of this recession will stick with him.
"You're so grateful to have a job," he says.
Reeves reported from Birmingham, Ala. Leonard reported from St. Louis.
- Winnebago County shortens Friday schedule, By Corina Curry, Rockford Register Star,Illinois via RRSTAR.COM
ROCKFORD, Illinois — In a move that will save $347,000 in personnel costs for the upcoming fiscal year, four Winnebago County offices will close two hours early starting Oct. 2.
The offices that will be affected are those of the state’s attorney, circuit clerk, recorder and supervisor of assessments.
Employees of those offices, 204 in total, will leave work at 3 p.m. rather than 5 p.m. on Fridays for the upcoming year, Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen announced Wednesday.
It means hourly employees in those departments will go from a 40-hour workweek to a 38-hour one, and salaried employees in those offices will see their weekly pay reduced by the equivalent of two hours starting next week. It also means that area residents and people needing to do business with those offices will need to get used to a smaller window of time to get things done on Fridays.
May affect court
And it could mean changes in the operating hours of the 17th Circuit Court in Winnebago County.
Court officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but Christiansen said courts, which are heavily supported by the work of the circuit clerk and state’s attorney offices, likely will follow suit with a shorter day on Fridays. That move would affect 163 employees of the public defender’s office, probation office and circuit court and save the county an additional $362,000 a year, county officials said.
“We have surveyed employees, and the results are in favor of this rather than a reduction in staff and people losing their jobs,” Christiansen said. “This is temporary for the next year. Our intention is when we see an uptick in the economy, we will bring the hours back.”
[And if there's no uptick?]
Jay Ferraro, a union representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees representing about 130 of the affected employees, said the union is not on board with the changes and plans to file grievances objecting to the reduced hours.
[Here's another part of that half of the "union" movement that is suicidally divisive and would rather have more desperate jobseekers undercutting their wages and benefits.]
The union’s contract with the circuit clerk’s office guarantees union employees 40 hours of work a week, Ferraro said. County leaders disagree that the contract involves any such guarantee. Ferraro also is disappointed that the county is not considering the union’s offer to go with a four-day, 10-hour workweek.
‘A bunch of nonsense’
“I think it’s a bunch of nonsense,” Ferraro said. “They could close one day a week. They haven’t shown me any legal reason why they have to be open five days a week. I think our elected officials get it in their heads that this is the only way do things and don’t want to hear alternatives.”
Winnebago County Board member Doug Aurand, D-3, said he doesn’t believe in “cutting the little guy.”
“I tell you the real savings will come when they look at the people making the high salaries,” Aurand said. “I hate to see the lowest-paid people taking hits. And if we have a contract, we should honor that.”
Fellow board member Ted Biondo, R-9, believes it’s the right move for the county and the employees.
“It’s the smart thing to do. Everyone shares the burden,” Biondo said.
‘Most logical’ to trim
Friday was chosen as the day to scale back because “it seemed the most logical” in terms of work flow and “was the most fair to employees,” said Circuit Clerk Tom Klein.
Employees will maintain their benefits, including sick and vacation days and health insurance.
The move to shut down certain operations two hours earlier on Fridays is the latest in a string of cost-saving measures being taken by county leaders in tough economic times.
In the past year, county employees have been subjected to layoffs, mandatory furloughs, reductions in hours, eliminated jobs and positions left unfilled.
A shorter day on Fridays will translate into $148,000 in savings for the circuit clerk’s office in the coming year and $167,000 in savings for the state’s attorney’s office.
The circuit clerk’s office of 97 employees already is down 16 part-time workers and five full-time compared with last year’s staffing levels. The state’s attorney’s office is down 14 full-time positions.
State’s Attorney Joe Bruscato said he has about $100,000 that he still needs to cut from his 2010 budget. Klein has about $73,000 left to trim. Both hope to make those cuts through adjustments in services, supplies and attrition.
Circuit clerk [=>court?] employee Maryjane Hare, a team leader in the office’s criminal division, said she supports the shortened workweek. She doesn’t want to see any of her co-workers out of work.
“I’m happy to give up a couple of hours a week if it means that someone else doesn’t have to lose their job,” Hare said. “The workload isn’t going to change and that will be an adjustment, but a layoff would be much worse. We’d have less people to do the work.”
Staff writer Corina Curry can be reached at email@example.com or 815-987-1371.
9/23/2009 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 -
- No guarantees: The SEA's big demand, editorial?, Manchester Union Leader N.H. via UnionLeader.com
[Here's another story about the suicidally non-strategic half of the labor movement - and a great explanation from a reader in one of the comments at the end -]
CONCORD, New Hampshire - Leadership of the State Employees' Association has urged members to reject a new employment contract primarily because employees would take a reduction in pay but in turn receive "a contract that does not ensure against layoffs," in the words of SEA lead negotiator Diana Lacey.
"There's still the possibility of layoffs associated with it," Lacey told the Concord Monitor. "If the budget crisis gets worse, the governor could close programs or facilities and lay off people."
The 19 furlough days called for in the new contract are not unreasonable. They're akin to what private sector employees in New Hampshire have experienced in the past year. To think that they should come with a guarantee of no future layoffs might sound entirely reasonable to the SEA's leaders. But to private sector employees, particularly those already laid off or working for significantly less pay, it sounds outrageous.
Over the years, state employees in New Hampshire have earned a reputation as a fine, dedicated work force. The SEA leaders seem not to realize that the reputation of unionized state employees is taking a beating because of the leadership's stance. It makes taxpayers think the union is intransigent at a time when cooperation is needed to make sure quality services are provided at a price the people can afford.
Asking for a guarantee of no future layoffs is entirely unreasonable. If SEA members reject this contract for that reason, they'll only alienate the taxpayers even more and weaken the union's position in any future negotiations.
...I'd bet a lot of the union members who are saying reject the offer [of furloughs/worktime cuts and no layoffs = timesizing not downsizing] are LONG time state employees who know they can not be cut.
- Mike R., from Bedford...
- Holmes employees working fewer hours, taking leaves, by KATY GANZ, Wooster Daily Record,OH. via The-Daily-Record.com
MILLERSBURG, Ohio -- Employees across the county are working fewer hours and taking unpaid leave to help close a $197,000 revenue gap in the county's 2009 budget.
After discovering the 2009 revenue would be 2.1 percent below the estimated amount, the commissioners turned to offices and departments asking for cost savings plans. Some offices responded with plans to save as much as $13,400.
In the Auditor's Office three employees agreed to go to four-day weeks and a position held by a retiree was filled at a cost savings. The department will return more than $11,000.
"We've had to make some adjustments," Auditor Jackie McKee said. "We're going to have to work around vacation, sick leave. The girls are willing to be flexible. They are willing to make that change for now so that we can return some additional money."
The Clerk of Courts staff is voluntarily reducing work hours, and there will be cuts to travel and supplies for a savings of more than $5,000.
Planning Commission will continue staff furloughs at a cost savings of $2,400 and buildings and grounds staff will have a shorter work week and take unpaid leave to save $13,400. The Board of Elections and the Common Pleas Court said they would return funds to help with the deficit, but the amount would not be certain until closer to the end of the year.
Taking into account the cost savings measures, the Auditor's Office estimates there is $134,000 the commissioners could use to cover the decrease in revenue.
But, a great problem exists. According to McKee if the county just generates $197,000 in cost savings, there will be no carry-over at the end of the year to run the county through January.
Last year's carry-over was $197,000.
"That's not enough to get you through the down times of revenue," McKee said.
In the past the commissioners allowed departments to spend more than their budget and receive a "bail-out" from the county's carry-over, Commissioner Joe Miller said. That practice led to a decline in the carry-over from more than $1.1 million in 2007 to less than $200,000 for 2009.
Miller said the future holds tough decisions for the county, which could mean shutting departments down, consolidating buildings having fewer employees or not giving raises for several years.
"We've got to make sure we don't use our money for next year," Miller said. "The thing I want to be very careful to stress again, our revenue has not dropped a million and a half dollars. Our carry-over has dropped."
Reporter Katy Ganz can be reached at 330-674-1811 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Elyria city leaders give up some of their pay, by Lisa Roberson, Elyria Chronicle-Telegram,OH via chronicle.northcoastnow.com
[Ohio, hot-bed of primitive timesizing.]
ELYRIA, Ohio — In a year when city finances are seeing declining revenue and city leaders are attempting to pass a 0.5 percentage point permanent income tax increase, some city leaders are responding by voluntarily giving up a portion of their pay.
Resident[s] have called for the givebacks since learning numerous employees would be laid off this year and many others would be forced to take a 10 percent pay cut in the form of a reduced work week.
As of Tuesday, more than $12,000 has been donated to the city in the form of payroll deductions and personal checks written by City Council members and other elected officials, Deputy Auditor John Farrell said.
All but two elected city officials have returned money to the city’s cash-strapped general fund this year.
For him, handing over personal checks totaling $1,728 was the right thing to do, Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, said. Tanner earmarked his money for the Street Fund, and his giveback is more than 10 percent of his $14,100 part-time pay.
“For me, it started early this year, when we first started talking about cutting the budget and laying off people. Back then, I told the administration and the rest of them to start making cuts from the top down,” he said. “I meant it should come across the board to everyone, including Council. I said that and I put my money where my mouth is.”
Councilman Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward, in March donated 10 percent of his annual salary. At that time, he called on all Council members to do it as a collective statement to the people of Elyria.
“This I hope will set an example that this Council understands the suffering citizens and employees are going through in terms of job losses, in terms of having to take pay cuts, in terms of retirement incomes that have been lost because of the market crisis and the new garbage collection and water rate fees scheduled for later this year,’ Gibbs said in a letter that accompanied his check.
While the city can’t legally reduce the pay of elected officials midterm, Mayor Bill Grace said he, Auditor Ted Pileski and Law Director Terry Shilling can give back once the money is theirs.
Through payroll deductions to the Cascade Endowment, Grace has given $2,836 as of Tuesday.
In addition, Grace said one-third of his car allowance will also be given back to the city starting soon.
“In the end, it will be a 10 percent giveback to the city,” he said.
Grace said the amount will be equal to the 10 percent pay cut the employees in his office and the other elected office have taken since the beginning of the year.
Councilmen Forrest Bullocks, D-2nd Ward, and Ken Burkhard, D-7th Ward, have not given money back to city, although Bullocks said Tuesday he would start with his next paycheck donating money to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Bullocks said he hasn’t given anything thus far because he earns every bit of his $14,100 salary.
“For the amount of money we are getting, it doesn’t cover what I do,” he said. “This is like a full-time job for the part-time pay we get. It is just a token. It doesn’t amount to anything. But I understand the people want us to give back something to show we are willing to give up something. That’s why I have talked to (Parks and Recreation Director) Frank Gustoff about giving back to the Parks and Recreation Department.”
Elected officials are not the only ones looking to give back.
Auditor Ted Pileski said Monday during a City Council meeting that Dan Reaser, a member of the Civil Service Commission, has said he will give back 55 percent of his stipend for the rest of the year because of the city’s finances.
*Payroll deduction to Cascade Endowment for Parks and Recreation Department** Street Fund
Voluntary give-backs Salary Donations
Mayor Bill Grace $96,950 $2,836*
City Auditor Ted Pileski $86,700 $1,142.82
Law Director Terry Shilling $91,800 $900
Council Clerk Art Weber $19,577 $100
Admin. Legal Counsel Tom Smith $42,180 $1,229
Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward $14,100 $1,728**
Councilman Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward $14,100 $1,410
Councilman Mark Craig, I-4th Ward $14,100 $572.65
Councilman Kevin Krischer, I-5th Ward $14,100 $1,025
Councilwoman Donna Mitchell, D-6th Ward $14,100 $100
Councilman Tom Callahan, D-at large $14,100 $525
Councilman Kevin Brubaker, D-at large $14,100 $900
Councilman Vic Stewart, D-at large $14,100 $100
Councilman Mike Lotko, D-at large $14,100 $250
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or email@example.com.
- CSD Architects to shut down, by Daniel J. Sernovitz, Baltimore Business Journal,MD via Baltimore.Bizjournals.com
BALTIMORE, Maryland - CSD Architects, one of Baltimore’s oldest and most respected architecture firms, is shutting down after 62 years in business.
The firm’s board and owners voted to dissolve the 35-person company after the economy caused a slump in new development projects. It could shut down as soon as Oct. 2.
“CSD has left its imprint on people and places throughout the United States,” CSD Chairman Tom Spies said in a statement. “While we would have preferred to continue this legacy for another 62 years, we are exceedingly proud of our architects and support staff. We are grateful to our clients for the many design opportunities we’ve been awarded.”
The pending closure is one of the most severe signs yet of the toll the commercial real estate slump has placed on the architecture industry.
CSD Architects has already closed its Oriole Park at Camden Yards warehouse offices, where it had more than two years left on its lease for 19,000 square feet of space. It has also closed its Washington, D.C., and Miami offices and has shed an undisclosed number of workers in response to a slowdown in new projects.
Founded in 1947 as Cochran, Stephenson & Donkervoet Inc., CSD annually ranked among the top-grossing architecture firms in Greater Baltimore. It generated $18.8 million in local billings in 2007, placing it fifth among the Baltimore Business Journal’s 2009 List of largest regional firms, with 64 local employees. It was the region’s largest firm in 2005, when it posted $17.6 million in local billings and employed about 105 workers.
But the past year has taken its toll. The firm’s revenue slipped from about $15 million in 2008 to a projected $7 million this year.
In his statement, Spies said the company is working to find jobs for its architects at other firms.
CSD President David Dillard told the Dallas Business Journal, a sister publication, that he is nearing a deal that would allow half its Baltimore staff to move to a “friendly competitor.” He declined to discuss details of those plans because negotiations have not been finalized.
“Once the board and owners of CSD made the difficult decision to dissolve, we have focused all of our efforts on safeguarding the future and interests of our employees and clients,” Spies said. “The firm was founded on the philosophy that building high-quality relationships is just as important as building high-quality structures, and we intend to adhere to that same mission throughout the process.”
Among CSD’s notable projects was the design of a 17-acre senior living center in Roland Park for the Keswick Multi-Care Center. The assisted-living center was to be built on an unused part of the Baltimore Country Club, but the project was canceled because of community resistance. The architect has designed numerous Greater Baltimore projects for clients including Johns Hopkins Hospital, Morgan State University and Anne Arundel Community College. :
The firm is not the only one feeling the pinch. The region’s architectural community started to feel the slowdown months before new construction ground to a halt in Greater Baltimore. Few developers can get the money they need to fuel their projects, and without those funds, they don’t need to spend money designing buildings they can’t afford to build.
“When you’re in business for that long, don’t you expect to be around?” said Gilbert Thomas, managing partner at Marks Thomas Architects in Locust Point.
In January, architectural billings fell to an all-time low of 33.3, according to the American Institute of Architects’ Architectural Billings Index. The index, started in 1995, tracks billings from a survey of AIA’s membership and is considered a leading indicator of construction activity. Billings have come up since the first of the year to 47.1 in August, but the AIA’s chief economist, Kermit Baker, warned there is still a serious lack of construction financing and tougher days still to come for the industry. Scores above 50 indicate an increase in billings.
“Until the anxiety within the financial community eases, these conditions are likely to continue,” Baker said.
Firms across Greater Baltimore have been forced to lay off significant portions of their staff, reduce hours, and compete for projects in areas they were not as experienced in to make up for the slowdown. Baltimore’s SMG Architects cut its staff from 15 employees a year ago to just five and is no longer doing any commercial projects, said SMG President Walter Schamu. The firm is now focused almost exclusively on work for small institutions, nonprofits and some residential developers.
“The fourth quarter is going to be very important for us,” Schamu said. “The reality is you keep plugging away at what you know, what you love.”
Schamu said his 27-year-old firm has weathered prior real estate slumps. He said he was surprised by CSD’s plans to close, and he worries about the future for those architects still with the firm.
“It blew me over, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It’s very sad, they’re a fine company. All of that talent, where do they go?”
But there are signs of increased activity in Greater Baltimore, and many firms are seeing an uptick in the number of inquiries they are getting from developers. Marks Thomas recently brought back a five-day work week after trimming its schedule to just four days, and Thomas said he is seeing more developers trying to revive projects that have been on hold for as much as three years. But the uptick isn’t encouraging enough for Marks Thomas to start replenishing its ranks, reduced from 50 people last summer to 30 employees. Thomas said he is still worried about the lack of capital to finance new construction projects.
9/22/2009 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 -
- If You Need to Work Better, Maybe Try Working Less, by SUE SHELLENBARGER, WSJ.com
It was 4 p.m. on a recent Friday—a time of the week when I usually relax and leave the rest of my to-do list to finish over the weekend. But as this recent weekend approached, I kept pushing myself, heart pumping, to get to the bottom of my list of planned tasks for the week.
After years of working on and off throughout most weekends, I was trying a new approach by taking off at least one entire day every weekend this month, away from reporting, writing and all other work. Early on, I hated it. As simple as it seemed, sticking to a time-off plan stressed me out at first. What I didn't see right away was that my little test was forcing me to improve the way I work.
Amid layoffs and burgeoning workloads, it seems, working any time, all the time, has become a habit. A survey of 605 U.S. workers last spring by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 70% of employees work beyond scheduled time and on weekends; more than half blame "self-imposed pressure." Now, new research suggests some have reached the point where a paradoxical truth applies: To get more done, we need to stop working so much.
Sticking to a schedule of predictable time off can lead to improved productivity. Here are some steps to get started:
* Agree on future goals with your boss and coworkers.
* Plan for deadlines far in advance.
* Set, and focus on, top hourly, daily or weekly priorities.
* Cooperate with coworkers to back each other up.
A groundbreaking four-year study, set for publication in the October issue of Harvard Business Review, seems to confirm that getting away from work can yield unexpected on-the-job benefits. When members of 12 consulting teams at Boston Consulting Group were each required to take a block of "predictable time off" during every work week, "we had to practically force some professionals" to get away, says Leslie Perlow, the Harvard Business School leadership professor who headed the study.
But the results surprised Harvard researchers and Boston Consulting executives alike. Working together to make sure each consultant got some time off forced teams to communicate better, share more personal information and forge closer relationships. They also had to do a better job at planning ahead and streamlining work, which in some cases resulted in improved client service, based on interviews with clients. Boston Consulting is so pleased with the outcome that the firm is rolling out a similar teaming strategy over the coming year on many new U.S. and some overseas projects, says Grant Freeland, senior partner and managing director of the firm's Boston office. "We have found real value in this," he says. "It really changes how we do our work."
Other companies are putting the brakes on work in other ways. At KPMG, a professional-services firm, managers use "wellness scorecards" to track whether employees are working too much overtime or skipping vacation, a spokesman says. At Fenwick & West, a Silicon Valley law firm, "workflow coordinators" review attorneys' hours to avert overload.
And at Bobrick Washroom Equipment, North Hollywood, Calif., a 500-employee manufacturer, staffers are expected to leave in time for dinner. "If you walk around here at 5:30, there are going to be very few lights on, and that's what we expect," says Mark Louchheim, president. He sees family dinners together as important to the well-being of employees and their children, and he also believes setting limits on work motivates people to work smarter.
In the Boston Consulting study, most of the four- or five-member teams were asked to guarantee each consultant one uninterrupted evening free each week after 6 p.m., away from BlackBerrys and all contact with work. Each team held weekly meetings to talk about the time-off plans, work processes and what consultants called "tummy rumbles"—gut worries or concerns about their project.
Requiring hard-driving consultants to take time off was "nerve-racking" and awkward at first, says Debbie Lovich, a Boston Consulting executive who headed one of the teams. Some fought the idea, claiming they would have to work more on weekends or draw poor performance ratings.
But the point of the experiment wasn't to eliminate the "good intensity" in work—the "buzz" from constant learning and "being in the thick of things," Harvard's Dr. Perlow says. Instead, researchers targeted "bad intensity"—a feeling of having no time truly free from work, no control over work and no opportunity to ask questions to clarify foggy priorities, she says.
Ms. Lovich adds: "We wanted to teach people that you can tune out completely" for a while and still turn out good work. The work itself became the focus, "because if you know a night off is coming up, you're not going to let things spike out of control," she says.
After five months of predictable time off, internal surveys showed consultants were more satisfied with their jobs and work-life balance, and more likely to stay with the firm, compared with consultants who weren't part of the experiment. As word spread, other consultants began asking to join the study, Ms. Lovich says. And some clients told researchers the teams' work had improved, partly because improved communication among team members kept junior consultants better informed about the big picture.
Bobrick Washroom Equipment's policy to get workers home for dinner came as a shock to Janice Blakely when she joined the company years ago after working "long, long hours" at an energy concern, she says. Seeing staffers at Bobrick leave by 6 p.m., "I thought, 'Wow, this is not normal."' But in time, the policy "made me look at my performance and tighten up on what I'm doing," says Ms. Blakely, a marketing manager.
Mr. Louchheim, the Bobrick president, says that employees who habitually stay late may be revealing poor work habits. "We worry about whether they can delegate properly and prioritize their work," he says. Adds Chris Von Der Ahe, a Korn/Ferry International recruiter who works with Bobrick: "People who do well there are well organized and able to plan their work well."
Dr. Perlow says an individual worker can get similar results "by challenging oneself to say, 'I'm going to cut off' " work at a certain time every day or every week. " 'Now, how am I going to get work done in the time I have?' This is meant to open your eyes to the possibility" that the way you work can be changed.
In my own experiment, I have managed to keep at least one weekend day work-free so far this month. This has forced me to put proven time-management principles into practice: Plan blocks of work time and stick to the plan; set short-term deadlines to keep work from spiraling out of control; and keep up with email daily, to avoid backlogs.
The rewards have been surprising. On one recent Monday, after an invigorating weekend of working out, attending church and watching college football and hiking with friends, I quickly solved a work problem that had baffled me the previous week. Asked to assess my work this month, my editor, John Blanton, said my columns have been fine. "I'd say, from our perspective, start enjoying your weekends," he wrote in an email.
This, I hope, will get to be a habit.
Write to Sue Shellenbarger at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Improvements in jail healthcare allow cuts in JPS spending, By ANTHONY SPANGLER email@example.com, Fort Worth Star Telegram via StarTelegram.com
[Probably pays them for 36 hours but works them for 40.]
FORT WORTH, Tex. — Tarrant County commissioners approved the public hospital district’s $649.5 million budget Tuesday, including cuts in jail medical spending from the previous year.
The hospital district, which provides medical care to Tarrant County Jail inmates, is holding spending to 2008-09 levels while shifting some resources and expanding patient care. The district, which does business as the JPS Health Network, will also have the same tax rate next year of 22.7897 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Commissioners were comfortable with making the medical operation leaner mostly because Sheriff Dee Anderson supported the changes and because JPS administrators say they have already reduced staffing in the jail.
"There could be some surplus labor in the jail medical," Commissioner J.D. Johnson said. "We all agree that we don’t want to have some of the problems we’ve had in the past."
JPS’ 2009-10 budget calls for reduced spending on correctional health staff to bring down the equivalent of 145 full-time employee hours to 120. JPS officials say the reduction follows a jail consultant’s recommendation in a 2006 report commissioned by county officials.
JPS Chief Operating Officer Bill Whitman said that the jail medical department was spending too much on contract labor and overtime.
"We’ve got a new manager there who has noticed some areas where we can be more efficient," he said. "I think there was a time when we just threw a bunch of people at problems but were not staffing to a proper level."
The 2006 report recommended 120 full-time employee hours based on a 40-hour workweek. JPS uses a 36-hour workweek to staff the jail. Anderson said the California-based consultant may have modified the recommendation for staffing had she known that the jail medical staff was on a different schedule.
The 2006 study was a follow-up investigation into problems that surfaced in 2004 when it was discovered that JPS had drastically cut spending on jail medical staff and services. An evaluation that year found numerous problems with the medical care provided by the hospital district, including criticisms that inmate medical records were "in a state of chaos" and that care was unreliable for the sickest inmates. After reporting health problems, inmates sometimes waited days to receive medications or see a physician.
Anderson said that medical grievances are down from a few years ago, that inmate families complain less about medical problems in the jail, and that pharmacy services are now available after hours and on weekends.
"There is just a better basic level of care in the jail now," he said. "There was a time when we got an inmate on Friday who needed a prescription, we couldn’t get that person medicine until Monday."
ANTHONY SPANGLER, 817-390-7420
- City union rejects shorter workweek - 37.5 HOURS: City workers vote 188-40 against mayor's offer, by DON HUNTER firstname.lastname@example.org, (9/21 10:15pm) Anchorage Daily News via adn.com
[First, the dummies -]
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Members of the city's largest union Monday night overwhelmingly rejected Mayor Dan Sullivan's proposed shift to a shorter work week that would have cost them a 6.25 percent pay cut.
Fewer than half the 620-some members of the Anchorage Municipal Employees Association turned out throughout the day to vote on the concept of moving from a 40-hour workweek to 37.5 hours.
The vote was 188 against the idea and 40 for it, according to AMEA president Mark McKee.
McKee said the results will be sent to City Hall today, if not delivered by e-mail Monday night.
"The vote was kind of a surprise to me," McKee said. "I thought quite frankly it might go the other way."
[Even the union president thought he had a smarter bunch.]
Sullivan offered the workweek change as a way to help the city close an anticipated deficit in next year's budget of around $20 million to $25 million. Without it, the mayor and other city executives have said, additional layoffs and cuts in city services are likely.
Sullivan did not return phone calls Monday night. His spokeswoman, Sarah Erkmann, called the AMEA vote "a disappointment."
Because most employees' work rules and hours are spelled out in labor contracts, the mayor can't unilaterally change them without the approval of bargaining units.
A coalition of most city unions, including AMEA, sent the mayor a letter last week saying employees needed more details before voting on the shorter workweek idea, and two top executives met with the AMEA last week to field questions directly from members. Employee Relations Director Nancy Usera told the workers the shorter workweek could save about $6.7 million next year.
However, she couldn't say how many jobs might be saved if the shorter workweek was approved or how many could be lost if it wasn't.
[That was the mistake in her/their strategy - she didn't do her homework or the figures.]
McKee said many of his members weren't satisfied with the answers.
"There were so many unanswered questions and so many 'no's' (in response to members' cost-cutting ideas) that ... some of the folks probably at the last minute said, 'you pushed me in the corner,' " McKee said after Monday's vote.
City revenues have been hard-hit this year by recession-fueled shortfalls in tourism-related taxes on hotel rooms and rental cars, dismal investment returns and a leveling off of Anchorage's property value increases.
An unexpected $17 million deficit in this year's January-December budget was reported by Acting Mayor Matt Claman in January, and Sullivan announced he had found the budget was still about $9 million short after he took office July 1.
Unions agreed to push back wage increases scheduled for early this year, and hundreds of employees took unpaid furloughs.
Sullivan and his budget officials said the problem only looks to get worse next year. The mayor needs to submit his 2010 budget proposal to the Anchorage Assembly by about Oct. 1. The Assembly will hold a series of workshops and public hearings on the spending plan before amending and adopting it, most likely sometime in late November.
McKee said several of his members liked the idea of taking more unpaid furloughs better than a workweek cut.
The city took furloughs earlier, "and now all of a sudden furloughs won't work," he said. "This is a form of furlough, and it's not one that (many members) really like."
- City of Wyoming employees agree to 5 percent pay cut; City Hall to close Fridays, by Matt Vande Bunte, (9/21 10:58pm) Grand Rapids Press via MLive.com
[Then, the smart ones -]
WYOMING, Mich. - Following the lead of about 70 administrators and supervisors, Wyoming's biggest employee union has agreed to a 5 percent pay cut that will reduce its work week to 38 hours and close City Hall on Fridays starting Oct. 12.
Seen as a job-saving concession by the union chief and a cost-saving measure by city officials, the move also will reduce services to taxpayers.
"The city's hurting and we know that," said Paul Turner, a senior crew leader in the city's motor pool and president of Wyoming General Employees Union. "I was told straight up that if they didn't get this, there would probably be layoffs. There was no choice in the matter.
"It'll hurt us money-wise, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do."
With a growing budget deficit at hand, Wyoming earlier this month negotiated a 38-hour work week with its union of administrative and supervisory employees.
The 191-member general employee union voted to follow suit, with more than 80 percent in favor, according to city officials.
In addition to City Hall, public works facilities and administrative offices in the police and utility departments will close Fridays.
The city's water and sewer plants will treat Friday as a weekend day with only an operator on site.
"We're going to have some service interruptions. There's no question about that," said James Kohmescher, city director of administrative services. "How we're minimizing that is we're going to be open at 7 in the morning and close at 5.
"For people that want to come in and get their business done at 7 in the morning, they may find it more convenient."
City Hall currently is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week.
Kohmescher said the concession will cut an estimated $320,000 in general-fund spending, plus more from some of the city's other funds.
But the deal comes as Wyoming gets word of a possible $706,000 cut in local revenue sharing in a proposed 2009-2010 state budget under review.
Over the past eight years, the state has redirected more than $15 million in revenue sharing away from Wyoming to shore up its own budget troubles, City Manager Curtis Holt said.
"They're taking money meant for local government and using it some place else," he said.
"They've determined there's a different priority other than police and fire."
A reduced work week is not being proposed for Wyoming's police, fire and emergency-medical response unions because of the nature of their work. Other cost-saving ideas are being discussed with those employees.
"At a sacrifice to themselves, (our employees) have done it right," Mayor Carol Sheets said. "While this does not solve the financial crisis, it is a tremendous step forward and a vote of confidence from our employees."
[All sacrifice together, starting at the top = part of Lincoln Electric's formula for success.]
E-mail the author of this story: email@example.com
- BASF: Short-time working pause at Ludwigshafen extended, Plastics Information Europe, Bad Homburg via Plasteurope.com
LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany - BASF (www.basf.com) has decided not to re-introduce short-time working at its main production site before the end of November, if at all this year.
In June, the world’s largest chemical producer put 1,000 employees in 20 Ludwigshafen plants on shorter hours for initially four months, but removed the restrictions in September for one month.
Short-time working continues at some other German and European sites.
Overall capacity utilisation rates at BASF’s 220 Ludwigshafen plants averaged 60% at the end of August.
9/20-21/2009 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 -
- Reduce hours to save your business, by Jenny Little, 9/20 Financial Mail via thisismoney.co.uk
London, ENGLAND - The middle of a recession may seem an odd time for a business owner to take more time off. But that is just what Marcus Waley-Cohen decided to do this summer, cutting his hours and salary to take pressure off the payroll at his herbal drinks firm, Firefly Tonics.
Marcus and co-founder Harry Briggs, both 32, reduced their hours and salaries as well as rearranging the jobs and responsibilities of the other five employees of the business, which turns over £2m and is based in Kensington, west London.
Marcus says: 'Rather than recruiting-people, we decided to divide up new work between the existing team. This had the advantage of not increasing our costs as well as motivating staff and getting them excited about doing new things.
'For example, our head of finance took on supplier negotiations, which gave her a better understanding of the business as a whole, and our sales manager also took on promotions and trade marketing.'
[So far this just looks like pushing more tasks on existing employees while owners goof off. The main function of shorter hours is to hire more potential consumers and reverse the recession, not to intensify it by rewarding top management even further at the expense of the consumer base and the employee basement.]
The Firefly approach is one that many small firms are taking during-the downturn. About four in ten small companies have made or plan to make changes to their business before the end of the year, according to research from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Of these, 60% have tackled staff issues to become leaner and more efficient, with 26% adjusting working hours, 19% rearranging roles and a third [33%] investing in training.
John Grange, an adviser for Business Link covering north Sussex, says: 'It is the responsibility of management to react and change with conditions. It may be developing new products, identifying new markets or just doing things differently. But businesses have to use all the tools at their disposal and their staff is one of them.
'And as long as people are dealt with honestly they are surprisingly receptive to taking pay cuts, working shorter hours or even doing altogether different jobs within a business.'
Marcus at Firefly turned to the Business Link website to ensure he was complying with employment law when he rejigged roles and contracts.
'I was aware there were legal implications of the changes so I wanted to find out what we ought to be doing,' says Marcus. 'It's a great place to find human resources advice.'
Bosses will find it even easier to keep up with changes to employment law with a free tool on the Business Link website that alerts owners to changes in legislation and tells them what they should be doing to manage staff correctly.
The Employment Law Organiser can be downloaded to an icon on your computer. When opened it gives up-to-date information on current legal obligations regarding every member of staff.
A BIS spokesman says: 'These research findings show the resilient and creative characteristics of British small businesses. In the face of a global downturn, small businesses have developed and applied practical changes to get the best out of their people and enhance their business.
'The Government is committed to supporting small businesses, which is why we are launching the Employment Law Organiser as an extension of the advice we provide for them.'
- Windows of opportunity [- Marvin Windows and Doors], by LIZ FEDOR, 9/20 Minneapolis Star Tribune via startribune.com
When the economy began its deep slide, Marvin Windows and Doors kept everyone on the payroll and managed for the long haul. When a recovery unfolds, it can quickly boost production.
WARROAD, Minn. - After losing his job as a golf course superintendent, Steve Timm got lucky.
It was December 2007 and the recession was beginning to take hold across the United States. Manufacturers in Minnesota had begun to slash jobs by the thousands.
But the 49-year-old Timm had landed a job at Marvin Windows and Doors. And despite his junior status at the 2 million-square-foot Warroad plant, he hung on to his job, even after sales began to drop by double-digit percentages over the past year.
The family-owned and -operated Marvin Windows kept everybody on the payroll.
"The easiest thing to cut costs rapidly is to lay off people, but that wasn't even considered," said Susan Marvin, president of Marvin Windows and Doors.
Now the business, which has weathered many recessions since it was founded as a lumber company in 1912, is well positioned to take advantage of a gradually improving housing market.
Sales of existing homes increased 7.2 percent in the United States in July as a potential housing recovery starts to take shape.
The company has avoided debt and continued to develop new products despite the economic downturn. A federal tax credit for energy-efficient windows may also spur more sales, as it did earlier this year at Marvin's Infinity replacement windows unit. And because Marvin didn't lay people off -- it put most employees on a 32-hour workweek instead -- the company can quickly ramp back up to full capacity.
"When the market turns, we are not going to be looking and then training," said Marvin, part of the third generation now running the company. "We are going to have a trained workforce ready to roll."
Still, she's realistic that the recession is far from over. She expects 2010 to be not much better than 2009. "Housing starts are more depressed now than they've been since the Great Depression," she said. She envisions another wave of home foreclosures before the housing market strengthens substantially.
Yet Marvin has no doubt that her company, founded by her grandfather George, will survive this recession. Marvin, 54, expressed confidence that the fourth generation of Marvins will be poised to navigate future downturns.
"We are making decisions this year and next year that will serve us well 10 years from now," she said.
More workers than residents
A Marvin company brochure refers to Warroad, at the top of Minnesota near the Canadian border, as the "home of windows, walleyes and hockey."
To urban dwellers, Warroad could appear to be an isolated small town. It is unquestionably a company town.
Warroad's population is listed as 1,722 on its road sign. Marvin employs 2,592 people here.
But Marvin casts a big shadow in the larger business world, even though it is far removed from big cities and big airports. Window & Door Magazine estimated that privately held Marvin Windows and Doors will generate $500 million to $1 billion in revenue this year.
John (Jake) Marvin, Susan's brother and CEO of the Marvin Companies parent corporation, last week was named chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Susan Marvin formerly chaired the board of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
The Marvins have made major contributions to the library and other public buildings in Warroad, and Jake and Susan's parents, Bill and Margaret, established a $15 million endowment to fund college scholarships for Warroad High School graduates.
Community service is an ethos that was at the core of Bill Marvin, who died on Aug. 31 at age 92 in his home along the Warroad River.
David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said Marvin's large commitment to the community where it does business distinguishes it from other companies. "Their focus has been on the success of Warroad as much as it has been on the success of Marvin Windows," he said.
He points to the management's strategy to reduce workers' hours and preserve benefits instead of laying people off. "While some manufacturers may question this approach from a bottom-line perspective, it has clearly built extreme loyalty to the company and the family," Olson said. "It also sets them up perfectly to respond to increased orders when the economy turns."
Keeping people in town
Susan Marvin said the philosophy of avoiding layoffs dates back to when her father joined his father in business in 1939.
If the Marvin Lumber and Cedar Co. could expand into making windows, Bill Marvin thought, then his brothers, friends and neighbors could have jobs in town and they wouldn't have to leave tiny Warroad to make a living.
"If you lay people off, then they are going to be forced to leave," Susan Marvin said.
After the ills in the U.S. economy were apparent to nearly everybody late last year, Marvin carried on with profit-sharing. For the 2008 year, Marvin shared $6.4 million in profits with 3,381 employees who worked at Marvin companies in Warroad, Eagan, Grafton, N.D., and Baker City, Ore.
[This company looks very much like Lincoln Electric of East Cleveland, Ohio.]
This year, it's unclear whether Marvin Windows and Doors will be profitable.
Back to 40 hours, for a while
"I've never seen it be quite as slow as it was this year," said Chris Larson, 39, while working in the Signature Products section of the Marvin plant. He's worked for Marvin for 15 years, and his wife, Amanda, is employed in Marvin's corporate office here.
But workers recently got good news when the Warroad plant returned to a full 40-hour work schedule last week, which is expected to last about three to four weeks. The 32-hour workweek had been in place since mid-January.
There has been a boost in orders for Marvin's "ultimate casement" products, which are windows that can be cranked open. The company also typically sees an uptick in orders during fall months as people attempt to complete projects before winter sets in. Replacement windows have played a bigger role in Marvin's business during the recession, as homeowners fix up instead of move.
"The window industry over the past several years has become so specialized between the different glass options, color options and hardware options," said Daryl Doehr, Marvin's regional sales manager for Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.
Because all of Marvin's windows are made to order, he said, Marvin's staff works "shoulder to shoulder" with dealers, builders, architects and remodelers about how to place orders that will meet their needs.
Doehr said some other companies cut back on their sales staffs, which provided opportunities for Marvin's to gain new sales.
Marvin even flies some customers up to Warroad so they can get an on-site view of how the windows are made and the options available. On Wednesday, a Marvin pilot crew flew a group of New York-based architects from the Twin Cities to Warroad in one of the company's Beechcraft planes that seats 18 people.
On the ground, the architects got the chance to lay out their building needs to Marvin staff inside the company's 30,000-square-foot training and visitor center, which features cherry wood and a huge stone fireplace designed to represent the company's living room.
Susan Marvin said she knows executives who focus on short-term profits. But at Marvin, she said she takes the long view. "One of the company's greatest strengths has been the fact that it serves all of its stakeholders, not just the shareholders," she said.
Management, which cut salaried workers' pay by 5 percent this year, has held the line on discretionary expenses. But Susan Marvin said she has drawn on one of her father's business credos to guide her on what's most important in the business.
She also saw it in action in the last weeks of her father's life as he greeted Marvin customers at the visitor center from his wheelchair.
Susan Marvin said, "If you take care of your customers and you take care of your employees, your shareholders will be just fine."
Liz Fedor • 612-673-7709
9/19/2009 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 -
- Inconvenient truths about our health care system, (9/18) KevinMD.com
1. Most physicians do not set their own fees. Medicare, Medicaid, and private health plans set these fees, which often have little to do with the costs of doing business.
2. Congress each year sets Medicare fees through a formula called SGR (Sustainable Growth Rate), which this year calls for a 20% reduction in overall physician fees.
3. If SGR were to go through as to proposed, surveys indicate at many at 30% of physicians will not accept new Medicare patients because new Medicare fees will not cover expenses.
4. The next political crisis will be limited access to doctors; this is already occurring in Boston, where waiting times to see doctors are 2 to 3 times the national average for comparable cities.
5. Medicare on average pays 80% of what it costs to provide care: hospitals and doctors make up the difference by negotiating higher payments from the much maligned private plans.
6. An estimated 10% of health costs are due to the practice of “defensive medicine,” whereby doctors order extra tests and procedures in anticipation of defending themselves again future malpractice lawsuits.
7. Passing federal laws permitting patients to enroll in plans and “portability” of plans across state lines would make a public option unnecessary and would render private plans “competitive.”
8. Ending “community ratings,” which force the young to pay the same premiums as older individuals, and reducing “standard benefit plans, “ which often include unnecessary benefits, would reduce premiums for the young and decrease the number of uninsured.
9. The primary care shortage is real and growing because medical students are smart and are not choosing to work twice as long as specialists at 1/2 the pay; doubling Medicare pay for primary office visits would be a good start for relieving the crisis.
10. The surest way to reduce costs is having patients spend more of their own money and making them more responsible for their health, which is the premise of lower-premium health savings accounts and high deductible plans.
Richard Reece is the author of Obama, Doctors, and Health Reform and blogs at medinnovationblog.
alex September 18, 2009 at 5:04 pm
“The primary care shortage is real and growing because medical students are smart and are not choosing to work twice as long as specialists at 1/2 the pay”
Reading this one made me ignore anything I had read on the previous items. If you think that the average specialist works a shorter work week than the average PrimaryCarePhysician (much less TWICE as short), you are simply incorrect. There is plenty of data on average hours worked by field and PCPs work fewer hours than IM specialists and much less than surgeons. Moreover, I can’t even imagine how anyone with any degree of experience would think this is the case. It’s basically a big red flag for “no idea what they’re talking about”.
[So are we boasting here about how long our working hours and therefore how important we are and how much we should get paid? - after we've bottlenecked medical training and credentialing?...]
There’s a good argument that procedures (NOT surgeries, procedures) are overpaid. This is not it.
[When running for Senate in Y2000, Phil encountered a female surgeon in Cambridge MA who was sooo self-important that she was incensed at the idea that her hours would be cut at government behest (for the sustainability of the economy.]
- Shortage of funds brings shorter hours to to library, by CHRIS BOURNEA, (9/16) ThisWeek Community Newspapers via thisweeknews.com
Upper Arlington Public Library will reduce its hours of operation effective Oct. 11.
The reduction is made necessary because of a reduction in funding from the state of Ohio, library officials said.
Beginning Oct. 11, the main library (2800 Tremont Road) and Lane Road (1945 Lane Road) and Miller Park (1901 Arlington Ave.) branches will be open the following hours:
• Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
• Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
• Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
The library board of trustees approved the reduced hours at its Sept. 8 meeting.
"I'm pleased to say that the decisions are not as drastic as we thought they might be and also not as drastic as other libraries have had to make," said Jack Burtch, board president.
The reduced hours will prevent employee layoffs and furloughs, said library director Ann Moore.
"This was the least disruptive for the public and for the staff," she said. "We keep statistics of how many people use the library. We chose hours when the least people use the library to close to the public."
Moore noted that UAPL's reduced hours are not as drastic as other library systems across the state.
"We have libraries in Ohio that have totally shut down for a week. Columbus Metropolitan is closing all of its branches (except for the downtown main library) on Sundays," Moore said. "We have done things all year long so that we don't have to make cuts that are as drastic."
UAPL projects receiving $970,000 less this year than it did in 2008 due to the decline in state revenues. The state enacted an additional 11 percent budget cut in July.
While 70 percent of Ohio libraries rely solely on state funding, UAPL receives half of its $6-million annual budget from the 2-mill, five-year levy that voters approved in May 2007.
In anticipation of reduced state funding, UAPL staff has cut back all year long on supplies, from paper towels to book covers, Moore said. The library had budgeted $208,000 on supplies but by mid-year had spent only about $84,000.
"I wanted very much to not have to lay people off. We chose to cut hours by 10 percent," Moore said. "No one's losing their health care. No one's losing a job. We do have nine vacant positions currently that we are not filling. That's been our strategy."
Reducing operating hours will also prevent the library from dipping into $1.9-million in its building fund, Moore said.
"That is set aside for repairs on our buildings," she said. "One of the board's priorities is to live on what we receive. That is quite a bit less than what we have received in any recent years."
In total, UAPL will be closed an additional 27 hours a week -- 11 at the main library and eight at the Lane Road and Miller Park branches.
"I hope we don't have to make any further cuts. With the economy and the state budget as it is, it's very difficult to predict," Moore said. "I would like people to know that we are being very conscientious and being good stewards of their money."
For more information, visit www.ualibrary.org.
9/18/2009 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 -
- Jefferson County, Alabama commissioners consider indefinite 32-hour work week for employees -
Salaried staffers exempt under pay cut plan, by Barnett Wright, Birmingham News via al.com
Jefferson County will consider indefinitely extending the 32-hour workweek for all hourly employees, county officials said Thursday.
But that pay cut, effectively 20 percent, would not apply to salaried workers, according to finance officials.
Most county employees were switched to 32-hour workweeks, from 40 hours, this summer to help cut $75 million from the budget to make up for the loss of the occupational tax revenue.
The initial plan was to have workers on reduced work schedules until Sept. 30, the end of the 2009 fiscal year.
But sales tax revenue remains slow, and the county may not be able to generate enough cash to pay employees for full weeks when the next budget year starts Oct. 1, Commission President Bettye Fine Collins said Thursday.
[So, a hint of worksharing's shift from temporary to permanent?]
The county is likely to return to work, as of Oct. 10, about 700 county workers who remain on unpaid leave. About 1,000 of the county's 3,600 workers were placed on unpaid leave last month because a court ruled the county's occupational tax invalid, but about 300 have since returned to work.
"With our present circumstances and the money that will be available, we can only bring them back for the 32-hour workweek," Collins said. "If we secure the loan and we can take care of some of the situations that exist, we will very likely make the decision to quickly move to a 40-hour workweek."
The county is negotiating a $25 million bridge loan with Regions Bank to help pay employees and cover other obligations.
The Alabama Legislature approved a new tax in a special session in August. Money from the reinstated occupational tax, which took effect Aug. 14, will start coming in later this month, but the county won't receive a full month's collections until November.
Commissioners have said they are cutting hours and pay only for hourly workers because lawyers have told them cuts for salaried workers could cause problems under federal labor laws.
- The OECD's Story On Australia's Jobs Success, ASXnewbie.com
As good as the Australian economy and employment pictures are there are some glaring problems in need of fixing, according to the OECD report.
Youth unemployment, disability and growing unhappiness with employees being forced to work fewer hours (Which, I suppose they also know is better than being out of work).
The reasons for Australia's good position can be found in the first story today: resource projects and infrastructure worth tens of billions of dollars.
It's why our unemployment rate won't hit 8.5% or even 7%, according to most analysts.
The OECD summarised Australia's employment picture in the following way:
While Australia may have avoided the worst of the global recession, unemployment has risen steadily since early 2008. Internationally-comparable data from the OECD show that Australia’s unemployment rate has risen from 3.9% in the February 2008 to 5.8% in July 2009, an increase of around 40% and the highest rate in almost six years. Nevertheless, it remains well below the OECD average of 8.3%.
Australia’s fiscal stimulus package seems to have had a strong effect in cushioning the decline in employment caused by the global economic downturn. Estimates in the OECD Employment Outlook 2009 suggest that employment in Australia is likely to decline by between 1.4% and 1.9%, or around 150 000-200 000 jobs, less by the end of 2010 than if no fiscal measures had been taken.
This is due to both the relatively large size of the fiscal package (5.4% of 2008 GDP, third largest after Korea and the United States among OECD countries) and the degree to which employment responds to fiscal stimuli such as tax cuts or public expenditure; this is typically higher in countries, like Australia, where a relatively large proportion of domestic demand is met by local production.
As a result, employment is projected to fall only slightly from its 2008 peak.
Adjustments to working hours may have prevented more widespread job losses, but are also leading to growing discontentment among workers.
[according to what survey?]
More than 3% of male full-time workers and 9% of female full-time workers moved into part-time work between July and August 2009, compared with less than 1% who were unemployed.
Aggregate hours have fallen by 2.6% since peaking in July 2008. In contrast, employment [and markets?] declined by only 0.2% over the same period.
[That's good - shorter hours are saving the economy.]
While shorter hours may have saved jobs, they have increased dissatisfaction among part-time workers.
[Ah, wouldn't it make more sense to phrase this, 'they (shorter hours) have increased the number of part-time workers' - which basically goes without saying as long as the definition of 'full-time work' is frozen at the arbitrary 1950 level (or whenever Australia implemented and froze the 40-hour workweek).]
There are now almost 885 000 underemployed workers – part-timers who want to work more – in Australia, an increase of 23% from the same time two years ago.
Youth unemployment is also rising quickly. The unemployment rate for 15-19 year olds is almost three times the adult rate at 16.4% (seasonally adjusted). Around 130 000 young people neither work nor are enrolled in full-time education, an increase of 35 000 since the same time last year.
Across OECD countries, youth employment is more than twice as sensitive to business cycle fluctuations as that of prime-aged workers.
Young people who seek to enter the labour market without secondary or tertiary qualifications are particularly vulnerable.
Changes to the Youth Allowance to encourage young people to stay at school or in training longer, as well as measures to help redundant apprentices and increases or planned increases in the school-leaving age in a number of states are all welcome steps, particularly given that Australia’s secondary school retention rates are well below those of other advanced countries.
Unemployment is a key driver of poverty in Australia [and everywhere else], so stemming further job losses will be vital to prevent poverty spreading over the next few years.
Even before the current downturn, analysis presented in the OECD Employment Outlook 2009 shows that 55% of jobless households in Australia were relatively poor, compared with 37% on average across the OECD. In contrast, there is less chance of poverty for those who can stay in work.
Only 3% of households with at least one person working are poor, and the working poor make up only 15% of the poor population, compared with more than 60% on average across the OECD.
Australia’s tax and transfer system – targeted towards low-income earners – reduces the risk of poverty among working households by three-quarters, but is less successful in tackling poverty in jobless households.
Adverse labour market conditions can also prompt an increase in claims for disability benefits as job seekers become discouraged or long-term unemployment affects their health.
Disability benefit receipt has almost doubled in Australia since 1990, with the biggest growth among the working-age population.
OECD analysis reveals that previous unemployment or inactivity significantly increases the likelihood of receiving disability benefits in Australia.
Around 44% of disability beneficiaries have previously been unemployed and they tend to have longer spells of previous unemployment than non-recipients.
Only a small proportion of disability beneficiaries return to work, and of those that do, within three years three-quarters have either retired or are otherwise inactive.
Programmes to help disability benefit recipients return to work and prevent workers with health problems losing contact with the labour market are vital to reduce the likelihood of long-term welfare dependency among the current cohort of unemployed.
This Information is provided to you by the Australasian Investment Review (AIR).Subscriptions are free.AIR reports about financial markets and investment products in the widest sense possible. The AIR website and all its contents is prepared for general information only, and as such, the specific needs, investment objectives or financial situation of any particular user have not been taken into consideration. Individuals should therefore talk with their financial planner or advisor before making any investment decision.
9/17/2009 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 -
- Reduce Your Costs, by Toddi Gutner, MSN Money via businessonmain.msn.com
Making tough choices is a big part of running any business, especially during an economic downturn. And no decision is harder to face than that of laying off employees.
There can be a somewhat pain-free solution, though: implementing mandatory days off without pay (also known as furloughs).
That's what D.D. Ford Construction of Santa Barbara, California, did in response to the stock market tanking and the housing market collapsing in the fall of 2008. President Doug Ford, charged with significantly cutting his monthly expenses, was preparing for a round of layoffs when his human resources manager suggested the furlough alternative.
Ford went forward with the plan, and it allowed him to temporarily, but quickly, cut $60,000 off his monthly payroll while avoiding the permanent pain of layoffs and costs of rehiring and retraining. "We were also able to keep the employees' benefits in place," says Ford. In addition, some states, like California, enable employees to collect unemployment for those days they are furloughed.
And how did the employees respond? "They all decided that they didn't want anyone to be let go and wanted to share together in the burden of getting the company overhead down," says Ford. "It was great for team-building."
While the benefits of implementing furloughs are many, it's essential to understand the complex legal issues such a process entails. The rules vary for hourly-wage employees versus salaried professionals. With hourly workers, it's simple: Just cut back their hours.
For salaried, exempt employees, however, it's much more complicated. Under law, if salaried employees work any time during a given week, they are entitled to the salary for the week unless they choose to work less. And if a salaried employee works at all on a given day, he or she is entitled to salary for that day. "You will want to think through the end game before you pull the trigger on this kind of program," says Max Caldwell, managing principal and global leader of the workforce effectiveness practice at Towers Perrin. You'll also want to implement the process in a way that doesn't impede employee morale. Here is what to consider:
Consider your workflow. Labor laws require "that employers ask salaried employees to take off specific weeks rather than a day a week for several months," says Doug Christensen, a partner in Dorsey & Whitney's labor law practice in Minneapolis. So if your work flow is better suited to allowing employees one day off each week over a specific period of time, then you will need to implement a 20 percent salary reduction to get to a 32-hour workweek. Note, however, that if you do salary reductions, says Christensen, your employees need to make a minimum of $450 a week. That means if someone is earning $500 a week and you cut his workweek one day, then his salary falls to $400. "That wouldn't meet the labor law requirements," says Christensen.
Draft an agreement. Give your furloughed salaried employees explicit instructions not to work on those days off. "Do it in writing to use as a defense and prove down the road that you didn't want them to work," says Christensen. Of course, it gets a bit tricky with smartphones and computers, but an agreement will help keep the instructions clear.
Try to give options. To help employees maintain their sense of control, try to let them choose those days they take off. At D.D. Ford Construction, all the employees in one department took the same number of days off, either one or two, and also decided which days they would be. "The employees felt that had a certain amount of control as well," says Ford, who adds that some employees are back to full-time.
Communicate, a lot. Throughout the entire process — from informing the employees of the need to cut costs to explaining the benefits process — make sure you give your employees as much information as you can. You might want to run seminars to discuss the impact on benefits, if any, and to let them know the process is temporary and how long it might last.
Toddi is an award-winning journalist, writer and editor and currently is a contributing writer covering career management issues for The Wall Street Journal.
- Thank God It's Thursday, by Barbara Kessler, GreenRightNow.com (blog)
If you worked a four-day work week, you’d be gearing up to knock off about now, as I write this on a Thursday.
Of course you wouldn’t know I was writing this, because you’d be so darn productive during your four-day work week that you’d never crack a peek at anything on the Internet beyond your work-related reading.
Even if you weren’t loyally plowing away at your desk, you’d still be statistically more likely to read this at home, because you’d be home more. (And if you used your new-found at-home time away from home, well, that’s none of our business now is it?)
Let’s just say that a four-day workweek — whether it was composed of four 8-hour days or four 10-hour days – would provide more leisure time, potentially a very good thing for stressed out Americans with their comparatively higher rates heart disease and health issues. This, in itself, would be enough justification to consider a shorter workweek.
But let’s move on to another reason: energy savings.
Big work centers tend to have big energy appetites. For every few cubicles, there are lobbies and meeting rooms and often, vacant rooms that are heated and cool. Sure LEED buildings are sprouting daily. But the majority of work centers, office buildings, warehouses and factories are burning through energy faster than they’re laying off employees.
Think what might happen if big office towers turned off the lights, computers. air conditioning and/or heating for an extra day every week?
Better yet, ask Utah officials, who’ve been doing just that, more or less, since August 2008 within their state government system.
The Utah experiment, set up to save energy costs, reduce carbon emissions, enhance the availability of state services and improve the quality of life for employees could be declared victorious on all fronts, says Mike Hansen, management director with the Governor’s Office, which instituted the plan.
“It looks like what we’re saving is 13 percent (less energy consumption) on aggregate,” Hansen said, explaining that the hard numbers won’t be figured or released until October.
While that savings isn’t what some higher level officials had hoped for, Hansen says it was achieved without any hard sacrifices or outlays to retrofit buildings.
“Just operating from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. — just that — is reducing our consumption,” he said.
The longer hours for employees (the vast majority work four 10-hour days) also came with tighter operation guidelines. No longer are whole buildings cooled or heated for just a handful of workers who want to come in a few hours early or skew their shift later.
Employee behavior factored into higher energy costs in another way. About midway through the pilot plan, those assessing the program realized that “human behavior” had created an energy creep in many buildings, with employees running portable refrigerators, space heaters and fans. All added up to excess energy costs.
And there were the legions of computers that were placed into “sleep” mode but not turned off completely at night.
With new rules put into place in the spring, the energy savings should rise even higher, exceeding that 13 percent when compared with pre-pilot energy use, he said.
Early estimates of the statistics collected suggest that the plan’s carbon-reduction aspect has worked well — removing carbon emissions equivalent to taking 2,300 cars off the road for a year.
As for what the 24,000 Utah state workers have to say about the new arrangements, (the majority of workers were affected, though some offices remained open on Fridays), most like the concept. Many love it and a smaller segment, mainly parents who’ve complained that their longer hours don’t mesh well with childcare needs, are miffed, Hansen said.
He believes most employees would opt to go forward with the plan.
And it’s not so radical. Less than 100 years ago, the six-day workweek was the norm.
Today, in Europe many people already work weeks of 37 or 38 hours. Many German workers are working a 35-hour week (at full pay) as part of a government program to help people retain their jobs during the global recession. And some companies are proposing a four-day week without longer hours as a way to keep more people on the payroll.
A recent article in the New Scientist lists the shorter work week (with or without the same total hours worked) as one of several “Ways to Make a Better World”.
As the NS article points out, the last time there was a cataclysmic economic upheaval, after the 1929 crash Wall Street, the current 5-day work week emerged, replacing what had been a Monday through Saturday drill.
I hate to say it, but I remember the oil crisis of the mid 1970s (though I was a very tiny child), when some of our schools and workplaces temporarily shielded themselves against high fuel costs with a shorter week.
Today, we have more than just energy costs and security issues at stake, as if those aren’t big enough. There’s a great big global reason to consider this change: It could instantly reduce emissions from vehicles and buildings, and we must do that soon and well to avoid overloading the Earth with greenhouse gases. This is the most urgent of all quality of life issues, and to think we could work a little less to help out.
9/16/2009 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 -
- Mercedes to cut 200 jobs, by Patrick Rupinksi, TuscaloosaNews.com (subscription)
Mercedes’ Vance plant is offering employee severance packages, including voluntary separations and early retirement.
The plant will continue to operate on a four-day workweek in 2010.
The plant will close for a week in January, two weeks in summer and one week late in 2010.
VANCE, Ala. - The Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance plans to cut 200 jobs at the end of the year, bringing the work force to about 2,800 people for 2010.
'We are making operational changes for 2010 to match our production with expected market conditions,' said Felyicia Jerald, spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz U.S. International.
The employment reduction at Vance is the second since the recession hit last year. The first reduction started in October 2008 when Mercedes offered its employees buyouts and early retirements. It is believed about 1,000 workers left during the next several months as a result of that reduction.
At its peak, Mercedes employed about 4,000 people in Vance. After the 2008 reduction, the company said it had about 3,000 workers in Vance.
In addition to cutting its work force, Mercedes also told its employees on Tuesday that it will continue its four-day workweek through 2010. On average, most employees will work about eight hours a day during the shortened workweek, Jerald said.
Mercedes has been on a four-day workweek most of this year, with employees working on two shifts Mondays through Thursdays.
Jerald said that to reduce its work force, Mercedes is offering employees severance packages that will vary depending on the workers' years of employment and their ages. The severance will include voluntary separations and early retirement packages. Both will include lump sum payments and additional payments based on years of service. Early retirement is being offered to employees who are at least 55 years old, with those with more than 10 years of employment receiving more severance, she said. There also will be some outplacement services.
The final day for those taking voluntary separations and early retirements will be Dec. 31, although Mercedes will still begin its Christmas maintenance shutdown on Dec. 24. Typically, the plant is closed from Christmas through New Year's Day.
Employees also were told that in 2010 the plant will be closed for a week in January, two weeks in summer and one week late in the year.
The plant also expects to operate only one of its two paint shops next year. That will reduce overhead and energy cost, Jerald said.
The auto industry has been hard hit during the recession, with high-end automakers seeing demand for their vehicles fall even more as consumers curtail spending.
Mercedes is the largest manufacturer in Tuscaloosa County.
Its production, however, affects more than just its employees. Automotive suppliers, many of which have facilities in West Alabama, tie their production and employment levels to Mercedes. If Mercedes produces fewer vehicles, it buys fewer components, which results in automotive suppliers laying off workers.
Reach Patrick Rupinski at 205-722-0213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 27% of NY blacks unemployed or underemployed, by TPR, UnderNews via ProRev.com
The Fiscal Policy Institute finds that job loss and wage declines are hitting New Yorkers hard - with some groups experiencing staggering levels of unemployment. Joblessness in New York State has increased by almost 400,000 since early 2008. The overall unemployment rate is just the tip of this economic iceberg. The official unemployment rate for black men jumped from 8.4 percent in the first half of 2008 to 18.3 percent in the first half of 2009. "Black men typically have higher unemployment rate than other groups," said James Parrott, chief economist at the Fiscal Policy Institute and principal author of the report. "But this jump of ten percentage points is an eye-popping increase from just a year ago. Black men are clearly bearing a disproportionate impact of the job loss in New York."
The official unemployment rate is far from the end of the story. The "real unemployment rate" includes people forced to work shorter hours or who are so discouraged they have given up looking for a job. Using the same methodology as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, FPI found that the real unemployment rate for New Yorkers overall is 14.1 percent. For men in New York State it is 12 percent for whites, 17 percent for Hispanics, and 14 percent for Asian and others. For black men, however, the real unemployment rate is a staggering 27 percent. For women in the state, the rates are 11 percent for whites, 18 percent for blacks, 19 percent for Hispanics, and 11 percent for Asian and others.
9/15/2009 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 -
- County to stick with four-day week - Johnson says change has saved money, increased employee morale, by Sarah Miley, Tooele Transcript-Bulletin via TooeleTranscript.com
It’s been nearly a year since Tooele County switched to a four-day workweek. So did the move accomplish its intended goals, and is it here to stay?
“We don’t have any plans right now to change it,” said Tooele County Commission Chairwoman Colleen Johnson. “I know the employees love it, and we don’t get a lot of complaints. And the recorder’s office is open on Fridays to record.”
The change from a five-day workweek to working Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. went into affect in October 2008. The switch was designed to cut energy costs by turning off lights, heat and air conditioning on Fridays, and reducing fuel usage.
The county doesn’t have hard numbers in terms of cost-savings realized, but Johnson said there have been some.
“Mike [Jensen, the county auditor] has looked at the utility bills and it’s really hard to tell because the rates change from year to year and the weather pattern was unusual with this year — totally different than last year,” Johnson said. “There have been some savings, but I don’t have an exact dollar amount.”The county followed state government’s example, set last August, in adopting the four-10s schedule. Recently, however, Gov. Gary Herbert has said he is considering whether or not to keep the four-day workweek. He said the state has not achieved the energy savings it expected, and he’s concerned about state services provided to the public and other levels of government being curtailed.
Johnson added if the state does go back to a five-day workweek, the county would take another look at the current schedule.
County officials have noted the new workweek has produced benefits beyond energy savings, such as higher employee morale with a shortened workweek and longer weekends.
“We’ve noticed that because our employees love it,” said Johnson. “The health department said they’d noticed their sick leave was way down [since the change].” A few county offices remain open on Fridays, such as the Tooele and Grantsville senior citizen centers, Children’s Justice Center, main front office for the Sheriff’s Office, and Deseret Peak. The recorder’s office, which was initially closed Fridays, was reopened on Fridays in May after real estate and title agents said the closure wasn’t meeting their needs. The office’s hours are now 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.
Tooele County Recorder Calleen Peshell said reopening on Fridays has been good for the real estate industry.
“It’s worked out so far,” she said, adding Monday is actually her office’s busiest day of the week. “I don’t know whether it’s cost-effective or not, but the people that want to come in on Friday can, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Grantsville City Mayor Byron Anderson said he believes the county being closed on Fridays has not adversely affected his city.
“It’s working out OK,” he said. “I haven’t had the staff say anything to me about it so I assume they don’t have any problem with it.”
Third District Court Judge Stephen Henriod said it would be better if all corrections agencies worked five days a week, although it hasn’t been an insurmountable problem.
He said the court doesn’t do work for district attorney’s office on Fridays, so they can do city and civil work on Fridays when other offices are closed on that day.
“If I had my preference, they’d work a five-day week, but it hasn’t been a major issue,” Henriod said.
When the state first proposed the four-day workweek schedule, Henriod said he wrote a letter to then Gov. Jon Huntsman explaining the inconvenience the change could cause, particularly with the drug court since Adult Probation and Parole, which primarily does drug analysis for the court, wouldn’t be able to do it on Fridays.
“That basically meant for a substance abuser they would then know that if they did their UA (urinalysis) on a Thursday no one would be able to test them until the following Monday, which meant they could use those drugs that could clear their system. I was very upset,” Henriod said. “What has happened is AP and P [adult probation and parole] has worked hard to make sure problems haven’t been serious and arranged with Valley Mental Health to do UAs on Fridays. Before long, Valley Mental Health will do it on Saturdays, too.”
Sarah Miley: email@example.com
- To Count New Stimulus Jobs, Help Really Wanted - Measures of the Impact of Government Spending Dramatically Differ and Rely on the Construction of Alternate Realities, Wall Street Journal
As the $787 billion federal stimulus package was being deliberated by Congress in February, the White House estimated that the act would increase employment by 3.5 million jobs, including 24,000 combined in New Hampshire and Wyoming.
So far, though, those states say the stimulus has added fewer than 1,000 jobs.
[If true, makework isn't working any more,. making the sharework- timesizing approach mandatory as the only non-war solution.]
Less than a month from now, when every state receiving stimulus funds will be required to make such a report, the numbers will fall far short of White House projections -- whether it's the original 3.5 million job projection or the latest estimate, issued by the White House last week, that one million jobs have been created thus far by the stimulus act.
The enormous spread between the states and the White House reflects how difficult it is to measure job creation and attribute it to a specific cause. The result, a hodge-podge of numbers, could accelerate criticism that the stimulus isn't doing enough to reduce unemployment.
"The problem with measuring things like this is enormous," says Robert Baade, an economist at Lake Forest College, who has worked on estimated economic impact from smaller initiatives such as new stadiums. He likens it to finding "a needle in an economic haystack" but says there are other forces at work on the estimates. "Some of these numbers are, let's face it, politically affected."
[Duh, no kiddin!]
The most visible figures available to evaluate the job market are unemployment rates, which don't speak well for the stimulus package. The national rate of joblessness last month was 9.7%, up from 8.5% in March, the month after the stimulus act was passed. A week after that number was released, the White House's Council of Economic Advisers reported that the stimulus had increased employment to a level by "slightly more than 1 million jobs higher than it otherwise would have been."
That awkward wording says a lot: It reflects the tough job facing any economist who tries to estimate job creation. In every method used, economists are forced to imagine an alternate reality -- one built on assumptions that are easily challenged. For example, to compare present unemployment rates to past rates may be straightforward but it fails to account for other economic forces that were going to affect unemployment with or without the stimulus.
The White House method assumes that things were getting worse and that the stimulus is the sole factor responsible for stopping the bleeding. So economists imagined an alternative reality whereby the present would have been much worse -- to the tune of one million more lost jobs.
Next month the states will release their own numbers, as mandated by the act. And they'll use much more conservative methodology that doesn't invoke a parallel universe.
That method is the Office of Management and Budget guidelines to count jobs. To account for the cumulative bump in employment, the OMB calls for states to calculate hours of work funded by the stimulus act. Then states must take that number and divide it by 40, for a normal work week, and by the number of weeks since the act was passed. So jobs just added last week count much less than those added in the first month after the act was passed.
[At least we're working with time accountability here, instead of just assuming a blank check on employees' lives.]
When New Hampshire estimates stimulus-funded jobs at under 800, and Wyoming at 165, those numbers undercount very recent hiring. Also, jobs created indirectly don't count, as they do in the White House figure. These can arise, for example, when one new hire spends money that stimulates another sector.
Workers at the Grand Canyon repair a trail in June as part of a stimulus-funded project.
[The WPA returns!]
Comparing the state figures to the White House's projected 3.5 million jobs is "really apples versus oranges," says Orville Fitch, director of New Hampshire's Office of Economic Stimulus.
To arrive at that larger projection, the White House council applied standard multipliers -- reflecting that some spending has ripple effects through the economy, such as hired people increasing their consumption -- to components of the stimulus. For instance, increasing government spending by 1% of GDP would increase the GDP by 1.57%, which is the average of the Federal Reserve's estimate and that of a private firm.
Then the council converted the projected GDP growth into job figures, assuming that a 1% increase in GDP would reduce unemployment by 0.75% -- an assumption based on historical economic figures.
That assumption is based on a decades-old principle developed by Arthur Okun, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under Lyndon Johnson. Though Mr. Okun's name wasn't cited in the council's projection, his famous law tying GDP to employment was clearly in effect. The economist proposed that changes in the two were directly proportional -- nearly 50 years ago.
The council had doubts about its numbers for the tax-cut portion of the stimulus, writing in its report, "We confess to considerable uncertainty about our choice of multipliers for this element of the package."
Other economists who also projected the impact of the stimulus act used Okun's law but arrived at job-growth numbers smaller than the White House's. Economic forecasters at IHS Global Insight were especially bearish, predicting just 2.4 million jobs would be created.
One major reason IHS Global came up with 1.1 million fewer new jobs than the White House estimate is that the company assumed productivity would rise rather than decline during the life of the stimulus. A hike sows the seeds for a jobless recovery, because employers can boost output without hiring. Such a change in productivity could undermine Okun's law, which several economists have begun to regard as more of a shaky rule of thumb. "The last couple of recessions, it hasn't seemed to work," says Casey Mulligan, professor of economics at the University of Chicago.
IHS Global Insight economist Brian A. Bethune says productivity this year has risen even higher than the firm projected, which has suppressed employment. His firm was among those to project job creation but the effort has clearly taken a toll.
"It's a very tricky exercise," he says. "It's unfortunate we got into this numbers game, because I don't think it leads anywhere."
In its estimate last week of one million jobs created, the White House council assumed that signs of recovery in GDP were all caused by the stimulus. But it could also have been caused by, say, monetary policy, or private industry's activity.
Christina Romer, chair of the council, argues that there were also countervailing factors that could have worked against the stimulus, such as the continuing financial crisis -- which means the stimulus's impact may have been underestimated, rather than overestimated. "It's an unbiased way to predict what would have happened otherwise," Dr. Romer said in an interview about the White House council's job-counting procedure.
The numbers coming from the states next month certainly aren't comprehensive, but they do have the advantage of isolating effects to clear-cut job creation, focusing on positions funded by the stimulus. "Is it perfect? Are there 1,000 different ways it could be done?" Mr. Fitch, from New Hampshire, says of the method of job counting used. "It's not perfect, and there are 1,000 different ways it could be done. I think it's a good way," he adds, "because it's understandable."
- Onondaga County workers disheartened by Joanie Mahoney's budget proposal, by Tim Knauss, The Post-Standard - Syracuse.com
The mood was grim in Onondaga County government offices Tuesday after County Executive Joanie Mahoney presented a proposed 2010 budget that included 51 layoffs and pay reductions for 2,149 workers, several county employees said.
"Not good," said one worker as he rushed to his car at 4 p.m. at the end of his workday.
"It's a little scary," said another who also declined to be identified.
Employees are "not very happy," said a third.
Mahoney submitted the proposed $1.17 billion budget to the county Legislature, outlining what she called "serious and severe cuts to county spending" to help close a $38 million deficit. Shrinking sales tax revenue and state aid combined with swelling caseloads for social service programs make the cuts necessary, she said.
Perhaps the most controversial of Mahoney's proposals was one that would reduce the work week by 5 hours for 2,149 county employees -- roughly half the work force -- a move that would save about $7 million. The work reductions would cut employee pay by about 12 percent to 14 percent.
Some of the affected workers -- certain library clerks and nursing home custodians, for example -- earn as little as $25,000 a year.
The proposed work reductions would target unionized workers whose jobs do not require specific staffing levels. Mahoney made the proposal after failing to persuade the Civil Service Employees Association and several smaller unions to forego the 3 percent pay raises called for under their contracts in 2010.
MaryBeth Horton, who works at the county's Van Duyn nursing home, said she earns just $16.83 an hour after 30 years as a licensed practical nurse. It's unreasonable to ask her to give up a 3 percent raise, she said.
Mahoney and her top managers "need to lower their wages before they start picking on the little people," said Horton, who as a nurse, is not among those facing a wage reduction.
Mahoney, who earns $122,413 a year, said she has never taken a raise. Mahoney and the other 388 management employees will forego raises in 2010 and increase their health care contributions, she said.
To accomplish the work reductions, Mahoney's budget would eliminate all 2,149 jobs and replace them with part-time positions. Legislator Mark Stanczyk, of Syracuse, the Democratic floor leader, called that a "trick" that unfairly targets half the work force.
"You can't build a budget on total inequities," Stanczyk said. "You can't treat one class of employees different."
The Legislature, which has until Oct. 15 to review and amend the budget, scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Oct. 8 in the Legislature chambers, Room 407, Onondaga County Courthouse.
Tim Knauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 470-3023.
9/13-14/2009 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 -
- R.I. workers to decide on deal to prevent shutdown - State faces $68m budget shortfall, AP via 9/14 Boston Globe, page B2.
[Wheeling and dealing with worktime instead of jobs and livelihoods is a big advance.]
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Is. - State workers in Rhode Island face decisions as early as today on whether to accept a tentative deal that would cost them pay but prevent a shutdown of state government and the layoffs of 1,000 state workers.
Leaders in Council 94, the largest state employee’s union, planned to meet this afternoon to discuss an early deal that Governor Don Carcieri reached Friday with a collection of state unions, Council 94 President J. Michael Downey said.
If the leadership group approves the plan, it would head to the union’s roughly 4,000 members for a vote.
The deal would require state workers to lose 12 days of pay over two years, according to Carcieri and union officials. In return, employees would receive extra vacation days and could get paid for some of their lost wages when they retire or leave state service.
A 3 percent pay raise scheduled for next July would be delayed until January 2011.
As part of the deal, Carcieri promised not to shut down state government for 12 days to help close a $68 million deficit. He will also abandon his backup plan, announced when a judge temporarily halted the shutdown, to lay off 1,000 state workers to save money.
Carcieri said the cost-cutting effort was necessary to balance a state budget hammered by soaring unemployment and rapidly plunging tax income.
Downey expected his union would have a written draft of the agreement ready for a debate today, although other union officials said getting a final draft might take longer.
Cara Lupino, president of the Department of Health Professional Staff Association, which represents nearly 200 workers, called the terms announced Friday a “step in the right direction.’’ She planned to bring the proposal to her union’s leadership once she has it in writing.
“I would be glad to see there’s no further layoffs,’’ she said. “Unemployment is already too high in this state.’’
- Want to up output? Switch to 4-day week, 9/14 Times of India via timesofindia.indiatimes.com
WASHINGTON: Converting a five-day work week into a four-day work would result in higher job satisfaction and lower levels of work-family conflict, thus leading to higher productivity, suggests a new study.
The four-day week comes in two flavours. One option is to switch from five 8-hour days to four 10-hour days, meaning overall hours and salaries stay the same.
In August 2008, the state of Utah moved all of its employees, apart from the emergency services, to working 4/10, as it has become known. The hope was that by shutting down buildings for an extra day each week, energy bills would be slashed by up to a fifth.
Researchers Rex Facer and Lori Wadsworth of BYUs Romney Institute of Public Management analysed the potential benefits of Utah government’s four-day work week transition and found that the employees were satisfied with their jobs, and enhanced productivity.
They found that even though four-day work week employees work the same number of hours per week as their traditional work-week counterparts, they reported being more satisfied with their jobs, compensation, and benefits, and were less likely to look for employment elsewhere in the next year.
With the four-day work schedule, employees were less likely to report that they come home too tired, that work takes away from personal interest, and that work takes time they would like to spend with family
Other studies have linked work-home conflict with low job performance and lessened productivity.
There are going to be very real benefits for employees, specifically decreased gas cost, decreased commute time (both because they only have to commute four days, but also because they will be commuting during off-peak times, so the commute could potentially be shorter each day), and hopefully, improved work-life balance, said Wadsworth.
The second form of the four-day week is to work the same number of hours per day for four days only, with a commensurate 20% pay cut.
[Or, if "4-day week" really "ups output," there's no reason not to continue 40 hours pay even just for 32 hours work.]
With the recession hitting revenues, accountancy company KPMG announced in February that it was offering its 11,000 UK employees the option of a four-day week to avoid job losses. So far 85% of employees have applied to join the scheme, and 800 now do a four-day week.
9/12/2009 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 -
- Working Seven Days a Week, By Jessica Sach, BookEnds, LLC, A Literary Agency.
[Here's part of The Problem in a nutshell.]
[Literary] agents often discuss how much we need to work just to keep up on the emails we’re getting. You’ve heard it before, so I won’t go too far into it, but frequently our job takes us into the wee hours of the night or the early hours of morning (depends on whether the agent is a night or morning person) and rarely do we have time during office hours to catch up on proposals, queries, or even the reading we’re required to do for our own clients. I’m not complaining, because honestly, I can’t imagine doing anything else. My work is also my hobby, which is why I have things like this blog. I could blog about other things, like my life outside of my job, my cooking, or even my dog, but my biggest passion is this job and so that’s what I blog about.
What I’m looking for today is perspective. I know many of you have a very clear understanding, from your regular reading of agent blogs, about the types of hours we work. I know many of you can vouch for the fact that a three or four a.m. email from me is not as uncommon as it should be, but what I’ve been wondering lately is how common is this? I know that as writers most of you have day jobs and writing is done in your off hours, so I’m not really thinking of those of you who are writers as a second career (hopefully first, one day), but those of you who have so-called day jobs. We live in a world of constant communication where emails from work are frequently sent and received well past dinnertime, and I’m wondering if your day jobs also require you to work weekends and nights, because in my experience in publishing, as an editor and agent, it’s not an option.
And if you are required to work nights and weekends in addition to 9 to 5, how do you possibly find time to write on top of that?
67 comments ...
Vacuum Queen said...
I used to teach, and the hours are good...and the 2 months off in summer was great. BUT, I really really enjoyed my job and so my mind was always spinning and thinking of new things and reading new research and trying new things. Emailing thoughts at 3am wasn't uncommon for me either. And I LOVED it.
Then I stopped to have children.
Then I KNEW I couldn't go back to teach, because I only wanted to do it if I could be "always on" like you are with agenting. I could've had shorter hours for sure, but it was a passion. I knew I couldn't do it until I had more time to devote to it.
[Under Timesizing, you can work all 168 hours in the week if it's your passion, but you gotta PROVE its about passion and not about money by reinvesting ALL your overwork earnings (all you earned in worktime over the standard workweek, whatever it comes down to) in overwork-targeted training and hiring - you gotta SHARE that passion, and spread the yet-unautomated work. These are like unemployment insurance premiums paid in workhours foregone (cuz they're over the standard workweek) or in the earnings from those hours. Need more spending money? Upgrade your skills so you can earn what you think you need or want within straight time - whatever it comes down to in the new full-employment (and markets!) economy under Timesizing.]
So that's basically it...you CAN'T do the world's greatest job at your day job AND write AND have a family. Something's gotta give. For me, it was the greatest day job, which I hope to return to when I can give it my full attention. I don't want to do a so-so job at it.
- Cut Hours – not Jobs or Pay, by Richie Venton, East Dunbartonshire Scottish Socialist Party.
One of the most perverse contradictions in a system riddled with cruel absurdities is that of the working week.
Whilst unemployment leaps upwards, with a scourge of redundancies and closures, the length of the working week for vast hordes of workers increases.
Whilst employers lay off workers, cutting their hours and pay, others demand overtime of their workers – and obscene proportions of this is unpaid overtime.
Long Hours Culture
The UK suffers a notorious ‘Long Hours Culture’. And after a few years of decline (in the years 1998-2006), the hours worked is rising rapidly again.
Figures from December 2008 show that full-time workers in the UK put in an average of 42.1 hours a week - although that is acknowledged to be an under-estimate, not including undeclared hours on second jobs.
Beneath this average lies appalling levels of drudgery for a big minority: one in eight works over 48 hours a week!
And for male workers, the figure is 19.7 per cent exceeding the 48 hour week.
Put another way, in Scotland alone, 260,000 workers are on over 48 hours; 3.3 million across the UK. The latter figure is an increase of 180,000 compared with 2007.
A breath-taking 460,000 workers clock up over 60 hours work a week (54,000 of these in Scotland) - leaving little else time for family or social life after travel to work time and sleep is accounted for!
Long hours at work lead to increased illness, including stress.
It also lowers productivity levels, and reduces Health and Safety for the workforce, as tired people are a risk to others as well as themselves in many jobs.
21st Century Drudgery
So why do workers in Scotland and the UK put in such back-breaking, mind-boggling hours at work in the 21st century?
One of the most obvious causes is low hourly rates of pay. This country is one of the lowest-waged economies in the advanced world. Workers are frequently compelled to clock up the hours to get a half-decent income for themselves and their families – through hours that lead to neglect of family life and increased family break-ups.
But there is also a more naked form of exploitation that explains the Long Hours Culture: unpaid overtime. An absolute majority of the workers on long hours get no extra pay for their overtime. Last year, 5.24 million workers in the UK (425,000 in Scotland) worked unpaid overtime, to a total value of £27billion.
That is the highest toll of unpaid labour since records began in 1992.
It is the equivalent of working for absolutely nothing from 1st January to 27th February last year.
It means these workers gave their bosses an average of £5,139 worth of work without getting a single penny in pay.
As socialists as far back as Karl Marx in the 1840s have explained, profit is the unpaid labour of the working class.
Two of the several means by which the capitalist class boost their profits are by intensifying the amount of production a worker provides during the hours of work, and by lengthening the working week.
Certainly in recent decades bosses have extracted more work out of fewer workers as a means of piling up their profits. But the growing trend of unpaid overtime is one of the most glaring forms of profiteering. And it is likely to rise, as the recession bites deeper; fear of being made unemployed gives the employers a powerful weapon to pressure people into unpaid hours of extra work.
All this, whilst the number of people with no hours of work – the unemployed – rockets to levels not seen in years.
And meantime many employers – including in sectors as varied as the car industry, steel, the finance sector – are putting workers on reduced hours with equivalent cuts in pay; prolonged shut-downs with savage pay cuts; ‘sabbaticals’ as an alternative to outright redundancies – all to preserve profit margins at cost to workers’ pay packets.
Open Secret Company Accounts
Instead of feeding the philosophy that there is nothing can be done about all this – and specifically about job losses – it is high time the leaderships of the trade union movement spearheaded an aggressive campaign to ‘cut hours – not jobs’, to ‘cut hours – not pay’.
Every time some employer demands layoffs, redundancies or outright closures, the first demands of the trade union movement and its allies should be for public inspection of all the secret company accounts, to expose where all the profits have gone – and in many cases where all the public grants and subsidies have gone. And this should not just look at the current year’s accounts, where bosses may be able to demonstrate loss-making during the recession – but also the accounts for previous years of piling up profits.
Such an exercise would provide plenty of ammunition to challenge the employers’ ‘justification’ for job losses or closures.
Cut Hours – not Jobs or Pay
[Here's a left-winger who is finally focused on labor's power issue - and the issue that the whole economy needs them to focus on to regain its health.]
But regardless of whether companies and public sector employers are announcing job losses, they should be challenged by a generalised campaign for a shorter working week – without a penny being lost in pay.
As an immediate initial step, the battle-cry for a 35 hour maximum working week across the board, but crucially without loss of earnings, would rally workers and their families around an eminently rational measure in this crazed, profit-motivated system.
Such a shorter working week would vastly reduce stress levels and other illnesses, help improve health and safety at work, and actually boost productivity from less tired, more motivated workers.
It would greatly improve the family and social lives of working people – a real measure to enhance the much talked about ‘work/life balance’.
And crucially, it would create at least a couple of million jobs across the UK!
Challenging the Profit System
The demands to ‘cut hours – not jobs’ and ‘cut hours – not pay’ would of course challenge the central motive of capitalist employers: profit.
They impose long hours; unpaid overtime; pay cuts through prolonged shut-downs and reduced hours; closures and redundancies…. all to secure the maximum profit levels at the expense of workers’ lives being made a misery.
By cutting the working week, but protecting the level of income of workers, a greater share of national wealth would be distributed in wages, a lesser percentage in profit.
This fight to share out the work, without loss of earnings, needs to run in tandem with the campaign for a living minimum wage, a safety net of at least £8 to £9 an hour, based on the formula of two-thirds median male earnings.
Many who work day and night at risk to their own health are on dirt cheap wages – a system encouraged rather than eliminated by the pathetic level of Labour’s current minimum wages.
There are alternatives to long hours of work alongside no work for millions, a rational alternative to the slaughter of jobs in pursuit of profit margins.
The potential power of the unions and the communities they are rooted in needs to be combined with the sharp weapon of fighting demands that would share out the work rather than share out the misery.
9/11/2009 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 -
- Greene County officials strive to save highway jobs, by Mark Stalcup, Greene County Daily World, Indiana via gcdailyworld.com.
The road the Greene County Highway Department faces may not be as rocky as once believed, thanks to new talk cuts could come from elsewhere, saving as many as 19 jobs.
A compromise could save all the jobs initially slated for the budgetary axe in the Greene County Highway Department, County Commissioners President Bart Beard said Friday.
"I think it's going to work out, but it's going to take some cooperation from everybody," Beard said after speaking with Council President John Wilkes.
"As we speak I think we've got something revised real well that can cut other places," Beard said. "Our number one priority is saving those jobs.
"I think it's very possible all jobs could be saved. The state has really slashed us ... but I do feel a lot better now than I did two days ago. Our first goal, and I'm speaking for myself here but I have to believe (fellow commissioners) Kermit (Holtsclaw) and Steve (Lindsay) feel the same way, is to keep those jobs."
His council counterpart concurred.
"We're working on it," Wilkes said. "I don't want people to lose their jobs. We're going to do everything we can to keep them. I really think it's workable. We're working on it."
Beard couldn't specify much where the cuts could come from as yet, but said full details could be available by the next commissioner's meeting, slated for Sept. 21.
"We may not be putting down as much stone on the roads, but we can still have people out there doing grade work and ditching," he said.
Beard remains optimistic that, with cooperation between departments and talks between the council and commissioners, funds could be found to stem the job loss.
He also believes no further reduction in hours, work weeks or salaries will be necessary in the highway department.
That's good news for department secretary Audrey Goodman, who said the department's already reduced schedule, composed of a 36-hour, four-day week has made the department fall behind schedule on key projects.
[That's four 9-hour days.]
"That kind of put us behind on a lot of things and (if we lose more people) it's going to put us even further behind," she said.
Wilkes said the cuts could come from "numerous places" in the budget, including supplies, sand and gravel.
"There's a whole bunch of places we are looking at, and I think we can get it done."
The news thrilled County Highway Department Superintendent Mike Hennette.
"That would be excellent," he said. "We want to do that. I think it's just great. We want to keep our people."
Hennette was already battling a chest cold when word came down of sweeping cuts in his department Thursday that could cut half his staff.
"It's been a rough week, I tell you," Hennette said Thursday.
As many as 19 workers could be cut from the 39-person department after the Greene County Council slashed $497,000 in salaries.
On Friday, the department head was home recuperating from that cold, while the rest of the department took an enforced day off.
The Greene County Highway Garage is closed Fridays, after a tight budget earlier forced the implementation of the four-day work week.
Hennette expects to return to work Monday to begin considering how to save as many jobs as he can.
"I'm ready to go back to bed right now," he said Friday morning.
Due to the weekend break, Goodman said she's unsure if all 39 highway workers even know the cuts they could be facing.
Because the three-day weekend ended a 36-hour work week, changes wrought by earlier budget woes, Goodman said most of the crews had already left Thursday afternoon when word of the cuts came.
Goodman said workers were aware cuts could come.
"We were concerned it might happen. ... Most of the guys probably don't even know about it yet," Goodman said Friday afternoon. "I haven't had anybody say anything to me yet."
Goodman said department workers who are aware of the potential cuts "are not liking it." She's even unsure whether she will keep her job.
"I really don't know," she said.
Those who do know "are devastated," Hennette said. "They want to keep their jobs."
- United States: DLSE Agrees California´s Partial-Week Furlough Options Are Coextensive With Federal Law, by Daniel L. Thieme and Alison S. Hightower, Littler Employment Law and Labor Law Solutions Worldwide via Mondaq.com News Alerts (registration)
As the old cliché goes, "better late than never." This applies to an important new opinion letter from the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement ("DLSE"). In the opinion, the DLSE acknowledges, contrary to its prior view, that California's approach to furloughing salaried "white collar" exempt employees follows the federal approach. This about face substantially reduces an area of potential legal risk for California employers who follow the federal guidelines for reducing both the workweeks and salaries of exempt employees.
Background – Prior California Opinion Disapproved Partial-Week Unpaid Furloughs of Exempt Employees
As the recession of 2008 continued into 2009, and layoffs were not sufficient to remedy revenue shortfalls or cut too deeply into critically needed employee resources, many employers considered requiring their employees to take unpaid time off (furloughs) as another cost-cutting option.... [registration required]
9/10/2009 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 -
- Ga. work program grows, attracts followers, by Christine Vestal, Stateline.org
“Georgia’s economy will not rebound unless we jump-start private-sector hiring.”
Georgia Commissioner of Labor, Michael L. Thurmond
As states struggle to help legions of jobless workers find employment, some are seeking advice from Georgia, where a growing number of people are landing jobs as a result of free tryouts sponsored by the state unemployment system. The program, dubbed Georgia Works, is so simple that experts say other states should have no problem replicating it.
“It’s a brilliant little program. There’s no cost to the employer and the only cost to the state is a small stipend for transportation,” said Don Peitersen, workforce director for the American Institute for Full Employment, which advises states on employment issues. “I go out and actively recruit states to re-create the Georgia model,” he said. Officials from at least 15 states have told Georgia’s labor department they are considering the option.
Started in 2003, Georgia Works allows people collecting unemployment benefits to work for selected businesses up to 24 hours a week for eight weeks at no cost to the employers. When not working, unemployment recipients are expected to search for other jobs.
[This is not exactly worksharing, because we have the presumption of a 40 hour workweek with 24 hours for Georgia Works and the remaining 16 hours driving wages down by hunting for scarce jobs. But then, worksharing is not exactly timesizing, because it presumes a recovery so it doesn't have to be sustainable - it can impose on the unemployment insurance fund instead of, for example, on an overtime tax.]
Unemployment benefit checks serve as the workers’ salaries and the state pays for workers’ compensation insurance when needed. The state also gives job seekers as much as $240 to cover child-care, transportation or clothing costs — a stipend slated to increase to $300 this month.
All employers have to do is certify that they intend to immediately hire for the position and follow up with a performance evaluation, whether they hire the worker or not.
Georgia considers the program valuable on-the-job training, but unlike other training programs, it is not federally funded under the Workforce Investment Act. As a result, Georgia Works is open to all job seekers, not just low-income, disabled or dislocated workers who qualify under federal rules. In addition, there is no need for participating companies to fill out reams of paper to be certified. In Georgia, no legislation was required to launch the unique program.
Critics argue that the unemployment insurance system that funds Georgia Works was not intended to help businesses create jobs, but federal officials say they approve. “It’s an innovative program and it’s a good one. We think it’s a plus all the way around,” said the U.S. Department of Labor’s southeastern director Pete Fleming.
Under the program, job seekers get a chance to show employers their skills and businesses can test prospective workers before hiring them. So far, more than 3,000 Georgians have landed permanent jobs through the program.
With the recession creating a much larger pool of unemployed workers, Labor Commissioner Michael L. Thurmond aims to quadruple that number over the next year. “Stimulus job creation is not sustainable. Georgia’s economy will not rebound unless we jump-start private-sector hiring,” Thurmond told Stateline.org.
He said plans are under way to make Georgia Works the state’s lead re-employment strategy by aggressively recruiting businesses to get on board and offering job tryout options to every job seeker.
In its six years of operation, Georgia’s program has grown primarily through word of mouth, with some job applicants proposing it to prospective employers as a way to get their foot in the door. Successful job seekers have also recommended Georgia Works to unemployed friends, and workforce agencies have proposed it to a small number of businesses and unemployment recipients.
Under the expansion, Thurmond says the state will post signs saying “Ask me about Georgia Works” at all workforce centers, frontline staff will offer the option in initial interviews with job seekers, and a marketing campaign will target some 6,000 small- and medium-sized businesses across a broad spectrum of industries, including retail, hospitality, construction, manufacturing, transportation and public utilities.
In the process, Thurmond says, the program will help struggling companies get back on their feet and start hiring.
As in the rest of the nation, layoffs have subsided in Georgia, but thousands of jobs remain unfilled, in part because employers are uncertain about their economic future. Even as the number of jobless workers soared to nearly 15 million nationwide last month, some 2.6 million jobs remained open, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
By taking some of the risk and expense out of hiring, Thurmond says Georgia can leverage unemployment trust fund dollars to stimulate job growth. Instead of simply serving as income support, benefit checks become a job seeker’s investment in new employment and an opportunity for companies to lower the cost of hiring and training. “That’s two for the price of one,” Thurmond said.
But advocates for workers say the unemployment trust fund was not designed to subsidize jobs. Instead, the insurance is intended to support people while they search for the best possible work. “I don’t buy the idea that pushing unemployed workers to fill just any opening is better than searching for a suitable job,” said Andrew Stettner, deputy director of the National Employment Law Center, which advocates for workers.
Still, some workers say they would rather get back to work quickly than live with the uncertainty and frustration of a drawn-out job search.
Randall Crenshaw was one of those people. At 41, he lost his job of 22 years last January at hair-products company Goody Products, in Columbus, Ga. After two months of job searching, he said, “I was in shock because I was used to getting up and going to work every morning.” So, when his adviser at the employment center suggested he enter the Georgia Works program, Crenshaw jumped at the opportunity.
“There were about 50 of us in the room when he invited us to stay after class if we were interested in hearing more about the program. Only two or three people took him up on it. So many people got up and walked out. I was just amazed by that,” Crenshaw said.
Acknowledging the program is not for everyone, Thurmond says the soon-to-be announced expansion will set a goal of enrolling 10 percent of the state’s approximately 200,000 jobless workers. With the program’s historic success rate of placing more than 60 percent of participants in permanent positions, the program should result in new jobs for some 12,000 unemployed workers.
Crenshaw got the job he tried out for at a home health-care company in Columbus, and his salary of $35,000 is only $2,500 less than he was making in his last job. He said he’d recommend Georgia Works to anyone.
According to data from the state’s department of labor, Georgia Works has helped lower the average amount of time it takes jobless workers to find new employment, reducing the draw on the trust fund by $6 million. After program expenses, including worker’s compensation insurance and stipends, the net savings as of March 2009 was $3.7 million.
The U.S. Department of Labor maintains state-by-state data on the average length of time unemployed workers remain on benefits, but allows states to set their own rules limiting the number of weeks each worker can receive a check. While experts consider average duration of benefits a measure of state performance in helping people find work, the availability of jobs is a bigger factor.
Georgia currently requires participants in the Georgia Works program to have at least 14 weeks of state unemployment benefits left. That way, if they land a job during the eight-week trial, it will save the state money on benefits. But Thurmond says he plans to broaden the program to include people closer to the end of their state benefits and those already on federally funded extensions. In addition, the trial period may be shortened to six weeks, since most companies hire applicants they like in the fourth to sixth week, so they won’t take a job somewhere else.
Although stanching the drain on the unemployment trust fund is still a goal, Thurmond said he is more concerned about spurring private-sector hiring and reviving the state’s economy.
Georgia has been cited by two organizations — UWC Strategic Services on Unemployment & Workers’ Compensation and the American Institute for Full Employment — for its innovative approach to helping people on unemployment benefits find work.
“We’re in an unprecedented job market so it’s a unique opportunity to see if we can make this work,” Thurmond said. “Oftentimes in government you have to step back and recalibrate. It’s not so much a new idea, but an improvement on a good one. We’re flying this airplane while we build it.”
The biggest objection Thurmond said he hears from other states and potential business partners is that the program sounds “too good to be true.” It involves scant paper work and a minimal investment.
But simple, low-cost ideas are often the best. “One of the great strengths of the unemployment insurance system is that states provide 50 separate incubators of innovation and change,” Fleming of the labor department said.
Contact Christine Vestal at email@example.com.
AVERAGE TIME OF UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
Georgia is among ten states where the average number of weeks people collect unemployment benefits is nearly a month less than the national average [with worksharing states noted].
1. South Dakota: 10.2 weeks
2. North Dakota: 10.3 weeks
3. Alabama: 11.2 weeks
4. Nebraska: 11.5 weeks
5. Iowa: 11.6 weeks [has worksharing program]
6. Georgia: 11.6 weeks [has sortof worksharing program]
7. Idaho: 11.9 weeks
8. Virginia: 12.3 weeks [has partial unemployment program]
9. Indiana: 12.8 weeks
10. Colorado: 12.8 weeks [working on getting a worksharing program as of 2/24/2010]
Best 10 average: 11.6 weeks
U.S. average: 14.9 weeks
Source: The American Institute for Full Employment's analysis of U.S. Department of Labor figures
- Treatment for Mental Health Problems Improves Worker Productivity, Armenian Medical Network via health.am
Effective treatment for employee mental health problems leads to significant improvements in productivity, according to a study in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).
Led by Michael F. Hilton, PhD, of The University of Queensland [Australia?], the researchers analyzed data on mental health symptoms, treatment, and productivity in more than 60,000 Australian employees. Employees without symptoms of mental health problems (as measured by low scores on a psychological distress scale) were the most productive workers.
While workers with mental health problems who were in treatment had the lowest productivity scores, their distress scores decreased—suggesting that treatment was successful in reducing mental health symptoms—and their productivity improved to near-normal levels.
Thus for workers starting mental health treatment, productivity may decline at first. It may be that they need more time off to attend appointments, or their health professional may advise working shorter hours, suggest Dr. Hilton and colleagues. "However, once the mental health symptoms have remitted, productivity returns to near that of employees without a mental disorder," the researchers write.
Unexpectedly, productivity was near-normal for workers who had mental health problems (high distress) but were not receiving treatment. The researchers speculate that these distressed workers may have been compensating in other ways—for example, by working harder or longer hours.
Previous studies have shown high rates of mental health problems in the working population, yet very low rates of mental health treatment. For most patients with common mental disorders, treatment is effective in reducing symptoms and improving quality of life. Mental disorders have been linked to decreased productivity, at a cost of billions of dollars per year to the U.S. economy.
Added to previous evidence, the new results suggest that "addressing employee mental health increases employee productivity in the workplace [with] the potential for a positive return-on-investment from an employer's perspective," Dr. Hilton and colleagues conclude. However, they note that employers may have to wait for treatment to be effective before they see the results in terms of increased productivity.
ACOEM , an international society of 5,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.
Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
- Naples airport still flying above deficit, NaplesNews.com
NAPLES, Fla. - Revenues may be down, but the Naples Municipal Airport is still operating in the black.
The Naples Airport Authority — the governing body that oversees airport operations — is projecting a $9.76 million operating budget in fiscal 2010.
And while officials project they’ll put about $8.3 million toward operating expenses, the airport is still projecting it will bring in about $1.4 million in income next year.
That’s down about $1 million from previous years, though, said Ted Soliday, the airport’s executive director.
Airport officials Wednesday presented their budget to Naples City Council. The presentation is an annual requirement, said airport authority Chairman John Allen.
The airport supports itself using fuel sales and user fees, and no local, state or federal taxes — like property, sales or income taxes — are used to directly support the airport.
The airport saw a significant decline in fuel sales this year, Soliday said.
“We’re down on a year-to-date basis about 10 percent,” Soliday said about fuel sales. “That’s a big deal, but then again we’ve cut our expenses more than that.”
That’s what has kept the airport..afloat in the past year. The airport in March opted to reduce staffing levels to cut costs. Nine full-time equivalent positions were cut, the normal work week for non-management staff was reduced and part-time, seasonal positions were eliminated earlier than planned.
While there are no plans to further reduce staffing, a June 16 draft of the budget stated the airport has not budgeted merit increase, promotion or overtime — with the exception of overtime for working the holidays — in fiscal 2010.
The budget isn’t set in stone, and Soliday said there could be a major difference even after the airport authority approves the budget later this month. A large part of the budget, Soliday said, depends on whether the airport is able to get a commercial airline next year.
The hope has been to have an airline operating out of the airport by Nov. 1, but Soliday said discussions with a prospective airline have stalled in recent weeks.
Soliday said the carrier was expecting the airport to guarantee revenue, something the authority isn’t willing to do.
“We’re guaranteeing an awful lot,” Soliday said. “But we weren’t going to do revenue guarantees for them.”
Allen told council on Wednesday that recent developments aren’t deterring board members from actively seeking a commercial airline.
“The status is unknown at this point,” he said. “But we’re not taking no for an answer, even though no is what we’re hearing often.”
The airport has had commercial service off and on since 1950.
Soliday said bringing in a commercial provider would cost the airport about $1.3 million, which is already budgeted. Soliday said if the airport can’t get a carrier on board this year, they’ll generate about the same income as they did this year.
The lack of a commercial provider isn’t stopping the airport from proceeding with capital projects, either. The airport is budgeting about $8.78 for capital projects in fiscal 2010. According to a preliminary budget, the airport expects to receive $7.029 million in outside funding for these projects.
The Naples Airport Authority is set to discuss — and possibly approve — the fiscal 2010 budget during its Thursday, Sept. 17, meeting. The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. at Naples City Hall, Eighth Street South.
The budget needs to be approved by Oct. 1.
9/9/2009 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 Silence of the Wolves, by David Glenn Cox, OpEdNews,com
There is a phrase that the media likes to use in their flirtations with reality. The phrase is the “jobless recovery.” It makes me angry enough to punch someone because it is a diminution of the millions of Americans that need jobs for basic survival.
It is saying that if we can stem the flooding to just third class and steerage decks then the problem is solved. As long as the first class and the promenade decks are clear, all will be well. The grand design is to alter the focus and draw the eye from the wreckage of the American economy. Not a half a mile from here are two large and empty used car lots, and directly across the street is a shiny new title loan building. Some politician is taking credit for creating those title loan jobs when they are societal parasites, legal loan sharks that don't add but subtract from the economy.
I read the following line in an article about the new unemployment numbers: “At the same time, the report did underscore that the economy is on the mend and pulling out of the deepest recession since the 1930s.” Except that there was no recession in the 1930s; there was a full-blown depression. And rather than ignoring it or putting flowers over it the administration of that time responded to it.
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.” - FDR
Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Employers kept Americans' working hours near a record low in August, signaling that economic growth is poised to reward companies with added profits while postponing any recovery in the job market.
“More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.” - FDR
Here in Atlanta the grocery store chains of Kroger and Publix have begun to quietly close less profitable locations. It says one thing about the economy when FootLocker closes stores, but it says quite another when grocery stores begin to lock their doors.
The sanitized unemployment numbers are at 9.7%, unsanitized closer to 16%; the number of hours worked per week has fallen to an all time record low of just 33 hours. The number of part time workers rose to the highest level in over fifty years. The media scions cheer because the number of job losses in August has slowed to just 216,000; that is hailed as good news. Ignoring that true good news would be the addition of 216,000, or even just one new job. Even the ranks of temporary workers is beginning to fall, which is reflected in back-to-school retail sales figures being down.
“It's disappointing and it tells us that we are not quite there yet,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York who used to work at the Federal Reserve. “It's great for business and terrible for households,” Feroli said.
“Ian Morris, chief U.S. economist at HSBC Securities USA Inc., projects the economy will expand at a 4 percent to 6 percent pace this quarter, and says that means worker productivity may exceed the second quarter's 6.6 percent jump, which was the biggest gain in almost six years.
“This is set to flow straight into the corporate bottom line,” he said in an e-mail to clients. "That indicates the 'strong' earnings for companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index in the three months to June will continue this quarter," he said.”
This figure of productivity is the measure of how much work you do versus how much profit they earn. The equation of worker earnings being reflected in the company profits is considered archaic and obsolete in the modern economics.
“Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.” - FDR
I am beginning to wonder if this whole health care debate has been nothing but a brush fire to distract us from noticing that the economy is sliding and not recovering. It is becoming a vortex, a giant black hole. Without jobs there can be no recovery, and falling wages and shorter hours means less purchasing power and an increase of speed around the drain. I see universities advertising programs for bachelors' and advanced degrees, but zero job growth means zero jobs. There is no more need for an engineer with a master's degree than there is a shipping clerk if the company builds nothing.
The profit numbers are a temporary aberration as the economy collapses in on itself. Falling wages and shorter hours mean higher profits today but inevitably lead to a dead end.
[Falling wages, yes, do lead to a dead end. But shorter hours when "full time" is redefined downward and a whole city, or state, or nation has shorter hours, lead to rising wages, because the wage-depressing labor surplus is absorbed into the job market and falling wages and markets are reversed.]
“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.” - FDR
What does our current government have to say? (cricket sounds) What does Congress have to say about this? (cricket sounds) The Obama administration passed a stimulus package that was 40% tax cuts so as far as they are concerned they are done with us. Wait two years and we'll see, was the answer from the White House, but two years is too long to wait. These are people and not numbers; they need something done and done now!
“This Nation asks for action, and action now.” - FDR
Our current administration finds itself in a crisis mode over healthcare reform. Despite a public mandate it has begun to back up and admit defeat in the face of difficulties and I begin to ask myself which is worse. A man with bad ideas who works to force them into law, or a man with good ideas who is unwilling to fight for those principles? A man who would rather win nothing than to risk losing anything, for what good is his victory if we lose out in the end? Contrast the two leadership styles.
“I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption.
"But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.” - FDR
In other words, I'll do it with you, I'll do it without you, or I'll do it by myself. FDR called those of his era “The Forgotten Men,” and in this era we are not forgotten but ignored and marginalized by the media. Made to feel that we are alone in our suffering, but as our numbers continue to grow it will become ever harder to maintain the big lie.
“What we must do is this: revise our tariff on the basis of a reciprocal exchange of goods, allowing other Nations to buy and to pay for our goods by sending us such of their goods as will not seriously throw any of our industries out of balance, and incidentally making impossible in this country the continuance of pure monopolies which cause us to pay excessive prices for many of the necessities of life.
“Such objectives as these three, restoring farmers' buying power, relief to the small banks and home-owners and a reconstructed tariff policy, are only a part of ten or a dozen vital factors. But they seem to be beyond the concern of a national administration which can think in terms only of the top of the social and economic structure. It has sought temporary relief from the top down rather than permanent relief from the bottom up. It has totally failed to plan ahead in a comprehensive way. It has waited until something has cracked and then at the last moment has sought to prevent total collapse.” - FDR
- SKF Says Clients Will End Sapping Inventory, Signaling Rebound, by Niklas Magnusson, Bloomberg.com
SKF AB, the largest maker of rolling bearings, said industrial companies around the world will stop running down their inventories this year, indicating orders will resume in early 2010 as global economies start to recover.
“There is still some de-stocking to take place at the large industrials, but I expect that to clean itself out between now and the end of the year,” Chief Executive Officer Tom Johnstone said in an interview in Gothenburg, Sweden, yesterday. “We will still run production lower than sales in the third and fourth quarters, but the gap between them will narrow.”
SKF production declined 36 percent in the first half as demand dwindled. Manufacturers order SKF bearings and seals for products from oil rigs to skateboards and hospital beds. That makes SKF an economic bellwether as its sales track industrial output. A typical western household uses about 130 different SKF bearings in products from cars to vacuum cleaners, the CEO said.
Production of bearings, seals and lubricants for the car and light truck markets, which accounted for 13 percent of total 2008 sales, is already in line with the order volume as auto companies stopped depleting inventories, Johnstone said. SKF’s automotive division will return to profitability before the end of this year, he predicted.
SKF rose as much as 2.9 kronor, or 2.6 percent, to 113.8 kronor, and traded at 113.3 kronor as of 12:48 p.m. in Stockholm. The stock has gained 21 percent in value in a year.
SKF’s second-quarter profit fell 77 percent to 314 million kronor ($45 million) as sales dropped 12 percent and the company took one-time costs to cut jobs and working hours. Production levels will almost match sales by the start of next year as orders pick up, Johnstone predicted. In the first half, sales by volume dropped 29 percent from a year earlier
The company said in July that 3,800 workers had left SKF since the third quarter of last year, and 18,000 employees were working shorter hours as the company targeted 800 million kronor in annual savings by the middle of next year. The workers on shorter hours will work longer again once production ramps up.
SKF forecast in July that demand would be “significantly lower” in the third quarter compared with a year earlier while demand would be “relatively unchanged” from the second quarter.
[So tell us again why production will ramp up and workers on shorter hours will work longer? The truth is, permanent shorter hours are happening anyway, but not the best way. Canada and many US states already have worksharing programs to cushion the transition but these programs are designed to be temporary. Here's what a permanent program would look like.]
The automotive division has developed a little bit better in the past few months than SKF had expected, while the industrial unit’s orders have been a little bit lower than forecast, Johnstone said.
“The development on group level is in line with our expectations from the second quarter,” Johnstone said.
Exports from companies such as Atlas Copco AB and Sandvik AB, the world’s two biggest makers of rock drills for the mining industry, and SKF make up half of Sweden’s economic output, making foreign demand for Swedish goods and services key to the Nordic nation’s economic recovery.
Sweden sank into its first recession since 1992 last year as global demand plummeted. Industrial production in the biggest Nordic economy declined at the slowest pace in July since April 2008 after trade demand in parts of Europe and Asia picked up, buoying the country’s export-reliant industrial companies.
The CEO said he’s looking at “a handful” of companies in the bearings, seals and lubricants markets worldwide that he may seek to acquire.
“With the position we’re in, with the strong balance sheet we have and positive cash flow, we’re in a good position to take steps,” Johnstone said. “We have a list of companies we’re looking at, in all the platforms and all the segments.”
SKF is looking at “more important” purchases rather than smaller ones that would strengthen it in narrow areas, and it has “a few billion kronor” on its balance sheet and in credit facilities it can use, Johnstone said. While SKF wouldn’t rule out a share sale if it identifies a bigger acquisition, such a transaction is not on the horizon at the moment, he said.
Founded in Gothenburg in 1907, SKF employs about 42,500 people in more than 130 countries. Swedish truckmaker Volvo AB and automobile maker Volvo Cars trace their roots back to SKF, where Volvo was founded as a subsidiary in the 1920s.
To contact the reporter on this story: Niklas Magnusson in Stockholm at firstname.lastname@example.org
9/08/2009 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 -
- Stocks Cheapest Since '89 Show Why Analysts Dismiss Economists, by Eric Martin & Michael Tsang, Bloomberg via businessmirror.com.ph
Never before have Wall Street stock analysts diverged more with economists at their own firms over the outlook for earnings in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. Profits for companies in the S&P 500 will rise 25 percent next year, according to the average estimate of more than 1,500 equity analysts tracked by Bloomberg. That’s 10.9 times faster than the expansion in gross domestic product foreseen by 53 economists surveyed last month.
The ratio of income to GDP growth is the highest on record and compares with an average of 6.1, based on data compiled by Bloomberg going back 60 years.
Concern that profits won’t measure up to estimates may limit returns after the S&P 500 rose 50 percent since March, the steepest rally in seven decades. While shares trade close to the cheapest levels relative to earnings since 1989, based on next year’s projections, forecasts for the economy by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Jan Hatzius, Morgan Stanley’s Richard Berner and Bank of America Corp.’s Drew Matus show equities are no bargain.
“Earnings are going to be dependent on the overall economic growth,” said Barry James of Xenia, Ohio-based James Investment Research Inc., which oversees $2 billion and whose James Balanced Golden Rainbow Fund beat 98 percent of competitors over the past five years. “While things are not as bad as they have been, we don’t see next year as being one that will go gangbusters.”
The S&P 500 retreated 1.2 percent last week after a report on factory orders and speculation that China would curb bank lending raised doubts about the speed of the economy’s recovery from the first global recession since World War II. US investors are returning from the Labor Day holiday after the benchmark index for American equities rose as much as 52 percent from a 12-year low on March 9 and the proportion of companies that beat analysts’ profit predictions matched a record.
The gains spurred the steepest rise in the S&P 500’s price-earnings ratio since at least the 1950s, pushing the index to 19 times operating earnings from the past 12 months, the most expensive level since 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Based on analysts’ forecasts for 2010, the S&P 500 trades for 13.5 times income, the lowest since 1989 when compared with the trailing P/E ratio before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s collapse a year ago.
The US economy will expand at a 2.3-percent annual rate next year as the longest recession since the 1930s ends, according to the average estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. US companies are expected to halt a two-year slump in profits next quarter, the longest since the Great Depression, according to analyst projections compiled by Bloomberg.
While the individual forecasts may prove accurate, as a whole they are overoptimistic, based on economists’ expectations for US growth.
Sal Tharani, Goldman Sachs’s analyst who covers metal producers, told investors to buy Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. on August 18, saying in a research note that higher metals prices will help 2010 per-share profits increase 48 percent at the largest publicly traded copper producer. Among the 14 companies he covers, Tharani’s stock picks during the past year have been more profitable than any other analyst’s, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Tharani was unavailable to comment, said Ed Canaday, a spokesman for the bank.
Goldman Sachs, Wall Street’s most profitable investment bank, added Freeport to the “Conviction Buy List” of stocks it expects to rise the most. The firm predicts copper prices will climb 34 percent next year. Futures linked to the metal have doubled in New York trading so far in 2009.
Freeport will have to reach that profit target without the help of an economy expanding faster than about 2 percent next year, according to the growth forecast from Hatzius, Goldman’s New York-based chief US economist.
Consumer spending will be weaker than at the end of previous recessions, Hatzius wrote in a September 1 note. He doesn’t have a prediction for earnings growth and declined to comment on analyst estimates in a September 4 interview.
Ken Hoexter, an analyst at Bank of America in New York, says Union Pacific Corp. should be able to raise prices in 2010, boosting annual earnings by 21 percent at the largest US railroad by market value. Hoexter, the second-best stock picker in the past 12 months among the companies he covers, has rated Omaha, Nebraska-based Union Pacific a “buy” since March 16.
Union Pacific’s sales are stabilizing after falling 28 percent in the second quarter as the recession curbed freight hauling, Hoexter said.
Demand will have to rise while the US expands at a 2.5-percent annual rate, according to Drew Matus, a New York-based senior US economist for Bank of America. Hoexter and Matus were unavailable to comment, according to Susan McCabe Walley, a Bank of America spokeswoman.
Stephen Richardson, an energy analyst for Morgan Stanley in New York, projects 52-percent sales growth for Apache Corp., the biggest independent US oil producer by market value, more than doubling the company’s profit.
Apache, based in Houston, will earn $11.56 a share next year as it raises production and reduces costs, according to Richardson. That’s the second-highest analyst estimate among 26 in a Bloomberg survey and 32 percent more than the average.
“It is a shocking number,” said Richardson, whose firm expects oil prices to average $85 a barrel next year, or more than 50 percent above its average so far in 2009. “Oil’s a global market. You don’t necessarily need very strong US demand for oil prices to be above where they are.”
His estimate for Apache’s profit growth is 56 times greater than the 2.6 percent US economic expansion foreseen by Berner, the co-head of global economics at Morgan Stanley in New York. Consumer spending may struggle as US households save more amid declining employment levels and wages, Berner said on August 7.
That will limit earnings growth for US companies to about 12 percent, Berner said in a telephone interview last week. A 25-percent jump in overall profits “seems improbable,” he said.
Analysts who foresee earnings outstripping the US economy are counting on growth in international markets to make up the difference, said Fritz Meyer, the Denver-based senior market strategist for Invesco Aim, which oversees $149 billion.
“You want to hear managements talking about demand across the world,” Meyer said. “Earnings forecasts as they’re currently stated are achievable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see upward revisions.”
Companies that boost earnings through expense reductions may find fewer opportunities to cut costs next year, according to Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc. in Holland, Pennsylvania. Firings and shorter hours reduced labor costs by the most in nine years in the second quarter, increasing productivity at the fastest pace in six years, according to government data.
[In other words, current productivity measures have now become productivity-defeating by being calibrated as output per investment dollar rather than output per employee let alone the only valid measure, marketable output per employee hour.]
It’s unlikely the combined sales of companies in the S&P 500 will rise as much as analysts estimate when US consumer demand and corporate investment are shrinking, Naroff said.
“Consumers may be on an extended spending holiday and a lot more cautious in their use of credit,” said Naroff, the top forecaster last year in a survey by Bloomberg Markets magazine. “The recovery is going to be slower, and businesses had cut expenses very, very rapidly. Making big profit gains from here, which might seem logical coming out of a recession, is going to be extremely difficult.”
Based on the historical relationship of earnings and GDP compiled by Bloomberg since 1949, the US economy would have to expand by 4.1 percent for profit among S&P 500 companies to match analysts’ prediction for a 25-percent gain in earnings.
None of the 53 economists polled by Bloomberg expect growth to be that strong. The most optimistic forecast in a survey taken from August 5 to August 11 was for a gain of 4 percent, by Michael Darda of MKM Partners LP in Greenwich, Connecticut. The lowest was London-based First Global economist Nikhil Gupta’s call for a 0.5-percent expansion.
Firings boosted the US unemployment rate to 9.7 percent last month, the highest in 26 years. That brought the number of Americans thrown out of work since the recession began in December 2007 to 6.9 million people, the most in any post-World War II contraction, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Increasing joblessness means investors are relying too much on government spending to drive growth in corporate earnings, said Howard Silverblatt, S&P’s senior index analyst in New York.
“We don’t see a whole lot of believers that the economy is getting better or the rally is for real,” said Fred Dickson, who manages $17 billion as chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Investors “are taking a glass-half-empty rather than glass-half-full approach to the world. They’re very, very nervous.”
- Lehman Brothers 52 Weeks After, by Roger Conrad, KCI Investing via kciinvesting.com
Lehman Brothers crumbled nine months after the official start of the current recession; here we are, another 12 months along, and individual investors are still looking for some sort of confirmation that the worst is behind us.
What was simply a credit crunch metastasized into a full-blown crisis when one of America’s five independent investment houses declared bankruptcy Sept. 15, 2008. The virtual cessation of lending hampered businesses’ ability to operate on a daily basis, costing people jobs. These people cut spending, leading to further curtailment of production. The recession that got started in December 2007 was on its way to becoming the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
The 57 percent decline in the S&P 500 from the all-time intraday high established Oct. 11, 2007, to the beastly low for the cycle plumbed March 9 erased many investors’ retirement savings. These people are still scared. Overcoming this instinctive reaction to what in many cases are literally tragic consequences of a market meltdown will take years. A lot of individual investors simply have nothing left. Others have permanently joined the “widows and orphans” subset, allergic to anything other than US Treasuries. It wouldn’t then be accurate to say these folks “missed” the post-March 9 rally.
There is, however, another group, one less susceptible to the vicissitudes of the market. If you’re part of this group, you may be waiting for “the bottom,” a clear, unequivocal point of entry for the next bull run that’ll carry you to retirement. As is the case with waiting for absolute confirmation that the worst is over, there will be no general announcement that the indexes will go straight up from here.
Calling bottoms, and tops, is uncertain business, even when the underlying economy isn’t as unsettled as the one we’re currently experiencing. You can, however, take advantage of dips to establish positions in companies that have held up during the downturn. Rather than embrace the fear, you can build some hope on the facts of solid quarterly numbers.
High-quality oil and gas producers, for example, the focus of the September 2009 Canadian Edge feature story, have cut expenses, paid down debt and employed aggressive strategies to get through the downturn. Many are now positioned to grow through acquisitions of smaller, less flexible companies and to capitalize on the normalization of economic activity. Focus on sustainability leaves many Canadian trusts and high-yielding corporations ready to pay post-Jan. 1, 2011, distributions equal to what they’re paying now as tax-advantaged entities.
The sheer fact of the market’s monumental decline is enough to overwhelm if you lose sight of the fact that it, like any other human endeavor is a constantly evolving process. At the same, time it’s possible to get lost amid all the information generated to measure or explain these changes.
For our part this week, we’ll leave you with one simple observation.
The collapse of Lehman Brothers ushered in what’s widely acknowledged to be the worst global credit crisis since the 1930s. It’s axiomatic that credit is the lifeblood of a capitalist economy. Signs that credit is circulating are therefore good.
According to Statistics Canada, Canadian household and corporate borrowing rebounded in the second quarter, spurred by lower interest rates. Household loans rose to an annualized pace of CAD98.3 billion between April and June from CAD70.1 billion in the first quarter, the first increase in a year. Non-financial company borrowing jumped to CAD62.2 billion from CAD14.6 billion on a spate of new bond issuance. Mortgage loans rose to CAD64.4 billion in the second quarter from CAD49.1 billion in the prior three months. According to StatsCan, companies took advantage of “favorable bond rates” and consumers borrowed to buy new homes and cars.
This is more evidence that efforts by Canada’s government and its central bank to support the country’s financial system are working.
It’s fair to wonder--in fact it’s in your interest--when this spring and summer of green shoots will turn into sustainable growth. As we’ve noted here since September 2008, a properly functioning credit system is the sine qua non of recovery. The second quarter numbers from Canada say its flowing again, pumped by the visible hands of elected officials or central bankers or not.
What’s November without an Election
Parliament won’t get back together until Monday, September 14, but gauntlets have already been laid by the main opposition Liberal Party and the ruling minority Conservatives have countered with variations of the “it’s not best to swap horses when crossing streams” argument.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff plans to run against Harper’s “disappointing economic record” and recently promised to reduce Canada’s CAD50 billion federal budget deficit “without raising taxes.” He plans to offer Canadians “a more compassionate and more competent government.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper, meanwhile, plans to introduce a set of reforms for Canada’s unemployment insurance program.
These reforms would target long-tenured workers who lost their jobs during the recession, improvements to job training programs, including potential extension of benefits for those needing more time to acquire job skills. According to Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley, further expansion of the reduced work week and *work-sharing programs are also being examined, as is the idea of introducing more generous maternity and parental leave benefits.
A bipartisan committee established to address this issue during the summer recess was unable to come up with a recommendation. The House of Commons also agreed June 19 that the government would present a budget accountability report during the week of Sept. 28, and that the Liberals would have an opportunity to present a motion of non-confidence in the government three days after the report is presented.
The Liberals would need the support of the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois to defeat the minority Conservatives in a non-confidence vote. Neither party has indicated which way it will lean.
If the government is defeated, Governor-General Michaelle Jean would likely call an election. Under Canada’s elections law, the campaign would be at least 36 days long.
The effort to reform the US financial system was obscured by the bright political lights shining on the health care debate during Congressional recess. And tightening regulation of banks and capital markets may take time as health care dominates the fall season.
Let this little nugget, however, cast a little light on your reading of legislative efforts to tame the animal spirits. Simon van Norden, professor of finance at HEC Montréal (École des Hautes Études Commerciales), guest blogging at Econbrowser, takes a look at causes and consequences of three US financial crises, S&Ls in the 1980s, Long-Term Capital Management in the ’90s, and our current situation. He concludes:
Looking at recent events from this perspective, I still see the size of the losses as breathtaking, but the causes and dynamics seem much more familiar. What bothers me is that some of the suggested solutions sound pretty familiar too; make derivative trading more transparent, improve coordination among the regulators, give regulators more power to control systemic risk in new places, and so on. Despite that, not only was there another crisis, but it was much larger than the two previous crises combined.
Roger S. Conrad is editor of Utility Forecaster, the nation’s leading advisory on essential services stocks, bonds and preferred stocks.... He brings the same enthusiasm and intelligence to Roger Conrad’s Canadian Edge, an Internet-based publication devoted to uncovering lucrative investment opportunities in Canadian royalty trusts.... Roger is also associate editor of Personal Finance and co-editor of Vital Resource Investor, a subscription-based service that seeks opportunities for equity investors in the natural resource markets across the world.... In addition, he is the author of Power Hungry: Strategic Investing in Telecommunications, Utilities and Other Essential Services and coauthor of The Agile Investor and Market Timing for the Nineties with Stephen Leeb...
9/06-07/2009 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 truth about Labor Day - Behind this weekend's holiday lies a strange civil war, by historian Thaddeus Russell, 9/06 Boston Sunday Globe, C1 (tip of the hat to Kate Jurow for noticing this).
On Monday, millions of Americans will celebrate Labor Day in a time-honored way - by deliberately avoiding labor. They’ll attend barbecues and beach parties; they might even kick back in their hammocks and lawn chairs with a feeling of entitlement, secure in their understanding that the first Monday in September is just a hard-earned reward for the American worker.
They’re wrong about Labor Day. And not only are they wrong, but by the lights of Labor Day’s founders, their whole attitude toward the day makes them less than good Americans.
In 1894, when President Grover Cleveland signed the bill making Labor Day a national holiday on the first Monday in September, he and its sponsors intended it not as a celebration of leisure but as a promotion of the great American work ethic. Work, they believed, was the highest calling in life, and Labor Day was a reminder to get back to it. It was placed at the end of summer to declare an end to the season of indolence, and also to distance it from May Day, the spring event that had become a symbol of the radical labor movement.
The day most of us now spend in happy leisure was created to urge Americans to work more, not less. The holiday’s inventors would have been dismayed to see that Americans today would use it only to float in a pool, play putt-putt golf, or - even worse - to fantasize about a life in which they do nothing but play.
Labor Day, perhaps more than any other holiday, has always embodied a contradiction in American society, the deep gulf between the nation’s self-image and the way its people often behave. And to understand why is to get a clearer look at an important but little-understood piece of our own history: America’s long civil war over fun.
The philosophical conflict embodied in Labor Day dates to the earliest days of the nation’s history. In 1625, just five years after the first Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, a rival settlement called Merry Mount was founded at the site of present-day Quincy. The inhabitants of Merry Mount shunned Puritanical injunctions and embraced the pleasures of the flesh. They drank great amounts of whiskey and beer and shamelessly fornicated. At the beginning of each May they erected a maypole, a pagan invention that had become the symbol of fun in villages across England, and danced around it with libidinal abandon.
Merry Mount’s population of hedonists grew faster than the godly brethren of the Puritan settlements, threatening to create a new land that looked less like the Puritans’ vision of a pure society and more like their version of hell. So in 1628 the elders in nearby Plymouth Colony sent Captain Myles Standish and a force of men armed with muskets and swords to wipe their competitors from the earth. The Puritan army quickly conquered Merry Mount, arrested its leaders, and chopped down the maypole.
Shortly thereafter New England authorities tightened the already exacting restrictions on parties, dancing, and public expressions of sexuality. More importantly, the Puritans planted the seed of what became the great American work ethic - the belief that work in itself is virtuous. This belief in work became one of the central elements of American national identity, an article of faith that united political leaders, clergy, business owners, and even labor leaders and radicals.
Yet among rank-and-file Americans the spirit of Merry Mount and the maypole lived on. Despite the violent admonitions of the Puritans, most European settlers in Colonial America lived as if they had never heard of the work ethic. Workers in the early American cities of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia drank beer throughout the workday and took frequent breaks for liquor and lounging. When confronted by moral authorities who commanded them to put down their cups and labor with “godly alacrity,” workers in craft shops, according to the historian Peter Thompson, “jealously defended heavy drinking as a right and a privilege.” Employees in heavy industries like construction and shipbuilding simply refused to work unless employers provided them with beer.
The length and intensity of the workday were treated with a similar laxity. In the Colonial culture it was commonly accepted for workers to decide when they would show up and when they would go home. Long breaks for eating, drinking, and sleeping were assumed to be part of the job. The day of godly rest on Sunday was followed by another day of a different kind of rest known as “Saint Monday.” Ben Franklin, who revived and promoted the Puritan work ethic as a necessary cultural component of an independent nation, complained that Saint Monday “is as duly kept by our working people as Sunday; the only difference is that instead of employing their time cheaply in church, they are wasting it expensively in the ale-house.”
During the War for Independence and the birth of the new republic, the Founding Fathers, fearing that a government of the people would become a government of laggards and drunkards, launched a campaign against fun. The members of the First Continental Congress, who included John Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock, declared they would “encourage frugality, economy, and industry, . . . [and] discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse racing, and all kinds of gaming, cock fighting, exhibitions of shews, plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments.”
The conflict between the work ethic and the popular love of leisure was so strong that when British forces appeared poised to invade Philadelphia in the fall of 1777, John Adams told his wife of his secret wish for the revolutionary capital to be captured by the British, for it “would cure Americans of their vicious and luxurious and effeminate Appetites, Passions and Habits.”
As the 19th century progressed, the founders’ campaign against fun and leisure was reflected in a new industrial discipline in American workshops, with strict and longer hours, bans on drinking, and enforced obedience to the boss. Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett famously urged Americans to live spare and rugged lives. Abraham Lincoln and leading abolitionists objected to slavery in part because it removed the incentive to labor intensively.
American schools and textbooks taught children to avoid the “frivolities” of play and overcome their desire for pleasure. The best-selling primer of the 19th century, Noah Webster’s “American Spelling Book,” warned that “[a] wise child loves to learn his books, but the fool would choose to play with toys.” Once the Industrial Revolution took hold in the decades following the Civil War, this notion of the moral value of work fused with the demands of new industries to create a crushing schedule for American laborers. In factories, they typically worked 10 to 16 hours per day, six days a week.
Workers, however, never lost their interest in leisure time - and contrary to the urgings of their spelling books, they resisted these demands mightily. By the end of the century, nearly every major American city had experienced major strikes for shorter hours. According to the Wisconsin commissioner of labor, the idea of a shorter work day “was the topic of conversation in the shop, on the street, at the family table, at the bar, in the counting room, and the subject of numerous able sermons from the pulpit.” Several historians have found that newly industrialized workers - especially migrants from the Southern United States and immigrants from pre-industrial cultures in southern and eastern Europe - engaged in daily informal strikes against factory discipline. Shirking, drinking on the job, and even sabotage of machines were everyday occurrences in most American industries. Outside the workplace, the late 19th century saw the rise of the saloon, especially in immigrant-dominated northern cities. Chicago, for example, had 3,500 saloons in 1884, more than existed in all 15 Southern states combined.
Another working-class response to the conditions of industrial labor was to do things that were not work. The late 19th century saw the rise of baseball, boxing, horse racing, commercial gambling, ethnic theater, nickelodeons, penny arcades, amusement parks, dime novels, and popular music. These were all predominantly working-class forms of leisure, and they were all attacked by moral reformers as threats to the great American work ethic.
Curiously, even the radical movements that arose to stand up for American workers embraced the work ethic. Socialist and anarchist labor leaders in the 1880s, wanting to transform the economy into a workers’ collective, seized on the concept of May Day as a rallying point, declaring a workers’ holiday on the old day of spring dancing. But they weren’t exactly in favor of fun. The anarchist leaders of the Haymarket rally for the eight-hour day in Chicago in 1886 - which culminated in a gun battle that left eight policemen and at least four demonstrators dead - attacked capitalism not just for exploiting the labor of the working class but also for forcing workers into periods of “compulsory idleness” [and others into long workdays]. They issued a manifesto promising a society in which “every one be compelled to work who makes a demand to live.”
Against the pleasure ethic of American workers and the radicalism of May Day proponents, business and political leaders offered a new holiday, one designed to celebrate the work ethic and do it in a suitably patriotic way.
When President Cleveland signed Labor Day into existence in 1884, the conservative American Federation of Labor endorsed the new holiday. In deliberate contrast to “slackers,” union members used their government-approved day off to march in their work clothes alongside floats showing off the tools of their trades. They carried signs declaring the “honor” and “nobility” of work. Labor Day marches were praised by the press as “sober, clean, quiet” demonstrations of “the honest American workingman.” Yet as we know, the spectacular rise of commercial entertainment during that time - and in the century since - suggests that many American workers would far rather have been relaxing at the ballpark than marching to celebrate their jobs.
The sociologist Daniel Bell called this long civil war over fun the “cultural contradiction of capitalism,” the system’s simultaneous demand for work discipline and production of pleasure that undermines that discipline.
[No it doesn't - with lots of detachment and rest, work discipline like prioritization is actually tighter. Guess that puts us in dispute on the basic premise here. But on the more basic point, we agree - we must go back to cutting the workweek simply to save the concept of work itself against burgeoning parasitism - and our consumer base - and our marketable productivity - and our investments in that productivity, valueless if it's not marketable, and not marketable if markets keep losing strength, and not strong if consumers keep losing their jobs.]
Today, work itself even more strongly exemplifies that contradiction. The typical American worker spends most of his or her day toiling at a keyboard - a regimen that requires intense self-discipline - but produces services and goods that facilitate or incite leisure activities.
Though we might imagine that today’s embrace of an idle long weekend at the end of summer suggests that a truce has been reached in the civil war, the two sides - workers and the official culture - remain in their trenches.
While pop stars urge us to “Just Dance,” political and business leaders continue the Puritan tradition of calling, as President Obama did in his inaugural address, for us to “set aside childish things” and shun “those who prefer leisure over work.” This weekend, as you join the millions of Americans celebrating what they call Labor Day but treat as Leisure Day - and do it through nothing more strenuous than playing softball or having a picnic - you, too, will be taking a side.
Thaddeus Russell is a historian and cultural critic. He is the author of “A Renegade History of the United States,” to be published by Free Press/Simon & Schuster in 2010.
- The Gospel according to Saint Paul [Krugman]: Keep working!, by charley2u, 9/06 Re: The People: The Pogo Chronicle: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow via pogoprinciple.wordpress.com
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Pity the poor economists.
Just as they were congratulating each other for having solved all the fundamental problems of managing a regime of permanent expansion of work, life intervenes and all their fine theories come crashing down.
So writes Nobel Laureate, Paul Krugman, in a recent article in the New York Times.
[The exact quote is: '...Not long ago economists were congratulating themselves over the success of their field.... On the theoretical side, they thought that they had resolved their internal disputes.... " - there is no language that obviously defines this "success" as "managing a regime of permanent expansion of work," just "broad convergence of vision," "things under control," "central problem of depression-prevention has been solved"; and presumably on the practical side(?), "the Great Moderation in economic performance over the previous two decades,...attributed in part to improved economic policy making."]
“Few economists saw our current crisis coming, but this predictive failure was the least of the field’s problems. More important was the profession’s blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy. During the golden years, financial economists came to believe that markets were inherently stable — indeed, that stocks and other assets were always priced just right. There was nothing in the prevailing models suggesting the possibility of the kind of collapse that happened last year.”
Krugman blames this massive blind-spot on the domination of one of the many factions among economists – the neoclassical financial economist strain.
That strain of economics, Krugman tells us, held to the belief that market economies, “never go astray …[or]… that economies may stray now and then but that any major deviations from the path of prosperity could and would be corrected by the all-powerful Fed.”
Krugman offers that economists fell in love with their pretty mathematical equations, ignoring the fact that there are inherent problems with market economies, arising from such, “limitations of human rationality that often lead to bubbles and busts; to the problems of institutions that run amok; to the imperfections of markets — especially financial markets — that can cause the economy’s operating system to undergo sudden, unpredictable crashes; and to the dangers created when regulators don’t believe in regulation.”
If that is your story, Paul, stick to it.
But it does seem just a bit curious that you, having provided a very brief over-view of the history of economics to us, your layman audience, with a quick nod to Adam Smith, followed by an even quicker transition to the Great Depression and post-war economic debates, overlooked about 150 years of substantial writings more or less critical of the modern economist’s methods, assumptions, and models.
If you think you can get away with using this opportunity to thrust a shiv into the backs of your factional opposition, without having your own guts spilled before Rome, perhaps we can regale you with the story of our friend Brutus – an honorable man, or so we have heard.
In the Gospel according to Saint Paul, until the Great Depression, economics consisted entirely of a theory, “whose central message was: Trust the market. Yes, economists admitted that there were cases in which markets might fail, of which the most important was the case of “externalities” — costs that people impose on others without paying the price, like traffic congestion or pollution. But the basic presumption of ‘neoclassical’ economics … was that we should have faith in the market system.”
The Great Depression changed all this: calling into question all the fundamental assumptions of neoclassical theory.
Lord John Maynard Keynes provided an unique insight into this catastrophe and produced a corrective for it:
[H]e … challenge[d] the notion that free-market economies can function without a minder, expressing particular contempt for financial markets, which he viewed as being dominated by short-term speculation with little regard for fundamentals. And he called for active government intervention — printing more money and, if necessary, spending heavily on public works — to fight unemployment during slumps.
[Unnecessary and dysfunctional - government only needs to referee the maintenance of the consumer base and the employment basement, as worksaving technology is injected into the system, by the fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against technological displacement. The private sector needs to maintain its own sustainable investments and the marketable productivity such investments require, and the markets that productivity requires, and the spending power and consumers those markets require, and the employees that spending power and those consumers require, and the jobs those employees require, NO MATTER HOW SHORT A "FULL TIME" WORKWEEK IT TAKES.]
However, as that crisis receded into the mists of history, there arose economists who knew not Keynes.
They, led by Milton Friedman, and the Chicago School – and supported and encouraged by Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve Bank – led the nation into the present catastrophe with their pre-Depression neoclassical economic theories of efficient markets, clever mathematics, and inability to understand the implications of real world collapsing markets in one after another region of the planet.
Ultimately the neoclassical opponents of Keynes were so successful in their assault on common sense even the followers of Keynes imported major chunks of this nonsense into their own theories. The two most important principles of this nonsense being a boundless faith in the wisdom of markets, and lucrative retainers from Wall Street investment banks.
This, of course, got us to thinking:
Despite Saint Paul’s insistence that pre-depression economists were quite enamored of a belief in the stability of market economies, he does mention that even in the face of the Great Depression Joseph A. Schumpeter continued to insist on letting the downturn take its course:
Actually, even in the face of total collapse some economists insisted that whatever happens in a market economy must be right: “Depressions are not simply evils,” declared Joseph Schumpeter in 1934 — 1934! They are, he added, “forms of something which has to be done.”
(Saint Paul emphasizes 1934 since that was the very low point of the depression – the point where the collapse had taken its greatest toll on employment.)
[Actually, the lowest point was 1933. Here are the official unemployment rates throughout the Depression (& war): 1929:3.2%, 1930:8.7, 1931:15.9, 1932:23.6, 1933: 24.9%, 1934:21.7, 35:20.1, 36:16.9, 37:14.3, 1938: 19.0%, 39:17.2, 1940:14.6, 41:9.9, 42:4.7, 43:1.9 (from Ross Robertson's History of American Economy, 3rd Ed., p.682) & 44:1.2%, 45:1.9.]
We wondered about this quote and went to find it on the ‘net – finally locating it in Google Books.
It turns out, the quote above comes in the middle of a passage where Schumpeter was discussing the possible remedies to the Great Depression. He was discussing both the likelihood they would be realized and their ultimate impact.
The full quote is this:
What we face is not merely the working of capitalism, but of a capitalism which nations are determined not to allow to function. This may be, and probably is, inevitable. But it is the great difficulty in the way to recovery.
Hence the problems presented by periods of depression may be grouped as follows:
First, removal of extraeconomic injuries to the economic organism: Mostly impossible on political grounds.
These extraeconomic injuries are a reference to the heavy restitution price imposed on Germany by the allies following World War I, the loss of Russia to the West, the debasement of money from the gold standard, protectionism, the wages policy, manipulation of interest rates, and other factors which, Schumpeter believed, arose not from the crisis itself, but political pressure. All of which raised the question of whether the persistence of high levels of unemployment had its origins in economic causes or political ones [or technological ones].
Second, relief: Not only imperative on moral and social grounds but also an important means to keep up the current of economic life and to steady demand, although no cure for fundamental causes.
This second grouping seems to imagine such immediate relief as keeping people from starving in the streets during the depression.
Third, remedies: The chief difficulty of which lies in the fact that depression[s] are not simply evils, which we might attempt to suppress, but – perhaps undesirable – forms [ie: signals,warnings,ticklers] of something which has to be done, namely, adjustment [ie: reducing worktime per person to maintain employment and markets] to previous economic change [ie: technological displacement]. Most of what would be effective in [superficially] remedying a depression would be equally effective in preventing this adjustment [because nothing so "radical" as reduced worktime would be tolerated during apparent prosperity]. This is especially true of inflation, which would, if pushed far enough, undoubtedly turn depression in[to] the sham prosperity so familiar from post-war European experience, but which, if it be carried to that point, would, in the end, lead to a collapse worse than the one it was called to remedy.
The third [problem-]grouping appears to target [ie: focus on, or obstruct?] efforts [such as workweek reduction] to reverse the chief symptom of the depression, namely high unemployment [we would call high unemployment the chief cause, not symptom, of depressions], resulting from the incredible increase in the productivity of labor following the expansion of [marketable] capacity in the early decades of the 20th Century [especially during the Great War 1917-18]. Schumpeter clearly states that [obstruction of, or] failure to allow this adjustment to take place will result in a false prosperity, inflation, and, ultimately, an ever greater depression.
In other words, Schumpeter can be interpreted here to be saying hours of work must be reduced.
Fourth, reforms of institutions not intended to remedy the situation but suggested by the moral and economic evils of both booms and depressions: The crucial point of these reforms lies in the coincidence of a political atmosphere exceptionally favorable, and an economic situation exceptionally unfavorable to their success. No doubt they will always be carried out amidst enthusiastic clapping of hands. But they will also be stigmatized in the future by their tendency to prevent or retard recovery. This should not blind us to any merits they may have, but it is a plain and undeniable fact.
This fourth grouping discusses the reforms put in place during the depression. He clearly states that ultimately all those reforms would ultimately be challenged as economically injurious, unnecessary, and counter-productive.
Given Saint Paul’s own review of the history of deregulation, how can anyone argue that Schumpeter was wrong?
We are not sure how Saint Paul understands this entire passage, but we think Schmpeter’s third point can be interpreted to predict precisely the long period of secular inflation, the present crisis, and that this present crisis likely will be worse than the one for which Keynesian policies were undertaken to reverse.
Further, his fourth point accurately predicts such a crisis would be accompanied by what Saint Paul calls, “the dangers created when regulators don’t believe in regulation.”
As to the charge that Mr. Schumpeter held some misguided faith in market economies, we further quote this very interesting passage he wrote in a book honoring (among others) Karl Marx as an economist of top rank, TEN GREAT ECONOMISTS: From Marx to Keynes:
… [E]ven though Marx’s facts and reasoning were still more at fault than they are, his result might nevertheless be true so far as it simply avers· that capitalist evolution will destroy the foundations of capitalist society. I believe it is. And I do not think I am exaggerating if I call profound a vision in which that truth stood tevealed beyond doubt in 1847. It is a commonplace now. The first to make it that was Gustav Schmoller. His Excellency, Professor von Schmoller, Prussian Privy· Councillor .and Member of the Prussian House of Lords, was not much of a revolutionary or much given to agitatorial gesticulations. But he quietly stated the same truth. The Why and How of it he likewise left unsaid.
Apparently, far from “believing” in the market economies, Schumpeter shared with Karl Marx the belief that social labor would outgrow the bounds of the capitalist relation – rupturing those relations, and destroying capitalist society.
And, he believed, such an assumption among economists was commonplace.
It seems, Schumpeter’s view of what has become known as Keynesian economics appears to stem not so much from an unfounded faith in market economies, but simply a prediction that any attempt to interfere with the adjustment to reduction of work resulting from technological progress would have far reaching consequences of inflation and economic collapse on an even greater scale.
This more nuanced interpretation of Schumpeter might explain why Saint Paul treats Keynes’ own theory with such deliberate one-sidedness.
According to Saint Paul, Keynes, “challenge[d] the notion that free-market economies can function without a minder, expressing particular contempt for financial markets, which he viewed as being dominated by short-term speculation with little regard for fundamentals. And he called for active government intervention — printing more money and, if necessary, spending heavily on public works — to fight unemployment during slumps.”
What Saint Paul doesn’t tell us, and we have to find out from elsewhere, is that Keynes himself never saw “active government intervention — printing more money and, if necessary, spending heavily on public works — to fight unemployment during slumps,” as the exclusive or even preferred approach to a depression in the long run.
His [Keynes's] view was quite the opposite: government intervention to stabilize an economy in crisis was necessary only until such time as investment was saturated [ie: there was no further marketable productivity to sustainably invest in], when saving actually should be discouraged: Thus, the long term problem of crisis could only rationally be resolved by shorter hours of work.
Why doesn’t Saint Paul note this other Keynesian solution to crises?
We believe the answer is simple: Because to do so would be to admit that post-war Keynesian fiscal and monetary policy had precisely the effect predicted by Schumpeter. And, because that effect included the rise not only of inflation and a more adverse replay of the Great Depression, it also produced the kind of stupid economics fallacies of deregulation which now stand exposed by the receding tide of economic activity.
The fact is, no one except those on the left of the Party of Washington will take Saint Paul’s sketch of post-war history seriously.
And it would matter little if they did.
This present crisis is NOT an industrial crisis, as was the case in the Great Depression; it is of a magnitude far worse: A crisis of the measures put in place to prevent an adjustment to that earlier crisis; of so-called Keynesian intervention by Washington and other industrialized nations, which produced the long false prosperity of inflation, and now, as accurately predicted by Schumpeter, is leading to its own devastating conclusion.
Just as important, the above implies not a rebirth of the intellectual application of Keynes ideas to the problem of full employment, but to a society that has passed over the hump of scarcity.
[Note that we did have the sense to pass a 30-hour workweek bill through the US Senate on April 6, 1933 by a vote of 53-30. But FDR blocked it in the House and turned from sharework to makework (CCC, WPA, NRA, TVA...), nationalized risk (SocSec, Wrkmns Comp, UnempIns...) and micromgmt (MinWage...), realized his mistake two years later, and only managed to get a 44-hour workweek into effect on Oct.24, 1938, to be cut 2 hrs/yr for two years, hence the 40-hr workweek on Oct.24, 1940 - frozen ever since.
Our judgement of 'micromgmt' is based on the BGO (blinding glimpse of the obvious) that the per-person variables or PPVs like money per person (income) are few and regulatable because persons are all roughly the same size and PPVs do the overall defining of the market game (the slope of the 'playing field,' the power gradient); but the per-job variables or PJVs like money per job (wage) are countless and deregulatable free-market calls because jobs are of wildly different 'sizes' and PJVs relate to the detailed playing and plays within the market game.]
- The work of rescuing our work, by James Carroll, 9/07 Boston Globe, A11.
LABOR DAY traditionally celebrates pride in work and the solidarity of workers, but this year there is fear instead of pride, lonely anxiety instead of solidarity. Half a million new jobless claims were filed last week, and unemployment reached 9.7 percent in August, with 10 percent almost certainly coming soon. Three million jobs in manufacturing and construction have simply disappeared. The majority of people over 50 expect to postpone retirement because of 401k losses, making it all the harder for younger people to find jobs, or to advance in careers. The new economy has pulled the rug out from under recent graduates. Those who still have jobs carry heavier workloads, while forever keeping one eye peeled for the coming pink slip. Management has been as devastated as labor, and professions that once defined genteel security, like journalism and publishing, are themselves in danger of disappearing. Teachers, for God’s sake, are being laid off!
What is going on here? Tested categories of economic analysis have all been applied. Depression. Recession. Business cycle. Soft landing. Money supply. Credit crisis. Catastrophic deficits. Statistics. Data. Globalization. Mumbo jumbo. Are we to be consoled that every society on earth is at the mercy of such disorder, or that the one reliable social law - impoverished groups and individuals always take the hardest hit - is holding true? After two years of expert predictions being shown up as wild guesses, and mathematical projections as stabs in the dark, a mask has been ripped from the face of the science of economics, exposing primitive superstition. The debunking of the academic study of the structure of wealth is equivalent to astronomy being shown up as nothing more than astrology after all. “I saw the best minds of my generation,’’ to take off from Allen Ginsberg, destroyed by the smug assumption that they knew what the hell they were talking about.
[Here's the first call we've seen for the language of worktime economics that we've been developing for the last 35 years -]
What’s missing is language in which to express the sneaking suspicion that beneath today’s massive economic dislocation is some kind of species-changing shift in the way humans relate to work itself. Fifty years ago, alarms were sounded about something called “automation,’’ while “futurists’’ warned that human labor would be replaced by machines. Because the vision focused on manual labor, with robots running assembly lines, and self-driven harvesters crossing the fruited plains, some foresaw a liberation from the sweat and mindlessness of hard physical effort. But the automation that really changed things has been intellectual, with computers now in competition with the mind as the fountain of invention. Screen technologies, centered on the Internet, have changed not only the way we access information, but how we understand it. The meaning of knowledge and wisdom are being upended right before our eyes.
The humanities PhD, to take one sacred example, is hard-earned certification signifying the mastery of book-centered research supporting a body of learned expertise, but what happens when book-centered research is made redundant by the search engine, and expertise is not learned but Googled? What happens, for that matter, when “reality’’ itself has become unreal, as nothing demonstrates more powerfully than the bizarre reinvention of television entertainment around “reality shows’’? Even time and space have been altered by the immediacy of wireless communication, which replaces sequence with the instantaneous, and absence with permanent presence. Through all the “labor-saving devices’’ and “artificial intelligence’’ that have been spawned, humans are left feeling less liberated than exiled.
The nightmare of modernity, since Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, has been of an invasion of the home planet by creatures from some other world, but we have reversed that story. With our laptops and iPods, not to mention, say, our laser beams and drone bombers, we stand on the threshold of a world inhabited by aliens all right, but, as our home planet becomes something unrecognizable, the aliens are we ourselves. The single largest symptom of this condition is the trouble we have with work. Labor Day was once its simple celebration, but this year’s holiday confronts us with a whole new task. Our real work now is to rescue work.
[Child's play. Just learn, as all good children do, to share, and numerous states and countries have already started.
Here's our response to James Carroll couched as a letter to the editor since we couldn't find Carroll's email address -
James Carroll's thoughtful 9/07 op ed "The work of rescuing our work" finds missing "language in which to express the sneaking suspicion that beneath today's massive economic dislocation is some kind of species-changing shift in the way humans relate to work itself."
Like Mr. Carroll, I'm an ex-theological student. I'm also a linguist who’s been working since the mid-70s recession on developing the language Mr. Carroll may be looking for - and it is indeed focused on work.
Ironically, I believe that in the age of robotics, the solution does not lie in our cherished "work harder" panacea. It lies, as President Obama said, in the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job. If we make it easier instead of harder and harder for people to support themselves, maybe we taxpayers can get government out of its mushrooming roles as employer and charity of last resort.]
- Police should agree to cut back overtime - Opinion [unattributed!], 9/07 Seacoastonline.com
[Here's a BIGGY!]
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - The five Portsmouth city councilors willing to reject three police union contracts last week deserve credit for making what was assuredly a difficult decision. This is even more true when considering the presence of 50 uniformed officers watching as the nine councilors voted.
While it's critical for the city to settle new contracts for the police unions, which have been without a labor agreement since July 2008, it's even more critical given the push to control costs to make sure the deal serves both sides appropriately.
Mayor Tom Ferrini, councilors Chris Dwyer, Eric Spear, Jerry Hejtmanek and Esther Kennedy voted against the contracts. Assistant Mayor Jack Blalock and councilors Ken Smith, Laura Pantelakos and Nancy Novelline Clayburgh voted for the pacts. All but Blalock are running for re-election this fall. It's naive to think that votes in opposition of the union contracts won't have an impact at the polls. Perhaps it should, all things considered.
The sticking point, as stated by the five councilors voting against the pacts, was the lack of concessions on overtime. Overtime is an issue every year across government budgets and it's true in the city of Portsmouth and most other municipalities.
Any argument that 9,480 overtime hours this year are unavoidable given the extent of the Police Department and the officers' work is unconvincing. If the Police Department doesn't have adequate staff it should put its efforts there instead of suggesting the problem with overtime is only a "perception of overtime abuse," as said by Capt. Corey MacDonald, who is on the board of the ranking officers.
["Only a perception"? - How out of touch can they get?]
Furthermore, based on continuous track records with municipalities across our region, additional staff has never shown to fully reign in overtime costs, and that is the valid reason for fighting to reform overtime policies.
Nearly 9,500 hours of overtime is not insignificant. This is "institutional" overtime, built into rank-and-file spending habits, but it should not be automatically assumed as necessary. Based on a 40-hour work week, the 9,480 hours is the equivalent of 237 weeks. The council showed backbone and new Police Chief "Lou" Ferland needs to cut those hours. It won't be easy, but it is necessary. There seems to be clear areas for reform. Police earn a full hour of overtime even if they only go over regular hours by 15 minutes. Officers called back to work, or required to appear in court, are paid for a minimum of three hours at a rate of time-and-a-half, regardless if they work far less than that. The same is true if they work "special assignments" such as parades.
The City Council made overtime a key point of negotiations with the police unions. "What we're trying to do is stabilize overtime," Councilor Dwyer said. "It doesn't all balance out. We started with overtime as our number one request and that was not met in the contract."
It is true the police unions made concessions during the last 18 months of negotiations. Those include a wage freeze in 2010 and increases in employee health insurance contributions over the six-year contracts, from 18 percent to 20 percent. Both the ranking officers and patrolmen also offered to eliminate eight hours of compensation for annual New Hampshire Police Standards and Training Council certifications on programs not required by the department. The patrolmen also would no longer be paid overtime for negotiation sessions or physical therapy sessions after clearance for duty.
Yes, members of the police unions are disappointed to fail to reach an agreement at the level of a City Council vote. And they again expressed frustration in what union representatives described as the city's continual changes in its goals for a contract. However, if there is "such a little difference" between the two sides, as expressed by police union representatives, a little more negotiation should be able to close that gap and end with the City Council's approval of new contracts.
9/05/2009 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 -
- Job market expected to recover in 2014, by Tom Johansmeyer, BloggingStocks.com
The rate at which jobs were cut slowed in August, but the gap to be filled will be with us for a while. With 14.9 million people looking for jobs according to Moody's Economy.com, the unemployment rate won't hit 5% -- considered "normal" -- until 2014. To put this in perspective, we still have one presidential election and two mid-term contests between now and a full employment recovery.
Data published by the Department of Labor Friday puts the unemployment rate at 9.7%. In December 2007, it was only 4.7%. And, as BloggingStocks reported on Friday, it could pass 10% by the end of 2009. For teenagers, the unemployment rate has reached 26%. The number of job-seekers who have given up completely is above 750,000 -- the highest level since the Department of Labor started keeping score in 1994.
The average unemployed worker spends 24.9 weeks without a job -- the highest level since 1948 -- and 4.98 million people have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks, also the peak since the end of World War II. Another 9 million are underemployed -- i.e., taking part-time work despite wanting more hours or otherwise fuller employment. The average workweek has slipped to 33.1 hours, just up from the summer low of 33 hours.
To keep pace with the increase in job hunters from immigration and population growth, 125,000 jobs would need to be created every month. Replacing the lost jobs of the past two years would require an even higher rate of job creation. So, stay focused on the future ... the distant future.
[- unless you're willing to sacrifice your Puritan Work Ethic, redefine "full time" to a level more appropriate in the Age of Robotics and achieve full employment and markets by sharing the vanishing human employment, however short a workweek it may take.]
- Porsche Announce Shorter Working Hours For Limited Time, Auto123
[See also shorter version of this story two days ago (9/03/2009 #4).]
Stuttgart - Despite the world economic crisis and the resulting decline in sales, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, continues to be very profitable and is again expecting double-digit operational revenues for the 2008/2009 fiscal year (August 1, 2008 to July 31, 2009) just closed. The company will announce its first temporary sales and production figures during the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt around the middle of September.
For the 2009/2010 fiscal year just begun, Porsche is assuming that some important export markets will not have completely recovered, and will therefore stick with its strategy of adjusting production to the markets. As early as last year, the company therefore produced fewer vehicles and made up for it using overtime hours that had built up in employee flexitime accounts. However, this build-up of minus hours in the flexitime accounts has now reached its limits. In order to continue to successfully protect jobs through flexible working hours, the Executive Board and Works Council decided to introduce *shorter working hours or "Kurzarbeit" for a limited period and within reason.
["Within reason"?? What rationality is there is trying to keep a 1940 level of the workweek forever?]
At the Zuffenhausen location, a total of 18 furlough days are scheduled between now and the end of the calendar year.
Thomas Edig, Member of the Board responsible for Human Resources and Social Services at Porsche AG: "Thanks to its highly flexible working time model, our company was able to offset the present decline in sales against our employees' flexitime accounts. Because the limits of these accounts have been reached, we are now using the "shorter working hours" tool. Taking this step means that we will be well prepared if important sales markets continue to battle the effects of the economic crisis."
The Head of the Porsche Group's Works Council, Uwe Hück, explained: "We have so far been able to cushion the market fluctuations with flexible work time. Yet the flexitime accounts of our employees have now reached a level such that we can no longer account for additional minus hours. Therefore, we now have to continue to adjust work hours to production by introducing shorter working hours. In doing so, we hope to use this tool for a limited time period only. Together with management, we were able to come up with a provision that will not result in financial losses for our employees. This is a matter very close to my heart because our workforce has been flexible and understanding in its response to the different production adjustments during the last fiscal year."
9/04/2009 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 -
- Statement by US Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis for Labor Day, PRNewswire-USNewswire via Reuters
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today issued the following statement for Labor Day:
"On Monday, Sept. 7, we will celebrate a great American holiday - Labor Day.
Over the years, it may have become a time for backyard barbecues. But the real
intent behind today's holiday is honoring the contributions of American
"Labor Day differs significantly from other holidays. It is devoted to no
particular gender, individual, battle or religious observance. Simply put,
it's a day shared by all. That's an especially important notion at a time
when workers are feeling more anxiety than festivity.
"With the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, it is no secret that Americans are
facing monumental challenges during this economic crisis. I know that every
job lost, every hour cut from the workweek, means another family having to
make difficult decisions.
[Not if we all cut the workweek together and engineer a labor shortage for a change - that would harness market forces in raising pay, spending, and markets, and secure "wartime prosperity" without war.]
"That's why we are attacking this problem head-on,
["attacking it head-on: would mean switching from private-sector downsizing and government makework and charity, to government refereeing of private-sector worksharing...]
and we're beginning to see
the tide turn. The Recovery Act, along with a comprehensive set of other
economic policies, has helped cushion the blow of this recession and started
getting economic activity back on track.
[No it hasn't. It's merely offered bandaids and disaster delays.]
We know the tough times are not
over. But we also know that without the steps we have already taken, the pain
would be far worse.
[Except for the $700 billion redistributed to the richest from everyone else - which made the core problem far worse right there.]
"Over the past seven months, I have met employers, labor and faith leaders,
community organizers, elected officials, students, educators and activists --
Americans of all stripes and perspectives. I've seen, heard and felt their
hope and optimism. Many of them have re-invented and re-educated themselves
for careers in allied health, renewable energy and information technology.
And I have witnessed youth from all over our country enrolled in Job Corps
programs that are putting them on paths to secure and sustainable careers.
"These workers renew my faith that we will overcome our challenges and that
our country will once again rebound stronger than before.
"We should all think about those families struggling during this Labor Day,
and I'd like to suggest that we use this day not as a day 'off' but a day
'on.' We can still have picnics and barbecues, and use the day to do last
minute back-to-school shopping, but let's do something else, too.
"Let's use Labor Day as a day where we all personally commit to play a role in
the recovery of our economy and our nation. Let's use the day as an
opportunity to mentor a young person, or volunteer at a veterans center or
maybe help a friend looking for a job. Let's all do the work that will get
"I wish everyone a safe and prosperous Labor Day."
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at
http://www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made
available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from
the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing
your request at 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755. The Labor Department is
committed to providing America's employers and employees with easy access to
understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations.
For more information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/compliance.
SOURCE U.S. Department of Labor
Jaime Zapata of the U.S. Department of Labor, +1-202-431-1824 cell
- Jobless rate at 9.7 pct.; 216K jobs lost in Aug., by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The unemployment rate jumped almost half a point to 9.7 percent in August, the highest since 1983, reflecting a poor job market that will make it hard for the economy to begin a sustained recovery.
While the jobless rate rose more than expected, the economy shed a net total of 216,000 jobs, less than July's revised 276,000 and the fewest monthly losses in a year, according to Labor Department data released Friday. Economists expected the unemployment rate to rise to 9.5 percent from July's 9.4 percent and job reductions to total 225,000.
By contrast, in a healthy economy, employers need to add a net total of around 125,000 jobs a month just to keep the unemployment rate stable.
"It's good to see the rate of job losses slow down," said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. But "we're still on track here to hit 10 percent (unemployment) before we're done."
The rise in the jobless rate was largely due to the government finding that the number of unemployed Americans jumped by nearly 500,000 to 14.9 million, while 73,000 people joined the civilian labor force. Those figures are from a different survey than the report on total job cuts.
The civilian labor force usually grows as a recession winds down and optimism about finding work grows. But as long as Americans remain anxious about their jobs, consumer spending isn't expected to rise enough to power a rebound.
"There isn't the underlying fuel there for strong consumer spending growth," Gault said.
Instead, most of the current rebound in the economy stems from auto companies and other manufacturers restocking inventories, which have plummeted as factories and retailers have sought to bring goods more in line with reduced sales.
Few economists think that can provide the basis for a sustainable recovery. Gault forecasts the economy will grow at a 3.7 percent clip in the current July-September quarter, but expects that to fall to 2.4 percent by the fourth quarter and 2 percent in the first quarter next year.
Analysts expect businesses will be reluctant to hire until they are convinced the economy is on a firm path to recovery. Many private economists, and the Federal Reserve, expect the unemployment rate to top 10 percent by the end of this year.
If laid-off workers who have settled for part-time work or have given up looking for new jobs are included, the so-called underemployment rate reached 16.8 percent, the highest on records dating from 1994. That rate rose because the number of workers settling for part-time hours, either because their employer cut their work week or because that's all they could find, increased by about 300,000.
But earnings rose and the number of hours worked stayed above a recent record-low. Average hourly wages increased to $18.65 from $18.59, the department reported. Average weekly earnings increased to $617.32.
The number of weekly hours worked remained at 33.1, above the low of 33 reached in June. That figure is important because economists expect companies will add more hours for current workers before they hire new ones.
On Wall Street, stocks moved in a narrow range in midday trading. The Dow Jones industrial average added about 11 points, and broader indexes also edged up.
The recession has eliminated a net total of 6.9 million jobs since it began in December 2007. Job cuts last month remained widespread across many sectors.
The construction industry lost 65,000 jobs, which caused some economists to note that the Obama administration's $787 billion stimulus package hasn't yet stemmed layoffs in that industry.
"It doesn't look like a whole lot of those 'shovel ready' projects have been started," Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors, wrote in a note to clients.
Factories cut 63,000 jobs, while retailers pared 9,600 positions. The financial sector eliminated 28,000 jobs, while professional and business services dropped 22,000. Even the government lost 18,000 jobs, as the U.S. Postal Service cut 8,500 positions, and state and local governments laid off teachers and other school workers.
Health care and educational services was the only bright spot, adding 52,000 workers.
And the pace of layoffs is slowing. Job losses averaged 691,000 in the first quarter and fell to an average of 428,000 in the April-June period.
Other economic data released this week has been positive. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group, said Tuesday that the manufacturing sector grew in August for the first time in 19 months. On Thursday, the ISM said its service sector index rose to 48.4 last month, the highest level in nearly a year. Home sales, meanwhile, have increased for several months and prices are stabilizing.
Federal Reserve policymakers said in minutes from an August meeting that they expect the economy to recover in the second half of this year. But labor market conditions are still "poor," the Fed minutes released Wednesday said, and many companies are likely to be "cautious in hiring" even as the economy picks up.
Some economists credit the stimulus package of tax cuts and spending increases, along with the Cash for Clunkers program, with contributing to a recovery. But they worry about what will happen when the impact of the stimulus efforts fades next year.
Administration officials argue the stimulus has already saved about 135,000 jobs. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Friday that funds are still being injected into the economy and will continue to spur recovery.
"The recession has done more damage than could ever be fixed in half a year," Solis said.
Vice President Joe Biden defended the stimulus package Thursday against Republican critics who say it is too costly.
"The recovery act has played a significant role in changing the trajectory of our economy, and changing the conversation in this country," Biden said. "Instead of talking about the beginning of a depression, we are talking about the end of a recession."
Republicans criticized Biden's speech. "The Democrats' rhetoric on their economic experiment doesn't match with the reality of millions of Americans remaining unemployed," said Republican Party chief Michael Steele. "The stimulus was an economic experiment that failed Americans."
More job cuts were announced this week. Washington-based manufacturer Danaher Corp. said it will lay off about 3,300 of its roughly 50,000 employees, an increase from the 1,700 cuts it announced in the spring. American Airlines said it is cutting 921 flight attendant jobs as it deals with an ongoing downturn in traffic and lower revenue.
- It's High Time We Focused On Down Time, by Robert D. Atkinson, NPR.org
Monday September seventh is a national holiday. It's Labor Day. Most Americans will spend their time off work relaxing, barbecuing, and relishing the last of summer. This is one of two commentaries examining why we celebrate labor by doing just the opposite: resting,
It seems ironic that a day to honor labor is actually a day of leisure. But, perhaps it's not. Labor Day actually had its origins in the push for a shorter working day and better conditions for working men and women. The popular Eight-Hour Movement that emerged in the 1860s had as its slogan, "eight hours for work; eight hours for rest; and eight hours for what you will!" One justification for limiting working hours to eight was the type of jobs most people had in those days: manual labor jobs, only partly assisted by technology. The toll on the body and spirit was enormous.
[Like it's less with the much greater productivity and responsibility of the high-tech workforce?]
One hundred years later work for the average American is less back-breaking and more enjoyable.
[Different kinds of stress, like carpal tunnel syndrome, have replaced back-breaking toil - and we're so glad that Robert Atkinson is enjoying his work, but after years of downsizing and job insecurity and feeling in trapped with the same job, same boss, same company because there are no alternatives, work for the average American - who still has work - is hardly "more enjoyable."]
One reason is that productivity in sectors like agriculture, mining, fishing, forestry and manufacturing has grown faster than in other sectors, like health care or retail. The result is fewer workers [are] needed to produce more food, minerals, fish, wood or manufactured products.
[And this is why workweek reduction is not optional as an economy technologizes. It must lower workweek levels as it raises technology levels or split the population into worker-consumers and idled paupers. As Walter Reuther retorted when Henry Ford said, "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - "Let's see you sell them cars."]
Having foreigners do some of the hard work also helps.
[No it doesn't. It simply worsens the already downsizing-deepened labor surplus, depresses real wages, funnels more of the national income and wealth to the top tiny fraction of the population and pushes us back into recession, where the top brackets can't even find sustainable investments and we go from bubble to bubble (the S&L bubble, the P/E ratio bubble, the dot-com bubble, the housing bubble, the bail-out bubble.... Atkinson starts off with a good title but he hasn't thought past the prevailing unsustainable economic 'wisdom.']
The downside though, is that the U.S. is now running a big manufacturing trade deficit. Still, we can't keep running a trade deficit forever, so pretty soon we will need to start manufacturing more. And a liberal immigration policy, particularly for immigrants with lower levels of education, means that fewer native-born Americans have to do jobs like work in meat packing plants, pick crops from the field, or clean our buildings and wash our dishes.
[What utter nonsense. Americans are glad to do any of these jobs that are still unautomated, - as long as they're safe and well paid - which they'll never be while nitwits like Atkinson are propagating the myth that "we need foreign-born workers to do the jobs Americans don't want to do." The only reason Americans aren't doing them is that they've been victims of deliberate management policies to lay off well-paid employees in favor of hiring low-wage ones, who, surprise surprise, are generally anxious new immigrants or desperate illegal entrants. Atkinson is part of the problem, a beacon of darkness.]
And this trend will only continue even if we reduce the manufacturing trade deficit (which we should).
[What bland pablum he serves. Still hasn't mentioned the problem with "free" trade and maybe sees none.]
Most of the jobs of the future are going to be in sectors focused on taking care of people (education, health care, social services), providing people with direct services (retail, tourism, restaurants), or helping businesses operate (computer software workers and managers).
[It's the old "service sector safehaven" line. First we mechanized agriculture and everybody ran to manufacturing. Then we automated manufacturing and everybody ran to services. Atkinson is still back in the manufacturing past with no awareness of the current robotization of services. Online education, software diagnosis, but social services? what social services - they're being cut left and right - who's going to pay for them? Not the wealthy - yet, and if never, the USA becomes China-India, reduced to the lowest common denominator. Retail? What of the burgeoning big box stores where you have to find your own stuff and be your own cashier? Tourism? The airlines bankrupted the travel agents so now we have to do it ourselves. Restaurants? Who can afford to eat out any more, except maybe occasionally at McDonald's. Software workers? Hasn't Atkinson heard of the software that writes software, the rebellion against constant useless-to-the-consumer upgrades and updates (see Gall Collins' "The Updating Game" in our 8/29/2009 makework section). Managers? Shell just laid off 20% of its top managers in July and there are thousands of other ex-managers in the same position. Wake up, Robert!]
But if work has gotten easier for most [as Barney Frank would say, "What planet has this guy been spending most of his time on?"], it sure hasn't gotten shorter. Over two-thirds of workers work 40 hours or more per week, while 8.5 percent regularly put in truly marathon work weeks of 60 hours or more.
[Job insecurity does a real job on the 40-hour workweek - and on sharing the vanishing work.]
Managers and professionals in particular have been putting in progressively longer hours on the job: and as these occupations grow, overall work time goes up. According to MIT economist Dora Costa, at the turn of the 20th century [1900?], those in the bottom 10 percent of income worked 600 hours a year more than those at the top. Today's top earners are the ones putting in the long hours, working 400 hours more per year than low earners. And overall, Americans now work almost two weeks a year more than Japanese, who only recently were derided as workaholic "salary men." This explains why 95 percent of workers say they worry that work is taking too much time away from their families.
One reason people work so much is that they want the income.
[But that's self-defeating because working long hours worsens the anxious surplus of ... yourself, and market forces punish surpluses.]
But rather than support measures to increase productivity, many today oppose them.
[Could be that CEOs, promising to make life easier (by cutting hours = timesizing), breaks their promise and just make life insecure by downsizing - slitting their own throats in the process by necessarily downsizing consumers along with employees.]
One real time example is in California where the legislature is poised to pass legislation on behalf of grocery store workers to limit the use of self-service checkout in supermarkets. Do we really [want] to make people work more for less while raising prices for consumers? That's what this and other similar well-intentioned, but ill-advised measures would do.
[Again, this genius hasn't thought this through. If California doesn't either cut the self-service or the workweek, it's going to have a lot fewer grocery store workers - and tax revenues. If you keep converting paid jobs into self-service without cutting the nationwide workweek, you get fewer jobs and ... fewer consumers. And this 'expert' has not yet mentioned cutting the workweek. And what's making people work more for less is ongoing technological displacement = responding to technology by downsizing instead of timesizing (= cutting hours). Atkinson would probably object that there's an infinite amount of work - but we reply that there's certainly not an infinite amount of willingness of the wealthy, or ability of the rest of us, to pay for it, and so it's not strictly work - it's just things that Arkinson and his ilk think should be done with OPM = other people's money (no specific names provided).]
After more than 100 years of celebrating labor on Labor Day, perhaps we need to start celebrating leisure.
[There's a non-sequitur for you, and they keep on comin' -]
Rather than fight to preserve work, we should be fighting to create wealth and more leisure.
[Great, can we mention fighting for shorter working hours now? Apparently not -]
This means that we should all be supporting measures that will let organizations (private, non-profit and government) boost productivity and at the same time, putting productivity growth at the center of our nation's economic policies.
[Good grief. What does productivity have to do with creating wealth and more leisure for the average American? The whole problem is management response to the fabulous productivity growth we've had in the past forty years = they've been downsizing in response instead of timesizing (downsizing the workweek and maintaining employment, downsizing it deeper and increasing employment).]
Eighty years ago John Maynard Keynes wrote in an article entitled "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren" that the steady increase in productivity would one day lead to a day when we would be led "out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight."
Let's get that productivity train roaring forward, for I can make out the daylight ahead.
[In the age of robotics, "that productivity train" is the least of our problems. Our biggest problem is switching from downsizing in response to productivity gains, to timesizing in response, so we stop downsizing our markets along with our employees.]
Robert D. Atkinson is the President of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and author of The Past and Future of America's Economy: Long Waves of Innovation that Drive Cycles of Growth.
[So that why he's pushing productivity, whether or not it's marketable - his job depends on it, nonsequitur or not.]
9/03/2009 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 -
- Meltdown 101: Changing work force, by the numbers, by CHRISTOPHER LEONARD, The Associated Press
When Labor Day arrives Monday, it will be celebrated by a work force that has changed radically since the same holiday in 2008.
Over the past year, the labor market has suffered its most wrenching changes in a generation, shedding millions of jobs and changing the profile of the more than 131 million people who head to work every day.
American workers are older than they used to be, working fewer hours at cash-strapped companies and less likely to be unionized. And far more are now out looking for a job, and spending longer periods of time on the job hunt.
[More time on the job for the fewer people still employed = more time wasted job hunting for the more people now unemployed.]
The rapid change has come on top of longer-term transformations. In 1959, nearly 30 percent of all non-farm workers had manufacturing jobs — by last month, that had fallen to 9 percent. Eighty years ago, about 20 percent of Americans worked on farms. Now it's less than 2 percent.
As Americans left behind farms and factories, they donned the service-sector attire of aprons, neckties and telephone headsets, with about 36 percent of the work force now employed in the service sector.
While changes have been obvious, it's less clear what will be around the corner for U.S. workers. Analysts expect a long period of joblessness to continue, with the unemployment rate not returning to pre-recession levels until 2013 or later.
The big question is what kind of jobs will appear to replace those lost forever in the hard-hit financial services and construction sectors.
Here's a look at the changing U.S. labor force, by the numbers.
A HORRIBLE YEAR
4 percent: The total decline over the last year in the U.S. nonfarm payroll, which stands at 131.5 million people.
9.4 percent: The current unemployment rate, up from 4.7 percent when the recession began.
33.1 hours: The length of the average workweek as employers cut hours, near a the lowest level in records dating to 1964.
6.7 million: The number of jobs lost since the recession started in December 2007.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
2.8 percent: The share of people who are at work by 5 a.m.
7.6 hours: The length of the average workday.
20 percent: Share of employees who do all or some of their work at home.
48.6 minutes: The average daily travel time for commuters and traveling workers.
76 percent: Percentage of workers who drive alone to work.
CHANGING JOB MARKET
18 percent: The total decline over the last year in construction jobs, which fell to 6.1 million.
4.67 percent: Share of the U.S. labor market held by construction workers last year, down from 5.4 percent as the housing bust intensified last summer.
7.7 million: Number of workers with more than one job, about 5 percent of the work force.
6 percent: Decline in the number of workers in the financial sector over the last year, with 7.7 million remaining as of July.
587,000: Number of registered nursing positions expected to be created between 2006 and 2016.
CHANGING WORK FORCE
40 percent: The share of workers over age 55 who have a job or are seeking a job, the highest level since it was 40.8 percent in 1961, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
57 percent: The share of workers between age 16 and 24 who are in the labor market, down from 66 percent in 2000. Many are waiting out the downturn by going to school.
16 million: The number of wage and salaried workers who are unionized, down from 16.3 million in 2000.
4.28 percent: Percentage of work force in management jobs.
0.19 percent: Percentage of workers who are chief executives.
$136,890: Mean annual wage of chief executives.
$52,290: Mean annual wage of elementary school teachers.
$72,870: Mean annual wage of industrial engineers.
$102,390: Mean annual wage of dentists.
$46,920: Mean annual wage of all occupations.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, unless otherwise noted.
- Partial jobless benefits soar under little-known *California program, by Darrell Smith email@example.com, Sacramento Bee via SacBee.com
[So far there are roughly 20 such state programs with pressure on the rest of the states to get with it.]
Tough times are driving record demand for a little-known state program that pays partial unemployment benefits to workers whose hours and wages have been cut.
"There have been high periods, but nothing like this – every two or three weeks is a record. It's part of what's happening with the economy right now," said Talbott Smith, a division chief at the Employment Development Department, which runs the Work Sharing Unemployment Insurance program.
Participation in the program may have surged, but it still is utilized by only "a very small percentage" of the approximately 1 million employers in the state, Smith said.
The state of California, with its roughly 400,000 employees, does not participate in the program, so furloughed state workers are not eligible.
[Another piece of stupidity - like the fact that the French government itself did not step down from a 39- to a 35-hour workweek along with large companies in Y2000 - instead, it allowed itself to step down afterward with small companies of less than 20 employees. Smart politicians and civil servants include themselves in their "wisdom" for others.]
Work sharing was a first-in-the-nation safety net when state lawmakers created it in 1978. The intention was to spare workers from total unemployment during downturns and allow employers to avoid the cost of recruiting, hiring and training new employees when the economy improves.
As of July, some $97 million had been paid out in work sharing claims this year. That's already nearly twice the $49.4 million paid out in all of 2008 – the previous record.
The program mirrors the overall growth in jobless benefits. Nearly $11 billion in unemployment insurance has been paid in California through the first seven months of 2009, outdistancing the record $8.1 billion paid in 2008. The state's jobless rate was 11.9 percent in July, and would have been even higher without the work sharing program.
Nearly 3,100 California businesses signed up for work sharing for the first time between January and June, according to the EDD, which estimates the total number of companies currently in the program at about 5,000. Just three years ago, fewer than 500 businesses were in the program.
Claims were covered for nearly 120,000 employees in the first half of 2009, compared with 80,000 in all of 2008.
The increase has stressed the program's ability to meet demand, and more than 60 new workers have been hired [by the state worksharing program itself], EDD officials said.
Karen Fulkerson, payroll accountant at the Sacramento-based California Restaurant Association, said she and other association leaders "weren't even aware there was such a plan" until late last year. A staff attorney told them about it as the trade group for the struggling restaurant industry faced the prospect of trimming its staff.
Some staffers were let go, but a monthly furlough day and participation in work sharing in January helped the association avoid more layoffs.
Today, about 40 percent of the association's 32-person Sacramento staff is on work sharing, Fulkerson said.
"It's been a positive. The employer is able to take advantage of cost reductions, but it's not fully passed on to the employee," she said. "Even though it's a difficult time, at least employees know they're not taking as hard a hit."
Angelica Pappas, a restaurant association employee who is furloughed one Friday each month, receives $106 monthly through the program to help offset lost wages.
"I signed up right away," she said. "It's a little something, but it makes it so I don't miss (the lost pay)."
Ralph Perko, controller at commercial heating and air firm Air Systems of Sacramento, said the work sharing program has "helped us to cut costs by cutting hours, and we've been able to retain many of our employees."
For the Rancho Cordova company, which signed up for the plan six months ago, keeping skilled sheet metal workers and pipe fitters during the down time saves later recruiting and training expenses.
"Regardless of how well (new hires) are trained, it's still a lot of money to train them to the company's way," Perko said.
Today, most of Air Systems' workers are on a 24-hour workweek, with the lost 16 hours covered by work sharing benefits.
Perko estimates as many as 70 percent of Air Systems' 105 employees participate in the program at any one time.
"We're a construction company, so needs change every week," he explained.
Work sharing benefits are funded the same way as regular unemployment insurance, through payroll taxes. To participate, employers must fill out an application and submit a plan that meets program requirements.
Among the requirements: 10 percent of an employer's workforce or a unit of that workforce must be affected by at least a 10 percent reduction in wages and work hours.
Because of the application's complexity, forms are checked and processed by hand, which is the primary reason so many new hires have been needed to deal with the growth. Still, EDD's Smith said the majority of claims are paid within seven days of receipt.
Once a plan is approved, benefits are paid to participating employees in proportion to the percentage that hours and wages are reduced.
For example, if the employee's wages and hours were cut by 20 percent, or one day per week, the employee's work sharing benefits would be 20 percent of the unemployment insurance benefits they would have received had they been jobless. (The maximum unemployment benefit for a jobless worker is $450 per week.)
Increasingly, EDD staffers are seeing small service companies and offices filling the work share rolls.
Places like dental offices are closing down on Fridays and workers are collecting unemployment insurance for the lost workday each week, officials said.
Other companies facing downsizing or closure are using the work sharing plan as a transition to full unemployment, Smith said.
Prominent among such companies is the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont, which is being phased out by Toyota Motor Corp.
"We don't see anything that would show any trend downward," Smith said. "There's an awareness because businesses haven't seen a downturn like this."
- La Presse newspaper threatens to cease publishing Dec. 1, by Andy Blatchford And Sylvain Larocque, The Canadian Press
MONTREAL — It could be a dark 125th anniversary for North America's biggest French-language broadsheet newspaper.
Montreal's La Presse paper, which is considered among the best in Canada for its in-depth and frequent coverage of international and national issues, is threatening to cease operations on Dec. 1. Staff were informed Thursday that management and the union have three months to reach an agreement on cutting costs.
Otherwise, the paper warned, La Presse's print edition and its online version would both be shut down.
Publisher Guy Crevier told employees in an email that La Presse is facing huge challenges from its high-cost structure and collapsing advertising revenues.
"Under its current business model, it has no chance for survival," Crevier wrote in the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.
"As of Dec. 1, La Presse will no longer be able to pursue its activities without significant changes to its costs. If there's no settlement by that date, the publication of La Presse will be suspended, on paper and on (the online edition) Cyberpresse. . .
"Time's passing, the losses are piling up."
Crevier said La Presse also plans to open the books for the union in hope of reaching a resolution.
Through an independent analyst, the newspaper has agreed to share its financial records for the period of Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2009.
Unionized workers at the newspaper have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2008.
A spokeswoman for La Presse's parent company, Gesca Ltee., said Thursday that staffers must contribute to the cutbacks.
She expressed optimism that a deal can be reached - which raises the question of whether the publicly delivered threat was more a harbinger of impending doom or a negotiating ploy.
The president of the union representing editorial employees said she was expecting an announcement from the company.
But it was the ultimatum that surprised her.
"It's the way they did it that we deplore," union head Helene De Guise told reporters outside La Presse's offices in Old Montreal.
The company is asking staff for several concessions, including a move to a five-day work week (35 hours) from its existing four-day week (32 hours), all while taking a six-per-cent pay cut.
La Presse also wants to eliminate 100 jobs.
Asked if she thinks the company and the union can work out deal before the December deadline, De Guise said: "We hope to reach an agreement."
La Presse is, by far, the biggest French broadsheet on the continent.
The publication, founded in 1884, is the flagship newspaper of Gesca Ltee, a wholly owned division of Power Corp. (TSX:POW).
On international news, it expends resources to produce in-depth reports from all over the world.
For example, it has sent reporters around the globe to compare transit systems to Montreal's. After last year's worldwide riots over food prices, the paper sent reporters to different spots to explore hunger.
Closer to home, the award-winning paper covers Canadian politics extensively and frequently scoops its competition on local and provincial stories.
Like other media, and especially newspapers, it has been pounded this year by plummeting ad revenues and the global recession.
In a drive to cut costs, La Presse has already stopped publishing its Sunday edition earlier this summer. The last Sunday edition was published June 28.
At the time, Crevier said he hoped to reduce the newspaper's costs by $26 million, including $13 million in concessions annually from unions.
Last month, it reduced the width of its paper by one inch to save money on paper.
Mike Gasher, who heads the journalism department at Concordia University in Montreal, said the company's threats of closure sound like a heavy-handed approach to negotiations.
But it still raises concerns, he added. He said losing La Presse would have a huge impact on journalism in Montreal and Canada.
"It's certainly the leading newspaper in the city journalistically, and perhaps the leading newspaper in the country," Gasher said.
"They do fabulous journalism and they've invested in journalism."
The newspaper isn't the only Canadian publication that has been reeling.
La Presse's main competitor, Le Journal de Montreal - the top French-language tabloid in Canada - locked out its employees eight months ago.
The National Post, which belongs to CanWest Global Communications Corp. (TSX:CGS.A), cancelled its Monday edition for nine weeks, beginning on June 29.
The Halifax Daily News shut down its operations last year.
Montreal-based Transcontinental (TSX:TCL.A), which owned the Daily News, replaced the paper with another tabloid - a free daily called Metro. The closure ended a 30-year battle between the Daily News and the Halifax Chronicle-Herald.
In St. John's, the Telegram, another newspaper owned by Transcontinental, stopped printing its Sunday edition last September.
About 250 staffers at the daily tabloid, owned by Quebecor Inc. (TSX:QBR.A, TSX:QBR.B), have been without a contract since Dec. 31.
The times have been even more brutal for U.S. papers: one major U.S. newspaper has already folded this year and several others are seeking bankruptcy protection.
- Porsche says it is forced to cut workers' hours, Agence France-Presse via AFP
FRANKFURT — The German sports car maker Porsche said Thursday it would be forced to cut workers' hours owing to a slump in sales.
The maker of the 911 sports car foresees 18 days of shorter working hours by the end of the year at its main plant in Zuffenhausen, southwestern Germany, a statement said.
The company had managed to avoid such measures though the use of flexible schedules agreed to by workers. But those "have reached their limits," personnel director Thomas Edig was quoted as saying.
Porsche sales have slumped over the past few months and key export markets were not expected to rebound strongly during the fiscal year that began on August 1, the company said.
Results for the 2008-2009 fiscal year are to be presented in mid September during the Frankfurt auto show.
In late July, Porsche forecast a pre-tax loss of five billion euros (7.15 billion dollars) following the collapse of its bid to take over Volkswagen, the biggest European carmaker.
In the end, it appears that Porsche will be integrated at VW's 10 brand alongside other prestigious groups like Audi, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini.
But the statement said that Porsche, considered the most profitable auto maker in the world, will report a profit margin of at least 10 percent for the year.
9/02/2009 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 -
- Free clinics feel recesssion's pinch, by Bibeka Shrestha, SmokyMountainNews.com,Waynesville,NC.
Amy Street thought she could finally afford health insurance this year. But that was before Street’s employer slashed 25 hours from her 40-hour work week.
Street, a 62-year old Waynesville resident, recently applied for retirement and social security benefits, but said while that would help, it’s simply not enough.
When Street was recently told she might have kidney cancer, she fretted about more than her health. She worried she would lose her car and her home trying to scrape up enough money to pay for expensive treatment. Even worse for Street was the possibility of no one being around to care for her disabled daughter.
“I was in shock. Sometimes, I cried. Sometimes, I said wait and see,” said Street.
Luckily, Street learned she did not have cancer, but her continuing kidney problems have driven her to seek on-going care at the Good Samaritan Clinic of Haywood County, one of the few free clinics in Western North Carolina. While she waited for her appointment on a recent afternoon, a fellow patient who did not want to be named said she found out she had cancer just the day before.
Patients like Street represent almost 19 percent of Haywood County residents who are uninsured, a figure that includes 1,400 children.
While the number who can’t afford health insurance is on the rise, free clinics like the Good Samaritan are facing economic woes of their own due to funding cuts, forcing them to scale back services at a time they are needed most.
The Good Samaritan Clinic, which has offices in Waynesville and Canton, has reduced services by 40 percent and is no longer accepting new patients, who once came in droves of 40 each week.
The clinic had 4,500 patient visits last year, but can only afford to see 2,590 this year due to financial constraints.
Haywood County cut half of its funding to the clinic last year and ceased its funding completely this year, although it still allows the clinic to use one of its buildings for just $1 a year.
Donda Bennett, executive director of the clinic, said there’s little the clinic can do but step up fundraising efforts.
“Our budget is cut and dry, as bare as you can make it,” Bennett said. “There’s nowhere to cut it and still provide quality health care.”
No free ride
At a time of increasing need, free clinics across the area have had to turn away patients.
“We’re seeing a huge number of new patients coming to the clinic. People that have either lost their job or lost their insurance or both,” said Jerry Hermanson, executive director of the Community Care Clinic of Highlands-Cashier. Patients there are now waiting as long as three weeks for their appointment, and though the clinic does allow walk-ins, it has had to send away patients “more and more,” Hermanson said.
Haywood County’s Health Department, which sees 1,000 mostly uninsured, Medicare and Medicaid patients each month, no longer offers clinic hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays and has eliminated five positions. The department’s budget has decreased to almost $4.9 million, compared to about $5.7 million last year.
While government support is important to free clinics, contributions from individuals are just as vital. The Community Care Clinic of Highlands-Cashier has seen donations from individuals fall 20 percent below what was budgeted this year.
The Good Samaritan Clinic of Haywood County is reaching out to individuals and local churches but is still below target.
“A lot of people just think, we’ve been around since 1999, so surely we’ve figured it out and are able to support ourselves,” said Bennett. “Some people might not just realize it totally depends on individuals and organizations.”
While securing grants would certainly help, these types of clinics face tough competition.
“Most grantors want to fund something new and innovative and fun,” said Bennett. But when free clinics can’t even afford basic operational costs, it’s hard to pursue creative projects like the ones that attract potential grantors
Becky Olson, executive director of the Good Samaritan Clinic of Jackson County, also acknowledged that securing grants has been a bigger struggle this year with less money and more competition.
“At this moment, I’m working on four different grants to get a little piece for here, a little piece for there,” she said. The clinic is also trying to get more doctors to volunteer to expand the clinic and accommodate the increase in demand for services.
Meanwhile, the Community Foundation of Western Carolina has recognized the needs of clinics like Good Samaritan and the Community Care Clinic, and provided assistance through its Recession Response grants.
And the Good Samaritan Clinic of Haywood County is receiving help from churches that have stepped up and added the clinic to their budgets.
Dalton’s Christian Bookstore in Waynesville is teaming up with the clinic for nearly three months, to offer customers an opportunity to donate to the clinic, while the clinic will go in and do blood pressure checks on customers.
Good Samaritan continues to give presentations to a lot of churches to hopefully raise awareness about the clinic’s existence, as well as its troubles.
Turning to the big guys
Good Samaritan has been in talks with Haywood Regional Medical Center for two months now to see if the hospital can contribute financially to the clinic, as well as donate medical and office supplies.
HRMC already donates thousands of dollars annually in free laboratory and radiological services to the clinic each year.
“The hospital really realizes that we are struggling right now. By us cutting services, it puts them in a situation where they have to see more people who are uninsured,” said Bennett.
For every patient who does not pay up for an emergency room visit, it costs the hospital an average of $400, according to Good Samaritan’s research.
Carole Larivee, a retired nurse who works part-time at HRMC and volunteers at Good Samaritan, said helping the clinic would be beneficial for the whole community.
“The hospitals can’t turn people away who come to the ER. By the time they get to the ER, treatment is very, very expensive because they had to wait so long,” Larivee said. “Even before I was with Good Samaritan, I would see people admitted to the hospital because they couldn’t go to the doctor for preventative care. They had to get very, very sick.”
By the time the patient got to the ER, it would sometimes be too late, she said. “Whereas, if they had been seen regularly, what was wrong with them could have been treatable.”
Hermanson said about 10 to 12 percent of patients at Community Care Clinic would go to the emergency room if the clinic were not open. But most of the patients he sees at the clinic do not say they would have rushed to the nearest hospital.
“We ask every patient on every visit, ‘If we weren’t here, where would you have gone?’” Hermanson said. “The vast majority of patients say we wouldn’t have sought treatment.”
Catch-22 for the underserved
Carmine Rocco, health director at Haywood County Health Department, emphasized the need for the public to do their best to stay healthy, especially now.
“As more folks become uninsured, it’s even more crucial now that people do what they can personally to help reduce the risk factors that they have control over,” said Rocco.
The underlying issue, though, is that uninsured people who face a chronic condition have trouble managing what would be easy to handle — if they could afford care.
“Most people don’t worry about prevention if they feel well,” said Hermanson. “They may be diabetic and not treating it. Promoting wellness is a great thing, but getting it accomplished is another.”
Hermanson said one of the first patients at his clinic came in with a blood sugar level of more than 500, when 105 is the highest end of normal.
“It’s people like that who end up in the emergency room,” he said.
Street confirmed that it has been difficult for her to stay healthy without insurance.
“It’s really frustrating because you want to be ahead of the game to keep yourself healthy, but you can’t afford to do that,” she said. “It’s disheartening.
Even when patients get in through the door at swamped clinics, some have concerns about the quality of care.
Cynthia Teesateski, 49, said she worried that health care available to the uninsured might not stand alongside the care offered to patients backed by insurance companies.
Street said the urologist she was referred to did not fully inform her about her kidney troubles. It was only after she hunted down information on the Internet that she discovered more about her condition and decided to schedule another appointment at Good Samaritan.
Even if she wonders sometimes about the care she receives at clinics, Teesateski said she glad to have someplace to go to – for now. “As I get older, what’s going to happen? Will I have any place to go?” she asked.
Donna Brooks, a 46-year old patient at Good Samaritan in Canton, said she doesn’t worry about the care she receives at the clinic she refers to as her “lifesaver.” She has even become good friends with her doctor there.
Brooks is an avid supporter of the clinic and hopes it will make it through the recession.
“There should be no reason for these clinics not to stay open,” Brooks said. “If they don’t, not only me, but hundreds of people, are going to be in a world of hell.”
- Landfill host fees may help balance budget, by Vinde Wells, (9/03) OgleCountyNews.com, Illinois.
Taking money from landfill revenues may be part of the solution to balancing the county’s budget.
The Ogle County Finance Committee decided Aug. 26 to take $655,000 from the Solid Waste Fund to bolster sagging General Fund revenues if employees in three labor unions will agree to three percent wage rollbacks.
“If we could get $655,000 plus wage concessions, we could avoid layoffs,” said committee member Pat Saunders, Polo. “It would be a Band-Aid fix at best.”
Revenues in the Solid Waste Fund come the host fees paid to the county by garbage companies to dump refuse in the county’s landfills.
Saunders said the Solid Waste Fund currently contains $3.6 million, $2 million of which must be maintained in case of an emergency clean-up at a landfill.
A portion of the remainder is operating funds for the Solid Waste Department.
Committee member Paul White, Forreston, protested using the Solid Waste Fund to balance the budget. He said using the fund will turn it into a revenue source which can be used in wage negotiations and assessment disputes.
He suggested loaning the money from the Solid Waste Fund to the General Fund instead of making it a permanent transfer.
“I think that would be more palatable,” White said.
The committee made no decision on how the transaction should be handled.
The Solid Waste Fund is separate from the Long Range Planning Fund, which is also funded by host fees.
The county board has designated that the Long Range Planning Fund be used for major, one-time only expenses that will benefit multiple departments, land purchases, and for building projects, such as the Judicial Center, completed in 2005, the present courthouse renovations, and the proposed new jail and telecommunications center.
The committee approved a plan to transfer the funds into the county General Fund for the 2010 budget only if the unions agree to take pay cuts.
The outcome of wage negotiations and the pending transfer will be part of the Finance Committee’s recommendation to the full county board.
The decision was part of the county’s ongoing effort to cut at least 10 percent from the 2009 and 2010 budgets.
Several weeks ago, the committee asked for three percent, or $403,294, to be cut from the expenditures budgeted in the General Fund for the current fiscal year, which ends Nov. 30, and another seven percent, or $941,018, to be cut from expenditures in the 2010 budget.
County Treasurer John Coffman recently released an estimate that puts the revenue for 2009 at $12.4 million, well below the budgeted revenue of $13.4 million.
Coffman’s estimate for 2010 puts revenue at a mere $11.7 million.
In light of dwindling revenues, the cuts may have to go deeper, maybe as much as 15 percent.
Approximately 50 people, many of them county employees, attended the special Finance Committee meeting, which was held at the Ogle County Farm Bureau building.
Bunny Reints, who works in the Probation Department, voiced her concern that budget cuts could lead to the loss of jobs and a resulting loss of services for county residents.
“Ogle County has a reputation for serving the public,” she said. “Our caseload in Probation is up 25 percent since the first of the year and we’re cutting staff. I’m concerned about public safety and services.”
Telecommunicator Sandra Beitel echoed her concerns.
She said the staff at the 911 center is already at a minimum. She said lawsuits could result if the 911 center has too few employees to respond quickly to emergency calls.
County board members have voiced their reluctance to eliminate jobs as a means to balance the budget.
In a survey taken of county board members Aug. 18, layoffs and a tax hike were the least preferred options for staying out of the red ink.
“The last thing we want to do is lay anybody off,” said committee member Lyle Hopkins, Polo, at the Aug. 26 meeting.
County administrator Meggon McKinley told the committee that the survey results showed the top preferences were hiring freezes, salary and wage freezes, wage concessions, elimination of overtime, and unpaid or reduced pay holidays.
Other options on the survey were 3-4 day work week rotations, voluntary layoffs, furlough days, and early retirement.
- Low-wage workers are often cheated, study says - Working overtime, but not being properly paid for it, by Steven Greenhouse, NYT, A11.
A study of low-wage workers in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York in 2008 found that the percentage of workers who said they were paid less than the minimum wage varies by industry. (graph, source "Broken Laws, Unprotected workers")
Apparel and textile mfg 43%
Personal and repar services 42%
Private households 42%
Retail and drug stores 26%
Grocery stores 24%
Security, building and grounds services 22%
Food and furniture mfg, transportation and warehousing 19%
Restaurants and hotels 18%
Residential construction 13%
Home health care 12%
Social assistance and education 12%
Low-wage workers are routinely denied proper overtime pay and are often paid less than the minimum wage, according to a new study based on a survey of workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
[A short enough workweek for our high technology levels would make minimum wage laws unnecessary.]
The study, the most comprehensive examination of wage-law violations in a decade, also found that 68 percent of the workers interviewed had experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week.
“We were all surprised by the high prevalence rate,” said Ruth Milkman, one of the study’s authors and a sociology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the City University of New York. The study, to be released on Wednesday, was financed by the Ford, Joyce, Haynes and Russell Sage Foundations.
In surveying 4,387 workers in various low-wage industries, including apparel manufacturing, child care and discount retailing, the researchers found that the typical worker had lost $51 the previous week through wage violations, out of average weekly earnings of $339. That translates into a 15 percent loss in pay.
The researchers said one of the most surprising findings was how successful low-wage employers were in pressuring workers not to file for workers’ compensation. Only 8 percent of those who suffered serious injuries on the job filed for compensation to pay for medical care and missed days at work stemming from those injuries.
“The conventional wisdom has been that to the extent there were violations, it was confined to a few rogue employers or to especially disadvantaged workers, like undocumented [entrants],” said Nik Theodore, an author of the study and a professor of urban planning and policy at the University of Illinois, Chicago. “What our study shows is that this is a widespread phenomenon across the low-wage labor market in the United States.”
According to the study, 39 percent of those surveyed were illegal [entrants], 31 percent legal immigrants and 30 percent native-born Americans.
The study found that 26 percent of the workers had been paid less than the minimum wage the week before being surveyed and that one in seven had worked off the clock the previous week. In addition, 76 percent of those who had worked overtime the week before were not paid their proper overtime, the researchers found.
The new study, “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers,” was conducted in the first half of 2008, before the brunt of the recession hit. The median wage of the workers surveyed was $8.02 an hour — supervisors were not surveyed — with more than three-quarters of those interviewed earning less than $10 an hour. When the survey was conducted, the minimum wage was $7.15 in New York State, $7.50 in Illinois and $8 in California.
Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis responded to the report with an e-mail statement, saying, “There is no excuse for the disregard of federal labor standards — especially those designed to protect the neediest among us.” Ms. Solis said she was in the process of hiring 250 more wage-and-hour investigators. “Today’s report clearly shows we still have a major task before us,” she said.
The study’s authors noted that many low-wage employers comply with wage and labor laws. The National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small-business owners, said it encouraged members “to stay in compliance with state and federal labor laws.”
But many small businesses say they are forced to violate wage laws to remain competitive.
[Remain competitive? They should not even remain in business!]
The study found that women were far more likely to suffer minimum wage violations than men, with the highest prevalence among women who were illegal [entrants]. Among American-born workers, African-Americans had a violation rate nearly triple that for whites.
“These practices are not just morally reprehensible, but they’re bad for the economy,” said Annette Bernhardt, an author of the study and policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project. “When unscrupulous employers break the law, they’re robbing families of money to put food on the table, they’re robbing communities of spending power and they’re robbing governments of vital tax revenues.”
[Cut the moralizing and start the tough enforcement. We laughed at France for its "overtime police," but this is the single most important kind of police for human progress during our lifetime. Redeploy the wasted drug police off the victimless "drug war" and onto the war against economy-killing overtime. There will be no substantial human progress until we do this unless you like evermore meaningless technological whizbang and self-serving software upgrades.]
When the Russell Sage Foundation announced a grant to help finance the survey, it said that low-wage workers were “hard to find” for interviews and that “government compliance surveys shy away from the difficult task of measuring workplace practices beyond the standard wage, benefits and hours questions.”
The report found that 57 percent of workers sampled had not received mandatory pay documents the previous week, which are intended to help make sure pay is legal and accurate. Of workers who receive tips, 12 percent said their employer had stolen some of the tips.
One in five workers reported having lodged a complaint about wages to their employer or trying to form a union in the previous year, and 43 percent of them said they had experienced some form of illegal retaliation, like firing or suspension, the study said.
In instances when workers’ compensation should have been used, the study found, one third of workers injured on the job paid the bills for treatment out of their own pocket and 22 percent used their health insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance paid medical expenses for only 6 percent of the injured workers surveyed, the researchers found.
9/01/2009 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 -
- Commercial Jet Market Awaits Recovery, EADS Says, by Andrea Rothman, Bloomberg.com
The market for commercial jets has yet to recover and airlines may be less inclined to take new aircraft in the next year or two as they grapple with the decline in global traffic, the head of Airbus SAS’s parent said.
“The market isn’t dead, we have some campaigns, but it’s not extremely active, that’s clear,” European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. Chief Executive Louis Gallois said in an interview in Paris. “It’s not like two or three years ago.”
Airlines may struggle to keep taking planes next year and in 2011 because of balance sheets weakened by falling traffic, Gallois said. Airbus has so far only secured half of the 300 planned orders it has earmarked for this year, indicating the worst for the industry may not yet be over.
The dearth of orders this year is one indicator a recovery isn’t yet under way, even amid some signs the global economy is emerging from recession, Gallois said. The Toulouse-based company’s planned 2009 contracts compare with 777 in 2008 and 1,458 a year earlier. This year, Airbus intends to deliver more than the 483 airplanes it handed over in 2008, its record year.
Planning beyond the first few months of 2010 remains difficult, Gallois said.
Keep an Edge
“In the beginning of a crisis, airlines try to preserve orders, time schedules for deliveries because they don’t want to change their planning -- they want to keep an edge against competition,” Gallois said. “At the end of the crisis, sometimes, they have to take difficult decisions, they are increasingly short of money.”
Airbus is seeking to adapt to possible changes by asking unionized workers in France, Germany, the U.K. and Spain to accept flexibility in scheduling and pay, it said today. The move would let the company manage ‘any fluctuation of workload, should the need arise,” spokeswoman Anne Galabert said.
Airbus has previously resorted to flexible work schedules to adapt to falling demand, with employees working shorter hours when fewer planes are needed. The approach contrasts with Boeing Co., the world’s second-biggest aircraft maker, which generally fires workers when the market contracts.
[Airbus sustainable, Boeing suicidal.]
Airlines’ financial performance this year may be worse than last, when the carriers lost as much as $8.5 billion in 2008, the International Air Transport Association said today. A sample of more than 50 airlines surveyed worldwide showed net losses in excess of $6 billion for the first half of this year alone, the group said.
The organization’s most recent forecast for the full year calls for combined losses of $9 billion. An update is scheduled for Sept. 15, and the number so far “‘means IATA’s forecast for the rest of the year is too low,” said Nick Cunningham, an aviation and aerospace analyst at Evolution Securities in London.
Boeing has said it expects to deliver 480 to 485 jets in 2009, about the same as Airbus, before cutting production beginning June 2010 to match lower demand as the recession forces airlines to trim spending. Boeing hasn’t issued a specific target for orders in 2009 or deliveries in 2010.
With more than 3,500 planes in its current backlog --planes ordered but not yet delivered -- Airbus has more than seven years’ production work, Gallois said. Still, new orders are a key indicator for a recovery, he said.
“Certainly we are interested in orders for securing our future, but above all we’re interested in them because it’s a sign that the crisis is behind us,” Gallois said.
China will be the most important market for the future, accounting for 20 percent to 25 percent of the world market within five years, Gallois said. Demand for commercial aircraft in recent years has come most from the Gulf region and Asia.
While Asia has increased its weight in Airbus’s backlog, some of the biggest single orders have come from Mideast carriers such as Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways. Emirates is the largest customer for the A380, with 58 orders of which 54 are outstanding. The airline is also the top customer for Airbus’s A350, with 70 on order.
The U.S. industry, which kept out of the market for the last five years, has the oldest fleets in the world, and will need new planes and eventually return to the market, he said. Only one or two carriers are likely to place any orders of significance in the next year, Gallois predicted.
What looks like a recovery to some may turn out to be only the first reprieve from another dip, Gallois said, as the industry undergoes a cycle that matches the shape of a W.
“We’ll see,” Gallois said. “It’s difficult to have a firm assessment and we have to be ready to face all scenarios”.
To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Rothman in Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: September 1, 2009 11:07 EDT
- Euro-Zone Unemployment Hit 10-Year High in July, by DAVID JOLLY, New York Times via nytimes.com
PARIS — Unemployment in the 16 countries that use the euro rose in July to the highest level in more than 10 years, showing that despite signs of recovery, the European economy continues to struggle.
The jobless rate in the euro zone rose to 9.5 percent in July, the highest reading since May 1999, from 9.4 percent in June, Eurostat, the statistical service of the European Union, said Tuesday in Luxembourg.
“July’s figures show that euro-zone unemployment is now rising at a slower rate, but it will be some time before the labor market really starts to recover,” Jennifer McKeown, an economist at Capital Economics in London, wrote in a research note.
There are some indications that hiring might increase in the months ahead, she added, “but as unemployment tends to lag behind developments in the wider economy, we still expect to see further increases in the coming quarters, particularly as incentives for German firms to maintain workers for shorter hours start to expire."
[18 states and at least as many countries have worksharing incentive programs like this. The big challenge will be the smooth conversion of these temporary programs based on unemployment insurance funds into permanent programs based on overtime tax revenues, because this depression ain't goin' away until we replace the downsizing of our workforce and consumer base with timesizing, to maintain the same same number of jobs and consumers, or increase them, no matter how short a workweek it may take. The downsizing of the workweek (ie: "timesizing") is only a challenge to management skills. The downsizing of the workforce and consumer base challenges the survival of our economic system.]
That is troubling, Ms. McKeown said, because rising unemployment will eventually reduce wage growth to nearly nothing, and “the recent recovery in consumer spending may not be sustained.”
Eurostat estimated that nearly 22 million men and women in the E.U. were out of work, putting the unemployment rate for the bloc’s 27 countries at 9 percent, up from 8.9 percent in June. Spain, where a housing boom has collapsed, led all E.U. countries with an 18.5 percent rate.
Gilles Moëc, an economist at Deutsche Bank in London, said the figures were evidence of a growing economic division within the euro zone between the core countries of France and Germany and peripheral members, including Italy, Spain and Ireland, that are having a vastly more painful experience.
In a respite from the grim employment news, Germany, the largest European economy, reported Tuesday that the number of unemployed people fell in August by 1,000 to 3.46 million, with the adjusted jobless rate at 8.3 percent.
Mr. Moëc pointed to a survey of purchasing managers released Tuesday by Markit Economics that showed manufacturing output in the euro zone had reached a 14-month high in August. While the index, at 48.2, showed overall activity continuing to shrink, Germany and France posted gains, while Italy and Ireland contracted sharply.
Switzerland, which because of its openness to its neighbors is seen by some economists as a proxy for the overall European economy, reported Tuesday that its real gross domestic product fell 0.3 percent in the April-June period compared with the first three months of the year. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Bern said that a sharp decline in exports of services weighed on growth. But the economic contraction represented a slowing from the 0.9 percent decline recorded in the first quarter. G.D.P. fell 2 percent from a year earlier. The economy of the overall European Union — of which Switzerland is not a member — shrank 0.3 percent in the three months to June 30, Eurostat said last month.
- Germans on reduced work-hours hit 1.43 million in June, Reuters via LSE.co.uk
BERLIN - German employers in the second quarter increased their use of a government subsidy to help them shift workers from regular to shorter working hours, a Labour Office official told Reuters on Tuesday.
The number of German workers on 'Kurzarbeit', as the shortened working hours regime is called, stood at 1.43 million by the end of June, a rise of 300,000 compared to a previous figure released to the public in March, said the official, who declined to be named.
Companies have to notify the Labour Office that they want to shift workers to the scheme in order to receive government funds they can pass on to their employees.
The scheme allows companies to put their workers on shorter working hours temporarily, with the aim of avoiding mass lay-offs during economic downturns.
Germany pulled out of its worst recession since World War Two in the second quarter, but the government expects the economy to contract by 6 percent on a yearly basis in 2009.
(Reporting by Holger Hansen)
Keywords: GERMANY WORK/SCHEME
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- K+S Predicts 50% Sales Jump as Potash Demand Recovers (Update2), by Richard Weiss, Bloomberg.com
K+S AG predicted a 50 percent jump in potash sales in 2010 as global demand for the crop nutrient rebounds from this year’s slump.
Europe’s biggest potash producer may boost sales to “slightly more” than 6 million tons, up from a predicted 4 million tons this year, when farmers in markets such as China refrained from ordering, Chief Executive Officer Norbert Steiner said in an interview.
“China cannot satisfy its demand,” Steiner said in the interview at K+S’s headquarters in Kassel, Germany. “They are currently not in the market, either because they have enough stockpiles or they believe waiting until next year improves their bargaining position.”
K+S needs China, the world’s largest potash buyer, to resume ordering after a slump led to the company’s first loss in six quarters. The Asian nation, which requires about 10 million tons of potash a year, faces a shortfall in supplies with domestic output of below 3 million tons and estimated stockpiles of about 2.7 million tons, Steiner said.
With growers adopting a wait-and-see approach to ordering, potash prices have dropped by more than half since the height of a boom that left some farmers paying above $1,000 a ton.
“This is no reason to cheer,” SEB AG analyst Oana Floares said by telephone. “Higher sales volumes as such don’t mean revenue will be up noticeably. I fear potash prices will fall further.”
Finger on Trigger
For now, K+S is placing 5,680 of its 7,800 potash employees in Germany on shorter hours to save costs. North American potash distributors have some inventory left, yet stockpiles in Europe are all used up, Steiner said. Global demand will climb to a record 60 million tons by 2013 at the latest, the CEO added.
“We’re ready to react at the drop of a hat should there be any sign that demand is improving noticeably,” Steiner said. “Ramping up production to normal levels is never a problem.”
Steiner said he’s “intensively” searching for new greenfield potash sites and hopes for a quick decision by German authorities on K+S’s bid to restart Rossleben. The old German mine could boost annual capacity by 1 million tons and K+S has pledged to invest 600 million euros to redevelop it. Production may not start until 2014, he said. One other company is bidding.
Steiner said he’s postponing some investments and holding talks with shareholder Andrei Melnichenko -- the Russian billionaire owner of rival EuroChem -- to explore the possibility of jointly developing EuroChem’s Verkhnekamskoye site in central Russia. Discussions are at a very early stage, the CEO said.
Melnichenko owns 16 percent of K+S and has indicated he could increase that holding.
“We are talking to each other about operational issues in a friendly manner,” Steiner said yesterday. “We welcome any investor who follows the strategic direction of K+S.”
Steiner, appointed CEO two years ago, is orchestrating the company’s biggest ever acquisition with the purchase of Morton Salt for $1.68 billion from Dow Chemical Co. in April.
While helping diversify K+S from the cyclical potash market, the planned purchase led Standard & Poor’s to downgrade K+S to the second-lowest investment-grade of BBB. S&P said it could cut further.
The German potash supplier is using a short-term 500 million-euro ($715 million) loan facility to finance the deal and Steiner said he’s looking at a sale of corporate bonds as one option to refinance that credit.
The Morton deal should be completed toward the end of the third quarter, and management will be busy integrating the unit for the subsequent few months.
From there, K+S may seek to expand its salt operation in Asia, the world’s No. 1 consumer. To begin with, salt will be delivered to Asian customers from mines in Chile, Steiner said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Weiss in Frankfurt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: September 1, 2009 08:09 EDT
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