Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, March 3-31, 2010 +Apr.1
[Commentary] ©2010 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 117, Harvard Sq PO, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080
3/31-4/01/2010 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Leavenworth County transfer station to cut hours, staff, by Elvyn Jones [great name! girl?], 4/01 TonganoxieMirror.com
LEAVENWORTH, Kans. - The Leavenworth County transfer station will have shorter hours and a smaller staff in attempt to limit loses at the facility.
Mark Wilson, transfer station manager, got the County Commission's authority Thursday to cut hours and reduce personnel as needed to prevent operating in the red the facility at 136th Street and Gilman Road in Lansing.
As of May 1, the transfer station's hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Wilson said after the meeting. The facility now opens at 7 p.m. on weekdays.
Moreover, the transfer station's staff of seven full-time employees and one part-timer will be reduced to five full-timers and two part-timers, Wilson said.
The changes were needed when trash hauler Republic Services decided to quit using the station and instead haul its trash to a Missouri landfill. The change will cost the county of $350,000 to $400,000 a year.
Wilson told commissioners he was informed by the trash hauler the company would save money with the change, although it would require Republic to assign more trucks in Leavenworth County and trips to the Missouri landfill.
Republic was charged at out-of-county rates because it didn't have a yard in the county, Wilson said. Company officials had been told they could qualify for the cheaper in-county rates should they park some of its trucks in the county overnight, but they declined to do so for security reasons, he said.
Commissioners were also told the city of Leavenworth, which handles trash pickup for that city, had considered hauling its waste to the Hamm Inc. landfill in Jefferson County. Should that happen, it would cost the transfer station $22,000 to $30,000 a month, Wilson said.
Commissioner J.C. Tellefson said he wanted to revisit the transfer station's situation during upcoming budget discussions. To be considered would be whether the county continued to offer the service, whether the facility be privatized and operational changes.
But discussion Thursday indicated solutions could be difficult.
County Administrator Heather Morgan said Hamm Inc. declined an offer last year to operate the transfer station.
As far as fee adjustment, commissioners said at different times during Thursday's discussion they didn't want to raise rates to the point trash haulers or residents wouldn't use it or pitch waste in county ditches. But they also agreed cutting rates sharply wasn't the answer, either.
"If we're going to drive it down to $37 and subsidize $10 a ton, it's not where I want to be," Tellefson said.
- Merkel expects unemployment to rise despite today's drop, by Jamie Coleman, 3/31 ForexLive.com (blog)
GERMANY - Germany showed a drop in unemployment this morning but the Chancellor says there are no signs of a turn around in the labor market.
The government’s temporary work scheme has helped keep unemployment from rising as far as it typical would have had in the sort of environment in the past. Kurzarbeit, as the program is known, has been blamed by employers for raising employment costs and has been cited by others for distorting the labor market.
[Raising employment costs means strengthening domestic markets - employers would prefer perhaps weaker domestic markets, like the USA as it spirals down into the Third World? "Distorting" the labor market in the direction of sustainability? We should all have such "distortion"!]
Pick your poison…Either pay to keep people employed or pay them unemployment benefits…Looks like Germany has chosen the lesser of two evils.
[Amen to that. Paying them for nothing rather than something is inflationary - it's a wonder the inflation hawks haven't cottoned onto this. PS - when can we look forward to having "shorter hours" redefined as the new normal in the age of robots and huge technological productivity??]
3/28-29-30/2010 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 (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- "Lineup pay" boosts managers' salaries - Sheriff makes sure appointees get same benefit negotiated for union workers, by Matthew Spina firstname.lastname@example.org, 3/28 BuffaloNews.com
ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. - Most of Erie County government's salaried appointees cannot collect overtime wages.
But Sheriff Timothy B. Howard gives his appointees overtime pay through a benefit negotiated for unionized workers.
"Lineup pay" was initially bestowed on Erie County's jail and prison staff to compensate them for showing up early to be briefed about inmate conditions each day.
Howard, as other Erie County sheriffs have done, gives the benefit to his salaried appointees, too. He does not expect them to line up with the rank and file.
They can collect 2.5 hours a week of overtime wages by starting their eight-hour shifts — which include a paid lunch hour — 30 minutes early.
Secretaries, special assistants, accountants and even top administrators already given cars and six-figure salaries can charge a half hour of overtime each day — not necessarily because the workload demands more of their time but because the system lets them.
Because of an arbitrator's decision last decade, both union and non-union employees can collect lineup pay even when on vacation. The income ratchets up their pension payments when they retire.
County Executive Chris Collins hopes Howard limits lineup pay to the workers who play a role in shift changes at the Holding Center in Buffalo or the Correctional Facility in Alden, a Collins spokesman said.
But Howard is not likely to alter lineup pay. To him, his people deserve the benefit, which he says was first granted to the office's "management-confidential" employees more than two decades ago.
"The management-confidential must appear for work prior to the beginning of their shift in order to receive lineup pay," he told The Buffalo News by e-mail. "They routinely work more than 40 hours a week, which I feel is appropriate and necessary and, like union employees, they should receive some additional compensation for working extra hours."
Elsewhere in county government, the "M-C class" most often earns time off for extra hours, not time-and-a-half wages. But Howard says he wants to address the fact some of his appointees actually make less than their subordinates.
That's largely because their subordinates' can reap more overtime.
Howard says that, like Collins, he hires "the best and the brightest in management-confidential positions," and he expects them to "make themselves aware of all relevant events which occurred in their individual area of responsibility."
When he was undersheriff, Howard collected lineup pay, too — $6,500 in 2004, his last full year as undersheriff before being elevated to replace Patrick Gallivan, who resigned to take a state job.
County payroll records show that last year:
• Howard's secretary received more than $2,000 of lineup pay, bringing her annual salary to $50,000.
• Public relations assistant Mary Murray received almost $5,000 in lineup pay, atop a $55,300 salary.
• Susan Darlak, the sheriff's special assistant who shares a home with him, received about $3,500, pushing her salary above $62,400.
• Brian D. Doyle, the chief of administrative services who was given a take-home vehicle and a $102,000 salary last year, received more than $9,000 in lineup pay.
• Undersheriff Richard T. Donovan, with a base salary around $105,000, pulled in more than $9,000 from lineup pay.
They are among the appointees who serve at Howard's pleasure and pour some of their earnings into his campaign fund. They do not have a contract but are governed by terms given to Teamsters Local 264, just as management-confidentials in other county departments are governed by terms given Local 815, Civil Service Employees Association.
The Teamsters represent Holding Center deputies and service employees. For starting their shifts 15 minutes early, the Teamsters collect 15 minutes of overtime. The same goes for CSEA-represented corrections officers in the county Correctional Facility in Alden.
Michael Szukala, the comptroller's top auditor, attended a Correctional Facility lineup in 2006, during an audit aimed at the Jail Management System's annual overruns of its overtime budget. Szukala said the briefing offered important information to the officers and seemed to be a proper use of tax dollars.
"When we witnessed a lineup at the correctional facility, they discussed things such as fights in the prison, things that, if you were a corrections officer, you would want to be aware of because your safety is at stake," he said.
The jail system's command ranks are given a half-hour of lineup pay daily, on the theory that they also need time to assemble the information. The sheriff then grants his appointees that better provision — a half-hour of lineup pay — at each employee's overtime rate.
"You see all these little things and you realize, so that's why government costs so much," said Lise Bang-Jensen, senior policy analyst with the Empire Center for New York State Policy, a research and advocacy organization based in Albany.
"Most people who are management-confidential employees should expect to work more than 35 hours a week," she said. "That's the nature of their jobs. That's why they are getting higher base salaries ... management-confidential employees do not get overtime."
[And yet the sustainability of the economy depends on a maximum workweek, not a minimum - on a ceiling, not a floor, and we can't even find more than 35 hours a week of makework for teenagers, as the next story below shows.]
While MCs generally follow the terms of a union contract, it doesn't have to be that way. In 2005, then-County Executive Joel A. Giambra, with Legislature consent, forced management-confidentials countywide to pay a portion of their health insurance. Howard sees those 2005 changes as further justification for his appointees' lineup pay.
Collins sees the independently elected sheriff as authorized to enforce his department's time and attendance policies, his spokesman said.
"The county executive would hope that the sheriff exercises his ability to develop a new and separate MC policy for his top deputies and employees who clearly have no role to play in shift changes at the Holding Center or Correctional Facility," Collins aide Grant Loomis said.
- Summer employment for young adults, 3/30 WOFL FOX 35 via MyFoxOrlando.com
ORLANDO, Fla. - WORKFORCE CENTRAL FLORIDA (WCF) will offer its Summer Job Connection program again in 2010, an employment program that will provide valuable summer work experience in local jobs for 750 young adults ages 16-21, which in turn, will make an immediate financial impact on the local economy.
The young adults will have an opportunity to earn $8.25 an hour and work 35 hours a week for either six or 11 weeks with employers from Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Sumter counties. Participants will be placed in employment opportunities with nonprofits, government agencies and targeted private sector employers.
[Only 35 hours? But weren't we calling France RADICAL for only having a 35-hour workweek?]
Enrollment goals will be distributed within the region based on population statistics. WCF will hire 545 from Orange County, 75 each from Osceola and Seminole counties, 40 from Lake County and 15 from Sumter County.
The 2009 Summer Job Connection, funded by stimulus funds of more than $4.1 million, provided a valuable work experience for 1,200 young adults and provided nearly 293,000 hours of services for 225 local employers.
The 2009 WORKFORCE CENTRAL FLORIDA Summer Job Connection received numerous accolades from both local employers and the young adult interns because of its high quality work experiences, the extensive work readiness skills education and the increased productivity of our local employers, said Gary Earl, president and CEO of WCF. Due to these successes, WCF has allocated $3 million in our regular funding for this years program.
Young adults and employers can apply for the WORKFORCE CENTRAL FLORIDAs Summer Job Connection starting April 5, 2010 at www.WorkforceCentralFlorida.com/SummerWork .
- Calls to limit UK working hours, 3/29 GAAPweb Finance and Accounting News via gaapweb.com
UK - Graduates seeking their first meaningful full-time employment may be interested to hear that there have been calls to limit the number of hours they can work.
[Just as in the U.S., as in the above story about Florida!]
Labour has announced that it will fight to keep UK business' rights to opt out of the European Union's plans to limit weekly working hours.
[Another example of disempowering long hours advocated by the deathwish half of the labor movement: "How can we create more desperate unemployed people to depress our wages and cut our bargaining our power - as in the USA?]
However, Work Wise UK believes that this could be detrimental to the cause of British companies.
The government feels that allowing firms greater flexibility [or do they mean "brevity"?] with hours will help lift the country out of its economic slump.
While Work Wise UK chief executive Phil Flaxton agrees that something must be done to this end, he feels that a limit on hours could actually help matters thanks to a boost in morale.
"In theory a more contented workforce, even in the recession, means that productivity is unlikely to be severely affected," Mr Flaxton suggested.
He added that commitment to your employer is a "very valuable thing" and that businesses would profit more from greater productivity than extra hours.
- Modest Recovery in Store for Germany, 3/30 International Monetary Fund via imf.org
* Moderate recovery expected, with growth of 1.2 percent of GDP in 2010
* More restructuring needed in banking sector
* Labor, service sector reforms could unleash growth potential, boost domestic demand
GERMANY - The IMF is forecasting growth in Europe’s largest economy of 1.2 percent of GDP this year, followed by 1.7 percent in 2011.
Reflecting Germany’s role as the world’s second largest exporter [after China], the pickup in global trade is the main factor behind the recovery, although fiscal stimulus continues to provide support to the economy.
In this interview, the IMF’s mission chief for Germany Juha Kähkönen and Deputy Division Chief Helge Berger discuss risks to the recovery, why few jobs were lost in Germany during the crisis, and whether Germany needs to recalibrate its growth model.
IMF Survey online: What are the IMF’s expectations for a German recovery?
Kähkönen: The recovery in Germany is well underway, but we think it will be moderate and fragile. Last year, GDP dropped by 5 percent. For this year, we project a growth of 1.2 percent. Our expectations for 2011 are slightly higher, at 1.7 percent.
The recovery is supported by several factors, but the pickup in global trade is probably the most important factor. As you know, Germany’s economy is open and very export-oriented. The pull from Asia and, to a lesser extent, the United States has a direct and positive impact on the economy.
But policy support also matters. Fiscal policy in particular has supported demand. The government allowed automatic stabilizers to work in full and also implemented other stimulus measures, including a very popular car scrapping program last year. A short-term work program known as *Kurzarbeit [literally, "short work"] also helped limit the depth of the recession and will continue to provide substantial support for the economy in 2010.
IMF Survey online: What are the main risks to the outlook?
Kähkönen: There is a chance that the upswing will be stronger than currently foreseen, but the risks are predominantly on the downside. We see two main risks.
First, the demand for exports could be lower than expected. If growth in Germany’s partner countries, especially within Europe and, in particular, Southern Europe, were to fall short of expectations, this will be felt directly in Germany.
Second, we cannot exclude the possibility of a credit crunch. If there are further loan losses in the financial sector, this could constrain the lending capacity of banks, which in turn will impact growth.
IMF Survey online: In light of these risks, is Germany’s fiscal policy adequate?
Kähkönen: The government’s fiscal strategy, in our view, strikes the right balance between supporting the economy in the short term and planning to consolidate government finances once the recovery has taken hold.
The fiscal stimulus in Germany this year is among the largest in the Group of Seven economies (G-7). We think this is appropriate, given how fragile the recovery is. If the recovery turns out to be weaker or takes longer to materialize than we currently expect, the government might want to consider additional fiscal support.
But once private sector demand has become self-sustaining, as we project will happen in 2011, fiscal support should be withdrawn and consolidation started. Like other members of the European Union, the government must live to the requirements of the European Stability and Growth Pact, which stipulates that the general government deficit should be reduced to 3 percent of GDP--in Germany’s case, by 2013. On top of that, a new constitutional rule requires the structural federal government deficit be near zero by 2016. The government is firmly committed to meeting these targets.
We strongly support the medium-term commitment to sustainability—not only because it will be important for meeting the fiscal rules and preparing for the fiscal challenges of Germany’s aging population, but also because it is crucial for anchoring fiscal consolidation in the whole euro area. As has happened in the past, Germany’s fiscal actions could set an example for the rest of Europe.
To achieve these medium-term goals, the government needs to put in place concrete measures, starting in 2011. In our view, such measures should focus on reducing expenditure--international experience shows that consolidating expenditure is most effective when it comes to achieving a lasting reduction in government deficits. But revenue measures might also be needed. If that’s the case, we would propose broadening the value-added tax and income tax base, rather than simply increasing tax rates.
IMF Survey online: The labor market has held up remarkably well in Germany compared to other advanced economies. How much of that can be ascribed to the Kurzarbeit program?
Berger: Unemployment figures barely moved during the recession, which is quite remarkable. Some observers even talk of an employment miracle. Things can change, though. And while employment has held steadily, hourly work numbers have decreased quite substantially.
What we see is to a large extent the impact of past labor market reforms, which made labor markets more flexible. Today, collective bargaining agreements often include clauses that allow companies to adjust the amount of time worked, something which was used quite extensively during the recession.
But the Kurzarbeit program--essentially a government subsidy for short-time work--also played a very important role. At its peak, the program supported work time reductions for 1.5 million employees, a figure that amounts to about 3.5 percent of the total labor force. This is really quite an astonishing number.
The scheme is effective because it encouraged burden sharing between employers and employees and prevented unemployment. Research shows that prolonged unemployment does lasting damage to peoples’ skills sets. Thus, keeping people in the work force rather than laying them off is a major benefit of this program.
As we enter the recovery, the program should be adjusted so it does not hold back change in the labor market. The Kurzarbeit program was and is particularly popular in the export sector, which is still under considerable pressure. We don’t think that export growth will return to its pre-crisis exuberance and so more jobs will need to be created elsewhere in the economy, for instance in the service sector.
IMF Survey online: There are still lingering problems in the banking sector. What steps does the government need to take, both in terms of resolving left-over problems from the crisis, and in terms of laying the foundation for stronger banks in the future?
Berger: It’s fair to say that the German banking sector on the whole is healthier than it was during the early phase of the crisis. The improvement is due to the brighter economic outlook, substantial policy efforts, and government-backed restructuring.
But serious weaknesses remain, particularly in the larger public banks known as Landesbanken. These banks accumulated substantial losses during the crisis. Their problems come down to the fact that they lack a viable business model. Most of the banks are structurally unprofitable and tend to be excessive risk-takers, something which became clear during the crisis, when they were a drain on the public finances and a source of financial instability.
Some of the Landesbanken are already being restructured, but there is a strong need for more fundamental consolidation in the sector. The surviving banks should have effective governance, something most of them lack today. They should be privatized, with viable business models that are able to face the test of markets.
On a broader level, the government has taken a number of initiatives to improve the financial stability framework, based on lessons learned during the crisis.
First, the government is planning to consolidate all prudential banking supervision into Germany’s national central bank, the Bundesbank. This will help eliminate coordination and accountability issues under the current setup where these responsibilities are split between the Bundesbank and BAFin, the national financial sector supervisor. This will improve information flows, which is crucial, especially in a crisis environment, and decision making, which should become swifter and more efficient.
Second, we think there is scope to maximize efficiency gains if the Bundesbank’s prudential mandate is widened further to include the insurance sector. Traditionally, insurance and banking services are highly integrated markets in Germany, and regulation and oversight from a single source would clearly make sense.
Third, the government is planning to introduce a permanent resolution regime for systemically important banks. Temporary mechanisms were put in place during the crisis but a more permanent solution needs to be found. We think it might also make sense to extend the new permanent framework to include non-systemic banks. Whether a bank can have an impact on the entire financial system or not can change at a minute’s notice during a crisis, so including all banks would be helpful.
Finally, we would like to see more progress in the area of deposit insurance. Deposit insurance is highly fragmented in Germany, where different parts of the banking sector run their own schemes. This approach showed its weaknesses during the crisis. As an example, commercial banks, which also run their own deposit insurance scheme, needed government guaranties of 6.7 billion euros to cover losses during the crisis. For these reasons, a more unified fund for deposit insurance spanning the entire banking system would be a great improvement.
IMF Survey online: There is a lot of debate right now about the need for new growth models, in Europe and elsewhere. Germany has been criticized for relying too much on export-driven growth. What are your views?
Berger: There’s certainly a need to strengthen Germany’s growth potential and to repair the damage from the crisis to potential growth. But this is easier said than done. There are important reservoirs of growth in Germany’s labor and services markets. Employment protection is still fairly high in the country and the service sector clearly holds a large untapped growth potential. Simultaneous reforms in both areas promise sizable growth and employment gains in the medium term.
Reforms in these areas would not only unleash domestic growth potential in Germany, they would also reduce the country’s reliance on exports--a double growth dividend. On top of that, such reforms would also help reduce trade imbalances within Europe and globally.
What will not work is an attempt to achieve a rebalancing of growth by weakening Germany’s competitiveness--for example, through excessive wage growth. Such a strategy would only serve to hurt domestic German growth and would damage Europe’s competitiveness as well.
IMF Survey online: So in a nutshell, what are the IMF’s main recommendations for Germany?
Kähkönen: The main challenge for the government is to protect and nurture the fragile recovery while getting ready to roll back the support measures that were put in place during the crisis. This will require policy action in three main areas. First, we recommend short-term fiscal support combined with fiscal consolidation as soon as the recovery has taken hold. Second, the government should finalize the restructuring of the Landesbanken and lay the groundwork for a healthy and crisis-safe financial sector. And, finally, further reforms of the labor markets and the service sector would allow the economy to adjust to the post-crisis world and would promote greater domestic demand.
3/26-27/2010 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 (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Adios 37.5-Hour San Francisco Work Week, Hola 12 Furlough Days, by Joe Eskenazi, 3/26 SF Weekly via blogs.SFWeekly.com
[In the transition to homeostatic workweek management? - whatever!...as long as worktime per person (and spending power) is getting spread around.]
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced a tentative deal with the city's public employee unions that would kill his controversial plan to lay off some 17,000 city workers and rehire them at 37.5-hour work weeks. (No news yet on whether Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who read about Newsom's plan in the paper and pushed for it in Sin City, will drop the notion, too. Apparently, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas).
The tentative, two-year deal, which requires unions' approval of course, calls for a dozen furlough days instead of workers leaving half an hour earlier every day. This is seen as far more desirable -- and for just the reasons you'd expect.
"You get the full day off," Gus Vallejo, the IT workers' chapter president for Local 21 told SF Weekly earlier this month. "If you have to take off the time, you may as well take the time in one big chunk. And our membership is open to that; we've gotten feedback from them."
Back around St. Patrick's Day, Vallejo figured it might take at least "10 to 13" furlough days to start making a dent of the sort the mayor wanted to make. Pretty good calculation there, Gus.
- Rail dispute talks set to resume, 3/27 ThisIsLondon.co.uk
LONDON, England - Talks aimed at averting a crippling strike by thousands of rail workers will resume early next week as the Prime Minister voiced optimism that a row over jobs could be resolved.
Union leaders revealed they were drawing up a proposed framework for resolving disputes over plans by Network Rail (NR) to axe 1,500 maintenance jobs and change working practices.
The conciliation service Acas announced that talks between the Rail Maritime and Transport union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association and NR will take place from Monday.
The unions warned that the rail network will "effectively be shut down" by planned strike action between April 6-9, immediately after the Easter holidays. NR said it had been trying to convene new talks with the unions, adding it had not ruled out legal action to try to prevent the strike, which would be the first national walkout since a signal workers' dispute in 1994.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "We are drawing up a proposed framework for resolving the disputes which will be submitted to Acas in advance of getting back around the table for further talks with Network Rail. Our members remain rock solid in their support for these disputes and for the planned industrial action and are determined to secure a settlement which addresses all of the key issues."
The start of the planned strike by maintenance workers, signallers and supervisors on April 6 coincides with the day Gordon Brown is widely expected to announce that the general election is to be on May 6. Mr Brown said that the industrial action would be "unhelpful" and benefit neither side.
He told reporters at an EU summit in Brussels: "I hope there will be no rail strike. It would be unhelpful for everybody if there was a strike. I think it is possible to see a way forward on this. I believe that nobody wants to lose the services, particularly in April."
The row is over plans to cut 1,500 maintenance jobs and change existing working practices which would see more work carried out in the evenings and weekends. The unions claim the move would hit safety - a claim strongly denied by the company. NR said it hoped to achieve the vast majority of the 1,500 job losses through voluntary redundancy.
A spokesman for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: "Train companies are working closely with Network Rail to make sure that, if a strike takes place, as many trains as possible run and disruption is kept to a minimum. We would recommend that passengers check the National Rail Enquiries website for the latest information."
Revised timetables for the days of the strike are expected to be available from Thursday.
[5th of 7] No rail worker wants to strike and most will be sorry that this affects the travelling public. It’s very unfortunate that it has come to an all out strike.
Hopefully NR will come back and actually talk rather than dictate. There have been many lies told and this is just making workers more determined to take a stand. Enough is enough the railway has been relying on Good Will for too long and all these issues could have easily been resolved
Workers don’t want to work purely nights and weekend nights at that. Safe systems of work are required and changes that lessen a workers safety should not be forced on them. Train Warning systems like LOWS which staff use to warn of oncoming trains are known to have wrong side failure modes and confidence in their use has all but ran out.
Supervisors and Managers consistently work 60 plus hours for no extra when contracted to a 35 hour week. Most do so because of pressure and also to keep the railway going [and possibly because of the general labor surplus fostered by a "full time" workweek frozen for decades despite incessant waves of technological efficiency].
[So slavery is back in England after (2010-1824= )186 years.]
Most will accept change is needed and know that working practises can be improved but for such changes to be sustainable they to be small step changes rather than lets hit the brakes and simply stop doing maintenance and lean on people to get maintenance signed off.
The question I ask is can inspections and maintenance really be carried out effectively and consistently when performed by fatigued staff working unsociable hours when using torch light?
NR’s HR director sits on ACAS so it was no surprise the latest talks fail
- Northern Rail Worker, Manchester, Greater Manchester
- LHC announces new working hours, 3/27 (3/28) The Nation, Pakistan
LAHORE, Pakistan – The Lahore High Court has announced new working hours for High Court, Civil Courts and Session Courts with effect from April 1.
According to the notification issued by Additional Registrar (Finance) here on Saturday, High Court including principal seat and benches will work from 8:00am to 1:30pm with half an hour interval from Monday to Thursday. Whereas on Friday the court timings will be 8:00am to 12:30pm and there will be no court sittings on Saturday unless a judge decides otherwise as the day is reserved for dictating judgments. The civil and session courts will work from 8:00am to 3:30pm from Monday to Thursday and Saturday with half an hour interval and on Friday the courts timings will be 8:00am to 12:30pm. Courts in Murree will work from 9:00am to 4:00pm with half an hour interval and on Friday the courts timings will be 9:00am to 1:00pm.
3/24-25/2010 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Judge Halts Furloughs for California State Lawyers, by Kate Moser, 3/25 The Recorder via Law.com
ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. - Thousands of California state attorneys and administrative law judges will go back to a full 40-hour workweek in April after an Alameda County Superior Court judge handed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a setback in his furlough plan Wednesday.
Patrick Whalen, general counsel for the labor union that represents attorneys employed by more than 80 state departments, agencies and boards, said Judge Frank Roesch's order affects about 2,400 of its members. The order also affects members of two other plaintiff unions, and will touch 68 of the state's special fund departments.
Roesch had originally ordered the state last month to discontinue the furloughs, but that ruling was automatically stayed when the governor appealed. Wednesday's order lifted the automatic stay so that the furloughs will stop immediately. It takes effect before the next planned furlough day, April 2.
However, Roesch declined to lift the stay on another part of his February ruling, which had awarded back pay with interest to the furloughed workers.
The affected employees have been furloughed since February 2009 for three days a month.
"It's going to stop the furloughs going forward, so everyone's going to get the 14 percent increase in pay," Whalen said. "That's huge for our members who have been struggling for more than a year."
Felix de la Torre, the attorney for plaintiff Service Employees International Union Local 1000, noted that the judge also said the furloughs have an impact on the public.
"California taxpayers will suffer irreparable harm if the appeal operates as a stay because the taxpayers will continue to lose the benefit of these employees' work for the respondent agencies while still being required by the court's judgment to pay wages for those days that the employees are improperly furloughed," Roesch wrote in his order (PDF) in Service Employees International Union Local 1000 v. Schwarzenegger, RG09456750.
"We disagree with the court's decision to stop the furloughs going forward and we will file a writ of supersedeas with the First District Court of Appeal," a spokeswoman for the governor said.
- Battle joined on EU working hours, by Stanley Pignal, 3/24 Financial Times via ft.com
BRUSSELS, E.U. - The opening salvo in a battle towards a European Union-wide agreement on capping working hours was delivered Wednesday, setting the scene for negotiations likely to take several years with no guarantee of reaching a conclusive outcome.
The working-time directive has been a feature of the Brussels landscape for 20 years, pitting the “social Europe” model mooted by France and Germany on one hand, against sceptical Britons and northern Europeans on the other.
A five-year negotiation on abolishing the opt-out culminated in acrimonious failure last spring. Now the European Commission is launching a new bargaining round, starting with a consultation of trade unions and employers on Thursday.
“There is still a fundamental rationale from a health and safety point of view in limiting working hours,” said Laszlo Andor, the European Commissioner for social affairs.
He stressed that the formal proposal – expected later this year – would aim to eschew the divisive, dogmatic stances that caused the failure of the previous proposed reforms.
That could mean a sector-by-sector approach, perhaps excluding the most contentious professions from the proposal, such as doctors and lorry drivers.
EU-wide rules agreed in 1993 nominally limit the working week to 48 hours, but most member states choose to opt out of the rules for at least some industrial sectors.
“It needs to be understood how the world of work has changed in the last 20 years,” Mr Andor said. “We need a new dialogue.”
Unions and employers are being asked to deliberate on what their priorities are, and could even agree to negotiate with each other to find a compromise that the Commission would endorse. The matter would then have to be agreed by the European Parliament and national governments.
Any high-profile push to limit working hours in the coming months would likely become a feature of the upcoming British general election, expected in early May. Mr Andor said he had held meetings with Ken Clarke, the Conservatives’ point man on business matters, as well as with incumbent Labour ministers.
The UK government said: "We have said consistently that we will not give up the opt-out from the working-time directive which gives people choice over their working hours ... The Commission's consultation document is the first stage of a very long process, and it does not suggest that the future of the opt-out is in question.”
Brussels is also currently considering a proposal to extend rights to pregnant workers and may opt for compulsory paternity leave if some left-leaning members of the European parliament get their way.
Social policy tends to be the preserve of national governments, but the EU has legislated on working hours on health and safety grounds. A revision to the current 1993 directive is necessary because a court ruling decreed “on-call” time should be counted in working hours pushed most EU members to opt out of the entire regulation.
3/21-22-23/2010 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 (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Stimulus Dollars Get People Back to Work, by Trevor Blair, 3/23 San Diego News Network via SDNN/com
The San Diego Workforce Partnership funds job training programs across the county. An exciting component of this work is “on the job training” (OJT), an effective way for employers to hire San Diego residents! – Rebecca Smith, Vice President, San Diego Workforce Partnership
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Of the $787 billion approved for economic recovery, $4 billion were earmarked for America’s workforce development system. That money went towards a wide range of initiatives, from job retraining to unemployment benefits for displaced workers.
One of the most exciting programs funded by the $4 billion earmark is the On-the-Job Training (OJT) program here in San Diego County. The concept is straightforward: use the Recovery Act money to help both employers and job seekers simultaneously.
The OJT program was created by the San Diego Workforce Partnership, a public agency created under a Joint Powers Agreement by the City and County of San Diego. The Workforce Partnership is charged with deploying state and federal workforce development funds across the County.
To make the program a success, the Partnership needed to team up with an organization experienced in workforce development, job placement and with strong ties to the local business community. After a competitive bidding program late last year, Manpower was selected as one of the main partners to administer and distribute this program on behalf of the Partnership.
What does this mean for San Diego-area employers? Almost any organization can access these funds to offset hiring and training costs for virtually any position. Manpower works with the OneStop career center network to recruit candidates that meet the employer’s requirements. The employer interviews and makes their hiring selection, and the candidate commences work as a direct employee of the organization. At the completion of their training, the employer receives a reimbursement for 50 percent of the wage costs incurred while the new hire was training.
“For many employers I work with, it seems almost too good to be true at first”, explains Trevor Blair, the OJT Program Manager for Manpower. “I’ve spoken with a number of companies who find it hard to believe that this money is available to them so quickly and with so little hassle. Manpower not only finds the candidates, we also handle all the paperwork. It saves businesses the time, headache, and expense of recruiting and hiring, with the added bonus of the training reimbursement.”
For small businesses, the reimbursement can really have a large impact. Most companies receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $4,000 per new hire. And more importantly Blair explains, “this isn’t a tax credit, it’s cash back just 30 days after the completion of training, so it really helps businesses from a cash flow perspective”.
The position must be at least 32 hours a week, and at least 6 months in duration. Companies doing business in nearby counties are also eligible, provided the candidates they hire are San Diego County residents. The starting wage must be a minimum of $10 with benefits, or $11.58 without, although the starting salary can be lower, provided there is a clear path for advancement.
[So not even the gov't stimulus is foolish enough to try to fill a 40-hour workweek with makework in the Robotics Age.]
In the spirit of the Recovery Act, this money needs to be distributed quickly. “If employers don’t take advantage of this funding opportunity by the end of September, the Federal Government is obligated to take the funds back. Our job is to keep this money in San Diego to help our business and our jobseekers”, said Blair.
There is absolutely no cost to participate, the program is open to virtually any organization, and there is no limit to the number of hiring reimbursements.
Contact Trevor Blair, Business Development Manager at Manpower for more information at (619) 699 1213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Labor group slams Newsom over shortened work week plan, posted by Heather Knight, 3/23 San Francisco Chronicle (blog) via sfgate.com
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The anger over Mayor Gavin Newsom's plan to lay off 17,000 city workers and rehire most of them to work 37.5 hours a week instead of 40 has spilled outside the borders of San Francisco - and could have ramifications for his lieutenant governor bid.
The Public Employees Union Local One - which represents more than 15,000 public employees around Northern California, but none in San Francisco - has sent Newsom a letter calling his plan a "slap in the face" to organized labor.
"We have come to expect unilateral approaches from the worst of union busting employers," reads part of the letter. "We never expected it from the Mayor of San Francisco."
The union's board of directors has deemed Newsom ineligible for the group's endorsement in the lieutenant governor's race if his plan is carried forth. It is encouraging other labor groups to do the same.
Newsom, who has been in ongoing meetings with San Francisco labor groups to come up with alternatives, said he didn't know anything about the letter.
"Here I am trying to save jobs and keep them employed, and they're criticizing that," he said, adding he has the backing of plenty of labor groups.
[Half the labor movement has always been suicidal. That's why they're down to 13% of the workforce, mostly public-sector.]
But Newsom's l.g. bid got some good news this week. New campaign finance reports show that between Jan. 1 and March 17, Janice Hahn, Newsom's competitor for the Democratic nomination, raised $106,515. Newsom has raised $267,218 since entering the race.
"It's not bad for six days of work," Newsom boasted.
P.S. Newsom said he was invited to be one of 200 guests at President Obama's White House signing of the health care bill today, but had to decline to meet with labor groups.
UPDATE: Jeff Gillenkirk, an adviser to the labor team meeting with Newsom, called to say the Public Employees Union Local One doesn't speak for it.
"They're weighing in with their own opinion, but the people who are at the table are finding it very constructive and very productive," he said. Both sides are due to sit down for several hours Wednesday.
- Europe's Stragglers Find Villain: Germany's Competitiveness, by Brian Blackstone, 3/21 Wall Street Journal via online.wsj.com
FRANKFURT, Germany—Greece and Europe's other intensive-care economies face a threat that can't be solved by cutting public spending or raising taxes: a loss of competitiveness.
And in the eyes of those struggling economies, the villain is Germany—the euro zone's largest economy—which has emerged in recent years as the region's most competitive. By raising the competitive bar, Germany makes it that much harder for its neighbors to compete to sell their goods and services at home and abroad, a factor that in turn affects their ability to grow out of their current debt-laden holes.
To be sure, German wages are high [and therefore, so is their domestic consumption per capita and their domestic markets], but even higher productivity means it is relatively cheaper to hire workers and produce high-value manufactured products there, even compared with traditionally lower-cost [verging on Third-World] Greece, Portugal or Spain.
[Oh yeah, these commentators would just LOVE to live in the Third World!]
"Competitiveness is the key issue in the whole debate" over state finances, says Peter Jungen, chairman of Peter Jungen Holding GmbH, a company that invests in start-ups, and chairman of Columbia University's Center on Capitalism and Society.
France's finance minister, Christine Lagarde, caused a stir in Europe last week by openly questioning Germany's export-dependent growth model, and suggested it consider policies to spur domestic demand.
[But that's exactly what Kurzarbeit is, and does. Look and see. Look and see these envious rivals trying to spin Germany's strengths as weaknesses. Better they shut up and imitate.]
"Clearly Germany has done an awfully good job in the last 10 years or so, improving competitiveness, putting very high pressure on its labor costs...I'm not sure it is a sustainable model for the long term and for the whole of the group," she said in an interview with the Financial Times.
By keeping a lid on labor-cost growth, Germany's exports are able to compete on price despite a high euro. But that comes at the expense of market share for others in the euro zone, critics say. Whereas Germany rang up a €136 billion, or about $185 billion, trade surplus last year, Spain, Greece and Portugal all ran sizable deficits.
Germany countered swiftly. Economics Minister Rainer Bruederle called it unfair that Germany was criticized when other countries had "lived beyond their means and neglected their competitiveness."
There are three ways for countries to make their products attractive globally: rein in labor cost growth; improve productivity; and devalue currencies. The last option isn't available to the euro zone, which has a single currency that is, by most measures, still overvalued. The first two, though helpful over time, imply economic pain for years.
Germany has already suffered through that process. Faced with the tech-bubble collapse a decade ago and low-cost competition from Eastern Europe—and tagged as Europe's "sick man" in the early 2000s—German industry trimmed wage growth while the government enacted tough policies aimed at getting people off long-term unemployment.
It paid off. According to the European Commission, since monetary union in 1999, unit labor costs in Germany have fallen about 15%. They rose 3.5% in Greece over the same time period, 10% in Spain and 13% in Ireland and Portugal.
That doesn't mean German workers come cheap. Their manufacturing wages and benefits are among the highest in Europe, at about €34 an hour, according to the Institute for the German Economy in Cologne. Greece's are half that; Portugal's even lower. But those countries still lost ground because productivity in Germany rose more quickly than in much of Southern Europe. That means German companies could produce more for less.
"You have to align your wages to productivity gains," said Michael Heise, chief economist at Allianz SE.
Europe's fringe has to do much more than restrain labor costs, economists say. Spain needs to find new sources of growth to replace the housing bubble that drove growth—unsustainably, in hindsight—over the last decade. Ireland will have to make do with smaller contributions from real estate and finance. Greece must cut the size and salaries of its public sector.
Until that happens, growth will be very slow, as evidenced by sharply higher unemployment in all three countries.
That has a big effect on state budgets. Spending cuts and tax increases, especially by Ireland and Greece, have been heartily endorsed by European officials. The aim is to bring double-digit deficits as a share of GDP to less than the EU's 3% limit in just three years. There is just one problem: They won't do much good unless economies are growing, bringing in tax revenue and easing pressure on social spending.
"If countries are not competitive enough and cannot devalue their currencies, economic growth declines, and so does the ability to bring their fiscal houses in order," said Nicolaus Heinen, an economist at Deutsche Bank Research.
That risk is even more acute if economic growth plus inflation—or nominal GDP—doesn't keep pace with interest rates governments must pay on their debt, a particular problem for Greece given the high premium Athens must pay to sell its bonds.
Germany isn't making things any easier. The metalworkers union IG Metall recently accepted a new contract with very low wage growth to protect jobs, an indication Germany is doing all it can to maintain its cost edge.
"It's good for German exports, but the flip side is Greece and Ireland and Spain have to do even more in terms of labor-cost deflation to catch up," said ING Bank economist Carsten Brzeski.
To be sure, even Germany's economy faces some headwinds. Productivity fell almost 5% in 2009 as employment stayed high in the face of a big output drop. In contrast, productivity in the U.S. and China, two big competitors in the global market for high-value manufactured goods, is rising.
Meanwhile, Germany's politically popular job-support measure, known as Kurzarbeit, may turn out to be a major drag on competitiveness. Under that program, Berlin picks up the tab for some of workers' wage and social-insurance costs, keeping them in their jobs. But it prevents resources [human?] from being moved from one sector to another [no more than prosperous times do]. "We're buying social peace but we're facing a future loss of innovation," said Mr. Jungen.
[Worksaving innovation plus downsizing is what caused the recession. If you're not going to timesize and keep your workforce and your markets in response to innovation, the innovation is just going to kill you.]
- Global experience - Germany’s loyal workforce, by James Wilson and Sarah Murray, 3/22 Financial Times via ft.com
Companies like to think they are about more than profit, says James Wilson.
Seen from outside, many aspects of Germany’s corporate life seem to suggest a well-motivated and engaged workforce. This is the home of Mitbestimmung, or co-determination, through which employees have a formal voice in the boardroom – on the face of it, a helpful way of aligning the interests of staff and employers.
A long-term attitude also prevails. German companies like to think they are less driven by the next quarterly results statement than their profit-hungry peers in the UK or US – less likely to hire and fire, and more able to build a loyal workforce.
“Germany is still a country where more time is taken to think about long-term goals and strategy, where companies are more patient,” says Heike Ballhausen, head of data survey and technology at Towers Watson, the consultancy, in Germany.
But if these are factors in engaging staff, they are not immediately apparent from workplace surveys. Towers Watson finds lower engagement in the German workforce than in the US, though it is in line with the European average. Gallup, another company involved in measuring employee attitudes, says employee disengagement “plagues” Germany.
Working against employee engagement may be another often-noted facet of German corporate life: its hierarchical nature. Companies are often more rigidly structured than in the US or UK.
Marco Nink, a strategic consultant at Gallup in Germany, says management appointments rely more on seniority than merit. He observes that a big impediment to better employee engagement is the ability of managers to get the best out of staff.
“Germans are very process driven, and what is often overlooked is the human factor,” he says. “There is not enough training about leadership.”
During the economic crisis, a long-term attitude has been reflected in the pacts German companies have struck with workers to protect jobs. Even in a country where job guarantees are frequent, the pledge by Daimler, the carmaker, to preserve employment levels at its main German plant for the next decade was remarkable.
There has also been the widespread use of Kurzarbeit, or short-term working, subsidised by the state, as an alternative to layoffs. It is credited with helping to forge a spirit of common endeavour at many companies.
John Gibbons, director of employee engagement at Conference Board, a not-for-profit organisation that researches management issues, says of Kurzarbeit: “If employees see it as an affirmative effort to keep jobs, showing that everyone is making sacrifices, then it is a very positive thing. If it is seen as punitive, then it becomes different.”
Ms Ballhausen believes German companies have been innovative in keeping workers engaged during the crisis, compared with the early part of the previous decade when the technology bubble burst and Germany was also in recession.
“Then, we saw levels of engagement decrease and signs of employee frustration,” she says. “This time ... engagement levels have been quite stable. It seems companies’ senior management have been able to show employees they are concerned for their wellbeing. By making use of things such as Kurzarbeit, or buying holiday time, they got a message across that ‘we will take care of you’.
“Companies have shown creativity in rewarding employees at a time when salary increases have been difficult. They have instead helped people’s career perspectives with better training and so on. They should reap the rewards in terms of more engagement.”
Germans understand the importance of an engaged workforce, which Ms Ballhausen partly attributes to the growing internationalisation and diversity of the corporate world.
Take Allianz. The Munich-based group – Europe’s biggest insurer – began offering an employee engagement survey in 2006, and will run a mandatory global survey for all its operating companies next year. Almost 30,000 employees received the survey in 2009, and 79 per cent responded.
Allianz uses a key measure of customer satisfaction – a “net promoter score”, showing the balance of customers who would recommend the company – to help foster employee engagement. Employees’ scores are ranked, and customers are put in touch with staff to discuss their opinions.
“We have indications that those of our operating companies that are really active in using net promoter scores do have better levels of employee engagement,” says Joe Gross, Allianz’s head of group market management. “There is nothing that motivates you more than having a customer tell you something directly.”
Allianz says the credit crisis does not seem to have had a negative impact on engagement. “What we could also see in the surveys was a huge number of positive comments on how effectively top management dealt with the crisis,” it says. “It certainly helped that we paid more attention to the topics of leadership and employee engagement over the past few years.”
While many factors that drive employee engagement cut across borders, Mr Gibbons says Conference Board’s research shows Germans are motivated to an unusual degree by what he calls “economic security” – whether their job enables them to meet their financial obligations.
Another key factor in Germany is loyalty towards employers. Towers Watson’s research shows almost half of German employees have no thought of changing employers – much lower than in the US or elsewhere in Europe.
Contributing to loyalty might be Germany’s large number of family-owned companies. Ms Ballhausen says: “For employees, knowing that senior leaders are interested in the wellbeing of employees is one of the most important factors. Family owners can often more successfully get the message across that they care about employees.”
With consultants expecting economic recovery to bring with it a rapid workforce churn – as employees take advantage of better times to seek new opportunities – Germany’s relative workforce stability may be a useful competitive tool.
The American way
In the US, downsizing can boost engagement, writes Sarah Murray.
[LOL! Off we go on another whopper. Let's downsize everyone, then, and maximize employee 'engagement' and loyalty!]
With unemployment figures stubbornly high in the US, many Americans are wishing they had a job, rather than worrying whether an employer is doing enough to engage them. But among those in work, subtle differences from the rest of the world emerge when it comes to the factors that drive executives.
Some of these differences relate to the recession. For a start, companies have recognised the need to communicate more regularly and honestly with their employees. They are doing so using anything from town-hall meetings of employees to question-and-answer sessions with top management.
“This unscripted, ongoing internal communication is something we’ve seen many companies do,” says Michal Kalinowski, chief executive of Universum, a Swedish strategy consultancy that produces a global ranking of attractive employers. “You see that used in Europe as well, but the biggest difference over the past two years, and where it’s been used most intensively, is in the US.”
In countries where labour laws are weaker, employees tend to want to boost their employability. If they can do so through training and development, so much the better.
“It’s the thought that learning and advancement should not just equip people for this job or the next, but also with a broader set of skills for their career over time,” says Bridget van Kralingen, general manager of sales and distribution for North America at IBM. “That’s a key value.”
In its 2009 ranking, Universum found that among engineering students, by far the largest proportion (almost 72 per cent) put professional training and development at the top of the list of what they would look for in their ideal job. Globally, far fewer students – roughly 46 per cent – placed this attribute at the top of the list.
Paradoxically, downsizing – or at least the way in which it is conducted – can prove a driver of employee engagement, particularly in the US, where companies have been able to use performance management as a tool during streamlining and restructuring programmes.
[Sure sure - and btw, I got a nice bridge to sell ya. Trust Yankophiles to come up with a spin that glorifies amputating your own economy. Hey, just like the Civil War! Gotta problem? AMPUTATE it, sick or not! Or medieval bleeding, the American panacea.]
“The less restrictive ability to conduct performance management more rigorously and transparently – and therefore generate a sense of equity around restructuring – has been an advantage for the US,” says Michael Shanahan, a senior partner in the Boston Consulting Group’s head office.
He says surveys the group conducted during and after restructuring programmes found perceptions of a fair performance management process had a huge impact on employee engagement.
Performance management has another function that is valued by the US workforce – reward and recognition. This does not necessarily have to be expressed in monetary terms.
“Showcasing employees who have done something good is important,” says Mr Kalinowski. “That’s pretty unusual in Europe, and even less in Asia where it’s the group achievement that’s emphasised. But in the US over the past 18 months, we’ve seen several campaigns celebrating individual achievement.”
Among the companies Mr Kalinowski cites is Intel, the microchip maker, which has started referring to its notable employees as “rock stars” in ad campaigns. One such campaign features Alay Bhatt, co-inventor of the USB computer connection system, signing autographs as co-workers crowd round in awe.
As financial remuneration has been scaled back, US companies have looked for non-financial ways of engaging staff, such as underlining the connection between individual employees and the company’s values. “American companies take the issue of living the brand seriously,” says Mr Kalinowski.
Related to this is enthusiasm among US employees for volunteering and involvement in community projects. While many predicted the recession would see a reduction in commitments to sustainability and corporate responsibility, in the US this has not been the case – at least, among employees.
“Here, there’s a lot of bottom-up, community-based philanthropy. It’s not just top-down,” says Ms van Kralingen.
And while some might argue that European companies have moved faster when it comes to sustainability and corporate responsibility agendas, US employees’ appetite for volunteering comes from a tradition that is stronger in that country.
“There’s a philanthropic culture,” says Mr Kalinowski. “People want to take things into their own hands, and they use their employers to pull together the resources.”
3/19-20/2010 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 (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Putting It Back Together at Fastenal - Hardware distributor Fastenal--known for its strong management and steady growth--seems headed for a solid year as the economy rebounds, by Neil Martin, 3/20 Barron's via online.barrons.com
WINONA, Minn. - FEW COMPANIES ARE BETTER BAROMETERS of America's industrial economy than Fastenal, which supplies nuts and bolts, screws and clips, washers and caps and other products that keep the nation's industrial machine humming.
When its customers -- mainly manufacturers, contractors, auto makers and farmers, but also mom-and-pop hardware stores and big retail chains -- do well, so does Fastenal. But when their business falls, so does that of the Winona, Minn., concern, which has $2 billion in annual sales. "We tend to mirror the economy," says CEO Will Oberton. "When our customers are hurting, we feel their pain."
That was certainly true in 2009. Hammered by the recession, Fastenal suffered one the worst showings in its 43-year history. Sales tanked 17.5%, to $1.9 billion from $2.3 billion a year earlier, while profit plunged 34.1%, to $184 million -- about $100 million less than in the previous year. Per-share net fell to $1.24 from $1.88 in 2008. Operating-profit margins slid below their usual 50%-plus level. Says Oberton: "We were always able to grow though previous economic slumps, but not this one, not at least last year."
THE COMPANY INITIATED TOUGH cost controls, pared its workforce 12%, cut hours for remaining employees and slowed the pace of store openings. Only 69 opened last year, versus 161 in 2008; Fastenal has more than 2,300 stores nationwide. In addition, Oberton agreed to keep his salary, one of the industry's lowest, unchanged at $475,000 -- just as he had done the previous year -- and took no bonus or exercised any options. "If you don't grow your product, you shouldn't get a bonus," he says. "We maintain a culture of everybody being treated equally, from top down. I don't even have a parking spot with my name on it. I don't have any perks that any other full-timer doesn't have."
The measures appear to be helping. Fastenal reported daily revenue increases of 2.4% in January and 4.4% in February, its first year-over-year sales gains since November 2008. "We are very confident that we will see double-digit sales growth in the second quarter," Oberton says. "We also expect new-store openings will pick up and return to their historic rate of 7% to 10% by the second half of 2010."
While two months don't make a year, the signs are encouraging. "We think things are starting to return to normal," says Holden Lewis, an analyst with BB&T Capital Markets in Richmond, Va. "We're starting to see a pickup in manufacturing, which bodes well for Fastenal. The company seems headed for a solid year."
Lewis has a Buy rating on Fastenal, with a 12-month price target of $54. He sees sales rising 12%, to $2.2 billion, in 2010 and earnings climbing 25% to $1.55 a share. (The Wall Street consensus is $2.13 billion and $1.52.) He expects $1.90 a share in 2011 and $2.20 in 2012.
Michael W. Jaffe, a Standard & Poor's analyst in New York, says the stock could reach 57 in 12 months. He notes that, based on his profit estimates, the shares (ticker: FAST) have been trading at a 2010 price-earnings ratio of 30. That is a big premium to the S&P 500's 15, but around the mid-range of Fastenal's average premium over the past decade. Investors have paid up for Fastenal because of its strong growth record, simple business and solid management. "If you are looking for an economically sensitive company that's very well run and believe the economy is improving, it is a good time to buy," he asserts.
FASTENAL'S SOLID BALANCE SHEET is another big plus. The company has $195 million, or $1.32 a share, in cash and no debt. It pays a dividend that currently produces a 1.7% yield.
Established in 1967 with the idea of distributing nuts and bolts through vending machines, Fastenal quickly shifted to a model that puts company-owned stores in key areas of its regional markets. These are supplied by a dozen or so distribution centers around the country. Today, Fastenal has about 8% of the highly fragmented $12 billion U.S. fastener market. It imports most of its wares from Asia, Latin America and Europe. Fastenal sells 750,000 products, including, drills and bits, abrasives and grinding materials. "It's pretty boring stuff, but we make a lot of money selling it, and that's not boring," Oberton observes.
The Bottom Line
Fastenal was hard-hit by the recession, but the past two months have shown encouraging signs of a pickup. Analysts think the stock, now at 47, could hit 54 to 57 in a year.
Mark Seferovich, a portfolio manager with investment advisor Waddell & Reed in Overland Park, Kan., owned Fastenal shares for many years when he ran a small-cap fund. (He now oversees an emerging-market portfolio). He says that one of the manufacturer's big advantages is good service -- "customer service is embedded in the company's culture."
Over the past five years, Fastenal has spent $250 million to add stores and technology, expand its product line and establish a presence in China, Singapore and Malaysia. Despite the U.S. economy's ongoing struggles, Oberton sounds confident: "Even if manufacturing continues to contract, there's a huge service industry out there that needs many of the same nuts and bolts and fastener products used by [manufacturers.] It represents a very large opportunity for us." And for investors, too.
E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lufthansa Cargo Eyes 2010 Profit - Airline to re-activate two idled freighters as cargo volume rises, by Bruce Barnard, 3/19 The Journal of Commerce Online via joc.com
FRANKFURT, Germany - Lufthansa Cargo could return to operating profit in 2010 after a record loss in 2009 if the steep increase in freight volume in the opening months continues through the year, the airline said.
Europe’s largest air cargo airline also said it will suspend short time work for ground staff during April and May and will end it permanently in September “should the upturn continue.” Short time work was introduced in March 2009.
“Ongoing market developments are giving rise to a degree of optimism for 2010,” said Lufthansa Cargo chairman and CEO Carsten Spohr.
“The crisis has bottomed out and demand is rising steeply. We are experiencing a marked upswing, especially in Asia,” Spohr said.
Earlier in the month when it announced a record $234 million operating loss in 2009, Lufthansa Cargo had said it was aiming to return to profit by 2011 at the latest.
“If the dynamics of the market continue, then we could already reach that target in 2010,” Spohr said at the company’s annual press conference.
Lufthansa carried 9 percent more cargo in February than a year ago following an 18.6 percent year-on-year increase in January.
Lufthansa Cargo said it is preparing to re-activate two of its four idled MD-11 freighters in response to growing cargo demand and can bring back the other two at short notice.
“Our goal is to eventually fly with a full fleet of 19 [MD-11] planes again,” Spohr said.
The carrier stressed it would continue to pursue cost savings.” Discontinuation of short time [work] does not mean that the company is abandoning its rigorous savings policy,” said Peter Gerber, Board member Finance and Human Resources.
“The air freight industry has lost four years of growth in the crisis. Cost discipline will, therefore, remain essential for success in the present year,” Gerber said.
Lufthansa Cargo plans to cut unit costs by 10 percent by trimming its payroll and improving processes, Gerber said.
“At the same time, Lufthansa Cargo will be seeking to raise earnings by a minimum of 20 percent,” he added.
The airline recently announced it will cut its worldwide staff by 10 percent, or some 450 jobs.
Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.
3/17-18/2010 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Senate OKs jobless fund changes, by Bob Sanders, 3/17 New Hampshire Business Review via nhbr.com
CONCORD, N.H. - The New Hampshire Senate on Wednesday passed without debate Gov. John Lynch’s unemployment fund reform plan, pretty much as he proposed as part of the New Hampshire Working plan he unveiled earlier this year.
As proposed, the program would allow alternative delivery of unemployment compensation money to encourage workers to “stay at work, return to work, and get ready to work,” as described by Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-Exeter, echoing Lynch’s rhetoric in introducing the bill.
Senate Bill 501 mainly focuses on the “worksharing” aspects of Lynch’s proposal. They allow workers who have had their hours cut from 10 to 50 percent to collect partial benefits, if the employer certifies that the reduction was done in lieu of layoffs.
The plan also envisions workers being able to collect benefits while engaged in up to six weeks of on-the-job training. That plan is not spelled out in the bill, but the bill does double the money available for such training to $2 million.
- Jobs Debate Comes Amid Troubling Economic Forecasts, by Norman Ornstein, 3/17 RollCall.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Weird as it is to write this, we are nearing the stretch run for health care reform. When it is finally past us — I share in the assessment of Intrade, the online market, that there is a much better-than-even chance of enactment — Congress will turn its attention back to the many other issues still on the plate.
Some have not yet been resolved, such as climate change, immigration and financial regulation. Others are on the road to refinement, like No Child Left Behind. Then there is the issue that has received a lot of attention and a lot of legislation but will continue to command even more attention and legislation for the foreseeable future: jobs.
It is of course not surprising that jobs is the big domestic issue of our time. Official unemployment remains stubbornly high at 9.7 percent and could easily move back into double digits. Real unemployment is much higher, since the official rate does not include people who have stopped looking for jobs. The only time in our adult lifetimes that unemployment was higher was in the late fall of 1982, when it hit 10.8 percent.
Politically, Democrats might take a bit of comfort from that — since it was right around the time of Ronald Reagan’s first midterm, and his Republican Party took a hit but not a catastrophic one, losing 26 of the 33 House seats they had gained in 1980 and actually picking up one seat in the Senate. But the gloom that hit voters in 1982 was not as deep as it is now, partly because our sense of full employment back in the late 1970s and early 1980s was higher than in the past few years — more like 6 percent, compared with 3 percent to 4 percent of late — and the willingness to punish the president’s party might have been lessened by the divided government at that time.
Let’s look beyond the politics. There are much more worrisome trends. Those hardest hit by this recession are younger workers, especially those in the “career builder” stage of 25-34 and those even younger, and it’s worse still for African-Americans in those age ranges. For African-Americans overall, unemployment has been increasing faster than for other groups; for those without a high school diploma, it is currently at a staggering 21.3 percent. If unemployment rates stay high for a long time, and the equilibrium point is ratcheted up for a generation or more, the problems are especially severe for this generation.
Don Peck has a telling and troubling article in the March Atlantic about the social costs of a new jobless era. For young people, the failure to establish a track record of employment, or to use a job at an early age as a takeoff point to a career, can have debilitating and even catastrophic effects throughout a lifetime. Earnings a decade later are substantially lower than for those who stayed employed — and the lag lasts throughout their careers. He notes that research shows that “as much as two-thirds of real lifetime wage growth typically occurs in the first 10 years of a career.” Educated people unfortunate enough to emerge in the work force during tough times are much less likely at mid-career to work in professional occupations or more prestigious jobs, or to move from the jobs they have secured. And other studies show much higher rates of depression, stress and problems in physical health years later among those who did not work during their formative employment years.
Among African-Americans, Peck refers to work done by William Julius Wilson about the profound differences between neighborhoods in which people are poor but employed and those where people are poor and jobless. Wilson is not exactly optimistic these days.
Thus, the jobs issue transcends both politics and the immediate need to relieve pain for those families suffering from unemployment — it has consequences that can be frightening for the long-term future social fabric of America. But as we have seen, government attempts to create jobs or move quickly to reduce unemployment are not on the whole terribly powerful. Government can create temporary public-sector jobs, and given the numbers above, it might well want to go back and look at what worked in the New Deal and how it might be adapted now, especially if tied to a national service requirement for young people. But the big engine of job growth is the private sector, and most government policies to encourage job creation in the private sector don’t work very well.
There is one idea out there, however, pointed out to me by my American Enterprise Institute colleague Kevin Hassett in his Congressional testimony, that deserves both serious consideration and fast-track action. It is to adapt an idea taken from Germany called “Kurzabeit,” which means “short work” and refers to job-sharing [no, work-sharing - "job" implies a frozen 40-hour divvyup]. In Germany, Hassett notes, the policy “enables firms that face a temporary decrease in demand to avoid shedding employees by cutting hours instead. If hours and wages are reduced by 10 percent or more, the government pays workers 60 percent of their lost salary. This encourages firms to use across-the-board reductions of hours instead of layoffs.”
[Here we have an endorsement of worksharing from the rightwing American Enterprise Institute for those of you who still think it's socialist or the private preserve of the left. And he's even arguing for a bigger gov't contribution! (But then, Wall Street did just socialize itself with a huge govt bailout two years ago.)]
Hassett notes that this policy fits the preferences of companies that face substantial costs of hiring and training workers to replenish their work forces when the recession ends, and it makes keeping employees, even in the face of tough economic times, much more cost-effective. Many states have tried work-sharing programs, but they are not working very well because the government’s contribution is not large enough. Hassett’s research suggests that the benefits could be substantial while the costs, compared to many other jobs initiatives we have tried, would be relatively low. And since minorities and young workers are often the first ones laid off, this program could have major benefits in ameliorating some of the problems noted above.
If Kevin Hassett, a free-market conservative, can endorse this kind of government encouragement for job-sharing, there is little reason for it to face the same kind of partisan and ideological divide that we have seen with other attempts to deal with our economic problems. It ought to move near or to the top of the Congressional priority list as soon as health care mercifully moves from the to-do list to the checked list.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
- Employment myths cloud Social Trends survey, by Stephen Long, 3/18 ABC Online via abc.net.au
The idea that "work sharing" kept unemployment rates low during the Great Financial Crisis is a myth (photo caption)
CANBERRA, Australia - It was a case of "lies, damned lies and statistics," a happy headline, and a gullible media sucked in by the spin.
When the ABS released its latest Australian Social Trends survey, its media release was titled: "Part-time work cushioned Australia's economic downturn".
Correct, as far as it goes, and entirely unremarkable: that's old news and blindingly obvious from the employment figures released each month.
The significance of the Social Trends report is that it undercuts this happy story.
It reveals a far more complex picture of the impact of the economic slowdown on men, women, and young people.
It shows that, even in a downturn ranked by the Reserve Bank as one of the shallowest ever experienced here, young people fared badly.
The prospects for those in the youth labour market deteriorated markedly and the employment outlook for teenagers entering the labour force without qualifications became grim.
More than half of those who left school in 2008 without matriculating couldn't find a full-time job or a place in further study in 2009.
The share of people under 25 in the workforce fell by 5 percentage points during the latest downturn; a little less severe than the fall in youth employment during the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s but bad enough.
About a third of those people became unemployed.
A greater share simply dropped out of the labour force.
The result: a rise in the number of young people who are "disengaged" from work and formal education.
On the ABS figures, last year, in the wake of the slump in economic growth, almost one in five people under 25 were neither in full-time work or studying.
History shows that the jobs for young people that disappear during a downturn tend not to come back.
Men, the main breadwinners in most households, also suffered an erosion of full-time employment opportunities.
Part-time employment failed to offset the destruction of full-time employment for male workers and the shedding of full-time male jobs, a typical feature of recessions, led mainly to a rise in joblessness among men.
More than half of the decline in male full-time employment was accounted for by a rise in unemployment, and only around one-third by an increase in part-time employment.
The most feminised of industries was also hit hard.
In this supposed mildest of economic declines, jobs in the retail sector were slashed.
On the official estimate, 51,700 jobs were shed from the retail sector, a decline of about 4 per cent. Full-time jobs accounted for more than two thirds of that decline.
That's a significantly worse outcome for the retail sector than in the deep recession of 1990-91.
Imagine what would have happened were it not for the $10 billion cash handouts the Federal Government delivered in an effort to boost consumption.
And while a rise in part-time work did "cushion" the destruction of work during the downturn, the cushion was a lot thinner than in the last slowdown in 2001.
Back then, says the ABS, a rise in part-time work was a "defining feature" and more than half the fall in full-time employment was offset by a rise in part time work.
In contrast, in the latest downturn, "it was increasing unemployment, as well as growing part-time employment, that accounted for the bulk of the decline".
So why would the ABS headline its media release "Part-time work cushioned the downturn", and why would the media uncritically parrot this line (even, sadly, the ABC's flagship evening television news bulletin)?
Because it fits the mythology about how Australia rode out the GFC.
The myth is that the unemployment rate stayed pretty low primarily because of "work sharing".
This congenial narrative - told by the Government, the RBA, the employer groups and the market economists - explains the lower than feared unemployment rate as a product of win-win "flexibility".
Rather than lay people off, employers cut workers' hours, showing a combination of benevolence and far-sighted self-interest. Businesses had seen how hard it can be to get skilled labour during the boom years so wisely kept people on in the lean times.
Employees, showing good sense and "flexibility", agreed to accept short work-weeks in the hard times so they and their colleagues could keep their jobs.
Anyone with even a skerrick [Aussie slang?] of understanding about how labour markets work in the real world knows that this could only be part of the story.
Celebrated examples aside, as an over-arching explanation for the labour market outcomes during 2008-09, it's absurd.
Labour markets are heterogeneous. As demand slumped and fear reigned, alongside labour hording, there was job destruction - a complex patchwork of responses by firm and by industry.
The myth that's become conventional wisdom implies that the jobs that became part-time were the same jobs that were full-time beforehand, employing the same people.
A study of more than 6,500 workers by the Workplace Relations Centre at the University of Sydney highlights a very different dynamic.
It found that large numbers of employees lost their jobs and were re-employed on fewer hours with reduced pay and entitlements.
For many, the result was a shift from ongoing full-time employment to more precarious casual work.
The ABS Social Trends survey confirms that, in every economic downturn since the recession of the early 1990s, there's been a decline in full-time employment and a rise in part-time jobs.
Although the data in this survey sheds no light on the issue, we know from separate statistics and research that many of those part-time jobs are casual.
So it's likely that the latest downturn has continued a long-term structural trend - the "casualisation" of the labour market.
That trend was suppressed in Australia during the latter years of the long-boom when the unemployment rate had a four in front of it and there were shortages in skilled labour, but it remains the underlying dynamic.
It is, in part, the result of a business strategy designed to buffer companies from economic shocks.
Cut the share of "permanent" employees on the books, and you can tailor your labour usage to peaks and troughs in demand, and avoid having to pay redundancy when things turn sour.
Announcing its latest first half profit - a record $100 million - the retailer David Jones confirmed that a variation on this strategy was the key to its profits during the downturn.
DJ's chief executive Mark McInnes said the company hasn't employed a single full-time retail salesperson since 2004 - so it's been able to adjust the working hours of it store staff to match sales volumes.
That's a logical response, and it has certain spin-off macro-economic benefits: it's far better to have people under-employed than unemployed.
But it's a less congenial narrative than the story of "work sharing" and "flexibility".
Stephen Long is the ABC's Economics Correspondent.
3/14-15-16/2010 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 (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Cut Your Budget Without Cutting Off Your Staff, by Asa Aarons, NY1.com
ALBANY, N.Y. - To help avoid layoffs, the the Department of Labor is pushing its Shared-Work Program. NY1's Employment reporter Asa Aarons filed the following report.
In this, the age of the budget-slashing layoffs, there is bizarre irony at work. In many cases, businesses could have saved more by keeping the employee.
A study by Will Helmlinger of the Resource Development Group found that one $18,000-a-year service rep cost $58,000 to train and replace. Another analysis by the University of California at Berkeley found replacing one manager wound up costing 150 percent of his salary.
While this is certainly not true with all layoffs, it occurs enough to urge job decision makers to look for alternatives.
One may be as close as the New York State Labor Department.
The agency says its *Shared-Work Program saved thousands of jobs last year.
“Statewide, we have 2,300 businesses participating, of which of which there are 400 right here in New York City,” says John Moye of the DOL. “We saved 11,000 jobs in New York State and 1,100 in New York City and we expect to save even more in the year to come.”
Rather than lay off a worker to cut costs, an employer can reduce the hours of all or a select group of employees. Those workers can use the program to collect partial unemployment benefits to make up for the lost wages. The Shared-Work Program allows them to keep their health insurance, retirement, vacation pay, and other fringe benefits.
And, everyone keeps their jobs.
Some businesses say the program has been an absolute job saver.
*Matt Umanov Guitars in the West Village is one of the many using the Shared-Work Program. While Matt Umanov is one of the oldest music stores in the country, its industry stature didn’t save it from budget problems when retail took a downturn.
Bookeeper Jean Anastasil decided to turn to the DOL’s program.
“We didn't want to see any of our staff go because it’s a great staff, and in this market where would they find another job?” says Anastasil.
In all, six employees cut their hours enough and collected unemployment for that amount.
“It allowed us to keep everyone here working with benefits,” she says.
To enroll in the program, an employer must have at least five full-time (35-40 hours/week) employees. The company must have paid unemployment insurance taxes for at least a year before applying.
For more information, go to labor.ny.gov.
- Public sector told 'change working or run out of money' - Public services in Wales are facing cuts that will cause "considerable pain", according to an official report, 3/16 BBC News via news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales
WALES, United Kingdom - Gillian Body, the auditor general for Wales, said the NHS, councils and the police may need to cut staff hours and encourage part-time working.
She said services must work in "radically different ways" to face cuts of some £1.5bn.
Meanwhile, First Minister Carwyn Jones said the assembly government was going through its budget "line by line".
Mr Jones told AMs that the funding process "won't be easy and it won't be painless."
Ms Body's report warned that if organisations did not change, "they will simply run out of money".
Trade union Unison has warned against cutting staffing hours.
[They'd prefer cutting jobs and union members maybe? Honestly, only half the labor movement has ever grasped the fact that labor-surplus control via hourscuts (not job cuts!) is their power lever. Unless they wake up in the U.K., their membership and power will go down to 13% of the workforce as it has in the U.S.]
In her report, Ms Body wrote: "Public services are going to have to deal with major change very soon.
"Our experience suggests that public services tend to change incrementally over time. But if they carry on with business as usual, they will simply run out of money.
"Change will come one way or another. The challenge will be getting those changes right with good planning and timely decision-making."
The report says that as staff costs make up the bulk of most public services' spending, they will need to "identify novel ways of reducing their staffing bills".
These include flexible working, with reduced hours or moving from full-time to part-time work.
'Private sector solution'
Unison's head of local government in Wales, Dominic MacAskill , has warned against some of the suggested changes to working practice.
He said: "Transposing a private sector solution to the public sector is fraught with difficulty.
"The reason why the private sector went to short-time working and reduced hours was a reduction in demand for manufacturing goods etc.
"With the public sector the demand is high and increasing. For example, social care demographics show an increase in demand."
[Then get busy and pressure for higher graduated income taxes on the top brackets.]
Mr MacAskill said that while trade unions would be "happy to discuss any initiatives which reduce the necessity for redundancies", it would be misleading to suggest staffing costs could be reduced without cutting services.
Ms Body said public sector organisations must use evidence to prioritise services, moving resources away from non-priority areas.
She said just focusing on cutting costs without finding new ways of working would not be enough.
First Minister Carwyn Jones said the assembly government was going through its budget "line by line" as part of the process of preparing for the public spending downturn.
Mr Jones told AMs: "We are looking at a very tight budget indeed, we will have some very difficult decisions to take as a government, and I don't shy away from that.
"But I would expect the public in Wales to expect us to formulate a rationale as to why some areas are seen as important and should be preserved, and other areas are seen as areas that cannot receive funding for the next year or so... it won't be easy and it won't be painless."
Jonathan Morgan, chair of the public accounts committee, said: "With significant financial cuts on the way, public bodies cannot expect to muddle through by doing the same things with less money.
"If they are to provide citizens with good quality services they need to focus more attention on finding radical new ways of working.
The auditor general's report also said public services would need to collaborate more effectively.
It argues public organisations need to do more to manage sickness absence, which has fallen among assembly government and NHS employees, but remained "fairly static" in local government.
The figure of £1.5bn of cuts over three years is an estimate drawn from Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts, based on Treasury figures.
The actual figure could be higher if there is a so-called 'double dip' recession delaying recovery or if the UK government opts to pay off the national debt more quickly.
[This is not a double dip recession - this is a diagonally downward spiralling depression that will be bottomless and permanent until we reverse it by converting overtime into jobs and guaranteeing full employment, no matter how short a workweek it requires.]
3/12-13/2010 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- How to cut spending, help unemployed, by John Kasner, 3/13 LasVegasSun.com
LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Neither Democrats nor Republicans have a clue how to address the current budget and unemployment issues. As a result, Nevada has a 13 percent unemployment rate and government agencies are paying overtime.
To get Americans back to work and have our economy improving, the following steps should be taken:
1. Eliminate all overtime by government agencies.
2. Require hiring of full-time staff to cover overtime workload.
3. Reduce all government employees to a 32-hour workweek and adjust salaries and benefits to correspond to the amount of time worked. For elected officials, they work the same hours but take 20 percent pay cuts.
4. “Fill” the eight hours subtracted from the normal 40-hour workweek for government employees with people who are unemployed, as temporary employees, at rates that make more money than unemployment pay but are less than existing government positions.
5. The temporary assignments should be no more than 24 hours per week, so these individuals can find other work.
6. If the unemployed refuse multiple assignments, then unemployment pay would be cut off.
The benefits of these actions are that people are working, earning more income, building esteem and keeping good work habits. The government cuts down on labor and unemployment benefit costs.
- Pearce carries Missouri jobless bill to law, by Jack Miles, 3/12 Daily Star-Journal,Warrensburg,MO via LakeExpo.com
WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- Unemployed Missourians will benefit from House Bill 1544, the first bill signed into law this year by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, carried the bill in the Senate.
"It provides for extended unemployment benefits for Missourians," Pearce said, "provided that the federal government pays for 100 percent of those benefits."
If the federal government does not provide the funds, he said, Missouri businesses do not have to cover the difference.
Missouri's jobless rate tops 8.5 percent. The Missouri Department of Labor estimates the program will provide extended benefits up to 20 weeks and support up to 4,000 people.
"As this economy begins to recover, we must give unemployed Missourians the tools to get back to work, while giving businesses the recourses to keep Missourians employed," said Nixon in a prepared statement. "This bipartisan legislation will help put Missourians back to work and save thousands of good-paying Missouri jobs. I appreciate the legislature's prompt action on this important issue."
Under the program, a business can reduce an employee's hours, allowing the worker to draw partial pay and partial unemployment benefits.
"As opposed to firing people or shutting down the plant, they can reduce workers' hours, workers get some unemployment benefits and the work continues," Pearce said. "We extended that program from 26 weeks to 52 weeks. Locally, that could help some businesses."
Nixon's office reported the reduce-hours *Shared Work Program is used by 534 Missouri employers to benefit more than 29,300 employees.
Rep. Barney Fisher, R-Richards, handled the House bill.
"Helping Missourians get a job and saving Missouri jobs are two of the most important issues we can tackle in Jefferson City," Fisher said.
Rep. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, voted for the bill.
"The state legislature needs to continue focusing on putting Missourians back to work," he said, which will boost the economy.
3/10-11/2010 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 (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- 'Shared Work' Program Rescuing Employers, Workers - Rather Than Lose Job, Employees Work Part-Time, But Are Allowed To Collect Partial Unemployment And Keep Benefits, reporting by Lou Young, CBS via 3/11(12) WCBS-TV New York via wcbstv.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Here's a story about sharing the load.
It's a government program that allows companies to avoid layoffs by spreading out a limited [amount of] work over its existing workforce.
It's called *"shared work", and it allows employees to work fewer hours and collect partial unemployment without losing their benefits.
Harris Seorti lost part of his job in the recession. The Manhattan glass cutter works as little as three days a week when business is slow. His boss splits the available work among several long-time employees with the state picking up some of the slack. They are sharing jobs and getting partial unemployment.
"It just helps ya. Oh it definitely beats being laid off there's no doubt about that," Seorti said.
It's not a new program, but one that's becoming newly popular. In the past two years the state Labor Department says participation has jumped from something over 1,500 workers statewide, to 11,000. That's a 700 percent increase.
The head man at Knickerbocker Glass said it's helping him over a rough patch.
"It certainly has made the last year more manageable from a cash-flow standpoint," Tom DeLeo said.
"Tom fills out the paperwork and we sign it and they have a debit card that they fill up. You can go to any ATM machine; you can use it as a credit card also. You can use the money as if it was your money, which it is," Seorti added.
So it keeps jobs afloat in a stormy economy.
The folks who run New York Water Taxi are among 2,200 recession-wracked businesses participating across the state, including about a third of them in our area. The CEO of Harbour Experience Co. told CBS 2 HD he could've saved more jobs if he'd known about it sooner.
"We saved four for this season. If I'd read about the program earlier I think we would've saved quite a few more," Travis Noyes said.
"This is just a stop-gap measure just to get us through these very difficult times," added John Moye of the Labor Department.
It's a help, but not a cure and while the state encourages new business to apply, the hope is a recovering economy will return the program to the obscurity it once enjoyed.
Although the shared work program is administered by the state it's paid for with federal dollars.
- 69 workers go at carpet giant, KidderminsterShuttle.co.uk
KIDDERMINSTER, Worcs., U.K. - BRINTONS in Kidder-minster has announced it will be making 69 redundancies.
The job losses will result from a change to the shift system at the company’s factory in the town.
Harry Reilly, group managing director, said the carpet manufacturer had tried to avoid making the job cuts, with short-time working and extended breaks, but had found them “unsustainable in the longer term.”
[So how does he figure total jobcuts for a few (and a few more, and...) are more sustainable than small hourscuts for all?? Which tactic cuts consumer spending more? We maintain he has damaged his specific industry (who buys carpets in a recession?) and general economy much more by increasing the wage&spending-depressing labor surplus than if he had gone further with the hourscuts strategy - which does not increase the wage&spending-depressing labor surplus.]
He explained that the reason for the redundancies was the lack of any signs of a recovery from the current global recession.
The company has been forced to make the cutbacks despite securing a number of high-profile contracts around the world in the past year.
They include the supply of 175,000 sq m of carpet to the new Terminal 3 at Delhi Airport.
Mr Reilly said: “Despite some successes in the contract market, the overall picture for our key sectors of hospitality, leisure and cruise remains gloomy, with many projects being deferred or cancelled.
“Short-time working and extended breaks have been tried but we feel this is unsustainable in the longer term and we have to look for other options to address our manufacturing cost base in line with the lower demand.”
He added: “It is expected that the plant will begin the new shift patterns from early April.”
Rob Edwards, regional director of the Community Union, said it was negotiating to prevent the redundancies at Brintons.
He said: “It is a sad fact of the economy that many businesses are having to cut. However, Community will do everything we can to prevent the need for compulsory redundancies.
“It is too early to point the finger but it is clear that the workforce at Brintons are dedicated, hard working and loyal.
“Community will fight to ensure that all workers at Brintons are treated with dignity and respect.”
Brintons is a 226-year-old private family-owned company and employs 1,800 people around the world.
The company is the world’s largest manufacturer of Axminster carpets.
[whatever they are...]
- Toyota to end work-sharing scheme in Britain, Kyodo via 3/11 Reuters.com
U.K. - Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) will end a work-sharing scheme introduced at plants in Britain last April and cut its workforce by about 750 through an early retirement program, Kyodo news agency reported Thursday, citing officials of Toyota's Europe office.
The auto maker will also extend a wage hike freeze imposed at its British plants until April next year, while foregoing bonus payments at the end of this year, the news agency quoted officials as saying.
The news report said Toyota is also holding talks with labor unions at factories in other parts of Europe to implement similar steps.
Toyota introduced a work-sharing arrangement in Britain under which workers' job security would be protected in exchange for 10 percent cuts in basic wages and working hours.
But the need to maintain the scheme has receded as the additional job cuts will reduce the total number of employees at British plants to less than 3000, the news report said.
The Toyota plants in Britain have an annual production capacity of 280,000 units, but the operating ratio has remained at 70 percent and lower due to slumping sales.
The automaker plans to suspend operations at the plants for five days in April, Kyodo said, citing Toyota officials. (Reporting by Ashutosh Joshi in Bangalore; Editing by Bijoy Koyitty) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780; outside U.S. +91 80 4135 5800; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))
3/07-08-09/2010 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- State's Shared Work Plan Softens Impact Of Cutbacks, by Kory Loucks, 3/07 (3/08) Hartford Business Journal via HartfordBusiness.com
Erich Holman, a 13-year machinist with Tri-Star Industries, says the state’s shared work plan has kept his family in pay and benefits. (photo caption)
HARTFORD, Conn. - Businesses facing the prospect of having to lay off valuable employees have an ally in a state program that’s being hailed as both “brilliant” and “a life-saver.”
*The state Department of Labor’s Shared Work Plan allows workers whose hours have been cut to collect prorated unemployment benefits. The workers retain health and retirement benefits and the businesses retain their staff at a reduced cost.
To date, about 6,000 employees and 800 businesses have participated in the program, according to Department of Labor Communications Director Nancy Steffens.
“It was a lifesaver,” said Andrew Nowakowski, president of Tri-Star Industries in Berlin CT. The 19-year-old company had its best year in 2007, but by mid-2008 business slowed. Tri-Star employs 32 workers in the manufacture of brass and steel inserts for other manufacturers.
The state’s Department of Labor was proactive and contacted Nowakowski about the Shared Work Plan in the summer of 2008, Nowakowski said. At that time, Tri-Star didn’t need any assistance, but that changed a few months later.
The program allows companies like Tri-Star Industries to reduce employee hours by 20 to 40 percent — often from a five-day work week down to four or even three — with the state paying unemployment insurance benefits for the balance of hours.
Although there were a few layoffs, Tri-Star put most of its employees on a three- or four-day work week starting in January 2009. Nowakowski, the sales manager and office manager stayed on fulltime, but each took a pay cut. Today, Tri-Star’s office staff is back to fulltime and Nowakowski said orders have picked up to the point where he hopes to be off the program altogether by summer.
“Machine operators are not a dime a dozen,” Nowakowski said. “They are good guys and they are hard to find.” Many have been with the company for years.
If it hadn’t been for the Shared Work Plan, Nowakowski said, he would have been forced to lay off more workers, with the possibility that they would have gone to other employers, or moved out of the area, making it difficult to ramp up quickly when business started picking up, as it is now.
“We would have had to do away with the second shift” without the Shared Work Plan, Nowakowski said. “It would have been a whole different ballgame.”
The program also provides a break to the unemployment insurance compensation fund.
Since summer , the Connecticut Department of Labor has been processing more than 177,000 unemployment claims weekly, and paying out about $60 million in unemployment insurance claims, Steffens said. But thanks to this innovative, flexible program, at least some of the layoffs have been partially mitigated.
In December, the agency provided approximately $2.28 million in Shared Work unemployment benefits. That’s a sharp increase from the $180,000 paid in the fourth quarter of 2008. The program has been around since 1991.
“This is an excellent program that is offered in 17 states, too, but Connecticut’s program is considered to be one of the best and is used as a model for other states,” Steffens said, adding that Connecticut’s program requires employers to maintain employee’s benefits — something not all other states require.
The Shared Work Plan benefit rate is calculated much like regular unemployment insurance, using an average weekly pay rate. As of now the federal government is also kicking in an extra $25 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The program is low on paperwork, Nowakowski said , and the checks were mailed to their employees “like clockwork.” Employers are charged quarterly for workers filing for partial unemployment benefits.
Steffens said the agency plans to have a direct deposit program in place by this summer.
Nancy Barbato, sales associate with Tri-Star Industries, said she was grateful for the program. Now back to work fulltime, Barbato said initially it was a little frightening, but, “You were happy you weren’t losing your job.”
Machinist Erich Holman, who has been with Tri-Star Industries 13 years, is a husband and father with children to support and a mortgage to pay.
“It has been an absolutely fantastic program for us,” Holman said. “It keeps us employed while allowing us to keep our benefits. It’s really important to have my benefits.”
Tri-Star’s experience isn’t unique.
David Edgar, vice president of human resources at Reflexite Co. in Avon and New Britain, said, “It’s a brilliant, brilliant program.”
Edgar credited the state program for helping Reflexite survive this recession intact. “It’s been a real key ingredient to get us through,” he said.
Reflexite started using the program in the fall of 2008 along with a menu of other job-saving options, such as wage freezes and pay reductions. “Everyone was sharing the pain,” Edgar said.
The firm continued on the state program for about a year, reducing hours to a four-day and sometimes three-day workweek, until business started to pick up again. Normal production schedules have resumed.
Reflexite, celebrating 40 years in business, has been an employee-owned company since 1985, with employees owning over 50 percent of the company stock, Edgar said. The company manufactures and sells reflective wear as well as solar reflective lenses, using a micro-prism technology invented by two entrepreneurs, Bill and Hugh Rowland, from New Britain. It has 145 workers in Connecticut and a total of 450 worldwide.
“It helps preserve jobs,” Edgar said of the Shared Work Plan. “It was particularly useful because it allowed us to hold onto the talent,” rather than having to start from scratch and training new hires a whole new skill set.
While the Shared Work program has been a success for Reflexite, Edgar cautioned there is a limit to how long any company should continue using it.
“I think at some point you reach diminishing returns where you need to consider right-sizing the company,” he said. “After a while, there is probably a tipping point.”
- Schools' new math: The four-day week, by Chris Herring, 3/08 WSJ, A1.
USA - A small but growing number of school districts across the country are moving to a four-day week, in a shift they hope will help close gaping budget holes and stave off teacher layoffs, but that critics fear could hurt students' education.
State legislators and local school boards are giving administrators greater flexibility to set their academic calendars, making the four-day slate possible. But education experts say little research exists to show the impact of shortened weeks on learning. The missed hours are typically made up by lengthening remaining school days.
Of the nearly 15,000-plus districts nationwide, more than 100 in at least 17 states currently use the four-day system, according to data culled from the Education Commission of the States. Dozens of other districts are contemplating making the change in the next year—a shift that is apt to create new challenges for working parents as well as thousands of school employees.
The heightened interest in an abbreviated school week comes as the Obama administration prepares to plow $4.35 billion in extra federal funds into underperforming schools. The administration has been advocating for a stronger school system in a bid to make the U.S. more academically competitive on a global basis.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education said in an email that she couldn't comment on four-day weeks in specific districts. But "generally, we are concerned about financial constraints leading to a reduction in learning time."
Some schools, meanwhile, say they are turning to the four-day schedule as a last resort. In North Branch, Minn., school Superintendent Deb Henton said her 3,500-student district, facing a $1.3 million deficit, is simply out of options.
"We've repeatedly asked our residents to pay higher taxes, cut some of our staff, and we may even close one of our schools," she said. "What else can you really do?" Despite a "lot of opposition" from parents, she said, the district is set to adopt a four-day week for next school year.
A new law in Georgia allows schools a choice between a 180-day school year "or the equivalent." Hawaii officials last October introduced 17 mandatory "Furlough Fridays" for state public schools. In Minnesota and Iowa, districts are drafting proposals for their state boards of education in hopes of implementing four-day schedules next school year.
In the rural Peach County, Ga., district, a four-day week this school year helped school officials save more than $200,000 last semester, trimming costs for custodial and cafeteria workers and bus drivers as well as transportation expenses and utilities, said system spokeswoman Sara Mason.
The district is on track to save 39 teaching positions and $400,000 by the end of the school year, helping to narrow a $1 million shortfall in the district's $30 million annual budget.
"The savings so far have been phenomenal," said Ms. Mason, adding that she has fielded calls from officials at a dozen other Georgia schools considering making the switch.
Teachers who still work the same number of hours over four days, instead of five, generally don't see a reduction in salary. But staff who can't make up the lost time, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers, are often hard-hit, losing as much as 20% of their pay.
[But if this was done systemwide on the basis of four 8-hour days, pay would rise because the huge hidden wage-depressing labor surplus would be absorbed.]
The four-day school week isn't new. But until recently, it has been used mostly by small, rural districts. A few rural Colorado school districts implemented four-day calendars in the 1980s for financial reasons, and now about a third of the state's 178 districts operate on a four-day calendar.
The system is currently most prevalent in Western states, where districts with four-day weeks in some cases comprise a quarter of the schools.
Four-day weeks have been in place for decades in states like New Mexico, Idaho and Wyoming and initially came about as states were looking to combat growing energy prices. Last week, Pueblo School District 70 in Colorado said it would adopt the schedule next school year for its roughly 8,000 students.
The shift has drawn scrutiny from some education and parents groups who say the shorter week hurts students academically and complicates child-care efforts.
"There's no way a switch like that wouldn't negatively affect teaching and learning," said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, which is discouraging schools in the state from exploring four-day weeks.
Monte Thompson, superintendent of Gore Public Schools in Oklahoma, where the system is in its first year, said teachers have to do a "dog and pony show to keep kids' attention" for the extra hour and 40 minutes spent in class from Tuesday to Friday.
"I get why schools have moved toward this, but I don't think finances justify hurting the kids educationally," said Mr. Thompson, who became the superintendent after the system was implemented. He said Gore schools are saving about $35,000 with the change, but will revert back to five days in the next school year.
The schedules have struck a nerve with some working parents who have had to revamp child-care plans. Christina Long, a mother of three girls who attend North Branch, Minn., schools, said she will also have to rethink her career plans in light of next year's academic calendar.
"I'd always said I would go back to full-time once my youngest was in school," said Ms. Long, who works part-time around her youngest daughter's school schedule. "Next year was supposed to be that year, but now I don't know what I can do job-wise with that four-day schedule."
In Georgia's Peach County, the community has stepped up to assist parents who've been put in a bind by the Tuesday to Friday school schedule. Two different Boys and Girls Club sites and a church are offering affordable child care and tutoring, respectively, on Mondays for between $10 and $15.
Officials in some districts say their students and teachers make good use of their day off. In Wyoming, many schools offer Friday tutoring sessions to keep students sharp, according to Dianne Frazier, an educational consultant with the state's department of education.
She said students and teachers are expected to use Fridays to attend to various personal needs.
"In a lot of cases, a trip to the dentist would be unexcused if it happened on a school day," she said. Many athletic events and practice sessions are also held on Fridays, she said.
Research gauging the impact of a four-day school week on student learning is scant. Officials in various states claim that comparisons and conclusions are difficult to make.
There has been no broad analysis of crucial test scores—on statewide achievement tests or college entrance exams—to show whether knowledge lags or not for students in four-day districts. Similarly, there have been no wide-ranging studies to indicate whether districts register comparable test scores after they make the jump.
A 2009 report by the Idaho Department of Education said evidence was inconclusive as to whether student achievement was affected by four-day systems. Fourteen out of 115 school districts in the state have four-day school weeks.
The Colorado Department of Education said the "jury is out on the question of student performance" under four-day weeks, according to a 2006 overview of the system.
- Pregnant women are 'soft targets' for firms, by Olivia Kelly, 3/07 (3/08) IrishTimes.com
DUBLIN, Ireland - Discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers is on the rise in the workplace due to the recession, the Equality and Rights Alliance has said.
Calls to Free Legal Advice Centres, one of its 130 affiliates, in relation to maternity issues increased from just 1.3 per cent of employment queries in April 2009 to 14.3 per cent last January.
Speaking ahead of International Women’s Day the alliance’s chairwoman Joanna McMinn said employers were using women on maternity leave as “soft targets” for cuts. “Pregnancy-related discrimination is a very blunt, overt form of unfairness and gender discrimination. It is against the law and despite 30 years of legislation against it, we are seeing evidence that this particular form of discrimination is getting worse because of the recession.”
Women were reporting being laid-off during their maternity leave, having their maternity pay cut, isolation when they reveal their pregnancy and bullying when they return to work, being denied previously agreed work sharing or part-time work arrangements and being given notice when they return to work.
[Women in general and the women's movement in particular have failed just as remarkably as the labor movement to recognize the ability to reduce disempowering labor surplus via workhour reduction as their power issue.]
Celebrations of International Women’s Day are being held around the country today.
More than 200 Dublin businesswomen will attend a seminar organised by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce to encourage entrepreneurship among women. With women representing nearly 60 per cent of Irish graduates but only 30 per of EU entrepreneurs, the potential of women as business leaders was an underdeveloped source of economic growth, Dublin Chamber of Commerce said. Speakers at the seminar which will be held in the Alexander Hotel, Dublin, tonight include Mary Ann O’Brien founder of chocolate company Lily O’Brien’s, Lucy Gaffney chairwoman of Communicorp Group Ltd, and Nicola Byrne, managing director of directory enquiry service 11890.
Children’s development NGO Plan Ireland will host a photographic exhibition, What It’s Really like to be a Girl, from today at the Trinity College sports centre. The exhibition includes photographs taken by internationally renowned photographers.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland will debate the theme “The Equality Illusion” from 10.30am to 1.30pm at EU House on Dawson Street Dublin. Speakers include Kat Banyard, Sylvia Meehan, Alwiye Xuseyn and Linda Kelly.
A posthumous book from Nuala O’Faolain, A More Complex Truth: Selected Writings will be launched tonight at City Hall, Dublin. There will be a debate on the legacies of feminism featuring Susan McKay, Ivana Bacik, Caitríona Crowe and Margaret MacCurtain and chaired by Anthea McTeirnan.
Lord Mayor of Cork Dara Murphy and Lady Mayoress Tanya Murphy will host a lunchtime charity concert and photographic exhibition in aid of Women of Concern and the Cork Sexual Violence Centre. The University of Limerick will host a conference entitled, Women and the Recession – Strategies for Survival.
- Why work? Calling time on the 9 to 5 - The NEF and the Skidelskys see working less not as part of the good life, but simply as the most viable long-term option, editorial, 3/07 (3/08) The Guardian via guardian.co.uk
There must be a few people out there who have never dreamed of giving up work – but you wouldn't want them for a colleague. The rest of us can occasionally indulge in that Monday morning fantasy of going cold turkey on wage-slavery. And we might turn for support to an unlikely source: those supposed evangelists of dedicated productivity – the economists. After all, Karl Marx imagined a world in which citizens hunted in the morning, reared cattle in the evening and dabbled in literary criticism after dinner; while Keynes fancied that by 2030 the British would be working no more than three hours a day.
On that point at least the Master will surely prove to be a bit out. Yet the appeal of an end to the 9 to 5 remains strong, as evidenced by a report last month from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and from an exchange in the recent Citizen Ethics pamphlet between Robert Skidelsky, Keynes's biographer, and his son, the philosopher Edward Skidelsky. Pointing out that some are overworked (both in terms of hours and intensity of work) while others are unable to get a job, NEF wants a cut in the working week from 37 to 21 hours. That, it argues, would allow employment to be split evenly between everyone, and would enable men and women to share more fairly the burden of childcare and other unpaid work.
Calling for a three-day week may not be the most astute lobbying tactic on the foundation's part; Britain had one of those in the 1970s and it has not exactly gone down in the collective national psyche as an idyllic experience. Besides, this economic crisis has already forced a cut in hours, with nearly 2.5 million people out of a job while BT, Ford and others have introduced short-time working. But the big question raised by the NEF report is the same as that asked in the Skidelsky essay, as well as by Marx and Keynes: what is the point of work?
The answer on all sides is strikingly similar: work brings in money, which is merely a means to buying stuff. Keynes thought the work-consumption spiral would end once the love of money for its own sake was recognised as "one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease". But such Bloomsbury sunniness has become paler and cloudier. Where Keynes believed future generations would sensibly opt out of the rat race, NEF and the Skidelskys argue in part that the same choice may simply be forced upon humanity by environmental constraints. They see working less not as part of the good life (as Marx and Keynes did), but simply as the most viable long-term option. Something cheery to think about on that commute today.
- Scathing attack on Corus plant closure, by Vidya Ram, 3/09 TheHinduBusinessLine.com
LONDON, England - A group of British Members of Parliament launched a scathing attack on the mothballing of Corus's Teeside Cast Products plant in northern England.
The MPs on the North-East Select Committee said they “deeply” regretted the mothballing of the plant, in a report published on Monday. The decision by Corus was “classically short-term”, they argued, pointing to the forecast recovery in the steel market this year (the World Steel Association says prices may rise up to 12.5 per cent this year).
However, to use such predictions to make a case for Corus keeping the plant running is simplistic. The steel market recovery is fragile, and some analysts warn that once the current spate of restocking is over, demand and prices will fall again.
Moreover, the demand will be led from the East, and China in particular, and will be for a higher value-added product than the basic “slab” steel that TCP produces. While the MPs criticised the decision made eight years ago to end the plant's steel rolling facilities, this could hardly be blamed on Tata Steel that bought the steel maker in January 2007.
There is little mention also of the considerable costs that Tata Steel has incurred as a result of keeping the plant open: the company estimates that it lost up to $200 million using the plant to fulfil mostly internal orders.
The report is critical of the role of Mr Kirby Adams, the Chief Executive of Tata Steel Europe, alleging that he failed to appear before the committee despite efforts to fit in with his diary. It also points to criticisms from the unions that he had only attended meetings to make brief statements, “without engaging with the workforce or answering legitimate questions.”
The allegations were “unfounded”, said a spokesperson for Corus. “Mr. Adams never in principle turned down an invitation to appear before the committee. The TCP Managing Director, Mr Jon Bolton, was the person invited.”
The company also contests the criticism that it hadn't been onboard the idea of a wage subsidy scheme, arguing that it had been lobbying for a short-time work scheme to be introduced for the whole of the British manufacturing sector to help put it on a level playing field with the rest of Europe, where such schemes are available.
However, “no such scheme would have been able to avoid the partial mothballing of the plant,” says Corus. “The partial mothballing of the plant was entirely due to the reneging of the consortium on the ten-year contract,” said the spokesman. Last year, an international consortium pulled out of a ten-year contract to purchase over 75 per cent of the plant's output.
3/05-06/2010 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 (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Governor signs unemployment extension bill, 3/05 Springfield Business Journal via sbj.net
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A bill signed Thursday by Gov. Jay Nixon extends unemployment benefits and provides assistance for those looking for work.
House Bill 1544, sponsored by Rep. Barney Fisher, R-Richards, and Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, allows unemployed Missouri residents who have exhausted federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits to file for up to 20 weeks in the state's Extended Benefits Program.
The state Labor Department estimates that 4,000 people will be assisted through the program, which is funded by federal money and will last until March 3, 2011, or until the money runs out.
The bill also adds 26 weeks to the state Shared Work Program, which allows businesses that would otherwise lay off employees to reduce those employees' hours and cover part of the difference with unemployment benefits. Currently, 534 employers statewide participate in the program, benefiting more than 29,000 employees.
"As this economy begins to recover, we must give unemployed Missourians the tools to get back to work, while giving businesses the recourses to keep Missourians employed,” Nixon said in a news release. “This bipartisan legislation will help put Missourians back to work and save thousands of good-paying Missouri jobs."
- Forests minister calls for work-sharing to avoid ministry layoffs - 6% cut to operating budget will be reflected in fewer person-hours of work, by Gordon Hamilton, 3/06 VancouverSun.com
VICTORIA, B.C., Canada - Forests ministry staff may face work-sharing or reduced work weeks as a result of cuts to the ministry budget announced in this week's provincial budget.
"We are looking at all kinds of options right now, such as reduced work weeks, work-share," Forests Minister Pat Bell said in a recent interview.
Bell said he is not in a position yet to say how many of the ministry's 3,600 employees will be affected by the budget cuts until the administration knows how successful other measures to reduce the payroll are.
But he expects this year's operating budget cut of six per cent to be reflected in fewer person-hours of work.
Bell said the ministry cuts are not as bad as they appear in the budget documents because the 2009 budget includes the firefighting component -- $409 million -- that was added after last summer's heavy fire season. The 2010 firefighting component is set at $52 million.
With the firefighting component remaining constant, the forestry budget actually drops from $683 million to $641 million.
"The true reduction is about six per cent," Bell said.
The cuts have raised concerns that they are cuts on top of cuts from past budgets, a trend that shows the government is abandoning forestry at a time when forest health is seriously threatened as a consequence of the pine beetle infestation.
But others say it's about time the ministry's size reflected the downsizing that has taken place within the forest sector.
Harvesting is down 35 per cent this year, and forest revenues are projected at $345 million, a drastic drop from the $1-billion-plus revenues the government received when the forest economy was strong.
"The ministry has developed a new mandate and reorganized itself," said Rick Jeffery, president of the Coast Forest Products Association, noting the industry has been downsizing to meet new market conditions and the impact of the mountain pine beetle on the timber supply.
Jeffery said the issue of environmental compliance has shifted from government regulation to customer demand. The industry has responded, he said.
"There's an absolute necessity for us to be sustainable and green. Our customers will not buy our products if we cannot demonstrate that we are sustainably managing our forests and are certified and green.
"A lot of the emphasis is being placed on the industry to deliver. And that doesn't just come from regulation. It comes from customer demand as well."
However, forest researcher Ben Parfitt said it's not just this year's cutbacks but the cumulative effect of budget cuts over the years that should raise alarm with voters. The ministry's budget had a $60-million chunk cut out of it in the September budget update, which has only recently made its way through the system.
"We have to bear in mind here that we have seen over the course of about a decade now, very serious drops in the number of people working in the forest service.
"We have very few people on the ground to ensure that the public's interests are protected," he said. "We now have very few people working on our behalf on public forest lands."
He said the cuts come at a time when the province is facing a massive reforestation challenge because of the mountain pine beetle.
"It's likely to be unprecedented," he said. Recent documents show the province has 700,000 hectares of land that have not been sufficiently restocked with seedlings.
"There's no question that on the revenue side we are seeing big declines. But we are also seeing significant declines in the stock of healthy public forest," Parfitt said. "My concern is that if we don't make those investments at the time when those investments truly need to be made, we will be all the poorer for it."
Bell said reforestation has not been cut back. The government intends to maintain the same level of replanting as in past years.
He also said the ministry reorganization has led to a shifting of focus away from checking paperwork prepared by industry foresters toward actual fieldwork and certification programs. A lot of that work is duplication, he said, as professional foresters have a responsibility to ensure the documents they sign are in full compliance.
However, documents show the compliance and enforcement component of the budget dropping from $23 million last year to $15 million in 2010.
"Don't read too much into that budget line," Bell said. "We may move people around in a way that continues to bolster those services."
He also said that because harvest levels are off 35 per cent, he expects there will be 35-per-cent fewer harvesting sites to visit this year.
Bell also said certifications by groups like the Forest Stewardship Council, which has certified forest practices in the Great Bear Rainforest, lead to greater confidence in B.C. products because they have been approved by a credible third party.
3/03-04/2010 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- After Breaking Logjam, Why Will New Senate Jobs Bills Fall Short? by Art Levine, 3/04 InTheseTimes.com
After breaking Senator Jim Bunning's one-man roadblock to extending jobless benefits for 30 days, the Senate will be turning next week to a year-long extension in jobless benefits. But even coupled with more business tax breaks, that still won't make much of a dent in finding work for nearly 30 million people who need full-time jobs, critics say.
"It's nickel and dime stuff," says economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, of the proposed jobs package. He welcomed the aid the new $100 billion proposal offers workers but notes, along with others, that it doesn't create the new jobs that need to be created after this recession—nearly 11 million are required to make up the jobs lost.
What's gone wrong here? The future of the Democratic Party and the economy depend on returning the unemployed to work and slashing the unemployment rate, but, despite high-flying rhetoric, there's no real urgency to do so in Washington in a major way. "We've had this big yelling about the deficit, and Obama gave into that," Baker observes. "We've somehow accepted that we're going to have high unemployment rates—it's 9.7% now— for a long time."
Yet at the AFL-CIO executive council in Florida, they took a far bolder stand, commensurate with the depth of the jobs crisis. As the council declared:
"Mass unemployment is intolerable. Action is required. The AFL-CIO calls upon the entire labor movement--our affiliated unions, our state and local labor councils, the millions of members of Working America and our allies in communities and progressive movements across this country--to come together in a great effort to create and protect good jobs."
Part of the political effort: target politicians who only take "half measures" or coddle Wall Street.
As the AFL-CIO Now blog reported:
"[T]he council urges enactment of the AFL-CIO's five-point plan for good jobs now ... :
* Extending current federal supplemental unemployment benefits programs to prevent a downward spiral as families fall into bankruptcy and lose their health care and their homes to foreclosure.
* Investing the money to meet the2.2 trillion in unmet infrastructure needs, while including prevailing wage protections and strong Buy America provisions.
* Helping state and local governments meet pressing needs to overcome an estimated180 billion shortfall in the fiscal year 2011 and588 billion over the next four years.
* Putting people back to work doing work that needs to be done by preserving good public jobs that provide vital services and capacity for building strong communities. In addition, expansion of vital services in targeted areas can reduce unemployment and provide infrastructure for economic growth.
* Easing the credit crunch for small- and medium-sized businesses by establishing a fund to lend TARP money to small- and medium-sized businesses at commercial rates, managed by the community banks left out of the Wall Street bailout, with the banks taking first-dollar risk."
The AFL-CIO also vowed to go after politicians who don't create jobs or who protect Wall Street, but it's not at all clear that this was meant as a declaration of war against conservaDems or a vow to support primary challenges against them.
Still, the AFL-CIO declared, "Who is the target of our campaign? Politicians who vote to deny aid for the unemployed and against action to create jobs, politicians who offer half measures and caution while working people suffer, Wall Street firms that pay bonuses but won't pay taxes, corporations that take the public's money and use it to downsize and outsource jobs—and all those who stand in the way of an economy that works for all in the name of speculation that benefits the few."
[The AFL-CIO is still pretty clueless about its own power issue, shorter hours alias worksharing alias timesizing - and its own history of shrinkage after it allowed itself to be distracted from that all-points priority issue.]
Compare that labor vision to what Congress is actually doing.
In fact, even the scaled-down $15 billion jobs bill that the Senate passed recently was having trouble getting through the House without some changes to please conservatives, and, to a lesser degree, liberals. As Politico reported Monday:
"House Democrats are coming up short on a $15 billion jobs bill and won't take up the legislation on Tuesday as Democratic leaders try to negotiate among various factions, according to a leadership aide. The jobs bill, passed by a wide margin in the Senate last week, faces opposition from conservative Blue Dogs and liberal members [huh?] of the Congressional Black Caucus."
Ultimately, the House passed the bill on Thursday. As Reuters noted:
"The 217 to 201 vote gave Democrats a much-needed victory after weeks of delay caused by Republican tactics, a record-setting snowstorm and internal bickering.
"More job-creation efforts are in the pipeline, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
" 'Today's legislation is ... one key element of our agenda to get Americans back to work and strengthen our economy,' Pelosi said on the House floor...
"The bill passed by the House includes a $13 billion payroll tax break for businesses that hire unemployed workers, along with subsidies for state and local construction bonds.
"After that, Democrats could take up legislation to boost lending to small businesses, create incentives to weatherize buildings, or give states more aid to help them avoid layoffs of teachers, police and other public employees.
"The Senate is debating a $107 billion measure that would extend jobless aid, help states pay spiraling healthcare costs and renew a package of expired tax breaks.
"Rather than passing another massive job-creation bill along the lines of last year's $863 stimulus package, Democratic leaders plan to advance a series of smaller job-creation bills to avoid public sticker shock and keep their job-creation efforts in the news."
Yet even most of the more costly bills under consideration don't really create new jobs, but offer either tax cuts or needed jobless benefits relief that, while adding to the pool of money in the economy, don't directly save or create jobs. Unfortunately for workers, even the labor-backed proposal to give more aid to states and localities to avoid layoffs faces a particularly uphill battle in the Senate.
And, of course, any jobs program that actually helps workers or the unemployed faces a firestorm of GOP criticism that it's adding to the deficit. As for GOP-favored tax cuts in proposed and pending jobs legislation, "They have nothing to do with jobs in any near-term time frame," Dean Baker points out. He adds, ironically, "Republicans have this bizarre view that tax cuts putting money in people's pockets to spend creates jobs, but unemployment insurance that puts money in people's pockets and they spend it, and somehow that doesn't create jobs?"
More tax cuts are on the way, of course, in the search for those elusive Republican votes needed to thwart a filibuster.
On Monday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced legislation to extend unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility for unemployment health care benefits through the end of 2010, including extending benefits retroactively so families will receive the benefits that were suspended when these programs expired on February 28. A Senate Democratic press release also declared, "The legislation extends loan programs for small businesses and tax cuts that provide the tax certainty families and businesses need to create jobs, along with other important safety-net programs that families and communities depend on in the tough economic climate."
Sen. Baucus, while giving a nod to the importance of providing a safety net to workers, also offered the rhetoric that's supposed to win over Republicans. "Too many hard-working Montanans and Americans lost their jobs in this recession, and even those with a paycheck are struggling to make ends meet. The tax cuts and small business assistance in this bill support the creation of new jobs across the country. This legislation extends tax cuts that businesses count on, giving employers the certainty they need to open a new store or hire a new worker. Extending these tax cuts creates the right environment for job creation," Baucus said.
It's excessive tax cuts, though, that weakened the economic impact of the original $786 billion dollar stimulus package.
A more promising approach -- promoting work-sharing with unemployment funds that allows people to stay in their jobs -- is gaining support in Congress, even if it's not yet part of a leadership package.
As the Washington Independent reported this week:
" Seventeen states have already adopted so-called 'job-sharing' programs, which encourage employers to reduce workers' hours in lieu of firing them outright. The state government, in these cases, then steps in to make up a portion of the lost wages. Between 300,000 and 350,000 workers are participating nationwide, saving roughly 100,000 jobs that would have otherwise been scrapped, according to Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research and a long-time supporter of the concept....
"Kevin A. Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told lawmakers this week that such programs are among the most targeted and cost-effective ways to tackle the nation's jobs crisis, which has left nearly one in five workers without a job or underemployed.
"The concept is simple: Rather than laying off a few workers during lean times, businesses instead could spread the pain by reducing work hours for many. In Hassett's example, if five workers had their hours cut by 20 percent it would prevent one worker from being fired at no cost to the company. And if Congress were to alter its policies surrounding emergency unemployment insurance, those workers could then access a portion of those benefits -- in this case, 20 percent."
In addition, employers are given reimbursement to pay workers part of their lost pay for working fewer hours
It's a common-sense approach that might catch on, but it, too, faces concern from Republicans, like Senator Bunning, who are dead-set against adding to the deficit with any big-spending programs—unless they involve either tax cuts for the wealthy or Republican-led wars.
Nothing being considered now on Capitol Hill reflects the magnitude of the crisis and the need for what progressives say is far bolder action.
UPDATE: The Economic Policy Institute and its president Lawrence Mishel have issued a new brief analysis of the limitations of the Congress's $15 billion bill, which passed the House this Thursday:
"$15 billion jobs bill not nearly enough
"Congress has finally taken action to address the jobs crisis, but the $15 billion jobs bill passed by the Senate and the House is not nearly enough. The bill, which would give employers tax breaks for new hires, is likely to create only a couple of hundred thousand jobs at a time that the country needs 11 million jobs just to return to pre-recession levels of employment.
"High unemployment could last for years
"EPI President Lawrence Mishel emphasized the magnitude of the jobs crisis and the size of the response needed during a February 23 testimony to the House Committee on Financial Services. Mishel warned that unless Congress acted quickly and at a sufficient scale, 'high and damaging unemployment will continue for years.'
"The $15 billion Senate bill is less than one-tenth the size of an alternate $174 billion jobs bill that the House of Representatives passed last year, which itself fell far short of President Obama's proposal to invest $267 billion to put people back to work. EPI's American Jobs Plan proposes spending $400 billion to create 4.6 million jobs in one year.
"One key problem with Congress' response to the jobs crisis is that its last-minute extension of unemployment benefits for millions of long-term unemployed is only a 30-day extension. By the end of March, 200,000 workers will begin losing benefits each week. EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey issued a statement criticizing the Senate for failing to extend these badly needed benefits for the rest of 2010. The unemployed workers waiting on Congress, Eisenbrey said, had 'lost their jobs not through any fault of their own, but because of the worst economic crisis in 70 years. Now they are unable to work because there are more than six job seekers for every job opening.' "
- German January retail sales steady versus December, by George Frey, 3/3 The Associated Press via ap.com
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - FRANKFURT — German retail sales levels for January held steady versus December, though fell 3.4 percent compared with January 2009 levels, the Federal Statistical Office said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the office said Germans' average gross pay level fell in 2009 — the first time in 61 years.
The Wiesbaden-based office said food, beverages and tobacco sales are 2.3 percent lower compared with January 2009, while nonfood retail sales fell nearly 4 percent compared with January a year ago.
The Statistical office said that online and mail order sales reported the steepest 10.6 percent decline compared with January 2009, while assorted product retail, including department stores, reported a near 8 percent decline in sales for the month.
The declines are partly attributable to 25 sales days compared with 26 in January 2009.
Despite the lower numbers, the results could have been worse, given the harsh winter weather during January, Alexander Koch, an economist at UniCredit said in a research note, predicting that February's retail sales won't be positive either.
"Considering the cold and snowy winter weather the outcome was clearly better than expected. After today's release of stagnation in retail sales month-on-month in January — most likely still supported by solid late Christmas holiday shopping — the February figures will probably bring a substantial decline."
Germany experienced one of the harshest winters in history, with record snowfalls and freezing temperatures.
In a separate report, the Statistical Office said gross earnings of all employees in Germany fell 0.4 percent to an average of around euro27,600 ($37,000) — the first decline in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, which was founded 61 years ago.
The office said employees earned an average of euro27,751 in 2009 which was mostly a result of the use of short-time work. German companies often respond to lower demand by cutting back hours and pay.
[BUT NOT JOBS - except when they fail to insist on timesizing, not downsizing -]
Many Germans were also laid off, lost their jobs or had to accept pay cuts over the last year as the downturn cut demand for goods and services in Europe's largest economy.
[and thus they cut demand for goods and services even more, from total employee disruption, insecurity and imposition on unemployment taxes.]
Last week, Germany's Federal Labor Agency said the February jobless rate rose slightly to 8.7 percent compared with January, or to more than 3.6 million unemployed people.
Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
February 2-28/2010 +Mar.1-2
Nov.27-30 (& Dec.)/2004
Oct.27-31/2004 + Nov.1
(July 31+) Aug.1-10/2004
Feb.21-29/2004 + Mar.1
Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
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