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Timesizing News, September 2010
[Commentary] ©2010 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 117, Harvard Sq PO, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080

9/29-30/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Sharing The Pain Of Layoffs Means Losing Fewer Jobs, by Dan Froomkin, 9/29 HuffingtonPost.com
    (This is Idea No. 6 in Huffington Post's ongoing America Needs Jobs series...)
    HERNDON, Va. - Recessions are brutal on people -- and particularly on workers who have been laid off from their jobs. It's not just the loss of income, it's also the emotional trauma.
    And studies show that even those who find work again never fully bounce back. Similarly, when the recession ends and sales go back up again, companies that laid people off have to deal with considerable hiring and training costs.
    So wouldn't it be great if there was some way to limit the number of people who got laid off, even in a deep recession?
    As it happens, there is. It's called work sharing.
    Economists widely consider it an obvious solution.
    [Not English-language economists - they sneeringly call worksharing the Lump of Labor Fallacy.]
    Some 17 states do it already.
    [Actually it's up to 20.]
    And yet for some reason, it's never seriously entered the public's consciousness or the public-policy arena.
    [What reason? Well there's the sneering of anglo economists about the Lump of Labor Fallacy, even if it takes a little data cooking to keep sneering (like, ignore 1840-1940 when the workweek halved worldwide, and only look at France's 35 hours after unemployment came down to 10-point-something and before the U.S.-led recession raised it back up to 10-point-something). Despite the lipservice to freedom and liberty, are we scared of real freedom = free time? "The Devil finds work..." - woo-oo-ooooooooo...]
    The details of work sharing vary, but the basic idea is that rather than lay off a portion of their work force, employers would reduce the hours of all workers. And a special Unemployment Insurance program would make up some or all of the workers' lost income.
    "Doing work-share so reduces the human cost of a recession," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute. "I think it's a real no-brainer."
    And fortunately, it's not too late for work share programs to make a difference in this recession. Although, at long last, more jobs are being created than lost, there are still plenty of people getting laid off. There are still about 465,000 new unemployment claims each week; and according to the latest labor turnover survey, there were 2.1 million layoffs in July.
    "They're still very high," Shierholz told HuffPost. "There's still something we could do if we could implement something like this." 
    But, she said, there's no denying the missed opportunity. "This is the one that makes me bang my head against the wall the most that it didn't happen on a big scale."
    In a report the for the Center on Law and Social Policy, policy analyst Neil Ridley summarized the benefits of work sharing this way. It:
    • Helps workers keep their jobs, maintain their benefits and continue to build their skills and experience while the overall labor market is weak.
    • Offers distinct advantages for entry-level and less experienced workers who are especially vulnerable if a layoff occurs.
    • Enables employers to keep the workforce intact and retain skilled employees, greatly reducing the costs of recruitment and training when the economy recovers.
    • Benefits the government by keeping more people employed and productive.
    And, he noted:
    There are additional reasons to encourage work sharing. A modest reduction in earnings spread across a large pool of workers is less likely to result in the significant hardships that jobless workers and their families may experience. Also, as employers become familiar with and participate in the program over time, they may adopt more thoughtful and responsible approaches to layoffs.
    One of the foremost proponents of work sharing is Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He wrote in his Huffington Post blog:
    This logic is as simple as it gets. The process is also quick and cheap. In principle, the government can go this route to save jobs at a cost of a bit more than $20,000 per job -- far less than the cost per job saved through the stimulus package.
    Germany has used this policy to keep its unemployment rate at 7.6 percent, about the same as it was before the recession. Imagine if workers in the United States, like workers in Germany, were dealing with the recession by putting in four-day weeks (while getting paid for five) or getting an extra two weeks of paid vacation. This sure beats being unemployed.

    Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor points out that the idea has appeal across the political spectrum:
    The politics of work sharing are encouraging for their broader application in the U.S. Such programs are cost-neutral for badly-stretched unemployment insurance funds, so they don't run afoul of anti-spending sentiment. Though they have historically been associated with the progressive side of the fence, they appear ideologically neutral. For example, Ben Bernanke has given them his seal of approval and businesses often like them because they save on re-hiring costs. They are also, rightly, perceived as fair -- rather than concentrating the pain of unemployment in a small number of people, they allow it to be shared equally. In the parlance of the day, they're generally considered to be win-wins.
    Actually, as Schor notes, there's a third win. And it's a big one:
    Reducing work hours improves work-life balance for many overworked, overstressed employees. Americans frequently report that what they most sense to be missing from their lives is the time necessary to enjoy them; research on well-being also indicates that adequate time is at the core of a healthy, happy life. Overworked employees report more family tension, less happiness, and more stress. This is a particular problem for Americans, who work between 100 and 350 more hours each year than workers in comparably wealthy countries.
    Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) last year introduced a bill that would provide federal funding for work-share programs and simplify the application rules. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) did the same in the House.
    Kevin A. Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, is a fan. Referring to it as the German government calls it -- "Kurzabeit" or "short work" -- he told the House Committee on Financial Services in February:
    The economic argument in favor of such a policy is powerful. When a recession strikes, firms are faced with a dilemma: sales and profits are down, and many workers are idle. But finding skilled workers is costly and time-consuming, involving large fixed costs. If a firm fires workers, it may incur large hiring and training costs when the recession ends and sales turn back up. Thus, a firm would prefer, all else equal, to hoard labor during a recession.
    Firms might well prefer to respond to a 20 percent cut in sales by reducing everyone's work by 20 percent. That way, employees remain part of the firm, and ramping up production is less costly down the road.

    Hassett said there was support for the program "from both sides of the aisle" and he added: "For me, the strongest argument for work sharing is that blacks bear a disproportionate share of layoffs, so slowing layoffs through expanded work sharing will benefit them the most."
    But neither the House nor Senate version made it out of committee. The only thing job sharing doesn't have, apparently, is political mojo. Maybe it's because it somehow clashes with the American attachment to the Puritan work ethic. But for whatever reason, it's been a political nonstarter for decades.
    In 1989, the late senator and progressive hero Eugene McCarthy and William McGaughey wrote a book pushing the idea of a shorter work week to create more jobs. They wrote:
    This book is written in support of proposals to reduce work time in order to improve employment opportunities. It is written in defense of leisure, both as a component of living standards and as a stimulus to real and meaningful use of consumer products. Shorter work hours promise a better life to the contemporary American family, where increasingly both husband and wife must work to make ends meet or where a single adult householder bears the entire burden of such responsibilities alone. They are a means to full employment, improved income distribution, and a stronger consumer market. The pursuit of shorter hours is embodied in the best traditions of organized labor.
    And McCarthy recalled how, back in 1959, he tried and failed to get such a proposal through the Special Committee on Unemployment that he chaired. "In retrospect," he wrote, "it is clear that the failure to reduce work schedules as unemployment rose was a significant policy mistake."
    Several readers have e-mailed me to suggest another job-creation measure that involves worker hours: Making overtime much more expensive for employers.
    One step could be to simply increase overtime pay. J. William Thomas of Hartford, NY., suggested raising it to triple time, "in order to move large corporations towards hiring more people instead of abusing the overtime laws."
    Reader Liam Hon from Seattle, who credited his father with the idea, suggested rolling back a 2004 law the Bush administration pushed through Congress, which barred an estimated six million workers from receiving overtime pay.
    "This went mostly under the radar, but it basically added a large chunk of workers to the category of exempt for overtime claims who had formerly been in the non-exempt category," Hon wrote. "What this meant/means is that more companies were/are able to push workers in to longer hours, which enables them to be more productive with fewer workers. Not needing to pay these workers overtime provides a disincentive to hiring additional workers to fill the demand."
    Indeed, as Richard Grabowski of McKinleyville, CA, wrote: "The primary reason for overtime laws was to create jobs. If an employer has to pay 1.5 to 2.5 as much per hour as hiring a new employee, then they have a very strong incentive to hire more employees."
    [Not when full-time benefits per employee are so costly, and not when some employees are pressing them for chronic overtime. This is simply a poor overtime design. A good design would tax away 100% of overtime profits (relative to hiring) for corporations with an exemption for reinvestment in overtime targeted hiring (and training wherever needed) and 100% of overwork earnings for individuals (overwork being total overtime from all sources) with an exemption for reinvestment in overwork targeted hiring (and training wherever needed).]

  2. German jobless rate drops to lowest since 1992, by Christian Kraemer, 9/30 Reuters via FOXBusiness.com
    NUREMBERG, Germany - Germany's unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in more than 18 years in September as companies, little fazed by a cooling in the economy's record recovery, continued to hire.
    The firm job market appears to be lifting consumer morale and domestic demand as well as traditionally solid exports in Europe's largest economy.
    Federal Labour Office figures released on Thursday showed the jobless total fell by 40,000 in September from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted 3.146 million, double the drop expected in a Reuters poll of economists.
    The fall was the 15th drop in a row and took the adjusted jobless rate down to 7.5 percent from 7.6 percent in August.That was also the lowest level since April 1992, according to Bundesbank figures.
    "Labour market conditions will continue to improve in the months ahead. Second-quarter GDP data has shown that not just exports but also domestic demand is recovering strongly now," said Timo Klein, senior economist at IHS Global Insight.
    "Numbers in short-time work are on the decline and temporary employment is already more or less back at pre-crisis levels of mid-2008 again."
    Government subsidies that encourage firms to shift employees to part-time work rather than fire them during the global downturn have helped keep German unemployment largely in check.
    But the part-time work programme, known as "Kurzarbeit", was now becoming less important, the Office said. In July, some 288,000 employees benefited from Kurzarbeit subsidies, 111,000 fewer than in the previous month.
    German consumer sentiment is likely to rise going into October to its highest level since may 2008, the GfK market research group said on Tuesday.
    Driven by exports, Germany has recovered quickly from its deepest post-war recession last year, but a gloomy outlook in some of its main trading partners means growth is beginning to slow from the 2.2 percent reached in the second quarter.
    Economists now widely expect German economic output this year to expand by at least 3 percent.
    Officials have said joblessness will likely fall below the key 3 million mark this year and employment will reach its highest level since reunification in 1990, further fuelling the recovery.
    On Thursday, German steel employers and the IG Metall labour union agreed to a 3.6 percent pay rise from October for 85,000 workers, averting further strikes by a union emboldened to push for raises after a period of muted pay demands.
    Steelmaker Thyssen Krupp's Chief Executive Ekkehard Schulz said global demand for steel was at record levels and would remain strong well into 2011.
    German engineering orders in August rose 45 percent in real terms from the previous year, industry association VDMA said earlier on Thursday.
    And figures released earlier by the Federal Statistics Office showed the number of people in work in Germany rose by 2,000 on the month in seasonally adjusted terms.
    (Additional reporting by Sarah Marsh in Berlin, writing by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

  3. Jobless rate falls unexpectedly - The Live Register fell in September for the first time since February, 9/29 IrishTimes.com
    The Live Register fell in September for the first time since February, with 5,400 fewer people signing on, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
    The standardised unemployment rate fell to 13.7 per cent during the month, a slight decline from the 13.8 per cent recorded in August.
    A total of 442,417 people are now signing on to the Live Register, an annual rise of 22,563, or 5.4 per cent, on an unadjusted basis.
    The pace of increase has slowed somewhat from August, when the register rose by 30,198, or 6.9 per cent in the year.
    Minister for Social Protection, Éamon Ó Cuív described the drop in the number of people signing on in September as “encouraging and very welcome”. He said it was evidence that the register is stabilising, although he acknowledged that the fall was not entirely unexpected, given that it always drops in September as the academic year begins.
    The Live Register includes part-time workers, seasonal and casual workers who can receive jobseekers benefit or allowance. About 17.4 per cent of the register, or 76,879 people, were casual and part-time workers during the month.
    There were a total of 39,960 new registrants on the Live Register during the month, about 9,900 each month, up from 36,194 in August. This was offset by closed claims and the movement of people between schemes.
    Two thirds of those signing on were short-term claimants.
    There were 128,350 jobseekers benefit claimants on the Live Register during the month, a fall of about 16,490, or 11.4 per cent. The number of jobseekers allowance claimants also fell, but at a lower rate of 2.6 per cent, or 7,582. Other registrants declined by 434, or 1.7 per cent, to 25,642.
    On an annual basis, jobseekers benefit claimants fell by 49,063, or 27.7 per cent, while the number of people claiming jobseekers allowance and other registrants rose by 62,745 and 8,881 respectively.
    Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton described the fall as a “small let-up in the relentless rise in unemployment”.
    He warned it should not be seen as a sign that the jobs crisis is easing. “Instead, it reflects the scourge of rising emigration,” Mr Bruton said.
    “The number of Irish people leaving the country is up by a staggering 33 per cent year-on-year. The impact of emigration is reflected in a drop in unemployment among the young and the non-Irish in these latest figures.”
    He added: “The Government’s blinkered focus of writing whatever cheque is necessary to keep failed banks alive has blinded them to the human cost being felt in every corner and community of this country.”
    Labour enterprise spokesman Willie Penrose welcomed the Live Register decline but said the underlying pattern remains unchanged with "virtually all of the decline" attributed to factors such as students returning to college.
    "Yesterday's announcement by the Government of an 'integrated jobs strategy' and Brian Cowen's 'jobs summit' last week will impress nobody," Mr Penrose said.
    "This Government is not capable of dealing with the unemployment crisis or leading the country back to economic recovery. The sooner it recognises this and allows the people to elect a new government with a fresh mandate, the better for all our people."
    The Small Firms' Association called on the Government to stabilise the enterprise environment to help retain and create jobs. Director Avine McNally said the annual increase of 5.4 per cent showed the market was still facing challenges, with many workers on short time working or reducing working hours.
    "Jobs have to be the number one priority – livelihoods, individuals and families are being affected every day by reduced working hours, short time working and the uncertainty about future employment," she said.
    [Then stop straining to maintain a low-tech workweek in the high-tech age and REDEFINE FULL TIME DOWNWARD - Moses did not mean the six 12-hour day workweek he brought down from Mt.Sinai to last forever!]
    The Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) criticised the Government’s jobs record and said unless immediate action is taken, the economy will deteriorate further.
    Commenting on the latest figures, Isme chief executive Mark Fielding said: "The so called strategy and action plan to increase jobs, announced yesterday by Government, is long on aspiration and short on substance and a rehash of old initiatives and will do little in the short term to alleviate the crisis.
    "The ‘no job, no hope’ attitude, which is current, needs to be addressed in a coherent manner, with immediate actions and not another Pollyanna report,” he said.

9/26-27-28/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Bruederle: Germany GDP Growth Close To 3% 'Very Much Assured', 9/28 MNI via IMarketnews.com
    BERLIN, Germany - German Economics Minister Rainer Bruederle said Tuesday that domestic GDP growth of close to 3% this year "is very much assured."
    Earlier today, the German Industry Association (BDI) predicted domestic GDP growth of "markedly above 3%" this year.
    Speaking at an industry conference here, Bruederle called the German upswing "broad based." Germany's "extra large upswing" was only possible because most businesses held onto their staff, helped by the government's subsidies for short-time work, the minister argued.
    The problem in the period ahead will not be unemployment but rather a lack of skilled labor, Bruederle reckoned. "We will have increasingly a shortage of skilled workers," he predicted.
    [Can he spell T-R-A-I-N-I-N-G? We thought, with all their apprenticeships, that Deutschland was good at training. If "Little Brother's" (Bruederle's) prediction is just hors d'oeuvres for opening the floodgates to cheap foreign labor, Germany could still easily flush its current prosperity and economic leadership down the rathole of global overpopulation, labor surplus and uninvestably overconcentrated M1s (money supplies).]
    He also warned of rising protectionism. "I see many signs of increasing protectionism worldwide," he said.
    [Only if you have incredible Timesizing-level workforce flexibility and skill liquidity can you afford to ditch protectionism.]

  2. Monks: Austerity 'too much, too fast', 9/28 EurActiv.com
    John Monks is secretary-general of the European Trade Union Confederation. He was speaking to EurActiv Managing Editor Daniela Vincenti-Mitchener.
    [In other words, Monks is a union guy, not an EU bureaucrat.]
    BRUSSELS, Euro.Union - Eurozone governments panicked at the onset of the Greek crisis and now there is a real risk that austerity measures, hastily adopted, might prompt a double-dip recession, John Monks, secretary-general of the European Trade Union Confederation, told EurActiv in an interview.
    EU leaders met two weeks ago: were you happy with the results?
    The summit was clearly overtaken by the Roma issue and these things do happen in the EU from time to time. More immediate issues that are not even meant to be on the agenda can explode in summits and dominate everything. This is clearly what happened.
    The Roma is a big issue, as there are 12 million in the EU. It is a minority that has been there for a very long time. I am critical of what France is doing. I've seen the conditions in these camps and they are appalling. Pushing people away is not in line with the best traditions of France, and certainly not of the EU.
    The other reason of course is that economic governance is difficult. Despite attempts to paper over the cracks, there is an argument between France and Germany, and Britain outside the euro trying to defend London's role, and those within the euro.
    Those within the euro, such as Luxembourg, probably Ireland, don't want to be disadvantaged by extra rules and regulations in the euro zone that could see them lose very lucrative business to London or Switzerland or other places outside the euro zone.
    We do have some economic governance [referring to the Greek bailout]. Greece feels sometimes like an EU colony. A senior IMF official described the EU/IMF 'rescue' package as more of a punishment for them breaking the rules, being dishonest about the statistics deployed by the previous Greek government.
    So what would it take to have economic governance that works? Many countries have not respected the Stability and Growth pact and have gone beyond the set threshold. Do you think that was irresponsible?
    Fortunately, I say fortunately, the Stability and Growth pact was effectively ignored and governments kept up their spending level for the first two years of the recession, with some exceptions (Greece, Ireland).
    They resisted austerity measures, they kept welfare spending going. In some countries they added new schemes, Kurzarbeit, which has being quite successful. But Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium had similar [welfare spending] schemes and they worked.
    They were Keynesians, they ignored the monetarist corsets of the Stability and Growth pact. And this was not the first time that the pact was breached. It was breached by France and Germany well before the crisis came.
    For the first two years of the crisis, although we would have liked the EU to have an EU recovery plan with some programmes for young people on green technology and Europe's industries of the future, nonetheless they did keep the welfare spending up, they kept public investiture going.
    That all changed with Greece, when the prime minister confessed to the abuses of EU rules. The shape and conditions for EU assistance became clear and everybody started thinking 'we could be next' after Greece. The markets started acting against Spain, Portugal and Ireland in particular.
    But there were even rumours about the credit worthiness of France and the UK - suggestions that their ratings might be marked down. Many panicked. Germany and the Netherlands, which don't like to be in the red anyway, did not feel they were in a strong position.
    The public pressure to cut their public debt was strong. So now everybody is doing it, with possibly the only exception being Belgium, which is in the fortunate position of not having a government to do it.
    Are you saying eurozone countries reacted out of panic, rather than careful analysis?
    The Greek situation changed everything. Before that it was a banking crisis, then it became member states' crisis – particularly in the weaker economies of the European Union. When that happened people forgot their Keynesianism and everyone started applying austerity measures. So we've seen the cancellations of new schools, road and hospitals, and the actual job cuts in the public sector will come through this winter and next year. We are only at the start of this.
    But we are seeing a slow recovery, also on the job front. According to the Dublin Foundation, in the second quarter of 2010 one job was created for every two lost …
    There is a slow recovery, in particularly the first six months of this year. But I think the question is whether or not it is a sustainable recovery.
    If you take Austria, for example, their economy is in quite good shape and they have the lowest level of unemployment in Europe. But if you talk to the governor of the European Central Bank, he is very worried at the prospect of a double-dip recession.
    The private sector may even fall back, partly because it is beginning to lose orders from public-spending municipalities and central government. And the domestic demand from the private sector might not compensate. That is a major worry.
    On Wednesday 29 September you are staging a European day of action to protest against austerity measures. What do you expect to achieve with this demonstration?
    This demonstration is to remind governments that they have panicked and gone in for cuts and austerity. We will issue warnings to [European Commission] President [José Manuel] Barroso and Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme.
    So your prospects for 2011 are not very optimistic …
    I'm a natural optimist, but I think that the calculation of the risk is that there is a bigger chance of a recession than there is of us managing to sustain the recovery.
    Which policies do you think prove most effective in reducing the human cost to labour markets of the recession? Do you think that short-term measures, such as the stimulus, the short-time work programmes, insurance benefits and job subsidies, should be maintained?
    Yes, for the time being. The short-time working scheme hasn't been discontinued yet in Germany and that has kept unemployment down there, as well as in Austria and the Netherlands.
    It is difficult to say when to end it. We know that we need to pay debts back, but the austerity programme is too much, too fast, however. We were looking for a more gradual repayment plan over a longer period, keeping employment packages in place and increasing debt. In some countries, such as Greece, debt will increase anyway.
    At the moment, our biggest worry is how countries like Greece and Ireland are struggling even with the measures. They are being downgraded by the ratings agencies as they have no growth, partly because they are so busy trying to pay back their debts.
    I think European economic governance, provided that the EU is confident the country is following the rules, should be generous and not punitive with its measures. I think that they have not been generous enough with Greece in particular. The fear of being the next Greece is what is motivating Ireland to be so rigorous at the present time.
    What policies do you think can accelerate recover[y] in jobs in the long term?
    I think that maintaining welfare states and not cutting them would do so, as well as keeping up wages and not looking for pay freezes all the time, which reduces demand. Thirdly, special measures are needed for investment in new industries such as green ones, as well as expanded opportunities for young people. This is a terrible time to be leaving school or college.
    Last week, the European Commission proposed one of the flagship initiatives of Europe 2020 - 'Youth on the Move'. The Socialists criticised the paper by saying that it re-branded existing funds in order to help youths into employment. What is your stance on this proposal?
    I am not an expert on youth employment plans, but I had a discussion with [Employment and Socail Affairs] Commissioner [László] Andor and told him the 'Youth on the Move' initiative [for enabling youths to find a job or study abroad] looked like a case of re-branding existing funding.
    He told me it was just the first step towards a flagship policy and not the end step, so I don't want to make a premature judgement on it.
    But for that he would need a bigger budget ...
    I haven't seen any proposals for him getting a bigger budget, but if further steps are yet to come then it would be very limited as an initiative, as others have been with regard to employment
    How can the roles of collective bargaining, tripartite consultation and social dialogue be reinforced?
    One of the most interesting things is that they are not used at European level for initiatives like 'Youth on the Move' or for how long repayment periods for debt should be. I have no doubt that we'll discuss those at the macro-economic dialogue.
    Why is this? Are we still stuck in old processes?
    My feeling is that finance ministers have captured the economic governance debate with employment ministers being nowhere, and that's reflected by the commissioners who are involved.
    I think Mr [Economics Commissioner Olli] Rehn is in a strong but difficult place and Commissioner Andor in a weaker one. If employment ministers are not involved then neither unions and employers are much involved. This is another reason why we want our voice heard and why we will be on the streets in Brussels and Spain and other places.
    In the most successful economies - in Austria, the Netherlands and to a lesser extent in Germany - social dialogue is playing a part in producing some agreed approach to the deficit. The Kurzarbeit schemes have come out of that dialogue process. We would like to see it used much more. When speaking to unionists in Greece, I do cite these examples and say that they need to do the same in order to find their way of tackling the deficit.
    The most disappointing breach of social dialogue has been in Spain where the government, although committed, has made some announcements on austerity, pensions and on bargaining structures which the unions regard as very hostile and they did not do that in a social dialogue: they were not consulted.
    Do you think we are going towards more individual bargaining? Sweden, for example, used to be a very unionised country, but is adopting individual schemes. Do you think this represents a trend?
    Individual bargaining is nothing new. It started in the US, was imported to the UK by Margaret Thatcher and has just about reached Spain. Some countries are going for decentralised bargaining to the enterprise level or even to the individual, as in the case of Sweden. It's a way of weakening national and sectorial collective bargaining.
    What kind of impact will this have on the labour market?
    It's about having 'flexible' labour markets. If the bargaining is on an individual level, between you and me, and I haven't any work for you, then you'll have to work for half the wages I used to pay. It can be the other way around in a boom - you can say 'I'm not working for you, I'm working for someone else'.
    [He gets it all except the translation into employer self-interest. When I haven't any work for you and you'll have to work for half the wages I used to pay, you're going to consume and spend half as much as you used to spend, and there'll be half as much marketable productivity for me to invest all my wage-savings in, and so, half as much sustainable let alone profitable investments. Brilliant! Self-destruction, everyone else first thanks to the delusion that booms are acts of God and not direct results of my theory that employees are "costs" on the same level as materials and supplies that I should "save" on as much as possible - never mind the giant exception for executive pay and perks.]
    It increases inequality.
    [So? Inequality is the unactionable word for uninvestably overconcentrated national income and wealth.]
    The societies in which collective bargaining has been weakened are the ones that are the most unequal and where wages are the most volatile depending on the economic conditions of the company.
    [So? He's still not getting to the punchline that shows employers how self-destructive they're acting.]
    The talented, the persons in demand can do very well under such a system, but for most it is very difficult.
    [And what effect does that have on domestic consumption? ... We're waiting...]
    For other people [but not us?], however, it is always very important to keep a strong system of collective bargaining. It is not 'flexicurity', there is no security in it at all [unless full employment is automatically guaranteed by automatic adjustment of the workweek to nullify un(der)employment]. It is straight flexibility.
    [Meaning labor surplus so that employees, wages, domestic consumption, marketable productivity, and sustainable investment are toast.]
    The Commission has come out with a pension reform proposal, while across Europe many are protesting against changing the system. What do you think it would take to have win-win pension reforms for employers and employees? [It would take dropping the blank check of mandatory retirement age and reorienting retirement thinking onto 52 much longer weekends and work till you drop - enough about "old age" - treat it like a temporary rehabilitatable re-employable disability regardless of age. And if somebody is really terminal, cut the precious horror of the Kevorkian kit. Death with control is the first step toward death with dignity.]
    There is a number of ingredients to this. Some countries are doing better than others and have agreements on pensions.
    Firstly, we must recognise that a lot of employers don't want to employ all the workers. Older workers are expensive, they are senior and they are not working - particularly in white collar management jobs - until the statutory retirement age is out. Employers want new blood, they want space for younger people to come through.
    [So he's given away the store to ageism.]
    If employers are honest, that's what they want. They might take older workers in base-level jobs on completely different contracts, like supermarkets do - you see that in the UK or US, it is a little extra job for the elderly as they receive such small pensions. The idea that employers will keep them on, whether they are a bank or factory manager, I think is wrong.
    The second problem is that there are some jobs which you shouldn't be doing over a certain age - a steel erector or a bricklayer for example. I'm sure that you can find a local bricklayer at seventy years old. But on big contracts, on the big jobs - these are not jobs for older people.
    A much more imaginative way of employing them is required, therefore. I'm less worried about white-collar workers working longer as they don't have the same health problems. But manual workers already die younger and receive a lower pension.
    The Dutch have wrestled with this problem and are trying to re-employ older workers rather than just employing them in supermarkets, but generally speaking I don't see any of this in Europe.
    I think the Commission's White Paper must have been written in Paris - it was a French government-friendly paper encouraged to support what is happening in France.
    I am realistic - when my granddaughter was born, the doctor said to my son that she would have a one in three chance of living until 100. As I said to my son, 'she might retire when she's 60 and be alive for longer than she's working if she starts at 23 like you did!'
    We know that things will change. When Emperor Bismarck introduced the world's first pension, only one in eight Germans lived long enough to claim it. Indeed, in my lifetime in the 1960s, the average man in Manchester lived until he was about 63, whilst pensions began at 65.
    Would an imaginative way of solving this problem be to go towards sectoral pension reforms?
    I think people are entitled to their pension scheme and should be getting incentives to work. If there are changes to reflect longevity rates, then this should be introduced very gradually. The countries offering incentives seem to be the ones making the most progress with this.
    What kind of incentives? Do we mean re-training older workers?
    That's a cultural shift as well. I think that not so many older workers want to be retrained and many would rather not take jobs in supermarkets that youngsters could do when youth unemployment is so high. I am very aware of that dimension too.
    What are the prospects for 2011 and beyond?
    I'm an optimist. I hope that the governments don't kill the economy with austerity, but I fear that they will. So on 29 September we will be alerting them and the peoples of Europe as to the risks they are taking with the economies of Europe.

  3. Welfare-To-Work Program's Demise 'Really Demoralizing', 9/27 HuffingtonPost.com
    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Jaquayla Burton's job will end this week unless the Senate does an about-face and decides to preserve a welfare-to-work program that created more than 240,000 jobs as part of the stimulus bill.
    "I wish they would because on Friday I'll have to sign up for unemployment. I don't feel good about that," said Burton, 20, in an interview with HuffPost. "It's hard because I have two kids to take care of. I've been working here nine months and it's kind of stable at home, and then on Friday I'll be unemployed."
    Burton is one of six moms doing community outreach work for for the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition whose subsidized jobs will disappear on Sept. 30, said campaign co-director Karl Kramer. "We do community outreach to educate people about what their rights are under San Francisco's wage and benefit laws."
    The 2009 stimulus bill created an "Emergency Fund" that allowed states to subsidize jobs via the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), formerly known as welfare. The Senate voted against reauthorizing the program in March. Last week Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) blocked a request to bring up a bill that contained a $1.5 billion reauthorization. Advocates of the program are not optimistic that a change of heart is afoot in the U.S. Senate.
    The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the program put more than 240,000 otherwise unemployed people to work in 37 states, including 45,000 people in California. The program even has the approval of the American Enterprise Institute's Kevin Hassett, who calls it "a pretty cost-effective way to create jobs."
    Burton said her job as a community organizer with the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, which she's held for the past nine months, is the first she's ever had. Kramer said Burton and the five other moms at his nonprofit earn $11.03 per hour and work 32 hours a week. They will all be let go come Friday.
    [So the self-vanishing USA can't even maintain its self-supporting-consumer reclamation program at a 32-hour workweek level. This is how "the first shall become last."]
    "I can honestly say they're dependable, committed, motivated in providing valuable services to the community," Kramer said. "I haven't been getting a lot of sleep lately. It's really demoralizing."

  4. Love of work is losing its lustre, by Aaron Cook, 9/26 (9/27 dateline disparity) Sydney Morning Herald via brisbanetimes.com.au
    ADELAIDE, S.A., Australia - Full-time employees spend less time working than they did a decade ago, a new report shows.
    An analysis of labour force data from the Bureau of Statistics by Bankwest shows that they clock up an average of 41.4 hours a week, compared to 42.7 hours in 2000.
    This adds up to nearly 68 hours less work each year, equal to more than eight 9am to 5pm workdays.
    The chief executive of Bankwest Business, Ian Corfield, said the figure challenges the idea that we are all working longer and harder than ever before. "I'm sure many of us would be astounded to learn that as a nation we each are actually working fewer hours than we were back in 2000," he said.
    Barbara Pocock, the director of the Centre for Work and Life, which researches the changing nature of work and its effect on society, said the figures may reflect that women make up a bigger proportion of the workforce. At 38.9 hours, women in full-time work put in 3.9 fewer hours per week than men.
    The report also indicates that 15 to 24 year olds work an average of 39.1 hours. Those aged 35 to 54 are working 42.2 hours, and those in the 55-to-64 age group are still working 41.6 hours.
    Professor Pocock, from the University of South Australia, said the averages may conceal those who work more than 48 hours, putting themselves at risk of depression an illness. ''There is a large slice, especially men, who are working too many hours,'' she said.
    Mark Wooden, an employment expert from the University of Melbourne, said that while he worried about those working very long hours, he did not think there was an ideal number of hours that would work for everybody. ''It's really about the mismatch between the hours you work and the hours you want to work,'' he said.
    Professor Pocock said surveys had shown a high proportion of Australians considered 35 hours a week to be ideal.

  5. Work/life balance - Sole traders slash working hours, by Oliver Milman, 9/27 StartupSmart.com.au
    PERTH, Western Australia - Sole traders, traditionally seen as the hardest workers in the business world, have cut their working hours back more than any other group in the last 10 years, new research suggests.
    Bankwest’s Working Times Report found that there has been a three-hour drop in the average working hours of sole traders in the last decade, down to 40.8 hours a week.

    The drop, albeit off a large base, is the largest of any group surveyed for the report, which found that average hours worked by all Australians has fallen to 34.1 hours a week, down 1.3 hours in the last 10 years.
    Ian Corfield, CEO of Bankwest business, told StartupSmart: “The fall in hours for sole traders is from a pretty high base. But it looks like a lot of sole traders balanced the books by putting on more hours during the GFC and then moved back on that.”
    “We recognise that a lot of people put in a lot of hours when establishing a business, but the trend is moving down.”
    Business owners are still working far longer hours than their employees, according to Bankwest, with 34% working more than 60 hours a week. However, this has dropped by 5% in the last 10 years.
    Overall, business owners work an average of 50.7 hours a week, down from 53.3 hours in 2000
    . Meanwhile, employees now work 40.8 hours a week, down from 41.6 hours.
    The research, sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, found that full timers had scaled down their hours and that an increase in part-timers had contributed to the overage average dropping.
    Part-time workers now account for 30% of the workforce, up from 27% in 2000, while employment has risen by 24% in the last decade.
    Those working in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector worked the longest hours, an average of 50.9 a week, while those involved in public administration and safety worked the least, at 36.8 hours.
    Corfield says: “With things like BlackBerrys and laptops, people can work at home, but there’s also been a change in attitude that workers and bosses want more work/life balance.”

  6. Y so little hard work - VICTORIANS are spending less time in the office than they did a decade ago, 9/26 HeraldSun.com.au
    Penny Flanders, at home with sons Max, 5, and Oscar, 3, left corporate life to start her own business because she wanted more flexible working hours. [photo caption]
    MELBOURNE, Vic., Australia - Gen Y is leading the trend away from long working hours.
    The state's full-time workers put in an average of 41.2 hours a week in the year to August, according to a BankWest report entitled Working Times.
    That's 1.2 hours less than they did a decade ago.
    It's also a smidgen under the national average of 41.4 hours.
    Gen Ys - or workers aged 15-24 - clocked less time on the job than any other age group, working an average of 39.6 hours a week, the research revealed.
    People in the 65-plus age bracket were the most industrious, racking up an average of 46.8 hours.
    Melbourne's Penny Flanders, in her 40s, is among the many Victorians turning her back on long working hours.
    The mother of two left her high-flying career as an advertising executive to spend more time with her family.
    She started her own small business, missmoneypenny.net.au, an online store selling second-hand designer clothing, 18 months ago. 
    "I can run it from home and work my own hours," she said.
    "It doesn't matter if the kids are sick, or there's school holidays or we want to go away for the weekend. Everything's portable - that's the beauty of having an online business."
    Ms Flanders said many of her peers were also re-examining their priorities.
    "A lot of my friends did the high-flying career thing, but at the end of the day it wasn't making them 100 per cent happy," she said. 
    "I can see a real shift in my social group - there's got to be more to life than working your guts out and nothing else."
    Bosses work harder than anyone else in Australia, slogging away for an average of 53.3 hours a week, the analysis, based on the latest government labour force figures, indicated.
    The hardest-working industry is agriculture, forestry and fishery, with the average full-time agricultural worker putting in 50.9 hours a week.
    In second place is mining at 45.5 hours a week, the data, part of BankWest's Financial Indicator series showed.

  7. Coffee Smiths return reflects two-way recovery, by ALAN WOOD, 9/26 Stuff.co.nz
    CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand - The Coffee Smiths are grinding their way back to business but their two outlets in the central business district reflect a city of two halves in earthquake recovery mode.
    The European-styled cafe's Durham St branch got back to trading earlier and more successfully than its Cashel St branch further to the east.
    Owners Tony Perkins and Jane Logan usually split their time between the cafes, but in the recovery period from the September 4 earthquake and aftershocks they had to concentrate efforts on Durham St.
    The seven staff were put on slightly shorter hours to enable them to all work at the branch in the western part of the CBD.
    [Hours cuts instead of jobcuts are a quite common response to crisis worldwide when managers aren't intent on self-destruction, everyone else first...]
    Perkins said he had to battle to get the three-year-old Cashel St operation open given widespread problems facing other businesses in the immediate vicinity.
    "With Cashel St we had access problems – we were in the cordon for the first seven days and couldn't get access at all other than to get stuff out ... post that, the two buildings that are next to us had been roped off because they had unsafe windows ... it was a shambles,"
    Durham St – launched four-and-half years ago – had some minor tile and wall cracking but following the quakes had re-opened on September 7 with strong support.
    "For all of (that first) week it would be fair to say that – other than the people working at the court house – the reason that the people came was to vent, and to have a coffee and be in a safe and friendly place."
    Initially he felt uncomfortable with the city's post-quake water quality and so had a special "hospital grade" water filter for his coffee machine flown down from Wellington.
    Perkins said in some ways it was fortunate that Durham St was the first to reopen. "It's a profitable exercise, (whereas) Cashel St is still trying to find its feet during the recession.
    "We will in good times produce a good result financially, but I would have said that to you before the earthquake. Now the earthquake's hit us I don't know what's going to happen."
    For the first couple of weeks the owners had paid the staff out of their own pockets, but also applied for the Government employee pay subsidy of $350 per person a week.
    Perkins said he had supplemented the income with special treats such as movie passes, and employees could also apply for additional Government support.
    The business had insurance cover but he estimated that would not cover the full recovery costs.
    The Cashel St cafe eventually reopened from September 20 and again Perkins was buoyed by the support. "With Cashel it's just been nice to reconnect with the people that used to come and see us. The first two or three days it has been: is everybody OK? and they're asking us (the same). There is a groundswell of `we're really pleased you're back'."
    The closure of many parking spaces plus Manchester St's closure to traffic continued to hamper trading at the site. In his view it was too early for the council to reinstate parking wardens.

9/24-25/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Brown suggests work sharing instead of furloughs or layoffs, posted by David Siders, 9/24 Sacramento Bee (blog) via blogs.sacbee.com
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Asked which he preferred to use with state employees in a cash crisis, furloughs or layoffs, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown this afternoon had another idea altogether: work sharing, which pays partial unemployment benefits to people whose hours have been reduced.
    Brown told The Sacramento Bee's editorial board that he would consider applying the Work Sharing Unemployment Insurance program to state employees. The state does not currently participate.
    "That was a proposal that we designed many years ago, and I would like to dust that off the shelf again and try it again," Brown said, "although the unemployment fund is not in any very healthy state."
    Brown was governor when the program, the first of its kind in the nation, was enacted in 1978.

  2. Office overtime stresses the heart, 9/25 DeccanChronicle.com
    CHENNAI, India - Love your job so much that you can’t get enough of it? That ‘Best employee of the month’ badge may be wearing a bit too heavy on your chest.
    An international study has shown that that those who worked 10 or 11-hour days were up to 60 per cent more likely to suffer heart disease or die younger than those who worked shorter hours.
    The study, published in the European Heart Journal, also found that the risk of heart disease increased in workers who had trouble sleeping or did not have sufficient time to wind down after work.
    ‘Employees who work overtime may also be likely to be reluctant to be absent and work while ill,’ the study highlights.
    On World Heart Day, with the theme ‘wellness at the workplace’ this year, cardiologists admit that all is not well.
    “While we receive a mix of people with heart ailments, we see plenty of heart-attack cases in people working in the IT sector. The worst part is that they are all young men, just crossing 30,” laments Dr
    B. Madan Mohan, the consultant cardiologist at Fortis Malar hospital here.
    Work stress is an important factor in triggering heart attacks, as it disturbs the biological rhythm of the body, he points out.
    “When young professionals keep late working hours and lose sleep over office problems, the blood pressure goes up, leading to cholesterol clots, or blocks in the heart vessels,” Dr Madan Mohan explains.
    “The final event, the rupture of vulnerable plaque leading to heart attack can occur due to any mental or physical stress .Heart attacks are more common on Mondays which means that going to work after resting on Saturday and Sunday is stressful,” adds Dr R. Alagesan, emeritus professor of cardiology at the Tamil Nadu DR MGR Medical University here.
    “So, working long hours, working against deadlines to finish assignments, and, importantly, the time difference between United States of America, European countries and India play important roles in contributing to work stress,” Dr Alagesan lists.
    Even as doctors insist that early diagnosis and periodic testing is the key to fighting the epidemic of cardiovascular disease among the young in this country, the stress of knowing about one’s heart problem may only worsen the situation, experts point out.
    “Knowing that one has heart disease definitely increases his anxiety and stress. It is most important at the time of heart attack for the patient to remain calm, as the stress due to heart attack, coupled with emotional stress, can increase the heart rate and blood pressure and sometimes even trigger life-threatening arrhythmia. We try to alleviate this by sedating the patient,” explained Dr Alagesan.

9/22-23/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Safe at Siemens, editorial, 9/23 Financial Times via ft.com
    FRANKFURT, Germany - It sounds like an agreement to gladden the hearts of workers anywhere: Siemens has struck a deal that includes an indefinite promise to avoid forced job cuts among its German employees. No wonder the share price of Europe’s largest conglomerate dipped slightly on the news. Why would a group that operates across 190 countries with around 400,000 employees choose to bind itself by offering this unusual protection to its 128,000-strong domestic workforce?
    There are two answers. The first is that, in line with the German tradition of co-operation between labour and management, this wide agreement on job security acknowledges the sacrifices in pay cuts and short-time working that staff made through and after the financial crisis. The second is that it creates an atmosphere of goodwill in which there remains plenty of room to cut jobs in Germany and beyond. Moreover, this version emphasises, either side can end the “indefinite” agreement in summer 2013.
    While these explanations are not mutually exclusive, they do sit uncomfortably together. As he continues restructuring the group, Peter Löscher, chief executive, will have a tough task to avoid any fallout from disappointing either those who read too much into the broad expression of solidarity, or those who studied the get-outs in the small print.
    The jobs promise could yet turn out to be a smart move. At the same time, it restricts the group’s freedom of action. Ring-fencing a particular group of staff distorts decisions about reshaping operations elsewhere. Relying on retirements and voluntary redundancies as ways to change the workforce are more circuitous routes than giving executives a free hand.
    The jobs pledge could affect wage negotiations too. Siemens has a long-term deal with staff that has several months to run. Meanwhile, German pay packets are expanding. In the next talks, the group will have tied its own hands if it has to argue that enforced job losses would be the cost of meeting unreasonable pay demands.
    These management constraints matter because Siemens needs to improve its profitability. Operating profit and new orders are rising, but in the six months to end-March, Siemens still trailed the operating margins for the industrial operations of US conglomerate General Electric. Mr Löscher should use the jobs deal to pursue corporate efficiency. In the longer term, failure to do so produces worse outcomes for companies, investors and employees alike.
    [A companion story reminds us of Lincoln Electric, where adjusting the workweek instead of mutilating the workforce and skillset similarly made job security possible -]
    Siemens promises workers jobs for life, by Daniel Schäfer, 9/22 ft.com
    FRANKFURT, Germany - Siemens’ German workers have struck a deal that will see their jobs secured indefinitely, in an arresting move that highlights how the financial crisis has triggered a fresh consensus between labour and management in corporate Germany.
    The engineering group said it had sealed an agreement with its works council and the IG Metall workers’ union that includes a pledge not to make any forced redundancies among its 128,000 German workforce.
    The move is unusual even in Germany, known for its cosy relationships between workforce and management.
    Hagen Lesch, trade union expert at Cologne Institute for Economic Research, said: “I have never heard of anything similar”.
    However, he added: “I don’t think this is economically sensible. How is Siemens going to block the unions from high wage demands if it doesn’t have the threat of job cuts?”
    Other industrial groups such as carmakers also have job guarantees at their main plants, but even the longest – at Daimler’s Sindelfingen plant – is limited to 10 years.
    Siemens’ agreement builds on Germany’s non-confrontational strategy during last year’s economic crisis, when the country’s industrial companies avoided job cuts with a slew of flexibility measures.
    Dieter Scheitor, IG Metall’s representative for Europe’s largest engineering group, called the agreement an “important signal” for the workforce and for corporate Germany.
    “The good relationship between management and workforce has survived the acid test of the financial crisis. Both sides have shown a great amount of flexibility,” he said.
    Like other industrial companies in Germany, Siemens last year held on to its domestic workforce in spite of the sharp recession . It relied instead on a scheme of state-sponsored shorter working hours and on other flexible measures, that have been built up during the boom years.
    Peter Löscher, Siemens chief executive, said the deal underlined the company’s responsibility as an employer. “This is a clear and long-term commitment to Germany.”
    Germany’s unions have seized on the economy’s recovery to end a decade of wage restraint. IG Metall this week launched warning strikes to support its demand for a 6 per cent pay rise for 85,000 steel workers.
    However, there is a loophole in the agreement. Siemens said it could be terminated by either side from summer 2013. But the stakes for such a move by Siemens are high as it would face damaging industrial action.
    The deal also grants the works council information rights if Siemens sells parts of its business, effectively giving the workers a say in the selection of a bidder.
    Siemens and a few other industrial companies have in the past few years started to consult their works councils during sales processes, but IG Metall said this marked the first time that such an information right had been enshrined in a labour agreement.

  2. Siemens Agrees To Minimize Layoffs While Restructuring, by Frankfurt Bureau, 9/22 Dow Jones Newswires; +49 69 29725 500; djnews.frankfurt@dowjones.com via Wall Street Journal via wsj.com
    FRANKFURT, Germany -- German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG (SIE.XE) has reached an open-ended agreement with its central works council and the IG Metal union to minimize layoffs while restructuring in Germany, the company said Wednesday.
    The agreement extends the principles of a previous one signed in July 2008 to the entire company, including Siemens's German subsidiaries, the company said. Siemens has agreed to avoid layoffs wherever possible by shifting personnel between locations and resorting to short-time work programs.
    The new location and employment agreement doesn't apply to Siemens IT Solutions and Services GmbH, as their employment conditions are covered by the provisions of a unit-specific collective bargaining agreement.

9/19-20-21/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Young employees could force dealers to get a life, by Donna Harris, 9/20 Automotive News (blog) via autonews.com
    I just got back from a finance and insurance conference in Las Vegas where I bumped into a dealer who used to be open seven days a week but is now closed on Sundays.
    That’s counter to the trend over the past several years, during which more dealerships have extended their hours and remained open all weekend.
    The dealer told me his shorter workweek has nothing to do with the old “blue laws” requiring businesses to close on the Sabbath. It’s a response to new hires.
    He said he’s hiring more new college graduates from Generation Y, those born in the 1980s and 1990s. And if he required his younger employees to work Sunday, they’d quit.

    [Well, that's sortof hopeful - like if this was 1910 and we were still rejoicing about cutting down to an 8hrX6day= 48 hour workweek... Has this dealer ever heard of...shifts? But market forces will not force him or any other employer to grok "a life" until there is city- or state- or nation-wide workweek reduction.]
    Unlike their more materialistic baby boom parents -- who can be workaholics -- this generation wants to have a life, he observed.
    [Uh, "a life" one day in seven??]
    The dealer raises an important issue. More Generation Y-ers are entering the work force. The long, hard hours typical of auto retail -- on top of the stigma of the stereotypical, plaid-suited car salesman -- might be repelling good job candidates.
    You can reach Donna Harris at dharris@crain.com.

  2. Germany. CEO Hans-Georg Harter: In 2010, ZF has returned to profitability - Workforce swells by over 2,000 by late August, 9/21 BYMnews.com (press release)
    GERMANY, Euro.Union - With its sales results rising between January and August by over 40 percent relative to the same period of the previous year, ZF has managed to get back on track in 2010. The corporation expects a turnover of 312 billion for the full year, an increase of more than 25% over 2009. “We’re growing in all segments and all regions,” reported ZF CEO Hans-Georg Härter. “And as a result, we have returned to profitability this year.” Kurzarbeit, Germany’s state-subsidized short-time-work program, has now been almost entirely phased out across the Group. Meanwhile, the number of ZF employees worldwide rose by 2,000 by the end of August.
    “The rapid economic recovery and an even faster-growing demand for our products have been a pleasant surprise for us,” ZF CEO Hans-Georg Härter told journalists at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Fair in Hanover. “Even as the year began, we had no expectations of such a rapid recovery taking place in all of our markets.”
    These developments allowed ZF Group to increase its sales revenues by over 40 percent to nearly -8.2 billion in the first eight months of 2010 (January to August 2009: -5.8 billion). Härter now anticipates that ZF Group sales for the year will reach “12 million euros plus”. The growth in sales at ZF can be traced to a wide variety of developments – among them, the regained exporting strength of its major customers. “In terms of cars, the prematurely eulogized premium segment is making us very happy these days,” remarked Härter.
    ZF is achieving high sales growth in all regions this year in comparison with 2009. The rise in Europe’s car production has been mainly driven by exports, while the commercial vehicle segment is enjoying a significant boost in orders. In Russia, the joint enterprise ZF Kama Ltd. has recorded a strong increase in truck sales. “Especially in the commercial vehicles segment, which is still on a low level, we see good worldwide prospects ahead in 2011,” predicted Härter.
    Market growth in China’s premium car segment has led to an increasing demand for automatic transmissions and power steering systems, yet there are also opportunities for ZF to gain new customers in other booming Chinese segments, such as construction machinery. In India meanwhile, the production of suspension technology components with joint enterprise partner Hero Motors has begun successfully. In Brazil, ZF is achieving high rates of growth, particularly in the agricultural machinery and truck segments.
    In the United States, a new ZF axle and axle drive production plant was completed in 2009, and a major supply and license agreement for 8-speed automatic transmissions was signed – a success that will further boost sales in North America over the coming years. ZF is also growing in Europe, where strong demand from the truck segment is driving ZF Group sales higher.
    “Clearly, our economical, fuel-saving and emissions-reducing products are fulfilling our customers’ needs very well,” said ZF CEO Härter, explaining the global rise in sales. Also having a positive effect on ZF employment figures has been the turnaround in markets worldwide.
    Since January, the number of Group-wide employees grew by more than 2,000 to the current figure of 63,000. Some 600 of these new jobs were created in Germany. In the meantime, Kurzarbeit, Germany’s statesubsidized short-time-work program, has been scaled down within the Group to a limited level, and is planned to be eliminated entirely by the end of the year.
    In addition to the automotive supplier’s increasingly international profile, Härter underlined “the diversification of our core business” as a further ZF trend going forward. “In entering the field of renewable energy technologies, we’ve relied on our experience with developing and manufacturing high-quality drive technology components.” Currently in Gainesville, Georgia (USA), a plant is being built that will produce wind power gearboxes for Vestas, the Danish-based world leader in wind turbines. Production is to begin in 2012. ZF ultimately aims to produce well over 1,000 of these large-scale gearboxes annually for the growing wind energy industry.
    ...[sales trend graph omitted]

  3. Child Care a Concern as South Korea Battles Low Birth Rate, 9/19 (9/15) Tom Wilt News via ThirdAge.com
    SEOUL, So.Korea - Child care and pregnancy health is a concern for South Korea, as it is facing a chronic low birth rate, says it will allow women to ask for shorter working hours so they can better raise their children. The Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said the proposal to encourage childbirth and deal with population aging aims to make it easier for women to maintain their jobs and take care of their families, Yonhap News Agency reported Friday.
    Under the proposal to be finalized in October, the government will make it mandatory for employers to allow women who have children to work less, with the corresponding reduction in salary compensated by child-care and maternity leave pay.
    Currently, employers can permit flexible working hours but they aren't compelled to do so, making it difficult for mothers to juggle child-rearing and jobs.

  4. No relaxation in working hours during night shift, compiled by Ahmed Shaaban of LEGAL VIEW, 9/20 KhaleejTimes.com
    DUBAI, U.A.E. - Q) Is a worker supposed to work eight hours at night shift as is the case with the day shift? In my home country [which is??], we work only six to seven hours at night. Please, clarify.
    A) As per the UAE labour law, in normal circumstances, the daily working hours of an employee is eight hours whether he is working during day or night.

    Q) We have executed a year-long tenancy contract in a hotel apartment and paid the entire amount in advance. Four months later, the landlord said he had taken the possession of the building due to defaulted rental payment from hotel management to him and we will have to vacate immediately. Though no letter issued to us till now, he showed some letter issued from the municipality that we should vacate. Can landlord absolve himself from the fact that we paid the rent in full? The landlord filed a case against the hotel and its manager is behind bars. We are left in complete lurch with the above scenario. Please, advise.
    A) Since you have paid the rent for a year to the hotel management and therefore even if the landlord terminates the contract with the hotel management and takes over the hotel, I am of the opinion that you have the right to continue occupying the premises based on the contract signed with the hotel management. If the landlord issues notice to you to vacate the premises, you may approach the rent committee and seek remedy.
    Q) I am staying in a property in Dubai since May 29, 2009 against an annual rent of Dh38,500. The old contract expired on May 27 this year. I received an intimation letter for renewal on May 16. I remitted cheque amounting Dh26900 towards revised rent rate for the renewal of the contract for another one year. When submitting payment, I inquired about the possibility of reducing rental charges, but the answer was in negative. I submitted all the documents and cheque amount on May 16, then went for annual vacation and returned on June 7. I then knew that they started renting their properties to new tenants with a lesser rate from May 23 while we are charged Dh26,900, effective on May 28. I brought the issue to the property office in charge, but they advised me to contact the head office for help. When approaching them for refund of the difference amounting Dh3,400, they just confirmed receiving my mail, and did nothing. Please, advise.
    A) Since you have already agreed with the revised rent of Dh26,900 and issued the cheques, in my opinion it is at the discretion of your landlord whether to further reduce your rent though he is not obliged to do so. Therefore I advise you to find out an amicable solution with the landlord.

9/17-18/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Library Visitors Upset By Decreased Hours - Fridays Or Saturdays Cut From Branches, 9/18 WRTV Indianapolis via theindychannel.com
    INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Library patrons said Saturday they are unhappy with the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library's plan to shorten hours.
    Beginning Oct. 3, branches will begin closing on either Fridays or Saturdays as the library attempts to trim its budget, 6News' Grace Trahan reported. The central library will be closed on Thursdays, but will stay open on both Friday and Saturday.

    The College Avenue branch was busy with children and their parents Saturday morning. All were disappointed with the library's plan.
    "I don't like it, come here almost every Saturday," said student Robert Beach.
    "I feel like they shouldn't close the library, because the library is where we meet, and people have a good time up here," said student Jasmine Robinson.
    For many families, the library is an ideal place to spend quality, educational time on the weekends.
    "We're sad," said parent Mary DeRyke. "We'll ride our bikes down here, and it's just so wonderful to have it so close in the neighborhood, and we'll have to change our lifestyle a little bit."
    Library officials said cutting hours was a difficult decision. An alternative option would have meant closing six branches.
    The library expects to save $1.5 million. Up to 40 staff members will lose their jobs, officials said, but most of those will come through retirement or workers who leave voluntarily.
    Even with the cuts, the library projects a $4 million shortfall. It will cut its books and materials budget and increase fees to try to shrink the gap.
    Library officials said they did an hour-by-hour analysis of each branch to determine which day each would close, and they made sure that two branches in the same general area would not close the same day.

  2. Halifax: Time for municipal leaders, workers to do something for Joe Average Citizen, letter from Robert Harris of Halifax,MA, 7/17 GateHouse News Service via PatriotLedger.com
    HALIFAX, Mass. — The Aug. 28 edition of The Patriot Ledger included more whining about school cuts (“Welcome to the worst school year since 1980”).
    Joe Average Citizen is the first to feel the pain of a poor economy. Layoffs, salary reductions, cut hours – the list is endless. But he pulls himself up by his bootstraps and gets on with it. No one advocates for his loss, his pain.
    In fact, without a group or a union, he is never heard.
    How about this for a change: schools, firefighters, police and government employees get together and give back somehow to Joe, who has been so generous to them in the good times.
    If they can’t give back financially, how about being positive, instead of adding to all the depressing news? How about being more concerned and conservative about how the public’s money is being spent?
    How about saying “thank you” for all past support and for helping our positions to be economically improved.
    It’s our turn to step-up.

9/15-16/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. ADP on European Working Hours: A Critical HR Issue, 9/16 ADP EUROPE via Business Wire via MarketWatch.com (press release)
    PARIS, France --
    ADP Experts go beyond working time directive & statistics
    Legal diversity of working time appears to be one of the most critical issues for European HR Managers. Good or bad news? According to renowned experts, most of the answers will be found well beyond statistics: within companies... and households!
    "Working time distribution at the household level is a key factor"
    According to Gerhard Bosch, Director of the Institute for Work and Skills at the University of Duisburg-Essen, observing couples gives a better idea of local working time practices across Europe than reading European directives. Indeed, focusing on the distribution of working time between men and women indicates whether we are moving from the male breadwinner model to a more egalitarian model. As to local working time legislation and European directives, "we will [not] harmonize social practices by decree" insists Gerhard Bosch.
    The impact on differences in local working times across Europe on productivity
    Do less productive countries work less? "Absolutely not!" answers Chris Brewster, Director of Henley's HR Centre of Excellence. "The countries that work longer hours are the less productive countries." In addition, statistics on working hours may not match reality. For example, most European studies show that the British working time is longer than anywhere else in Europe. But anybody who has already worked in Southern Europe could have observed that people work extremely long hours.
    Are statutory working hours more important in an ideological debate than in HRMs' everyday experience?
    When Lionel Prud'homme, EMEA HR VP at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, decides to build a productivity model, he aligns the ten countries in which his 11,000 European employees work on a "single grid", a median Full Time Equivalent, that makes differences vanish. So the question is no longer whether people work longer in the UK, France or Germany, but how many transactions staff members complete in a given time.
    About ADP Europe
    With 60 years of unrivalled expertise, ADP is the largest outsourcer of payroll and human resources administration services, offering solutions adapted to each company whatever its size, sector of activity or presence, local or international. For more information, visit the company's website at www.europe.adp.com.

  2. Higher workload for pilots could put flyers at risk, by Soubhik Mitra, 9/15 HindustanTimes.com
    DELHI, India -- The aviation regulator allowed Air India and Jet Airways to increase their pilots' duty hours without studying how this might influence their health and alertness, a Right to Information application filed by a pilots' union has revealed. When asked if it had consulted its own or independent specialists before doing this two years ago, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation replied that it had taken the decision based on discussions with senior managers of the airlines.
    Normally, airlines cannot ask pilots to work more than nine hours at a stretch in a day and not more than 30 hours a week.
    In February 2008, the regulator amended this rule to allow these two airlines to increase their pilots' duty hours in "extraordinary situations."
    But the airlines appear to have asked for the amendment purely for commercial reasons, the regulator's response, which came last month and of which HT has a copy, reveals.
    To another query, the regulator replied that Air India said it wanted it in order to "facilitate the smooth scheduling of flights" while Jet wanted it because its international operations faced "acute crewing problems."
    Pilots of both airlines say they have regularly been working beyond their shifts since the rule came into effect. Both airlines declined to comment, while the regulator's head, Nazim Zaidi, did not respond to two text messages.

  3. How 3 firms survived the recession, 9/15 Orange County Register via OCregister.com
    ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - Doug McAllister's company has shrunk from 440 employees and $50 million in revenues to about 20 in two entities with combined sales of $7 million.
    Aurelio Barreto owns three related companies, one a chain of 10 retail shops whose sales are half what they were before the 2007-2010 recession.
    Greg Wingert cut hours and jobs as business slowed and recently merged his company with a competitor to save both entities.
    All three told their stories Wednesday at a "Survival Strategies" luncheon in Anaheim for CMBC of Orange County, a group for Christian businessmen. "They are in-the-trenches experts, the guys who are actually fighting the fight," said moderator Scott McReynolds in introducing the panel. "Their experience can be summed up in one statement: Never give up."
    Their experiences over the past three years illustrate how tough the economy has been for small businesses, their owners and employees. Each panelist is happy to still be in business when so many competitors and friends aren't. Each had words of encouragement for other business owners in the audience even though they say the tough times aren't yet gone.
    McAllister is a partner in Sierra Wholesale Hardware and Sierra Finish in San Bernardino, both of which supply the commercial building industry. A previous company, Western Door, supplied residential homebuilders and no longer exists. "I'm surprised I'm here," he said. "We're still surviving 30 days at a time. "
    Barreto owns C28, NOTW and Truth, which have retail, Internet and wholesale sales of Christian apparel. Eight of its shops are in California, including Westfield MainPlace in Santa Ana, and two are in Virginia. "I'm 52; I've been in business since my 20s and I've never seen anything this bad," he said. "Sometimes we feel we're wearing God out with our prayers, but he has proven year after year to be reliable when the economy is not, the government is not, employees are not."
    I wrote about the merger of Wingert's Anaheim Glass and Brundige Glass of Brea here and here. It took nine months of negotiations, meetings with advisers and attorneys and a 20-page contract to complete the deal, Wingert said. "I needed to make some changes and get more business one way or the other," Wingert said. "I had gone out and done sales and I hated it. I made up excuses not to go. I'd make the sales but it tore me up, so friends (in CMBC) told me I needed to go buy a book of business and grow that way."
    Barreto said C28 is surviving because of diversification and the Internet. "We have income from wholesale, which is national, and the Internet, which is international," he said. "We started looking at which (clothing) lines were bringing in the money and pared down to our core competency. We diversified outside California...and added fashion items with high (profit) margins."
    McAllister's company, Sierra, perhaps has had the toughest time because of its ties to the home building industry, which started struggling long before the general economy started slowing. "We had to give up our pride and humble ourselves. We went and talked honestly with the banks, vendors and anyone we were dealing with," McAllister said. The company moved out of new home construction and concentrates now on commercial and public works projects. Pay was cut, and McAllister and his partner stopped taking any salary. Benefits were eliminated including paid vacations and holidays. Sierra moved to smaller space.
    The management team studies cash flow every Friday."You analyze every invoice," McAllister said. "My CFO is phenomenal. She cut the trash bill by two-thirds. She noticed a bill for the hot water heater and said, 'We don't need hot water to wash our hands.' She starts calling on invoices the 21st day (past due). I think they pay us first because they're tired of hearing from her."
    To survive, Sierra laid off about 390 people. Then two of the former employees sued for $3 million for wrongful termination. He fought the lawsuits rather than settle, McAllister said, because he had terminated insurance to save money so the company would die if it lost or settled. Also, he expected that losing one suit would bring others as well as damage morale among remaining employees. McAllister did a lot of the paralegal work on the case to save money. Sierra won the case when it was discovered the plaintiffs, who are male, were using the medical testimony of a gynecologist, and their attorneys knew it. Still, the battle cost Sierra $370,000 in legal and court fees.
    All three owners recommended having a board of advisers to hold the individual accountable as well as to recommend actions the owner might not think of. "You need a group of men, a board, who can challenge you," Barreto said.
    McAllister said that many fellow business owners have shared with him their despair over business problems because of his openness about his company's woes. "Don't be ashamed to admit you do have anxiety, but God is sovereign. Where we are today is exactly where he wants us to be," he said. "I have grown from the experience of the past three years. And keep it in perspective, we are living better than 99.9% of the rest of the world."

  4. McCullough-Hyde cuts hours, jobs, by Meagan Engle, 9/16 OxfordPress.com
    OXFORD, Ohio — McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital has eliminated jobs and cut hours — affecting 33 employees — to save an estimated $1.1 million annually as the hospital works to improve its financial stability.
    An equivalent of 22 full-time positions have been eliminated, representing a 4.8 percent reduction of the total annual man-hours budget, according to CEO Bryan Hehemann.
    [So 33-22= 11 employees have had their hours cut instead of additional eliminated positions. At least Timesizing webmaster Phil Hyde's namesake hospital is not completely stupid.]

    McCullough-Hyde is Oxford’s second largest employer, with 588 employees as of 2009, according to city records.
    General economic conditions, lower than expected patient activity levels and rising costs – with anticipated payment cuts from Medicare and Medicaid the Ohio Hospital Medicaid Tax and commercial insurance companies seeking lower contracted price rates – have impacted McCullough-Hyde’s budget, he said.
    “In response to these external forces, McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital finds it necessary to reduce costs in-line with expected revenues. Unfortunately, and with much regret, actions were announced this week, including a reduction in the size of our workforce,” Hehemann said in a statement.
    “A few positions have been eliminated and other positions’ schedules reduced. In only a few instances, certain outpatient services will reduce hours of operations to improve staff efficiency,” he said.
    Patients who will be affected by the changes will be notified with a letter, Hehemann said.
    “These are difficult economic times, and other Ohio area healthcare providers have undergone this same ordeal. We regret that this has impacted as many employees as it has, and are doing our best to assist them. Some employees have opted for other open positions. Others may qualify for unemployment. Severance pay was provided and benefits continuation for 90 days is being provided in line with hospital policy,” Hehemann said. “McCullough-Hyde staff is known for outstanding quality and compassion and that will not be impacted by these changes, I’m sure. We will continue to carry out our community mission to provide premier healthcare services, for years to come, as we have for the first 53 years of our existence. Our staff stands for excellence, and these cost adjustments will not affect the collective commitment, dedication and pride always in existence here.”
    Improving financial stability is a goal for the hospital in 2010, according to McCullough-Hyde’s 2009 annual report.
    In 2009, McCullough-Hyde experienced a 51 percent increase in bad debt – money owed to the hospital that it cannot collect, which the hospital then considers an expense, according to the annual report. The amount went up to $7.3 million in 2009.
    Other expenses also rose last year, including a 9 percent increase in employee wages, which represents $1.9 million; an increase in the cost of benefits of 12.5 percent; and a growth in the cost of supplies and other expenses of 18.7 percent, according to the report.

9/12-13-14/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Working while sick? Study finds even doctors do it, by LINDSEY TANNER, 9/14 The Associated Press via google.com/hostednews/ap
    CHICAGO, Illin. — Junior doctors quickly learn that exposure to patients' germs is part of the job, but a study suggests many are returning the favor. More than half of doctors in training said in a survey that they'd shown up sick to work, and almost one-third said they'd done it more than once.
    Misplaced dedication and fear of letting other doctors down [never mind vulnerable patients] are among reasons the researchers cited as possible explanations.
    Dr. Anupam Jena, a medical resident at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, developed food poisoning symptoms halfway through an overnight shift last year, but said he didn't think he was contagious or that his illness hampered his ability to take care of patients.
    Jena, a study co-author, said getting someone else to take over his shift on short notice "was not worth the cost of working while a bit sick." He was not among the survey participants.
    The researchers analyzed an anonymous survey of 537 medical residents at 12 hospitals around the country conducted last year by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The response rate was high; the hospitals were not identified.
    The results appear in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.
    Nearly 58 percent of the respondents said they'd worked at least once while sick and 31 percent said they'd worked more than once while sick in the previous year.
    About half said they hadn't had time to see a doctor about their illness.
    Dr. Thomas Nasca, the accreditation council's CEO, said residents are trained to put patients' needs above their own but also should recognize that if they're sick, their patients' would be better served by having another doctor take care of them.
    Residents' hands-on postgraduate training is rigorous and demanding. Many work up to 80 hours a week and sometimes 24 hours a day in hospitals. The atmosphere in some programs is ultra-competitive, and residents may work while sick because they don't want to be seen as slackers, Jena said.
    The council, which accredits hospital residency programs, has proposed revisions on residents' work hours and time off to reduce sleep deprivation and the chances for medical errors. The work week limit would remain at 80 hours.
    The revisions, to be voted on by the council's board later this month, also call for residents and faculty not to ignore signs of illness and fatigue in themselves and colleagues and make sure that they're fit for duty. That might help reduce the reporting-while-sick problem, said study co-author Dr. Vineet Arora, associate director of the University of Chicago's internal medicine residency program.
    A growing push to require flu shots for health workers also could help reduce the number of junior doctors who work while sick.
    The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends annual flu vaccinations for all health care workers to prevent their patients from getting sick. And last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed mandatory flu vaccinations for all health workers.
    Jena said flu "is really the main worry," because it's so prevalent and so easily transmitted.
    Dr. Lauren Hughes, a former president of the American Medical Student Association and a first-year resident in Seattle, said her program directors have warned residents "to take extra special care of ourselves" during the approaching flu season and winter months, and to stay home when sick.
    "You can't take care of other people if you don't take care of yourself," Hughes said.

  2. Gleanings from the FAA's Fatigue Proposal, by Scott McCartney, 9/13 Wall Street Journal (blog) via blogs.wsj.com
    WASHINGTON. D.C. - Reading the Federal Aviation Administration’s 145 pages on pilot fatigue can be, well, fatiguing. But here are some highlights, impression and questions...
    –While there are proposed rules to keep tired pilots out of cockpits, the proposal does allow pilots to fly more hours each day. Currently pilots can’t be scheduled for flight time – actual time at the controls of a plane – of more than eight hours a day. The total time on duty can cover 16 hours a day. But the new flight-time limit varies based on what time the pilot starts.
    Pilots who start their duty between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. at their local base have a flight time limit of nine hours. Start between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. and it’s 10 hours. If the start time falls between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., the limit is nine hours. And between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., flight time limit is eight hours.
    –Similarly, the total duty-time limit for a day will depend, if the proposed rules are enacted, on both start time for pilots and the number of segments they are scheduled to fly that day. The assumption is that more takeoffs and landings are more tiring. So the duty limit can vary between nine hours and 13 hours. It can be extended for two hours for bad weather or other unforeseen events, but extensions for each pilot are limited by the FAA to one seven-day period. There are longer limits for pilots flying long trips with relief pilots and rest areas on board.
    –Travel time to hotels won’t count in the pilot’s rest period. The nine-hour required rest will start when a pilot reaches a hotel or accommodation. It’s hard to argue that a rest period starts when you set the parking brake and step off an airplane, only to deal with all the hassle and inconvenience every traveler has to deal with on the road.
    –The Fatigue Police [compare the Overtime Police who are becoming increasingly visible in more and more advanced economies] will be out. Under current rules, showing up for ready for duty is a pilot’s personal responsibility. But under the proposed rules, pilots will have to affirm they are fit for duty before a flight, any person who suspects someone is fatigued (the regulations mention slurred speech or droopy eyes) must immediately report them to an airline and once reported, an airline must evaluate the crew member. Pilots can declare themselves too fatigued to fly, but airlines can investigate why.
    One example: If airlines find pilots are reporting for work fatigued, or tiring quickly when on duty, because they are commuting to work without adequate rest before duty, the airline could require all flight crew members spend the night prior to a trip within the local area. That could make the widespread practice of commuting more expensive and more difficult for pilots.
    –From the FAA’s cost-benefit analysis, the costs of this proposal outweigh the benefits. That’s an accounting exercise, however.
    The FAA estimates the rule changes will cost airlines $1.25 billion over 10 years, most of that from impact on flight operations but a good chunk from increased fatigue training for employees and providing better rest facilities for pilots.
    On the benefits side, the FAA said the proposed rule was only 40% effective at preventing passenger airplane accidents where fatigue was a contributing factor. So the best it could come up with in benefits was $837 million, using a “VSL’’ – value of a statistical life – of $8.4 million. But the agency noted that if only one catastrophic accident was prevented with a 150-passenger airplane, the savings would immediately outweigh the $1.25 billion cost if each life were valued at that $8.4 million.
    Bottom line: The proposal is very complicated, quite thorough, and will take a lot of crunching through flight-scheduling systems and airline contracts to see how it will effective day-to-day flying. There are provisions airlines won’t like; there are new rules pilots won’t like.
    Best guess for now:
    Pilots will work slightly more days, but somewhat shorter hours each day, with more scheduled flying and less sitting around.
    –More flights may end up canceled in bad weather when crews time out or can’t extend their duty limits.
    –Airlines and pilots unions will likely fight some provisions, so it’s unclear how all this will end up.
    –Pilots may well be less fatigued in the future, and that’s something everyone, especially passengers, should want.

  3. Judiciary joins Executive Branch in work hour cuts, but not Legislature - House poised to reject Senate version of fiscal year 2011 budget bill today, by Haidee V. Eugenio, 9/12 SaipanTribune.com
    SAIPAN, Northern Marianas (CNMI) - The Judiciary has joined the Executive Branch and autonomous agencies in implementing across-the-board work hour cuts to help bring down government spending to $132 million in fiscal year 2011, regardless of the outcome of the budget bill that the Legislature has yet to pass.
    But the Judiciary will cut work hours by only eight hours per pay period effective Nov. 1, 2010.
    The Executive Branch will reduce work hours by 16 per pay period, from 80 to 64, effective Oct. 1.
    This makes the Legislature the only government branch that has yet to implement a reduction-in-force.
    Its leaders-House Speaker Froilan C. Tenorio (Cov-Saipan) and Senate President Paul A. Manglona (R-Rota)-have so far only talked about sharing the burden but have yet to issue formal notices or memorandum to cut work hours for their employees.
    Tenorio had said the Legislature can still function on a four-day workweek.
    Lawmakers, along with the governor, lieutenant governor, judges and justices, are constitutionally protected from work hour cuts.
    However, Gov. Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov. Eloy Inos have voluntarily subjected themselves to 10-percent pay cuts.
    Press secretary Angel Demapan said Fitial and Inos may also bring their pay cuts to 20 percent, the equivalent of a 16-hour cut for all other government employees.
    Inos, in an interview on Friday, said the administration “applauds” the Judiciary for its efforts to also cut work hours.
    “The Judiciary has also taken steps to reduce work ours. They started sending notices to their employees, and we applaud their efforts,” Inos said.
    Chief Justice Miguel S. Demapan informed the administration and the Legislature last week about the Judiciary's implementation of reduction-in-force action.
    Demapan, in a letter to Manglona and Tenorio, said he and Presiding Judge Robert C. Naraja issued on Sept. 1 a 60-day notification to all contract employees of the Supreme Court, the Superior Court, Administrative Office, and Law Revision Commission, “informing them of a reduction equaling eight working hours per pay period.”
    Demapan and Naraja also notified the Office of Personnel Management of the Judiciary's intent to implement a reduction-in-force for civil service employees.
    “The Judiciary understands that difficult choices must be made and necessary actions taken due to declining government revenues. We stand ready to be a good partner in government and would like to continue working closely with the Executive and Legislative branches to ensure that the needs of the Commonwealth government and its people are met,” Demapan said in his two-page letter to the Legislature.
    Tracy Guerrero, the director of courts, said in a phone interview that the Judiciary has yet to finalize how it is going to implement the eight-hour cuts.
    Among the options are an every-other-Friday shutdown and flexible work hours depending on the office or unit's workload or function within the Judiciary.
    The Fitial administration issued notices of work hour cuts in late August. They will take effect 30 days from receipt of the notices, just in time for the start of fiscal year 2011 on Oct. 1. The administration is also looking at abolishing unnecessary positions.
    The government's financial crisis has gotten worse. On Friday, non-essential government employees didn't receive their paychecks due to a shortage in government cash collections.
    This was the second time in CNMI history that a payless payday occurred, although Inos said it would be more fitting to call it “a partial payless payday” because doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters and corrections officers, among other essential positions, got their paper checks.
    The rest may receive their paper checks on Wednesday or later, depending on cash collections.
    '8-hour cut in budget bill will not work'
    Inos said the Fitial administration is hoping that the Legislature will also follow suit in implementing a reduction-in-force.
    Inos, at the same time, said a budget bill that calls for only eight hours of work cut every pay period “will not work.”
    Today, the House is set to act on the Senate-amended budget bill. Rep. Ramon Basa (Cov-Saipan) said the majority will reject the spending measure and both the House and Senate will go into a conference committee.
    Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota), chair of the Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee, has taken a pro-active approach by recommending, this early, to Manglona a list of conferees.
    Taimanao recommended herself and four other members of her committee.
    The Senate wants only an eight-hour cut, but the House leadership and the administration say the cut should be 16 hours per pay period.
    Failure to pass a budget by Oct. 1 will force the government to shut down.

9/10-11/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. The Blue Sky series: Dean Baker's plan to create 9 million jobs, 9/10 voices.WashingtonPost.com (blog)
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Late last week, I spoke with former SEIU president and current Georgetown fellow/fiscal commission member Andy Stern about hosting a series of pieces laying out different ideas to kick-start job creation. The idea here is not to see how many compromises can dance on the head of the congressional pin; it's to see what exactly different experts think needs to be done. In Ben Bernanke's memorable term, "blue sky thinking."
    The first piece came, naturally enough, from Andy Stern. In the coming days, there'll also be pieces from Moody's Mark Zandi, CAP's Heather Boushey [see 12/12-13-14/2010 #1), the Peter G. Peterson Foundation's David Walker and others. Today's, however, comes from Dean Baker.

    Will Politicians Pay a Price for Leaving 15 Million People Unemployed? by Co-Director Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research
    Andy Stern has put forward a serious proposal for getting the economy moving forward and putting people back to work. We should demand that our politicians take up the Stern challenge to “call or raise me.”
    So, how does my scorecard look? I’ll take my top two items from Stern, then throw in $100 billion a year for infrastructure spending, and $15 billion a year for home retrofits.
    Job Sharing $ 54 billion 2.4 million jobs
    Youth Employment $ 46.5 billion 3.1 million jobs
    Infrastructure $ 100 billion 1.6 million jobs
    Energy Retrofits $15 billion 0.5 million jobs
    Fed Inflation Target 1.4 million jobs
    Total $215.5 billion 9.0 million jobs

    It was not a natural disaster like a hurricane or an earthquake that led to 25 million people being unemployed or underemployed. This disaster was an entirely preventable result of incredibly inept economic management. In other words, there is mass suffering across the country because the people who were charged with running the economy did not have a clue as to what they were doing.
    This apparently continues to be the case. The proposals that Stern has put forward are entirely reasonable routes for creating jobs and boosting the economy. My favorite is work sharing just because it is so simple, obvious and quick.
    As Stern points out, this really should not be a big partisan issue.
    Both Republicans and Democrats recognize the need for unemployment insurance in a downturn. What is wrong with having the government partially offset the loss of pay from a 20 percent reduction in work hours rather than demanding that someone be 100 percent unemployed before they can collect unemployment benefits?
    This keeps people on the job so that they remain part of the workforce and will continually upgrade their skills as needed. This avoids the often devastating effects of long-term unemployment. Work sharing has been pursued aggressively by the conservative government in Germany. Its unemployment rate is now lower than it was at the start of the downturn even though its economy suffered a sharper drop in GDP than the United States.
    The jobs program suggested by Stern is also just plain commonsense. There are places like Detroit, where the youth unemployment rate is well over 50 percent. Public sector jobs, like those created in the New Deal, can give these kids a chance in life that they would not otherwise have.
    The reason that politicians have shied away from this route is that they are worried that Fox will find two kids drinking beer in the park while they are on the payroll, and the video will go viral on the Internet. We have to tell the politicians that they will just have to live with the bad PR if it means giving millions of young people a chance in life. A little spine can go a long way.
    I like Stern’s infrastructure plan, but I’m not sure that we can do as much as quickly as he, and I, would like. The country has huge infrastructure needs. We have to modernize our transportation system, our electric grid, and our water and sanitation system. The Obama administration began some of this with the stimulus package last year, but much more needs to be done.
    Modernizing our infrastructure could easily take $2 trillion over the next decade. However, we probably could not usefully boost spending by more than $100 billion over the next year.
    Another area where we can surely do more is retrofitting homes to make them more energy efficient. Here also the Obama administration has gotten the ball rolling with its stimulus, but we need to ramp up the scale by at least an order of magnitude. Suppose we weatherized 10 million homes a year for two years at an average cost of $3,000 each. If the government picked up half of the expense, this comes to $15 billion a year.
    There is one other item that should be on everyone’s list, the Fed has to take more aggressive action to combat the downturn. After all, the law requires the Fed to pursue full employment and 9.6 percent unemployment is a long way from anyone’s idea of full employment.
    The best course of action here is a policy endorsed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for Japan back when he was still a professor at Princeton. He suggested that Japan deliberately target a higher rate of inflation. He proposed an inflation target in the 3-4 percent range.
    This should encourage firms to invest since they will know that the items their investment generates will be selling at prices that are considerably higher in the near future. Moderate inflation will also alleviate the debt burden of households as their wages rise more or less in step with inflation, while mortgages and other debt remain fixed in value.
    More aggressive action by the Fed can also ensure that the stimulus does not increase the country’s future interest burden. The reason is simple. If the Fed holds the bonds used to finance a stimulus, then the interest on these bonds is paid to the Fed, which in turns refunds it to the Treasury. In normal times this could lead to inflation, but instead of being feared, a higher rate of inflation would actually boost the economy right now.
    The last one is an especially rough calculation. It assumes that the higher inflation rate will increase employment by 1 percent.
    Of course there is considerable guess work in all these numbers, but the certainty of high unemployment is far worse than the risks of action. Those in charge of economic policy gave us a horrible disaster because of their failure to combat the housing bubble before it grew large enough to wreck the economy. The public must insist that they not now allow the economy to remain locked in this near depression for the indefinite future simply because they are afraid to take any actions. We should make them at least as afraid not to take action.

  2. Outlook Grim - The Fading Prospects for Recovery in Europe, by Dean Baker, 9/10 CounterPunch.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - If there were ever a time where the basic Keynesian logic held true it is now. Demand from the private sector has plummeted as a result of the housing bubble's collapse in the UK, Spain, Ireland and elsewhere. This has put an end to a construction and consumption boom that propelled the bubble economies directly, and indirectly drove economies like Germany’s through the creation of rapidly growing export markets. The collapse of these bubbles eliminated an amount of demand that was between five and 10 percentage points of GDP, depending on the country.
    There is no easy way that this much demand can be replaced quickly from the private sector. Consumption will remain depressed because of trillions of dollars of lost wealth. The plunge in housing prices destroyed the savings of tens of millions of homeowners in the bubble countries. There is no mechanism that will prompt these people to go out and spend given the enormous loss of wealth they have experienced.
    Similarly, the enormous overbuilding resulting from the bubble is going to leave the construction sector across much of Europe depressed for most of the next decade. There will be very little demand for additional housing. In many areas there has also been overbuilding in the non-residential sector, ensuring that it too will be a drag on growth as well.
    In this context, government is the only obvious source of demand that can fill the gap. It was important that the governments of Europe quickly shifted to running large deficits. This limited the damage caused by the downturn. However, with governments starting to reduce spending and raise taxes, the governmental sector will soon be a drag on growth as well.
    Toward fiscal contraction
    The move toward fiscal contraction is likely to be an even bigger problem in European economies than it would be in the US, since the governmental sector (directly or indirectly) accounts for more than 50 percent of Europe’s output compared to less than 40 percent in the US. This means that the private sector must achieve considerably more growth to offset a fiscal contraction of the same size.
    Given the heavy debt burden of households, the proponents of fiscal contraction must rely on improvements in net exports and investment to provide the offsetting boost to the economy. As a number of recent studies have shown, there are examples of countries that have achieved solid growth following a path of fiscal contraction. However, in most of these cases, a large boost in net exports played a key role. The countries generally saw a fall in interest rates and an accompanying decline in their currency’s value, which made their products considerably more competitive. In periods where trading partners were growing rapidly, this could provide a basis for export-led growth.
    However, this will be much more difficult in a context where the whole world is still dealing with the fallout from the crisis. Certainly within Europe, the effort to increase exports will be a zero-sum game. If Germany manages to increase its exports to Spain, Portugal and Greece, then it will only worsen the downturn in these countries.
    There is some hope that Europe as a whole can increase its exports to the rest of the world, but this will provide a limited basis for recovery. The crisis-induced plunge of the euro, coupled with more rapid growth in the US, did cause Europe’s trade surplus with the US to increase substantially in the most recent quarter. However, US growth is almost certain to slow, and the euro has regained much of its lost value now that the immediate financial crisis facing the weaker countries has eased.
    The rise in the euro’s value will weaken its competitive position against all its trading partners, not just the US. Europe will be able to improve its trade position with rapidly growing countries like China, India, and Brazil, but its exports to these countries are simply not large enough to provide a sufficient boost to offset a fiscal contraction of the size being planned.
    The other mechanism through which fiscal contraction can foster growth is through the effect of lower interest rates on investment. However, this prospect also offers very limited promise. In the largest economies – Germany, France, the UK and Italy – interest rates were already quite low. There seems little prospect that interest rates will fall substantially from current levels. Furthermore, given the enormous degrees of excess capacity in most sectors, lower interest rates are unlikely to provide much stimulus to investment.
    There is a more plausible story of fiscal contraction boosting investment in the crisis countries, but this is only in the context of the soaring interest rates experienced before the rescue package was put in place. In other words, these countries are likely to see more investment with a rescue package that requires substantial reductions in budget deficits than if their finances remained in crisis, but they will not see more investment than if they had gotten a rescue package and had not imposed fiscal austerity. The rescue package simply brought investment back to its pre-crisis path, which was nowhere near strong enough to bring these economies back to potential GDP.
    It would have been far more expansionary for the European Central Bank (ECB) to commit itself to support these economies without any near-term requirement for fiscal austerity. Given the severity of the downturn and the enormity of the deflationary pressures across Europe, there is no reason that the ECB could not simply buy and hold large amounts of debt of member states. Japan’s central bank has been doing this since the middle of the 90s, and it remains plagued by deflation, not inflation.
    There could have been longer-term conditions imposed to ensure that countries on genuinely unsustainable paths, like Greece, get their finances in order. It is worth remembering that in the case of several countries, like Spain and Ireland, the fiscal crisis is the result of the downturn. Their debt to GDP ratios had been low and falling prior to the economic collapse.
    The economic path that Europe is following is likely to leave the continent mired in stagnation for much of the decade. The only plausible source of substantial growth in demand is increased exports to rapidly growing developing countries. However, the base for this growth is relatively small, and there is no assurance that growth in these countries will be sustained, or at least not at its recent pace.
    The work sharing solution
    There is an aspect of Europe’s efforts to cope with the crisis that is very much worth noting. Several countries, most notably Germany and the Netherlands, have implemented a policy of work-sharing to offset the reduced demand for labor. In effect, this policy provides businesses with incentives to reduce the number of hours per worker rather than reduce the number of workers on the payroll.
    Unemployment benefits are then paid to offset some of the reduction in hours, rather than to workers who are fully unemployed. This means that the net cost to the government is little different than the cost of traditional unemployment benefits. This route also has the benefit for the employer, such that when demand does increase, they already have workers on their payroll. Rather than seeking to hire new workers, they can simply increase the hours of the existing workforce.
    Partly as a result of work sharing, unemployment in the Netherlands has risen by just 1.5 percentage points during the downturn to 4.3 percent. The current German unemployment rate of 7.0 percent is actually slightly lower than it had been at the start of the recession.
    The success of these countries in using work sharing to shield their labor force from the effects of the downturn is truly remarkable. This policy allows reduced demand to be translated into more leisure time for workers who keep their jobs rather than unemployment for large numbers of workers who lose their jobs.
    In this context, the prospect of prolonged European stagnation looks considerably less bleak, at least for the countries that are able to successfully implement work sharing. While it would be best not to waste potential output, leisure is valuable, and it is also likely that there will be fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants emitted at lower levels of output. Healthy growth would always be a first best option, but stagnation coupled with full employment policies is far better than stagnation coupled with double-digit unemployment.
    Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble Economy.
    This column was originally published by the International Relations and Security Network.

  3. Workers hope wage restraint will finally pay off, by John Blau, 9/10 Deutsche Welle
    German workers will likely see more money in their monthly pay checks as the country's powerful export machine roars ahead and generates wealth. But they shouldn't expect too much, economists warn.
    BERLIN, Germany - Labor unions across Germany are pressing for annual wage increases as high as 6 percent, hoping to take advantage of the current economic boom in the country. Last quarter's sizzling 9 percent economic growth, at an annualized rate, has given them plenty of ammunition to ask for more money after years of restraint.
    Over the past 10 years, wages in Germany have risen less than in most European Union countries, according to statistics released this week by the German Federal Statistical Office. Wages in the country's private sector, for instance, increased by 21.8 percent on average from early 2000 to the first quarter of 2010. By comparison, the EU as a whole showed an average increase of 35.5 percent.
    Real wages have fallen
    In fact, real wages – adjusted for inflation – actually fell by 0.8 percent from 2000 to 2008 and by 0.2 percent in 2009, according to the Economic Research Institute of the Hans Boeckler Foundation. Germany is the only major European economy where real wages have fallen.
    For the past several years, German workers kept hearing from employers reasons why higher wages weren't a talking point: the global financial and economic crisis, fierce competition from China, and a dismal consumer climate in the United States, among others.
    During the peak of the economic crisis, German workers refrained from demanding higher pay checks to keep their jobs. Many participated in state-subsidized short-time working programs, called Kurzarbeit, or agreed to forego their holiday bonus payouts.
    Workers at German carmaker Daimler, for instance, not only switched to short-time employment but also agreed to postpone a pay hike and a profit-sharing bonus. Few workers in Europe have shown such a willingness to forego pay as their counterparts in Germany.
    Upward economic spiral
    Now German workers see a favorable negotiating window. Demand for their skills is up; unemployment has fallen for 14 consecutive months, with the jobless rate back to its pre-recession level of 7.6 percent - the lowest since 1992. And even though exports have dropped slightly, economists still see Germany on an upward economic spiral
    German labor unions are therefore making demands. For instance, the German metals and engineering union, IG Metall, is seeking a 6 percent wage rise for its 85,000 members. Last year, the union demanded 4.5 percent and settled for an increase of 2.0 percent plus a one-off payment of 350 euros.
    Even some government officials believe German workers deserve a raise. German Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the German media that she sympathized with workers' demands for more pay and believed they should "benefit" from the economic boom.
    Dampened consumption but saved jobs
    "Without a doubt, Germany has shown the greatest wage restraint in Europe," Hagen Lesch, an economist with the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, told Deutsche Welle. "We may have dampened consumption somewhat but we have saved jobs."
    Even economists who are generally skeptical of wage increases have shown themselves to be generally receptive of arguments for higher pay.
    "Germany's second quarter was incredible and although the next two quarters clearly won't look as good, we still project overall strong growth for the year," Christian Melzer, an economist with Dekabank, told Deutsche Welle. "I see some breathing space; wage increases of 2 to 2.5 percent won't hurt the economy. And they would help spur consumption."
    Most economists agree German industry leaders should, however, show moderation when increasing wages and salaries. "The economic crisis has had a huge impact on many companies – their cash flows are dry and need to be built up," said Volker Treier, chief economist at the German Chambers of Commerce (DIHK).
    Critics of the German economic model – France, perhaps, the most outspoken – say the intense focus on exports, tight labor cost controls and high rates of saving comes at the expense of others in the region. They believe weaker EU members could benefit from a less competitive Germany that imports more foreign goods.
    But German experts struggle to swallow that argument. "We used to be called 'The Sick Man of Europe' because of our high wages, among other things," Treier told Deutsche Welle. "We have embraced competition, and because of us, the euro has stayed out of big trouble."

  4. Employer can compensate exempt staff for extra work, compiled by Patricia Bathurst, 9/11 AZcentral.com
    PHOENIX, Ariz. - We're exempt staff, paid for 40 hours per week. A thirty-minute lunch is excluded. But after layoffs, we've all been working at least 60 hours or more - and we all take work home over weekends. Can we ask for compensation?
    Many employees, in the wake of layoffs, are putting in more work hours.
    Non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked and must be paid overtime (1.5 times their regular hourly rate) for any hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek.

    [Another demonstration of the impotence of our current overtime design as an enforcer of the 40-hour line as a maximum for the workweek (instead of the minimum it's become)?]
    Exempt employees (typically executive, administrative and professional staff who earn salaries of at least $455 per week) can be required to work 60 hours a week, or even more, without additional pay.
    While many employers mistakenly believe that compensating exempt employees for extra work hours will destroy the employees' exempt status, employers can voluntarily choose to pay exempt employees additional compensation for extra work. The compensation can be a flat sum or can be tied to the number of extra work hours. Bottom line, your request may not be granted, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

9/08-9/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. 3 Things We Should Learn From Germany, and 3 Things We Shouldn't, by Derek Thompson, 9/9 TheAtlantic.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - When the news broke that Germany, the fourth largest economy in the world, grew nearly six times faster than the United States in the second quarter of 2010, some commentators responded the way commentators tend to respond. They demanded that we be more like Germany, right away. The United States spent trillions of dollars only to see unemployment double. Germany enacted a far smaller stimulus and unemployment is down to pre-recession levels.
    GRAPH charts GDP growth against time [approximate/eyeballed figures]
    Country - 3Q09 - 4Q09 - 1Q10 - 2Q10
    US - 0.4% - (cross up) 1.5% - 0.9% - 0.6%
    Germany - 0.7% - 0.3% - 0.5% - (cross way up) 2.5%
    The above graph offered a good opportunity to jump to conclusions. David Brooks called the U.S. a "weakling" compared to Germany. US News and World Report writer Brandon Greife said Germany's big quarter proved that big stimulus cannot work. Fareed Zakaria called Germany an enviable economic model.
    Why did Germany grow so quickly coming out of the recession, and what lessons should the United States learn from it? Here are some lessons we should -- and shouldn't -- draw from comparisons between the U.S. and German economies.
    What we should learn
    1. Save more. In the good times, the German consumer saved as much as the U.S. consumer over-spent. Today, we're playing a game of catch-up by dedicating more money to paying off debt and paying up savings. That's one reason why the tax cuts in the stimulus haven't stimulated much additional consumption. If we had saved more like the Germans, we wouldn't be underwater and we'd be spending more of our new income of dryers instead of than debt.
    2. Work sharing works. One reason why Germany's unemployment rate hasn't spiked like ours is the German government [and now 20 U.S. states] pays companies not to fire workers. It's called "work sharing," and here's how it works. Let's say you're a company with 100 employees and you want to cut 10 percent of your payroll. In the U.S., you might fire 10 workers. In Germany, if you fire nobody but instead reduce every worker's hours by 10 percent, the government will pay the rest of their wages. In short, you "share" your workers with the government. Work sharing, which has been proposed by some economists like Kevin Hassett and Dean Baker in the United States, helps employers avoid layoffs and promotes employment.
    3. Health care costs matter. Germany spends half as much as the United States per capita on care. That's key because in the United States, the burden of paying for health care often falls on the employer. That makes U.S. workers increasingly expensive for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their work or experience. Like the United States, Germany is a high-wage, high-tax, relatively high-regulation country, but it's not an astronomically costly health care country, and that makes workers easier to afford, and add.
    What we should not necessarily learn
    1. Big government stimulus doesn't work. Why didn't the Recovery Act stop job losses? Economists will debate this question for years. But one compelling explanation is that the entire U.S. economy entered the recession in debt. As a result, consumers and businesses and states didn't spend the stimulus money to pay for new things (equipment, workers, goods). It used the money to pay back old things (debt, life savings, pension funds). In the U.S., the average consumer has a debt load of 122 percent of his annual income. In Germany, that number is 100 percent. German consumers and businesses saved during the boom. That's one reason why they're healthier during the recovery.
    2. We can copy Germany's monster quarter. The easiest way to recover from a financial crisis is to bring in new money in exchange for new goods. In other words: exports. This makes the export-dominated German economy sound alluring. But Germany's model is not particularly, well, exportable.
    If Germany were still on its own currency and growing rapidly, the Deutschmark would have gained value against other currencies, raising the cost of German products, hurting exports, and bringing its trade surplus down. Instead, the Eurozone crisis has battered the Euro, making German products cheap overseas. At the same time, developing countries experiencing healthy recoveries are looking for industrial machines to build new factories: precisely the thing Germany excels in producing cheaply. Germany's record quarter is something of a fluke, according to Dr. Tim H. Stuchtey, director of the Business & Economics Program at American Institute For Contemporary German Studies. "It's a historical coincidence," he told me, "not an intended effect of some wise political measures."
    3. Reversing outsourcing would key an export-driven recovery. Europe accounts for about two-thirds of Germany's exports. But Germany both sells to Europe and outsources to Europe. "There is only so much German in a German car," Stuchtey said. "The wheels come from Italy. The motor comes from Hungary. We outsource quite a bit, but to Europe more than the rest of the world."
    What's keeping U.S. companies from seeking out overseas markets? Stuchtey has a surprising answer: U.S. geography. "Smaller companies in the United States are satisfied with huge size of the North American continent and market," he said. "I think the size of your home market makes small companies lazy about exports.
    "Germans don't spend like Americans," he continued. "Since our home market is not big enough, companies have to go abroad. If you're a small company in Amsterdam, it's not a big deal to sell in Germany. If you are a small company in Iowa, selling in Japan or Germany is a huge step -- culturally and business-wise. "
    Bonus: What we should do now
    I asked Dr. Stuchtey what he would tell the president if he were appointed czar of U.S. exports. Here's what he said: "Promote bilateral trade agreements. Refrain from protectionist measures. Open up your markets to other countries products. Sign the bilateral trade agreements with Korea and other countries., Deregulate the transportation sector to lower costs for companies who are willing to export. Offer some administrative help and consulting and financing to small and mid size companies who are interested in exporting."
    [Same old "Sacrifice your overall economy for your export sector." How did exporters get this religiously influential?]
    Derek Thompson is a staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he writes about economics, business, and technology. Derek has also written for BusinessWeek, Slate and The Daily Beast.

  2. OSHA to Examine Physician Work Hours, by Janice Simmons, 9/07 HealthLeadersMedia.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - In response to a petition filed last week by Public Citizen and others, OSHA said it will examine the need for regulations that would limit the work hours of resident physicians, according Labor Department Assistant Secretary, David Michaels.
    "We are very concerned about medical residents working extremely long hours, and we know of evidence linking sleep deprivation with an increased risk of needle sticks, puncture wounds, lacerations, medical errors and motor vehicle accidents," Michaels said.
    He also said that the relationship of "long hours, worker fatigue and safety is a concern beyond medical residents, since there is extensive evidence linking fatigue with operator error”. In its investigation of the root causes of the BP Texas City oil refinery explosion in 2005—in which 15 workers were killed and approximately 170 injured—the Chemical Safety Board "identified worker fatigue and long work hours as a likely contributing factor to the explosion."
    "It is clear that long work hours can lead to tragic mistakes, endangering workers, patients, and the public," he said. "Hospitals and medical training programs are not exempt from ensuring that their employees' health and safety are protected."
    In its petition, Public Citizen cited recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine in its 2009 Report on Resident Duty Hours. They included:
    * A limit of 80 hours of work each week, without averaging.
    * A limit of 16 consecutive hours worked in one shift for all resident physicians and subspecialty resident physicians.
    * At least one 24-hour period of time off work per week and one 48-hour period of time off work per month for a total of five days off work per month, without averaging.
    * And in-hospital on-call frequency no more than once every three nights, no averaging.
    These recommendations are "necessary for protecting the safety of resident physicians and subspecialty resident physicians," according to the petition submitted by Public Citizen, the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare, and the American Medical Students Association.
    "Their implementation would also have the secondary benefit of resulting in a safer, better standard of care for patients nationwide," the petition added.
    Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

9/05-06-07/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Four-day workweek would create jobs for Americans, by John A. Martabano, 9/07 LivingstonDaily.com
    BRIGHTON, Mich. - The U.S. government could solve its unemployment problem by offering a bonus to companies that would be willing to reduce their workweeks to four days instead of five. This would create plenty of new jobs and at the same time reward people who gave up one day's wages each week with an extra day to spend with their families. The billions of dollars spent for unemployment compensation would not be needed.
    Even labor unions would support this solution because it would increase their number of dues-paying members. American workers are among the most highly productive in the world because they put in the most hours and have fewer vacation days than their counterparts in the countries of Europe and other countries.
    Instead of borrowing from our children to pay for unemployment benefits, let's reward those companies and people who would be willing to take a pay cut with a four-day workweek by giving them a three-day weekend.
    [Members of the general public by the thousands are thinking of this approach every day. It's only the professionals, the informed, the sophisticated, who "know" it's "impossible" - like heavier-than-air flying before the Wright brothers, or men on the moon before NASA...]

  2. Robert Reich: Economic Illiterate, 9/06 RedState.com (blog)
    In which we learn that the forty hour work week and time-and-a-half overtime ended the Great Depression, not the minor squabble called WWII.
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - There’s no better day than Labor Day to examine the nonsense that passes for high-minded economic policy proposals among the cognoscenti on the Left.
    [He's right in general, but he's picked the wrong piece of policy, thus demonstrating that he's absorbed the popular mythology on the end of the Depression, but is himself ignorant of the fact that a much less wasteful and more sustainable Republican approach was already taking care of it, albeit more gently... I'm delighted that someone concluded from Reich's op ed that Reich believes workweek redefinition was the main thing that ended the Depression - I afraid I didn't come to this conclusion (so at least I'm not guilty of seeing what I want to see). Alas, this "Vladimir" himself has only as much credibility as you willing to grant these days to an "Operations Manager for a small Gulf of Mexico oil & gas explorer & producer."]
    To assist our examination is the erstwhile Secretary of Labor himself, the diminutive Robert Reich, who happens to be flogging a new book, “AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and America’s Future”, to be published in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait.
    The Real Lesson of Labor Day
    Face it: The national economy isn’t escaping the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. None of the standard booster rockets are working. Near-zero short-term interest rates from the Fed, almost record-low borrowing costs in the bond market, a giant stimulus package, along with tax credits for small businesses that hire the long-term unemployed have all failed to do enough.
    That’s because the real problem has to do with the structure of the economy, not the business cycle. No booster rocket can work unless consumers are able, at some point, to keep the economy moving on their own. But consumers no longer have the purchasing power to buy the goods and services they produce as workers; for some time now, their means haven’t kept up with what the growing economy could and should have been able to provide them.
    [emphasis added throughout]

    Federal stimulus: booster rocket, or enema syringe? Keynesian economics had once been relegated to the dustbin of history, and we should not be surprised to be witnessing another failure in its current application. As Churchill said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Too bad Sir Winston is on the Obama Administration’s s*** list.
    Reich goes on to attribute our current economic woes to an uneven distribution of wealth.
    [Or rather, a hyperconcentration of so much income and wealth in such a small population that they are far far beyond what they can spend and even beyond what they can invest sustainably because of the insufficient mass of money they've left "behind" in the non-financial markets. On this point, Reich is quite correct. The unlimited redistribution of a nation's money supply to themselves by the wealthy is the root cause of depression, though you'll seldom see it identified as such because...they own the media and the last culprits they're going to finger are...themselves.]
    The tech boom of the 90s outsourced much of our labor, you see, and the masses compensated for their income losses by working more hours and extracting $2.3 trillion in equity from their homes. (Which, if money were the sole problem, should have gone a long way toward fixing it. [It did - or rather, it delayed the crisis by 5-10 years.] ) Instead, all that wealth rolled uphill [actually, the wealthy have so much power to adjust money flows toward themselves, the gravity metaphor would put them downhill as the default - at least during peacetime, - during the world wars, the shortage of labor reversed the slope and the national income rolled "downhill" away from the wealthy, ironically benefitting them by providing lots of marketable productivity for sustainable investments], concentrating in the wealthiest 1% of the population:
    The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty examined tax returns from 1913 to 2008. They discovered an interesting pattern. In the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of American families took in about 9 percent of the nation’s total income; by 2007, the top 1 percent took in 23.5 percent of total income.
    O, for those halcyon days of the Carter Administration! What I recall of those pre-Reagan days is the Soviet threat, gasoline lines, 20% inflation, and a decade’s worth of negative returns in the stock market.
    The Great Depression and its aftermath demonstrate that there is only one way back to full recovery: through more widely shared prosperity. [True.] In the 1930s, the American economy was completely restructured [not at all - it was just bandaided more completely - except for the establishment of a nationwide workweek, which soon froze and became obsoletely long when the wartime labor killing stopped but the introduction of worksaving technology continued]. New Deal measures — Social Security, a 40-hour work week with time-and-a-half overtime, unemployment insurance, the right to form unions and bargain collectively, the minimum wage — leveled the playing field.
    [except for the Wagner Act which was disastrous for unions...]
    Reich elides over the fact that none of those measures snapped the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression. 1937 is offered as the example of the double-dip recession we’re currently trying to avoid.
    In the decades after World War II, legislation like the G.I. Bill, a vast expansion of public higher education and civil rights and voting rights laws further reduced economic inequality. [Huh? - ed.] Much of this was paid for with a 70 percent to 90 percent marginal income tax on the highest incomes. And as America’s middle class shared more of the economy’s gains, it was able to buy more of the goods and services the economy could provide. The result: rapid growth and more jobs.
    In this twisted view of reality, the wealthiest Americans happily paid 70 to 90% of their top dollar in income tax because, to paraphrase his argument, “A falling tide lifts all boats.”
    Mr Reich’s prescription?
    [If Reich really thought workweek reduction was the main thing that ended the Depression, why doesn't he mention it in any of his prescriptions and avoid the justified criticism that follows?]
    We might consider, for example, extending the earned income tax credit all the way up through the middle class, and paying for it with a tax on carbon. … Consider how much our society now spends on such things as foreign wars designed to secure our sources of oil, as well as oil cleanups. [But BP's shareholders are paying for the cleanup... oh, never mind. -- ed.]
    In other words, put 70% or so of the American population on the public dole, and scrap the pretense that Cap and Tax is anything other than a convenient vehicle for income redistribution.
    Here’s another brilliant idea in a similar vein:
    Another step would be to exempt the first $20,000 of income from payroll taxes and paying for it with a payroll tax on incomes over $250,000. This, too, seems reasonable, given that under current law only the first $106,000 of income is subject to the Social Security portion of the payroll tax – a particularly regressive system. Most higher-income people, who get good medical care, live longer and collect far more in Social Security benefits, than do lower-income people.
    Ummm, it seems reasonable to take Social Security, which has always been sold as an insurance plan, and drop the pretense that it is anything other than another vehicle of income redistribution.
    [At least it's $circulation-accelerating income centrifugation rather than further $circulation-decelerating income concentration, centrifugation is much better done by engineering the kind of perceived labor "shortage" under which capitalism has always prospered, as during wartime prosperity (or plaguetime prosperity), even though a large part of the consumer base is also sacrificed by this method.]
    As if that’s not enough:
    Early childhood education should be more widely available, paid for by a small 0.5 percent fee on all financial transactions. Public universities should be free; in return, graduates would then be required to pay back 10 percent of their first 10 years of full-time income.
    [Reich is missing the woods for the trees. He's too oriented to relatively low-level details and is missing the implications of one of the items on his list of things that ended the Depression.
    Oh, my word! The “small 0.5 percent fee” shows how complete is Mr. Reich’s separation from reality. Find me a money market account that yields 0.5% per annum! And it takes no great measure of financial sophistication to understand that much of our economy depends on efficient financial markets; a 50 cent fee on every $100 transaction would cripple the very institutions that make our markets liquid and efficient.
    Mr. Reich’s college payback scheme would combine two time-honored traditions of the Left: tithing (only with the government in the role of the church), and indentured servitude. In practice, the 10% surcharge on graduates’ salaries would serve to discourage gainful employment, but might serve to spur a renovation boom for the graduates’ parents’ basement apartments.
    Mr. Reich concludes:
    Here’s the point. Policies that generate more widely shared prosperity lead to stronger and more sustainable economic growth — and that’s good for everyone.
    The rich are better off with a smaller percentage of a fast-growing economy than a larger share of an economy that’s barely moving. That’s the Labor Day lesson we learned decades ago; until we remember it again, we’ll be stuck in the Great Recession.

    No, here’s the point, Mr. Reich. Our system of government depends on the consent of the governed. In our system, that top 1% (and perhaps more importantly, the slice between 30% and 1%) represents the job-creation dynamo for our economy. We burden it at our peril. No less luminary than Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has shown us that the ultra-rich like paying taxes no more than the common man. In fact, they have the resources to (legally) avoid paying taxes that they deem to be unfair, by hiring accountants, tax lawyers, or by taking delivery of their foreign-made yachts in tax-friendly jurisdictions.
    Failing that, many will check out of the system by retirement (full or partial) or by relocation.
    Besides, it’s not the super-wealthy upon whom this new tax burden would fall; most of them are Heinz-Kerry style coupon-clippers, anyway. No, the brunt of the new taxes and redistributive schemes would fall upon the entrepreneurial class, the ones willing to gamble on their own skill or with who are trying to make it into that top 1%, but who haven’t made it yet. That’s the problem with our economy now, Mr. Reich: too many of these folks are afraid to risk their money because they realize that their financial success is not viewed by morons Democratic policy gurus like you, not as a solution, but as the root injustice of our system that must be expunged. Consequently, job growth is nonexistent
    (It’s worth noting on this Labor Day that Mr. Reich’s resume is chock-full of academic and government policy positions, but nothing resembling a private sector J-O-B appears. Just like the bulk of Obama’s cabinet.)

  3. Czech working-hours longest in Europe, 9/07 Lidové Noviny via PressEurop - English (blog) via presseurop.eu/en
    PRAGUE, Czech Republic - “Czechs spend more time at work than any other EU citizens,” headlines Lidové noviny, which reports on the latest Eurostat figures on average working-hours in Europe’s member states. Men working in the Czech Republic spend an average of 42.7 hours per week in the workplace, closely followed by their colleagues in Greece (41.6 hours) and Bulgaria (40.5 hours). The lowest ranked countries are the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, where the working week is just over 37.7 hours -- considerably less than the EU average of 41.8 hours (2007). The Prague daily notes that the figures do not allow for the drawing of definite conclusions about levels of productivity, but it is clear that the average time spent at work has increased over the last two years. In the midst of the economic crisis, workers who are worried about their jobs are spending more time at the office for the same salaries they were earning a few years ago.

  4. Work Longer - Moi? 9/07 Sky News via blogs.news.sky.com
    PARIS, France - There are a lot of angry people on the streets of Paris. Parliament is debating new pension reforms and the unions want to send MPs a strong message from the street.
    Sarkozy's government wants to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. It says if it doesn't France will eventually go bust thanks to an ageing population and a subsequent ballooning deficit. The Unions reckon this is just a trick - the thin end of the wedge and the start of the dismantling of the social contract.
    But even if the retirement age rises French workers still enjoy some of the best working conditions in the world, including a 35 hour week.
    On average a French pensioner enjoys 24.5 years of retirement compared to 19 for the rest of EU.
    Across Europe the economic writing is on the wall - for example Germany the biggest and most successful country on the continent is raising the retirement age to 67.
    [Any fixed retirement age is unsustainable in an age of greater longevity. And a workweek that automatically fluctuates against unemployment makes mandatory retirement unnecessary for job creation.]
    Europe is slipping as economic power shifts East and to Latin America.
    [Ridiculous. With the shortest worktime per person, Europe has the smallest coagulation of its money supply in the topmost brackets and therefore the highest consumption per capita and the greatest export-independence. There's tons of money in the East and in Latin America but it's all trapped and deactivated in the highest wealth brackets. In Europe that money is spread around and rapidly circulating. Everywhere else it's just claimed to be in play and rapidly circulating.]
    The continent's population is ageing and someone has to pay the bills. A cut in living standards and a change in working conditions for many seems inevitable.
    [A false fear. Advanced European automation and robotization is way WAY more than capable of paying the bills.]
    So are French workers out of touch - holding onto a way of life they can no longer afford? What do you think and what should be done?
    [In terms of mandatory retirement, yes. And also in terms of maintaining a long, yes, unsustainably long, 35-hour workweek forever as they go deeper into the Age of Robotics. No fixed workweek is sustainable, because it will soon become too long as waves of worksaving technology take over more and more routine or dangerous activities. There is no sacrosanct workweek length. All future economies will adjust their workweeks regularly and automatically to maintain full employment and markets, however short or intermittent a workweek that may require. Challenging for management? Yes, but sustainably challenging. Weakening markets due to frozen or lengthening pre-technology workweeks and the concentration of market employment on an ever smaller workforce are much more challenging for management, and unsustainable.]

  5. Breadwinning dads scared to ask bosses to cut working hours: Oz study, 9/05 ANI via AustralianNews.net
    SYDNEY, Australia - Fathers struggling to juggle jobs and family responsibilities admit they are scared to ask bosses to reduce their hours for fear it may harm their careers, says an Australian study.
    A Galaxy survey conducted for Father's Day [Aussie has a different Fathers' Day?] reveals that while most dads battle to balance work and fatherhood, younger dads have the biggest problems striking a work-life balance.
    But they wouldn't swap fatherhood for anything - nine out of 10 say being a dad is fulfilling, while 75 per cent report they are happy or very happy.
    Researchers surveyed 1255 men with children aged up to 17 in a weeklong poll.
    More than half (56 per cent) said they found it difficult to balance work and family life, yet 64 per cent felt their careers would suffer if they asked their employer for more time to spend with their children.
    There was a particular reluctance among young fathers, those considered the breadwinner in the family and men from households with an above-average income to talk to bosses about the problem.
    Fathers with high incomes reported they were happier than those who earned less.
    "Some people have argued in the past that even though your income may be higher, you've got greater outgoing expenses," the Daily Telegraph quoted Galaxy principal David Briggs as saying.
    "It still seems to me that in higher-income families, you have a buffer against financial problems," he added.

  6. Unemployment Pain Stretched Thinner, by Carlos Guillen, 9/05 SeekingAlpha.com (blog)
    While the unemployment rate result for the month of August did get worse, I think that just looking at the rate itself is not telling the entire story. According to the department of labor, the August unemployment rate clocked in at 9.6 percent, increasing from the 9.5 percent unemployment rate in July. Although the unemployment rate level is stubbornly high, it had been slowly improving, but now it appears to have taken a turn in the wrong direction. However, on a positive note, the unemployment rate result did land in-line with the economists' consensus estimates.
    To analyze the dynamic of what occurred during August, let us begin by listing some facts. The number of people employed increased by 290 thousand, those unemployed increased by 261 thousand, and those labeled as not-in-the-labor-force decreased by 341 thousand. Of course, the sum of those that are employed, unemployed, and not-in-the-labor-force is equal to what is called the civilian-non-institutional-population, and this level increased by 210 thousand. So this month the job market was able to absorb the growth in the civilian-non-institutional-population, while also absorbing some of those that decided to rejoin the labor force, but not all. In other words, there were 290 thousand new spots, enough to satisfy the population increment of 210 thousand and part of the 341 that decided to come back to the labor force. I think this is certainly a good thing since it really means that there are more people out there working, contributing to the economic feed-back loop.
    However, this perspective is not really reflected in the unemployment rate itself. At a first glance, I can see that the unemployment rate has made a turn for the worse. But the reason why the unemployment rate increased was not because there were more job losses. The reason why the unemployment rate increased was because there was a surge in the number of people that decided to rejoin the work force. This caused the growth rate of those unemployed to be greater than the growth rate of those employed, which in turn caused the unemployment rate to increase.
    From another perspective, in looking at the nonfarm employment changes, I can see some mixed results. On the positive side, nonfarm employment in August decreased by 54 thousand, less than the 120 thousand loss that economists expected. Moreover, July's nonfarm employment change was positively revised to a loss of 54 thousand from a loss of 131 thousand. On the negative side, nonfarm employment still decreased and has been in negative territory for three consecutive months.
    One other point worth mentioning is that there were more people working part time for economic reasons than there were in July. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people working part time for economic reasons are those who worked 1 to 34 hours during the reference week for an economic reason such as slack work or unfavorable business conditions, inability to find full-time work, or seasonal declines in demand. During August, the number of these part timers increased by 331 thousand to 8.86 million, flipping a three month improving trend. So what appears to be happening is that employers are lowering working hours below 34 for many, and at the same time they are hiring additional part timers. In essence, employers are taking advantage of the high demand for jobs to lower their labor costs, as the price to employ part timers is less than the price to employ full time workers. On the bright side, what this means is that the unemployment pain is being stretched thinner.
    I think that to get a better measure of what has been occurring most recently, one has to look at the employment-population ratio, which is the percentage of the civilian non-institutional population that is employed. As it can be observed below, this ratio had been getting worse, but in August this ratio improved.
    Looking forward, I am not that pessimistic about the job situation, and I expect the employment-population ratio to improve. The production-manufacturing work week has been increasing at a nice pace although it has had some sharp downturns; however, in general this is indicating that the probability of hiring is ramping up.
    I don't see any miracles happening this year, and I expect the unemployment-population ration to mildly improve for the rest of 2010, while the unemployment rate will likely inch lower, but still remain above 9 percent. The unemployment rate will likely decline into the percent range by the end of 2011 and into 2012. The employment losses have been so massive that normal unemployment rates (between 5% and 6%) are not likely to be reached until the middle of this decade.
    About the author: Wall Street Strategies [huh? what happened to Carlos Guillen?] has been providing independent stock market research since 1991 to individual, retail and institutional clients through a balanced approach to investing and trading. Charles Payne, our founder and chief analyst, is routinely sought after for his stock market, political, and general opinions by several prestigious news organizations. Currently, Mr. Payne is a contributor to the Fox News Network and Fox Business Network. He also hosts his own radio show on KFIAM 640 every Saturday from 2-4pm PST. Mr. Payne recently released his first book entitled Be Smart Act Fast Get Rich.

9/03-04/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. OSHA Should Dictate Residents' Hours, Group Says, by Emily P. Walker, 9/04 (9/03) MedPageToday.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The consumer group Public Citizen is urging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to regulate the work hours of resident physicians.
    Joined by the Committee of Interns and Residents of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare and the American Medical Student Association, Public Citizen sent a letter to OSHA asking that the agency enforce recommendations from a 2009 Institute of Medicine report on resident work hours.
    The group said that the goal of OSHA, which is part of the Department of Labor, is to ensure the safety and health of workers, and that it should protect resident physicians by limiting work hours.
    Public Citizen -- which runs the website WakeUpDoctor.org and advocates for shorter shifts and better supervision of residents -- has successfully petitioned OSHA to lower the allowable exposure levels of various workplace toxins including hexavalent chromium and benzene, according to the release from the group.
    "The dangerously excessive number of hours resident physicians are currently allowed to work is a similarly toxic exposure that OSHA has the authority to regulate and reduce in order to protect these physicians from harm," said Sidney Wolfe, MD, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, in a statement.
    The federal government already regulates work hours for a variety of industries, including trucking, aviation, railroad, and maritime transportation.
    [And for all industries using wage workers via the overtime section of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.]
    "Given the failure of the medical profession to protect the health and safety of these young doctors,
    [- the American Medical Assoc. is a hypocritical disgrace in a number of glaring ways -]
    we are urging OSHA to set appropriate work-hour limits that eliminate the marathon shifts that endanger resident physicians and their patients," Charles Czeisler, MD, director of sleep medicine at Harvard and one of those who signed the letter, said in a statement.
    David Michaels, MD, assistant secretary for OSHA, said in a statement that the administration "will review and consider the petition."
    "We are very concerned about medical residents working extremely long hours, and we know of evidence linking sleep deprivation with an increased risk of needle sticks, puncture wounds, lacerations, medical errors, and motor vehicle accidents," Michaels said. "Hospitals and medical training programs are not exempt from ensuring that their employees' health and safety are protected.
    A spokeswoman for the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) -- the body that currently regulates and enforces resident physician work hours -- said OSHA rejected a similar petition from Public Citizen in 2002, and said that ACGME is best suited for the task.
    The ACGME recently released its long-awaited proposed standards for resident work hours, which called for first-year resident physicians to shorten their hours and have more supervision.
    A landmark report by the Institute of Medicine in 2008 concluded that, in order to reduce medical errors, residents should take a five-hour, uninterrupted nap for every 16-hour shift worked and that no resident should ever work more than a 30-hour shift.
    Public Citizen and its fellow petitioners are urging OSHA to:
    * Limit work hours to 80 per week
    * Limit shifts to no more than 16 hours
    * Allow for at least one 24-hour period of off-duty time per week, and a total of five days off per month
    * Require residents to have at least 10 free hours between shifts
    * Not allow residents to work more than four consecutive night shifts
    "These recommendations are necessary for protecting the safety of resident physicians and subspecialty resident physicians," wrote the petitioners. "Their implementation would also have the secondary benefit of resulting in a safer, better standard of care for patients nationwide."
    The ACGME's proposed standards fall short of what's called for in the petition. Although the ACGME endorsed the 30-hour shift maximum, it did so only for first-year residents. Residents further along in their training could work 24-hour shifts according to the ACGME.
    ACGME last updated its rules for resident work hours in 2003, when it set 30 hours as a maximum shift length. The rules also stipulated that residents must have one day in seven free from all educational and clinical responsibilities, and a 10-hour break between all daily duty periods and after being on call in the hospital.
    "As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reviews a petition from three special interest groups requesting federal regulation of resident duty hours, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education stands ready to share with OSHA the many studies, evidence, and documentation that substantiate the standards proposed by the ACGME Task Force on Quality Care and Professionalism," ACGME said in a prepared statement.
    The Task Force on Quality Care and Professionalism was the group that drafted ACGME's proposed standards.

  2. Private Sector Adds 67000 Jobs During Better Than Expected August, by Joseph Lazzaro, 9/03 DailyFinance.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Americans received some rare good news about the U.S. economy Friday, with a report from the Labor Department that the private sector added 67,000 jobs in August, more than the 40,000 gain economists had forecast. But that unexpected increase was more than offset by the well-anticipated drop in government payrolls: The number of temporary U.S. Census workers fell by 114,000, accounting for the bulk of a 121,000 decline in government jobs. In total, the U.S. lost 54,000 jobs in August.
    And, if August was better than expected, June and July now appear to have been less bad than they previously appeared. Job loss totals were revised to 175,000 for July and 54,000 for June, down from the previously estimated 221,000 and 131,000 figures, respectively, which amounts to 123,000 fewer jobs lost than earlier reported.
    The consensus of economists surveyed by Bloomberg had been that the economy would lose 90,000 jobs in August, primarily due to the loss of about 130,000 government jobs -- mostly those once-in-a-decade temporary Census jobs.
    More People Are Looking for Work
    The Labor Department report probably won't change the Federal Reserve's stance toward the economy. The Fed is still weighing whether to implement additional measures to stimulate an economy that's operating well below potential and that has created not nearly enough jobs for the estimated 22 million to 23 million Americans seeking full-time work. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has repeatedly underscored that the Fed has the tools to provide more stimulus and will act if conditions warrant it.
    The unemployment rate rose in August by 0.1% to 9.6%, which reflects the fact that more people are looking for work: The workforce participation rate rose to 64.7% in August from 64.6% in July.
    However, an alternate measure of unemployment, one that includes discouraged workers no longer actively seeking jobs and part-time workers who want full-time jobs, increased to 16.7% in August from 16.5% in July.
    Average hourly earnings increased 6 cents to $22.66 per hour. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.2 hours. A 0.1 hour increase in the workweek generally adds about 100,000 jobs to the economy.
    [Assuming we get a magic one-tenth-hour/week increase in natural, not-government/taxpayer-dependent, market-demanded employment. But we have not been able to count on that ever since 1970 when the babyboomers entered the job market, replaced the labor surplus of the Great Depression, stagnated government-independent wages and markets, and indirectly started the downsizing-rightsizing-smartsizing craze on the part of American CEOs, rationalized with Schumpeter's lulling phrase, "creative destruction." But conventional economists and CEOs are completely clueless about the corollary here: If a serendipitous 0.1 hour increase in the workweek generally adds about 100,000 jobs to the economy, then reducing the standard workweek to the current de-facto level of 34.2 hours/week and starting Overtime "penalties" at that point instead of the prehistoric level of 40.0 hrs/wk would create some jobs, and then reducing the standard workweek by 0.1 hr/wk for every additional 100,000 jobs we desired for the economy WOULD COMPLETELY RESTORE full employment and the domestic consumer base without our usual dangerous and double-edged "solutions" = wars and epidemics (and without the constant repetitive blather from our impotent pundits about the export "solution" - to nations in worse shape than us? - and Productivity Growth - regardless of weakening markets?)]
    Job Totals By Sector
    In August, the health care sector added 28,000 jobs; construction added 19,000 jobs; motor vehicle parts and dealers added 8,000 jobs; and mining added 8,000. Temporary services in the private sector -- not to be confused with temporary Census jobs -- added 17,000 jobs.
    On the downside, the manufacturing sector -- which previously has been a leading job creator during the "recovery" [oru quotes] -- lost 27,000 jobs. Building materials and garden-supply stores lost 6,000 jobs.
    Despite the private sector additions, the overall state of the U.S. labor market is still weak. The economy isn't creating the roughly 150,000 to 200,000 jobs per month that it needs to reduce unemployment and help the recovery become self-sustaining.
    [OK, you want another 200,000 jobs per month? Easy. Just trim the workweek 0.2 hours/week each month and stop playing helpless - and colossally unimaginative and uncreative and incapable of thinking "outside the box" despite your constant lip-service to that concept.]
    High Unemployment: No Minor Matter In U.S.
    Prolonged periods of job losses and/or high unemployment represent a problem for any developed economy, but they're particularly painful -- and can reach the status of a crisis -- in the U.S. That's because America's social safety net is modest and limited compared to those of eurozone states, which results in much larger economic losses for domestic unemployed and their families during periods of joblessness. If you're not a person of wealth or otherwise supported by someone else, a job isn't an option in the U.S., it's a necessity.
    [The underlying problem here is, these commentators and pundits depend on the perpetuation of these problems to keep their jobs. The fostering of these ongoing, never-ending economic problems have become vital sources of makework in our ever-weakening economy. Thus the First become Last, and some overlooked, unexpected, smaller economy, desperate and creative enough to grab an idea like Kurzarbeit and run with it, becomes First, thus hopefully stoppering the outpouring of lame and vapid drivel constantly jetting out the desperate mouths of anglophony economists and CEOs and investors; Soros and Gates and Buffett, take notice.]
    That's one major reason the prolonged period of inadequate job growth has led to so many negative economic outcomes and conditions in the U.S.: The American system isn't designed to have such a high percentage of its working-age population unemployed. The social supports simply don't exist to allow the nation to run normally amid high unemployment. The U.S. economy can't grow adequately while unemployment remains high and jobs short, and it certainly can't achieve the robust corporate and revenue growth results characteristic of much of the post-Cold War era.
    That's why -- whether by public investment or private capital deployment, or both -- the country needs to discover ways to create lots of jobs in the quarters and years ahead. The American economic system quite simply can't do without them.
    Joseph Lazzaro, Economics and Markets Writer - Joseph Lazzaro is the former managing editor of financial news web sites WallStreetEurope.com/WallStreetItalia.com, based in New York. Prior to graduate training in U.S. public policy and international economics, Lazzaro also served as a copy editor and staff writer for The Hartford (Connecticut) Courant.

9/01-02/2010  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 (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. German unemployment falls - Kurzarbeit impact, by Vidya Ram, 9/01 TheHinduBusinessLine.com
    LONDON, Great Britain - The case for Germany being Europe's strongest economy – by a long stretch – was strengthened on Tuesday as new data showed another significant fall in the unemployment rate, bucking the overall flat trend in Europe.
    The number of unemployed fell by 17,000 to 3.19 million, (or a rate of 7.6 per cent), in August, official German data released on Tuesday revealed.
    Euro zone trend
    According to separate data released by the European Commission, the unemployment rate across the 16-member euro zone remained flat at 10 per cent, with the figure rising in Spain to a staggering 20.3 per cent. The overall European trend came as a disappointment to many given the recovery in economic growth witnessed in the first two quarters of 2010.
    So while much of Europe continues to struggle through exceptionally high levels of unemployment, Germany has returned to pre crisis levels.
    “Unemployment has now returned to the seasonally-adjusted low point of the last economic boom,” says Mr Timo Klein, a German economist based at IHS Global Insight.
    There are of course many factors that contribute to Germany's success – not least the strong boost that the weak euro currency has given the nation's large high-value added export sector.
    Kurzarbeit factor
    However, perhaps the single biggest factor is the innovative system of Kurzarbeit – or “shorter work” – brought in by the Government during the crisis.

    Under the system, the Government provides a subsidy to help companies cut costs at the same time as not firing their entire workforce by paying companies to keep their staff on nearly three quarters of their salary, while cutting hours to up to half.
    The Government contribution covers nearly 70 per cent of the foregone wages, meaning that while companies bear some of the costs, firms do have the incentive to maintain staff.
    Firms also don't have to make payments towards pension and unemployment insurance during that period – costs that are covered by the Federal Employment Agency.
    The result? German unemployment increased by little more than one per cent from peak to trough during the recent economic crisis.
    And as firms still retain their workforce, it has left firms more capable of meeting recovering demand during the upswing.

  2. German unemployment insurance rate, joblessness rate declines, 9/02 Seedol.com
    MANILA, Philippines - Germany, being the Europe’s strongest economy has further enhanced its power as latest data on Tuesday revealed a remarkable fall in the unemployment insurance rate and the joblessness rate.
    Moreover, an official German data revealed the number of unemployed workers declined by 17,000 to 3.19 million in August. The data was released on Tuesday.
    Also, in accordance to a separate statistics that was disseminated by the European Commission, the rate of unemployment throughout the 16-member euro zone stayed flat at ten percent, with a data increase in Spain to a surprising 20.3 percent. Overall, the European trend came as dissatisfaction to many experts given the economic growth recovery that was seen in the first two quarters of 2010.
    Mr. Timo Klein, a German economist based at IHS Global Insight stated that unemployment insurance rate ahs presently went back to the seasonally-modified low point of the previous economic boost.
    Subsequently, there are numerous factors that aids in the success of Germany’s economy, which is not the strong increase that the pathetic euro currency has given the nation’s huge high-value extra export sector.
    However, the single utmost factor for the success of Germany is the ground-breaking system of Kurzarbeit, also dubbed as “shorter work” that was devised by the government amid the global financial crisis.
    Under the structure, Government offers a financial support to aid industries slash rates at the same time as not firing some people by paying industries to keep their employees on almost three quarters of their salary, which will slash working hours up to half.
    Furthermore, the contribution of the Government covers almost 70 percent of the inevitable wages, which means that while industries bear some of the rates, firms do have the control on how to maintain and preserve their workforce.
    Posted by dave on Sep 2 2010.

  3. Would more holiday be good for America? by Michael Goldfarb, 9/01 BBC Mobile News World via bbc.co.uk (nice catch, Gail!)
    LONDON, England - In theory, the summer is over here. We've just had August Bank Holiday, the British equivalent of Labor Day, the last official three-day weekend of the summer.
    But the little development of flats I live in is still quiet. A majority of folks still seem to be on vacation.
    Not me, of course. I may have lived in Britain for 25 years but I'm an American by birth, self-employed, and so after nine days away, I'm back in harness, ready for action.
    And as most of my work this week involves organising a lecture tour in the US in the autumn, I am having a productive time. It may be the last week of summer in the land of my birth but almost everybody I need to be in touch with in America is at their desk sounding harassed as ever.
    Month-long shutdown
    When people speak of the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism, what they are usually referring to is the remarkable Anglo-American coincidence that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan came to office at the same time and shared identical economic philosophies and policy gurus.
    Those days are gone and the Anglo-Saxon model is more nostalgia than reality. But even in the headiest days of the Iron Lady and the Gipper, one place where the model didn't hold was on the issue of paid annual leave.
    British workers get generous guarantees of time off, currently 20 days a year. That is one full month of paid leave. Judiciously planned around public holidays - eight in England and Wales, nine in Scotland and 10 in Northern Ireland - it means this country basically shuts down for most of August and between Christmas and New Year.
    It's not just Britain where good vacation is the norm.
    The figures in a 2007 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) are stark. It looked at 21 of the richest countries in the world, and found that only one, the US, does not impose a legal mandate on employers to provide time off.
    Obviously, people in America do get paid annual leave, but for most wage earners it is subject to so many different calculations based on seniority and how much you earn, it can only be described as miserly.
    In other words, it is a privilege to be earned rather than a normal part of compensation.
    Nine days of annual leave is what the average American accrues during the course of a year. So you have to be at your job for 12 months before you begin to get even that amount.
    If you figure that folks might take a day or two at Christmas, maybe Thanksgiving, and keep a day or two in the bank for a family emergency, what you're left with come the good weather is a week of vacation if you're lucky.
    Raw fear
    The difference between American attitudes to vacation and those of Britons and others is hard to explain.
    I have worked for wages on both sides of the Atlantic and the experience is broadly comparable. Yet no British worker - nor most British employers - would accept such little vacation entitlement.
    Holidays as part of compensation are one of the small, subtle things that keep a workplace happy. Happy workers are productive workers in ways that can't be measured statistically.
    Whenever citing Americans' acceptance of the longer hours they work or their lack of paid leave, the cliche is to say it goes back to the country's Puritan heritage or the Protestant work ethic.
    I disagree. I think it comes from raw fear. [Absolutely right, in the form of job insecurity and fewer and fewer job options as official and hidden unofficial unemployment mounts.]
    Most Americans are not descended from Puritan stock. The people I have worked with in a variety of jobs - I wasn't always a journalist - would have liked nothing more than a guarantee of 20 days of paid holiday a year.
    But since the heyday of Thatcher and Reagan, they have been increasingly afraid to ask for it directly and way too afraid to come together and demand it as a group.
    It is easy enough to get fired in the US, and when people have a job they tend not to want to make waves.
    [In general, American employees are as common as dirty, as cheap as dirt, and treated as dirt. The once-great USofA is flinging itself into the Third World with waves of worksaving technology smashing against a pre-computer 40-hour workweek frozen solid since 1940.]
    Social benefit
    It's a shame really. In a country where economic insecurity is resulting in a disturbingly aggressive public debate - disturbing, at least, to one American expat - it would probably be a good thing for employers to start paying their workers to take extra chill time.
    [Not gonna happen until the labor surplus is reduced by redefining "full time" downwards to levels more appropriate to the Age of Robotics. But the spread of worksharing programs through the states and the option of converting them from temporary unemployment-oriented funding to sustainable overtime tax revenues is always there...]
    The benefit to society would be immediate because the thing is, guaranteed paid vacations don't take a lot of getting used to.
    For all their [laughable] pride in working longer hours with no vacation than anyone else, I think Americans could adjust very quickly to having paid down time.
    [Wudda buncha patsy's!]
    Take the case of a colleague who worked for the International Herald Tribune in Paris. The Trib is owned by The New York Times and like most of its minuscule staff, he was on assignment from New York.
    We met for lunch while I was in Paris researching a book a couple of years ago, and as we ate he told me he was taking the following week off. It was March, not vacation season, and I asked him why he was taking it then.
    He told me he worked under French employment rules and was legally obliged to take his vacation allocation. He said he couldn't use it all up in the summer, as there were too many weeks he had to take.
    So he was grabbing some time out of season in England, in Cambridge. American readers won't know what the weather in that ancient university town is like in late winter, but he was not going to have to pack shorts.
    Still he cackled with glee as he bragged on this situation. He seemed so relaxed and happy, I let him pick up the tab for lunch.
    Anyway, things aren't likely to be getting better in the US.
    The CEPR statistics I mentioned above date back a few years. In the current economic climate, where people are losing their jobs in droves, if they are lucky enough to find new employment they will go to the bottom of the seniority list and have to accrue vacation days from the beginning.
    My guess is that the next such analysis will show Americans having less paid holiday than ever.
    [Yep, 'Merkins are as dumb as they come - not that Europeans know what they're doing right or what the next step is (hint: Fluctuating Adjustment of the Workweek Against Unemployment to guarantee full employment and full markets and a maximum of marketable productivity to provide solid and sustainable investment opportunities).]
    Michael Goldfarb is a journalist and broadcaster who has lived in London since 1985. Formerly with National Public Radio, he is now the London correspondent of globalpost.com.

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