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Timesizing News, 10/31+ November, 2010
[Commentary] ©2010 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 117, Harvard Sq PO, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080

11/28-29-30/2010 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Mayor: Too Early, Too Many Variables for 4-Day Huntington Work Week Evaluation, by Tony Rutherford, 11/29 HNN via Huntingtonnews.net
    HUNTINGTON, W.V. - Although several Huntington City Council members have questioned the savings based on the first quarter financial report of the City of Huntington, Mayor Kim Wolfe has said “it’s too early to tell.”
    Wolfe sent the memo to employees on November 18 which provided the administration’s analysis of coping with the reduced budget.
    “We are in the process of analyzing the results of the reduced work week and its effectiveness,” Wolfe said. “When the decision was made , I was faced with a number of options: across-the –board reductions, layoffs, rolling furloughs and/or the reduction of hours.”
    Wolfe’s statement reminded that Huntington City Council voted to exempt the police and fire departments from work reduction, thus, eliminating the across-the-board option. Calling the reduced work week as having “the least impact on services,” the Mayor cited “a number of variables at play” which preclude a definitive “has it been effective” answer.
    By contrast, Huntington City Council Chairman Jim Insco has flatly stated , “We are not seeing savings by going to a four day week.”
    His statement had been preceded by an analysis of the First Quarter Financial Report by Finance committee chairman, Steve Williams.
    “Upon reviewing the results in 1st Quarter Personal Services results, I question whether the administration’s policy of reduced hours and a shortened work week is providing the savings that was projected. I understand only 80 of the nearly 300 employees are affected,” Williams stated, adding, ” I am particularly concerned with the direction of the Salaries and Overtime lines because we have no direct control over those specific lines in the budget.”
    Williams opined that personal services have come in as budgeted at 25.81%. “However, a closer look presents a few red flags. The salaries line item is at 26.4% of budget year to date with overtime at 31.96% year to date. Eleven of the [city’s] departments or divisions spent in excess of 27% of their salary line item. [Of those], four spent in excess of 28% of their Overtime budget with three of the four in excess of 33%.”
    Insco has questioned how “comp time” is accrued since this line item has increased due to the compressed work schedule for certain employees.
    Despite the challenges advanced by several council members, Wolfe told employees , “I will continue to review the expenses that occur across departments , and will work with staff to determine the most effective ways to provide service without creating additional burdens. I am open to any recommendations that you have for us to save money and to do things better.”
    First quarter budget results and the savings by closing City Hall Friday’s will be on the agenda Tuesday, Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. for council’s Finance Committee meeting in council chambers.

  2. Budget cuts plow-over Frosty, unmask Santa, destroy holiday cheer - As revenues continue decline, city cuts services as last resort, by Greg Hambrick, 11/30 CharlestonCityPaper.com
    CHARLESTON, S.C. - Most government budgets in South Carolina run from July to June so that elected officials can get through the season of good cheer without the worry of layoffs or tax hikes or both. But the City of Charleston has a long history of following the calendar year, putting depressing stories like this one on your doorstep just as you're sitting down in front of that Black Friday TV to watch the Grinch steal away all of Whoville's Christmas trappings.
    Similarly, Charleston residents will wake up in 2011 with just the necessities. But it may smell like fermenting garbage and drivers are chasing little old ladies off the road. That's because the city budget has carefully plucked millions from trash collection, speed bumps, and a host of other things described as "wants" instead of "needs."
    In combating the economic downturn, the city has used every tool in the budgetary tool belt, including tax increases, fee increases, and furloughs. This year, the city continues to cut positions (except for police and fire) and is digging deep in every department to find millions of dollars to replace falling revenues. What's left should offer an interesting social experiment given the political momentum against government spending. When tax collections are flush, it's easy to pick out waste and excess. But, in the waning hours of a recession, the cuts are targeting all the Who trimmings. And how little is too little?
    Presenting the budget, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley never says, "It could be worse," but it's an implied counterpoint for every depressing number in the $146 million spending plan. The number of new business licenses and permits have dropped, again, but they've likely bottomed out (it could be worse). The cost for health insurance and employee injury claims has gone up, but our insurance rates are better than other local governments (it could be worse) and workers' compensation claims should be going down in coming years (it couldn't be worse, but it's going to get better).
    Riley rightly points out there are no tax or fee increases. Police and fire jobs are being preserved, while other cities are raising taxes or cutting emergency responders. The city has also restored $1.3 million to employee salaries after holiday furloughs in 2010. And fear not Detroit. There will be 50 new police cruisers, customized fire trucks, and several other new vehicles. City Chief Financial Officer Steve Bedard says the city could put off these purchases, but at the cost of piling replacement needs up for 2012 and 2013.
    "We don't think we should dig ourselves in too deep a hole," he says.
    Less For Less
    When the City of Charleston decided three years ago to raise taxes, Mayor Joe Riley said it was "the last resort." With a full recession between then and now, it's pretty clear that a modest tax increase (the first since 1999) was actually more like a first resort.
    This year's cuts, presumably the last last resort, include $1.55 million in savings with hundreds of cuts impacting every department, with less money for everything from paper clips and fuel to training and travel. The city also won't pay for employee certification classes unless they're mandatory for the position.
    The city is also eliminating a second commercial trash pick-up downtown on Saturdays and limiting yard debris pick-up during four holiday weeks (each area of the city will go without for one week a year). Speed bumps are on the chopping block, too. The city is cutting spending on the low-cost traffic-calming devices, from $80,000 to $25,000. The community assistance account, used to assist nonprofits, is less than half of what it was two years ago. City parks will cut hours during non-peak seasons and slow spells. For example, park officials will leave the tennis courts open, but close the tennis center building on Sundays.
    The city is also doubling down on vacant positions. They're eliminating 70 percent of the temporary employees hired for seasonal work and continuing a stringent hiring freeze that's expected to save $3.8 million by leaving 113 positions unfilled. A proposed early retirement package would target another 180 employees, though some of those positions may have to be filled. Still, the city expects an additional $550,000 from the program.
    Riley says the 2012 budget will likely restore spending on some of the items cut this year.
    "We're going to watch the implementation and watch what we can live without," he says. "In some cases, we may have cut into the bone."
    The proposal that has received the most attention will likely be least missed by taxpayers. The city is putting its mounted patrol unit out to pasture. Expected to close up shop next spring, the unit's exit will save the city $136,000 a year, with an extra $25,000 in 2011 for the sale of the horses and equipment. The three horse patrol officers will be moved to other units.
    Chief Greg Mullen, who recommended the change, said it was about efficiency and addressing the department's main goal. "These officers aren't impacting the community in regards to actual crime reduction," Mullen says.
    Riley notes technology has changed since the horse patrol was introduced 40 years ago. The city's latest "mounted" unit has included officers on Segways downtown.
    City Councilwoman Kathleen Wilson is nostalgic about the loss.
    "This is a head versus heart kind of thing," she conceded.
    Councilman Gary White shook his head (he does that a lot) and offered an assessment that perfectly describes the barren Christmas tree we're looking at. "We're in a 'need to have' mode."
    Getting It Done
    It's a bad budget year, but the city isn't sitting on its hands and needlessly stocking up on Who Hash. The city has leveraged revenue from leased space, grants, and tax revenue set aside for tourism improvements.
    The new Flagship site at Calhoun and East Bay streets has shepherded a new tech sector downtown. The more than $5 million renovation of the City Market is gearing up for the final leg of construction. They should be name-dropping some heavy-hitting retailers for Market Street space soon, and there are plans for a new fourth shed. The city has also put money into a free trolley service downtown.
    Criticized in the aftermath of the Sofa Super Store for not having enough firefighters on each truck, the city used federal dollars to cushion payroll increases for new firefighters.
    The city also has grand plans for a $142 million Gaillard Auditorium renovation, with more than half the cost expected to come from private donations. The city has also squeaked out a respectable Civil War Sesquicentennial program, again largely funded through private donations.
    But private money is just as scarce as public dollars (just ask your nearest Charleston Symphony Orchestra supporter). Fortunately, Mayor Riley expects things will start looking up this time next year so we can cut right to the Who feast.
    The real challenge for city leaders may not be in cutting some services this year, but in finding the political will to restore necessary programs in 2012, regardless of the cost.

  3. Medical school retreat cost $15K - No public money spent at Cape golf club event, by Thomas Caywood, 11/28 Worcester Telegram & Gazette via telegram.com
    WORCESTER, Mass. - A little over a month ago, a group of University of Massachusetts Medical School executives made their way to Cape Cod early on a Thursday afternoon for an overnight management retreat at a ritzy golf resort in Brewster.
    The bill for the meeting at The Mansion at Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club came to $14,936, including more than $6,000 for hotel rooms and $7,500 for food and beverages, according to an invoice obtained by the Telegram & Gazette through the state Public Records Law.
    The retreat began at lunch on Thursday, Oct. 21, and ended the following afternoon. The Thursday evening program concluded with a cocktail reception followed by a banquet dinner for the 27 medical school executives and doctors who attended, according to the meeting agenda.
    UMass Medical School spokesman Edward Keohane described the Cape Cod retreat as a chance for the institution's top leaders to get away from the distractions of their regular work routines and home lives in order to concentrate exclusively on strategic planning at a time of economic uncertainty.
    In addition to its roughly $40 million annual state appropriation that comes from taxpayers, the public medical school earns millions of dollars a year from contracts and research licensing fees, among other sources. Mr. Keohane, who was among the participants, stressed that no public money was spent on the getaway.
    “This was not a junket. There were no rounds of golf or anything else like that. This was all business,” Mr. Keohane said.
    Critics characterize the nearly $15,000 retreat as needlessly expensive and in poor taste amid dismal economic times and coming less that two weeks after the medical school's cash-strapped clinical partner, the UMass Memorial Health Care hospital system, announced plans to lay off 130 to 140 workers, slash about 120 unfilled jobs and cut hours for the equivalent of about 100 full-time workers.
    “You don't do this with all that's going on. At a time of austerity, this is really uncalled for,” said John A. Gatti Jr. of Southbridge, a retired lobbyist for the Massachusetts Organization of State Engineers and Scientists union, who now writes a blog about wasteful spending and whistleblowers.
    Since they were split apart in the late 1990s, the hospital and medical school have been separate entities, but many connections between the two institutions remain, including the fact that many members of the medical school faculty also are physicians at the adjacent hospital.
    Mr. Keohane cited the hospital job cuts as a symptom of the economic woes that necessitated the medical school management retreat.
    “At a time when our colleagues in the clinical system have been laid off, and institutions across the spectrum want to look at managing their finances better, we thought it was important to bring our leaders together and really do just that, look to the future,” he said.
    Loranne Magoun, president of the medical school unit of the State Healthcare and Research Employees Union, declined to comment on the retreat, citing ongoing contract negotiations in which a tentative agreement was recently reached.
    Former state lawmaker Marie J. Parente of Milford, who has been critical of what she sees as a lack of transparency at the medical school, scoffed at the notion that the only way to effectively focus on strategic planning was to decamp to a fancy golf resort.
    “They needed time away to talk about the things that are going on back home? That is incredible. In a tough economy, spending $15,000 to get together on the Cape to talk about how bad the economy is doesn't make sense,” Mrs. Parente said. “To the ordinary man on the street, $15,000 to get away from it all is just too much.”
    Mrs. Parente and Mr. Gatti both said that as a public institution, the medical school has a responsibility to spend its money wisely whether the specific dollars in question were appropriated by the Legislature or earned through contracts or licensing fees.
    The $7,500 food and beverage bill works out to about $278 a person, or an average of about $70 per meal for each retreat participant. The lodging expenses breaks down to $226 per person. The Ocean Edge invoice also lists $1,333 in audiovisual charges.
    “I'd like to see what the liquor bill was,” Mr. Gatti said.
    The medical school's Mr. Keohane said the Ocean Edge food and lodging rates are comparable to conference centers and hotels in Worcester.
    “Why didn't they go to Maxwell Silverman's or Union Station?” Mr. Gatti said. “They could have gone to Tatnuck Golf Club for the day and slept at home. Why do they have to go down to the Cape?”
    Mr. Keohane said the Brewster venue and the overnight hotel stay minimized interruptions and distractions and allowed the meeting participants to focus on the important strategic planning discussions, which he described as “the start of a great conversation” about the school's future.
    “My own staff commented that they didn't get a single BlackBerry message from me all day,” Mr. Keohane said. “From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, we were pretty much all together and always in discussions about the strategic priorities moving forward.”
    Contact Thomas Caywood by e-mail at tcaywood@telegram.com.

11/26-27/2010 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. The monkey tax, 11/26 Chicago Tribune via articles.chicagotribune.com
    BROOKFIELD, Illin. - Primate enthusiasts can get an eyeful at Brookfield Zoo's Tropic World exhibit, where white-cheeked gibbons frolic alongside black-handed spider monkeys and lowland gorillas. But the real monkey business lately has been in Springfield.
    The Illinois Senate recently passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Louis Viverito, D-Burbank, that would block the village of Brookfield from applying a proposed amusement tax to the zoo. This came as a surprise to village officials, who didn't know the bill was afoot. The House is expected to consider the measure this week.
    Both the village and the zoo have fallen on hard times, along with the rest of the country. The village has cut staff, frozen salaries, required furlough days for employees, cut hours at Village Hall and canceled spring cleanup week. The zoo says it has a $1.3 million deficit for 2010 and needs to make $60 million worth of repairs, all while attendance is down.

  2. Italian carrier Alitalia to cut up to 800 jobs: report, 11/27 AFP via google.com/hostednews/afp
    ROME, Italy - Italian airline Alitalia is in talks with the unions on cutting up to 800 jobs, after denying in September reports that as many as 1,400 jobs were threatened, the daily Repubblica said Saturday.
    The newspaper said the airline was seeking 400 voluntary departures and the hiving off of another 400 ground staff in Italian regional airports.
    The report said unions had also been asked in informal talks to consider short-time work for ground staff in Rome to avoid another 200 job losses.
    Official negotiations could begin as early as next week, the paper added.
    After risking bankruptcy, Alitalia was taken over in 2009 by a group of prominent Italian business leaders and merged with Italy's number two carrier Air One, as Air France-KLM acquired 25 percent of the company.
    The restructured carrier has already laid off 3,000 people, despite a series of strikes by staff that forced cancellations.
    Alitalia said last month its third quarter profit had soared, reflecting a rise in passenger numbers, and predicted that it could surpass its financial target this year.
    The group reported net earnings of 39 million euros (53 million dollars) compared with one million in the third quarter of 2009.
    The carrier said its results for the full year 2010 could be better than its previous target of halving its net loss. The company foresees returning to operational equilibrium in 2011.

  3. Japanese men working shorter hours: survey, 11/27 AFP via google.com/hostednews/afp
    TOKYO, Japan — "Workaholic" may no longer be the most appropriate label for Japanese businessmen.
    A survey has shown that Japanese men spend less time at work than they once did amid an economic slowdown
    and use their leisure time surfing the Internet at home rather than going out to drink, a news report said Saturday.
    They now work eight hours and 39 minutes a day on average, around one hour less than they did in 2000, Jiji Press said, reporting the results of a survey covering 400 male corporate employees in their 20s to 50s.
    In their private time, workers spent a record seven hours and 59 minutes a week on the Internet or catching up with email, the survey showed.
    The previous survey in 2000 showed they spent seven hours and 52 minutes watching television -- then the top leisure-time activity.
    Drinking at coffee shops or bars now took up just two hours and 25 minutes a week, down from a high of seven hours and 52 minutes in 1990, it said.

11/24-25/2010 – 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. Employment in Europe 2010: Frequently asked questions, 11/25 IEWY via iewy.com
    [WEBSITE HQ LOCATION UNDISCLOSED - ARTICLE SOURCE UNDISCLOSED -] The Employment in Europe report has become one of the main tools of the European Commission in supporting Member States in the analysis, formulation and implementation of their employment policies. As in previous years, the Employment in Europe report 2010 addresses topics that are high on the European Union’s employment policy agenda. It gives a comprehensive overview of the employment situation in the EU and of the labour market measures taken by the Member States. This year it analyses the effects of market segmentation between “temporary” and “permanent” contract holders (insiders and outsiders), particularly in relation to young people.
    Given that the economic recovery has been underway for a year, why according to Employment in Europe findings has employment not picked up?
    Although it has now been more than a year since the EU economy started to come out slowly from deep recession, the recovery is proving to be fragile and it may take some time yet before it is robust enough to trigger a clear upswing in the labour market. Nevertheless, the labour market is now showing consistent signs of stabilisation, and we are seeing the first signs of recovery in some Member States. Unemployment in the EU is broadly stable, while in some Member States it has now started to fall. Furthermore, companies are becoming more optimistic about employment prospects and consumers’ unemployment expectations are easing.
    On a general level, it is to be expected that job creation for the EU as a whole would be subdued during the initial stages of the recovery. This reflects not only the usual lag with which the labour market reacts to a change in economic activity, but also the fact that there has been substantial labour hoarding during the crisis alongside reductions in working time, resulting in widespread under-employment. The initial adjustment to the rise in economic activity has so far mainly come from a reversal of the widespread reductions in working hours rather than through an expansion in employment.
    Why have job losses been so much worse in some Member States than in others?
    Countries such as the Baltic States, Ireland and above all Spain have experienced comparatively significant job losses as a consequence of the economic crisis. In contrast, the reaction has been relatively subdued in countries such as Austria, Belgium, Italy, and above all Germany.
    There are several reasons for the comparatively stronger effect on employment in certain Member States. One key factor is the structure of the economy and the importance of specific sectors most affected by the crisis. For example, the construction sector – one of the sectors hardest hit by the crisis – accounts for an especially high share of national employment in countries such as Ireland and Spain. In this context, to a certain extent the variation across countries reflects productivity levels in the sectors which have been hit hardest. For example, in Germany the manufacturing sector was badly hit by plummeting exports but high productivity levels in this sector led to a comparatively small fall in employment relative to that in GDP, while in Spain the large contraction in the relatively low-productivity construction sector has led to a large fall in employment relative to the decline in GDP.
    Another reason is the widespread use of internal flexibility in countries such as Austria, Belgium and Germany as opposed to the relatively limited use of such arrangements in the Baltic States, Ireland and Spain. Overall, the more moderate employment impact in the former countries reflects a greater willingness in these Member States to adjust to falls in demand by reducing hours worked and productivity rather than the number of workers in employment.
    Furthermore, high shares of workers in temporary contracts, who can be relatively easily dismissed, also in part explain the bigger effect on employment in certain Member States such as Spain. Indeed, analysis in the report indicates that extensive use of temporary employment contracts in countries with highly regulated permanent contracts is likely to amplify the volatility of employment to economic shocks.
    Who has suffered most from the crisis and why?
    Certain groups have been affected much more than others by a fall in employment during the recent recession. The groups most affected to date have been men, young people, the low-skilled and non-EU migrants and, above all, those in temporary employment who can be relatively easily dismissed.
    The different gender impact of the recession on employment strongly reflects the different sectoral concentrations of male and female employment. To date, the economic downturn has had a much greater impact on male-oriented sectors, such as the construction and manufacturing sectors. Conversely, women more often work in sectors so far shielded from the crisis — such as the public sector, health, education and the social sector. Nevertheless, in the future, female employment may give more cause for concern as those are precisely the sectors that will be more affected by upcoming fiscal tightening.
    In terms of age, young people (those aged 15–24) have been the most affected by job losses, with a decline of 11.4% since the crisis began. This reflects not only the high share of temporary employment among young people but also their disproportionate concentration in certain cyclically-sensitive industries and the fact that they are particularly vulnerable as they have to make the most frequent transitions.
    In terms of skill levels, the crisis has affected the traditionally most vulnerable low-skilled most severely, highlighting the need for an effective new skills agenda. Among different nationality groups, the particularly strong relative decline in non-EU migrants’ employment in part reflects the fact that they are over-represented in sectors such as the hard-hit construction sector, but also the high share of migrants employed in elementary occupations, and as craft and trades workers – i.e. in the low-skilled occupations which have been most at risk in the downturn.
    To what extent did short time working arrangements contribute to the stabilisation of employment during the crisis?
    It is estimated that on average the fall in employment growth over the 2008-2009 recession has been counterbalanced by 0.7 percentage points (on an annual basis) in the Member States that have implemented short-time working arrangements (STWA).

    [A begrudging underestimate, judging from the following Chicken Little alarmism -]
    Nevertheless, these arrangements also pose the risk that enterprises become overstaffed, necessary restructuring is delayed, workers lose the incentive to upgrade their skills, deadweight losses accumulate, and funds get diverted from productive purposes such as training. In order to limit these risks a STWA criteria should be subject to regular review, and employees should be given appropriate training to enhance their employability. All in all, further analysis is needed in order to determine whether the employment initially saved by STWA will persist after the crisis.
    [Funny how you never hear them retail this kind of tough love when it comes to bankers having trouble...]
    How do we phase-out the crisis-related labour market measures?
    Some labour market measures will have to be phased out gradually once the recovery is secured, such as short-time working arrangements, but measures that have a positive impact on the structural working of the labour market, should be maintained and reinforced, such as increases in training, activation and other flexicurity policies that facilitate job reallocation and workers’ re-skilling.
    Too early a withdrawal may undermine confidence and thus depress aggregate demand with consequent knock-on effects on companies and employment. Too late a withdrawal on the other hand, may delay the necessary structural adjustments, cause significant hysteresis effects in the labour market, and contribute a significant additional burden to the public finances.
    Do we need training in times of an economic downturn?
    Upgrading skills is not only required to promote smart, sustainable and inclusive long-term growth, but also to increase the speed and intensity of the economic recovery. For instance, a green stimulus package will be largely ineffective without a sufficient supply of green-collar professionals with adequate and appropriate skills for green jobs.
    In some Member States the crisis has acted as a catalyst for improving the flexibility of training services by decentralising administration, shortening the waiting period for training, subsidising more training places and intensifying the scope of training for those at risk of being laid off, young and older workers, and the long-term unemployed.
    In several Member States new STWA measures were introduced, or existing schemes were modified, to encourage the combination of temporary short-time work with training. Nevertheless, relatively few short-time workers participate in training when it is not compulsory.
    What does labour market segmentation mean and what are its effects?
    A labour market is said to be segmented when two categories of workers coexist: i) a group of stable workers with permanent contracts and; ii) another with temporary contracts with limited opportunities to move into more stable or better paid jobs.
    This phenomenon has to a large extent been created and/or worsened by two-tier reforms of employment protection legislation introduced in several Member States in recent decades. Those reforms have substantially deregulated temporary contracts, while keeping existing rules on permanent contracts largely unchanged. As a result, the proportion of new recruitments made on temporary contracts has dramatically increased, leading to a rising share of temporary work over total employment, especially affecting younger and un-skilled workers.
    Although there are clear employment gains associated with these reforms, labour market segmentation also generates a number of undesirable side-effects. The legal asymmetry (between the two types of contracts) reduces firms’ incentives to transform temporary into permanent contracts (at the expiry date of the former), which can lead to prolonged situations of precarious employment for many young workers (well into their thirties in those Member States which are particularly affected), coupled with limited incentives for in-work effort and pursuing training activities throughout the life-cycle. The latter two effects tend to depress the growth rate of productivity. Temporary workers tend to receive lower wages and are given fewer training opportunities than permanent workers with similar qualifications and job descriptions. Finally, as shown by the 2008-2009 recession, in segmented labour markets, the brunt of labour market adjustment falls predominantly onto temporary/young workers.
    Figures and graphics available in PDF [oh yeah, where? there's no hotlink here] and WORD PROCESSED [gee, 30-year-old technology!]
    Source: Eurostat
    [Same "Figures and graphics" message which we will replace henceforth with] ...
    Source: EU SILC, using the longitudinal component of the anonymised microdata set. DG EMPL calculations.
    Notes: 2006-2007 averages for CY, CZ, HU, LT, LV, PL, SE, SI, SK and UK; 2004-2007 average for LU; 2005-2006 average for IE.
    Odd-ratios are calculated as the ratio of temporary-to-permanent to temporary-to-temporary transitions.
    The report advocates the extending the use of open-ended contractual arrangements? How can this help to address the problem of segmentation?
    Extending the use of open-ended contractual arrangements with a sufficiently long probation period and a gradual increase of protection rights, access to training, life-long learning and career guidance for all employees could reduce the existing divisions between those holding temporary and permanent contracts.
    Temporary contracts should remain possible although they should be limited to genuinely temporary tasks. Thanks to the probation and gradual increase of protection rights, the open ended contractual arrangement could become a mode of recruitment so that the burden of flexibility would no longer fall disproportionately on a segment of temporary workers.
    Nonetheless, extending the use of open-ended contractual arrangements alone cannot solve all problems related to segmentation, and a comprehensive flexicurity package, tailored to national specificities and preferences would be needed.
    Why is the situation of young workers (resulting from the 2008-2009 recession) particularly worrying? Young people are particularly vulnerable at the moment of moving from school to work, especially the least qualified who have the greatest difficulties in getting a foothold in the labour market. Econometric estimates show that tertiary educated individuals are at least twice as likely to experience good transitions (e.g. from joblessness to employment or from temporary to permanent employment) than individuals with only primary education. The share of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) youth provides a good measure of employment integration of young labour market entrants and varies significantly within the EU from as low as about 4% in Denmark and the Netherlands to as high as 16-20% in Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria.
    Young people are more vulnerable to economic fluctuations than older people. In fact, the sensitivity to the cycle of employment rates for young people is higher than for prime-age adults.
    Unemployment spells at early ages have negative and lasting effects on future employment and wage prospects. Moreover, given that temporary workers tend to suffer the brunt of the adjustment in downturns, together with the high incidence rate of temporary work for younger workers, it is not surprising to see that young workers were especially affected by rises in aggregate unemployment between 2007 and 2009.
    Evidence from a number of countries suggests that young people with temporary jobs (rather than permanent ones) tend to have a higher incidence of co?residence with their parents, which tends to delay emancipation, household formation and childbearing decisions.

  2. [Here are some articles from a completely different planet from the above -]
    How Germany got it right on the economy, op ed by Harold Meyerson, 11/24 WashingtonPost.com
    BERLIN, Germany - It may be turkey week in America, but it's goose month in Germany. In many restaurants, you can get goose in your salad and goose in your soup to go with your goose entrée. Diners fairly honk their way through November.
    But then, Germans have something to honk about. Germany's economy is the strongest in the world. Its trade balance - the value of its exports over its imports - is second only to China's, which is all the more remarkable since Germany is home to just 82 million people. Its 7.5 percent unemployment rate - two percentage points below ours - is lower than at any time since right after reunification. Growth is robust, and real wages are rising.
    It's quite a turnabout for an economy that American and British bankers and economists derided for years as the sick man of Europe. German banks, they insisted, were too cautious and locally focused, while the German economy needed to slim down its manufacturing sector and beef up finance.
    Wisely, the Germans declined the advice. Manufacturing still accounts for nearly a quarter of the German economy; it is just 11 percent of the British and U.S. economies (one reason the United States and Britain are struggling to boost their exports). Nor have German firms been slashing wages and off-shoring - the American way of keeping competitive - to maintain profits.
    One key to Germany's miracle is the mittelstand, as the family-owned small and mid-size manufacturing firms that dominate the economy are known. Last week, I visited AWS Achslagerwerk, a factory of one such firm, in the farmlands of Saxony-Anhalt, about two hours west of Berlin. As in many such companies, this factory turns out specialized products: axle-box housings for Chinese and German high-speed trains, machine tools requiring climate-controlled precision measurement. With annual revenue of 24 million euros, the factory has won a significant share of the world market, though it employs only 175 production workers.
    The workers at AWS Achslagerwerk are highly skilled, and most stay with the firm for decades. When the downturn hit Germany in late 2008, manufacturing firms' business declined the most, but subsidies from a government program called kurzarbeit allowed firms to keep their workers part time rather than lay them off. "Fifteen to 20 percent of our workers were on kurzarbeit," Klaas Hubner, a former member of the German parliament and owner of the mittelstand company that includes AWS Achslagerwerk, told me. By keeping their skilled workers, companies like Hubner's were able to rev up production quickly when China's stimulus boosted the market for their products in 2009.
    In America, alas, firms like Hubner's are increasingly hard to find. The mittelstand remains blissfully immune to many pressures that share-price-oriented financial markets inflict on their American counterparts. "We don't have short-term strategies, only long-term strategies," says Hubner. Mittelstand companies are not publicly traded, and they benefit from an extensive system of vocational education and a sector of municipally owned savings banks that work solely with local businesses. Roughly two-thirds of German small and mid-size businesses get their loans from these banks. "Over the past decade, banking largely became a self-fulfilling activity," says Patrick Steinpass, chief economist for the national organization of savings banks. "But our banks are restricted to doing business in their regions; they have to concentrate on the real economy." Through such radical notions has Germany thrived.
    Germany's large manufacturers - Volkswagen, Siemens, BMW - surely feel market pressures, but they, unlike a growing number of their American counterparts, still invest quite profitably at home. In large part, that's due to Germany's system of co-determination, which places an equal number of union and management members on corporate boards. The German metal workers union, IG Metall, has been working with automakers to train workers, for instance, to mass-produce electric cars. "Our goal is to really retain high-value-added manufacturing in Germany," says Martin Allespach, the union's policy director. It's hard to identify any group with real input into corporate conduct that's pursuing such a goal in the United States.
    Mixing social democratic values with Jimmy Stewart localism, Germany's economy is running rings around America's. "What we have here is stakeholder capitalism, not shareholder capitalism," says Hubner. And like most mittelstand owners, he adds: "I live where my company is located. I want a good image in the town I live in."
    They know how to goose an economy, those Germans. Ours, by contrast, seems more and more a turkey.

  3. Germany makes short work of the downturn with Kurzarbeit scheme, By COLLEEN BARRY, 11/24 Scotsman.com
    German firms, such as Siemens..kept staff on full pay but working fewer hours when orders fell, ready to reverse the trend when they picked up (photo caption)
    EDINBURGH, Scotland - German companies are roaring back from recession, outstripping foreign rivals, and are now looking to take on more staff.
    Its industries currently need 34,000 engineers and 23,000 factory workers. And Chancellor Angela Merkel has recently declared full employment a realistic goal as the unemployment rate, sitting at 6.9 per cent, has hit its lowest level in the 20 years since reunification.
    In contrast Spain has 20 per cent unemployment while impoverished Ireland's joblessness has hit 13.6 per cent.
    Just a year ago, Hawe, based near Munich, had cut its work force by one-third, and the remaining 350 employees were working at most three days a week. But orders started rolling in over the winter as world trade reignited, and managers increased production of high pressure pumps and valves for machining tools, wind energy and solar power plants. The company is now struggling - to find qualified staff.
    When the slowdown arrived and production slowed, part of the German government's reaction was to enact measures giving firms greater flexibility to keep workers on, but at reduced hours, subsidised by the state.
    Many firms, from Hawe to Siemens, credit the "Kurzarbeit", or short work, programme with having helped them ride out the crisis before phasing it out this summer. It was used by Daimler, BMW and many others.
    The scheme let managers and workers agree from one day to the next if they would add or subtract shifts, a more flexible solution than laying off entire divisions, as was done previously, said Thomas Heindl, manager of Hawe's Freising plant.
    Instead of seeing its workforce slashed, Hawe retained 350 workers ready to spring into action when orders picked up. "We were very surprised the crisis was overcome so quickly. We had to react very quickly," Mr Heindl said.
    The story of how the German labour market rebounded from crisis is just such a combination of public and private efforts, experts say. They include the underlying healthy state of German industry, the impact of prior welfare cuts and measures taken to manage the downturn.
    "I think the best thing they did was even before the crisis, ten years ago or so when they concentrated on improving production, keeping wage growth moderate and gaining competitiveness and market share. That was their consistent and underlying strength," said economist Marco Annunziata.
    A 2003 package of economic reforms and welfare-state cuts included reduced job benefits and looser employment protection. It was launched by then chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and dubbed Agenda 2010, the theoretical date when benefits would be evident.

  4. Use of short-time working schemes trebles in Europe, 11/24 Recruiter.co.uk
    LONDON, England - The number of European workers on short-time working schemes trebled between 2008 and 2009 to almost 2m, according to a report from the 2010 Annual Report of the European Restructuring Monitor.
    The report reveals many member states expanded their existing schemes, while others introduced them for the first time.
    According to the research, working time reduction was particularly prevalent in Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, the UK and Sweden, contrasting with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovenia, Hungary, Spain and Lithuania, where most of the net adjustment was due to job losses.

  5. JCB job losses slashed wage bill by £91 million, By Catherine Ball (catherine.ball@thesentinel.co.uk), 11/24 Stoke & Staffordshire via thisisstaffordshire.co.uk
    STOKE, Staffs., England - JCB slashed its annual wage bill by £91.5 million, The Sentinel can reveal.
    In 2008 the company, which has its world headquarters in Rocester, paid £289 million to its staff in wages and salaries.
    But the firm's accounts for the year ending December 31, 2009, show this figure fell to £197.5 million.
    This drop is mainly due to the almost 1,800 redundancies made by JCB from 2007 to 2009.
    The wage bill was also affected by short-time working, which saw JCB staff take a cut in hours from 39 a week to 34 between November 2008 and April 2009.
    Although the figures are for the entire firm, most of the job losses were in Staffordshire.
    A JCB spokesman said: "The world market for construction equipment fell by 50 per cent during the recession.
    "As a consequence, JCB's machine sales dropped from 72,000 machines in 2007 to 36,000 machines in 2009.
    "However, nearly 1,800 redundancies were necessary during this period.
    "It was a tough time for our employees and for the company, which was left with no choice but to make redundancies.
    "I'm pleased to say that we've been recruiting again during 2010 and the company is well placed to take advantage of future growth opportunities."
    Financial reports for JCB Service, which covers most of the company, including operations overseas, show the number of workers dropped by 1,663 in one year from 7,618 employees at the end of 2008 to 5,955 at the end of 2009.
    The job losses included 1,243 production posts and 423 administration and service positions.
    The number of directors for JCB Service increased from five to eight and their pay rose from £510,000 in 2008 to £760,000 in 2009.
    JCB Service's directors' report says: "Market conditions continued to be difficult in 2009.
    "The global market for construction equipment declined by 46 per cent in 2009, which was the steepest downturn ever recorded.
    The report adds: "Despite the steep decline in volumes, JCB Service remained profitable in 2009, with swift and decisive action taken in late 2008 and early 2009 to realign the cost base to lower volumes.
    "The first quarter of 2010 has given rise to some cautious optimism."
    Alton resident Tony Moult, aged 63, who took voluntary redundancy after working for JCB for 47 years, said: "To give the Bamford family credit, I know it hurts them deeply when they have to lay people off.
    "It is encouraging to see them picking up orders again and recruiting staff."

11/21-22-23/2010 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Swiss in November poll say yes to 6 weeks vacation, Posted by Ellen Wallace, 11/22 GenevaLunch.com
    BERN, Switzerland - Swiss voters overwhelmingly favour six weeks of vacation, the results of a poll carried out for Travail.Suisse in November show: 61 percent are in favour of the group's initiative to add two weeks of annual vacation.
    The union, which represents 170,000 Swiss employees, in 2009 presented the Swiss Chancellery with more than the 100,000 signatures needed for a popular initiative (started by citizens rather than politicians) to result in a referendum.
    The federal government said in June that it is opposed to the text, arguing that there are alternatives, such as shorter hours and high wages, [for] reducing stress at work and improving the health of workers, one of Travail.Suisse's rationales for the change. Bern also argues that if one worker is gone for too long it creates additional stress for other workers, who must pick up the work burden and share it.
    Parliament has until 26 December 2011 to decide if it will support the initiative, which will then be taken to voters.
    Switzerland votes on a number of popular referendums every year.
    Vacations are generally, by law, four weeks in Switzerland, and they must be taken in the year in which they are earned. The employer has the right to reduce vacation time if a worker has been unable to work for at least a month in that year. Employers are required to allow people to take vacations when they like, as long as the company's needs are met.

  2. After the budget ...the big questions, ANALYSIS by Scottish Political Editor Tom Gordon, 11/21 HeraldScotland.com
    EDINBURGH, Scotland - A month after Chancellor George Osborne set out the swingeing cuts for the rest of the UK, Finance Secretary John Swinney last week finally unveiled his budget for Scotland.
    It was, as Swinney had warned, the toughest financial settlement since devolution.
    After a decade in which spending rose an average of 5% a year, the Scottish budget for 2011-12 will now crunch into reverse, falling by 3.9%.
    Overall, around GBP1.3 billion will be cut in a single year, with more to follow.
    It means a pay freeze for a quarter of a million workers, the loss of thousands of jobs, GBP200m less for higher and further education, and 3% "efficiency savings" across the board.
    As the first year of what promises to be a decade of austerity, it signals the start of a fundamental downsizing of the Scottish state - although most of the hard decisions were put off until after May's Holyrood election.
    In the shorter term, the budget also starts a period of intense scrutiny and political debate among MSPs, building to a vote in the New Year.
    Here we examine the consequences for local government, jobs, and the election.
    Despite the blizzard of figures rolling over its 200 pages, there was one number conspicuously absent from John Swinney's draft budget. Yet it was the one all public sector staff were thinking about - the number of jobs that will be lost as a result of the spending cuts.
    There is no doubt it will be significant.
    In May this year, even Swinney admitted to Holyrood's finance committee that "there will be a loss of public sector employment in the years going forward".
    Pressed for the government's projections on Wednesday, he stuck to the same vague line, but refused to be drawn on specifics.
    For that, the best guide remains the government-commissioned Independent Budget Review which reported in July.
    It had no qualms about estimating that up to 50,000 posts will have to go by 2014-15, or 10% of the 500,000 staff in devolved public services.
    Councils, which employ around 300,000 of the half-million, estimate they may need to shed around 5% to 7% of posts next year alone, as 2011-12 is the deepest year of the cuts.
    While across the whole of the public sector, trade unions fear 20,000 posts might have to be shed next year.
    Even the NHS, which received the most generous settlement in the budget, with a marginal 0.8% increase in cash terms, is likely to reduce its staff numbers, as inflation within the health service far outstrips that in society as a whole, meaning real-terms cuts for NHS boards.
    So far there have been no compulsory redundancies, with the reduction in posts achieved through voluntary deals, retirement, and recruitment freezes.
    But the scale of the cuts ahead means that may not be enough for long.
    Swinney insists compulsory redundancies can be avoided, but only "on condition that we reach agreements on flexible working practices which reduce costs".
    In other words, more part-time working, shorter hours and job shares, on top of natural wastage.
    But the main alternative to compulsory redundancies - voluntary deals - isn't straightforward.
    The big flaw is that the "wrong" people volunteer. For instance, a council might receive a wave of applications from social workers and teachers, but it has a legal duty to provide social work and education services. So volunteers may be refused a deal.
    In addition, those volunteering tend to have a long service record and are entitled to a significant pay-off.
    As the Independent Budget Review pointed out, the average cost of a voluntary redundancy in the public sector is GBP51,000 - almost the same bill as employing two people.
    So it is actually very difficult to let people go and reduce costs at the same time.
    The reduction in posts might pay for itself over five or six years, but that is no use when immediate savings are needed.
    For those keeping their jobs, the government has introduced a pay freeze on earners above GBP21,000, roughly half the state payroll. 
    That amounts to a real-terms wage cut of 3%.
    Ministers also say that the lowest paid will get a minimum "working wage" of GBP7.15 an hour, but this only affects 6000 people, and will be little consolation to those with frozen pay.
    One of the biggest struggles for money and influence in the run-up to budget day was between Scotland's councils and the NHS. With both local government and health swallowing one-third of the GBP33 billion spent by the state last year, the stakes were huge.
    If health was spared all cuts, councils might have to shoulder an extra 50% on top of the reductions they expected, losing perhaps 18% of their money in three years instead of 12%.
    Championed by Nicola Sturgeon, a skilled Health Secretary with one eye on succeeding Alex Salmond as SNP leader and re-election in her marginal Glasgow seat, it was no surprise that the NHS won the day, with the best deal obtained by any part of the public sector. But councils also managed a victory of sorts, thanks to a long-term strategy designed to extract the maximum concessions from the SNP.
    For months local authorities had been banking on applying pressure on the government through the council tax freeze. Although introduced as a stop-gap measure before an abortive attempt to create a local income tax, the freeze has become a totem for the SNP, and one of its most popular policies.
    When Salmond, Swinney and Sturgeon promised further freezes after the election, councils knew they had the SNP over a barrel; although ministers talked as if they could deliver the freeze themselves, they were wholly reliant on local government playing ball.
    The end result was a 2.6% cut in council budgets compared with a 6.4% average for the rest of the public sector, in return for a freeze and stability in police and teacher numbers.
    If councils didn't sign up, they would suffer a 6.4% cut instead, Swinney warned, earning him comparisons with the Godfather, who also liked offers people couldn't refuse.
    One council source, quoting Sir Fred Goodwin's initial reaction to the government bail-out of RBS, likened the deal to "a drive-by shooting".
    However, on Friday, as council leaders met at Cosla, the council umbrella body which helped negotiate the terms, the mood was largely positive. "Given the government budget was cut by 3.9% and ours is cut by 2.6%, that's a pretty good deal," said one of those present.
    But there is a worm in the apple - the sanction. Swinney's threat to hike the cut to local government to 6.4% if councils misbehave, a potential difference of GBP426m, was a hasty eleventh-hour addition to the negotiations.
    Already it seems badly thought through.
    Councils are afraid they will lose money, if national targets are missed by someone else. For instance, if Grampian police force lets its officer numbers slip and the national complement falls below the 17,234 Swinney is demanding, will councils in Strathclyde suffer? Or, if one council fails to offer places for all probationer teachers, will others lose out?
    Some councils are even questioning whether Swinney's punitive cut would be legal, and are privately considering a judicial review. 
    It means the negotiations are far from over. What looked like a masterstroke the morning after is looking different now.
    Seven years ago, John Swinney led the SNP to a truly dismal election defeat at Holyrood, as the party lost one-fifth of its seats. A year later he stepped down, and Alex Salmond returned to revive the Nationalists' fortunes.
    In six months, Swinney will find out whether he has cost the SNP another election as a result of Wednesday's Budget.
    Although on one level it was about the management of the national finances, on another it was extraordinarily political.
    Instead of giving figures for three years, as is typical and as happened in Wales the same day, Swinney gave numbers for only one year, to avoid spelling out deep long-term cuts.
    He also left hard decisions on public sector reform and tuition fees to a series of commissions that won't report until after May.
    And he minimised cuts to local authorities to keep council tax frozen, maintaining one of the SNP's favourite policies.
    The opposition naturally cried foul, but for SNP strategists this was not just about making the best of a bad job, it was about establishing the party's campaign platform.
    "It is designed to reflect our values, things such as freezing the council tax, which will take us up to the election," said one. "That is why the Budget was so good for us."
    First Minister Alex Salmond also echoed Swinney in saying the Budget was part of a new "social contract" with Scotland, code for saying the SNP understands the voters' pain and is on their side, keeping down their bills and protecting jobs.
    Swinney and Salmond will have been justly nervous about setting out cuts so near to an election, but at least they have now done it.
    Labour has not. The day after the Budget, at First Minister's Questions, Swinney bellowed at Labour: "Where are your answers?" Where indeed.
    At last month's conference in Oban, Labour got off to a decent start, setting out a raft of new ideas, including a single Scottish police force and a dedicated national care service for the elderly as part of the NHS.
    But when pressed on costs, Labour blusters. The mantra at Oban was that the big ideas would be "broadly cost neutral", although the time frame was never explained.
    On the eve of the Budget, Andy Kerr, Labour's finance spokesman, made the equally dodgy argument that it was "not the Scottish Government's job to implement Tory cuts for them", as if he could somehow magic extra money out of the air if elected.
    John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said people should not expect much more clarity in the election, as no side wanted to scare off votes, making for an essentially dishonest campaign.
    He said: "All the tough decisions have been delayed. It's all well and dandy for Labour to demand a three-year statement, but Alistair Darling failed to do that before the General Election. The SNP is only playing the same game."

  3. Greens in Stoush with Labor over Working Hours, 11/23 (11/24 dateline issue) Australia.TO
    [2 surprises: 1) australia.TO?? what's TO stand for - it's probably not Toronto - googlegurglegoogle...oh, it's the the Internet domain country code for Tonga - of COURSE, how OBVIOUS, how stoopud of me!
    2) "stoush"? how the heck do you pronounce it?? *One online source quotes an Aussie male pronouncing the /ou/ diphthong-offglide like the /ow/ in "cow" or the /ou/ in "houses" (also in the singular "house" for most Americans but Canadians pronounce "house" like their famous clipped "out and about" because of the conditioning voiceless consonant that follows (in this case, voiceless /s/ in the singular versus the voiced /z/ in the plural). Apparently the Aussies called the Great War (WW1) "the big stoush" meaning "dust-up" or brawl. "Stoush" or "stouch" may come from Scots "stushie" or deeper, "stramash," but where do those come from - and again, how do you pronounce "stoush"? If a variant is "stouch," it could be an "S-word" or "as-word" from s+touch = like touching but not, compare "smother", and this would give its pronunciation as "stutch" rhyming with "such." but it's probably like the long US form of "out and about" like Aussie "slouch hat" which Canucks pronounce more crisply without slouching so much.]
    CANBERRA, Australia - "Just weeks after he was appointed Greens Industrial Relations spokesman, Adam Bandt has upset his political comrades in the Labor Party in a stoush over the Green's plan to reduce working hours to 35 hours a week," Senator Abetz said today. [If Australia does this and doesn't stop there, like the French, but goes lower than 35 hrs/wk, as far as it takes to restore and maintain full employment and markets, it will be the most advanced economy in the world, beating Germany with its Kurz-arbeit and France with its 35-hr week undermined by Sarkozy via non-enforcement of the overtime design, which isn't that great at transforming overtime into training&hiring anyway.]
    "The Greens are at odds with Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans who is reported as saying that while the plan might be popular with employees, it could have a detrimental affect on productivity."
    "In 1998 the French implemented a similar plan aimed at lowering unemployment but instead of making workers happier, it reduced productivity and forced many workers to work two jobs to make up the shortfall."
    [What nonsense. It did and still does make French workers happier and they have among the highest productivity in the world. As for "implementing a similar plan," how about 1840-1940 when the whole world jerked down from over 80 hours a week to 40. Did that "reduce producitivity and force many workers to work two jobs to make up the shortfall"? - btw, WHAT shortfall?? Wages have no automatic connection to productivity - they go only by supply and demand, and in a frozen-1940-workweek labor surplus, they're going down-down-down.]
    "In Australia our focus should be aimed at increasing skills in the workplace to assist the labour force to grow and business to prosper," Senator Abetz said.
    "At a time when economic commentators are talking about the need to increase productivity this proposal by the Greens which would lead to a decrease in productivity is completely irresponsible."
    "This is another example of the Greens shooting from the hip."
    "A gratuitous grab for a quick headline without any thought of the consequences their ill thought out proposal may have for the Australian economy," Senator Abetz said.

11/19-20/2010 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Former Hilton to lay off, cut hours of workers, By Mark Belko, 11/20 Pittsburgh Post Gazette via postgazette.com
    PITTSBURG, Pa. - The Grand Pittsburgh Downtown (the former Hilton) is laying off some employees, drastically cutting the hours of others, and shutting down its bars and restaurants on some days as the bankrupt hotel struggles to make ends meet.
    Manager Frank Amedia blamed the cutbacks in part on trying to operate the hotel without a franchise agreement with a major hotel chain. "Basically, we're really feeling the crunch in not having a flag." The hotel has been without a flag since Hilton Hotels & Resorts terminated its agreement in early September.
    Major franchises typically drive a lot of business to affiliated hotels through their reservations systems, which can represent 25 to 40 percent of all bookings, if it's a major chain like Hilton.
    As a result, the hotel, Downtown's largest with more than 700 rooms, has been struggling to fill beds. Mr. Amedia said fewer than 40 rooms were booked for one night next week. "I don't think the hotel can remember a time when it had less than 40 rooms [booked]," he said.
    Shubh Hotels Pittsburgh LLC, owner of the hotel, wants to convert it into a Wyndham Grand under the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts chain's flag, as part of its Chapter 11 reorganization plan in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. That has not been approved, however.
    To compensate for slow business, the hotel is laying off 10 to 20 carpenters, painters and plumbers, Mr. Amedia said, and drastically reducing hours available to about 60 employees -- some go from 30 to 40 hours a week to 10. Another 30 won't be scheduled until business picks up.
    The hotel also is eliminating five management posts, including a chef, a marketing director, an assistant facilities director and an assistant front office director.
    In what apparently is an unprecedented move, the hotel also will shut down its restaurants and bars for three days next week and several more the following week. It also will be eliminating room service on those days.
    "It's terrible. It's a sad state of affairs," Mr. Amedia said.
    Adam Patten, lead organizer for Unite Here Local 57, which represents many hotel employees, called the situation "unfortunate." He said a much larger percentage of workers are affected this year than in the past. "We're most hopeful that the court process will produce a situation where the hotel can become a viable property again," he said.
    Mark Belko: 412-263-1262.

  2. Slovenia's recovery has mainly been driven by rising exports so far - OECD, 11/19 Balkans.com Business News
    LJUBLJANA, Slovenia - Slovenia's recovery has mainly been driven by rising exports so far. Growth should rebalance gradually towards private domestic demand through 2011 and 2012. The unemployment rate has yet to stabilise as government short-time work measures are being phased out and activity remains subdued. Considerable economic slack should keep inflation in check.
    Slovenia's government responded to fiscal slippages in early 2010 by additional consolidation measures but sustainable fiscal consolidation also requires a comprehensive pension reform and improvements in public sector efficiency. To enhance competitiveness and job creation, wage costs need to be contained, notably the minimum wage level following its steep increase in early 2010.
    Source: OECD

11/17-18/2010 – 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. Furlough days taking their toll, by Lauren Adams, 11/17 WPSD Local 6 via wpsdlocal6.com
    PADUCAH, Ky. - Weaving in and out of desks and going from one student to another, it seems like Debra Gruber never takes a break.
    In fact, she really does not.
    "I'm up to 35 hours a week now," she said.
    That is not even counting the time the IT teacher puts in at the Paducah Area Tech Center. With a disabled husband, rising insurance costs and six furlough days mandated by the state, she has been forced to take a second job.

    "Losing these days, economically, financially, it's a tough thing for our teachers," Principal Donald Wann admitted.
    But even at a whopping 75 hours, he said, Gruber never complains.
    [Here's an example of the lethal marriage of spot hourscuts (that do nothing to reduce labor surplus and maintain pay) and job desperation (resulting in worse labor surplus and lower pay).]
    The plan, announced by Governor Steve Beshear in July, aims to get the state's budget back on track. Beshear said the plan would save $24 million and 400 jobs.
    "Sometimes you sacrifice a little to keep other people from having to sacrifice everything," Wann said of Gruber's choice.
    [So this is a kind of worksharing program, and it would have been much worse if Gruber had lost her state job completely instead of just losing six furlough days over the current fiscal year. So we're really only talking about one lost day of pay every two months, 50wks x40hrs =2000hrs/yr -8x6 =48hrs =48/2000 = only a 2.4% drop in pay, which hardly motivates a whole second full-time job. This lady's financial situation must have been unsustainable before these furlough days.]
    The principal commended her work ethic, saying students were learning a valuable lesson.
    "It is is helping them get a taste of what real life is all about," he said.
    For now, that life is a little more hectic.
    "I probably won't get home until 11-11:30 tonight, back up at 5 o'clock in the morning and get ready to come back in and teach," Gruber said.
    But it was someone else who taught that teacher a lesson, "My dad always told me don't whine about it. Just go out and do it."
    Gruber's second job is part-time as a cashier at J.C. Penney's. She says even if the economy improves, and the furloughs end in time for the next fiscal year, she will continue to work there. But she said, she will cut her her [second-job] hours down from 35 to five.
    Governor Beshear's office issued this statement Wednesday:
    "State workers have endured furloughs, rising health insurance costs and have gone without cost-of-living raises - a tough task in a difficult economy. In spite of these challenges, I am amazed time and again at the fortitude, work ethic and professionalism that our state employees exhibit, and I thank them for their efforts."

  2. 'How could it get that bad?' - Readers respond to cuts at Community Center, by Crystal A. Proxmire, 11/18 PrideSource.com
    FERNDALE, Mich. - Announcements of cut hours and services at Affirmations ["the Aff Center"] have sent shock waves through the community, leaving many to wonder what has been happening at the Center.
    "Personally I am very concerned the cutbacks will affect the Center's reputation in the local community. I have already heard some of my friends express this as the 'writing on the wall' scenario," said Mark McMillan, a volunteer who also uses the center regularly. "I truly believe in Affirmations, its mission and over-all need in the community. My hope and wish going into the new year is that more and more individuals begin to rally around this very important cause and get more involved in saving the Center instead of just standing by and commenting on its slow demise." The Center has had a number of staff and board changes since moving into their 17,000 s.f, state-of-the art "green" building at 290 W. 9 Mile in April, 2007. Most recently, CEO Leslie Thompson resigned in September and Kevin Howley stepped in Nov. 1 to help the organization transition. His first job as Interim CEO was to announce that programs supporting youth, seniors, HIV/AIDS prevention and education, multicultural issues and LGBTQ family issues will continue. However, social activities and recreational activities will no longer be offered, with youth and social departments being "streamlined." The Aff. Cafe has been shut down, and the Center is now only open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays. Three full-time employees and several part-time employees were notified on Oct. 28 that their jobs were eliminated, some effective as soon as Nov. 1. Remaining members of management took pay cuts and less hours of work.
    "I think it's safe to say that everyone is unhappy about the cutbacks that were made at Affirmations," said Howley. "The response that we have received to date, however, has been extremely supportive of the actions that had to be taken. The Board and the organization would have been remiss in not addressing the economic realities that the Center is facing."
    Howley blames the economy, and said that he is not there to place blame on any leadership in the past. "These cutbacks are driven by the simple fact that Affirmations has no choice but to operate on a balanced budget. The expenses related to the major facilities project left Affirmations without reserves. In fact, it's important to remind folks that Affirmations has been approaching donors during 2010 about the next phase in the capital campaign, the 'Campaign for the Future,' which was to raise $1.25 million to specifically strengthen the organization's balance sheet. A completed campaign might have provided the organization with a bit more flexibility relative to the timing of cutbacks, but it ultimately does not change the fact that your expenses have to match your revenues," Howley added.
    Although Howley did not officially come on board until Nov. 1, he and the management team met throughout October to discuss how to address the immediate financial crisis.
    "To be fair, the decisions around programming changes were not very difficult nor very much in need of debate," said Howley. "A significant portion of the organization's expenses are fixed; building maintenance, utilities, financial services, etc. Another significant portion of the organization's expenses are related to programming that results from restricted funding and commitments related to that funding. What remains are costs associated with programming that does not come with designated funding that one might call discretionary, including many of the social activities and events that are sponsored by the Center and the extended hours the Center is open. So, in the end, the internal discussion really did not revolve around programming. The discussions revolved around which employees would be charged with executing which programs."
    Victor Walker, a Youth Staff member who was laid off with three days notice, was critical of Howley and the Board's decision. "I trust that the changes that occurred at Affirmations, that subsequently led to the layoff of several staff members, will help the organization rebound from the current situation," she said. "I was told that the logic of my being laid off was because my pay was not linked to a grant. I get that. However, Affirmations is a weaker organization as a result of it. I only hope that these choices, at some point, begin to serve the organization and the community well, or else none of it was worth it."
    Downward trend across U.S.
    The 2010 LGBT Community Center Survey Report, a national survey of gay community centers which included Affirmations, gives a clearer perspective of what centers nationwide are facing. The report divides centers into large and small, with an annual budget of $100,000 or more being the dividing line.

11/14-15-16/2010 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Work-life balance: It's tough to achieve, 11/14 (11/15 dateline issue) Port Macquarie News via portnews.com.au
    CANBERRA, Australia - Research backs up what many workers have known for years: a work-life balance is hard to achieve.
    But there is hope for people struggling with too many or too few hours at work.
    A report shows workers can make a difference through simple measures such as keeping track of time, talking to colleagues about work hours and investigating flexibility arrangements.
    Employers also can help through the provision of a clear statement of expected work hours and reconfiguring staff roles.
    It also is recommended the government take policy action, for example, the introduction of caps on working hours.
    Canberra-based think tank, The Australia Institute, conducted the research.
    The survey for Go Home On Time Day found half of all survey respondents wanted to work fewer hours than they had worked in the previous week.
    For those working overtime, four in five wanted to work less, while 60 per cent of part-time workers wanted to work more hours.
    Go Home On Time Day on November 24 is the brainchild of The Australia Institute to raise awareness of the extent of overwork in Australia and the workplace, and the health and social consequences overwork has.
    The report said like money, time was vital to personal wellbeing.
    "We need enough time to keep healthy, exercise, relax, sleep, develop and maintain relationships - in other words, to live a balanced life," the report said.
    "But there are a range of demands on people's time that can stop us from getting enough time to do these other things."
    The Australia Institute's deputy director Josh Fear said bringing the standard working week down to 30 to 35 hours would mean many people would be working hours that better reflected their personal preferences.
    "By giving work/life balance greater priority we could create an additional 390,000 jobs for the unemployed and the underemployed," Mr Fear said.

  2. Income Protection Insurance Ensures Regular Income in Adverse Conditions, submitted by Rachael Kaye, 11/16 Prfire.co.uk (press release)
    LONDON, U.K. - Income protection insurance is an insurance policy designed to protect your family from financial distress if you fall victim to an accident or are diagnosed with a critical illness rendering you incapable of attending work. The policy also protects you from loss of income due to the conditions such as redundancy, pay reductions, or shorter working hours. The policy is structured in such a way that it allows you to maintain your present standards of living despite the loss of regular income.
    Consequently, redundancy and reduced working hours are fast becoming the norm across all types of industry. Under these circumstances it becomes extremely important to be proactive and take steps to ensure that your financial income does not dwindle.
    By buying the right type of income protection cover, you can ensure the financial stability of your family even in the most adverse circumstances. You can buy your income protection insurance cover from any of the insurance companies available online. But, it is also important to ensure that the company that you choose is competent enough to meet all your needs and satisfy your specific insurance requirements. Income Protect is one of the leading insurance companies operating in the UK. It has a terrific track record of providing the type of service which their clients expect from an insurance provider.
    The company has ample experience, resources, and expertise in the area of income protection to help you achieve the perfect solution to your income protection problems. During these times of cutbacks, privatization, recession, and job losses, they have managed to customize their insurance plans to satisfy the monthly income needs of various families. Their each plan is tailor-made to meet the specific family circumstances of the individuals. At Income Protect your concerns are addressed with all the seriousness that they deserve. They are proficient at developing a cost-effective, fairly priced insurance product.
    They provide you with almost the same type of income that you enjoyed before your circumstances changed for the worse. You can be sure that you will still get the same type of income from your income protection insurance cover, without being subjected to high stress levels. They make sure that the heavy responsibility of meeting the needs of your family is eased considerably. They also ensure that you are able to meet the huge demands of providing your family with their basic necessities, without suffering the discomfiture of having to borrow from friends and relatives.
    With the right type of plan, you can easily tide over the crisis and cover all expenditures such as mortgage payments, utility bills, loan payments, and household expenses. Income Protect provides you the flexibility that only a handful of insurance providers in the UK are capable of doing. You can choose to pay for your policy annually or on a monthly basis.
    To know more about income protection insurance, you can visit www.incomeprotect.co.uk.
    Rachael Kaye
    2 Derby Street,
    Colne, Lancashire BB8 9AA
    United Kingdom
    Phone: 01282 869740
    Media Contact Information
    Email: pmaculam@ymail.com

  3. NNY libraries struggle to survive funding cuts - SITUATION DIRE: Some cut back on purchases of new materials; others plan to reduce hours, By BRIAN AMARAL, 11/16 WatertownDailyTimes.com
    WATERTOWN, N.Y. - After a fresh round of budget cuts, some north country libraries officials say they're running out of dollars to stretch and pennies to pinch.
    Library officials say they're drastically cutting back on acquiring new materials. Others will cut hours. And at least one library is so deep in the red that it has $1,000 in its checking account, and is surviving on a month-to-month basis.
    "We keep getting asked to do more with less," said Wayne L. Miller, executive director of the Ogdensburg Public Library, which will not open on Sundays after Jan. 1 in the face of budget pressures. "At this point, we're going to have to do less with less."
    Libraries are grappling with the same financial difficulties as the municipalities and organizations that support them.
    For decades, Norwood Library survived mostly on its endowment. Then, in 2008, the stock market tumbled, and the endowment lost about half of its value. The money that the library received from the state has been cut — statewide, a total of six times in the past three budgets, a total of 19 percent, according to library officials. The St. Lawrence County budget includes a 10 percent cut to libraries.
    The library in Norwood has sold off most of its stocks just to keep its doors open.
    "It's touch and go," said Phyllis G. McFaddin, president of the Norwood Library board of trustees. "It's very possible" that the library could cease operations. "I just talked to our treasurer, and we're down to a little over $1,000 in our checking account."
    At nearby Norfolk Public Library, which depends more heavily on public funds, cuts in funding have come from the town, county and state.
    "If we keep having to sustain cutbacks, we'll end up like Norwood Library," said Vicky L. Brothers, director of the Norfolk Public Library. "We'll have absolutely no funds. Our future is very bleak if this pattern continues."
    Carolyn J. "Lyn" Swafford, director of the Canton Free Library, said she had budgeted for $1,500 in state funds for 2010. So far, $168 has come in.
    "As a result, we are buying very few adult nonfiction books, and we are counting on our patrons donating to us, which they are doing," she said. "Once you get behind in your purchasing of new books, you never catch up. You never have the money to get the ones you missed."
    In Ogdensburg, there is no more money left in the budget for fiction materials. Magazine subscriptions have been cut in half.
    "Right now, we're dealing with how to keep the doors open and the library operating safely," Mr. Miller said. "There's just no way to do that for 65 hours a week."
    [Five 11-hour days and one 10-hour day?]
    Mr. Miller said that the library is turning more toward private money and community efforts to keep operations afloat. Many libraries also have turned to direct funding from the taxpayers. Norwood is in a race against time for a 2011 ballot initiative that would have taxpayers fund the library directly. Officials there hope to survive long enough to get to a vote; then, of course, the proposal must pass.
    "I think it's a shame that the libraries are being cut by all state and federal governments, right when we're needed the most," said Marcia L. Murray, Norwood Library's director.
    Library directors in places where direct taxpayer funding already is the status quo say that their financial outlook, while bleak, isn't so dire.
    "We go directly to the taxpayers," said Patricia W. Musante, director of the Potsdam Public Library. "I would be quite worried if I were not in this particular situation. If property taxes get capped, I feel sorry for some of these libraries that are so dependent on them."
    Stephen B. Bolton, executive director of the North Country Library System, posted a legislative alert on the system's website, highlighting rankings of state legislators on library issues. Advocates turned out at a St. Lawrence County budget hearing, holding signs that showed the number of library users in each community. They said they wanted to show each legislator how many people the budget cuts would affect.
    Mr. Miller has taken to posting inspirational quotes from time to time in the library. One recent quote, attributed to Walter Cronkite, reads: "Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation."
    "Librarians are usually kind, quiet, nice people," Mr. Miller said. "But we've been pushed to this. It's a matter of survival."

11/12-13/2010 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Endicott Interconnect Confirms Layoffs, 11/12 WBNG-TV BinghamtonNY via wbng.com
    ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Endicott Interconnect began notifying the employees on Friday.
    The human resources department at E-I says the employees getting pink slips are both hourly and salaried employees.
    It's part of a re-organization plan the company announced several weeks ago.
    Working toward streamlining their operations across product lines.
    Workers that remain will be entered into the New York State Shared Work program.
    That's a program through the Department of Labor.
    It picks up part of the payroll costs, so workers stay on the payroll instead of drawing full unemployment.

    E-I expects to access that program through January.
    E-I says the move came as government contracts have been delayed and suppliers are having a difficult time getting products to E-I that it needs for manufacturing.
    Some non-government contracts have also been delayed.
    The company says despite this action, it expects a strong year in 2011, with promising products like Tamper Proof Packaging and System and Package Shrink capabilities driving its business.
    There are almost 1,300 workers at E-I.

  2. More layoffs for Endicott Interconnect, 11/13 Press & Sun-Bulletin via pressconnects.com
    ENDICOTT, N.Y. - Endicott Interconnect Technologies said it laid off more workers on Friday after layoffs last month.
    The company said many of its remaining hourly workers -- likely half -- can expect to participate in the state's Shared Work program starting later this month and lasting until probably sometime in January.
    The program allows businesses to reduce the workweeks of participating employees due to lack of work, while giving employees partial unemployment insurance benefits to supplement their lost wages. The state has touted the program as a layoff alternative for employers.

    "We had already previously announced we were in the process of reorganizing our manufacturing operations to leverage our engineering and management capabilities across all product lines," said Felicia Williams, EI vice president of human resources. "This reorganization effort has resulted in reductions in our work force today (Friday)."
    Just like last month, the company is not releasing the exact number of workers it laid off Friday. But Williams confirmed the number totaled more than 50 and those cut were primarily regular hourly workers, though some were salaried employees and some were temporary workers.
    Last month's layoffs affected mostly temporary workers, Williams said.
    The company had cited government contract delays as the reason.
    Williams said Friday that EI now has about 1,300 employees. More than half of the 1,300 workers are hourly, though she declined to provide exact numbers.
    In early October, the company had about 1,500 employees, an EI spokeswoman had said.
    The company had expected its fourth quarter to include production work on several government contracts, Williams said Friday. But delays in finalizing these contracts and changes in EI's nongovernmental business due to component shortages and customer-requested shipping delays altered the company's projections.
    Resources were resized in accordance with projected revenue, Williams said.
    "EI does see significant improvement in the forecast for 2011," she said. "We continue to see a number of new opportunities, in addition to our current government contracts."
    She noted other EI businesses, including medical, are growing.
    "We do expect all of the business to come in," she said. "It's just a matter of when."

  3. Philip Dray's book on labor union history, reviewed Michael Kazin, 11/12 WashingtonPost.com
    THERE IS POWER IN A UNION - The Epic Story of Labor in America (Doubleday.772pp. $35)
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The great British historian E.P. Thompson once wrote that he aimed to "rescue" his subjects from "the enormous condescension of posterity." In this book, Philip Dray seeks to use the past to help American unionists escape the substantial disdain of the present. His thick, engrossing narrative about close to 200 years of labor history is dedicated to the simple proposition that unions, while hardly without their flaws, did much to turn the United States into a more decent, more egalitarian society and might do so again, if they ever reverse a decline that began some four decades ago. "Against the gathered power of moneyed interests, the state, the ideology of the free market, and often public opinion," argues Dray, union activists "clung tenaciously to the faith that they deserved to be seen as human beings, not cogs or commodities, and that America would be the better for it if they were. In this they were certainly right."
    To illustrate his argument, Dray devotes much of his book to dramatic tales about strikers in major industries whose conflicts often dominated the headlines of their day. In 1860, female shoemakers marched through the streets of Lynn, Mass., holding aloft a banner that read, "American Ladies Will Not Be Slaves; Give Us a Fair Compensation and We Will Labour Cheerfully." Abraham Lincoln, campaigning 100 miles away, gave them his blessing. A generation later, a massive strike for an eight-hour day shut down factories and building sites in Chicago, then the nation's leading industrial city. But at an anarchist rally in Haymarket Square called to protest the police murder of four strikers, someone threw a bomb that killed seven policemen, and the resulting backlash set the cause of shorter hours back for decades.
    [Doesn't compare with World War II which eclipsed the 1938-1940 workweek reduction and set the cause of shorter hours back for a lifetime (70 years) and counting...]
    When he pivots to the 20th century, Dray steps back from protest marches and picket lines to scrutinize matters of state. He details the politics that drove passage of such landmark laws as the 1935 Wagner Act, which gave the federal government the power to hold union elections and punish employers who fired organizers, and the 1947 Taft-Hartley amendments, written by conservatives to roll back union power. Dray still manages to squeeze in descriptions of the 1937 Flint sit-down strike, which established the might of the United Auto Workers, and the illegal, unpopular 1981 work stoppage by PATCO, the air-traffic controllers union, which led that erstwhile union president Ronald Reagan to fire every striker and encouraged many private employers to plan for "a union-free environment." None of these stories will be new to readers who have a modest acquaintance with labor's triumphs and losses. But Dray retells them with a vigor, clarity and moral passion often absent from more limited academic studies.
    In particular, his biographical sketches of labor officials imbue this routinely maligned group with a certain dignity, even affection. It's easy to craft a good portrait of John L. Lewis, the longtime chieftain of the Mine Workers, whose bushy eyebrows and stentorian voice were known to nearly every American in the 1930s and '40s. But Dray also brings to life the relatively obscure William Sylvis, an unschooled iron worker whose itinerant exploits in the years after the Civil War made him "the first national leader around whom there grew a cult of personality." Sylvis bummed rides on trains to spread the gospel that a disunified labor movement would always be a defeated one. He taught Sunday school while neglecting his own family and health and expired a few days past his 40th birthday. "The shawl he wore to the day of his death," Sylvis's brother remembered, "was filled with little holes burned there by the splashing of molten iron from the ladles of molders in strange cities, whom he was beseeching to organize." Dray also finds a union heroine closer to our own time in Karen Silkwood, whose struggle to expose plutonium leaks at her nuclear processing plant in Oklahoma during the 1970s was cut short when she died in a suspicious car accident.
    All these mini-narratives underscore the same point. Workers made few gains unless they organized and fought for them: shorter hours, safety regulations, seniority, paid vacations, middle-class wages and Labor Day itself (the first American holiday created by a social movement).
    Unfortunately, Dray focuses almost exclusively on industrial workers. In so doing, he unintentionally points out a major reason for labor's contemporary plight. As the manufacture of so many consumer goods has shifted to low-wage nations abroad, unions have failed to sign up more than a small fraction of the millions of service and clerical employees who now compose the majority of the workforce. Labor membership in the private sector of the economy has shrunk to a proportion not seen since the 1890s. Public employees are the one shining exception to this gloomy picture.
    Yet apart from the obligatory tale of PATCO's defeat, Dray has little to say about American unionists who work in government at all levels, where they make up almost 40 percent of all employees. Teachers, transit workers and firefighters rarely go on strike, realizing that even brief work stoppages anger and inconvenience taxpayers. Still, their unions remain strong and are vital to Democratic campaigns outside the South. In fact, if organized labor had roughly the same proportion of members in the private sector as it does in the public, President Obama's party would probably have retained control of Congress with ease. Even while on the defensive, unions typically do an excellent job of teaching their members the merits of liberal ideals and programs.
    Organized labor may never regain the kind of influence it had in politics and workplaces during its golden years from the New Deal through the Great Society. Once a movement undergoes so long a decline, it rarely rebounds. Whatever may happen, Dray, despite his neglect of public workers, has given unionists and their sympathizers a memorable and accurate history, one that reminds us of the honorable part labor played in the quest for what its advocates grandly but not inaccurately called "industrial democracy."
    Michael Kazin's most recent book is "A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan." He teaches history at Georgetown University.

  4. This year's longest workweek coming to end in Russia, 11/12 ("11/13" close-to-midnight issue?) ITAR-TASS.com
    MOSCOW, Russia - This year's longest workweek [6 days 11/08-13?] is coming to an end in Russia. It was a day longer than usual, as the Russians enjoyed a long weekend from November 4 through to November 7 owing to a major national holiday [and had to make up for Fri, Nov.5 by working Sat, Nov.13?].
    Sunday, November 14 will be a day off work, and on Monday the regular five-day work schedules will resume everywhere.
    Russia started marking People's Unity Day on November 4 in 2005. In December 2004 President Vladimir Putin signed a federal law establishing November 4 as the day commemorating the liberation of Moscow from Polish invaders by Russian volunteer troops in 1612.
    The events of autumn 1612 put an end to a period of Russian history known as the Time of Turmoil and brought about the 300-years-long reign of the Romanov czars dynasty.
    The next long period of holidaymaking is in store for the Russians from January 1 through to January 10, 2011.
    The Russian watchdog agencies in the field of labor relations and employment, Rostrud, says this country has a roughly the same number of holidays falling on weekdays as the member-states of the European Union.
    On the average, the Russians spend twelve weekdays off work every year. Russia has more non-working days than the U.S. but fewer then Japan.

11/10-11/2010 – 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 New Wirtschaftswunder - Rather than criticizing Germany's economic revival, Europe ought to copy some of the reforms that made it possible, by ALEXANDER KOCH And ANDREAS REES, 11/11 Wall Street Journal via wsj.com
    BERLIN, Germany - It is the comeback of the year. After being brutally hit by the global financial crisis, the German economy is set to grow by at least 3.5% this year. This phoenix-like rise is often explained with standard business-cycle patterns. What came down after the collapse of Lehman Brothers must, like a yo-yo, now go up again. But this doesn't quite add up.
    Undoubtedly, without the revival of the global economy and briskly growing Asia, Germany could not have turned the corner. But particularly on the labor market, the country's comeback looks more like a renaissance rather than the usual cyclical pattern. Last month, the number of unemployed fell below three million, the lowest level since 1992. Employment will soon exceed 41 million—a new record high. This is a breathtaking transformation. Not even six years ago, the number of jobless stood at more than five million. At that time, Germany was called, with good reason, the "sick man of Europe."
    Clever crisis management helped to prevent the worst after the Lehman collapse. The swift implementation of subsidized short-time work avoided massive layoffs. This scheme allowed employers to cut working time while workers received up to 67% of their lost salaries from the state.
    But subsidies for "Kurzarbeit" were not the most important factor. The real reason for the resilience and the turnaround of the labor market is structural change. Germany is now reaping the rewards of reforms undertaken in the last decade. The collective bargaining system, formerly known for its inflexibility, was cracked open. With the devastating effects of the global recession setting in two years ago, labor unions and employers quickly agreed on cutting working hours even without government compensation. And long before this crisis, unions agreed to years of wage moderation, helping companies to improve their competitiveness.
    Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder equally deserves praise for his reform agenda. Especially the liberalization of temporary work is now paying off. Workers on permanent contracts can be expensive to fire during bad times. By removing legal barriers for hiring temporary workers, it became easier for companies to expand and hire new staff In the last few months, more than half of the newly created jobs have been filled with temporary workers.
    Paradoxically, the German revival seems to have triggered more fear than joy among its European neighbors. The sick-man discussion is now replaced with worries about an overwhelming German export industry. The only constant in the discussion then and now is the allegation that Germany's growth model comes at the expense of its European partners.
    The current accusation is that Germany's allegedly excessive wage restraint is a double calamity for the rest of Europe. First, by "undercutting" wages, Germany's supposed beggar-thy-neighbor policy cripples industries throughout the Continent. What German companies sell abroad cannot be produced by their French or Italian competitors.
    The second complaint is that seemingly underpaid German workers keep their meager purse strings so tight that it acts as a pan-European growth brake. If German private households opened their wallets and bought more foreign goods, other countries would benefit as their trade deficits would turn into surpluses and thus contribute to economic growth.
    But economic reality in a globalized world is far more complex than such simple foreign-trade arithmetic suggests. It is a little-known fact that Germany's economy has a very high appetite for foreign goods despite so far sluggish consumer spending. At 41%, its import-to-GDP ratio is far higher than that in France and Italy. The reason for this apparent contradiction can be found in Germany's production chain.
    Germany's huge export sector relies far more than other countries on the import of intermediate goods, which are processed further before being shipped abroad. This is not only beneficial for German companies but also for their European counterparts supplying the intermediate goods.
    Without this division of labor, many jobs in France or Italy would be lost, thereby denting purchasing power, investments and economic growth in those countries. Interestingly, countries like Greece have also started benefiting from German production trends. In the first eight months of this year, German imports from Greece rose 5%.
    Even if Germany would somehow refrain from running export surpluses, there is no guarantee that its neighboring countries could simply pick up the slack. Looking at cost indicators, it's rather doubtful.
    Since 1992, unit labor costs in the euro zone excluding Germany rose more than 40%, almost triple the rate in Germany. That's why it's far more likely that instead of European companies, their competitors from India, China or South Korea would be able to fill the production gap left behind by a restrained Germany. Instead of an alleged win-win constellation for Europe, shrinking German exports would be a lose-lose scenario.
    The hysteria about Germany's economic strength also overlooks that the current trade surpluses are set to diminish quite naturally over the next two to three years. Again, it's not just for cyclical reasons but due to structural change. Thanks to past reforms, the time of historically high German unemployment seems to be behind us. The higher number of jobs and the room for moderate wage increases bodes well for future consumer spending. This in turn is good news for exporters in the rest of Europe and especially in the euro zone.
    The lesson here is once again that the global economy is not a zero-sum game. Germany's tide will help rise all European boats. Rather than criticizing Germany's reforms, the rest of Europe may want to consider copying some of them.
    Mr. Koch is senior economist and Mr. Rees is chief German economist at UniCredit.

  2. Greens push for less work, more play, by Ben Packham, 11/10 HeraldSun.com.au
    CANBERRA, Australia - THE Greens have flagged laws to cut working hours amid new research suggesting only one in five Australians is happy with the amount of time they spend at work.
    Federal Greens MP Adam Bandt, an industrial lawyer, said the party would look at a number of options, including shortening the standard working week and a cap on maximum working hours.
    The ability to trade off productivity rises for leisure time would also be examined, he said. The standard working week in Australia is 38 hours.
    Mr Bandt said cutting working hours would create jobs and improve people's work-life balance.

    "You would need to change the legislative framework, because at the moment there are no real restrictions in law on how many hours people can work," he said.
    "We need some broad principles about what is a sustainable work-life balance."
    Prime Minister Julia Gillard governs with the support of Mr Bandt, one of a small group of powerful crossbench MPs.
    The Australia Institute found an extra 390,000 jobs would be created if part-time or casual workers were able to take on some of the hours of those who were overworked.
    The Canberra think tank found half of employees wanted to work fewer hours.
    About a third - mostly part-timers - wanted to work an extra day a week.
    David Gregory, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said it was simplistic to think working hours could be reallocated from one group of workers to another to boost employment levels.
    [- "simplistic" unless you have the intelligence and creativity to design an implement a system to smoothly convert chronic overtime into training and hiring, intelligence and creativity that insult-slinging David Gregory apparently lacks.]
    "At the moment, we are heading back to a situation in a number of areas where we are facing significant skills shortages," he said.

11/7-8-9/2010 – 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. Short-time working prevalent across Member States, 11/07 eiroline: european industrial relations observatory on-line via eurofound.europa.eu/eiro
    BRUSSELS, E.U. - A new report from the European Commission examines the incidence of short-time working across the European Union and in particular the use of this mechanism during the economic crisis as a means of avoiding job losses. The report focuses on state-sponsored schemes, but also shows where the social partners have played a role in determining schemes. It found significant variations in the operation of short-time working schemes between Member States.
    Study findings
    In June 2010, the European Commission (Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs and Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities) issued a report, in the form of an occasional paper (742Kb PDF), on short-time working arrangements as a response to cyclical fluctuations, focusing on developments during the recent economic crisis.
    High use of short-time working schemes
    It finds that publicly sponsored short-time working schemes have been ‘intensively used’ during the recent crisis, ‘to prevent otherwise profitable enterprises from going bankrupt, and to avoid unnecessary labour shedding’.
    However, the report also states that the extended use of short-time work can support declining sectors, thus delaying their restructuring. Short-time working schemes should therefore be ‘associated [with] an efficient unemployment benefits system that promotes labour reallocation’.

    [And the Timesizing Program's Phase 2 and Phase 3 do just that by using the market-demanded incidence of overtime and overwork throughout an economy to target, fund and pace the breakup of skill bottlenecks and the transference of skills and human capital to hot new areas. It should also be mentioned that DELAYING "declining sector" restructuring can be a good thing, and maybe is USUALLY a good thing, since accelerating the need for restructuring by downsizing can, and maybe usually does, give the ideal restructuring process little or nothing to work with in terms of ready and willing jobseekers. In short, this whole argument about delaying restructuring conveniently and facilely externalizes the whole question of long-term employment and the devastating effect it often has on human capital.]
    Variation in schemes across countries
    The report finds that there is significant variation in the operation of short-time working schemes throughout the EU. These differences relate to the coverage of the schemes, the level of wage compensation and contributions paid by the state. It classifies the schemes as follows.
    In nine Member States (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia) where there was no scheme before the crisis, publicly supported short-time working has been introduced on a temporary basis to stabilise employment. Compared with countries that have long-standing programmes, those introduced in these countries are typically less generous in terms of duration and benefits, and impose stricter conditions of eligibility.
    However, their coverage is wider in general.
    In almost all countries with well-established short-time working schemes, which usually give workers on open-ended contracts access to short-time working, the coverage of schemes has been extended to atypical workers (in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and Luxembourg). In Italy, coverage was temporarily extended to employees in companies previously excluded from short-time working.
    The maximum duration of short-time working compensation was temporarily raised in this same group of countries, in some cases quite significantly (for example, from three to 24 months in Austria and from six to 18 months in Germany), with the exception of Italy and Portugal, where compensation for a reduction in working hours during periods of slack demand can in any case be paid for a relatively long period.
    Conditions for the use of short-time working schemes were eased in Austria, Germany and Luxembourg. In Denmark and Germany, employers were also given more flexibility in the management of schemes.
    Compensation for income lost due to reduced working hours was increased in France and Finland, where the schemes were previously less generous than the unemployment benefits, but also in Belgium, where the two types of benefits were broadly similar. To increase employer incentives to take up short-time working schemes, cuts in employer social security contributions or higher subsidies to employers were also applied in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain.
    Incentives for training were included in almost all new short-time work measures, both in countries where short-time working schemes already existed and in those where new schemes were established on a temporary basis. However, participation in training was compulsory for workers on short-time work in only four of the countries where the scheme was newly introduced (the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands and Slovenia). Incentives for training were the main element of the new measures adopted in Ireland, Latvia, Poland and Portugal.
    Role of social partners
    The report focuses on state-sponsored short-time working schemes, but also mentions where social partners have played a role in shaping schemes. For example, in Belgium, additional funds managed by the social partners at sector level, to which employers and employees contribute, help to finance short-time working schemes. Sectoral funds managed by the social partners and designed to help small and craft companies also exist in Italy.
    In some countries, such as Austria, a social partner agreement must be concluded before short-time working can be introduced in a company (irrespective of whether or not there is a works council in the company). The agreement should set out the coverage, time limit, extent of hours not worked, employment guarantee and retention period, level of short-time work benefits, training measures and qualification benefits (if relevant).
    The report highlights the diverse approaches to sponsored short-time working in EU Member States during the recent severe economic crisis. It shows that Member States have either increased their offer of short-time working or introduced new schemes where none previously existed.
    Although there are clear benefits associated with short-time working, in terms of allowing viable companies to bridge a temporary downturn without having to resort to redundancies, the report highlights the fact that short-time working arrangements are intended as a temporary measure only and should not therefore be used for a sustained period. This may result in delaying necessary restructuring and supporting industries that are not viable in the longer term.
    Andrea Broughton, Institute for Employment Studies (IES)

  2. Women in IT sector suffer from mental tension: Study, 11/07 IndianExpress.com
    BOMBAY, India - Despite glamour and hefty salaries associated with the field, women in the IT industry suffer from physical discomfort and mental tension, even in their plush office environments, a study revealed.
    High salaries and social status associated with the IT sector has attracted women to take up these jobs, but many suffer on account of various factors like late working hours, the study conducted by Kerala State Women's Commission said.
    The study also covered problems faced by women in various other fields, including nursing in private hospitals.
    Covering 150 women in the IT sector and 50 others in allied areas, the study found that long working hours at the desk and job related pressure creates a lot of physical discomfort and mental tension.
    The study suggested that all IT institutions conduct stress management counselling services for women employees, and a law be enforced by the government to reschedule working hours.
    It also said all women professionals in IT sector should receive maternity benefits, as is available for government jobs.
    Agreeing with the study, former CEO of Technopark here N Radhakrishnan Nair, however, said that working conditions in IT industry are far better compared to most other fields.
    "Women are well taken care of. They are picked up from their homes and dropped back by most companies," he said.
    "Of course there is some pressure of work as there are deadlines to keep in IT jobs. Many companies take up contracts for foreign clients and it is important to keep contractual obligations," Nair, now with animation major Toonz said.
    This kind of pressure is there for both men and women and it is not always correct to say only women suffer, he said.
    "It however, is true that women have to cope with practical problems of balancing work at home and office in our social and family set-up. But the same is the case in all professions," he said.
    Women in BPOs especially, may need some guidance initially, but those working for MNCs are well taken care of, he said.
    The study about nurses in private hospitals revealed that women in this profession are prone to sexual advances from patients.
    Eight of 310 nurses interviewed as part of the study had such experiences, all of them working in medium-scale hospitals
    But a vast majority of nurses from 82 private hospitals did not share their experiences, the study said, adding, some had admitted to not being treated well by the management.
    In most cases, bad experiences meant lewd glances and sexually charged comments from patients.
    Another aspect is that 20 per cent of nurses had been trained in private institutes, many not being recognised by the government, it said.
    Working conditions in big hospitals (with more than 100 beds) were better compared to small and medium level ones.
    Another level of exploitation, revealed in the study is low wages paid to them as only six per cent were paid salary as per government rates.
    As much as as 21 per cent were paid monthly wages below Rs 1500 and more than seven per cent did not even get weekly offs.
    An important factor which came to light was that a majority in the profession would to shift to other jobs if they got an option because of long working hours and low pay.
    Renjitha, an activist of Sakhi, an NGO working for the welfare of women, said sexual harassment complaint committees should be constituted in all institutions.
    "The Supreme Court in a case has directed all institutions to constitute such monitoring bodies so that women victims of harassment can lodge complaint with them," she said.

  3. Jobless may have to work for benefits, by Natasha Redman, 11/08 Discountvouchers.co.uk
    LONDON, England - Under proposed reform to the jobless-benefit scheme to be described by Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary, those who have been receiving payments for a long time may have to do public service jobs to keep receiving their checks.
    The work would likely be manual labour, and the jobs would take about 30 hours per week. Job advisers would refer benefits claimants to local charities or councils to fulfill their work commitments.
    [So people on welfare have more fundamental freedom, Free Time, than ordinary workers? Or they just can't find 40 hours of work for them to do?]
    Under the work program, benefits recipients would likely be assigned to jobs for four weeks at a time, and they would involve manual labour such as clearing litter and gardening to maintain public spaces. The government claims that these reforms to the benefit scheme are meant to discourage people from willfully staying on public support, and also to make it harder for people to stay on the dole while holding down side-jobs in secret.
    Claimants who don't show up to their appointed jobs or are continually late could lose their benefits for up to three months.
    The Archbishop of Canterbury has questioned the proposed changes, saying that they will make things even harder for people who are already down on their luck. Some critics have also said that forcing the unemployed to do community service equates them to lawbreakers who are forced into similar work.
    Liberal Democrat Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasurer, has emphatically denied that the program will stigmatize the jobless. He insists that it is a means to get people back out into the workplace and will allow people to prove to possible employers that they are responsible workers.
    Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, was reserved in her criticism of the policy, but noted that the government must ensure that there are jobs for responsible workers to take. Putting them to work at menial jobs does not help to create the jobs that the economy needs.

  4. Full-time workers want to scale back hours, 11/09 (11/10 dateline issue) Ninemsn.com
    Australians want to spend less time at work according to a new survey that has prompted calls for caps to be put on the working week.
    CANBERRA, Australia - More than 1700 people were quizzed about their work-life balance in a survey commissioned by independent think tank The Australia Institute.
    Half of those in full-time jobs said they would have liked to work fewer hours than they had the week before the survey was taken.
    And 80 per cent working overtime would prefer not to.
    The institute estimates cutting overtime would create 400,000 extra full-time jobs and improve the health of Australian workers.
    Institute director Richard Denniss says working weeks should be reduced to 35 hours a week.
    "Governments should follow the European lead and introduce caps on hours," he said in a statement

  5. New Video Reveals Startling Statistics about the Work Week, 11/09 BusinessWire.com (press release)
    LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Today, Kronos® Incorporated released a new video which highlights how the work week has evolved through labor regulations, technological innovations, and shifting workplace norms. The video is the second in a series of impactful videos by Kronos (in collaboration with XPlane) that illustrate the ever-changing global workforce. The first video in the series, "How Will You Manage?" has been viewed more than 40,000 times on YouTube.
    News Facts
    * The "How Will Your Week Work?" video provides startling work week facts such as:
    o 40 percent of workers say they bring work home to complete at night or work overtime, at least once a week
    o 15 percent of people admit that they are addicted to email - some confessed to checking their email at the beach, weddings, and even at funerals
    o The number of workers who work remotely is on the rise - in 2009, 28 percent of the global workforce worked remotely and by 2016, an expected 43 percent of the workforce will become remote workers; studies show that working remotely improves productivity by 15 percent
    o Workplace perks for some workers include the option to work four 10-hour work days, access to onsite medical centers, or the use of a company car
    o When it comes to vacation time, the number of vacation days given to workers varies across the globe - and a whopping 26 percent of Americans state that they never take vacations
    o One out of four people state that they work during the weekend, and more than 62 percent of workers say that they check their work email over the weekend
    Supporting Quotes
    * Jim Kizielewicz, chief marketing officer, Kronos
    "We recognize that as work weeks have evolved, organizations and their employees struggle to keep up with the changing policies, technologies, and expectations. The "How Will Your Week Work?" video provides a look at these changes."
    Supporting Resources
    * This announcement was made from KronosWorks™, the industry's largest venue for exchanging ideas on how to effectively manage the workforce. KronosWorks is taking place this week in Las Vegas...
    About Kronos Incorporated
    Kronos is the global leader in workforce management solutions that enable organizations to control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity. Tens of thousands of organizations in 60 countries — including more than half of the Fortune 1000® — use Kronos time and attendance, scheduling, absence management, HR and payroll, hiring, and labor analytics applications.

  6. PBS stations serving West-Central Illinois cut hours to curtail costs, 11/09 Quincy Herald Whig
    QUINCY, Illin. - PBS stations across the country will reduce hours next month to save costs.
    Effective Dec. 1, all Network Knowledge stations, which include WQEC/PBS in Quincy and Macomb, PBS/World and Create, will reduce their broadcast hours by 8½ hours each week. The stations will sign on at 6:30 a.m. rather than 6 a.m. Monday through Friday and sign off at 11 p.m. rather than midnight Sunday through Friday. Saturday scheduling will remain intact.
    The reduction in broadcast hours, one of many cost-cutting measures being undertaken by Network Knowledge, will save about $10,000 annually by consuming less power at three transmitter sites and relay towers, as well as a small reduction of staff hours.
    "We are being financially responsible during an ongoing recession and hope this is a temporary reduction in our program schedule pending our ability to attract more viewer support," said Network Knowledge CEO and President Jerold Gruebel.
    The schedule changes are designed affect the least number of viewers and will not affect all cable systems. & not; Core programs from PBS national services will remain in place. More information is available on the Network Knowledge website at www.networkknowledge.tv.

11/05-06/2010 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (ecdesignr@yahoo.ca) unless otherwise initialed -

  1. Job-Creation Idea No. 14: A Tax Cut Even Democrats Love - What's Your Reaction? 11/05 HuffingtonPost.com
    (No. 14 in Huffington Post's America Needs Jobs series.)
    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The only thing Republican congressional leaders seem to be in the mood for is cutting taxes, so in honor of the GOP takeover of the House, today's "America Needs Jobs" idea is a tax credit -- for new jobs.
    In theory, the idea is a win-win. What better way to stimulate the economy and create new jobs than allow employers to take money they would otherwise have paid in taxes and use it to hire someone new?
    It has the same bang for the buck as if the government started hiring people directly, but leaves the allocating and prioritizing to the free market. And it's fast.
    It's also essentially a smaller, targeted version of the payroll tax holiday idea that was described in the first of this series of articles.
    President Obama laid out his one-year, $33 billion "jobs and wages tax cut" proposal back in January. It would give all businesses a $5,000 credit to be applied against payroll taxes for each net new employee. The total amount of the credit would be capped at $500,000 per firm. In addition to that, small businesses would get a tax credit equal to their share of payroll taxes on any other increases to their payroll, including higher wages or expanded hours.
    The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has long been championing a similar plan. Theirs would provide employers with a credit equal to 15% of the net increase in their payroll (not including any salaries above $106,800).
    There are, however, some problems with the idea.
    For one, a tax credit is yet another approach that gooses the supply side of the economy when the problem is primarily one of demand. There's no point in widget makers hiring another employee, even if it's cheap for them to do so, if they can't sell the widgets they're already making.
    It's true that If it functioned properly, a tax credit for job creation would put more money in workers' pockets and thereby increase demand -- but that's sort of the chicken to the tax credit's egg.
    There are also practical concerns.
    How do you tell if employers applying for credits are really creating new jobs, rather than, say, just engaging in normal hiring churn? And what about if they started gaming the system, for instance by bringing contracted labor onto the payroll? Neither of those actually increases employment.
    And then there's the matter of giving employers tax credits not just for new jobs but for expanded hours. As Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, pointed out after Obama made his proposal public, encouraging employers to add more hours "would give companies an incentive to hire fewer workers" -- not more.
    Baker is a champion of work-sharing ("America Needs Jobs" idea no. 6), which is essentially the exact opposite idea.
    To promote work-sharing, the government would create financial incentives for employers to reduce individual employees' hours when business is bad, rather than lay people off. By the same logic, the government should be discouraging businesses from giving existing employees longer hours -- and instead encouraging them to hire new people.
    As it happens, an even smaller and even more targeted tax credit for hiring already exists, and has been in force since mid-March, when it was signed into law. The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, or HIRE, rewards employers for hiring new workers who had been unemployed for eight weeks or longer. The law exempts employers from payroll taxes on those hires, and gives them a $1,000 credit for each worker they retain for 52 weeks.
    According to the Department of Treasury, by the end of August, businesses had hired 8.1 million new workers who had been unemployed for eight weeks or longer. But that program is set to expire at the end of December.
    Despite all their problem, tax credits for new jobs do have a lot going for them.
    A January 2010 study from the Congressional Budget Office ranked them as one of the most effective ways of stimulating the economy.
    Labor market experts Timothy J. Bartik and John H. Bishop summed up the advantages in an EPI briefing paper last October:
    Besides having broad-based, bipartisan political support, the best argument for a job creation tax credit is simply that it will create almost 3 million jobs in [the first year] and over 2 million in [the second]. Moreover, it will stimulate the entrepreneurial character of Americans by giving 6.5 million employers and millions more aspiring entrepreneurs a limited-time offer to expand their production or start new endeavors, at a discount. Because choices about whom to hire and what work they should do are left to independent decision makers who can act immediately, the credit will have just as quick an impact.
    And although Bartik and Bishop accept that more than 80 percent of the tax credit would go to companies that would have added workers anyway, they insist the jobs that are actually created would still be a relative bargain:
    [T]he cost would be between $4,700 and $26,300 per net new job created in the first year. This compares favorably to other means of generating jobs and is certainly more favorable than other business tax breaks, which typically have a low "bang-for-the buck" in terms of job creation.
    And perhaps most importantly, the idea polls well. According to a 2009 Hart Research survey, it is the most popular of the major job-creation measures being discussed, with a whopping 87 percent of the public favoring the idea, and more than half -- 56 percent -- "strongly" favoring it.
    Have you missed any of the previous installments of HuffPost's America Needs Jobs series? Read the introduction, Idea No. 1: A Payroll Tax Holiday, No. 2: Rescue The States, No. 3: The Joys Of Retrofitting, No. 4: Put Young People To Work, No. 5: Gearing Up For Climate Change, No. 6: Sharing The Pain Of Layoffs, No. 7: Drawing A Line With China, No. 8: Time For A New WPA, No. 9: Encourage Banks To Lend -- Or Else, No. 10: A Lower Dollar Would Level The Playing Field, No. 11: Buy American -- If You Can, No. 12: Let The Old Folks Retire Early And Make Way For Young Workers. and No. 13: No Better Time Than Now To Build The Future.
    Got an idea you think we may be overlooking? Email froomkin@huffingtonpost.com.
    Dan Froomkin is senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. You can send him an e-mail, bookmark his page; subscribe to RSS feed, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and/or become a fan and get e-mail alerts when he writes.

  2. Court Clarifies Overtime Damages For Misclassified Employees, by Joel Rice, 11/06 4Hoteliers.com
    Courts and litigants have struggled over how to figure overtime due to employees who were misclassified as exempt and who were paid a fixed salary for their hours worked.
    The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that non-exempt employees be paid 1.5 times their regular hourly rates for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. But for a misclassified salaried employee, satisfying this requirement necessitates a couple of threshold determinations.
    First, an hourly rate must be derived indirectly and after-the-fact, because the employee was not paid on an hourly basis. Second, a court must decide how this hourly rate will be used in computing back-pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek: is the employee due 1.5 times this rate for those overtime hours, or is the correct approach to multiply those hours times one-half of the regular rate?
    The answer depends upon whether the employee's salary is seen as having been his or her straight-time pay only for the first 40 hours, or instead for all hours worked. If the salary covered only the first 40 hours, the employee has received no pay for the overtime hours and is owed 1.5 times the rate.
    But if the salary was the employee's straight-time compensation for all hours worked in a workweek, including overtime hours, then the employee is due only the half-time overtime premium. How this gets resolved can have tremendous significance in situations - such as class actions - involving large numbers of overtime hours.
    A Recent Example Helps
    This issue arose recently in Urnikis-Negro v. American Family Property Services. The employee was misclassified as exempt under the FLSA's administrative exemption, was paid a fixed salary, and worked varying numbers of hours each workweek (usually far exceeding 40). In fashioning its overtime award, the trial court followed a commonly used approach and relied upon the U.S. Labor Department's longstanding interpretive rule known as the fluctuating workweek (FWW) calculation. The lower court calculated a regular rate by dividing the employee's weekly salary by her total hours worked in the workweek, and then calculated her overtime premium by multiplying one-half of that rate times her overtime hours worked in the workweek. The employee appealed, contending that the FWW method was inappropriate to her situation.
    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit agreed that the lower court was wrong to rely upon the Labor Department's FWW method as the basis for calculating overtime owed in a misclassification case, concluding that the interpretive rule is forward-looking and is not a remedial measure. It noted that the rule referenced "a clear mutual understanding" between the employer and the employee, which contemplates a before-the-fact agreement on this method when the employee is paid a fixed salary. The court also observed that the rule speaks of the employee contemporaneously receiving overtime compensation. In a misclassification situation, the parties have no such mutual understanding, and there is no contemporaneous overtime payment, because the employer has treated the employee as exempt.
    Nevertheless, the 7th Circuit agreed that the lower court reached the correct outcome. It said that, in the case of a misclassified employee paid a fixed salary to work varying numbers of hours, the regular rate is determined by dividing all of the hours worked in the workweek into the salary for that workweek. Because the resulting regular rate represents straight-time pay for all the workweek's hours (including overtime ones), the employee is owed the product of multiplying one-half of the regular rate (i.e., the "half" of "time and one-half") times the total overtime hours. The court relied upon the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Overnight Motor Transportation Co. v. Missel, in which the Supreme Court used this approach under similar circumstances. The Supreme Court noted in Missel that its method was consistent with longstanding DOL guidance.
    What This Means To You
    Urnikis-Negro represents a principled approach to determining overtime for a misclassified employee. It avoids the temptation to utilize FWW as justification, even though the DOL's interpretive rule uses the correct arithmetical approach. Rather, the decision is grounded upon binding Supreme Court precedent, which itself relied upon longstanding, historical guidance from the DOL.
    In following this clearly correct approach, the court was adhering to the guiding general principle on the regular rate, which states: "The regular hourly rate of pay of an employee is determined by dividing his total remuneration for employment (except statutory exclusions) in any workweek by the total number of hours actually worked by him in that workweek for which such compensation was paid."
    This case provides useful clarification and guidance for employers on a computational issue of potentially enormous practical impact in assessing potential exposure in misclassification cases.
    EDITOR'S NOTE: The Urnikis-Negro decision also cited with approval a DOL Opinion Letter, which was a response to a 2007 Fisher & Phillips request. Fisher & Phillips did not invoke FWW in its request, but the DOL nonetheless predicated its favorable answer upon those principles. Our request and the reply can be accessed on our Wage and Hour Laws Blog: www.wage-hour.net
    Joel Rice is a partner in the Chicago office. He has handled a wide range of employment-related litigation matters before administrative agencies and in the federal and state trial and appellate courts. Among other matters, Joel has handled the defense of unlawful discrimination and harassment claims, wage and hour lawsuits, state law employment claims arising under tort and contract law, as well as unfair competition and trade secret matters. He has substantial appellate, class action, and complex litigation experience. Joel also counsels clients concerning equal employment opportunity, wage and hour, and non-compete/trade secret issues. He has tried matters before administrative agencies and in the state and federal courts. He is a member of the trial bar for the Northern District of Illinois. Joel is "AV" Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

  3. Manual labour plan for 'work-shy', 11/06 The Press Association via google.com/hostednews/ukpress
    LONDON, U.K. - Work-shy benefit claimants could be forced to do compulsory full-time manual labour under proposals being put forward by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
    Long-term dole claimants who are thought to need "experience of the habits and routines of working life" could be put on four-week mandatory placements of 30 hours a week doing jobs such as clearing litter and gardening.

    Anyone refusing to take part or failing to turn up on time to work could have their GBP65 Jobseekers Allowance stopped for at least three months.
    The Work Activity scheme is designed to flush out claimants who have opted for a life on benefits or are doing undeclared jobs on the side, as well as restoring the work ethic in people who have not been employed for years.
    Reports suggested that it will target people believed to be sabotaging efforts to get them back into work.
    Details will be unveiled in the Welfare Reform White Paper expected in the coming week, which will set out Mr Duncan Smith's plans for a universal credit to replace the range of benefits currently claimed by the jobless.
    Under the scheme, job advisers would be given powers to require tens of thousands of claimants to take part in community work for charities or local councils. All postings will be designed to offer the jobseeker the opportunity to gain fundamental work disciplines and skills and be of benefit to their local community. They will be required to continue seeking permanent work while on a placement.
    Some reports suggested payment for people on the programme could be as little as GBP30-GBP40 a week - the equivalent of around GBP1 an hour.
    A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We will shortly be bringing forward further proposals on how to break the cycle of dependency blighting many of our communities and make sure work always pays."
    Mr Duncan Smith said his plans were designed to reduce welfare dependency and make work pay.

11/03-04/2010 – 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. City of Covington tries out 35-hour work week to boost morale, by Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, 11/03 The Times-Picayune via NOLA.com
    This is essentially giving them a raise without spending any additional money,' Covington Mayor Candace Watkins said. (photo caption - and gorsh, Mayor Watkins is real purty!)
    COVINGTON, Louisiana - The city of Covington is experimenting with a 35-hour work week, paying employees the same amount for five hours less work.
    The change - which affects all except fire and police personnel - began last week and has been pitched as a morale booster for city employees who have not seen a raise in three years. But at the regular City Council meeting Tuesday evening, several council members said it could also work as a litmus test to gauge whether the city can function with less employees in the long term.
    Also at question is whether the administration was allowed to move from 40 to 35 hours without the City Council's approval.
    The City Council only learned of the change after the fact, and most council members on Tuesday night said decreasing hours are bound to diminish the quality of work.
    The city's hours of operations have and will remain the same, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., by staggering some employee shifts and by increasing employees' lunch breaks from 30 minutes to an hour, according to the administration.
    "We thought this would be a good benefit to give them," Mayor Candace Watkins told the council. "This is essentially giving them a raise without spending any additional money."
    Councilman Lee Alexius was not convinced.
    "You are knocking 12.5 percent of your hours off and saying that your services will stay the same," he said.
    Alexius, along with others, also questioned what will happen when a new administration takes over next year and decides to change back to the 40-hour schedule. Watkins is term-limited, so a new mayor will take office July 1.
    "There could be a tenancy down the line to go back to 40, and reduce employees," Alexius speculated.
    Watkins agreed.
    "Yes, that could happen when a new administration comes in. And in fact, that could happen before the new administration takes office," she said.
    Maureen "Moe" Clary, who has announced she's running in the April mayoral election, indicated her own disapproval.
    "What I think the citizens of this city are crying for is to have more services," she said. "The people who are paying their taxes are working 40-, 50-, 60-hour work weeks."
    She also expressed dismay at possibly coming in and having to take back benefits.
    "If you give someone a benefit and then you take it away, it is worse than if you never gave it to them at all," she said at the council meeting, "The morale is going to be worse than it ever was."
    On Wednesday, after the confrontational City Council session, Watkins said she was "rethinking the whole plan."
    "The story could change tomorrow," she said.
    In terms of whether the administration even had a right to institute the change on its own accord, City Administrator Beverly Gariepy said that when the city changed from 35 to 40 hours about five years ago that it did so without council approval.
    Yet Council President Matt Faust said he wants confirmation.
    "I would like to ask Deborah (Foshee) to solicit an AG's opinion to see if that action can be taken without any council input," Faust said.
    City attorney Foshee indicated that she will first call the state attorney general's office for an informal opinion, as a written opinion could take several months.
    In one section, the charter states that the director of administration "shall direct and be responsible for" the "development and administration of a system of personnel administration that meets the social, economic and program needs for all city departments" and that shall include policies and procedures for "salary administration."
    Yet the charter also states, "Prior to being effective, any proposed system of personnel administration shall be submitted by the mayor to the council for approval and adoption in an administrative code."
    Watkins said on Wednesday that council approval is only needed for civil services personnel administration.
    Benjamin Alexander-Bloch can be reached at bbloch@timespicayune.com or 985.898.4827.

  2. Covington mayor cancels controversial 35-hour work week for city employees, 11/04 NOLA.com
    COVINGTON, Louisiana - After a strong public outcry and a skeptical City Council, Covington Mayor Candace Watkins on Thursday ended the city's short-lived experiment with a 35-hour work week for municipal employees.
    Watkins launched the revised work schedule last Thursday, and at Tuesday night's City Council meeting several objected and questioned the wisdom of the move. Most council members said they were not informed of the change until after it was instituted.
    For the one week it was in effect, administrative, public works and recreation employees earned the same amount of pay for working a 35-hour work week that they had received working a 40-hour week. Watkins said today it was a benefit to her workers, who had not received a cost of living increase since 2009.
    [So who has?]
    The mayor said the goal was to see if her staff could be as productive without increasing costs to the city.
    And at the City Council meeting, council members and the public questioned why, if employees could work more efficiently in 35 hours, they couldn't work as efficiently in 40 hours.
    And, if the staff can work more efficiently with less, they questioned whether a staff reduction was in order.
    "This was a well intentioned suggestion by my staff to test giving our workers, who have always done more with less a benefit, without any additional cost to the budget," Watkins stated in an afternoon press release. "No one anticipated it would meet with so much objection by the Council or be demonized by the talk radio public."
    "At this point instead of assuming everyone would simply work harder, people are assuming we may have too many employees and that is not true," she continued. "Our employees do not want to risk a reduction in the budget made on that assumption and therefore we are abandoning the test."
    The City Council also questioned whether the administration had the legal right to make the change at all or whether it needed the council's approval.
    Taking a stab at the City Council, Watkins noted that the only city employee who will now work a 35-hour a week schedule is the Council Clerk.
    Watkins says her staff is "a bit disappointed" but that they "are happy with their jobs and will continue to work as earnestly as ever."
    She also stated that Mandeville's administrative staff works a 35-hour work week and that its staff has much higher salaries.
    She added, "with all due respect, I don't believe anyone in Mandeville is working any harder than we are."

  3. It's time to work less for less pay, 11/03 WorcesterNews.co.uk
    Cutting edge: Adrian Hardman, cabinet minister for finance; Trish Haines, chief executive; and council leader George Lord (photo caption)
    WORCESTER, England - Council staff are going to work fewer hours and be paid less in a bid to help make more than GBP60 million savings.
    From January, new employees at Worcestershire County Council will be contracted to work 35 hours a week as opposed to 37, while two new lower pay scales are going to be introduced.
    Existing staff members are also being asked whether they would like to reduce their weekly working hours.

    The move comes as part of a wide range of measures being mooted as part of a council cost-cutting excercise, affecting buses, street lighting and public buildings.

10/31-11/01-02/2010 – 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. More proactive strategies are needed to help job seekers, by JOHN P MARTIN, 10/31 IrishTimes.com
    JOBS CRISIS: Actively helping the unemployed to find work is key to stopping the slide into long-term dole queues DUBLIN, Ireland - THE GLOBAL economy is emerging from the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression, but it will take time and strong political will to heal the wounds in the labour market.
    Since the downturn began at the end of 2007, the unemployment rate in Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states has increased by 50 per cent (it was 8.5 per cent in August). But the impact has been very uneven across countries.
    Austria, South Korea, Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland have unemployment rates of 3 to 4.5 per cent. At the other end of the spectrum comes Spain (20.5 per cent), Slovakia (14.6 per cent) and, with the third highest rate, Ireland (13.9 per cent).
    Recent data suggest that unemployment may have peaked in the OECD area. Nonetheless, the recovery is unlikely to be sufficiently vigorous to reabsorb rapidly the current high numbers of unemployed. Indeed, the latest OECD projections suggest the unemployment rate may still be around 13 per cent in Ireland by the end of 2011.
    With many of the unemployed experiencing long spells of joblessness, the risk that the sharp increase in unemployment will become structural (long-term) in nature is rising.
    This risk, however, varies significantly across countries, reflecting the diversity of individual country experiences during the crisis.
    Whereas massive labour shedding led to large increases of unemployment in some countries (eg Ireland, Spain, the US), an unusually high share of the decline in total hours worked has happened through reductions in working time in many countries (eg Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands, Belgium).
    Faced with rapidly rising unemployment, most OECD countries moved promptly to scale up resources for labour market programmes early in the downturn.
    However, the pressure to cut large fiscal deficits is mounting rapidly in many countries, bringing with it the need to make hard choices on how to allocate scarcer public resources.
    Since the jobs crisis is still far from over, there is a good case to maintain, and in some cases further expand, resources devoted to labour market programmes this year and next.
    But it is essential to focus on cost-effective programmes and those targeting the most disadvantaged groups and most at risk of losing contact with the labour market.
    In terms of unemployment benefits and other income supports for those who have lost their jobs, there is a difficult balancing act to perform. The build-up in long-term unemployment creates particularly acute needs for income support that require close attention.
    But it is also important to ensure close monitoring of job-search efforts by the unemployed, especially the long-term unemployed, to avoid benefit dependence.
    This is a difficult challenge, especially in those countries where mechanisms and institutions that help, encourage and nudge the jobless to find work are not as effective as they could be.
    Ireland faces such challenges.
    Such "activation" strategies helped many OECD countries achieve low unemployment before the crisis and they can play a major role in helping the unemployed to find work during the recovery.
    But an activation policy has to be adapted to the different phases of the downturn and recovery in order to ensure effective support to a large and growing pool of unemployed.
    Most countries have maintained or even expanded core job-search assistance and have also sought to provide more targeted re-employment services, including training opportunities, for the most hard-to-place unemployed.
    OECD evidence suggests that a shift towards greater investment in training, especially linked to local labour market needs, is warranted in the current circumstances.
    The jobs crisis provides an opportunity to invest in the development of a more comprehensive and effective activation strategy, one that strengthens the links between getting benefits, searching for a job and participating in employment and training programmes.
    Putting in place such an activation strategy generally takes time, as it involves institutional changes associated with the implementation of policies, their relationships with national and local governments, and the co-ordination with benefit providers or private employment services.
    This is especially urgent in Ireland. A recent OECD report shows the tenor of activation policy in Ireland was very weak compared with other OECD countries in the decade leading up to the recession.
    The crisis at Fás could not have occurred at a worse time.
    The Irish economy badly needs a high-performing public employment service focused laser-like on the objective of helping the unemployed get back to work quickly.
    But all is not doom and gloom. The merger of Fás's employment services with the benefits agency under the Department of Social Protection is a positive step - one the OECD has long called for.
    But it must be backed up by a new governance structure for the integrated agency, and an explicit focus on performance.
    The new agency must increase the intensity of its activation efforts; it must be guided by the best international evidence on what works and what does not in labour market policies; and it should not hesitate to work much more closely with private employment agencies and training providers to get the best value for public spending on labour market policies.
    In this latter regard, it will be crucial to establish effective links with the agency that will replace Fás, the setting up of which has just been announced by Tánaiste and Minister for Education Mary Coughlan.
    Ireland must get these new agencies right.
    In addition, it is vital not to lose sight of the key role of labour demand.
    During the recession, important initiatives were taken in most OECD economies to sustain labour demand, especially by encouraging cuts in hours worked for all or most employees in firms, as an alternative to firing many workers.
    OECD evidence suggests that public short-time work schemes played an important role in preserving permanent jobs during the crisis.

    Many countries, Ireland included, also supported labour demand through cuts in taxes on labour, in particular reductions in social security contributions, and scaling-up hiring subsidies, such as the French subsidy to small firms.
    One lesson from the recession - which could apply to Ireland - is that a strong case can be made for having in place a small, well-run, short-time work scheme even in good times, which can be scaled up rapidly in bad times.
    At the same time, tight fiscal conditions suggest shifting the focus from across-the-board cuts in labour taxes, such as Ireland's PRSI, to employment subsidies targeted at new hires, especially for employers recruiting the long-term unemployed or other vulnerable groups.
    The jobs crisis is a huge challenge for Ireland.
    But it also provides an opportunity to shake up outmoded policies, attitudes and institutions in the labour market field by drawing on international examples of good practices and adapting them to the specific Irish circumstances.
    John P Martin is director for employment, labour and social policies at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.

  2. Tycoons want Russians to work 60 hours a week, 11/01 RT- Prime Time Russia via rt.com/prime-time
    MOSCOW, Russia - The working week of Russia's employees might be extended by 20 hours as the country's top industry leaders have set their minds on improving labor efficiency.
    The package of such "efficient" proposals was drawn up by the Industrialists and Entrepreneurs' Union headed by one of Russia's richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov.

    Apart from introducing an extra 20 work hours a week, the Union insists that an employee should be informed about his dismissal only one month in advance, instead of two months as stipulated by the current Labor Code.
    Furthermore, the employer should have the right to fire a person based on "economic reasons." Currently the Labor Code allows dismissing an employee only on the grounds of "changes in organizational and technological working conditions."
    The Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs also wants to deprive employees of paid study leave, unless it was the employer who sent the employee to study.
    Finally, the Union suggests wider usage of fixed-term contracts (for a year or five years) - for example, for graduates without work experience or employees who already receive state pensions.
    Currently, although fixed-term contracts are permitted on paper, there is still no real alternative to open-ended contracts. In 2007, there were about 80 percent of such contracts, whereas only 10 percent were for a fixed term.
    The introduction of fixed-term contracts, meanwhile, could help tackle the burning issue of youth unemployment.
    The Union claims that these amendments have been brewing since the crisis of 2008, the consequences of which are still influencing the country's economy.
    Although the members of the Union say they are ready for a thorough discussion of the labor package, the package has already come in for sharp criticism from the trade unions.
    "I am outraged by Prokhorov's proposal," Sergey Vostretsov, head of the Sotsprof trade unions' association, was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency. "He is simply trying to find grounds for turning millions of Russians into the grey mass of people with no rights. It's like he has never read Charles Dickens. I'm surprised that he didn't suggest using child labor."
    Independent business specialists agree that Prokhorov's suggestion is based on exploiting employees.
    "This proposal is an attempt to reduce labor costs with no expense on behalf of business," stated Vladimir Osakovsky, the head of strategic planning at Unicredit bank. "Most people in Russia get fixed salaries, so the proposal would do nothing else but increase their work hours with no adequate compensation for that."
    Doctors and psychologists warn that such a reform could lead to devastating results.
    "If we work 10 to 12 hours to 60 years of age, I don't think the person will be healthy enough to enjoy his retired life," Olga Knyazeva, a psychologist from the International SOS clinic, told RT.
    Some attorneys, however, say that although many of Prokhorov's proposals have to be altered and specified, the Labor Code definitely needs changes, as currently it protects lazy employees too much.
    "Our labor law is outdated in many respects," Anna-Stefania Chepik, a partner at Goltsblat BLP, was quoted as saying by the Kommesant newspaper. "For example, an employee can work for rival firms and it takes months to fire him."
    Gennadiy Onishchenko, the head of Russian consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, said on Monday that the increase to 60-hour working week is possible for certain professions, but it requires changes in salary and work technologies.
    "It will not automatically lead to anything, but irritation among the public. This leads to serious changes in infrastructure, technology, finance," Onishchenko said. He added that longer working hours must lead to obligatory financial compensation, which lies in the sphere of labor law.
    This is not the first time that the Industrialists and Entrepreneurs' Union has demanded changes in Russia's Labor Code. In April 2010, Prokhorov tried to persuade the State Duma that employers must have more ways to fire an employee. Back then, the officials, outraged by the suggestion, said that the tycoon is going against modernization.

  3. Covington going to 35-hour work week? by Debbie Glover, 10/31 St. Tammany News via Slidell Sentry News via slidellsentry.com
    - see whole article under today's date.
    COVINGTON, St.Tammany Parish, La. - Effective Thursday, employees of the city of Covington were given an extra hour off per day by the administration without consulting the City Council.
    Covington Mayor Candace Watkins said the decision was made by the administration to reduce the work week to 35 hours for all employees as a way to give them a benefit this year since they can't get a raise.

    Their pay will not be reduced and operation hours of city departments will remain the same at 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. In addition, they will not receive overtime pay until they have worked 40 hours. Work hours for each employee will be staggered. Watkins said this is a test run.
    On Wednesday, Councilman Lee Alexius sent an e-mail to both Watkins and City Administrator Beverly Gariepy that said, "I assume you looked into the correctness of the mayor taking such action? I'm not saying you can't make that call, but one could interpret Section 7-05, Personnel Administration, of the charter as stating the council should have been involved in the process...."
    Alexius asks later in the e-mail, "If there is to be no difference in service did we have the correct number of people on the payroll to start with? We're going to get the same amount of work with 12.5 percent less hours?"
    Alexius continues, "Again, I'm not saying you're doing anything out of order, it's just that a decision this big should have been shared with the council, in my opinion." He ended the e-mail with the statement, "What controls the issue?"
    In a reply on Thursday by e-mail that was forwarded to the press by Alexius, Watkins said that 35 hours is considered full time by the Department of Labor. In a phone interview on Friday afternoon, when asked when she did not go the council first, she said she wanted to, but, "We did it now because of time constraints for holiday pay periods."
    She said in the Thursday e-mail, "Below is the charter provision giving Beverly this authority. I know that I mentioned that we were considering tit casually in a past meeting. Don't remember if it was council or budget hearing. The announcement that we were ready to make the move was somewhat sudden to me as well, however after an in depth discussion with Beverly, Carl and other department managers, I am willing to give this a trial run."
    Watkins continued, "Yes the cans of worms—and why this is in the trial stage— is to see if with the help of technology and a more highly trained and skilled workforce, can we get more done in one less hour per day? Can we work harder, smarter and more effectively? This will be the ultimate test of that question."
    According to Section 4-03 Department of Administration (B) (13) "Development and administration of a system of personnel administration that meets the social, economic and program needs for all city departments. This system shall be consistent with general state law and shall provide means to recruit, select, develop and maintain an effective and responsive work force and shall include policies and procedures form employee hiring and advancement, training and career development, job classification, salary administration, retirement, fringe benefits, discipline, discharge and other related activities."
    Questions still being considered are what happens if, in a few months or even years, the work week needs to return to 40 hours? Will the employees be expected to get a cut in their hourly rate by receiving the same amount of money for more hours of work per week? Or will they then expect a pay raise?
    Since the decision has been made, there will be no need for the City Council to confront the matter Tuesday. It will have enough to consider with the budget ordinance.
    The public is invited to the meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the City Council Chambers.

  4. 'Downsized' Family Forced to Give Up Cable, by Jenny Erikson, 11/02 The Stir blog via TheStir.CafeMom.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - Most people are cutting back these days. Not those people living on pensions in California, or teachers in New York, or state employees working on the New Jersey Turnpike, but most of us are feeling the squeeze from the bad economy.
    The housing market is down and unemployment is up. Those that do have jobs are dealing with cut hours or not receiving raises to keep up with the cost of inflation. Employers aren't hiring anyone in this climate of economic uncertainty.

    Since this is America, someone is ready to capitalize on the plight experienced by thousands of families across the nation. Once rags to riches, the story to tell today is riches to rags. WEtv is getting ready to premiere Downsized, a show following the once affluent Bruce family as they struggle to make ends meet.
    The concept of the show is a good one. The blended family was living the good life a few years ago, until the crumbling economy changed their financial status. They lost their business and their home, had to declare bankruptcy, and now clean houses for rent money.
    One clip for the show features an embarrassed teenage daughter telling the mom that she couldn't buy everything on the grocery list, because they didn't have enough money on the food card. My heart breaks for a family that has lost so much that they have to rely on food stamps to feed their children. To me, that's the last thing you do before your children starve.
    Other clips from the show show Dad sitting in a leather office chair, in front of a flat screen computer monitor, making calls to try to collect on some debts, and Mom making the tragic announcement that they're cutting the cable and limiting daily showers to five minutes apiece. Wait -- what? This is the poverty-stricken family?
    Everyone is cutting back; clipping coupons, giving up expensive hair care products, and bypassing more expensive stores for Walmart. I know that my family has had to make sacrifices to make up for our increased taxes and rising costs of living, and unless the Bush tax cuts get extended, our income is going to be cut by nearly $4,000. Let me assure you that we make significantly less than a quarter of a million dollars a year.
    Taxes are going up to cover the deficit created by a rapidly expanding welfare state. But as long as we have people that receive food stamps, yet still have money for cable, or people that spend their welfare checks in exotic locales, no amount of taxation will ever be enough.
    I'm sorry that your family is having a hard time. Mine is too. Please curb your spending before you raise my taxes.

  5. Managing debt on an unsteady income, by Steve Bucci, 11/01 Bankrate.com
    NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. - Q - Dear Debt Adviser,
    I have approximately $17,000 in unsecured debt. I lost my job three years ago, and have been able to (somehow) pay at least the minimum due on all of my debt. I took a position last year that pays about one-half of my prior income. I am budgeted as tightly as I can possibly be. With the upcoming slow season looming, I will be dealing with cut hours and such an unpredictable schedule a second job doesn't seem possible (so far). I am unclear on what steps to take. Bankruptcy doesn't appeal to me (I'm over 55), and I have a distrust of "debt miracle workers."
    -- Gina
    Dear Gina,
    I think you deserve an award for handling a difficult situation well. I'm glad that you were able to make the necessary adjustments to stay afloat.
    I completely understand your distrust of "debt miracle workers." You obviously have a firm grasp on the knowledge that if it sounds too good to be true, it is. There are no miracles to be had in handling debts, although there's no shortage of people who will try to scam you into thinking there are.
    Debt Adviser's quick tips
    * Ask for a hardship plan.
    * Look for part-time work.
    * Reopen a full-time job search.
    If you believe that during the upcoming slow season for your employment income that you will be unable to make even the minimum payments due, I suggest you contact your creditors and let them know what you are up against. Ask to speak to a supervisor and explain your income loss and cyclical job. Request a hardship program for the short time that you will be unable to meet the current minimum payments. Be sure to have a number you can afford to pay in hand before you call. Otherwise, they will suggest one and it may not be what you need to make ends meet. Most creditors have hardship programs that will lower your payment for six months or so, and that may be a perfect fit for what you need.
    Should some of your creditors be unwilling to work with you or if you are uncomfortable communicating with them on your own, you might consider contacting a nonprofit credit counseling agency. If you believe you can make the approximately $340 minimum payment that you owe each month on your $17,000 unsecured debt, a debt management plan, or DMP, may help you. For a small monthly fee, you can enroll in a DMP that may reduce your payments and lower your interest rates so you will be able to repay your debt in five years or less. With a DMP you can also make additional payments to your creditors to pay off your debt faster if, and it is hoped when, your financial circumstances improve. You can find a good counseling agency at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.
    I want to encourage you to try two courses of action in addition to my suggestion above. Keep trying to work out a second job opportunity to ease your financial situation. By the time you find something, your schedule may be more settled. Think of it sort of like going long for a pass in football. You can start hustling now and hope the ball will be downfield for you to catch when you get there.
    Also, I'd like you to consider reopening your job search. You've been in your job a year, and a lot has changed in the job market since then. It's still not good, but it may be better in your area or field than it was when the economy was in even worse shape and much less certain. Plus, you have a big advantage now. You have a job! Nothing is harder than getting a job when you haven't got one. You are a much more desirable candidate with a job, so update your resume and try some networking to see if you can get that lost income restored.

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