2/27-3/01/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- German unemployment falls further in February, by Kay Murchie, 3/01 FinanceMarkets.co.uk
LONDON, U.K. - Germany, which is Europe’s largest economy, saw a further fall in the number of people out of work in February to 3.07 million – the lowest since September 1992.
The Federal Labour Office said unemployment dropped by 52,000 in February, taking the unemployment rate to 7.3%, from January‘s 7.4%.
The country’s job market has performed much better than in many other countries and many believe it is the result of the “Kurzarbeit” scheme, introduced by the German Government, designed to prevent mass redundancies.
Last year, Germany’s unemployment rate plunged to 7.7% from 8.2% in 2009 as a result of the Government initiative.
The jobless rate is expected to fall to 7% this year.
“The labour market remains the show case of the German recovery,” according to ING senior economist Carsten Brzeski.
Meanwhile, Germany recently posted growth of 3.6% in 2010 – the strongest pace since reunification in 1990, according to the Federal Statistical Office.
Export demand helped to bring Germany out of recession in the second quarter of 2009 – much sooner than many of its counterparts throughout the world.
Following today’s data, the euro edged 0.19% higher to $1.3832, bringing the gain in the single currency to 3.3% already this year.
- Republicans Are A Strong Force Against Any Other Unemployment Measures, by Alex Warne, 2/27 DailyNewsPulse.com
[Unclear dateline and seemingly unattributed posts to a blog. The four sections may be in reverse order. Daily News Pulse needs to upgrade their format.]
WASHINGTON DC? - Currently, 17 states [make that twenty] have opted into the “short-time compensation” or “work-sharing” program within their unemployment insurance system, which allows workers to receive partial benefits from the unemployment insurance system if their hours have been reduced, not just if they lost their job or their pay is reduced.
The unemployment insurance system also provides partial benefits to workers whose wages have been cut (including due to working part-time), but the thresholds are fairly low. The unemployment benefit is typically equal to the difference between the weekly benefit amount and earnings, and all states disregard some earnings as an incentive to take short-time work.
Mark Zandi estimates that the multiplier for the short-term [typo for short-time?] compensation program would be relatively high: for every dollar spent on the program, $1.69 would be added to our economy’s output.
Very Long Term Unemployed
It’s hard not to agree with the GOP aide. [What GOP aide?] The odds of passing a bill designed to help the very long-term unemployed without paying for it elsewhere in the budget to me seem slim to none. Perhaps representatives Lee and Scott will explain at the press conference tomorrow why they think this bill has any chance of passing.
If this legislation does not move forward because we 99ers failed to lend it adequate support we will be deserving of the further deprivations we are going to suffer. On the other hand, if we show our force and the House Resolution is dismissed out of hand we will have at least identified one group of politicians that the 99ers as a force are going to vote out of office in 2012.
Republicans have shown reluctance — if not being dead-set — against reauthorization for unemployment extensions for some time, forcing the issue each time it came up for a vote in 2010. The last time, which occurred during the end of the last session of Congress, Republicans finally allowed the measure through but only after gaining the concession from the Democrats to allow the continuation of tax cuts to the 2 percent of Americans who make in excess of $250,000 per year. (Democrats only wanted to continue tax cuts for those making under the $250,000 plateau.)
- Short time working at Malaga, 2/28 PortStrategy.com
MALAGA, Spain - Malaga's port labour company, SEMA, is to introduce short time working, which will affect 72 of its 180 stevedores. This is the result of a decision by Maersk to substantially reduce the amount of containers it handles in the port.
[So is this SEMA descended from the SEMA that started as the Société d'Économie et de Mathématiques Appliquées in Paris in the 1980s and is now embodied in SchlumbergerSema, or is it somehow linked to the SEMA that stands for Sociedad Erasmiana de Málaga, which sounds like a philosophers' club?]
Currently, the overwhelming majority of Malaga's container traffic is generated by this shipping line. In 2009, throughput dropped by 32% to 290,000 teu, where it remained in 2010.
2/25-26/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Old Saybrook cuts budget by 3% - Selectmen support $14.8 million plan, by Jenna Cho firstname.lastname@example.org, 2/26 TheDay.com
OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. - For now, the town can continue to count on the $300,000 or so it gets from the state in the form of grants, such as Town Aid Road.
But First Selectman Michael Pace warned Friday that municipalities' days of relying on such state revenues are numbered.
The town must prepare for shrinking revenues, something Pace said was unavoidable given the state budget deficit. Friday, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to decrease its general-government spending by 3 percent, to $14.8 million.
"This is a budget setting up a new base for us, anticipating lost revenue from the state, anticipating more tax burden on the residents from the state and trying to keep all of our programs that we think are important to our town," Pace said at the special meeting.
The budget proposal, which is about a half-million dollars less than the current budget, includes no change in services or personnel, no layoffs and no employee givebacks. Meanwhile, social services coordinator Sue Consoli's hours are projected to increase from 28 hours a week to 32, and the selectmen's two secretaries - who currently work 32 hours a week - are projected to increase to full-time hours, or 35 hours a week, Pace said.
[Better to decrease and increase the workweek than to decrease and increase jobs.]
"Nobody gets hurt in this budget," he said. "That's the key thing that we've tried to do."
But there are also no salary increases across the board, in keeping with the town's austere budgeting approach. That, however, may change if the town and police union resolve their contract-negotiation differences in arbitration.
Pace said the town was able to reduce its spending budget as department heads were mostly able to come in at a flat budget, and debt repayments for old building projects are dropping by about $200,000.
"There's a lot of different places that I had money (in) that I no longer need because I've satisfied that (debt payment)," Pace said.
Included in the budget are funds for one new police officer, two new police cruisers and one new dump truck. Police Commission Chairman Christina Burnham said the police department originally wanted three new officers - one additional officer for every shift - but scaled back that request to one.
The new officer would be hired in January at a cost of $33,000.
The key to keeping big expenses under control is to plan several years out instead of just one year at a time, Pace said. That way, Pace said the town can phase out repayments for past capital projects and start funding new ones.
The capital outlay sinking fund, a piggy bank of sorts for big projects, includes such items as a $50,000 WPCA fund and $75,000 for soft costs associated with designing a new police station. The town also set aside $75,000 for the police station project in the 2010-11 budget.
Pace originally estimated that a new station would cost $5.5 million, meaning debt repayments would have amounted to $280,000 a year for 20 years. But the first design proposal came in at $10.5 million, which Pace said was too high. The building committee will work with the architect to bring down the project to a more manageable amount, Pace said.
The WPCA fund, meanwhile, is auxiliary money the town would use if, during the course of implementing the Decentralized Wastewater Management District, residents became delinquent in their loan repayments for septic-system upgrades, Pace said.
The town is making some of the $10 million in Clean Water Fund grants and loans it received from the state available to homeowners who need help financing their upgrades. The WPCA fund ensures that the town has enough money to repay the state loans even if residents fail to pay back what they borrowed from the town, Pace said.
If the Board of Finance approves the selectmen's budget, the tax rate is likely to drop one-tenth of a mill, from 13.99 mills to about 13.9 mills, Pace said.
But Pace's budget includes an overall budget - general-government and education spending combined - of $36.4 million. That amount assumes a zero increase in the education budget, which conflicts with the school district's $21.9 million budget proposal, a 1.47 percent increase that the Board of Education adopted at its Feb. 15 meeting.
"I'm just asking them if they can find that extra 1 percent (to take) out of that budget so that we come in at a flat line," Pace said.
- Catfish companies to cut hours, institute layoffs in H1, 2/25 Fish Information & Services via FIS.com
ITTA BENA, Miss. - Mississippi-based company Heartland Catfish will exercise temporary layoffs and cut its employees’ hours during the first half of this year. Workers at plants in both Mississippi and Alabama will feel the repercussions of the move.
[Best to avoid as many layoffs as possible by cutting as many hours as it takes and keeping people employed and consumers spending.]
CEO of Heartland Danny Walker said the entire industry is up against a catfish shortage and that the supply will remain low until mid-June.
After this period, however, Walker assured that the company will call back its employees. Heartland anticipates that it will gradually rehire workers by early summer and be back at full capacity by 1 July, which is when new supplies of fish will arrive, reports Associated Press.
Some 470 workers work at the company’s processing plants in Itta Bena and another 280 in Greensboro, Alabama. These workers were all told about the upcoming temporary cutbacks earlier this month, Walker said.
Catfish farming and harvesting (Photo: USDA/Stephen Ausmus)
Even though Heartland acquires around 35 per cent of its live fish from its own farming operations, Walked clarified, it has been difficult to obtain sufficient inventory from its other suppliers.
In Mississippi, catfish acreage has plummeted by about 40 per cent since peaking at 113,000 ac in 2002 alone – and this state is the country’s prime producer of catfish.
The cause of farmers’ decision to cut acreage has been elevated feed costs, competition from abroad and what until recently had been low prices for their fish. Plus, booming grain prices have made it even more expensive to raise their fish, as grains are a basic ingredient of catfish feed.
Solon Scott III, president of America’s Catch, said his company also foresees shorter hours and a possible reduction of production days per week until the beginning of the summer feeding season.
Until 2011, processors were normally able to rely on enough supply of harvestable fish to keep production running fully throughout the year.
But now, the dearth of supply has made prices rise by 20 per cent over the past six months alone – which has been positive for domestic farmers, as it is helping offset their struggle with low prices caused by foreign competition.
Farmed catfish processed in January totaled 35.1 million lb – a drop of 12 per cent year-on-year. The average price paid to producers was USD 0.931 per lb in January, up USD 0.7 from last month and USD 0.167 cents higher than in January 2010, according to USDA statistics.
Freshwater imports for consumption of Ictalurus spp., Pangasius spp., and other catfish of the order Siluriformes for December 2010 totaled 16.9 million lb, up 44 percent from the amount imported in December 2009. Imports were from Cambodia, China, Mexico, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
2/23-24/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Key dates in the early American labor movement, by Steven Bryan, 2/23 Yahoo! News via news.yahoo.com
NEW YORK, NY - In recent weeks, Wisconsin has become ground zero for the labor movement, with a state bill limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees under consideration. As the fight for employee rights heats up in Wisconsin and other states, here is a look at the history of labor unions in America.
1794: The first strike takes place in New York
Referencing the "pursuit of happiness," one of the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence, printers in New York went out on strike for shorter working hours and better wages in 1794. Over the next few years, cabinet makers and carpenters also went out on strike for better working conditions.
1869: The Knights of Labor organization forms in Philadelphia
Building a membership that included immigrants, African-Americans and women, the Knights of Labor (KOL) formed in Philadelphia in 1869, spreading to Chicago by 1877. Using the motto " An injury to one is the concern of all," the KOL sought to unite all members of the working class and helped promote the eight-hour workday.
1881: Samuel Gompers forms the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions
Cigar maker Samuel Gompers created the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions to push for shorter working hours and higher pay.
[Of these two historic goals, where unions could just get one and it was shorter hours, they wound up with both because shorter hours cut the surplus of labor and harnessed market forces in raising pay. But where unions could just get one of these goals and it was higher pay, they wound up with neither because they were just tacking an artificially high price on a surplus commodity, themselves, and market forces circumvented them like water around a rock.]
Gompers also was an advocate of the labor strike to achieve better conditions for workers. In 1886, the organization was renamed as the American Federation of Labor (AFL), with Gompers serving as the first president.
1901: The Team Drivers International Union forms
Teamsters, the name given to men driving teams of horses, often had to work 12 to 14 hour days in the early 20th century, earning $2 per day for delivering merchandise. Advocating better working conditions, the Team Drivers International Union (TDIU) formed in 1901, becoming the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) in 1903.
1904: The National Child Labor Committee forms in New York City
To get children out of factories and into schools, the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) was formed during a meeting at New York City's Carnegie Hall. Receiving its federal charter in 1907, the NCLC became an advocate for children's rights and is credited with hiring photographer Lewis Wickes Hine to document the plight of young workers.
1935: John L. Lewis organizes unskilled laborers [CIO splits from AFL]
In response to the American Federation of Labor's reluctance to include unskilled laborers, John L. Lewis formed the Committee for Industrial Organization within the AFL, in 1935. The rift between skilled and unskilled labor was so great, however, the Lewis reformed his committee as the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), a separate entity.
1938: The Federal Labor Standards Act is enacted
Containing regulations favorable to workers, the Federal Labor Standard Act of 1938 (FLSA) helped bring about overtime pay, better collective bargaining and guidelines about child labor.
1955: Merger of the AFL and CIO
After 20 years of rivalry, the AFL and CIO merged in 1955 in an effort to create a stronger labor organization. George Meany was elected as the president of the AFL-CIO.
- For a more just economy, Letter to editor by Michael Blaustein of Washington, D.C., 2/24 Rockford Register Star IL via rrstar.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - As a college student now interning in Congress, I find it deplorable that lawmakers in Wisconsin are targeting the rights and hard-earned benefits of public-sector union members.
Their intention is to so cripple these unions that their functions can be handed over to private, profit-hungry businesses. It is mainly through the strenuous struggles of unions over decades that most employees today — union members or not — enjoy such benefits as safer workplaces, shorter hours, decent wages, pensions, paid vacations, sick days. That is, to be able to live with dignity and greater security.
[Half the labor movement "gets it" - that of their two historic goals, shorter hours and higher pay, if they can only get one and it's shorter hours, they wind up with both because they're harnessing market forces to favor a shortage - of them - but if they can only get one and it's higher pay, they wind up with neither because they're just tacking an artificially high price on a surplus commodity, they themselves.]
I applaud the courageous legislators and the protesting workers of Wisconsin. Weakening public-sector unions is not only unjust but will hardly ease Wisconsin’s fiscal woes.
Our economic malaise cannot be changed by robbing American workers of hard-fought benefits. As Eli Siegel explained, “There will be no economic recovery in the world until economics itself, the making of money, the having of jobs, becomes ethical; is based on good will rather than on the ill will which has been predominant for centuries.”
That good will is what Americans everywhere are hoping for and will make for an efficient, just and prosperous economy.
- WISCONSIN UPDATE: Why collective bargaining is a fiscal issue, by Tina Korbe, 2/23 WashingtonExaminer.com
MADISON, Wisc. - It was a common refrain among union protesters last weekend: “It’s about the rights; it’s not about the money.” But for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, it is about the money -- both the money needed to balance the state budget [so soak the rich - they're the ones who've taken everyone else's!] and the politically influential money union leaders collect and now seek to protect.
Opponents of Walker’s bill to limit collective bargaining and reduce public teacher benefits seem to think the right to collectively negotiate should be treated as sacred. They just want a seat at the table, they say.
Given that, union workers claim they might even voluntarily agree to a reduction in the posh benefits they currently enjoy, such as pensions to which they contribute less than 1 percent and health care premiums for which they pay 6 percent.
But from Walker’s perspective, collective bargaining itself is a fiscal issue, in no small part because it allows union leaders to sit across the negotiating table from voters’ representatives and have an equal say in how the government spends its money.
As long as union leaders have to agree to government spending plans, voters’ representatives do not have the final say. Unions, therefore, can systematically redirect tax dollars to themselves.
The governor’s office is pushing back aggressively, offering real-life examples to support its proposal.
Thanks to union negotiating, for instance, public workers receive paid time off for union activities. In Milwaukee County alone, 14 employees receive salary and benefits to conduct union business, and three of those are on full-time release for union affairs. That means Milwaukee County spent more than $170,000 in salary alone for these employees to do nothing other than participate in union activities.
According to Walker’s office, collective bargaining also involves a certain surrender of management rights. Union-negotiated contracts restrict management’s ability to schedule workers based on operational needs.
This has a direct fiscal impact. When he was Milwaukee County executive, for example, Walker was not allowed to reduce work hours to 35 hours a week - not even to avoid layoffs - because of union opposition.
[There's always 50% of the labor movement that's suicidally clueless about their power goal = shorter hours and less labor surplus.]
“For all the talk about an attack on workers in this state, what they’re pushing and what I saw when I was a local government official is the collective bargaining law in this state handcuffed me,” Walker said.
Traditional workers’ rights have been enshrined in Wisconsin state law since the turn of the last century, so the current controversy isn’t actually about that, he said.
“One of the great myths, unfortunately, for a lot of the protesters out there is that, somehow, if we pass our budget repair bill dealing with collective bargaining, all their rights as workers will go away. Couldn’t be further from the truth,” Walker said.
“The reality is, Wisconsin, at the turn of the last century, passed the most comprehensive, the strongest civil service protections in the country. For our state workers, they have the right outside of collective bargaining, so, regardless of their contract, they have the right because of the civil service laws in this state to have merit hiring and just cause when it comes to discipline or even to the point of termination. Those provisions, those safeguards, protecting workers’ rights continue.”
What wouldn’t continue under Walker’s bill is the practice of automatic payroll deductions to fund unions. Public employees could opt out of union membership and return the dollars they now have to pay in union dues (up to $1,100) to their own pockets. Maybe, Walker said, for union leaders, that’s the money that’s really at the heart of the debate.
“Really, these national leaders coming in don’t care so much about their rights as much as they care about the money, and the money they really want is the money that, right now, by law each of those workers is forced to pay to their local union, which ultimately streams up to the internationals in Washington or across the country,” he said.
“They want their hands on that money and it’s not about protecting the workers or the workers’ conditions of pay.”
Examiner contributor Tina Korbe is a reporter in the Center for Media and Public Policy, an investigative journalism outlet at The Heritage Foundation.
2/20-22/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Bargaining is threatened, letter from Sandi Indendi of Orcutt CA, 2/20 SantaMariaTimes.com
SANTA MARIA, Calif. - I strongly support the workers in Wisconsin and hope you do.
The Wisconsin governor is trying to take collective bargaining rights away from government workers. The law protecting worker’s rights [is] a direct result of collective bargaining. Without it, it won’t be long before we no longer have a 40-hour work week, minimum wage, worker-safety laws, sick time, or child labor laws. This country will become a nation without a middle class.
[Let's sharpen this up. This country will become a nation without a consumer base, and a nation without a consumer base is also a nation without an economy, like Haiti.]
Many of our country’s elected officials are in office because of their promises to support labor and the middle class. What happens once they get there? Are the promises from big business more than they can resist? Why are promises to the American people forgotten?
When was the last time we heard of CEOs or our elected officials willing to cancel their health insurance, lose pensions and take massive cuts in pay? Why is everything the responsibility of those who can least afford it? Big business claims trickle-down economics works and they should not pay more taxes, but why aren’t they willing to trickle down cuts from the top? Why must all the cuts come from the bottom?
Why aren’t our representatives from all over this country speaking up on behalf of their constituents?
Don’t think that we aren’t watching — because we are.
- Five-day workweek proposed for all workers, 2/21 ChinaPost.com
BEIJING, China - Lawmaker Chen Chieh of the ruling Kuomintang has proposed amending the Labor Standards Law to reduce the legal working hours for workers to “80 hours two weeks” from the existing “84 hours two weeks,” so as to allow workers to have a five-day workweek as enjoyed by civil servants, causing polarized responses from the management and the labor sides.
Chen will prepare his proposal for deliberation at the new legislative session to open today.
Chen raised the proposal on the grounds that the five-day workweek system has been in effect for civil servants for 10 years and employees at quite a few private enterprises for 10 years, and therefore local people have got accustomed to such a workweek system.
Sun Bi-hsia, director of the Department of Labor Standards under the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), said that shortening working hours has been emerging as an international trend, and has been on of the key topics on the agenda of CLA-sponsored seminars on labor issues.
Sun said inter-ministerial coordination are needed before whether or how to implement a five-day workweek for employees at private enterprises. Besides weighing the opinions from the management and the labor sides, the government will have to take into consideration different working requirements for various service sectors, home-office jobs, and other new emerging industries. “All these require detailed planning that is yet to be worked out,” Sun continued.
Some other CLA officials also noted that an across-the-board implementation of a five-day workweek should be subject to thorough discussions between the management and labor sides and requires well-rounded supplementary measures. “The CLA has set no timetable in this regard although it has been making relevant preparations,” a ranking official said.
Both the management and the labor sides have shown polarized responses to the proposal of reducing the legal working hours to 80 hours for two weeks.
Tsai Lien-sheng, secretary-general of the Chinese National Federation of Industries, a nonprofit organizing comprising 152 manufacturing associations and up to 100,000 members, expressed strong opposition to the proposal.
Tsai said as Taiwan's economy is just turning around, the government should manage to further improve domestic economy and make local industries compete well with those in neighboring countries, instead of shortening working hours to please workers.
Once the working hours are shortened, the labor cost of local enterprises, especially those in traditional industries, will be forced to rise significantly. This, in turn, will eventually undermine the interests of workers, because local enterprises will be forced to automate their production lines to reduce workforce or relocate their production abroad, according to Tsai.
[Wrong. It will benefit employers and workers, because there will be stronger domestic markets for Chinese productivity, instead of reliance on collapsing foreign (eg: American) consumer markets.]
He said what workers really need is a job instead of just a five-day workweek.
On another front, Hsieh Chuang-chih, secretary-general of the Taiwan Confederation of Trade Unions (TCTU), said although workers really need jobs they need the jobs to involve reasonable working hours.
Hsieh said that Taiwan as a nation has the longest working hours per week, and therefore the TCTU is glade to see the working hours cut to 80 hours from the existing 84 hours for two weeks.
Hsieh stressed that Taiwan's competitiveness cannot be built on long working hours, adding that if private enterprises adopt the same five-day workweek system as enforced for civil servants, then local people will have the same leisure time and the local leisure and tourism industry can develop rapidly as a result.
He continued that up to 60 percent of firms in the industrial and service sectors have implemented the five-day workweek system, and therefore the legislation of the across-the-board shorter workweek system won't constitute any major impact on local industries.
Meanwhile, Sun You-lien, secretary-general of the Taiwan Labor Front, said that based on a survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics during the global financial tsunami in 2009, Taiwan boasted the longest working hours among 20 countries polled.
[That's not a boast about a feature - that's a confession about a bug - in your "economic software."]
Accordingly, Sun said that shortening the legal working hours will be a major subject at the national labor affairs conference to be held on the May 1 Labor Day, adding that his agency will move to persuade ruling and opposition lawmakers to support the bill.
- Restriction on overtime hours in industries may go, 2/22 (2/23 dateline issue?) DeccanHerald.com
BANGALORE, India - The State Cabinet on Tuesday gave its approval for certain amendments to the Karnataka Factories Act, 1948, which includes extending overtime work hours by two hours a day.
The present prescribed upper limit of working hours including an hour of OT, is nine hours a day. However, total number of regular working hours will remain at 48 hours a week.
The proposed amendments are to Section 54, 56 and 65 of the Act. When the Act is amended, a factory can allow OT up to 10 hours a week. Employees get double the wages for additional hours of work they put in.
Sources in the Labour Department said factories have been demanding relaxation of restriction on OT hours. Once the new rule comes into effect, factories will be exempted from taking permission from the Labour Department to allow employees work for 10 hours of OT a week.
Another proposed amendment seeks to allow factories to increase the total OT hours to 22 hours instead of 10 hours now. However, for this seeking Labour Department’s permission is mandatory. If the amendment becomes law, the total number of regular working hours will remain at 48 hours but OT hours permitted will go up to 22 hours. There has been demand from many MNCs and automobile industries to increase the upper limit of OT hours, the sources said.
The ceiling of 48 hours for regular working hours has been retained to ensure that workers get paid for their OT without ambiguity in law, the sources added.
Yet another amendment proposed will help workers of cotton ginning, iron roll factories and other establishments to get an extra hour of rest on a working day. At present, employees work for eight hours with 90 minutes of rest interval in certain specified industries. If the Act is amended, workers will get two and half hours to three hours break a day, according to sources.
2/18-19/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Truckers may soon need to shorten hours, 2/18 CNN via news.blogs.cnn.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The number of hours that truckers can drive each day may soon be cut.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is considering a rule change reducing the time allowed on the road by an hour. Current rules allow truckers to spend 11 hours behind the wheel per day, with some limited exceptions.
If the department approves the rule change, it would take effect in July. The agency believes reducing trucking hours would make for safer highways.
Insurance groups are supporting the change. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research group funded by companies such as Geico, Allstate and Progressive, cites drowsy truckers as a significant cause of highway accidents.
The American Trucking Associations oppose the rule change, noting that government statistics indicate fatal accidents involving truckers have declined.
Meanwhile, long-distance truckers such as Lance Wilke and Debbie Savage oppose the rule change.
"Driving is dangerous, no matter who is behind the wheel," Savage said.
"We're out here trying to make a dollar. The fuel is high and ... private interest groups are stepping in there and messing with something they shouldn't be messing with," Wilke said.
"If you saw what we saw," Savage continued, "half the people on the roads would lose their license."
- South African truckers' strike cuts flow of fuel, 2/18 MonstersAndCritics.com
JOHANNESBURG, Republic of South Africa - Hundreds of petrol stations in South Africa are reportedly running on empty as a result of a strike by truckers, which entered a fifth day on Friday.
Unions representing the 60,000 drivers seeking higher pay and employers failed to reach an agreement in talks the previous night, according to media reports.
Four unions say they will reject the latest offer of a 9 per cent pay rise in 2011 and 8.5 per cent in 2012. They are demanding a 20 per cent pay rise over the next two years, housing allowances and shorter working hours.
The industrial action has left some 20 trucks damaged, 16 people injured and 32 arrested.
'Petroleum companies have put contingency plans in place, however, due to the violent nature of the strike, activation of these contingency plans is not always possible,' said Avhapfani Tshifularo, executive director of the South African Petroleum Industry Association.
While food and grocery deliveries were largely unaffected by the strike, there have been concerns over the free flow of cash in the economy being hampered, since cash-in-transit drivers were part of the strike.
The country`s electricity supplier Eskom, which receives about a third of its coal deliveries by road, said it still had a 40-day stockpile.
Last year several major unions representing about a million workers won pay increases of more than double the inflation rate, leading the finance ministry to warn the deals could threaten the economy.
- Overtime Pay Calculator Being Provided by US Overtime Lawyers.com, 2/19 Emailwire.com (press release)
ORLANDO, Fla. - USOvertimeLawyers.com is providing an overtime pay calculator to help workers determine whether they have been paid properly for their overtime hours.
ORLANDO, Fla. – The overtime lawyers at Morgan and Morgan are offering a free overtime pay calculator on their US Overtime Lawyers.com website. The overtime pay calculator is being provided to help non-exempt workers determine whether they are being paid properly when working more than 40 hours in a single workweek. When an eligible employee does not receive time-and-a-half pay for their overtime hours, they may be able to make a claim for their unpaid overtime wages.
To access the free, quick overtime calculator, visit * http://www.usovertimelawyers.com/calculate_overtime_pay.html. Employees who suspect they are not being paid properly for their overtime hours can also receive a free case evaluation on the site.
The free overtime calculator can provide employees with important information regarding their wages. By using the overtime calculator, employees can determine their overtime pay rate, which is typically 1.5 times their regular rate. In addition, by entering their total weekly hours and regular hourly pay rate, they can calculate the amount of regular wages, overtime wages, and total wages owed for that workweek.
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2/16-17/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Opinion - Paddy Waggin', by Paddy Notar, 2/17 TurnagainTimes.com
GIRDWOOD, Alaska - Did you ever have one of those days where you’re up at 4 a.m., in the winter, and you’ve decided that you’re going to call in sick to work? You’re not sick, though, you just don’t want to go. The telephone is in your hands, but you put it down and think, “Maybe I should go in. This doesn’t feel right. It feels like skipping school.”
So you walk around or watch TV for a few minutes and then you decide it’s time to come up with a reason because you’re going to do it.
“Am I sick or is the driving too dangerous?” It doesn’t matter. You’ve made up your mind – work isn’t happening today. You pick up the phone and make the call. Always do it before the first person gets into the office. Otherwise, they might pick up and then you’d have to deal with a human voice.
I always like to call around 6 a.m. It’s not too early and it’s not at the last second. You could be up for all sorts of reasons, and it seems like you tried to put it off until you decided, whatever was ailing you, was unstoppable. You look noble to the higher-ups. You use your sick voice, make the call quick but don’t sound rushed, include a few details, hang up, and then it’s back to bed. But first, a quick bite to eat.
Oh, what a feeling. To have some bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit at 6 a.m., maybe read the paper, and then just snuggle underneath your down comforter while the snow piles up outside. You quietly fall asleep hearing the clock systematically tick and tock. There isn’t anything to bother you whatsoever.
You wake up around 10 a.m. and put on a movie while still wearing your pajamas. A look outside reassures you that staying home was the correct decision as the snow continues to come down and the car is barely visible. Who cares? You’re home sick and you’ve earned it. The cell phone is on the charger in the bathroom, on vibrate, and out of hearing range. There’s a pot roast in the crock pot that you’ve decided to make – with a small chuck beef, carrots, onions, celery, seasoning, a can of whole peeled tomatoes, and a can of au jus. It should be ready in about six hours – right about the time you get done with the Indiana Jones movies. Would you like coffee or tea or maybe an adult beverage? Why not? It’s your day. Do as you please.
By noon the whole house smells like simmering beef and veggies. Oh, yes.
We all need a day like this. You wonder why people are stressed out and crime is running all over the place? It’s because we don’t have any days left to be lazy. On Saturday, we do laundry, clean, and take the kids to some event. On Sunday, we just finish up cleaning and stress about what the work week will bring us. By three O’clock on Sunday, we consider the weekend to be over. Then we go into “I have to get up in 17 hours, what happened to the weekend, and I haven’t prepared anything, least of all my clothes” mode. It stinks and it stresses us out. America would be a better place if we gave people more time off. Let’s have a vote, nationwide, that asks people to determine which day we should have, Friday or Monday.
I would vote for Monday. Why? I hate Mondays and I like Sunday Night Football. Imagine going into the office, every day of the week on a Tuesday, and knowing that you only have to work for four days and then you get three days off. Oh, what glory. What a simple pleasure.
Imagine waking up on a Monday and freaking out because the clock says 9 a.m. and then you realize you don’t have to be at work. Your body relaxes, as you smile and fall back asleep in total peace. It’s Monday, after all, and nobody works. It would feel like you were in high school and every Monday was a snow day. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.
The United States is one of the few countries to have a 40 hour work week and most of us work much more than that. They have had riots in Europe due to extending work from 30 to 35 hours a week. When I was visiting the Netherlands and France nobody worked on Friday. On Thursday night everyone went out to clubs at midnight and didn’t get home until about 7 a.m.
When Monday comes around, they wandered into work around noon. But first they hit the pubs or cafes for a quick beer, wine or espresso around 10 a.m. and then went and ate some fresh pastries. Wow. Now, that’s living. Just rest and take it easy. Why rush through life and make everyone else a fortune? Why not enjoy what’s right in front of you? After all, we only stroll through this world once.
So, I say let’s put it to a vote. Is it Friday or Monday? I don’t care but we’re getting one of those days off for the rest of our lives. Chicken noodle soup. That’s another great thing to make on a day off – homemade chicken noodle soup. Imagine waking up at noon, while the winds howl outside, and smelling that throughout the house – pure, undeniable joy.
I can hardly wait. As a matter of fact, I can’t. Just give me the phone and put the crock pot on low. Hold on. Let me practice my sick voice first.
- Cuts to spending and civil servants only way to balance fed budget, by Lorne Gunter, 2/17 National Post (blog) via fullcomment.nationalpost.com
WINNIPEG, Man., Canada - One employment group has done very well for itself during the recession: civil servants. Since the beginning of the recession in 2008, the number of public-sector workers at all three levels – federal, provincial and municipal – has grown nearly eight percent. Seems it take a lot of extra workers to supervise stimulus projects, manage make-work projects and take over car companies.
Indeed, civil servants are rapidly becoming Canada’s new working elite with better pay, better pensions and benefits and shorter working hours than their private-sector counterparts. Two reports released this week by free-market think tanks conclude that if politicians do not reverse this trend soon, Canada is headed for a crisis in government spending and public debt as the cost of sustaining a growing, lavishly compensated public workforce outstrips the ability of private-sector taxpayers to pay.
Winnipeg’s Frontier Centre for Public Policy revealed Wednesday that over the past decade, compensation – pay and perks – for federal government workers has risen 59%. Among provincial employees, the increase has been 55%. The average increase in the private sector over the same period? Just 30%.
Public sector union leaders were quick with the excuses. Mostly they amounted to a) our members were just playing catch up after the severe cuts they experienced in the 1990s and b) their workloads are constantly increasing, so the raises are justified.
John Gordon, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, which represents 180,000 federal workers, told the Post: “The fact of the matter is, people come into the public sector and say ‘Jeez, there’s work that I’m expected to do and for the remuneration I get, it’s absolutely unbelievable.” He added public employees deserve the pay raises, because they face many of the same strains as private-sector workers, perhaps more.
But, of course, this is not how pay raises are determined in the public sector. Politicians are not bound by the amount of money coming in. So if not enough is coming in, they simply tax or borrow more without any fear that this cycle will at some point force them out of business. That means if their workers come demanding more compensation, there are few limits on how much they can pay them. Sure, voters might at some point object to higher taxes and greater debt to pay higher public-service wages and benefits, but this is indirect – not at all like private shareholders’ displeasure at a management cave-in to worker demands.
And once one level of public servants gets a raise – say provincial ones – then the unions for the other two levels – federal and local – exert pressure on their political masters to match or beat it.
The notion that our public workers are still suffering pain from the cuts of the mid-1990s is pervasive among civil servants and their media supporters, but it is complete hogwash. And the idea that public sector workers experience the same stresses as private workers is ludicrous.
Even by 2004, the public-sector workforce had recovered from the cuts Ottawa and many provinces made between 1995 and 1998.
A 2007 study by the federal Treasury Board showed that the federal government employed 195,000 people in 1999, not including members of the armed forces, Mounties, employees of arms-length agencies, political staffers and Crown corporation workers. By 2004, that number had risen to 235,000. That’s an increase of 20 per cent. And that one-fifth larger civil service was costing taxpayers 50% more because it included more administrators and professionals and fewer blue-collar workers than before the cuts.
At more than $32 billion today, total civil service compensation eats up almost 15 per cent of federal program spending, more than pensions, the military, the environment, crime fighting, prisons or national security.
It is estimated that direct federal employment is at 295,000 today, 50,000 more than the 245,000 employed before the 1990s layoffs. And where once working in the public sector came with lower pay, but better benefits and pensions, job security and more time off as compensation, now civil servants are often better paid, too.
The average compensation package for a federal bureaucrat is over $80,000 including salary and benefits. The pay and perks of the average private-sector employee is under $60,000. Indeed, a 2008 study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, found a compensation gap of nearly 42% between federal civil servants and their counterparts in the private sector if pay, benefits and hours worked were factored in. The CFIB determined it was not unusual for private-sector workers in any particular job classification to work 30 per cent longer per week than federal workers in the same job classification, and for slightly less compensation.
Gaps between provincial and municipal workers and their private-sector equivalents were almost as large. When benefits and time work were included, provincial employees received 25% greater compensation and municipal workers, 36%.
On Thursday, Vancouver’s Fraser Institute insisted the current government’s fiscal plan will not work. “Canada’s federal government has laid out a plan to eliminate its deficit over the next five years. Unfortunately, the current federal plan is based on assumptions of strong revenue growth … restrained spending growth, and limited increases in interest rates,” that are simply unrealistic. These same assumptions were made by the Mulroney government in the 1980s and merely led to one of the most rapid increases in national debt in our history.
The Fraser Institute argues that the only way to get the growth in government under control is to follow the example of Paul Martin in the 1995 budget. The then-Finance Minister cut both spending and government employment and two years later produced the first of 14 balanced budgets.
- About 5500 miners might be on short-time working scheme till 2013, 2/16 ACTmedia.eu
BUCHAREST, Romania - About 5,500 employees, of the 19,000 ones working with the power stations in Craiova, Rovinari and Turceni (southern Romania) as well as with the National Company of Lignite Oltenia (SNLO) might be on a short-time working scheme in the next two years for 24 months, said Ion Pisc, vice-president of the National Trade Union Bloc, at the end of the meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Protection.
'At present the companies in Oltenia [southern Romania], namely SNLO, the power stations undergo an approved restructuring process, which entails staff cuts under the following conditions: people who will have to be on a short-time working scheme for a span of time. In keeping with what has been agreed on, 24 months, taking into account the fact that this way the costs of the companies in question will be cut,' said Ion Pisc.
The trade union leader added that some of the plans for professional reconversion included employing again redundant miners either in civil engineering or in making local refuse dumps ecological.
According to Ion Pisc, all along the short-time working scheme, the employees that were dismissed from mining might get 75 percent of their monthly salary plus an addition for having a certain length in service. In case the company that made them redundant recovers within the 24 months, the employee can come back to his former job. Otherwise, after the two year short-tome working scheme comes to an end, the employee does no longer have this status in the company.
Minister of Labour Ioan-Nelu Botis agreed to almost all suggestions made by the trade unions, but voiced reserve as to the length of the short-tome working scheme, which he wants to be as long as it is now, namely one year.
2/13,14,15/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Will Congress Come Up With A Solution To The Unemployment Extension, by Adriana Barnes, 2/13 DailyNewsPulse.com
[dateline??] - Currently, 17 states [or twenty] have opted into the “short-time compensation” or “work-sharing” program within their unemployment insurance system, which allows workers to receive partial benefits from the unemployment insurance system if their hours have been reduced, not just if they lost their job or their pay is reduced.
The unemployment insurance system also provides partial benefits to workers whose wages have been cut (including due to working part-time), but the thresholds are fairly low.
The unemployment benefit is typically equal to the difference between the weekly benefit amount and earnings, and all states disregard some earnings as an incentive to take short-time work.
Mark Zandi estimates that the multiplier for the short-term compensation program would be relatively high: for every dollar spent on the program, $1.69 would be added to our economy’s output.
- Part-time jobs for semiretired workers, others, by Amy Lindgren, 2/15 Atlanta Journal Constitution via ajc.com
ATLANTA, Ga. - An Atlanta reader sent me a great question: “I am one of the army of people who lost their jobs in this recession. I am 64 years old. I have basically retired, but I would like to work part time -- clerking in a store, McDonald's, temp work, anything. Could you do a column on people my age breaking into the part-time field?”
I’m happy to oblige, for several reasons. For one thing, I think part-time jobs are great for workers who need flexibility and some income but don’t want the obligations of full-time work.
These folks might come from the upper and lower ends of the age bracket, or they might be balancing other responsibilities, such as child-rearing, coursework or elder care. They also might be recovering from an injury or illness, or living with a disability that makes part-time work the best fit.
Of course, the ranks of part-time workers also include those who would rather work full time but can’t find the position they prefer just now.
No matter your reason for seeking less-than-full-time hours, here are a few things you need to know.
First, understand that part-time jobs come in all sizes. In some companies, for example, 32 hours a week is considered full time, while the same schedule is called part time elsewhere. So you’ll need to ask questions in each situation, rather than assume you and the employer share the same definition of the term.
Along the same lines, you should bury the myth that part-time jobs are always dead-end or low-ranking. I have known part-time CEOs, part-time marketers and part-time pilots, as well as part-time clerks and grocery stockers. Knowing this, you should base your part-time career choice on your needs or skills, not on an assumption about the work you will find available.
Next, you need to understand why an employer might use a part-timer. Of course, the cost of benefits can play into the decision to trim hours. But that isn’t the whole story, or even a factor in some cases.
Employers also use part-timers when they want scheduling flexibility and bench strength, when they want one person to focus on a single process or client, when there isn’t enough work for a full-timer, and when they’re beginning something new. Some part-time jobs will become full-time jobs, and others never will. If your goal is to go full time eventually, you’ll need to ask more questions to decide if a particular position is right for you.
Finally, you need to know that part-time jobs are the least advertised of all positions. Scanning the job boards could lead you to believe there aren’t many part-time jobs around, but just the opposite is true: My guess is that there might be more of these jobs available than there are full-time jobs.
Even so, part-time jobs are less likely to be advertised, for reasons ranging from the cost of advertising to an employer’s uncertainty about the job itself. Not to mention that other employees might be covering the workload while the boss waits for the right person to come through the door.
This last piece of information is golden. When you acknowledge that you won’t find your position in the ads, you can free yourself to ask the right questions: What do I want to do? Where? On what schedule? And, most critically: Who would need me for that work?
Once you have identified the skills you want to offer and the type of employers who could use them, you can build your job search strategy. This won’t differ significantly from other best-practice job search processes, so these tips may sound familiar to you:
1. Develop your relevant strengths and put them on a resume. If you want a position in customer service, like my Atlanta correspondent, identify your best customer service skills and build the resume around them. Even if you were an engineer for 40 years, your resume should be 90 percent customer service and 10 percent technical.
2. Approach employers directly, rather than waiting for ads. In some cases, this means walking into the store when it’s not busy and asking to talk with a manager. For other types of employers, consider sending a letter of introduction with a resume, requesting a meeting to discuss potential openings.
3. Network like crazy. If you tell all your acquaintances the type of work you seek, you will learn about jobs that have been languishing for months on some employer’s wish list. Remember: Everyone knows someone who could use more help at work. Your task is to be sure they also know you, so they can make the link between employer and employee.
Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.
- Men want to cut working hours too, 2/14 World Radio Switzerland via worldradio.ch
ST. GALLEN, Switzerland - A large number of men want to reduce their working hours and are willing to take a pay cut to do so.
A new study by the Pro Family association for the canton of St Gallen is based on survey answers from more than 800 men at small- and medium-sized businesses in the canton.
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed have children.
The survey results, unveiled in the Neue Zurcher Zeitung newspaper on Sunday, show that 90 percent wanted to reduce their working hours by more than five percent.
Seven in 10 men wanted to cut their hours even more, by more than 10 percent.
The study’s authors say the findings show that it’s not just women who struggle to make their careers compatible with their family life.
2/11-12/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Keep four-day week at Town Hall, letter to editor by chairman William Driscoll of the Advisory & Finance Committee, 2/12 Wicked Local Plymouth via wickedlocal.com/plymouth
PLYMOUTH, Mass. - The Advisory and Finance Committee urges the Board of Selectmen to continue the four-day workweek at Town Hall. This was an experiment that was urged by the FinCom as a means of lowering costs to the town, while also expanding hours to allow working residents the opportunity to do business at Town Hall without missing time at work.
The four-day workweek was developed through the cooperation of labor and management, and both sides prefer the continuation of this arrangement.
· Cost savings have significantly exceeded the original estimates:
· Energy savings at Town Hall – $15,000
· Gas savings through reduced use of town vehicles
· Reduced overtime – $8,500
· Reduced maintenance costs of town vehicles due to lower use
· Reduced sick time
· Reduced comp. time
In a time when every penny counts, why would you eliminate a successful, money-saving program preferred by both management and labor that allows for greater access for residents?
- Trenton furloughs create four-day work week, by Bob Holt, 2/11 newjerseynewsroom.com
TRENTON, N.J. - Trenton has become the latest city to use furloughs of employees to attempt to close budget deficits.
City workers were told that they must take one day off a week without pay between April 1 and June 30.
Approximately 600 city employees will be affected by this action.
Beginning April 1, employees will be forced to take off every Friday.
The Trentonian reports city Spokesperson Lauren Ira waited until 5:21 p.m. Thursday to announce the Mayor's decision, avoiding immediate fallout from affected employees.
Mack is calling the missed time "temporary layoff days (furlough)", and the plan excludes police, fire, and members of the city clerk's office.
NJ.com reports furloughs will occur every Friday during April, May, and June, except for one Thursday in late April that falls before the paid Good Friday holiday. City hall and the municipal court will be closed, and trash collection will not occur on those days, according to Ira.
Mack's administration submitted a plan to the state Civil Service Commission, which approved the temporary layoff days. Union leaders were informed of the state's decision when it was rendered, Ira said.
Employees were notified Thursday that their department directors would be explaining the layoff days to them today.
No word from Mack regarding savings attributed to his plan but the city is mired in a $18.2 million budget deficit.
The Trenton Times reported the number of layoffs Mayor Tony Mack authorized in November to help Trenton cut its huge budget deficit was actually about 72, according to city records, not 164 as the administration said at the time.
The lower figure raises questions about how Mack is balancing the budget, given the urgent need to reduce payroll and eliminate a shortfall that stood at $56 million earlier this year.
Mack has not released a budget.
2/09-10/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- Supporters turn out to support aid for library, by Vic Ryckaert and Jon Murray, 2/09 Indianapolis Star via indystar.com
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - About 75 people came out in the cold Tuesday night for a town hall meeting on funding for the struggling Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library system.
The gathering at the Madame Walker Theatre Center, organized by a grass-roots group formed to help keep library branches open, featured a panel of state and local lawmakers talking about possible ways to recoup library funds lost to property tax caps -- which provide 85 percent of the library system's budget.
"Libraries are in need," said Amy Shackelford, 24, an organizer for the Sustainable Library Citizens Coalition. "We've seen drastic cuts systemwide, and some cities have had to close branch libraries and have just one central library. We do not want this to happen here."
On the panel were state Rep. John Day, D-Indianapolis; City-County Council members Angel Rivera, a Republican, and Jackie Nytes and Brian Mahern, Democrats; and Kristen Tusing of Mayor Greg Ballard's office.
The discussion centered on proposals to increase library funding, which include a voter referendum to raise property taxes and a proposal by Rivera to let taxpayers designate a donation for the library on their property tax bills.
Library supporters, legislators and City-County Council members of both parties also are looking to county income taxes as a way to shore up falling revenue.
Libraries in most Indiana counties that collect local income taxes already get a cut, but different rules apply in Marion County because of city-county consolidation.
On Monday, the council passed a resolution 27-0 that encourages state lawmakers to act on House and Senate bills that would allow the council more authority to decide whether to give the library a cut of county income taxes, and how much.
Tuesday night, Nytes threw out another idea for county leaders to consider: consolidating Marion County's libraries with those in Beech Grove and Speedway.
The Marion County system had considered shutting some branches. But instead, it balanced its $37.9 million operating budget for 2011 by cutting hours across nearly all branches, laying off employees and cutting $1 million in spending on books and materials.
[and from previous version of article:]
Library leaders recently cut hours 26 per cent across most branches [and] laid off 37 employees...
Rob Uppencamp, 37, uses the Fountain Square Branch Library, which at one point was targeted for shutdown. At Tuesday's town hall meeting, he said it's an invaluable resource for job hunters and community groups, as well as book lovers.
Uppencamp's fiancee, Annie Calvert, who attended with her 21/2-year-old daughter, said she relies on the library's "bunny bags" -- grab-and-go collections of books for babies and toddlers. "It's amazing," she said. "You go in, bring it home, and you and your child can explore the books together."
Library supporters have kept a spotlight on the need for a long-term fix for much of the past year.
Two weeks ago, the Sustainable Library Citizens Coalition packed the council chamber for a "read-in" as the resolution seeking more authority on library funding was introduced.
Call Star reporter Vic Ryckaert at (317) 444-2761.
- USPS Posts $329 Million Loss, Receives $70000 OSHA Fine, 2/10 Occupational Health & Safety via ohsonline.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Both were announced Feb. 9. USPS is trying to cut $2 billion in operating costs this fiscal year by cutting 40 million work hours. Since the end of 2007, total employee headcount is down 15.1 percent.
The worst of the recession-related decline in mail volume handled by the U.S. Postal Service is over, USPS said Wednesday as Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe announced a first quarter fiscal year loss of $329 million. Excluding the cost of prefunding future retiree healthcare benefits and non-cash adjustments to workers' compensation liability, USPS said it would have posted net income of $226 million for the quarter.
OSHA on the same day announced one willful violation with a $70,000 proposed penalty has been filed against a USPS location on Royal Parkway in Nashville, Tenn., for allegedly allowing workers to use damaged, unrepaired dock levelers. OSHA's Nashville Area Office began an inspection following a complaint that an employee was seriously hurt while lifting a damaged, steel-hinged plate that provides a bridge between the dock and a truck trailer. When the strap the employee was using to lift the plate slipped off the steel flap, the employee fall backward and struck the concrete floor, according to OSHA's account. "The Postal Service was made aware of the hazards related to its use of dock levelers that should have been removed from service," said William Cochran, director of the Nashville Area Office. "The hazard must be addressed and corrected, because this type of disregard for employees' safety and health will not be tolerated."
Donahoe's announcement of USPS' first quarter results suggested the mail service needs to solve its financial situation this fiscal year. "Despite significant cost reductions and efforts to grow revenue," it says, "current financial projections indicate that the Postal Service will have a cash shortfall and will have reached its statutory borrowing limit by the end of the fiscal year. Absent changes in applicable laws, the Postal Service will be forced to default on some of its financial obligations to the federal government on Sept. 30, 2011."
"The Postal Service continues to seek changes in the law to enable a more flexible and sustainable business model," Donahoe said. "We are eager to work with Congress and the Administration to resolve these issues prior to the end of the fiscal year." Total mail volume increased by 707 million pieces, 1.5 percent, in the first quarter of FY2011 compared with the same period of FY2010. USPS already is reducing work hours and headcount: The number of career employees at USPS on Dec. 31, 2010, was 578,292, down by 102,721, or 15.1 percent, since Dec. 31, 2007. While it hopes to save $2 billion in operating costs this fiscal year by cutting 40 million work hours, the gain might be offset by rising fuel prices, the agency says. Also, it is negotiating new contracts with the American Postal Workers Union and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association.
- Number of jobless rises to three million, by Shahbaz Rana, 2/10 (2/11 print edition) The Express Tribune via tribune.com.pk
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The number of unemployed people in the country has increased to around three million with the addition of 75,000 people during the year 2009-10, reveals an official survey.
Pakistan Labour Force Survey 2009-10, released here on Thursday, shows that unemployment in the country rose to 5.6 per cent of the total workforce. The ratio was 5.5 per cent in the last survey of 2008-09, shows the survey of Federal Bureau of Statistics [FBS]. With that, the total number of unemployed citizens rose to 3.05 million against 2.93 million in the preceding year.
The agriculture sector absorbed the largest segment of the workforce by giving jobs to 45 per cent people.
[The phrase "45% people" is incomprehensible and does not occur in standard English. Does it mean 45% of the people of Pakistan = the entire population? Or 45% of the working people of Pakistan = the workforce? (how defined?) Or what? If Shahbaz Rana or anyone else would like to clarify, email Phil at ecdesignR@yahoo.ca ... btw, Shahbaz' name recalls the Mork&Mindy TV series and the Orkan profanity which I remember as shazzbat but is spelt variously shozzbot or shazzbot or *shazbot on the Web.]
Though the services sector was the second major area but it shed 0.4 per cent jobs that shifted to the industrial sector. The industry absorbed 20.9 per cent of the employed population against earlier figure of 20.4 per cent.
The total workforce in the country is 54.9 million, out of which 51.9 million were employed. There were 42.5 million male employees and 12.5 million female employees. However, over two-third of female workforce were unpaid family workers.
Employees constitute the largest working group with 35.2 per cent of employed people.
Over one-third of the working people were doing their own businesses while 29 per cent (almost 17 million) were not directly working but aligned to family businesses without getting salaries or even compensation in kind, which were categorised as unpaid family workers.
The fractional increase in unemployment was due to increase in female unemployment rate that rose to 9.5 per cent of the total workforce. Unemployment increased in both urban and rural areas.
In Punjab and Sindh, the number of jobless people increased further. Contrary to that, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa unemployment marginally fell and in Balochistan it remained stagnant.
In terms of age group-wise unemployment, the jobless ratio for the first age group, comprising young people aged between 10 and 14 years, increased to 10.8 per cent from 9.3 per cent. Interestingly, for the last age group of 60 and above, unemployment dropped from 2008-09 level of 12.7 per cent to 10.6 per cent.
As much as 28.8 per cent of the workforce worked 56 hours and above in a week, reports the FBS. Near eight in 10 people worked more than 35 hours a week.
[But who knows how forgiving a definition of joblessness we would find in a dictatorship, considering how misleadingly forgiving it is here in what we jokingly call the American "democracy," with our single-party designed&manufactured voting machines and money-drowned campaigns. Bet Pakistan isn't counting their millions of flooded-out farmers, and the fading USA ain't countin' welfare, disability, prison, homelessness, not to mention the swelling numbers of self-"employed" and suicides. Solution, for them and us = resume our 1840-1940 workweek reduction as far as it takes to restore World War II levels of full employment and full markets - without the war.]
2/06-08/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (email@example.com) unless otherwise initialed -
- Factories boom, but with few new workers, by John W. Schoen, 2/07 MSNBC.com ('nice catch' credit to Arthur Cordell via Gail Stewart)
ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. - The U.S. manufacturing sector is roaring back after the worst recession in generations. So why aren’t factory jobs coming back as quickly?
One big reason: Business executives like Drew Greenblatt, owner of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products, have figured out how to make more widgets with the same number of workers. To do so, he's had to upgrade the skills — and wages — of his employees. But his profits are bigger than ever.
Last July, the company, which makes wire baskets, installed $700,000 worth of robots, continuing a steady process of automation Greenblatt began when he bought the company in 1998.
“In the old days, we had a $6 an-hour-guy who would hand-bend 300 bends an hour,” said Greenblatt. “Now we have guy who’s paid $22 an hour with the robots but he’s giving me (20,000) bends an hour. Do the math.”
[The math is that the American workforce can no longer buy its own output. So this 'genius' is now dependent on unstable export markets over which neither he nor we have any control. So this situation is out of control and unsustainable. And Greenblatt has his head in the sand. He doesn't want to ask these questions. He doesn't want to face the answers. Do the psychology. Notice how this case study carefully avoids the corollary = Greenblatt has also figured out how to make the same number of widgets with fewer workers. It never mentions "lights-out" manufacturing, where there are no human employees at all. And sooner or later, with a frozen pre-robotics workweek of 40 hours per person ... ]
For Greenblatt, the math goes like this: Last year, his revenues and profits were up 12 percent — his best year since buying the company in 1998. That year, Merlin Steel did $800,000 in sales with 18 workers. Today the company has 25 employees and does $3.9 million in sales, exporting to 33 countries.
Automation raises productivity not just by making products faster; it also makes them better, said Greenblatt.
“It’s better quality, so we have a lot less rework,” he said. “We have more reorders because the client is delighted. And we ship faster because we’re not going back and fixing things.”
Productivity gains like those continue to show up throughout the manufacturing sector. The level of output per hour worked rose by 2.6 percent in the last three months of 2010, the Labor Department reported Thursday.
[But there is no mechanism to pass these productivity gains on to the consumer base via the workforce. Quite the contrary, because the workforce is now weakened by surplus of 40-hour employees and a shortage of 40-hour jobs. Result? Wages go down, not up, and we accelerate toward the collapse of general demand for products and services, no matter how many countries we're now exporting to. There may be some products that currently have a temporary recession-proof demand, but eventually they too will develop "excess inventory"...]
A separate report by the Commerce Department showed that U.S. factory orders rose in December, pushed higher demand from businesses for machinery and communications equipment. Orders have risen in five of the past six months.
[Not as much as orders to Germany, whose unemployment has gone down to 1992 levels because they kept people employed by shortening the workweek, calling it Kurz-arbeit (short work).]
The rise in orders has prompted manufacturers to boost hiring [but by a tiny amount compared to previous drops and current employment needs]. On Friday, the government reported that the sector added 49,000 new jobs in January [and we need about 300,000 new jobs a month to re-employ and keep up with population growth] - even as bad weather dampened employment gains for other industries.
Productivity is a pretty simple concept: It’s a measure of how much stuff a worker makes in a given number of hours.
[No it isn't. It's a measure of how much stuff the average worker makes PER HOUR. And if it's so simple, why have American economists distorted it to mean how much stuff per worker, regardless of workweek? - to appear more productive than Europe or anywhere else perhaps?]
But increases in U.S. productivity are the result of complex forces that have been reshaping the manufacturing workforce for decades and are expected to continue.
Recently, productivity got a boost from the fallout of a harsh recession that put weaker, less-productive companies out of business or forced them to sell out to stronger, more productive competitors.
Widespread job cuts during the recession also transformed the workforce on individual factory floors, said Greenblatt.
“The guys that are the survivors are the most proficient, the smartest, the hardest-working, best character people,” said Greenblatt. “And those people make more widgets per hour.”
[So is Greenblatt firing up the gas chambers for the others? We know some pretty smart, hard-working, best-character people among them, and we think he's just wishful thinking and whitewashing a deteriorating situation.]
Productivity has also risen as American manufacturers have moved to specialize in more valuable products, sending manufacturing of cheaper goods overseas where wages are lower.
[And guaranteeing that the American consumer base, dependent on the shrinking American employment "basement," will be able to support the demand for these goods for an even shorter period into the future. Greenblatt does not seem to be able to think two moves ahead in chess.]
As the value of American-made products has risen, so too has the average level of output per worker when measured in dollar terms.
[Unmarketable output is irrelevant.]
For example, an aerospace engineer who designs a landing gear for a Boeing 777 adds a lot more to U.S. GDP than a high school graduate bending metal into a dish washer.
[GDP is a ridiculously padded index that gives points for negatives, like medical care for black-lung disease on the coal fields.]
As the overall mix of American-made goods becomes more valuable, the U.S. economy produces more in dollar terms with same number of workers. So the economy becomes more “productive.”
[More "productive" with more unemployed, welfare, disability, prison, homelessness and suicide? When is this babe in the woods going to wake up?]
“A lot of the low-end and basic commodities are now produced somewhere else,” said Tom Runiewicz, an economist at IHS Global Insight who follows the manufacturing sector. “That means products higher up the value chain are manufactured here.”
[But there is a lot less demand for them so it also means a lot less is manufactured here - hence the decline of American manufacturing, which this article is seemingly trying to deny. Wanna deny the Holocaust while you're at it?]
Demand for high-end goods
Rising global demand for high-end, capital intensive goods is boosting exports for American manufacturers like Oshkosh Corp., a Wisconsin-based maker of high-end, heavy-duty specialty trucks. The company recently began hiring to keep up with increased demand from overseas customers and to fill a new truck order from the Defense Department.
“We're ramping up from about 10 trucks a day to 40 to 45 in about another seven or eight months,” Oshkosh CEO Charlie Szews told CNBC this week. “So it's going to mean 650, 750 jobs for the Oshkosh community.”
[Until the next round of robotization.]
The order will also mean about $1 billion in business for the company's suppliers, said Szews.
Manufacturing high-end products like fire trucks or military vehicles requires piles of capital to build the cutting edge plants and buy the sophisticated equipment needed to make them. Though American manufacturers have been slow to re-hire workers, they’ve been making big bets on capital investment coming out of the recession, especially in high tech products.
“Production of high-tech goods has become a bigger proportion of overall manufacturing output,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Toronto-based Capital Economics. “That also skews the average productivity figures because productivity grows much faster in those industries.”
At some point, productivity gains could become harder and harder to achieve and begin tapering off. But economists like Runiewicz say American manufacturers are a long way from reaching that point.
“We are still in a period of this increasing productivity,” he said. "Mechanization and computerization is still advancing.”
But while automation is advancing, millions of low-skilled factory workers are being left behind, said Runiewicz.
“The unskilled production worker is become more and more obsolete,” he said. “This is something that been going on for years, but the recession has accelerated the process because it’s shaken out the lower productivity firms.”
Higher completion rates for college diplomas and a boom in admissions to technical schools and community colleges are helping to upgrade worker skills. Some of the burden is also falling on employers like Greenblatt.
“A lot of schools are graduating kids that can’t do fifth-grade math, so it’s hard for us to teach people to program a robot when they don’t even know how to use a tape measure,” he said. “We have had to do a lot of training and a lot of upgrading to find talent that can read a blueprint and understand how to program a computer.”
Improved access to training, along with booming exports, will help. But most economists expect the jobless rate to remain stubbornly high – especially among lower-skilled workers. Without a more robust economic expansion, it will be years before those factory workers sidelined by the recession will begin collecting a paycheck again, according to Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
“Even in the best case scenario you could make, I can’t imagine you could look to make up the up the gap with increased exports in seven, eight or nine years,” he said.
Many of those workers may never get back to work, said Baker.
“Long-term unemployment is really debilitating,” he said. “Obviously it’s a real strain on the families. But it also leads people to lose their connection to the workforce. If they’re unemployed for a year or two — a lot of those people never get another job.”
[Dean Baker also suggests an answer = adjust the workweek down to levels more appropriate for current higher levels of technology, including automation and robotics. Odd that this was omitted.]
- Monetary Policy and Jobs: Investment Strategy Implications, by Philip Mause, 2/06 SeekingAlpha.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - It was an interesting week. Chairman Bernanke said that there could be no strong recovery without "a sustained period of stronger job creation." Thomas Hoenig (of all people) said that, after QE2 is completed, QE3 will probably be discussed. And, to top it off, on Friday it was announced that 39,000 new jobs were created in January - not nearly enough to keep up with the growth of the work force. Does anybody think that short term interest rates will be going up anytime soon?
Monetary policy is a crude tool to use to create job growth. I did a little math and the results were surprising. The work force is 154 million of whom 15 million are unemployed. Average wages are $780 per week or $39,000 a year. To get the unemployment rate down to about 6 percent, you need 5 million jobs. Assuming (generously) that these would be at the at the average wage, the wage expense would be $200 billion. Throw in payroll taxes and benefits and you get to $250 billion. Now, $250 billion used to be considered a lot of money but in the context of a $600 billion QE2, a $750 billion stimulus package, a $700 billion bank bailout, and a $1.5 trillion dollar deficit, $250 billion is - as put so well in the movie "Social Network" - a "speeding ticket."
Of course, putting 5 million people to work would cost much less because a lot of the money would come back to the Treasury in the form of tax receipts and reduced unemployment compensation. In a modern, international economy expansionist monetary policy and deficit spending are very blunt instruments if the objective is reducing unemployment. The increased consumption created by the wealth effect and lower taxes can create jobs but many of those jobs are likely to be overseas. A lower dollar can increase exports but we are not the only country that has figured this out and other countries are taking steps to reduce the exchange value of their currencies as well.
It would be wonderful if our politicians were engaged in an effort to come up with a more cost effective policy instrument to increase employment. The Germans have a program called Kurzarbeit which encourages employers to shorten the work week rather than laying off workers; Congress should be analyzing this kind of program and determining whether it could work here.
[It did work here for over 100 years when we shortened the workweek by half, from over 80 hours to 40, particularly 1938-39-40 when we went 44,42,40 hours and unemployment went 19.0-17.2-14.6%. We have 20 states with worksharing programs to help with this. How come they're still being described as a best-kept secret?]
I am sure there are other constructive ideas that could be developed.
But that is not what is going on in Washington. We are instead engaged in finger pointing about the deficit, theoretical discussions about Austrian economics (which do not seem to be actually used in Austria), and a "serious" discussion about how we may start to reduce the deficit 4 or 5 years from now. So, the only tool left is monetary policy. And monetary policy will ultimately increase employment. But it will take a whole lot of monetary easing to produce a little bit of employment growth and, before we see a "sustained period of stronger job creation", we are going to see a lot of other things happen.
One of those things - already under way - will be a sustained period of strong corporate earnings. Another of those things will be a lot of consumer spending on the part of those people benefiting from the "wealth effect" - essentially, people getting rich in the stock market and buying second homes, sports cars, etc. A third will be a reviving commercial property market. A fourth will be much stronger bank balance sheets and earnings. And - only after all of that happens - will we see a "sustained period of stronger job creation" and, only after several months of that, will we finally see higher short term interest rates. Hey, I'm 66; it may not happen in my lifetime.
So, what does this mean for investors. I have written about the implications of ultra low interest rates for equities. To sum up, it should be a good time for:
1. High dividend paying stocks (electric utilities, VZ, T, PM) as well as other high yield vehicles - MLPs, Canadian royalty trusts, etc.
2. Dividend growers with strong international exposure so that they can benefit from a declining dollar (MCD, IBM, PG, KO, PEP, XOM);
3. Companies whose balance sheet strength puts them in a position to engage in financial engineering (share repurchases, etc.) (MSFT, AAPL, INTC, WMT);
4. Companies that can save money be refinancing debt at lower borrowing costs (F);
5. Companies that can profit by borrowing cheap and lending at higher rates (NLY, HTS, the BDCS - ARCC, GLAD, GAIN, KCAP, SAR, TICC, etc.);
6. On a riskier note, companies that can use an easier credit market to restructure their way to profitability (ACAS); and
7. On a more speculative note, takeover targets as cash for stock takeovers become more and more attractive.
I think that part of the reason the market was up rather than down on Friday is the bad news/good news nature of the jobs report; the bad news is that not many jobs are being created, the good news is that this means that interest rates will be held at a low level for a very, very long time.
As I have said before, I am generally an optimist but I have some misgivings about our long term trajectory.
[Phil, baby, it's happening a lot faster than that!]
It is very possible that the next decade will not be great for the stock market and that, over the next ten years, the market may produce mediocre returns. The problem with sitting on the fence is that it is entirely likely that most of those returns may be realized in the next 24 months.
Disclosure: I am long T, VZ, MCD, IBM, KO, PEP, PG, XOM, MSFT, INTC, AAPL, WMT, NLY, HTS, ARCC, TICC, SAR, GLAD, GAIN, KCAP, ACAS.
About the Author: Philip Mause
My name is Phil Mause. I am a lawyer in Washington, D.C., getting close to retirement. I am a yield oriented investor and in the last two years, I have done reasonably well in junk bonds, BDCs, mortgage REITS, and dividend paying blue chip stocks. As an avocation, I dabble in stand up comedy.
[Ya gotta keep your sense of humor in today's self-mutilating America - or go nuts.]
- Big Society tsar tells council staff to cut hours, by Oliver Wright, 2/08 Independent.co.uk
[The "Big Society" is the British Conservatives' plan in answer to what they call the Labour Party's vision, the "Big State."]
LONDON, England - The Conservatives' Big Society tsar has suggested that councils cut the hours of their staff and ask them to volunteer in the community instead.
[The American way of doing this was satirized by Michael Moore - Cut everyone's hours completely - lay everyone off and shut down the factory in every one-industry town. Refit the building as a prison while waiting for the population to get desperate and turn to crime. Then arrest them all, toss them into the prison, and get them to make the same widgets as before for prison pocket change, a fraction of their previous wage.]
Lord Wei of Shoreditch, who last week announced he was to scale back his unpaid hours for the Government because he could no longer afford to work for free, made the comments on his blog. Labour said they proved that Conservative ministers "did not live in the real world".
[The trouble is that their "real world," apparently even if they're not super-rich enough to feel they can "work for free," is different from the majority of people who work for a living. And the longer we perpetuate a pre-computer workweek and deepen the wage-damping labor surplus, the further apart these worlds get. So what? So they have all the decision-making power and none of the vital negative feedback that indicates need and direction for change. In their gated, increasingly isolated and electronically alarmed communities, they're thinking, "If it works, don't fix it," while the whole economic system they themselves depend on is cascading back to barter. Which of *Orlov's Five Phases of Collapse is that?]
- IQOvertime.com to Help Call Center Workers Settle their Unpaid Overtime Wages, by Rajani Baburajan, 2/08 TMCnet via call-center-services.tmcnet.com
OMAHA, Neb. - According to Nebraska overtime law, call center employees are entitled to overtime pay when working more than 40 hours in a single workweek. The overtime wages are at a rate of time-and-a-half for every hour worked over 40 in a single workweek,..
[Thus incentivating employees into more and more overtime in a recession, and diseincentivating employers from offering overtime less and less as "fulltime benefits" get costlier, all adding up to more overtime and fewer jobs and ... weaker consumer base and longer recession...]
..according to a statement from IQOvertime.com, which was established to provide legal help and information for workers who have been denied overtime compensation.
When a call center employee is denied overtime pay in violation of Nebraska overtime law, they may be able to file a claim to recover up to twice the amount of overtime wages originally owed, dating back two or three years.
IQ Overtime assists call center employees to find out whether they can recover compensation for their unpaid overtime hours. The Web site also helps call center employees to have their claim evaluated, at no cost. As per Nebraska overtime law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who explore their legal options.
Several unpaid overtime lawsuits have been filed on behalf of call center employees who were denied overtime pay. Most commonly, the call center employees in these overtime lawsuits were denied time-and-a-half pay because their employers failed to properly calculate their total weekly hours.
Overtime pay, which is offered after 40 hours of work in a single workweek, cannot be calculated unless the employee’s total weekly hours are properly computed. If an employer overlooks certain work time, such as booting up computers, work performed off the clock, and interrupted lunch periods, when determining an employee’s total hours worked, they may be depriving that employee of overtime pay, according to IQ Overtime. Because most call center employees are entitled to time-and-a-half wages under Nebraska overtime law, they may be able to take legal action to recover compensation.
The IQ Overtime legal professionals are offering this online case evaluation at no cost and remain committed to protecting the rights of employees who were denied overtime pay in violation of state and federal overtime laws.
Last month, IQ Overtime announced that Hawaii bank underwriters who have been denied overtime pay may be able to file an unpaid overtime lawsuit. If successful, an overtime lawsuit can award the plaintiff with up to three years of back overtime wages, an equal amount in liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees.
Rajani Baburajan is a contributing editor for TMCnet...
Edited by Jennifer Russell
- Quebec prosecutors, government lawyers on strike, by Marianne White (mwhite(at)postmedia.com, Twitter.com/whitma), 2/08 Postmedia News via EdmontonJournal.com
QUEBEC CITY, Quebec — Quebec's 1,400 government lawyers and Crown prosecutors walked off the job Tuesday in a bid to seek better working conditions and a 40 per cent pay hike, but the unprecedented legal strike left the government unfazed.
The Quebec government said it is willing to make some concessions but won't budge on the most contentious issue: salaries.
The lawyers and Crown prosecutors argue they are underpaid — between 30 and 40 per cent below the Canadian average — and are seeking an increase in salaries to keep up with their colleagues from other provinces.
The prosecutors also say they are overworked and have asked the government to hire some 200 new prosecutors to meet the demand.
"We are offering some catching up, but not 40 per cent — it's impossible. Nonetheless, it's a very generous offer," provincial Treasury Board President Michelle Courchesne said Tuesday.
Premier Jean Charest and Justice Minister Jean-Marc Fournier also pleaded with negotiators for the attorneys to get back to the bargaining table.
"We can't have 30 years of catching up instantly," Fournier said. "We are doing everything we can with the means we've got."
Negotiations broke down Monday night after the lawyers rejected the government's offer that included a salary catch-up of about 10 to 12 per cent and a commitment to hire 60 prosecutors.
Some 500 of the striking lawyers and Crown prosecutors marched to the national assembly Tuesday, chanting and holding up signs saying: "Least paid in the country."
Government lawyers and Crown prosecutors in Quebec top out at $102,000 a year, while the Canadian average salary for lawyers is $140,000. In Ontario, Crown prosecutors can earn as much as $196,000.
Across the province, lawyers held picket lines in front of courthouses to get their message across.
"Without the salary, we can't draw the people with experience and keep them here. We don't have the people to do the work and because of that, the system suffers, victims suffer, society suffers," said Emily Moreau,.. a McGill University law graduate who joined the Gatineau, Que. Crown's office in August, 2009.
She noted working conditions have been deteriorating in her office for years. Crown prosecutors, she said, are paid for only 35 hours a week — there's no overtime — even though the job demands much more time.
"We're prepared to be out here as long as it takes," she said outside the Gatineau courthouse. "We have a feeling we might be here for a while."
The lawyers said they walked out reluctantly but were forced to do it because the government didn't negotiate in good faith.
"The government negotiators didn't have the mandate to discuss salaries, they didn't have any mandate to negotiate anything. That's not what I call negotiating in good faith," said Christian Leblanc, president of the Quebec Crown prosecutors association.
The government is concerned because the strike threatens to paralyze the province's legal system.
Courchesne said Tuesday it is too early to talk about a special law to force the lawyers to come back to work, but acknowledged the strike can't go on for too long.
The striking lawyers are worried their working conditions will be imposed on them.
"We are watching a play unfold as the government pretended to negotiate last fall and literally pushed us toward a strike to make it easier for them to decree our working conditions in a return to work law," Leblanc said.
Crown prosecutors — most of them solemnly bedecked in their legal robes — also stood in silent protest Tuesday under the five-storey atrium of Montreal's main courthouse.
Their union's executive director declared the strike "could go on more than a month."
Courthouse information officer Giovanni Diamente estimated "easily 150" cases had to be held over Tuesday because of the walkout.
Strikes by government lawyers are not common in Canada and legal ones are even less so. Quebec prosecutors were granted the right to strike in 2003 and they are using it for the first time following illegal strikes in 1986 and in 2002.
Quebec's legal system was already backlogged, a situation that will be worsened by the strike involving some 1,000 lawyers who work for the provincial government and 450 Crown prosecutors.
According to Statistics Canada, the period it takes to settle a court case in Quebec is already one of the longest in the country, at 184 days.
The strike is expected to delay court cases and could also prevent the provincial legislature — which resumed sitting Tuesday — from making changes to laws or passing new legislation.
During the strike, criminal cases of people in custody will proceed. But in all other cases, prosecutors will be asking the court for adjournments. Many trials will also have to be rescheduled.
Nunavik's travelling court, in Quebec's North, could also grind to a halt as a result.
The court continued to function in Nunavik as of Tuesday, said Gilles Roch, the chief travelling court organizer.
Roch said a team, including two prosecutors, was processing youth protection files Tuesday.
But it won't be clear until Wednesday if they will be forced to process the cases of detainees.
2/04-05/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- A machine running smoothly - German companies great and small are making the most of globalisation - Their success owes more to judgment [dba timesizing] than to luck, 2/05 The Economist, p.81.
BERLIN, Germany - The silence is unsettling, as is the sight of half-assembled cars gliding about on robotic transporters that move as if they had minds of their own. The scene of this industrial serenity is Porsche’s assembly line in Leipzig. The airy, almost clinical factory provides a good illustration of how, even as its European neighbours and other rich economies splutter fitfully out of recession, Germany has been zooming along the economic autobahn.
The production line that ends in Leipzig spans whole countries. Painted bodies for the Cayenne, a sport-utility vehicle, are brought by train from a factory owned by Volkswagen (with which a merger is pending) in Slovakia. Those for the Panamera, a hatchback, come in from Hanover. The robotic carriers then ferry them from one group of assembly workers to the next. Parts arrive just as they are needed. The system is flexible, allowing two different models to roll off the line in exactly the required numbers. The cars then head east and west to Porsche’s two biggest markets, China and America.
The factory shows how Porsche has gained from globalisation—and how Germany has, too. On the demand side, the carmaker sells at premium prices to the world’s fastest-growing big economy and to simply its biggest. On the production side, it uses expensive but flexible German labour on what can be seen and cheaper east European workers on what cannot. “Germany is by far the world’s biggest winner from globalisation,” says Thomas Mayer, Deutsche Bank’s chief economist. “It has benefited from both increased division of labour on the production side and increased trade on the delivery side.”
Germany’s recent economic performance stands out among rich economies.... Last year its GDP grew by 3.6%, the fastest rate since the country was reunified in 1990. America managed 2.9%. Growth in the rest of the euro zone probably fell short of 1%. Exports have been Germany’s main engine: they jumped by 21.7% in the year to November. In the first ten months of 2010 sales to China were already 17% higher than in the whole of 2009 and 46% higher than in 2007. No other big, rich economy has seen its exports to China grow so quickly in the past decade (see chart 1). No wonder that business confidence, according to a widely watched index produced by Ifo, a research institute at the University of Munich, is at a record high, having recovered from a horrid plunge in late 2008....
The pace seems to be easing: The Economist’s poll of forecasters suggests GDP growth will slow to 2.6% this year, but that is still well ahead of the 1.5% expected for the euro zone as a whole. The success of German business is plain. It also raises a question: has Germany just been lucky to be making the sorts of things that China and other fast-growing economies happen to need now, or has it made its own good fortune? The answer is a bit of both, but there’s probably been more skill than luck.
Start with the improvement of Germany’s biggest companies, which a decade or so ago seemed to have been left behind by foreign rivals, even in sectors of traditional German strength. Japan’s Toyota was on its way to becoming the world’s biggest carmaker. America’s General Electric (GE) was ensconced as the world’s largest industrial company.
Corporate Germany looked old-fashioned. Big companies were enmeshed in cross-shareholdings with the country’s leading banks that protected managers from the grumbles of other shareholders and from takeovers. German reliance on manufacturing looked like a weakness: the business of making things seemed certain to migrate to Asia or eastern Europe, and Germany’s service industries were hidebound and over-regulated. Unemployment was chronically high and unit-labour costs were above the euro-zone average.
These days corporate Germany looks rather different. Volkswagen, the country’s leading carmaker, wants to be the world’s biggest by 2018. It is a realistic ambition. The industrial bits of Siemens are now larger than GE’s (ie, once GE’s media and financial businesses are stripped out). BASF, a chemicals powerhouse, has managed to keep expanding at home and abroad, even as production of basic chemicals has fallen in America and the rest of Europe.
The cross-shareholdings have been unwound: Deutsche Bank, for instance, no longer owns chunks of insurers, carmakers or sugar processors. Big companies are now concerned with serving their shareholders rather than workers and other stakeholders (even if few boast about it: in Germany it would not be popular).
New chief executives have culled underperforming operations and focused on growth, often abroad. Siemens, which used to be content to sell overengineered and overpriced trains and generators to captive German buyers, has taken a leaf from GE’s book, selling businesses where it lacked scale, for instance in consumer electronics, and concentrating instead on areas in which it has a chance of being among the world’s leaders, such as energy and medical technology. Once its primary concern seemed to be to preserve jobs in Germany. Now two-thirds of its employees are abroad. Linde has gone from being a diverse, second-rate engineering firm to become Europe’s, and one of the world’s, leading producers of industrial gases.
In the engine room
The main motor of Germany’s growth, however, is the Mittelstand, a legion of mainly small and medium-sized firms, typically family-owned and highly specialised, that build products that dominate obscure branches of industry. If a particular job can best be done by a machine, then the chances are that the machine in question was built in a small town in Germany. Wirtgen is a leader in making machines that recycle tar and grit from old roads to be relaid as smooth new ones, as is Leitz in making wood-processing tools. Machines that make other things are a Mittelstand speciality. Kugler-Womako, a champion in production lines for printing passports and Winkler+Dünnebier, which makes machines that produce envelopes, are just two of the firms that Hermann Simon, a German management consultant, identifies as the country’s “hidden champions”.
In some respects the Mittelstand is a philosophical construct, rather than just a description of company size. Firms such as B. Braun, a family-owned maker of medical supplies, or Bosch, an engineering group owned by a charitable foundation, are a good deal larger than many listed firms, yet still espouse what they would claim are Mittelstand values: attention to detail, financial caution and co-operation between bosses and employees. Bosch, for instance, tightened its belt in the downturn without mass lay-offs. Last year its sales were a record €47.3 billion ($62.6 billion), up by 24% from 2009, and it returned to profit. It plans to increase its labour force from 283,500 to about 300,000 this year. Most of the new staff will be abroad, especially in Asia.
Firms of all sizes have spread themselves abroad, in search not only of markets but also of cheaper production. Germany is not just a leading exporter; plenty of imports arrive in towns all over the country to be assembled into costlier goods and sent abroad again. Michael Hüther, the director of the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, reckons that the import content of German exports has gone up by about ten percentage points to more than 20% in the past decade.
German firms have also been adept at outsourcing. In 2004 a study by McKinsey, a firm of consultants, concluded that the economy gained just €0.80 (then about $1) for every €1 of corporate spending that German firms sent offshore. At the time America gained more than $1 for each $1 of spending its companies moved abroad. Not only were German firms less good at finding productive opportunities in foreign countries; German workers, if displaced, were less likely to find new jobs quickly. The gap seems to have narrowed, as companies have reaped the benefits of moving production, and some services, to cheaper places, while jobs have been created in Germany too. Recent studies suggest that German firms have cut labour costs by as much as 70% by shifting production of some components abroad.
In this Germany has been blessed by geography, as some of its main manufacturing regions abut formerly communist states with cheaper but still well-educated workforces. This has allowed Porsche, Volkswagen and others to move production to the east far more easily than, say, British firms have been able to do.
Forced to be flexible
Cheap labour on the doorstep has also helped to hold down costs at home. The ease with which jobs can be shifted has given German employers extra power in pay negotiations. This goes a long way to explaining why real wages in Germany have remained essentially flat in the past decade while they have climbed in most other countries that use the euro. Employers and unions have also made agreements to establish flexible working hours: workers put in extra shifts at busy times and have time off when things are slack. “We had to learn to breathe with the cycle,” says Ralph Wiechers, the chief economist of the VDMA, an industry group.
German industry’s steely ability to hold down costs was also helped by the Hartz reforms, introduced when Gerhard Schröder, a Social Democrat, was chancellor between 1998 and 2005. Many in business credit the economy’s rebound to these reforms, which freed up labour markets and made work more attractive than life on unemployment benefits.
For workers, who conceded flexibility and agreed to wage restraint, the bargain has meant they have kept their jobs, even during the depths of the downturn when most German firms cut working hours instead of firing people.
[And German CEOs also have "wage restraint" with a much smaller gap between their pay and that of their average employee.]
This was especially true in the Mittelstand. Engineering firms, which saw orders collapse by almost a quarter during the recession, cut employment by about 8%. About 10% of smaller firms had to reject orders because they could not get credit, says Mario Ohoven, president of the German Association of Small and Medium-sized Businesses. Only a small fraction of these shed workers.
The costs, and risks, of keeping people on the payroll were partly shouldered by the state. Nevertheless, they represented a belief that demand for German products would rebound quickly. It did, and firms were in a strong position to speed up production. Now that German unemployment is shrinking again—at 7.4%, seasonally adjusted, the rate is at its lowest since 1992—many firms are fretting about a shortage of skilled employees.
But costs are only part of the equation. Bain, a management-consulting firm, reckons that German companies have come out of the West’s economic crisis nimbler than ever. Many would have planned capital spending once a year, for instance. Now they do so every few months. “The latest recession went so deep that it finally unlocked some real change,” says Oliver Strähle, a partner at Bain.
As important has been the bloodhound-like ability of Germany’s firms to sniff out niches where competition is the least fierce. From the Mittelstand up, German firms have found a blend of engineering, technology and service that has allowed them to increase their share of world markets. They have done this by excelling in areas that demand constant, incremental innovation. The purchase price of a specialised machine may be less important than its reliability and the support and services that are sold with it.
The state has helped with research support as well as with the Hartz reforms, doling out cash in support of industries that it thinks are important areas of growth such as green energy, security or biotechnology. It supports an extensive research infrastructure that small and medium-sized firms can tap into when they need help, lowering the barriers to innovation. The Fraunhofer research centres spend about €1.6 billion a year and employ more than 18,000 people. Most of their work (and about two-thirds of their funding) is related to helping firms with specific projects.
The government has tried to create winners as well as support them. Germany’s growing green-energy industries are largely creations of the state. Generous subsidies have made the country the world’s biggest market for solar-power installations. It may have sucked up half of global production in 2010. Almost a quarter of patents awarded in 2007 for renewable-energy technologies went to German firms.
The results of this have been mixed. On the German bank of the river Oder stand factories that the government had hoped would be world-beaters in making photovoltaic cells. But they have been undercut by Asian competitors which now supply most of the gleaming modules sprouting in Bavarian fields. Germans have, though, become top dogs at making the machines that make the cells: Manz Automation is one of the biggest producers of equipment used to make thin-film solar cells. Three-quarters of its machines are sold to Asia.
Germany’s success in emerging markets is a source of both pride and vulnerability, for it would be hard hit were growth there to slow. The extent to which exports to a single market—China—have flattered the income statements of German firms is worrying. Growth in many of Germany’s other markets, in the euro area and beyond, is already sluggish. This year looks as if it will be harder than last.
Moreover, Germany still has hard work ahead of it. The services sector, despite some liberalisation (for instance, in retailing) is still underdeveloped. A system of schooling that has proved reliable in turning out industrial workers needs an overhaul (see article). For all of the success of German firms in exporting goods, some German banks made the mistake of buying American mortgage debts. The banking system, especially the publicly owned bit, is yet to recover fully.
None of these problems is insurmountable and Germany, unlike many countries, has the time and budget to deal with them. The risk, however, is that Germany may choose to bask in its triumph and to slip back into old habits, suppressing domestic demand and focusing all its efforts on exporting more. “We are living a bit on borrowed time in a sweet spot where the deficit countries haven’t yet adjusted,” says Deutsche Bank’s Mr Mayer. “One of the big risks is complacency.”
- Unions balk at some changes debated for state retirement system, by Jennifer Keefe
email@example.com, 2/05 Foster's Daily Democrat via fosters.com
DOVER, N.H. — Debate and discussion about reforms to the state retirement system are far from over.
While municipal officials and legislators last week lauded SB3, which aims to make comprehensive changes to the system, union officials take issue with some of its proposals and provisions.
The bill's lead sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, was questioned during a meeting last week as to issues with its constitutionality. He maintains the bill meets constitutional muster, but some are anticipating it will run into some legal gridlock.
New Hampshire Professional Firefighters Association President Dave Lang said Monday the legislation proposes unconstitutional benefit cuts to police and fire employees with 10 years or less on the job.
Lang said the position of the NHPFFA is once someone comes on the job and begins to pay into the defined benefit plan, a contractual relationship is born between the employee and employer.
"The state of New Hampshire recognizes those contractual relationships," he said.
He said there is a confusion between the use of the word "vesting" and its legal definition.
"Our belief legally is that the benefits are vested once you start," he said.
SB3 has several components that would apply to "nonvested" employees who have worked less than 10 years and new hires. These provisions include the elimination of "spiking," which is the use of unused sick time, unused vacation time and career buyouts to enhance earnable compensation wages, and the elimination of further special detail compensation to form the pension calculation (accumulated special detail compensation would not be impacted).
He also said changing the benefit levels for nonvested police and fire employees would only affect about 40 percent, or 2,800, of the 5,000 Group 2 employees in the system.
"It's not going to have the desired effect and the savings will be minimal," Lang said. "When you look at the $3.7 billion unfunded liability, the piece that's associated to police and fire is about 25 percent of that $3.7 billion."
Twenty-five percent equates to about $900 million.
The association does support the components of the legislation that would increase the retirement age of Group 2 employees from age 45 to age 50 with 25 (instead of 20) years of service, and an increase in employee contribution rates from 9.3 percent for Group 2 to 11 percent. Lang said the benefit structure would be intended to stay the same with those changes and that both changes should apply to new hires.
According to the language of SB3, the legislation that increases the retirement age would apply not only to new hires but to employees with less than 10 years of service (nonvested).
He said they also agree with the language that prohibits "double-dipping" — current law allows employees to receive a full pension from previous employment while working part time, or less than 32 hours a week, in another NHRS-covered position. The legislation proposes reducing part-time employment to 24 hours a week that would be eligible for a second pension.
[Here's a different kind of workweek reduction, but a kind that also frees up more employment for potential consumers handicapped by unemployment.]
"When you're retired, you should not come back into a NHRS certified position," Lang said.
Although John Stewart, president of the New Hampshire Police Association, could not be reached for comment for this story, he said in a press release from the New Hampshire Retirement Security [NHRS] Council that Bradley's bill doesn't reflect how system members feel.
"Our members' benefits are modest and more importantly, they are reinvested in the local New Hampshire communities where our members worked and continue to live and contribute to the economy," Stewart said.
Rhonda Weslowski, president of New Hampshire Northern Education Association, said SB3 calls for higher employee rates and diminished benefits "and we are unwilling to concede to a lesser benefit for a higher cost."
The Retirement Security Coalition has raised question about the constitutionality of making changes to nonvested employees' contracts. Bradley has argued that at the point before vesting, there is no constitutional obligation.
"It's illogical to say no changes can be made to a retirement package from the day you're hired," he said recently.
Lang maintains comprehensive changes made by the Legislature in 2007 and 2008 with HB653 and HB1645, which changed the way the system is funded and how the system works need time to take effect before additional legislation is introduced.
"When you build retirement systems, you do it over a 30 year horizon," Lang said. "We just think we're wasting time and taxpayer money in going through the court system to protect those members rights."
He added, "We hope to have a series of discussions with Senate leadership and leadership at the House. We're willing to come forward with reasonable proposals that will ensure fair coverage at the end of the day."
- Shrinking workweek, by Howard Owens, 2/04 Fredericksburg.com (blog)
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Today’s news that the jobless rate fell to 9.0 percent last month was welcome, indeed. Much of the growth apparently was among the self-employed and in small businesses. (Larger company payrolls don’t seem to be moving the needle much.) It’s heartening to see how people are re-inventing themselves, finding new ways to earn a living that sometimes are more interesting than what they did before.
There’s another issue at work out there, too–the average length of the workweek. When the recession started in 2007, it was 34.6 hours and sank as low as 33.7 hours in June of 2009, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In January, it was 34.2 hours, about the same as it’s been since May. Many are doing the same job (or theirs and someone else’s) in less time. What difference between 34.6 hours and 34.2 hours [0.4 hours]? Well, if you’re [originally] making $15 an hour [x34.6= $519/wk, minus $15x34.2= $513], that’s $6 a week, or [x52=] $312 a year.
Hourly wages [however,] grew about eight cents in January [$15.08 an hour in example], which would bump you up, in your 34.2-hour week [$15.08x34,2= $515.74- prev.$513=], about $2.74 [a week], or [x52] $142 a year. [So with the Jan. growth in wages, your lower week makes a difference of only ($6-2.74=) $3.26 a week or ($312-142=) $170 a year.]
[This wage growth over the 100 years between our 80-hour workweek of 1840 and our 40-hour workweek of 1940 totally overwhelmed any 50% cut in weekly or yearly pay that you might have been able to calculate in 1840 by cutting the workweek in half. The reason? Cutting the workweek cuts any labor surplus that has been holding wages down, and starts creating a labor shortage that drives wages up, all by market forces, no need for minimum-wage laws.]
Howard Owen is business editor of The Free Lance-Star and the author of nine novels. "The Reckoning" came out in December of 2010. He plans to blog about whatever strikes him as unusual, ridiculous or disingenuous. He'll try to keep his comments to economic issues.
[Here's the comment we left on this website in response to Howard's short article -
Glad somebody noticed the workweek as an issue at work out there. Notice it worked FOR us
from 1840 to 1940 when we cut it in half from over 80 hours to 40 as we introduced machines
Despite fears that the economy would crash or "the devil would find work for idle hands to
do," it avoided a permanent wage-weakening labor surplus and downward spiral - until 1929,
and that was already healing pre-war when we established a nationwide workweek cap of 44
hours in 1938 and cut it two hours a year for the next two years, giving us the famed 40 in
But since then, we've injected wave after wave of automation, and more recently robotics,
but we haven't adjusted that workweek one nanosecond.
This has turned the promise of technology = to make life easier for everyone - into the
curse of labor surplus, makework, longer unemployment, more on foodstamps,
welfare-disability, crime, homelessness... We've turned the most positive indicator of
human progress, shorter standard workweeks, into a negative. We've forgotten that the most
fundamental kind of freedom is...free time, without which the other freedoms are
inaccessible or hollow.
And we haven't noticed that Germany has laughed at this last recession with a national
policy of worksharing or in German, Kurz-arbeit = workweek reduction in place of workforce
cuts (and consequent reductions in markets). Their domestic consumption stayed up and
they've already returned to low unemployment levels they haven't seen since 1992.
We do have 20 U.S. states with worksharing programs to help companies cut hours instead of
jobs, but these programs are still being billed as a best-kept secret.
But technologyical productivity vesus a frozen workweek has structurally changed the
economy, even without uncontrolled immigration and outsourcing. It has sloped a once-level
playing field more and more steeply against employees and for employers. Wages, except on
Wall Street, are in the tank, and that means weaker and weaker domestic markets.
America is in a downward spiral that can easily be reversed - but only by quitting the
strain for enough eco-harming artificial "job creation" to maintain a 1940 level of the
workweek forever, regardless of technology. All we have to do is what we did, from 1840 to
1940: adjust the workweek and share the diminishing, natural, market-demanded employment
that CEOs have not yet automated. If we make it easier for people to support themselves,
taxpayers won't have to.]
2/2-03/2011 – bits and pieces of the timesizing solution in the news, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, organizations and governments, despite being *dismissed out-of-hand by many economists and business schools - with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (firstname.lastname@example.org) unless otherwise initialed -
- HR European news roundup – January 2011 - A selection of the latest European HR news from the Federation of European Employers (FedEE), 2/2 Expatica.com Spain
Europe: Short-time working schemes
A recent report has found that short-time work schemes retained jobs in nineteen European countries during the recent recession. Take-up was highest in Belgium, Turkey, Italy and Germany, accounting for between 3 to 6 percent of all employees in 2009. Schemes generally allowed working time to fall by 20-40 percent of their normal level, but only in Hungary did subsidies protect the full value of weekly wages and salaries [The Role of Short-Time Work schemes during the 2008-9 Recession. Hijzen and Venn, OECD 2011].
Spain: Common framework for assessing work incapacity
The Spanish Ministry for Social Security has published a set of guidelines for use by health professionals to assess an individual's fitness for work. This facilitates a quick and accurate assessment of medical conditions that incapacitate patients and allows physicians to determine the consequent length of necessary absence from work.
Netherlands: Severance payments may become due at normal retirement age
Negotiations are currently taking place between the Dutch government and both sides of industry on a number of radical proposals in the fields of hiring, retirement, and re-training and employee health.
* Unions and the social affairs ministry are pressing for the introduction of the "mirroring principle" during the recruitment process. This means that if employers shortlist young, inexperienced applicants they would have to balance their list by the addition of older candidates.
* Although it has already been agreed to increase the normal retirement age to 66 by 2020, trade unions are seeking a form of mandatory severance payment when employees reach their pensionable age.
* The government wishes to withdraw incentive schemes for employing older workers and replace them with a new plan through which employees are encouraged to contribute towards their future employability by building up tax-free savings in a training/retraining fund.
* Also under discussion is a new requirement for company canteens to provide healthier meals and an obligation on employers to redeploy employees suffering from stress-related conditions.
Although, under reforms already in force, employees will still be able to retire after 2020 at age 65 they will receive a 13 percent reduction in their state pensions. Furthermore, the Ministry for Social Affairs and Employment has drawn up plans to raise the retirement age to 67 in 2025 and 68 by 2030.
Netherlands: Political support for gender quota fades
It is now unlikely that a proposed measure setting a 30 percent quota for woman on the management boards of Dutch publicly quoted companies will become law by the agreed deadline of 2016.
The Bill, which also seeks to remove the employment status of management board members, was approved by the lower house of the Dutch parliament over a year ago. However, political changes have delayed its submission to the Senate (upper house) and elections for seats in the Senate are due to be held in March 2011. If, as expected, the conservatives (VVD) and Party for Freedom (PVV) hold the balance of power after the elections then they will almost certainly veto the Bill.
Germany: State subsidies set to rise
The total value of all state subsidies in 2009-10 paid to employers and employees in Germany amounted, according to the Institute for World Economics, to EUR 164bn. The Institute warns that this expenditure will rise further unless some significant cuts are made - such as the removal of tax breaks for Sunday and holiday bonuses or for commuting to work.
Portugal: Change in structure of employment incentives
The Portuguese government is planning to modify its programme of incentives to hire young workers.
Currently employers offering permanent contracts to young unemployed workers, or those aged under 35 entering their first job, may claim a flat-rate sum of EUR 2,500 or 100 percent exemption from social security charges during the first year of employment, 75 percent during year two and 50 percent during year three. Under current proposals, the lump sum option will be removed and the first job threshold will be reduced to age 30. However, all the social security exemptions available to young workers will, in future, also apply to workers aged 35+ who have been previously unemployed for twelve months or more.
Russian Federation: Obligation to clear rooftop snow and ice
Following the death of a child from falling rooftop ice in St Petersburg, city authorities across Russia have been concerned about prosecution for inaction and negligence in the performance of their official duties. A current state order obliges local authorities to inspect buildings and ensure roofs are cleared. The Mayor of Moscow, Sergei Sobyanin, has announced that a new city order is being drawn up that will introduce criminal sanctions on business executives who fail to take necessary action following snowfalls and he has also undertaken to publish a public list of "violators".
UK: Deductions from minimum wage payments
An amendment has been made to UK national minimum wage regulations removing an employers' right to deduct travel expenses from minimum wage payments - even if the expenses are allowed as deductions from earnings under section 338 of the Income Tax (Earnings and Pension) Act 2003.
France: Dismissal powers irrelevant to de facto dismissal
The French Supreme Court recently ruled on a decision by the Appeals Court in Paris that a dismissal was null and void because it was issued by company personnel in a joint stock company who did not possess powers of dismissal in their own right. The defendants in the case had been dismissed by letters signed by two commercial managers, whereas the only parties empowered in a simplified joint stock company to dismiss employees are the company President or, by delegation, the CEO or General Manager. The Court concluded, however, that "the fact that the dismissal was delivered by a member of the firm who does not have the power to do so does not render the dismissal null". In acting as it did, the Court of Appeal therefore exceeded its powers and violated Article L . 1235-5, R. 1455-5 of the French Labour Code. [ED Company vs S, X and other. J269.10-30215]
Switzerland: Ringing the changes
Several legislative and policy changes have just been introduced at a federal level in Switzerland. These include a minimum hourly wage of CHF 18.20 (EUR 14.58) for cleaners who work for at least five hours a week for the same employer; a new residential status requirement for foreigners who wish to marry a Swiss national; a facility for foreign students studying in Switzerland to reside in the country for six months after completing their studies in order to seek work and a range of incentives to encourage those aged 58-70 to remain economically active.
- Future office, 2/03 Sydney Morning Herald (blog) via smh.com.au
SYDNEY, Australia - hat will the workplace of the future look like? It’s a question that’s been around for years and the different scenarios keep coming. Some of them have been way off, some have been spot on. But one thing's for sure, today’s workplace is very different from the one that existed even 10 years ago.
Consider this: the old nine to five routine is being replaced by shift work and shared work and the workplace today is a mix of casuals blending in with part-timers and full time employees. In today’s world, athletes aren’t the only free agents. Instead of taking a break and heading out to the local coffee lounge for a cup of java, people are actually setting up their offices in cafes and bars. Sitting at your desk from 9am has been replaced by being with your Blackberry or iPhone 24/7. Once upon a time, most workplaces were fairly homogenous. Now more of them have a blend of cultures.
According to the New York Times, companies like Intel and Deloitte are tearing down walls and at the same time creating more collegiate environments. There might be less space but the aim is to create more connections. It's better for brainstorming and creativity. Much of that too is driven by the need to control real estate costs. “Many companies are redesigning the workplaces that remain, opening them up to make them flexible for multiple uses. Even tradition-bound firms in accounting and banking are embracing open-plan offices and other changes. They have shut sections of floors to save money on utilities, squeezed remaining employees closer together, torn down walls and downsized cubicles or gotten rid of them entirely.”
At the end of last year, CIO magazine identified several trends that will reshape the workplace in 2011. It says mobile devices, like the iPad will become the new desktops and there will be more online jobs. That means more people will be working from any location. Presumably many of them will be contractors, not staff. It also predicts that more people will be leaving their resume on the printer. Instead of a printed CV, more will have a digital portfolio, or a LinkedIn profile page or a personal blog.
Technology research firm Gartner predicts a more chaotic workplace with more volatility and hyperconnectedness with real-time, global connectivity enabled by the web and cloud-based automation.
Gartner predicts that solo work will be overtaken by teams, and that team work itself will change. Gartner says we are about to see more “swarming” where people, perhaps from different departments and sections, will be thrown together to tackle a particular problem as it arises, almost like a SWAT team equipped with digital collaboration tools. When the job's done, they will dissipate. Another important change will be the development of a concept called My Place, wherever that may be. That might be the office, or it could somewhere else. Which means many more people will no longer be working out of an office. And the workplace itself will become more virtual. There will be more meetings occurring across time zones and with participants who barely know each other. The employee will still have a "place" where they work but it could be anywhere. Many will have neither a company-provided physical office nor a desk. Expect more to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the lines between personal, professional, social and family matters, along with organisation subjects, fading to invisibility.
Unsettling for some? Maybe, but it does create opportunities for those with a free spirit willing to take risks. If you have the stomach for unpredictability. And many of these changes are happening right now.
What will the future office look like? What sort of future do you see for the workplace? What are the big trends to watch? Indeed, will there be an office?
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