10/30-31/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Small business payrolls increase 30000 in October, Reuters.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. small businesses added fewer jobs in October than in the previous month and reduced working hours for employees, a survey showed on Sunday.
Intuit, a payrolls processing company, said small businesses created 30,000 jobs this month, after adding 40,000 workers in September.
The survey is based on responses from about 66,000 employers at businesses with fewer than 20 employees that use the Intuit Online Payroll system. It covered the period from September 24 to October 23.
The average work week for small business fell 0.2 percent to 24.5 hours, while the average monthly salary was little changed at $2,622.
The government will release its closely watched employment report for October on Friday. Nonfarm payrolls likely increased 95,000, according to a Reuters survey, after rising 103,000 in September.
Part of the rise in September nonfarm employment was because of the return to payrolls of 45,000 Verizon Communications workers following a strike.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)
- The Financial World Today: What's Important (10/30/2011) Walmart Cuts Hours, Nook Trouble, by Douglas A. McIntyre, 10/30 24/7 Wall St. via 247wallst.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Walmart (NYSE: WMT) will begin to cut hours at some of its 24-hour stores, a sign of flagging traffic as the holiday retail period begins. Walmart has been in the process of rebuilding its domestic operations of years as people move to Target (NYSE: TGT) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN). The IndyStar reports that “At select locations in markets across the United States, the nation’s largest retailer is ditching its round-the-clock, 24-hour schedule and closing some stores from midnight to 6 a.m.”
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) will become the equivalent of a huge global telecom enterprise as it integrates its Skype unit, recently purchased, it a number of its products. This integration will likely include Xbox360 and a number of Microsoft’s desktop products. Nokia (NYSE: NOK) began to put Windows mobile onto most of its phones, which means Microsoft will compete with itself and its allies. Skype, which 130 million active members, is a direct threat to the fees traditional telecom companies receive for voice and text services.
Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) will increase the number of the Nook e-readers available in its largest stores. It expects that shoppers will buy the e-readers as gifts. The move is not likely to work. The Nook’s two most powerful competitors–the Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Kindle and Kindle Fire–have already demonstrated they can draw huge consumer demand. Much of the Nook inventory will probably go unsold,
- Dour Sarkozy prepares France for deep cuts — He dismissed Socialist keystones — 35-hour workweek and retirement age of 60, as untenable in 'new reality, by Nicola Clark, 10/30 NYT via STLtoday.com
[Mandatory retirement at any arbitrary age is an unsustainable blank check on society and a waste of skills and experience; it will gradually be replaced by longer weekends, better rehab and a whole new job design industry. But a fixed workweek at any level, ratcheted upward, with constant introduction of worksaving technology, is also unsustainable, because it concentrates wages and spending power on ever fewer consumers and constantly weakens the markets for all the technology-multiplied products and services of the worksaving technology. Sarkozy's thinking is trapped inside the box, but as long as the French right isn't efficient enough to be looking for a Single All-Sufficient Regulation, and as long as the French left is too selfish and unstrategic to focus their votes (as when they completely sabotaged themselves by scattering their votes instead of uniting behind Jospin), France is going down - they're even too blind or arrogant to look nextdoor and copy Germany's successful Kurzarbeit (worksharing).]
PARIS, France • France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, looking drawn and dour, returned to Paris late Thursday with a sobering message for his austerity-weary country.
"We have entered a new world," Sarkozy said in a nationally televised interview, his first in more than eight months of turmoil that has seen investors' confidence in France's financial system shaken by its heavy exposure to debt-ridden Greece. Presenting himself as the "protector" of France, he warned that the nation's new commitments under the plan to rescue Greece and the euro would require greater economic discipline.
"If we want to defend the French social model," Sarkozy said in an almost fatherly tone, "we will need to take the necessary measures."
Six months before a re-election campaign that has yet to begin formally, Sarkozy — already at the nadir of his popularity — painted a pessimistic picture of slowing growth and deeper spending cuts aimed at shoring up France's credibility with financial markets. And while he did not directly take aim at his main opponent, the Socialist Francois Hollande, he dismissed keystones of past Socialist governments, including the 35-hour workweek and a minimum retirement age of 60, as untenable vestiges of a pre-crisis era.
"We will have to revise and adapt our budget plan to the new reality," Sarkozy told an estimated 12 million viewers as he revealed that his government had lowered its forecast for next year's gross domestic product growth to 1 percent from 1.75 percent. To compensate for an anticipated decline in 2012 tax revenue, he said that by mid-November he would announce a program of budget cuts of about $8.5 billion to $11.3 billion.
"It's because of this debt crisis that we find ourselves in a situation of having to defend France's triple-A" credit rating, Sarkozy said, noting that a rating downgrade would only increase the interest burden on the country's public debt, already at more than $70 billion a year.
Sarkozy's message of restraint, however, rang hollow to his opponents.
"This is a convenient window-dressing," Hollande said in an interview published Friday in Le Monde. It was Sarkozy, he said, "who in 2007 went to our European partners to warn them that he would not respect the commitments made by his predecessor in terms of deficit reduction. It was he who granted 75 billion euros in tax breaks that have eroded the public accounts.
"He cannot escape his record," Hollande added.
Hollande was also critical of the plan agreed to Thursday by leaders of the eurozone to solve the European debt crisis, calling it "incomplete and insufficient." While the zone has "avoided the worst," he said, he faulted its leaders for not making more progress on economic policy coordination and noted that Sarkozy had failed to persuade his European counterparts to allow the newly created bailout fund access to money from the European Central Bank. "There is no permanent resolution," he said.
Hollande called plans to invite foreign governments — particularly China — to invest in the bailout fund as "deeply troubling" and an "admission of weakness."
But Sarkozy defended the plan. "China has a major role to play," he said. "China must deploy more resources to stimulate the world economy. If they decide to invest in the euro rather than the dollar, why reject that?"
Sarkozy, 56, has yet to declare his candidacy in presidential elections scheduled for April and May. A poll this month of 859 registered voters age 18 and older, by the French polling group CSA, suggested that Hollande, 57, would capture 62 percent of the vote in a two-way contest, compared with 38 percent for Sarkozy.
- "Working Endless Hours is Not the Way Out of Today's Recession" Warns Independent Restaurant Marketing Coach Edmund Woo, 10/31 San Francisco Chronicle (press release)
[And a Chinese restaurant coach should know! Sarkozy take notice!]
GREENVILLE, N.C. - Many independent restaurateurs are drastically increasing the time they spend at their restaurants hoping to rescue their business. Despite the lure of potentially saving labor expense and knowing "things are being done their way", Edmund Woo, restaurant marketing coach and author of "The 5 Hour Restaurant Work Week: Work Less, Make More and Have a Life, too", believes independent restaurants need to carefully consider three factors before continuing on this self-destructive path.
Greenville, SC (PRWEB) October 31, 2011
The lengthy recession is taking its toil on independent restaurant owners. While customers are eating out less, food and beverage costs have continued to rise. Thisprofit crunch has led many independent restaurateurs to drastically increasing the time they spend at their restaurants.
What do independent restaurateurs hope to gain by adding ten, twenty or more hours to an already overlong work week? On a measurable level, an independent restaurateur can save labor dollars by replacing an employee. On a more immeasurable level, the independent restaurateur may think the reason business isn't good is because "things aren't done exactly the way they should." They believe they can insure "things are done their way" and therefore improve their business.
Restaurant Marketing coach and author of "The 5 Hour Restaurant Work Week: Work Less, make More and Have a Life, too," Edmund Woo, says, "While at first glance, this seems to make sense, a restaurateur must consider three factors or they will get destroyed by this cost savings tactic!"
The three factors are:
1. While working a line position will save some labor dollars, if the Independent Restaurateur focuses the same time on marketing his restaurant, the profits realized will far surpass the labor cost savings;
2. If the independent Restaurateur spends all their time at the restaurant, they sacrifice time for family and personal life , which quickly takes a toil on their health and their long-term productivity along with their family relationships;
3. Finally, if the Independent Restaurateur instead focuses on building systems for every facet of his restaurant business including marketing, food and labor cost, restaurant service and hospitality, they can build the business and make more money while spending less time at the restaurant.
Edmund concludes that, "If an independent restaurateur considers each of these three factors carefully, they will find out the way to not just survive, but thrive in these recessionary times is not to work more hours, but, instead to build systems that will produce consistent great guest experiences with or without the owner having to be at the restaurant!"
Edmund Woo's mission is to educate Independent Restaurateurs that they can work less, make more and have a life, too in the restaurant business. He dispenses free business-building advice for independent restaurateurs through his online blog, http://5hourrestaurantmarketing.com/. The free service details Edmund Woo's researched and refined restaurant marketing plan proven to get new restaurant customers. Edmund Woo's blog is becoming a weekly diet to help independent restaurateurs avoid starvation and cultivate growth.
Besides his restaurant specific marketing blog, Edmund Woo offers a free audio Report called, "Independent Restaurant Marketing and Work Less Hours Secrets" a glimpse of what his 5 Hour Restaurant Work Week System offers at www.independentrestaurantmarketing.net.
Edmund is available for interviews at: 864 363 6644
10/29/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Easthampton mayoral candidates raise issues of Municipal Building work week, road closure, civility, by Brian Steele, The Republican via MassLive.com
EASTHAMPTON, N.Y. – With only 10 days until the Nov. 8 election, Mayor Michael A. Tautznik and opponent Donald C. Emerson are making their closing arguments to voters.
The incumbent paints the former police captain as inexperienced and, while well-meaning, destined to be ineffective. Emerson says the people want change after the mayor's 15-year tenure.
Emerson...argues his position on the board of directors of Freedom Credit Union gives him the financial wherewithal to manage the budget, and Tautznik, who calls the city a "$34 million municipal corporation" says the mayor's work is a different animal that Emerson isn't ready to wrangle.
One of Emerson's main platforms is to reopen the Municipal Building on Fridays. In 2009, Tautznik's move to close Friday and add an hour Monday through Thursday reduced weekly hours from 35 to 32, closed a $100,000 budget gap and saved two jobs, said the mayor.
Emerson said it prevents people from paying taxes and applying for business permits. He says the staff is grumpy and customers are dissatisfied with the service.
Tautznik...argues the staff is happy and helpful, and counters that property taxes can be paid online and other payments can be left in a drop box outside. He said getting a business permit is a "fairly complicated process that normally takes quite some time" and can be handled during the current hours.
"People are not pleased that they're making less money, but we went into this as a group," he said. "They should be part of the decision-making and (a new schedule) shouldn't just be thrust upon them."
Emerson said he would use "inventive scheduling." Both men have said another idea is to open the building at night for out-of-towners and people who work during the day, but Tautznik said he is cautious that any return to 35 hours could reduce services elsewhere.
"There is no other full-time city I know of with a four-day work week," said Emerson.
Emerson also wants to keep Mountain Road open every day. The steep, winding road leads up Mount Tom to Holyoke and Interstate 91 and is occasionally closed during the winter, creating a lengthy detour for about 17,000 commuters.
"Snow fighting is an art," Tautznik said. Making the road safe is complicated and expensive, he said, and one has to consider the impact of using salt in an aquifer recharge area, which Emerson has proposed at a cost of $90 per ton.
"How much is used, I don't know," said Emerson. "It's not a big deal in cost. I don't know the details, obviously. I'm not sitting in the mayor's chair."
Other departments, including the police, close the road and the mayor doesn't have a say, Tautznik said, but Emerson disagrees that he would be powerless if elected.
The incumbent has taken some heat for appearing disrespectful to Emerson at the only televised debate, on ABC40, saying, "You don't have any sense," and, "You really don't know what you're getting into." Both candidates repeatedly interrupted and talked over one another.
"It was a difficult format," Tautznik said. "We were arguing to hold the chief executive position in a $34 million municipal corporation. ... I don't apologize for asking hard questions."
He said his jabs were meant to point out that Emerson "doesn't understand the intricacies" of the issues.
"I have much more administrative and management experience than he did when he first started," said Emerson. "I was personally attacked."
Emerson has been criticized for a perceived lack of solutions. At a debate Oct. 18, The Republican asked how he would close a $1.4 million school choice spending gap. He said he would raise $100 for all 64 public school classrooms to get supplies, then said he would work with the School Committee to make up the difference, offering no specifics. Tautznik said he would continue rebuilding and repairing the schools, which Emerson has since agreed with.
"I guess it's a nice idea and I guess one could do it without being mayor," Tautznik said Wednesday of Emerson's Adopt-a-Classroom plan. He would consider involving the city in such a program "if there's a champion for it," he said.
Before 1996, Easthampton had a representative Town Meeting, of which Emerson was a member. He cites this as leadership experience and has said it helps make up for the fact that he has attended only two City Council meetings this year, both while running for office. He has also turned down invitations to two debates, saying he is "busy" and the conversations would be repetitive.
"I'm running on my record," Tautznik said.
"There's kind of an air of change in Easthampton," said Emerson. "We've had tremendous support. ... It makes me feel good inside."
- Few domestic companies opting for furloughs: vice premier, By Angela Tsai and Sofia Wu, Central News Agency via eTaiwan News via taiwannews.com.tw
TAIPEI, Taiwan - Only about six domestic companies had asked their workers to go on furloughs as of Friday to cope with sluggish global demand for their products, Vice Premier Sean Chen said Saturday.
"The government has been closely monitoring the furlough situation in the manufacturing sector and will not sit idly by and allow companies to abuse the system," Chen said on the sidelines of an exhibition on the achievements of local non-governmental organizations. The issue is particularly sensitive in Taiwan because the practice became widespread during the global financial crisis in late 2008 and the first half of 2009 and resulted in charges of abuse against several large employers. It emerged again recently when Taiwan's biggest LED manufacturer, Everlight Electronics Co. Ltd., announced Thursday it would ask its workers to take furloughs before reversing its decision a day later under heavy public criticism.
According to Chen, the Ministry of Economic Affairs is overseeing companies in industrial parks around the country, the National Science Council is watching the situation in science parks and the Financial Supervisory Commission is monitoring all publicly listed companies. "Initial surveys by these agencies show that as of Friday, about six local companies had adopted various furlough schemes to cope with their corporate situations," Chen said.
One of those companies is having their employees take four days of unpaid leave per month, while another has asked its workers to take up to seven days a month of unpaid leave. "Overall, none of the current furloughs is similar to cases commonly seen during the 2008 global financial crisis," Chen said.
Noting that furlough schemes are introduced mainly to help companies save money and jobs or keep well-trained manpower, Chen said such programs should not be abused.
"Any such schemes can be implemented only after open labor-management talks and an agreement is reached between them," Chen added.
During a visit to the Central Taiwan Science Park on Saturday, President Ma Ying-jeou said companies that remain in the black should not turn to furloughs for any reason.
The government will also work out feasible programs to help eligible companies organize training programs for their employees during their furloughs, Ma promised. Meanwhile, the Council of Labor Affairs directed local labor affairs offices to conduct regular checks on companies that have turned to furloughs to determine whether any labor regulations had been violated in carrying out those schemes. Serious violators can be slapped with fines of NT$20,000 (US$666.67) to NT$300,000 under current laws, the council said.
10/28/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Basalt, RFTA workers due for raises - Local governments look to reward employees with raises or bonuses after lean years, by Scott Condon firstname.lastname@example.org, AspenTimes.com
BASALT, Colo. — Employees of the town of Basalt will get a 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment in the proposed budget for 2012 after they worked under a wage and salary freeze for three years.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) also is proposing a budget that includes merit raises of up to 3 percent following wage freezes in 2010 and 2011.
They are the latest local governments planning to give employees raises after the lean recession years. Elsewhere:
• Aspen intends to give a 2 percent cost-of-living increase across the board. Wages and salaries have been frozen since February 2009.
• Pitkin County's proposed budget includes a bonus for workers in mid-2012, if revenues meet projections. Employees won't see an increase in their base pay. Wages were frozen in 2010 and 2011.
• Aspen Valley Hospital employees received an average pay increase of 2.4 percent in June.
• The Aspen School District did not offer raises for the 2011-12 school year, but it did allow “educational credits” for teachers who earned them.
• The town of Carbondale's proposed budget calls for a 2 percent cost-of-living pay increase for employees.
In Basalt, the cost-of-living increases will total about $60,000, according to finance director Judi Tippetts. In addition to going through 2009, 2010 and 2011 without raises, town workers had to take three furlough days in 2008 and six furlough days in 2009. The town also sliced the number of workers from 37 at the peak to 28 full-time equivalents now, Tippetts said.
Basalt's proposed 2012 budget anticipates revenues of $5.34 million and expenditures of $4.74 million in the general fund. It plans to put nearly $600,000 into reserves.
There will be about $1.3 million less spending in 2012 than in 2011 because of fewer anticipated purchases with the open space sales tax, and less spent in the engineering department on project planning. The reduction in expenditures is about 21 percent.
Basalt anticipates sales tax revenues to be flat: “We felt it was better to be conservative with revenue projections than to overestimate,” Tippetts said.
RFTA's merit increases will add about $192,000 to the budget, said CEO Dan Blankenship. The raises will be spread out over the year, when employee reviews are performed. Employees weren't eligible for raises in 2010 or 2011.
“I think that morale has been surprisingly high despite the freeze,” Blankenship said.
RFTA workers, like everyone, have seen higher costs for gas and food erode their incomes. Nevertheless, RFTA workers realize that many private sector businesses and governments were forced to lay off workers or mandate furloughs, so they appreciated that they kept their jobs, according to Blankenship.
RFTA has between 180 and 190 full-time, year-round employees who will benefit from the merit raise. The number of workers swells to 250-260 during winters, but seasonal employees won't be eligible for a raise.
RFTA's proposed budget has $23.93 million in expenditures in 2012. Service levels and fares will remain the same under the proposal.
The bus agency is looking at drastically higher fuel costs and an increase of 12.3 percent, or $254,000, for employee health insurance. It's trying to avoid passing higher insurance premium costs to workers, Blankenship said.
The agency intends to avoid dipping into reserves despite the increased costs. Sales tax revenues were higher than anticipated in 2011 and they are forecast to increase slightly in 2012, Blankenship said. Service contracts with the Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen and Glenwood Springs have also increased.
- Airport strike is averted - Ground crew clinch last-minute deal with management after four hours of talks, by Guo Jiaxue email@example.com, 10/28 ChinaDaily.com.cn
HONG KONG, China - A crippling strike threatened by ground crew at Hong Kong International Airport has been averted after union leaders clinched a last-minute agreement with the management.
The 300-strong Jardine Aviation Services Employees Union announced on Thursday evening after four hours of negotiations they would not proceed with industrial action for the time being.
"We will not initiate any form of industrial action in the short term," union secretary-general Wong Yu-loy said.
The union had warned on Tuesday it would begin a work-to-rule if Thursday's talks - the fourth round with the management so far - failed to produce any result, as was the case in the previous three rounds.
The stoppage, if launched, would have resulted in complete chaos at Chek Lap Kok as the peak holiday season nears.
Alan Tang Ho-wai, another union leader, said the company was "sincere" this time round, while describing the past three sessions as "perfunctory."
"We can now report that the problem of long working hours and overtime without adequate compensation has been satisfactorily resolved," he said.
The employees will be given the right to refuse working for seven days continuously. For those willing to do so, the company agreed to raise their no-rest-day allowance by at least 30 percent from original HK$250 every week.
After having worked for seven consecutive days, an employee will also receive an allowance of HK$350 in addition to a basic overtime allowance paid according to the number of hours put in. For the second week, the allowance will be increased to HK$450, to be followed by HK$600 for the third and HK$800 for the fourth week. Thus, if one works for a whole month continuously, an employee will get a total of HK$2,200 in no-rest-day allowance.
Union leaders who took part in the bargaining said they were "basically satisfied" with the outcome. Besides shorter hours and better working conditions, the ground crew had demanded a 20-percent hike in their basic salary, but any agreement on this has been put off to a later date.
Tang explained that the company has hired a new director of human resources to deal with the situation and the company would normally conduct a pay review in April each year.
However, he warned they will continue fighting for a salary increase, adding the management has promised to meet the union monthly.
The union will discuss the company's latest offers with members at its general meeting next month before deciding their next move.
Jardine Aviation Services, a unit of the Jardine Matheson Group, provides airport ground services to more than 60 airlines in Hong Kong, including passenger handling, ramp and cargo control operations.
10/27/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Des Moines Public Library cuts at a glance, by Jason Pulliam, DesMoinesRegister.com
DES MOINES, Iowa - Moves to fill a two-year budget hole projected at $656,000 will come on top of cuts that have already resulted in fewer hours and smaller customer service staffs at Des Moines Public Library locations.
The library system’s budget has been reduced by $935,000 over the past three cycles. Every effort has been made to cut hours at branches based on circulation, door count and borrower statistics, library officials report.
The cuts have also been made in ways that avoid branch closures and have the fewest impacts on core library services, officials say.
There is a $7.7 million shortfall in the city budget for the next two years. All city department directors have been asked to outline how they would cut 11 percent from the portions of their budgets financed through general fund revenues and road use taxes.
A pamphlet library staff distributed at Wednesday night’s public budget forum highlighted some of the impacts of recent budget cuts.
Notable details include:
* - Sunday hours cut at all of the branches and during the summer at the Central Library.
* - Reduced Thursday evening hours at the Central Library, and shorter Friday morning hours at the three largest branches — East Side, Franklin and South Side.
* - Evening and weekend telephone reference service has been cut.
* - Nine full-time equivalent positions have been reduced since 2008 by not filling vacant positions.
* - Staff and hours were merged at the North Side and Forest Avenue branch libraries.
* - There were 84 full-time equivalent positions in the library system during the 2005-06 fiscal year. That is down to 70.25 during the current fiscal year. Staffing is projected to drop 10 more between the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years.
The library system’s combined budget reductions will total just shy of $1.6 million if anticipated cuts of $656,000 over the next two years become reality.
The city’s third and final public budget forum will be held at 6 p.m. today at the Des Moines Botanical Center, 909 Robert D. Ray Drive. Public safety will be the focus of tonight’s meeting.
- Ministry reduces working hours of preschool teachers, SGGP via saigon-gpdaily.com
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - The Ministry of Education and Training has rescheduled the working curriculum of preschool teachers, reducing their working hours to 42 weeks per year.
The Ministry has just released a new circular with details on the working hours of preschool teachers. As per the circular, teachers will work 42 weeks in a year, which will include 35 teaching weeks, 4 weeks for participating in fresh skill courses, 2 weeks for preparation of new academic year and one week for winding up of the academic term.
The summer vacation will last 8 weeks during which teachers will receive full salary and other bonuses as applicable. They will be liable for other off days as well, as per the Laws of Labor and present regulations.
However, teachers will be required to complete all tasks assigned by the school master and ensure they complete their working hours each week. Preschool teachers who take charge a class with a disabled preschooler will receive an extra half hour in their working hour.
In addition, the circular stipulates reducing working hours for preschool teachers if they work overtime or have children below 12 months of age.
The circular takes effect from December 9, 2011 and the people’s committees in provinces and cities will be required to direct the departments of education and training to implement rules as per the circular.
10/26/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Ash Grove again furloughing workers in Inkom, AP via Boston.com
POCATELLO, Idaho—Ash Grove Cement Co. is temporarily suspending production at six plants, including one in Inkom, Idaho.
The company plans to furlough workers at the Inkom plant beginning on Dec. 5. It is the third consecutive year the cement company has cut production over the winter months.
The furloughs at six plants nationwide affect 200 workers, including about two dozen in Inkom.
Ash Grove says it will ramp up production in the spring, as sales demand improves.
[Sounds like they really don't have a steady Inkom LOL. Here's another version, another location -]
Ash Grove plant to keep most staff amid furloughs, AP via CanadianBusiness.com
HELENA, Mont. — Ash Grove Cement Co.'s manufacturing plant in Montana City is expected to retain about 70 percent of its employees over the winter as the Kansas-based company plans to furlough workers because of poor economic conditions.
Plant manager Dick Johnson estimates that 22 or 23 of the facility's 76 employees will be furloughed. The rest will continue to maintain the plant during the slow winter season.
Ash Grove announced Monday that about 220 employees from six facilities nationwide will be on the furlough list until production increases again. The company blames the decision on the economic downturn and reduced demand for its products.
The Independent Record (http://bit.ly/300hsn ) reports the move marks the third straight winter the company has implemented furloughs.
Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com
- BESPA Contract, WJHG-TV via wjhg.com
PANAMA CITY, Fla. - The Bay County School Board moved forward with the B-E-S-P-A [Bay Education Support Personnel Association] contract at Tuesday afternoon's meeting. After mediation, both parties were able to reach an agreement.
Board members approved the contract Tuesday and approved the revised salary schedule to go along with the changes which are pending union ratification. The contract includes three furlough days for B-E-S-P-A employees which will match the furloughs that administrators and teachers have already to take.
[Timesizing not downsizing.]
Bay Co. School Superintendent Bill Husfelt says under the approved deal, union members will be guaranteed employment until June 5th, when the contracts will be re-examined. "I think that common sense prevailed and that they got some of the things they wanted and we were fine with that. I don't want to let anybody forget that they sacrificed 3 days of pay just like the teachers did."
B-E-S-P-A represents between 600 and 800 non-instructional employees. The projected savings to the district with the contract will be about $250,000.
10/25/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- The fading middle class, by Marisol Bello and Paul Overberg, USAtoday.com
McLEAN, Va. - Analysts often use the middle three-fifths of households -- when they are sorted by income -- to define the "middle class."...
For Reno car salesman Tim Ticknor, the squeeze on his middle-class existence gradually has turned into a chokehold.
In 2005, he was making more than $90,000 a year selling used cars to people who had moved to the Southwest for its booming economy. It was an income that allowed him to rent a townhouse with his wife and daughter in a gated community.
Over the next six years, as the economy slowed, so did his income. First, it dropped to $70,000, then after a time it fell to $30,000.
Today, the car dealership where Ticknor last worked is bankrupt, and he is hustling as a day laborer for a temp agency. He and his family had to move into his mother-in-law's mobile home because they couldn't afford to pay rent.
Ticknor's story reflects how, across the nation, the middle class' share of the nation's income is shrinking. Reno, which has among the highest rates of unemployment and foreclosures in the United States, is a stark example: The share of income in the metro area that was collected by the middle class fell from 49.8% in 2006 to 45.8% in 2010, the year after the 18-month recession ended.
A USA TODAY analysis of Census data found the Reno area was among 150 nationwide where the share of income going to the middle class — generally made up of households that make $20,700 to $99,900 a year — shrank from 2006 to 2010. Metro areas where the middle class' share of income dropped outnumbered those where it grew by more than 2-to-1.
"The lower share of income is a way of saying income inequality is growing in the middle," says Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, who has studied the shift. "The vast middle has less of the pie than it had before."
Income is shifting to the top tier of households, especially those in the top 5%, Taylor says. The top 5% earn more than $181,000 annually.
In 2010, the top one-fifth of U.S. households collected 50.3% of all the nation's income, up from 49.9% in 2006. The lowest-earning one-fifth of households collected just 3.3% of the nation's income, down from 3.4% in 2006.
That leaves the three-fifths of households in between — a common definition of a broad middle class. It collected 46.3% of the income last year, down from 46.7% in 2006.
Analysts call it the middle-class squeeze.
The data are the latest signs of a trend that dates to the 1970s, says Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute. Back then, 53% of the nation's income went to the middle class.
She says that during the 2000s, households in the middle class began losing ground because their incomes were not growing. The recent recession made it worse as employers cut work hours, furloughed workers, froze salaries or imposed layoffs. At the same time, the value of family assets, such as homes, went down.
"Families are taking substantial losses," Shierholz says. "The really scary thing is, there's no relief in sight."
A 'humbling' experience
In Reno, a metro area of 425,000 people, unemployment jumped from 4% in 2006 to 14% last year. Adjusted for inflation, the median income dropped 10% in the same period, to $50,699.
Rows of for-sale signs in every neighborhood and empty storefronts tell the story of a city whose middle class has been hit hard.
Ticknor, 45, says he is one of those casualties.
Six years ago, he was a car salesman, earning close to a six-figure salary that allowed him to afford a two-story condo in a private community. He drove an off-white Dodge Charger with heated leather seats. And his baby girl, Ashlee, "never wanted for anything."
As the recession took hold, fewer people bought cars, and Ticknor felt it in his wallet.
At first, he and his wife cut back on restaurants and movies. As their financial squeeze got tighter, Ticknor and his family moved out of the townhouse in 2008 because they couldn't afford the $1,200 monthly rent. They lived with a relative for a while and last year moved into an $800-a-month duplex.
Then this year, after the car dealership he worked for went bankrupt and he lost his job, they had to leave that apartment and move into his mother-in-law's single-wide trailer.
Along the way, they have sold off their possessions. Today, the sports car is gone; so is much of their furniture. They sold their Apple computer recently for $150.
Ticknor checks in every day at 5:30 a.m. with a temp agency. "You hope they have a job for you," he says. He has worked for minimum wage as a receptionist, cashier and manual laborer.
"The biggest word is humbling," he says. "It does a mental thing on you. I used to make big money. I was like a big shot. …You take it for granted."
In Reno's downtown, bookstore owner Christine Kelly, 49, sees firsthand what the loss of income has meant for the middle class. She says sales are down at least 25% compared with what they were before the recession.
"Those are numbers we'll probably never see again," she says.
She moved her store, Sundance Books and Music, downtown this year because the strip mall where they had been was largely empty.
"There were no other businesses around us," she says. She hasn't given raises in several years, but she has been able to keep all eight of her employees, some of whom have been with her for more than a decade. It's a source of pride for her, but it's meant her own income has gone down. She says she spends less, and when she does buy something she pays cash.
If the economy picked up, the first thing she'd do is give raises.
"And buy myself a new a pair of jeans," she says.
Middle-income jobs fall
New Bern, N.C., couldn't be more different from the gambling hub and neon lights of Reno.
Yet like Reno, New Bern — a community tucked into the Neuse River in the center of the state's coastline — saw one of the biggest shifts in the middle class' share of income during the recession of any area with a population of more than 20,000.
The middle class in New Bern collected 51.6% of the income in 2006. In 2010, the share went down to 43.9 %.
"The bulk of our middle class are retirees who came from New York or New Jersey, and they retired on fixed incomes and investments," says Mayor Lee Wilson Bettis Jr. Those investments have suffered because of the volatile stock market, and many of those retirees have had to go back to work, he says.
At the same time, the area's job base, made up in part of manufacturing and trucking, has also been hurt, he says. Large companies such as Hatteras Yachts, which makes luxury boats, and BSH Home Appliances, which makes high-end appliances, have cut hundreds of jobs.
The number of manufacturing jobs in Craven County, where New Bern is located, fell 36% from 2007 to 2010, says James Kleckley, director of the Bureau of Business Research at East Carolina University. By comparison, manufacturing jobs in the state fell by 20% during that time.
"You look at those jobs and most are middle-class jobs," Kleckley says.
Stacy Kendall, 46, found a roommate after she lost her job at a senior citizens center last year. Even though she found another job six months later, she says, the expense of paying for an apartment was too much to keep up with.
So now she shares a house with a mom and her two daughters.
"A lot more people are sharing homes," she says.
She started a support group last year for the unemployed and underemployed. One of those who attends is Russ Whittaker, 49.
He says he, his wife and three children were comfortably middle class. They moved to New Bern in 2005 from Cape Cod, Mass. Their old house sold at a profit, allowing them to pay cash for their $300,000 house. Without the expense of a mortgage, his wife could retire as a teacher; they paid off their car loans and sent their children to private school.
Then last year, he lost his $46,100-a-year job working as a researcher for The First Church of Christ, Scientist.
"We were looking pretty good," he says. "I had a nice Northern salary in a Southern economy, and without it, it's been hard."
Now, instead of one job, he works five part-time jobs, earning anywhere from a minimum wage of $7.25 to $10 an hour. His wife is working again, too, providing day care for children and working in their church.
He says that together they earn about $1,800 a month.
Their children are still in private school, for now, with help from his father, savings and financial aid from the school.
But they've changed their habits. They now shop at the dollar store, where they can buy a name-brand loaf of bread for one-half or one-third of its price at a supermarket.
They used to pay for their children, ages 8, 11 and 14, to take gymnastics classes. Now the children take part in free activities, such as basketball, volleyball and baseball leagues.
They've cut their cable service to only basic channels.
"We are getting by and we have everything we need," he says. "But it's not what we had before. We've gotten a crash course in the difference between wants and needs."
'Juggling everything I can'
Even in communities that have not seen massive income shifts, the middle class is feeling the squeeze.
In Napa, Calif., known for its fertile valleys, wineries and luxury tourism, Victoria Froelicher frets. The divorced mom has a career as a creative-services supervisor for an agricultural company, making $80,000 a year.
That puts her squarely in the middle class in Napa, where middle-class households earn $26,000 to $121,000. But Froelicher, 53, finds it more and more difficult to make ends meet. She says she owes about 30% more on her home than it is worth, she has to pay to put her daughter through college, and she cares for her elderly mother.
She pays $2,300 a month on a three-bedroom house she bought in 2007 for $420,000, but is now worth about $285,000. She also pays $400 a month on a loan she and her daughter took out to help pay for the $17,000-a-year college tuition and room and board.
To bring more money in, she cut her 401(k) contribution from 8% to 1%.
"I'm juggling everything I can," Froelicher says. "I don't feel I am middle class. I feel I am lower-middle class and teetering on poor. If I lost my job, I could see how I could end up homeless."
Froelicher is like a majority of Americans who say they haven't moved forward or have fallen backward in the past five years, says Paul Taylor of Pew Research. A Pew study of the middle class in 2008 found 56% of Americans felt they either fell behind or haven't progressed, the most downbeat short-term assessment of personal progress in nearly half a century of polling by the center.
In Napa, the median income has gone from $72,136 in 2006 to $64,401 in 2010 when adjusted for inflation. Median housing values have plummeted from $657,300 in 2006 to $424,100 in 2010.
Froelicher rattles off a list of how she makes do: no smartphones, flat screens or Netflix subscriptions. She brings leftovers for lunch, shops at consignment stores when she needs something and refinanced her used-car loan from 4.35% to 2.99%.
"Food costs so much more, and medical, dental and glasses, and everyday expenses," she says.
She's learning to do house repairs herself, using how-to instructions on the Internet. And the molar she cracked that needs a new crown? She says she's flossing and keeping the tooth clean until January when her dental benefits from work kick in again. She used the maximum coverage allowed this year for a root canal.
Froelicher says she always thought by the time she reached her 50s she'd be living a comfortable middle-class life and have enough savings for retirement.
"But instead, it seems I have less and less all the time," she says. "There is no safety net or security in my life."
Contributing: Barbara Hansen in McLean, Va., and Jeff DeLong at the Reno Gazette Journal
- 500 gardaí to retire by year's end... - Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has given the Dáil details of the number of gardaí to retire this year, RTE.ie
DUBLIN, Ireland - 500 gardaí will have retired from An Garda Síochána [the police force of Ireland] by the end of the year, and 40 members have indicated their intention to retire early next year, the Minister for Justice has told the Dáil.
[The Dail is the Irish parliament, not as memorable as Dial, and not as wierd as Iceland's parliament, the Thing. Watch for the movie = The THING from Iceland.]
Alan Shatter said the Garda Commissioner must identify appropriate savings within the force given the budgetary constraints, adding that the Government is anxious to make sure that frontline services are maintained.
He said no decisions have been made to close garda stations, but some stations may open for shorter hours.
Mr Shatter also said that further court closures are likely in 2012.
He said the Courts Service had approved the closures of Ballymote, Boyle, Templemore and Kiltimagh district courts, which were amalgamated with neighbouring courts this year.
He said in some cases closures were due to inappropriate venues where there were no holding cells, the number of sittings, and the proximity of the Garda to the court.
He said the Courts Service was keeping court venues under continuous review.
10/23-24/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Great Recession leaves Michigan poorer, Census numbers show, by Edward Hoogterp, 10/23 Booth News Service via AP via Michigan Business Review via MLive.com
Great Recession effects: Falling home values, along with a drop in car ownership and working hours, hit Michigan residents hard from 2006-10. (photo caption)
OAKLAND, Mich. - Economists called it the Great Recession — a slowdown in the American economy that officially began in late 2007 and ended in the summer of 2009.
But if the downturn is over, its effects remain distressingly clear, according to Census Bureau statistics.
Michigan families’ homes are worth less than before the recession. They own fewer cars, earn less money, work fewer hours and are more likely to be raising children in poverty than in 2006, according to 2010 Census interviews.
Median income for Michigan households in 2010 was $45,413, a decrease of 3.7 percent from pre-recession levels. Adjusted for inflation, it was down 11 percent from 2006.
That compares to the national average decline of 4.5 percent.
Among the state’s 10 most populous counties, affluent Oakland County saw the largest drop — an inflation-adjusted 16.2 percent.
State demographer Kenneth Darga cited two causes — lower pay and unemployment.
“During both the one-state recession and the subsequent national recession, the second factor has been even more influential than the first,” Darga said.
“Many two-income households have become one-income households, and many one-income households have become zero-income households for all or part of the year,” he said. “Improvements in unemployment will produce improvements in income levels even if it takes a while for pay rates to increase.”
While the economic statistics are clear, there is little agreement on what to do about them.
Republicans in Congress say the government should spur job creation by reducing taxes and government debt, while cutting the cost of environmental and business regulations.
Democrats, including President Barack Obama, propose government spending on infrastructure, such as repairs to roads and bridges, as well as a continued “holiday” from some payroll taxes to put more money into the economy.
While politicians debate short-term responses, turning the situation around in Michigan may take a longer approach, according to Lou Glazer, executive director of Michigan Future.
Glazer points to Pittsburgh as a city that transformed itself from a struggling industrial town into a diverse, prosperous metro area.
“It took a generation,” he says. “There ain’t no quick fix.”
To prosper, Michigan will need stronger, more attractive metro areas and an education system more closely aligned with the needs of the so-called new economy, according to Glazer.
“A lot of job growth is coming in careers that require high education ... and college-educated people concentrate in big metros,” he said.
That concentration provides a talent-rich workforce for innovators and leads to new products or services, Glazer said, citing the work of economist Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class.”
“Before Florida, everyone assumed that people followed jobs,” Glazer said. “Now we know that some jobs follow people — talented people. Place does matter.”
By that reckoning, events like ArtPrize — which brought an estimated half a million people into downtown Grand Rapids — may be more significant than direct efforts to lure new employers.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the Great Recession, Michigan must contend with several challenging trends, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows:
The median value of all owner-occupied homes in the state fell by nearly 20 percent, to $123,000.
The number of people employed in Michigan declined by 440,000.
Among those who had jobs, the average work week was about an hour shorter.
The number of households with no vehicle rose by 40,000, while the number with two or more vehicles dropped by 150,000.
The poverty rate rose from 13.5 percent, to 16.8 percent in 2010.
The poverty increase was especially notable for “traditional” families, or married couples with one or more children younger than 18. In Michigan, the rate rose from 5.7 percent in 2006 to 8.7 percent in 2010 — which means an additional 20,000 traditional families had slipped below the poverty line.
The situation was also dire for single mothers with children at home. The poverty rate among those families went from 39.6 percent pre-recession to 44.5 percent in 2010.
The numbers present a challenge for a state where unemployment is persistently high, and government has cut spending on education and social services while struggling to maintain a balanced budget.
“We need to be lifting up struggling families, not making it harder to pull themselves out of poverty,” said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, policy director at the Michigan League for Human Services.
October estimates showed state tax revenues are coming in higher than expected. That sets up a battle over whether to reverse education cuts and perhaps even to restore some social services.
“We need a balanced approach in our state budget that includes new revenues,” Holcomb-Merrill said. “Relying on cuts alone means we are failing to invest in our future and in our kids’ future.”
- Library board trying to retain Sunday branch hours, by Lisa Rainford, 10/24 insideTORONTO.com
TORONTO, Ont., Canada - Libraries are near and dear to Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette's heart and she says she'll fight tooth and nail to keep branches open on Sunday.
In an effort to meet a Mayor Rob Ford-mandated 10 per cent reduction in its 2012 operating budget, the new Toronto Public Library Board approved $9 million in cuts at its October meeting, made possible through efficiencies and eliminating as many as 100 positions.
"That recommendation brought (the budget reduction) down to 5.7 per cent. That left 4.3 per cent. The only option was to cut hours," said Doucette, who sits on the library board. "We looked at trying to keep every branch with daytime, evening and some weekend hours."
The board stopped short of eliminating Sunday hours in eight branches, but voted to authorize staff to conduct public consultation regarding the impact of potential reductions in service hours and collections. It voted to direct staff to report on the results of the consultation at the November or December board meeting, a motion put forth by Doucette.
Parkdale library is facing the loss of 14 hours a week while the Parliament Street branch would lose 13, said the Ward 13 councillor.
"Both of those are in areas where less people have computers at home, but they're on the list for cuts," said Doucette. "Those are the largest cuts. We're actually not too bad."
Doucette said in her ward, Runnymede Library, which is currently open 62 hours would be reduced to 56; the Jane and Dundas West streets branch would go from 58.5 to 56 hours; Annette Library would go from 50.5 to 48 while Swansea Memorial Library would remain at 28 hours.
Doucette said she has requested the names of the eight branches with proposed Sunday closures.
"I'd like to remove Sunday closures. Heck, I'd like to remove all cuts," she said. "These are drastic cuts to all branches. These are people's lives we're affecting."
Doucette is adamant that public consultation regarding service reductions include meetings at local branches. She tabled a motion requesting this, which passed. Residents can now fill out a survey online at www.tpl.ca, pick up a paper copy in a branch or organize a meeting at a local branch, which she is in the midst of doing.
"We should be allowing our residents face-to-face consultation," she said. "We need to talk to our residents."
~ With files from David Nickle
10/22/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Police revisit 12-hour shifts for patrol officers, by Brennan David, The Columbia Daily Tribune, A10 & via columbiatribune.com
COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Columbia Police Department is taking a second look at its 12-hour shift patrol schedule after continued officer complaints and new efficiency issues.
A committee of officers is examining ways to tweak the 12-hour shift system or scratch it for shorter hours, said patrol Lt. Shelley Jones. Some grumblings over the new shift schedule instituted in January 2010 have not gone away, but the more pressing reason for the examination is because there is a shortage of officers working Sundays and because the schedule causes a problem when officers must undergo training.
“We are trying to get a schedule for more officers to be available so when you pull officers” for training, “staffing on the streets would still be sufficient,” she said.
Under the rotation, officers work eight-hour shifts every other Sunday instead of 12-hour shifts. That has created staffing issues on Sundays, which become apparent over time as officers respond to incidents that require backup.
Some officers last year were hesitant to buy into the new schedule after realizing how their personal lives might change. Moving from a 10-hour shift to a 12-hour shift for some officers means they will see their children less, depending on the shift they work, and running errands around town and gym workouts now must be squeezed into a long day.
The new shift least affected single officers with no children because it provided more days off.
The committee has formulated three alternate schedules — eight hours; eight and 10 hours; and 10-hour shifts, Jones said. The alternatives were presented to Chief Ken Burton, who provided suggestions, and a final presentation will be made soon.
Burton said the root of the scheduling problem is a lack of officers, which is not going to increase in the near future.
Burton said he is open to alternatives, but he has two requirements: Alternatives cannot reduce the level of service currently provided to residents, and officer safety cannot be affected.
“I don’t see how they are going to do it without adding police officers, and we are not adding police officers,” he said. “I’m going to have to be convinced.”
A survey of 62 officers conducted by the Columbia Police Officers Association indicated nearly half of the surveyed officers prefer a 10-hour shift, while the remaining half of them support different mixtures, Burton said.
“The bottom line is we have to provide police services 24 hours a day,” he said.
A main component of increasing from 10- to 12-hour shifts was to place more officers on the streets during the days of the week and nighttime hours when calls for service peak. With more officers on the streets, the idea is that officers would stay in their beats more because they would not have to cross the city to answer calls for service.
The new schedule was imperative to implementing Burton’s geographical policing model, which requires officers to stay in their beats.
The department recently has hired a number of new officers, but those additions do not address Columbia police’s needs until they have completed training.
Reach Brennan David at 573-815-1718 or e-mail email@example.com.
- German Unemployment to Fall Further, by Sheenagh Matthews, Frankfurter Allgemeine Says, Bloomberg.com
[Thanks to shorter hours = worksharing = short time working = Kurzarbeit.]
FRANKFURT, Germany - Frank-Juergen Weise, head of Germany’s labor agency, expects unemployment to fall further, albeit at a slower pace, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [FAZ] said, citing an interview with Weise.
In the best case scenario, unemployment may fall to close to 2.6 million, Weise said, according to the German newspaper. If there’s a renewed need for shorter working hours, the agency would have to borrow money, Weise told FAZ. The 17 billion euros ($24 billion) that the agency had in reserve before the last crisis has been used up, he told the newspaper.
[If they're broke because they've been paying for Kurzarbeit for the nation, they are demonstrating the unsustainable, transition-only nature of worksharing with funding from the unemployment insurance fund. Now they need to move on to sustainable Timesizing, which has sustainable funding from, e.g., a tax on overtime and an exemption for reinvestment in OT-targeted training&hiring.]
The agency will cut its own staff by as many as 17,000 in the coming years, FAZ reported.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sheenagh Matthews in Frankfurt at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at email@example.com
10/21/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- PV Crystalox suspends polysilicon production in Germany and cuts wafering jobs in U.K., by Mark Osborne, PV-Tech.org
BITTERFELD, Germany - Citing some customer cutbacks in solar module manufacturing production levels and continued pressure on wafer prices that have declined more than 50% since April this year, PV Crystalox Solar is taking drastic measures to reduce cash burn in these difficult times for the global PV industry. The company is operating at a significant reduction in wafer shipments, compared to previous forecasts, job losses and short time working.
The wafer supplier announced a temporary suspension of polysilicon production at its facility in Bitterfeld, Germany, with short time working for employees.
[So the Jerries save their workforce and consumer base (and btw their economy) by cutting workhours while the Limeys screw themselves cutting jobs (and btw consumer spending and economic growth chances) -]
The biggest impact will be on ingot and wafer production in the UK. PV Crystalox said in a statement that it was reducing production output, without providing further details, yet also announced that this would lead to “significant job losses in the UK.” Again, the actual number of job losses was not disclosed.
In its last business update in August, the company noted there had been a 45% price decline for wafers from May to June, 2011. However, since then, the company said that wafer prices on the spot market have decreased by more than 20%.
Though the company said this had resulted in a price decline of 50% the reality is a drop of somewhere around 65%. Price declines have been industry-wide due to weak demand and significant over capacity within the supply chain.
As a result of the worsening prices originally noted in August, the company was already operating below break-even level. The rapid and deep fall in prices have meant the company has made inventory write-downs, yet did not disclose the financial impact on its balance sheet.
With some of its customers cutting production of cells and modules in response to weak demand, especially in Germany, PV Crystalox drastically revised down shipment guidance. Shipments for the full year are expected to be in the range of 360-390MW, down from previous guidance in August of between 400-450MW. PV Crystalox shipped 378MW in 2010, but has significantly ramped ingot/wafer and polysilicon production since.
Wafer production capacity had reached a nameplate of 535MW. The company had previously said it was expanding capacity to 750MW by early 2012.
The polysilicon production plant was operating at nameplate capacity of 1,800MT, which was expected to remain fully utilized for the remainder of the year with the intention of supporting cost reduction efforts. Annual polysilicon output averaged 1,475MT during the first five months of 2011.
Despite the actions and market conditions, PV Crystalox said that it expected to “have a healthy cash balance at the end of the year.” Although, the company is continuing "to review industry conditions on an ongoing basis.”
- Europe pays for lost character, opinion by McGill Mgmt Prof. Reuven Brenner, Asia Times Online via atimes.com
MONTRÉAL, Québec - - Should the European Union extend credit to its risk-of-defaulting members? Can Greece and Italy be looked at like some misbehaving heirs who got easy money from their indulgent, dotting parents? Can "tough love" be a remedy?
Parents, after all, occasionally advance far too much capital on far too easy terms to their undeserving offspring - with disastrous consequences, as noted in last week's column (see The vital few, Asia Times Online, October 15, 2011). I am not even talking here about Shakespeare's King Lear, giving away his kingdom to his two ruthless daughters, but the quite common occurrence of the saying "three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves". The first generation is the entrepreneur builder, the second expands - and the third often destroys.
This happens as the third generation perceives the business as serving them, the self-indulgent generation - rather than them continuing to serve the business, and find ways to accountably match capital with talent and character. But parents' misallocation, being blinded by misguided "love", does not bring about national crisis, big as the business empire might be - unless they happen to be either dictators, be it in the Middle East, Africa, and not long ago Latin America.
But what has been blinding Washington's politicians/ Wall Street's banks/ the rating agencies to lead them to advance so much credit to households who had no glimmer of hope of returning the loans? And what is it that blinded European banks and governments to advance directly or indirectly so much credit to profligate countries?
[This management professor can't figure it out? Same answer for both: It was answered by a Hawaiian financial newsletter in the early 1990s when P/E ratios were going off the charts and it was first becoming noticeable in the latest war-peace "cycle": as peace wore on and labor surplus heightened, wages plateaued and weakened and the national income defaulted to the wealthy who are constantly busy changing all the little money sprinklers in the basement of the economy from "Spray" to "Stream" and pointing them up to themselves (eg: repealing Glass-Steagall, toughening the bankruptcy laws, etc.). As the wealthy coagulate more and more of the money supply, they have fewer and fewer options as to where they can invest it profitably, and then even just sustainably. And that includes Wall Street's and Europe's banks and their minion politicians and rating agencies. They start pushing people and economies into lending (just as US foreign "aid" did to 3d world countries per John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man"), because lending is what they do. And because they're rich, people believe them, and bulk up with loans they have no prayer of repaying. So it ain't primarily a question of the "character" of the borrowers, but of the lenders, just as it ain't primarily the non-rich who start the class warfare - it's the rich. But the rich are only doing it because no one they know of has designed a way to keep them from getting TOO rich, ie: unsustainably rich - but Timesizing and its successor programs do just that. They draw a line on accumulation-concentration-coagulation-decirculation above which reinvestment is mandatory, starting with worktime per person while decontrolling worktime per job thanks to the magic of shifts, then money-income per person (flowing money) while decontrolling money per job, then money-wealth per person (standing/stored money) while decontrolling cash cache per job-corporate mission, then potential money per person (credit) while decontrolling credit per job/corporate mission, then off into the future with a possible unending series of what to us are vaguer, less familiar, and less problematic variables such as ?creditability per person....]
J Pierpont Morgan once said there was only one basis upon which he would extend a loan. It was "character" - not money or anything else, "because a man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom."
Trust? Character? When was the last time you heard these terms applied to anything, whether in Washington, Wall Street or Europe's political class? And what would "character" mean when credit is extended to countries?
Years ago, when working in Monterrey, Mexico, a company called Electra was prominent in the consumer distribution business (it still is). In practice it was a finance company, offering credit and decent instalment payments to poorer Mexicans to whom the banks would not give loans or credit cards. It has been a very successful business, most people paying in time.
Electra was also building up a good database on people who had solid reputations and paid back their loans. Electra dealt with the occasional bad apples by sending messengers in colorful uniforms to their houses (orange as I recall), so the entire neighborhood could take note of the delinquents, making the neighborhood grocery stores think twice if and on what terms to advance even daily credit to that family - an everyday life application of the adage "trust - but verify".
A few years ago Electra obtained the license to become a bank officially (though it was really a "bank" all along) - and is now gradually, successfully, penetrating South American countries. With decades of experience and data on which families could be trusted, it has the ability to price credit better than any bank.
In a recent speech, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke said he learned much about banks during the recent crisis, especially about the dangers of "too big to fail". The inference from Electra's example and J P Morgan's observation could have given him strong guidance where some of the solutions are: let the big banks go bust, and let regional ones, knowing their customers more intimately, expand. They would find ways of advancing credit to people and companies with "character" - while keeping the old adage "trust but verify" in mind in a variety of incarnations.
In the United States, it was a wide combination of mistakes and blindness - real and pretended - by politicians, the central bank, Wall Street banks and rating agencies, all intertwined and judging events from a great distance, that eventually led to the saying among mortgage originators that the main requirement to get a mortgage was to have a pulse. A financial institution that would have to hold the mortgage on its books would have done due diligence to see if the borrower had something a bit more than a pulse.
As to global companies, if the "too big to fail" banks had broken up, the securitization of loans would have quickly re-started, holding all parties (rating agencies included) accountable. After all, bankers were never in the best position to do solid due diligence and credit assessment on them; traders do such due diligence constantly, re-assessing credit every minute of their trading day.
With parts of the businesses of today's big banks shifting to smaller, regional ones, and other parts being taken over by accountable securitized markets, there would be far fewer "too big to fail" financial institutions to be worried about, and risks would spread more widely.
In Europe, banks and investors advanced credit to countries lacking even a pulse. By this I mean that their population was known to be rapidly aging, that some were mired in black markets, had a happy-go-lucky preference for leisure and "apres-moi-le-deluge" mentality, and were subsidized by a legacy of entitlements based on the assumption that the demographic pyramid would have an expanding young base forever - never mind the demographic realities.
What blinded Europe's politicians and bankers? Decades of easy living weakened many of the institutions that once built up Europeans' "character". Unfortunately, no financial engineering can offer short- or medium-range solutions to restore "character". It can take a generation or more.
The uniqueness of the dozen Western type democracies after World War II and until 1990 permitted the continuous misallocation of capital and the destruction of character. The capital and talent flocking to their shores from the rest of the world, escaping dictatorship of one kind or another, helped cover the compounding mistakes.
During these long decades, new generations in these dozen or so Western democracies grew up adjusted to subsidized and prolonged years of staying in schools and universities, which are now producing much inequality and much vacuous intellectualism - of the economic/astrology kind included.
Present-day education achieves inequality since the brighter youth are subsidized to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, whereas youth with neither ambition nor talent for study, but wanting to operate skillfully a grocery, garage, or other small business, get nothing. And a good fraction of even those who stay for prolonged years on the grounds of real estate called "universities" do not get out much of it, since most universities have long given up on the principle of selection. The result is a generation of self-indulgent youngsters with high expectations - though backed by little more than pieces of paper.
[Paper currency is backed only by exchange, which involves agreement that the paper is worth something. And the more exchange and agreement, the stabler the currency. Because as Don Juan Mateus of Carlos Castaneda's books said, "Agreement is power."]
The lucky decades allowed not only cover for the above accumulating deficiencies, but also promised generous entitlements, shorter hours of work, early retirement, nice pensions - and numerous other perks. And while taxes increased over time, Europe had plenty of monuments built in their less lucky pasts to sustain the illusion that permanent pleasures for future generations nevertheless exist and so they can have their short-lived pleasures too. Briefly, the European perception over their lucky decades has been that they can have their cake and eat it too. With all these mistakes compounding, the once more-disciplined character of Europeans got lost.
I do not know if Europe will be able to embark on the drastic changes needed to rebuild it's peoples' character, and even if it does, it can take a generation. Bankruptcy, though, may speed it up: as in business, so in political lives, fear of default is the mother of re-inventions.
Meanwhile, perhaps it is not too late for the United States to learn from Europe's grave, compounding mistakes and correct them in time, as, for the moment, it committed fewer of them. That is why, notwithstanding all its troubles and weakening of its character too, the US remains stronger - and so more worthy of better priced credit than its European counterparts.
Reuven Brenner holds the Repap Chair at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management. The article draws on his Force of Finance (2002).
10/20/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Fun with Furloughs: Chico band releases new EP, by Erin Tarabini, Enterprise-Record via chicoER.com
CHICO, Calif. - "I like the boxer-brief compromise."
"Yeah, those would be cheaper to make than male thongs."
Okay, so maybe brainstorming about how to produce and market male undergarments is not the typical topic of conversation at your weekly get-togethers, but that's exactly the kind of unpredictable, yet lively discussion the members of Chico's own Furlough Fridays find themselves getting into during their weekly band practice.
Comprised of Linda Bergmann (vocals), Brian Larson (lead guitar), Sam Casale (drums) and married duo Adam and Meagan Yates (rhythm and bass guitar, respectively), one can describe their sound as 1990s-style alternative rock with a fun, pop twist.
The band began four years ago when friends Bergmann and Meagan Yates set out with a plan to create a group that featured an all-girl lineup. When this goal proved to be more challenging than successful, the two decided to diversify, inviting guitarists Larson and Adam Yates to join them. The group experimented with a few different drummers before finding their "perfect match" in Casale earlier this year.
"It turns out it's hard to have a band," Bergmann said in an interview this week. "But it's especially hard to make it all girls!"
Their unique moniker was inspired by the California State University system's mandated furlough days and was officially adopted by the band after it beat out a list of other potential names proposed to the public in an online vote in 2009.
"We did something positive and made a band out of our furlough Fridays," said Meagan Yates.
In the last year the group has become a staple of the Chico's live music scene. Performing live — the energy and feedback they receive from their audience — is something the band truly enjoys, stating that the most rewarding part is "seeing people rock out and genuinely enjoy the music."
And while the group takes being bandmates and musicians seriously, of course, they also believe in the importance of keeping it fun, injecting some of their self-proclaimed "silliness" into the process.
"The eclectic taste of the (band members) makes for an interesting mix, a really nice style. In this one group you have a kinesiologist, a psychologist, a nutritionist, a paramedic and a vegetarian," joked Adam Yates.
The band is celebrating the debut of their EP release titled "What I Did On My Day Off," which features four original tracks: "Looking Into the Sun," "New Growth," "Young and Dumb" and "Pop Rocks."
Recorded this summer at Strange Seed Studio in Chico, the EP is a sneak peak at the band's first full-length album which they hope to have available next Spring.
Furlough Fridays will be performing all original material, including one or two never before heard songs, at their official EP release party on Oct. 27 at Cafe Coda in Chico. They will be joined by local band The Noetics and the Bay Area's Forrest Day.
For more information about this and upcoming Furlough Fridays shows, visit their website at www.facebook.com/furloughfridays.band.
- Reduced Hours Redux? - Employers and Unions Brace For a Downturn, Spiegel Online via spiegel.de
BERLIN, Germany - As the economy slows palpably, German employers and unions are preparing for a downturn. Together, they are calling for the government in Berlin to continue funding short-time work programs that helped Germany to successfully weather the 2009 recession without mass unemployment.
It was perhaps the most successful program implemented by Chancellor Angela Merkel's former grand coalition government, a strange bedfellows marriage comprised of her conservative Christian Democrats and its usual political opponent, the center-left Social Democrats. By expanding the short-time working programs known in German as " Kurzarbeit," her government managed to prevent the tough recession from crushing the country's labor market and causing the kind of mass unemployment [and consumer spending collapse] seen elsewhere.
Fears of a new recession brought on by the euro crisis have now compelled employers' organizations and unions to call on Merkel's government to maintain the programs, often cited as a main tactic that helped Germany emerge from the last recession so strongly.
"Even in times when the economy is in a good place some potential risks should be prevented," Dieter Hundt, president of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA), told the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Thursday.
He suggested the government should create provisions so that the short-time work programs could be quickly reinstated "without time-consuming legislative procedures."
Michael Sommer, head of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB), also suggested that the instrument be used past the expiration date of Dec. 31, 2011, warning that "the finance and euro crises can affect the real economy." Thus Berlin should keep the necessary instruments at the ready, giving them the ability to "react quickly and un-bureaucratically" if the economy takes a turn for the worst, he said.
Dark Clouds on the Horizon
Indeed, the economic outlook for the country appears to be suffering. Early this week, the federal government adjusted its growth expectations for 2012 to less than 1 percent, down from initial projections of 1.8 percent. Meanwhile, some economists are actually predicting negative growth.
Short-time working programs helped prevent company lay-offs during a recession by allowing firms to temporarily reduce working hours while the government funds some of the difference in workers' lost income and benefits. The programs have been popular with both employers and unions.
In 2009, the government expanded Kurzarbeit's reach considerably to pad the shock of the finance crisis, lengthening the maximum coverage timeframe to two years, among other things.
The reform was effective: Germany overcame the recession more quickly than other countries because the labor market didn't suffer as much. According to the Federal Employment Agency (BA), some 1.5 million German workers took part in the short-time work programs, preventing the loss of between 300,000 to 400,000 jobs. Since then labor market tensions have eased considerably, with fewer companies taking advantage of the programs, which are set to expire at the end of this year.
--kla, with wires
10/19/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Cabinet boosts short-time work scheme to curb rise in unemplyoment, by Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch
BERN, Switzerland - A labour scheme offering shortened working hours with the state subsidising lost wages has been extended amid fears of a global economic slowdown.
The cabinet decided to grant companies compensation for 18 months if they reduce work hours instead of laying off their employees.
The measure will take effect from January 2012 and be valid for two years. The regular maximum length for short-time work is 12 months.
The economics ministry said short-time work was an effective way to prevent job cuts as Switzerland’s export-oriented industry is suffering from the impact of the strong Swiss franc.
The euro lost about 20 per cent in value against the franc over the past two years. In addition unemployment, currently at 2.8 per cent, is expected to rise slightly next year.
In September, parliament approved a package of measures worth SFr870 million ($966 million) to prop up the industry. About SFr500 million of the cash plan is earmarked for the short-time work scheme.
- GPs - like glorified plumbers only with shorter hours, by Matthew Norman, The Independent via independent.co.uk
LONDON, England - The British have only one national religion, Nigel Lawson famously observed, and it is the NHS. The former Chancellor was bang on the money back in the 80s, and today most of us still worship the great monolith. For all that, one sniffs a rise in heretical questioning, and even agnosticism. No sooner have the angels of geriatric nursing been stripped of their wings than the local priests, our general practitioners, come under attack.
Complaints about GPs summarily removing patients from their lists have risen in the last year, and ombudsman Ann Abraham is rightly displeased that a growing number of family doctors now operate a zero tolerance policy better suited to one of those publicity-crazed sheriffs beloved of rural Alabama voters.
The rules which dictate that GPs observe a careful process before sacking a patient are increasingly ignored, we are told. Indeed, some doctors are now as queenily intolerant of perceived disobedience from those they are paid to look after as cabin crew who demand an emergency landing to remove a passenger for looking at them funny after a two-hour wait for the complimentary peanuts. As always with the NHS, its vastness makes it very hard to gauge the scale of a problem from the statistics alone, and the figures here are tiny. But invariably we judge its state of health not from waiting list times or cancer survival rates, but from personal experience and anecdotal evidence... anecdotes like that of the terminally ill woman peremptorily struck off, along with the daughter who changed a battery in a nausea-alleviating device without waiting for the district nurse.
Every trade has its fools and nutters, and you cannot judge a profession by the pathological idiocy of the odd individual. And yet there is that osmotic sense that GPs are ever more vulnerable to the inflammatory disease known in Harley Street (forgive the technicality; there are excellent medical dictionaries online) as uptheirownarseitis; that too many have forgotten, if they ever knew it, that theirs is a service industry.
I trust no physician will take umbrage if we describe the GP as a glorified plumber with shorter hours, much better pay and a less cumbersome toolbox. No offence is intended, because to this urban Jew the simplest precepts of plumbing are as awe-inspiring as those of car mechanics or deckchair assemblage. The challenges facing the GP are, in fact, less opaque. All correctly hypochondriacal Jews regard themselves as doctors who never bothered with the petit bourgeois requirement of formal training, and I am a consultant diagnostician of the first water.
Writing as such, I have enormous sympathy for the humble GP. He or she is obliged to spend most of a draining 45-hour week dealing with athlete's foot, housemaid's knee and minor infections of the upper respiratory tract. They are also at peril not only of the alcoholism and drug addiction that plague the business, but of repetitive strain injury from scrawling "Amoxicillin" on a prescription pad to nudge the cold-sufferer out after five minutes, albeit the drugs won't foreshorten the sniffling by so much as five seconds.
Also writing as such, I have even more sympathy for any GP who has to deal with the likes of me. I wouldn't wish myself – armed to the teeth with internet-published research papers and results of double-blind clinical trials – on Dr Shipman, Dr Mengele or even Dr Fox (and his faithful sidekick Nurse Werritty). Yet that sympathy is tempered by the suspicion that the startling improvement in GPs' pay and conditions under New Labour is alienating them – or more of them; one hears as often of brilliant and empathetic GPs as of cocky, clueless ones – from those who effectively pay their salaries.
A century ago, in his coruscating foreword to The Doctor's Dilemma, George Bernard Shaw regretted the typical physician's poverty. Today, the British GP is much the most lavishly rewarded in the Western world, with £100,000 a year not even the average. Many make twice that, and some thrice, despite no longer being obliged to work outside office hours, so that the nocturnally stricken are left to the untender mercies of often inadequate locums.
In return for such reimbursement, we ask no more than a fairly prompt appointment with a competent doctor, and that the receptionist not be styled after a Chinatown waiter trained to insult punters to ensure the table is freed up as quickly as possible. Much too often, anecdote insists, even these modest expectations are unmet. Over-indulgent treatment by government has a knack of divorcing public servants (even if most GPs are technically self-employed) from the public they allegedly serve, as students of modern policing may agree.
The reputations of every once-cherished British institution have bombed in recent decades and, like the BBC, the NHS has been latterly weakened by the perceptions of bloated budgets and insular arrogance. The Beeb has reacted well to the criticisms, and the British Medical Association would do well not to dismiss Ms Abraham with high-handed disdain. I wouldn't describe the health service as the opiate of the masses (you try asking your GP for liquid diamorphine), but it is a religion and, like all religions, relies on the sustenance of faith. Peremptorily excommunicating the dying is a shocking betrayal of that faith, and should be no more tolerated than priestly interference with choirboys.
10/18/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Which policies do you support only in recessionary times? Posted by Ezra Klein, WashingtonPost.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Larry Summers originally coined the term “now-more-than-everism” to describe politicians who promote their favored solutions no matter the underlying problem. George W. Bush’s administration was the prototypical example: There was initially a surplus, so now more than ever, we needed tax cuts. Then there was a recession, then now more than ever, we needed...tax cuts.
Under this framework, new problems don’t require new policy thinking. They just require new rationales to be stuck onto old policy thinking.
Modeled Behavior’s Adam Ozimek has been asking the opposite question: Given the state of the economy, which of your favored proposals are needed now less than ever? Perhaps you support ending the mortgage-interest deduction in normal times, but fear the housing market is too weak right now. Or you’d generally like to shrink the government, but think we need to prize employment, however we can get it, right now.
But I think the real test is “now, but usually not” policies. Ideas that you think make sense in the extended economic downturn we’re in, but don’t make sense in normal times. I’ve got at least four:
1) Deficit-financed tax cuts: The federal government is facing a massive revenue shortfall. According to the Congressional Budget Office, if we don’t raise taxes over the next few years, federal spending is projected to be 23.9 percent of GDP in 2021, but revenues will only be 20.8 percent of GDP. By 2035, it’s 27.4 percent of GDP going to federal spending and 23.3 percent of GDP being raised through revenues. Cutting taxes — even temporarily — is horrible fiscal policy right now. But until the economy recovers, the alternative is worse.
2) New spending: The argument here is the same as it is for taxes. The country is spending too much money. And if unemployment were 6 percent, continued deficits would be a fiscal death wish. This would be a time for deep cuts. But unemployment isn’t 6 percent. And it will be impossible to cut the deficit later if unemployment doesn’t come down, and tax revenues don’t rebound.
3) State and local aid: If the economy were humming along normally but a handful of states had gotten themselves into severe fiscal trouble, bailing them out would be insane. It would give states a free license to mismanage their finances, secure in the knowledge that the federal government will always step in at the last minute. But that’s not what has happened in recent years. The global economy crashed. That wasn’t the fault of the states. And though some states were fiscally irresponsible, on average, they were holding onto record rainy-day funds. Their current fiscal problems are largely not their fault, and their cuts are preventing a national recovery from taking hold.
4) Direct federal employment: I’ve come to believe that one of the major policy mistakes of the last three years was the focus on getting out of the recession rather than managing the recession. Work sharing programs, where you pay employers to cut hours rather than fire employees, and direct employment programs, where you hire a million new teacher aides and assistant park rangers and cops, should have been a much bigger part of our response. But in normal times, again, those programs would be insane: taxpayer money shouldn’t be encouraging employers to cut hours rather than fire unproductive employees, and the government shouldn’t be expanding its payrolls just to create jobs.
[He's right. Cutting jobs and markets should be discouraged by a confiscatory tax on overtime profits and overwork earnings, and if you want to use a carrot as well as a stick, encourage employers to cut hours rather than fire employees (it's been a lot more than just the unproductive who've been cut) with the revenues from aforesaid overtime and overwork, taxes. And there will be no more "normal times" until we do this, because responding to worksaving technology by downsizing instead of timesizing is leaving us with Reuther's retort, "Let's see you SELL all this stuff to the robots that now manufacture it."]
To put it slightly differently, if the economy was functioning normally, almost everything that makes sense as stimulus would be a bad idea. But the economy isn’t functioning normally. That’s why we’re talking about stimulus in the first place.
- Incomes, house prices leave young B.C. families worse off than anywhere in Canada, by Tara Carman, VancouverSun.com
Ian King with wife Christina King and children, Gabriel 22 months and Molly 2 months ,who have given up the idea of homeownership to spend time with their children and live the kind of lifestyle they want. He is a farmer and she is a stay-at-home mom and yoga teacher. (photo caption)
NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia, Canada - Heather Hansen and her husband are left with almost no spending money after they pay their regular bills.
Mortgage payments on their New Westminster townhouse, daycare costs for their two-year-old son, transportation, groceries and servicing student loans suck all the income out of the household as fast as Hansen, a health care social worker, and her husband, an apprentice welder, are able to earn it.
The family is not eligible for any kind of income assistance because their salaries are too high.
"But we continue to [accrue] debt because we actually don't make enough money to live," Hansen, 31, said. "At present, we are barely able to maintain any form of personal or social life because we can barely afford our groceries."
Hansen's experience is not unique. In fact, a new study indicates it is the norm for couples with young children in B.C. [British Columbia], whose standard of living has deteriorated more than that of their counterparts in any other part of Canada over the last 35 years.
Since 1976, household incomes for couples aged 25 to 34 in B.C. have dropped by six per cent after adjusting for inflation, said the study by Paul Kershaw of the University of B.C.'s Human Early Learning Partnership.
This is especially significant given that the proportion of young women who contribute to household income increased by 42 per cent over the same time period, while the number of men in the workforce remained relatively constant.
B.C. is the only province in Canada to report a drop in average income for this age group, the study found.
At the same time, housing prices have skyrocketed across Canada, and nowhere more so than in B.C. Real estate prices have risen 149 per cent in this province since 1976, when housing costs accounted for less than three times the average household income for young couples. Today, it is seven times as much.
The bottom line?
"B.C. is now the hardest province in which to raise a family," study author Kershaw said in an interview. "And that's because we're the only jurisdiction in the country where household income for young couples has actually fallen behind where it was a generation ago."
[Yes, folks, it's time to play...Victimhood One-ups-manship - "I'm the biggest victim!" "No, I'm the biggest victim!"...]
This reality is setting the stage for "a silent generational crisis occurring in homes across Canada," he said.
"While the generation raising young kids are squeezed for time at home and squeezed for money after housing and squeezed for services like health care, for the generation about to retire, it's become far easier," he said. And because they are the demographic that tends to vote in higher numbers, policy priorities typically reflect their interests, Kershaw said, citing the focus on funding health care to treat end-of-life diseases as an example.
Baby boomers are also leaving behind a national public debt that has nearly tripled over their adult lives as well as an environmental debt in the form of per capita carbon dioxide emissions they have made little effort to reduce, Kershaw said. At the same time, they are cashing in on the skyrocketing housing prices as their children struggle to scrape together a down payment, he added.
In fact, Hansen and her husband would not have been able to afford their townhouse without the help of their parents. The previous generation did not necessarily have it any easier, but they were able to find jobs without as much formal education, Hansen said.
"I find that a large number of my peers, anyhow, are entering the workforce after incurring a large amount of debt and are then trying to buy a home with very little equity."
Christina King and her husband Ian are not among them. The couple, who have a 22-month-old son and a two-month-old daughter, recently decided to give up the idea of ever owning property because they are not willing to sacrifice time with their children to make the kind of money a B.C. mortgage demands.
"I'm not interested in working my butt off to pay a mortgage that we really can't afford and then totally lose out on enjoying our children and giving them the benefits of having me at home," she said.
King, 34, teaches yoga, but works around her husband's schedule so one of them is always home with the children. The family rents a house in Metchosin, a bucolic community west of Victoria, from Ian's parents. But Ian will soon be moving into a position as a farm manager in the same community, and a house on the farm will be part of his compensation.
"We've chosen a lifestyle over making a ton of money," King said. "We've chosen that lifestyle because it's something that we love to do, it goes with our values. It keeps us happy and not stressed, which I think makes us better parents.
"We're still able to do what we love, but we're not going to have to pay a mortgage for the rest of our lives."
Sacrificing family time to pay for housing and child care is a decision young parents should not have to make, Kershaw said.
He recommends three policies to help these families afford to spend more time together: Extending parental leave to 18 months from 12, generally reserving the extra six months for fathers (except in the case of same-sex couples or single parents); reducing child care service fees to no more than $10 a day and making it free for families earning less than $40,000 a year; and adapting overtime, EI and CPP premiums paid by employers to make it more expensive to use employees more than 35 hours a week, thus creating flex time and reducing the work week by three to five hours. He puts the cost of implementing these policies at $22 billion, or about $1.67 per adult Canadian per day.
B.C. Children and Family Development Minister Mary McNeil called the proposals "interesting," but said they will require discussions by all levels of government.
"I'm really welcoming this report," McNeil said, adding that the study dovetails well with work the province is already doing with communities to develop regional poverty reduction plans. She said she is eager to sit down with Kershaw to discuss his findings.
"There is a challenge for young families, we recognize it."
firstname.lastname@example.org, with a file from Jonathan Fowlie
10/16-17/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- PEF, Cuomo reach tentative contract deal to avoid 3500 layoffs, by Joseph Spector, 10/16 PoughkeepsieJournal.com
ALBANY, N.Y. -- After its members rejected a five-year contract Sept. 27, the Public Employees Federation [PEF] said today it reached a tentative four-year pact that would avoid 3,500 pending layoffs.
PEF said the new contract would “better meets the needs of our members,” and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the new agreement would remain “revenue neutral” and would come at no additional cost to taxpayers.
Cuomo and PEF, the state’s second largest union with 55,000 members, have been trying to negotiate a new deal after the union’s membership overwhelmingly rejected the first contract last month.
PEF represents a little more than 5,000 workers in the mid-Hudson region, said Darcy Wells, spokeswoman for the union.
“We hope that the leadership as a whole moves for a revote and the membership is governed by the needs of the collective and ratify the contract,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am confident that my administration has been more than reasonable and fair.”
Cuomo, the first-year Democratic governor, had pledged to move forward with the layoffs if PEF didn’t accept a new contract offer. Layoff notices had already gone out and could have started as early as Wednesday.
Now the revised agreement will head to PEF’s executive board for a vote Monday, and if approved would then go to the full membership for a vote. The sides’ agreement Sunday said that the state would delay the effective date of the layoff notices until Nov. 4, allowing union members enough time to hold the vote.
In addition to a shorter length, the new contract includes reimbursement for workers for 9 furloughs days at the end of the four-year deal. The initial contract included four furlough days repaid at the end of the contract. A $1,000 cash payment over two years -- in the third and four years of the deal -- has been removed.
The four-year deal has no salary increases for the first three years and a 2 percent increase in 2014.
Cuomo said the deal includes the same no-layoff protections as the first contract offer. That deal included layoff protections through the 2012-13 fiscal year, but included exemptions for “workforce reductions due to management decisions” that are associated with government consolidation efforts.
“The changes we were able to obtain under this revised agreement address many of the concerns raised by our members," said PEF president Ken Brynien. “If the agreement is approved by our executive board and ratified by the full membership the jobs of 3,496 members will be saved.”
The initial contract rejected by PEF was ratified by the 66,000-member Civil Service Employees Association, the state’s largest public-employee union, in July.
Reach Joseph Spector at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Defense cuts could threaten local jobs - $450 billion could be cut from defense spending, 10/17 WWLP 22News via wwlp.com
WESTFIELD, Mass. - $450 billion in proposed defense spending cuts could affect jobs in Western Massachusetts.
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed the House Armed Services Committee saying defense programs, weapons systems and personnel would be affected by the reductions. It's a measure, that if approved, could threaten jobs at Peerless Precision, a Westfield high tech machine shop that manufactures parts for the defense and aerospace industries.
"Instead of growing and creating jobs that could end up just allowing us to keep the employees we have and if those sectors don't grow then we might be forced to cut hours or cut people. Which so far in the 14 years since I bought the company we've never had to do that, " said Larry Maier, who owns Peerless Precision.
The shop employs 20 people and Maier told 22News that in the last three months the number of orders have dropped 30%. The congressional super committee is set to announce $1 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving. The defense deal requires $350 to $450 billion dollars in cuts over the next 10 years.
10/15/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Clallam County to shorten work week in 2012, by Rob Ollikainen, (10/16 early pickup) Peninsula Daily via peninsuladailynews.com
PORT ANGELES, Wash. — Clallam County employees will have a 37.5-hour work week next year.
Commissioners reached that consensus at the end of an eight-hour budget meeting with individual departments Thursday.
Meanwhile, elected law and justice officials pitched a one-tenth of 1 percent juvenile justice sales tax to maintain mandated public safety services.
They said the tax would generate about $1 million per year for critical services.
The cut in hours will affect the 164 county employees who haven’t already had their hours cut. It will not affect sheriff’s deputies and sergeants, Corrections staff and judges.
The move will save $460,000 in the general fund, county Administrator Jim Jones said.
Commissioners plan to declare a financial emergency and approve the shortened work week in a resolution before they pass a 2012 budget in early December.
$2.4 million shortfall
County officials are struggling to make up a $2.4 million shortfall in the $30.4 million general fund.
Jones recommended 30 layoffs when he presented his latest budget Oct. 4. He was required by law to produce a balanced recommended budget.
But commissioners decided last week that they cannot operate county government with an 8 percent reduction in a 385-member workforce.
In the marathon meetings held Oct. 7 and Thursday, each department presented ideas for new revenue or cuts in an attempt to save jobs.
After those meetings, Clallam County is still $800,000 short of a balanced budget.
The 37.5-hour work week helps but still leaves the county $340,000 in the red.
About half of the county’s workforce went to a 37.5-hour work week in 2002.
The 6.25 percent cut could mean shorter hours or unpaid furlough days for the 164 employees affected in 2012.
“We cannot put a budget together right now, absent passing a tax that our experts told us is the minimum they need to run the county,” said Jones, who is taking a 10 percent pay cut next year along with the three elected commissioners.
Since the earliest such a tax could be placed on the ballot is February, the law and justice departments proposed to use a portion of the county’s reserve fund to balance the budget.
Jones has said the reserve fund is off limits this year.
He said the county must maintain a minimum of $6.5 million to pay for emergencies, like a crash of its 12-year-old computer system.
The law and justice proposal — including the sales tax — was signed by Sheriff Bill Benedict, Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly, District Court Judge Rick Porter and Superior Court Judges George L. Wood, Ken Williams and S. Brooke Taylor.
Two weeks ago, Jones recommended $674,850 in cuts to the Sheriff’s Office, which is the largest department in the county.
Benedict identified $400,000 in a combination of cuts and new revenue but is still $274,850 short of the recommendation.
Superior Court is $74,321 short of its $195,425 in recommended cuts.
The Prosecutor’s Office is $136,782 short of the $196,932 it needs to cut. In the proposal, Kelly said present staffing shortages are already affecting public safety, with fewer cases filed and prosecuted.
Juvenile Services is $76,564 short of its $143,564 in recommended cuts.
District Court can save most of the $208,293 it needs to cut by folding its West End court into Clallam County District Court 1.
There would still be a judge in Forks, but the administrative work would be handled in Port Angeles.
If the proposed law and justice tax is placed on the ballot and approved by voters, Jones said, an 8.5 percent sales tax would still be lower than most jurisdictions in the area.
“We’re not going to lay off 30 people,” Jones said.
“We just can’t run government with that many people gone. But we’re still about $400,000 short.
“It’s a real problem.”
Emails in protest
Jones said the county has received many emails protesting recommended cuts to such programs as Streamkeepers, juvenile probation officers and Master Gardeners.
“We’re getting emails from people about everything on that list. . . . lots of emails,” Jones said.
The Washington State University Master Gardeners program would lose some county support under the proposal, with the county cutting money for a full-time administrative assistant position and a part-time position that now oversees the Master Gardener program, Jones said.
The county would continue paying its contracted one-third of the coordinator’s salary, he said, and would continue providing an office and utilities.
All of the recommendations are only proposals, Jones emphasized.
“No decision will be made until it is finalized Dec. 6,” he said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Occupy Wall Street? Sorry, got to go to work, by Ed Ackerman email@example.com, Wilkes Barre Times-Leader via timesleader.com
WILKES BARRE, Pa. - The term “skippies” never caught on and I’ve always wondered why.
In the same vein as “yuppies” – “young upwardly mobile urban professionals” – skippies was an acronym, of sorts. It meant “school kids with income and purchasing power.”
Coined around the year 2000, the term referred to a trend that began in the ‘80s and snowballed. The trend was high school kids working 20 and even 30 hours a week at their “part time” jobs. It was the last nail in the “family” coffin. The first came when mom had to get a job because one income just wasn’t enough any more. Then dad got a second job and soon, every person in the house capable of dressing themselves and wiping their own noses was working for a living.
That’s not how things were when I was in high school. Then, a part-time job was usually a paper route – an hour or so in the morning or afternoon – or an usher at the American Theatre on Saturdays and Sundays. And only a handful of kids did either of those. The rest of us were busy being, well, kids. And students. We might have had a summer job but that ended, ironically, on Labor Day.
Teachers assigned homework back then, tons of it. And you were expected to do it, too, not only by your teachers but even more so by your parents. More kids played sports then, too, both varsity sports and intramurals and just plain pick-up games with friends, and stuck around after school to participate in activities like Glee Club and Yearbook Staff. What else were we going to do?
Almost no high school student in those days had a car either. Sure we would have liked a car but did we need one? Not really. And besides, who was going to pay for it?
Times have changed. Now there are more cars in the student parking lots at high schools than in the teachers’ lots. Today, every kid needs a car. Why? Simple. They need a car to rush to work right after school. And why are they rushing to work right after school? Well, to pay for the car, of course.
Any high school coach can provide examples of potential outstanding athletes in their schools who never go out for a team because of their “part time” jobs. And any teacher can tell you there’s no point in assigning homework when kids are just getting home from a stint at McDonald’s or Burger King at 11 at night.
Maybe the term “skippies” didn’t stick because it’s too cute to describe what’s going on here. Kids working like this aren’t kids at all, really. They might be only 16 or 17, but they’ve been turned into adults, complete with adult responsibilities and adult burdens. And many of them think that should bring adult “privileges.” Don’t adults unwind after a long day with a few beers?
But giving the youth of America almost full-time “part-time” jobs did something else to them that is not quite as apparent. It shut them up.
In the ‘60s and early ‘70s not only did high school kids not work but neither did most college students. College students sat around between and after classes drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and “solving the problems of the world.” For better or worse, their “solutions” often turned into demonstrations, and the demonstrations sometimes got out of hand. It wasn’t always pretty or even logical but it was good for America. Good in the sense that public discourse is so important in a democracy that the Bill of Rights guarantees it.
Young people should be idealists, out to right wrongs, quick to ask questions and demand answers. If not the young, then who? Comfortable old guys like me sipping a martini and wondering whether to order the salmon or the osso buco?
So I for one am glad about this whole Occupy Wall Street thing. I’m not saying I agree or disagree with what the protestors are espousing, if they are indeed espousing anything other than their discontent with the economy. What I am saying is I’m glad these young people are speaking up and speaking out. I had thought that was thing of the past.
I’m also pleased that, at least so far, they’ve kept it peaceful. Even John Lennon, the workingman’s hero, sang, “If you’re talkin’ about destruction, you can count me out.”
Some are afraid this movement, if you can call it that this soon, is going to gain traction and upset the apple cart. I’m afraid it’s not.
Young people across America might sympathize with their peers currently sleeping in Zuccotti Park but it all ends the minute they have to punch the ol’ time clock and starting earning that car payment.
10/14/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Buffalo's unemployed discouraged with job market, by Eileen Buckley & Ashley Hassett, WBFO via publicbroadcasting.net
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Some of Buffalo's unemployed residents are getting discouraged with the local job market. A few hundred stood in line Thursday at the Father Belle Community Center for a West Side job fair.
For Buffalo's unemployed the pressure is mounting to find a job. Erik Martinez has been out of work since the start of this summer. Martinez has two children. He's willing to take even a part-time job to avoid applying for welfare.
"Anything within 20 to 30 hours a week is way better than being on social services. Buffalo is one of those town where even on minimum wage you can make a living, so survival is key," said Martinez.
But Virginia Hughes of Buffalo disagrees. She has three children. Hughes said a minimum wage job in Buffalo is like receiving social services.
"So your almost stuck with you want to better yourself to be self-sufficient, but how can you when people are only offering you not even decent wages to take care of a family," said Hughes.
The Seneca Niagara Casino, Time Warner Cable and Wegmans were among the businesses appearing at the job fair.
Leslie Ponzo is a mother of five who was also looking for work. She's been jobless for the last six months.
"There's really no jobs in Buffalo. And if you get a job your working for $7.25 an hour, and you have to fight to get the hours. So your really only working for 15 hours a week and that's not paying the bills. It's not putting food on the table, and clothes on my back," said Ponzo.
But Ponzo children keep her motivated. She told WBFO News she's not giving up until she finds a job.
- Raymond Blanc interview: [Is it really all over for French food?] "I want to show that France is still a country of innovation' - French superchef Raymond Blanc is bullish about the cuisine of his homeland, by Xanthe Clay, Telegraph.co.uk
PARIS, France - Is it really all over for French food? Spanish and Scandinavian has replaced the haute cuisine of Escoffier as the trendy gastronomes’ meal of choice, and where once we all swooned over the fabulous rustic cooking of the auberges, it’s hard to find anyone with anything good to say about the restaurants in France now. Books such as Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine by Michael Steinberger, published last year, have added to the “how the mighty have fallen” hue and cry.
But there are those who refuse to believe this. According to Raymond Blanc, chef and star of the television series Raymond’s Kitchen Secrets, this is all an exaggeration. Sitting in one of the nine gardens at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, the country house hotel and restaurant near Oxford that Blanc opened in 1984, he declared vehemently, “French food dying is sensationalism.”
And yes, he would say that. Although he has spent half of his 62 years in Britain, Blanc is the epitome of a French man, talking dix-neuf à la douzaine in perfect ’Allo ’Allo accent. And of course he’s famed for his exquisite cooking in the French style.
He arrived in this country in 1972 and worked as a waiter at the Rose Revived restaurant in Oxfordshire. The story of how he filled in when the chef was unwell is now the stuff of legend; he went on to open his own restaurant in Oxford in 1977. It quickly won two Michelin stars, which Blanc took with him to Le Manoir, and has held ever since.
But I am here to talk to him about next Tuesday, when he is hosting a Martell dinner (from 7.30pm) in the window of Harrods, for celebrities including Terry Wogan, the model Jodie Kidd, and Karren Brady of The Apprentice. A rather extreme stunt, non?
Not so, says Blanc, whose aim is not only to prove to us all that French cuisine is not in as dire a state as its detractors claim. It is to show how great it can be. “Gastronomy is not just about cooking, it is craftsmanship, turning raw materials into something extraordinary,” he says. He wants to take the dining experience beyond merely eating. “It’s about connecting people and reigniting the French culture for feasting and sharing, not just for special occasions, but for every day. I think this dinner will be very special and I’m really excited about communicating this message to my esteemed guests and also the greater public.”
He does, however, concede France has its problems – the days of being able to stop at any French roadside restaurant to “eat like a god” are over. “But we can’t say that France is dead. One eats very well. Just not as well as one used to.”
The blame, according to Blanc, can be laid at the feet of French politicians and the 35-hour week, which became law in 2000. This is not enough time for the preparation, cooking and enjoyment of a truly great meal. “We pick ingredients, we apply heat, we transform them. It takes a lot of time,” he says. “It’s not a factory. Can you do it in 35 hours a week? Of course not.”
[But that's what they said at 40 hours a week, and 48 hours a week, and 54 hours, and 60 and 66 and 72 and 80 and.... What a simpleton. He would cut employment and his own markets to go back to 39-40 hours a week or higher. How high, Raymond?]
There are other issues, including working mothers, who have no time to pass on the heritage of French cooking, in the way Maman Blanc did to her children. Young Raymond learnt about the kitchen garden at an early age. “When Maman called for potatoes, I knew the dish. 'Get me estima,’ meant pommes purées, ratte were salad, maris piper were French fries.”
It is this simple food of his youth, the dishes eaten in the less affluent regions of France, he wants us to reconnect with through his new BBC television series airing in the new year, Raymond Blanc’s France. He is also planning a festival of all things French at the Manoir in 2013. “Gastronomy for me is a simple tomato salad as much as a five-course meal,” he says.
French cuisine may be suffering from the spread of fast food outlets (it is the biggest market for McDonalds, outside the United States) but, according to Blanc, the French spend double what we do on food. “And they understand the social value of the family meal,” he says, which is still an intrinsic part of the culture. “If you eat with your family only once a month you become strangers,” Blanc leant forward in his chair to press his point. “The French make a celebration of food on a daily basis.
“I want to show that France is still a country of innovation, gastronomy and art de vivre.” It is, he told me, flinging his arms open, all part of celebrating the Entente Cordiale, the link that persists, like it or not, between the two countries. “Let’s create something together we can be proud of.”
- US Unemployment – The Longer View, by Elliott R. Morss, Global Economic Intersection via econintersect.com
BOSTON, Mass. - Introduction
In my last employment article, I noted that we only recently figured how to use information technologies effectively. The result? A dramatic increase in the use of labor saving technologies. My conclusion: to get back to full employment, consumers will have to be induced to “binge” again. Not a good option.
I cited the historical work of Juliet Schor, economist and sociologist and the author of The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline in Leisure, and more recently, True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans Are Creating a Time-rich, Ecologically Light, Small-scale, High-satisfaction Economy. She points out that historically, civilizations work fewer hours as they develop (Table 1).
Table 1. – US: How Waking Hours Are Spent
Activity - - - - - - - - - - 1880 - 1995 - 2040 (projected)
Lifetime work hours - 182,100 - 122,400 - 75,900
Lifetime discretionary hrs - 225,900 - 298,500 - 321,900
Lifetime leisure hours - 43,800 - 176,100 - 246,000
Source: Fogel, Robert. The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
Notes: Discretionary hours exclude hours used for sleep, meals and hygiene. Work hours include paid work, travel to and from work, and household chores.
Information on a number of developed countries for more recent years is provided in the following graph. Even over this period, one can see a decline but with an uptick at the end of the period as people work more hours after capital losses in the global recession.
Graph: Average number of hours worked 2000-2010
U.S. and Japan (lower) trend gradually down from above 1800 hrs to below 1800
U.K. trends gradually down from 1700 hrs to about 1650
Germany and Netherlands (lower) trend gradually down from below 1500 hrs to below 1400
All except Netherlands hook up in 2009, Germany to slightly above 1400
Is this what the US should be trying to do? Try to get workers to work less? Many commenters have suggested that getting people to work less is unrealistic. So I asked Professor Schor to address some of these issues. The interview follows.
Elliott: Professor Schor: I have considerable sympathy for your main point, but readers have raised a number of questions about the feasibility of your proposals. Let me start with where we are now. My vision (and I don’t like it) is that machines are taking over almost all manual jobs. That means only people with some education (to run the machines) will get jobs and the less educated will not. A grim prospect.
Prof. Schor: You’re right that we are going through a wave of mechanization, which has also extended to white collar labor. The only way to make this work now is to reduce hours of work. Trying to grow our way out of technical-change induced unemployment is ecological suicide. We’re already producing more pollution than the climate, and planet, can tolerate. Historically, we reduce hours per year and over the lifetime to respond to technical change. For example, in the US and most other global North countries, annual hours fell between from 3000 in 1870 to under 2000 by 1973. And that’s a big part of the point, isn’t it? Economic progress gives us more time to live, rather than slave.
Elliott: OK, we can forget about our dysfunctional Congress, our burgeoning government debt, a stimulus package to create more jobs. But we have to face the fact that a lot of older people are going back to work because with recent stock market collapses, their retirement savings have diminished. This lack of savings is an incentive for people to work more. How do we turn all this around?
Prof. Schor: The current policy of austerity will only make things worse. And the most commonly cited alternative, federal stimulus can help, but only up to a point. There isn’t a political will for a large enough stimulus. More importantly, Republican want to cut taxes to stimulate the economy, and lower taxes will create fewer jobs than higher government expenditures. But the bigger point is that what I call “indiscriminate macro-policy,” Keynesian pump priming. This will have us spending money on things we don’t need, rather than investing in what we do need—clean energy, education, mass transit. On the labor market side, we need to do things which open up the labor market.
We could expand, rather than contract, social security eligibility. Smart countries with unemployment problems try to pull senior workers out of the economy. They don’t create incentives for them to work longer. We could give partial benefits for people to gradually reduce work hours as they get older.
Elliott: What you are saying makes a lot of sense. But in the age of CNBC talking heads and partisan economic policy wonks, nobody is listening. What sort of time frame do you have in mind for people to work less? Is it 50 years with bumps up and down along the way? And if so, do you see a decline over the last 50 years in the number of hours worked?
Prof. Schor: Shorter hours of work are possible at many levels–more schooling at the beginning of the worklife, four day workweeks, and then tapering off hours at the end of the work life. The key is to contract from where we are. From the 1970s until the crash, people who had jobs were putting in more than 200 more hours per year.
Elliott: I believe the “Parable of the Grand Inquisitor” appearing in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov is the greatest statement on human nature ever written. In it, Jesus returns, saying he wants to give man his freedom. The Grand Inquisitor tells him to go away. He says man does not want freedom but instead ceremony and structure. As the influence of religion declines, jobs provide very important structure for humans. What do we do for humans to take the place of work for structure?
Prof. Schor: One of the most exciting new structures to cope with the disappearance of work is community. What do I mean by that? People are connecting locally, in resilience circles, time banks, local food groups, local governance, climate action plan groups, and the like. In the 21st century, local community can be what the workplace became in the 20th century.
The logic of what Professor Schor is advocating is so powerful that it deserves attention. And as she says, “smart countries” understand and are helping to facilitate less work. Who knows, it might not require planning. It might just happen.
I recently visited a retirement home to see a friend. He loves it. Plenty of things to do: painting, photography, knitting, TV broadcasting, etc. Each unit has its own kitchen, but the home also has restaurants. Four large buildings are connected, so you never have to go outside. He never feels lonely.
For me, it was quite chilling: everywhere you look, older people. With such high concentrations of older people, it was hard to resist the thought that the next step is death. Not something I want to be reminded of continually.
But The Grand Inquisitor was probably right: most humans need structure (and some ceremony). These retirement homes and the structures suggested by Professor Schor fill the bill.
Chacun à son goût. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Added Editorial Postcript
The following note was forwarded by Charles Vaughn who listened to a talk given by Dr. Morss speaking about his interactions with Prof. Schor:
Elliott, thanks for the invite [to the talk].
As to professor Schor, what I gather from your discussion (I have not read her work) is that she advocates that government somehow does what people have been doing for centuries: figuring out ways for people to “work” less for the same ( or more) pay. Fingers were replaced by digging tools, which were replaced by…, etc., etc..
And this has always resulted in some job losses… Buggy whips anyone?… for which the typical government response has been/is: maintain the status quo. Or worse, return to digging with fingers. Any kind of work as long as it is a “job.”
And, of course, “work” and “job” are, or should be, no longer synonymous. I am very happy in my retirement home environment largely because I no longer need a job to work at that which I enjoy, just as you have “work”ed at your golf game, or writing morssglobalfinance.com.
On the subject of age and our response to it: I clearly recall entering second grade, encountering those in the sixth grade, and despairing of ever becoming so ancient; similar wonderment about senior class men occurred on entering high school. And at Linden Ponds I marvel at 3 of my golf buddies, age 90, 92, and 93, still “working” at their game.
Bottom line? I liked your conclusion: “Who knows, it might not require planning. It might just happen.”
- Economic Fact Book Germany, by Danske Research Team, Danske Bank A/S via FXstreet.com
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world and the largest economy in the euro area – accounting for about 27% of euro area GDP. The economy is export oriented (Germany is the world’s second largest exporter – surpassed by China in 2010) with a large current account surplus. Germany is a leading exporter of machinery, vehicles, chemicals, and household equipment.
The economy was hard hit by the recession in 2008-2009 as global trade contracted sharply. The recovery has also been stronger than the euro area average as the economy has benefited from the strong rebound in global trade and not least in exports to Asia.
The government debt and deficit is lower than the euro area average. The government deficit is likely to fulfil the Maastricht criteria in 2011. The constitution has been amended so that it puts an upper limit on the federal government’s structural deficits at just 0.35% of GDP as of 2016. The German government debt is rated AAA by the major rating agencies.
A government-subsidised, reduced working hour scheme – Kurzarbeit – has supported the labour market and unemployment is now back at pre-crisis levels. The labour force is skilled and competitive.
The housing market has been asleep for decades with prices on existing homes on a declining trend. The construction sector’s share of GDP is notably smaller than the euro area average.
The reunification and modernisation of the former East Germany has been a lengthy and costly affair and per capita incomes remain significantly higher in western Germany than in east.
Germany faces large demographic challenges to sustain long-term growth, but implementation of a pension reform that will increase the statutory retirement age by a month a year beginning in 2012 will contribute to sustained sound public finances.
- Deadlock over matrons, boarding masters working hours, by Gothataone Moeng, Mmegi Online via mmegi.bw
GABARONE, Botswana - The dispute over the working hours of boarding masters and matrons remain unresolved after the first stage of talks between Botswana Public Employees Union (BOPEU) and the Directorate on Public Service Management (DPSM) ended inconclusively.
BOPEU and DPSM met early this month, following the union's concerns about what they called "conflicting conditions" in the new Public Service Act, which recommends that public service workers work an eight hour day, starting from 7.30am to 4.30pm.
This is despite the fact that the nature of matrons and boarding masters' jobs require them to work longer hours than those prescribed.
In an interview with Mmegi yesterday, Topias Marenga, general secretary of BOPEU said the DPSM team "appreciated our concerns" but moved to consult the parent ministry before coming up with a final conclusion.
The parent ministry is that of Education and Skills Development. DPSM and BOPEU have resolved to meet once every month until the issue is thrashed out, Marenga said. The general secretary said the DPSM raised the issue of the job nature of matrons and boarding masters. He said the talks did not only focus on working hours, but also on issues surrounding rent.
He said they were inconsistencies in who could or could not pay rent, as some matrons and masters stayed in their houses rent-free while some were required to rent.
There was also the issue of progression and promotion for the matrons and masters.
In an earlier interview with Mmegi, Marenga said the Public Service Act of 2008, which became effective May 2010 had "conflicting conditions," which as unions, they expected the employer to have harmonised.
"The act says all public service employers will work for eight hours, but it doesn't specify how employees like boarding masters and matrons can work those hours," he said at the time.
At the time, he said as a union, they expected their members to be paid overtime if they worked hours beyond those prescribed in the act.
Talks between DPSM and BOPEU followed media reports alleging that the Ministry of Education and Skills Development (MoESD) has written letters to unions asking boarding masters and matrons to work beyond the hours stipulated in the act.
Reports say the ministry is close to hiring retired teachers as boarding masters and matrons if the incumbent do not comply.
Efforts to reach the DPSM public relations officer were unsuccessful.
10/13/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Are We Back to Liking Unions? CityWeekly.net
[Only if they focus on their (and our) power issue = shorter hours (and no labor surplus) for all.]
SALT LAKE CITY, Ut. - Found this little note scotch-taped to our front door at work today, likely placed there by the Occupy SLC protesters who pass by our offices on Main Street several times a day.
In their pursuit of maximum profit and maximum
political power in Washington, corporations and their subsidiaries
[good, they avoided the standard phrase "running dogs"]
are making every effort to weaken what stands
in their way: WORKERS.
[Not true, but follows community organizer Saul Alinsky's method of focusing (preferably personalizing) the problem and "rubbing it raw" = exaggerating it. But labor needs to get from confrontation to translating shorter hours into the self-interest of CEOs = market-heightened wages, more consumer spending and market dynamism. "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."]
What this means for you and future workers:
Are you tired of being pushed around? Do you want a better life?
- Suppressed or decreased wages.
[Doesn't happen when there's full employment and no labor surplus, which spoiled employers are guaranteed to perceive as a labor shortage.]
- Increased labor productivity.
[Not a problem when the overall system-wide workweek automaticall adjusts downward in response to resulting unemployment.]
- Longer work days
- Little or no benefits (401K subject to destructive market forces)
[Labor has simply got to quit distracting itself with trinkets instead of focusing on its power issue, shorter hours and full employment and markets. Retirement will disappear anyway, or rather happen every week as weekends lengthen. Labor's gotta quit sweatin' the deets and go for the jugular = shorter hours and full employment and markets economywide. Harness them market forces on the side of economic growth, however short a workweek it takes to achieve and maintain maximum employment and consumer spending - and "by the way," maximum Freedom and Liberty, since free time is the most basic and fundamental of the freedoms, and if you don't understand this intuitively, you need to "get a life" (and possibly a couple of electroshock treatments).]
- Hostile management (the "point system")
[Labor can point out to management that the most effective American management consultant in history, W. Edwards "Savior of Postwar Japan" Deming, made it one of his 14 "points for management" NOT to have point systems or any other kind of merit rewards for employees - let them take pride in their work for their own reasons.]
- Job INSECURITY (the "at will" employee)
[Tenure is history (even for CEOs - and golden parachutes are next). Job security will be redefined by unemployment-responsive workweeks into plenty of job options and offers to discipline managers and improve their skills - which they certainly don't need now in today's desperate surplus of mutually underbidding resumes for each job opening.]
- Increased corporate restructuring, or "going lean" (i.e., layoffs and wage cuts)
[and consumer spending and dynamic market cuts - labor needs to connect these dots cuz clueless CEOs don't seem able to, and wind up committing "suicide, everyone else first."]
- Unnecessary high stress
[Incompetent CEOs are crisis managers, and if no crisis presents itself, will create one to distract from their abysmal lack of management skills]
[Both impossible goals without engineering a market-harnessing labor shortage. Yes, that means Fed disempowerment & unemployment-responsive workweeks & automatic OT-to-jobs conversion & steady-state immigration policies (one out, one in).]
You are not alone. ORGANIZE, and push back.
In these indecent times, most can relate to the bulleted items on the list. But do you feel the need to organize and push back? This is Joe Hill's Utah, after all. There can be consequences.
I only once belonged to a union. I have to admit, the wages were decent. I got paid as an office worker for an airline as much as I did as a beginning copy editor here 20 years later. Plus, when I was "furloughed," I had a month off to travel around on airline travel passes. But to remain employed, I had to bid on a new job and lost out to someone with more seniority. They eventually did "recall" me but by then I'd found a new job in the nonunion world, where I've remained ever since.
There's is something about the Occupy Wall Street mantra that makes unions seem like they could be part of the solution. Remember that heady feeling after Obama's election when we thought he could usher in the sanity and forward momentum our country desperately needed? But surprise, surprise, things got worse. It took a few years to realize that government strings are pulled by such powerful corporate forces, it renders government a bit player.
So now, the 99 percent are calling bullshit on the nebulous string-pullers who run the world. The good news for unions is that it puts them in the catbird seat as far as recruiting goes.
That's all well and good for those who managed to hang on to their jobs. For the good many unemployed and underemployed, however, the answer isn't clear. Keep clamoring in the streets. It makes people nervous.
- Power crisis measures, editorial, (10/14 early pickup) The Express Tribune via tribune.com.pk
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Rather than addressing the structural issues plaguing the power sector, the government of Pakistan has once again decided that the best way to manage the gap between demand and supply for electricity is to artificially reduce demand. The government does not seem to have noticed that this strategy — beyond obviously being flawed even in concept — did not work the last time it was tried and seems to have even less efficacy now. Consider some of the measures being proposed: shorter working hours and a two-day weekend.
[Oh those nasty two-day weekends! Let's go back to one-! (Pakistanis must be the original "slaves who love their chains.")]
Just last year, these measures were introduced as a means of dealing with the summer peak season of power consumption. By the government’s highly optimistic estimates, these measures can save no more than 500 megawatts of electricity consumption. This is a miniscule proportion of the estimated 9,000 MW shortfall recently witnessed when Pakistan State Oil stopped supplying the power companies with furnace oil. Not only does this policy do nothing to meaningfully address the problem, it acts by reducing economic activity in the country.
[UNLESS...they have the smarts to seize the opportunity to spread the market-demanded work to more people and (re)activate thousands of potential consumers. The chance of a bigger consumer base offers Pakistan a road to a more self-reliant and independent economy.]
The third element of the strategy announced by the Council on Common Interest (CCI) — collecting more than Rs300 billion in outstanding electricity bills — has more promise. Given the fact that the majority of these bills, about Rs155 billion, are owed by the federal and provincial governments themselves, they may want to start off by paying their own dues. Over the longer run, however, the government needs to fundamentally reform the power sector. The special cabinet committee on the energy crisis has reportedly come up with a formula for doing so, which involves ending the unaffordable subsidies, followed by a restructuring and eventual privatisation of the power generation and distribution companies. This should be followed through, because failure to reform may result in lights going out, all over Pakistan, for an uncomfortably long time.
- Business community rejects five-day workweek, (10/14 early pickup) Business Recorder (blog) via brecorder.com
[Followup on yesterday's second story -]
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Business community expressed serious reservations on Thursday over the federal government plan to enforce five-day workweek in the country saying that the decision has been taken without the consultation of traders and industrialists.
[Oops, hold the "welcome to 1940 for Pakistanis" - they're going back to their luddism and third-world sweatshops - like Dickens' "dark Satanic mills" of 1840. Or maybe it's just their "business community" who prefer forever to remain...big fish in a small pond (and a smelly one at that?).]
They were of the view that the country was already passing through tough times and such a decision would not yield the desired result of energy conservation rather it would further push the country into deep economic crises.
Rejecting the cabinet decision of five-day workweek to conserve energy, they said that the government must concentrate on increasing power generation and curtail transmission and distribution losses. They said that economic hub of the country, Karachi was already facing prolonged loadshedding and reduction in working days would badly affect the business actives.
Chairman, Pakistan Tanners Association (PTA),S M Naseem strongly opposed the Cabinet decision saying that it would badly affect the industrial production resulting in huge unemployment. He said that the leather industry, which is the second biggest export-oriented value added industry of the country, was in severe crisis due to loadshedding, gas suspension, unavailability of required raw material etc, and this decision would further aggravate its production.
He said that the government should provide electricity to the leather sector without any interruption to enable it to increase its production capacity. Naseem also condemned the proposal for increase in electricity charges upto 12 percent saying that electricity charges per unit was already high in Pakistan as compared to other countries.
He appreciated the monetary policy announced by SBP describing it a move in the right direction by reducing mark up rate by 1.5 percent, which would certainly alleviate the burden on the industrialists and leather exporters. However, he suggested reducing the mark up rate to a single digit for the benefit of leather exports. Former chairman PTA, Gulzar Firoz emphasised the need of evolving an urgent short-term policy for ensuring electricity to the industrial sector on priority basis.
10/12/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Who Cares About JetPacks? Whatever Happened to the 30-Hour Work Week? The Atlantic.com
WASHINGTON, D,C. - It's startling to read books about technology from the early to middle 20th century while working a twelve-hour day. Because of all the things that might have surprised the futurists of the mid-century, what Mother Jones calls The Great Speedup might have been atop the list. Technological optimists sold the world on automation by telling people it would create unimaginable amounts of leisure for them. The big question for the workers of the 21st-century would be how to spend their copious amounts of free time.
Take this passage from Human Robots in Myth and Science (1966) by University of Manchester professor, Jared Cohen.
What meaning will his occupation bear for the worker? Will it elicit his talents and energies? How will he devote his free time after a four- or five-hour stint of labour? Moreover, what, indeed, will be the significance for him of his leisure? Even if industry of the future could be purged of its monotony and meaninglessness and infused with some of the spontaneity of play, there will remain abundant scope for recreation by immersion in the imaginative life, in art, drama, dance, and a hundred other ways of transcending the constraints of daily life.
Let us assume that the working week, well before the end of the century, will not be more than thirty hours. What will people actually do in their free time?
[The basic obvious answer to this question is, That's why God created the leisure industries. When France cut from 39 to 35 hours a week 1997-2001, they experienced a boom in bookstores, health spas, do-it-yourself, self-improvement, hobby stores, travel agencies, domestic tourism - you name it. In 20-20 hindsight we can now add another vital answer = as things get more and more complicated, we need a lot more free time to keep everything working; one example, keeping our CEOs, bankers and Wall Street from the policies they're always leaning toward that amount to: Suicide, everyone else first.]
Thirty hours, eh? Seems like most salaried types I know hit that every three days.
People like Cohen weren't nuts, though. The United States Senate passed a bill to mandate a 30-hour work week in 1933, only to have it run aground in the House without support from President Roosevelt.
[And with his active discouragement as he yielded to short-sighted businessmen, mostly from Chicago and Philly - see Ben Hunnicutt's Work Without End, the only history of the Great Depression that gets below the confusion, obfuscation and finger-pointing to the skewing, releveling and reskewing of the market playing field of labor surplus and its response to workweek manipulation.]
But perhaps some people were more on the mark. A RAND report, as paraphrased in the book Your Flying Car Awaits, foretold a future in which "just 2 percent of the population would be needed to produce everything society needed, and only 'elites' would be able to find gainful employment."
[And that way lies the sci-fi horror of the split population or Morlocks and Eloi, workers and drones = vulnerable dependents... not a scenario for sustainability.]
- Five-day workweek, other steps to help reduce power crisis, by Zaheer Abbasi, (10/13 early pickup) Business Recorder (blog) via brecorder.com
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The energy conservation plan approved by the Federal Cabinet on Wednesday envisages a five-day workweek, staggered holidays for industry, early closure of commercial markets.
[So presumably Pakistan previously had a six-day or unregulated workweek. Welcome, Pakistan, to 1940! South Korea has also recently arrived.]
All these measures are aimed at saving 1000 MW electricity to help reduced power crisis in the country.
After the Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Minister for Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Minister for Water and Power, Syed Naveed Qamar and Dr Asim Hussain, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources briefed the media about the decisions taken by the Cabinet to bridge 4500 MW electricity gap caused primarily by higher consumption and less generation during the last few years, resulting in massive loadshedding across the country.
The Federal Cabinet approved two weekly holidays for energy conservation and notification to this effect, according to the Minister for Water and Power, would be issued by the Interior Ministry while some branches of banks would be exempted from the decision to facilitate the consumers. However, the Ministers failed to offer a clear and plausible answer to a question about the implementation date of the decision on two weekly holidays. According to them, a decision for early shutdown of commercial markets will be taken by the provincial governments as well as for switching lights, billboards and neon signs to low electricity-consuming bulbs.
Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said that energy crisis had been affecting the social life, production and economic growth as well as the budget in the form of subsides. He revealed that GDP could be raised by 2 percent through narrowing or overcoming the energy crisis by solving governance, tariff, recovery and collection problems.
The Minister said the committee on energy was constituted by the Prime Minister with a mandate to work out a plan in consultation with all the stakeholders for solution of the problem and a detailed presentation was made to the federal Cabinet with identification of three to four areas along with proposals to bring about improvement.
Hafeez Sheikh said that the first critical area identified by the committee on energy was adoption of measures to improve the governance problem in the generation and distribution companies by inducting people in their boards as well in the management from the private sector.
The next step proposed by the Committee was to bring about a uniform tariff system for all the distribution companies by doing away with different tariffs for different distribution companies as well as an improved bill collection system for the recovery of Rs 300 billion by involving private sector.
The Minister said that decisions had been taken to bring in people from private sector in the boards of distribution and generation companies and in the next step management of distribution companies from the private sector would be inducted by ensuring that entire process was completed in the next few days.
Hafeez Sheikh claimed that the government has indicated that taxpayers' money would not be given to the public sector organisations as long as management of these entities was not improved. The Minister said the Federal Cabinet had also given a go-ahead to the distribution companies to disconnect electricity of defaulters even if the defaulters happened to be the offices of President, Prime Minister or Chief of Army Staff.
Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar said that a regulatory mechanism of Nepra would be strengthened and efforts would be made to increase investment in power sector in the form of public private partnership. He said that a fast-track installation of new power stations would be carried out within the next 18 months to add 5000 MW electricity to the system.
The Minister said that 1000 MW will be added through O&M while another 1000 MW would be saved through energy efficiency. He said that 1497 MW would be the new addition through thermal power generation while 1000 MW would be through wind energy.
Naveed Qamar said recent measures taken to address the power crisis were short-term or temporary and some structural and conservative measures had been approved by the Cabinet on the proposals of committee on energy sector for long term solution to the problems of circular debt and governance issues. He said that Pepco would be dissolved in the next few days and after that distribution companies would purchase power in accordance with to their needs. The Minister said that professional management planned in the power distribution and generation companies would be given performance contracts with specific targets.
He said that the Prime Minister also directed all Ministries, Divisions and Departments of the federal government to pay their electricity dues immediately otherwise their power connections would be disconnected indiscriminately. The Minister said that the process of recovery of dues would also be replicated in the provinces. Security deposit for new connections and defaulters had been doubled but life-line consumers using up to 100 units would be exempted.
Naveed Qamar said that efforts would be made to complete the recovery process against running and aged defaulters within six months and private sector would be involved in billing and metering services. The Minister said that Federal Cabinet also took some decisions to address the anomalies and directed the energy committee to hold discussions with Balochistan and, AJK governments to resolve issues of recovery and subsidy in their areas.
He said that the government was giving subsidy to tube-wells in Balochistan but half of the tubes-wells were running without electricity meters and the committee would hold meetings with the Chief Minister and Governor Balochistan for installation of meters on all the tube-wells. The committee would also strive to resolve the issue of dues. In reply to a question, Minister for Finance said the government had also decided to privatise Iesco and Fesco through Privatisation Commission.
10/11/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- US Steel and workers reach tentative agreement, by Steve Arnold, Hamilton Spectator via Toronto Star via thestar.com
HAMILTON, Ont., Canada — A tentative end to a bitter 11-month labour dispute has been reached following a marathon bargaining session with the company on Monday.
The settlement, which cost more than $25 million in lost U.S. Steel wages alone, brought to an end the longest labour confrontation in the history of Hamilton’s steel industry. A ratification vote is planned for Saturday.
In a news release Tuesday morning, Local 1005 of the United Steelworkers said the agreement was reached when “after eleven months of a phony lockout and repeated decreed ‘final offers’ some headway was made and negotiations finally took place producing a tentative agreement.”
Company spokesman Trevor Harris issued a statement Tuesday confirming the tentative agreement and hoping for a ratification and quick return to work.
“Obviously we’re pleased a deal has been reached and we’re very hopeful it will be ratified” he said in an interview. “We’re hopeful that we can get people back to work quickly.”
Harris said the company would start recalling workers for safety training – after that recalls would depend on business conditions.
Industry analyst Chuck Bradford welcomed the tentative agreement but warned business conditions and the need to restart equipment in the plant may not mean a speedy recall for all workers.
The union had repeatedly accused U. S. Steel of refusing to bargain a new labour agreement preferring instead to dictate terms. When the union refused to take one such offer to a vote, the gates of the former Stelco plant on Wilcox Street were locked Nov. 7 last year.
Details of just what changes allowed headway to be made are being kept under wraps until meetings with union members.
The major hurdle throughout the confrontation had been company demands for changes in its pension plans. Specifically it has demanded the current defined benefit pension plan be closed to new members in favour of a RRSP-like defined contribution system. U.S. Steel has also demanded an end to pension indexing for current retirees—small annual payments that protect pensioners from the eroding effects of inflation.
A late issue to arise was a company demand it be permitted to call workers back “at its sole discretion” outside the normal seniority rules.
The company’s most recent offer included a $3,000 ratification bonus up to $3,500 in profit sharing when the Hamilton plant posts $25 million in earnings before interest taxes depreciation and amortization) in a quarter and a company contribution of $2.50 per hour worked to the defined contribution pension plan. In addition employees near retirement will get credit for the time spent on lock out toward the age and service combination needed to retire. The deal also guaranteed employees 26 weeks of work at 32 hours a week.
- Think like a Beaver: A deal for families, VancouverSun.com
Where’s The Family in all of these provincial and territorial elections? Where were the policy promises to remedy how young families now have less time together, less household income after housing, and insufficient services to balance work and young kids, compared to the previous generation? (cartoon caption)
VANCOUVER, B.C., Canada - Newfoundland and Yukon Territory went to the polls this week. The Northwest Territories, Ontario, Manitoba and P.E.I. held provincial elections last week.
I can’t help but ask, WTF [what the f*ck]? Where’s The Family [alternate possibility] in all of these elections? Where were the policy promises to remedy how young families now have less time together, less household income after housing, and insufficient services to balance work and young kids, compared to the previous generation? If not in elections, when do we talk seriously about the higher housing prices and stalled household incomes with which Canadians aged 25-44 struggle despite being more committed to the labour market than any other generation in recent memory?
Sure, many candidates referred to families. And many made sure their spouses and children appeared for photo ops to convey their commitment to family values. But talk and photos are cheap. Putting the family back in the core of Canadian values requires policy innovation and reallocation of substantial resources.
Since political parties of all stripes across the country are slow to develop policy to resolve Canada’s bad intergenerational deal, I propose in this column a New Deal for Families, one informed by leading national and international research. It’s then up to Gen X-it and boomers who care about their kids and grandkids to ensure the next elections give serious attention to proposals like these.
Given global economic turmoil, we are living in very complicated times. But this complexity should not mean we forget that the Canadian economy has grown 108 per cent since 1976, even after adjusting for inflation. On average, this means it produces an extra $35,000 per household. Compared to a generation ago, our country has far more resources with which to address the ways in which it is harder to raise a family today – and do so as a part of our efforts to navigate the challenging economic waters.
A Time Dividend: Since the generation raising young kids is squeezed between the need for time at home and time to earn a living because wages lost ground as housing prices rose, a New Deal for Families should organize around the concept of a Time Dividend. When talking about dividends, the stock market provides a reasonable benchmark for prosperity sharing. Just as Dow Jones Industrial stocks paid an average annual dividend of 2.8 per cent in 2010, a Time Dividend in Canada could use 2.8 per cent of the economic prosperity produced today compared to the mid-1970s to alleviate the time, income and service pressures faced by Generation Squeeze.
That 2.8 eight per cent equals $22 billion annually – a national dividend for families to be financed either by (a) less public spending on other things; (b) higher taxes, or fewer tax writeoffs; (c) new business investment; and/or (d) deficit financing – spend now, pay later. Reasonable people will differ about which of these options to prioritize or combine. But it is critical to recognize that these are the only options, save one: Accept the status quo by doing nothing to address the decline in the standard of living for the generation raising young kids.
A Time Dividend would get Canadians back to basics. It would:
• Put the family back into Canadian values, while acknowledging the diversity of households.
• Allow families to spend more time together, and spend less on stuff.
• Give real choices for women and men to contribute at home and on the job, rather than just talk about this balance being a possibility.
• Enable and expect personal responsibility, because moms and dads alike will have enough time to raise their kids, and enough time to earn a living to pay for their kids.
To pay this Time Dividend, three policy changes are required:
1. New mom and new dad benefits to ensure all moms and dads, including the self-employed, can afford to be at home with their newborns, at least until children are 18 months.
Extend parental leave from 12 months to 18 months, generally reserving the extra six months for dads (with exceptions for lone-parents and same-sex couples). During a child’s first 18 months, parents will enjoy increased access to healthy child check-ins and parenting support.
Caring at home would be made affordable by insuring 80 per cent of parents’ income up to $60,000 a year. This increase will double the existing maximum benefit.
2. A new minimum $440 weekly benefit will be available to ALL parents, enough to eradicate child and family poverty for this age group. Moms and dads who now do not qualify for leave would see their after-tax household income increase by at least $12,500 in the 12 months following the birth of their child. Ten-dollar-a-day child care services will ensure that parents can afford enough employment time to manage the rising cost of housing and stalled household incomes.
Reduce child care service fees for children over 18 months to no more than $10/day (full-time) and $7/day (part-time), making it free for families earning less than $40,000/year.
Invest adequate funding for kids to spend their time in developmentally stimulating activities and play, including children with extra support needs. Child care workers will have appropriate training in child development, and earn pay equity wages.
The services will supplement, but never replace, the care that families provide. Families will be able to use the parenting support even if they do not choose to enrol their children in non-parental services.
Where numbers permit, families could choose programs that feature a language other than English or French in recognition that Canadian families speak many languages at home. For indigenous citizens, services will prioritize exposure to the languages and cultures of first nations, Metis and Inuit as part of Canada’s commitments to Truth and Reconciliation.
3. Flex-time for employees and employers to remedy workplace standards that too often make it standard practice to ignore the family.
Adapt overtime, Employment Insurance, and Canada Public Pension premiums paid by employers to make it less costly for businesses to use employees up to 35 hours per week, and more costly for hours thereafter.
Overtime will kick in at 35 hours a week (averaged over a year). Overtime premiums will be paid either as cash or earned time away from work.
With new incentives, employers would reduce the work week by three to five hours for the half of men and the one-third of women who now work more than 40 hours/week.
These employees would trade some after-tax wages (or future wage increases) in order to gain around four more weeks of time per year. In negotiation with employers, this time could be taken in chunks, or as earned hours away from work each week.
Changes to the national child benefit supplement will ensure any reduction in employment hours does not reduce income in low-earning families. For other families, the reductions in earnings will be offset because the $10/day child care plan will reduce households’ child care expenditures by thousands of dollars a year.
Employees who now work part-time hours would gain opportunities for more employment. Within two-parent homes, flextime may not change the total hours that parents work, but redistribute them more evenly between dads and moms. For each Canadian adult, the cost of this New Deal would be $1.67 per day in the first year, and cheaper thereafter as benefits to government, the business community and society increase over time.
Twenty-two billion dollars is less than one and a half per cent of the Canadian economy. It is about one-third of what Canadians now pay for Old Age Security and RRSP subsidies, and 16 per cent of medical care.
We know this price tag is doable. Between 2007 and 2010, Canadians increased our public spending on medical care by more than $22 billion annually. Clearly, $22 billion can be found for priorities.
The real question is: Do Canadians prioritize a Canada that works for all generations? Canadians in Saskatchewan next have the opportunity to answer this question as they go to the polls on Nov. 7. Perhaps the province that brought us medical care can once again lead by launching a New Deal for Families?
Paul Kershaw is the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) scholar of social care, citizenship and the determinants of health at the University of B.C.
10/09-10/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- W.Va. has options for economic growth ... seriously, 10/10 The Charleston Gazette (WV) via InsuranceNewsNet.com
Charleston, W.Va. - According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the national economy grew at an anemic annualized rate of 1.3 percent in the spring quarter. The good news, such as it is, is that economic growth of any kind means we're technically not in a recession, at least as such things are defined by economists.
The bad news is that it's pretty cold comfort to more than 25 million unemployed or under-employed Americans and the over 60,000 unemployed West Virginians.
Still, it isn't all gloom and doom for West Virginia. And it could get a lot better.
For starters, West Virginia, for all its dismal numbers, has weathered the storm better than in past recessions. In the early 1980s, for example, the state's unemployment rate hit a catastrophic 17.3 percent in 1983 and remained higher than the national average for nearly 20 years. This time, our unemployment rate, while high, has been consistently lower than the national average.
While many states are facing deficits, laying off workers and cutting services, West Virginia enjoyed a $330 million surplus last year and has avoided layoffs and program cuts, even while some taxes have been reduced. That's quite a contrast from the late 1980s, when unpaid bills piled up and some health care providers wouldn't accept state insurance cards.
There are some things the state could do to position itself for even stronger growth and more resilience in good times and bad. And given the gridlock that exists in Washington these days, we might do well to take the initiative here. Here's my short list:
* For starters, we could reform our unemployment system by allowing the option of work-sharing. This would give employers the option of cutting hours rather than laying off workers in hard times, with the state making up some of the lost wages with unemployment funds.
This is a win/win for workers and employers. Long-term unemployment can have devastating impacts on the mental and physical health of workers and the well being of their families and communities. The state as a whole suffers economically when people drop out of the labor force, which has been and remains a major drag on West Virginia's growth.
But keeping skilled workers also helps employers, and is particularly popular with manufacturers. As Kevin Hassett of the conservative American Enterprise Institute noted in 2009, "When a recession strikes, firms are faced with a dilemma: Sales and profits are down, and many workers are idle. But finding skilled workers is costly and time-consuming, involving large fixed costs. If a firm fires workers, it may incur large hiring and training costs when the recession ends and sales turn back up. Thus, a firm would prefer, all else equal, to hoard labor during a recession."
Work-sharing has been tried with success in Europe, and is one reason why Germany kept its unemployment rate low even though its economy lost more in gross domestic product (GDP) than the United States in the recession. Hassett and progressive economist Dean Baker, an unlikely ally, have noted that Holland's work sharing program helped keep its unemployment rate near 4 percent during the downturn. The national average here is over twice that amount. President Obama has included it as a component of the American Jobs Act, but there is also bipartisan support for it in Congress.
Whatever happens in Washington, 17 states already have some form of work-sharing as an option. The Legislature could pass a bill enabling work-sharing as one option employers could choose when they face difficult business decisions.
* Another option to both put people back to work and to improve our ability to grow would be for the state to issue infrastructure bonds. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, 39 percent of West Virginia's bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete; 37 percent of our major roads are in poor or mediocre condition; and 30 of our dams need work. Many rural residents still lack access to good water and public sewer systems.
With interest rates low and the state budget firmly in the black, the timing for this looks pretty good. The state could complete much- needed projects and pay back the bonds with the revenue yielded by greater economic growth.
If anyone doubts that a better infrastructure helps businesses to grow, I suggest taking a drive south on Route 119 from Charleston to Logan. It's a short trip, now. Or you could try to build a factory that depends on well water and a septic tank.
* Finally, we need to think ahead. Imagine what West Virginia would look like today if our state's leaders had set aside a trust fund for economic development from mineral severance taxes 100 years ago and we used it to make improvements in education, workforce, parks, infrastructure or public health. Southern West Virginia might look like Shangri-la.
Any sane person looking back at West Virginia history of extractive industries like mining would wish we could hit rewind and do it better. The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that "There are no second acts in American lives," but we have the chance to prove him wrong.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy notes that "The development of the Marcellus Shale presents an opportunity to diversify West Virginia's economy and promote long-term economic growth."
West Virginia could set aside part of the severance taxes on nonrenewable natural resources such as coal and gas to "create a permanent source of sustainable wealth that can be used to invest in economic alternatives and the state's workforce."
West Virginians are all too familiar with hard times, poverty and low incomes. We've often led the nation in bad statistics. It would be nice if we took bold action now to say goodbye to all that.
- Rome DMV avoids shut down in 2012 budget, 10/10 YNN via centralny.ynn.com
ROME, N.Y. - Longer lines and shorter hours may be in its future, but the Rome DMV will not close as a result of Oneida County's proposed 2012 budget.
County Executive Anthony Picente announced Monday the plan to shut down the Rome office has been revised. The closure would have saved $200,000 in the budget. That money will now be saved by eliminating four positions as well as cutting back hours.
Picente says community outcry played a role in the decision to keep the office open, but such alternatives won't be available forever without help from the state.
In the coming years, there are going to have to be tough decisions made by those in elected office about whether we keep a service or raise taxes above the cap, because unless the state gives us the mandate relief, that cannot take place," said County Executive Picente.
The first public hearing on the 2012 budget is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. in the county office building.
- State suffers from bad law, 10/09 Daily Home Online via dailyhome.com
LITTLE ROCK, Ala. - A reasonable person might assume that with state budgets cut to the bone, courthouse offices being closed around the state, and workers being laid off or furloughed in many government departments, lawmakers would resist adding to the bureaucratic workload and would look for ways to improve efficiency in government operations.
That would be the reasonable thing to do.
But then, again, we are talking about the Alabama Legislature. That would be out of character, wouldn’t it?
The bill that the legislators are most proud of having passed last spring has had the complete opposite effect. It has added red tape for overburdened teachers and school administrators. It has generated long lines to buy license plates. It has created new crimes for law enforcement to police, for courts to try, for jails to incarcerate. And it is all unnecessary.
Alabama’s vaunted new strongest-in-the-country anti-immigrant law took effect at the end of last month, and this month lifelong Alabamians are suffering the consequences.
Schools must now document whether children enrolled there are in the state legally. Then they must report the numbers of children thought to be illegal to state education officials.
This paperwork takes time away from the good work of teaching, and Alabama’s schools don’t have a minute of teaching time to spare.
By creating a hostile environment for any child who doesn’t look “American,” the new law is squeezing Hispanic kids out of the public schools. Even kids who are legal are being kept out of school because their parents won’t drive them for fear of being detained themselves. More Hispanic kids are being withdrawn from school because their parents — legal or not — are fleeing the state.
That’s what the law was designed to do — make Alabama so hostile to anyone not born here that they’ll just up and leave.
But if the legislators who passed the law considered what losing that many students would do to school funding, they didn’t care. A superintendent in one south Alabama school district said he could lose two teacher positions because of the loss of students he’s seen already.
The legislators have made it perfectly clear that they don’t care whether the state’s farmers get their crops harvested. And despite stated commitments to rebuilding storm-ravaged communities, they apparently also don’t care how long it takes without immigrant construction workers. They don’t care that legal immigrants, some of them highly trained at the expense of Alabama contractors, are leaving the state and taking that investment with them.
And if you don’t care either because none of this has inconvenienced you yet, just wait until you have to renew your car tag. In Montgomery, people have waited in line for six hours. In Birmingham, the lines are so long that portable toilets were brought in. In Huntsville, some people waited in long lines only to be turned away because they didn’t have all the information — information that they didn’t need the last time.
Who can take time off work to stand in such a line? Do the legislators care? Does the governor?
These problems are unnecessary. They have been foisted upon us by a bad law whose consequences for law-abiding, hard-working Alabamians were never considered in the zeal to chase immigrants from our midst.
10/08/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Microchip's Savvy Game Plan - The semiconductor company has managed adversity smartly in the past, and is well equipped to handle another recession - The stock is cheap, the dividend rich, by Jaccqueline Doherty, Barron's via barrons.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Like most semiconductor stocks, shares of Microchip Technology have been hit hard by an industry slowdown. At a recent 33.29, they are off 17% from a mid-May high, stirring memories of an even more fearsome slide in 2008, when the economy and the chip business last went into a tailspin....
With factory production cut by a third, the manufacturing staff was divided in thirds, with one-third furloughed every week. Microchip raised funds for employees in need. It took donations from employees and the company contributed $60000 to the fund..\..
Investors who bought at the end of 2008 were rewarded with handsome gains, and that could occur this time, as well. The Chandler, Ariz.-based company (ticker: MCHP) has turned a profit for 83 consecutive quarters, notwithstanding an often bleak economic backdrop....
- Modesto teachers protest on furloughs - Students need schooling, they say,
By Nan Austin firstname.lastname@example.org, Modesto Bee via modbee.com
MODESTO, Calif. - Modesto teachers weren't in class Friday, but they still had work on their minds.
About two dozen members of the Modesto Teachers Association used the furlough day to remind people driving along Coffee Road that Friday was one of five days Modesto City Schools students aren't being taught.
About two dozen teachers walked across Coffee and back using the dual crosswalks facing Downey High School starting at 7:30 a.m. MTA Executive Director Megan Gowans said union members walked precincts through the morning.
Marshall Elementary teacher Marissa Ontiveros said if there had been school on Friday, her first-graders would have been putting together two colors of linked blocks to help them with adding sums up to five.
"I have three kids of my own. It's all the days they need to be in school," Ontiveros said.
Hanshaw Middle School shop teacher Curtis Johnson said his construction class would have started building scale-model homes Friday.
Hanshaw teacher Leonard GeRue said his students would have been studying the Constitution.
"It just means extra work and extra homework," GeRue said, noting the state tests won't be easier because kids had fewer days to prepare.
The next furlough day will be Halloween, a Monday, which traditionally is a day of distractions for students. Three more are set for Feb. 22-24, which combine with two other holiday days to make a full week off.
Friday was the last day of the school quarter, and many teachers were using the time to get in the grades.
"You've got the day off, but you know teachers are going to be grading papers and doing their work," GeRue said.
As teachers ambled between the crosswalks, one group started the chant, "Building reserves ain't so cool. Put the kids back in school."
"Are they using 'ain't'?" asked Gregori librarian Julie Carota, a note of disbelief in her voice.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339.
10/07/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Solon 'curbs' production output in Germany, PV-Tech.org
BERLIN, Germany - Struggling PV module manufacturer, Solon [SE, LLC] is reacting to the weak end-user demand in Germany by reducing module output and plans to introduce short-time working to reduce inventory levels. However, management noted that its two most important overseas markets, Italy and the US remained strong - noting revenue for the quarter was ‘slightly ahead’ of expectations.
Though Solon did not provide further details over production level cutbacks the company noted that approximately 100 workers would be affected by the reduction in production, which was understood to have started on October 1, 2011. The company did not say when the policy would end. The German production facilities are in Berlin and Greifswald.
Back in July, 2011 Solon announced sweeping plans to restructure the company to reduce debts (net debt as of June 30, 2011 €402.4 million) and bring the company back to a firmer financial footing. Then, management noted the need to reduce manufacturing costs, which led to the announced closure of its module assembly lines in the US.
As part of the restructuring efforts, management have appointed Dr. Walter Bickel to join the board as CRO with immediate effect. Dr. Bickel comes from global professional services firm, Alvarez & Marsal, which specializing in turnaround and interim management duties. He and a team from the firm have worked with Solon since restructuring efforts were announced.
However, as a knock-on effect, of current Management Board members Andreas Amelang and Dr. Martin Detje have left their positions by mutual consent. The company noted that Dr. Detje resigned as he disagreed with the strategic repositioning of the company under plans being implemented.
“The restructuring of Solon is on a tight time schedule,” noted Dr. Karl Werner, chairman of the Solon SE Supervisory Board. “We believed it was important for Dr. Bickel, a proven restructuring expert with the necessary skills, to work closely with the Chief Executive Officer so that the decisions that have been made are implemented rapidly and stringently.”
As part of the restructuring, Dr. Werner said that the company had been organized into three business segments, which included components, industrial roofs, and power plants, which were along the lines set out in July this year. However, the business segments were said to be operated as independent organizational units and ‘profit centres.’
Citing a pick-up in business in Germany by the end of the year, management said it remained confident of meeting its downward revised guidance for the full-year.
- House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census, and the National Archives Hearing, Federal Information & News Dispatch Inc.
Testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Subcommittee on Health Care, District of Columbia, Census, and the National Archives
Christopher J. Spiro, J.D.
Managing Director, Health Policy
The Center for American Progress Action Fund
Thursday, October 6, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Davis, and members of the Committee--thank you for the opportunity to testify today about employer responsibility under the Affordable Care Act and the Act's impact on temporary workers and their employers. My name is Topher Spiro, and I am the Managing Director of Health Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which promotes effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Today's hearing focuses on an important issue, as temporary staffing firms employ about 10 million workers each year. My testimony is organized into three parts. First, I will describe the broad benefits to temporary workers and their employers under the Affordable Care Act. Then, I will explain the purpose and design of employer responsibility under the Affordable Care Act. My testimony will close with observations of how employer responsibility is practical and flexible for temporary workers and their employers.
Benefits to Temporary Workers and Their Employers
Starting in 2014, all Americans will have access to affordable health insurance. As Carl T. Camden, President and CEO of Kelly Services, Inc. - one of the largest employers of temporary workers - has observed, the Affordable Care Act "will create long-overdue opportunity for non-traditional workers to access affordable health care." Mr. Camden explains how the Affordable Care Act benefits temporary workers and their employers better than I could, so I will quote him at length:
The United States remains the only advanced nation in which individuals lack access to affordable group health coverage outside the employment setting. As a result, health insurance-related 'job lock' afflicts millions, which is bad for entrepreneurship, worse for economic dynamism, and frustrating for an industry that relies on a free-agent workforce. Simply put, non-traditional workers are treated badly by the current model...Any policy choice that enhances the availability and mobility of talent is a good thing for the staffing industry and the economy as a whole.
As Mr. Camden observes, access to affordable health insurance will benefit not only workers, but also their employers. Preventive care will reduce absenteeism and increase the productivity of workers. Health care costs for the uninsured will no longer be shifted onto employers that do offer coverage through higher premiums. And for staffing firms, millions of newly insured Americans seeking health care will create demand for health care workers.
In addition to these economic benefits, on a more human level, many temporary workers - who work long, hard hours but may be struggling to pay the bills and cannot afford health insurance, through no fault of their own - will not lay awake at night out of fear that a family member will suddenly become sick, sending the family over the edge into bankruptcy.
Why Employer Responsibility?
If you agree with Mr. Camden that access to affordable health insurance is long overdue, as I do, then employer responsibility is an essential piece of the puzzle. It provides an incentive for employers that currently offer coverage to maintain that coverage, the primary source of coverage for millions of Americans. Otherwise, many employers might drop coverage and allow taxpayers to pick up the tab, which would increase the federal deficit by billions of dollars. This is not conjecture on my part; the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded that the absence of employer responsibility would significantly erode employer-based coverage.
Based on this logic, employer responsibility under the Affordable Care Act imposes "free-rider" penalties on large employers to help cover the cost if taxpayers subsidize their employees. Large employers that do not offer coverage to their full-time employees must generally pay a penalty of $2,000 per full-time employee (excluding the first 30 employees). Large employers that do offer coverage must pay a penalty of $3,000 for each full-time employee who receives a premium tax credit through the Exchange. That would be the case if the coverage is unaffordable to the employee or does not provide minimum value.
Simple financial comparisons of potential penalty liabilities to the costs of coverage may not drive employer decisions about whether to offer coverage. In addition to employer responsibility, there are several other important reasons why employers will continue to offer coverage. Some may offer coverage because their employees and potential employees expect them to do so, and they want to remain competitive in the labor market. Others may view offering coverage as one of their responsibilities to their employees. Since individuals will have a responsibility to maintain coverage, there will be much more demand for their employers to offer it. Small business tax credits will reduce the cost of offering coverage, particularly for very small firms. And finally, the cost of coverage will still be excluded from income and payroll taxes - which for the vast majority of workers will provide a larger subsidy than they can receive through the Exchange.
In fact, research on the experience in Massachusetts found that enrollment in employer-based coverage actually increased - even during the recession. Therefore, it is not surprising that CBO concluded that the Affordable Care Act would have very little effect on employer-based coverage.
A Practical and Flexible Design of Employer Responsibility
Congress carefully targeted employer responsibility under the Affordable Care Act. And the Treasury Department is carefully examining how to implement the law so that it is practical and flexible for employers. I want to highlight several aspects of the statute and its implementation that demonstrate this careful approach.
First, and most importantly, employer responsibility only applies to large employers with at least 50 full-time employees. As a result, 96 percent of all employers will be exempt from employer responsibility altogether. And since the vast majority of employers that are not exempt already offer coverage, less than 0.2 percent of all employers might be subject to penalties. It is worth noting that in Massachusetts, employer responsibility is much broader in scope, applying to employers with more than 10 full-time employees.
Second, small employers do not become large employers just because they hire seasonal workers. In general, a "seasonal worker" is an employee who is employed for less than four months of the year.
Third, penalties do not apply with respect to part-time employees; they only apply with respect to full-time employees.
Personal Accident Insurance
Fourth, since penalties apply with respect to full-time employees, the definition of "full-time employee" is important. In general, a "full-time employee" is an employee who works an average of at least 30 hours per week. If full-time employee status is determined on a monthly basis, an employee who works more than 30 hours per week for only one month would be considered a "full-time employee" who triggers employer responsibility for that month.
Alternatively, Treasury has proposed a safe harbor in which an employer can generally look back up to twelve months to determine whether employees averaged at least 30 hours per week. For example, suppose that a temporary worker works 40 hours per week, but is employed for only three months of the year. If the employer looks back six months, that worker will have averaged only 20 hours per week over the six-month period. Therefore, that worker would not be considered a "full-time employee", and would not trigger employer responsibility.
Treasury's rationale for this safe harbor is to ensure that there is a sufficient attachment between the employer and the employee to trigger the employer's responsibility to the employee. Otherwise, temporary workers might bounce around between employer coverage and coverage through the Exchange, which could disrupt continuity of care and place an administrative burden on both employers and the Exchange.
Employers for Flexibility in Health Care - a coalition of employers that relies on large numbers of part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers - strongly supports Treasury's proposal, commenting that it "has the potential to provide the flexibility employers need to preserve flexible work arrangements, provide a stable source of coverage, and allow for the practical administration of benefits."
In addition to proposing the safe harbor, Treasury has requested comments on alternative possible methods of determining full-time employee status. Of course, any method must not undermine the purpose of employer responsibility that I discussed earlier - to prevent erosion of employer-based coverage, which would be disruptive and increase costs to taxpayers. In addition, the method must not create an incentive to convert permanent full-time employees into temporary workers, and must be consistent with the Affordable Care Act's 90-day limitation on waiting periods.
And finally, Treasury has proposed a practical method for determining whether coverage is unaffordable to an employee, which could trigger a penalty if the employee receives a premium tax credit through the Exchange. In general, coverage is unaffordable if the cost to the employee exceeds 9.5 percent of the employee's income. Because total income is not something that is known to the employer, employers might not be able to figure out whether the coverage they are offering is affordable, and whether they will be subject to penalties. To address this concern, Treasury proposed a safe harbor in which coverage is unaffordable if the cost to the employee exceeds 9.5 percent of the employee's W-2 wages - which is information that is known to the employer. This proposal would adopt wholesale the recommendation of Employers for Flexibility in Health Care, the broad coalition of employers that relies on temporary workers.
In short, Treasury is clearly examining ways to implement employer responsibility in a manner that is practical and flexible, and that takes into account employees with highly variable work schedules and limited employment periods.
CPA Referral Secrets
In closing, employers of temporary workers need not fear employer responsibility. It is an essential part of health reform, which will expand access to affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. Mr. Camden, of Kelly Services, writes: "Some have suggested that higher penalties imposed on staffing firms will narrow the cost advantage of using temporary employees and thus weaken demand for our services. I think that concern is misplaced." Rather, Mr. Camden sees significant opportunity: that the Affordable Care Act "will accelerate the growth of non-traditional workers and remove longstanding barriers to employment options."
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony, and I am happy to answer any questions members of the Committee may have.
10/06/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- One Good Idea in Obama's American Jobs Act, by Merrill Matthews, Forbes.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Most of the American Jobs Act, President Obama’s umpteenth effort to stimulate the economy, will do little to create jobs—or save his. But there are a few provisions that are worth serious bipartisan consideration. And one of them is his “Bridge to Work” proposal intended to help the unemployed find a job.
Bridge to Work appears to be based on a program already working in Georgia, known as “Georgia Works,” as well as a number of other state experiments and federal ideas.
The impetus for the [new type of] unemployment insurance program [trying hard to avoid the term "worksharing"] came in the 1990s as a demonstration project in the bright-blue state of Oregon, where it worked very well. In 2003, then-Georgia Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond, a Democrat, launched Georgia Works, a variation of the Oregon plan. Since then states as diverse as Texas, New Hampshire, Utah and Nevada have implemented their own versions.
The basic idea is to turn a worker’s unemployment benefits—which usually last for 25 weeks, but have been extended to 99 weeks in 21 states with especially high unemployment—into “reemployment” benefits: providing income while being trained in a new job.
The key is to give states more flexibility to use those unemployment benefits to get unemployed workers back into productive jobs, which, if done correctly, will save the state money.
Georgia Works allows workers to train with an employer for up to eight weeks as a volunteer at the job site while they collect their unemployment benefits. The state also provides a $240 stipend to help with transportation, child care and other expenses. Participants cannot be on the job more than 24 hours a week.
The program has been very successful, with more than 32,000 workers and 16,000 employers participating, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. One quarter of those participants were later hired by the companies where they trained.
Texas implemented a somewhat different—and I think preferable—approach in February 2010. Known as “Texas Back to Work,” the program subsidizes employment, so the worker is actually getting a wage.
Participating employers bring on a qualified claimant—i.e., first-time unemployed who had been making $15 per hour or less—for up to four months, working at least 30 hours a week.
The unemployment benefits stop, but the state provides the employer with a subsidy of up to $2,000 to pay the worker for that four-month period. Since participating employers must pay at least minimum wage—a restriction Georgia avoids since its workers may only train, not work, while getting their unemployment insurance—the employer must chip in the difference, and may provide even more.
Like Georgia Works, Texas Back to Work is also a success story. Not only has Texas created more jobs than any other state in the country, with nearly 20,000 participants and 3,000 employers, Texas Back to Work is the largest wage-subsidy program for unemployment benefits in the U.S., and it won the U.S. Department of Labor’s Innovation Award last year.
About 63 percent completed their subsidized four-month placement. Nearly 90 percent of those who were reported as successfully completing their placement were still employed the next quarter. And they were making on average 99.4 percent of their previous income, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
President Obama wants to promote these kinds of efforts and has included $10 billion in the American Jobs Act to encourage states to act. But the president—or should I say the American taxpayer—doesn’t have any money to give; and it isn’t clear that states need that much since getting people off unemployment insurance and back to work can actually save the state money.
In addition, Obama’s Bridge to Work has a mandate that employers must hire a worker after eight weeks of on-the-job training. I can’t think of a better way to discourage employers from participating.
One of the attractive provisions in programs like Georgia Works, Oregon’s Jobs Plus, and Texas Back to Work is they provide a trial period to see if the job is a good fit for both the employer and the unemployed worker. Employers are not forced to make a long-term commitment to someone who, for whatever reason, doesn’t work out. That freedom ensures more employers participate; a hiring mandate has the exact opposite effect. The American Jobs Act needs to be expanding state flexibility, not reducing it.
Republicans appear to be seriously considering Bridge to Work because that approach has a successful track record, bipartisan support and gets the economic incentives right. We certainly can’t say that about most of the American Jobs Act, but at least this one provision is worth a try.
Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas.
- Workers may get furlough pay back, WTSP 10 News via wtsp.com
PALM BAY, Fla. - All city employees furloughed in 2009 would have two days added into their leave banks under a proposal that goes to Palm Bay City Council tonght.
The proposal comes weeks after an arbitrator ruled Palm Bay did not have the right to impose the unpaid time off under a contract with the local chapter of the National Association of Government Employees, the union that covers the city's blue collar workers.
But instead of returning the time to just a select group, City Manager Sue Hann is recommending the city council reinstate the time for all employees, to be fair.
It's a decision that is welcomed by at least one union.
"It really seems like they are working with the unions," said Rob Frey, president of the National Association of Government Employees chapter that represents white collar employees in the city. "We're both trying to do what's right. "
Rough estimates, based on the furloughs in this year's budget, put the value of the reinstated time at $275,000. The actual value, however, will be lower once the city narrows it down to just the employees impacted by the 2009 furloughs.
Employees must use the time within three years and cannot cash it out .
In 2009, Palm Bay city leaders required all non-essential staff to take two days without pay .
But the decision was challenged in court by two union groups: NAGE Blue and Palm Bay's Fraternal Order of Police.
10/05/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Lawmakers may mull work sharing - Workers would take cut in hours but keep job, benefits, by Niki Kelly email@example.com, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette via journalgazette.net
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – An unemployment oversight committee Tuesday considered a new program that would give employers an alternative to laying off Hoosiers that is used in 21 other states.
The Work Share program would allow employers to reduce the workload of all its employees – rather than lay someone off entirely – while the employees can receive partial unemployment due to the reduction.
“This is a small but useful idea,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis. “The message is we care about the economic crisis and are trying to address it.”
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have a work-sharing program.
Delaney explained the theory to the committee members – a mix of legislators, businessmen and labor representative – by giving an example of an employer with four employees working a collective 160 hours of work.
When the workload drops to only about 120 hours, the employer could reduce everyone’s hours to 30 hours a week rather than laying off one person completely. The employees would get a small amount of unemployment and keep their benefits, he said.
The cost to the unemployment trust fund over the four employees would be the same as a full layoff of one.
And the business gets to keep the experience and training put into the employees for when the workload returns. This results in a savings in the future hiring process, DeLaney said.
George Raymond of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce testified generally in support of the concept with some concern about the detailed application of what businesses would be eligible.
He also said it might not be feasible for businesses to keep paying for full benefits.
“If the idea is to cut costs, we have to look at benefits too,” Raymond said.
Ed Roberts of the Indiana Manufacturers Association said the work-share idea has been talked about for 25 years, and he cautioned against a major policy change in the middle of an overhaul of the system that is just starting to bail out the bankrupt fund.
Businesses in Indiana are paying about 55 percent more this year in state and federal unemployment premiums and penalties. Indiana owes $1.8 billion to the federal government as a result of its fund running out of money several years back. Unemployment benefits also will be reduced for some Hoosiers starting next year as part of the fix.
“This is not to say no, this is to say slow,” he said.
The chairman of the committee said he is intrigued by the idea but didn’t know whether he was opening up a can of worms. He encouraged DeLaney to gather some statistics and write a bill to be considered next legislative session.
- Trade unions press working hours regulation, by Fan Feifei
firstname.lastname@example.org, [picked up 10/04 over dateline] China Daily (HK Edition) via ChinaDaily,com.cn
HONG KONG, China - Trade unions are calling on the government to set out a schedule for introducing legislation on standard working hours for people who work in catering, hotels, care, nursing, building management, security, and retail sales.
Second quarter figures by the Census and Statistics Department of the government show there are 1.89 million employees working more than 44 hours a week, accounting for more than half of the 3.61 million employees in the city.
Figures also show about 620,000 employees work more than 60 hours a week, accounting for 20 percent of the working population.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang has ordered that research into standard working hours be undertaken in the 2010-2011 Policy Address.
Employees enduring long hours come mostly from grassroots service industries, covering catering, building management, community care and nursing homes and retail industries, the figures indicates.
Lo Tang-king, a pastry chef, also chairman of Catering and Hotel Industries Employees General Unions, told China Daily she works around 11 hours a day.
"I work from four in the morning till three in the afternoon and work 6 days each week. In total, I need to work 66 hours a week", Lo said, complaining this kind of high-intensity work load makes her feel very tired.
Mr Ho, a building security guard said he works 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He also thinks the hours are too long and he does not get enough time with his family.
He also said the paid vacation time of employees in Hong Kong is unsatisfactory.
"The paid vacations increase with seniority. Employees working for 10 years have only 26 paid vacation days, compared with 41 days in Europe and 36 days in Japan and South Korean," said Li Hoi, executive secretary of Hong Kong Building Management and Security Workers General Union.
International Labor Organization has set weekly standard working hours at 40 hours.
Referring to international experience, the labor unions urge government to formulate standard working hours - 44 working hours each week and overtime compensation at 1.5 times regular salary with maximum working hours at 60 hours.
An information officer for the Labour Department said it is too early to standardize working hours at the present stage.
She added the department is carrying out the commitment made by the Chief Executive and initiating policy analysis for standard working hours.
The analysis is expected to finish by mid-2012, the officer added.
10/04/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Budget woes force Delaware Co. to cut work week, Indianapolis Star via indystar.com
[See intro story on 9/28/2011.]
MUNCIE, Ind. -- A Central Indiana county facing steep budget cuts will be shutting down its main government building on Fridays and cutting the work week of nearly 150 employees.
The Delaware County commissioners voted 2-1 on Monday to begin the Friday shutdown this week and to also eliminate six paid holidays for county workers.
Commissioner Donald Dunnuck says the county's "dire times" forced the decision.
The County Council voted last week to cut three hours from the work week of employees who don't work for emergency services or the courts, The Star Press reported. The council decided to spread the 32-hour work week for the employees over four days.
Authorities estimate the shutdown will save several hundred thousand dollars toward about $8 million in planned cuts.
Commissioner Larry Bledsoe voted against the Friday closing plan, maintaining that it doesn't amount to enough savings.
"Our two biggest bills are payroll and health care," Bledsoe said. "We've not addressed those."
Delaware County Building will now be open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Thursday -- an hour longer each day for some offices. Hours for the Delaware County Justice Center will not change from the current 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The six holidays cut by the commissioners -- Presidents Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Good Friday, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and the day after Thanksgiving -- will leave county employees with eight paid holidays, including two election days.
- Utica faces retire-rehire questions. by Alan Reed, MountVernonNews.com
UTICA, Ohio — Should a public employee be allowed to retire, collect his retirement benefits, and be rehired in the same position?
That question was placed in the hands of Utica Village Council and its Light Committee Monday evening. The committee received a report from Mayor Larry Friesel outlining the savings the village would realize if Village Administrator Jud Brechler retires from the full-time position and then was rehired as a part-time administrator (30 hours per week).
Brechler had suggested a couple weeks ago, but after talking with some council members said he was withdrawing the idea because it would face too many problems.
However, Friesel, who is not seeking re-election, said it should still be discussed by council, so he submitted his report to Monday’s committee meeting.
However, the committee did not discuss the issue Monday. Chairman Lester Grennell gave copies of the report to committee members Clarence Conley and John Davison, told them to look it over and think about it, and it will be discussed at the council meeting Nov. 14. At that time, the village will know if the levy it has on the November ballot has passed and council will know what finances it will have to work with in the future.
The committee meets again Nov. 7, but since that’s the night before the election, any discussion will likely be deferred.
- Ming Pao workers camp out for better jobs, by Yeamrot Taddese, TorontoObserver.ca
TORONTO, Ont., Canada - Angela Fung has spent three nights out in the cold in the last three weeks.
“It’s cold, it’s very tiring,” she said.
Fung is among the 139 employees at Ming Pao [news] who walked off their jobs on Sept. 20 and started picketing 24 hours, seven days a week.
Holding signs outside the Chinese daily newspaper’s office near Brimley Rd. and Huntingwood Dr., the workers are demanding job security, better wages, shorter working hours and more vacation days.
Simon Sung, a graphic designer at Ming Pao, said he and his colleagues are asking for the same benefits as their counterparts at Sing Tao, Ming Pao’s competitor, already have.
Job security, Sung said, is the most pressing issue as workers at Ming Pao don’t have a contract.
Ming Pao has been using “any excuse” to lay off core members of the union ever since 65 per cent of workers joined the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP)’s Local 87M Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild in January 2010, Sung said.
“Obviously, the action [was taken] to minimize the union’s power,” he said.
There have been no talks between Ming Pao and the workers since the newspaper’s final offer for a contract “fell short of what anyone could interpret as fair,” Paul Morse, the president of CEP, said.
“We hope the company comes back to the table with a fair offer,” said Morse, who refused to get into the details of what the last offer looked like.
Ming Pao’s management could not be reached for comment despite repeated phone calls.
The workers said their employer has not contacted them since the day they started striking.
Friends and strangers bring food and drinks to protesters camping out at 1355 Huntingwood Dr.
NDP MPs Olivia Chow and Rathika Sitsabaiesan visited the workers on the picket line last Sunday to show their support.
Meanwhile, some of the employees still going to work “sneak in through the back,” said Pinky Chan, a traffic coordinator at Ming Pao.
“One of them used a scarf to cover her face,” she said.
Fung and her colleagues on the picket line said they will continue to strike until an agreement is reached with their employer.
The strike challenges a cultural dogma, Fung said.
“Chinese people are afraid of [speaking out].”
10/02-03/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- State Rep. Jim Ananich pushes legislation for work-sharing program, by Kris Turner, The Flint Journal via 10/02 MLive.com
FLINT, Mich. — State Rep. Jim Ananich is pushing legislation to allow Michigan to participate in a potential national work-sharing program.
Work-sharing programs allow businesses to reduce the number of hours their employees work without forcing layoffs. The workers are able to make up their pay with money from a work-sharing fund.
[- or from the (un)employment insurance fund which is saving money from fewer layoffs.]
The concept has been tossed around by the federal government and could help decrease the number of unemployed, said Ananich, a Democrat who represents Flint.
“Basically, this is allowing flexibility for a company and its workers,” he said. “This would allow the person to have the reduction in hours — maybe you only need 30 hours — and you could get the remainder of your check in a work-sharing fund.”
The program could help businesses weather rough economic times and reduce the number of people drawing full unemployment, Ananich said.
Funding could come from previously logged overtime hours, money supplied by the federal government or from unemployment funds, Ananich said.
Ananich requested a hearing last week in Lansing to discuss the state’s stance on work sharing. About 17 other states run their own work-sharing programs, he said.
Roland Zullo, a research scientist at the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, said the major benefit of a work-sharing program is it allows people to remain in the labor force.
“When the economy turns around, it’s always useful to have a roster of individuals who understand your organization and can be hired quickly to fill in for full-time positions,” he said.
Whether or not the program reduces the number of people using unemployment depends entirely on how it’s structured, he said.
One downside is that work-sharing programs also can add a lot of management work for companies, said Richard Block, a professor emeritus at Michigan State University.
There is a loss of institutional knowledge because employees share jobs, he added, and the most ideal jobs for work-sharing programs are ones that don’t require a hand-off of knowledge from one day to the next.
Heather Aho, a 21-year-old St. Charles resident, said the program could be a boost for the state but might not sit well with some workers.
“I can see the good and the bad parts of it,” she said. “People get jobs, but if it’s only 20 hours a week it might not be enough.”
- Work-Sharing provisions of Obama Jobs Plan play stabilizing role in state labor market, by Allan Freyer, 10/03 The Progressive Pulse via pulse.ncpolicywatch.org
RALEIGH, N.C. - According to the grim monthly reports from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, the state’s unemployment numbers keep climbing. In August, the unemployment rate topped 10.4% and the jobs deficit—the monthly growth in employment necessary to return to pre-recession levels–climbed to 494,000 jobs. The jobs deficit in particular speaks to the critical challenge of long-term unemployment throughout the state.
How does President Obama’s jobs plan address this long-term labor market challenge? One key provision promotes the policy approach known as work-sharing. Although specific policy details are still forthcoming, 20 states currently offer work-sharing programs, providing a reasonably clear outline of the basic policy framework.
Under this basic framework, employers avoid laying off workers by agreeing to reduce their individual weekly hours and wages. This allows employers to stabilize their payrolls without sacrificing the need to cut labor costs. Take for example, a firm with three employees each working 40 hours a week for a total of 120 hours a week for the firm. During an economic downturn, the firm would normally lay off one worker to reduce payrolls to 90 hours a week [and next downturn, one more, and...]. Under the work-share program, the firm would simply allow each employee to work fewer hours (say 30 hours a week), thus negating the need for layoffs.
For each of the three workers in this hypothetical firm, the work-share program offers prorated Unemployment Insurance benefits roughly equal to the value of their foregone wages. This ensures that workers do not lose significant income when shifting to short-time.
Given this basic approach, the program should help improve long-term labor market stability by allowing employers to reduce labor costs without laying off workers and providing workers with income supports to offset lower wages. In turn, this should reduce the burden on the UI trust fund, reduce layoffs, and ensure that workers maintain a stable income able to support crucial consumer purchasing at private sector businesses.
According to a recent OECD paper [Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development], work-sharing programs in Germany, Italy, and Japan during the recession reduced the drop in employment from 2008 to 2009 by between 0.5 and 1 percentage points—evidence of the effective role played by these programs in a broad portfolio of job creation strategies.
While these foreign programs have clearly assisted with stabilizing the labor market, experiences here in the United States are somewhat mixed, largely due to insufficient state government outreach and enrollment of firms and workers. In North Carolina, the program’s success will require the Department of Commerce to conduct significant campaigns to ensure firms are knowledgeable about the program and willing to participate. If done right, a North Carolina work-sharing program could go a long way to ensuring short relief to workers and employers alike while promoting greater long-term stability in the labor market.
- Obama's Reform Of Unemployment Benefits Right For L.A., Expert Says, by Jessica Dallas, 10/02 NeonTommy.com
LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The new improvements to unemployment benefits proposed by President Obama in early September could be the push the unemployed in Los Angeles need to get back to work.
“Work-sharing, reemployment assistance and startup assistance could certainly be very effective in getting people back to work in Los Angeles,” said Elaine Bell Kaplan, a professor of American sociology at the University of Southern California. “I think work-sharing is great because it would allow companies to keep employees at fewer hours while allowing them to continue collecting some unemployment benefits.”
“This is kind of like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s initiatives in the Great Depression,” Kaplan said. “The government supported construction and development to pay American workers for their service and get them back to work.”
California has an unemployment rate of 12.1 percent, which is significantly higher than the 9.1 percent national average, according to the United States Department of Labor.
“I see more people sleeping outside in the streets now than I have ever before,” Kaplan said. “These measures aren’t going far enough, Obama needs to be tougher.”
The biggest problem is outsourcing, Kaplan said.
“What we could do is tax companies that outsource jobs to low-wage countries and give tax breaks to the companies that don’t outsource,” she said. “We should be demanding that companies bring the work back to the United States to help the working class recover. Why isn’t there an outcry over this?”
One of the measures Obama proposed in his debt plan was $1.5 trillion in new taxes for wealthy Americans.
The problem is that the wealthy are always able to find loopholes to avoid paying taxes, she said.
“There is an underground economy for the wealthy that allows them to avoid paying the taxes they owe,” Kaplan said. “The rich should be making a contribution to society, not stealing from it.”
In L.A., wealthy celebrities could be doing more to help the less fortunate, Kaplan said. “That would certainly help the working class in Los Angeles.”
Kaplan noted the abundance of multi-million dollar homes in the Los Angeles area as an example of the wealth that still exists in the region.
“This just goes to show that the rich are getting richer,” she said. “They should be required to give more back to society.”
The new programs are a start, but the Obama administration could do even more, Kaplan said.
“Obama needs to go a step further to bring outsourced jobs back to the United States.”
[Now a couple of cases where shorter hours meant more money -]
- Eight-hour workweek, editorial, 10/03 FrederickNewsPost.com (subscription)
FREDERICK, Maryld. - Can our elected county officials genuinely treat service on the commissioners board as part time?
[Presumably by getting outside gigs: "consulting," etc...]
It doesn't seem so long ago that a previous board was before the delegation of Frederick County's state lawmakers arguing just the reverse -- that what was originally conceived as a part-time position was taking up so much of their time they needed a pay raise.
At the time, 2005, the delegation voted to boost commissioners' annual salary from $30,000 to $45,000. That's $173 gross a day, or $865 gross a week.
Nice work if you can get it, especially now we have the benefit of hindsight from atop the ruins of the economy and a countywide jobless rate of 6.3 percent (and a national rate of 9.1 percent).
We're sure plenty of county residents would love to make $45,000 a year, and would be glad to put in 40 hours or more a week to get it. (And you don't even need to graduate from high school -- just get more people to vote for you than the other guy.)
So, here's our suggestion: Have commissioners work one day a week, a mere eight hours. We, the taxpayers, will pay you that $173 a day, or about $9,000 a year (260 workdays calculated across 52 weeks). That'll save the county government more than $36,000 per commissioner -- enough to add a roads worker or inspector, maybe even go toward a teacher. You know, people who do the real work of the county.
Imagine what we could do with $180,000 freed up from having all five commissioners take that option.
At 52 days a year, serving as a county commissioner would truly be a part-time job and fully in the spirit of why the commissioners form of government was created. And it would make our congressional representatives, who work on average about 100 days a year, look positively harried by comparison.
This is, of course, a ridiculous assessment.
For any commissioner to be truly engaged -- not just paying lip service to the tidal wave of decisions needed at every level and the sheer volume of paper being thrust at them to read and analyze every day -- he or she must spend the majority of their time dealing with government business. It is, for all intents and purposes, a full-time job.
The commissioners have been relentless in looking for places to trim the fat. May we suggest that if they believe the job is truly part time, their own salaries could do with some pruning.
- Tube [subway] drivers' salaries will soar to £50,000... but they'll still work just 35 hours a week, by Emma Reynolds, 10/03 DailyMail.co.uk
# Unions win inflation-busting deal for workers
# Average salary will rise by almost £10,000 over four years
# Drivers will get a £500 bonus for working during the Olympics
# 'I doubt you will find a better offer than this anywhere else in the public sector,' said union boss Bob Crow
# Fears that pay rises could lead to increased Tube fares
LONDON, England - Tube drivers will earn £50,000 salaries despite never working more than 35 hours a week, under a lucrative new pay deal.
[The truth is, everyone should be getting this instead of trillions funneling to a tiny slice of the population, but it'll never happen without nationwide workweek caps and OT-to-jobs conversion.]
Some London Underground workers will receive £10,000 pay rises over four years in what unions have called 'the best offer in the public sector'.
The militant Rail Maritime and Transport union has won a 5 per cent rise for its members now, with index-linked rises over the following three years.
Drivers who already earn around £46,000 salaries will earn £52,300 on average.
The LU's latest capitulation to the RMT means many transport workers will enjoy a 20 per cent pay hike by 2015.
Taxpayers funding the generous pay rises are already looking ahead to higher ticket prices while experiencing cuts in their own pay.
General secretary Bob Crow said: 'We saw major movement from LU and we now take this improved offer back to our local reps.
'In these days of austerity we have shown that fighting trade unionism is the best defence from attacks on jobs and living standards.
The Mail revealed earlier this month that Tube and train drivers are already pocketing up to £1,800 in return for promising not to strike during the Olympics.
MPs condemned the payments as a ‘bribe’ and accused the unions of holding the public to ransom.
The RMT said the issue of a payment during next year's Games was separate to the latest four-year deal.
Off the rails: Some drivers will get a £10,000 pay increase under the new agreement
With Retail Price Index inflation, industry insiders said that the rise under the deal could reach 20 per cent for some employees.
Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, said: 'This fair and affordable multi-year pay deal is a good deal for London - providing a platform for stability over a crucial time for the Tube network.
'This deal enables our employees' salaries to keep pace with the cost of living whilst being realistic given the current economic situation and the pressure on Transport for London's finances.
PERKS OF THE JOB
* Working weeks capped at 35 hours
* 43 days' holiday per year
* Free travel on London transport - for driver and their spouse
* Drivers are not allowed to work more than eight-hour days, or more than four hours and 15 minutes without a break
'We can now get on with the vital task of delivering the huge improvements to the network that Londoners need and deserve while we continue to develop our detailed plans to keep London moving during next summer's Games.'
The Games offer emerged as increasingly militant union leaders threatened the ‘biggest campaign’ of civil disobedience in Britain’s history.
Conservative MP Matthew Hancock said this month: ‘It’s outrageous, holding people to ransom. People should not have to be bribed just to do their job.
'The Olympics should be a celebration for London – not a chance for the travelling public to be ripped off.’
Astonishingly, the £1,800 bonus deal with Tube drivers does not even include a no-strike clause.
The glaring omission leaves them free to pocket the cash and still cause mass disruption with industrial action.
All 3,500 drivers on the underground network have been offered a flat-rate bonus of £500 for the Games.
Yet union sources revealed a battle plan had been devised, mapping out ‘blocks’ of strikes running in ‘target areas’ for two to three days at a time.
One union leader said to expect scenes reminiscent of the 1978 ‘winter of discontent’ when rubbish filled the streets.
10/01/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- East Brewton PO to cut hours, by Lydia Grimes, BrewtonStandard.com
EAST BREWTON, Ala. - As post offices across the country shut down to help save the U.S. Postal Service money, East Brewton’s post office has been spared — although its hours will be cut.
The post office will be open for business only two hours a day, from 9 to 11 a.m. beginning Oct. 29.
Tim Clark, postmaster at the Brewton office, said the reduction was not a surprise.
“It was a necessary thing and they made the right move,” he said.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said that the changes have become necessary.
“Our customers’ habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business,” he said. “The postal service of the future will be smaller, leaner and more competitive and it will continue to drive commerce, serve communities and deliver value.”
Donahoe said some communities that lose their retail locations may get what the postal service is calling a “village post office,” which would mean that it would become smaller and offer fewer services; selling stamps and flat-rate boxes.
In July it was proposed by the USPO to close some 3,600 post office locations around the country. On Sept. 15, that number was increased by 250 more locations and that 35,000 jobs would be affected.
Services such as post office boxes will not be effected with the changes taking place in East Brewton.
A customer can still leave mail there and pick up their mail from their P.O. box there at any time, but they can only make purchases from 9 to 11 a.m.
The East Brewton branch of the U.S. Post Office is located on Forrest Avenue next door to a branch of BankTrust of Brewton.
- Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 bus drivers and maintenance workers seeking to unionize, by Sara K. Satullo, The Express-Times via Lehighvalleylive.com
EASTON, Penn. - About 100 Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 bus drivers and maintenance workers are trying to unionize and an election has tentatively been set.
Over the last year new vague polices have been enacted, drivers hours have been cut and workers now must work 30 hours a week instead of 25 to qualify for health coverage, said Matthew Dees, a bus driver on the union organizing committee.
“We want to negotiate some job security, a just cause policy and better working conditions,” Dees said.
The workers have petitioned to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to join the Transport Workers Union of America AFL-CIO, said Steve Roberts, an international organizer for the union.
"The parties have informally agreed to a hearing date but we have not received a signed agreement from the employer," said Sean Yeakle, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. "When we receive it, the election will be formally scheduled."
Roberts said the election is scheduled from 2 to 8 p.m. for Oct. 19 and ballots will be counted at 8 p.m. It is a straight majority vote he said. Roberts is holding an informational session for workers today.
Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 Executive Director Charlene Brennan did not return a phone message seeking comment.
IU-20 provides 13 school districts services and programs for children, many of them with special needs. Intermediate units were created in the state in 1971 to help districts save money and be more efficient.
The bus driver changes began last year with vague new policies, Dees said.
Drivers lost pay for attending a breakfast meeting with a dispatcher after dropping off students for a field trip, and workers found out when they received their paychecks, he said. He filed a complaint with the labor board and workers eventually got the money back.
Driver hours were cut this year due to the economy, which Dees said he understands, but he called the medical benefits changes a “dirty trick.” Workers were first told about the insurance change and then learned of the cut hours.
“At least half of us won’t make an average of 30 hours a week,” Dees said. “We are going to lose medical benefits.”
Drivers don’t receive sick days, personal days or holidays, he said.
He said some drivers got five paid days off over last Christmas depending on tenure. Drivers also received an average raise of 23 cents an hour, but next year will see no increase, he said.
Most of the districts that comprise IU-20 guarantee their drivers six hours of work, which qualifies them for benefits.
The drivers overwhelmingly support the push to unionize, Dees said.
“I think enough drivers have woken up to the fact that they are going to have to get some protections,” Dees said. “No one is looking to get rich by forming a union. We just want some job security.”
Dees said he sought the Transport Workers union because he appreciated their support of civil and women’s rights.
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