11/30/2011 – 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 ) -
- Proposed Reduced Work Week for Some Town Employees, by Natalia Baage-Lord, TheDailyGreenburgh.com
GREENBURGH, NY – Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner has suggested that willing town employees could work a three- or four-day work week, as opposed to the typical five-day work week.
This idea came on the heels of last week's statement by Town Comptroller Bart Talamini that one of the town's fund balances could be in a deficit as early as 2015. Feiner is now looking for employees who would not be opposed to working 20 percent less hours for a four-day week or 40 percent less hours for a three-day week.
"This is a way I think we could really save money and make it easy," said Feiner. "[This could be for] people who have grandchildren or kids who would be willing to work fewer days at less pay. And the money that we save could go into additional savings."
Feiner said that these hour-cuts to those who volunteer could save the town money and avoid additional layoffs. If the Town Board intends to go forth with this idea, they would need to pass a resolution, said Talamini. In addition, the board would have to agree on dollar amounts for the employees, as well as the terms and conditions.
While the board now has two weeks left to finalize the 2012 budget, Town Councilman Francis Sheehan did not think it a workable idea. Sheehan said that reducing a few employee's pay by 20 percent and letting them keep their benefits is not going to save the town enough money to disallow the "B Fund" balance from being in a deficit by 2015, as Talamini predicted last week.
"How do we get our financial heath going forward?" said Sheehan. "Instead, it seems like a raid of every bank account that we have – whether it's the reserve fund [or] the contingency fund. My concern is, what do you do next year when there is not money in the bank to take? What do you do the year after that?"
Feiner said that he believes that the budget is still a work in progress and is continually looking to save money. While the Town Board did not participate in creating the budget this year, Feiner said that they can still make additional cuts if they deem necessary.
"I don't see this budget as being doom and gloom," Feiner said. "I don't feel that we're heading towards doomsday. I think that if we are careful and we watch the dollars, I think that we're fiscally healthy. I'm convinced that the budget I proposed is responsible and puts the town in a good, strong, healthy financial position."
- Marylander among advocates urging shorter hours for truckers - Cockeysville man to push lawmakers for change, by John Fritze firstname.lastname@example.org, BaltimoreSun.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. —— A Cockeysville man whose wife was killed in an accident last year when her car was struck by a tractor trailer is one of several advocates who will appear on Capitol Hill Wednesday to argue against letting truck drivers spend more time on the road.
Susan Slattery, a math professor at Stevenson University, was killed last year when a truck rear-ended her vehicle on Interstate 90 as she returned from a vacation in Ohio. Her two sons suffered major injuries. Police said the driver of the truck had fallen asleep.
Her husband, Ed Slattery, will join other truck crash victims in Washington Wednesday to support a proposal by the Obama administration to reduce from 11 to 10 the number of hours truck drivers can be on the road. Arguing that the proposed rule is burdensome, some Republicans in Congress are considering whether to block it.
A House subcommittee will hold a hearing on the measure Wednesday. Republican leaders, including House Speaker John Boehner, say the proposal would cost the industry $1 billion to implement.
The effort comes weeks after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shut down Hanover-based Gunthers Transport LLC for safety violations — including of the 11-hour time limit for drivers. Drivers for the company were inspected more than 200 times over the past two years and were found unfit to be driving 15 percent of the time.
"I understand the concerns of the trucking and retail industries, but we cannot ignore the fact that thousands lose their lives and are injured by truck drivers each year," said Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The panel conducting Wednesday's hearing falls under the oversight committee.
- Dentists turn to marketing after getting brush-off from patients, by Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times via LAtimes.com
The economic downturn has taken a big bite out dentists' revenue and profits, forcing them to hire experts to help increase sales. They're redesigning websites, pampering their clients and using social media.
REDLANDS, Calif. - For a quarter-century, Dr. Terry Vines built his Redlands dental practice the old-fashioned way: one mouth at a time.
Vines sponsored youth soccer teams. He renovated historic buildings around town to build good will. He turned his waiting room into a cozy nook with soft chairs and a big-screen TV.
As business increased, Vines hired more dentists to accommodate his thriving practice, Pure Gold Professionals in Dentistry.
Then the economy tanked, hundreds of patients stopped coming, and Vines decided he needed help.
Scouring the Internet and dental magazines, the 53-year-old dentist discovered a host of marketers and consultants — all promising to make dentistry pay.
For the right price, the marketers would unlock the mysteries of success, offering seminars and coaching sessions with titles like "Profit Centers for Your Practice" and "Secrets of the Dental Insurance Industry."
This year, Vines hired one of the marketing firms, Excellence in Dentistry. The Indiana company redesigned his website, adding colorful photographs of his staff, biographies of the office's six dentists and glowing patient testimonials. "I would definitely recommend these caring and gentle people to any of my friends and family," a patient says in one of the tributes.
In 2012, Vines' consultant plans to launch an email newsletter for patients and a blog to promote teeth-whitening techniques, new laser technology to identify cavities and other services.
Vines also intends to give patients a little post-treatment pampering, supplying warm towels to go along with the bottled water in the waiting-room refrigerator.
"It's time we step it up," said Vines, who cut back his hours over the last two years when revenue dropped about 10%. "I believe I'm in a position to grow with the right marketing."
For years, dentists relied on their good reputations to attract customers, figuring it was enough to hang a shingle, perform a valuable service and earn a trusted name.
That was before patients started skipping twice-a-year cleanings, postponing fillings and taking a pass on root canals.
Dentistry, once thought recession-proof, has become a casualty of the tough economy. Americans increasingly see dental care as a luxury, even though neglecting their teeth can lead to serious health hazards, including heart disease.
Dentists say many patients no longer can tap equity in their homes to pay for implants and other elective treatments. Bank financing for dental work, long a popular way to pay for care, has dried up as lenders stiffened loan standards.
California's budget crisis has contributed to the problem. The state sharply slashed funding for its Denti-Cal program for the poor two years ago, leaving vast numbers of low-income adults without dental coverage.
Dentists are feeling the pinch: Revenue at American dental offices has dropped steadily over the last three years, according to financial data from nearly 8,000 practices collected by Sageworks Inc., a financial analysis firm in North Carolina.
This year is shaping up to be the worst since 2005. In the first nine months of 2011, dentists have reported an average 3% decline in revenue and profit.
The downturn has forced dentists to cut hours, lay off staff and slash their own pay. Many remain worried. In an August survey by the American Dental Assn., 45% of dentists said they were "not at all confident" about future economic conditions. Older dentists were more downbeat than younger ones.
"Right now, your practicing dentist is very unsure of where the future is going," said Dr. Matthew Messina, a Cleveland dentist who serves as a consumer advisor for the American Dental Assn. "We're looking for any ray of sunshine."
[They're asking a version of The Big Question. And the answer would be the Timesizing program, the strait and narrow gate that leads through a series of upgrades in "social software" to more and more real progress and advancement for humanity without splitting into an unsustainable society of Eloi and Morlocks.]
11/29/2011 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Cuts expected at Success Center - A $400k grant which was used in the past five years is set to run out, by Ava Amiri, Coast Report via coastreportonline.com
COSTA MESA, Calif. - Nearly half of the funding for the Student Success Center at Orange Coast College is set to expire by the end of the year and officials expect they will be forced to cut hours of operation and employ fewer tutors.
The center provides free tutoring services and a variety of learning programs, including the writing/reading center and math center, to OCC students. It helps about 6,000 students a year for free.
The center received $400,000 from the Title III Strengthening Institutions Grant yearly for the last five years which accounts for 48 percent of the group’s yearly budget but the funds will be used up by the end of this year.
“The Title III grant that the Student Success Center has been given for the past five years has run its course,” said Jaki Kamphuis, faculty and service coordinator of the center. “We have been going around to different committees around campus to get the word out and have everyone realize what the consequences are.”
Without adequate funding the Student Success Center will not be able to sustain the growth it has experienced in the last six years and it will also not be able to fully assist OCC students, officials said.
According to center officials, many OCC students who participated in a student survey said they would have dropped their class if they had not received the tutoring provided by the Student Success Center.
Reports on campus of Coast attempting to define “student success” have been evident in recent meetings at the Academic Senate and Associated Students of Orange Coast College and some officials are saying the center plays a key role in defining the term.
“I feel that the Student Success Center has set the tone for what defines student success, which is students coming in and integrating their education,” Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences Paul M. Asim said.
The center has been funded primarily by the Title III grant but also has been funded by the ASOCC and the California Basic Skills Grant, $250,000 and $90,000 respectively.
The Cal Basic Skills Grant is expected to increase to $120,000 a year, but both the Cal Basic Skills Grant and funding from the ASOCC is not guaranteed, Kamphuis said.
According to Kamphuis, the Cal Basic Skills Grant is money the State could decide at anytime to deny funding and the ASOCC money is something the center has to reapply for every year and if the Student Government looks to take reductions it could affect the center as well.
The rest of the funds for the center’s budget is received from the district and a foundation, officials said.
The budget for the center is roughly $1 million a year and includes costs for maintaining infrastructure and paying for tutors and supplies, according to Kamphuis.
“The main thing we need is to have the district or OCC fund the money in an on-going basis, so it doesn’t have a time limit, like the Title III grant,” Kamphuis said.
Officials said they expect some positions at the center will be eliminated once the Title III funds are gone and roughly $300,000 will be needed for adequate funding.
“Yes, it is going to cost us a lot of money but it is going to cost us a lot more if we don’t keep the Student Success Center around,” Asim said.
When the Student Success Center first started in the 2007-2008 school year, they started with 2,207 students using their services. In the 2011-2012 year they have approximately a total of 6,375 students.
“The new emphasis on student success is brought on by the amount of students succeeding with the help of the Student Success Center,” Asim said.
- Insurance - Two Resolution chiefs cut work week by 40pc, CITY A.M. via cityam.com
LONDON, England - Financial sector takeover specialist Resolution PLC said the chief executive and finance director of its British insurance consolidation vehicle are to cut their working week by 40 per cent as the group focuses its efforts on new projects outside the UK.
Chief executive John Tiner and finance chief Jim Newman, who are also shareholders in the business, will work three days a week on average, Resolution said yesterday. Resolution is increasingly focused on new ventures that could include buying European or US closed life funds and asset managers.
The pair’s scaled-back working hours come as Resolution prepares to usher in new rules allowing Resolution Operations, its Guernsey-based M&A unit, to work with other investment vehicles, ending an exclusive relationship that has been in place since the group was created in 2008.
Resolution shareholders, who are scheduled to vote on the new rules on 13 January, have asked the company to segregate the returns from its UK life acquisitions by carrying out any other consolidation projects through separate investment vehicles.
Resolution, founded by insurance tycoon Clive Cowdery, had originally intended to carry out its UK life insurance consolidation project and all subsequent ventures through the same London-listed entity.
- Taiwan's Ma Proposes Shorter Work Week and New Laws on Leave, by Janet Ong, BusinessWeek.com
(Updates with comment from KMT spokesman in 10th paragraph.)
TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou announced plans to reduce the work week and restrict unpaid leave as he battles slower economic growth, in a move the opposition said was a campaign ploy ahead of January elections.
The government proposed cutting the work week from 84 hours every two weeks to 40 hours a week, according to a statement posted on Ma’s website after he met representatives from 10 labor unions yesterday. The proposal would also make it harder for companies to put employees on unpaid leave.
Ma, whose lead in opinion polls over opposition candidate Tsai Ing-wen has disappeared in recent weeks, aims to stimulate a slowing economy and lower unemployment that rose for the first time in five months in October, to 4.3 percent. Taiwan’s weekly work hours are high compared with other nations and the moves are a logical response to slower growth, said Cheng-mount Cheng, a Taipei-based economist with Citigroup Inc.
“The proposed changes to the labor policy are reasonable and beneficial to both employees and employers,” Cheng said. “Any political party in government would have to come up with such strategy if faced with similar issues.”
The 61-year-old president, who leads the Kuomintang party and faces voters on Jan. 14, joins politicians from Hong Kong to Thailand who have sought to boost pay to alleviate the impact of price pressures. Countries including Singapore and South Korea introduced a five-day work week in the last decade.
A Nov. 22-Nov. 24 poll by the China Times News Group said Ma had support of 40.7 percent of voters compared with 40.3 percent for the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai. The poll, which had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, gave People First Party’s James Soong 10 percent support.
A spokeswoman for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party said that by introducing new plans Ma is trying to divert attention from unfulfilled promises.
“Ma hasn’t met his election pledges on employment and is now bringing up new policies and this is clearly an attempt to get votes,” spokeswoman Kang Yu-cheng said in an e-mailed statement.
KMT spokesman Charles Chen said such criticism isn’t valid because the vows were made before a global economic slowdown took hold.
“The president has already apologized for not being able to achieve the target of a jobless rate of lower than 3 percent as pledged,” Chen said.
Ma’s proposal would make it easier to apply for unemployment benefits, according to the statement, while the government plans to increase subsidies for people under 45 to learn a second skill, as well as retrain older workers.
Under the Labor Standard Act, the legal number of work hours every two weeks is 84, meaning employees often work six days on alternate weeks. Government workers have been on a five-day work week since 2001.
“The impact will be very marginal to the employees, though it will affect employers’ flexibility in arranging work schedules,” Francis Cheung, a senior strategist at Cred Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, said in a telephone interview. “There won’t be a negative impact on the business environment or increased costs for employers.”
The new rules will add restrictions on companies looking to put workers on unpaid leave. As of mid-November, 48 companies had asked 5,021 workers to take time off as demand falls, according to Ma’s government.
Lin Ming-che, secretary-general of the Trade Union of Electrical, Electronic and Information Workers in Taiwan, said the government data didn’t accurately reflect the true number of employees put on unpaid leave and the new regulations could help make such practices a last resort.
“The government can help ensure that unpaid leave won’t be abused by some firms trying to cut costs,” Lin said in a telephone interview.
Taiwan’s economy expanded 3.42 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, the worst performance since the third quarter of 2009. The government said in July it will increase the minimum monthly wage for the second straight year on Jan. 1, by 5 percent to NT$18,780 ($617), and the hourly wage to NT$103 from NT$98.
Taiwan raised minimum pay by 3.47 percent for 2011, the first increase since 2007, after the island’s income disparity widened to the most in almost 10 years.
--Editors: Nicholas Wadhams, Patrick Harrington
To contact the reporter on this story: Janet Ong in Taipei at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at email@example.com
11/27-28/2011 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Saving jobs - Aid benefits workers, companies, 11/27 WatertownDailyTimes.com
WATERTOWN, N.Y. - Thousands of American workers continue to hold jobs instead of going on unemployment under a program that has states contribute partial unemployment while they work.
Work-sharing programs have been offered for years, but they have gained wider acceptance during the recession. Under the programs available in 22 states and the District of Columbia, employees work fewer hours, but the state helps make up the lost pay with some unemployment benefits.
Rhode Island, featured in a Wall Street Journal report, pays workers one-fifth of what they would have made if they had received full unemployment benefits. The pay is much better than no job and possibly no benefits, and jobless workers would receive less compensation on unemployment.
At one company, Pilgrim Screw Corp., participating employees received about 10 percent less in pay, including the state contribution, but the company still paid health benefits. “You feel it, but you don’t lose your job,” said one employee.
The state processed more than 12,000 initial work-sharing claims in 2010, which helped hold its unemployment rate to 10.4 percent. The state’s labor department said work sharing helped avoid more than 9,500 layoffs in 2009 and 2010.
The paperwork companies have to file for participating employees can deter some businesses from participating, but there are advantages to employers as well as employees.
The latter are assured of employment; companies maintain a trained, skilled work force available when business recovers. Long-term unemployed people can lose their skills that will also take new employees time to develop if former workers who have gone on to other jobs have to be replaced.
President Obama has included a national work-sharing program in his jobs bill. Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed has also introduced legislation to encourage it by having the federal government assume all a state’s cost if it enacted a permanent program. Partial funding would be available for states adopting temporary programs that preserve jobs and reduce unemployment.
- Ruag to cut 15 jobs, 11/28 evertiq.com
ALTDORF, Switzerland - Ruag Technology has announced 15 jobcuts at its Mechanical Engineering business unit in Altdorf (Switzerland), fewer than originally forecast. Short-time working will be offered to around 200 staff.
An open consultation process involving staff representatives, social partners and the Uri Cantonal Council was held to identify ways of restoring the international competitiveness of Ruag Technology's Mechanical Engineering business unit in Altdorf, the company said in a press release.
Short-time work will be offered to address the drop in orders and will commence 1 January 2012.
A consultation process initiated don 3 November 2011 considered the possibility of laying off 40 staff; however the company has now announced redundancies should instead affect 15 staff.
Ruag Technology employs a workforce of around 450 in Altdorf.
- Looking Back, 11/27 Berwick Today via berwick-advertiser.co.uk
BERWICK, N.England [11/21/1986] - The Berwick factory of knitwear manufacturers Pringle of Scotland will be virtually at a standstill on Monday as the company begins a short-time working programme due to a sales slump.
Pringles, the largest knitwear employers in the Borders, announced on Friday that half their 1,600 workforce would be placed on short-time working from Monday. The step is being taken because sales are down in the knitwear trade in general, particularly due to a poor tourist season in Europe.
11/26/2011 – 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 ) -
- Voter-backed law delivers millions for Bridgeport library to buy books, computers, renovations, by Keila Ocasio, Connecticut Post via AP via The Columbus Republic IN via TheRepublic.com
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — After years of being forced to close branches, cut hours and staff and make do with no money in its meager budget for new books, things are looking up for the Bridgeport Public Library.
The number of computers spread among the city's five library branches has doubled and nearly every evening all are in use by job-seekers, students doing research and teenagers with no Internet access at home.
Chances of finding the titles on Oprah's book list have vastly improved.
The main library branch's roof is being replaced, the popular teen cafe is expanding, and renovations to the lobby are planned. Talk of replacing the storefront branches in the city's East Side and East End with new buildings is a real goal -- instead of a distant fantasy.
These are some of the changes made possible by voters, who in a referendum two years ago approved a new law by which the city must create a library fund and appropriate one full mill of funding to the library system. In recent years, that has meant a roughly $6 million allotment.
Besides affording the libraries another roughly $2 million a year, the referendum ended the guessing game the library board often had to play about the amount the city would appropriate.
Fixed costs can now remain fixed. Once-ignored needs can now be addressed and long-term investments -- like new branches -- can be planned.
"Knowing that we have a steady budget helps us to ensure that we are spending dollars wisely," said Tom Errichetti, a North End resident and member of the library board.
Often, though, the board finds itself stalled in a timeless warp where trying to restore cut services trumps the creation of new services.
"We're really in recovery mode because the library has been so short-funded for so long," said Scott Hughes, the city librarian.
Because it has been underfunded for years, though, the board has become frugal with the library's funds, ensuring no money is spent on projects or items that do not have long-term returns.
Moving out of that mindset has been challenging for the staff.
One of the biggest changes in the library budget has been the addition of a line item for new books, often relegated to luxury status when compared to fixed costs, like salaries, supplies and maintenance.
Hughes said the staff has struggled with the idea of throwing away materials -- even old, worn items past their expiration date.
"We had to weed a lot of materials," he said. "Because we didn't have the budget for so long they never threw anything away. Now we have the money in our budget to order more books."
The library also has money to rehire some of the staff cut through attrition and layoffs over the last few years.
But, while the library board has begun to fill the necessary positions, Hughes said there are no plans to bring the staff back up to the 100 mark reached in the 1960s. Instead, employees are now trained to work in any a number of different positions.
Hughes remains the only administrative officer. "Because of the difficult budget cuts we lost the administrative level staff," said James O'Donnell, president of the library board. "Scott has had to become a one-man band."
The board has also begun to perform long-delayed maintenance and renovations to the Burroughs & Saden branch downtown. The building was constructed in the 1920s and hasn't been renovated since 1967. "We are doing a complete facility audit for the space given that it was designed for life in the 1920s and we're now going into the 2020s," O'Donnell said.
Recently, the downtown branch expanded its hours and is now open Sundays -- the first time since 1989. Hughes said he found the blue banners announcing the new hours -- from 1 to 5 p.m. -- in the library storage.
Building new facilities for the East End and East Side neighborhoods has also become a priority instead of a dream.
The East Side now has the small Old Mill Green storefront on East Main Street and Black Rock had no library until the Fairfield Avenue branch was reopened two years ago. It now serves hundreds of people and is a popular meeting space for neighborhood activities.
Even construction of the fairly new North End branch library, the board said, was only possible because of $3 million in state funds acquired by former state Rep. Robert Keeley years ago.
Now, the library board is putting together preliminary plans to create a design, settle on a location and raise the funds for a new Newfield Branch library in the East End. The board will be seeking input from the community on the topic from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Stratford Avenue branch.
Sites for a new East Side library are still being sought.
- BONUS excerpt - Weekly Roll Call Report...- Senate Bill 697: Authorize “work sharing” unemployment insurance benefits, Midland Daily News via ourmidland.com
LANSING, Mich. - Introduced by Sen. Vincent Gregory (D), to authorize unemployment insurance benefits for employees in a “work sharing” program, in which an employer temporarily reduces employee hours when business is depressed. The bill would establish detailed regulations that employer work sharing programs would have to meet for employees to still be eligible for unemployment benefits. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.
11/25/2011 – 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 ) -
- Man's suicide after Honda cut in hours, by Scott McPherson, SwindonAdvertiser.co.uk
SWINDON, England - A Honda worker took his own life after suffering financial strains when the factory was on a two-day week, an inquest was told.
Father-of-three Steve Dyson, 40, hanged himself when the South Marston plant was on reduced operating times as a result of the Japanese tsunami in June.
Honda had cut working hours because the tsunami had halted parts for the cars he helped to build, the Gloucestershire Deputy Coroner David Dooley was told at his inquest on Wednesday.
But Mr Dyson, who lived in Stroud, had never shared his feelings and anxieties because he was such a private man, the inquest heard. His wife Claire Louise found him on June 23, when she arrived home from work.
She said he had worked the previous evening and had arrived back home at 2am.
“I left for work and he was still in bed,” she said.
“I got home about 3pm and called but there was no answer,” she said.
“I went upstairs and found him hanging from the loft hatch. I tried to lift him but he was too heavy.The police came and they told me he had died.”
Sergeant Nick Brown was called to the house where ambulance staff had taken Mr Dyson down and removed the strap from around his neck. He could find no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.
Summing up, Mr Dooley said it was a tragic case of a man who was unable to share his troubles.
“He was feeling financial pressure due to the two-day week at Honda but was unable to talk about it,” he said.
“There has to be a higher burden of proof for a finding of suicide, so that I can be sure he intended to take his life and I can exclude all other possibilities.
“He did not leave a note but he did get a chair from the garden and a strap from his weight bench. This, together with the opening of the hatch and securing of the strap, shows intent.
“There was no alcohol or drugs in his system to cloud his judgment, and he took the action in private, at a time when he would not be interrupted.
“I believe I can be sure that he intended his death.”
His verdict was that Mr Dyson had taken his own life.
- Manroland Files for Biggest Insolvency in Germany in 2 Years, by Sheenagh Matthews and Karin Matussek, Bloomberg via BusinessWeek.com
OFFENBACH, Germany - Manroland AG, the German printing- press maker that’s majority owned by Allianz SE, filed for insolvency, in the country’s biggest corporate failure since retailer Arcandor AG collapsed two years ago.
Manroland filed to open insolvency proceedings with the district court in Augsburg, Germany, court spokesman Alfred Schwarz said. Werner Schneider was appointed as insolvency administrator, said the Offenbach-based company, which employs 6,500 workers worldwide, mainly in Germany.
Germany’s printing-press industry has been in a state of decline for years, as customers struggle to arrange financing for the machines that typically cost more than $1 million and demand for printed material declines in the age of web publishing. Manroland and larger rival Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG have cut jobs and put workers on shorter hours to lower costs.
“The decision to file for insolvency was triggered by another dramatic downturn in incoming orders which can be noticed since mid-July and has recently accelerated,” Manroland said in a statement. “Customers are finding it far more difficult to obtain financing in the aftermath of the financial crisis.”
Failed Merger Bid
Manroland’s annual sales have fallen by more than half since 2006 to 942 million euros ($1.25 billion) last year, pushing the company to an operating loss. The company has responded by cutting its workforce by almost one-fifth and putting one-third of its remaining employees on shorter hours.
Allianz, based in Munich, holds 75 percent of Manroland’s share capital, while German heavy-truck maker MAN SE owns almost 23 percent. Allianz is also the biggest investor in Heidelberger Druck. The insurer tried and failed two years ago to combine the two companies.
“All solutions failed because of a lack of financial support,” Juergen Kerner, deputy chairman of Manroland’s supervisory board, said in a statement today. “A potential investor surprisingly withdrew. But especially the owners MAN and Allianz were not prepared to provide more support.”
Heidelberger Druck shares climbed 10 percent to 1.43 euros as of 12:58 p.m. local time, on optimism the failure of a competitor will help ease overcapacity. Manroland is the biggest maker of so-called web-fed printing machines used in newspaper production, while Heidelberger Druck is the industry leader in sheet-fed machines used for packaging.
Manroland has filed a request for self-administration to complete restructuring efforts, and Frank Kebekus was appointed as general representative for the revamp, Manroland said. Management aims to rescue key units, it said.
Allianz has pooled the holding in its Allianz Capital Partners investment vehicle. The insurer lost 150 million euros when jet-maker Fairchild Dornier GmbH sought protection from creditors in 2002 and wrote off its entire investment in Authentos GmbH, Germany’s former state-owned federal printer.
Arcandor filed for insolvency in June 2009 after years of sales declines at department-store chain Karstadt, which employed about 25,000 people in Germany.
--Editors: Andrew Noel, Benedikt Kammel
To contact the reporters on this story: Sheenagh Matthews in Frankfurt at email@example.com; Karin Matussek in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at email@example.com
11/24/2011 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Hyundai Motor to cut work hours by 15% - Top Korean carmaker set to introduce two-shift system in 2013 for productivity, by Kim Tae-gyu email@example.com, KoreaTimes.co.kr
SEOUL, South Korea - Hyundai Motor, the country’s biggest carmaker, plans to cut average working hours significantly beginning 2013.
The carmaker said Thursday that it intends to introduce a new system in 2013 under which employees will not work overnight and spend up to 1.5 hours less a day in the factory.
The reduced working hours will lead to lower production, which the firm is set to offset through increased productivity on the back of facility upgrades and adjustment of holidays.
``Currently, the daily working time is around 10 hours excluding meal times but this will go down to 8.5 hours in 2013, down 15 percent from now,’’ a Hyundai spokesman said.
``Plus, the new scheme will stop factories operating for 5 hours and 40 minutes between 00:50 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.,’’ the spokesman said. Currently, its plants run virtually around the clock.
Should the new system be phased in at the moment, Hyundai expects that the yearly production capacity in Korea will decrease by 10.2 percent to 1.64 million from today’s 1.83 million.
``We agreed with the trade union on general points that Hyundai Motor will keep its domestic capacity at 1.83 million even after the new system starts in 2013. Then, salaries will not be affected despite the change in working hours,’’ the spokesman said.
``The question is how to do that. Possible ways are to trim the holidays or jack up profitability by using better machines or increasing manpower. We are in talks with the union on the issue.’’
Toward that end, Hyundai Motor is poised to channel around 300 billion won in improving facilities over the next year.
The agreement between management and labor is applicable to all workplaces of Hyundai Motor in Korea excluding those overseas. Its sister firm Kia Motors is expected to follow suit.
During the past several years, the trade union of Hyundai Motor has constantly asked for a system without overnight shifts for health reasons.
From the perspective of the management, however, the new scheme is feared to overly shrink production at a time when Hyundai vehicles are selling briskly across the world -- currently, demand outstrips supply.
The two sides have put forth efforts to find a happy medium and tried to benchmark many overseas companies before agreeing on the new system.
- The young faces of poverty hit home in Christmas Fund, by Jack Knox firstname.lastname@example.org, Victoria Times Colonist via timescolonist.com
VICTORIA, B.C., Canada - Here's what happened when I delivered the Times Colonist Christmas Fund package to the poor people's house: Nobody blew dope smoke in my face.
Not sure who I expected to open the front door. An indolent stoner. A welfare scammer. A human train wreck.
In my less-than-perfect moments, rare as they might be, these are the stereotypes I conjure up when painting a mental picture of poverty: people who have driven into the ditch and need me to drag them out.
Here's who actually opened the door: a 10-year-old boy and his three younger siblings. Followed closely by their mother, rubbing the sleep from her eyes after coming off night shift as a hospital cleaner.
That memory popped to mind Wednesday with the release of a report showing B.C. having the worst child-poverty rate in Canada for the eighth year in a row.
The most surprising stat: Half of those children have at least one parent working fulltime, year-round. Added to them are those children with parents employed part time.
"The majority of poor kids do have a parent working in some fashion," says Adrienne Montani.
She's the provincial co-ordinator for First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Commission. The group released its annual childpoverty report card at a news conference in Vancouver, featuring its own low-paid hospital cleaner as the face of family need. Like the Christmas Fund recipient I met, she was also an immigrant and a single mother - a statistical double whammy, poverty-wise, both groups overrepresented in the low-income ghetto. However, the gap between one-and two-parent families is narrowing.
The working poor are becoming more prominent. Back in the 1990s, maybe one in four needy kids had at least one parent employed full time. Now it's one in two. Wages haven't kept up to living costs, not at the low end, anyway.
Overall, 12 per cent of B.C. kids lived in homes that fell below Statistics Canada's after-tax lowincome line in 2009, compared with 9.5 per cent nationally. That line was set at $41,307 for a family of four in a big city.
A more realistic measure, said Wednesday's report, is the "living wage" - the amount needed to meet basic needs. For a family of four in Greater Victoria, that translates to two parents earning $18.03 an hour, 35 hours a week. The calculation was based on the cost of food, shelter, clothing, a used car, child care, health costs not covered by medicare, federal and provincial income taxes, medical premiums and other payroll deductions. "It's got no fat in it," Montani said. No savings, nothing put aside for a rainy day.
The report has all sorts of suggestions about what government can do to make things better. Alas, waiting for government is like waiting for Stanley Cup riot charges. Any help must come from the rest of us.
Which brings us back to that memory of handing out Times Colonist Christmas Fund goodies, with door after door opened by a mom with a kid in a wheelchair, or a dad who had suffered a stroke, or someone who looked uncomfortably like me. For those of us whose giving is done with a mixture of self-righteous piety and sullen resentment (layered with the hope that someone is noticing our selflessness), it can be frightening and sobering to realize that poverty is largely a matter of capricious fate.
Life - yours, mine - can go sideways in the blink of an eye, and it's often the kids who are hurt the most.
How to donate: Mail a cheque to the Times Colonist Christmas fund, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria, B.C., V8T 4M2. Or, use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Look for Times Colonist Christmas Fund drop-boxes around the city.
- Season of part-time jobs kicks off with holidays, by Paul Davidson, USAtoday.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Lloyd Slocum was unemployed for 18 months, but like hundreds of thousands of Americans, he's working part time this holiday shopping season, unloading trucks and stocking shelves for a Bealls store in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
"It gives you something to look forward to," says Slocum, 29.
He plans to use the cash to buy his father a Christmas present and hopes to parlay the gig into a full-time position with Bealls/Burke's stores, a Sunbelt chain.
Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping frenzy, also kicks off the less-celebrated season of the part-time worker. Retailers alone are hiring about 500,000 seasonal employees this year, most of whom are part time, according to the National Retail Federation. Retailers' recent shift to opening on Thanksgiving or midnight on Black Friday has intensified the need for part-time workers.
Holiday jobs offer financial and emotional lifelines for many of the nation's jobless. They also point up a troubling reality: A near-record number of Americans are working part time throughout the year, even though they would prefer full-time jobs. It's not just because of the sluggish economy. Economists cite a broader, longer-term shift toward part-time work as employers cut expenses and more precisely match staffing with the ebbs and flows of customer demand.
The number of part-timers who really want full-time positions — so-called involuntary part-time employees — has risen from 8.4 million in January to 8.9 million last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The total has hovered at 8.5 million to 9 million since early 2009 — double the pre-recession level.
By contrast, the tally of unemployed Americans has stayed flat at about 13.9 million this year and is down from about 15 million in late 2009 as employers have added a modest 2 million or so jobs. The disparity underscores how the nation's official 9% jobless rate doesn't fully reflect the toll inflicted by a half-speed economic recovery.
"The unemployment rate significantly misses the stress that the job market is under," says Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics.
To be sure, part-time work — defined by the Labor Department as fewer than 35 hours a week — provides sorely needed income and experience that often can be leveraged into full-time jobs. And it's far preferable to unemployment. But it also creates financial uncertainty and instability for workers, economists say, and can keep employees in a cycle that prevents them from advancing to more lucrative positions. Most part-time workers don't get benefits, such as health insurance, sick days or paid vacation.
The number of part-time workers shot up three years ago when businesses cut employees' hours as a precursor to massive layoffs in the recession. Many firms are still trimming their employees' workweeks amid tepid customer demand. Typically, those hours are restored when sales pick up.
Last month, however, 30% of the 8.9 million involuntary part-time workers simply couldn't find full-time work, up from 20% in early 2009. That indicates many employers are hiring new workers as demand rises but are leery of adding full-time staff in a wobbly economy, experts say.
"They don't know what's going to happen next," says Jill Ater, co-founder of 10 til 2, a staffing firm that places part-time workers exclusively. "Rather than bring on a full-time person with benefits, they bring on a 20-hour person for less and get enough done." Some, she says, hire two 20-hour staffers instead of a full-timer to avoid paying benefits.
At Asbestos Abatement in Denver, business "is definitely slower than I'd like to see it," says owner Joel Egelman.
A few weeks ago he hired an office manager who puts in 30 hours a week. "We like the ability to save a little money and see how much we can put on her until we have to move her to full-time status," he says. "We also wanted to test it out to see what that person can handle."
Some cite a deeper structural shift to part-time work. Part-time workers — voluntary and involuntary — represent 19.3% of total employment this year, up from 17.4% in 2008. The increasing use of part-timers lets employers better match staffing with the workload, says Susan Lambert, a labor economist at the University of Chicago.
In department stores and call centers, for example, demand can vary widely by the hour. Sophisticated computer models predict when traffic will surge so managers can slot in workers for just a few hours. Lambert says other industries — including hospitals, restaurants, hotels and factories — are increasingly using part-time workers to respond to blips in demand even while employing a core full-time staff.
As recently as the 1990s, 60% of retail workers — including seasonal employees — were full time, says Daniel Butler, vice president of operations for the National Retail Federation. Today, 60% are part-timers,. The switch happened after more people began shopping at night and on weekends.
"Retailers through the recession learned that they don't want to be overstaffed," Butler says. "It has a bottom-line effect on the profitability of the company."
Hours are short, applicants plentiful
High unemployment has made it much easier to fill part-time jobs, experts say. At staffing firm Randstad, as many as 10 candidates vie for each position, up from three before the recession, says Senior Vice President Joanie Ruge. "In a good economy, it was much more difficult to find people who wanted to work part time," she says.
There is a downside for firms that employ a large number of workers with no benefits and uncertain hours.
"You get high turnover. You get unreliable workers," Lambert says. "If you have workers committed to your firm, you tend to produce a better product. You provide a better service."
Alpine Access, a call center provider, has about 5,000 representatives who work from home, half of whom are part time and handle spikes in traffic in periods of two or four hours, for example. Such spikes could be prompted by pay-per-view TV specials, cable outages and special credit card offers, among other things, says Chief Operating Officer Rob Duncan.
Duncan says part-time assignments typically fit workers' schedules. But he acknowledges they more readily leave for other jobs than full-timers, and their lower benefit costs are partly offset by other expenses. "To use two people to fill a 40-hour workweek doubles training and recruiting costs," Duncan says.
For workers, part-time gigs can mean relief from unemployment but only a modest easing of financial hardship. Donna Camp, of Schenectady, N.Y., took a job as a part-time grocery cashier in early October after separating from her husband last summer. The former diet technician couldn't find a full-time position in health care or even retailing, in part, because she had been out of the workforce for seven years.
The cashier job pays $8 an hour, and she logs 20 to 30 hours a week. "It's hard to budget when the hours are so variable," says Camp, 50. "It scares me to think how small the check is that I'm going to pick up this week."
The uncertainty has prompted Camp to pay just the minimum balance on her credit cards and to try to avoid using them. She keeps the thermostat in her house at 64 degrees in the daytime, washes clothes in cold water and hangs them to dry to conserve electricity. She gets haircuts once every six weeks instead of monthly.
Camp has thought about getting another part-time job, but her inconsistent hours make that almost impossible. She works afternoons some days but evenings others, and she finds out her weekly schedule the previous Friday. She's also hesitant to limit her availability.
"I want to show them I'll do anything, hoping they'll eventually keep me on," she says. "But I can't pay my bills on the part-time hours, so it's a Catch-22."
When part-time jobs get smaller
Some Americans have had their hours cut.
After losing her job as a horticulturist at a golf course early this year, Vicki Lehr of Branford, Conn., was hired as a salesperson at a garden center in April. But her weekly hours were trimmed to about 30 in July and to 20 a couple of months later, slashing her weekly pay to about $300 from $550. The reduction was especially trying because her husband, Blake, a food delivery driver, was downgraded from full-time to part-time status two years ago.
[When you trim weekly hours on a citywide, statewide, or nationwide basis, high-paying hours get spread around and incomes get maintained as employers bid against one another for good help and wage levels rise to where they should be at current high-tech levels of productivity.]
Vicki Lehr, 52, says she grows her own vegetables, postpones doctor visits and shops at Goodwill instead of Marshalls, recently buying a coat for $8. The irregular hours disrupt family life. "On the weekends my husband was off, and I'm working, so we never get the time to spend together."
In the past couple of weeks, both Lehrs were laid off. "I don't know what's going to happen," she says.
Some part-time workers teeter near poverty.
Nancy Garrett, of San Rafael, Calif., lost her $65,000-a-year job providing sales support to a promotions company in March 2009. She exhausted her unemployment benefits early this year and burned through $75,000 in savings before she found a job as the weekend manager of a self-storage facility in early October.
She takes home $600 a month — enough to pay utility, garbage and water bills — and has no health insurance. Garrett rents out rooms in her three-bedroom house and plans to apply for food stamps and other social services.
Still, she says, the job has helped restore her self-confidence. "I have a focus to go someplace and do something, and to have people respond positively to me has really done me a world of good," says Garrett, 56.
While part-time work traditionally has been parceled out to lower-level hourly employees such as cashiers and administrative assistants, Lambert says it has spread to the white-collar world in recent years. Ater of 10 til 2 says she is placing marketing directors, seasonal tax preparers and non-profit directors in part-time roles.
David Bergman, 59, of Elk Grove Village, Ill., earned $350,000 a year as chief financial officer of a firm that administered health benefits before he left several years ago and did some consulting work while he looked for a full-time job.
Last year, he took a part-time position with a small staffing agency. Monday through Wednesday, he serves as comptroller, balancing the books and dispensing advice on how to manage growth and reduce costs. On Thursday and Friday he takes on a less-prestigious role: delivering payroll checks to clients.
He says he uses the deliveries as an opportunity to talk to clients and market the company. "I used to be an introvert. Now I'm a lot more open to going out and meeting people."
Bergman works 28 hours and earns $1,250 each week, a fraction of his former pay. He's not living hand-to-mouth, but he has canceled his lawn service and premium cable TV channels, and treks from store to store to find bargains.
He is among the roughly 20% of part-timers working at least two jobs to get by. He teaches college business courses for several thousand dollars a year.
"You juggle a lot more balls," he says. "This allows me to fill up some of the void."
11/23/2011 – 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 ) -
- Sarkozy party leader vows to end France's 35-hour week - Jean-François Copé, leader of French president's UMP party, makes divisive call to scrap traditional limit on working hours, by Kim Willsher, The Guardian via guardian.co.uk
PARIS, France - The workers and the political left love it. The employers and the right loathe it. Few things in France have the power to divide like the country's maximum 35-hour working week.
Now, the pillar of French socialist ideology is set to mark the battleground for next year's presidential and general elections after the leader of Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling party called for it to be scrapped.
Unveiling the economic and social planks of the party's manifesto, Jean-François Copé, leader of the UMP party, told a party meeting: "We invite workers to work more and better … the 35 hours must no longer be taboo."
Earlier in a press interview he said that ending the 35 hours is "inescapable".
Copé, a long-time critic of the 35-hour week, stopped short of calling for the law to be repealed, but said it needed to be completely revised and that the various social and industrial sectors should be free to negotiate longer working hours.
Earlier Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the ecology minister, echoed calls for the law to be renegotiated, saying: "It is still posing problems in spite of our efforts to make it more flexible."
The Socialist party, however, reacted angrily to threats to the 35-hour week on Wednesday.
"If it has been such a catastrophe for France why hasn't the right done away with it before? They've had 10 years to do so," a member of the party's economic team told the Guardian. "All the right is trying to do in targeting the 35-hour working week is to distract from its own failures. It's a smokescreen."
She added that the law had been shown to have created around 350,000 jobs.
"This is a classic pitting of employees against employers. They are attacking the 35-hour working week because it is emblematic of the previous Socialist party administration, but we will defend it tooth and nail."
The 35-hour working week was adopted in February 2000 by the government of Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin under the then employment minister Martine Aubry. The main objectives were to reduce unemployment by forcing employers to take on more staff, and to enable workers more personal time to enhance the quality of life.
Workers who work more than 35 hours have the right to extra time off to compensate or overtime paid at a higher rate.
The law has always rankled with the right but when Nicolas Sarkozy came to power in 2007 he was content to tinker with the legislation rather than scrap it.
On Wednesday, French newspaper France-Soir claimed the measure was a disaster in certain fields of work including hospitals.
Medical personnel, notoriously, work very long hours, and can rarely leave the office when the whistle blows. Now French hospital workers have a reported total of 2 million days off to take before the end of next year, threatening large-scale closures, claimed the paper.
Pierre Boisard, deputy director of French scientific research institute IDHE (Institutions et Dynamiques Historiques de L'Economie) said the 35-hour working week was badly understood.
"It does not impose an obligatory maximum number of hours, it says that the working week is 35 hours and any supplementary hours are paid for as overtime at a more expensive rate."
He added that the right would have difficulty changing or scrapping the law.
"It is profitable for both sides – employers and employees. For employers it allows them to reduce their working hours, for businesses it gives them more flexibility to adapt the working week according to their needs at any time.
"But it has become a symbol for the left and a horror for the right. This is a purely political argument, and I believe what is behind it is not about increasing the number of hours people are allowed to work, but lowering the cost of workers.
"It is dangerous to touch certain things and this is one of them, especially if you are suggesting people work longer hours for no more money."
"It's hard to see how it can be changed and who will benefit."
World working hours
Average annual working time in hours (includes part-time workers):
Korea: 2,193. Chile: 2,068. Greece: 2,109. Italy: 1,778. United States: 1,778. Canada: 1,702. Australia: 1,686. Ireland: 1,664. United Kingdom: 1,647. France: 1,554 (2009 figure). Germany: 1,419. Norway: 1,414.
Source: OECD (2010)
Average working week in Europe:
Romania: 41.3 hours. UK: 40.8 hours. Germany: 40.5 hours. Greece: 39.7 hours. Spain: 39.4 hours. Belgium: 38.6 hours. Italy: 38.5 hours. Ireland: 38.1 hours. France: 38 hours. Finland: 37.8 hours.
Source: Working Time Developments 2010 - European Industrial Relations Observatory online
- Legislature to revise law, expand labor protections - Big Tent: The CLA said that the main change introduced by the amendments would be to give labor groups the right to conduct health and safety checks in the workplace, by Jake Chung, TaipeiTimes.com
TAIPEI, Taiwan - The legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee will seek to extend protections contained in the Labor Safety and Health Act to all workers, including volunteer workers and taxi drivers, the -Chinese-language United Evening News reported yesterday.
During an initial review of the act yesterday, the committee proposed amendments to several articles as well as renaming the act the Professional Safety and Health Act.
The proposed amendments would widen the application of protections contained in the act, ensuring the number of people covered rose from 6.7 million to 10.6 million, including employed personnel, self-run businesses such as taxi drivers and stall vendors, dispatch workers, volunteer workers, interns and students in vocational training programs.
The amendments passing an initial review included the “anti--overwork” clause, requiring employers to introduce mandatory health inspections, to prevent over-working in certain high risk categories of workers, such as shift workers or late-night workers.
In the event that employees develop such work-related ailments as high blood-pressure or other cardio-vascular ailments, the amendments stipulate that employers can be fined up to NT$300,000. In addition, when a doctor determines an individual is not fit for his or her original position, employers will be required to change the work environment, change the job or shorten working hours. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to NT$150,000.
This constitutes the most significant amendment to the act in two decades, as it incorporates ideas about the work environment, physical and mental health imported from Europe and the US.
In addition, whereas the current act stipulates that businesses with more than 300 workers are required to set up an on-site clinic or have an on-site doctor, the amended act says that businesses with 50 or more workers should hire or contract on-site medical personnel to monitor the physical well-being of employees, prevent work-related ailments and enhance general laborer health.
Employers in the fields of medicare, security or social work are also required to take all measures necessary to ensure personnel are not subject to violence at work.
The Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) said that the main change introduced by the amendments was granting labor organizations permission to conduct safety checks at the workplace and the inclusion of the general responsibility clause that makes workers responsible for environmental safety, including protective gear, clear pathways, good lighting, laborer health inspections, and safety and health education.
Future employers of reporters, sales personnel, or nightclub workers should all remain on alert for potentially dangerous situations, the council said.
11/22/2011 – 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 ) -
- Mayors reportedly feel budget heat, by MJ Lee, Politico.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - As mayors across the country are being forced to cut back on services, almost half of them believe that they are being labeled the “bad guys” because of the economic downturn, a new poll shows.
According to a Reader’s Digest survey, the vast majority of mayors surveyed, 71 percent, said they have had to cut back on services provided to their town or city in response to the economic crisis. More than four out of ten mayors, 44 percent, said they have had to reduce maintenance and services at parks and gardens, while 29 percent said they have cut hours, staff or services at local libraries.
The poll showed that most mayors across the country, 90 percent, are struggling to generate revenue from sources other than taxation.
Asked whether they are “surprised by the depth and length of the current economic crisis” in the U.S., the majority of the mayors surveyed — 54 percent — said they were surprised, while 23 percent said they were very surprised, the poll found.
Amid the economic and budget challenges they are facing, 48 percent of the mayors believe they are being perceived as “the bad guy,” but maintain that their job is still “worth doing.” A smaller percentage of the mayors, 23 percent, say job was tough, “but someone has to do it.” More than one out of ten mayors surveyed, 12 percent, said “it’s frustrating when you see that citizens don’t care or appreciate the hard work you put into the job.”
The mayors indicated that despite the economic crisis, their constituents are still largely hopeful about the future. Almost half of the mayors, 46 percent, said their citizens are feeling “down” about the economy, but hopeful that the future will be brighter, Reader’s Digest found. One out of four mayors even said their citizens barely feel an impact on the services provided to them, and that if there is a strain, the town is doing a good job of not letting the residents feel the negative impact. Just 8 percent of mayors said their citizens think “things will never be as good as they once were.”
The poll was conducted Nov. 9-14 among 52 mayors of towns of cities with populations of at least 20,000 people.
- The people's panel - Write for us about ... long working hours - The working time directive that restricts time spent in our jobs [to 48 hrs/wk] may be reviewed - Tell us about the extra hours you work, The Guardian via guardian.co.uk
MANCHESTER, U.K. - Reports this week suggest that David Cameron and Angela Merkel agreed on a compromise that would include a review of the working time directive in return for any eurozone-related treaty changes. The directive sets limits on working hours – 48 hours per week – something that has long been opposed by many in government for interfering with the UK's labour laws.
As part of our people's panel series, we want to hear readers' experiences of working long hours and whether they think a mandatory cap is a good idea. Do you have to work long hours in your job? Is it expected, and is leaving on time frowned upon? How many extra hours a week do you work – paid and unpaid? Do you agree with the Cameron government that a cap would be a bad idea for UK business?
If you would like to participate, please email Jessica Reed (email@example.com) before 4pm Wednesday 23 November, with a contribution of about 200-300 words. Please include your 'Comment is free' username, your real name and a number we can contact you on. We'll pick four entries for publication. The subject line of your email should be "People's panel" and you should include an element of comment – your opinion on the issue being debated. If you object to having your real name used, mention this.
Please note that we may not be able to respond to all submissions.
11/20-21/2011 – 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 ) -
- Cutting Hours Instead of Jobs - Rhode Island, Other States Offer Partial Unemployment [Benefits] for Shortened Workweeks, by Justin Lahart, 11/21 Wall Street Journal via online.wsj.com
Reuben Hendricks, shown at Pilgrim Screw's Providence plant this month, went on work-sharing through the company in 2009. (photo caption)
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have work-sharing programs (popup map caption - states listed are -)
AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, IA, KS, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, NH, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, TX, VT, WA.
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Facing potential layoffs, Pilgrim Screw Corp. in September directed 11 of its 65 employees to cut their workweeks by one day.
The move meant nobody at the small manufacturer lost jobs, while those with fewer hours now get a check from Rhode Island representing one-fifth of what they would make under full-fledged unemployment insurance. It's a pay cut for those workers, to be sure, but they prefer that to the alternative: joblessness.
"You take some hits, but it's not as bad as if you were laid off," said Pilgrim Screw Chief Executive Geoffrey Grove.
Rhode Island is among the 22 states and the District of Columbia that offer some form of "work sharing," programs in which employees work fewer hours and receive partial unemployment insurance to lessen the blow to their incomes.
Many states have had such programs for decades, usually implemented in the wake of recessions. But they seldom had been used until the current tough job market. Five states have enacted programs since 2009, and President Barack Obama has included a national work-sharing plan as part of his jobs package, now before Congress, as a way to address the nation's 9% unemployment rate.
Rhode Island, which adopted work sharing in 1992, is one of the few states were it has been widely embraced. The state processed more than 12,000 initial claims for work sharing in 2010.
The state's unemployment is 10.4% but would be higher without work sharing, according to the state's labor department. In 2009 and 2010 work sharing averted a total of 9,550 layoffs, the department calculates. Rhode Island lost 14,400 jobs in the same period—3% of the state's work force.
Susan Houseman, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Mich., said that in 2009, the most severe year of the recession for U.S. job losses, Rhode Island's employers were five times as likely to turn to work sharing as employers in the other states with programs, on average. Of the five million jobs lost across the nation that year, 220,000 of them might have been saved if the whole country was on a work-sharing program like Rhode Island's, she calculates.
[We calculate that five millions jobs would have been saved if the whole country was on a work-sharing program evolving into a timesizing program - Susan's imagination and design skills seem severely limited.]
Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat, has been pushing for more comprehensive work sharing in the U.S. Under legislation he introduced this year, the federal government would for three years wholly fund work-sharing benefits in states that permanently enact work sharing. Temporary programs would receive partial funding for two years.
Work sharing has its downsides. Employers must file a steady stream of documents with state officials to allow workers to participate in the programs. Some business leaders view layoffs as an easier alternative.
Then there are the unintended consequences. Dean Baker, of the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, is in favor of work sharing but notes that by preventing layoffs, the practice also could slow the movement of workers from declining sectors to growing ones. That could make the economy less flexible.
Still, Mr. Baker believes the benefits outweigh that concern—particularly at a time where long spells of joblessness are eroding workers skills, ultimately making them less productive.
Kevin Hassett of the conservative American Enterprise Institute also is a fan, and noted that he hasn't encountered any hostility when he has raised the topic with fellow Republicans. "This thing could have a big impact on the labor market," he added.
At Pilgrim Screw, the program is viewed as a good way to avoid the cycle of layoffs and hiring that might leave the company shorthanded when the need arises. The company first used the program in early 2009, when orders plunged after the financial crisis. That allowed the company to hang on to valuable workers, said Mr. Grove, the CEO.
Pilgrim Screw's employees agreed to take part in the program, which reduced their pay by about 10% including the state benefits—a bit less if they had dependents, a bit more if they were highly paid. The company continued to pay health benefits.
"You feel it, but you don't lose your job," said Stephen Saravo, 54, who was on work-sharing at Pilgrim for four months in 2009.
The company makes specialized screws and other fasteners for the aerospace and defense industries. To operate the machines that shape its hundreds of fasteners, Pilgrim workers must get the knack of how different metals respond to various conditions.
"It would take years for someone else to come in here and learn this stuff," said Reuben Hendricks, 59 years old, who operates a pair of high-end machines for the company and was also on work-sharing in 2009.
Pilgrim Screw now has plenty of work for employees like Mr. Hendricks to fill a full 40-hour week, said Mr. Grove. While business has been slow, he expects things to pick up as airlines move to replace aging fleets. To keep costs down, he asked front-office staff to go on work sharing starting in September. And he placed himself in the program.
"It hurts, but overall it's the best thing for the company," Mr. Grove said.
Write to Justin Lahart at email@example.com
- WSJ says RI's work-sharing program could be national model, by Ted Nesi, 11/21 WPRI-TV 12 (blog)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Rhode Island’s 20-year-old WorkShare program – which lets employers cut workers’ hours rather than lay them off and uses jobless benefits to boost their paychecks – gets some national attention in Monday’s Wall Street Journal. Reporter Justin Lahart visited Providence-based Pilgrim Screw Corp. and found the program working well:
The move meant nobody at the small manufacturer lost jobs, while those with fewer hours now get a check from Rhode Island representing one-fifth of what they would make under full-fledged unemployment insurance. It’s a pay cut for those workers, to be sure, but they prefer that to the alternative: joblessness. …
President Barack Obama has included a national work-sharing plan as part of his jobs package, now before Congress, as a way to address the nation’s 9% unemployment rate. …
Kevin Hassett of the conservative American Enterprise Institute also is a fan, and noted that he hasn’t encountered any hostility when he has raised the topic with fellow Republicans. “This thing could have a big impact on the labor market,” he added.
Read the rest [above]. WorkShare is a favorite of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, who’s been advocating a national version of the program for a while now. He, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman Jim Langevin brought a deputy labor secretary to Pilgrim Screw to highlight the program back in September.
More recently, Department of Labor and Training Director Charlie Fogarty explained the secrets of WorkShare’s success to a congressional committee earlier this month [pdf]. Rhode Island has avoided 14,650 layoffs since 2007 thanks to the program, DLT says.
- Where does the Occupy movement go from here? - Four Days On, One Day Off, 11/21 Knowledge@Wharton Today via knowledgetoday.wharton.upenn.edu
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - The dim job outlook for many employees has led to a resurgence in the idea of “work sharing” — in which employees work less than a full schedule and then apply for unemployment insurance to make up the difference in their paychecks.
An article in today’s Wall Street Journal notes that 22 states and the District of Columbia offer some form of work sharing, including five states that started programs since 2009 — one year after the financial crisis hit. In addition, President Obama has added a national work-sharing plan to his jobs package, which is now awaiting action by Congress, the article notes.
But work sharing has both advantages and disadvantages, according to employment experts. An obvious advantage is that by cutting back employees’ work week from five days to four or three, an employer can keep more workers on the job rather than laying them off. Another advantage, as the Journal points out, is that the program helps employees keep their skills up to date, even if they are working fewer hours. It also allows companies to adjust their employees’ hours to the ebb and flow of demand, cutting back when business is slow, and ramping up when it improves.
One disadvantage is the need for employers to spend time complying with the bureaucratic requirements of the program, according to the Journal, which cited a second downside: Avoiding layoffs means employees are delaying action that will help them find jobs in industries that are growing rather than stagnating.
In the case of a Rhode Island manufacturing company used to illustrate the Journal article, work weeks were cut by one day, which resulted in about a 10% pay cut (provided employees applied for the unemployment benefits). Health benefits were not cut.
According to Wharton management professor Matthew Bidwell. “given what we know about the very high costs of unemployment to most workers, anything that keeps people … actively engaged in the labor market has to be a good thing. It guarantees that their skills don’t atrophy and that they don’t receive the stigma of unemployment that they would otherwise suffer.”
He doesn’t buy the criticism that work sharing delays a migration to other, more robust, industries.”In most cases, companies are laying off workers because of what is a somewhat temporary fall in demand, which is basically what a recession is. When the economy picks up, many of those firms are going to be looking to hire again. So I wouldn’t worry too much about the problems of reallocating workers. My sense is that that is a side story in this recession.”
Another benefit to work sharing, he adds, is that “it allows employers to hold on to good people. If the employers do expect to expand employment again if the economy improves, they will have to replace laid off workers with untested new hires, who will lack the detailed firm-specific knowledge of the laid off workers. Being able to hold on to more workers during the downturn means they don’t have to incur those costs during the recovery.”
This entry was posted in Knowledge@Wharton Today and tagged LayoffLayoff, Matthew Bidwell, Rhode Island, unemployment insurance.
- Young men worst for drug disorders, by Aleisha Orr, 11/20 (11/21 across dateline) Sydney Morning Herald via smh.com.au
Amphetamine use is rife among men in WA due to high incomes and long work hours. (photo caption)
PERTH, Western Australia - Almost one in 10 men under 30 years of age has regularly used stimulant drugs and West Australians are the worst offenders, says a drug expert.
A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia showed a high amount of young men were using stimulant drugs like speed, ecstasy, cocaine or ice.
More than 8 per cent of Australian men aged between 16 and 29 years can be classed as having a lifetime stimulant use disorder, which means they have misused or have been dependent on the drugs.
This figure is more than double that of the broader population.
Overall, 3.3 per cent of Australians were identified by researchers as having a lifetime stimulant-use disorder based on data from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
Curtin University's National Drug Research Institute director Professor Steve Allsop said this percentage could be slightly higher in WA.
"Historically, West Australians use more amphetamine type drugs than the rest of the country," he said.
Professor Allsop said there were a variety of reasons for this, including "high disposable incomes, long work hours, socialising and partying long hours".
Professor Allsop said the responsibilities of life were the main reason that the amount of drug use decreased in people 30 years and older.
"As you get older consequences accumulate, responsibilities become apparent; mortgage, children, an aging body," he said.
He pointed out that men tended to be the highest users of all drugs.
Professor Allsop said there was no one reason for this, but said cultural expectations played a part and possibly men had less of a focus on health than women.
He said there were reasons people turned to stimulants on such a large scale.
"Some people put the increase of amphetamines down to the heroin shortage of the late 1990s," Professor Allsop said.
But he said stimulant use could have increased because of its synthetic nature and that it was easier to make.
Professor Allsop also said some people preferred the nature of stimulants, that they increase alertness, attention, and energy over other drugs.
He said men who are long distance drivers and those in the hospitality industry were more likely to use stimulants than the other young men.
While some people who have had a lifetime stimulant use disorder can go on to lead healthy lives, others could face long term impacts of drug use.
"It's dose dependent, the more you use, the longer and greater the risks," Professor Allsop said.
While sleep disorders and malnutrition can improve overtime, psychosis can recur.
"A small proportion of people run the risk of relapse, even if not using the drug anymore but through stress drinking heavily, or other drug use."
- Special report: In Europe's squeezed middle, life gets tougher, 11/21 Reuters.com
Three years after the beginning of the worst economic crisis since World War Two, Europeans are questioning the political decisions that have brought them here. They wonder whether their hopes for themselves, their children and their countries will ever be met. Maybe, they have begun thinking, expectations were too high to begin with.
The picture couldn't have been more different a decade ago. Then, Europe's economies were booming and the euro that now binds 17 members of the European Union together was showing its benefits, especially for weaker countries that enjoyed decreased borrowing costs and reduced exchange rate risk. It was a time when anything seemed possible.
As the boom has gone bust, governments have cut spending, sometimes drastically, fired public workers and raised taxes.
A year ago, Reuters spoke with five families -- in Greece, Romania, Germany, Britain and Spain -- about how they were coping with the austerity measures. Since then, the measures have kicked in, the economic outlook has darkened and the very stability of the euro zone is under threat. Here's how those families are coping now:
[The difference is, Deutschland's main *"austerity" measure is Square One on the highway to a sustainable solution (despite pissing and moaning by individual spoiled and ignorant Germans - see below - who don't even realize what they're doin' right), and the other countries are still just digging deeper (except the *Welsh part of Britain), so we omit them -]
INSECURITY IN GERMANY, by Annika Breidthardt.
MUNICH, Germany - When orders slowed a few weeks ago at the electrical switch maker where Anna works, she immediately feared for her job.
"I thought, 'Is this the beginning of the end again?'," said Anna, a draughtswoman who works for a firm that makes high-tech car parts.
Two years ago, the 40-year-old, who asked to be identified by her first name only, was put onto shorter working hours. The scheme, known as "Kurzarbeit", is Germany's answer to downturns and is based on the idea that it is better for all workers to take a bit of pain than for companies to start laying people off.
Following the 2008 credit crunch more than 60,000 companies in Germany have used Kurzarbeit; at the height of the 2009 recession, more than 1 million workers were on reduced hours. Economists and politicians credit the system with allowing Europe's largest economy to emerge from the 2009 crisis more quickly than other parts of the continent.
But even if those who were working Kurzarbeit agree it was a success, they also say it was tough. Many lived in fear that the scheme was just the first step toward the dole lines.
That's what has Anna worried now.
"It seems like this time the lull was only a blip. Orders are good again but still, whenever stuff like that happens or I hear bad news, I think: the euro was a bad idea," says Anna over a weekend brunch of white sausages, pretzels and wheat beer.
A bubbly brunette who appeared more relaxed and ready for a laugh than when she was interviewed by Reuters a year ago, Anna said she never cared about politics but that this has changed with the European sovereign debt crisis, which has booted out leaders in Greece and Italy and still threatens the stability of the euro zone.
"Normally, I don't think as an individual I can change anything. But since the start of the crisis, I have started watching the news. I want to know what's going on in Greece, what the chancellor decides," she said.
Anna likes the euro and being able to travel without having to exchange money, but is now skeptical about how it was founded.
"I think they should not have let some countries in," she said. "Now that I see what a can of worms that has opened, I think it wasn't thought through properly."
Despite that, she also speaks of the 'poor Greeks'.
The fallout from Greece's debt crisis has singed European banks, panicked investors into dumping euro zone debt and threatens to trigger another credit crunch.
Germany is footing a quarter of Europe's bill and many Germans are increasingly unwilling to fund what they say are states that have lived beyond their means.
That sentiment could increase now that Germany's economy, so far largely resistant to the crisis, is beginning to take a hit. Last month, the government cut its GDP growth forecast to 1 percent for next year, from a previous 1.8 percent, and some economists even put a recession on the cards.
For Anna, life has improved over the past year and Kurzarbeit seems to have worked well for her company of about 2,000 staff. The boss agreed to give Anna and her co-worker two temp workers and more equipment, so she no longer feels guilty about taking days off or staying at home when she is sick.
"My personal work situation has improved. I'm very happy with everything," Anna said, sitting in the rose-painted dining room of her rented cottage.
Home-made artifacts and a photograph of spices decorate the walls and, just as a year earlier, a traditional gas-fired oven rattles in the background heating the room and the coffee.
Anna has had more time off this year and has traveled around southwestern Germany.
Still, she worries more about the future now than she did two years ago before her hours were cut back. Her Kurzarbeit experience lasted less than 20 days but it left scars.
"I have become more cautious about what I spend my money on. I haven't got new savings accounts but I do often calculate: 'what if they canceled the night shifts again and I had fewer shifts to work. Would I get through the month?'."
In a sign of just how much the crisis has moved her, she told a story of her grandmother, who during the first Iraq War stocked up on canned food and water in fear they would run out.
"We kids laughed at her, but she had lived through two world wars. She was 'once bitten, twice shy' and it's just like that for us now."
11/19/2011 – 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 ) -
- Columbus commissioners consider cuts, furloughs for department, by Deuce Niven, Fayetteville Observer via fayobserver.com
WHITEVILLE, N.C. - Pay cuts for in-home aides and a 15-hour furlough each month for all full-time employees of the Columbus County Department of Aging are being proposed to help the department make it through the fiscal year.
The county Board of Commissioners is expected to act on those proposals Monday.
In August, County Manager Bill Clark said the department was headed toward a $496,000 shortfall for the fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
The shortfall is now estimated at $275,000, largely because vacant positions have gone unfilled, said Amanda Jernigan, the department's finance officer.
Even with the proposed budget cuts, the department will need $112,000 from the county's general fund to balance its budget.
Besides the furloughs, the commissioners will consider cutting all in-home aides' pay by 8 percent and eliminating their vacation, sick pay and travel pay.
Commissioner Ricky Bullard, who earlier this month called for action on the Department of Aging and its longtime leader, Ed Worley, said Friday he was saddened by the need for the cuts.
"I hate to see anybody lose money from their paycheck," Bullard said.
But he said the cuts are necessary.
"I think cuts should have come much sooner," he said. "We're still losing $112,000 this year."
A change in leadership also seems in order, Bullard said.
"I'm not totally comfortable with the supervision there," he said. "I just think there needs to be a change. I'm going to ask Mr. Clark to do an evaluation on Ed. I don't know if that's ever been done."
Clark said the department's budget for the next fiscal year will balance.
"Hopefully, this will get us back on track," Bullard said. "This is one department that is not funded by the general fund, therefore it needs tighter scrutiny."
- School calendars: Who's off for Thanksgiving? by William Diepenbrock, OCRegister.com
ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - Orange County's 28 school districts all follow slightly different schedules -- some shortening their calendars with furlough days, some scheduling a week off at Thanksgiving or even three over winter break.
This year, 12 districts shortened their school year below the state's 180-day calendar – an option allowed by legislators as a way of coping with ongoing funding shortages – by implementing employee furloughs. These districts set between 175 and 178 instruction days.
Most have attached their furlough days before or after existing school holidays, giving students and staff longer breaks throughout the year.
Only Laguna Beach, with 181 days, exceeds the state's formerly standard minimum requirement.
Additionally, 14 districts have planned weeklong Thanksgiving breaks, Nov. 21-25. Four districts scheduled winter breaks of three weeks, Dec. 19-Jan. 5.
Most districts will also consider additional adjustments should the state cut $1 billion or more from public schools due to shortfalls in revenue expectations.
11/18/2011 – 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 ) -
- Council overrides Barrett veto on furlough day, citing worker hardship, by Larry Sandler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via jsonline.com
MILWAUKEE, Wisc. - After hearing that dozens of city employees are facing financial hardships, the Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously Friday to override Mayor Tom Barrett's veto of a budget amendment that canceled an unpaid furlough day.
Barrett's 2012 budget called for four unpaid days off for most city workers - including elected officials, but not police officers or firefighters. That would be the same furlough pattern as this year and the fourth straight year that some city employees have been required to take unpaid time off.
Earlier this month, however, the council voted 9-6 to reduce the number of furlough days from four to three, at a cost of $784,009. That included a $610,157 transfer from the parking fund to the general fund, to avoid the use of property tax dollars.
In his veto message, Barrett said he couldn't support using the parking fund to pay wages when serious budget challenges are expected for the city in 2013. He also noted that the city could have afforded to cancel all four furlough days and end a wage freeze if aldermen would follow a new state law requiring city employees to pay half the cost of their pensions, unless they are police or firefighters. But three legal opinions say that law can't apply to Milwaukee's pension fund.
Ald. Michael Murphy, who originally voted against the fund transfer, said he changed his mind after learning of a recent spike in the number of city employees seeking permission to tap into their 457 accounts, which are similar to the 401(k) investment accounts used by private-sector workers.
During the third quarter of this year, 89 workers applied for withdrawals based on financial hardship and 67 applications were granted, said Murphy, a member of the city's Deferred Compensation Board. That compares with an average of 12 applications in most previous quarters, and consultants expect the current totals to double next year, he said.
"Our own employees are going into foreclosure," said Murphy, the chairman of the council's Finance & Personnel Committee. Although many city residents have similar problems, he added, "It's fairly callous not to consider the pain some of our employees are going through."
Although Murphy said he agrees with Barrett that using the parking fund "is not the wisest decision," he noted that it has no impact on the property tax levy.
Also, Murphy said, his panel next week will consider a $900,000 package of benefit reductions that will be made possible by the end of most city union contracts. The same state law that raised pension and health care contributions also eliminated most collective bargaining for most public employees, except law enforcement officers and firefighters.
After the vote, Barrett said he understood the council's concern for city employees. But he added that if aldermen wanted to show solidarity with workers outside the police and fire departments, they should lower their pensions to the same level as most city workers.
That issue, now under study by the city attorney's office, revolves around a factor called the pension multiplier. For the mayor and most other city employees, pensions are calculated by multiplying 2% of their average salary in their last three years on the job by their years of service after 1995. But for other elected officials, police officers and firefighters, the multiplier is 2.5%.
The council voted last month to cut the multiplier to 2%, but only for officials newly elected in April. Barrett vetoed that measure because he wanted the cut extended to officials re-elected in April. A deputy city attorney had told aldermen they couldn't do that, but the council sustained the veto to give the city attorney's office time to take a closer look at the issue.
Also Friday, the council overrode Barrett's veto of a related measure setting the dates of furlough days. That means the July 5 furlough day is canceled, but furloughs remain in place for April 9, May 25 and Aug. 31 - the Monday after Easter and the Fridays before Memorial Day and Labor Day, respectively.
- Taiwan unveils plan to help 20,000 find jobs, Economic Times via articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com
TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan in Friday unveiled plans to spend about Tw$1.6 billion ($53 million) on a scheme it says will help 20,000 people find jobs amid reports companies are laying staff off in reaction to slowing demand.
The money will be spent partly on creating completely new jobs and partly on providing training for unemployed people to help them find work, the Labour Affairs Council said.
A growing number of firms, particularly in the high-tech sector, are reportedly shedding workers or enforcing unpaid "vacations" as the poor global outlook -- with the US economy stuttering and Europe in crisis -- hits revenues.
Inventec, a contract maker for Hewlett-Packard's tablet computers, laid off nearly 400 employees earlier this month after the US firm said it was ending production of the TouchPad, its rival to Apple's iPad.
As of mid-November, at least 48 firms have cut work hours to save costs, affecting 5,021 people, according to the Labour Affairs Council.
However, China Times newspaper cited trade unions as saying that the real number was about six times higher.
Unemployment in Taiwan, which is set to hold presidential elections in two months, in September hit 4.28 percent, while the jobless rate in the first nine months was 4.43 percent.
Taiwan's economy grew by a lower-than-expected 3.37 percent in the third quarter of 2011 as slowing overseas demand hit the trade-dependent island, government data showed.
The 2011 full-year growth forecast as cut to 4.56 percent from 4.81 percent.
11/17/2011 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Pressure for German-style short time working schemes, Yorkshire Post via yorkshirepost.co.uk
YORK, England - The Government must cut taxes to tackle Britain’s “truly shocking” youth unemployment rate, according to a leading Yorkshire businessman.
[No, that's what the U.S. did during the past "lost decade" and WHERE ARE THE JOBS?!]
Rotherham-based Gordon Millward, the regional chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) , said the Government must “wake up” and announce steps in its Autumn Statement to help create jobs for young people.
Peter Spencer, the professor of economics and finance at York University, said the UK should consider adopting German-style short time working schemes.
Mr Millward said: “The FSB has long argued for a National Insurance contributions cut for micro businesses as a way of creating jobs. A measure the Government could adopt would be to cut National Insurance contributions for those aged between 16 and 24 taken on in a new job in a micro (small) business. This measure would target tax cuts where they are most needed, and halt rising youth unemployment.”
Mr Spencer, who is economic adviser to the Ernst & Young Item Club, highlighted the fact that the German labour market was “particularly effective” in preserving jobs through short time working.
He added: “This type of flexibility is built into the system through the routine use of working time accounts and in most industries there are plant-level arrangements for negotiating short time working in a downturn.
“These arrangements are supported by the social security system, which cushions the effect on take home pay. Government support for short-term working was extended as part of a package of measures designed to support the labour market during the last recession. Unemployment hardly increased at all in Germany during the crisis despite the huge fall in exports and output.
“The UK labour market seems to be evolving along similar lines.”
- The trouble with France - France's problems go well beyond its 35-hour work week. Efforts to preserve its triple-A credit rating may not go far enough, by Cyrus Sanati, FORTUNE via CNN via finance.fortune.cnn.com
[Wrong. France's solutions are blocked by stopping workweek reduction at the 35-hour level and preventing further work&wage spreading. The financial "problems" are superficial and their "solutions" perverse.]
PARIS, France -- The cost to insure French debt soared this week as traders started to shift their attention away from the economic health of Europe's more profligate periphery to that of its core members. France has been scrambling for months to come up with a plan to save its coveted triple-A credit rating and convince the markets that it is in fine economic shape. While the country is better off than Italy, it is certainly not as healthy as its perfect credit rating suggest. France knows what it needs to do to get its fiscal house in order, but it risks facing an Italian-like crisis to finally bite the bullet.
Italy has dominated the headlines out of Europe this week as its government fell into chaos and its largest bank, Unicredit, reported a record loss. But many traders in New York and Europe seemed more interested in the news coming out of Paris than Rome. On Monday, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon revealed a much anticipated austerity package that was meant to save France's coveted triple-A credit rating and help spur growth.
The market was not impressed. After the announcement, the cost to insure French debt using credit default swaps jumped to a record 236 basis points, according to brokers in the City of London. That meant it would cost as much as 236,000 euros per year for an investor holding 10 million euros of French bonds to protect themselves from a sovereign default. That's a considerable payout on debt that should ostensibly be considered risk free given the nation's perfect triple-A credit rating.
The jump in CDS spreads probably shocked many French politicians who thought that the measures they had proposed were extremely tough. The plan would see corporate tax rates go up by 5%, while the value added tax on services would go up from 5.5% to 7%. It would bring forward by one year the implementation of a controversial plan to raise the retirement age in France from 60 to 62 years old. The plan also eliminated some tax deductions and state assistance.
Fillion said he hoped the plan would bring about 7 billion euros in budget savings in 2012 and a further 11.6 billion euros in savings for 2013. In total, he said the plan would produce 65 billion euros in savings by 2016.
Slower growth, smaller tax base
That might seem like a tough plan, but it looks pretty weak when one drills down a bit. The bulk of the "savings" in the plan come from tax hikes as opposed to cuts in the country's bloated welfare state. Such large tax increases will most likely slow France's already anemic economic growth rate. As the country's growth rate stalls, so will its tax base, negating any possible "savings" it might receive.
France's problem is that it simply has been living beyond its means for way too long. While not as bad as Italy, France has a very high debt compared to its economic output. Its total government debt of around 1.3 trillion euros equates to a debt-to-GDP ratio of around 83%. That is relatively low in comparison to the likes of Greece, which is at 140%, and Italy, which is at 120%, but it is high for a country that has a perfect triple-A credit rating – much higher than the United States, which lost its triple-A rating earlier this summer.
If France's economic growth prospects were strong, then its debt-to-GDP ratio wouldn't be an issue, but the country is facing some serious challenges on that front. France's once strong manufacturing sector has decayed in recent years causing it to import increasingly more goods. Where once the country ran large trade surpluses, it now runs large deficits. In the first six months of this year France had a trade deficit of 37.5 billion euros. While that's a large number, what's really troubling is how fast it has grown, up 36% compared to the same time last year.
France's high labor costs seem to be behind the drop off in exports. The Germans have trounced the French in both internal and external eurozone trade. France is actually helping the Germans win in two ways. First, it has allowed its workforce to become less competitive. In 2000, French workers were paid 8% less than German workers. Now, French workers are paid 10% more than German workers. Second, France runs a trade deficit with Germany of around 1 billion euros a month. That is a complete reversal from 2004 when it was Germany that was running the billion-euro-a-month trade deficit with France.
The real reason for Germany's optimism
What has happened to the French economy? The 35-hour government mandated work week surely hasn't helped matters much [it certainly has - where does this genius think he's going to get the additional market-demanded employment to go back to 39 or 40 hours per person?], but it goes deeper. France has the highest level of government spending in the eurozone [gov't spending is shallower, not "deeper" than employment & consequent consumer spending] at around 54% of GDP. That high level of spending goes to support the generous French welfare state, which is funded through borrowing and high taxes. Those taxes are passed through businesses, making French goods very expensive and ultimately uncompetitive on the world market. Today, around half of the gross labor costs in France go to prop up the French welfare state, while it is just 28% in neighboring Germany, according to MEDEF, France's largest union of employers.
The market was looking for France to finally announce plans to reduce its spending and force through meaningful cuts in its social safety net. Instead, it got a plan where France would try to tax its way out of its problems. Meaningful cuts in government spending, followed by liberalization of the nation's labor laws, will go a long way to solving France's fiscal dilemma. That would require a showdown with the country's powerful unions, something that not even conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy seems to have the stomach for at this point.
The cost to insure French debt jumped again on Wednesday to around 255 basis points. Yields on French debt are now well above 4% and are at historic highs versus German bonds. Until France gets real about its economic issues, it will see its borrowing costs continue to increase until it becomes way too expensive to maintain. Such a crisis would definitely put the euro's future in peril.
[Hey, France is perfectly welcome to renounce its world leadership with the shortest official nationwide workweek max, reconcentrate its market-demanded employment, clobber consumer spending and even get Taiwan-style karoshi = deaths from overwork -]
- Working hours of medical personnel to be ruled more strictly : CLA, by Chen Ching-fang & Zoe Wei & Kendra Lin, China News Agency via Focus Taiwan News Channel via focustaiwan.tw
TAIPEI, Taiwan - Medical professionals and workers in the health care industry will soon face restrictions on the amount of overtime they are allowed to work, in view of several recent deaths from overwork, the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) said Thursday.
Medical personnel and technicians will no longer be included in Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Act from Jan. 1, 2014, when the first stage of the revision is implemented, while personnel with various other duties will be excluded the following year.
The article mandates that workers in 38 jobs, including security guards, doctors and hotel housekeepers, can work more flexible schedules based on their duty requirements, which is known as the system of job responsibility.
However, in recent years, the law has been wrongly applied by some employers, which has led to some workers having to work excessively long hours, the CLA said.
Several resident doctors and interns have reportedly died from overwork and medical student groups have recently demanded an end to such exploitation.
Until the exclusion takes effect, their regular working hours will be capped at 168 hours per month, with a monthly limit of 240 hours, said CLA official Chen Hui-ling.
The revision will also apply to hotel housekeepers, day-care center workers, and social welfare institution instructors.
However, without other measures to deal with the new system, many hospitals will suffer from a shortage of resident doctors, said Shih Chung-liang, director of the Bureau of Medical Affairs under the Department of Health.
The surgery, gynecology and pediatrics departments, which have more difficulty in recruiting new doctors either due to the heavy workload or Taiwan's low birth rate, are likely to suffer further workforce shortages when doctors' work schedules come under the new restrictions, Shih noted.
Even doctors in charge of other specialties such as neurology and orthopedics might need to work night shifts, which could also dampen interns' interest in applying for these specialties, he added.
The new system will result in an increase in the number of staff who will need to work shifts, which will increase hospital expenses and indirectly add to the burden on the National Health Insurance program, which is already in financial difficulty, the official said.
The move will also have a negative influence on patient care, he added.
- Masters must give more 'crumbs' to workers, by Dave Milam, Bloomington Pantagraph via pantagraph.com
BLOOMINGTON, Illin. - Model-T Fords were $800 in 1917 and assembly workers earned $2 a day. Henry Ford, wishing to create a target group of consumers — his workers — for this auto they made, raised employees’ pay to $5 — double the going rate. Ford empowered his employees by taking the moral high road.
Today with many Wal-Mart workers’ low wages, averaging only 28 hours per week, some are eligible for public assistance. Their lower wages ensure Wal-Mart of a target group — their employees — unable to afford shopping anywhere but Wal-Mart.
["...I owe my soul to the company store."]
If you deny the demand side of the economic equation of supply and demand, and pretend supply-side economics should prevail, you have the predicament which we presently suffer.
Businesses are sitting on a couple of trillion dollars in cash — the supply — waiting for demand — consumption — to increase. When wealth is concentrated and the many have few resources to buy, no businessman will expand, lacking buyers for his goods and services. That is why inequality is so pernicious; also it is why more tax cuts for the rich hurt everyone eventually, even the rich.
If you think of an economy as a card game, unless you wish to see it end quickly, you need players with money to keep the game — the economy — going. Keep it in few hands, and the game stagnates and fizzles.
Redistribution of wealth is not the proper wording. Having more crumbs to eat from their masters table for the working class from the owners is a Christian imperative.
11/16/2011 – 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 ) -
- NM courts cut hours, juror pay, by Milan Simonich firstname.lastname@example.org, Las Cruces Sun-News via lcsun-news.com
SANTA FE, N.M. - New Mexico's courts are so cash-poor that jurors took a pay cut this year.
Worse still, most courts have reduced hours of business because they had to cut staff, even as case filings increased, said Arthur Pepin, director of the administrative office of the courts.
Pepin and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels on Tuesday appealed for a $5.1 million budget increase for next year. Appearing before the Legislative Finance Committee, they said state courts are having a harder time administering justice because of money problems.
Court budgets collectively were $153 million in 2009. This year the amount was $134 million. State government's overall budget is about $5.3 billion for this year.
Even seemingly small expenses have become overwhelming, Pepin said.
Since the recession, the judicial branch has had to borrow almost $1.5 million to pay jurors.
Those deciding cases got less money for their service. Compensation for serving on a jury was reduced this year from $7.50 to $6.25 an hour.
Statewide vacancies on court staffs were 11.5 percent as of July. The number is based on the total of authorized fulltime positions.
Pepin said the monetary increase the courts are seeking would make up about one-quarter of what has been cut over the years. This would enable staff to take a step toward better service and efficiency, he said.
If the court system gets the increase, a portion of the money would add five judges in and around fast-growing
But, Pepin said, most of the requested increase - $3.2 million - simply would go "to stem the erosion of judicial services" and hire a handful of people for critical jobs.
To help generate money for Magistrate Courts, state legislators this year approved a bill to increase fees on those convicted of certain misdemeanors and traffic offenses.
But Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the bill, which would have raised the fee from $4 to $7 per offender. She said this was in keeping with her promise not to raise any taxes or fees.
Daniels has said the bill would have made those who committed crimes shoulder more responsible for the cost of court operations. Court administrators may try to push the bill again in 2012, but they know they will have to win over the governor first.
A snapshot of courts in trying times
Second Judicial District, Bernalillo County - The largest court in the state has reduced services in mental health and eliminated a program aimed at curbing domestic violence.
Third Judicial District, Do a Ana County - Five jobs were eliminated and three more could be cut. This means it takes longer to process and docket cases.
Sixth Judicial District, Grant, Hidalgo and Luna counties - A rarity among the courts, it has maintained normal customer service hours in all three counties.
Seventh Judicial District, Sierra, Socorro, Catron and Torrance counties - The vacancy rate for staff positions is 18 percent, higher than the statewide average. Jobs have gone unfilled to save money and avoid employee furloughs.
Eleventh Judicial District, San Juan and McKinley counties - It had almost 14 vacant jobs as of summer, but hopes to fill 4.5 by Dec. 31.
Twelfth Judicial District, Lincoln and Otero counties - The Otero County Juvenile Drug Court program was closed.
Santa Fe Bureau Chief Milan Simonich can be reached at email@example.com or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com.
- Nine to five soon to be a 'distant memory', with global markets set to keep staff up all night, research suggests, by David Woods, HRmagazine.co.uk
LONDON, U.K. - The standard nine to five working day will be a ‘distant memory’ in 25 years, according to a report published today by Office Angels.
It found the emergence of "truly global markets" will mean working hours become more flexible and more employees will be required to work through the night.
The study explores the likely evolution of working practices and culture within the UK over the next 25 years.
Almost two thirds (65%) of employees believe working hours will become far more flexible and over half (53%) predict that standard working hours will be a thing of the past altogether.
Almost three quarters (71%) believe an increasing number of people will work from home in 2036, thanks to new technologies such as cloud computing, smart phones and video conferencing. The survey also shows that workers expect job shares and multiple careers to be commonplace by 2036.
[Job sharing only splits up a frozen 40-hour workweek. We need work sharing, which reduces the definition of full-time downwards from 40 hours as far as it takes to regain full employment and maximum consumer spending and markets. You can't just stop forever at 35 like France when automation and robots are constantly rolling in.]
Almost half (48%) of employees surveyed, predict staff will have to work through the night, thanks to an increase in working across global markets.
Whilst this will present challenges for both employers and employees, this new flexibility in working hours may well have significant advantages for those currently struggling to balance family responsibilities with those of their job. Just over a third (35%) predict that this 'always on' working culture will lead to increased levels of stress, with longer working hours and the constant accessibility afforded by new communication devices, like smart phones, leading to heightened pressure and tighter deadlines.
David Clubb, MD of Office Angels, said: "Standard working hours are already dying out, with many employers expecting staff to be 'online' and available outside of standard office hours. At the same time, there is a huge push amongst many employees for better work-life balance. It's a very fine balance but what this survey tells us is that there is a real appetite for more flexible ways of working. Rather than seeing this as a nuisance or threat, employers need to consider the benefits of flexible working, such as reduced fixed costs, increased goodwill amongst existing staff and the widening of the talent pool from which the organisation can attract candidates.
"However, there are obvious challenges to implementing a successful flexible working policy and culture within an organisation. It requires very careful planning and investment to ensure that staff have the right technology and tools to work remotely. We are advising forward thinking companies to recognise that flexible working is the future and that businesses need to define and implement their strategies now in order to retain and attract the very best talent."
Over a third of employees (36%) expect more people to job share in 2036, leading to increased freedom in working hours, whether through flexi-time, term-time, or part-time working. And almost half of workers (48%) predict that 'jobs for life' will be a thing of the past; workers will have a series of careers, with new skills being learnt on a continual basis.
11/15/2011 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- European rules on doctors' working hours need 'urgent' reform: NHS managers - NHS managers have demanded 'urgent and common sense' changes to the impractical European rules on working times warning that it damages patient care,
by Rebecca Smith, (11/16 late pickup) London Telegraph via Telegraph.co.uk
LONDON, U.K. - All doctors must not work more than 48 hours a week for the NHS under the EU Working Time Directive but this is causing problems on the wards and putting patients lives at risk, the NHS Confederation has warned.
The Directive is due to be revised, and employers and trade unions are due to start negotiations shortly.
The Confederation, which represents NHS organisation, is pressing for common sense changes to be made so the NHS can implement the Directive more flexibly.
Currently rules state that all the time doctors are on call in the hospital is counted as work, even if they spend the majority of the shift asleep as they were not needed.
Doctors must also have 11 hours of rest between shifts even if this means missing vital shift handovers when doctors coming in to work are briefed on the condition of their patients overnight.
The Confederation wants to see this rules relaxed to take into account the unique circumstances that arise in healthcare.
Meanwhile other organisations have demanded the right for wholesale opt-out of the Directive.
The Royal College of Surgeons wants junior doctors to be allowed to work more than 48 hours a week so they can gain sufficient experience in theatre while training.
The Directive has proved controversial as although the majority of NHS hospitals are complying with the 48-hour working week on paper, in reality many doctors are pressured to falsify their records, it has been claimed.
Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS Confederation’s European Office, said: “This legislation needs a modern approach that fits in with the way our health service works. The NHS provides a large chunk of its care on a 24-hour basis. So it is only right that there should be flexibility about how the rules are applied.
“Patient safety must always be the top priority of the NHS. It is in no one's interest to have overworked, tired doctors. Politicians have tried and failed so far to find a sensible solution, and these negotiations provide an opportunity for people who are in touch with the issues on a daily basis to reach a common-sense agreement, delivering the best outcome for staff and patients, and allowing the NHS to provide a 21st century service."
The NHS Confederation's European Office is also calling for individual healthcare staff to maintain the right to seek an opt-out from the 48-hour ceiling on working hours so that the NHS can provide a properly staffed service and safe continuity of care.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We understand the NHS Confederation's concerns over the EU Working Time Directive.
"Andrew Lansley and Vince Cable are working on how the Directive might be revised at an EU level to give the NHS the flexibility it needs.
"Employers are responsible for ensuring that service rotas are designed and staffed appropriately; ensuring patient safety at all times, and are in accordance with the Working Time Regulations; which require that hours do not exceed an average of 48 hours per week when measured over a six month period."
- State supervisors share pain of furloughs - Management-confidential workers get PEF deal, by Rick Karlin, Albany Times Union via timesunion.com
ALBANY, N.Y. -- The state's 10,300 non-unionized management and confidential employees will be taking furloughs over the next two years, just like their unionized counterparts.
The furloughs -- known as Deficit Reduction Leave -- will be repaid in 2015.
[Woowee, a special happyface label for furloughs!]
And some of the workers, who help run state agencies, will receive longevity [ie: seniority?] and incremental pay hikes.
Essentially, management-confidential workers will be getting a deal that is similar to the four-year contract that members of the Public Employees Federation union approved earlier this month.
But there is no word yet if they'll get a 2 percent across-the-board raise in four years, a boost secured by PEF members.
Management and confidential employees, or M/Cs, typically work in supervisory positions or in jobs where they have access to confidential information: secretaries to top officials often fall into this category.
M/Cs have gone almost four years with no raises, noted Joe Sano, executive director of the New York State Organization of Management Confidential Employees, which is not a union but advocates on behalf of them.
Sano described the deal, which was announced Monday on the state Budget Division's website, as containing "yin and yang": M/Cs are at least getting some increases, but like other state employees have been hit with higher health care costs.
"Management/confidential employees in the state of New York have given more than any state employee," Sano said.
State Budget Division spokesman Morris Peters said these changes were actually put in the 2010-2011 budget, even though they were just announced in a bulletin this week.
Sano added that the lack of raises, combined with prior contractual pay hikes given to unionized workers, means that in some instances supervisors are paid less than the people they supervise.
As a result, it's been difficult to get experienced people to move from the unionized ranks to supervisory jobs. In some cases, union members are dubbed "project managers," where they serve as de facto bosses in order to avoid getting a promotion with a comparative pay cut.
The latest budget moves, Sano said, do "nothing to fix a broken classification and compensation system."
Karlin can be reached at 454-5758 or email@example.com.
11/13-14/2011 – 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 ) -
- A look a Meriden officer Cossette's workweek around the incidents, by Adam Wittenberg, 11/14 Meriden Record-Journal via myrecordjournal.com
[Here's another downside to long hours besides endangering patients (medical interns) and elevated accident rate (truckers and other drivers) -]
MERIDEN, Conn. - An October 2010 incident in which Officer Evan Cossette is accused of police brutality occurred during a 75.5-hour workweek for Cossette, according to city payroll records.
An October 2010 incident in which Officer Evan Cossette is accused of police brutality occurred during a 75.5-hour workweek for Cossette, according to city payroll records.
Since he joined the Police Department in 2008, Cossette has been a prolific worker. He has averaged about 60 hours per week, including overtime, and earned more than $108,000 in 2010. By his own admission, he was routinely among the department's top officers in the number of arrests, stops and tickets on monthly reports.
That pace continued until April, when the city placed Cossette, who is 24 and the son of Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, on administrative duty following allegations of brutality and nepotism lodged by fellow Officers Brian Sullivan and Donald Huston.
Cossette's workload has come into the spotlight since it was revealed that he continues to earn nearly $1,000 a week in overtime pay, because of the police union contract, while he is on desk duty. Research has also shown that fatigue among police officers due to long hours can lead to increased irritability and poor decision-making.
The allegations against Cossette include that he brutalized two men during separate arrests in May and October of 2010, shoving a handcuffed suspect backwards into a holding cell causing him to crack his head and kneeing another suspect in the mouth, causing a bloody gash. A third man has accused Cossette of tackling him, shocking him multiple times with a Taser and handcuffing him too tightly to a bed at MidState Medical Center during a January 2011 incident. All three men are suing Cossette, his father, police command staff and the city in federal court.
The same week of the Oct. 5, 2010, kneeing incident, Cossette worked 19.5 hours of private duty and had 16 hours of training overtime in addition to his regular 40 hours, for a total of 75.5 hours, according to records obtained under the state Freedom of Information law. The records did not indicate which overtime shifts Cossette worked but show his total hours for the weeks surrounding the three incidents for which he is being sued.
It was not immediately clear whether he was paid overtime to attend training, which Deputy Chief Timothy S. Topulos said sometimes occurs, or if he was working overtime to fill shifts to meet minimum staffing levels for an officer in training.
Cossette and his father did not respond to requests to comment for this story. Detective Michael Siegler, the police union president, also did not respond.
Cossette had worked 58.5 hours and 48 hours, respectively, in the two weeks prior to the kneeing incident and worked 54 hours the next. He was cleared following an internal investigation into his arrest of Robert Methvin on Pasco Street.
Cossette worked 55.5 hours the week ending May 1, 2010, the day he shoved Pedro Temich into the holding cell. He had 32 regular hours, 13 hours of private duty - jobs that typically include providing security or monitoring construction sites - and 10.5 hours of overtime.
He had worked 50 hours the previous week and worked 57 the following. An investigation into the incident resulted in Cossette receiving a letter of reprimand from Topulos. He was also ordered to attend four hours of use-of-force training.
"I believe that you exercised poor judgment in this case and that your actions were negligent," Topulos wrote in the letter. "I believe that you didn't mean for this to happen, but I also believe that you failed to perceive the risks involved."
Topulos, who handles Cossette's discipline to avoid a conflict of interest for the chief, did not mention anything about his hours.
In January of this year, Cossette worked just 16 hours one week and none the next, but on his first day back at work he arrested Joseph Bryans at Mid-State Medical Center in the early morning hours of Jan. 23. It was the start of a 60-hour week which included 40 regular hours, 12 hours of overtime and eight hours of training overtime. The following week he logged 77 hours, with 37 hours of overtime. Cossette was cleared following an internal investigation of the incident.
For each of the periods reviewed, Cossette was working mostly second shift, or 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., plus private duty, training and overtime. Meriden officers with less than five years of experience receive two weeks' vacation, according to the Personnel Department.
National research has documented what a report calls "a vicious cycle where fatigue diminishes the ability to cope with other job stressors in a healthy manner," and overtime can "seriously erode an officer's ability to function effectively."
The 2000 report, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, is titled "Evaluating the Effect of Fatigue on Police Patrol Officers." It found that the 10 largest departments in the country lacked formal policies limiting the number of hours worked and that attempts to monitor or regulate police patrol hours, including overtime, are often treated as economic issues rather than performance, health or safety concerns.
The "public, police managers and officers, health care professionals, and researchers generally appear to have been blinded by the misperception that fatigue is an immutable part of the police environ- ment," it reads.
Truck drivers, nuclear power plant operators and workers in a number of other industries have set limits on how many hours they can work, but many law enforcement agencies do not impose such limits, the study found. Meriden won't allow officers to work more than two straight shifts without a supervisor's approval, and that practice is extremely rare, said City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior.
"It's very, very rare that that even comes up," he said. "We have a rotation list for overtime. The odds of three (shifts) in a row is extremely rare. Maybe at Christmastime or a time when a lot of people are on vacation you might occasionally have that situation."
Wallingford also limits police to working no more than 16 hours in any 24-hour period. The national report documented that being awake for 17 straight hours equals the level of psycho-motor impairment caused by a blood alcohol level of .05 percent, which is less than the legal driving limit in Connecticut of .08 percent. But 24 straight hours awake equals the impairment of a 0.10 BAC, legally drunk in every U.S. jurisdiction.
The report, which is available from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, found a strong link between fatigue and the possibility for officer misconduct, "especially misconduct associated with the use of force.
"Even the best officers who are impaired by fatigue or chronic fatigue will likely, on occasion, overreach in threatening situations, lose their tempers, and make bad decisions," it concluded.
Evan Cossette has strongly denied any misconduct. He and other officers have filed internal complaints against Sullivan and Huston claiming false allegations. Federal officials and an attorney hired by the city are investigating the department.
John DeCarlo, a former Branford police chief who teaches criminal justice at the University of New Haven, said it's fairly common for officers to work 60-hour weeks, although he started to worry about fatigue when the shifts were back to back.
Departments in some other states have capped the amount of hours police can work, De-Carlo said, but that change would be difficult to approve here because the unions would likely argue that the municipality was limiting an officer's ability to earn and Connecticut "is a very strong labor state."
Most departments rely on overtime, he said, because "it's cheaper for municipalities to pay than hiring officers and paying benefits," which can amount to more than 50 percent of the salary.
Police departments must maintain the jobs of officers who are sick, recovering from injury or out for reasons like military leave. Since they often can't hire replacement officers, overtime is required to fill shifts.
"It's one of those dark figures in police department budgets," DeCarlo said. "It's there and it's a given."
And while most businesses close for holidays, "the police department never does," he said.
In Meriden, Kendzior said the department doesn't have a history of fatigue-related incidents.
"Somebody told me the last one anyone thought was related to fatigue was 25 years ago," he said. "Apparently an officer dozed off behind the wheel and hit a utility pole."
When asked if fatigue had been raised as a possible factor in the allegations against Cossette, Kendzior said "there are no incidents locally which I'm aware of where fatigue was a factor in how the officer conducted himself." Lt. William Wright of Wallingford said he was not aware of any fatigue-related incidents in his 16 years in town but that it is a supervisor's responsibility "to make sure the officers under his command are fit for duty."
He said there are a handful of officers who like to work extra shifts and private duty jobs "when they can get them," but that "overtime isn't a guaranteed thing here."
In contrast to Meriden, the department doesn't assign officers to desk duty if they are under investigation. Employees who are put out of work because of a pending investigation are paid at their regular 40-hour rate, Wright said, citing the union contract.
Meriden doesn't pay the overtime in certain circumstances, such as an off dutydrunken driving or domestic violence arrest, Siegler has said, but Cossette is paid because the city decided to place him on administrative duty during the investigation.
The probes into the department could continue for a month or more. Kendzior has indicated that Thomas V. Daily, who the city hired, will give an update at the end of this month on whether he has finished his investigation and is drafting his report. Federal officials have declined to comment.
email@example.com (203) 317-2231
- Sunways sales still shrinking: 2H 2011 losses expected, 11/4 PV-Tech.org
[Their sales would have shrunk a lot faster in the U.S. with over 50% of the states still downsizing without worksharing ("short-time work") programs.]
ARNSTADT, Germany - Continuous pressure on pricing as demand remains weak has further impacted PV product sales and profits at Sunways. Consolidated sales declined by €35.0 million to €23.3 million, compared to the same quarter a year ago when sales reached €58.3 million. Lower cell manufacturing utilization, inventory write-downs on falling ASPs meant Sunways reported losses € 6.3 million an a negative operating result (EBIT) of €11.8 million in the third quarter.
Although using module assembly capacity at LDK Solar in China, the lead-times between shipping cells for module assembly and receiving modules back to Europe meant Sunways could not cover cost prices. An inventory write-down of €3.8 million was required in the quarter as a result.
Sales outside Germany increased but failed to fully compensate for weak demand in Germany. In the third quarter 2011, Sunways generated sales in Europe (not Germany) of €9.9 million, down from €16.8 million in the prior year period, equating to 42.5% of 3Q sales, up from 28.8% in Q3, 2010.
Sales in France more than tripled from the prior year quarter to €2.0 million due to the distribution cooperation with Wattsol S.A.R.L, according to the company. International sales in the first 9-months of 2011 increased to €42.3 million, up from €36.9 million in the prior year period.
Sunways recorded a module sales volume of 11.4MWp in the solar module segment and generated corresponding sales of €14.0 million. In the solar inverter segment, the sales volume of 38.9MWp fell significantly behind the relevant figure for prior year quarter of 68.0MWp. Solar cell segment sales dropped to €12.1 million in Q311, compared to €27.9 million in Q310.
The company noted it had introduced short-time work at its cell plant in Arnstadt, in early September, to adjust production capacities to the current demand.
Sunways expects to generate sales revenue of €100-€120 million for the fiscal year 2011 and a negative operating result (EBIT) in the lower double-digit million range. Losses have been reported for three consecutive quarters.
“Sunways strongly focuses on restoring and securing the Company’s profitability on a sustainable basis,” commented Michael Wilhelm, Chairman of the Management Board of Sunways. “The objective is to minimize any further negative effects on our earnings and liquidity position. All measures already initiated to reduce costs and ensure liquidity will be further intensified. Additional projects relating to a review and potential adjustment of the business model have already been started.”
- Working hours in the hospitality industry, 11/14 Australian Hospitality Magazine via hospitalitymagazine.com.au
Restaurant and Catering Australia's workplace relations experts keep you up to date with the latest rules and regulations when it comes to the hours your employees are working.
CANBERRA, Australia - Maximum working hours are provided for in the National Employment Standards (NES) and detailed in the Fair Work Act 2009. The NES took effect from 1 January 2010 and set the minimum safety net of employment conditions for all employees throughout Australia.
Under the NES, the maximum number of working hours for a full-time employee is 38 hours per week plus any reasonable additional hours [=loophole?]. For those employees who are not full-time employees maximum hours are deemed the lesser of the employee's ordinary hours each week or 38 hours.
Many hospitality employees are covered by Modern Awards including the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 and the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 which contain provisions regarding hours of work that compliment the NES. The hours of work clauses will detail such matters including: minimum and maximum lengths of shifts, minimum breaks between shifts, minimum amount of days off per four week cycle, maximum amount of days worked without a break, and other related matters. Work outside these hours will generally require payment of overtime.
If an employee covered by a Modern Award works excessive hours they are generally entitled to a higher rate of pay called overtime. Overtime is normally detailed in Modern Awards and sets the hours that attract overtime payments. This overtime can be absorbed into over-award payments (e.g. an employee on an above award salary may not have to be paid for a reasonable amount of overtime where this is expressly stated in their contract of employment).
The overtime rate payable to an employee depends on the time at which the overtime is worked, e.g. whether it is on a weekday, Saturday, Sunday, or on an RDO. The rate of overtime payable will vary depending on when the overtime is worked.
If an employee works more than two hours overtime after a shift, they are entitled to an additional 20 minute paid break under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 and the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010.
Averaging of hours
Instead of payment of overtime if an employee exceeds 38 hours a week at work, the NES allow modern awards and enterprise agreements to provide for averaging of hours.Through the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 and the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010, a 38 hour working week can be averaged over a maximum of four weeks (e.g. 152 hours per four week period).
Time in lieu
An alternative to paying overtime is employees being able to have time off in lieu of overtime payment. An employee may choose, with the consent of the employer, to take time off instead of payment for overtime at a time or times agreed with the employer. This agreement must be in writing. The employee must take the time in lieu within four weeks of working the overtime.
If an employee takes time off instead of payment for overtime then the amount of time off is to be equivalent to the pay the employee would have otherwise received for working the overtime.
If the employee requests, an employer must pay the employee for any overtime worked. This must be done within one week of receiving a request and the employee must be paid at overtime rates.
Can an employer require an employee to work additional hours?
A business can require full-time and part-time employees to work additional hours as long as the hours are reasonable. The employee may refuse to work additional hours if they are unreasonable.
To determine whether additional hours are reasonable or unreasonable, the following must be taken into account: (a) whether there is any risk to employee health and safety from working the additional hours; (b) the employee's personal circumstances, such as family responsibilities; (c) the needs of the workplace or enterprise in which the employee is employed; (d) whether the employee is entitled to receive overtime payments, penalty rates or other compensation for, or a level of remuneration that reflects an expectation of, working additional hours; (e) any notice given by the employer of any request or requirement to work the additional hours; (f) any notice given by the employee of his or her intention to refuse to work the additional hours; (g) the usual patterns of work in the industry, or the part of an industry, in which the employee works; (h) the nature of the employee's role, and the employee's level of responsibility; (i) whether the additional hours are in accordance with averaging terms included in a Modern Award or enterprise agreement that applies to the employee, and (j) any other relevant matter.
Penalty rates also apply to employees required to work on weekends and public holidays. For example a casual employee required to work on a Sunday under the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010 is entitled to a penalty rate of some 175 per cent including the casual loading. Unfortunately, these incredibly high penalty rates have resulted in many small businesses no longer trading on weekends and public holidays which not only reduces turnover for businesses but pay packets for employees.
Restaurant and Catering Australia is lobbying for changes to the penalty rate provisions under Modern Awards in order to recognise the 24/7 environment of the industry and the need to remove restrictive regulations of working hours by allowing employers and employees to reach mutual agreement on ordinary working hours on any day of the week.
Unless these workplace reforms are made soon, consumers may find less and less businesses open for weekend and public holiday trade and therefore reducing the variety of culinary venues that Australians crave.
This article was written by the Workplace Relations Team at Restaurant & Catering Australia. For more information call us on 1300 722 878.
- Kinders[gartens] warn three's a crowd, by Elisabeth Tarica, 11/13 TheAge.com.au
WANTIRNA, Vic., Australia - A CRISIS is looming for three-year-old kindergarten programs across Victoria as preschools adapt to a national scheme mandating 15 hours of kindergarten for every four-year-old by 2013.
Preschool operators say a shortage of teachers and classrooms is forcing many of them to consider scrapping their three-year-old programs — which usually involve four hours a week — to accommodate changes under the federal government's universal access policy.
Several kindergartens have already told parents they will no longer offer the three-year-old program, known for its significant social, emotional and cognitive benefits.
Templestowe Heights Preschool, Jells Park Preschool in Wheelers Hill and Harrisfield Kindergarten in Noble Park are among those that have axed programs from 2013.
Programs in regional and rural communities are also expected to be hit hard because there are not enough teachers. Under the agreement between the state and federal governments the four-year-old programs will have to be overseen by early childhood teachers with four years of university training.
Victoria has about 1800 kindergartens, with about half run by volunteer parents in council facilities. Their three-year-old programs charge full fees — $1200 to $1500 a year — and are run in conjunction with the subsidised four-year-old programs.
Templestowe Heights president Aukje Coleman says the kinder had no alternative but to shut down the three-year-old program as the single-room centre could not accommodate both groups.
The centre was the first to announce it would close. Ms Coleman expects others to follow as they face extra pressure implementing the plan, staffing problems and lack of space.
"We applied for two grants from the Department of Education to try to expand the kinder to build a second room and both times we didn't get it," she says.
The centre already had 25 children on its list for 2013. Ms Coleman says parents are upset and disappointed.
"They feel a bit lost," she says. "They don't know what to do know they don't know where to go and are trying to find options. A lot of them are quite angry because they feel that it works so well and it has been so successful here . . . it really is a stepping stone to school."
Others face an uncertain future but are adopting a "wait and see" approach, she says.
"If we leave it [the decision] until next year, then people will have to go to occasional care or try to book in somewhere else or plan some other activity, which is quite unfair . . . There are so few occasional care places so they'll be rushing around trying to find something," she says.
Lelania Currie, vice-president of the Templeton Orchards three-year-old kinder, is struggling to make the final call but says closing the program appears inevitable.
"It is very distressing . . . we've had many anguished meetings where we have talked about what our options are because we're completely self funded in three-year-old and run by volunteer parents on the committee, so we don't have the finances or the resources to look for other locations," she says.
Ms Currie expects the program to close when the four-year-old program expands — affecting 23 families on the waiting list for 2013.
"But then it's 23 families every year after that," she says. "I am devastated because once all these kinders shut, it will be very hard to get them to open again."
Parents of three-year-olds would be forced to compete for scarce places in formal childcare or occasional care to give their children an early learning experience, she says.
A recent survey of 300 parents and 21 kindergartens in the City of Whitehorse found the number of places available for children in three-year old programs would drop by 19 per cent from 2013.
It estimates one in five three-year-old children in the eastern suburbs could miss out on kindergarten.
The survey highlighted overwhelming support for three-year-old programs, with 92 per cent of parents saying it was important for their child's social development and 85 per cent saying it was vital for cognitive development.
Preschools in regional and rural communities also fear the policy would force their three-year-old programs to close because teachers who split their time between two towns would have to quit or cut hours at one kinder to teach more hours at another.
Jo Geurts, manager of the Eureka Community Kindergarten Association, which manages 23 regional and rural children's services in Ballarat and surrounding districts, says the region is already struggling to attract and keep qualified teachers.
"Our biggest challenge is having the workforce — that along with the limitations in infrastructure as a lot of our buildings are old and we won't be able to extend so that we can continue to provide the full number of programs," Ms Geurts says.
"There is a potential for crisis if we can not attract the staff to deliver the program . . . based on current workforce [we] don't have enough to fulfil the current obligations."
She was looking at other ways to keep the program running, by reducing hours to one day a week and starting Saturday classes.
Ms Geurts says the association will need 20 new university-qualified early childhood teachers to deliver both three and four-year-old programs.
She is not alone in her call for extra staff. The Australian Eduction Union says Victoria will need 600 to 800 more teachers to deliver the plan.
Kindergarten Parents Victoria chief executive Emma King says the problem is specific to Victoria, where there are more three-year-old programs than in any other state, and where the full-fee program is incredibly popular.
"We support universal access but it should not be at the cost of three-year-old programs because we know that the benefits are really compelling," she says.
"All children gain from access to high quality preschool education but particularly disadvantaged children; the research indicates that they are in the greatest need. Early exposure to high-quality preschool education is essential for their later success so we don't want to be doing anything to tip the three-year-olds out of the system."
Ms King is urging preschools not to make rash decisions as the state and federal governments talk about extending the 15-hour kindergarten deadline to 2016.
"It is about finding different solutions for different communities," she says.
Victorian Early Childhood Minister Wendy Lovell wants the deadline extended to 2016 to ensure that three-year-olds do not miss out.
Ms King says high participation rates clearly show that kindergarten is valued in Victoria.
New figures show that 99.9 per cent of Victorian children attend kindergarten in the year before school, according to the 2010 annual report of the National Partnership Agreement on Early Childhood Education released last week.
This is in sharp contrast to Queensland, where the figure sits at about 30 per cent.
The early childhood sector is under enormous pressure, Ms King says, as it moves to implement the universal access policy and new national guidelines covering children in childcare.
The guidelines, which come into effect next year, set down new staff-to-child ratios, qualification requirements and quality standards.
Four childcare centres — in Hampton, Sandringham, Frankston and Somerville — are closing because the councils that run them say they can't afford the new reforms.
They have said they are closing the centres so they can pay for increased hours at kindergartens.
11/12/2011 – 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 ) -
- Bangalore move on working hours for women seen as dangerous, by Subir Ghosh, AsianCorrespondent.com
[Moving the wrong way -]
BANGALORE, India - An ill-conceived move by the Karnataka government allowing the extension of working hours for women working in the IT industry in Bangalore is drawing flak both from women and IT professionals.
IT companies in Bangalore at a recent conference had adopted a resolution urging the government to extend working hours deadlines for female employees to 10 pm. Till now IT/ITeS companies were responsible for providing transport to female employees after 8 pm.
Currently, due to the deadline of 11.30 pm for commercial establishments in Bangalore, the streets become deserted by 11pm. This renders women vulnerble to both petty crimes (like chain-snatching, robbery etc) as well as serious ones (like molestation, rape, murder, etc).
“Extending the deadline will make them responsible for providing transport only after 10 pm. This means that if a woman finishes her work at 9 pm or 9.30 pm, she would have to wait till 10 pm in the office for transport or take her own. Considering the extra responsibility that a woman has at her house and also considering the many attacks that have been carried out against women in Bangalore after 8pm, such a move would be extremely dangerous,” said an activist with ITHI, a women employees forum working in the IT/ITeS sector.
BPO/IT/ITeS companies in Bangalore are registered under the Karnataka Shops and Establishments Act, 1961. The Act clearly specifies that women should not be employed after 8pm. However, in 2002, the state government amended the Act to enable female workers to work in the IT sector during night shifts provided that the companies took full responsibility for the transportation and security of their female workers.
As a result, all IT-BPO companies now provide transportation to/from the workplace to women employees who work in the US shifts (i.e. login after 8 pm) and those who work in UK shifts (i.e. logout around 9.00 – 9.30 pm). In spite of this, the gruesome rape and murder of 28-year-old BPO employee, Pratibha Srikanthamurthy, by a cab driver who came to pick her from home for her night shift took place in December 2005. Incidents such as this, have further emphasised the need for proper security measures for female employees who work late or in night shifts. Instead of improving security measures to avoid such tragedies in the future, several major IT/ITES organisations approached the state labour department requesting a change in the Act so as to extend the time limit from 8 pm to 10 pm.
“If the current deadline for women employees is extended to 10 pm, then the companies would no longer be responsible for their safety and transportation if they work in office till 10 pm. The biggest casualty in this would be those women whose timings end between 8pm and 10pm, especially those who work in UK shifts whose usual shift ends around 9.30pm,” an online petition bu ITHI and ITEC (IT & ITeS Employee Centre), a welfare support forum of IT/ITeS profe, has argued.
The Indian BPO/IT industry currently gets around 20-30 per cent of its work and revenue from contracts from the UK. Employees who work on these projects will be affected through increased transportation costs and dangers to personal security. Currently, due to the deadline of 11.30 pm for commercial establishments in Bangalore, the streets become deserted by 11pm. This renders women vulnerble to both petty crimes (like chain-snatching, robbery etc) as well as serious ones (like molestation, rape, murder, etc), the petition contended.
- Sheriff seeks guidance on furloughs - Lines blurred when inmates are released to attend treatment, by Kathryn Wall, Springfield News-Leader via news-leader.com
[Here's another kind of "furlough" that's irrelevant to timesizing instead of downsizing besides the "furlough" that's really a layoff (slow news day).]
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - On Wednesday, Springfield police officers and sheriff's deputies had the place surrounded. But, for a few tense minutes, no one was sure if they could go in and get the bad guy.
The man had been on furlough, meaning a judge did not formally release him from jail but ordered that he be allowed to go to a treatment program. Whether or not the man completed the program, he had to return to jail.
The man apparently ran from the treatment facility and was thought to be cornered in a house, but Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott told his officers to pause.
"I said, 'Don't do anything until we figure out what the status is,'" Arnott told a meeting of criminal justice officials Thursday, describing Wednesday's incident.
He said the problem exists with the term furlough. If a jail inmate escapes from custody, authorities can immediately go after the escapee because it's considered fleeing. But when a judge gives an order to let someone out of jail for a specific reason, those lines get blurred.
"He's not in custody. He's furloughed," Arnott said.
At Thursday's meeting, Arnott asked Associate Circuit Judge Mark Powell for a clearer definition.
"I'm not a good one to talk to," Powell said. "If I'm going to let someone go to treatment, I'm going to release them."
That way, if the person violates that release, a warrant can be issued.
He said furloughs muddy the waters.
[This kind of furloughs anyway!]
"They've not been released -- they're on furlough. That's why I don't do furloughs. So there's no questions about it," he said.
This issue arose now that reserve deputies are the ones doing the transporting of inmates on furlough.
"All we're doing is providing a courtesy ride," Arnott said.
Previously, Pre Trial Services employees were the ones taking inmates from the jail to treatment, but that policy was immediately stopped when it came to the attention of the Greene County Commission.
Commissioners were informed that Pre Trial employees, many of whom are women, were in some cases transporting sex offenders to treatment hours away -- all in a private vehicle with no weapons or handcuffs.
In light of the safety concerns, reserve deputies have been paid to transport the inmates instead.
Arnott asked the furlough question to be passed on to other judges for some clarification.
11/11/2011 – 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 ) -
- Fighting Against Furloughs - Furlough discussions become more common in contract talks, by Kaustuv Basu, InsideHigherEd.com
[Hours cuts or furloughs - two ways of timesizing to avoid downsizing.]
CARBONDALE, Illin. - When faculty members walked off their jobs at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale about two weeks ago, one of the key sticking points was an impasse on how to treat furloughs.
One option the SIUC Faculty Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association, offered to the administration was that the university could impose furloughs without the need for justifying them if the university paid back the withheld amount the next year. Their other option was a furlough that the university would have to justify but not repay, including justification by an outside arbitrator if necessary. The union said such a step was necessary for transparency and accountability.
The strike was called off Wednesday after both sides announced that significant progress had been made after marathon discussion sessions all week. While the union hasn't won its original demand, it has been assured of no furloughs in fiscal year 2012. In prior years, furloughs haven't been central to many contract negotiations, but faculty members at the university had to take four furlough days this year.
“Our main goal is to set up a process so we can see what kind of justified financial situation demands furloughs or layoffs,” said Dave Johnson, a union spokesman. “For us, it is really a matter of our collective bargaining rights. Last time, we had no reduction of our workload" when the furlough was imposed. As was the case for many faculty members elsewhere who had furloughs, classes couldn't be called off -- so the furloughs were effectively a 2 percent salary cut.
As recessionary times continue, such discussions and wrangling over furloughs might become the norm, some experts say. Even the term “furlough” might be up for discussion. “Furloughs and discussions about them were not so common before,” said Richard Boris, director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College of the City University of New York. “And as things get more acute, they are making a reappearance."
Before the current recession, agreements about furloughs would sometimes be dealt with through "side letters," that would be negotiated when such a step was proposed. That's in part because no one really wants furloughs, Boris said. “It is an admission of defeat, that is what it is. A furlough means that both management and labor are not able to rely on an institutional source of income,” he added.
Universities that have pushed furlough plans have generally said that they are less harmful than layoffs -- to employees and students both.
Craig Smith, deputy director of higher education at the American Federation of Teachers, said furlough language has been important to some local chapters for a long time. These work losses are important, he said, not only for the loss of money but for the educational impact on students. “And that is why we need to have a rational and transparent way to approach these furloughs,” Smith said.
What is that way? The answer isn't clear.
Michael McDermott, the Illinois Education Association UniServ director, said college administrators need to understand that the mechanisms of existing furloughs mean that faculty members are essentially being asked to work for free. And that is why faculty members are asking for clearer definitions of furlough rules. “It is not that they are free of any responsibility,” McDermott said. “If they could show what the financial exigency is, that would help,” he said.
Shaun Johnson, an assistant professor of elementary education at Towson University, who has gone through two furloughs at his university, said part of the problem is that it isn’t exactly clear “when we should be taking off."
“Should we not check our e-mail? Should we not grade?” Johnson asked. “There are restrictions on what could be furloughed – for example, we could not cancel classes. It would make more sense if something were taken off our plate.”
In reality, he said, a furlough is a pay cut even though administrators might not call it that.
At the California State University this year, furloughs have not figured in contract talks between administration and the California Faculty Association.
The reason, according to Andy Merrifield, chair of the bargaining unit at CFA, is that the union found no convincing evidence that a furlough two years ago achieved what it was supposed to do. In the 2009-2010 academic year, CSU campuses were subject to nearly three weeks of furloughs and that decision was negotiated through a “side agreement."
Merrifield said the faculty association, which represents 23,000 faculty members on 23 campuses, is hesitant to discuss furloughs. “We would demand a great deal of information even before we entertained the idea,” Merrifield said.
Erik Fallis, a spokesman for Cal State, said the 2009 furloughs filled an immediate need because of budget cuts by the state.
“Since then, we have looked at longer-term solutions,” Fallis said, including higher tuition rates for students. Students, of course, don't negotiate contracts with their administrations.
- Government urged to regulate doctors' work hours, by Justin Su and Jamie Wang, Central News Agency via eTaiwan News via taiwannews.com.tw
TAIPEI, Taiwan - A legislator urged the government Friday to include doctors under the country's labor laws to regulate their workloads and prevent occupational illnesses or even deaths.
According to Department of Health (DOH) statistic, medical residents in Taiwan work an average of 75 hours per week, said Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying at a public hearing Friday, a day before Doctor's Day. She said the workload was well beyond what the human body can handle and could compromise the quality of medical services or even put the lives of patients at risk.
The DOH has defended the practice, saying that the work hours of local residents do not differ much from their counterparts in the United States, but Huang said she could not accept the explanation and demanded that doctors' workloads be legally limited.
"A doctor operating on a patient after working for 24 straight hours is as dangerous as a drunk person behind the wheel," she said.
Son Yu-lian, secretary-general of the Taiwan Labor Front, urged the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) to include doctors' working hours in the Labor Standards Act to protect their rights.
Taiwan's labor laws cap work hours at 84 hours over two weeks for salaried employees, but doctors are not protected by the law because they are not categorized as salaried workers.
Shih Chung-liang, director of the DOH's Bureau of Medical Affairs, promised to discuss the matter with scholars and professionals through evaluations in teaching hospitals. Shih acknowledged that doctors in Taiwan were working too many hours, but he said a support mechanism would be needed if doctors' hours were reduced to protect the rights of patients.
Family members of two doctors whom they believe passed away or fell ill because of overwork also attended the public hearing to push for legal limits on physicians' workloads. The father of Lin Yen-ting, a 25-year-old medical student who passed away in April this year after being on duty for 36 straight hours, said he has not been able to accept the death of his son. Lin, a student from Kaohsiung Medical University, was an intern at National Cheng Kung University Hospital. He collapsed after a long shift and died the same day, roughly one month before he was to graduate.
The wife of Tsai Po-chiang, a former surgical resident at Chi Mei Hospital, charged that her husband, who worked long hours, including a 42-hour stint at one point, collapsed outside of an operating room two years ago. Tsai survived, but has since lost part of his memory. The family received a payment of NT$62,000 (US$2,054) for its suffering but is now in a legal battle against the hospital for medical bills of more than NT$200,000.
The most recent potential case of a doctor dying from overwork occurred on Aug. 5, when Lin Hsing-yu from Kaohsiung Chang Kung Memorial Hospital died suddenly at home. His hospital said, however, that Lin had a history of heart disease and was not overworked before his death. He worked in the ultrasonic lab in the cardiology department and had 10 12-hour shifts in the emergency room each month.
[Sounds like Taiwan's Dept. of "Health" is just as messianic, masochistic, dangerous and sick as the American Medical Ass-ociation where interns' hours are "limited' to 80 a week.]
11/10/2011 – 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 ) -
- Benefits of a Shorter Workweek, by 3p guest author Maggie Winslow, TriplePundit.com
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - How are we going to return to full employment in the U.S.? We can’t just keep producing more and different consumer goods, hoping jobs will come from their production and consumption. We don’t have the natural capital for that plan. But, what if everyone could afford to work fewer hours so that the work could be spread around?
As Juliet Schor has documented, labor productivity has increased tremendously over the past 50 years yet this has not translated into fewer work hours. In fact, since the 70s, work hours have increased. In addition, only a fraction of the associated wealth, the value created by labor, has gone to the workers. The lion’s share has gone to capital, in the form of increased profits, and higher wages for top management.
Increased productivity has translated into lower prices for many consumer goods and more material wealth for the average family. Yet, U.S. workers have far less vacation time than workers in other OECD nations.
Increased labor productivity is also contributing to high levels of unemployment. Many production processes have become automated, requiring far fewer workers for the same level of output. Also, facilitated by technological advances, many jobs are being done by the customer, such as pumping gas and scanning groceries, also reducing the need for workers. Unemployment has been further increased in the U.S. through the globalization of production. There are over 200 million unemployed people worldwide, many competing for the same jobs.
When the competition for jobs increases, the power of labor decreases, especially for unskilled labor. It’s hard for a worker to argue for higher wages or a shorter workweek when there are many unemployed people who would gladly take his or her job. This helps to explain why workers aren’t getting a fair share of their contribution to production.
So what is the solution? Decreasing labor productivity across the board is not a good solution. Why work more hours for the same output when this time could be spent elsewhere? What about increasing the fraction of income that goes to workers, letting workers work a shorter work week, and hiring unemployed people to make up for the lost hours?
The health of our economy depends on high employment levels and a more equal distribution of income so that people have money to spend. While most all firms would benefit from higher national employment levels and a more equal distribution of income, most firms are not willing to hire more workers nor pay higher wages to workers than profit maximization dictates. (Some firms do pay higher than market wages, or “efficiency wages,” to keep workers motivated and maintain high retention levels. This is part of their profit calculation.) Due to the high costs of providing benefits, firms also have an incentive to get as much work from one worker as possible and to avoid allowing job-shares. It is far cheaper for a company to have one more-than-full-time worker than two part-time workers. We end up with a situation where all firms could benefit from higher national employment levels but no single firm has an incentive to work towards these goals individually. There is a coordination problem.
The solution lies in government intervention: provide incentives for companies to hire more workers or to allow job sharing to counter the high costs of benefits. Germany does this and it works. Even better, the government could provide healthcare so companies would not need to bear this burden. Then the many people who would love to work part-time and spend more time with their children, but can’t because they need health insurance, could work less. More part-time workers would mean more jobs available for people without work. That would be better for everyone.
- No balance in Canadian budget in four years: Flaherty, (11/11 early pickup) Daily Commercial News via DCNonl.com
CALGARY, Alta., USA = Canada's new capital - The federal government will not balance the budget in four years as promised, announced Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recently, but Ottawa will make moves, it says, will help workers and businesses by reducing planned payroll tax increases.
In an effort to support jobs and economic growth, the government announced a reduction in the maximum potential increase in Employment Insurance premium rates in 2012 to five cents from 10 cents. A temporary extension of an enhancement to the Work-Sharing Program by providing an additional extension of up to 16 weeks for active, recently terminated or new work-sharing agreements until October 2012 was also announced.
[PM Harper's worksharing window-dressing, trammeled with red tape and delays.]
“Our government intends to stick to our low-tax plan for jobs and growth, which includes returning to fiscal balance in the medium term, continuing with our deficit reduction action plan to find savings within government spending, and taking targeted actions to encourage economic growth and job creation,” Flaherty told a business audience in Calgary earlier this week.
During the past spring election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservatives said they would eliminate the deficit by 2014-15. But last month Flaherty learned from economists that the budget assumptions of economic growth were no longer applicable, meaning Ottawa federal revenues would be lower than anticipated.
Flaherty reported that these new numbers indicate that the national deficit will rise from the previously thought $19.4 billion next year to $27.4 billion, and for 2013-14, from $9.4 billion to $17 billion.
Ottawa was counting on savings from departmental cutbacks to put them into the black in 2014-15, but now the expectation is for a $3.5 billion deficit, once $4 billion in savings are included. Without counting the savings, the deficit would have been $7.5 billion.
In total, the government is adding about $29 billion in red ink from the current year to the end of the planning horizon in 2015-16. According to the government’s new fiscal track, the government will record a $600 million surplus in 2015-16, only if all the savings from cutbacks are realized.
Among the measures announced to boost job growth are a renewal of the Best 14 Weeks and Working While on Claim EI pilot projects for one year; extending the Targeted Initiative for Older Workers to support training and employment programs for older workers; enhancing the Wage Earner Protection Program to cover more workers affected by employer bankruptcy or receivership; and extending the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit for flow-through share investors for an additional year.
In order to support long-term economic growth, the government has introduced measures such as the legislating of a permanent annual investment in the Gas Tax Fund to provide predictable, long-term funding for municipal infrastructure and advancing public-private partnerships (P3s) to produce value for taxpayers in the delivery of public infrastructure. This P3 measure is designed to ensure that P3 proposals are developed for federal procurement projects where there is P3 potential. These actions and others are supported through the Next Phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan.
Long-term jobs will also be created through the rebuilding of fleets of the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard, the federal government indicated. This will involve skilled work in a variety of sectors, such as steel manufacturing, information technology, and defence systems development and integration.
Though the Economic Action Plan is winding down, the government is still investing in nationwide infrastructure though the Building Canada plan. This includes contributions from provinces and territories and is expected to result in infrastructure investments of more than $26 billion over the next three years, leading to significant job opportunities.
Going forward, the government said it will work with provinces and territories, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and other stakeholders to develop a long-term plan for public infrastructure that extends beyond the expiry of the Building Canada plan.
DCN News Services with files from The Canadian Press.
- South Korea's economy - What do you do when you reach the top? - To outsiders, South Korea’s heroic economic ascent is a template for success - But now it has almost caught up with the developed world it must change its approach, The Economist via economist.com
SEOUL, South Korea - It is a crisp autumn morning in Seoul, and a hopeful fisherman sits dreaming by the Cheonggyecheon stream as the world bustles happily by. Glass skyscrapers rise behind him housing the capital’s new financial district. The shopfronts at their base are among the swankiest in Asia. Office workers, families and schoolchildren amble past. Busking [symptom of high unemployment +/- low wages?] fills the air. The water tumbles past plum trees and willows.
Twenty years ago, this background would itself have seemed a dream for anyone foolish enough to be trying to fish the Cheonggyecheon. Its waters, dirty and hidden, were trapped beneath a roaring highway; its surroundings were a slum of sweatshops, metal bashing and poverty. The reclamation of the Cheonggyecheon, one of the great urban-regeneration projects of the world, has about it the air of a dream achieved. So, to a large extent, has the Korea through which the stream flows.
In 1960, in the aftermath of a devastating war, the exhausted south was one of the poorest countries in the world, with an income per head on a par with the poorest parts of Africa. By the end of 2011 it will be richer than the European Union average, with a gross domestic product per person of $31,750, calculated on a basis of purchasing-power parity (PPP), compared with $31,550 for the EU. South Korea is the only country that has so far managed to go from being the recipient of a lot of development aid to being rich within a working life.
For most poor countries, South Korea is a model of growth, a better exemplar than China, which is too vast to copy, and better, too, than Taiwan, Singapore or Hong Kong. All three are richer than Korea but all are, in different ways, exceptions: Singapore and Hong Kong are city states, while Taiwan’s disputed sovereignty makes it sui generis.
South Korea has not merely grown fast. It has combined growth with democracy. Though its spurt began under a military dictator, Park Chung-hee, for the past 25 years the country has had a vibrant parliamentary system. Korea scores the same as Japan in the democracy tally kept by Freedom House, a think-tank in Washington, DC. No other Asian country does as well. At the same time Korea has combined growth with equity. Between 1980 and 1997, its Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, fell from 0.33 to an exceptionally low 0.28, before rising back up during the 1997-98 Asian crisis. In 2010, the level was 0.31, a bit worse than Scandinavian countries, a bit better than Canada.
A model that worked
Now Korea can add resilience to its roster of achievements. It was walloped during the global financial crisis, but recovered faster than any other rich country. Between June 2008 and February 2009, Korea lost 1.2m jobs. South Korea’s relatively open financial system made it vulnerable to the volatility in world markets, a vulnerability that continues. This September, foreigners withdrew over 1.3 trillion won ($1.1 billion) from the stock market and the currency slumped 10%.
Yet in 2010, GDP grew by 6%. This year’s expansion is likely to be 4%. The unemployment rate is now a covetable 3%. Some of the recovery is the result of Korea’s happy dependence on China: it exports more capital goods to China relative to the size of its economy than anyone else, even Germany. But this is only part of the explanation (which is just as well given China’s slowdown). The government also initiated a public-works scheme that is mopping up over 2% of the labour force. It introduced an old-age pension and began, then expanded, an earned-income tax credit. All this from President Lee Myung-bak, who was once chief executive officer of Hyundai Construction and is widely assumed to be excessively friendly to big business.
Korea’s relentless convergence [upward, per the omitted chart] towards America’s standard of living...has barely missed a beat.
[Nor has America's relentless convergence downward towards S.Korea's standard-of-living missed a beat, making Korea's task that much easier.]
China’s dollar GDP per person would have to grow at 7.5-8% a year for 20 years to reach the heights Korea has already scaled. If the Korean economy goes on growing at 4.5% a year and America’s at 2.5%, Korea would overtake America (in PPP terms) only a few years later.
To keep growing that impressively, though, Korea will need some new tactics. And it will need to develop them from scratch. When a country or a company is playing catch-up it can look at what others are doing and do it better. This Korea has done well. Hyundai has outcompeted Toyota in the market for reliable, efficient, cheap cars. Korea’s shipyards have beaten everyone through economies of scale.
But this way of doing things works only when others have blazed a trail before you. As you join the ranks of the richest, you run out of beaten track to follow. Your economy comes to depend more on innovation and on learning from your own mistakes than on improving on the successes of others. The South Korean model of 1960-2010 remains an example for developing countries; but Korea itself now needs something new.
The Korean model had four distinctive features: a Stakhanovite [Russian for Puritan/protestant work ethic] workforce; powerful conglomerates; relatively weak smaller firms; and high social cohesion. All these are either coming under strain, or in need of reassessment, or both.
South Koreans lay great store by education and hard work.
[These are two conflicting values when the supreme payoff of education is to give us more of the most fundamental freedom, financially secure Free Time alias Leisure, and when "hard work" usually boils down to something no more signficant than long hours.]
They put in 2,200 hours of work a year, half as much again as the Dutch or Germans. Their reaction to the 2008 slump was to work harder still. During the 2009-10 recovery, reckons Richard Freeman of Harvard University, Korea had the second-largest increase in hours worked in manufacturing, after Taiwan.
[This, after SK just cut their workweek from 44 to 40 hours to make more jobs and enter the 20th century? And what is the fruit of increased labor in the robotics age? Scan to next bolded section.]
And the quality of labour has been even more important than the quantity. Along with Finland and Singapore, Korean schools regularly top international comparisons of educational standards, such as those run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a rich-country club. Korea spends a larger share of GDP on tertiary [ie: post-secondary] education than any rich country other than America.
[And therefore has the second-highest structural unemployment and need for makework (see 3rd "realm")?]
Given relatively low wages, this superbly educated workforce is hard to beat.
[So what in the world is the point of being "superbly educated" if it doesn't yield relatively HIGH wages? The Economist really needs a good whack on the side of the head to help see the "blinding glimpses of the obvious." And they didn't even mention that SK has just this year finished a seven-year cut from a 44- to a 40-hour workweek (by size of company from large to small)!]
But with Korea already top of the league tables, it is harder to generate further jumps in income from big increases in hours and skills. Indeed, the immediate problem is merely to maintain its excellence. According to Yeong Kwan Song of the Korean Development Institute (KDI), a think-tank, companies are starting to worry that graduates are emerging from university with the wrong skills. On some estimates, half of recent graduates are failing to find full-time jobs and are going into further study [oh yes, "education," our 3rd-biggest makework realm after war and prisons] or part-time employment. So while general education remains good, some industrial skills may be declining.
One way to boost the skilled labour force might be to have rather more people working rather fewer hours. The extra people would be women, often highly educated ones. Quite a lot of Korean women stay at home—the participation rate for women aged 25-54 is only 62%, the fourth-lowest in the OECD—even though they are usually better educated than men. In almost all rich countries, the best-educated women are more likely to work than their less-educated sisters. Not in South Korea.
Shorter hours might encourage some of these skilled women into the workforce. So might a change in attitudes to schooling. The job of supervising a child’s education falls to women, which is one of the reasons why relatively few women have jobs.
This does not mean that they have a lot of children instead. Korea has a fertility rate of 1.2, one of the lowest in the OECD. This is in part because those good educations make having children a pricey proposition. An unusually large part of the spending that makes Korean education so good is private, not public. The government spends just under 5% of GDP on education, slightly below the rich-country average. Families add an extra 2.8% of GDP on top of that, easily the highest rate in the OECD. At universities, family spending is three times that of the state. And families spend an estimated 8% of their household budgets on after-hours programmes for each child, an investment which explains the effort mothers put into making sure it pays off. If you have three children, their after-school activities alone could swallow up a quarter of the household budget.
The power of conglomerates. Much of South Korea’s miracle has been the work of big conglomerates, or chaebol. Barry Eichengreen of the University of California, Berkeley, argues that they are “among the most technologically and commercially progressive agents in the Korean economy”. Samsung Electronics, for instance, one of 83 constituent parts of the Samsung empire, sells more smartphones than Apple. Korea’s shipyards have just started work on a new class of container ships called the triple E-class which are easily the largest container ships ever built (Maersk, the ships’ buyer, says the three Es refer to economy of scale, energy efficiency and environmental cleanliness; simpler just to see them betokening EEEnormity). Korea’s large companies employ slightly less than a quarter of the workforce and produce more than half the country’s output. Chaebol-alikes exist round the world, from Carlos Slim’s Group Carso in Mexico to Lee Ka-shing’s holdings in Hong Kong.
The surviving chaebol have proved resilient. During the 1997-98 crisis, some chaebol’s debt-to-equity ratios soared to over 500%; half of them went bust and conglomerates were widely seen as a drag on the economy. Now, those that came through the time of trial have returned to profitability and respectable debt ratios—but their success still has a downside.
After the founding fathers
The chaebol system has proved prone to fraud, dodgy accounting and illegal political contributions. Many of the companies depend to an unhealthy degree on a founder or his family. About half the managers of Samsung’s firms used to work in the chairman’s secretariat—and thus directly for the founder or his son—and owe their promotion to the associated patronage. As with any family business, the moment of greatest danger is when the leadership passes to the next generation. Samsung passed this test in 1987 when the founder handed over to his son, Lee Kun-hee. Now Mr Lee’s son, Jay Y. Lee, has been appointed chief operating officer of Samsung Electronics and a new transition looms. If Mr Lee the third has business acumen, fine. If not, the whole country could suffer.
Moreover, there are signs that the chaebol may be stifling innovation and entrepreneurship. They have proved expert at applying and improving existing technology, even the high technology of touch-screen smartphones. But except in some internet businesses and computer gaming, South Korea has few start-ups or cutting-edge technology firms. It lacks nationwide venture-capital businesses, says Hasung Jang, the dean of Korea University’s Business School, because each chaebol has one of its own. The firms snap up the best and brightest and turn them into company men. Mr Jang compares the conglomerates to light-hogging trees in a forest: their canopy may be impressive, but it is hard for anything to grow underneath.
Koreans perceive fewer opportunities for entrepreneurship than any of their peers in rich countries except Japan, according to an annual survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, set up by the London Business School and Babson College, Massachusetts. As South Korea moves towards the technological frontier, such attitudes will have to change. Innovation is not going to come if everyone shelters from risk in the chaebol.
Weak small firms. There is a huge productivity gap between Korea’s export-oriented chaebol and small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) which dominate services. Value added per worker in small firms is less than half that in large ones. SMEs’ operating profits were 4.5% of sales in 2007, compared with about 7% for large firms. Small firms spend about half as much on research and development as large ones per unit of sales and borrow far more relative to assets. Over time, their performance seems to be getting worse. Korea, in short, has first-world manufacturing exporters and third-world services.
Coddled, not coping
There are several reasons for the mismatch. Small firms are crowded out of markets for people and skills by the chaebol. And because chaebol pay scales often rise according to years in service, they squeeze wage bills by firing older workers, with the service sector working as a recycling system for surplus labour. Small firms have also been coddled by the government. Korea maintains various entry barriers to shelter mom-and-pop stores from competition. Government support to SMEs rose from under 6 trillion won in 2008 to 10 trillion in 2009. Public credit guarantees rose from 33 trillion won in the Asian crisis to almost 60 trillion won in 2009. Last year, the government “requested” banks to roll over their loans to small firms. Randall Jones of the OECD argues that all this help has made SMEs less, not more, efficient, and damaged competitiveness. The richest economies are switching into services that in Korea are dominated by small firms which cannot compete.
Social cohesion. Korea’s equal distribution of income is changing. Judging by the relationship between the richest and poorest tenth, Korea is becoming more unequal than it used to be. Worse, the growing number of poor people is disproportionately elderly. In other rich countries, people between 66 and 75 are no more likely to be poor than the population as a whole. In Korea, they are three times as likely to be poor. This is all the more worrying because the low birth rate means the country is ageing more rapidly than any other rich country. In 2009, people over 65 were outnumbered ten to one by the working-age population. By 2050, there will be seven over-65s for every ten working-age adults. Disproportionate old-age poverty would have a huge impact on the social backing for policies designed to foster growth.
Not to be left behind
Korea’s equitable income distribution used to provide a sense that society as a whole was benefiting from breakneck catch-up. But discontent is rising both about inequality and about the role of the chaebol, producing growing disenchantment with both main political parties. The recent election for mayor of Seoul produced an upset win for a left-wing anti-establishment maverick.
It is proving hard to resist the trend towards inequality because of another basic feature of Korea’s economic model: total tax revenues are just 26% of GDP. Taxes are especially low on labour, a choice designed to boost work and foreign investment. But as a result, social spending is low (11%); public spending on family benefits is exceptionally low (less than a quarter of the rich-country average); and the tax-benefit system is the worst in the OECD at reducing inequality and poverty. Korea’s tax-benefit system reduces poverty by only 18% (compared with what it would have been without the benefits). Sweden’s tax-benefit system cuts its poverty rate by 80%.
Korea, argues Mr Jones, needs to increase taxes and social spending in order to reduce poverty and inequality. One reason it is reluctant to do this is because it is afraid of the impact on jobs. Its changing demography also suggests caution in expanding the social safety net too fast or far, as it will be used ever more over the decades to come.
And then there is the ever-present imponderable: the possible need, at some point, to finance the horrendous costs of reunification with destitute North Korea when that state collapses. That would make the vast expense of unification in Germany pale into insignificance. At some point in the future Korea may need all the room for future fiscal expansion it can get.
A bridge to the future
The problems of the South Korean model should not be allowed to obscure either its achievements or its continuing strengths. True, over the past 40 years annual GDP growth has declined from about 10% to 4-5%.... Business investment has halved from over 30% of GDP in the mid-1990s to 17% in 2010—but that is still 50% over the OECD average. Further declines in growth seem likely.
That is not surprising. As Kwanho Shin of Korea University and Dwight Perkins of Harvard show, every country’s growth starts to ebb as its income reaches about $10,000 a year. South Korea has kept going longer than most. If it can increase public spending a little to reduce inequality and poverty, boost its labour supply by encouraging more women to work and avoid compromising its educational standards and penchant for hard work, then it should be well placed to pull ahead of Europeans and catch up with America, too.
South Korea has long been a model for outsiders. President Kennedy’s chief economic adviser, Walt Rostow, wanted to use it as a testing ground for his theories about stages of economic growth. But Koreans do not see themselves as a blank slate, or as a new world power. They stress a long legacy of openness and innovation. Before the wars of the 20th century Korea was a bridge between the more closed worlds of China and Japan. It developed movable metal type two centuries before Gutenberg; its last imperial dynasty benefited from checks and balances more extensive than in its Chinese prototypes. The more Korea brings these qualities of domestic innovation to the fore, the better its chances of blazing a new trail for itself.
[Oh please. What hackneyed bullshit! Everybody's mouthing these safe nostrums about sacred Innovation, and this is the best the great Economist Magazine of London can come up with for a closing line?! And like education, the whole point of Innovation is to invent and produce ever more worksaving devices and give humanity more of the most basic freedom, financially secure Free Time alias Leisure. But with an inertial load of dolts like The Economist burdened with anything but Innovation in their thinking and touting same ol', same ol' Hard Work alias Long Hours on and on and on and on, there's no way humanity is going to get anything out of Innovation (or education) except more of a tax burden to pay for dreaming up more artificial makework to support a frozen pre-computer workweek for ever and ever and ever, dumba dumb dumb dumb. Wake up, you Brit nitwits! You're straining my anglophilia to the breaking point. If we need any more evidence of the non-innovative, inside-the-box thinking of the Brits, here's a dim Brit who gets through an entire article asking for a "searching approach to the jobless" without mentioning shorter hours to spread the vanishing unautomated employment -]
- We need a searching approach to the jobless, by Ed Homes, YorkshirePost.co.uk
YORK, U.K. - With a looming global slowdown threatening to turn into recession, there has scarcely been a worse time to be one of Britain’s two-and-a-half million unemployed.
The vast majority of these are doing all they can to get a job – indeed around three-quarters of them will get new work within six months (albeit often at shorter hours and lower wages).
It would grossly unfair to demonise those who are genuinely searching for work. But the evidence suggests that a minority are not.
A recent report from the Department of Work and Pensions found that 11 per cent of claimants “feel fully justified being on benefits and believe they have discovered that life without the added complication of work has much to recommend it”.
Nine per cent felt that “to work or claim benefits is simply a choice individuals should be free to make – there is no right or wrong about it”. Eleven per cent felt that “job search is less urgent as they make the most of the benefits of not working”.
Nearly a third of benefit claimants are not doing all they can to get back to work. This is neither fair to those in low paid work, struggling to earn enough to make a living for their family, nor fair for those who are on benefits but doing all they can to get back into work.
But this is hardly surprising given the weak and poorly targeted conditions jobseekers have to fulfil.
Reading the paper, surfing the internet or even getting a haircut can count as “looking for work” – and claimants only have to do two of these activities every week without ever applying for a job.
Checks are almost never done – with claimants writing down their activities in a jobsearch “diary” which is only cursorily inspected by Jobcentre Plus advisers – usually for just a few minutes.
Not surprisingly, some claimants just play the system.
Recent research shows that some spend as little as eight minutes a day looking for work. In contrast, the polls suggest that half of us think that benefit claimants should spend in excess of three hours a day engaged in job search.
The problem is that our job centres just don’t have the manpower to look over everyone’s shoulder – and it would be wasteful to do so for the vast majority of claimants.
The Government should be more ambitious in its approach. One problem is that the first time a claimant has to produce any evidence of job search activity is when they attend their first signing-on session, which may well be three or four weeks after the initial claim date – while benefits can be claimed after just three days.
Instead, we should mandate that people must produce evidence of job search before they can claim unemployment benefits – a Work Search Requirement, as in America.
Claimants are also able to limit the jobs they are willing to accept, by the sort of job up to 13 weeks and the level of pay up to 26 weeks. For those who have built up contributory entitlements in work this policy makes sense because they have demonstrated a previous attachment to work and have likely built up skills in a specific industry. But for those only entitled to income-based unemployment benefits, this period of preferred search should be ended.
We should also review the type of activities that count as job-search – and require more of them. Better computer systems – to track and monitoring claimants’ jobseeking activity and target assistance at those not trying – would help too.
No one would suggest now is an easy time to get a job. But with the right reforms we can at least ensure that those who are trying to find work are not unfairly lumped in with those who are not.
11/09/2011 – 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 ) -
- Slaying deficit to take longer - 2% inflation target renewed; Flaherty's economic update gives relief to employers, employees on EI funding, by Jason Fekete, Postmedia News via MontrealGazette.com
Jim Flaherty delivered the fall economic update in Calgary, telling his audience Canada's challenges are far from over. (photo caption)
CALGARY, Alberta, USA = Canada's new capital city -- Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the slowing Canadian economy is eroding federal revenues and will delay balancing the books until 2015-16 at the earliest, a year later than hoped.
Flaherty delivered a fall economic update on Tuesday with a handful of tweaks to the government's fiscal plan, including some relief on employment insurance premiums, extension of a federal work-sharing program and protracting the government's timeline for eliminating a deficit estimated at $31 billion.
Balancing the books could be delayed until 2016-17, depending on the amount of budgetary savings the government can find from its operating and program review.
As expected, the government is cutting in half the planned increase in employment insurance premiums for 2012, to 5 cents for employees from a proposed 10 cents, meaning next year's rate cannot exceed $1.83 per $100 of insurable earnings.
For employers, the government is chopping the increase to 7 cents from a planned 14 cents.
The changes are expected to save employees and employers $600 million in 2012, but will eat away at federal revenues next year.
The government will also temporarily extend an enhancement to the work-sharing program, an initiative that helps employers and workers avoid temporary layoffs.
"We will not be bound by ideology when it comes to making decisions to keep our economy strong and protect Canadians, their financial security and their jobs," Flaherty said in a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
"We have responded to critical situations with flexibility and pragmatism, and we will continue to do so as situations dictate."
Flaherty also announced the government and Bank of Canada have agreed to renew the country's inflation target at two per cent for another five years.
On the spending side, the Harper government is in the midst of a strategic operating review that is searching for $1 billion in annual cuts for next year, $2 billion for 2013-14, and $4 billion by 2014-15. Nearly 70 government departments and agencies are required to submit scenarios for a fiveand 10-per-cent cut.
Opposition parties have been pleading with the government to avoid draconian cuts that could hurt the Canadian economy. The NDP has been calling for a jobs strategy that includes potentially billions of dollars of new capital spending to get Canadians back to work and help address a backlog of public infrastructure projects.
Flaherty said cutting or spending too aggressively is foolish considering the global economic uncertainty.
"We reject both these extremes. We will continue our balanced approach," he added.
The finance minister said Canada remains the global model of fiscal prudence and stability, and that economic hiccups at home are largely due to the debt woes plaguing Europe.
But he repeated his warnings that Canada is not immune to the European sovereign debt and banking crisis and that "spillover effects" could be felt here.
"Our challenges are far from over," Flaherty said.
Flaherty, however, still does not expect Canada to sink back into consecutive quarters of negative growth, even as the Bank of Canada and economists are projecting a brief recession in Europe due to debt contagion that's already engulfed Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and threatens to sink Spain and Italy.
The Conservative government now forecasts real GDP growth in Canada at 2.2 per cent in 2011 - down significantly from the 2.9 per cent projected in March.
The economic outlook for 2012 is also noticeably weaker than initially forecast, with real growth in gross domestic product now expected at 2.1 per cent next year, compared with 2.8 per cent projected in March.
The level of economic growth in 2013 also has been trimmed, down to 2.5 per cent from 2.7 per cent projected earlier this year.
- National News: Harper Government Takes Action to Support Jobs and Growth
(Includes Statements From NDP, CFIB and CRFA), NorthumberlandView.ca
OTTAWA-GATINEAU, Canada = Canada's old capital city -- The Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, today announced that the Harper Government is taking targeted action to support jobs and economic growth. The Minister made the announcement as he released an update of the Government’s economic and fiscal projections, which shows Canada remains on track to eliminate the federal deficit over the medium term.
“Our Government intends to stick to our low-tax plan for jobs and growth, which includes returning to fiscal balance in the medium term, continuing with our deficit reduction action plan to find savings within government spending, and taking targeted actions to encourage economic growth and job creation,” said Minister Flaherty.
Canada weathered the global recession better than most other industrialized countries, and is the only Group of Seven (G-7) country to have more than recovered all of the jobs and economic output lost during the recession. Almost 600,000 more Canadians are working today than when the recession ended, and the unemployment rate has declined to 7.3 per cent, down significantly from a peak of 8.7 per cent during the recession.
To continue to support jobs and growth, the update also announces:
* A reduction in the maximum potential increase in Employment Insurance premium rates in 2012 to 5 cents from 10 cents to further help Canadian workers and employers.
* Temporary extension of an enhancement to the Work-Sharing Program, which has helped stabilize Canada’s job market, by providing an additional extension of up to 16 weeks for active, recently terminated or new work-sharing agreements until October 2012.
In presenting the updated fiscal projections, Minister Flaherty noted that the global economic outlook is marked by an unusually high degree of uncertainty. In light of this uncertainty, the fiscal planning assumptions include an increased adjustment for risk in the near term that lowers the revenue projections. “These projections reflect the Government’s prudent approach to fiscal management,” the Minister added.
Minister Flaherty also said that the Government will continue to monitor closely the global and Canadian economic situation, and if necessary the Government has the capacity to respond in a flexible and measured manner to continue to support Canadian jobs and economic growth.
“This plan is reasonable and realistic,” said Minister Flaherty. “Our deficit reduction goal is not for deficit reduction in and of itself; the motive is good fiscal stewardship. Just as families practise good household management by balancing their books, so must the Government.”
Minister Flaherty also announced that the Government of Canada and the Bank of Canada have agreed to renew Canada’s flexible inflation-target regime for another five years to the end of 2016. Under the renewed agreement, the inflation target will continue to be the 2 per cent mid-point of the 1 to 3 per cent inflation-control range.
Out-of-touch Flaherty update fails Canadians on jobs: Turmel [rival NDP party]
Conservatives see a long-term revenue problem. New Democrats see an urgent Canadian jobs crisis.
OTTAWA – New Democrat Leader Nycole Turmel accused Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty today of being out-of-touch with Canadian families even as the country was rocked by massive job loss during the month of October.
“Even as the Finance Minister admitted today that his deficit-reduction plan was way off the mark, he refused to acknowledge the bigger problem – that 72,000 Canadian families have just lost their jobs,” said Turmel. “It’s time for real action on job creation, not more corporate tax cuts that don’t boost job numbers.”
“Mr. Flaherty needs to stop tinkering with five-year figures and start taking substantial action to kick-start job creation. Canadian families want to know when they’re getting back to work, and how they’re going to pay the bills at the end of the month. All this government can offer is long-term forecasts and re-announced half measures without any new job creation strategy.”
While Flaherty announced today that the Conservatives are backing down from their unrealistic deficit targets, the Minister came up empty handed on solutions to address Canada’s rising unemployment. While Turmel welcomed the extension of pre-existing Employment Insurance measures, she stated that this alone isn’t enough to put a dent in Canada’s flagging jobs numbers. And taking more money off of every paycheque in tough times is wrong.
She also underlined this budget update does nothing to address the massive delays in EI claims that unemployed Canadians are suffering through because of Conservative cuts to Service Canada. In a time of a growing jobless rate, that’s wrong.
Opposition Finance Critic Peter Julian added that New Democrats have been calling on the government to introduce a job creation plan, but the Conservatives refuse to act. Instead, they continue to give billions in across-the-board corporate tax cuts with no guarantee a single job will be created.
“The Conservatives’ only economic strategy is more and more tax cuts to their friends in already profitable corporations, with no guarantee that a single job is created. This approach has failed. They should re-invest that money in an immediate job creation plan now, before any more families have to pay the price for Conservative inaction.”
CFIB relieved by lower EI premium hike for 2012; calls for renewed hiring credit and changes to rate setting
OTTAWA, Nov. 8, 2011 /CNW/ - After calling for a freeze of Employment Insurance (EI) rates in 2012, small business owners can breathe a half sigh of collective relief with today's announcement by the federal government to lower the expected Employment Insurance (EI) premium rate increase by half. "It is clear Finance Minister Flaherty has heard the concerns of Canada's entrepreneurs by taking action to lower the planned EI hike," said Dan Kelly, senior vice-president for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
CFIB is pleased government opted for a more modest EI premium rate increase of $0.07 per $100 in insurable earnings for employers and $0.05 for employees. This move will reduce the burden on business and leave more money in the pockets of their employees.
With over 15,000 petitions from small businesses across the country delivered to all federal MPs in recent days, CFIB is renewing its call for an expansion and extension of the EI hiring tax credit. "In a fragile global economy it makes good fiscal sense to support the job creators in Canada. But, as rates will still go up in 2012 -- the extension and expansion of the EI hiring credit in the next budget is crucial to help offset this premium increase," Kelly said.
Furthermore, CFIB is urging government to finish and move forward on its promise to review the way EI rates are set in the future. "We are looking to the EI rate setting consultation review to come up with solid recommendations to allow the EI system to work better during periods of economic uncertainty so we do not have to face increasing rates at the worst possible time," concluded Kelly.
As Canada's largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, CFIB is Powered by Entrepreneurs™. Established in 1971, CFIB takes direction from more than 108,000 members in every sector nationwide, giving independent business a strong and influential voice at all levels of government and helping to grow the economy.
EI increase will hurt job creation in restaurant sector
TORONTO, Nov. 8, 2011 /CNW/ - Although Finance Minister Flaherty's employment insurance (EI) announcement could have been worse, it still hits restaurant employers with a $13-million payroll tax increase - a tough pill to swallow in these hard economic times.
"We appreciate that the EI increase could have been double, but any increase at all is bad news for employment in this economy," says Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. "This is especially true for us as a people industry, where opportunities for job creation are the greatest."
"In a nutshell, payroll taxes are an unfair and unnecessarily harsh way for government to raise revenue," says Whyte. "Yes, the increase wasn't as bad as expected, but it will still hurt. We may have dodged a bullet, but we're not out of the woods - not by a long, $13-million stretch."
CRFA is pushing the federal government on behalf of its members to streamline and reform the EI system to ensure low, long-term, stable premium rates. To this end, CRFA is recommending a year's basic exemption in the EI system to make it a more progressive tax for entry-level workers and less punitive to labour-intensive businesses.
Canada's $63-billion restaurant industry employs more than one million people. According to a recent Ipsos poll for Kraft Foodservice Canada and CRFA, 22 per cent of Canadians were first employed by the restaurant industry (making it the number one source of first jobs), and 80 per cent recognize restaurants as a vital source of employment.
11/08/2011 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- What Political Compromises Could Create Jobs? NPR (blog) via npr.org/blogs
WASHINGTON, D.C. - In his first New York Times Magazine column, Adam Davidson looked at the challenge of creating jobs with a divided government. To continue the discussion, we asked two economists on different sides of the debate — Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and John Cochrane of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business — to answer the following question.
With power split between the parties in Washington, no one is likely to get exactly what they want. Are there realistic political compromises that could help create jobs?
Dean Baker's answer is below; ...John Cochrane's answer [was mislinked and unavailable].
The political deadlock between President Obama and Congress makes it almost impossible for any further job creation bills to be approved before the next election. If Congress were willing, the best solution would be a large stimulus program. Since Congress is not willing, here are some policies that President Obama could pursue on his own to reduce unemployment.
1. Work sharing
This one should be a simple and non-partisan issue. As it stands now, workers who lose their job can get up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. These benefits are typically about half of their wages. However if they have their hours reduced, then they get nothing. This effectively makes it better for many workers to get laid off than to have their hours reduced.
Work sharing allows workers to use their unemployment insurance to partially offset a reduction in hours. For example, a worker who has his hours reduced by 20 percent would have 10 percent of his total wages made up by unemployment benefits.
There are already 23 states that have work sharing programs. But many employers and workers don't know the programs exist, and the take up rate is low. President Obama could try to increase the take up rate by both promoting the program and encouraging the Labor Department to be flexible in enforcing the rules for Unemployment Insurance program, so that states can have the ability to be more flexible in their administration of the program. If just 5 percent of layoffs/dismissals can be prevented through work sharing, this would translate into 1.1 million additional jobs by the end of a year.
2. Right to rent
This would allow foreclosed homeowners to stay in their homes as renters paying the market rent for a substantial period of time (e.g. five years) following foreclosure. There are three main benefits to this program. First, it would provide housing security to families facing foreclosure. The rental period should be long enough to allow families to get back and their feet and in many cases for children to finish school.
The second benefit is that it would keep homes occupied by long-term tenants. This would prevent foreclosed properties from sitting vacant and unmaintained and therefore bringing down property values throughout the neighborhood. Finally, by offering rents that may be as little as half the mortgage on a home purchased at bubble-inflated prices, this policy will free up money for other spending.
President Obama can do this unilaterally with the homes under the control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (roughly half of all foreclosures). This may also pressure banks to adopt a similar policy on the foreclosures under their control.
3. Pushing the Fed
The Federal Reserve Board can be more aggressive in boosting the economy. It can adopt stimulative polices that have been mentioned at times by Chairman Bernanke. For example, it could set a cap on a long-term interest rate (e.g. a 1 percent interest rate on five-year Treasury bonds) or it could deliberately target a somewhat higher rate of inflation. The latter would lower real interest rates, boosting investment, and also reduce debt burdens.
President Obama has no direct control over the Fed, but he can seek to promote a public dialogue on Fed policy. Federal Reserve Board policy has enormous impact on the economy. Its policies therefore should be part of the public debate on the economy.
4. Lowering the value of the dollar
The major imbalance facing the country is the trade deficit, which would likely be more than 5 percent of GDP ($750 billion) at full employment. By far the most important influence on the trade deficit is the value of the dollar. An over-valued dollar effectively puts a tariff on our exports and subsidizes our imports.
President Obama should seriously negotiate a lowered value dollar with our major trading partners, most importantly China. This means making concessions (e.g. not pushing for market access for Goldman Sachs) in exchange for a lower valued dollar. If we get the dollar down, this will add millions of relatively high paying manufacturing jobs.
- Manufacturers, labour support extension of job sharing, CME-MEC (press release) via cme-mec.ca
OTTAWA-GATINEAU, Canada – Leaders representing Canadian manufacturers and exporters and the Canadian labour movement are pleased that the federal government will extend for one year a job sharing program allowing workers who would otherwise have been laid off to work part time and receive EI benefits.
Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Jayson Myers, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, were responding to remarks made by Mr. Flaherty in Calgary on November 8th.
Georgetti says, "We welcome the fact that Ottawa is extending the employment insurance work sharing program. This is crucial at a time when the economy is slowing down and unemployment is likely to rise."
Myers says, "Work sharing under EI requires the agreement of both workers and employers, and represents welcome government support for positive workplace solutions to prevent layoffs."
Georgetti and Myers noted that work sharing arrangements under EI have involved almost 300,000 workers and and almost 11,000 employers since 2008, averting thousands of layoffs.
They said they would like to see a continuation of flexible program rules which have made it easier for employers and workers to access the program, and hope that such arrangements could be used to promote training of workers to meet future skill needs.
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) is Canada's largest industry and trade association, representing businesses in all sectors of manufacturing and exporting activity across Canada. Its mandate is to promote the competitiveness of Canadian manufacturers and the success of Canada's goods and services exporters in markets around the world.
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils.
11/06-07/2011 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Clifton Heights postal workers protest reductions, by Danielle Lynch firstname.lastname@example.org, 11/07 Delaware County Daily Times via delcotimes.com
CLIFTON HEIGHTS, Pa. — Employees from a local U.S. post office set up shop outside of Acme Sunday in an effort to raise awareness about issues facing the financially strapped business.
The employees from the Clifton Heights post office said they are concerned about a potential reduction of a workweek from six days to five days. They are also worried about the reduction of a 40-hour workweek to a 30-hour workweek.
“I’d have to sell my house, pack up my kids and move away,” said McCafferty, of Clifton Heights, who has two younger kids. “My whole family is in Clifton Heights.”
McCafferty, McGuire and Athey said they are supportive of the United States Postal Service Pension Obligation Recalculation and Restoration Act of 2011 introduced by U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., earlier this year. House Resolution 1351 would allow the Postal Service to use billions of dollars of pension overpayments to meet financial obligations, including a 2006 Congressional mandate to pre-fund 75 years worth of health care benefits for future retirees.
Postal union workers have voiced opposition to another piece of proposed legislation, known as the Postal Reform Act of 2011, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. House Resolution 2309 authorizes the creation of a Control Authority to take over the Postal Service operations and have the power to renegotiate union contracts. Issa’s bill currently awaits action by the full House.
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby, has been following the postal service issues closely, according to his spokeswoman Maureen Keith. Meehan is co-sponsor of Lynch’s proposed bill.
As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs, Meehan proposed an amendment to Issa’s bill, which would delay full implementation of the Control Authority for at least two years. Meehan’s amendment was approved unanimously by the committee.
The Postal Service lost $8 billion last year and could report even larger losses when its 2011 budget year report comes out in mid-November. Mail volume is down about 22 percent since 2007, largely because of the combination of people switching to the Internet to communicate and pay bills. The recession has discouraged advertising mail.
A handful of Delco post offices have closed in recent months, including one in Upper Darby and another in Haverford.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
- Flaherty retools as global economic picture darkens, by Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star via thestar.com
OTTAWA, Canada—The federal government is scaling back a planned hike to employment insurance premiums and will extend a work-sharing program as global economic woes slow plans to balance the federal budget.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is expected to announce both measures in a major speech Tuesday to unveil the fall economic and fiscal update, the Star has learned.
The finance minister may also confirm that Ottawa will miss its target to balance the federal budget by 2014-15 due to slower-than-expected economic growth.
The government is hoping the two actions unveiled in the update will help protect Canadian jobs against economic uncertainty, although critics want Ottawa to scrap the increase in EI premiums altogether.
“We’re not immune to what’s going on in the world,” a government official said Monday, highlighting the debt crisis in Europe and economic woes in the United States that “pose serious danger to Canada’s economic recovery.”
The economic update comes just days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper returned home from the G20 summit in Cannes, France, where leaders struggled to contain a Greek-induced financial meltdown.
While Canada has boasted that it has fared better than most nations with lower unemployment and a stable banking sector, the Conservatives got a wake-up call with news that Canada lost 54,000 jobs in October as unemployment rose to 7.3 per cent.
That’s one reason that jobs will be a focus when Flaherty speaks Tuesday to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
The government official said chopping the planned EI increase will reduce the burden on businesses and leave more money in the pockets of employees, though the reduction will save less than $50 a year for a worker making $43,000.
The employment insurance premiums were slated to rise by 10 cents per $100 of insurable earnings in 2012. But Flaherty will announce that Ottawa is slashing the increase by half, to 5 cents.
The decision echoes a similar move taken by the Conservatives a year ago when a 15 cent hike in EI premiums was capped at 5 cents as well.
On Monday, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business called on Ottawa to scrap the increase altogether.
“Given the ongoing economic uncertainty, now is not the time to be increasing EI premiums as it may end up deterring employers from hiring new employees,” said Dan Kelly, the organization’s senior vice-president of legislative affairs.
“A rate hike at this time will serve only to set back economic recovery and job creation,” he said in a statement.
To help protect against further job losses, the Tories will extend work-sharing agreements by up to 16 weeks. These programs allow companies to avoid layoffs by offering employment insurance benefits to workers willing to work at reduced hours while their company recovers. The measure had been previously extended in the March budget and at the time, the government said that 280,000 jobs had already been saved.
“With the global economy still fragile, the economic and fiscal update will demonstrate once again the government’s top priority is the economy and a low-tax plan to create jobs and growth,” the official said.
“Our government will take targeted action to protect Canadian jobs and strengthen the economy,” the official said.
But the update is also expected to lay bare the toll the global uncertainty has taken on Ottawa’s own financial strategy as the timeline to eliminate the deficit slips.
Flaherty dropped some hints last month when he told reporters the government was on track to run a surplus in the “medium term,” a less specific timeline that many took as a signal that the original deficit plan was no longer possible.
In Toronto, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said he expected Flaherty to revise the date when Ottawa would balance its books to something closer to the province’s target of 2017-18.
“Clearly, that’s the signal they’ve been sending. That’s one of the reasons we set out on a longer timeframe than most other governments because I believe we did a more candid analysis of the future uncertainty,” Duncan said in an interview Monday.
“My guess is the others will catch up to us.”
Last month, the Bank of Canada cut its forecast of economic growth, echoing private sector economists who said the Canadian economy will grow at 2.2 per cent in 2011, down from their prediction of 2.9 per cent in March. Less growth means less revenue for the federal coffers.
With files from Robert Benzie
- Angela Merkel's Germany pessimistic about the future - Many middle class Germans are seeing their pay frozen or cut while the cost of living continues to rise, by Stephen Evans, BBC News via bc.co.uk
German Chancellor Angela Merkel Germany's Chancellor Merkel presides over a nervous nation. (photo caption)
[Not even Germans know what they're doin' right!]
BERLIN, Germany - On the face of it, Germans ought to be among the most satisfied people in the world.
It is true that the economy has slowed down, but it is still going to grow at nearly 3% this year, enough to turn many finance ministers green with envy.
And Germany remains one of the most equal countries on the planet, right up in the top 10 when it comes to the gap in incomes between top and bottom.
But when surveyed, there is a greater level of dissatisfaction reported among Germans than in many countries which are much worse off economically.
Recent research by the Institute for Work at the University of Duisburg-Essen found that German workers were less satisfied with their lot than workers pretty well anywhere else in Europe, apart from Slovakia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia.
Shrinking middle class
How do you explain this high "grumble quotient" as the researchers didn't call it? They say: "The reasons are to be found in developments such as the intensification of work in the factories, the problem of reconciling family and work, low wage increases and growing uncertainty about future careers."
And the middle class is being squeezed. On the best reckoning, about 62% of the population could be described as middle class in 2000, but that had shrunk to 54% by 2006, even before the financial collapse and recession. It may well have fallen to around 50% by now.
Take the case of Christiane Ehrmann, who has been a nurse for 25 years. She is now senior in her hospital but to talk to her, you would think it had all gone badly wrong.
"I'm really disappointed. I think I contribute to society and nursing is a very important profession. I'm disappointed that this isn't appreciated. I really have to struggle now", she said.
She says her circumstances changed for the worse when the hospital was privatised and she had to sign a new contract. Overtime and bonuses at Christmas were cut, so she says her situation has worsened.
That is not the way it was meant to be. Satisfaction is often about expectations - and German expectations have clearly been dented. They now live in a world where people can no longer assume that their circumstances will improve through their lives, or from generation to generation.
The researchers at the University of Duisburg-Essen found that the rise in dissatisfaction was particularly strong among older workers aged over 50, though the decline in job satisfaction has happened at all skill levels and in companies of all different sizes.
The big changes in the workforce started just over a decade ago under the centre-left government of Gerhard Schroeder. In a series of measures introduced under him and his successor Chancellor Angela Merkel, the safety net under the unemployed has become less supportive. The possibility of poverty - and so the fear of poverty - has risen for people in the middle.
On top of that, there are persistent wide differences between pockets of poverty in the old East Germany and the booming South-West of Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, 20 years after unification. In cities like Berlin, there are now beggars and people rummaging through bins. The government is debating the introduction of a minimum wage.
Without a doubt, there is also a German psychology of economic caution. They save more than other peoples. They are loathe to use credit cards. They don't get militant over pay. They tighten their belts.
It should be said that the German economy is still stronger than almost any other. It has higher exports than everywhere except China.
Germans have shorter hours of work than Britain or the US (or Greece). German unemployment (at 6%) is lower than most Western countries including Britain, France and the US.
The snag is that it doesn't feel as good as the figures suggest. The possibility of being worse off than your parents is not meant to be the German way - or anybody else's, for that matter.
[Yet Germans have a headstart on everyone else in the longterm solution. They're already used to emergency worksharing a la Kurzarbeit. Now all they have to do is work toward a standard maximum-workweek level, convert the funding from the unemployment insurance fund to something like a confiscatory tax on corporate overtime (OT) profits and individual overwork (OW) earnings, and grant a 100% OT-OW tax exemption for reinvestment in OT/OW-targeted jobs, and training whenever needed.]
11/05/2011 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Financial strain forces Indiana libraries to close doors, cut hours, buy fewer books, AP via TheRepublic.com
GREENWOOD, Ind. — Libraries across Indiana are cutting hours, buying fewer new materials and closing their doors as they struggle under the weight of statewide property tax caps and declining revenue.
Johnson County library director Beverly Martin tells the Daily Journal the library system plans to have an employee plow parking lots this winter and will not make any upgrades at its current branches.
The Johnson County and Greenwood library systems face shortfalls of about 10 percent next year. Edinburgh plans to spend 5 percent less next year. And two branches of the Hammond Public Library system have while facing a $1.2 million shortfall.
Johnson County library director Beverly Martin tells the Daily Journal the library system plans to have an employee plow parking lots this winter and will not make any upgrades at its current branches.
Hammond Public Library Director RenÃ© Greenleaf tells The Times in Munster that residents need to donate and rally support for Libraries.
- Montgomery sales tax revenue down $400K from Oct. 2010, Montgomery Advertiser
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The city of Montgomery's fiscal year started with a whimper rather than a bang as weaker consumer spending in September led to lackluster revenues for the month of October.
The city of Montgomery saw a drop in sales tax revenue that left revenues down about $400,000 from the same time last year.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the drop was disappointing but not unexpected, since last October brought an unusually stout 15.9 percent, or $1.1 million, increase from October 2009.
Strange said a decision still had not been made as to whether city employees would need to take unpaid time off.
"It certainly didn't help," Strange said of October's sales tax revenues when asked about the possibility of whether employees would have to take furloughs.
That decision could be made in early December, according to Strange. The 2012 budget included three furlough days, with each day representing about $400,000 in savings.
[Timesizing instead of downsizing, the only way out of this diagonally downward spiral.]
"We have to make the decision in time to give employees notification for whatever plans that they need to make. I would like to wait until we get next month's numbers, which would be this time next month -- which would still be in plenty of time," Strange said this week.
All said, Montgomery businesses took in about $7.3 million in sales tax revenues, which was a 5.2 percent decrease from October of last year.
If not for the revenues from the three-mile police jurisdiction and the revenue-sharing district with Pike Road, Montgomery would have actually been down about $542,000, according to finance reports. That would have been a decrease of 7.1 percent from last year.
"It's too early in the fiscal year to set off any alarm or base any major decision on it," Lloyd Faulkner, the city's finance director, said of the monthly report.
Strange noted that although the revenue decreased from last October, it is still a healthy increase from 2009 when the city collected $6.6 million. Strange said he still expects the city to end this fiscal year with an increase of between 3 to 5 percent.
The last time Montgomery collected $7.2 million in October was in 2005.
Meanwhile, Prattville is still benefiting from a 1-cent sales tax increase, with the city's sales tax revenues up 34 percent from last October. Prattville took in about $1.1 million in October, which was an increase of $404,366 from last October.
Since Prattville levied the tax, it has been collecting anywhere between $350,000 to $456,000 in additional sales tax revenues per month. Without the increased sales tax, it appears that the sales tax revenue for the month would likely have been flat for October.
Nearby Wetumpka's sales tax revenue was virtually the same as last year's. Wetumpka took in $430,150 last month, which was about $5,000 less than last year.
Likewise, Montgomery County's revenues were also similar to last year. The county was down 0.3 percent, which represents a decrease of about $8,000.
Montgomery County collected a total of $3.1 million in October.
Pike Road's sales tax revenues were down about $22,000, or 14.3 percent, from October. The town took in a total of $134,523 for the month.
11/04/2011 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Americans Work Too Much for Their Own Good: de Graaf and Batker Bloomberg.com
SEATTLE, Wash. - In 1965, a U.S. Senate subcommittee predicted that as a result of increasing labor productivity from automation and “cybernation” -- in other words, the computer revolution -- Americans would be working only about 20 hours a week by the year 2000, while taking seven weeks or more of vacation a year.
But in 1991, the average American worker put in 163 more hours on the job than in 1973, according to the sociologist Juliet Schor, the author of “The Overworked American.” Since many more families had two parents working, the increase in annual working hours per family was much higher -- 500 to 700 hours more than in the ‘70s.
It should be noted that increases in labor productivity are not “energy-free” advances for the workers whose productivity increases. As it happens, workers are required to get much more done and more quickly. Working hours are more draining, while the hyper-competition of today’s workplace makes them even more stressful.
Increased productivity means that consumers perform a variety of pro-bono tasks that companies once had to pay to accomplish. We pump our own gas, make our own travel reservations and use automated checkout lines. Productivity is said to have increased because the companies don’t have to pay anyone to help us out anymore.
Why have American working hours been so stable in the past half-century and even risen for many workers? For 100 years, from the Civil War onward, hours had been falling, thanks in no small part to workers’ demands. As long ago as May 1, 1886, half a million workers filled the streets of America’s major cities, demanding an eight-hour workday. During the Great Depression, businesses adopted 30-hour weeks. (Kellogg Co. was the most prominent company to try it, and its experiment was viewed by management and workers alike as a huge success.)
Until World War II, bread (higher wages) and roses (as in, shorter hours -- time to smell the roses!) were the twin demands of the labor movement. Yet after the war, interest in shorter work time waned, even as a buffer against unemployment. The postwar era, aided by the new medium of commercial television, ushered in what came to be known as “the consumer society.” Expectations for larger homes and cars soared. Easier credit brought a cornucopia of material goods within easy reach of the middle class.
By the mid-1970s, and especially after 1980, median wages weren’t keeping pace with increases in our capacity to produce. But flattening incomes didn’t derail the consumption train. Americans continued to buy more, in part by going deeper into debt, by having more members of the family enter the workforce and by working additional overtime. By the boom times of the late 1990s, Americans worked more than the notoriously workaholic Japanese.
The Europeans took a different path. In the second half of the 20th century, prodded by strong and active labor movements and social-democratic political parties, Europeans took a large chunk of their productivity gains in the form of more leisure. They now work only 80 to 85 percent as many hours as Americans, and when you consider that fewer people in Europe work and that they retire earlier, the difference is even greater.
Today, the Netherlands, Norway and Germany have the world’s shortest working hours. The average Dutch worker puts in fewer than 1,400 hours a year, compared with almost 1,800 for Americans. And yet, the Dutch economy has been very productive. Unemployment has been much lower than in the U.S., while the Netherlands has a positive trade balance and robust personal savings. Gallup Inc. ranks the Netherlands fifth in the world in life satisfaction (2010), behind only the Nordic countries (except Iceland) and well ahead of the U.S.
‘The Dutch Miracle’
Dutch emphasis on free time dates to at least 1982, when employers and unions signed the Wassenaar Agreement, in which unions accepted restrained wage growth in return for reductions in working hours and the expansion of part-time employment. The pact ended inflationary pressures and led to an economic turnaround that came to be called “the Dutch miracle.”
Unemployment fell from 12 percent to 5 percent. The number of part-time workers increased sharply. The average workweek was cut by three hours. The Dutch, while continuing to work hard, began to take leisure time seriously.
In 2000, the Dutch parliament passed the Working Hours Adjustment Act, perhaps the most important piece of time-balance legislation ever. According to the law, employers can refuse those workers who wish to switch to part-time work only if they demonstrate that such a reduction would cause serious financial hardship for the firm.
Such employees keep their jobs, opportunities for promotion and hourly pay. (European law requires that part-time workers be paid the same hourly rate as full-timers doing the same work.) Also maintained are health insurance and prorated benefits such as sick leave, pensions and vacation time. The law means a lot to working parents who wish to reduce the stresses of working and caring for children.
A 2007 Unicef study ranked children’s welfare in the Netherlands as the highest in the world. The U.S. was 20th of 21 wealthy countries studied. The Netherlands provides a clear example that you can have a thriving economy while working reasonable hours.
Europeans have a multiplicity of ways to reduce work time, including mandated paid sick days and family leave and offerings of sabbaticals to workers outside academia. But what most improves their time balance is the legal requirement that every European worker get at least four weeks of annual paid vacation time.
For Americans, the median annual paid vacation time has now dropped to little more than one week, according to recent polls. In 2007, only 14 percent of Americans were able to take an actual two-week vacation, and 29 percent got no paid vacation time at all.
Fewer Days Off
That number has grown during the economic downturn. In Washington State, 73 percent of businesses offered paid vacations in 2007; by 2008, the number had dropped to 63 percent, and it is still falling.
Vacation time is increasingly becoming a privilege of the elite. Low-income workers are least likely to receive any paid time off.
Two years ago, House Resolution 2564, the Paid Vacation Act of 2009, sponsored by former Representative Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida, would have mandated one-week breaks for workers in companies with more than 50 employees, and two weeks in companies with more than 100.
Almost anywhere else in the world, such legislation would be laughably inadequate, but in the U.S., conservative bloggers excoriated it as wildly radical. The bill was left to die.
Some say that if Americans had more time, they’d simply spend it watching more television. And perhaps they would, but probably only at first. For it is in countries where people work the longest that they spend the most time watching the tube -- Japan, South Korea and the U.S.
In short-work countries such as the Netherlands and Norway, people have enough energy after work to engage in more active and satisfying leisure. Think about it: When do you feel most like flopping on the couch and channel-surfing? When you’re exhausted.
Time for life may be the greatest difference between the social-democratic, softer capitalisms of Europe and the market- fundamentalist American model. Surely any economy based on the “greatest good” would take seriously the need for leisure, which philosopher Josef Pieper called “the basis of culture.”
But wouldn’t that make us less competitive? Apparently not. In their book “Raising the Global Floor,” Jody Heymann and Alison Earle use data from the World Economic Forum to show that countries with generous policies affecting work time are every bit as competitive as the U.S. and other workaholic nations, and do not have higher unemployment rates.
Moreover, Leslie Perlow and Jessica Porter of Harvard Business School have shown that requiring time off results in better economic performance. They conducted a study wherein a Boston-based company provided two control groups. The first worked long hours (50 or more a week), skipped part of their vacations and were constantly on call. The second worked a 40- hour week, took full vacations, and left their BlackBerrys at the office.
At the end of their study, Perlow and Porter found that those on time-off teams reported higher job satisfaction, greater likelihood that they could imagine a long-term career with the firm and higher satisfaction with work/life balance.
No surprise there. But the time-off control group also reported increased learning and development and better communication with their teams and, most surprisingly, they actually produced more total output than their workaholic colleagues.
Many exhausted American workers might find these results refreshing.
(John de Graaf is a co-author of “Affluenza: The All- Consuming Epidemic”; the executive director of Take Back Your Time, a group that advocates for more vacation and leave time; and a coordinator of the Happiness Initiative. David K. Batker is the director of Earth Economics, a non-profit organization that promotes a sustainable, fair and prosperous economy. This is an excerpt from their new book, “What’s the Economy For, Anyway: Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness, to be published Nov. 8 by Bloomsbury Press. The opinions expressed are their own.)
To contact the writers of this article: John de Graaf at email@example.com David K. Batker at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this article: Mary Duenwald at email@example.com
- Sharing the work -- and the layoffs - Employees get jobless benefits for days they're idle, under state plan, by Eric Anderson, Albany Times Union via timesunion.com
ALBANY, N.Y. -- A program designed to help employers avoid layoffs has lost participants as the economic slump has dragged on.
But it's still very much active, state labor department officials say, and they encourage employers to consider it before cutting jobs.
The Shared Work Program, as it's called, provides unemployment benefits for the days that employees are idle, while they receive paychecks for the days they work.
An employee working three days would receive 60 percent of his normal pay, plus 40 percent of what he'd normally get in unemployment benefits.
State labor department spokesman Leo Rosales said the benefits to an employer include not having to recruit and retrain workers when demand recovers. Workers, meanwhile, receive important benefits such as health insurance.
The partial idling of the workforce is reflected in the unemployment insurance rating that determines employers' premiums, Rosales said. Offsetting that, he said, is the savings in recruitment and training costs, as well as "the negative effect you're not going to have on the community" by completely idling a worker.
In 2009, 2,251 companies participated in the program, with 51,395 workers involved. That number declined to 1,523 companies and 33,194 employees last year. Through September of this year, 818 employers and 15,810 workers had participated.
Rosales said the labor department estimates 2,300 jobs were saved statewide this year because of the program.
"It's proof the program works for companies that are looking at layoffs," he said.
Still, it may not be for everyone.
Tom McKenna, principal at outplacement firm McKenna & Associates -- OI Partners in Albany, says the concept is a good one, but that many people can't afford the reduction in income that sharing a job would entail.
It also seems to be more attractive to manufacturing companies that go through seasonal declines in demand than to other types of firms. Rosales cites a manufacturer of concert T-shirts in western New York whose demand dries up in winter months and revives when the summer concert season resumes.
But the greater challenge is the prolonged economic slump. After several years of extended unemployment benefits, the program is back to providing just 26 weeks of benefit checks for newly unemployed.
Employers can participate for 53 weeks before having to reapply.
Rosales also said employers might have to rotate different groups of workers through the program as benefits for one group expire.
Reach Eric Anderson at 454-5323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
11/03/2011 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Auto-making - Toyota to halt N. America overtime, by Greg Keenan, Toronto Globe, B7.
TORONTO, Ont., Canada - Toyota Motor Corp. sais it will halt overtime and any Saturday production at its North American plants next week as the flooding in Thailand continues to disrupt the auto maker's supply chain. It will be the second consecutive week of no overtime at two plants in Ontario and several U.S. factories as Toyota tries to conserve parts that are in short supply because of the damage caused by a month-long flood in Thailand.
[Conserving parts and jobs with timesizing instead of downsizing.]
Honda Motor Co. said this week that it will reduce production in North America to 50% of planned levels as a result of disruptions in its supply chain. Honda has also been affected by the shutdown of one of its own factories in Thailand since Oct. 8 because the factory itself has been inundated.
- State: Cut hours, cut pay - Agencies told to promote program where 7 percent of state workforce voluntarily chooses part-time work, by Jimmy Vielkind, Albany Times Union via timesunion.com
ALBANY, N.Y. -- - Ideally, the Cuomo administration wants 7 percent of the state workforce working -- and getting paid for -- less than five days a week.
The Budget Division issued a bulletin to state agencies Tuesday urging them to make fuller use of a program that allows most state workers to voluntarily reduce their hours (and pay). The bulletin says agencies should "aggressively promote" the program, approve requests "expeditiously" and "approve all employee requests if the current program participation is less than 7 percent of the agency's workforce."
"We have been very clear over the last few years that this is a program we support and are actively promoting," said Budget Division spokesman Morris Peters, who noted earlier bulletins and memos sent during the Paterson administration.
The 7 percent figure is restated from a June 2009 memo sent by then-Director of State Operations Dennis Whalen. In the newest bulletin, the DOB is waiving the requirement that individual agencies send them employees' requests for reduced schedules; it created unnecessary paperwork.
The program has been in place for years, and was inserted into public employee labor contracts during the 1980s. It is currently available to workers covered by the Public Employees Federation or Civil Service Employees Association unions, as well as management-confidential employees. It allows employees to reduce their schedule by up to 30 percent while maintaining most of their benefits, depending on the circumstances. Requests for reduced schedules must be approved by managers at the agency level.
Peters said about 1,300 employees are now participating, and that "in spite of" promotion efforts in the past several years, "that usage has been very consistent."
The program, which includes less than 2 percent of the state workforce, currently saves $1.5 million a year. The state's annual budget is $132 billion, and this year Gov. Andrew Cuomo booked $450 million in savings from the workforce, to be achieved through newly negotiated contracts.
Union leaders welcomed this week's bulletin.
"That's all good," said CSEA spokesman Stephen Madarasz. "The issue has been that the state agencies haven't been all that eager to offer it."
PEF spokeswoman Darcy Wells noted the union has mentioned this point to state officials over the past several years, as they've sought savings in a tough fiscal climate. Madarasz said Cuomo's labor negotiators "did reiterate at the table during this negotiating session that there would be a renewed effort."
But it's impossible to gauge the level of pent-up demand. Peters denied there is a glut of employees looking to enter the program whose requests have been rebuffed, but both Wells and Madarasz said it has been a persistent concern. (Madarasz later clarified that it has ebbed in the past few years.)
"There are people out there who want to take advantage of it," Wells said.
Despite its persistent lobbying, it's unclear how much direct leverage the DOB has over managers at state agencies -- especially if the division stops tracking their progress.
Reach Vielkind at 454-5081 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
11/02/2011 – 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 ) -
- Emanuel compromises on some homeless services cuts, by Fran Spielman firstname.lastname@example.org, Chicago Sun-Times via suntimes.com
CHICAGO, Illin. - Mayor Rahm Emanuel bent a little Wednesday — by restoring limited overnight transport services for the homeless — and signaled his willingness to compromise more to win the 26 votes he needs to pass his 2012 budget.
Emanuel threw dissident aldermen a bone, one day after 28 of them asserted their independence by signing a letter to the mayor to protest his cuts to libraries, health care, police and fire dispatch and grafitti removal.
The mayor set aside the $200,000 needed to reinstate “two to three” teams of employees working the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift to make certain that homeless Chicagoans who need overnight transport to shelters this winter can get the ride they need to get out of the cold.
Round-the-clock transport will resume on Nov. 15.
“Keeping Chicagoans safe during the challenging winter months is a priority,” the mayor said in a statement.
“By providing additional funds to fill this service gap, we will be able to offer critical transportation to shelters and ensure those most vulnerable find refuge from the harsh temperatures.”
Earlier this week, Family and Support Services Commissioner Evelyn Diaz suggested that homeless Chicagoans who need overnight transport this winter “take a cab” to emergency shelters.
Diaz was talking about how her department would cope this winter after the $2.3 million, mid-year cut in state funding that forced Emanuel to lay off 24 city employees who worked the overnight shift picking up homeless residents and transporting them to shelters.
The $200,000 for overnight homeless services will not be enough to satisfy the 28 aldermen who signed the protest letter.
They want the mayor to double the size of the tax-increment-financing surplus he’s declaring — from 20 percent to 40 percent — to avert the need to lay off 284 library employees and eliminate 268 library vacancies.
Shortly before his budget took a beating during a public hearing that followed Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Emanuel signaled a willingness to compromise, so long as his “principles” of solving the city’s structural deficit are not compromised.
But, he also argued that 28 votes on a protest letter do not necessarily mean 28 votes against the budget. The mayor needs 26 votes to pass his first spending plan.
“I understand, as a former congressman, the desire to put your name to a letter on some issues. We were joking earlier. Having signed a few letters in my time as a congressman, not all signatures are created equal, OK?” Emanuel said.
“There’s some issues, and we’re gonna work through on a couple issues. But, we’re not going back to a budget or a budget process that doesn’t shape our future, doesn’t make the tough choices and put Chicago’s financial house in order.”
The mayor’s decision to reduce corporate fund support for libraries by $10 million — even as the city continues to build new libraries on top of the 59 constructed under former Mayor Richard M. Daley — has emerged as the most controversial cut in the mayor’s budget.
On Wednesday, Emanuel reiterated that he rejected a plan to close eight libraries in favor of a plan that cut hours — on Monday and Friday mornings.
“We have to find those savings. That’s the destination. If people have a different road to that destination, great. I’m always open to different approaches. What I’m not open to is changing where we’re going,” the mayor said.
Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th) sat through the entire public hearing Wednesday, which featured a crying patient of the city’s targeted mental health clinics, librarians who stand to lose their jobs and 911 dispatchers who warned of employee burn-out and longer emergency response times.
Burke expressed confidence that Emanuel would accommodate aldermanic concerns, even though the mayor doesn’t need to make changes.
“The mayor will have plenty of votes to pass this budget. There’s no doubt in my mind. If there were no changes, he would still pass the budget. But, I’m sure there will be continued tinkering,” Burke said.
He added, “People are worried about refuse rebate and library hours. This is a process that is healthy. It’s what is designed to be the role of the Council, where there’s inter-action.”
- The German labour market miracle, by Michael Burda and Jennifer Hunt, VoxEU via CreditWritedowns.com
Jobs and the lack of them are top of the agenda for policymakers and increasingly groups of protestors gathered in the financial districts of New York, London, and elsewhere. Unemployment in these countries is in danger of reaching 10%. In Germany, however, unemployment is below 7%. Some hail it as a miracle. This column finds a scientific – and far less [supernatural] – explanation.
BERLIN, Germany - At a time when unemployment rates in France, Italy, the UK, and the US are stuck around 8%-9%, many are turning to the apparent miracle in the German labour market in search of lessons. In 2008–09, German GDP plummeted 6.6% from peak to trough, yet joblessness rose only 0.5 percentage points before resuming a downward trend, and employment fell only 0.5%. In August 2011, the standardised unemployment rate was about 6.5%, the lowest since the post-reunification boom of 20 years ago (Source: Bureau of Labour Statistics).
Reaction to this success has bordered on smugness in some quarters. Many have asserted that superior German labour-market institutions, particularly those facilitating reductions in hours per worker in a recession, were chiefly responsible for the miracle (Schneider and Graef 2010, Klös and Schäfer 2010, Möller 2010, German Council of Economic Advisors 2010). Yet these institutions have been in place for decades, so cannot explain why of five recessions since 1970, only the 2008–09 episode was not accompanied by plunging employment and a stubbornly higher unemployment rate.
[This is seemingly contradicted three paragraphs below but these researchers are presenting "death by a thousand qualifications." It's taking far too long for them to get to the point and whatever their point is ("working-time accounts"?) is expressed too too late, too hesitatingly, too academically....]
Recognising this, other German observers stress the continuing importance of reforms to the labour market enacted in 2003–05 (Gartner and Klinger 2010), and the absence of wage growth since 2001 (Boysen-Hogrefe and Groll 2010, Gartner and Klinger 2010).
In recent research (Burda and Hunt 2011), we show that one unnoticed explanation can explain a significant component of the reputed economic miracle. In the export-driven expansion of 2005–07, firms hired significantly less than that expected, given the extent warranted by GDP and wages. As evidenced by data on firm expectations and articles in the business press, firms had unusually low confidence the boom would last. We show that the missing employment increase in the 2005–07 boom was equivalent to 40% of the missing employment decline in 2008–09, and that more than half of the missing employment increase was attributable to firms’ pessimistic expectations. Firms hesitated to hire in the boom, as they feared it would not last, and when eventually the recession they feared arrived, they had less need to fire than in previous recessions.
Did flexibility in hours per worker shield the labour market?
American observers are rightly intrigued by the system of short-time work used in Germany and certain other European countries (Boeri and Bruecker 2011, OECD 2010). Under this system, a firm in financial difficulties can apply to the employment agency for approval of a package whereby the firm reduces workers’ hours and variable pay in proportion and refrains from layoffs, while workers are reimbursed by the employment agency for 60-67% of their lost pay. Abraham and Houseman (1993) showed this system leads to more cyclical hours per worker and less cyclical employment than in the US. Hours per worker indeed fell precipitously in the 2008–09 recession, by almost 4%. Yet the hours of short-time work compensated were no greater than in the 1974–75 recession.
There is another factor which helps account for the significant reduction of hours during what many now call the ‘Great Recession’. A new personnel management tool, working-time accounts, has been used increasingly by German employers to adjust hours per worker flexibly to short-term fluctuations. Employers may increase hours above standard hours without immediate additional pay, as long as hours are reduced in the future with no loss of pay so as to keep average hours at standard hours within a moving time window. The number of hours the employer owes the worker is tracked in a working-time account. The share of workers with such an account rose from 33% in 1998 to 48% in 2005 (Gross and Schwarz 2007), possibly permitting greater adjustment of hours per worker in the 2008–09 recession than in earlier recessions.
At the same time, an important finding of our research is that the fall in overall hours per worker in the Great (German) Recession was not surprising given its severity [this sentence contributes WHAT to the argument? This pair needs a good editor!]. It must have been the case ['must have been"? oh that's real scientific!] that employers used working-time account balances to postpone or reduce their use of government short time, leaving overall hours flexibility little changed. On the other hand, working-time accounts probably ["probably"? again, no delivery on the promised "scientific" approach] played a role in stemming the employment decline by providing a disincentive to fire, since employers must compensate laid-off workers for any outstanding positive balance. Employer behaviour in cutting hours per worker was similar to the past, but they retained more workers on shortened hours. A theoretical model which differentiates between employment changes at the extensive and intensive margin can explain this behaviour, to the extent that underlying parameters of that model changed over the past 10-15 years.
Does wage moderation explain the employment pattern?
Worker bargaining power has declined in Germany since reunification [because of labor surplus injected from East Germany]. This is reflected by a decline in union membership and coverage of union agreements, increasingly decentralised wage bargaining, and union concessions such as the use of working-time accounts. One causal factor is likely the emergence of Eastern Europe as a competing location for manufacturing production. Since 2001, average hourly wages have stagnated in real terms. Assuming an ‘off-the-shelf’ estimate of labour-demand elasticity with respect to wages of 0.7 – we show that if wages had continued rising at the pace of the 1990s (1.12 log points per year), employment would have declined much more in the recession – by an amount equal to 20% of the missing employment decline.
[UNLESS the higher wages had produced proportionately stronger domestic consumer spending.]
A potential role for labour-market reforms
In 2003–05 a series of labour-market reforms was undertaken in Germany: more experience was required to qualify for unemployment benefits, the duration of benefits was cut for the older unemployed, the follow-on benefit was merged with the less generous welfare programme, the onus of job search was put on the unemployed person for the first time, sanctions for refusing job offers were enforced, private firms were recruited to help place the unemployed, the employment agency was reorganised and temporary work agencies deregulated. These reforms would have been expected to lower unemployment, and there is some evidence that they did. If their effects occurred with a lag extending into the recession, the reforms could have moderated the employment decline. There is some evidence consistent with this – the Beveridge Curve continued to shift in throughout the recession, while the share of long-term unemployed continued to decline throughout the recession – but it is impossible to judge the likely magnitude of the effect.
Expectations in the 2005–07 expansion
Our account for the missing hires in the 2005–07 expansion relies on pessimistic firm expectations, and the increasing cost of adjusting employment at the extensive margin, which make expected future determinants of labour demand more important in the determination of current employment plans. In our paper, we first identify manufacturing as the industry with the missing employment increase in the boom and the missing employment decline in the recession. We then use data on firm expectations from the Ifo Institute to show that in manufacturing, but not other sectors, there was an anomalous gap in the 2005–07 boom between firms’ assessment of the current situation and their expectations for six months in the future. Figure 1 illustrates this, plotting the difference between the share of firms reporting their current situation is favourable versus unfavourable, and the difference between the share expecting an improvement in the subsequent six months versus a deterioration. Only in the uncertain period immediately following reunification were expectations similarly low compared to the assessment of the current situation. Our analysis of reports in the business daily Handelsblatt during the expansion confirms that firms were uncertain the boom would last.
*Figure 1. Manufacturing firms’ business assessments...Source: Ifo Institute, Munich.
We use the Ifo data to generate counterfactual expectations [huh - again, the science is...where?] based on the historical relation between firms’ assessment of the current situation and expectations, and we use the counterfactual expectations to predict what the employment increase in the boom would have been had firms formed their expectations as in the past. We find that pessimistic employer expectations in the boom explain 56% of the missing employment increase, and hence 23% of the missing employment decline in the recession.
It would be heartening were institutions facilitating cuts in hours per worker able to eliminate employment declines in a recession entirely, but this does not appear to be the case. Rather, the extraordinary performance of the German labour market in 2008–09 can most clearly be tied to a possibly one-off event with less favourable social welfare implications. In other words, firms had less need to lay off than in a typical recession, because an unusual lack of confidence in the preceding boom had made them reticent to hire.
Some of the dampening of the employment cycle may also be due to firing disincentives implicit in the system of working-time accounts, rather than to the 2005–07 firm pessimism we were able to quantify. Other countries may want to examine this labour practice, as well as the labour-market reforms enacted in 2003–05.
In addition, growing concerns about shortages of skilled labour could reflect increasing marginal costs of changing the extensive margin, which would also lead to a more sluggish, drawn-out reaction to expected future determinants of labour demand. At the same time, by 2009 there was evidence in the business press that firms were confident that the (export-driven) recession would be relatively brief. It is not entirely clear that this will be repeated in future recessions.
[Sounds like CEPR has taken on a couple of "scientists" who are joining the throng of American and British economists straining to find something, anything, to diminish Kurzarbeit.]
Abraham, Katharine G and Susan N Houseman (1993), Job Security in America: Lessons from Germany. Washington, Brookings Institution.
Boeri, Tito and Herbert Brücker (2011), “Short-Time Work Benefits Revisited: Some Lessons from the Great Recession”, Institute for the Study of Labour Discussion Paper 5635, April.
Boysen-Hogrefe, Jens and Dominik Groll (2010), “The German Labour Market Miracle”, National Institute Economic Review, 214:R38-R50.
Burda, Michael, and Jennifer Hunt (2011), “What Explains the German Labor Market Miracle in the Great Recession?” CEPR Discussion paper 8520, August.
Gartner, Hermann and Sabine Klinger (2010), “Verbesserte Institutionen für den Arbeitsmarkt in der Wirtschaftskrise”,Wirtschaftsdienst, 90(11):728-734.
German Council of Economic Advisors (2010), Jahresgutachten 2009/10: Die Zukunft nicht aufs Spiel setzen. Paderborn: Bonifatius.
Gross, Hermann und Michael Schwarz (2007), “Betriebs- und Arbeitszeiten 2005: Ergebillionisse einer repäsentativen Betriebsbefragung”, Beiträge aus der Forschung: Sozialforschungsstelle Dortmund, 153:1-174.
Klös, Hans-Peter and Holger Schäfer (2010), “Krisenmanagement über Variationen des Arbeitsvolumens?”, Arbeit, 2-3:132-146.
Möller, Joachim (2010), “The German labour market response in the world recession – de-mystifying a miracle”, Zeitschrift für Arbeitsmarkforschung, 42(4):325-336.
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2010), Employment Outlook 2010: Moving Beyond the Jobs Crisis, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung (2010), Jahresgutachten 2009/10: Die Zukunft nicht aufs Spiel setzen Paderborn: Bonifatius GmbH Buch-Druck-Verlag.
Schneider, Stefan and Bernhard Graef (2010), “Germany’s jobs miracle: Short-time work, flexible labour contracts and healthy companies”, Deutsche Bank Research Briefing, 27 April.
Michael Burda is Professor of Economics at Humboldt University Berlin and CEPR Research Fellow and Jennifer Hunt is Professor of economics, Rutgers University and CEPR Research Fellow.
11/01/2011 – 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 ) -
- Uncharted 3 Required "Brutal" Working Hours, EscapistMagazine.com
SANTA MONICA, Calif. - The team at Naughty Dog had to put in massive overtime to complete the game.
Every game developer usually goes through a period where a lot more work needs to be done to finish a game by a deadline than can fit in a 40-hour work week. Sometimes, that week balloons to 80 hours or more just to meet the ambitious milestones set by publishers and game producers.
[We don't have shorter hours today because we ASSUMED for decades that higher technology and rising productivity would bring about shorter hours and higher pay automatically by market forces. This story is an example of what a mistake that assumption was. The only reason we ever got the 40-hour workweek in the first place was because we fought for it all the way (and generally we lost the battles but won the war). And the reason why we're losing it today and working longer (if we still have a "full time" job) is because we've stopped fighting.]
And when that game has as high a profile as Naughty Dog's Uncharted 3, not meeting deadlines and delaying the game past the holiday season was just not an option. According to senior members of the development team, the extended period of overtime or "crunch" as it's called in the business was the most punishing Naughty Dog had ever experienced.
"It was pretty brutal this time around," said Josh Scheer, the guy behind the cinematics in Uncharted 3. "I mean, there's always crunch. There're always people putting in extra hours, but this time around, just because of the scope and the ambition of the game - even after we had gone back and shortened some things, trimmed some other things - there was just still a lot to do, in the amount of time we had to do it."
The international success the Uncharted series enjoys, as well as the strong narrative, made completing the game that much more difficult. That's because Uncharted 3 features a story told in "more languages than we have ever done before, both spoken and text translation," said game director Justin Richmond.
Uncharted 3 is available in stores today in North America on the PS3.
- Grim outlook as level of unemployment is set to stay above 9% in Wales as cuts bite, WalesOnline.co.uk
CARDIFF, Wales - Unemployment in Wales is predicted to remain above 9% in 2016, according to a report published yesterday by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).
Researchers expect Wales to have the lowest level of growth in Great Britain in 2012 as the economy is rocked by cuts in public spending.
Unemployment in Wales has risen from 6.1% for the period June to August in 2008 to 9% this year.
This latest forecast of a 9.1% rate in five years will do nothing to raise hopes of a speedy recovery.
The CEBR analysis predicts house prices in Wales will fall, denting consumer confidence and further chilling the economy.
The researchers warn: Wales starts from a position where three jobs in every 10 are employed directly by one of the many tiers of government.
With public spending due to be cut sharply, employment in Wales is likely to be especially affected.
The report states: With almost seven in 10 pounds in the Welsh economy dependent on the public purse, and more than one in four workers employed by government, the outlook for Wales is severely constrained by budget cuts.
Confidence among small business owners in Wales was the lowest in the UK in (the third quarter of) 2011, pointing to very weak economic prospects in 2012.
House prices in Wales are falling quickly and by one of the highest rates in the UK, and are likely to continue to contract.
Such a loss of wealth will affect consumer confidence, placing further downward pressure on output growth in the region.
Wales is expected to have the lowest growth rate in Great Britain with a real Gross Value Added (GVA) rate one of the key measures of economic activity of just over 0.2% in 2012 as budget cuts start to take effect in earnest.
Prospects for London are also grim with unemployment passing the 9% rate.
In the last downturn, London had the highest unemployment in the country but in the past 20 years unemployment fell fastest in the region as business and financial services blossomed.
Now with financial services likely to remain in the doldrums for some time, unemployment has been rising and is likely to continue to do so from 9.4% in 2011 to 9.6% in 2016.
The prognosis for Scotland is also bleak, with researchers stating: Scotland is being held back not only by government cuts and by businesses deterred by the threat of independence but also by low rates of immigration and entrepreneurial activity. CEBR forecast an increase in Scottish unemployment from 7.7% in 2011 to 8.6% in 2016.
Unemployment is likely to hit 10.9% in north east England in 2016, the highest in the UK.
This is because the region is heavily dependent on government money and with a low rate of entrepreneurship.
Just three regions are predicted to have falling unemployment the north west of England, the west Midlands and east England.
An entrepreneurial revival is identified in the north west of England; the west Midlands are likely to be boosted by a recovery in the UKs exports; and continued development and population growth in the east alongside the strength of the food economy is expected to bolster the region.
Unemployment is not expected to blast the UK with the same force as in the 1990s because employees are already working shorter hours and businesses are showing weak productivity, the researchers claim.
[This sounds like a great testimonial for shorter hours, but it doesn't make a grain of sense. These researchers must have a missing chip on their motherboard. It like saying things are already so bad, they can't get any worse - but that's just wishful thinking; there's no solid "floor" on economic decline unless Wales expands its *worksharing program.]
Rob Harbron, one of the reports authors, said he hoped that the launch of enterprise zones in Wales would boost the regions performance, and that small to medium-sized businesses had a crucial role to play in the economy as major employers.
Douglas McWilliams, CEBRs chief executive, added: This report shows just how widespread austerity is likely to be, with weak employment prospects in a range of regions from London to Northern Ireland to Wales.
Unusually, the south east might do better than London this time round with sectors like IT likely to be among the fastest growing.
Plaid Cymru treasury spokesman Jonathan Edwards said: The Labour government in Cardiff needs to recognise the importance of capital spending during a downturn to keep people in work and improve hospitals, schools and roads as we put forward in Plaid Cymrus Build for Wales programme.
They cant expect London to give us any help or support.
- Cadre or non-Cadre, that is the question, ExpatForum.com
[= management or non-management = exempt-from-overtime (supposedly prestigious) or non-exempt.]
PARIS, France - Bonjour!
This is my first post as a member so first of all Hello All! I'm happy to have found this site, it seems to have a lot of valuable information and people willing to help!
Our situation: I am an american who has found work in France, with no problems as of yet on my side with the work situation. However my wife is French, and of course has experience working in france, especially in the cinema/audio visual/ assistant de direction kind of work.
She responded to an offer on Pôle Emploi [= monster.com a la francaise?] to be an assistant to the director general (of a well known company)..35 hours a week, CDI. After a process of interviews etc she was selected. Good news right! Well what they proposed to her was not a CDI but was 'intermittent du spectacle'...essentially what they would give to an extra or figurant. After some negotiation pointing out the switch they gave her a second proposal: CDI, Cadre, but with the same initial salary. It sounded better because generally "Cadre" means a higher status, but in fact with Cadre they could make her work longer hours without paying her for them. Plus the trial period is 6 months for cadres, and 2 months for CDI's.
The problem is that we suspect they are trying to avoid the 35 hours they put on pôle emploi (we have a baby, assistant maternelle, long commutes etc so we absolutely need that they don't keep her longer than the 35 hours). They put an ad on pôle emploi but are trying not to honor it. First by offering the 'intermittant du spectacle' then by offering 'Cadre'.
So the questions, is this a common practice that a company offers cadre, not for the purpose of a higher status, but just to get more hours out of their employee without paying for them? Is it legal to offer a different contract than was applied for on pôle emploi?
Sorry for the long post but any conseil or advice would be helpful.
[So this is what dumb French employers are doing to sabotage the one thing that is protecting them from the worst of the downturn, their huge domestic consumer base enabled by their spread of work and wages thanks to their first-in-the-world 35-hour nationwide workweek.]
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