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Timesizing News, December/2011
[Commentary] ©2011 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Harvard Sq PO Box 117, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080

12/31/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Pribula will return as interim manager - The finalists for county manager would not be able to start right away, by Jennifer Learn-Andes jandes@timesleader.com, Wilkes Barre Times-Leader via timesleader.com
    LUZERNE, Penn. - Former Luzerne County budget/finance chief Tom Pribula has agreed to step back into county government as the interim manager.
    Though temporary, it will be a high-pressure, consuming post because the manager will be the go-to person for hundreds of pressing decisions that have piled up as part of the conversion to home rule government.
    Those decisions include who will be furloughed [to avoid layoffs], who will be put in charge of divisions and eliminated row offices and how staff will be shuffled to comply with the new organizational structure.
    The manager also will recommend changes to the county budget, though his input will hinge on whether the new county council is willing to raise property taxes. Pribula has estimated the 2012 budget adopted by outgoing commissioners will require at least 150 layoffs.
    Councilman-elect Rick Morelli verified the appointment of Pribula, which is set to occur at the first county council meeting at 11:30 a.m. Monday.
    A majority of the council-elect agreed on Pribula’s appointment and supplied him with a letter of intent to take the position for $2,000 per week plus benefits, Morelli said.
    Pribula will serve up to six months or until a permanent manager is ready to take over.
    He will have use of a county laptop and cellphone, and the appointment won’t eliminate him from consideration for other future county positions, Morelli said.
    Morelli said he agreed to disclose the plan because there was no confidentiality agreement and Pribula had no opposition to releasing his name.
    “I think it’s the right thing for the public as well as employees to know. It’s important for the public to know what direction we’re going to provide transparency," Morelli said.
    Pribula had resigned in December 2010, after more than two years as budget finance chief, because of clashes with the outgoing administration over budgeting philosophies. He took time off and has been looking at possible private-sector positions.
    Pribula said later Friday he wasn’t sure if he would accept the temporary assignment but ended up signing a letter of intent to take the position. He wanted to reserve comment until after Monday’s vote.
    During his earlier county tenure, Pribula was known for his ability to simplify complicated financial matters and his willingness to publicly release information about county finances.
    Pribula pushed departments to cut spending, but several managers privately welcome his return, even if it’s brief, saying he is fair and understands county operations.
    Pribula decided to leave the $68,000-a-year budget/finance position when commissioners instructed him to put uncertain revenue and one-time fixes in the 2011 proposed spending plan.
    Morelli said Pribula will hit the ground running because he is familiar with the county workforce, funding streams and budget.
    The new council will have 45 days to amend the 2012 budget inherited from commissioners.
    “Tom makes a perfect fit for the interim with his experience and knowledge of the budget, which is our main concern at this time,” Morelli said. “He also has the right ethical background to bring to the table as well for this most important position.”
    The council members-elect agreed to provide the applications for division head posts and temporary positions to the chosen interim manager as soon as he signed the letter of intent.
    The council-elect is still finalizing the selection of a permanent manager.

  2. "Independent Restaurants Can Be Still Be Successful in the New Year Despite the Certain Hard Economic Climate," Claims Independent Restaurant Marketing Coach, Edmund Woo, PRweb via San Francisco Chronicle (press release) via sfgate.com
    Many independent restaurateurs are less than optimistic about the coming New Year, given the harsh economic conditions. Edmund Woo, restaurant marketing coach and author of "The 5 Hour Restaurant Work Week: Work Less, Make More and Have a Life, too", www.independentrestaurantmarketing.net, believes that despite the certain hard times to come, that Independent Restaurateurs can survive and perhaps even prosper in the New Year by focusing on the customer as part of their restaurant marketing plan. [This guy is the Tim Ferriss of restaurant management, but he had to add an hour to Ferriss' title, "The 4-Hour Workweek."]
    GREENVILLE, S.C. - Despite the economy surging for the December holiday season, many Independent restaurateurs are pessimistic about the coming New Year.
    Restaurant Marketing Coach and author of "The 5 Hour Restaurant Work Week: Work Less, Make More and Have a Life, too," Edmund Woo, says, "Realistically, the upcoming New Year will be a very tough year to grow one's restaurant. The hard economic times, the struggling housing market, blossoming national deficit, etc., all create uncertainty and therefore difficulty for Independent Restaurants. I believe the only way through this quagmire is for Independent Restaurants to renew their focus on their customers!"
    The three areas of customer focus in a restaurant marketing plan should be:
    1. Create relationships with one's customers. One major advantage of Independent Restaurateurs is that they are not "faceless" corporate entities. They have ties to their communities. They know their customers. And, given that their food and service are equivalent to the corporate chains, many customers would rather buy from someone they have a relationship with.
    2. Find more customers like one's best customers. Independent Restaurants cannot afford to be on the defensive even though times are hard. They must use proven restaurant marketing ideas to carve out their own market share. They must explore every restaurant marketing idea to procure more customers.
    3. Finally, in addition to not just finding more new business through a well thought out restaurant marketing plan, Independent restaurants must motivate their customers to come back more often. To do this, the Independent must continually renew his concept and his food as well as create events built around their food and seasons/holidays that give their customers more reasons to come back.
    Edmund concludes, "If an Independent Restaurateur will renew his focus on his customers in these three areas, he will multiply his chances for survival and success!"
    Edmund Woo's mission is to educate Independent Restaurateurs that they can work less, make more and have a life, too in the restaurant business. He dispenses free business-building advice for independent restaurateurs through his online blog, http://5hourrestaurantmarketing.com. The free service details Edmund Woo's researched and refined restaurant marketing plan proven to get new restaurant customers. Edmund Woo's blog is becoming a weekly diet to help independent restaurateurs avoid starvation and cultivate growth.
    Besides his restaurant-specific marketing blog, Edmund Woo offers a free audio report called, "New, Easy to Use Ideas to Fill Your Tables...Even in Today's Fierce Restaurant Environment," a glimpse of what his 5 Hour Restaurant Work Week System offers at www.independentrestaurantmarketing.net

  3. French unemployment rate highest in 12 years, thejournal.ie
    Nicolas Sarkozy is to look at how Germany has been tackling its unemployment rate. (photo caption)
    DUBLIN, Ireland - The French government is planning a summit in January to tackle an unprecedented (in the past decade) rise in unemployment.
    The EU Observer cites figures released by the labour ministry in France this week which show unemployment has hit a 12-year high and the rate has risen every month for the past seven months. Nicolas Sarkozy is to head up the jobs summit on 18 January – there are now 2.85 million people unemployed in France.
    [Thanks to Sarkozy's ignorant attack, via overtime enforcement, on France's world leadership with the 35-hour workweek.]
    Some of the measures to tackle this figure include the possibility of encouraging companies to cut hours and have more people working part-time than a smaller number working full-time. [= the whole point of France's 35-hour workweek. But France's only mistake was assuming it didn't have to keep adjusting that workweek downward instead of assuming it can remain that level forever, the same mistake it made with its previous 39- or 40-hour levels - and the same mistake every other nation is making. Now Nicolas "Sarcophagus" Sarcozy is having to eat his words about France's "uncompetitively" short workweek, nevermind wage&spending-clobbering high unemployment. The lethal bug is the economic software of the entire world at the moment is the assumption that the arbitrary 40 or whatever hour workweek is valid forever, instead of switching to a truly market-determined workweek, determined by market-determined unemployment caused by market-determined automation and robotization. How can market unemployment determine the workweek? Only dynamically. You let it adjust the workweek downward to maintain or increase employment and wages and spending until you have converted into active consumer-spenders all the deactivated consumers indicated by the unemployment rate.]
    However, as anyone who has ever travelled to France during a union strike will know, employee unions are very strong there. They and employer unions will both be at the 18 January summit and will have to agree to compromise for any proposed measures to come into practice.
    The Wall Street Journal reports that Sarkozy is “largely inspired” by measures Germany took two years ago when unemployment and recession kicked in. However, Germany was already on this road to changed working hours a decade ago. Even so, its unemployment rate rose slightly in November.
    According to Eurostat, the unemployment rate in France for the third quarter of the year was 9.9 – up by 0.2 from the second quarter of the year. In Germany, it was 6.0. But in Ireland, as we know, it was 14.4 (up from 14.2 in Q2).

12/30/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Top stories of 2011: 10 through 6, MeadvilleTribune.COM
    MEADVILLE, Penn. — The year 2011 had its share of big news stories in Crawford County — and many local headlines were forged in readers’ minds throughout the year.
    We asked readers to help the Tribune rate the top 15 stories. By clipping them out to send in a ballot, emailing the responses or filling out the survey at meadvilletribune.com, the request amassed more than 500 story lists, with the items numbered from 1 through 15.
    Beginning Thursday, the results are being revealed over four days. Stories rated 15 through 11 were published Thursday. Here are the Tribune readers’ choices for top stories 10 through 6 of 2011:
    10. City government begins major move to new headquarters, the former armory at Diamond Park.
    In very early September, Meadville Redevelopment Authority purchased the former Pennsylvania National Guard Armory on the west side of Meadville’s Diamond Park. Before the month ended, Meadville City Council had signed a five-year lease agreement that will soon transform the Meadville City Building on Water Street into the corporate headquarters of Meadville-based Ainsworth Pet Nutrition. Where to relocate city government? The century-old armory seemed to be a natural. Plans are now being put into place for a $1.7 million renovation that will have city staffers, Meadville Police Department and possibly Meadville’s magisterial district judge sharing the Diamond Park facility by July 1.
    9. Inmate’s suicide costs county almost $300,000. Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz not pushing for changes in local police policy in wake of December 2010 Tylenol overdose of confessed murderer Paul Brooker.
    In late December 2010, an Arizona man walked into Titusville Police Department, confessed to killing his girlfriend and leaving her body buried in a snowbank outside her Titusville apartment, and died four days later of liver failure resulting from an acetaminophen overdose after telling police during his initial interrogation that he had swallowed 200 extra-strength Tylenol pills. The generic name for Tylenol is acetaminophen. Asked if he was OK to continue the late-night police interview, he said yes. Soon after arriving at the county jail the next morning, however, he became ill and was transported to Meadville Medical Center.
    In January, the bills started arriving for medical treatment Paul Brooker, 35, received in Meadville and Pittsburgh while in custody prior to his death. Although the county was left with nearly $202,000 in medical bills, Crawford County District Attorney Francis Schultz opted to not push for changes in local police policy for dealing with prisoners choosing to decline medical treatment.
    [Maybe the hospital should have given him the option of declining medical treatment. Schultz probably figured that anyone who opts for suicide is saving the county much much more money in court and prison costs.]
    As for whether Brooker’s life could have been saved or medical expenses avoided if he had been taken for treatment by Titusville police after he first mentioned taking the medication instead of seven hours later, after he had been arraigned and incarcerated in Crawford County jail, no one will ever know.
    8. Proud community pays its final respects to fallen soldier, Capt. Joshua McClimans of Jamestown.
    Church bells pealed and a grief-stricken community lined the streets of Jamestown in early May when Capt. Joshua McClimans returned home for the last time.
    McClimans, 30, was serving as a nurse with the Twinsburg, Ohio-based 848th Forward Surgical Team, U.S. Army Reserve, on April 22 when he died from wounds received when insurgents attacked his unit with mortar fire at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khost Province, Afghanistan.
    McClimans was the second soldier from the Jamestown area to be killed in Afghanistan and the fifth area soldier to be killed either in Iraq or Afghanistan during the Global War on Terror.
    7. One man killed, two businesses destroyed in Market Street fire.
    In mid-February, a blazing fire destroyed the pair of two-story buildings that had shared matching facades and a common wall at 897 and 899 Market St., killing William M. Gerritssen, 55, a tenant of a second-story apartment, and displacing seven other individual tenants and two businesses. By the end of the year, however, both establishments were once again in business. The Whole Darn Thing sub shop, a popular Meadville dining tradition, has re-opened in a new building constructed at its former address, while the Neon Moon tavern has settled into a new home a few doors down the street.
    6. Schools make faculty and staff cuts — not only in public schools but also in colleges — as state budget forces budget reductions.
    Trimming faculty, staff and administration played an active role in the budget process for area school districts as they crunched numbers for the 2011-12 school year. At PENNCREST School District, staffing cuts included the elimination of the full-time equivalent of 39 faculty, staff and administrators. Conneaut School District trimmed slightly over 20 positions, while Crawford Central School District also eliminated approximately 20 plus several members of the food service staff. Retirements and other attrition, however, trimmed the number of individuals actually receiving pink slips. In Crawford Central, for example, the number of employees furloughed equaled approximately half the number of positions cut.

  2. 2011 filled with drama, controversy, by Susan Meeker, Tri-County Newspapers via Willows Journal via willows-journal.com
    WILLOWS, Calif. - It's just called Andy's.
    The Willows movie house that closed after the death of longtime AMH Opus Theater owner and manager Andy Huston in 2008, reopened in October with a great deal of fanfare.
    It was probably the most highly anticipated and joyful events reported in 2011.
    The four-screen theater Huston operated for 30 years had been vacant for three years, and the movie posters that once lined the outside walls had long past withered away.
    The closure left a large gap in the downtown business district and severely limited entertainment options in Willows, especially for teens.
    Although there was great community interest in reopening the theater, the road to the new Andy's was long.
    After initial interest from several people waned, the theater was purchased by Ronald Kessler about eight months after Huston's death.
    But Kessler's sudden death, just a few weeks after the close of escrow in 2009, found his widow Beverly Kessler and family considering selling the property rather than moving forward with owning and operating a movie theater on their own.
    In 2010, with the support of the community, Beverly Kessler had a change of heart, and new plans to reopen the theater were reinvigorated.
    Progress on the new three-screen movie theater, snack bar and video arcade picked up steam early this year, and the theater opened with three first-run films in October.
    The opening brought tears to the eyes of volunteers like Heather Boer, who said it was a project worth waiting for, and Kessler, herself, who said Huston and her late husband would be so very happy about what they had accomplished.
    "This was something that had to happen," Boer said.
    In the two months since Andy's opened, the community support for the theater has remained strong.
    Customers purchased about $4,000 in gift certificates before Christmas, which kids have enjoyed using during the school holiday break on films like "Alvin and the Chipmucks: Chipwrecked," and "Sherlock Homes," which are now playing along with "Mission Impossible 3."
    2. School chief's salary in the spotlight
    The Glenn County Board of Education's decision to slash Superintendent of School Tracey Quarne's salary after his 2010 election victory over incumbent Arturo Barrera — and accusations of Brown Act violations and conspiracy topped the headlines in 2011.
    The board's decision to cut Quarne's annual salary, from his predecessor's $158,000 to $87,500 in 2010, not only continued to cause controversy, but continued to raised the question of whether Barrera helped orchestrate the cut.
    The latter was never answered in court but several GCOE employees filed formal complaints in 2011 accusing three board members, including Chairwoman Judy Holzapfel, of violating open meeting laws the previous year by conspiring with Barrera in private to lower Quarne's salary.
    The Board of Education later claimed Quarne's lack of experience and lack of advanced educational degrees in education administration warranted starting the new superintendent below the salaries of at least eight GCOE employees under his supervision.
    No criminal charges were ever filed against Holzapfel, Kathy Perez, Gail Zimmerman and former member Catherine Hanes, who were formally accused of conducting secret and serial meetings to discuss how each would vote.
    The board eventually bumped Quarne's salary to $90,000 mid year, despite an outcry from GCOE staff for $120,000, an amount Quarne had proposed during his campaign.
    Among the most vocal were employee Heather Spooner, who claimed the Board of Education punished Quarne financially for winning the election, and Personnel Director Merilee Johnson, who said that most of her coworkers had "been to a very dirty place and back" under the previous administration.
    Earlier this month, the Board of Education decided to put the salary controversy to bed by voting 4-1 to increase Quarne's pay to $120,000, including benefits, effective Jan. 1.
    The only dissenter was Gail Zimmerman, who earlier this year had said he was still not satisfied that Quarne had the proper credentials to be Superintendent, even though matter was settled by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing in 2010.
    By the end of the year, the majority of the board conceded that Quarne's previous $90,000 salary was far too low, and that Barrera's $158,000 salary had been far too high for Glenn County.
    Also by the end of the year, Quarne's relationship with the five-member board was reported to be far more congenial than when Quarne first ousted the one-term Barrera from his office.
    3. Road to reality takes strange turn
    When the popular National Geographic television series "Wild Justice," aired in January, the fallout was serious — almost deadly — for a Willows man.
    Chris Fisher became Glenn County's most famous not-so-confidential police informant after directing game wardens to Tucker Otterson's Stonyford ranch.
    The televised raid turned up enough evidence to charge the 21-year-old Otterson with five felony counts of animal cruelty and seven misdemeanor Fish and Game code violations.
    Otterson was accused of "maliciously and intentionally" killing, maiming torturing or wounding a variety of wild animals including a bear, a pig, a badger and multiple turtles between April of 2008 and September of last year.
    He was also charged with unlawfully capturing, taking and wasting the meat of a bear, and is accused of using hunting dogs unlawfully to "hunt, pursue and molest bears."
    Two large elk racks, reportedly found on his property, also resulted in two misdemeanor unlawful possession charges against Otterson, according to the complaint.
    Also charged were Otterson's girlfriend, Brooke Boyes, and her father, Reese Boyes.
    The episode, "Born to Kill," featured Chris Fisher's cooperation with no effort to hide his identity, which Fisher said was promised by the production staff.
    It also featured wardens discussing their plans to turn him into an informant, explaining on camera that Fisher had violated his probation, but if he would name other alleged poachers, they would keep him out of jail or prison.
    After commercials for the episode began to air, Fisher was reportedly beaten with a two-by-four, threatened with further violence and death and had his truck torched.
    Police have acknowledged a likely connection between the show and the reported attacks, however, no direct links were ever established, authorities said.
    As for Otterson, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in July in a deal that significantly reduced the criminal charges against him.
    Fisher went on to open an airgun club in Willows.
    4. Record pot bust on public lands
    One of the largest campaigns to eradicate large marijuana gardens on public land in California history ended in August with more than 100 people behind bars and nearly a ton of processed pot destroyed.
    "Operation Full Court Press" resulted in the reported seizure of 632,058 marijuana plants, 1,986 pounds of processed marijuana, $28,031 of U.S. currency, 38 weapons, 20 vehicles and the arrest of 132 individuals, according to the latest figures from the state Department of Justice.
    More than 66 percent of all the land raided was public land belonging either to the U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, according to a justice department spokeswoman.
    The other 33 or so percent was on private lands.
    The operation was one of the largest eradication efforts in state history in terms of geography and the number of agents used in the field, officials said.
    The raids targeted illegal farming operations in the heavily wooded mountain areas in Glenn, Colusa, Tehama, Mendocino, Lake and Trinity counties.
    Law enforcement officers worked for weeks to remove the gardens, chemicals and related camps in order to restore the land to its natural state.
    Some of the raids were tied to complex ongoing investigations that would take several more months to conclude.
    Officials from Glenn, Colusa and Tehama counties were cautious about calling the raid a victory and many believe the true success of "Operation Full-Court Press" will not be fully understood until next year when the growers return to the forest for another season.
    Still, most local officials applauded the wide-ranging approach, but insist it must be a long-term approach to be completely effective.
    5. Ex-pastor gets 3-plus years for child molesting
    The lengthy court case against a Willows preacher convicted of child molesting ended this year, nearly five years after accusations of wrongdoing first began to surface.
    Former Willows Baptist preacher Carlton F. Hammonds was sentenced to nearly four years in state prison in June for molesting three young girls from his congregation.
    Hammonds was convicted in 2010 on three felony counts of lewd acts and a single misdemeanor count of battery, following a two-day trial.
    Although accusations against Hammonds surfaced as early as 2006, a string of delays plagued the court process from the beginning.
    Hammonds was accused of molesting three girls who were 12, 13, and 15 at the time.
    Two of the victims eventually testified during the emotionally charged trial, describing an escalating pattern of increasingly aggressive touching they said progressed to include fondling and groping of their breasts and buttocks with Hammonds repeatedly saying he "loved" them.
    The case took a dramatic twist on the first day of testimony when one of the victims appeared to change her version of events, claiming that Hammonds had raped her, which she had previously denied. Her statements shocked the courtroom, even catching prosecutors off guard.
    Hammonds was allowed to remain free on bail pending sentencing, which was also frequently delayed.
    Hammonds fired his trial attorney, Adam B. Ryan, and filed a motion for a new trial on the grounds that Ryan performed "incompetently," which Hammonds claimed unfairly prejudiced the jury.
    The motion for the new trial was denied.
    Hammonds was arrested Nov. 20, 2009, outside his Tehama Street church.
    6. Willows: A city in flux
    Willows officials said throughout the year that the economic outlook for the city was uncertain, at best, because of the overall economy.
    Downtown facade improvements, the formation of two community-based business-friendly groups, the development of the Walmart Super Center — now almost completed — and the new Taco Bell still under construction were all seen as positive signs of growth.
    Even the reopening of the movie theater in downtown Willows this year was seen as a sign that things may be improving.
    On the other hand, the struggles of the fire-ravaged Sunshine Market, the dwindling downtown business market and dozens of empty storefronts throughout the city didn't help Willows prosper in 2011.
    Bitter budget battles, including the prospect of shuttering the Police Department, all added a nasty political element to the picture.
    After several consecutive years of cuts, city leaders this year closed another $500,000 budget deficit mostly through wage concessions, layoffs and furloughs.
    The 5 percent furlough imposed on public safety was removed earlier this month, and will become effective Jan. 1, but officials say only an increase in revenue will allow the city to maintain current staffing levels and services for very long.

    After working since August to prioritize the departments and services they would like to explore cutting and possibly eliminating, city officials said the course of action is asking the public for more money.
    In December, the City Council announced it will likely propose two tax measures to the voters in 2012, including an increase in general sales tax and an increase in the transient occupancy taxes that are paid by visitors to local hotels.
    7. County makes move to sell hospital
    Glenn County began negotiations with Glenn Medical Center in 2011 to sell the hospital property it has owned for decades.
    The Board of Supervisors' price tag for the facility was set at $300,000, but only with the condition the hospital keeps a 24-hour emergency care facility to serve county residents and visitors seven days a week.
    The county also modified its original proposal to allow Glenn Medical up to two years to obtain financing to build new buildings and remodel existing ones.
    If the medical center is unable to get the money within that time frame or fails to start building, the county reserved the option of buying back the Sycamore Street property for $100,000, county officials said.
    An agreement for the hospital to treat Glenn County Jail inmates at cost is also in the sale plan.
    Also in the news in 2011 was the Glenn Medical Foundation's nonprofit status.
    A paperwork error surfaced in January creating questions about donations to the foundation being tax deductible following the "Splendor in the Valley" fundraiser in September 2010.
    State and federal records indicated the foundation was not a valid charitable organization under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code at the time of the 2010 event.
    This launched an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service into the organization's finances and legal status, officials said, and its nonprofit status was suspended.
    The 2011 charities continued under the umbrella of Glenn Medical Center's non-profit status while the organization worked through the issues.
    The controversy, however, prompted Foundation Board Vice-president Judi Spears, wife of Willows police Chief Bill Spears, to resign immediately after the problems became known.
    Other board members put the blame for the mishandling of its nonprofit status onto local Public Accountant Bendall Allen, who was hired to prepare the documents for the organization in 2005.
    Allen, who died in October, confirmed the agreement in an interview with Tri-County Newspapers earlier this year, but said he took the documents back to the board and never heard from it again.
    The Foundation, which has raised money for the medical center since 2005 to purchase medical equipment for the center including new mammography systems, operating systems, a cardiac telemetry system, expects to have its records in order by early 2012.
    All the money raised by the Foundation went exactly where it was supposed to go, officials said, and the organization is in the process of planning its next major event.
    Splendor in the Valley is a black-tie fundraiser hosted by car magnate Cal Worthington at his Big W Ranch near Artois and is by far its biggest fundraiser.
    8. Proof surfaces that Doolittle trained in Willows
    The USS Hornet Museum in Alameda confirmed in March that it now has sufficient documentation to finally support that World War II pilot Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle did practice for one of the war's most daring events at the Willows Airport in Glenn County.
    Doolittle led 16 B-25 bombers in an unforgettable air raid on Tokyo on April 18, 1942, which many say was in retaliation for the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
    The mission itself was so top secret, not even President Roosevelt was brought in until the day the raid was launched, Hornet officials said.
    Many in Willows claimed they knew all along of the training, but it was strongly denied by government officials and passed off as rumor for nearly 70 years.
    One of the reasons the Willows connection was considered a myth was because the official travel record concerning Doolittle's USAAF crews from Feb. 1 until April 1, 1942, was clear.
    The record states, "initial flight training at Eglin airfield in Florida until March 23, cross-country flight to Sacramento Air Depot McClellan for arrival on March 26, routine maintenance checks on the bombers until March 31, and the short flight to Alameda Naval Air Station for loading onboard the USS Hornet on April 1.
    Bob Fish, Hornet curator and Doolittle historian, said his first solid lead connecting Willows to the raid was contained in a U.S. Naval Institute press book called "Pacific War Remembered."
    Published in 1986, the author related information obtained from a 1971 oral history provided by Rear Adm. Henry L. Miller.
    As a young naval aviator, Miller, then a lieutenant, was the flight instructor for the Doolittle Raiders, tutoring them in carrier deck launch procedures at Florida's Eglin airfield, Fish said.
    He flew to Sacramento with them, and in this book excerpt, stated, "As each plane would come out of that interim overhaul period, I'd take it up to Willows, California and give them takeoff lessons."
    That, however, was not enough to be accepted as proof, so Fish kept digging.
    It wasn't until Fish learned that Cindy Chal, the daughter of Richard Cole, who was Doolittle's co-pilot, had visited the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, in 2010 where she requested a copy of all their raid-related records.
    Among the documents was a temporary duty assignment report from Lt. Miller to his project boss, Cpt. Donald Duncan, who was the principal architect of the raid.
    The five-page report was written on May 7, 1942, one day after Miller returned to his base from the mission.
    Classified until 1956, it summed up the 60-day period Miller spent with the Raiders.
    At some point, it was provided to the (National) museum archives.
    Fish said in this report, Miller clearly and succinctly states, "Practice was given at Eglin Field, Florida, and at Willows, Calif., which is eighty-five (85) miles north of Sacramento, Calif."
    The report is now the gold standard for proving that Willows was indeed involved in the Doolittle project.
    Doolittle's mission has been recounted in numerous books and movies as the event that revived shattered American spirits and set a new course for World War II.
    For locals, the confirmation in 2011 of Willows' connection to the Doolittle mission was an historic event, and put an end to decades of debate.
    9. Hobbs vacates City Council seat; Taylor-Vodden back in the saddle
    Sandie Hobbs formally stepped down from the Willows City Council in September, less than 10 months into her four-year term.
    The 47-year-old business owner and former city librarian announced her surprise resignation a month earlier, after she and her husband purchased a home just outside the city limits.
    In her parting remarks, Hobbs urged the council to revisit budget cuts made last year to the city's Recreation Department.
    Running on a pro-growth, pro-business platform, Hobbs was the top vote-getter in the two-seat race in 2010.
    She served for two years as head of the Willows Public Library prior to her election, but stepped down to dedicate herself to her business.
    A member of several key council sub-committees, Hobbs said she still plans to remain on the Economic Development Committee.
    She wants to help the county develop better business practices and hopes to be a driving force behind "the branding of Glenn County."
    Businessman Larry Mello, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in November, and Planning Commission Chairman Larry Domenighini were the two names most commonly mentioned as potential replacements, but it was former Mayor Terry Taylor-Vodden who got the approval from the City Council in November.
    The City Council voted 3-1 to seat Taylor-Vodden, and swore her in before December's meeting.
    Taylor-Vodden, the chief financial officer at Thunderhill Raceway Park, said she will bring all her experience in the public and private sectors to the City Council for the betterment of the city.
    10. Board of Education scraps illegal district boundaries
    Redrawing new trustee area boundaries may be the hardest thing the Glenn County Board of Education has ever had to do, but even its five members admit the cozy 1955 boundaries in the rural communities are illegal.
    The board could have adopted districts similar to the Glenn County Board of Supervisors, saving the county about $20,000, but even those lines wouldn't work to the county's satisfaction.
    Instead, the board hired Vestra in December to draw new boundary lines that consider population first, as required by law, but gives some consideration to school locations and community interests.
    Vestra, a Redding environmental and engineering firm, will draw the new boundaries based on the 2010 census, and will present new districts maps for the board to look at in January.
    The target population for each area will be approximately 4,051 people.
    Princeton and Elk Creek currently have populations of about 500, and Hamilton City has about 1,200.
    The Willows district — with 4,000 people — and Orland — with 8,000 — are the most underrepresented districts on the Board of Education, which has exposed the body to potential litigation, officials said, because the five trustee areas grossly violate state and federal voting rights laws.
    Although the board of education briefly considered changing from a 5-member to a 7-member board in 2011 to keep the district's sizes small and more congenial, such a change would require voter approval.
    Future increased election costs was also a factor considered in keeping the panel at five members.

12/29/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Two unions spared layoffs, two to meet soon - $21.4M reserve isn't what it seems, by Chris Bone, GilroyDispatch.com
    GILROY, Calif. - Two of the city's four unions will avoid layoffs if their members accept furlough days and pay cuts, but the city council still has to decide whether to cut police officers and firefighters to further narrow a shrinking $4.7 million deficit, according to city officials.
    In a closed session Wednesday night, the council voted 4-3 to accept the Gilroy Managers' Association's proposal and 5-2 to accept a proposal from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 101 – Gilroy's largest union with 100 members ranging from city engineers to emergency dispatchers – according to Councilman Perry Woodward. Human Resources Director LeeAnn McPhillips and City Administrator Tom Haglund did not immediately return messages Thursday morning seeking the vote breakdown or exact dollar figures.
    The downside is that City Hall will have to close for a few days each month without any AFSCME employees, effectively shutting down the city, Woodward said. He said he voted against each proposal because the proposed savings will only last as long as the furloughs do throughout the next fiscal year. Furloughs do not permanently reduce costs, he said, and City Hall closing for a few days a month is just "salt in the wound."
    If the unions' members accept their respective proposals, the council will formally approve them Monday or the week after. The body is expected to pass next year's budget, which begins July 1, at its June 8 meeting. Mayor Al Pinheiro said he hopes to have resolutions with police and fire by then and described in vague terms Thursday morning the council's next move.
    "Some of some unions will not have any layoffs because they came to the table, but it's going to be to up to (the Gilroy Police Officers' Association and Fire Local 2805) to determine how this ends up," Pinherio said. "You now have two unions that have been able to meet the council's request. I certainly hope the other two will do the same."

  2. Unemployed at 62: Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Nancy L. Anderson, Forbes.com
    EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - The unemployed who turn age 62 are caught between a rock and a hard place: jobs are scarce but if they take their Social Security now to supplement their unemployment it will permanently reduce the benefit. The rules changed in 2010 for retirees who take their Social Security but then find a job or their circumstances change. In the past they used to be able to pay all of it back and then collect the higher benefit for life. No longer true. The Social Security Administration now offers a window of one year to pay back Social Security benefits or their benefit amount is set (which of course means reduced ) for their lifetime. On the other hand, if they don’t take the early Social Security and then ultimately don’t find a job, they are depleting other assets that they desperately need to fund their retirement. By delaying, early Social Security recipients are losing out on thousands of dollars.
    A friend of mine, Harry Bristow, from Northern California faced this problem square in the face. He was in the construction industry specializing in large equipment sales and management. When the real estate crisis hit and new construction projects dried up, he knew that he was in trouble. No one was going to build a new building when, as Harry said, “The 10 million dollar buildings are now worth 5 million. Who is going to build new?” He was laid off right before his 62nd birthday, putting him smack dab in the middle of a 12% unemployment rate in the Sacramento area. The major employer in the region was the State of California, who was in the middle of furloughing existing employees to make ends meet. Like many other prospective employers, they were not focused on hiring new employees and even if they were, they certainly were not opening any jobs that fit Harry’s skill set.
    Unfortunately, my friend Harry was not able to find another job in ANY type of sales or management position. His experience had been large equipment sales in construction and farming and he was also a former company president –difficult skills for him to transfer in this market environment. A head hunter looked for him within an “hour commute radius” and experienced no luck. To make matters worse, Harry was not ready to retire. He had planned to work another five years but he decided right away to supplement his 99 weeks of unemployment with his Social Security payments until he found a job and is very glad he did. He never found one and he is still looking.
    The conventional wisdom to delay retirement — work until you are seventy and then collect Social Security—just doesn’t apply here, “For every year you delay Social Security, the benefit increases by 7 – 8% each year.” So the question often is, “Where else can you get 8% these days? “ Taken cumulatively, the increase equals at least a 25% increase in benefit by waiting four years. This sounds great at first glance but the problem is that while you may be physically and mentally able to work, the job might not be there waiting for you. The recession and subsequent economic slowdown brought with it a tight job market. Though the current unemployment rate as of November 2011 for age 55 and over is 6.4% and for men a bit higher at 6.8%, this may be artificially low since many pre-retirees may have simply given up and stopped looking for jobs like my friend Harry.
    No one has a crystal ball and can predict if and when the job market will open up but there are some factors to consider on whether or not to take Social Security early or to wait if you are looking for a job. Ask yourself these [3] questions:
    [1] How good is the job outlook in your field and in your area? Not everyone can move to the booming state of North Dakota or has the skills they need to work as heavy equipment operators and registered nurses as well as the ability to handle cold weather. Check your state’s projected job growth as well as the unemployment rate to get a realistic idea of whether or not you’ll be able to find something in your field. If you are trained in an industry that is on the bottom of the list, consider taking Social Security benefits early while you continue to look for a job in your industry or retrain to a cross-over field.
    However, retraining to a cross-over field is a stretch in many situations. From the employers’ point of view, they naturally are going to want their time, effort and cost put into training a new employee to pay off so the natural tendency is to hire a younger worker over an older one. Unless the older worker has skills that far surpass the younger applicant, employers who have a choice may tend to choose the younger applicant. An older worker may actually end up staying longer and being more loyal than their younger counterparts but perception is reality especially when job hunting.
    [2] Will you have to deplete assets to meet monthly expenses? Obviously if you aren’t making ends meet with unemployment and are depleting assets, taking Social Security now is the right option. For every month you don’t take Social Security, you are behind. Based on an $80,000 salary today, a 62 year old could receive approximately a $1,400 monthly Social Security benefit. As each month of unemployment goes by, the tab goes up. Six months of payments would have been $8,400 and a year’s payments would have been $16,800 – each month depleting assets needed for retirement. If you didn’t take the Social Security for the full four years and waited to hit the full Social Security age of 66, you’d have missed out on just over $67,000 in income which would take 14 years to make up by earning your “extra” $400 per month. Sometimes a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    [3] Do you have longevity in your family? If you don’t need the income now and have longevity in the family, waiting may be the best answer. My mother- in- law recently passed away at age 97 and her 99 year old sister, Auntie Johnnie as we call her, was deeply saddened by the loss and heartbroken by the realization that she is the lone survivor of six sisters. The Johnson family has longevity. My family does not. Both my maternal grandmother and my own mother passed away at age 71 so the genes are stacked against me. If I am faced with this dilemma in my future, I would easily choose the “bird in the hand” and take the payments early whereas my husband with his Swedish genes would probably do the latter. Consider your family history and your own health when making your decision.
    In 2008, when the financial crisis hit and the stock market dropped almost 40%, it hit just about everyone in this country hard. Our financial helpline was buzzing with calls from people who no longer got the overtime they’d regularly had for the past five years ["overtime" and "regular" are incompatible in any context that does not involve bad management and a deteriorating economy] or had their house payments increased drastically. Executives had their pay cut 15-25% [=part of the exorbitant pay they should never have been paid in the first place] and workers were being furloughed. We noticed a growing commitment to making budgets work and getting out of debt across all income levels. Imagine being on the cusp of turning 60 at that time. My friends who have hit sixty this decade tell me it is a tough one anyway but seeing jobs dry up and wealth built up over a lifetime suddenly disappear was like adding salt to the wound. That certainly couldn’t have been easy and the tough decisions needed today in the aftermath are just as hard.
    Nancy L.Anderson, CFP ® is Think Tank Director and Resident Financial Planner at Financial Finesse, the leading provider of unbiased financial education for employers nationwide, delivered by on-staff Certified Financial Planner™ professionals...

12/28/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. County employees volunteer to cut hours to prevent layoffs, by Lauren Salcedo, Port Townsend Leader via ptleader.com
    PORT TOWNSEND, Ore. - Jefferson County’s budget situation has led five of its Public Works employees to voluntarily take a one-day-per-week cut in hours starting on Jan. 1, 2012.
    The vast majority of the county’s 276 employees are union members, according to Philip Morley, county administrator.
    The county is in labor negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 589 for the uniformed support services (corrections, animal control, security), JeffCom and Central Services, and with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.
    Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office personnel are under contract until 2014. The Public Works union contract expires in 2013; these reductions came up during budget talks.
    “[Public Works] was looking at potential layoffs, and a number of employees offered to reduce their hours in a memorandum of understanding between the county and the union,” Morley said.
    The county still faces long-term budget cuts in upcoming years, with an $825,000 reduction budgeted by 2015.

    “The situation is that the city, county and local governments across the country are seeing revenues declining,” said Jim Pearson, project manager at Public Works.
    “Public Works has been well managed for years,” he said. “It runs like a business, but going into next year, the budget isn’t balanced, so we had to look at position cutbacks.”
    The county suggested voluntary reductions in hours so that no one would be laid off, and people considered their own situation and volunteered.
    “Five people, including myself, took a voluntary reduction of one day a week to try to avoid layoffs,” said Pearson, who has worked in Public Works for 16 years. “Most people are proud of taking the cut to save jobs.”
    The employees taking cuts are funded primarily through the Roads Fund.
    “The FTE count for 2012 for the Roads Fund is 45.97. This is a decrease of 3.97 FTEs over the 2011 Roads budget,” said Frank Gifford, Public Works director.
    Tina Anderson, one of the department’s administrative support staff, is an hour-cutting volunteer.
    “Over the last year, we have updated our systems, so I can do things more efficiently,” she said. “All of us who volunteer, our goal is to help the department. We are a tight-knit group, so to lose one body is like losing a wheel off of a car.”
    The employees who have given up their full-time status face an increase in medical insurance premium costs, as well as a 20 percent decrease in income.
    “With a reduction in income, we have to pay more for insurance,” said Anderson. “It is our understanding that it will be three times as much.”
    Insurance costs increase in 2012, with monthly prices going up to more than $300 for some county employees.
    Pearson credits the Public Works management team for taking on the task of doing more with less hours, but not fewer employees.
    “We have the same jobs to do,” he said. “The jobs don’t go away.”
    What effect this has on public services is unknown. However, Pearson believes that it will just take longer to do the same projects.
    “High-priority things will still be completed,” he said, “but lower-priority tasks might take longer.”
    The agreement has been made for one year, and the 2013 budget is up in the air.
    “I don’t really see that the general situation will change or improve in one year,” said Pearson. “The way the budget situation is, the resources just wouldn’t be there.”

  2. New library leader hopes to restore hours, by Mary Milz, 13 WTHR via wthr.com
    INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The new year promises to bring several changes to the state's largest library system - foremost, a new leader at the helm.
    Jackie Nytes takes over as CEO of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library system on January 1st.
    Nytes is a three-term City-County councilor who decided not to run for re-election this year. Nytes worked for the library system in the 1990s, most recently as CFO.
    As CEO, she faces numerous challenges. Last year, the library board slashed library hours, staffing and the money spent on materials to meet budget.
    While many patrons thought closing branches one day a week was better than any permanent closures, the move still drew criticism.

    Nytes says restoring at least some of the hours tops her list of priorities.
    "Yes, absolutely. We'll restore some hours at as many places as we can rationally work out," she said. "It may not be back to where everyone wants it to be at this point, but there will be a significant restoration."
    During last summer's budget process, the board proposed restoring hours at 10 of its 23 locations, thanks to a stronger financial picture.
    Nytes said hopes to "spend the first month or two listening to the staff and community to get a better handle on what the most important thing we can do is."
    Restoring hours also means hiring more people.
    Nytes acknowledged it's been a "stressful" few years with staff having to deal with layoffs and other budget cuts.
    Asked what kind of leader she would be, Nytes said, "I think an accessible one. Twelve years in the public eye lets the public know where you are and where to find you. I don't think that will change. I think I will be a cheerleader for the library."
    Nytes said the library faces many other changes in the way it operates and delivers services, especially when it comes to its electronic collections.
    "The electronic publishing industry is changing rapidly," she said. "With E-books, maybe they expire after they've circulated 29 times and you have to buy them all over again. Some [electronic publishers] won't sell to libraries, so there are lots of changes going on."
    Because of that staff training takes on added importance.
    "We'll be beefing it up" to stay current, she said.
    Nytes said she also wanted to further boost the library's role in the community.
    "What I'm on is a campaign of connecting with the rest of the community and being the best resource we can be for them," she said.
    For instance, "I think we should be talking to IPS superintendent Dr. White about whether he needs help running school libraries."
    Nytes succeeds CEO Laura Bramble, who announced plans to retire in May. Nytes' annual salary is $135,000.

12/27/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Bus Drivers May Face New Rest Rules, Following Truckers, Pilots By Carol Wolf, Bloomberg.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. bus operators may face new limits on drivers’ work hours, after the Department of Transportation last week released revised rules for truckers and airline pilots.
    The agency is seeking public comment and data on driving time and its association with safety as it considers new rules, according to a notice set for publication tomorrow in the Federal Register. Bus companies operate differently from trucking companies, requiring the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to gather separate data, the notice said.
    Rules for driving and on-duty time for bus drivers haven’t been updated in “several decades,” the notice said. It is looking into possible changes at a time the bus has become the fastest-growing mode of U.S. transportation, with daily departures up 7.1 percent this year, according to a DePaul University study released Dec. 21.
    Twenty-eight people have died in eight U.S. bus crashes this year. The National Transportation Safety Board warned in an Oct. 31 study that curbside operators, which account for most of the industry’s growth, are seven times more likely to be involved in a fatal wreck than intercity lines with more conventional business models.
    The agency will hear comments on Jan. 9 in Grapevine, Texas.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Carol Wolf in Washington at cwolf@bloomberg.net
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

  2. Bump in minimum wage to $8.80 raises debate, by: David Anderson, KMTR NewsSource 16 via kmtr.com
    ROSEBURG, Ore. - On January 1st, Oregon minimum wage is going up. Minimum wage employees are going to see a 30 cent jump in their pay, making $8.80 an hour. Not everybody is happy about the bump in pay. Some small business owners in Roseburg say it has a negative effect on their company, and even other employees.
    They say the mandatory pay bump doesn’t mean employees will necessarily end up with more money, because employers could have to cut hours to balance the books. Meaning the employees don't end up seeing the extra funds.
    They say it gets in the way of paying for raises for more senior ranking employees, who's wages get closer to matching the rising minimum wage every year.
    Even those unaffected by the raise say they just don't like being told how to do business. Frank Bartley, owner of Hanson Jewelers, says his employees tend to be paid above minimum wage anyway, but says he relates to other businesses troubled by the increase.
    "You don't want to be dictated to, you've worked hard and long hours to achieve what you have, you don't want anybody to come in and tell you that you have to do this or you have to do that."
    Some business owners view the wage hike differently. Ron Sutten, owner of Mystic Earth says a higher wage for employees may cost more money for businesses in the short term, but he’s focused on how the community benefits.
    "I want to see my business prosper not just for my personal benefit, but because I know it will benefit the other people too. We can hire more employees; we can provide more to the community. That’s what it's all about, that's why we're here."
    He says the wage increase is crucial for working parents who might otherwise have to work extremely long hours to provide for their family.
    Oregon holds the second highest minimum wage in the country. Washington will continue to offer the highest next year with $9.04 in 2012.

  3. Oscar Makers in Chicago Ratify New Contract, By Teamsters Joint Council 25, PRNewswire-USNewswire via Sacramento Bee via sacbee.com
    CHICAGO, Illin. -- Hollywood's biggest awards will continue to be made by American labor after the Chicago Teamsters reached a contract agreement on Dec. 22 with the longtime manufacturers of the Oscars and Emmy Awards.
    Fifty Teamsters with R.S. Owens & Company in Chicago voted overwhelmingly to ratify their first new contract in four years. The three-year agreement includes the workers' first new wage increases since 2006. The raises will be retroactive to the previous contract's expiration on Nov. 14, with average hourly wages between $13-$14.
    "Many of the men and women who make these awards have done so for 30 years, and the Teamsters are proud to continue this rich tradition," said Donnie Von Moore, President of Teamsters Local 743, which represents the workers. "Our members voluntarily worked shorter hours for the better part of a year to help R.S. Owens save money, and we're pleased their hard work and dedication to the craft have not gone unnoticed."
    Teamsters also preserved vacation and other benefits without a work stoppage. Though Oscars will be handed out Feb. 26, 2012, Owens employees produce and polish the golden statues throughout the year. In addition to the Emmys, workers also create the MTV Video Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards and replica statues of the Super Bowl trophy."
    Superior craftsmanship are necessary to produce these awards and Teamster labor will continue to be the gold standard," said John T. Coli, President of Teamsters Joint Council 25. "The Teamsters are committed to its partnership with R.S. Owens and championing the purchase of American products made by union labor."
    Unions throughout the entertainment industry supported Local 743 during negotiations for a new contract, including the Chicago Entertainment Industry Labor Council, IATSE Theatrical Stage Employees Union Local 2 and the Chicago Federation of Musicians.

12/25-26/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Debt crisis distant in European towns - Cushioned from turmoil, for now, by social programs, by Edward Cody, Washington Post via 12/25 Boston Globe, A7.
    MONTARGIS, France — When Christmas lights illuminated holiday shoppers strolling along Golden Street, this little town seemed a world away from Europe’s economic crisis. President Nicolas Sarkozy’s dire warnings that the European Union is at risk of collapsing and that hard times lie ahead for France are drowned out by Christmas carols broadcast into the wintry air.
    “The people who are talking about the crisis and those kinds of things all the time are not right,” said Viviane Malet, the proprietor of four stores along Golden Street who heads 150 Montargis shopkeepers in the Commercial Union. “It’s a mistake to keep harping on it. Life is beautiful.”
    In thousands of Europe’s little towns and villages, the debt crisis threatening the common currency, the euro, is like the sound of distant thunder — it may bring a storm, townspeople say, but so far the sun is still out and Christmas is still merry. The atmosphere of foreboding that has settled over Paris and other European Union capitals is nowhere to be seen here as children on their scooters swerve between elderly couples admiring the seasonal decorations and young families out window shopping.
    The expensive social protections that helped pile up the debts — generous unemployment benefits, inclusive health insurance, long vacations — are under attack for living on borrowed funds. But so far they have also buffered the people of Montargis and millions of other Europeans from the worst effects of the financial turmoil in their capitals.
    [Short workweeks and long vacations have been inexpensive social protections for Europeans. And if they engineered full employment and maximum consumer spending with even shorter workweeks and even longer vacations, they would be able to dismantle and save on unemployment benefits and health insurance, and they would be able to repay borrowed funds. Sound outrageous? OK, how do YOU propose to get growth by continued downsizing? The truth is, you can get rid of all the expensive extras if you finally get bold enough to do a sufficient job on the basics, and the basics are, cut the workweek as much as it takes to have FULL employment and MAXIMUM consumer spending.]
    And yet the shadow of a slowdown hangs over the festivities. News from Greece and Spain of devastating government cutbacks and economies grinding to a halt suggests that even here and in the many other European towns that have enjoyed a good life for more than four decades, financial realities may finally be ready to wreak their revenge.
    “People are afraid when they hear the news, but in their daily lives they have not yet been hit,” said Benoit Digeon, a deputy mayor and businessman whose praline candies are sold around the world. “But it will come.”
    Unemployment in Montargis, in the Loire River valley about 60 miles south of Paris, already has risen to more than 10 percent, significantly above the national average. The local newspaper, the Republique du Centre, headlines a drop in real estate prices and the danger of more layoffs at Hutchinson, a rubber-products giant that is a major employer for the Montargis region’s 60,000 inhabitants.
    Benedicte Masson, whose pharmacy lies at the top of Golden Street, said her customers have become more and more cautious about spending money, particularly on the side of the store where nonessential products such as beauty creams are displayed. Even with doctors’ prescriptions, she added, they sometimes refuse to buy a medicine if it is not covered by the government health insurance.
    “I have a customer base of ordinary French people, not rich but not poor, either,” Masson said. “But I can tell you, when they come in here, they look closely at what things cost.”

  2. Karl Krug: Power, not solvency, is Walker's aim, letter to editor by Karl Krug of Madison, 12/26 Wisconsin State Journal via host.madison.com
    MADISON, Wisc. - A recent letter to the editor titled "Essential for state to avoid insolvency" contained a number of misconceptions.
    The writer states the administration had three choices: lay off or furlough workers, increase employee contributions to pensions and health care or reduce services and programs.
    [Well, the writer was right about one thing. Furloughs for a few employees enable layoff avoidance, but in addition, hours cuts for all enable avoidance of furloughs for a few and are less traumatic, disruptive and morale bashing.]
    During the past nine years there were ongoing concessions by the unions regarding furloughs and compensation packages where salary increases were traded for heath care and pension benefits.
    The endorsed solution is to reduce the take-home pay of public employees because they are easy targets. But even after unions agreed to accept increased employee contributions, the governor took away the right to collectively bargain altogether. The writer states that this agreement was a false promise by the unions. That makes no sense because they never has the opportunity to go to the bargaining table to present it.
    It's a fallacy that, by forcing these changes, Walker was able to balance the budget. Do people really believe the budget could be balanced by taking more money from a relatively small number of public employees? There is no way to know yet if the budget is even close to balanced.
    But we do know that eliminating collective bargaining rights had nothing to do with making it happen. It was all about keeping power.

12/24/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. County releases furlough schedules Dec. 27-30, Merced Sun-Star via mercedsunstar.com
    MERCED, Calif. - Merced County released its plan to serve residents during the furlough period Dec. 27-30.
    In late November, the Board of Supervisors approved labor agreements that implemented periodic furloughs for all non-critical county functions throughout the next two years. The approved agreements will save county taxpayers about $2 million a year, the county said in a news release.
    The county said in the release it’s undertaken a best effort to identify those areas that are critical and mandated, such as public safety and several social service programs to keep open during the period.
    Most functions, such as the library, parks (Lake Yosemite), planning and permitting and other administrative functions will be closed during the week immediately after Christmas. Normal operations will resume on Jan. 3, 2012.“
    The county understands this may inconvenience some who are looking to access non-critical county functions during the furloughs for which we apologize in advance,” Jim Brown, county executive officer, said in the release. “We hope that providing notice will assist them with planning and we look forward to resuming our normal operations on Jan. 3.”
    The county operations schedule for Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, 2012:
    Animal Control Animal Releases Closed on Dec. 24 8 a.m. to noon Dec. 27 and 29
    Castle Airport Flight Operations 24-hour operations
    Human Services Agency Family Visitation Center 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 27-30
    Wardrobe Facility 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 27-30 Aid Applications and Programs and Medi-Cal Assistance
    Mental Health Marie Green 24-hour operations
    Probation Adult Probation 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 27-30 Merced Office
    Juvenile Justice Normal operation Correctional Complex
    Recorder’s Office Recordings 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Dec. 27-30
    Sheriff Operations and Corrections Normal operations
    All other County Departments will be closed during this period.
    A calendar of County furlough days will be published on the county’s website at www.co.merced.ca.us for the public’s review.
    For more information about Merced County or department schedules and available services, contact the appropriate department staff or visit the Merced County website at www.co.merced.ca.us.

  2. California nurses strike against cutbacks and concessions, by Rafael Azul and Kim Saito, World Socialist Web Site via wsws.org
    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Some 6,000 nurses in California went on a one-day strike on Thursday December 22. The nurses are demanding decent staffing levels, health benefits, and sick leave.
    The protest affected eight for-profit San Francisco Hospitals, all owned by Sutter Corporation, and the Long Beach Children’s Hospital complex in Southern California, also privately operated but not by Sutter. At the Long Beach protest, nurses were also demanding lifting teams for heavy patients and regular breaks.
    As in previous struggles, by limiting the protest to a one-day strike at a few hospitals, the nurses unions, the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses United, are paving the way for givebacks and defeats.
    Both hospital corporations responded to the protest by punishing the nurses for their job action—in Long Beach by locking them out until Tuesday, December 27, and until Saturday for Sutter nurses. The hospitals enforced the lockout on the pretext that they could not hire replacement nurses for only one day.
    Spokespersons for Sutter attempted to minimize the impact of the protest, claiming that more than half the nurses had not participated in the strike in hospitals in Antioch and Castro Valley, but gave no precise numbers.
    The California strike took place a day after nurses in New York City demonstrated in Wall Street against Cerberus Capital Management, whose health care company, Steward, has engaged in aggressive cost cutting since acquiring hospitals in Massachusetts. One thousand New York City nurses intend to strike on January 3.
    On September 22, Sutter hospital nurses also walked out, together with nurses employed by the Kaiser Permanente HMO and Oakland’s Children Hospital.
    On Thursday, in Long Beach, hundreds of nurses picketed the Long Beach Memorial Center.
    At a noon rally, dozens of police were present, in addition to a beefed up force of security officers. Helicopters flying overhead supported the police force. One nurse who spoke to the World Socialist Web Site denounced it as a “criminalization of nursing.”
    Tensions were high when, following the rally, the pickets attempted to enter the hospital and were pushed back by the private security force.
    Nurses estimated that the cost of extra security and strikebreaking nurses most likely exceeded the cost of agreeing to the nurses’ demands.
    The picketers carried signs that demanded rest breaks for nurses, adequate patient-to-nurse ratios, and the elevation of patients before profits.
    For the LBMC management, state-mandated nurse to patient ratios are being obeyed by forcing nurses to work 12-hour shifts, often through their lunch and rest breaks.
    The World Socialist Web Site spoke to Cecilia Gasparian and María Caro, both cardiac care nurses.
    “Our patient to nurse ratio in the Interventional Coronary Care Unit is 3:1, but we cannot refuse extra patients in an emergency,” Cecilia said. “That is ground for termination. We do file an objection, for our protection and for the protection of the patients. For management, money comes before patients; it is profits that count.”
    María pointed out that there is a surplus of nurses in California. However, the hospitals resist calling in or hiring extra nurses: “Nurses have been furloughed while other nurses are forced to work through their breaks,” said María. “Over the summer, nurses were furloughed for about 30 days. That is one reason why we feel so strongly about ratios.”
    Another major issue at LBMC is the lack of lifting teams to move heavy patients.
    “They have four people; they call it a team,” said María. “That is not enough for a hospital this size. Most of the time, it is up to us to lift and turn people, no matter what their size. Management thinks that this is safe. Safe for whom? All this lifting and turning takes a physical toll. A patient that is not turned can get bed sores, blood clots, even pneumonia.”
    “Management puts a price on the care of the patient,” María added. “In my 20 years of nursing, the profit motive has always been there. The difference is that today they are cutting to the bone.”
    Cutbacks have resulted in the speed-up of nursing and the discharge of patients who are not profitable the hospital.
    “I have attended meetings in which nurses are told to push patients out whose insurance coverage had run out,” Cecilia said. “For the hospital it is about profits. We became nurses to heal people, not for profits.”
    As an example María recounted the case of a patient with spina bifida, a serious condition of the spine, who at age twenty-one was transitioned from state benefits for children and teenagers and left with no insurance. At one point she developed a spinal infection that required expensive surgery to repair and could not afford the surgery.
    “This is all tied together, the one percent is benefiting. They can afford to get the most advanced therapies. They end up living better and longer than those without insurance and that cannot afford to pay.”
    “Even when patients get medical care, they often cannot afford the medication. Yet at every point someone is getting rich out of this.”
    Many of the nurses are now sole supporters of their families after the layoff of their spouses and other family members.
    Thursday’s protest is a reflection of that experience. “We are in an economic crisis,” said Cecilia, “We cannot tolerate the rich getting richer. We became nurses because we love the human race, not getting rich.”
    The California Nurses Association and the National Nurses United are keeping the struggle at the level of isolated one-day protests at a few hospitals. The aim of the unions is to let off steam while they negotiate concessions with the companies.
    The protest in New York and California take place in the context of a national assault on health care. Driving the attack on nurses and health care workers by hospitals and clinics across the nation is the Obama administration. As part of the health care reforms imposed by the Obama administration and the Democratic Party Congress, each of the nation’s 5700 hospitals are expected to reduce costs by an average of $2.6 million over the next ten years.
    In California, the attack on health care is now being led by the administration of Jerry Brown, also a Democrat. Both big business parties are united in their insistence that workers pay for the budget deficit and the economic crisis. The trade unions, including the nurses unions, support Brown and are determined to keep the struggle of workers from coming into conflict with the Democratic Party and the capitalist profit system they defend.

12/23/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. German consumers once considered a drag on the nation's economy [ha!] are emerging as a ray of light in the bleak euro-zone outlook, WSJ, A1 pointer to A15.
    [We to-o-old you so - all the nonsense hitherto published about German consumers "holding back"... The consumer base of any and every economy is going to be the only thing they can count on in the future, so better quit downsizing it via the employment basement!]
    German consumers stay resilient - Spending defies euro-zone downturn, but exports [%?] still dominate economy, by Christopher Lawton, WSJ, A15 target article.
    BERLIN, Germany—German consumers, once considered a drag on the country's export-driven economy, are emerging as a ray of light amid a bleak euro-zone outlook.
    The latest economic data and consumer surveys for Europe's biggest economy suggest that German consumer spending has been surprisingly resilient despite fears about the currency bloc's intensifying debt crisis.
    Economists caution that the bump in consumer spending represents only a slight shift in economic growth, and doesn't transform Germany into a consumer-driven economy like the U.S. ["70% consumer driven" - what is Germany's counterpart percentage?] Despite trending up in recent months, consumer spending is still projected to be down from year-earlier levels.
    [OK, where are the figures, Chris?]
    A deep recession in other parts of Europe could also undermine domestic demand in Germany if it hurts German exports so badly that the nation's labor market turns sour.
    Germans have long had a reputation for being thrifty, saving an average 11.3% of their income last year, one of the highest percentages in Europe, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
    As a result, German industry has focused on exports, to the chagrin of foreign governments, including the U.S., that want Germany to do more to boost demand in its own €2.5 trillion ($3.27 trillion) economy.
    Some economists now say a change in German consumer behavior may be under way.
    "This is a new situation for Germany," said Rolf Bürkl of market-research firm GfK Group, which compiles Germany's consumer-sentiment report. The monthly GfK survey showed consumer confidence went up in December, continuing a recent trend.
    When a downturn threatened Germany in the past, "willingness to buy went down and willingness to save went up. Now we have the opposite behavior," he said.
    In December, GfK said, that willingness to spend fell from November, though the firm noted that spending remains strong.
    Sifting through a rack of leather handbags in a Berlin Gucci fashion boutique, Melanie Weber, a 32-year-old doctor, said she isn't worried about the debt crisis.
    "I'm spending just as much money as I did last year," she said.
    Thanks in large part to a jump in consumer spending, Germany's gross domestic product rose 0.5% in the third quarter from the previous quarter, according to the German Federal Statistics Office, which releases its figures on a nonannualized basis.
    Household spending increased 0.8% from the second quarter. By comparison, household spending in the U.S. jumped 1.7%.
    The uptick in German spending comes at an important time. Until now, Germany's economy has largely shrugged off the debt crisis, but signs are increasing that next year will be more challenging for the world's fourth-largest economy.
    Around 40% of Germany's exports go to euro-zone countries, including some that are slashing public spending and raising taxes in far-reaching austerity programs. Earlier this month, the Bundesbank cut its growth forecast for next year to 0.6%, from 1.8% in June.
    "Especially in the months ahead, [consumer spending] could provide a safety net under the Germany economy, with exports already weakening and probably weakening further due to debt crisis," said Carsten Brzeski, economist at ING Bank.
    One reason is that [with worksharing or "Kurzarbeit"] Germans have not felt any loss of spending power.
    [And that's because German worksharing trimmed working hours a little for many instead of following the suicidal USA in slashing jobs completely (and the consumer spending that went with them!) for a few, and a few more, and a few more, and a few more, and...] 
    Compared with other countries, Germany's public finances are also largely in order, and the government recently decided to lower taxes slightly.
    Crucially, the euro-zone crisis hasn't hurt Germany's jobs market. Unemployment in Germany fell to 6.9%, a 20-year low, in November, and German business confidence about the economic outlook is improving, according to the closely watched Ifo index released this week.
    As unemployment continues to fall, consumers are also feeling more secure and expect their incomes to rise, GfK said this week.
    Germans are poised to spend 4.3% more on holiday shopping this year, according to a Deloitte survey of 1,700 Germans and around 16,000 other Europeans.
    In contrast, spending is expected to decline in heavily indebted countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. More than half of the Germans surveyed expressed confidence that the economy would remain stable or grow, and said the crisis in other euro-zone nations hadn't damped their shopping plans.
    Low interest rates, the perceived risk of inflation and fears that cash deposits could lose value are also encouraging Germans to spend on durable goods such as cars, as well as to invest in real estate.
    Daniel Saathoff, a 27-year-old mathematician, decided this month to spend the €30,000 he had saved over the past six years on a down payment for a 55-square-meter apartment in Berlin.
    Mr. Saathoff said he decided six months ago to start looking for an apartment, after he saw how low interest rates were and that real-estate prices in Germany were rising.
    He also wanted to safeguard against inflation, which he thinks will climb in the coming years. For now, he plans to stay in his existing home and rent the apartment to others.
    "I think it's a better investment to buy something. If you just put the €30,000 in the bank, you won't get [the same return] from the bank rate," he said.
    —Andrea Thomas contributed to this article.
    Write to Christopher Lawton at christopher.lawton@wsj.com

  2. Management Tip of the Day: Don't stay late. Go home, Reuters via ChicagoTribune.com
    BOSTON, Mass. - If you don't take conscious control of your own work hours, the work hours can easily take control of you, says Harvard Business Review.
    The Management Tip of the Day offers quick, practical management tips and ideas from Harvard Business Review and HBR.org (http:\\www.hbr.org). Any opinions expressed are not endorsed by Reuters.
    "Do you control your work hours or do they control you? More people are staying late at work and suffering because of it.
    Before you have dinner at your desk (again), do these three things:
    1. Know your priorities. When deciding whether to stay and finish a task or put it aside until the next day, remember what your priorities are. If the task furthers your professional and personal goals, then it may be worth putting in the extra time.
    2. Agree on expectations at home. Discuss your work hours with the people closest to you - your partner, spouse, or friends - to be sure your expectations are aligned.
    3. Talk about it at work. Make it clear that you are willing to stay late if there is a legitimate reason, such as a client deadline. But emphasize that this should be the exception, not the rule."
    - Today's management tip was adapted from "Should You Stay Late or Go Home?" by Ron Ashkenas

  3. Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours, BBC News via bbc.co.uk
    WOLFSBURG, Germany - Volkswagen has agreed to stop its Blackberry servers sending emails to some of its employees when they are off-shift.
    The carmaker confirmed it made the move earlier this year following complaints that staff's work and home lives were becoming blurred.

    The restriction covers employees in Germany working under trade union negotiated contracts.
    Campaigners [campaigners?? do they mean complainers?] warned that the move would not be suitable for all companies.
    A spokesman for VW said: "We confirm that this agreement between VW and the company's work council exists", but would not comment further.
    Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees' shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work.
    The staff can still use their devices to make calls and the rule does not apply to senior management.
    "We wanted to take a preventative approach to tackling the issue," said Gunnar Killian, VW's works council spokesman.
    "At Volkswagen flexitime is between 0730-1745, with our new arrangement workers can only receive emails between 0700 and 1815." Spare time
    The move follows criticism of internal emails by Thierry Breton, chief executive of the French information technology services giant, Atos. He said workers at his firm were wasting hours of their lives on internal messages both at home and at work. He has taken the more radical step of banning internal email altogether from 2014.
    Last month the maker of Persil washing powder, Henkel, also declared an email "amnesty" for its workers between Christmas and New Year saying messages should only be sent out as an emergency measure.
    Industry watchers say the moves reflect growing awareness of a problem.
    "It's bad for the individual worker's performance being online and available 24-7. You do need downtime, you do need periods in which you can actually reflect on something without needing instantaneously to give a reaction," said Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation.
    "Secondly it has a poor impact on an individual's well-being. I think that one has to patrol quite carefully the borderline between work and non-work.
    "So I can see why some firms are taking this action, the problem is that a universal response is impossible... but certainly we should have the capacity to be opted out of it rather than be opted in."
    Union officials in the UK have also cautioned other firms against repeating Volkswagen's move without consultation.
    "The issue of employees using Blackberrys, computers and other devices out of working time is a growing one that needs to be addressed as it can be a source of stress," Trades Union Congress (TUC) secretary general Brendan Barber told the BBC.
    "However other organisations will need different solutions and what works in VW may not work elsewhere.
    "By working in partnership with their union, Volkswagen's policy will have the support of all their employees. Where employers simply introduce policies on their own, however well-meaning they may be, they are unlikely to be successful."

12/22/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Prospect Hts. Employee Furloughs Reaching End [but layoffs not ending for three police-union members], by Tom Wessell, Journal & Topics Newspapers Online via journal-topics.com
    PROSPECT HEIGHTS, Illin. - Two years after work furloughs were forced on city workers due to shrinking revenues, non-paid days off for the last batch of Prospect Hts. employees are set to end.
    Aldermen approved a resolution on Dec. 12 that calls for the furloughs-in place since July 2009-to end Jan. 1, 2012, allowing six city department heads to return to work five days a week.
    Department heads include City Administrator Anne Marrin, Building & Zoning Director Steve Skiber, Police Chief Jamie Dunne, Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Brent Edwards, Deputy Clerk Rob Sabo and a front desk employee at city hall.
    [Hey, maybe Rob Sabo is related to Dick Sabo, who used to work for one of our timesizing companies, Lincoln Electric (Dick gave us the tour back around '93). If so, maybe it was Rob who gave the city the idea of cutting hours, not jobs = timesizing, not downsizing.]
    Marrin this week said the furlough stoppage is expected to remain in place "indefinitely, for now".
    "We're moving forward in a very positive direction," said Marrin. With the addition of a new part-time finance director, "we can certainly move the budget through the next year" without having to return to furloughs, Marrin added.
    Marrin said no other cuts to city services are expected to "balance things out" now that department heads are returning to work five days a week.
    At the start of the furloughs in 2009-as the city faced a large projected budget deficit-all 47 city employees were affected. At first, leave of absence time called for employees to cut their work time 24 hours per month over 10 months. Cuts continued into 2010 and 2011.
    The Prospect Hts. police union in late 2010 forced an end to furloughs for police officers, leading the city to lay off six full-time patrol officers as revenue continued to dwindle. Since then, three full-time officers have been rehired along with other part-timers
    [Alas, suicidal stupidity is not limited to The One Percent who apparently have never considered the possibility that their snowballing consolidation of the money supply could start to undermine itself. Here we see another nasty suicidal union whose solidarity stopped short of their six most junior members, to the continuing suffering of three, while all of the other furloughed employees continued working throughout, unionized or not.]

  2. Santa Ana Service Employees Unhappy With Budget Deal, by Adam Elmahrek, VoiceofOC.org
    SANTA ANA, Calif. - Members of the Santa Ana City Council this week hailed new labor deals with police officers and service employees unions as significant progress in climbing out of a projected $30-million budget hole going into next fiscal year.
    But not all sides are happy with the deal.
    Leaders of the city's service employees union are angry about the terms of their agreement, which they say unfairly targets their bargaining group. Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, they said, service employees have taken the brunt of the city's budget cuts while little has been asked of public safety employees.
    "We're upset, disappointed at the way the council came after us," said Joaquin Avalos, president of the Santa Ana chapter of the Service Employees International Union.
    Avalos said union leaqders signed the deal because they believe it will significantly reduce the chances of more layoffs. "We're hoping they're nice guys and they won't lay us off," Avalos said. "That's the only reason we signed."
    [Here's a slightly smarter union (SEIU). But instead of feeling targeted compared with Public Safety employees, they should exercise their gray cells and try to "get the concept" of public safety.]
    Under their new agreement, the city's service employees will be contributing 13 percent of their paychecks toward their pensions by 2013 and will be taking 17 additional furlough days. The combined givebacks mean a 15 percent pay cut for service employees in the first six months of 2013, according to union leaders.
    The deal struck between the city and service employees is supposed to save the city $7.4 million, according to figures provided by the union, though only $3 million will be savings to the general fund.
    Meanwhile, sworn members of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association's will be contributing 7.9 percent of their paychecks toward retirement by 2013, but the additional money is to come from scheduled salary raises.
    The disparity of the deals has left service employees scratching their heads.
    "We gave to police. It makes you really upset," said Angelo Giron, an executive officer on the union's board of directors.
    Leaning heavily on service employees for cuts has proven to be an ineffective approach, Giron and other service employees officials argue, because public safety expenditures dominate the budget picture. Public safety costs consume more than 75 percent of the general fund and have been rapidly ballooning since the 1990s, despite shrinking numbers of firefighters and police officers.
    City leaders only this year acknowledged a built-in budget deficit that won't be solved without substantial cutbacks to police and fire budgets. It is generally accepted that spiraling public safety costs along with reduced revenues from the recession and state takeaways pushed the city into dire financial straits.
    Critics of the service employees leadership point out that they received raises in 2008 and 2009. Yet the majority of the budget-cutting has been focused on service employees. In 2009, the city laid off dozens of service employees and introduced regular furloughs.
    By October 2010 service employees were contributing 8 percent of their paychecks toward their pensions, the rate recommended by the state's retirement system. Police and firefighters at the time were contributing between 1 and 3 percent.
    Giron said it didn't help matters when the City Council appointed Police Chief Paul Walters as the interim replacement for longtime City Manager Dave Ream.
    "If he [Walters] hammered the police department, his officers would lose confidence in him," Giron said.
    Walters maintains that he wasn't involved in the labor negotiations. "I don't sit at the table. It's the attorneys, and the attorneys take direction from the mayor and council.
    "It's not me. I don't tell them what to do," Walters said. "Anyone who says I favor the police department, they don't know what they're talking about."
    John Franks, president of the police union, said he would refrain from criticizing other unions' deals.
    "I could have done the same thing last year with the Fire Department. They got a sweetheart deal too. But I'm not making this police versus fire versus [service union]. That's just not my stance." Franks said.
    "I have members that aren't happy with what I proposed. I'm not going to police everybody. I'm the leader of this organization. I'm going to do what I need to do for my organization."
    Franks also argues that police officers can't make certain sacrifices, like department-wide furloughs, that service employees have made.
    The frustration of service employees has already had political consequences for Councilwoman Michele Martinez. The day after council members approved the new agreement with service employees, union leaders announced their endorsement of Julio Perez, who is running against Martinez and Orange County Clerk-Recorder Tom Daly for the 69th Assembly District seat.
    "After what they [council members] did to us, to turn around and award one of our council folks — I would look silly," Avalos said.
    City Council members Martinez, Vincent Sarmiento, Sal Tinajero, David Benavides, Carlos Bustamante, Claudia Alvarez and Mayor Miguel Pulido did not return calls for comment. Chris Roelle, president of the Santa Ana Firemen's Benevolent Association, also declined to comment.
    Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org...

  3. Set record straight on early Christmas break - Longer vacation! It's the teachers' fault!, letter to the editor by Allen Makepeace of Attleboro, Attleboro Sun Chronicle via thesunchronicle.com
    ATTLEBOROUGH, Mass. - It's 6:45 on Tuesday. So I'm standing in line at Dunkin Donuts for my daily coffee, when the women behind the counter (the ones who always know my order by heart) ask: "So I ask my kids why they're getting out so early for holiday break (they used another term, but I'm trying to be politically correct) and they said it was because of the teachers!"
    Of course, you should now know by two clues that I am a teacher in Attleboro. Clue one is the political correctness (after many years in education, a trait that is drummed into you from day one) and two, when any parent wants an answer on something that is going on in the schools, who do they ask? A teacher, of course.
    "Why are the kids getting out so early? You guys have it so easy! I want your job!" Seconds later, I hear two voices behind me in line chime in, "Yeah, why?"OK, I hadn't gotten up expecting a political debate, but here is the simple answer.
    At our last contract negotiations, the school committee made the Attleboro Education Association aware that for fiscal year 2011-2012 the school system would be short about $1.2 million. Among other concessions, like a delay in raises and other assorted items, the teachers were willing to be furloughed (mandatory time off with no pay) for two days. Because by state law students have to be in school for 180 days and the contract was for 183 days, it was agreed upon by both sides that the furlough days would be two of the professional days (days where the system helps instruct us in becoming better teachers). So that's it! Yes, it is our fault for the early break. And I won't lie, it couldn't have come at a better time.
    [So this is the smartest union of the three.]
    But instead of being annoyed at us, just say thank you. Thank you for being willing to take a pay cut of two days. But please, no gifts. At least none over $10 or we can get fired. Why, you ask. That's a whole other story.
    The writer is a teacher at Attleboro High School.

  4. Supervisory Communications Checklist for Furloughs of less than 30 days, Updated: December 15, 2011, DOD Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service (Dept. of Defense DCPAS) via cpms.osd.mil
    [...Herewith, some legalese for employers...]
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The purpose of this document is to serve as a communications checklist for management use in dealing with employees. The following procedures are suggested:
    • Obtain your contact list for all your employees.
    • Contact your employee and use the appropriate script detailed below.
    • Upon completion of any conversation, document the time and date the conversation occurred.
    • If the employee is not available, leave a voice mail message to receive a return call and read the script below into the voice mail message.
      • Accordingly, document this step when it occurs.
    • If the employee does not have voice mail or an answering machine, send the script to a home email address or contact their emergency POC
      • This should also be documented accordingly, however; continued attempts should be made to contact the employee directly [and documented accordingly].
    • Retain all documentation in your records. You will receive disposition of record instructions in the near future.
    • If an employee is furloughed, and you cannot personally serve the employee with the furlough notification letter, you must mail a copy of the notification letter to the employee's home address, using certified mail with a return receipt requested.
    COMMUNICATION SCRIPT 1 (Use this script if the employee has been previously notified that their employment status is "non-excepted" [we always thought it was "non-exempted" - from overtime] )
    Hello, this is __________________ . As we discussed on Friday [or whatever day], the possibility that [insert office/organization] would be required to go into a furlough due to the absence of an appropriation bill [ie: funding] has now occurred. I need to remind you that because we are unable to incur new financial obligations, you are being placed in non-pay, non-duty status, since your duties were not excepted from the furlough. You will remain away from your place of duty and perform no official work unless, and until, your are recalled once a continuation resolution or an appropriations bill is passed. As a result of the lapse of appropriations, [insert office/organization] is required to cancel any paid leave approved for use during this period. Regrettably, the customary 30 day advance period was not possible due to the suddent emergency requiring curtailment of agency activities.
    ["Guess what - no income for up to 30 days starting NOW!" So even the US Government treats employees like crap. This is why we prefer hourscuts for all rather than furloughs for a few - with hourscuts for all, you still get most of your pay.]
    You will receive additional written documentation regarding this furlough and your rights. You are encouraged to monitor local public media outlets, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site and the Department of Defense main web page for information about when you should report back to work.
    COMMUNICATION SCRIPT 2 (Use this script if the employee was not previously notified that their employment status is "non-excepted")
    Hello, this is __________________ . Unfortunately, I need to inform you due to the absence of an appropriations bill, [insert office/organization] is unable to incur further financial obligations and an orderly shutdown of the government is required. Because the duties you perform were not excepted from the furlough you are being placed in non-pay, non-duty status, since your duties were not excepted from the furlough. You will remain away from your place of duty and perform no official work unless, and until, your are recalled once a continuation resolution or an appropriations bill is passed. As a result of the lapse of appropriations, [insert office/organization] is required to cancel any paid leave approved for use during this period. Regrettably, the customary 30 day advance period was not possible due to the suddent emergency requiring curtailment of agency activities. You will receive additional written documentation regarding this furlough and your rights. You are encouraged to monitor local public media outlets, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site and the Department of Defense main web page for information about when you should report back to work.
    COMMUNICATION SCRIPT 3 (Use this script if the employee was previously notified that their employment status is "excepted")
    Hello, this is ______ . I am calling to confirm that you understand your position is excepted from the furlough that is taking place. You are expected to report to work and continue working your normal schedule. As a result of the lapse of appropriations, [insert office/organization] is required to cancel any paid leave that may have been previously approved for use during this period, as there is no authorizaton for paid leave (annual, sick, comp, etc) during this furlough period. In addition, although you are in an excepted status your pay will may [sic] be deferred until such time as a continuing resolution has been signed or the FY2011 appropriations have been passed. If you cannot report to work because of an emergency during this furlough period, you will be placed in a furlough status until such time as you can report to work, as determined by management.
    COMMUNICATION SCRIPT 4 (Use this script if the employee was not previously notified that their employment status is "excepted")
    Hello, this is ______ . I am calling to inform you that your position has been excepted from the furlough that is taking place. You are expected to report to work and continue working your normal schedule. As a result of the lapse of appropriations, [insert office/organization] is required to cancel any paid leave that may have been previously approved for use during this period, as there is no authorizaton for paid leave (annual, sick, comp, etc) during this furlough period. In addition, although you are in an excepted status your pay will may [sic] be deferred until such time as a continuing resolution has been signed or the FY2011 appropriations have been passed. If you cannot report to work because of an emergency during this furlough period, you will be placed in a furlough status until such time as you can report to work, as determined by management.
    COMMUNICATION SCRIPT 5 (Use this script to recall employees when the furlough ends)
    Hello, this is _________ . I am calling to notify you that the President has signed a Continuing Resolution (or a new appropriation). Therefore, the furlough has been lifted and you are to return to duty on your next scheduled work day

12/21/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Analysis: Germany faces recession risk as crisis hits confidence, by Sarah Marsh, Reuters.com
    BERLIN, Germany - After breezing through the euro zone debt crisis for the past two years, Germany's economy could fall into recession as anxious businesses hold off on investment and exports wither.
    Economists who once predicted a mere slowdown in growth for Europe's largest economy are now slashing their forecasts and predicting contraction, possibly for two consecutive quarters, depriving the region of its most powerful motor.
    In a sign the government is worried about the darkening economic outlook, Berlin last week resurrected its bank rescue fund and said it could reinstate "Kurzarbeit" subsidies that helped firms pare back working hours without firing staff.
    [Time for Deutschland to move on from bandaid Kurzarbeit (worksharing) to powerful, versatile, permanent Timesizing!]
    Both measures were first introduced at the height of the global financial crisis, when the German economy suffered its worst annual contraction since World War Two.
    "It's not a classical recession, here we are dealing with a large amount of uncertainty due to the euro zone crisis which will weigh on investment and trade," said Felix Huefner, an economist at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris, who follows Germany.
    "The fundamentals actually look better than in other countries, with little need for fiscal consolidation, solid household debt levels, unemployment at a 20-year low."
    Huefner said Germany had nonetheless entered a "mild recession," with the economy likely to contract in the fourth quarter, and stagnate in the first three months of 2012.
    Some are much more gloomy: the Duesseldorf-based IMK on Tuesday became the first major German economic institute to predict the economy would shrink over the full year, forecasting contraction of 0.1 percent.
    Firms look set to hold back on investment because they are uncertain they will be able to sell their wares with key export markets reducing spending and implementing austerity measures.
    This will deprive the economy of what was one of the main drivers of growth. Capital equipment spending contributed 0.2 percentage points to third quarter expansion.
    The ZEW index of German analyst and investor sentiment has declined nine times over the past ten months.
    "The key factor is the euro crisis which has been getting worse over the last month," said Christian Schulz of Berenberg Bank, which sees the economy contracting 0.1 percent in Q4 and 0.9 in the first quarter of 2012.
    "There was hope the EU summit might resolve it, but those hopes were disappointed," he said, referring to a meeting of European leaders on December 9th at which they agreed to move towards a form of "fiscal union" but failed to map out a clear path for shielding big economies like Spain and Italy.
    Recent data showed German exports falling in October at their sharpest rate in half a year. A breakdown of unadjusted month-on-month data showed exports to the crisis-hit euro zone dropping 8.5 percent, versus a 6.1 percent overall slide.
    Economists say emerging markets, where growth is strong but easing, are unlikely to lend enough support to compensate.
    The head of Germany's exporters' association (BDA), Anton Boerner, has likened the euro zone debt crisis to a "sword of Damocles" hanging over the real economy.
    The export-dependent manufacturing sector contracted for a third straight month in December on a steep fall in new orders, Markit's purchasing managers' index showed last week.
    Several German firms have already fallen victim to the tougher climate. Solar module maker Solon and the world's No.3 printing machine maker Manroland have both filed for insolvency.
    Not everyone is so downbeat, however. After reporting a slight rise in its business climate index this week, the Ifo think tank played down the prospects of a recession.
    "Europe will end up getting a mild recession while Germany will be able to disconnect from that somewhat. We don't see any signs of a recession for Germany at the moment," Ifo economist Klaus Abberger told Reuters.
    Private consumption, which grew at its strongest pace in more than a year in the third quarter on a robust labor market, offers a glimmer of hope for the economy.
    Unemployment fell more than expected in November and the jobless rate is at a 20-year low. Trade unions have been negotiating higher wages and consumer morale held steady into January on better income expectations and views of the economy.
    However, private consumption is taking off from a very low level in Germany where savings levels are traditionally high and consumers wary, and it will not be able to offset the decline in investments and exports.
    Economists also see downside risks for consumption because of the euro zone crisis. Metro, the world's No.4 retailer, issued a profit warning this month, saying the crisis was undermining sentiment and Christmas trade had started slowly.
    Employment trends lag changes in growth and cautious German unions may be more focused on job security than seeking large wage hikes amid so much economic uncertainty.
    Any small wage rises will be offset by inflation, which is stronger in Germany than the euro zone at large, market researchers GfK said, predicting consumers' purchasing power would stagnate next year in real terms.
    Thus, this downturn will expose again the imbalances in Germany's economy - its dependency on external demand and the weakness of its domestic sector.
    "Germany won't be able to rely on exports to drive growth and business investment will only hold up if there is a recovery in domestic demand," said Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform in London.
    "So everything hinges on getting domestic demand growing sustainably and there are some formidable obstacles to that."
    Tilford said Germany should for example hike wages and ease back on fiscal consolidation - unlikely given Berlin is Europe's fiscal hawk.
    "Germans' outlook is better than much of Europe but the idea Germany is on the cusp of a decade of rapid growth is fanciful," he said. "The outlook for German growth is pretty poor."
    (Editing by Mike Peacock)

  2. Plan to Save Plattsburgh Library Jobs - Up to Union, City Council to Sign off on Measure, WPTZ The Champlain Valley via wptz.com
    PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -- City Councilor Tim Carpenter's plan to save jobs and money at the Plattsburgh library met with unanimous approval from the library board Tuesday night.
    The library faces a $150,000 budget hole in 2012. It has been suggested that four library positions be cut to make up the balance.
    The city provides a major portion of the library funding, in accordance with the city's charter.
    Carpenter, who is the council liaison to the library, said his plan would avoid position cuts.
    First, he is calling for a four-year contract with the union with no raises for workers.
    He also wants to cut the work week for each of the library's 13 full-time employees to 35 hours a week. They currently work 37.5 hours.
    [Cutting workweek, not workforce and consumer base? = Timesizing, not downsizing!]
    The Carpenter plan would also require employees to contribute more towards health insurance.
    The union would have to sign off on these changes.
    In addition, pending government approval, the city would also provide $60,000 extra to keep the library afloat.

12/20/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. No layoffs for SBCSC aides, by Barbara Harrington barbara.harrington@wndu.com, WNDU-TV via wndu.com
    [SBCSC = South Bend City School Committee?]
    SOUTH BEND, Ind. - There was a rare round of applause for the South Bend School Board Monday night, as they rejected a proposal that would allow the superintendent to layoff kindergarten aides, explorer aides and custodians.
    The resolution was aimed at helping reduce the $10.5 million budget shortfall the corporation faces over the next two years.
    More than a dozen students and teachers spoke out during the meeting, begging the board not to cut from the classroom.
    "We don't have to worry about New Tech. We don't have to worry about Riley College," said aide Linda Lucy. "It is our youngest who will suffer. Our test scores that will have the State of Indiana [gov't education regulators] in here again after successfully getting two high schools off probation."
    Opponents of the measure argued aides not only help with instruction, but help students have an overall better experience at school because of the personal things they'll do for them -- for example buying lunch for students who forgot their money.
    The board voted 4-2 against the resolution, which means there is still a $4.1 million budget shortfall for the 2012 year, which starts Jan. 1.
    "We don't know where that's going to come from," said Superintendent Carole Schmidt. "It's painful no matter what we do. And it will continue to be painful.
    [Especially when you can't even mention taxing your One Percent who have more than they know what to do with and some of whom are asking to be taxed!]
    And I certainly recognize and I don't argue with what the people brought to the microphone tonight. And I honor the work that they're doing. So it's not that we discount that work. And it's not that we don't care about the children. We're trying to make reductions as far away from the teacher and the student as we can."
    One board member offered to give up some of the stipend she gets for coming to meetings to help with funding, but it's not much.
    The board will now have to start over and determine what other areas they can cut from. Several teachers and board members suggested they start at the top.
    "Dr. Calvin left in 2000," said board member Bill Sniadecki. "Since that point, this building and its staff and support staff have almost tripled. So I can't believe we can't make some cuts in this administration office."
    The board did approve a measure that will allow the superintendent to send out notices to administrators in the corporation detailing how many furlough days they'll have to take and how they will affect their pay. The board approved the furloughs at its previous meeting.
    [Well, those hours cuts avoided a few jobcuts/layoffs right there = timesizing not downsizing.]

  2. Towarnicki is named interim city manager, by Debbie Hall, MartinsvilleBulletin.com
    MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Martinsville City Council on Monday named Assistant City Manager Leon Towarnicki the interim city manager, effective immediately.
    The unanimous vote followed a closed meeting of city council.
    Council also approved the resignation of City Manager Clarence Monday, who announced last week that he intended to step down to pursue other professional opportunities, effective Jan. 15. Council concurred with that date.
    [Clarence Monday left on Monday? How confusing can we get?]
    That means there will be an overlap between Towarnicki’s appointment and Monday’s departure.
    “It was the concern of council to eliminate any ambiguity about who would be in charge moving forward,” Mayor Kim Adkins said shortly after the meeting.
    Council also approved paying Towarnicki an additional $1,000 a month for the increased duties of the interim post.
    Towarnicki, who is public works director as well as assistant city manager, currently is paid $94,998 annually, according to City Finance Director Linda Conover.
    Adkins said council will draft a request for proposals (RFP) to determine the costs of using a search firm to help find a permanent replacement for Monday. That decision will “really come down to how much it will cost,” Adkins said. “We are not going to rush” to fill the position. “We feel we have a great interim.”
    Monday said many factors went into his decision to leave his city post, including “the economic conditions and pressures we’re under as a city in general.”
    Monday was named city manager in October 2007 and is paid $118,320 annually. He said he has not had a pay raise since an “across-the-board pay increase for all employees on July 1, 2008.”
    He and other city employees essentially have had pay decreases from furloughs (days off without pay) that were imposed to save the city money in two budget years.
    “I was furloughed just like all the other employees,” Monday said.
    “We also have had increases in health care and health insurance” that were passed on to employees. Those costs increase each year, he added.
    Economic challenges in Martinsville have “prohibited the city from giving cost-of-living or merit pay increases. Many of our employees are paid substantially below the market rate for their position. Any time you cannot adequately compensate your employees,” morale is affected, Monday said.
    “My morale, or the amount of salary and benefits I receive from the city, are not the sole reasons” for his resignation, but they were factors in it, he said.
    Adkins acknowledged that morale is low among city employees.
    “I think everyone on council recognizes the low morale within City Hall. It has to do with the fact that employees have not been given a cost-of-living raise” in several years and have “assumed a larger portion of their insurance costs,” she said.
    Adkins said she was told about employee morale while attending a meeting with Vice Mayor Kimble Reynolds Jr. in which employee representatives “expressed some of their concerns,” such as city employees picking up additional duties without additional pay after some positions were cut.
    “They communicated it to us and we communicated back to council. It is understandable.” Adkins said of the concerns.
    She declined to speculate on whether city employees may fare better in fiscal 2013.
    “I want to keep the budget process integrity in place. The interim city manager will present” a proposed budget, “and during that process, he will seek our input,” Adkins said. “I don’t want to impede in that process. He will make a presentation, and then it’s up to council. We will go from there.
    “I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up one way or the other,” she added.

12/19/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Resentments reawaken - Britain's Mounting Distrust of Germany, by Marco Evers, Spiegel Online via spiegel.de
    In Britain, distrust of Europe goes hand-in-hand with distrust of Germany. Relations between the two countries have cooled following the furore caused by the latest EU summit, and British euroskeptics are once again resorting to old stereotypes.
    LONDON, great Great GREAT Britain - ("The British, the British, the British are best -
    I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest.") -
    British Prime Minister David Cameron had only been in office for seven weeks when he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to watch a football match together to get to know each other better.
    It was on June 27, 2010, and it was the World Cup quarter final in South Africa. It was also a match between two classic rivals: Germany and England. Thomas Müller scored a goal in the 67th minute, bringing the score to 3:1 -- to the consternation of British fans and the delight of the Germans.
    In Toronto, where the two leaders were attending the G-20 summit, a beaming Merkel leaned over to Cameron and said, with typical German anti-triumphalism but a lack of linguistic finesse: "I really am terribly sorry."
    When the Germans scored another goal three minutes later, Merkel said she was "sorry" again. As Cameron later said, half-jokingly, the shared experience was "a form of punishment I wouldn't wish on anyone." Nevertheless, he added, Mrs. Merkel "is one of the politest people I have ever met."
    After that, Merkel and Cameron made a concerted effort to get along with each other. A little more than a year ago, Cameron reached into his bag of tricks once again. He invited the chancellor to Chequers, the magnificent country residence of Britain's prime ministers, where he and Merkel watched her favorite crime series, "Midsomer Murders," which led to another, urgently needed upturn in German-British relations. Merkel had, in fact, never really forgiven Cameron for having led his Conservatives out of the European People's Party, a conservative group in the European Parliament.
    For a while, the charming Cameron was far up on Merkel's list of favorite European colleagues -- until, with his lone veto against EU-wide treaties to resolve the debt crisis, he catapulted himself back to the bottom.
    The English Channel has suddenly become wider, deeper and foggier once again. The London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper has warned its readers against what it calls Berlin's blatant effort to dominate Europe and already sees "a new era of Anglo-German antagonism" on the horizon -- again characterized by two leaders who are bound together in their sincere dislike for each other, like past leaders of the two countries: Helmut Kohl and Margaret Thatcher, or Gerhard Schröder and Tony Blair. Reverend Peter Mullen, the Anglican chaplain to the London Stock Exchange, where he is not popular for his crude views, goes even further. According to Mullen, Germans tried to achieve hegemony in Europe by military force in 1870, 1914 and 1939, and now Merkel is trying to do the same with the weapons of the financial system.
    'Welcome to the Fourth Reich'
    Distrust of the European Union goes hand-in-hand with distrust of Germany, especially among "euroskeptics," the current euphemism for the many haters of the EU in Britain. The headline "Welcome to the Fourth Reich" in the high-circulation Daily Mail summarized the German-French plans to rescue the monetary union. In another story, the paper wrote: "What we are witnessing is the economic colonisation of Europe by stealth by the Germans."
    Of course, many Britons -- and even some Englishmen, among whom the resentment is the most widespread -- know that such talk is nonsense. But surprisingly many do not. Whenever someone on in Britain utters the word "Germany," it doesn't take long, a matter of milliseconds, in fact -- even in many well-informed circles in politics, journalism or the world of comedy -- before someone says: "Hitler."
    It's been this way for decades. Nazis are practically an obsession in Britain, and associating Germans with them is such a strong reflex that it stifles almost all interest in the real Germany of today. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, a British education authority, found that the teaching of history suffers from excessive "Hitlerization." For British schoolchildren, Germany came into the world as a freak in 1933 and, thanks to then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, died a well-deserved death in 1945.
    The anti-German rhetoric was particularly strong after German reunification, which then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, nicknamed "the Iron Lady," sought to prevent. Even the levelheaded Economist warned against what it believed to be the threat of a German nuclear bomb. In 1990, Thatcher invited leading British historians to a conference at Chequers to analyze the dangerous German national character. According to the minutes of the meeting, some of the supposed German character traits discussed there included "aggressiveness, egotism, an inferiority complex and sentimentality."
    2006 World Cup Brought Respite
    Some things have changed for the better recently. The football World Cup in Germany had more of an impact on the British view of Germany than 60 years of postwar history. In the summer of 2006, about 100,000 Britons traveled to a country that was largely unknown to them, but no matter where they looked, they could see no goose-stepping policemen in leather coats or German supermen. Instead, they encountered fantastic weather, peaceful fan zones and hedonistic partying Germans who bore no similarity to the "Krauts" described in the British media.
    Even the notorious English tabloid press managed to adopt a more conciliatory tone. In the past, the British tabloids would announce German-English matches with headlines like "Achtung! Surrender" (Daily Mirror) or "Let's Blitz Fritz" (Sun). But with the German-hosted 2006 World Cup even the Sun dropped its virulently anti-German tone when it wrote: "England fans love the Germans."
    Last year, the journalist Peter Watson came out with a much-noticed work of almost 1,000 pages with the title, provocative in the UK, "The German Genius." Watson was tired of the fact that the view of Germans among his fellow Englishmen began with Hitler and ended, at best, with Göring, Himmler and Rommel, the "Desert Fox." In his tome, Watson also writes about Kant, Goethe, Mozart [oops, Mozart was Austrian, but then, so was Hitler], Wagner, Nietzsche, Freud, Einstein and Planck, and a wonderful German quality called "Bildung," "education."
    [Compare French "formation," "training."]
    In London, exhibitions by German painters like Sigmar Polke or Gerhard Richter (currently at the Tate Modern) attract tens of thousands of viewers. German-style Christmas markets, complete with "Gluewine" (an Anglicized spelling of the German word Glühwein, or mulled wine) and bratwurst, are popping up everywhere. German kitchens, washing machines and, of course, cars are popular, as are the Lidl and Aldi discount supermarket chains. The German economy as a whole, and achievements as the short-time working system known as Kurzarbeit and the dual education system, are widely admired.
    Indifference Bordering on Hostility
    For the British, the fact that the Germans, with their renowned engineering prowess, still produce goods and sell them around the world is a wistful reminder of their own days as major exporters during the Victorian age. While today's financial industry may be profitable for the British nation, unlike the now-faltering British industrial sector, it is not suited to generating a sense of national identification [American: "identity"] or even pride.
    The Indians bought Jaguar a few years ago, Rolls-Royce is now part of BMW, Volkswagen owns Bentley, and once-proud brands like Triumph, Austin and Vickers no longer exist. Even the colorful candies known as "Smarties" haven't been produced in York, where they were invented, for the last five years. All European production has now been moved to Germany.
    But outside the big cities, especially in conservative areas, there is a growing mood of indifference, if not hostility, toward Germany, as evidenced by the example of Bishop's Stortford, an affluent bedroom community of 35,000 people near London Stansted Airport.
    At the end of November, John Wyllie, the Conservative mayor, wrote letters to officials in his town's twin cities, the German town of Friedberg, near Frankfurt, and the French town of Villiers-sur-Marne, near Paris. Without giving any reasons, he terminated the partnership effective Sept. 28, 2012, putting an abrupt end to an unclouded relationship of more than 46 years.
    Officials in the German and French twin towns are dumbfounded at the decision taken by their British twin town, whose council has been dominated by Conservatives since a local election in May.
    'Some Kind of Monster'
    Tories, says Mike Wood, the only local council member from the Europe-friendly Liberal Democrats, are "usually normal people. But whenever you mention Europe they turn into some kind of monster."
    So a new ice age has set in for the time being. Many Britons have noticed that "suddenly German is being spoken in Europe," following the undiplomatic words of Volker Kauder, the parliamentary floor leader of Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). They've also noticed that there are Germans who already anticipate " Britain's departure from the EU," as SPD parliamentary leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. And Merkel's statement that "no country, no financial center and no financial product can be unsupervised from now on" was certainly understood in London just the way it was meant.
    Even before the Brussels summit, politicians in Berlin knew that there would be no compromise with the Tory government in London. When Cameron visited Berlin in mid-November, he told his German counterpart that as much firepower as possible had to be used to combat the euro crisis.
    To which the chancellor responded coolly: "One shouldn't pretend to have power that one doesn't actually have."
    Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

  2. Greens call for 32-hour week, The Connexion via connexionfrance.com
    PARIS, France - Green party Europe Ecologie-Les Verts is proposing a 32-hour working week.
    The party has adopted the idea as part of its manifesto for the 2012 presidential elections.
    It made the decision at a conference at the weekend,
    when it also confirmed its nominations for the parliamentary elections next June.
    Nominated for the Amboise constituency in the Indre-et-Loire, Christophe Rossignol said the aim was to reduce the numbers of unemployed, which he said were, at four million, a million more than a year ago.
    “Our role is therefore to propose solutions. Afterwards there will be negotiations with our partners,” he said.
    Nominated for Paris’s 10th constituency, colleague Denis Baupin said: “Reducing working time is written in history. We’re not saying it’s simple, but neither is four million unemployed.”
    The party’s national secretary, Jacques Archimbaud, said the debate on the 32-hour week was part of a vision for a new kind of society. “We want to encourage firms to propose sabbaticals or new ways of sharing out work,” he said.
    As part of their plan for 2012 the ecologists also claim they would create 600,000 new jobs linked to the “green economy”.

    A Socialist MP for Paris, Jean-Marie Le Guen has said the greens are “in complete denial of reality”.
    “They have got into the habit, more than ever in recent months, of imagining an ideal world. Between the ideal and reality there is a gap that they do not try to bridge.”

  3. Phuket air traffic staff to reduce working hours, ThePhuketNews.com
    PHUKET, Thailand [this is not a joke; it's probably pronounced POOk-8] -
    Phuket Air Traffic Control are to reduce staff working hours from 12 hours to eight hours a day, following a recent visit by the Deputy Minister of Transport, Kittisak Hatthasongkroh.
    Somporn Petprasit, Director of Phuket Air Traffic Control said, “We are now making plans to change the hours of our staff.”
    A new schedule will be created to ensure the new plan works effectively.
    Mr Kittisak said he worried about the staff working such long hours and becoming very tired, and thought it would be better for them to work a regular work day.
    Previously, the air traffic controllers did not work 12 hours straight. They worked for two hours and then rested for an hour, though they were available to help out if the situation demands it.

    The meeting and inspection with the Ministry of Transport took place on December 16 and discussed future projects, new ideas and current improvement works at the airport. Mr Kittisak also proposed the idea to extend the runway by 500 metres into the sea, which will require an environmental impact feasibility study.
    The Deputy Director of Phuket International Airport, Suthep Sansiripan, discussed improvements to the taxi way to make it parallel for a more convenient plane take off, and long term solutions to fixing the holes in the runway, which have been temporarily fixed.
    The major development plans to support 12.5 million passengers by 2018, which include a new international terminal, car park building and renovation of the old international terminal to be domestic, are estimated to commence in 2012 following final cabinet budget approval.

12/18/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. In lean times, Santa ponders downsizing the team to five reindeer, by Eileen Smith, Cherry Hill Courier Post via 12/18 courierpostonline.com
    NORTH POLE iceberg in Arctic Ocean, 478 miles north of Cape Columbia, Ellesmere Is., Canada & 443 mi. north of Kaffeklubben Is., Greenland, Denmark (gotta get out there with some landfill, Canada!) -
    Twas the night before Christmas and Santa gathered his reindeer for an announcement.
    “Business is terrible,” he said. “Because the economy is bad we don’t have as many toys to deliver. With home foreclosures, there are fewer chimneys to go down, less milk and cookies to collect.”
    Santa took a deep breath. The twinkle had gone out of his eyes.
    “The bottom line is we can only keep five reindeer,” he said. “I have to let three of you go.”
    Vixen stamped her pretty little hoof.
    “How are five reindeer supposed to pull a sleigh built for eight?” she asked. “We’re flesh and blood, not mythological creatures.”
    “You will have to work smarter,” Santa replied. “You will have to do more with less.”
    Blitzen snorted and twitched his tail.
    “All eight of us have been making sacrifices for several years,” he said. “We haven’t gotten any extra in our feedbags since 2008, yet we’ve remained loyal employees of North Pole Inc.”
    Comet and Cupid nodded in agreement as Donder sharpened his antlers on the door jamb.
    Santa started to get hot under the collar. He already had furloughed the elves.
    [We assume these furloughs were temporary, so this was cutting hours to avoid cutting jobs = timesizing, not downsizing.]
    Mrs. Claus’s pension was frozen in an igloo.
    “I’ve had to tighten my belt, too,” he said. “A little kid at Cherry Hill Mall accused me of being a Santa impersonator because I’m too skinny.”
    A tear rolled down Dasher’s cheek. He had the least seniority on the team.
    “Would that we had the multimillion-dollar bonus you paid out to Rudolph before he jumped to Disney Land,” he said.
    “He had an ironclad contract,” Santa replied. “Rudolph had us over a barrel on that foggy Christmas Eve.”
    Then Dancer broke his silence. He and Prancer were the oldest and wisest reindeer.
    “Santa, we have been with you since Dickens was in knickers and I fear you are being shortsighted,” he said. “We have been through hard times before and have always come through together.”
    Prancer gave a bark of approval and did a merry dance.
    “That’s the spirit!” he said. “If you put three highly skilled reindeer out to pasture now, who will pull your sleigh when the economy turns around?”
    Santa stroked his beard. For a moment, he wished he hadn’t given up his pipe.
    He thought about customer service, the children who might not get their toys with so few reindeer to do the job. He contemplated the company image. Did Santa want to be known as a Grinch?
    Suddenly, Santa tossed his cap in the air and gave a great belly laugh.
    “You are jolly well right, dearest of deer!” he exclaimed. “Better to have us all in harness, pulling as a team!”
    Santa and the reindeer sprang to the sleigh. Together, they shouted: “MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!”
    Eileen Smith offers commonsense insights on personal finance and career enrichment in her Sunday column. Reach her at (856) 486-2444 or eismith@camden.gannett.com

  2. CM Russell Museum Awarded $19K, 12/18 KFBB NewsChannel 5 via kfbb.com
    GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Eight events in six Montana communities have been selected to receive grants from the state's Office of Tourism -- and one of those events is at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls.
    News of this a $19,000 grant is reassuring since C.M. Russell had to cut hours and employee shifts just to balance their budget earlier this winter. But they plan to use the new money to increase the museum's visibility and hopefully, its sales.
    One of the museum's biggest money-makers is the Russell Sale in March, which they intend to market nationwide using the grant.
    Montana's Office of Tourism specifically created the program to promote events outside a 100-mile radius.
    The museum's Chief Operations Officer Susan Johnson says they plan on buying ad space in niche art magazines and online sites to encourage people from all over to attend the Russell sale.
    "The whole idea behind their grant application is bringing people into Montana, so we did a thorough research of vehicles we can use to bring people outside of Great Falls into Montana during March for our sale," Johnson said.
    Out of the eight events selected for grant money, Helena [City] won two for the Last Chance Stampede and Fair and Montana Wild West Fest.
    Although the grant money will not immediately reverse the museum's recent cutbacks they are hopeful that by attracting more patrons in 2012, they are investing in the museum's [future].

12/17/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Auburn Hills solar firm holds back interest payment, by Melissa Burden mburden@detnews.com (313) 222-2319, The Detroit News via detnews.com
    AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Energy Conversion Devices Inc., the solar products manufacturer based in Auburn Hills, on Thursday delayed an interest payment on its debt as it continues discussions with holders of notes that are due in 2013.
    The company has a 30-day grace period to make the payment. Energy Conversion Devices said in a news release that it is not experiencing liquidity issues, but it believes restructuring its solar business will require more investment and restructuring of its outstanding notes.
    "We are working cooperatively with the informal note holders group and continue to have meaningful and productive discussions regarding ECD's capital structure and future growth needs," ECD Chief Restructuring Officer Jay Knoll said in a statement. "We are continuing to pursue a repositioning of our solar business for future success."
    The company has $263 million outstanding debt due in June 2013.
    Last month, a solar analyst for Ardour Capital Investments said the company has enough cash to last until mid-2013.
    In November, Energy Conversion Devices said it halted production because it had too much inventory.
    It furloughed 400 manufacturing workers at its United Solar Ovonic plants.
    [- thus postponing layoffs, but...]
    The company also plans to lay off another 500 workers by the end of this month, adding to 300 employees laid off in May.
    ECD hasn't made a profit since early 2009.

  2. A Tough Week For Unions Reflects The Bad Economy, by Mara Lee maralee@courant.com, The Hartford Courant via courant.com
    HARTFORD, Conn. - It was a hard week for unions. Thousands of service workers in areas as different as a nursing home, a call center and janitorial staffers in office buildings either learned they were losing their jobs or faced the rock-and-a-hard-place choice of accepting concessions or the potential of going without a paycheck for months.
    The janitors, members of SEIU Local 32BJ, took the initiative, giving authority to their bargaining representatives to declare a strike if the upcoming contract with cleaning firms doesn't come to an acceptable compromise on wages and benefits. That kind of strike vote is typical when the two sides are far apart.
    But at AT&T, where the company announced 100 job cuts, and HealthBridge Management which locked out 100 nursing home workers in Milford, workers are reacting to the corporations' cost-cutting moves.
    And in the industrial sector, workers at Colt's Manufacturing Co. gathered for a grim meeting after the historic gunmaker warned the United Auto Workers union to expect layoffs at the West Hartford plant early in 2012 — following Colt's announcement Dec. 1 that it would build a plant in Kissimmee, Fla.
    Together, this unusual cluster of management-labor strife points to the intense pressure that a slow economy brings to organized workers.
    The showdown between HealthBridge and the Service Employees International Union was the most dramatic development. On Tuesday, workers who arrived for the 7 a.m. shift at West River Health Care Center in Milford were turned away, as the company said it refused to let them work to "encourage" them to accept the company's latest contract offer.
    The company used the word "encourage," but to the nursing aides who have been with the company for years, it's a little stronger. 
    "They're trying to force us to do that," said Wendy Russell, a certified nursing assistant at West River for the last four years. She works 32 hours a week at the home, and her 22-year-old daughter is also a nursing aide there.
    [Shorter hours are happening anyway - but not the best way.]
    The lockout followed ten months without a contract between HealthBridge, a New Jersey company that runs six unionized Connecticut nursing homes, and the 800 members of SEIU District 1199 who work at the homes. Workers at the other five homes, including the Newington Health Care Center and Wethersfield Health Care Center, remain at work, though the company is threatening to lock them out as well.
    Jonathan Cutler, a Wesleyan sociology professor who studies labor, said the union was stalling through this year because it was not willing to accept a contract with so many concessions, from ending the pension to losing vacation and holidays to health insurance premiums of $7,000 a year for a family plan.
    By instituting a lockout, Cutler said, "The employer is saying 'You're not understanding how aggressive we're willing to be.'"
    Michelle Barricko has worked at West River for 19 years, including several years before SEIU District 1199 organized CNAs, housekeeping and culinary staff. Back then, they had to pay $35 a week for insurance, and she wouldn't mind contributing at that level, but not close to $600 a month, as the company is demanding.
    It's not clear if she would even be allowed to have health insurance under the new contract, because she works 32 hours a week, the minimum for family coverage, and the company's offer would classify her 8-hour shifts as 7.5-hour shifts.
    As cars honked in support of the roughly 25 workers clustered on the sidewalk in front of the home Friday afternoon, Barricko said she was shocked by the lockout. "I didn't really think they would be that cruel to lock us out before Christmas," she said.
    Cutler said while the tactic could create a big payoff for the company if the union members at the other five homes were scared enough to accept major concessions, there's a risk, as well.
    "There's a good case to be made that they're trying to break the union," he said, by starting a lockout when their offer is so much less generous than the current contract.
    SEIU has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the lockout is part of the company's strategy of refusing to bargain in good faith, and is against the law. The company has filed a complaint with the federal agency saying picketing in Milford is illegal, and should be stopped.
    "It's hard to break a union without looking like you're breaking the union. The labor law tends to look down on attempts to bust the union," Cutler said.
    HealthBridge says it is not trying to break the union, but that it's unfair for the company to have to "pay for benefit programs that are out of touch with today's healthcare economy."
    But if the NLRB and federal judges were to agree with the union's charges, the company could be liable for back pay for the union workers, as well as all the costs it's now paying for replacement workers and security guards.
    At AT&T, 100 of 301 operators who either take calls from cell phone users or do contract work for Yale-New Haven Hospital will be terminated. If enough of the workers — mostly women — ask for the union-negotiated severance package, there will be no layoffs, but either way, a third of the staff will be gone in January.
    There's no evidence that the impending layoff is an intimidation tactic against the Communications Workers of America. In fact, the volume of calls to operators has dropped by half in the last three years. But CWA officers said at least one other company, T-Mobile, is using the AT&T job cuts to its advantage in opposing a union drive.
    CWA last summer signed up 16 technicians at T-Mobile, the first T-Mobile employees in the United States, even after the company tried to convince them to vote no. Bill Henderson, president of CWA Local 1298, said the pressure was so intense that men were going outside and throwing up.
    Union Vice President Rich Benham said T-Mobile is using this week's layoff as an argument for other technicians who will be voting on unionizing in New York. "Even a union can't save their jobs," Benham said the company was telling the technicians.
    "You have to realize the forces in play here, and they're all stacked against the worker," said Henderson, whose local represents 3,200 AT&T workers in Connecticut. "Big business feels emboldened by this bad economy."
    "AT&T is proud of its longstanding cooperative relationship with our unions," company spokesman Marty Richter said. He said the company provides "high-quality middle class jobs with highly competitive wages and benefits that are among the best in America and significantly greater than those of our competitors."
    During negotiations this summer, AT&T tried to convince the union to accept a tiered wage system, so the current operators could keep their nearly $19 an hour wages, but new hires would come in at $8.25 and after five years, could only reach $10 an hour.
    Henderson said the company negotiators urged them to go on strike if they didn't like it, because if they did, "you'll have a line of people all the way to Hartford" willing to replace them.
    "At no time did we encourage the union to go on strike," Richter said. "Our objective in the negotiations was, as always, to reach a fair agreement that would allow us to continue to provide good union jobs with good wages and benefits, while enabling AT&T to compete in an extremely competitive industry."
    Cutler said this sort of labor-management tension is typical at this stage in a jobless recovery. He said when the economy is free-falling, businesses are too busy trying to manage the crisis to act. But when profits begin to return as hiring lags and unemployment remains high, they feel they have the upper hand.
    "These kind of struggles in this moment," Cutler said, raise a question: "whether we're going to grow together here, or whether the growth is going to be all at the expense of labor."
    Cutler said the surprising popularity of the Occupy Wall Street protests shows that messages about unfairness in the economy are resonating beyond a small group of union activists or people on the political left.
    If a wide group of people decide employers are being overly aggressive in trying to take advantage of workers, it could not only create a backlash against individual companies, but also depress consumer spending, further prolonging the sluggish recovery, he said.
    It wasn't just people driving by who were siding with the locked out workers in Milford. A resident in a wheelchair came out the front door and yelled to the workers and blew them kisses. "We miss you, too, Minnie!" workers cried.
    Cutler said manufacturing unions like the UAW at Colt's have not had effective responses to capital fleeing unionized states, and that's been happening for decades. What's noteworthy, he said, was the pressure on service workers, where all the growth in union membership has been.
    "The level of anti-union activity is a measure of the achievements of recent years," he said.

12/16/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Millionaires rarer across Central Ohio after recession, by Adrian Burns, Columbus Business First via bizjournals.com (subscription)
    Upper Arlington jeweler Robert Argo says sales were rough in the recession, when he cut hours in response to reduced demand, but that customers are returning in droves. (photo caption)
    [And he's ready for ém, cuz he avoid layoffs by cutting hours, not jobs = timesizing not downsizing, and kept all his employees and skill set intact.]
    UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio - The ravages of the Great Recession didn’t spare Central Ohio millionaires.
    [Our hearts bleed fer shoor.]
    While much focus has fallen on the effects of the recession on middle- and low-income earners, state data show the affluent were also slammed by the magnitude of the downturn. The latest numbers from the state Department of Taxation show Central Ohio’s roster of million-dollar-a-year earners had grown to 1,438 by 2007, but their numbers plummeted to 786 in 2009.
    To be sure, some continued to bring in seven-figure salaries throughout the downturn. But other big earners saw their incomes sink significantly....

  2. UK staff 'working fewer hours', Posted by Richard Esquilant, Sales Director jobs via thesalesdirector.com
    LONDON, England, U.K. - The nation's employees are currently working shorter hours than at any time in the past 20 years, according to a new report by the Office for National Statistics.
    Data published by the government analyst shows that the average working week for staff in sales jobs and other roles is now 36.3 hours, compared with 38.1 hours in 1992, which represents a fall of almost five per cent.
    However, when only full-time staff are taken into account, the average working week is 42.7 hours, which is the third longest in Europe behind only Austria and Greece.
    The data also showed that a rise in part-time working has contributed to the drop in hours worked, with 27 per cent of all employment in the country now part time, compared with 24 per cent in 1992.
    It comes after a recent poll of over 2,700 business people across the UK by Regus found that more than a third work for between nine and 11 hours on a daily basis, while one in ten work more than 11 hours a day.
    For Sales Managers Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment provide all of the latest news in the UK sales industry to help you keep your team in touch with changing trends and developments. For sales manager jobs and unique sales recruitment services, backed by a 52 week rebate scheme, visit www.aaronwallis.co.uk.

  3. U.S. Steel's Slovak Unit Cuts Working Hours on Demand, Sme* Says, by Radoslav Tomek, Bloomberg.com
    [*SME or Denník SME ("(we) ARE daily") is the "most widely read and very influential mainstream daily in Slovakia."]
    [Here's Bloomberg's version of yesterday's US Steel newsquib from AMM (12/15/2011 #3 below).]
    KOSICE, Slovakia - The Slovak unit of United States Steel Corp. will cut working hours from January as the euro-region’s economic slowdown hurts orders, SME reported, citing Jan Baca, spokesman for the Slovak plant.
    Workers will stay at home every Friday, receiving 60 percent of salary, the newspaper said. U.S. Steel’s plant in Kosice, eastern Slovakia, has about 13,000 employees and its output accounts for 0.5 percent of the east European country’s gross domestic product, SMEWS said.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Radoslav Tomek in Bratislava at rtomek@bloomberg.net
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

12/15/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Moriarty-backed bill to aid those whose work hours are cut clears Senate, by John Barna, Gloucester County Times via NJ.com
    TRENTON, N.J. – Legislation designed to encourage employers who must reduce their employees’ work hours because of economic conditions to avoid layoffs by sharing the remaining work was approved 36-1 Thursday by the Senate, giving it final legislative approval.
    The bill — sponsored by Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Washington Township — would permit under certain circumstances, a full-time employee to receive unemployment benefits when the employee’s weekly work time is reduced by at least 10 percent. The bill also permits the employee to attend an approved training program while receiving those benefits.
    “This a creative and unique approach to helping New Jerseyans stay on the job,” said Moriarty.
    The bill provides that an employer of at least 10 full-time non-seasonal employees may provide a shared work program if approved by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
    The benefits would be limited to 26 weeks during a benefit year, but the weeks may be nonconsecutive.
    The bill now goes to the governor.

  2. Senate Republicans Continue Selective Rejection of Snyder Agenda, (12/14 late pickup) InsuranceNewsNet.com (press release)
    LANSING, Mich. - Senate Democrats gave their Republican counterparts yet another opportunity to support Governor Snyder's work-sharing proposal today, and the Senate majority again failed to support their own Governor's plan that would keep people on the job. As the Senate worked into the evening to finalize Senate Bill 806 that would make detrimental alterations to the state's Unemployment Insurance system, Senator Vincent Gregory (D-Southfield) offered an amendment that would implement the Governor's work-sharing program for qualifying employers in Michigan that he touted in a special message earlier this month. Gregory offered a similar amendment when SB 806 was first voted out on December 1st, and both times they were defeated by the Republican majority.
    "We seem to have a situation where the Senate Republicans are wagging the dog, refusing to support the Governor's economic policies while he blindly follows them in supporting divisive, radical social issues," said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing). "Governor Snyder has been quick to support some of the Senate Democrats' practical economic proposals including this work sharing proposal, and it's too bad the Senate Republicans can't reach some rational high ground to help Michigan workers."
    Senator Gregory introduced Senate Bill 697 in September to create a work-sharing program for qualifying employers in Michigan that would allow for the payment of unemployment benefits to individuals whose wages and hours have been reduced. This would allow part-time employees to collect unemployment benefits and companies to retain multiple employees rather than letting them go as a temporary and practical alternative to layoffs. Gregory's amendment to Senate Bill 806 offered today mirrored the language of SB 697.
    "Well, at least they're consistent: From the first day of the 2011 Senate session to the last, Senate Republicans have remained steadfast in their opposition to helping Michigan workers," said Senator Gregory. "This work-sharing proposal is sound, reasonable policy that helps workers and employers alike, and it's unfortunate that we couldn't reach a compromise on this and head into the holidays with some peace and goodwill towards men."
    Governor Rick Snyder issued a special message on talent development to the Michigan Legislature on December 1st. One of the platforms the Governor cited in his message for restoring Michigan's economy was work-sharing, which keeps workers on the job in conjunction with receiving unemployment benefits when their wages or hours are reduced. Despite the Governor's call for action, the Senate Republicans opposed today's move to put his plan into action.

  3. US Steel aims to cut work hours at Slovakia ops in January, (12/16 early pickup) Metalbulletin.com (subscription)
    KOSICE, Slovakia - Workers at U.S. Steel Corp.’s facilities in Kosice, Slovakia, might work only four days a week beginning in January, according to the company.
    "The new regime will enable the company to be flexible enough to meet the needs of our customers," the U.S. Steel spokesman said.
    U.S. Steel Kosice is the Slovakian subsidiary of the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker. A spokeswoman in Pittsburgh declined to comment on the arrangement and referred AMM [American Metal Market bulletin] to U.S. Steel Kosice directly.
    The Kosice spokesman declined to comment...

12/14/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Work Sharing: A Proposed Option to Layoffs, by Leigh DeNoon, PublicNewsService.org
    INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Instead of laying people off when production slows, Indiana businesses would have a new option if a bipartisan "work sharing" bill becomes law.
    [If the 23rd (N.J.) comes through this month and the 24th (Mich.) early in the new year, then Indiana will be the 25th state to have a worksharing program and bring us up to 50% of the states. And then we can watch for Illinois... This is America's one and only program fundamental enough to unfold into centrifuging the money supply and restoring and growing the consumer base. Protesters, if you want to be effective, forget about the "shrinking middle class" and switch to the "weakening consumer base," hence lower consumer spending and unsustainable markets. Same progression of effectiveness applies to movement from unactionable "income gap" to actionable "1% vs. 99%" to weakening consumer base, spending and markets. Translate into the self-interest of the one percent. Show them their current policies are "suicide, everyone else first, but still suicide."]
    Companies could opt to keep employees working but trim their hours, says state Rep. Mary Ann Sullivan, D-Indianapolis, the bill's author. Workers would keep their benefits, and state unemployment dollars would be used to make up some of the employees' lost income.
    "The companies that are going to make this determination are going to be companies that do have a skilled workforce - that they know that they incur substantial cost in rehiring and retraining people once they are through a period of down activity."
    Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, is a co-author of the bill.
    Under the bill, Sullivan says, companies keep operating and employees keep their jobs, benefits and nearly all their income.
    "The employer opts into the program. The workers - if they're covered by an agreement - opt into it. There's information requirements if you're not covered by an agreement - just that you are going into an employer that is doing 'work shares.' "
    The Department of Workforce Development would have to pre-approve "work sharing" plans by companies, Sullivan says. She has heard from many unemployed Hoosiers who would jump at the chance to be working.
    "In our bill, and in many of the states, this also keeps benefits in place. So, you would be working part time, reduced hours - receiving some compensation for those reduced hours - and keep your benefits."
    While unemployment funds would be tapped to help compensate employees for the reduced hours, Sullivan says, the state would save money because Workforce Development staffers would not have to account for people looking for work - because they'd still be on the job.
    Derek Thomas, who has been researching "work sharing" as a policy analyst at the Indiana Institute for Working Families, says communities benefit from workers remaining on the job.
    "Avoiding job losses also eases the impact on local businesses that depend on workers spending. This maintains consumption through continued wages and minimizes the domino effect of secondary job losses that inevitably result from layoffs."
    According to a report from the Institute, work sharing already has been instituted in 22 states and Washington, D.C.

  2. Laborers stood up for workers' rights, letter to editor from Daniel Murphy, of Appleton, (12/13 late pickup) Appleton Post Crescent via postcrescent.com
    APPLETON, Wisc. - In seeking balance, I offer rebuttal to those whom feel unions are adding to our fractured state of economic affairs in the United States.
    On May 5, 1886, Wisconsin Gov. Jeremiah Rusk employed state militia to thwart a growing movement of labor unrest in the Bay View area. Marchers demonstrating for an eight-hour workday were fired upon. Seven died at the scene, one victim a child.
    Those who assume the 40-hour workweek was born from anything but blood, sweat and tears suffer from naivete. The common workweek was six [or seven!] 12-hour days. The two-day weekend didn't exist.
    Laborers gave us laws that prioritize education for our children. If you receive overtime pay, thank the unions. Those unable to identify with these brave Americans who challenged power and overcame fear in the wars for workers' rights should ask themselves:
    Would I have the moral courage to risk my job or life so others may be treated with dignity and protection from the abuses of corporate overreach? How many of us would venture into a coal mine or work on an oil platform at sea without union protections? 
    Many think union workers are directly responsible for their economic troubles. This notion is false.
    As Republican groups began earnestly vilifying unions, crafting mendacious message campaigns and hiring agencies to dismantle unions through contrivance, unions declined.
    For the past 30 years, union decimation and the shrinking middle class share a parallel line, while corporations become more productive, profitable and powerful.
    While labor wages and benefits regress or stagnate, CEO pay increased from 40 to 500 times wages of the hourly worker.
    Have union abuses occurred? Yes. But pale by shameful acts of deregulate workers' safety measures, shrink the middle class and deliver lower living standards.
    Worker rights are human rights.

12/13/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Merkel: Germany may reintroduce short work hours subsidies, Reuters.com
    BERLIN, Germany - Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday Germany could reintroduce short working hours subsidies for workers if it became necessary, in a sign Berlin is bracing for a considerable slowdown in Europe's largest economy.
    Merkel, who was speaking at a news conference with the head of Germany's main union federation DGB, also said the euro zone must pay attention to economic growth as well as budgetary discipline.

  2. Poultry plant cutting 60 jobs, New Brunswick Business Journal via nbbusinessjournal.canadaeast.com
    ST-FRANÇOIS-DE-MADAWASKA, N.B., Canada - Nadeau Poultry Farms Ltd. announced Monday that it will lay off 60 employees or 26 per cent of its staff, in the coming weeks due to a dwindling supply of chicken.
    Yves Landry, manager of the poultry company, based in St-François-de-Madawaska, said the company tried to hold off the latest round of layoffs but could no longer afford to employ all 230 current staff members.
    "We lost another 22,000 birds per week in August," Landry said in a statement. "We decided at that point that we would cut hours across the board instead of laying people off. That is simply no longer viable. We were trying to limit the impact, but unfortunately we no longer have a choice."
    Carol Gardin, national corporate communications officer for Ontario-based Maple Lodge Farms, Nadeau's parent company, acknowledged that the timing of the announcement was not ideal, but said the company wanted to its give employees a heads up before they started spending during the holiday season.
    "It's terrible. We really, really struggled with it. In the end, we were worried that this time of year people go out and they quite often over-extend themselves financially and the last thing we wanted to do is place them in a position where they were surprised in January when they didn't have a job," she said.
    The poultry company is the only chicken processor in the province and has been in conflict with Groupe Westco Inc., a major New Brunswick chicken producer, for years.
    In 2009, one year after Westco partnered with Quebec-based Olymel L.P. to form Sunnymel and started to ship New Brunswick chickens to Olymel's slaughterhouse in Quebec, Nadeau cut 165 jobs.
    Gardin said Nadeau has been getting by with an alternate supply of chickens from Nova Scotia, but in June, once a new facility opens in the province and Nadeau loses the extra supply, the company will likely go through another round of layoffs.
    Another option for an alternative supply could come from Quebec but Gardin said that an interprovincial trade battle could hamper those efforts.
    At the beginning of December, Nadeau employees protested at the Legislature in hopes that the government would step in to help protect their jobs.
    At that time, Agriculture Minister Mike Olscamp told the Telegraph-Journal that he is open to mediation to help solve the dispute between Nadeau and Sunnymel, which is scheduled to open a new slaughterhouse in Clair in about 11 months.
    Olscamp could not be reached for comment on Monday.

12/11-12/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Gov. Rick Snyder must sell his Michigan workforce ideas to Legislature, by Rick Haglund, 12/11 MLive.com
    LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder’s special message to the Legislature on talent development was somewhat overshadowed by news that he was sending in a team to evaluate Detroit’s rapidly deteriorating finances.
    But the two initiatives are intertwined. Creating a smarter workforce and helping Detroit become a magnet for smart people are two of the most important ingredients for making Michigan a prosperous state.
    Snyder’s emphasis on the importance of talent is profound.
    This is how he put it: “In the 20th century, the most valuable assets to job creators were financial and material capital. In a changing global economy, that is no longer the case. Today, talent has surpassed other resources as the driver of economic growth.”
    [No it hasn''t. The driver of economic growth is still consumer spending alias consumer demand, as implied below in the sentence, "The program, used in 22 other states, lets employers reduce workers’ hours during times of soft demand and supplement their pay with unemployment benefits."]
    Michigan Future Inc. President Lou Glazer, who has been preaching that message for more than a decade, said he was stunned when he read it.
    “There is no governor in America other than Snyder who would write that,” Glazer said. “It’s not the traditional pablum you get from elected officials.”
    Giving props
    Glazer and other workforce development experts give Snyder mostly high marks on the vision he laid out to update the state’s workforce for a growing knowledge economy.
    “This shows that the governor gets it,” said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, policy director at the Michigan League for Human Services. “We need to get rid of the barriers that block so many Michigan adults from jobs that provide economic security.
    “Ending these barriers will provide the necessary opportunities to good jobs,” she said.
    One idea the league and others like is the governor’s call for the Legislature to approve a “work sharing” program that would help employers retain talent in economic downturns.
    The program, used in 22 other states, lets employers reduce workers’ hours during times of soft demand and supplement their pay with unemployment benefits.

    Work sharing allows companies to retain the talent they will need when business picks up and lets workers maintain their health insurance and other benefits during economic downturns.
    [More importantly, work sharing allows companies to stop downsizing consumer demand by downsizing their consumer base via their employment basement. They're never going to get upsizIng ("growth") out of downsizing.]
    Not sold
    But Glazer and Larry Good, chairman of the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce in Ann Arbor, are less enthused about Snyder’s proposals to educate students for in-demand jobs.
    Snyder suggested that state support for post-secondary education be more closely linked to the current and future workforce needs of employers.
    “That’s a tricky area,” Good said. “You want people to have good information about what’s going on out there.
    But whether you get (projections for future job openings) right depends on the assumptions that are made.
    “There is a whole range of occupations for which titles haven’t been invented yet,” he said.
    Glazer says the government is no better at projecting what jobs will be in demand than it is at predicting which industries will prosper in the future.
    But he credits Snyder for his overall focus on talent and linking it to the importance of revitalizing cities where young professionals want to live.
    “Increasingly, quality of place means not having to choose between a meaningful career and place amenities,” Snyder said.
    But can the governor sell his message to a Legislature wary of spending more money on programs and investments for the future?
    Glazer thinks so, noting that Snyder has won such improbable victories as taxing pensions and tying revenue sharing payments to increased local government efficiencies.
    “He got elected not as a run-of-the-mill politician,” Glazer said. “The hope, if not the expectation, is that he will put together a program consistent with his vision.”
    E-mail Rick Haglund: haglund.rick@gmail.com

  2. Study, Articles Discuss Impact of Reduced Work Hours for Neurosurgical Medical Students, Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), 12/12 Newswise.com (press release)
    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. & ROLLING MEADOWS, Illin. — Since July 2003, when the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) imposed a maximum 80-hour work-week restriction on medical residents, mandatory work-hour restrictions for medical residents have been in place. Other more encompassing and restricted guidelines — such as the Institute of Medicine’s 2008 recommendation of a 16-hour maximum for consecutive hours — also have been suggested, and elements of these recommendations have been introduced into the new ACGME guidelines that became effective in July 2011.
    Critics of longer hours argued that medical errors were more likely to occur when medical residents were fatigued and that a radical drop in resident work hours would serve as a better way to achieve optimal patient care. That may not necessarily be the case in neurosurgery, according to two reports available online in the Publish Before Print section of the Journal of Neurosurgery (www.thejns.org), as well as a pair of department articles slated for publication in the February 2012 issue of AANS Neurosurgeon (www.aansneurosurgeon.org).
    [A profession persists in disgracing itself by arguing against common sense. "We neurosurgeons are not like you lesser mortals - WE are superhumans." Yeah, ri-i-ight.]
    Travis Dumont, MD, and colleagues at the University of Vermont College of Medicine report increased complication rates on their neurosurgical service after the ACGME restricted the number of resident work hours. Relying on information obtained from a prospective database covering a six-year period, the researchers compared the number and types of complications before and after the ACGME-mandated reduction in resident working hours (time periods July 2000-June 2003; and July 2003-June 2006, respectively). They found that incidence of morbidity increase from 70 per 1,000 patients in the earlier period to 89 per 1,000 patients after the work hours were restricted; this increase was significant (p = 0.001). Morbid complications considered avoidable or possibly preventable also increased significantly (p = 0.017), from 56 to 66 per 1,000 patients. There was no significant change in mortality rates between the two time periods. Although the authors found no definitive underlying cause for the increase in complications following the ACGME-mandated reduction in work hours, they hypothesize that increased turnover of patients from one resident to another, due to shorter work hours, results in less familiarity with serious cases and may be a reason for the rise in complications.
    Aruna Ganju, MD, and colleagues at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine conducted a study examining the effect of fatigue on seven neurosurgical residents’ skills. Residents performed simulation exercises designed to test their psychomotor and cognitive skills. They undertook a variety of ring-transfer tasks — which simulated the types of tasks required in a laparoscopic procedure and could test the proficiency of neurosurgeons — in a rested state (pre-call) and in a sleep-deprived state (post-call, following a 24-hour on-call period of in-house responsibility). Each set of exercises (rested and sleep-deprived) was repeated at least three times by each participant. The residents’ cognitive errors, smoothness of tool movement, and time needed to complete each task were all recorded and analyzed. No significant difference in surgical proficiency between the pre-call and post-call states was found, although proficiency decreased 13.1 percent. The authors compared their results to those of a similar study involving general surgery residents. In that study, surgical proficiency decreased significantly (27.3 percent) in sleep-deprived residents. Ganju and colleagues’ hypothesis “Fatigue does not affect the psychomotor and cognitive skills of medical practitioners equally,” was borne out in this small study; they suggest that additional studies be undertaken on the impact of fatigue in the various medical specialties before implementation of nationwide policies on physician work hours.
    The message of the papers is that a broad restriction on the number of work hours spent by medical residents should be reexamined. What is appropriate for one specialty may not be appropriate for others. Further studies are warranted.
    This message of the need for specialty-specific evaluation of work hours will be echoed in the February 2012 AANS Neurosurgeon article “Duty-hours Regulations: An Educator’s View,” in which Eric M. Deshaies, MD, discusses two principal concerns: the increased dangers posed to patients and the dehumanization of neurosurgical training. The author questions the impact regulations have had on training, especially when the “10,000-hour rule” illustrates that practice and repetition significantly impact the ability to master a skill. He notes how successful individuals achieve that success through many hours of practice, and asks “Would Yo-Yo Ma be a master cellist if the government limited his practice time?”
    The author also voices concern about how residents can learn the human side of patient care for those “with real disease and real suffering from mannequins.” While simulators and substitutes certainly are helpful in the training process, they are not substitutes for humans. Deshaies asks the question, “As the government continues to directly link reimbursement with patient satisfaction and quality measures, are we as educators doing a disservice to residents by trying to teach selfless professionalism and human healing on computerized surgical simulators?”
    The same issue of AANS Neurosurgeon will feature a resident perspective on this subject in “Duty Hours: A Resident’s View,” by Hoon Choi, MD, a PGY-3 at SUNY Upstate Medical University. The author notes that the Libby Zion case of the ’80s continues to impact regulations even today. Dr. Choi offers a detailed analysis of the new regulations, how they impact first- and second-year residents, and how those in the neurosurgical specialty may be affected by the mandated changes.
    In addition to offering data covering potential cost savings if preventable adverse effects are reduced, the author also cites studies noting that reduced neurosurgical training may, in fact, compromise resident training. Dr. Choi adds that “With interns limited to 16 hours per shift, a large majority of their time is spent doing paperwork, and their learning curve has flattened exponentially. Operative training has become increasingly ‘top-heavy,’ with residents operating more in their senior years and graduating with fewer cases. These changes have led to an erosion of dedicated research experience as a compensatory response, with research residents pulled to cover call and cases. The ‘shiftwork’ mentality and increased frequency of patient handovers raises concern for a compromised quality of care.”
    Dr. Choi notes that a close partnership between faculty and residents is critical to future neurosurgical advancement and improvement, as faculty involvement is vital to helping residents achieve and excel. The author concludes that while “there is much that is broken with this new ACGME-mandated system, the commitment of neurosurgical trainees remains a beacon of hope,” and that commitment to patient care will help the specialty overcome and advance in the area of improving resident education.
    Dumont TM, Rughani AI, Penar PL, Horgan MA, Tranmer BI, Jewell RP. Increased rate of complications on a neurological surgery service after implementation of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education work-hour restriction. Clinical article. Journal of Neurosurgery, epub ahead of print, December 2, 2011; DOI: 10.3171/2011.9.JNS116 Disclosure: The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the material or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.
    Ganju A, Kahol K, Lee P, Simonian N, Quinn SJ, Ferrara JJ, Batjer HH. The effect of call on neurosurgery resident’s skills: implication for policy regarding resident call periods. Clinical article. Journal of Neurosurgery, epub ahead of print, December 2, 2011; DOI: 10.3171/2011.9.JNS101406
    Disclosure: The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the material or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.
    Deshaies, E. Duty-hours Regulations: An Educator’s View. AANS Neurosurgeon, Vol. 21, No. 1
    Disclosure: The author reported no conflict of interest with the article submission.
    Choi, H. Duty Hours: A Resident’s View. AANS Neurosurgeon, Vol. 21, No. 1
    Disclosure: The author reported no conflict of interest with the article submission.
    [To paraphrase Shakespeare, methinks the "ladies" do protest too much.]
    For additional information, contact:
    Ms. Gillian Shasby, Director of Publications–Operations
    Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group
    1224 Jefferson Park Avenue, Suite 450
    Charlottesville, VA 22903
    E-mail: gshasby@thejns.org
    Telephone: 434-924-5555
    Fax: 434-924-5782
    John Iwanski, Director of Member and Public Outreach
    American Association of Neurological Surgeons
    5550 Meadowbrook Drive
    Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
    E-mail: jai@aans.org
    Telephone: 847-378-0517
    Fax: 847-378-0617

  3. Forum - Try giving credit rather than ridicule, letter to editor by Leanne Hachey, 12/12 Times and Transcript via timestranscript.canadaeast.com
    MONCTON, N.B., Canada - Regarding the open letter to Minister Martine Coulombe (Forum, Dec. 9), most will agree that everyone would like to earn more money, businesses would like the ability to pay higher wages and certainly no one should live in poverty. Where we part ways with the signatories of the open letter to Minister Coulombe is the tool by which to get there.
    Hiking minimum wage beyond the ability of a business to pay hurts everyone. Businesses are left with devastating choices whether to decrease employment, cut hours or delay much-needed investment in training and capital.
    [When you cut hours enough to achieve and maintain full employment (and maximum consumer spending!), employers perceive such a management-disciplining labor "shortage" as during World Wars I and II (remember "wartime prosperity"?) that wage levels rise gradually and flexibly by market forces so effectively that minimum wage laws (and "living wage campaigns") and their artificial and stifling side-effects are avoided.]
    As disturbing is the impact on families: research from the University of Waterloo shows a direct linkage between increases in minimum wage and an increase in families living below the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) due to the tough choices businesses are forced to make. Nobody wins.
    The notion that businesses can simply absorb or pass along aggressive cost increases is misguided, at best. Businesses operate in an extremely competitive environment and can do no such thing. To even suggest that small, independent businesses pushed for a delay in the minimum wage hike "to increase profits" only underscores how far removed this group is from scores of hard-working New Brunswickers who decided to be job-makers in their communities. When the New Brunswick government made the difficult decision to delay the next wage increase, it was the right thing to do. It's rare for politicians to give past commitments sober second thought based on new realities. With political courage should come credit - not ridicule.
    Leanne Hachey,
    VP Atlantic,
    Canadian Federation of Independent Business

12/10/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Tulare County and union at impasse, Visalia Times-Delta
    VISALIA, Tulare County, Calif. - Tulare County and the union representing about half of its employees has reached an impasse, county officials report.
    The impasse stems from a decision in September by the county Board of Supervisors to suspend mandatory, 40-hour furloughs for employees during the 2011-12 fiscal year, which already had begun on July 1.
    Those furloughs were a cost-cutting measure because of the bad economy, and some workers took pay cuts and other concessions in lieu of the unpaid furlough days.
    After county officials determined the county would have more money available this fiscal year than earlier expected, the county Board of Supervisors voted in September to end the furloughs, but officials first had to negotiate changes in employee labor contracts to initiate the change.
    Nine Tulare County bargaining units accepted the furlough suspension with the exception of Service Employees International Union. In lieu of the furlough suspension, SEIU representatives made several alternate proposals, most notably discontinuing a freeze on employee merit — or “step” — pay increases.
    County officials announced Friday an agreement couldn’t be reached with the union, and on Tuesday the supervisors could vote to not change the SEIU contract. That would leave the furlough requirement in place for employees represented by the union.

  2. Long Beach Memorial nurses plan one-day strike over contract talks, (12/09 late pickup) Los Angeles Times via LAtimes.com
    LONG BEACH, Calif. - Nearly 2,000 union nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children's Hospital plan to hold a one-day strike Dec. 22 to protest failed contract negotiations with hospital management.
    The California Nurses Assn./National Nurses United said it has been at odds for months with management over contract proposals that are "inferior to Southern California standards."
    The union has been working without a contract since Sept. 30.
    "They just don't get it," said Mary Bailey, a registered nurse who has worked at the hospital for 23 years. "The issues we keep bringing up and continue to bring up that they don't want to deal across the table is patient safety issues, staffing issues, rest and meal breaks."
    The union says the hospital frequently does not have sufficient staff to meet minimum safety standards as required by state law. It also says that even though the hospital posted record profits in recent years, it is still requiring nurses to take furlough days and increasing healthcare premiums.
    The union held a candlelight vigil last month that was attended by more than 400 nurses in hopes of raising their concerns.
    Hospital officials say the furloughs are industry standards. They said nurses are sent home or "called off" when the number of patients at the hospital is low. They say hospital data show that 2.6% of the time nurses are paid at a high rate for their missed breaks.
    Officials also contend that average healthcare premiums at the hospital will increase by $4.76 a pay period and that some employees may actually see a decrease of $28 a pay period. The highest increase would be for nurses with families; that increase would amount to $18.28 a pay period.
    "It's very fair and equitable," said Dr. Diana Hendel, chief executive of the hospital.
    Hendel called the strike notice disappointing. She said negotiations were to continue Monday after the union raised nearly 100 questions over a new proposed contract. "Instead of coming to the meeting in good faith, they chose to provide us with a strike notice," Hendel said.
    Despite the notice, Hendel said the meeting will continue as planned.

  3. NCSC orders top-down furloughs, by Bryan Bullock, MansfieldNewsJournal.com
    MANSFIELD, Ohio -- North Central State College announced Friday it will pursue a series of new cost-cutting efforts, starting with furlough days for administrators.
    College officials say the initiative is necessary to overcome a budget shortfall caused by reductions in funding and student enrollment this school year.
    NCSC President Don Plotts said Friday all senior and mid-level college administrators will be required to take 10 unpaid days off work between Jan. 1 and June 30.
    "I am a firm believer that you have to start with administrators and work down," Plotts said. "Our concern is that if we don't address this budget issue early on, we will have problems down the road."
    Plotts said the furloughs will affect 34 employees, including himself, and save the college $97,000. The furloughs, he said, will be staggered so they don't interrupt student services.
    Plotts said administrators, faculty and staff will work together to determine "additional phases" to reduce personnel costs. Proposals will be presented to the college's board of trustees in January.
    A reduction in force is a possibility.
    [A possibility but more of a last resort.]
    "Nothing is off the table, we have to be very straightforward about that," Plotts said.
    He said personnel cost-cutting efforts are prompted by recent enrollment numbers.
    The college is expecting enrollment to drop 8 percent, and state and federal funding to sink 14 percent this school year, which together will result in a nearly $2 million loss of revenue.
    The college has a roughly $20 million operating budget.
    Plotts said NCSC has worked to reduce costs this year, including eliminating positions through attrition and renegotiating contracts for services.
    The college announced in October every available NCSC non-payroll appropriation balance would be permanently reduced by half for the school year. An additional 10 percent was temporarily placed on hold while the college monitors its financial situation.
    Koffi Akakpo, NCSC vice president for business and administrative services, said the college must now look at personnel costs to bring its budget in line.
    "Non-payroll budgets have been reduced as far as they can go, and all we have left to reduce are payroll expenditures," he said. "The new expenditure reduction plan will be developed and implemented in phases to allow time for additional student recruitment and retention actions to take place."
    Plotts said the campus has new programs and enrollment initiatives designed to draw students to NCSC and, in turn, raise revenues. The college serves more than 3,400 students in nearly 60 certificate and associate degree programs.
    NCSC raised its tuition 5 percent this year, the maximum hike allowed by community colleges in Ohio, but it remains one of the most inexpensive colleges in the region.
    Among the 23 community colleges in the state, enrollment is down 3 percent to 4 percent on average this year, Ronald Abrams, president of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, said previously. Some colleges, he said, are down as much as 13 percent.
    NCSC is not the only campus facing a budget crunch, but Plotts said the college's situation is compounded by the local economy.
    "We're in a depressed region," he said. "We've lost a large manufacturer and we have some people who can't afford to go to college anymore."
    Plotts said he is confident NCSC can work through difficult times and emerge stronger.
    "The future is bright, no question about it. We just have a short-term issue we need to work through," he said.
    bjbullock@gannett.com 419-521-7205

12/09/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Q&A | Jay Thompson, Transportation Business Associates, interviewed by Tom Karst, ThePacker.com
    LENEXA, Kans. - he Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst chatted on Dec. 6 with Jay Thompson, president and general manager with Transportation Business Associates, Denver. Read entire chat on the Fresh Talk blog.
    11:03 a.m. Tom Karst: There are a lot of challenges in the trucking sector now. Talking about regulations and how trucking companies feel about produce. It isn’t always warm and fuzzy, is it?
    11:04 a.m. Jay Thompson: It seems like the more we have gotten into the information age, the more information that has come available. The regulators say, “This is more information, and we have to figure out ways to use it.”
    These regulations are just one on top of the other. The trucking industry, the logistics industry overall, is having to deal with not only the emissions-related regulation, but now hours of service regulation could really affect equipment utilization. Utilization has more impact on profitability than any other item.
    11:05 a.m. Karst: When you cut that back, it raises fixed costs, right?
    11:06 a.m. Thompson: That’s exactly right. If the administration follows history, it will probably issue a ruling around Christmas, when nobody will be working. The expectation is that it will end up in litigation again, no matter what happens. Basically, the business community is saying “Let’s leave things where they are at because we are at a record-low fatalities per mile.” All the data is kind of saying is that there is no need to change anything.
    The expectation is that the industry expects the administration will cut hours of service from 11 hours a day to 10 hours a day. Using rough math, trucking profits ... could easily ... go from 5% to 4%.
    [Never mind that everyone will get conservatively 11/10 = 10% safer. American truckers have the same problem as American doctors - they think they can work any hours with no negative side-effects. They think they're supermen, and any collateral damage is ignored, stats on mistakes or accidents in overtime be damned.]
    Regardless, it will be a hit, and the bigger implication is what it does for shippers.
    11:10 a.m. Karst: Would this type of new regulation on trucking mean that railroads would suddenly become more important? What would the net effect be of a change in the hours of service regulation for truck drivers?
    11:11 a.m. Thompson: The railroads will not be a big factor, simply because if you look at rail as a percentage of the total freight, it is still in the high (single digits). If you are shipping from where the trains go, say from Los Angeles to Kansas City, you may (see) some tweaking that direction. But when you are talking about time and temperature sensitive (produce), it has got to match that flow of how produce jumps around in terms of origination and destinations. If you think of rail, trains run on schedules and train lengths are hard to flex very much. So ... I would not expect to see much change around that. What I would expect to see, though, is overall capacity will tighten.

  2. What Is Toronto Public Library Thinking About Cutting Now? - The TPL board doesn't want to cut hours, but it looks like the alternatives are equally unappealing, by Steve Kupferman, Torontoist.com
    TORONTO, Ont. - Last month, the Toronto Public Library board rejected, in principle, the idea of reducing hours at branches in order to meet a 10 per cent budget-reduction target. And yet the same amount of money that would have been saved by that move—about $5.4 million—may still have to be cut before budget season is over. The city librarian’s office has released a list [PDF] of alternative suggestions for savings. Bookmobile lovers and people who forget to pick up holds may want to sit down.
    Here are the big ones:
    Start charging people when they don’t pick up holds.
    TPL’s hold system enables users to reserve materials in any branch, systemwide, and have them shipped to any other branch for pickup. Right now, the service is completely free to the public. To raise revenue, the city librarian is suggesting that people who don’t pick up their holds be charged a dollar per item.
    Stop printing library events guides.
    TPL prints guides to the different events and programming that happen at its branches. By publishing that information exclusively online, they could save an estimated $231,000 by 2013.
    Eliminate outreach to high school students and kindergartners.
    Sending librarians into classrooms is how TPL introduces Toronto youth to the resources available at public libraries. They could stop doing this in high schools and kindergartens for savings of about $243,000 by 2013.
    Axe “Keep Toronto Reading” and “One Book.”
    Keep Toronto Reading and One Book Community Reads are TPL’s annual flagship literacy campaigns. Anyone who lives in Toronto is almost certainly aware of the two programs, because they’re heavily advertised. By cutting both, TPL could save about $177,000 by 2013.
    Cut the Bookmobiles.
    Bookmobiles go to people who can’t go to libraries, but TPL could save $317,000 by 2013 if they completely eliminate the service.
    Eliminate literacy programs.
    TPL provides in-branch literacy programs for young children, adolescents, and adults who have difficulty reading. Getting rid of these programs would save about $1.6 million by 2013.
    Oh, and top of all of this, TPL’s collections budget would have to be reduced by $3.8 million over the next two years in order to bring overall spending close to the 10 per cent reduction target. According to TPL staff, this would mean foregoing the purchase of about 168,000 new materials. That’s books, movies—everything.
    The TPL board will be meeting Monday evening to discuss these and other savings suggestions. They could approve them, defer them, or declare outright opposition to them, but in the end they may not have much say. City council sets the library’s budget, and if they want cuts, they’ll get them.
    The TPL board has already approved about $9.7 million in budget cuts, which will require the library to shed the equivalent of 100 full-time jobs in 2012.

  3. South Africa: Labour Market Calls for Job Centred Policies, South African Government press release, AllAfrica.com
    PRETORIA, R.S.A. (Republic of South Africa) - The Annual Labour Market Bulletin (ALMB) report released by the Department of Labour (DoL) says South Africa might need to strengthen job centred policies to reduce the risk of growing long-term unemployment.
    According to the Department's ALMB financial year 2010/11, "well designed active labour market policies, work sharing arrangements and targeted measures to support vulnerable groups, notably youth," are some of issues to be considered on the policy front.
    The ALMB is produced by the DoL's Labour Market Policy unit and is divided into into three main sections. The first section examines the performance of the South African economy. In this section, the emphasis is put on the comparative trends analysis between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).
    Further, South African provincial commitments to job creation are also presented in response to the call made by the South African President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address in 2011. The report also analyses the labour market trends over the financial year ended March 2011 and concludes with certain policy views to be considered in line with those economic and labour markets indicator changes.
    The report said on the labour market front the financial year 2008/09 proved to be an extremely challenging year economically with revenues remaining relatively flat, firms focusing on cost cutting. Ultimately, a sharp drop in economic activity led to dismissals, mass-layoffs, plant closures and hiring freezes which all still contributing to high unemployment in the country. It is noted that over one million jobs have been lost across sectors in the economy during recession.
    The report further adds that South Africa needs to strengthen domestic industries like agriculture and construction so that the low and semi-skilled unemployed youth can be absorbed into these industries. It stressed that the agriculture and construction sector have a high propensity to absorb the growing army of job seekers in the short-term, unlike other sectors where skilling is key and take long to realise.
    Department of Labour, director of Labour Market Information and Statistics Abrahams Mutedi said the persisting unemployment situation also calls for development of job specific projects for the unskilled and put focus on variables like wage subsidy to cushion the burden towards the unemployed.
    The report further adds that South Africa needs to strengthen domestic industries like agriculture and construction so that the low and semi-skilled unemployed youth can be absorbed into these industries.
    Mutedi said the agriculture and construction sector have a high propensity to swallow the growing army of job seekers in the short term, unlike other sector where skilling is key and take long to realise.
    Another important measure, said the ALMB to consider in order to increase employment in the long run is to reduce the mismatch between job seekers and job opportunities and better access to credit for small medium and micro enterprises (SMME's).
    In its section one, the report emphasises the political and economical shift of the South African economy by exploring the advantages and disadvantages of being one of the five emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, Indian, China and South Africa (BRICS). Thus, the report details a brief comparative trends analysis looking at key economic and labour market indicators over time.
    The report said for South Africa, BRICS alliance will come with its pros and cons. However, South Africa has accepted these opportunities as a tough competition which will offer a lucrative market for goods and services and improvement of the South African labour market. Although it was difficult to ascertain when SA would start seeing tangible results of belonging to BRICS, it is reported that the next five to 10 years would be critical, "the key will be the extent and willingness to which member countries open their economies to SA exports".
    Meanwhile, the report said provincial initiatives to the country's job-creation targets comes on the backdrop of the government's declared intention towards the developmental state which means that it would intervene in the economy to ensure redress of past inequalities; eradicate poverty. The intention of the provincial outlook in the report was to highlight the contribution and role being played by the provinces in job creation.
    On the other hand, the report stressed that the Department of Labour is indirectly contributing towards jobs creation through intense investment in the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). For example, the Unemployment Insurance Fund has invested 68% (about R35 billion) out of its R52 billion, in commercial social responsible investment portfolio, which includes central government, municipalities and parastatal bonds and money market investment infrastructure projects that create and sustain jobs.
    "Despite reasonable economic growth, the South African economy remained deeply inequitable with the highest official unemployment rate (25%) of any middle income country. Nearly two years after the economic recovery officially began; job creation continues to stagger at the slowest post-recession rate.
    The economy has lost 14 000 jobs in the first quarter of 2011 after a gain of 157 000 in the fourth quarter of 2010. This proves that there is still a lot of uncertainty about economic recovery associated with the poor performance of the labour market." the report said.
    According to Unemployment Insurance Fund's data, in every financial year, a large proportion of claimants reported that end of contract was the main reason of terminations, followed by dismissals and retrenchments. This indicates that there is still existence of casualisation in the SA labour market and African youth remain the most vulnerable in the SA labour market as most of them have low educational achievements, skills and experience.
    The report emphasised that, "while our labour laws are not rigid", it appears that the Department needs to encourage investment in projects that can create decent work on a large scale including improving conditions for marginal workers.
    In terms of industrial action through strikes, a total of 154 279 cases were handled by the CCMA in the financial year 2010/11. This represents an increase of about 0.4% from a total of 153 657 in the previous financial year. The report said.
    In its conclusion, the report stresses the "Government needs to ensure that the economy recovers fully from the recession to boost trend growth and thereby create the five million jobs required to reduce unemployment by 2020". Labour market policies aimed at gains in labour productivity with increased real wages are also essential, and this must be underpinned by social dialogue between workers, employers and Government," the report said.
    Issued by: Department of Labour

12/08/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Work-sharing law / Job preservation, editorial, PressOfAtlanticCity.com
    ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - We're in an unusual economic mess, a recovery that's so slow it sometimes seems to be moving backward. And we need unusual ideas to help get us out of it.
    A bill that passed the Assembly this week is just such an idea. It would allow employers to create shared-work programs as an alternative to layoffs.
    Employees who accept fewer hours to keep their jobs would be eligible for partial unemployment benefits to make up some of the lost pay.
    Businesses with at least 10 full-time employees could take part in the program, in which they'd agree to maintain benefits for workers whose hours are reduced. So a business that was considering eliminating a position might cut expenses by reducing the hours in a half-dozen positions instead. Workers whose hours were cut by at least 10 percent would receive unemployment benefits for those lost hours.
    The program would keep people working, and let them stay on top of training, hone their skills and keep up with changes in their industries. It would allow businesses to hold onto valuable employees and to react quickly to increased demand. It is much easier to increase an existing employee's hours than to go through the hiring and training process.
    And the program shouldn't increase costs for the state. As one of the bill's sponsors, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Camden, Gloucester, explained, providing partial unemployment benefits for a larger number of workers should cost no more than providing full benefits for a smaller number of laid-off workers.
    Currently, 22 other states and Washington, D.C., have similar programs. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that in Rhode Island, which has one of the most active work-sharing programs, the law prevented nearly 10,000 layoffs in 2009 and 2010. President Barack Obama's jobs package includes a national work-sharing plan.
    The Assembly plan requires that businesses not hire additional full- or part-timers while its existing employees are working reduced hours, and that unions representing employees approve the work-sharing arrangement.
    The program has some downsides. For instance, the likely amount of paperwork involved may be daunting for some small businesses.
    But that's no reason not to give this innovative idea a try.
    State Democrats and Republicans like to squabble about whose job bills are best, while the people in the trenches - workers worried about their jobs and businessmen struggling to meet payroll - need help now.
    The Senate should pass this measure and Gov. Chris Christie should sign it into law.

  2. Marvin Windows cited by Obama in speech about economic vision - President says Warroad, Minn., company an example to country - While competitors responded to recessionary pressure with layoffs, Marvin kept employees on working fewer hours and allowing them to keep health benefits, by: Ryan Bakken, GrandForksHerald.com
    WARROAD, Minn. - President Barack Obama singled out *Marvin Windows, a Warroad, Minn., manufacturer, for praise in his speech in Kansas Tuesday.
    The plant’s switchboard “lit up” with telephone calls from people who had heard about the speech, company spokesman John Kirchner.
    The publicity can only help business, he said.
    While its competitors have laid off workers and closed facilities because of the housing downturn, Marvin Windows has done neither. It has cut hours and other expenses, but hasn’t reduced its work force nor taken away health benefits.
    In the last five minutes of an hour-plus speech on his economic vision, Obama said that Marvin’s has shown “values that our country was built on” and is an example of how to get the economy back on its feet.

    “We are certainly honored that our president has taken notice of our efforts to keep workers employed,” Kirchner said. “We’re a family-owned company and our philosophy is simple: ‘Do the right thing.’ If you do that, the business will be fine.”
    “Any time we can talk of our company and get our message to potential customers, it’s good,” he said. “I don’t know how much it will pay off immediately. But it’s good to get out word of our unique set of values that sets us apart from other companies.
    “We’ve had a tough last several years, but we’ve survived them and are ready to thrive.”
    Competitors Andersen Windows and Pella Corp. have closed factories and laid off workers in recent years because of the economy’s downturn. Marvin’s has gone to 32-hour work weeks and has limited overtime, but its workforce has diminished only through retirements and other attrition.
    It has 4,000 employees at its 10 plants, one in Grafton, N.D.
    Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send email to rbakken@gfherald.com.

  3. UK economy - Work hours decline with sectoral shift, by Tim Wallace, (12/09 early pickup) CITY A.M. via cityam.com
    LONDON, U.K. - UK employees have a shorter working week because their firms offer more flexible hours, and jobs have shifted from manufacturing into services over the last 20 years, according to data released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics.
    The average number of hours worked fell from 38.1 per cent in the second quarter of 1992 to 36.3 in the same period of 2011.
    Employees in the manufacturing and construction sectors worked an average of 41.2 hours a week from April to June, down from 41.6 and 43.1 hours respectively 19 years ago.
    Meanwhile, service sector workers spent 35 hours a week working, down from 36 hours in 1992.
    Part of the average shift is due to a rise in service sector employment and the decline in manufacturing jobs.
    In 1992, 68 per cent worked in services, 21 per cent in manufacturing and seven per cent in construction. Those have changed to 80 per cent in services, 10 per cent in manufacturing and seven per cent in construction, shifting the hours worked downwards.
    UK hours worked are below the EU average overall – 36.3 compared with 37.4 across the EU. When considering only full-time workers, that changes to 42.7 in the UK and 41.6 in the EU.

12/07/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Anderson Regional in Mississippi Cuts Employee Hours, by Jamie Oh, Becker's Hospital Review via beckershospitalreview.com
    MERIDIAN, Miss. - Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian, Miss., has cut work hours for all employees, spanning from administration to hourly employees, according to a WTOK report.
    Employee hours will be cut from 40 to 36 hours. Hospital administration said the hourly cuts were necessary in light of declining state reimbursements, lower patient volumes and higher volumes of charity care, according to the report.
    Leaders said the reduced hours are a temporary remedy and alternative to job cuts and layoffs.
    They hope to resume normal work schedules early next year after an anticipated increase in patient volumes.

  2. Managing the downturn: A 13-step plan to avoid layoffs, by Howard Stewart, BusinessManagementDaily.com
    TUCSON, Ariz. - We were lucky enough at AGM Container Controls to have a good period of growth during the most recent recession, so we didn’t have to lay off any employees. In fact, we haven’t laid off anyone for 20 years.
    It hasn’t been easy. We’ve gone through times when we were tempted to lay people off, and we had to come up with reasons not to do it. That has helped us in the long run.
    Now, I’ve made it official policy to follow a 13-step plan to avoid layoffs in the future. Here they are:
    1. Hire a new employee only when we can see a long-term demand for the person’s service. Otherwise, we’ll make do with the people we have by using compulsory and voluntary overtime to avoid hiring.
    2. Cross-train employees, so if a specific product line or department is slow, we can move employees to a more productive area of the company.
    3. Continually communicate with employees about projected downturns in business so they can prepare psychologically and financially. Example: In 2009, we saw a significant drop-off in backlog, i.e, the number of orders received but hasn’t yet shipped. That’s an indication that work will slow down. So I warned employees about what was coming, and that I would be asking for volunteers for furloughs. I encouraged the staff to hang onto their Christmas bonuses in case they needed the money to tide them over if we had to implement furloughs. As it turned out, we did furlough about a third of our employees a few months later—but we were able to stagger them so nobody was gone for more than a week unless he or she requested the longer break.
    4. Freeze hiring on significant positions whenever back­log drops. In fact, we’ve frozen hiring on four open positions.
    5. Consider hiring from within to fill essential positions. When times are trying, we look for internal candidates who aren’t so busy that they can’t step up to a promotion. That way, you can keep your head count low without firing anyone.
    6. Keep a backlog of thousands of hours of low-priority projects to keep employees busy during downturns.
    [Damn, this guy is good!]
    7. Increase the inventory of standard product components during downturns. This builds up inventory so it will be on hand when good times resume—and gives employees productive work to do when orders are slow.
    8. Take inventory during slow periods. Regular production employees can help with inventory when they’re not busy with their regular jobs.
    9. Reassign jobs from outside contractors to current em­­­­­­ployees. Instead of laying off employees from departments that are slow, assign them to janitorial or housekeeping duties.
    10. Save nonroutine tasks like roof repairs, painting, paving and landscaping for employees to do when their regular jobs are slow. Sure, someone who usually assembles wheelchair lifts might object to spending the day painting, but only until he realizes he’d be laid off if he weren’t painting.
    11. Freeze wages and salaries until better times resume. During the recession, I was able to avoid that for hourly employees, but salaried workers had to wait for their raises. During a post-recession surge, we were lucky enough to be able to grant raises retroactively to the date employees would have received their increases had we not implemented the freeze.
    12. Encourage employees to use vacation days during downturns. We even paid a small bonus—$20 per day—to workers who agreed to do it. That way, I had them here when I needed them as the workload ramped back up.
    13. Ask employees to take voluntary leaves of absence during slow periods; you’ll be surprised how many will be glad to do it. Target highly compensated, nonessential employees, as they likely have more savings. Plus, the company saves more money that way. If no volunteers come forward, make those leaves compulsory.
    AGM’s 13-step plan paid off in the first quarter of 2010, when our backlog decreased again. Instead of laying off employees, we had them around when the backlog spiked during the second quarter.
    And not one employee quit.

    Author: Howard Stewart is president and CEO of employee-owned AGM Container Controls, which makes wheelchair lifts and control devices for containers that hold missiles and engines. Contact him through Jeremy Belitsos at jeremy@mcfaddengavender.com.

  3. Layoffs, cuts again forecast for SD schools - But school trustees now say they will avert insolvency, state takeover, SignOnSanDiego.com
    SAN DIEGO, Calif. — With education funding expected to go from bad to worse, San Diego schools are bracing for immediate cuts to this year’s budget and another round of walloping cuts next year that would result in larger classes, massive layoffs and a reduction in art, music and other programs.
    Even as the school board confronts unpopular and difficult decisions, trustees said Tuesday night they are determined to avoid insolvency and a state takeover — things school officials in recent weeks said were real threats.
    “As a board we need to make it clear to this community that that discussion is off the table,” board President Richard Barrera said. “We are not going to turn over control of this district to the state.”
    The San Diego Unified School District is bracing for midyear cuts of $26 million to $30 million to its $1.057 billion operating budget, based on disappointing financial projections from the state.
    Superintendent Bill Kowba Tuesday night said taking that kind of financial hit this far into the school year would require the district to tap $22 million from a reserve account, spend $4.5 million in real estate proceeds, and impose a hiring freeze to save $1.5 million. Another $1.7 million in savings would come from eliminating some 55 nonteaching jobs by Feb. 2.
    Kowba also presented a menu of cost-cutting measures that would be required to balance next year’s budget. Under the worst-case scenario, the district faces a shortfall next year of about $92 million. Even without midyear cuts, the deficit could reach $72 million.
    The school board must adopt its first interim budget for the 2012-13 school year this month. Trustees on Tuesday considered Kowba’s daunting recommendations that would call for laying off more than 760 employees, including teachers and central office staff. Kowba’s plan would increase class sizes in several grades and would bump enrollment in the earliest grades from 24 to 30 students; downsize the number of vice principals and nurses; and cut music and art programs.
    The board is set to vote next Tuesday to approve a preliminary budget for next year and has until June 30 to adopt a final budget. Trustees are hopeful the teachers union would agree to concessions by then that would negate some of layoffs and cuts.
    “The reality is without extension of furlough days, without pushing back on the seven percent (teacher pay raise), it looks like 764 more people will be laid off and lose their jobs next year,” trustee Kevin Beiser said. “What can we do to agree as a collective entity with all the union to save these jobs?”
    Under the district’s contract with the San Diego Education Association, teachers are set to receive raises next year and end two years of furloughs that cut their pay 2.7 percent annually and reduced two school years by five days each.
    In other financial news, the school board also looked for ways to save its struggling school construction bond program.
    San Diego Unified’s $2.1 billion bond construction program has fallen on tough times due to the real estate collapse, with the likelihood of issuing any new bonds in 2012 uncertain.
    The district’s payments for the 2008 Proposition S and the 1998 Proposition MM bond measures are $15 million to $20 million above tax revenues that would be generated by maximum tax rates from property owners through 2020.
    At the recommendation of the committee charged with overseeing the bonds, the district last month suspended new projects that would immediately halt new construction, project planning and design to curtail bond spending.
    The bond freeze will continue until March or April, when the board is expected to consider a plan to restructure its bonds to allow the district to issue between $90 million to $150 million in bonds in 2012.

12/06/2011 – news bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. DiMaio 'Shared Work' Legislation Approved By General Assembly, (12/05 late pickup) Insurance News Net (press release) via insurancenewsnet.com
    TRENTON, N.J. - The New Jersey Assembly Republicans issued the following news release:
    Legislation sponsored by Assembly Republican John DiMaio that is designed to avoid job layoffs through a shared work program was overwhelmingly approved by the Assembly on Monday, as amended.
    S-1301/A-3818, provides short-time unemployment insurance benefits to full-time workers whose hours are reduced by 10 percent. A company must employ at least 10 full-time employees to receive approval to implement a shared work program, which is an alternative to layoffs that may be necessary due to a company's downturn in business. Short-time benefits are limited to 26 weeks in a given year and a participant is not permitted to receive regular unemployment compensation in the same week.
    "The shared work program is a viable alternative for businesses that are struggling, and may be considering a reduction to their workforce," explained DiMaio, R-Warren and Hunterdon, who introduced a similar bill in June 2009. "Many companies find creative and innovative ways to maintain their payroll in tough times and this approach is another option.
    "This legislation is an example of shared sacrifice and an opportunity to save jobs," said DiMaio, who owns a construction business. "For smaller companies, employees are like family, and laying someone off is a last resort."
    Under the bill, an employer is required to maintain the fringe benefits offered to participants and may not hire additional part-time or full-time employees when utilizing the shared work program.
    Also, three years after becoming law, the state's Division of Labor and Workforce Development must submit a report to the Legislature assessing the program's effectiveness, including recommendations as to how the program could be improved.

  2. German worksharing might not work in United States, by Michele Tantussi, posted by Ezra Klein, Bloomberg via Wonkblog via WashingtonPost.com (blog)
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - I doubt any post-crisis policy has gotten as much favorable press as Germany’s work-sharing program. I’m a fan, too. The basic idea is that unemployment is bad [and weakening consumer spending!], and so the government pays employers not to fire workers. It worked well in Germany. But would it work well in the United States?
    Perhaps not. It turns out to be really, really difficult to fire a German worker. It can take the better part of a year. You have to pay their salary for all of that time. You have to waste administrative dollars and effort prosecuting your case to the workers’ council. And so you can see why, if you don’t really want to fire your workers in the first place and you’re just expecting a bad couple of months, a work-sharing program would keep you from laying workers off. The alternative is that you spend six months trying to lay workers off and, in month eight, you have to begin searching for and training their replacements. It’s almost more trouble than it’s worth even before the work-sharing dollars kick in.
    But in the United States, where you can fire workers easily and quickly, a work-sharing program is worth less to you. You can fire your workers and save money on their salaries. If you have to hire new workers in eight months or a year, well, you’ve saved eight months or a year’s worth of salary and benefit costs. And if the recession lasts longer than that -- as this one did -- you saved much more than that.
    So just on its face, a work-sharing program in the United States would probably be worth less money to U.S. employers than to German employers. And then there are the cultural differences. It’s hard to fire people in Germany because firing people in Germany is frowned upon. It’s easier to fire people in the United States because firing people in here is less frowned upon. That’s not to say that CEOs or managers like letting go of their employees, but both anecdotally and legislatively, it’s viewed as a much more dramatic and reprehensible act in Germany than it is in the United States.
    That’s not to say we shouldn’t give work-sharing programs a shot. A number of U.S. states have work-sharing programs and they’re not used. California, for instance. Experts tell me that these programs are poorly publicized and horribly administered, and I believe them. The German program, by contrast, was aggressively publicized and competently administered. So we should give that a try. But the policy is unlikely to work as well for us as it has for Germany.
    That said, if the government wants to preserve existing jobs, it can start by not firing people. The public sector has lost more than 500,000 jobs since 2008, and it continues to lose more every month.

  3. Volvo says to shorten work week at Renault unit, Reuters.com
    STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Volvo, the world's second biggest truck maker, said on Tuesday it would introduce a shortened work-week for employees at its Renault Trucks unit as it looks to adjust production to an expected fall in demand.
    "We are making an adjustment in line with the expectation we have that there will be a decline in the total market in Europe of 10 percent in 2012," Volvo spokesman Marten Wikforss said.
    "Exactly how many people, line rates and such, we never comment on."
    Wikforss declined to give further information.

12/04-05/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Moriarty on Bill to help Businesses & Workers Avoid Layoffs (A-3818), press release by New Jersey Assembly Democratic Office, 12/05 The Star-Ledger via videos.nj.com
    TRENTON, N.J. - In this *video press release, Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty (D-Gloucester) discusses his legislation to help both New Jersey businesses and workers avoid layoffs due to economic conditions.
    The measure (A-3818) would encourage employers who are contemplating cost savings through layoffs to instead achieve the savings by sharing the remaining work among all employees. This shared work arrangement would be achieved by permitting - under certain circumstances, as approved by the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development - a full-time employee who has had their weekly work time reduced by 10 percent or more to collect unemployment benefits for the work hours lost while still retaining full-time employment status.
    Similar programs are currently used by 22 other states and the District of Columbia. In 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal, work sharing programs prevented nearly 10,000 layoffs in the State of Rhode Island alone.

  2. Michigan's unemployment insurance system to see reform next year, Posted by Shawn Nordstrom, 12/05 LiveInsuranceNews.com
    LANSING, Mich. - Governor Rick Snyder has plans to reform Michigan’s unemployment insurance system. According to the Governor, the reformation will reflect the administration’s plan to reinvigorate the state economy. Snyder has proposed a plan to the state Legislature he calls “work sharing.” Essentially, the plan would prevent employers from making layoffs by having them cut the hours given to their non-essential workforce. The Legislature is mulling over another plan to extend aid to those that have lost their jobs in an attempt to help them start their own businesses.
    Work sharing programs are already present in 22 other states. These programs have helped these states save money on unemployment insurance by cutting down the number of unemployed people in the state. While these plans have seen modest success, Republican legislators in Michigan have shown opposition to the concept, but the Legislature is expected to pass a measure that would enact the plan next year.
    Snyder claims that today’s workforce is both highly skilled and mobile. This mobility means that workers can travel elsewhere to find jobs if they lose the ones they have in Michigan. Snyder wants to keep these high-skill people in the state as he believes they can help stimulate the economy.
    Michigan’s insurance companies have, thus far, remained quiet on the issue. Small businesses, while not wanting of layoffs, have expressed some discontentment over the matter, saying that, at times, layoffs are necessary to stay in business. Some small businesses will have to make a choice between employees and health care benefits, should the Governor’s plan be enacted.

  3. Work share program may not save jobs, by Anne Schieber, 12/05 WOOD-TV via woodtv.com
    GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Lawmakers are considering an idea that would pay Michigan residents the difference if employers were to cut their hours.
    The plan is called work sharing, and Gov. Rick Snyder has included the idea in connection to his new workforce initiative, which also includes an online talent development marketplace.
    Work share is being used in at least 20 states, according the U.S. Department of Labor.
    It's intended purpose is to reduce or eliminate permanent layoffs until the economy improves.
    Proponents say it's a win for employers and employees. Instead of eliminating jobs to save money, employers keep workers, but cut hours. The state's unemployment insurance system would pay the worker the difference in the reduced paycheck.
    Not all employers are embracing the idea.
    "The state never picks up the check," said Kim Fettig of Ameritemp Staffing, a Grand Rapids temp agency. "It's the employer who picks up the check in the first place."
    Fettig is worried that without proper safeguards, the program could make unemployment insurance premiums more expensive.
    "That causes the employer to say, 'With that additional expense, I wanted to add more people, but now I can't,'" explained Fettig.

    Last week, Snyder expressed concern about losing skilled workers. He argued that if those workers are permanently layed off, they may leave the state to seek employment elsewhere.
    Two years ago, Fettig had an opportunity to retain a worker under a work share arrangement. And, he said, it worked out well. But he also pointed out that from his perspective, there is no shortage of work for skilled labor in the state.
    For two years, Fettig has had consistent orders for 30 or more workers:
    "Every one of my clients is telling us the problem is finding the people."
    [Good. Then wages will rise, spending will rise, and the regional downturn will be over.]
    In the end, a work share program in Michigan may come down to politics.
    President Obama and Democrats have widely supported the idea, but Republicans are not so sure. It's not clear what Snyder's endorsement might do.

  4. Fire dept. fight rages, by Mike Faher mfaher@tribdem.com, 12/04 Tribune-Democrat.com
    JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - Does it matter where Johnstown’s firefighters live?
    That’s the latest question in a raging debate about the city fire department’s staffing and the city’s safety.
    With more fire layoffs due in less than a month, the fact that the residency of full-time, professional firefighters has become an issue illustrates a deepening rift between City Hall administrators and those who respond to emergencies.
    After releasing a list showing that some firefighters reside outside the area, City Manager Kristen Denne declared that “these guys are not readily available for service.”
    Countered fire Capt. J.J. Murphy: “This just diverts the focus off of our initial response times.”
    From the time four firefighters were furloughed and the downtown fire station closed in August, both sides have attempted to control the focus of the dispute.
    Denne says it is a matter of cutting the distressed city’s costs, while firefighters say it is about public safety.
    The city’s fire union has tried to reinforce that message through a “Save Johnstown’s Firefighters” campaign employing fliers, billboards and a website.
    “If fire department cuts are safe, ask the city manager to prove it,” one pamphlet says.
    But Denne is firing back. Last week, she produced a list showing each firefighter’s home address.
    The problem, she argues, is that the fire union’s contract calls for all off-duty members to be contacted if more manpower is needed for major emergencies. Only after that occurs can volunteer fire companies from outside the city respond.
    The city’s list showed some firefighters living far from Johnstown. For example, there were addresses in DuBois, McKeesport, Blairsville and Greensburg, and city officials calculated that some off-duty firefighters would have to travel for more than an hour to get to the city.
    “They’re the ones throwing around the word ‘safety,’ and they’re not utilizing mutual aid” with nearby volunteer companies, Denne said.
    Union leaders, however, took umbrage at that argument.
    First, they pointed out that the city’s list included the four firefighters who were furloughed in August. That takes addresses such as Berlin, Meyersdale and Greensburg out of the mix.
    They also disputed other aspects of the list.

  5. Summit County Council sniffs at elections board budget request, by Rick Armon, 12/05 Akron Beacon Journal via ohio.com
    AKRON, Ohio - The Summit County Board of Elections is in for a fight if it wants to nearly double its budget, a county councilman says.
    Finance Committee Chairman Nick Kostandaras called it “ludicrous” that the board is seeking $9.3 million next year. County Executive Russ Pry has recommended $4.7 million, or 3.9 percent less than the board received this year.
    The elections board will appear today before County Council to discuss its proposed spending plan. But given the reaction from Kostandaras and others, it won’t find a receptive audience.
    Kostandaras noted that all county offices and agencies have been asked to trim spending because of declining tax revenue and other income. For example, the Child Support Enforcement Agency has laid off workers this year and sheriff’s deputies had to take unpaid furloughs to avoid layoffs, he said.
    The proposed county budget — if approved by County Council — would drop from $523 million this year to $488 million next year.
    “And these people have the audacity, the gall, to double their budget?” Kostandaras asked. “Are they out of their minds? They don’t see what’s going on? This is ludicrous. ... They need to get in tune with the economy.”
    But elections board members have said they’re worried about increased costs next year. It’s a presidential election year that might include two primaries and probably will see more people voting early by mail, which costs more than voting at the polls or casting absentee ballots in person.
    The county spent $7.1 million during the last presidential year.
    Board of Elections Director Ron Koehler, a Republican, said he will be happy to answer the council’s questions.
    “I think once they take a look at the facts, they will understand that the year 2012 will be a much more expensive year for us to operate,” he said. “We aren’t making up numbers. It really is going to be more expensive to operate next year.”
    Alex Arshinkoff, a Summit elections board member, said courts have ruled that elections boards can mandate up to the budget amount they originally requested. He said courts haven’t awarded boards above their initial budgets.
    “I don’t care what they do,” he said of the county. “We can go to court and mandate what we need.”
    Council President Jerry Feeman laughed when asked by the Beacon Journal whether the council would go along with the elections board’s financial request.
    “No way in heck,” he said.
    Even Pry, a former Democratic elections board member, questioned the amount, saying it “lacks reality” and “represents a complete lack of any thinking.” While other county offices have streamlined their operations, the board has ignored potential efficiencies, he said.
    Summit has higher employee costs at its election board than nine other large Ohio counties, according to a 2009 analysis done at the request of former Republican board member Brian Daley.
    Since then, the board has made numerous cuts to trim its budget, including laying off several employees, cutting part-timers’ hourly wages, no longer offering open registration events in public places like grocery stores, going without interns, offering compensatory time instead of overtime, and requiring employees to take a furlough day.
    Because of the changes, the budget dropped from $4.98 million in 2009 to $4.71 million last year. It rose to $4.89 million this year.
    Koehler proposed another money-saving step at the board’s most recent meeting: sending out postcards, rather than letters, to notify voters of changes in polling locations.
    Elections board expenses have remained high when compared to two similar-sized counties: Lucas and Montgomery. The Lucas and Montgomery budgets were $2.8 million and $3.3 million, respectively, this year.
    A similar disparity in expenses occurred in 2010 and 2009.
    Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.
    Staff writer Stephanie Warsmith contributed to this report.

12/03/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Fingerprint scanners monitor working hours, by Rosie Squires, CourierMail.com.au
    [J. Edgar Hoover LIVES! - down under - and hours awareness works two ways - employees can make sure employers don't start overlooking or rewarding lateness leavingwork while noticing and punishing lateness arriving at work.]
    SYDNEY, Australia - Fingerprint scanners are being used to monitor workers' hours and lunch breaks and some businesses are using the technology to dock employees' pay if they are late.
    Workers at Qantas, Dan Murphy's, Breville and Unomedical are among those using the new system, called PeopleKey, which is used to clock employees in and out of work.
    The scanners register the workers' fingerprints and record the time they start and finish duty. The information can be forwarded to payroll offices and employees can be penalised if they are caught slacking off.
    A Dan Murphy's spokesman said it used the system to monitor staff at its liquor stores, but maintained employees were not docked pay if they were only a few minutes late.
    "The system includes a time buffer so if a staff member was just a few minutes late this would not be recorded," the spokesman said.
    "Staff who are significantly late may have the time deducted from their pay or, at the manager's discretion, can choose to make up the time," a spokesman said.
    "Like many major retailers, Dan Murphy's has found electronic clocking in and out to be a reliable method of recording staff hours, as well as enabling store managers to know which team members are on site for health and safety purposes."
    PeopleKey head Frank Bruce said he has many Australian clients who use the technology to stop employees recording false start or finish times and "buddy punching", when workmates clock on for colleagues.
    "We have had cases where businesses have saved $100,000 by using the service," he said.

  2. City of Alto working to hire a police department, by Alexis Spears, KTRE.com
    ALTO, Tex. - "I think everyone's aware that there's no police department," said Dairy Queen General Manager, Crystal Shaw.
    The crime logs show it, from break-ins to botched bank robberies. After the city furloughed the five member Alto Police Department in June, crime never took a break.
    "We are a town that's full of young people, you know, and there's nothing for them to do here, except get in trouble," said Alto resident, Miranda Hamilton.
    Friday night, after six months, an about face. City leaders are pouring over a stack of 40 applications for Chief of Police.
    In a special meeting of the city council, the hiring process officially started. Alto plans have a new chief by December 8th, which is great news for residents like Miranda Hamilton.
    "I'm happy about it. I want them back. I was scared to death when they said, you know, that they were going to be gone six months," said Hamilton
    It's still unclear how many officers will be hired, but for Hamilton, any police presence brings peace of mind.
    "At nighttime, you know, I would feel better if they were more around," said Hamilton.
    In an emergency, we're told it takes as long as 15 minutes for Cherokee County Sheriff's Deputies to drive from Rusk. An overnight smash and grab in August leaves workers at Dairy Queen worried about safety.
    "Any business needs a police department, where if you have problems, you can call them. If you're being robbed, you can notify them," said Dairy Queen General Manager Crystal Shaw.
    Knowing help will soon be just down the street is the answer Shaw and others in Alto have been searching for.
    [Can't they go in on a duet with City of Soprano police?]

12/02/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Senate Dems to Snyder: Your Party Failed You Again, Insurance News Net (press release) via insurancenewsnet.com
    LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Senate Democrats issued the following news release:
    Following Governor Snyder's special message this morning, Senate Democrats immediately responded by seeking to implement the work-sharing proposal he touted that would help Michigan workers maintain employment. As the Senate debated Senate Bill 806 that would make detrimental [adds red tape] alterations to the state's Unemployment Insurance system today, Senator Vincent Gregory (D-Southfield) offered an amendment that would implement the Governor's work-sharing program for qualifying employers in Michigan. That amendment was defeated by the Republican majority.
    "We appreciate the recognition by Governor Snyder of our idea to create a work-sharing plan to help Michigan workers, and I share his call for immediate action on it to help our workers and improve our economy," said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing). "Unfortunately, his own caucus balked when we moved to act on it today when we had the opportunity to create a positive change that would help Michigan workers."
    Senator Gregory introduced Senate Bill 697 in September to create a work-sharing program for qualifying employers in Michigan that would allow for the payment of unemployment benefits to individuals whose wages and hours have been reduced. This would allow part-time employees to collect unemployment benefits and companies to retain multiple employees rather than letting them go as a temporary and practical alternative to layoffs. Gregory's amendment to Senate Bill 806 offered today mirrored the language of SB 697.
    "As Michigan's economy continues to go through peaks and troughs, we need to look at ways that we can help workers and employers alike weather the storm," said Senator Gregory. "My work-sharing proposal--endorsed by the Governor in his special message on talent development today--would strike a compromise between our businesses and our workers that would help everyone get through the lean times and avoid layoffs."
    Senate Bill 806 makes a number of changes to unemployment eligibility for displaced workers in Michigan, adding more red tape that makes it more difficult for unemployed workers to get and keep benefits. Earlier this year, Senate Republicans passed HB 4408 that made Michigan eligible for a one-time federal Unemployment Insurance extension, but also permanently reduced the number of Michigan-paid unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 in the process.
    Governor Rick Snyder issued a special message on talent development to the Michigan Legislature today in conjunction with a speech at Delta College near Saginaw. One of the platforms the Governor cited in his message for restoring Michigan's economy was work-sharing, which keeps workers on the job in conjunction with receiving unemployment benefits when their wages or hours are reduced. Despite the Governor's call for action, the Senate Republicans opposed today's move to put his plan into action.

  2. Snyder wants to recast unemployment insurance system in Michigan, by Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press via freep.com
    LANSING, Mich. -- Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday he would retool Michigan's unemployment insurance system as part of his plan to promote talent, improve work-force skills and reduce unemployment.
    Snyder asked the Legislature to approve work sharing -- a plan under which workers stay on the job with reduced hours to avert layoffs -- and introduce an entrepreneurial element by which displaced workers could get help starting their own businesses.
    The ideas drew praise from Republicans and Democrats, but the GOP-controlled Senate on Thursday voted down an attempt by Democrats to add work sharing to a separate piece of unemployment insurance legislation.

    "Unfortunately, his own caucus balked when we moved to act on it today," said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.
    Whitmer said there is a disconnect between Snyder putting forward innovations in unemployment compensation after signing into law a bill that cut the weeks of unemployment pay in hard-hit Michigan from 26 weeks to 20.
    Work sharing already is in place in 22 states and was touted by President Barack Obama in a speech on the economy in September.
    "Today's unemployment compensation system is not adequate or agile enough to retain our best talent," Snyder said at Delta College in University Center, north of Saginaw. "Much of our young and highly skilled talent is mobile, making it easy to seek work elsewhere after a layoff."
    Work sharing would help keep skilled workers in Michigan until things pick up by allowing unemployment benefits to offset reduced hours -- as an alternative to layoffs, Snyder said.
    State Rep. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said that earlier this year he introduced a bill to allow work sharing in Michigan and hopes Snyder's endorsement will improve the chances of the legislation emerging from the GOP-controlled House Commerce Committee.
    "I think we have to be creative and find new and responsible ways to get people back to work," Ananich said.
    Lawmakers will study the proposal, said Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.
    Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township, chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee, said he likes work sharing. There's nothing employers hate more than having to lay people off, he said.
    Kowall and others said they want to hear more details about Snyder's proposal to use unemployment benefits to spur entrepreneurship.
    In his speech -- Snyder's fifth special message to the Legislature since taking office Jan. 1 -- he called on the Legislature to approve "an innovative program called Self-Employment Assistance" under which job search waivers can be granted to "individuals who are least likely to find a job while receiving benefits and who opt to pursue entrepreneurial activity."
    Oregon was successful with such a program, Snyder said. From 2004-09, 77% of self-employment participants who started a business remained in business, he said.
    Stephen Spurr, an economics professor at Wayne State University, said the idea is interesting but he sees pitfalls.
    "If someone says they're trying to start a business, how are they going to verify that?" Spurr asked.
    Snyder announced a new Web-based marketplace to help connect and develop Michigan talent with future employers and called for measures to help returning veterans find work. He also said caps on the numbers of highly-skilled immigrants allowed to enter the country should be relaxed.
    Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com

12/01/2011 – 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 ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Our working hours are now 'utter lunacy', by Joe Leogue, The Corkman via corkman.ie
    CORK, Ireland - A CORK paramedic has lifted the lid on the long hours worked by ambulance teams, describing the Health Service Executive's reconfiguration of the emergency services in Cork as 'utter lunacy'.
    He further claims that the HSE is exploiting a legal loophole to force emergency service personnel to work longer hours — putting lives at risk in the process.
    "The Working Time Act has a section that says that emergency service operators, be it ambulance staff, garda, fire services and so on, are exempt from health and safety legislation on maximum working hours — the normal rules don't apply.
    "That was put in place for a major accident — say there was a plane crash at Cork airport and there were 200 casualties. Then they could call for all hands on deck, regardless of the hours worked, because of the nature of the emergency.
    "What is happening now, however, is that the exception has become the rule and we are being called out all the time for all calls."
    The paramedic says a worst case scenario could see ambulance staff on the road for over 24 hours, where they could leave for work at 6am and not return, after call outs, until the afternoon the following day.

    "How can we be expected to administer drugs to patients when working such long hours? The wrong dosage could kill a patient, and in the event that something like that happens the HSE would turn around and say 'you shouldn't have been working if you were tired, you should have grounded yourself'. "It's a complete contradiction. "As the emergency medical system is progressed we are expected to carry and administer more drugs.
    "There is more possibility of a near miss, if we administer the wrong dose or the wrong drug or to the wrong person – there are so many different ways it could go wrong in the event your paramedic is fatigued."
    The paramedic explained that the HSE has a 'near miss' system – whereby any mistakes or near accidents in the line of duty are to be reported to a chain of command, who are supposed to issue recommendations on foot of the report.
    "They are supposed to investigate, there are supposed to be recommendations made — in the last 12—18 months no one has ever heard back.
    "We have reached a situation where we are so tired with the level of work we are doing that we have no option but to take ourselves off the road as we are a danger to ourselves, a danger to others on the road and a danger to patients."

  2. Sarkozy Lays Foundation For Reshaping The Eurozone, NPR.org
    TOULON, France - In a highly anticipated speech Thursday night, French President Nicolas Sarkozy laid the groundwork for tighter French-German cooperation.
    He made an ambitious call for a re-write of European treaties, but his speech — billed as his last-ditch plan to save the euro — offered no concrete emergency measures to contain Europe's debt crisis.
    French news channels broadcast Sarkozy's speech live and showed him walking into a packed auditorium in the southern city of Toulon. The setting was symbolic, because it was in the same auditorium three years ago, just after Lehman Brothers fell, that Sarkozy gave a major speech denouncing what he called capitalism gone wild.
    Thursday night, he admitted that things had not gotten better.
    "I know the French feel that their lives are completely upended by a crisis they had nothing to do with. To give the French control back over their lives, we have to let them control their destiny. And to do that, France must prepare itself for this new economy," Sarkozy said
    He said the only way France could confront the crisis was by working more and cutting spending. The country had not balanced its budget since 1974, he noted, calling the situation untenable.
    For the next 30 minutes Sarkozy spoke about a new world with open borders, where the French could no longer enjoy a welfare system fashioned in the profitable years after World War II.
    In a clear jab at the opposition socialists, Sarkozy denounced the 35 hour workweek and retirement at age 60 as two policies that had destroyed French competitiveness.
    [Basically, when you're competing in a race to the bottom, anything you can do to destroy competitiveness is all to the good. Sarkozy's not going to be happy till he returns France to the 12.6% unemployment of its 39-hour workweek in 1997.]
    Finally, 30 minutes into the speech, Sarkozy got around to talking about the euro.
    Failure To Step In With Tough Measures
    The speech had two distinct halves, says Jim Hertling, bureau chief for Bloomberg News in Paris.
    "The first half was a campaign speech, and the second half was a Europe speech," he says.
    Sarkozy faces a tough re-election next year.
    Herling says that time and again, European leaders have failed to stop the crisis, using patchwork measures that seem to come too little too late. And Thursday night's speech was just more of the same, he says.
    Most analysts agree that at this point, only a massive intervention by the European Central Bank to buy the debt of suffering countries or the issuing of common, euro bonds backed by all members will be able to boost confidence in the common currency and calm markets.
    But so far, Germany has resisted such measures, calling first for a strict European financial governance to be put in place.
    Sarkozy admitted that it had been difficult to stop the crisis, and that leaders had stumbled. He blamed it on European treaties that lacked emergency measures and the ability to deal with such a crisis. He admitted they were making it up as they went along.
    Finally, 45 minutes into the speech, he gave the first real news.
    "After this long road, we are coming back to essentials. That's why France and Germany want a new European treaty, in order to rethink the organization of Europe," he said.
    Sarkozy said European treaties should mandate a balanced budget for every member of the eurozone and punish violators. He announced that Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel would be going to Paris Monday, where the two leaders would announce new measures to guarantee the future of Europe. Bloomberg's Hertling says he's not convinced it will be enough.
    "There's going to be a Franco-Germany proposal for things they want to see happen, new rules to police European budget rules. You're going to have the whole question that's going to bog down in process," he says.
    Call For German-French Unity
    To French critics — who have accused the French president of being Merkel's lapdog or of wanting to build a German Europe — Sarkozy stressed that Europe could only function if France and Germany were tightly bound.
    "France and Germany, after so many tragedies, have united their destinies for the future. To go back on this strategy would be unpardonable. History and geography have made us adversaries or partners. We have chosen friendship, and that has brought peace. Only if France and Germany are united will Europe be strong," he said.
    And this partnership, he asserted, would actually enhance French sovereignty. Merkel will speak to the German Bundestag on Friday. Analysts expect her to build on Sarkozy's themes of solidarity and stricter budgets.

  3. Service organizations and charities report greater need this year than ever before, by Brittany Wooley, KTVQ Billings News via KTVQ.com
    BILLINGS, Mont. - It's the season of giving, and as we enter the month December, some charities and service organizations are reporting a greater need this year than ever before.
    According to Paul Chinberg of Billings Family Service Incorporated, the last three years have been the most difficult for families in our community, and he reports a 25-30 percent increase in those seeking assistance this year from last.
    Chinberg said most of Family Service Incorporated's clients are working, but because Billings is a service-based community, the lower paid are often hit the hardest when the economy suffers.
    Employers are forced to cut hours, so those working full-time may now only get 10 hours a week.
    "We're seeing a lot of first time clients that might have lived in Billings for 10-20 years and never had to ask for help, and now because of the cost of living going up, it seems like every time you go somewhere to buy something it is costing more. Those people are coming in. They need help with rent, utilities and food, Chinberg said.
    As the weather gets colder, charities are running low on winter clothing for families.
    Chinberg said during this season, Family Services could also really use turkeys or anything that would go along with a holiday meal.
    Family Service Incorporated and Toys for Tots will distribute approximately 14,000 gifts this year. There is a strong need for gifts for children who are 13 to 17 years old.
    Chinberg said he was reading through requests children are making for gifts, and the most requested item is shoes, as opposed to a favorite toy.

Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
August 2-31/2011
July/2011 + 8/01
March 2-31/2011
February 2-28/2011 +3/01
January 2-31 +2/01/2011
December/2010 + 1/1/11
10/31+ November/2010
October 1-30/2010
July 2-31/2010
June 2-30/2010 +Jul.1
May 2-31/2010 +Jun.1
April 2-30/2010 +May 1
March 3-31/2010 +Apr.1
February 2-28/2010 +Mar.1-2
January/2010 +Feb.1
Nov.27-30 (& Dec.)/2004
Oct.27-31/2004 + Nov.1
(July 31+) Aug.1-10/2004
July 20-30/2004
July 17-19/2004
July 13-16/2004
July 1-12/2004
June 16-30/2004
June 1-15/2004
May 15-31/2004
May 1-14/2004
Feb.21-29/2004 + Mar.1
Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
1998 and previous years.

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