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Timesizing News, January/2012
[Commentary] ©2012 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Harvard Sq PO Box 117, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080

1/31/2012 – 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. Pioneer Press workers get two more layoff-free months, by David Brauer, MinnPost.com (blog)
    ST. PAUL, Minn. - Although they have not closed the deal on a contract that expires today, the Pioneer Press Newspaper Guild approved a no-layoff extension through March 31.
    The Guild — which represents the newsroom and many business departments – will continue to swallow a 37.5-hour workweek first agreed to last January. That deal cut pay proportionately from a 40-hour week.
    The no-layoff provision has preserved headcount at the state’s second-largest daily, at least among union types.
    (Non-union managers have been let go during the freeze.) Unlike a few years ago, the PiPress has been filling newsroom vacancies, and on Monday, elevated fill-in reporter Brady Gervais to permanent status.
    The current negotiation is significant because it is the first under the PiPress’s new management, DigitalFirst, whose strategy has been to outsource printing/distribution and preserve — daresay, enhance? — “content creation.”
    The PiPress Guild includes PiPress advertising, circulation, accounting, promotion and building maintenance workers. It isn’t clear how DigitalFirst CEO John Paton’s disruptive business strategies, which emphasize the Internet over print, might disrupt various Guild departments and coalitions.
    Like the contract, the no-layoff and shorter-workweek provisions were scheduled to expire Jan. 31. The contract has an evergreen provision that keeps it in force during negotiations, but the layoff and workweek provisions didn’t, necessitating Monday’s vote.
    [Voilà, a classic example of timesizing, not downsizing. And here's another -]

  2. Adair County Road and Bridge Department cutting back, KTVO via heartlandconnection.com
    KIRKSVILLE, Mo. -- The Adair County Road and Bridge Department will be cutting back for the remainder of the winter.
    The department will be cutting back from 40 hours a week to 32 hours a week.
    The economy has taken a major toll on the department, so Adair County Commissioners have decided to go this route rather than lay off employees.

    Employees will be able to keep their insurance and may also use a comp day or vacation day on the fifth day to complete a full week of pay.
    Presiding Commissioner Stanley Pickins says it was a hard decision to make, but it was one that had to be made.
    "Really it is no different as to what MoDOT is doing or anyone else. The funding is what everyone is short on. We have been short on funds since 2002 and it has been getting worse and worse every year. This was just something we had to do," Pickins said.
    Adair County Road and Bridge employees will be able to get back on a 5- day 40- hour schedule in mid-April.
    However, the 32 hour work week will return in early November.

1/29-30/2012 – 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 could be good for state - Business can use this tool to adjust quickly during rough economy, 1/30 (1/29 late posting) LansingStateJournal.com
    LANSING, Mich. - In the late 1970s, California adopted an innovative idea: Employers needing to temporarily cut their payroll hours due to decreased demand for their products or services could reduce employees' hours across the board rather than laying off a portion of their workforce.
    The employees' reduced wages would be replaced by Unemployment Insurance for a limited time until the employer is able to restore the cut hours.
    This program, known as "work sharing," is a win-win for employers and employees. For employers, it enables them to retain their skilled workers during the downturn, thereby avoiding the need to hire and train new workers when business improves. For employees, it enables them to keep their employment and their benefits while minimizing disruptions in their household income.
    Work sharing is completely voluntary. Enacting a program in Michigan would not mandate businesses to choose work sharing over layoffs, but it would give qualifying businesses the option.
    It also would not create additional taxes for businesses and would have negligible effect on the Unemployment Insurance trust fund (since workers receiving benefits through work sharing would be receiving them otherwise due to layoffs).
    Today, 24 states have work-sharing programs. New Jersey and Maine established their programs within the past month. There are currently bills in Michigan, introduced by state Rep. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and Vince Gregory, D-Southfield, to establish a work-sharing program in Michigan.

    [OK, let's go, Michigan! - you'd be the 25th state with a worksharing program, meaning that 50% of the United States would have intelligent life in this quadrant of the Galaxy.]
    Work sharing has bipartisan support around the country and in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder included it in his workforce development agenda. Both unions and members of the business community support it because it helps workers and employers weather a tough economy without creating additional taxes or hardship for businesses.
    With the momentum work sharing is having across the country, and the economic realities in Michigan that continue to make businesses and workers vulnerable, now is the perfect time for this legislature to pass the work-sharing bills, HB 4516 and SB 696.

  2. French President Sarkozy unveils plans for VAT and longer work week, 1/29 TheAustralian.com.au
    [Sarkozy is demonstrating What NOT To Do. He is evidently too dense to realize a longer workweek is directly opposite to the "short work" (Kurzarbeit) program he affects to borrow from Germany. Truly the big European economies don't have a clue what they're doing right and are beginning to undo (France) or offset (Germany) it.]
    PARIS, France - President Nicolas Sarkozy monopolised French TV airways last night to announce measures aimed at improving the country's competitiveness, as well as his economic record, three months ahead of the spring presidential election.
    To help safeguard industrial jobs, Mr Sarkozy said his government would shift part of social welfare costs from companies onto consumers by reducing payroll taxes and increasing the value-added tax - a levy similar to sales taxes in the US - to 21.2 per cent from 19.6 per cent.
    [This is his first mistake. You get less of what you tax, and if you want more sales and consumer spending which constitute the vast majority of your economic dynamism (the Sacred Seventy Percent of GDP in the U.S.], you do NOT tax them - you tax the people who complain the loudest but suffer the least (and percentagewise, spend the least of their trillions) = The Onepercent.]
    The proposal echoes measures Germany implemented in the mid-2000s to boost the competitiveness of its industry.
    [Germany would be in even better shape today if it had worried more about the strength of its predictable, reliable, controllable, majority-chunk-of-its-GDP domestic consumer base than about the unpredictable, unreliable, uncontrollable, minority-chunk-of-its-GDP foreign-trade competitiveness. But even this mistake has been offset by its employment preservation via workweek reduction inherent in its worksharing (Kurzarbeit) program.]
    Mr Sarkozy, who lags behind Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande in opinion polls, also proposed a new work contract that will ultimately allow employers to escape the constraints of France's hallowed 35-hour work week, making both hours and wages significantly more flexible.
    [ie: more work for less money. This is his second mistake - it will raise French unemployment (chomage), reduce French domestic consumer spending, and get this moron defeated in the election in three months, but if the French are as stupid as the Canadians in voting a majority for Harper (= a vote against voting since Harper hasn't hesitated to shut down Parliament à la Charles I whenever it suits him), France will accelerate its diagonally downward spiral as Canada has done, and catch up to the USA in its prolonged moment of fastest self-destruct.]
    "I want France to remain a land of production," Mr Sarkozy said in the television interview broadcast on at least six different channels.
    [You do that by denying your consumer base to CEOs who don't support it with employment, period.]
    The full digital experience
    At the weekend, it emerged that German Chancellor Angela Merkel would join Mr Sarkozy on the campaign trail in the coming weeks to forcefully support his re-election.
    [Merkel definitely has a missing chip on her motherboard. What a sarcophagal priority!]
    The move underlines her concern that a shift to the left in France at the coming election could derail the German-led austerity drive in Europe.
    [And Krugman has repeatedly pointed out the toxicity of austerity in a recession, oops, "struggling recovery."]
    Mr Sarkozy's 11th-hour competitiveness package amounts to a risky political gamble, analysts said, because opinion polls show that a majority of French people are opposed to both a hike in sales tax, which will eat into their spending power [and their economic independence and self-sufficiency, such as it is], and the introduction of more flexible job contracts. In addition, it isn't certain that Mr Sarkozy's government has enough time left to introduce the proposed measures to parliament.
    [But what does Sarcozy care about the majority of French people? Don't bother him with logic, his mind's made up.]
    Yet, Mr Sarkozy's package suggests the president is trying to portray himself as a courageous statesman who has the guts to push through unpopular measures for France's good, analysts said.
    [Yeah, like the Inquisition was all for the heretics' good, nevermind over their dead, mutilated bodies.]
    Asked why he hadn't tackled the issue of competitiveness earlier in his five-year mandate, Mr Sarkozy said: "The crisis of summer 2011 makes it possible to explain a number of things to French people, and to make them understands [sic] some challenges."
    [The only challenge here is Sarkozy's time blindness and total failure to understand the role of workweek reduction in creating "wartime prosperity" without the war via wartime levels of labor "shortage" to spread the national income out into wages and spending instead of allowing it to funnel up and deactivate among the richest Onepercent.]
    The eurozone's second-largest economy, France has been hit hard by the slowdown stemming from the debt crisis. National statistics bureau Insee now forecasts the economy to be in the second quarter of a two-quarter [so far] recession, and unemployment continues to rise, reaching 9.3 per cent in mainland France in the third quarter of last year.
    France has also suffered a downgrade from its triple-A credit rating earlier this month by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services.
    [And if Sarkozy keeps sacrificing majority-GDP domestic consumption on the altar of the minority-GDP trade, things will keep worsening.]
    That has added pressure on Mr Sarkozy's government to bring down the swollen deficit, giving the government little-to-no room to stimulate the economy.
    Mr Sarkozy's government has said that cutting payroll taxes would act as a powerful tool to protect French jobs, which are increasingly being relocated to lower-cost countries.
    [Sarko needs to switch from payroll taxes to overtime taxes, with a complete exemption for OT-targeted training and hiring.]
    In addition to increasing VAT, the French president said he would also propose raising a tax on financial revenue.
    [At last, a common sense proposal to get some of this vast, relatively inert money back into circulation.]
    French companies would enjoy lower labour costs while imported products - which would share the higher VAT-tax burden - would help finance France's welfare system. Germany increased its VAT to 19 per cent from 16 per cent in 2007 to shift part of the burden of social welfare onto consumers.
    Many economists are sceptical that the social VAT can work the way the French government describes. They say employees would be likely to seek higher pay to restore their spending power, offsetting the benefits of lower payroll taxes and draining French companies' competitive edge. And Mr Hollande, the Socialist Party candidate, has said he opposed the measure.
    But Mr Sarkozy said he was confident that competition would force companies to refrain from passing on the higher VAT rate onto consumers. "There will not be an increase in prices," Mr Sarkozy said.
    Additional reporting: William Boston

1/28/2012 – 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. Labour-market policies: A costly business, by Peter Taberner, New Europe via neurope.eu
    COPENHAGEN, Denmark - European nations may need to ask themselves if they can loosen aspects of their sometimes watertight labour-market regulations.
    The indications are that Europe is willing to think again, as part of the Greek austerity response to its deep seated issues, wages are to be slashed as it will be made easier for companies to cut payroll costs. Portugal have [sic] also pledged to implement reforms including making it cheaper to lay off staff when required.
    As President Sarkozy seeks re-election this year, he is desperately seeking agreement with unions on pay negotiation and on other "restrictive" laws [our quotes] such as the 35 hour week, in an attempt to push regulation through before voting takes place.
    [He's already undermined the 35-hour workweek and got higher unemployment. How much more employment-concentration on how many fewer consumers does he want? We understood he was looking at German worksharing, which goes in the opposite direction. Create more jobs by cutting hours and reinvesting in overtime-targeted training and hiring, and CUT ALL THE GOV'T PROGRAMS that exist for only one reason = to create enough busywork to maintain a frozen level of the workweek forever against all past, present and future technological worksavings. It doesn't get any dumber than that!]
    Sarkozy was reputed to be an admirer of the ‘flexicurity’ model used by Denmark, a fusion of a highly flexible labour market combined with strong social protection, but so far has failed to deliver the necessary reforms.
    [So who pays for the "strong social protection"? taxpayers? This is not capitalism, because the "private" sector is parasitizing the public sector.]
    The flexicurity model has been much admired, but the prolonged recession has led to questions about its real effectiveness. According to Eurostat, Denmark’s unemployment rate for November last year was 7.8%, lower than the EU and the OECD average, flexicurity’s proponents would say that is testament to their dual system.
    [Dual, shmual. They need to hold the private sector's feet to the fire and force them to clean up their own mess of disposable employees by cutting the workweek as much as required for full employment and maximum domestic consumption.]
    In Denmark jobs are created and destroyed on a par with the US, according to OECD research taken between 2000 and 2005.
    [Then Denmark has nothing to teach anyone.]
    In contrast, studies in 2009, again by the OECD revealed that Denmark was top of the league when it came to expenditure on labour market legislation, spending 4.8% of its GDP on them, while the US took a more frugal stance with 0.6%.
    [What does "expenditure on labour market legislation" have to do with anything? f it's supposed to be a measure of legislative burden, there must be simpler and more direct ones.]
    A large slice of the money is spent on the ‘activation’ process, designed to drag the unemployed back into productivity by a number of measures. These include counselling and re-qualification, job training with either a public or a private company, or the third option of employment with a wage subsidy.
    [All that's required is a 100% tax on overtime profits compared to additional hiring, with a 100% exemption for reinvestment in overtime-targeted hiring - and training whenever needed. DESIGN THE PROBLEM TO SOLVE ITSELF - it's a design principle that's implemented in every other field except economics and management ... time to change that.]
    The longer a person is unemployed the pressure increases to enrol in one of the programmes; after around eight weeks there will be an offer of activation; after 30 weeks of inactivity passes, then an activation programme is compulsory.
    Statistics from Jobindsats Denmark reveal that since 2008 there has been a drop in the duration of the programmes while participation increases, and after 3 and12 months of activation, its effectiveness has waned. The share of those in employment from 2006-09 due to these schemes dropped by 15% and 23% respectively. In a depressed market paying for activation programmes can be costly as unemployment grows.
    It would be harsh to fully judge this system in a major downturn, and in the paper A Flexicurity Labour Market in the Great Recession: The Case of Denmark by Torben Andersen, written in May 2011, it was found that the activation process had a positive effect. This from improved qualifications from private job training, and the schemes provided an shot in the arm to motivate the unemployed more.
    Simon Espersen, director of the Denmark’s first free-market thinktank the Copenhagen Institute, has his reservations over flexicurity. "It is relatively easy to hire and fire in Denmark. Also, it is still quite easy to start a new business. So transparency and flexibility are still valid terms for the Danish model. The worst aspects we share with most of Europe, and increasingly also the US, that the incentive to work is being reduced through welfare-policies including the taxation to pay for these policies."
    He added: “The security-part of the model does not provide adequate incentives to get back fast into another job. Europe needs more flexibility created by rolling-back the welfare-system, lower the taxes, reduce the public sector, increase the relative size of the private sector, privatise social-security where it is politically possible which in Denmark that would be starting with unemployment insurance. In short, make it more interesting to work, create, innovate and produce, and less interesting to be idle and unemployed.”
    ["Interesting" is irrelevant, patronizing and suffocating. Create an employer-perceived labor shortage and let the free market provide wage incentives by forcing employers to bid against one another for good help.]
    Adherence to this system would put Europe on a par with the US, where it’s undoubted that capital and labour is [sic] more flexible.
    [And where it's undoubted that the economy is diving into the trashcan. Bizarre how so many in Europe don't have a clue what they're doing right and want to copy the U.S. in its moment of fastest self-destruction.]
    In terms of structural employment, the US can point to its superior long term unemployment rate, which in 2010 according to Eurostat stood at 2.8% compared to the 3.9% EU average [but the US counts less with more of the problem excluded under other categories, and Eurostate counts more]. Germany and France were also vanquished with long term inactivity rates [whatever they are!] of 3.4% and 3.9% respectively, but flexicurity can claim victory with prolonged unemployment as Denmark’s rate stood at 1.4%.
    Youth unemployment does not make such good reading for the US as their problems far outweigh those in Europe.
    [And youth determine the future.]
    For every 1,000 people including those aged between 15 and 24 in November last year, Eurostat calculated that Germany had 393 who were unemployed; France’s problems were greater at 722 out of work; the UK’s youth unemployment issues were highlighted with a score of 1023 for October last year. In the US an eye-watering [this may work in Danish but English says "mind boggling" or "brain numbing"] figure of 3564 was reached, displaying that the easy to hire and fire culture does not help everyone.
    [Much more than that, showing US hire&fire is mostly fire and helps fewer and fewer, careening into a self=accelerating death spiral.]
    This data though does not convince Diana Furchott-Roth, a senior fellow with the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, that Europe is in better shape to tackle its employment glitches.
    “The measures that are advantageous to the US are that its [sic] far easier to sack workers who are not so good, and cheaper to lay off staff.
    [And deactivate at least 1.5 consumers for every employee laid off.]
    In Europe, the unions are harder to negotiate with; as an example, it was the auto companies after the financial crash like the Detroit three, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, that in hoc [meaningless, substitute "cooperation"] with the unions needed [substitute "lobbied for"?] a bail out, compared to those companies in non-union states.
    [And what about the employee representatives who are sitting on Works Councils in companies all over Europe? Is that unions being "harder to negotiate with," Diana?]
    “Before this recession the unemployment rate in the US was lower than in Germany, who are more successful due to the austerity measures put in place by Angela Merkel while President Obama wasted millions with a stimulus bill that did not produce a more stable economy.”
    Another accusation that the US has faced is the [sic] that with the labour market being so supple [a rose-fragrance lexispin for "unregulated'], there is an over reliance on the [sic] creating jobs that are temporary, where atypically workers would not receive all of the benefits that someone on the company payroll - as opposed to a recruitment agency - would receive.
    Undoubtedly this is a pattern that has ballooned since the early eighties and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics disclosed that for last year, payroll employment grew on average by 137,000 positions per month [when at least 300,000 are needed just to keep up with demand]. Whereas the amount of temporary jobs created was an average of just over 10% of the payroll figure for the last six months, but this is hardly evidence that the US labour market is flooded with short term contracts and job insecurity.
    [Has this genius looked at the bloating of US welfare, disability, prison and homelessness lately? How much evidence does he need?]
    In 2010, Germany had a total of 14.7 % of temporary workers says Eurostat, with Denmark also possessing a higher rate of 8.6% of agency employees. Stereotypically the UK suffers from the same label as the US in having a reliance on short term workers, but the numbers tell us otherwise with a comparatively smaller figure of 6.1% on temporary contracts.
    [Again, what about bloating US welfare, disability, prison and homelessness due to the unavailability of temp contracts or more and more working for cash "under the table" or for barter?]
    Europe can point once more to its advocacy of a ‘social contract’ principle with the Agency Workers Directive, which came into effect last October. Stipulations include handing temporary workers the same basic rights as the ones on the company books after a period of 12 weeks.
    [Sounds like the Netherlands' approach of beefing up part time rather than redefining "full time" downwards.]
    Multi-national giant Siemens would know all about the differences in labour contracts, and became almost a beacon to the inflexible market when it was announced in a deal with union IG Metall that non[e] of Siemens’ 128,000 workers would be forced into redundancy. President Obama in his recent state of the union address mentioned the company’s retraining policy as a fine example of how to hold out a branch to the unemployed.
    [Economies that don't hold out good jobs instead of just "branches" are losing their consumer base via their employment basement. Remember the consumer base - the thing that was always quoted as 70% of the economy but mentioned much less than the 17% trade sector?]
    A spokesperson for the company [presumably Siemens] said: “In our system, unions acted responsibly and moderately during the crisis, and labour costs in Germany grew less than in other countries. Short-time work [= Kurzarbeit alias worksharing] was a big help in securing jobs during the crisis. The German government extended the period for short-time compensation into the year 2010.
    “Also I would like to mention education and qualification. In Germany, Siemens helps young people in entering the labor market. We currently provide vocational education for almost 10,000 young people. We like to 'export' Germany’s 'dual system' as a combination of theoretical and practical training.”
    On both sides of the Atlantic, it would seem that from the cost of lay offs [US] to degrees of social protection [EU], there are lessons that can be learned from each other.
    [Sounds like the negatives can be learned from the US and the positives from the EU - because "social protection" translates directly into domestic spending per capita, and its own domestic spending is the only thing any economy can depend on going forward.]

  2. Depression and Long Working Hours Linked, Reveals Study, TopNews United States via topnews.us
    [Meaning psychological depression, but economic depression and long hours are also linked.]
    LONDON, U.K. - A British study that has appeared in the journal PLoS One has revealed that people who work more than standard eight hours are prime targets of depression. The problem gets increased even more for people who work for eleven or more hours.
    The lead author, Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College London, said that they have found a robust link between excessive working hours and depression. As per their six year long research, which included 2,123 middle aged civil servants.
    It has got revealed that those who work for about 11 hours face 2.5 times more risk than others who work for about seven and eight hours a day.
    Virtanen said, "Although occasionally working overtime may have benefits for the individual and society, it is important to recognize that working excessive hours is also associated with an increased risk of major depression".
    Another thing that got revealed through the research was that the study researchers found depression cases commonly among junior and mid level staff workers and not among those who were placed at high positions.
    Earlier it was thought that smoking, alcohol consumption and physical disease could be having a link with depression. But nothing as such got revealed through the study. So, the study researchers said that there was very little link between such factors and depression.
    Some other factors which could have a direct link with depression are work conflicts, after work schedules and increased work times. The study was funded by many health organizations. Some of them were the British Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association, and the U. S. National Institute on Aging.
    The study researchers want to continue the study in which they would like to reduce the working hours of employees. This would help them to know whether or not standard working hours has a link with depression.

1/27/2012 – 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. Private sector work hours may be cut to attract Saudis, by Muhammad Al-Enezi, Okaz/Saudi Gazette via saudigazette.com.sa
    DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia — A new committee composed of members from different ministries will look into the disadvantages Saudi citizens face while working in the private sector.
    Hattab Bin Saleh Al-Enezi, spokesman of the Ministry of Labor, told Okaz/Saudi Gazette, Saturday that private sector employees can expect more advantages, particularly in terms of the number of working hours, days off per week, and number of annual holidays, in order to encourage Saudis to work for the private sector.
    He said this will see a significant decline in the number of Saudis quitting the private sector to work for the public sector every year.
    “The Ministry of Labor rejects unfair termination of any Saudi employee in the private sector and will reinstate any Saudi whose contract has been terminated unfairly,” Al-Enezi said.
    Many Saudi employees in the private sector want two days off in a week, seven working hours per day, and 45 days annual vacation, as opposed to 30 days, and longer Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha holidays like those given to employees in the public sector.
    Many believe that if the ministry approves these demands, a large number of Saudis will show interest in working for the private sector.
    Among other measures the ministry is planning to attract Saudi youth to the private sector is fixing a SR3,000 minimum wage for Saudis. The program is expected to be implemented by Rabi Al-Thani 1433H (March, 2012).
    The program, which is being prepared in cooperation with the Human Resources Development Fund (Hadaf), aims to retain Saudi employees in the private sector by making their minimum salary equal to that in the public sector.
    Ibrahim Aal Al-Mu’aiqil, Director General of Hadaf, was recently quoted as saying that the Fund would compensate Saudis working in the private sector who earn less than SR2,000. Hadaf will pay the difference, he said.
    This will prevent Saudi employees from resigning and registering for the Hafiz Program for unemployed citizens, he added. A source at Hadaf said that the Fund was striving to raise salaries in the private sector, particularly for security guards and drivers. He said arrangements are under way to sign agreements with several companies to encourage Saudi youth to join the private sector.

  2. The German Labour Miracle, by Tim Worstall, Forbes.com
    [Here's a naysayer -]
    LONDON, U.K. - Sadly we’ve yet another piece in the UK press looking at the German labour market and assuming that we should copy some or other part of it. The sadly part comes from the way that no one ever recommends the thing that actually contributed to that miracle: mainly because the English unions and workers simply would not acept what the Germans enthusiastically embraced.
    "In the battle between rival systems, 'Rhineland capitalism' appears to be winning hands down. In the two years since the global economic downturn in 2009, Germany has expanded employment by 1.8m, while the UK, US, France, Italy and Spain have shed 7m jobs. In 2007, when most other countries were nearing the end of a boom driven by excess credit, Germany had the highest unemployment rate (8.7% of the workforce on a harmonised basis) of the group of seven leading industrialised countries. Yet in late 2011, according to OECD figures, German unemployment, at 5.2%, was the lowest in the G7 apart from Japan."
    Oh, yes, lovely. The rest of the argument is that because Germany has apprenticeships and work sharing then these two things will bring down the unemployment rate elsewhere.
    But here’s the problem. Germany had apprenticeships and work sharing when the German unemployment rate was much higher than everyone else’s too.
    [This commentator is pretending ignorance of the tremendous rampup of worksharing (German Kurz-arbeit) that led in the low-unemployment period.]
    So it can’t be those two things alone that explain the current low unemployment rates.
    [Yes, it can. In fact, it can be worksharing alone.]
    This is really a case of people seeing only what they’re looking for.
    [Or this is a commentator whose income depends on disputing the obvious.]
    What has changed over the last decade in the German labour market is that workers’ wages have deliberately been kept down.
    [Another strange statement when German workers' wages are so much higher than anyone else's, except of course the huge "compensation" US and UK CEOs extort for bankrupting their corporations and looting their employees' pension funds, followed by huge golden parachutes as they scurry back behind the walls of their gated communities.]
    Around the turn of the century the Germans, in that rather Germanic manner, had a good hard look at what was causing high unemployment. The answer was that German labour was becoming uncompetitively expensive. The unit labour costs that is, the amount that had to be paid for labour relative to the value of the goods produced with it.
    So, there was pretty much a national compact. The increases in productivity in the coming years (because, technology) would not be passed on in pay packets. Instead nominal wages would rise a bit, real wages only a little and unit labour costs would then fall to more internationally competitive levels. Which is what has happened.
    [Oh really? Then why are German wages still uncompetitively high? And the German consumer base commensurately strong, strong enough to make German wages' "uncompetitiveness" relative to lower wages elsewhere, ie: US and UK, irrelevant.]
    So, the great secret of the German labour miracle is simply that they’ve, over the last deade, lowered labours’ wages in relative terms.
    [By an insignificant amount.]
    And yes, that really does lead to a lower unemployment rate.
    [Not really, because it lowers domestic consumer spending and decelerates domestic currency circulation and domestic marketable productivity and domestic sustainable investment, not that this commentator is interested in sustainability.]
    There is in fact no great secret: except, of course, for the fact that no one in the US or US [sic, one of these should probably be changed to UK] is willing to suggest this clearly and obviously workable solution.
    [Oh yes, let's just funnel more of the national income to The Onepercent so they'll "get it invested and right back into action creating jobs." This commentator apparently has brain partitions to seal off the reality that wages in the US and UK are already much lower than in Germany - which by his reasoning should mean that unemployment in the US and UK should be much lower - but it isn't - and...where are the jobs?]
    And yes, I do wonder why.
    [This commentator's thinking is so scrambled and self-contradictory, we'd wonder why Forbes is publishing him except that Forbes is hoping he can suppress the idea of flexibly sharing the vanishing yet-unautomated employment since it would reduce One Percent's power of The Job Offer, however suicidal (everyone else first) that power is becoming for The Onepercent.]

1/26/2012 – 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. State program helps Yakima Valley businesses dodge layoffs, by Michael Spears , KIMA CBS 29 via kimatv.com
    KIMA found more Yakima Valley businesses are taking advantage of Washington's Shared Work program. The state says the program has saved thousands of jobs over the years and it's helping our local companies avoid layoffs.
    YAKIMA VALLEY, Wash. - It takes upwards of two months to train the average plant worker at Canam Steel in Sunnyside.
    "That's quite of an expense for us right there,” said Canam Steel Spokesperson Jesse Rodriguez.
    And it's a strain in the shaky economy.
    That's why Canam participates in Washington's Shared Work program and has for the last several years.
    It allows businesses to cut full-time worker's hours up to 50 percent.
    Those employees then collect partial unemployment to make up for the lost time.
    The state says the Shared Work program helped save 32,000 jobs in 2010 alone.
    Canam has about 50 skilled employees in the program.
    "It keeps you here at work instead of laying you off completely," said Shared Work participant Aurelio Mendoza. "Where you just get a regular unemployment benefits. The company [raises] their benefits.”
    Companies can participate for two years at a time and KIMA found more Yakima Valley businesses are taking advantage of it.
    There are 365 more employees on a shared work plan now than two years ago and 62% of participating businesses say the program helped save their company.
    It takes a highly-skilled worker to put together the steel beams at Canam Steel. The Shared Work program not only keeps these employees on the clock, but also protects the time and money invested in each worker.
    PLSA engineering and Surveying in Yakima is another company using Shared Work.
    The company says it would be difficult to replace the workers who would otherwise be laid off.
    "You got your family,” said shared work participant Juan Ornelas. “That way you got a way to provide them and you are kind of without worries."
    It's a sense of stability all because the state is willing to share the load.
    KIMA learned the state paid out more than $22 million under the program last year.
    Any registered business can sign up for it.
    You can find more information by calling 800-752-2500 or by visiting your local Worksource center.

  2. 'Hire and fire' has destroyed Britain's jobs economy - Europe's biggest problem now is youth unemployment – we should be looking at the German labour model, by David Marsh & Robert Bischof, The Guardian (blog) via guardian.co.uk
    If David Cameron seeks inspiration, Germany's model, allowing employers freedom to build loyalty with workers, may be helpful. (photo caption)
    MANCHESTER, England, England | Beyond the Atlantic Sea... - hese days we tend to talk about the divisions in Europe as one between net creditors and debtors. In reality this is just a sideshow. There is a much more fundamental gulf, hinted at by Angela Merkel in her Davos speech yesterday: between countries with organised industrial training systems such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Scandinavia, Austria and Switzerland – all currently with jobless rates of between 3% and 7% – and those with much higher rates of unemployment, often in double digits, in peripheral Europe.
    The issue pits Anglo-Saxon precepts of free market regulation against the Germanic "Rhineland" system of managed capitalism, with modern apprenticeship systems built on a long-term compact between labour and employers. In the years before and immediately after the euro's birth in 1999, the peripheral countries of the European monetary union (Emu) often followed Anglo-Saxon principles by liberalising parts of notoriously inflexible labour markets. "Hire and fire" became the motto.
    Initially this seemed to work. But as debt market conditions worsened and growth stalled after the 2007-08 financial crisis, Emu's periphery has been left seriously exposed by the failure to replace unproductive regulations with new mechanisms to generate jobs.
    In the battle between rival systems, "Rhineland capitalism" appears to be winning hands down. In the two years since the global economic downturn in 2009, Germany has expanded employment by 1.8m, while the UK, US, France, Italy and Spain have shed 7m jobs. In 2007, when most other countries were nearing the end of a boom driven by excess credit, Germany had the highest unemployment rate (8.7% of the workforce on a harmonised basis) of the group of seven leading industrialised countries. Yet in late 2011, according to OECD figures, German unemployment, at 5.2%, was the lowest in the G7 apart from Japan.
    While the UK struggles with record youth unemployment, Germany's youth unemployment rate is one third of the OECD average and one eighth of the rate in Spain. High youth unemployment is the most pressing problem in Europe right now – Merkel acknowledged as much when she admitted that mere austerity would make the European project meaningless for the next generation of young people. "Structural reforms that lead to more jobs are essential," she said in her opening statement.
    But Merkel is drawing strength from Germany's own experience with low unemployment in the mid-noughties, and she is right to do so. While the German labour market underwent some Anglo-Saxon-style deregulation under Gerhard Schröder in 2003-2005, it still places more emphasis on employers' freedom to build long-term loyalty between employers and workers. These relationships are embedded in a strikingly different cultural approach to industrial training, closely tied to the German tradition of family-owned Mittelstand businesses buttressed by long-term savings that take a generational approach to assembling skills and technology.
    British politicians are keen to talk about "skills", but at the same time they are reluctant to let go of the flexible labour laws that have set them apart from the European mainland in the past. They can't have it both ways. Employers who do not have a sense of social responsibility for training are unlikely to be durably persuaded to hire apprentices through one-off state payments. Instead, governments should consider building comprehensive vocational training schemes that could be funded through a reduction in the social costs ensuing from unemployment. Tinkering with apprenticeship programmes on a piecemeal basis, as has been done in the UK, is unlikely to yield long-term results, as such half-hearted reforms result in expensive and wasteful systems that lack both scale and content.
    And it's not just the German system of apprenticeship schemes that could do with being copied. One of the main reason why Germany's economy was able to recover so quickly after the downturn was the system of short-time working support (Kurzarbeit), introduced in the 1920s and extended in recent years.
    Funded by an employment insurance levy, it pays for firms to keep workers for six to 12 months, provided employers can show their businesses are in a cyclical [temporary] and not a structural [permanent] downturn.

    [- which is essentially impossible to show. Here are the two fundamental flaws in worksharing and the reason it is just a temporary, unsustainable, emergency, first-aid, band-aid that needs to be converted to sustainable timesizing as soon as possible: (1) it's funded by employment insurance instead of, e.g., a 100% tax on overtime profits and a 100% exemption for reinvestment in overtime-targeted training and hiring (= design the problem to solve itself), and (2) it assumes a natural fixed level of "full time" employment such as 35 or 40 hours a week, when there is no such thing as long as technological worksavings are continuously being injected into the economy.]
    Imagine a small engineering firm that ran into financial trouble in 2008: rather than letting go of the 17-year-old apprentice who had recently joined the firm, it would have been able to keep employees on board and then benefit from their experience when the economy was back on its feet. Even if the company had gone bust, the apprentice would by law have been sent to another company.
    Sir Anthony Bamford, chairman of UK excavator maker JCB, points out that his company was forced to shed more than 20% of staff in Britain when production halved in 2009. By contrast, the Kurzarbeit system enabled him to keep all his labour force in Germany.
    Such examples underline how Germany's previously unfashionable model has enabled it to become the industrialised world's premier job machine. As the economic climate darkens, 2012 will be a difficult year both for Germany to hold on to its advantages and for other countries striving to follow the German lead. Yet unless they start to lay the groundwork for longer term gain, time for catching up will soon run out.

1/25/2012 – 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. Govt. to Supervise Work Hours at 35000 Work Places, by Eoh Jin-joo, (1/26 dateline issue) Arirang News via arirang.co.kr
    SEOUL, S.Korea - The government plans to supervise work hours at 35-thousand businesses around the nation starting next month.
    This will include, not only the auto industry, which is already under government supervision from last year, but also food and beverage industries. as well as metal manufacturers.
    According to the labor ministry, the annual work hour per person in the auto industry is the longest at 25-hundred hours, while those in metal or food and beverage manufacturing firms are not far behind. All the sectors are well above the OECD average of some 17-hundred hours.
    Although the government did supervise a similar number of work places in 2011, this year the government will focus more on keeping the working hours below 52 hours per week, which is the upper limit under the current labor law.
    [What happened to the 2004-2011 program to cut the workweek from 44 to 40 in stages starting with large companies?]
    The government says that, by cutting hours, working environments will improve and more jobs will be created. as companies will have no choice but to hire more people in order to keep up current production levels.
    For example, experts says Hyundai Kia Automotive Group will need at least 10 percent of the current personnel, or up to 6-thousand more workers to cover weekend shifts. However, not everyone welcomes the government's new plan as some fear that less work will mean less money.

  2. Of Shorter Work Hours - Neoliberalism and the End Of Shorter Work Hours, by Christoph Hermann, SocialistProject.ca
    VIENNA, Austria - While in previous crises shorter work hours were discussed as a measure to combat growing unemployment, an astonishing feature of the current economic downturn from 2007 on was that work time reductions were nowhere on the political agenda. Not even in France and Germany, the champions of shorter work hours, both introducing a partial 35-hour week in the face of high unemployment in the 1980s and 1990s, was this the case. This is the more remarkable as temporary short-time working applied during the crisis in several European countries actually proved that shorter hours are a viable tool to prevent unemployment (even if still leaving mounting inequalities from capitalism still in place).[1]
    While European capital welcomed short-time work during the initial phase of the crisis, employers quickly reinstated their demand for longer hours and more flexibility when growth started to pick up again in 2010. In a number of countries, governments even announced an extension of the retirement age as part of a series of austerity measures adopted to limit the budget deficits caused by the crisis. A lower retirement age and the introduction of early retirement were used in the 1980s to create employment opportunities for younger workers. In a complete reversal of earlier arguments, workers are now expected to work longer and more years to keep their jobs and receive a pension.
    The Increase in Work-time
    In the U.S., the average workweek in 2000 was, quite astonishingly, 1.6 hours longer than it was in 1970.[2] By the end of the 1990s, American workers were putting in more than an additional week per year than in the early 1980s. In manufacturing, where the part-time rate is traditionally low, the difference between 1975 and 2000 amounted to more than two weeks. Sweden also shows a strong upward trend in yearly work hours, especially in the 1980s. The difference between 1990 and 2000 is 80 hours. Yet, in Sweden the growth can partly be explained by a growing number of women changing from part-time to full-time hours.
    In Britain, yearly hours increased substantially in the 1980s (by 70 hours between 1981 and 1989), but fell back in the 1990s. Average yearly hours in 2001 were virtually the same as in 1981. Canada, too, experienced a surge in work hours in the 1990s with the effect that in 1999, workers put in 13 hours more per year than in 1991. In contrast to Britain, Canadian work hours fell back only slightly after 2000. In Germany and France average yearly hours were still falling in the 1980s and 90s, but either stagnated or slightly increased between 2003 and 2008.
    Average yearly work hours per employed worker. Source: OECD. *Until 1990 West Germany; ** all workers.
    Average yearly work hours per worker include workers engaged in part-time work. If we look only at full-time hours, work-time more or less stagnated between 1992 and 2006 in Germany and between 2003 and 2008 in France. But there are remarkable changes within full-time hours. In Germany, for example, the proportion of male workers who put in between 36 and 39 hours per week decreased from 53% in 1995 to 21% in 2008, while the proportion of those working forty hours increased from 31% to 46% over the same period.
    The sea change in work-time policy is even more striking when we look at per capita work hours (thus including those with and without a job, or both the employed and dependent population). In the U.S., per capita hours have increased by 18% between 1985 and 2000, while Canada recorded the same level of growth between 1970 and 2008. In Britain, per capita hours virtually stagnated between 1980 and 2008. So, too, in Sweden between 1985 and 2008. According to the OECD: “The reversal of the long-term decline in hour per capita in the 1990s was widespread across OECD countries and regions, with only few exceptions still recording significant falls.” [3]
    Among the few countries that still recorded falling per-capita hours in the 1990s were France and Germany. But in both countries the development came to a halt in the mid-1990s, with levels of per capita hours largely stagnating between 1995 and 2008. Another way of looking at the same development is the comparison of work hours spent by households rather than by individual workers. The combined (paid) workweek of married couples in the U.S. increased from 52.2 hours in 1970 to 63.1 hours in 2000.[4]
    [As usual, the left is living in the past instead of moving on from mourning and attempts at guilt manipulation to translating their goals into economic core redesign proposals and explaining the benefits in terms of the self-interest of The Onepercent.]
    Per capita work hours. Source: OECD. Own calculations.
    The absence of shorter work hours in public debates in the core capitalist countries on possible remedies for the crisis of employment is the culmination of a longer process. In the past three decades the century long secular decline in work-time slowed down markedly. In most countries, it came to a halt. The OECD, IMF and the European Commission have welcomed this process as an improvement in the rate of labour utilization. Although they do not provide a clear definition of labour utilization, the term is supposed to reflect the intensity of work (usually measured in productivity) and the total number of work hours spent by a specific population (the rate of unemployment, the time spent for education, the length of working life, etc.). As such, it comes close to what Marxists understand as rate of exploitation.
    Important here are not only average work hours. Employment rates (i.e. the proportion of the population that works for money) and the number of years workers have to work before they retire are just as important. Because of an increasing retirement age and surging female employment rates, labour utilization in Europe has increased at faster pace in the second half of the 1990s than in the U.S. (as the European Commission proudly notes in its ‘Employment in Europe 2007’ report).[5]
    The increase in the rate of labour utilization is an essential feature of the era of neoliberalism. Increasingly long, flexible and fragmented work hours are a major characteristic of the neoliberal mode of living. Despite remarkable differences in the length of the work-day, week and year, all developed countries have accepted the need to increase employment rates and to make work time more flexible, fueling labour utilization.
    Work-time Polarization
    Countries have, however, rarely changed legal or collectively agreed work-time limits during the neoliberal period. Instead, there has been a weakening of collective work-time standards through: the granting of concessions and exemptions; the erosion and decentralization of collective bargaining; the introduction of new forms of flexibilization which make it difficult to maintain control over work time (such as individual work time accounts); and the individualization of work hours through the introduction of opting-out mechanisms (such as the allowance of the 60-hour week in Ontario); and the acceptance of large amounts of overtime (as applied in France after 2002 to lessen the effects of the 35-hour week).
    The de-standardization of work hours was complemented by a turn to workfare in welfare policies, forcing more people into employment and requiring them to stay longer before they retired. Individualization and flexibilization were based on accelerating competition, rather than on workers’ preferences. This considerably weakened working-class solidarity. However, because the changes were fueled by competition, the outcome was not an outright extension of the work day or week. Instead, the outcome was a polarization of work-time with a growing proportion of workers putting in either particularly long or short hours.
    Britain stands out for its highly unequal distribution of work hours. Although the polarization diminished somewhat in recent years, it is still the case that less than a third of British employees worked between 30 and 40 hours in 2008. Further, 30% of male workers put in more than 45 hours per week, while 12% of women worked less than 16 hours per week. In Germany, 46% of male workers still worked 40 hours a week in 2008. But the proportion of male workers who work between 41 and 48 hours more than doubled between 1995 and 2008. Over the same period, the proportion of women working less than 20 hours increased by 60%.
    In the U.S., the proportion of workers who work 40 hours a week decreased from 48% in 1970 to 41% in 2000. The proportion working 50 and more hours a week increased from 21% to 26.5% over the same period. Canada also recorded a growing polarization of work hours between the early 1980s and mid-90s. This was reversed somewhat between 1997 and 2006. In France and Sweden, work hours are distributed more evenly with a comparably small proportion of the workforce working less than 30 hours a week. But in France the proportion of men working 40 hours and more has increased from 20% in 2002 to more than 35% in 2008.
    Work Time and Working-Class Solidarity
    The erosion of collective work time standards was partly caused by employer offensives against trade unions and collective bargaining and by the adoption of anti-trade union legislation. However, trade unions themselves indirectly supported the transformation when they sacrificed shorter hours as part of concession bargaining, or accepted that work hours are negotiated on the company level rather than the sector level. With the acceptance of longer hours, even as temporary exception, trade unions surrendered to the logic of competition bargaining and at least implicitly acknowledged that longer hours can save employment.
    Yet longer hours fueled unemployment rather than solving it. As a result the power of the trade union movement further deteriorated, leaving workers even more vulnerable to the demands of capital. In some countries workers’ representatives were still able to win shorter work hours in the 1990s. But with flexibilization and a shift toward company-based bargaining they paid a heavy price. From flexibilization it was not very far to individualization of work-rules and work-time, with the granting of exemptions and the further erosion of collective bargaining. Since flexibilization went hand in hand with marketization, short and flexible hours soon became long and flexible.
    In the postwar decades trade unions repeatedly traded shorter hours for higher wages and growing (material) living standards. Theorists such as André Gorz criticized this attitude because rather than freeing labour from capitalist domination, the accelerating work-spend-cycle made workers even more dependent on capital.[6] This cycle of accumulation was not only based on growing exploitation of labour but also of natural resources. Marx, for one, had already noted the similarities between the over-exploitation of labour and of the soil. Thus shorter work-time was advocated as a vital measure to move to a more sustainable form of human reproduction as well as expanding the realm of freedom from capitalist domination.
    Since the 1980s, real wages in the core capitalist countries have only increased moderately, if they increased at all. Rather than trading shorter work hours for more income, working families now spend more hours at work to maintain their living standards. In this situation, it has become even more difficult for trade unions to convince their members to press for work-time reductions. However, shorter hours, not only in form of shorter daily and weekly work time, but also in form of paid breaks or leaves and early retirement, are still at the centre of any efforts to revive working-class solidarity.
    Because they are not dependent on local costs of living, shorter hours can be – and should be – an international demand shared by workers in different countries (as shown by the original eight-hour day movement). By distributing available work amongst a larger number of workers, shorter hours not only benefit trade union members but also those without a job. This was, indeed, an important motive in the historical struggle for shorter work hours.
    Shorter work-time [SWT] gives people the opportunity to start to think about and experiment with alternative, non-capitalist and more democratic modes of living.
    [What if capitalism under a SWT-engineered "shortage" of labor - as perceived by employers who then bid up wages by market forces and keep the national income centrifuged and spreading out to those who actually spend it - is an almost ideal economic core design?]
    Some workers who reduce their hours as part of short-time working during the crisis, for example, do not want to go back to full-time work.
    [This researcher talks as if he doesn't quite understand the importance of redefining "full time" downward - and is therefore ignorant of U.S. economic history between 1840 and 1940.]
    Further, reduced work-time makes it easier to distribute paid and unpaid work more evenly between the genders.
    [Hooboy - "unpaId work" is an oxymoron. If an activity is not remunerated, it is not employment alias "work" in economese. It is hobby or a private matter between spouses. Compare: "The only difference between art and art therapy"(cf. work and hobby) is: does it sell?" Compare also from Marshall McLuhan: "Art is anything you can get away with"; cf. work is any activity that you can sell as a "service"? Note that reproduction is not a valuable service on an overpopulated planet, that overpopulation is the root of all environmental unsustainability, and that the basic social unit is well along the way from reproductive pair to productive person, and from procreative couple to creative individual.]
    Not by accident, Swedish feminists demanded for [sic] the introduction of a general 30-hour week in the 1970s.
    [The SWT movement and worktime economics welcomes support from feminists and any other progressive group, but also not by accident, the U.S. Senate actually passed a 30-hour workweek in the 1930s by a vote of 53 to 30.]
    Shorter work hours are crucial to re-form the capacity of the working-class movement to confront capital and to build a more equal and ecological sustainable society. •
    [Give confrontation a rest and try translating necessary changes into Onepercent-motivating strategies, programs and policies. More of The Onepercent every day is realizing current policies amount to Suicide, Everyone Else First, but they're still at the simplistic unsystemic level of Bill Gates' and Warren Buffett's attempt to get billionaires to give away half their wealth, as if merely more traditional philanthropy and capricious charity is anything but too arbitrary, too artificial, too little and too late, like gov't makework.]
    Christoph Hermann is Senior Researcher, Working Life Research Centre Vienna and lecturer at the University of Vienna. Email: hermann@forba.at
    1. Steffen Lehndorff, “Before the Crisis, in the Crisis, and Beyond: The upheaval of collective bargaining in Germany,” Institute for Work, Skills, and Training, University Essen-Duisburg, 2010.
    2. Ellen R. McGrattan and Richard Rogerson, “Changes in Hours Worked, 1950–2000,” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Quarterly Review, 28: 1 (2004), p. 17.
    3. OECD, OECD Employment Outlook 2004. Paris, OECD, 2004.
    4. J.A. Jacobs and K. Gerson, “Understanding changes in American Working time” in Fighting for Time: Shifting boundaries of work and social life, eds., C. F. Epstein and A. L. Kalleberg. New York, Russel Sage, 2004, pp. 25-45.
    5. European Commission, Employment in Europe 2007 (Brussels: European Commission, 2007), pp. 127-8.
    6. See, for example, André Gorz, Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology. London: Verso, 1994.

1/24/2012 – 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. Lee calls for 'work sharing' at conglomerates, by jschang@yna.co.kr, YonhapNews.co.kr
    SEOUL, S.Korea -- President Lee Myung-bak instructed his aides Wednesday to encourage conglomerates to cut the working hours of their employees so as to create additional jobs, as the government considers more tightly regulating the work week.
    The so-called "work sharing" would not only create jobs, but would also improve the quality of life for existing workers and boost domestic demand, Lee said during a regular meeting with senior presidential secretaries, according to spokesman Park Jeong-ha.
    "We need to push ahead in earnest with creating decent jobs by shortening the working hours at conglomerates," Lee was quoted as saying.
    Hi remark came as the labor ministry considers tightening regulations on work week.
    Currently, the work week cannot exceed 52 hours, but overtime on Saturdays and Sundays is not counted, and many firms have their employees work weekends in excess of the weekly maximum.
    The ministry is considering changing the regulation to include weekend work.
    Lee also said conglomerates should stay away from small business opportunities, which are a key source of income for working-class people, amid growing criticism big firms are trying to expand recklessly into those markets.
    "This is a matter related to corporate ethics," Lee was quoted as saying.

  2. Mo. House considers shorter week to save money, AP via TheRepublic.com
    [And what's "sauce" for the pols is "sauce" for the public!]
    JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — The Missouri House is considering a shorter work week to save some money.
    Missouri lawmakers generally hold floor sessions Monday through Thursday. But this week, Republican House leaders may wrap up the work week on Wednesday.
    Skipping a formal Thursday floor session would spare the state from paying legislators their daily expense allotment.
    The annual legislative session started about three weeks ago, so most of the work on bills is being completed by committees rather than the full chamber.

1/22-23/2012 – 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. Maine amends its UI law regarding worksharing benefits, 1/23 CCH via hr.cch.com
    AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine has amended its Employment Security Law as follows:
    Worksharing benefits. Maine law will provide for worksharing benefits effective March 1, 2012.
    The law now permits an eligible employer who wishes to participate in a worksharing program to submit a signed worksharing plan to the Commissioner for approval. The Commissioner will approve such a plan if it meets certain specific requirements.
    The Commissioner may approve or reject a worksharing plan and that decision is final and not subject to appeal. However, the employer may submit another worksharing plan for approval, and a determination will be made based upon the new information submitted. If approved, a worksharing plan takes effect on the date specified in the plan or on the first Sunday after the plan is approved, whichever is later. It expires at the end of the 12th full calendar month after its effective date or on the date specified in the plan if that date is earlier, unless the plan is revoked by the Commissioner.
    After serving a waiting period, an eligible employee can receive worksharing benefits if the Commissioner finds that he or she is a member of an affected unit under an operational approved worksharing plan and is available and able to work the normal workweek with the worksharing employer. Note, an employee subject to a worksharing plan is considered unemployed in any week that the employee receives remuneration for fewer than his or her normal weekly hours of work as specified under the plan in effect for the week. He or she may not be denied worksharing benefits based on the availability for work and the active search for work.
    The weekly worksharing benefit amount is the product of the regular weekly benefit amount, including any dependents' allowances, multiplied by the percentage reduction in the eligible employee's usual weekly hours of work as specified in the worksharing plan. If the weekly worksharing benefit amount is not an exact multiple of $1, it is rounded down to the next lower multiple of $1.
    An eligible employee may not receive a total of worksharing benefits and regular unemployment compensation in any benefit year that exceeds the maximum entitlement and cannot be paid worksharing benefits for more than 52 weeks in any benefit year.
    Worksharing benefits are charged to the worksharing employer’s account. Employers liable for payments in lieu of contributions must reimburse the Fund for the full amount of worksharing benefits paid to their employees under an approved worksharing plan. 
    These provisions are repealed on February 28, 2014.

  2. The reality of retail - The biggest barrier to earning more in retail is overtime pay regulations, by Adam Librot, 1/22 Crain's New York Business via home.crainsnewyork.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - Survey shmurvey: I read your story on an advocacy group's “survey” of 436 retail workers in the city (“Retail workers struggle to make ends meet,” CrainsNewYork.com). So many deceptions with statistics aimed solely at passing the so-called living-wage law, which, once in place, no doubt will be expanded.
    Retail floor sales never has been a high-wage job. Many, if not most, workers in this arena are supplementing income or are supported by someone else's income.
    The biggest barrier to earning more in retail is overtime pay regulations. Even full-time staff is often limited to 35 hours a week to protect against overtime pay kicking in. With the regulations removed, the best workers would be able to get unlimited hours and this would eliminate the need for so many part-time swing shifts of four or five hours. It would also eliminate the need to have more than one job.
    [Not for long, because the real biggest barrier to earning more in retail is the idea that working longer hours gets you more money, when all it gets you is more desperate unemployed people looking for your job and willing to do it for less. So wages sink and sink and you get to work longer and longer for less and less.]

  3. The purchasing power Presidency, by Pierre Delage, Forbes.com/sites/pierredelage
    2007 campaign poster: "Together, everything is possible", or almost - Sarkozy Président (photo caption)
    PARIS, France - Ironically, Mr Sarkozy campaigned in 2007 on the theme of purchasing power. The idea at the time was to give back to workers their share of economic growth, which they didn’t get because of the 35-hour week [LOL] and still rather high unemployment.
    [Nevermind the fact that the 35-hour workweek meant 100,000s more jobs and correspondingly lower unemployment (which would have been even lower if the workweek was cut to 32 or 30) and nevermind the higher taxes already needed to support the currently high unemployment (UE) which would both, UE and taxes, be even higher if the 35-hour workweek was relengthened to 39 or 40.]
    The other dent to purchasing power then was high oil prices. All in all, purchasing power was the number one issue for French voters back in 2007.
    To tackle this, Sarkozy found a motto, which his opponents have then used cheerfully against him the last few years: "travailler plus pour gagner plus" for "work more to earn more." The scheme was a tax exemption on extra time [bad translation for overtime], a way to come back indirectly [to the previous 39-hour workweek from] the 35 hour week implemented by the socialists in 2000. It's all about the money
    Not a bad idea although costly for public finances.
    [And therefore, yes a bad idea. This blogger must have a brain disorder.]
    However, the 2008 financial crisis has quickly turned the issue around: how to keep your job by working less or work less and earn less.
    [Or work even less and earn more because even shorter workweeks absorb the flood of desperate resumes and force employers, suffering little but complaining much, to bid against one another for good help. Capitalism always runs well in an employer-perceived labor shortage where they're forced to fund and grow, rather than defund and shrink, their own markets, and investors actually have a lot of profitable-investment-offering MARKETABLE productivity to incentivate them to get their troves "back to work creating jobs."]
    The German model of labour flexibility [Kurz-arbeit] showed how to go against [history-ignoring] economic textbooks allowing the country to lower unemployment during the ongoing financial crisis.
    The recent social summit has given the government a chance to disclose some measures inspired by [the German model] and allow French employees to work less … and earn less.
    [- temporarily until the workweek is cut even further, lowering unemployment even further, and starting the bidding between employers for good help, regardless of the shorter hours. The idea that systemically, wages vary with productivity in the age of robotization is ridiculous. They vary with supply and demand like everything else, and the thing that's been keeping them low is labor surplus borne on the back of frozen pre-automation workweeks, totally inappropriate for the Age of Robotics. Protecting those frozen 40-hour-or-close workweeks forever has meant downsizing instead of timesizing, and yet these blind men think they're going to get Growth alias UPsizing by DOWNsizing? Gee, wudda surprise! It ain't happnin'!]
    Indeed, the main issue has now become unemployment in France, as in most of the developed world.
    [That's right, and this commentator is surprised?!]
    [Everything's "ironic" for this guy, cuz he's swallowed the whole self-contradictory narrative of the history-ignoring textbooks.]
    Xavier Niel, a French entrepreneur who started as a teenager an adult site [ie: a porn site] on the Minitel, the ancestor of the internet in France, and later broke into the French internet market with discounted all inclusive prices, has now disclosed a mobile offer, 50% below what he calls the cartel of current mobile telecom companies.
    The guy is a pure free market entrepeneur and now a billionaire. His role model was Steve Jobs. The French love him as many of them claim to be willing to switch to his offer.
    [Doubtful. Lots of people have a strange distaste for porn sites, for example, the 50% of the population who are women.]
    By cutting prices on mobile subscriptions, he will finally give some purchasing power to French people. Shall he run for the next-May Presidency [like Sarkozy]?

1/21/2012 – 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. Will Saving the Environment Require a Shorter Work Week? by Richard Clark, OpEdNews.com
    SILICON VALLEY, Calif. - A shorter workweek would create more jobs and could help stop the unsustainable cycle of rampant consumption and resource wastage.
    Pollution mounts. It's time for us to collectively climb off the hyperconsumption-hyperproduction treadmill. Our environment and biosphere -- some see it as "Mother Nature'; the ancient Greeks called her Gaia -- can no longer accommodate unrestrained consumption and production. By continuing to ignore this increasingly obvious truth, we permit the murder of the very thing that keeps us all healthy and alive: our "Mother' Gaia. Therefore, somehow, we must collectively find a way to focus our production on the goods and services we most need, and somehow begin to pare back most all the rest. This means gradually bringing to an end much of, if not most all of, the production of the most superfluous. But how many people would lose their jobs in this transition? Obviously millions would, -- unless . . unless we somehow succeed in making the transition to the 21-hour workweek, so that the work that remains can be shared, and so that the burden on Gaia can be greatly reduced.
    As Michael Coren at FAST Company recently said, "To save the world -- or even just make our personal lives better -- we will need to work less."
    As Coren points out, a 40-hour week in factories once was necessary, but is no longer. Most of us have more "stuff' than we know what to do with. Hence storage lockers costing anywhere from $50 to $150 or more per month have sprouted up everywhere. Most garages are stuffed to the gills, even as garage sales proliferate. But so does pollution and global climate change proliferate. This means that our workaholic behavior and madcap rates of consumption are totally out of step with what should be our most fundamental human priorities and the kind of steady-state economy we need.
    To lay the foundations for a "steady-state" economy -- one that can continue running sustainably forever, this recent paper argues that it's time for advanced developed countries to transition to a new normal: the 21-hour work week.
    This does not mean a mandatory work week or some kind of leisure-time police, says Coren. People could choose to work as long, or short, as they please. What we're talking about is resetting social and political norms re: the freedom to work fewer hours per week, if you want -- without having to be subjected to the penalties (such as no benefits) that today accompany such a choice.
    This is to say that the day when 1,050 hours of paid work per year becomes the "new standard that is generally expected by government, employers, trade unions, employees, and everyone else" (50 weeks a year times 21 hrs./week equals 1050 hours) . . is not far off -- nor should it be.
    Gaia is telling us that three days a week, for 7 hours each, or four 5-hr. days, is plenty. And let's face it, with all of today's computerized technology and automation, there's no longer nearly enough work to keep the large majority of us busy 40 or 50 hours a week, which is the amount of work-time most employers try to squeeze out of us, to generate the profits they crave. But the only way to keep that many people that busy is to somehow con most of them into buying and consuming a whole lot of crapola that they don't really need. And think of the cost, in terms of pollution, resource wastage and global warming, that results from that! Not to mention the heart attacks and strokes from overwork, lack of exercise, and compensatory greasy-food-&-alcohol indulgence.
    The New Economics Foundation (NEF) argues that there is nothing natural or inevitable about what's considered a "normal" 40-hour work week today. Because of that traditionally imposed normality, many people remain caught in a vicious cycle of work and consumption. They live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume. Missing from that equation is an important fact that researchers have discovered about most material consumption in wealthy societies: so much of the pleasure and satisfaction we gain from buying is temporary, ephemeral, and mostly just relative to those around us (who, when they see what we buy, and have, they also strive to consume still more, which leads to a kind of self-perpetuating spiral). What we see on TV and in the movies also compels many of us to buy, want and consume much more than we would otherwise want. And when American movies and TV programs are shown in the poorer countries, it has the same poisonous effect there.
    The NEF argues that if we want to achieve truly happy lives, we need to challenge social norms and reset the industrial-age time clock that's ticking in our heads. NEF sees the 21-hour week as integral to this for two reasons: it will redistribute paid work, offering hope for achieving a more egalitarian society. (Right now too many are overworked, while others must, because of that, remain underemployed or even unemployed.) The redistribution of work would give all of us, men and women alike , the time (and the means) to enjoy the things we value but all too seldom have the time to do (at least not well) -- things such as care for our family, travel, walk, bike, play tennis (for example), read or continue learning -- as opposed to merely helping to speed up the hyperconsumption-hyperproduction treadmill that is ruining our environment, radically changing our climate, and forcing us into Mideast wars because of the petrol we so desperately need in order to keep the capitalist treadmill going full speed. (All those goods must not only be manufactured, they must also be transported by petrol-burning trucks, ships, planes and trains.) Finally, all this crapola must eventually be driven to the dump or the recycling plant.
    As Coren points out, creating US/EU (EuropeanUnion)-level living standards for the entire world by 2050 would require a six-fold increase in the size of the global economy, with potentially devastating environmental consequences. So instead of growing the world economy, the US and the EU must take the lead in recalibrating and/or reorganizing our societies to make everyone happier and successful with less. China opens up a new coal-fueled electrical power plant every week! But for how long can this continue without ever worsening environmental consequences? And unless they are shown another way, isn't the rest of Asia going to follow in China's footsteps? What will prevent that from eventually happening? Then in South America as well? What then of global climate craziness and extreme weather events? And at what point does ever more violent and crazy weather (ever larger monster typhoons, tornadoes and hurricanes of absolutely unprecedented size and destructive force) wreak more destruction than the value of all the extra consumer goods we are producing with all this extra work (with which most people are now saddled)?
    "The proposed shift towards 21 hours must be seen in terms of a broad, incremental transition to social, economic, and environmental sustainability," says the NEF in its report.
    The challenges are great, none more so than figuring out how to make most of society be able to live on half of their current income.
    No doubt, many will label this as "socialism' or worse. Many will object to being told that 21 hours is the new normal, or that 40-50 hours is too much for most people to be forced into.
    Remember what John Maynard Keynes said in 1930 about the goal of future societies. He wrote that by the start of the 21st century, we would work only 15 to 20 hours a week, and that we would be focusing on how to win freedom from pressing economic cares. Could Keynes prediction come true this century? Should it? And if not, why not?

  2. Cutbacks cause strain in some school cafeterias, by Gina Mangieri, KHON2.com
    HONOLULU, Hawaii - School furloughs have put a strain on more than just teachers planning time - cutbacks are being felt in cafeterias too.
    While teachers "directed leave without pay" days are on non-instructional dates, UPW's furloughs for support staff including cafeteria workers often will come when kids are present. One middle school is coping by cutting back on one meal.
    Furlough or directed leave without pay days for UPW [United Public Workers] cafeteria workers mean on several day [sic] during the school year, at least one staff won't be there to help with the herculean task of feeding hundreds of hungry kids.

    "It affects our staffing, so we only have a manager, a cook, a baker and two half-time helpers," said Principal Michael Harano. "And if you take one out, then it's hard to continue operations."
    For Washington Middle School, that meant issuing a schedule of no breakfast for 10 dates this year and no "Wiki" or mid-morning meal for 20 dates.
    "We talked about the least impact that we would have, and unfortunately it worked out where we did not serve breakfast last Friday, breakfast and Wiki. However, we did get substitute money so we could hire a substitute today, where today was planned to have no breakfast, we actually served breakfast today," Harano says.
    As it will be throughout the rest of furlough days, but the later breakfast -- the Wiki -- still will be cut.
    "The most important thing is that the students, the parents get the message, no Wiki, come early and you'll have breakfast," said Glenna Owens of the School Food Services Branch.
    The Wiki isn't required by USDA or the DOE and not all schools offer one, though Washington Middle would prefer to be able to. 
    "In middle school, at this age, physically kids need to eat, so we do have kids who eat three meals right here," Harano says.
    When the furlough issue arose, the DOE sent out a memo with suggestions for how schools could adjust to leave little to no impact on meals served.
    "For instance, on a Wednesday when participation is usually less, and students get out earlier, they can maybe go to a less labor intensive menu," Owens said. " So far, surprising there has been very little negative response or phone calls to our office so that's a good sign."
    The DOE is even encouraging more students to sign up for free and reduced lunch. they say many eligible families are passing it up. Cashless, prepaid card system takes away any stigma of subsidized meals, no one knows whose on the USDA plan.

1/20/2012 – 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. Committee discusses plan to make 12-month school workers take month of unpaid furloughs, by Jason Schultz, Palm Beach Post via Sun-Sentinel.com
    PALM BEACH, Fla. - Desperate for ways to plug next year's budget deficit, the Palm Beach County School Board's budget advisory committee on Friday explored an option to reduce almost all of the district's 12-month employees to only 11 months, with a one-month unpaid furlough.
    The committee admitted it would be extremely unpopular among employees.
    That would cut the pay of about 12 percent of the district's 21,000 person workforce, or about 2,600 employees, by about 8 percent, committee members estimated.
    "When you're looking at a $50 million problem, somehow you have to deal with it," said Committee Member Andy Binns. "Anyway you slice it, people aren't going to like it." Video: Bloodied victim speaks out about robbery, assault following bus ride
    The advisory committee also explored the feasibility of outsourcing major district functions like custodians and transportation.
    The committee did not make any actual recommendation on the idea of reducing the 12-month employees to 11-month employees. Instead Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke said he would explore the idea further and come back with a "menu" of possible options at next month's meeting.
    Budget Director Shirley Knox estimated that furloughing all 12-month employees for a month would save the district $9.7 million next year. Almost $5 million of that savings would come from only paying school principals and school custodians for 11 months.
    Advisory Committee Chairman Ed Tancer said only having 11 month employees would likely require shutting down almost all of the school district except for a few essential functions for a month in the summer. Burke said summer school would still run.
    "I just don't know where else we're going to find the dollars necessary," Tancer said. "I'd hate to start looking at things like school programs."
    Okeeheelee Middle School Principal David Samore said the summer is a very busy time for principals and custodians getting the school ready for the next year.
    "We have a tiger by the tail every day of the year," Samore said. "We don't have any lull in the action."
    Binns said different employees could be furloughed for two weeks or a month at different times of the year instead of a shutdown all at the same time.
    Cutting employees like custodians or secretaries to 11 month employees and reducing their pay would have to be negotiated with the labor unions that represent them, Burke said
    . The committee is only advisory and any move to 11-month employees would have to be approved by the School Board.
    The advisory committee also unanimously recommended that the School Board solicit bids from private companies to take over various facilities functions, including custodial cleaning, grounds maintenance and building maintenance.
    Knox said the amount the district spend now for custodial service, about $1.84 per square foot of building space, is higher than the median rate of $1.71 paid by large school districts nationwide that are part of the Council of Great City Schools.
    Every 10 cents the district could save on the cost of custodians per square foot if it outsourced would save the district $2.4 million, Knox estimated.
    The committee did not recommend the School Board solicit any bids to outsource transportation. Knox showed that the amount the district spent per student to run its buses was lower than all the largest districts in the state, including Duval County which outsources transportation. Committee members said it was unlikely the district could complete any bidding process in time to outsource buses by next year anyway.

  2. Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney says Recent ‘Alert’ Should Wake Medical Community to Risks of Fatigue, PR Web (press release) via prweb.com
    Patrick A. Salvi of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. says medical professionals must address ‘malpractice’ that can result from overly lengthy and consecutive work shifts. CHICAGO, Illin. - Chicago medical malpractice attorney Patrick A. Salvi said today that an accrediting agency’s recent alert about the link between health care worker fatigue and adverse events is further evidence that medical professionals need to curtail extended and consecutive work shifts.
    “As evidence mounts indicating the link between fatigue and poor judgment or execution among medical professionals, it is increasingly appropriate to consider assigning or assuming overly lengthy work hours to be medical malpractice,” said Salvi, the managing equity partner at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., a leading Illinois medical malpractice law firm with offices in Cook and Lake counties.
    [Breakthrough! Once lawyers start malpractice suits as soon as they sniff long hours, we'll see our sick sick medical establishment change fast and be on track for some well-rested common sense instead of the load of self-martyring insomniac gougers we have today.]
    “This is a matter in which the medical profession can and should police itself,” Salvi said. “It is time for all medical professionals to be honest with themselves and each other, and to stop pushing themselves beyond their capabilities and into situations that can potentially harm their patients.”
    The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit accrediting agency, said in a recent Sentinel Event Alert publication that “a substantial number of studies [indicate] that the practice of extended work hours contributes to high levels of worker fatigue and reduced productivity” among medical workers.
    The alert cites five studies indicating that “fatigue increases the risk of adverse events, compromises patient safety, and increases risk to personal safety and well-being.”
    The Joint Commission, which certifies more than 19,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, advises medical organizations to assess and, if necessary, revise staffing policies.
    Salvi said that medical professionals at all levels have a duty to avoid attending to patients when they are unduly fatigued.
    “Doctors, nurses, medical technicians and hospital administrators know the risks fatigue poses to patients, and they know the risks to their organizations when bad practices lead to medical errors that harm patients,” Salvi said. “Being sensible about the issue of medical fatigue is in everyone’s best interest.”
    The attorneys of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard have investigated thousands of cases of medical malpractice and negligence in the Chicago and Waukegan areas, and the firm has obtained more than $620 million in compensation for clients through personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against doctors, surgeons, hospitals and other health care organizations.
    Salvi said fatigue can be a factor behind surgical errors and hospital negligence that have been found to be actionable through medical malpractice lawsuits.
    “Anyone who has been injured or who has a family member who has been harmed or has died in a hospital setting should have an experienced legal team review the medical records related to the incident,” Salvi said.
    “Until the medical community properly deals with fatigue as a factor in medical errors, it will be necessary to apply pressure through legal action, such as medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits,” the veteran attorney said.
    About Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. - Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. is a leading Illinois medical malpractice law firm with offices in Chicago and Waukegan. The firm represents clients in matters involving emergency room errors, failure to diagnose, hospital negligence, physician error, birth injuries, surgical malpractice, anesthesia errors, organ puncture/perforation, post-operative and pre-operation malpractice and surgical complications. The firm’s success in medical negligence, personal injury and wrongful death cases features recoveries of more than $620 million on behalf of its clients, including more than 175 multimillion-dollar verdicts or settlements. To learn more about Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., call (847) 249-1227 or use the firm’s online contact form.

1/19/2012 – 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. State employees' paid leave days can roll over from year to year indefinitely, court rules, The Star-Ledger via NJ.com
    TRENTON, N.J. — Days off that state employees negotiated with former Gov. Jon Corzine in return for pay raise deferral and furloughs are not like unused vacation time and can be carried from year to year indefinitely, a state appellate court panel ruled today.
    The ruling in favor of the Communications Workers of America and two other state employee unions reverses a 2010 amendment to state Civil Service regulations that, once enacted, prohibited state employees from carrying so-called paid leave bank days beyond June 30, 2012.
    Under an agreement negotiated between the Corzine administration and the unions in 2009, the employees agreed to take 10 furlough days and an 18-month deferral of raises to avoid massive layoffs. The agreement gave the employees seven paid leave bank days that could be carried from year to year indefinitely. Any unused paid leave bank days would be cashed out upon an employee’s retirement, according to the agreement.
    That changed after Gov. Chris Christie took office. Because the paid leave bank days could be taken at will, the 2010 amendment said they are to be considered vacation days, which are not permitted to taken beyond the year in which they are given except for special circumstances.
    In its 17-page ruling today, the three-judge panel said they don’t have those restrictions because they are not akin to vacation days. 
    "The court respected the collective bargaining agreement,’’ said state CWA director Hetty Rosenstein. "I hope this would hold.’’
    Christie, Dems battle over "boat check" sick time payouts while taxpayers drown Christie, Dems battle over "boat check" sick time payouts while taxpayers drown Towns and cities across New Jersey continue to pay out millions of dollars in accrued unused sick and vacation time to retiring public workers, even as the governor and legislature vow to curtail the practice. Gov. Chris Christie has said the "boat checks" should be eliminated altoghether, while Democrats in the legislature want to simply reduce the payouts. Ledger Live host Brian Donohue voices frustration with the insanity of it all. Read the full story. Watch video
    The court sent the matter back to the Civil Service Commission, which can either comply with the ruling and adopt new regulations in line with the decision.
    A spokesman for Christie could not immediately be reached for comment.
    Saying local, county and state budgets can’t afford what often amount to whopping payouts, Christie has been trying to end the practice of public employees cashing out unused sick time.

  2. Eastern Cape SADTU considers protest, Jo-burg Times LIVE via timeslive.co.za
    [The wrong direction - a cautionary tale -]
    JOHANNESBURG, Republiek van Zuid-Afrika - Long hours and poor working conditions could lead Eastern Cape teachers to embark on protests, the SA Democratic Teacher's Union (SADTU) in the province said on Thursday.
    "The issue is around temporary teachers who were retrenched by the department [of education], leaving [permanent] teachers overworked," said spokeswoman Nolitha Mboniswa.
    Eastern Cape education department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said teachers were being redeployed from schools with a surplus of teachers to those where they were needed most in an annual redistribution based on subjects offered and pupil intake.
    Mboniswa said some teachers -- who normally worked about 26-and-a-half hours a week -- were now forced to work more than 35 hours a week.
    [So how many jobs does that prevent and how many consumers keep on hold?]
    The strain of the added workload combined with the work left by the retrenched temporary staff and preparations for the year ahead meant teachers were overburdened.
    Pulumani said the redistribution of teachers was aimed at ensuring the work load was more evenly distributed.
    Where teachers needed to be moved, the district offices would make every effort to keep them near their homes and families.
    "Temporary teachers who have a degree but no teaching qualifications cannot be employed as full-time teachers," Pulumani said.
    "Often they refused to move from surplus schools – we call this 'double parking'- and this has been a bone of contention."
    He said Sadtu and the department had bumped heads over this issue for the past 10 years, but they would keep working to resolve their differences.
    Mboniswa said the union was not protesting for larger salaries, but for working conditions which would enable them to provide the best education possible for Eastern Cape pupils and improve pass rates.
    "We are consulting with our members about what action should be taken.... We will do anything in our power to ensure we get our plight recognised," Mboniswa said.
    African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe was expected to meet the union later on Thursday.

1/18/2012 – 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. Governor Christie Signs Work-Sharing Law, posted by Alexandra Sirota, The Progressive Pulse via pulse.ncpolicywatch.org
    TRENTON, N.J. - Governor Christie of New Jersey signed into law last week a work-sharing program which is a proven tool that keeps workers on the job even when economic growth is weak or nonexistent. This will be the 6th program in the nation.
    [Wrong - this is the 23rd such program in the nation.]
    The program works by reducing workers hours and using unemployment insurance benefits to pay a portion of the wages that employees lose.
    The programs are voluntary for employers and administered through the unemployment insurance system. A similar program in Germany kept that country’s unemployment rate below 7 percent despite a steeper economic decline there relative to the US experience.
    Such an approach benefits both employers and workers. Employers are able to maintain a trained workforce that can quickly ramp up production when the economy turns around and do not incur the costs of retraining. Eighty percent of employers in a study of short-time compensation programs in the United States reported employees on short-time were either as productive as or more productive than non-short-time employees. Additionally, employees maintain their income and access to benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. And because incomes are not significantly impacted, consumer demand remains relatively constant, thereby eventually supporting businesses to produce more goods and services. Estimates at the national level suggest that if employers of 60 million workers shortened their hours by 5 percent rather than instituted layoffs, 3 million jobs would be created.
    As North Carolina looks for ways to address high unemployment, work sharing provides a promising model.

  2. Ambulance staff dispute: Working hours reduced in deal over breaks, Scotsman.com (blog)
    EDINBURGH, Scotland - The Health Secretary has announced plans to reduce the working hours of ambulance staff in a deal to resolve a row over rest breaks.
    The changes will also result in the creation of 150 new jobs in the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs.
    Under the new plans, staff will move [from 40-] to a 37.5-hour paid week inclusive of rest periods,
    and will be required to attend emergency calls throughout their shift period.
    [=Towards full employment by workweek reduction.]
    Previously staff were rostered for 40 hours per week, paid for 37.5 hours and entitled to 2.5 hours of unpaid rest periods.
    Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would invest £5 million in providing 150 front-line jobs to support the changes.
    Up until now, ambulance crews took unpaid rest breaks, during which the control room did not contact them.
    But recent controversies - such as the death of Mandy Mathieson, 33, who had a cardiac arrest in Tomintoul, Moray, in 2010 - brought the policy into focus.
    An ambulance technician was on a meal break and did not attend the emergency even though he was stationed near her home.
    Ms Sturgeon outlined details of the new deal, agreed by SAS management and trade unions earlier this week, when she delivered a statement to MSPs in Holyrood today.
    She said: “I am pleased to say that a long term solution - that protects patient safety and also supports ambulance service staff - has been agreed.”
    However, Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie raised concerns that the deal may still have implications for patient safety, and called for an “urgent independent review” of the way emergency ambulance calls are categorised.
    Interim arrangements, which will be in place while the new working hours are implemented, have also been agreed.
    Ms Sturgeon added: “It is important to stress that both sets of arrangements, the longer term solution and the new interim arrangements, still require that the ambulance service manages rest breaks.
    “The service remains committed to ensuring that staff are rested appropriately. The new arrangements will be monitored in partnership and I will receive regular reports on progress towards full implementation.”

1/17/2012 – 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. Sarkozy makes pre-poll dash for French labor reform - Kurzarbeit in France? Reuters.com
    PARIS, France - French President Nicolas Sarkozy sits down with union leaders this week in a last-minute attempt to overhaul labor rules before an election, promising quick fixes for unemployment but little progress on the deeper issue of job flexibility.
    As the euro debt crisis topples France from its prized AAA credit ranking and pushes the economy to the brink of recession, Sarkozy is trumpeting his "crisis social summit" on Wednesday as a chance to tackle a chronically high unemployment rate.
    Pressure on him intensified on Friday when ratings agency Standard & Poor's singled out "labor market rigidities" in a text explaining its downgrade of France by one notch to AA+.
    Yet as unions push back, refusing to be rushed into reforms to help his bid for re-election in April, hopes are fading for a frank discussion on areas economists see as ripe for reform, from restrictive labor laws to the 35-hour work week and the role unions play in pay negotiations.
    Instead, with opinion polls showing him losing his battle to retain the presidency, Sarkozy is racing for two deals he can announce by the end of January: making it easier for companies to cut working hours in a downturn; and shifting a portion of social fees from salaries to a consumption tax.
    Critics say the summit fits with a legacy of hurrying into reforms and watering them down to avoid conflict with unions.
    "This is the classic scenario where he rushes into a deal at the last minute without taking enough time for consultation or following through," said economy professor Pierre Cahuc at France's elite Polytechnique school.
    "I'm extremely pessimistic about the chances of either the unions or the government pushing the job market in the direction of a real reform," he added.
    Even before preparatory talks this month, unions said they would oppose efforts to push through structural reform so close to an election, held in two rounds on April 22 and May 6.
    Talks have since focused on widening access to partial unemployment, which the government hopes will allow France to replicate Germany's success with a longstanding program of shortened working hours known as "Kurzarbeit."
    Yet some economists raise eyebrows at the comparison. Under Germany's system workers get 60 to 67 percent of their salary from unemployment insurance for up to 24 months. In 2009, the program cost Germany 6 billion euros ($7.6 billion).
    France is in a budget-tightening cycle that leaves little money for job training schemes, a key feature of kurzarbeit. Partial unemployment is limited to six weeks and involves a prohibitively lengthy and complex government approval process.
    If France simplifies the process it could stave off further rises in jobless claims, already at a 12-year high. But economists say the move falls short of their calls for greater labor flexibility.
    "It seems to me that this helps to to ease the effects of an economic downturn on employment, but the impact on long-term unemployment is likely to be small," said Herve Boulhol, an economist and head of the France desk at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
    A deeper reform would reexamine the gulf between long-term (CDI) work contracts, which are costly to break and offer workers too much security, and short-term (CDD) contracts, which offer them too little, Boulhol added.
    Another proposal, to reduce labor costs by shifting some employer-paid fees onto sales taxes, has run into opposition, notably from the powerful CFDT union.
    "Any structural measure is not on the agenda for us. The CFDT wants emergency measures based on existing means," CFDT national secretary Laurent Berger told Reuters.
    With hourly labor costs in Germany nearly 4 euros lower than in France - and an independent report last week showing French workers worked an average of 224 hours less than their German counterparts in 2010 - the initiative on sales tax could help.
    But economists say it may also crimp consumer spending in an economy heavily dependent on domestic demand. And unions disagree with it in principle. Lowering labor costs was "not a priority," CFDT head Francois Chereque told reporters last week.
    When Sarkozy came to power in 2007, he promised a reform that would draw on Denmark's "flexicurity" model, credited with an unemployment rate last measured in November at 4.2 percent.
    Five years on, economists say that French labor costs remain too high, firms struggle to adjust their wage bill, work contracts are too restrictive, and unions still represent only a tiny portion of private sector workers.
    Previous efforts at reform fell short, as with a 2008 measure that allowed firms to break with workers on amiable terms, rather than the more onerous firing for economic reasons.
    "It was a step in the right direction, but the problem is that there is an incentive for workers and employers to strike a deal at the expense of unemployment insurance," Bouhlol said.
    Cahuc points to a 2009 reform on union representation as another example of Sarkozy's failures. France still has one of the lowest union membership rates in the European Union.
    "What would allow the labor market to become unblocked is a reform of the way trade unions work," said Pierre Cahuc. "We're a long way away from that." ($1 = 0.7851 euros)
    (Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

  2. Portugal launches labor reforms amid recession, by Barry Hatton, The Associated Press via google.com/hostednews/ap
    [Meanwhile, Portugal goes in the opposite direction. These aren't "reforms amid recession" - these are regressions abetting recession. But hopefully things will get so bad so fast, they'll wake up, as Sarkozy has after attacking France's 35-hr workweek -]
    LISBON, Portugal — Portugal is to cut holiday entitlement, introduce more flexible working hours and cut compensation for layoffs in a package of labor reforms aimed at reversing the country's steep economic decline, officials said Tuesday.
    Outdated labor practices were among the factors blamed for a decade of slender growth and mounting debts that compelled Portugal to take a euro78 billion ($99.6 billion) financial rescue package last year.
    Its financial plight has aggravated Europe's sovereign debt crisis and brought fears that its economic downturn, compounded by austerity measures, could eventually force it to follow Greece and restructure its debt.
    Standard & Poor's last week downgraded Portuguese debt to junk status amid forecasts the economy will contract by 3.1 percent this year. Portugal went into a double-dip recession last year when Moody's and Fitch Ratings, the other two leading ratings agencies, classified the country's debt as junk. The yield, the interest rate Portugal pays on its debt, for a 10-year bond has risen to 14.2 per cent following the S&P downgrade.
    The jobless rate, meanwhile, has climbed to a record 13.2 percent, with unions staging strikes and protests against the center-right government's policies.
    The labor law changes were agreed in the early hours of Tuesday morning after 17 hours of talks between the government, trade unions and business leaders.
    Portugal committed to the reforms in return for the bailout granted by its European partners and the International Monetary Fund. The European union and other international bodies had long pressed Portugal to modernize its labor laws.
    The bailout deal was signed by all the country's main political parties, but agreement on detailed measures required months of negotiations with unions and business confederations.
    Economy and Employment Minister Alvaro Santos Pereira said the reforms would make the Portuguese economy more competitive and drive fresh growth.
    He said the agreement "shows the world and the markets ... that we are laying the foundations to beat this crisis."
    Full details of the agreement, which is due to be signed at a ceremony with Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho on Wednesday, were not immediately available.
    However, delegates who attended the talks did say the changes included: shortening workers' annual vacation entitlement from 25 days to 22, scrapping at least three public holidays, reducing layoff payouts, cutting overtime pay levels, and giving companies 150 work hours per employee without overtime to be used by employer as and when they were needed.
    Also, jobless people who accept work that pays less than their unemployment benefit are to keep 50 percent of that benefit.
    But the government had to ditch its controversial proposal allowing companies to demand that staff work an extra 30 minutes a day without overtime pay. The novel measure, the government claimed, would have reduced unit labor costs and thereby made exports cheaper.
    But trade unions balked at the idea, saying it would overturn labor movements' long struggle for an eight-hour day, and the main opposition Socialist Party also opposed it, arguing there was no economic study to support the government's claim. Business leaders were also lukewarm on the measure, saying it would bring limited benefits.
    Tuesday's agreement won the blessing of the General Workers' Union, one of the country's two main trade union confederations. However, the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers, the other group, said it would fight the measures.

1/16/2012 – 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. Teachers' union, province in secret talks to explore cap on work hours, by Matt McClure mmcclure@calgaryherald.com, CalgaryHerald.com
    CALGARY, Alta., Canada — Reducing or limiting teacher working hours is under discussion as the province struggles to hammer out a new contract with the Alberta Teachers’ Association before unveiling this year’s budget and heading to the polls.
    But some school boards are worried the secret negotiations with the 35,000-member union could produce a deal that will hurt students if it includes the equivalent of a 30-hour work week.

    Ken Checkel, chairman of the Clearview School Division in east-central Alberta, said many smaller boards around the province fear they could be forced to shorten the school day or increase class sizes as a result.
    “The teachers and the province have been talking about this behind closed doors,” Checkel said.
    “This is a big one and I think it should be discussed in public.”
    Faced with the prospect of another deficit, the province wants teachers to accept a three-year deal similar to a collective agreement it reached in 2010 with Alberta nurses, he said.
    That contract included no salary increase in the first year, two per cent in the second and four per cent in the third.
    Checkel said the situation is reminiscent of the failed three-way talks a year ago — involving the province, the ATA and the Alberta School Boards Association — when then-education minister Dave Hancock tried to broker a deal that would have seen teachers accept a wage freeze in return for a cap on working hours.
    “We’ve got to the same place this time around but with a new minister and perhaps more pressure because we’ve got an election coming up and a contract coming to an end.”
    Under the current five-year deal with the ATA, negotiated in the lead-up to the last election and set to expire this August, the province agreed to cover a $2.2-billion shortfall in the teachers pension fund and pegged wage increases to the Alberta average weekly earnings index, which has outpaced inflation. Figures from the national teachers federation show that by 2010, Alberta teachers were the best paid in the country, with a starting salary of $45,939 and a top pay after 11 years on the job of $94,641. A recent ATA study found teachers are working an average of 56 hours a week during the school year.
    While the 20 participants at Calgary-area schools who logged their hours last May and June were only teaching about 19 hours a week, they spent another 25 hours marking and planning lessons, 10 hours in supervision, clerical activities and mandated professional development. Their 2.3 hours of lunch and recess breaks often involved attempting to contact parents or complete other tasks.
    “Teachers spend more time working outside the classroom than they do in front of students,” ATA spokesman Jonathan Teghtmeyer said. “If we’re going to talk about salaries and cost certainty, labour peace and workforce stability, then we need to talk about workload as well.”
    Thirteen of Alberta’s 62 boards – representing more than half the students in the province and including teachers at both Calgary school districts — currently have some sort of limits on working hours in their contracts. But Lucy Miller, chief superintendent of the Calgary Catholic School District, said the city’s two boards could still be affected by the deal under negotiation, depending on the number of assignable hours it includes and how they are defined.
    For example, while hours spent marking tests, preparing lessons, meeting with parents and supervising student are included along with instructional minutes in the total, time devoted to extracurricular activities are not covered.
    “The definition and what’s included is critical and the government knows this,” Miller said. “If teachers are going to work less hours, then it could be a cost item because we’d need more teachers.”
    When school boards agreed to three-way talks again last fall, the scope of discussions was limited to the deal’s length, teacher salary rates, a stable funding commitment from the province and a dispute resolution process to handle any impasse in subsequent local bargaining that could include discussions about working hours. But the breadth of the talks changed dramatically last Monday after Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, frustrated by the pace of progress, sent two lawyers to deliver a stern message to a provincewide meeting of school board officials at Edmonton’s Coast Hotel.
    Sources at the meeting told the Herald that Dwayne Chomyn and John Hope informed the group that all issues now needed to be on the table at the provincial level and that they had been given 10 days to reach a deal or report back to the minister.
    “It was pretty blunt, pretty direct,” Checkel said. “It was stuff like, ‘the train is going to the end of the line whether you’re on it or not.’ ”
    Lukaszuk said he was disappointed some school board officials were speaking publicly about what are supposed to be confidential meetings and negotiations, but he confirmed he had hired the two Edmonton lawyers to try to reach an agreement with boards and the ATA before he goes to Treasury Board on Wednesday to seek approval for his budget.
    “Unless they hammer out a deal right now that tells me what will be the cost of running Alberta Education for the next year, or hopefully the next three years, how can I ever give them sustainable funding.”
    In his previous post as employment and immigration minister, Lukaszuk had hired the pair to conduct a review of labour laws in the construction sector in the wake of a report and intense lobbying by an industry coalition that believes the current legislation is making Alberta companies uncompetitive. While he wouldn’t discuss details of the negotiations, Lukaszuk said that as the “kids’ Minister of Education” he wouldn’t sign off on a deal that compromised learning.
    “I will not negotiate anything that in any way would deteriorate or negatively impact the quality of the education that is delivered to every single child in the classroom,” he said.
    Regardless of what agreement may be reached in the current negotiations, each individual board in the province will still have to ratify it.
    As it was with the 2007 contract, Checkel said trustees may have to be prepared to sacrifice their jobs if they can’t stomach the deal.
    “Then, the minister (Ron Liepert) was going to use his powers on you, which included his power to fire you and hire a trustee who would sign,” he said. “The same implication is going to be there now.”

  2. Libraries may escape cut in opening hours, BBC News via bbc.co.uk
    BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Cutbacks in library opening hours may be avoided, following intervention by the culture, arts and leisure minister.
    Caral ni Chuilin said she had found almost £2.5m to protect library provision and help avoid shorter opening hours.
    Libraries NI said it had reluctantly proposed shorter opening hours because of a £10m shortfall in funding.
    It was intended to cut hours by 1,200 hours a week. That could now be halved with the extra allocation of money.

    Some of the busiest libraries would lose eight hours a week with smaller branches losing a third of their hours.
    There had been widespread opposition to the cutbacks and more than 7,000 submissions were made to the consultation on opening hours.
    Ms ni Chuilin said she had found the cash by re-allocating her own budget over the next four years.
    "I have listened intently to the concerns of the public, and I will find a way of protecting our library provision," she said.
    "Easing the pressure on libraries will mean that Libraries NI does not need to make such major reductions in opening hours.
    "My department and its sponsored bodies have already had to take very difficult decisions in light of reduced budget allocations over the next four years.
    "However, I will need to re-profile some spending and I have made robust representations to the finance minister."
    Libraries NI is due to meet on Thursday to decide on the reduced opening hours but it is now producing revised plans following talks with the minister.

1/15/2012 – 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. France seeks exit from crisis, tries to be more German, Agence France-Presse via NDTV via profit.ndtv.com
    PARIS, France - As the German economy shines, next door France plunges into recession, shedding jobs and losing its top credit rating.
    But President Nicolas Sarkozy has a plan to save the country, by making it more like Germany.
    The right-wing leader will on Wednesday host a "social summit" with unions and employers to try to make France's job market more flexible and halt rising unemployment ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections this year.
    Sarkozy is hoping he can emulate the so-called Hartz labour reforms of 2003 to 2005, which are seen as having helped Germany escape the economic crisis currently gripping most of Europe.
    But this is just one of the many pages that France hopes to borrow from Germany's economic textbook.
    Earlier this month Sarkozy's government vowed to cut payroll charges on employers and workers to try to make French firms more competitive, and to recoup the revenue mainly by raising value added tax.
    The countries with this so-called "social tax" most cited by the government are Denmark and Germany, where it was introduced in 2007.
    Budget Minister Valerie Pecresse said it was worth copying Germany's move to reduce labour costs because this had enabled France's neighbour to reduce unemployment and remain Europe’s biggest exporter despite the crisis.
    Sarkozy also hopes to follow Germany's lead and introduce a "golden rule" for French government budgets, which would oblige future governments to borrow only to invest and not in order to fund current spending.
    Sarkozy occasionally has spats with his German counterpart Angela Merkel.
    They have had seriously different ideas on how to resolve the European debt crisis, for example, and Sarkozy has most recently irked Merkel by vowing to go it alone in introducing a financial transaction tax.
    But the French leader clearly thinks his country has a lot to learn from a neighbour with which it has fought three wars in the past century and a half.
    Jean-Louis Beffa, former boss of French building materials giant Saint-Gobain and author of "La France Doit Choisir" (France Must Choose), which argues the country must change its economic model to survive, agrees.
    "France, with respect to the management of companies, has fallen into the clutches of the ideological principles of Anglo-Saxon capitalism, which is to say the primacy of the shareholder," he said.
    France should instead adopt the German industrial model characterised by close cooperation between unions and management, an emphasis on vocational training, and closer links between financial and industrial sectors, he added.
    Contrasts between Germany and France are striking.
    The German economy does show signs of slowing down -- it shrank slightly in the fourth quarter of 2011 -- but overall for the year it grew a healthy three percent, making it one of its best years since the country was reunited in 1990.
    INSEE, the French national statistics office, says it expects France to fall into a brief recession, with the economy contracting 0.2 percent in the three months to December and another 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2012.
    German unemployment is at its lowest level in 20 years, at 7.1 percent, while in France the number of jobless -- at nearly three million -- is at a 12-year high, at 9.8 percent.
    The French government predicts that its public deficit -- the shortfall between tax income and spending -- for 2011 will be 97.2 billion euros, or slightly lower than its target of 5.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
    Germany managed to bring its public deficit down to just 1.0 percent last year, from 4.3 percent the year before.
    Sarkozy's "social summit" next week is a major plank in his bid to narrow the yawning gaps between the French and German economies.
    A central measure to be discussed will be new rules that would allow firms to adjust to an economic downturn by cutting workers' hours instead of laying them off.
    A major reason Germany has managed to keep unemployment low is the use of "Kurzarbeit" ("reduced working hours"), a system that allows firms to reduce workers' hours, with the government making up some of their lost pay.
    However Pierre Larrouturou, an author and political commentator, warns against blindly copying Germany's methods.
    He said the German model has many positive aspects but argued that the labour reforms there may have made the country's firms more competitive but left most Germans with reduced spending power.
    He pointed to a growing underclass of badly-paid workers who have benefited little from Germany's strong economy, and noted statistics that show that German real gross wages declined by 4.0 percent between 2000 and 2010.
    [That's because Germany has still not tapped the full power of cutting hours instead of jobs - Germany has still not established a nationwide standard maximum workweek with automatic overtime-to-jobs conversion and gradual downward adjustment AS FAR AS IT TAKES to maintain wages by market forces responding to an employer-perceived labor "shortage."]
    "Competitivity is like cholesterol -- there is good and bad, as (Nobel-winning economist Paul) Krugman said," noted Larrouturou, whose latest book is titled "Pour eviter le Krach ultime" (How to Avoid the Ultimate Crash).
    [Larrouturou is just another European who has not fully realized what Europe is doing right and how much further they need to go along this path. And as Krugman pointed out last Friday (scan down below to 1/13/2012 under ECONOMIC DECLINE), competitiveness relates only to the small portion of the economy that involves the import-export industry - the vastly largest part of any economy is consumer spending, and it's suicidal to keep sacrificing that huge part for the noisy little import-export industry and their fundamentalist Free Trade religion.]
    "Training workers, inventing new products, getting up in the morning and conquering more market share, that's all good. But lowering everybody's salaries is very dangerous," he said.
    Sarkozy's hopes of introducing "Kurzarbeit" in France is likely to run into opposition from unions who are already objecting to any reform that might hit workers' pockets further.
    Standard & Poor's downgrading of France's top triple-A credit rating has further complicated matters for Sarkozy because the agency left Germany's top rating intact.
    "Being downgraded along with Germany would not be a downgrade, just a shift in scale," wrote Arnaud Leparmentier, a political journalist at Le Monde newspaper.
    "But now Nicolas Sarkozy's politics, which consist of presenting France as Germany's alter ego, have collapsed," he said.

  2. The Past And Future Of The Workweek, by Matthew Yglesias, Slate Magazine (blog) via slate.com/blogs
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - Chris Bertram reports back from an event dedicated to "exploring the idea of working-time reduction with an eventual goal of moving to a normal working week of 21 hours." I was interested in particular by these remarks from Robert Skidelsky:
    Skidelsky was next up. He began by talking about Keynes’s Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren in which Keynes foresaw a radical reduction in working hours and asked why Keynes’s vision hadn’t come to pass. He offered a range of possible explanations (the joys of work, fear of leisure, increased inequality, pressures from employers on a cowed workforce, and pathological consumerism).
    I'm not sure there's really anything to be explained here. Forecasting the future is difficult, and the life enjoyed by the "grandchildren" of the people of Keynes' time isn't exactly as he envisioned in Economic Possibilities. But his remarks about reduced working time certainly capture the trends. Here's hours worked per employed person in the UK since 1970:
    [graph showing irregular descent from around 1840 average annual hours worked per employed person in the U.K. in 1970 to around 1640 in 2010]
    I couldn't find older data than that, but the basic picture is the same in any developed country. There's a cyclical element so hours worked such that when the labor market is strong people end up working longer hours, but the underlying trend is toward a share of productivity gains being taken in the form of increased leisure. Not only does that trend exist within individual countries, but if you compare countries to each other in the more productive countries people don't work as much:
    [graph comparing countries by average hours with Netherlands Norway Germany France Ireland Austria on lower hours side starting at around 1400 hours/year and GreatBritain Portugal OECD USA Italy Greece on higher hours side ending at around 2000 hrs/yr]
    Keynes' vision is basically coming true. What's more, separate to these trends basically all developing countries are seeing a trend toward people spending a lower share of their life in the workforce and more in school, retirement, or both. That's all more or less how it should be, although presumably reasonable people will disagree around the margin about how best to arrange the details.

1/14/2012 – 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. After the Crash: A Work-Sharing Boom = Exit ramp to a new economy? - To cope with the recession, some companies are cutting hours instead of employees - Will the trend have long-term effects? by Juliet Schor, (posted 8/09/2010 very late pickup) Yes! via yesmagazine.org via Care2.com
    BOSTON, Mass. - Twenty months into the United States’ worst recession since the 1930s, standard approaches for putting people back to work are proving increasingly inadequate. Corporate bailouts, tax cuts, government spending, and stimulative monetary policy have been the mainstays of the government’s response to the downturn. But unemployment has remained stubbornly high, and job creation has been far below what is needed to return the labor market to its pre-crash state.
    There is one bright spot on the policy agenda: work sharing. Government policies that encourage companies to reduce hours rather than lay people off are getting a new look.
    Operated through the regular unemployment insurance system, state-based work sharing programs are a straightforward way of spreading and diffusing the impact of downsizing: Workers whose hours have been reduced in order to save jobs at their company are able to claim unemployment benefits for the lost hours, retaining a portion—typically half—of their lost wages. Companies have to maintain benefits for these workers; depending on the state, there can be some other requirements as well.
    Shorter work time (SWT) schemes have been around for years, although they have tended to be a little known, even esoteric part of labor market policy. They are far more prevalent in Europe, where they originated in the early 20th century and expanded after World War II. SWT schemes didn’t come to the U.S. until the late 1970s, when California implemented an informal version to cope with stagflation, followed by a formalized policy in 1982. Ten years later, the federal government made these schemes a permanent part of labor market policy through an amendment to the Social Security Act.
    After the Crash: A Work-Sharing Boom
    Work-share programs are probably the best way to respond to a short-term reduction in economic activity. But they also form a key pathway to a saner economy.
    The National Association of State Workforce Agencies estimates that work sharing resulted in 166,000 jobs saved in 2009—a record number, and almost triple the number from 2008. New York, in particular, has been aggressively pushing its program, and use has also exploded in a number of other states.
    Before the crash, 17 states allowed workers to collect unemployment insurance on the wages they lost when their hours were cut. (Those states were Arkansas, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington). Two more states, Colorado and New Hampshire, have passed work-sharing policies in recent months, and both programs are already operating. Five more states—Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Hawaii, Ohio, and Oklahoma—are considering adopting similar policies. As of this writing, the Pennsylvania bill had passed the state’s lower chamber and was awaiting action in the Senate.
    Common Sense for Saving Jobs
    SWT won’t do too much to put today’s unemployed back to work directly. But it can play an important role in preventing more layoffs, which in turn improves job prospects for all. Still, timing is crucial. SWT is most effective during the early months of a recession, when companies are deciding how to respond. If the economy goes into a double-dip and weakens even further, SWT could be an important stabilizer. Getting more states involved and expanding awareness of the programs that do exist should be urgent priorities.
    Germany—which responded to the crash primarily through the adjustment of hours, and whose unemployment rate barely increased—is an outstanding example of how to do this. A federal scheme to replace lost wages (Kurzarbeit) accounted for about 20 percent of the reduction in hours; private bargains between employers and unions, canceled overtime, and flexible use of vacation and other time off was responsible for the remainder.
    Productivity has been on the rise for decades, but we’ve been using the benefits of increased productivity to consume ever more stuff—which we often don’t even have time to enjoy.
    Nor was Germany the only country to use schedule changes to cushion the collapse. Korea, Norway, and the Slovak Republic also used hours for more than 95 percent of their labor market adjustment; Belgium, Italy, Finland and Japan were also big “hours” (rather than jobs) adjusters. By contrast, in the U.S., employers responded almost wholly with layoffs.
    Even with the growth in work-share programs, SWT has not yet been used in the U.S. nearly to the extent that it could be. Jack Reed (D-RI), has introduced a bill in Congress to encourage more states to join the program and to ensure its continued funding.
    The politics of work sharing are encouraging for their broader application in the U.S. Such programs are cost-neutral for badly-stretched unemployment insurance funds, so they don’t run afoul of anti-spending sentiment. Though they have historically been associated with the progressive side of the fence, they appear ideologically neutral. Ben Bernanke has given them his seal of approval; businesses often like them because they save on re-hiring costs. They are also, rightly, perceived as fair—rather than concentrating the pain of unemployment in a small number of people, they allow it to be shared equally. In the parlance of the day, they’re generally considered to be win-wins.
    Exit Ramp to a New Economy
    Work-share programs are probably the best way to respond to a short-term reduction in economic activity. But they also form a key pathway to a saner economy.
    Reducing work hours improves work-life balance for many overworked, overstressed employees. Americans frequently report that what they most sense to be missing from their lives is the time necessary to enjoy them; research on well-being also indicates that adequate time is at the core of a healthy, happy life. Overworked employees report more family tension, less happiness, and more stress. This is a particular problem for Americans, who work between 100 and 350 more hours each year than workers in comparably wealthy countries.
    Life-Work Balance? Between Overworked and Out of Work
    Instead of 10 percent unemployment, what if we worked 10 percent fewer hours?
    Surveys done before the crash indicate that between 30 and 50 percent of Americans say they would prefer to work fewer hours, even for less pay. However, the structure of the labor market—including the need to work full-time to receive benefits—has made that difficult. That’s why taking advantage of SWT now, at a time when hours have fallen due to the shortfall in demand, is a golden opportunity.
    Reduced hours can also lead to smaller ecological footprints, as I explain in my recent book Plenitude. Productivity has been on the rise for decades, but we’ve been using the benefits of increased productivity to consume ever more stuff—which we often don’t even have time to enjoy. Those additional material goods (not to mention those extra miles of commuting) have a major impact on the environment. Research shows that longer work hours are associated with more ecological degradation. Working less typically leads to reduced spending and also a shift to lower-impact forms of consumption: taking the bike instead of the car; cooking at home instead of buying fast food. For the ecologically aware, the preference for SWT over standard job creation measures such as stimulus spending or tax cuts should be clear.
    By helping to institute a new, shorter hours regime, in which increases in productivity result in time off the job rather than more material output, work-sharing programs help maintain labor market balance even if economic activity is stable or falling. That’s the win-win that has yet to factor into the mainstream discourse on shorter work hours—and the reason why reducing hours equitably in a recession is an exit ramp to a new economy.
    Juliet Schor wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Juliet is, most recently, the author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, and a professor of sociology at Boston College. Her website is www.julietschor.org.

  2. E-mail after work hours? That's overtime, says law, by Chris Matyszczyk, AP via CNET.com
    BRAZILIA, Brazil - Companies take liberties.
    The liberty some seem to enjoy most is yours. As recessions hit and profit pressures become the sole reason for existence, bosses seem to believe that they own workers--until they discard them for younger, fresher models.
    Now a curiously human law has reared its head in Brazil. According to the Associated Press, this law says that if a company e-mails you after your allotted working hours, then this is the same as if one's supervisor is giving one an instruction to perform a certain work task.
    Ergo, argue Brazilian labor lawyers, if a worker receives such an e-mail and has to act on it, he or she qualifies for overtime pay.

    I can already hear the howling of corporate management in, say, America. I can hear sniggers suggesting that every corporate employee should be on call 24 hours a day.
    That is today's connected world.
    Some might offer, though, that today's connected world has become peculiarly inhuman-- one in which employees are numbers, rather than human beings to whom the company has made a longer-term commitment.
    If, as Mitt Romney tells us, corporations are people, perhaps people should now be corporations.
    "You want me to answer an e-mail at 9 p.m.? That will be $900. Night-rates, you understand."
    About Chris Matyszczyk - Chris Matyszczyk is an award-winning creative director who advises major corporations on content creation and marketing. He brings an irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes ironic voice to the tech world. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.

1/13/2012 – 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. Cutting work hours could improve economy and health, BestMedicalCover.co.uk
    BOSTON, Mass. - Reducing people's hours could improve the nation's health while also boosting economic recovery, it has been claimed.
    Cutting the number of hours that people work in the UK could improve health and also provide a boost to the economy, it has been claimed.
    According to Juliet Schor, professor of Sociology at Boston College, keeping wages in real terms stable would allow productivity growth to be used to reduce work hours.
    Speaking to the BBC World Business Report, she explained that this is something the Dutch did throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
    "They ended up with highest labour productivity in Europe, very low unemployment and very high quality of life," she explained.

    By keeping wages constant while reducing hours, businesses can switch to paying their workforce to some extent in "free time" rather than more income.
    She suggested that this is growth of a different sort to standard economic measurements of productivity, but suggested it is not necessarily a new thing, claiming all OECD countries have been "doing it for 150 years now".
    [Another version -]
    Reduce working hours 'to boost productivity', AshDownGroup.com
    Reduce working hours 'to boost productivity'As the UK aims to tackle high rates of unemployment, business leaders and the government should consider reducing working hours, it has been claimed.
    Juliet Schor, professor of Sociology at Boston College, said many western economies including the UK are going to be "out of balance" for a long time.
    "We are in situations of chronic unemployment and under-employment and I don’t think we are going to be able to get out of it by old fashioned Keynesian pump priming," she stated.
    Prof Schor said austerity economics are making the situation worse, meaning there is a need to consider alternative methods to reduce joblessness.
    She claimed that working hour reductions have "a long history" of successfully leading to lower rates of unemployment.
    "What progressive reductions in working hours financed by productivity do is allow a society to take some or all, depending on its choices, of its economic dividend of the productivity growth that it generates, and use it to give people more leisure time rather than more income," Prof Schor added.
    She described this as "growth of a different sort", noting that nations within the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development have been doing this for 150 years.
    Starting from today, employers should consider progressively reducing working hours, the expert said.
    She cited the example of the Netherlands, where such a policy was implemented in 1980.
    The Dutch began a 15-year project to alter the look of the working week, long enough to have a limited, if any, impact on real wages.
    "They used their productivity growth to reduce hours of work," Prof Schor noted.
    "The country ended up with highest labour productivity in Europe, very low unemployment and very high quality of life. That’s the way you do it."
    According to Hilary Jeanes, leadership coach and human resources consultant at PurpleLine Consulting, employers may also be able to improve productivity by establishing clear and open lines of communication with staff members.
    She noted that business leaders need to recognise the different needs and expectations of individual employees, and tailor their management approach accordingly.

  2. Reforming work practices, editorial, The Korea Herald via koreaherald.com
    SEOUL, S.Korea - One major policy goal of the Ministry of Employment and Labor for this year is to reform shift work practices at domestic companies. The reform drive is intended to shorten Korea’s notoriously long working hours, which is essential to improving workers’ quality of life, creating jobs and enhancing productivity.
    The ministry’s reform initiative is belated but welcome as it can benefit workers, their companies and the national economy. Yet the benefits don’t materialize automatically. As shift work reform would reduce working hours, productivity improvement is essential to avoid any output loss. There is no guarantee of benefits unless workers and management cooperate to enhance productivity.
    According to a survey conducted by the ministry last year, some 15 percent of domestic firms used shift work. Among manufacturers, the percentage was 22 percent, with the auto industry showing the highest ratio of about 44 percent.
    The most widely used shift pattern was a double-shift system in which two teams of workers rotate, each frequently forced to work extra hours. Among companies operating work shifts, some 64 percent used this arrangement. In the auto industry, the ratio topped 90 percent.
    The survey also found that the weekly working hours of shift workers were four hours longer than the 41.3 hours worked by the average Korean wage earner. Shift workers in the auto industry, however, had a workweek more than 10 hours longer than average.
    The survey clearly showed where the ministry should start its reform campaign. Hence it started to put pressure on the nation’s five automakers -- Hyundai, Kia, Ssangyong, General Motors and Renault Samsung. In November, it accused the five companies of breaching the Labor Standards Act by forcing their employees to work more than 12 hours a week in overtime.
    The ministry told the car producers to present a comprehensive plan to change their shift work arrangements or face prosecution for their breach of the law.
    Under the ministry’s pressure, Hyundai and Kia recently presented a reform plan. Currently, employees of the two companies work in two shifts, one working from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and the other from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next day. Hyundai and Kia proposed a new double-shift arrangement under which one team works from 6:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. and the other from 3:10 p.m. to 12:50 a.m. the next day. For some plants that need to run around the clock, the companies would introduce a three-team, three shift system.
    The plan, if implemented as proposed, would enable Hyundai and Kia to avoid breaching the overtime rule. But it requires the two companies to hire 1,400 new employees and invest some 700 billion won to upgrade facilities this year.
    Even after the addition of new workers and facility investment, the two companies would still suffer an output loss of 187,000 vehicles a year, unless workers manage to enhance productivity.
    On the part of workers, the change in the shift system means a reduction in wages as their overtime pay would be cut. But Hyundai and Kia said there would be no pay cut if workers could maintain their previous output levels. This means workers have to tolerate a sharp increase in labor intensity if they want no reduction in pay.
    Thus, a successful execution of the ministry’s reform scheme requires mutual concessions between management and workers. Management should be willing to invest in productivity-enhancing equipment and hire more staff, while employees need to boost productivity in return for improvement in working conditions.
    To help management and workers reach a bargain, the ministry said it would provide up to 10.8 million won for a maximum two years for each new worker hired due to shift work reform. Previously, it provided 7.2 million per employee for one year.
    Yet the ministry’s budget for this financial support is set at a mere 9.8 billion won for this year, which means it can only subsidize some 1,000 employees. The government needs to ramp up the funding.
    The ministry has all but finished its campaign to revamp the auto industry by endorsing the reform blueprint of Hyundai and Kia. Their plan will serve as a reference for other car producers. The ministry is now looking for its next target, which is likely to be the electronics industry. Major companies in this sector need to take steps voluntarily before being pushed by the government.

1/12/2012 – 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. Garda World to lay off, cut hours for screeners at Toronto's Pearson airport, by Hugh McKenna & David Paddon, CanadianBusiness.com
    TORONTO, Ont., Canada - Big layoffs involving security screeners are coming at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, but whether that will mean travel delays and compromises in security is a matter of dispute between their union and those employing them.
    Even the number of airport screeners losing their jobs at Canada's busiest airport was in dispute.
    The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority said its has been informed by its contractor, Montreal-based Garda World Security, that 68 screeners at Pearson would be laid off and some 200 others would have their hours reduced.
    But their union, the Canadian Airport Workers Union, insists it has received layoff notices from Garda for 299 workers — one-fifth of the unionized screeners at the airport — although an unofficial spokesman who cannot be named said the company indicated some of them might be hired back.
    Garda (TSX:GW) itself put the figure at 68 workers being temporarily laid off while the employment of a further 231 employees would be reduced to 20 hours a week.
    [231 cut to half time? Probably saved half (115-116 more) from being cut full time = laid off = timesizing not downsizing.]
    In any case, the union said the cuts will have negative implications for the travelling public.
    "The current complement of screening officers is barely adequate to manage the current traffic flow," said Denis Ellickson, a Toronto lawyer and official spokesman for the Canadian Airport Workers' union.
    That view was echoed by the United Steelworkwers, which represents some 1,200 screeners at other airports across the country and is worried more layoffs are coming.
    "Airport security screening suffered cutbacks and major disruptions from last year's reorganization," said Wayne Fraser, the steelworkers' Ontario and Atlantic director.
    "Now the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is making more major cuts. This can't go on without adding to airport lineups and affecting passenger safety."
    However, a CATSA spokesman insisted that was not the case.
    "We do not anticipate any disruptions," Mathieu Larocque said in an interview.
    "On the contrary, this plan is designed to improve the service delivery, improve customer service, improve efficiency. And as far a security goes, there is absolutely no compromise about security."
    Larocque said that what Garda is doing is making adjustments to its workforce to "reflect the new business model that they have proposed as part of the last round of request for proposals that ended on Nov. 1."
    "They proposed a plan to improve the service delivery at the airport, to increase efficiency, the productivity — improve the customer service of all the aspects of the screening services that we offer at the airport. This is the plan that they are implementing right now."
    The Steelworkers say the Crown agency cut staff and screening hours by 15 to 20 per cent last May.
    "Additional cuts are not the way to improve passenger safety, national security or wait times," said Ken Neumann, the union's national director for Canada.
    "The public is expecting, and paying for, improvements, not reductions. They want safer air travel and more timely processing."
    Passenger fees for security screening range from $7.48 for a one-way domestic flight to up to $25.91 for an international flight.
    The union said it wants the layoffs — scheduled to be effective Jan. 25 — delayed and called on the federal transport minister to get involved, saying it's a matter of public safety.
    The office of Steven Fletcher, minister of state for transport, issued a brief statement, but referred questions to CATSA, which is responsible for airport screening.
    "Our government is committed to the safety of the travelling public while protecting taxpayer’s dollars," the minister's emailed statement said.
    The Garda cuts are part of a recent wave of layoffs in the Toronto area — including hundreds of jobs at the Toronto Hydro utility and at a Bell Mobility call centre in Mississauga.
    In Quebec, French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis has cut 100 jobs in the Montreal area, while Johnson & Johnson shut down its research centre and laid off 126 workers.

  2. France – Working hours amongst the lowest in Europe, Staffing Industry Analysts via staffingindustry.com
    PARIS, France - The average working hours in France are amongst the lowest in Europe, according to a study by Coe-Rexecode, a French research institute of economic studies. While in Finland full-time employees enjoy the lowest number of working hours, the French come a close second with 35 hours per week.
    The findings mirror similar data presented by the European statistics provider Eurostat, revealing that the average French full-time employee worked 1,679 hours per year in 2010. This is -224 [sic] hours less than in Germany or -177 [sic] hours less than the UK.
    [We're assuming the minus signs are typos, and not double negatives meaning France worked 224 more than Germany or 177 more than the UK.]
    The study also found that self-employed workers averaged 2,453 hours a year while part-time employees worked 978 hours.
    The findings can mainly be explained by the fact that the French government had introduced a legal requirement in the year 2000, restricting working hours to 35 a week. Although this clause has since been scrapped, many employers are inclined to stick with it to avoid collisions with trade unions, which mainly support it. While supporters regard the 35-hour week as a clear advantage to the work-life balance, opponents argue it limits the amount of work that can be done and also negatively affect the GDP.
    The French Prime Minister François Fillon has recently spoken out against the 35-hour week, arguing the clause is simply not economically viable and flexible enough. He also stated in an interview he was keen to reform labour laws in the country to tackle this issue.

1/11/2012 – 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. The Case For A 21-Hour Work Week, by Michael Coren, FastCoExist.com
    It would create jobs and stop the unsustainable cycle of rampant consumerism. Sure, it would also require a wholesale reordering of our economy, but that might happen whether we like it or not.
    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - To save the world--or really to even just make our personal lives better--we will need to work less.
    [True, in the context of constant worksaving innovation. But no arbitrary fixed level, however low, is the answer. It's time we flexed up our thinking and realized that the workweek has to remain adjustable so it can be shortened as much as it takes to regain wartime levels of full employment and consumer spending and "wartime" prosperity - without the war.]
    Time, like work, has become commodified, a recent legacy of industrial capitalism, where a controlled, 40-hour week (or more) in factories was necessary. Our behavior is totally out of step with human priorities and the nature of today’s economy. To lay the foundations for a "steady-state" economy--one that can continue running sustainably forever--a recent paper argues that it’s time for advanced developed countries transition to a normal 21-hour work week.
    This does not mean a mandatory work week or leisure-time police. People can choose to work as long, or short, as they please. It’s more about resetting social and political norms. That is, the day when 1,092 hours of paid work per year becomes the "standard that is generally expected by government, employers, trade unions, employees, and everyone else."
    The New Economics Foundation (NEF) says there is nothing natural or inevitable about what’s considered a "normal" 40-hour work week today. In its wake, many people are caught in a vicious cycle of work and consumption. They live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume things. Missing from that equation is an important fact that researchers have discovered about most material consumption in wealthy societies: so much of the pleasure and satisfaction we gain from buying is temporary, ephemeral, and largely relative to those around us (who strive to consume still more, in a self-perpetuating spiral).
    The NEF argues to achieve more satisfying lives we need to challenge social norms and reset the industrial clock in our heads. It sees the 21-hour week as integral to this for two reasons: it will redistribute paid work, offering the hope of a more equal society (right now too many are overworked, or underemployed). At the same time, it would give us all time for the things we value but rarely have time to do well such as care for our family, travel, read or continue learning (as opposed to merely consuming).
    Besides, it may be the only way a modern global society won’t overwhelm the earth’s resources. Creating EU-level living standards for the entire world by 2050 would require a six-fold increase in the size of the global economy, with potentially devastating consequences. Instead of endlessly growing GDP, maybe we need to recalibrate society to make more people happier and successful with less.
    "The proposed shift towards 21 hours must be seen in terms of a broad, incremental transition to social, economic, and environmental sustainability," says the NEF in its report.
    The challenges are great. And no doubt, some will seize on this as socialism or worse. Many will object to being told that 21 hours is normal, or 80 hours is too much.
    But consider what economist John Maynard Keynes (whose theories underpin much of the response to the global financial crises) said in 1930 about the goals of future societies. Keynes thought that by the start of the 21st century, we would work only 15 to 21 hours a week, and we would instead focus on "how to use freedom from pressing economic cares."
    As NEF writes: "Keynes was wrong in his forecast, but not at all wrong, it seems to us, to envisage a very different way of using time."
    Michael Coren covers science, economics and the environment. He is the cofounder of the multimedia production studio + newsroom MajorPlanet Studios. He writes from San Francisco.

  2. France's Surreal Presidential Race, by John Vioncur, International Herald Tribune via New York Times via nytimes.com
    PARIS, France - What kind of country would France be if it abandoned its 35-hour work week (it actually kills jobs),
    [No it doesn't. The 35-hour workweek cut unemployment 1% for each of the 4 hours it cut from the previous workweek (39 hours), same results as the US got 1938-40 in cutting from 44 to 40 hours. French unemployment was 12.6% in 1997 when the 35-hour workweek was voted in, and 8.6% in spring/2001 before the US-led recession hit France. The only "abandonment" of its 35-hour workweek that will actually create jobs is abandonment in favor of a 32-hour or 30-hour workweek. It should never have been refrozen at 35 or any other arbitrary number as only as joblessness was and is too high. If this commentator is implying that a longer workweek would not kill but create jobs, let's see him seriously propose doubling the workweek to double the jobs. He'll wind up halving the jobs and collapsing consumer spending and everything that depends on it, i.e., all the rest of the economy.]
    set up an affirmative action program for its Muslim immigrants (featuring a zero-tolerance framework for their assimilation), and scaled back its ambitions for Europe as a global political force to more attainable goals?
    Answer: An imaginary one. There are no signs of it happening.
    [And thank God for that in reference to his first implied "reform" = relengthening the workweek in the age of automation and robotization - only an idiot would propose this (and Pres. Sarkozy is just such an idiot, especially now that he's contradicting himself by wanting to copy German hourscuts instead of jobcuts in terms of their highly successful Kurzarbeit.]
    Roughly 100 days before voting in an elimination round April 22, and then in a final ballot on May 6, the French presidential election campaign so far involves back and forth on possible variations in French comfort — tinkering with, adjusting and applying new coats of paint to familiar and nonthreatening aspects of national life.
    There’s something surreal here. Neither Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been a brash president for the last five years, or the presumedly bland François Hollande, named Socialist candidate on Oct. 16, is talking about the perspective for painful change.
    You can’t argue about its necessity. In 2012, France lives with:
    • An unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, a looming recession, and a likely loss of its triple-AAA credit rating.
    • A report last year that detailed the emergence of Muslim immigrant communities resembling parallel societies, while a Le Monde poll showed that 61 percent of the French regard Muslim integration as failed because of its refusal by the immigrants themselves.
    • A hardened notion among the French that, with the E.U. debt crisis, their country has clearly become a subordinate player to Germany.
    For all of France’s accomplishments and uniqueness, a sense of lost identity and decline resonates.
    At a moment that seems to command existential choice, the candidates are responding piecemeal and with calculation in a manner the French call “petit bras” — taking hesitant, little strokes where a full swing is needed.
    A confetti swirl of isolated ideas and generalities (literally — truth, hope, fairness and determination) is present rather than coherent blueprints for national overhaul. Just an example: The two likely finalists have proposed either tax code alterations that would irritate the rich, while avoiding the economy’s fundamental rigidities, or arguments for a change in value-added taxation that could help businesses increase competitiveness, although only in theory and probably not in the long term. This says Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Hollande share an ungracious view of the electorate’s capacity for accepting givebacks.
    Their refusal so far to confront sweeping structural change reads as if they agree with the notion that the French perceive almost any change in the system as a threat because virtually everyone’s self-interest is wired to a state-protected status quo. The biggest issue of avoidance for the election campaign is structural reform of the labor market.
    As a counterpoint in a decade when countries in northern Europe and Germany were creating more flexible rules for relations between workers and employers, a Socialist government in Paris installed the 35-hour work week in 2000.
    No other country has adopted anything similar, but the law, which has made companies shy from hiring, is enshrined here as a monument to progress. Nicolas Sarkozy has never attempted to abolish its symbolism.
    The Socialist Party talks fairly vaguely about its interest in a Danish model called “flexicurity,” which exchanges job security for a supple approach to hours, pay and delocalization. But France’s trade unions, representing the biggest bloc of Socialist votes, have made clear it is a nonstarter without cash enhancements and no limitations on strikes.
    The campaign’s second essential but absent debate goes to how Islam adapts to French society. Seeking the presidency in 2007, Mr. Sarkozy recognized that the alienation of Muslim immigrants was tearing apart France’s social cohesion, and proposed what he called affirmative action à la française. The pledge was not fulfilled or repeated.
    Now, it would get in the way of the incumbent’s hopes to gather in votes from the anti-immigration National Front party in the election’s runoff round. The Socialists, also concerned about loss of white working class support, don’t advocate affirmative action.
    As for the French place in the world, and how the E.U. can serve France as an amplifier, a traditional presidential election leitmotif, the debt crisis makes expectations of a multipolar world, with Europe as a powerful pillar, seem very hollow. The French have heard nothing about a reasonable alternative to its leaders’ hamstrung ambitions — like a new focus on an organic trans-Atlantic trade community in response to China’s economic challenge.
    Mr. Hollande thinks that by avoiding a clear set of campaign commitments, he can circumvent anything specific that might threaten his wide lead over Mr. Sarkozy in current polling. The president concentrates on casting himself to the French not as a dispenser of much-need reform medicine, but as their worldly, combative protector.
    That common burst of subterfuge means an election campaign poor in meaningful, coherent ideas. In this country, normally so productive in inventiveness and nerve, there’s nothing new or promising going on as it stutters and drifts toward choosing a president.

1/10/2012 – 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. Madden Bill Providing Shared Work Program To Small Businesses Signed Into Law, by StaffFurigay, (1/09 late pickup) Targeted News Service via InsuranceNewsNet.com (press release)
    TRENTON, N.J. - The New Jersey Senate Democrats issued the following news release:
    Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred Madden (D-Gloucester, Camden) that would permit an employer of at least 10 full-time, non-seasonal employees to provide a shared work program was signed into law today.
    "While nationally we are seeing progress in terms of reducing the unemployment rate, unfortunately we are seeing little change here in New Jersey," said Madden, chair of the Senate Labor Committee. "That is why it is crucial we take steps that will keep small businesses from having to lay off workers. This bill will do just that, by providing them a better option while at the same time preventing them from having to spend money they don't have."
    The bill, S-1301, is designed to encourage employers who must reduce their employees' work hours because of economic conditions to avoid layoffs by sharing the remaining work.
    The bill would encourage shared work by permitting, under certain circumstances, a full-time employee to receive unemployment benefits when the employee's weekly work time is reduced by 10% or more.
    The shared work program would be contingent on approval from the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This program would allow, under certain circumstances, a full-time employee to receive unemployment benefits when the employee's weekly work time is reduced by 10% or more.
    Under an approved program, an employee would be eligible for "short-time" Unemployment Insurance benefits if: the employee was employed by the employer for not less than 1,500 hours during the individual's base year; the employee's weekly work hours are reduced at least 10% from normal full-time hours; the employee would be eligible for regular unemployment benefits during the week if the employee was entirely unemployed; and the employee is available to work normal full-time hours.

  2. Economic fallacies: is it time to work more, or less? - The economic logic of a shorter working week, by Juliet Schor, Sustainable Business Blog via Guardian Professional Network via Manchester Guardian via guardian.co.uk
    National Academy of Science Report Shows US Poverty Rate To Be 15.8 Percent (photo tag - invisible)
    31% of college-educated American men work more than 50 hours a week while 15.1% of all Americans live in poverty. (photo caption)

    [Photo caption poverty rate varies from photo tag poverty rate - editor!]
    BOSTON, Mass. - Economists are fond of pointing out fallacies in economic logic, and unorthodox economists are especially fond of the sport. Adam Smith's famous maxim that the self-interested behavior of individuals produces the common good is one widely-held fallacy. It was spectacularly debunked by the selfish behavior of the 1% who crashed the world economy in 2008.
    Keynes' fallacy of composition is another well-known example of debunking. Standard thinking holds that if people try to save more in order to cope with stagnation, that will lower interest rates, spur investment and create more jobs and growth. Keynes showed that higher saving in the absence of sufficient demand would actually lead to reductions in investment, a contraction in output, and, in the end, less benefits from saving for the thrifty.
    There's another analogous fallacy going around, which is that hard times should lead us to work longer and more intensively. A new economics foundation conference I'm attending in London this week will take up the question of working hours. Should wealthy countries be thinking about raising or lowering hours of work?
    On the face of it, the work intensification approach makes sense. The downturn has reduced incomes and growth. For the individual, trying to work more is sensible – future conditions in the labour market are more uncertain. Expected future returns on financial assets are lower. Housing prices are deflating. For a nation experiencing relative decline, putting its nose to the grindstone makes intuitive sense.
    But acting this way en masse risks triggering forces that operate in the other direction. Right now we're experiencing glutted labour markets, in OECD countries as well as globally. Labour economist Richard Freeman estimates that over the last decade, the effective global labour supply has about doubled, from 1.46 to 2.93 billion. If people offer more hours to the market, wages fall and unemployment rises. Excess supply of labour also undermines investment and innovation, which accelerate when labour is scarce relative to capital.

    Lump of labour [fallacy]! Lump of labour [fallacy], the critics will cry. That's the supposed mistake of economists like me who call for reductions in work hours during times of high unemployment.
    [Thank you for taking this on the chops, Juliet. I'm sure Robert LaJeunesse ("Work Time Regulation as Sustainable Full Employment Strategy" 2009) and by now, a number of other PhDs in economics, are 100% behind you in countering and exposing this piece of unscientific and scornful sophistry that the "lump of labor fallacy" criers demean themselves by repeating, clearly without much thought.]
    The critics believe the market can always provide enough work for whoever wants it.
    But are they right?
    [If so, where are the jobs?]
    There's little question that most of the OECD now finds itself in a Keynesian world of weak aggregate demand, ineffectual monetary policy and investor pessimism. And reducing budget deficits makes these problems worse. Corporations are sitting on enormous cash reserves, unwilling to invest them, which means that falling wages won't clear the labour market and lead to more employment.
    In the models of neo-classical economics, times like the present are assumed away. But when we're actually living through them, we need to recognise that measures that result in higher hours can be counter-productive by creating more unemployment and [more] investor pessimism [and hoarding].
    [It's not consumer hoarding and holding back that's the problem here - consumers don't have the money to spend because they're suffering layoffs and paycuts - consumers have no options. It's the holding back and hoarding by wealthy investors that''s the problem here. They have all the money and they have all the optionality.]
    Similarly, responding to shortfalls in pension programs by asking people to stay in the labour force more years further dis-equilibrates the market by creating more demand for a limited number of jobs. Sometimes there are impediments to job creation, and we happen to be living through one of those painful periods.
    For most of the last 150 years [make that 170 at least, cuz most of the reductions came 1840-1940], the nations of the global north have kept their labour markets in balance partly by continuous [or at least, sporadic but persistent] reductions in hours of work. These increases in leisure time have been funded by higher labour productivity. But recently, the US, Japan and the UK have done far less of this than other wealthy countries [such as Germany, Netherlands and pre-Sarcozy France]. In the States, hours have actually risen, which is part of why unemployment and underemployment are so high. Worktime reduction has become another causality of the wrong-headed economics of austerity. It's time to change that, and to recognise that when it comes to hours of work, less is actually more.
    [= a vital application of Buckminster Fuller's advice. "Do more with less."]
    Juliet Schor, is the author of True Wealth. She will be speaking at the LSE on January 11 on a panel entitled "About time: Examining the case for a shorter working week".

  3. Libraries get the axe - Branches facing loss of thousands of operating hours as Ford’s budget committee approves cuts, by Ben Spurr, NOWToronto.com
    TORONTO, Ont., Canada - Libraries aren’t safe from budget cuts after all.
    On Monday the budget committee defied a flood of public opposition and approved a motion that would force the Toronto Public Library [TPL] to slash its budget by 10 per cent. Libraries across the city now appear headed for steep reductions in operating hours, material collections and programming.
    The TPL initially balked at [Mayor] Rob Ford’s demand that all city departments achieve the 10-per-cent reduction target, tabling a plan in October that would have shrunk their budget by only 5.7 per cent instead. Detailed plans were drafted to cut hours as well, but the board rejected them several times.
    After Monday's vote those plans now appear to be back in play, and they include cutting a combined 19,444 annual operating hours from 59 of the TPL's 98 branches, or the equivalent of seven per cent of the system's total hours of operation.

    While the wording of Monday’s motion doesn’t specify how savings must be found, chief librarian Jane Pyper confirmed that the nearly $7 million in additional cuts being demanded couldn't be achieved without some combination of losing hours, shrinking library collections, and eliminating programs.
    The library board had already identified $10 million in savings through the elimination of 107 employee positions, new fines, and greater use of automated technology.
    [Presumably there'd've been even more employee positions eliminated without the hours cuts. Is TPL making use of *Canada's worksharing program to reduce layoffs and cushion the effect of any wage cuts on employees? Or is Canada's worksharing just a showpiece, trammeled with delays and red tape?]
    Budget chair Councillor Mike Del Grande, who tabled the motion at committee, said he was determined to make the TPL meet the mayor’s 10-per-cent reduction target.
    “I’m not going to hold up the budget just for them. A number’s going to be given to them and it’s their job to figure it out,” Del Grande said before introducing the motion.
    The mayor's opponents accused the Ford administration of rejecting the will of Torontonians.
    “The budget committee has decided to ignore the millions of people who use our libraries,” said Councillor Janet Davis. “The people of Toronto have been so clear on this. Libraries are essential services and we need them in the city of Toronto.”
    Threats to library services have been the subject of intense public backlash since Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, made his infamous comments last July about cutting branches “in a heartbeat.” Many of the hundreds of people who turned out to depute at City Hall during the budget process urged council not to shutter branches or reduce hours.
    On Monday Councillor Ford downplayed the potential loss of library service.
    “I don’t think you’ll see much of a change,” he said when asked what libraries would look like in 2012. “You’re going to have services, the doors are going to be open.”
    As the vote approached, councillors close to Ford appeared to be feeling heat from constituents. Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, who sits on the mayor’s powerful budget and executive committees, told media last week that she would not vote in favour library cuts.
    But in a surprise move she voted for Del Grande’s motion Monday, although she wouldn't concede that it was a vote in favour of reducing library hours. She argued that because motion’s wording didn’t specify hour reductions, the library board still has a chance to find savings by other means.
    “Creative solutions abound. I think that we have some really good people on the library board. They can come back with those solutions,” Berardinetti said. “If they say they’re going to cut library hours, then I won’t approve it.”
    Berardinetti did not clearly explain if the library board would have the chance to present alternate solutions before city council votes on the budget next week.
    Including the police, the city manager’s office, and 311, at least 12 other departments have failed to meet the 10-per-cent target, leaving Ford’s opponents to question why the TPL is being singled out.
    “This mayor seems to have his guns on the library,” said Councillor Davis. “I don’t understand it. It isn’t reflective of the view of this council or of the people of Toronto. And I’m hopeful it will get reversed when it comes to council.”
    The city’s 2012 operating and capital budgets will go before executive committee on Thursday and then to a full council vote on January 17.

1/08-09/2012 – 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. Democrats push new work-share program as alternative to right to work, by Timothy Cox, 1/09 The Statehouse File via Indianapolis Star via indystart.com
    INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Democrats are proposing what they hope could be an alternative to the right-to-work legislation that has divided the Indiana House of Representatives for the past two years.
    They say work share – an unemployment insurance program allowed by federal rules and in use by nearly half of all states – makes more sense than the divisive right-to-work legislation that labor groups say will destroy unions.
    Work share allows employers to choose to cut the wages and hours of either all employees or a single department and the state’s unemployment insurance agency – in this case, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development – then pays a percentage of each worker’s lost income.
    The program is an alternative to layoffs.
    Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, describes it as “taking a pot of money that’s available and saying, ‘Let’s help employers keep their employees when they’re right on the edge and cannot afford it.’”
    Rep. Jerry Torr, a Republican from Carmel who is the author of the right-to-work bill, said he doesn’t oppose work sharing and finds the idea has merit.
    Still, that doesn’t mean Torr believes it’s a substitute for right to work, which would free workers from paying dues to unions they don’t join.
    “It’s kind of a new idea and hasn’t been batted the way the right-to-work issue has,” he said.
    Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said he’s “skeptical” about work share, although he complimented Democrats for proposing it.
    “I just don’t know enough about it,” Daniels said. “These things are so subject to being gamed, and I’d want to know that it didn’t have fraud potential or abuse potential.”
    Work sharing first was introduced during the Great Depression when President Franklin Roosevelt instructed companies to reduce workers’ hours to provide additional room for employment. He also asked that workers’ wages be increased to make up for income loss.
    Roosevelt’s President’s Reemployment Agreement of 1933 saved about 2.5 million jobs. Nearly eight decades and 22 work share states later, Welch says it’s time for Indiana to try the program, too.

    “If they have some assistance from the state through the unemployment insurance, maybe they’ll keep some people in jobs,” she said. That means “one less person who is going to be in the unemployment line.”
    California was the first state to adopt a work share program, back in 1978, and thousands of employers use the program each year. According to the Employment Development Department of California, 4,622 employers were making use of an approved work sharing plan as of Dec. 30.
    “Some employers may find it a challenge to administer the work sharing program, particularly if they have large number of employees participating in the program, as employers are required to complete a weekly certification form for each week that each employee participates in the program,” the California agency’s spokesman, Dan Stephens, said in an email to The Statehouse File.
    The Indiana Institute for Working Families has researched work sharing and said in a recent report that the program benefits the employer, the employees and the state.
    The state saves money by only paying workers a percentage of the unemployment they would receive if laid off. The employer keeps employees who are trained in their positions. Employees have more days off and time to find a second source of income if desired.
    If employees in a work-share program find second sources of income on their days off, they still receive the partial unemployment insurance. Unemployment insurance often is not provided as many weeks as work share lasts, but can be suspended during times of high company demand.
    “Our recommendation for work-sharing duration would be to allow a firm to participate up to a year. Within that year, the employees would be eligible for 26 weeks” of unemployment insurance, said Derek Thomas, policy director for the Indiana Institute for Working Families. “That doesn’t really make the program ineffective. It makes it a little bit easier administratively.”
    In a 12-month work-share program, the employer can return full hours and wages to employees during periods of increased business. When public demand for a service or product drops again, work share hours and wages continue.
    “One of our recommendations was to state that employers had to maintain benefits for their employees, and we do think that assures that the program is used as it’s designed, a temporary program,” Thomas said.
    The U.S. Department of Labor reported that work-share programs saved about 165,000 jobs in 2009.
    “Additionally, it doesn’t cost the state anything. If we’re going to save jobs and not cost the state anything, it makes a lot of sense,” Thomas said.
    But Torr said that because work share doesn’t actually create jobs, he doesn’t believe it should be a substitute for right-to-work legislation. Torr and other supporters say more companies will locate in Indiana if it is a right-to-work state.
    “What the right-to-work bill will do, we hope and we believe, is to bring new employers so that there will be more jobs and fewer people will be worrying about being laid off,” Torr said.
    He added, “If you’re unemployed, you want us to create new jobs.”
    Welch agreed that right to work and work share appeal to different groups of people.
    “For those of us who are against 'right to work,' we see it as actually going to decrease the pay not only of union workers but of all Hoosiers,” Welsh said. “What does that mean? It’s going to have the most profound effect on our middle class.”
    A report by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute released this week supports her claim. The report says right-to-work legislation will reduce Hoosiers’ incomes by $1,500 per year.
    “Work sharing is a strong option,” Welch said, “and that’s why I hope it goes through.”
    Timothy Cox is a reporter for The Statehouse File, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

  2. Sterling Heights to reduce workweek for employees - To save money officials announce reduced hours for employees, 1/09 WDIV Detroit via clickondetroit.com
    STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. - In an effort to save money through out the city, officials in Sterling Heights announced Monday that effective July 1 non-emergency city employees will have hours reduced from 40 to 32 per week.
    [Timesizing, not downsizing = cutting hours, not jobs.]
    According to recent financial reports the city has projected 2012 to be the 7th year effected by the housing decline, leading to a loss of $5 million in property tax revenue for the city.
    Sterling Heights is also expecting an additional $2.5 million loss in personal property tax revenue.
    "Due to these unprecedented losses, Sterling Heights must continue implementing cost saving measures to ensure the future financial viability of the organization," City Manager Mark Vanderpool said. "This measure will assist the city in achieving the partial cost savings necessary to address the ongoing financial shortages."
    Vanderpool added that unless alternative cost saving measures are identified, Sterling Heights will move forward with the planned 20 percent reduction to the workweek.
    According to Mayor Richard Notte, the city doesn't take the decision lightly.
    "We fully understand the impact to employees and to our residents, but unfortunately, the city has little choice if it wishes to remain financially secure," Notte said. "We've provided this advance notice to allow sufficient time for our employees to plan accordingly and for our residents to be aware of the new hours of operation."
    Residents may be affected by the reduction of city services as a result of this action.
    According to Community Relations Director Steve Guitar, city buildings may experience reduced hours. However, residents can still visit the Sterling Heights "virtual City Hall" any time on the cities web page at www.sterling-heights.net.
    Online services are available for residents, who can pay bills electronically, file for permits and library books can be downloaded, according to Guitar.
    Officials said City Hall will be open for business from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day and other buildings will have reduced hours of operation.

  3. 50p tax rate 'will stay' - Today's small business news roundup, by Josh Hall, 1/09 SimplyBusiness.co.uk
    50p tax rate staying, businesses in spot check revolt, and shorter working hours - here's your need-to-know business news roundup. LONDON, England - The government has abandoned plans to scrap the 50p tax rate after it was deemed to be politically impossible.
    The Prime Minister had intended to reduce the rate, but had faced significant opposition and accusations of hypocrisy at a time when the lowest paid are facing pay cuts. (Telegraph)
    Pressure on HMRC is growing over the controversial expanded spot checks regime.
    Small business leaders have written to the Revenue to complain about fines being dished out for relatively minor infractions. (Telegraph)
    Everyone should work shorter hours in order to combat unemployment according to a new report.
    [So much for the once-popular sneer ("Share a fixed amount of work? ridiculous! everyone knows work is infinite!") known misleadingly as The Lump of Labor Fallacy, with which economists, even mainstream economists (even Samuelson!), made it clear that what they were practicing was not research-backed science, but mere political rhetoric, and kinda nasty political rhetoric at that.]
    The New Economics Foundation has found that the working week should be cut to 20 hours in order to share work more fairly. (Guardian - see yesterday's first story below for the full Guardian article = 1/07/2012 #1)
    [Well, the New Economics Foundation has got to square one but they're still talking about another arbitrary fixed level instead of a workweek that continues adjustable until full employment is achieved, and any fixed level, however low sounding to us today, cannot possibly suffice forever against continuing waves of technological work savings.]

  4. Ruling party considers shortening working hours, by ejkim@yna.co.kr, 1/08 YonhapNews.co.kr
    SEOUL, South Korea -- The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) is considering pledges to reduce working hours to improve workers' quality of life and create more jobs ahead of April's general elections, party officials said Sunday.
    The latest proposal is in accordance with the center-right party's move to expand social welfare programs as part of efforts to galvanize voters ahead of the April polls. Welfare and job concerns are shaping up as the big campaign issues.
    Rep. Lim Hae-kyu, the GNP's vice policymaker, said the pledge for reducing working hours is aimed at raising the nation's employment rate by distributing jobs to a greater number of people.
    "Decreasing overtime that surpasses 40 hours per week as much as possible is directly related to the job market and welfare," Lim said.

    As for ways to accomplish such goals, Lim suggested that companies adopt flexible work hours and increase paid maternity leave up to 10 days, from the current five days.
    South Korea's average yearly working hours totaled 2,111 hours in 2010, the most among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and exceeding the statutory limits of 40 hours per week, which adds up to about 1,920 hours a year.

1/07/2012 – 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. Cut the working week to a maximum of 20 hours, urge top economists - Job sharing and increased leisure are the answer to rising unemployment, claims thinktank, by Heather Stewart, The Observer via The Guardian via guardian.co.uk
    LONDON, England - Britain is struggling to shrug off the credit crisis; overworked parents are stricken with guilt about barely seeing their offspring; carbon dioxide is belching into the atmosphere from our power-hungry offices and homes. In London on Wednesday, experts will gather to offer a novel solution to all of these problems at once: a shorter working week.
    A thinktank, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), which has organised the event with the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics, argues that if everyone worked fewer hours – say, 20 or so a week – there would be more jobs to go round, employees could spend more time with their families and energy-hungry excess consumption would be curbed. Anna Coote, of NEF, said: "There's a great disequilibrium between people who have got too much paid work, and those who have got too little or none."
    She argued that we need to think again about what constitutes economic success, and whether aiming to boost Britain's GDP growth rate should be the government's first priority: "Are we just living to work, and working to earn, and earning to consume? There's no evidence that if you have shorter working hours as the norm, you have a less successful economy: quite the reverse." She cited Germany and the Netherlands.
    Robert Skidelsky, the Keynesian economist, who has written a forthcoming book with his son, Edward, entitled How Much Is Enough?, argued that rapid technological change means that even when the downturn is over there will be fewer jobs to go around in the years ahead. "The civilised answer should be work-sharing. The government should legislate a maximum working week."
    Many economists once believed that as technology improved, boosting workers' productivity, people would choose to bank these benefits by working fewer hours and enjoying more leisure. Instead, working hours have got longer in many countries. The UK has the longest working week of any major European economy.
    Skidelsky says politicians and economists need to think less about the pursuit of growth. "The real question for welfare today is not the GDP growth rate, but how income is divided."
    Parents of young children already have the right to request flexible working, but the NEF would like to see job-sharing and alternative work patterns become much more widespread, and is calling on the government to make flexible working a default right for everyone.

  2. An Italian Austerity Plan: It's Time to Cut Back on Extravagant Lunches, TheAtlantic.com
    [Here's a typical bit of "humor" from the once-great USofA where it's smart to work hard, not smart, and maintain a "free market" but rigidly controlled 1940 workweek forever regardless of how much "worksaving," "efficient," and "productive" technology you inject into the economy, robots or whatever.]
    ROME, Italy -- Premier Mario Monti said Sunday his government of technocrats has approved a package of austerity measures to 'reawaken' the Italian economy. --Time
    FROM: Mario Monti
    TO: The People of Italy
    RE: Austerity
    CC: The People of Greece, Spain, and France
    Dear People,
    As Prime Minister and technocrat I hereby present the new Italian austerity package:
    Standardization of the Work Week: Many of you, particularly those of you in the civil service may have been unaware that there was a work week. I must assure you that there is and it is now 30 hours. No, not 40. Not yet. Italy, could we please just try 30?
    Timeliness: Work shall start at the same time each and every day. Therefore the overly ambitious gradations of morning coffee that promote tardiness -- cappuccino, latte, macchiato -- shall cease at once. Enough with the foaming. Have an espresso.
    Mid-Morning Snack: A timely arrival at work means the practice of "making the bridge" from pre-work coffee to mid-morning snack will cease. To further limit this practice, mid-morning snack will now be late-morning snack. A new bridge from late-morning snack to lunch will be strongly discouraged.
    Concerning Lunch: Ordering primi and secondi is not allowed. What other country has pasta and something else for lunch? From now on take your pick: pasta or chicken.
    Antipasti: Don't get me started. A primi, a secondi, and an antipasti?
    Cheese Course: Really? Well all right, maybe. Sometimes. But on those rare occasions when a cheese course is served it shall be severely curtailed. Prosciutto is henceforth losing its di Parma. Parmagiano will be aged only five years instead of 10 and will furthermore lose its Regianno. Deal with it.
    Waitstaff: Even if diners insist on ordering antipasti, primi, secondi, and a cheese course, that does not entitle them to free limoncello at the end of the meal. Though it may taste like cough syrup and nobody really likes it, limoncello will henceforth cost 1,200,000 lira or about 1 Euro depending on the exchange rate.
    Language: Denying your customers free limoncello is likely to lead to an argument, but I must insist that Italians refrain from their time-inefficient practice of overly descriptive derogatory language. A simple no or an economical hand gesture will suffice.

  3. Nanny For 4 Month Old Approximately 28 Hours A Week, care.com
    COLLINGSWOOD, N.J. 08108
    Starting on Jan 7, 2012 (Saturday)
    Looking for an engaging and responsible nanny for a 4-month-old boy. Hours would be 7:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. four days a week. We our looking for someone who can commit to at least 7 months but would like someone long term if possible.
    [There are so many 28- and 30-hour a week jobs, the US workweek is shrinking anyway - while having its pay cut as only "part time" (exception: CEOs). Till that changes, 7 months IS a long-term job in the US economy for fear employees might dare to ask for a raise.]
    Mother would work from home while nanny cared for baby. Please do not apply if you smoke, do not have reliable transportation or need to bring your children to work with you. Looking toward to meeting someone to care for our precious baby.
    [But not precious enough to care for themselves.]
    Posted by
    Michelle K. from Collingswood, NJ
    Job Details:
    Ages of Children: Up to 12 months
    1 child
    $10 - $15 per hour*
    Detailed schedule:
    M-T, Th-F: 6am-3pm

1/06/2012 – 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 is the Solution for America's Jobs Crisis, by Dave Heller, PolicyMic.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - In today’s news cycle, the word “jobs” is as ubiquitous as it is daunting. We are at a point where “jobs jobs jobs” are the primary issue for most of the American electorate. Several events have intensified the issue of high unemployment into our national dialogue; including the GOP nomination battle, Occupy Wall Street, the fall of the American Jobs Act, and the Wisconsin collective bargaining controversy. While articles can be written on each of those events alone, it is the lack of a solution to our 8.6% unemployment which deserves attention.
    Work Sharing is a policy outlined by Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research. Currently, it is the best policy proposal to curb high unemployment and ought to be implemented on a national level immediately. Work sharing in a nutshell involves reducing hours for workers during times of declining demand instead of laying them off thus keeping them employed. Funds otherwise devoted to compensating a laid off worker for the allotted 99 weeks would thus offset the reduction of hours. The work sharing policy would be a part of the already existing unemployment benefit system and would require a fraction of the total cost.
    Germany has already used this policy on a national level to great success. With a 5.5% unemployment rate, employers have the incentive to decrease 20% of total work hours for everyone instead of laying off 20% of their workers. Germans who lose one day out of their workweek are given one-fifth of what their usual unemployment check would be. It has helped largely workers within the construction and manufacturing industry, the same industries hurt the most during the U.S.’s economic downturn.
    Although 22 states, including New York, California, and Rhode Island, in the U.S. have similar programs, they have not been updated since their founding in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Furthermore, limitations towards eligibility, over bureaucratization, and little knowledge of the program’s existence have contributed to the lack of significant impact work sharing has had within the U.S.
    A work sharing system on a national level can be implemented better if employers are given more discretion over their own hour reduction and employee eligibility for such a program. This would involve funds being given to the employer themselves rather than the individual worker according to Baker. Questions of benefits and time restrictions would have to be addressed and are to a great extent in Baker’s proposal seen above.
    Short-term effects would consist of keeping workers more employable to the extent that they would not have any gaps in their resumes. What’s more, for the long-term, when companies see increases in demand, all they have to do is increase hours instead of going through an intensive hiring process. The policy of work sharing is not only conscious of workers, but “job creators” as well.
    The process of pushing such a policy on a national level should not be divided by party line to the extent that 22 states have already put similar, but weaker, polices in place. The German government, comprised of social democrats and conservatives, has had relatively little difficulty keeping their short-term work-sharing program in place. Wall Street Journal associate editor Justin Lahart has expressed his support for such a program. Kevin Hasset of the American Enterprise Institute and John McCain’s 2000 campaign chief economist has also advocated for a work sharing policy.
    With policy modernizations, program commitment, and financial support, we can install a national system where it is more desirable for companies to keep their employees on the payroll instead of laying them off. If the reader is skeptical of work sharing, the author implores them to read Baker’s proposal in full, as critical details vital to program implementation are held within it.
    What the U.S. does not need is sloganeering and political banter regarding changes in government policy. “Cut, cap, and balance” and “9-9-9” are not real policy proposals, they [are] merely suggestions of them, subject to change for the political expediency of the elected official at any given time. What we need are new policies to follow in the face of new challenges. With the jobs challenge at hand right before us, work sharing is the best solution out there.

  2. Why the unemployment rate is dropping, by Dean Baker, WashingtonPost.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - The nation's gloomy jobs picture continued to brighten in December as employers added 200,000 jobs, pushing the unemployment rate down to 8.5 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday.
    But what actually caused the unemployment rate to drop? How is the unemployment rate is calculated?
    To answer your questions, we've called in an expert. Live chat with Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research about the unemployment rate, including its accuracy, the policies that might have affected it and more.
    Dean Baker :
    Hi everyone, This was a slightly better jobs report than expected, but we have a very long way to go to get the economy back on track.
    – January 06, 2012 1:02 PM Permalink
    Q. unemployment Why is unemployment rate dropping? – January 06, 2012 12:23 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    I think it is mostly a statistical fluke. We have to create 90k to 100k jobs a month to keep pace with the growth of the labor force. The average over the last three months has been about 150k, this would be enough to at most lower the unemployment rate by 0.1 percentage point.
    I expect the unemployment rate to edge upwards in the next few months.
    – January 06, 2012 1:04 PM
    Q.Retiring Baby Boomers
    How much effect do early baby boomer retirees have on unemployment rate statistics? I could see in some cases they make place for new hires, but also end up vacating positions slated for downsizing through attrition.
    – January 06, 2012 12:24 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    I think many baby boomers are delaying retirement. They have lost much of their wealth with the collapse of the housing bubble and the plunge in the stock market. In fact, the one age group that has seen substantial growth in employment over the last 4 years is the over 55 group. People cannot afford to retire. – January 06, 2012 1:05 PM
    Q. unemployment rates How does our unemployment rate compare to Canadian rates as well as Euro countries. Is it calculated in a similar fashion. Does the size of our prison population and military have much bearing on these numbers? – January 06, 2012 12:23 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : The Canadian rate is around 7 percent. The rate in most West European countries is much lower. In Germany it is 5.5 percent. Sweden and Denmark around 7.0 percent. Netherlands around 5.0 percent. Italy around 7.0 percent. Spain is through the roof at 21 percent. Greece, Ireland and Portugal are in double-digits. As a basic rule, the countries with the strongest welfare states are doing the best right now. I wouldn't say this is cause, but that is what the numbers show. – January 06, 2012 1:08 PM
    Q. Expectations What's you expectation for employment over the next 6-12 months? – January 06, 2012 12:42 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : I expect the unemployment rate to trickle upward over the next few months, just reversing a statistical fluke and then edge downward over the course of the year. My bet is that we are still over 8.0 percent next Dec. – January 06, 2012 1:09 PM
    Q. Something has got to give....retirees Any credence to the idea that the employees who postponed retirement for a few years are now retiring? Employees have done more with less co-workers but eventually the baby boomers do retire with full Social Security benefits. – January 06, 2012 12:57 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : not that I can see, we are still seeing rapid growth in employment for the over 55 group. also, their money has not come back – January 06, 2012 1:09 PM
    Q. Manufacturing and tech What percent of these new jobs are related to manufacturing? How much to tech? – January 06, 2012 12:14 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : Manufacturing added 23,000 jobs in Decemeber. That was good news, but it added almost zero in Nov. My guess is that we are seeing modest growth in manufacturing (10k-15k a month). At that pace it takes a long time to make up 2 million lost jobs. Tech is not showing up as much. This would be the information sector -- that's pretty flat. – January 06, 2012 1:11 PM
    Q. Unemployment It seems there is always a caveat to a positive jobs number....IE) Today's surprise was that gains were due to seasonal hiring in December, earlier this year jobless rate declined but caveat was that it was due to discouraged workers leaving, etc. Under what conditions, do we get a number like today's and just make the conclusion that things are significantly improving? IE, a caveat-free report? – January 06, 2012 12:37 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : You have to look at the numbers closely. First, it is important to remember that even 200k is not especially good. The economy averaged 250k a month for 4 years at the end of the 90s. Coming off the bad recessions in 74-75 and 81-82 we were creating well over 300k a month. So, we should not allow ourselves be pushed into accepting 200k as the best we can do. It is very far from it. – January 06, 2012 1:13 PM
    Q. Unemployment- seasonal employment? How much of the drop in unemployment rate in December be attributed to temporary seasonal holiday employment? – January 06, 2012 1:11 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : I think it was just a statistical fluke. Normal seasonal changes, like holiday hiring, get included in the seasonal adjustment. We had some peculairities that cannot be explained by normal seasonal patterns. I bet that we get a jump to 8.7 or 8.8 percent next month. you get to laugh at me if I'm wrong. – January 06, 2012 1:14 PM
    Q. Unemployment rate What can we do to help the rate come down now, and keep it down? What are some policies you would recommend? – January 06, 2012 1:14 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : In the short term, govermnent spending will do the trick. We have lots of needs, infrastructure, education, home health care, that need to be met. I would also have a teen job program. They horrible unemployment rates. What's te downside to paying teens to clean up streets and parks and board up abandoned buildings? These kids will not find jobs otherwise. The Fed can do more. It can have more active monetray policy to push real interest rates even lower. We should also look to promote more work sharing. As it stands the government effectively pays people to be completely unemployed with unemployment insurance benefits. Why not pay people to work shorter hours. In other words, if an employer lays off 10 workers, they all get half pay from unemployment benefits. Instead, we can reduce the hours of 50 workers by 20 percent and have the government make up half of the lost pay. It seems like an obvious win-win. Germany has gone this route and gotten its unemployment rate down to 5.5 percent even though its growth has been no better than ours. Finally, we should get the value of the dollar down. This will reduce our trade deficit. It must be done and better sooner than later. – January 06, 2012 1:20 PM
    Q. Democrats or Republicans? Who should get the credit for the unemployment rate coming down, - the Democrats who passed all of that legislation, which stimulated jobs, or the Republicans who blocked a lot of legislation, therefore saving the country money and creating jobs? – January 06, 2012 1:16 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : There ain't much credit to be gotten here. This is a horrible recovery. But the Dems definitely deserve more credit than the Rs. Saving money is not going to create jobs. I keep looking for the employer that is hiring people because the government cut spending on home heating oil assistance or Medicaid. I haven't found one yet. Basically the Republicans are saying economic nonsense. I assume that their leaders know this, but it seems to sell politically. – January 06, 2012 1:22 PM
    Q. One-way revisions that get no pressDoes it seem like this is happening routinely ever since the financial crisis: one unemployment figure gets announced, and then a few weeks later it gets quietly revised to a worse figure. Revisions are to be expected, but it seems like they're always in a bad direction, raising suspicions that the original figures are are still being doctored to look unnaturally good. – January 06, 2012 1:16 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : i follow this stuff pretty closely. I don't think you'll find the revisions have all been one way. In fact, this month's jobs numbers included small upward revisions to both October and November's data. As a rule, i think the government statistical agencies are remarkably honest. I have had some serious criticisms of them on various issues, but I have never seen them do anything that I thought was purely political. – January 06, 2012 1:24 PM
    Q. policy Are there any economic policies that (1) won't be vetoed by congress and (2) will improve employment? – January 06, 2012 1:20 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : President Obama could push more to get the dollar down. The key actor here is China. I don't believe that he has really pushed very hard on this. The issue here is that we have to be willing to give up something in exchange for a lower dollar. We can tell them we don't care about market access for Goldman Sachs or royalties for Disney and Microsoft. I would consider that trade-off for a lower dollar a very good deal for America's workers. – January 06, 2012 1:26 PM
    Q. Growth Composition Around half the growth was accounted for by Transportation (50K), Health Care (29K), and Leisure (21K), Health Care will continue growing to support those of us on Medicare, however, how likely is the growth in Trans and Leisure to continue post holiday? – January 06, 2012 12:48 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : The transportation was a fluke. There were 42,000 courier jobs created in Dec. The same thing happened last year. They all disappeared in January. The same thing will happen this year. it is unbelievable that so many economists and economics reporters missed this one. – January 06, 2012 1:27 PM
    Q. Unemployment rate I don't mean to nitpick, but a rise to 8.7 or 8.8 percent unemployment rate next month wouldn't really be a "jump". We do often see the number reported as if each tenth of a percent is significant, but statistically, I believe the 90% confidence interval for the unemployment rate is somewhere around 0.2 percent in either direction. – January 06, 2012 1:24 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : 8.5 to 8.7 is 0.2 pp, if we get to 8.8 percent we're talking 0.3 pp. Anyhow, I don't mean to say that it would be a jump because the economy is deteriorating, this is random movements in the data -- that is my point. – January 06, 2012 1:29 PM
    Q. Safety Net Would a stronger safety net improve the unemployment situation? And if so, can we afford it? – January 06, 2012 1:22 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : yes, at least that seems to be the experience of western Europe. There is a simple story you can tell in which countries with weaker saftey nets do better during the boom times, but worse in the bad times. Supporting workers in bad times is of course the point of the safety net. – January 06, 2012 1:30 PM
    Q. Dropping Unemployment Rate How big is the "baby-boomer-retirement" effect? How many of the persons previously counted in the unemployment numbers are now receiving Social Security benefits instead, both normal retirement and disability? – January 06, 2012 12:28 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : I don't think we are seeing too much of this yet. The Congressional Budget Office puts the rate of labor force growth at just 0.7 percent (1 million workers a year). It had been aroun 1.0 percent ten years ago. This reflects a greater rate of retirement as well as the ending of the rise in women's labor force participation. – January 06, 2012 1:31 PM
    Q. IP Would relaxation of intellectual property laws (music, pharma, etc.) help employment? Would relaxation of licensing laws (doctors, lawyers, beauticians, etc.) help employment? – January 06, 2012 1:29 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : Yes, the first would mean lots more money in people's pockets. If we could get all drugs at generic prices, we would save close to $250 billion a year. Imagine the payroll tax cut times two. In terms of relaxing licensing requirements, this would have the same effect, but it would be over a longer time frame. One quick number, if we paid our doctors as much as Europe pays its doctors it would save us around $90 billion a year. Think of this added cost of physicians due to protectionism as the "doctor tax." It's much more than we spend each year on welfare and fodd stamps. – January 06, 2012 1:34 PM
    Q. International workers Do you know how many of the new positions are filled by internationals and how many by locals? – January 06, 2012 12:15 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : I don't know of any good data on this -- we do have employment numbers for foreign born and native born, but I don't think that is exactly what you're asking. – January 06, 2012 1:35 PM
    Q. Unemployment rate drop questions Why is the rate dropping? Are these temporary jobs or permanent? – January 06, 2012 12:11 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker : The key point in my view is that the unemployment rate really is not dropping much. if we look at the other side, the employment rate (the percentage of the population who are employed) it is only 0.4 percentage points above its low for the downturn. We have made up very little ground since the worst of the downturn. Rather than saying why things are improving, I am more concerned about why they have not improved a hell of a lot more than they have. All the projections back in 2009 were that the economy would be much stronger by now. – January 06, 2012 1:37 PM
    Q. Seasonal adjust Are employment figures seasonally adjusted? If so, why wouldn't seasonal increases in couriers be adjusted out?
    – January 06, 2012 1:31 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    There has been a change in seasonal patterns. The big issue here is that we have much more e-commerce. That means more people getting hired to handle holiday purchases from Amazon and the like.
    Economists who follow the economy should be on to this -- but hey, they missed an $8 trillion housing bubble, so what do you expect?
    – January 06, 2012 1:38 PM
    Q. NGDP targeting
    Would NGDP targeting help employment? Inflation targeting?
    – January 06, 2012 1:37 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    Yes, this would mean a much more expansionary monetary policy from the Fed. Basically we should be trying to get all the policy engines fired as much as possible right now. If fiscal stimulus is blocked for political reasons then we should look to monetary policy.
    btw, the states can do more work sharing through their unemploymenet insurance programs. They have lots of leeway -- they should use it. – January 06, 2012 1:40 PM
    Q. paying doctors less then you'd have even fewer doctors. we're already seeing fewer doctors, and many in rural areas who have little to no access and even in big cities *one* doctor in certain specialties. It is hard to become a doctor - and they deserve to earn A LOT of money. I don't find it horrible they earn what they do - they work hard, and they have over a DECADE of training. wow.
    – January 06, 2012 1:38 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    You're always free to give your doctors a tip if you want them to have more money. I don't want the government interfering with the market to prop up doctors' pay. We can't afford it. If the doctors don't like it -- too bad. – January 06, 2012 1:41 PM
    Q. measurement What do you consider the most relevant employment statistics - some unemployment variant, employment/population ratio, other?
    – January 06, 2012 1:32 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    I like the employment to population ratio because it gets around the problem that people often drop out of the labor market when they can't find a job. That can mean that the unemployment rate falls just because people gave up looking for work.
    – January 06, 2012 1:42 PM
    Q. Other economic indicators Will the job openings rate and the quits rate increase now that employment has increased?
    – January 06, 2012 12:33 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    Quit rates were actually reported as falling in Dec, which is one reason I was not thrilled with this report. We have seen a small increase in job openings since the summer, but not really much to get very excited about.
    – January 06, 2012 1:43 PM
    Q. unemployment
    What percent of my unemployed neighbors have actually found real jobs?
    – January 06, 2012 12:10 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    I'm afraid that i don't know your neighbors, but probably not many. – January 06, 2012 1:43 PM
    Q. confidence Might an announced blip in employment, even if a statistical fluke, lead people to spend more and business to expand, therefore leading to a real increase in employment?
    – January 06, 2012 1:40 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    I think the role of confidence is hugely exaggerated. It does matter, but it is not that fickle. In terms of consumers, people are actually still spending at a very high rate given that they just lost $8 trillion in housing bubble wealth. Investment in equipment and software is back at its pre-recession share of GDP, which is pretty impressive given the excess capacity in many sectors. So, i don't see confidence as being a big issue.
    My main concern about people exaggerating the strength of the economy is that they get the idea that we don't have to do anything to further boost it. Things will change back when we get the January and Feb. data, but it takes a long time to build momentum for action.
    – January 06, 2012 1:46 PM Q. Lower the SS Age?
    What's your take on the idea of lowering the Social Security age? It MIGHT open up some job positions that would be filled by those currently unemployed, and would make taxpayers out of a lot of the youth. This forum is too limited for many other advantages I see. But what's your thought on this?
    – January 06, 2012 1:40 PM Permalink
    A. Dean Baker :
    I'm not thrilled by lowering the SS age. My concern is that many people are already retiring with too little money. I don't want to encourage more people to fall into a situation where they really strectched in their old age. I would rather see us focus on shortening workweeks, which Germany and other European countries have done very succesfully.
    – January 06, 2012 1:48 PM
    Q. Social Security
    It seems like young people and the near-retirees have been hit the hardest in this recession. Why not temporarily reduce the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare and temporarily increase the benefits to encourage the older folks to retire?
    January 06, 2012 1:48 PM
    A. Dean Baker :
    my concern (in the last question) is that we would encourage people to retire with too little money. I would love to see us lower the Medicare age as a matter of long-term policy even if it is just allowing 60 year olds or 55 year olds to buy in.
    – January 06, 2012 1:49 PM
    Dean Baker :
    Okay, I guess we're out of questions. I'll head home -- thanks folks.

  3. Korean Automobile Manufacturers, Kia and Hyundai, to Add Workers and Cut Hours, by Natasha Wilhite, Korea Industry & Technology Times via KoreaITtimes.com
    WISCONSIN, U.S.A. - Recently news broke that some workers at several Korean automobile plants – who work third shift – put in hours beyond the legal limit. Kia and Hyundai want to prevent this occurrence by completely getting rid of the third shift and splitting the day shifts into two separate shifts. As seen in most Korean businesses, some people work up to 55 hours per week; instead of this happening, it is a wise decision to hire more people since the ‘rested’ people will be more productive. In addition, it helps the unemployed gain income; it takes stress off the overworked and the unemployed.
    Both Korean automobile manufacturers plan to cut over 1,400 work hours; there are no details on if any of these hours are the ‘excess’ hours that people are working beyond 40 hours per week. Yet, we must sigh from relief; even if it creates slight panic to the workforce since there is less hours to be allowed. However, Koreans must stay strong as it is a move that could be better for the economy; no more ‘overtime’ hours, which allows for others to make money as well; if more people have spending power, the economy is likely to flourish.
    The companies plan to make the transition over the period of this year and hopefully be completely changed by 2013; this will allow its workers to re-adjust to the new work environment and discover new ways to be more productive. Cars have less time in the day to be produced, which means the system will need to be completely changed in order to ensure that just as many vehicles are being produced. Undoubtedly these car manufacturers have ideas on how to make this happen; perhaps the first shift will start earlier than normal.
    Hyundai announced that it plans to hire at least 900 people while Kia could add up to 500 workers. As small as this number may seem when compared to the overall population, it could make the biggest difference. Perhaps the problems in Korea right now could be directly solved by the businesses if they all make changes like this.
    Hyundai and Kia are the largest automobile manufacturers in S Korea; we do not know what the other manufacturers will do, but maybe they will follow the lead of these manufacturers and cut hours and add workers; no one should have to work beyond the legal amount of hours.

1/05/2012 – 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. American Marxism, by Stew Goodwin, (1/06 12:17am early pickup) BarnstablePatriot.com
    [A couple of unusual items today - first a gag item from the Marx Brothers -]
    BARNSTABLE, Cape Cod, Mass. - Clearly, our political and economic systems aren’t functioning so well these days. In an effort to understand what has been happening and get some tips on how to straighten things out, I decided to consult Marxism. That is, I researched the work of one Julius Marx, otherwise known as Groucho. Sometimes he interacted with one or more of his brothers: Arthur (Harpo); Leonard (Chico); Herbert (Zeppo); or Milton (Gummo). Together they comprise what I call American Marxism.
    This Marxism covered a wide range of topics and touched many points on the political spectrum. I will mention a few. Since Groucho always played the lead, I will identify him by character. Chico usually played an Italian and spoke in dialog. Harpo didn’t speak after the very early years. Gummo dropped out of the Marx Brothers at the beginning of their stage career, and Zeppo left after the first few films.
    You might think Marxism lived up to its name after hearing defense lawyer J. Cheever Loophole reply to a judge who found him sitting in the jury box in At The Circus. “I’d rather have the state owe me three bucks a day than the plaintiff.” This leftist remark was offset by hotel manager Mr. Hammer negotiating with his bellboys in Cocoanuts. He could be a member of the Tea Party caucus of House Republicans. “I’ll make you all a promise. If you stick with me and work hard, we’ll forget about money.” He negotiated further: “Do you want to be wage slaves? Of course not. Well, what makes wage slaves? Wages. I want you to be free.” President Rufus T. Firefly of Freedonia was also a caucus member as he revealed when confronting workers who were demanding shorter hours in the film Duck Soup. “Very well, we’ll give them shorter hours. We’ll start by cutting lunch hour to twenty minutes.”
    Our financial situation might be made clearer by a couple of statements. President Firefly had this to say after receiving a report from his Secretary of the Treasury, who could have been Tim Geithner. “Why, a 4-year-old child could understand this report. Run out and find me a 4-year-old child. I can’t make heads or tails out of it.”
    For those of you who can’t untangle the verbiage of the Dodd-Frank bill, Chico’s explanation in Cocoanuts might help. “Any time you gotta too much, you gotta a whole lot. Look, I’ll explain it to you. Sometime you no gotta much; sometimes you gotta whole lot. You know that it’s a lot. Somebody else maybe thinka it’s too much; it’s a whole lot, too. Now a whole lot is too much; too much is a whole lot, same thing.” Now I get it.
    The operation of a scheme like sub-prime mortgages was outlined by Groucho’s Mr. Hammer. “And don’t forget the guarantee, my personal guarantee. If these lots don’t double in a year, I don’t know what you can do about it.” Investors were further reassured by President Firefly. “I’ll give you my personal note for 90 days. If it isn’t paid by then, you can keep the note.” And Quincy Adams Wagstaff, president of Huxley College, in Horse Feathers offered a similar deal to a prospective investor. Wagstaff: “Now I want you to sign this agreement.” Investor: “Hey, there’s nothing on this paper.” Wagstaff: “That’s all right, we’ll fill in something later.”
    Marxist education is first depicted by Wagstaff addressing a science class. “We then come to the blood stream. The blood rushes from the head down to the feet, gets a look at those feet and rushes back to the head again. This is known as Auction Pinochle. Now studying your base metabolism, we first listen to your heart beat, and if your heart beats anything but diamonds or clubs it’s because your partner is cheating.” That accounts for our world position in science education.
    The achievements of No Child Left Behind are displayed in a vaudeville routine between Groucho and a speaking Harpo. Groucho: “What’s the shape of the earth?” Harpo: “I don’t know.” Groucho: “What’s the shape of my cufflinks?” Harpo: “Square.” Groucho: “Not these, the ones I wear on Sundays?” Harpo: “Round.” Groucho: “That’s it. Now what’s the shape of the earth?” Harpo: “Square on weekdays; round on Sundays.” That’s why our geography scores are so high.
    Zeppo, playing a student advising Wagstaff on higher education, reveals that Marxism is truly American. “But a college needs to offer something else besides an education. And what this college needs is a good football team.” Happy New Year!

  2. Kingfisher mulls job cuts, longer work-hours, (1/04 late pickup) HindustanTimes.com
    [And now, kids, Kingfisher Airlines in India is dumbly oops kindly considering being our poster child for UNtimesizing, and all the unemployment and unsafety that entails - motto: "Lay off your best customers and overwork your survivors!" (until overtime accidents get them) -]
    NEW DELHI, India - In a major cost-cutting exercise, private sector air-carrier Kingfisher Airlines is believed to be considering about 2,000 job cuts and longer working hours for its staff, among various options.
    While e-mailed queries sent to Kingfisher Airlines in this regard remained unanswered, industry sources said the debt-ridden carrier could also abstain from any major hiring activities at least till August 2012.
    Sources said the carrier is looking at about 2,000 job reductions by July and the exercise could affect various positions at mid-manager level in its corporate offices and also at cabin crew and attendant levels, among others.
    At the same time, the airline, a part of Vijay Mallya-led UB group, could also consider increasing the working hours of staff being retained.
    It would pay higher incentives and allowances to the staff working longer hours, but the move could still help it cut employee expenses drastically as costs could be double for hiring fresh employees, sources said.
    However, the exact financial implications of these proposed initiatives could not be ascertained immediately.
    The airline is already said to be witnessing some attrition and recently it was reported that some of its air hostesses have left to join state-run Air India.
    Kingfisher's total employee cost dipped marginally by two per cent in the last fiscal 2010-11, to Rs 676 crore[?].
    Its total headcount stood at 7,317 as on March 31, 2011, down from an average of 7,681 employees in the previous year ending March 2010. The airline's employees per aircraft ratio had declined in line with its fleet rationalisation [and passenger endangerization cum executive overpayification] programmes.

1/04/2012 – 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. The Ninth Ward: Saving America and the world, by Paul Foer, The Annapolis Capital via hometownannapolis.com
    ANNAPOLIS, Maryld. - Hey, fellow Americans, here is one columnist's plan to save our once great nation in this new year. Ideologues and partisans of all persuasions will find things to love and hate, so send me your ideas:
    35-hour workweek: The workweek has shrunk before yet many are working more while many others are unemployed. This will bring about full employment and extend benefits for many part-timers.
    [Here's a guy who has his head screwed on right - he's going to save the world starting with the all-points priority = cutting the workweek and sharing the vanishing human employment, instead of splitting the world into workers and drones.]
    It would lower salaries but
    [But he hasn't yet realized that when you have full employment, you have higher salaries because there's no more flood of resumés coming in for every job opening, each underbidding the other.]
    we'd be healthier, happier and save money as we'd take better care of our homes, communities, children and schools through increased leisure time and less stress - and it might spread out Bay Bridge traffic peaks too.
    Enact national volunteer service: Every high school graduate will teach, repair homes, upgrade parks etc. while working toward eliminating poverty, ignorance, racism and inequality. They will exercise, learn discipline, lose weight while unhooking from the cyber world. It would be an antidote to selfishness, entitlement, alienation and obesity infecting so many young persons while they develop character and self-respect by working with and learning from each other to help others. Hopefully this can be done with only limited government.
    A national highway speed limit and raise gasoline taxes: It would save lives, reduce demand for and lower the price of foreign oil while decreasing our trade imbalance and reducing pollution. Maybe we'd slow down a bit more in our daily lives. The taxes collected to rebuild our neglected transportation infrastructure and develop new energy sources would be offset by our own reduced use of gasoline. Our gasoline has been much less than what many developed nations have paid for decades.
    Health care for all: Our health care costs are higher than other countries with similar or higher standards of living and we're still mired in paperwork and raging epidemics of obesity, cancer, heart conditions and diabetes (see "national service" idea above). An affordable and single-payer program to cover all of us should we suffer illnesses that would otherwise bankrupt or kill us would be a step toward real national security.
    Massage therapists in every workplace: Everyone can use a massage to reduce stress, increase productivity and make us healthier and happier. It might lower other health care costs as we'd all be more energized if we worked a 35 hour week and got a 20-minute neck and foot massage at work every day. It could even be done while reading or in a meeting and this will create many jobs for therapists. Come on, admit you'd really like it too.
    A consumption and carbon dioxide tax: Abolish the IRS by levying a consumption as well as carbon dioxide release tax paid at time of purchase. This would totally restructure our economy and some would win and some would lose, but imagine no more IRS or 1040's and April 15 being simply another day. Earn all you want tax-free but the more you buy, the more taxes you pay except for food and certain essentials, up to a limit. No more hassles of figuring and paying income taxes with all the crazy loopholes and millions of regulatory words. The consumption and carbon tax will mean we pay true costs for so many things and attack carbon-based (fossil fuels) usage problems where they occur.
    Saving Annapolis: Enact a council-manager form of government, remove the mayor from City Council, distribute the bulk of the mayor's pay equally among aldermen whose numbers must also be reduced to seven or five and whose wards will be changed to end gerrymandering. Privatize all "public" housing.
    Finally for real: Eliminate Congressional earmarks, enact term limits and a presidential line-item veto, publicly fund elections, demand a balanced budget and give an organic, cage-free, humanely raised, hormone and antibiotic-free kosher or halal chicken in every pot (for free of course).
    Happy New Year.
    The writer is a longtime Annapolis area resident. He may be reached at paul@foerfront.com.

  2. Hyundai, Kia to hire 1400 to cut work hours, by Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldm.com), KoreaHerald.com
    SEOUL, S.Korea - Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. plan to hire 1,400 new workers and invest about 360 billion won in facilities this year in order to abolish night shifts and reduce excessive working hours, the labor ministry said Wednesday.
    The nation’s largest and second largest carmakers will phase out their current two-shift production system until they will run two day shifts only starting from later this year. They plan to complete the transition by 2013.
    The decision came after their workers, along with employees of four other automakers operating in Korea, were caught in October by the Ministry of Labor putting in hours beyond legal limits.
    “Hyundai-Kia informed us of its plans to correct the illegal practices and the ministry approved it today,” Labor Minister Lee Chae-pil said Wednesday.
    The Korean government has been pushing to reform labor practices in the automotive industry, which revolve around a draconian two-shift production system that divides its workforce into a dayshift and a nightshift. Their weekly working hours averaged 55, about 14 hours longer than the country’s all-industry average.
    According to their plans to scrap night shifts, released by the ministry, Hyundai will hire at least 900, while Kia will add 500 new worker. Hyundai will also spend 174 billion won on facilities and Kia some 186 billion won.
    [Watch out, world!  If South Koreans, who've just come down from 44 to 40 hours a week by company size over the past seven years, keep puttin' on the moves in this all-points priority agenda for saving the world, they're liable to oust Germany (Kurzarbeit) and France (Sarkozy-weakened 35-hr workweek) from world leadership. And here are some more steps they're mulling -]

  3. Male officials with newborns may work shorter hours, KoreaHerald.com
    SEOUL, S.Korea - Male civil servants with newborns may be given an hour off their work day to attend to their children in a move to raise the country’s low birthrate and time spent with family, government officials said Wednesday.
    According to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security’s 2012 plan, officials are discussing the feasibility of expanding the current measure which allows female civil servants with an infant an hour off their day to include fathers.

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government has also run a similar program since last year, allowing expecting mothers who work for the capital special vacation time of an extra hour off their workday.
    The ministry plans to recommend that government branches increase last year’s female employment rate in management positions from 9.7 percent by one percent every year till 2016.
    The plan also includes an increase in the number of off-duty days given to mourn family members and close relatives.
    Officials will now be able to take five days off when their spouse or child passes away, which is up from two, and three days in the event of a grandparent’s death.
    The ministry is also considering the possibility of designating lanes for cyclists where motorized vehicles may not enter.

1/03/2012 – 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. Green Bay-area communities cut spending, but increase levies - They seek to raise more money through property taxes, by Doug Schneider dschneid@greenbaypress-gazette.com, GreenBayPressGazette.com
    GREEN BAY, Wisc. — One community froze hiring. Another required employees to take unpaid days off and reduced the money it spends on firefighting. A third took $900,000 from a highway fund.
    While spending cuts among Green Bay-area communities were prominent in budgets for 2012, most still will need to raise more money through property taxes than they did in 2011.
    Tax levies — the amount raised via local property tax bills — will go up in 2012 in Allouez, Ashwaubenon, Bellevue, De Pere, Green Bay, Hobart, Howard, Ledgeview and Suamico, according to an analysis by the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Increases range from 0.08 percent in Ashwaubenon to 7.6 percent in Bellevue.
    The encouraging news is that some municipalities found ways to make it so that actual tax bills increased less than the levy amount.
    Sometimes, that meant spending less on personnel.
    Howard, for example, decided it could do without a community development director and some other staff positions it previously funded. The village won't replace some employees who left during 2011.
    Brown County reduced its tax levy by 1.7 percent, making it a rarity among communities in the area. But it did so by tapping $900,000 from a fund dedicated to highway improvements. Property tax bills will remain effectively unchanged for 2012, but some lawmakers equated the move to using a savings account to buy groceries.
    Other communities are asking residents to pay more for less.
    In De Pere, residents will pay almost 2 percent more in property taxes this year, but will be protected by a leaner fire department. And adults will pay more to take part in some recreation programs.
    Even with those changes, employees will be furloughed for the equivalent of a 40-hour week.

    "We tried not to let it affect services in a noticeable way," Mayor Michael Walsh said. "But we have to make changes in the way we do business if we want to … meet the needs of the people."
    Many local officials point the finger at the economy, and at Madison, to explain the tax increases. De Pere is losing $224,000 in shared revenue from the state, or about $100 per resident. In better times, that loss might have been offset by new construction that helped expand the tax base, but growth in 2011 was limited.
    In Green Bay, officials cut spending by $3.7 million in part by agreeing to a five-month freeze on filling vacant positions — a move forecasted to save $2 million. Yet taxpayers will have to shell out about $800,000 more than they did in 2011, a situation that Alderman Dan Haefs said puts pressure on department heads to manage workers more effectively.
    Such approaches, one village executive conceded, don't leave much room for error.
    "We pinch a penny so hard it makes Lincoln cry," Hobart Village President Rich Heidel said recently. "And that's true from top to bottom."

  2. You Know What's Overrated? Retirement, by Brian Stoffel, Motley Fool via fool.com
    ALEXANDRIA, Va. - It was late 2010, and after years of teaching in Washington, D.C. schools, my wife and I were nearing the burnout phase. We loved our students, but the situation simply wasn't sustainable. With students at my school in class for over nine hours per day, we'd never have time for a family.
    The same question was repeatedly entering our minds: "Why are we killing ourselves?" We needed to make money, but other than meeting our basic needs, we didn't have too many expenses.
    "I guess we're just saving for retirement," was our most common response... until we came upon a book that changed our mind.
    Retirement as worst-case-scenario insurance
    Though far from perfect, Timothy Ferriss' The 4-Hour Workweek makes some thought-provoking assertions about retirement.
    In the book, Ferriss finds three major flaws in the "retirement as a goal" scenario:
    [1] It is based on the assumption that you're doing something you don't like during your most physically able years. "Nothing can justify that sacrifice,"
    Ferriss says.
    [2] The great majority of people haven't saved up nearly enough to maintain their same standard of living post-retirement.
    [3] You'll likely gouge your eyes out due to boredom once you retire... or start your own enterprise. Which of course begs the question: Why not start that new life now? [Add these to the three major flaws we timesizers find in using worklife reduction dba earlier retirement instead of workweek reduction as a major way to engineer the magic labor shortage without which the money supply gets top heavy and flops over. These flaws basically specify what's wrong with agism:
    1. An earlier retirement law wastes valuable human resources, both in contradicting the principle underlying seniority ("practice makes perfect"), and in deleting memory dba company history and therefore falling into the one of the oldest traps in human evolution ("those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it").
    2. An earlier retirement law also jeopardizes the greatest human goal, longer life, because it's a blank check on society and it wouldn't be surprising if society developed a number of sneaky ways to shorten lives "enjoying" such "entitlements" - nevermind you think you have "earned" them.
    3. In terms of efficiency, an earlier retirement law is even more rigid and inflexible than a shorter workyear=longer vacation law. Earlier retirement has an effect only once per person per, say, 70-year-period. Longer vacations have an effect once or twice per person per year. Shorter workmonths via e.g. monthly furloughs have an effect only 12 times per person per year. None can compare to the effectiveness of shorter workweeks = 52 times per person per year.]
    If you are lucky enough to have avoided major debt and have an education that allows you to ponder such questions, they can really turn your world on its head.
    If you're serious about changing things -- like my wife and I were -- the next question becomes: What do we do now?
    Ferriss suggests mini-retirements as a way to downshift and (re)discover your passions. Think of them as three-to-six-month stints where you have a blank slate. It may involve traveling somewhere for those months, or just staying put. The goal is to have nothing that you must do.
    Because we didn't own our condo, and because the cost of living was so high in Washington, D.C., my wife and I chose Costa Rica for our mini-retirement. We lived in a tiny village for six months -- I volunteered on a coffee farm, she at a community center. And I discovered my passion: investing, which led me to The Motley Fool.
    Enough about me, where's the investing takeaway?
    If starting over or trying a mini-retirement is something you'd like to do, being careful about finances is a must. Just because Ferriss pushes back against our common conception of what retirement is doesn't mean we shouldn't maximize the tax advantages that our system offers, through IRAs and Roth IRAs.
    Indeed, saving and living below your means is the best way to build up a nest egg, whether you throw caution to the wind, or you're perfectly fine staying exactly where you are. And if spending hours researching stocks isn't your thing, you have a couple options.
    You could focus on exchange-traded funds -- which offer you focused bets on entire sectors or geographic regions. Our analysts recently came out with their best ETFs for 2012.
    Or if you like investing in individual stocks, you could focus on solid, dividend-paying stocks that would require minimal upkeep on your part to ensure your investment thesis is intact. Here are five of my favorites:
    Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) -- Though this chip maker was late to the game in providing chips that run mobile devices, it's finally entering the realm and already dominates the laptop market. It offers a hefty 3.5% dividend yield and only uses 32% of its earnings to pay it.
    Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) -- This company gives you exposure to both medical devices and staple consumer products like Tylenol. Johnson & Johnson also gives investors a 3.5% dividend yield, which accounts for just 54% of its earnings.
    Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) -- One of the strongest brands in the world, Coke is expanding to the Middle East and other parts of the developing world. The company also gives investors a safe 2.7% dividend, which has a payout ratio of just 34%.
    Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT ) -- This medical company will be splitting into two parts: one to focus on medical devices, the other to focus on pharmaceuticals. Get in now, and you'll have a hand in both, as well as its 3.4% dividend yield.
    General Electric (NYSE: GE ) -- Though it certainly hasn't recovered to the heights it stood at before the Great Recession, GE is actually an interesting play on alternative energy -- as well as several other industries. Its 3.8% dividend yield doesn't hurt either.
    Ready to take the leap?
    Writing off retirement and starting your dream life might not be the approach for everyone, but it's worth exploring. Whether you're happy where you are, or you're dying for a change, maximizing your retirement accounts is crucial to giving you the freedom to direct your future...
    Fool contributor Brian Stoffel is infinitely thankful for his mini-retirement. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned...

  3. Welcome to the Antique Shop Part Three: Will Granular Work Replace the Full-time Work Week? by Liz Ryan, HuffingtonPost.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - For ever, or at least as long as there have been Human Resources departments, employers have shipped talent (or at least manpower) into their factories and offices in one uniform container. That container is called the Forty-Hour Work Week, although it hasn't been anywhere near as small as 40 hours a week in decades. That's what employers love about full-time workers, of course, and the reason most of them are so reluctant to mess around with part-timers and job-sharers.
    They like the fact that the full-time worker container is almost infinitely elastic. You can stretch it. You can load people up with work and use the big stick to keep them in fear, and get sixty or seventy hours of work out of them every week. You can hire them as 'permanent' employees to pay them less than contractors, and lay them off at any moment.

    [It's only elastic as long as progressives, idealists and reformers stay unstrategically unfocused, "jumping on their white horses and riding off in all directions." The master agenda, the "cause" that facilitates and accelerates progress on the most other causes, is ... timesizing. How? With minimum controversiality, it centrifuges the wealth and power of The Onepercent (300,000 Americans) and gives the 99% (300,000,000 Americans) more time and more money to fix things. Is there a danger in that? Sure. But with many more numerous and diverse experiments running, we won't be so stuck in present ways that we KNOW are suicidal.]
    You don't want to get me started on the harm this new[?] paradigm has done [it existed at every downward step of the workweek between 1840 and 1940], not only to individuals and their families but to the mental and physical health of working people and to the health of organizations, because that's a topic for another column. Let's just say that the full-time worker frame is very well established. We know how it works. You have a full-time job, and the job owns you. The threat of dismissal keeps you in fear and convinces you that your job is to please your boss at all times. If your social life, your health and your sanity suffer in the process, that's just the breaks.
    At the same time that we're groveling and panicked, we're cynical. We can see that what HR people call the Old Social Contract lies in tatters. The corporate ladder is sawdust at our feet. We know that we're not going to retire from wherever we're working now, unless we're collecting Medicare already.
    An HR friend of mine was leading a Monday-morning orientation session for new employees, and when she got to the point where she said "We're going to talk about the retirement plan now" the group of newcomers burst out laughing. They thought it was hysterical. Oh please, they told her, do we really have to sit through that?
    If the idea of long-term employment with the same firm, or the notion that full-time employment has some connotation of stability or fixedness about it, are history -- and they are -- can the concept of a full-time, salaried work unit survive? I don't see how. Employers are going to start paying for what they need, and letting the non-essential stuff go by the wayside. For every full-time job that an employer can wring sixty hours out of, there's another full-time job somewhere in the organization where hours and hours are spent on work that has no point and no value to the employer or its clients.
    Now we have crowdsourcing, and employers are starting to be able to find vendors to complete critical projects without adding overhead or headcount (or office expenses or real estate taxes or carbon footprint or energy costs). We tend to think that when lots of people are available to perform work, prices must fall, but needs can be incredibly specific.
    I did a consulting project one time for a boutique strategy consulting firm, and it was a last-minute thing. This was in 1997, and the CEO needed me and the guru strategy guy to interview a bunch of his top execs within a few days and give him some insights back. The strategy guru told me to name my 'inconvenience price.' I didn't have a number -- I'd never had a project like that. I quoted him what felt like a sky-high rate: thirty-five hundred dollars a day for four days of work. He said "That's fine." After the project was done, I asked the guru "Did you mark up my rate the way you do for the associates?" He said "I charged the client twelve five a day for you." He marked up my rate by nine thousand a day, and you know what? That's fine with me. I love that he did that. He deserved that markup, because he knew he could deliver and he knew what his project was worth to the client. Welcome to the antique shop.
    Crowdsourcing lets companies piece out work to people who can do it on the buyer's schedule and to the buyer's specifications, and to learn what works for them and which providers work the way they like to work. I'm trying to see the evil in it, and I'm failing. We have a company here in Boulder that manages SEO optimization on a crowdsourced basis. The company is called Trada, and they put companies together with SEO optimizers who take on projects that make sense for them. There are something like 2000 'optimizers' who work on Trada-enabled PPC and Facebook campaigns. Here's what I see: 2000 people who are working when they want at rates and under conditions that work for them. That seems like a good thing, to me. What's interesting too is that Trada is a company that values its employees like we used to do at U.S. Robotics -- they tell them "We care about what you get done, not when you come in and when you leave."
    If you were doing SEO optimization professionally, wouldn't you want to work for a bunch of different clients, rather than being stuck with one management team (whose appetite for SEO innovation might wax and ebb over time) or one crazy boss, or one anything? Wouldn't you want to hone your craft working on multiple projects over time? Sometimes, I talk to corporate people who say "Man, I'm glad I'm not a consultant. Too hard to drum up business all the time!" I worry about people who say that. Anybody who doesn't know what s/he brings to the marketplace, who needs it, and what it's worth is in trouble, if you ask me. (Welcome to the antique shop.)
    Any kind of work that can be done in a more granular way than the way it's done now is ripe for crowdsourcing. That means legal work, administrative work, HR work, and tons of other things. You're not going to crowdsource the installation of snow tires on your Jeep, but you can crowdsource almost anything that can be done in an office, and I'm sure there are folks already working on granularizing all kinds of work apart from SEO optimization. For a lot of different reasons, I like the trend, but because I acknowledge that it's also likely to be massively disruptive to employers and to working people, I feel I should tell you why.
    For starters, I hate the container called full-time work; it's not fair to employees. Companies use power and fear and guilt to get people to spend way too many hours and brain cells on jobs that don't actually value or deserve them. I see crowdsourced work or granular work more generally as a way to re-balance the employer/employee equation. When you only get to take one full-time job and then you're stuck with it for some period of time, you're tying up your brand and your value with the employer's brand, and that's not always to your advantage. We need to manage our own brands, our own credibility and our own learning. No employer is ever going to value your career or your mojo as much as you do.
    I think it's embarrassing and ridiculous that we still walk into big office boxes at eight-thirty in the morning and walk out of them at five or six or seven in the evening, believing that although we think all the time and have ideas all the time, the only time that 'counts' as work time is the time we spend in the box. That's goofy. One hundred years from now, anthropologist/historians are going to look back and ask "What the heck was wrong with those people?" We know we don't need the box. It's fear that keeps managers keeping people in the box, and crowdsourcing has the potential to loosen that stupid, outdated leash .
    When I started to speak and write and consult on my own, I had to find my voice and find my value. Frankly, I couldn't make a dime as a consultant doing the stuff I used to do as a corporate HR VP. The message to me, a decade later, is that there's not a lot of value (to an employer or to its employees or shareholders or customers) in much, perhaps most, of what happens in corporate America on any given day. If we could separate the political posturing and wrangling and CYA garbage from the actual work and quantify it, the lost time and energy would be huge -- incalculable. We know this, but we don't acknowledge it, much less dig in to solve it. Crowdsourcing says "Work has value, and we're going to pay what the market demands." People who work as crowdsourced SEO optimizers don't have to do corporate toady things because no one cares, and no one is paying them to.
    Now that I work for people who actually need what I can do for them, I'm closer to the need and to the market. Crowdsourcing helps you get there. The danger of being a corporate person is that you lose touch with the actual value of your work. That's why so many of my clients are laid-off corporate people who say "I worked on several large cross-functional initiatives related to assimilating pan-divisional processes" while I scratch my head. That's a dangerous way to live. What good does your work do? What pain does it solve? People whose work is granular always know those answers.
    Crowdsourcing is happening and it's inevitable, but I think the shift to granular work deserves a higher-level perspective than "We'd better figure this out, since it's coming whether we like it or not." I think that getting comfortable with a mix of 'regular' old-fashioned staff people and crowdsourced workers builds muscles that every employer and every team needs to build. I think that losing our reliance on the phalanx of employees walking into the box at a certain hour and walking out one minute after the boss departs can only be a good thing. I think teaching people and enabling them and then ultimately requiring them to name their price can only be a good thing, for everyone.

  4. Europe's core and periphery face different jobs, by Stanley Pignal in Brussels, Gerrit Wiesmann in Berlin and Hugh Carnegy in Paris, Financial Times via ft.com
    BRUSSELS, E.U. - An announcement that joblessness in Spain rose for a fifth consecutive month in December, as German unemployment fell to a post-reunification low, highlights the diverging economic paths of countries at the “core” of the eurozone compared with those on its geographic and metaphorical periphery.
    Most of the core countries, mainly in northern Europe and in a cluster around Germany, have unemployment rates well below the 10.3 per cent eurozone average – a reflection of their generally healthier economies. By contrast, countries which have either received financial bail-outs or are under pressure from financial markets because of their outsized debt have jobless rates well into double digits, with the exception of Italy.
    Strikingly, the four countries with the eurozone’s lowest unemployment rates – Austria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany – are among the bloc’s six triple A rated economies, whose balance sheets are being relied on to finance bail-outs in the periphery. In part, their credit rating reflects the fact that their economies are healthy, with relatively low pressure on the public finances from benefit payments to the unemployed.
    More fundamentally, however, labour market reforms made well before the crisis have helped make the workers of these countries internationally competitive – a factor which is sorely lacking in the eurozone periphery.
    “There is a tendency where those countries that were able to reform their labour markets before the crisis are now able to overcome the crisis in a much better way,” said Maxime Cerutti, director for social affairs at BusinessEurope, a Brussels-based employers’ group.
    Any link between creditworthiness and low unemployment is not necessarily causal, warns Ronald Janssen, economist at the European Trade Union Confederation, a union umbrella organisation.
    “There are other, more valid, explanations,” he said. “Countries such as Germany, the Netherlands or Finland have traditionally had strong export sectors which have benefited from the rapid recovery of emerging economies after the 2009 crisis. That is not the case in other parts of the eurozone.”
    He also points to specific labour-market measures, notably in Germany, where subsidies for employers who placed their excess workers on part-time schedules rather than fire them – known locally as Kurzarbeit – helped stem a rise in joblessness at the outset of the downturn.
    Furthermore, the most recent fall in German unemployment may prove to be fleeting, economists there warned on Tuesday. Despite the recent cooling of the global economy, Europe’s largest economy is still riding out an order backlog accrued in the rosier months of 2011.
    “Companies are still sitting on a huge pile of backlog orders,” said Andreas Rees, an economist at UniCredit in Munich.
    The steeper than expected drop in unemployment in December is largely attributed to clement weather in early winter, which enabled the building sector to continue working. The positive labour-market trend could continue over the next few months as businesses are willing to take on more staff – carmaker Audi said it would hire about 1,200 extra workers in Germany this year.
    “But we must brace ourselves for a deterioration on the labour market from the spring,” said Eckart Tuchtfeld at Commerzbank, warning that “slightly negative gross domestic product” trends this winter would hit the jobs market.
    Measures to shorten unemployment lines are gaining momentum in triple A rated France, where a sharp rise in joblessness to near 10 per cent just months before a presidential election has prompted Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right government into a flurry of action, set to culminate in a “summit” with business and trade unions on promoting jobs and growth on January 18.
    Mr Sarkozy is proposing German-style measures to facilitate temporary redundancies and short-time working, and scope for employers to reach agreements with their workforces on flexible working hours and reduced salaries to avert permanent job cuts.

    Ministers said on Tuesday they would also introduce measures before the April election to move some of the social charges levied on labour to fund welfare programmes on to consumption, via increased sales taxes – a so-called social value added tax.
    Employers’ organisations have long argued for such a move to lower employment costs and stimulate investment and jobs growth – although it is opposed by François Hollande, the opposition Socialist presidential candidate who comfortably leads Mr Sarkozy in the polls. Xavier Bertrand, the labour minister, said of every €100 of gross salary, €50 was accounted for by social charges in France, compared with €39 in Germany.

1/01-02/2012 – 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. Schultz Ready To Lead CitationAir, by Curt Epstein, 1/02 Aviation International News via AINonline.com
    GREENWICH, Conn. - When CitationAir founder and CEO Steve O’Neill left the company at the beginning of November, the transition in leadership was expected to be nearly seamless, especially since the man who was promoted to succeed him had been with the fractional provider as long as O’Neill himself.
    William (Bill) Schultz, previously the company’s executive vice president, was named to the top position in September, two months before O’Neill’s departure.
    “My specialty for the last 11 years was as chief operating officer, focusing on the operations side of the house,” Schultz told AIN. “This included the operations of the aircraft, maintenance, the flight standards, the crewmembers, the training, the hiring, as well as customer service, so I had a broad view of the business.” In additon, O'Neill had discussed his departure “for quite some time," Schultz said. “So, the changing of the guard was really a smooth transition.”
    Service Option Changes
    The new CEO's broad view has seen changes over the past few years. “The industry continues to struggle since the downturn in the economy in 2008,” he noted. “We’ve all been forced to reexamine our businesses, reexamine our business models, and really focus on the customer.”
    Calling itself a business aviation solutions provider offering fractional ownership, jet cards, charter, and aircraft management, the company began in 2000 as CitationShares, initially an equally owned joint venture between Cessna and TAG Aviation. Over the years the airframer gradually increased its ownership percentage so that now the wholly owned Cessna subsidiary operates a fleet of more than 80 business jets.
    The aircraft are split between its fractional ownership and managed jets, ranging from the small-cabin Citation CJ3 to its newest addition, the super-midsize Citation X, whose range has allowed CitationAir to add Hawaii to its list of destinations served, based on customer demand.
    “It’s a product that is more attractive to West Coast customers than East Coast customers,” said Schultz, “but it has been received well and we expect that over time it will become a bigger part of the business.”
    One part of the business that has done well, according to Schultz, is the company’s Jet Access program, where customers commit to a set block of hourly usage for the year. The program recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.
    “It’s the most popular product that we have today,” he said. “We recognized as aircraft values plummeted that there were potential customers that had a low tolerance for risk as it related to residual values.” In response, the company created the new product which it says provides all the financial benefits of fractional ownership without the capital cost.
    Schultz noted that the markets his company serves are still there, although the ways in which customers wish to access their transportation options have changed and his company continually seeks to provide them with a variety of options. “We have customers who own whole airplanes, but if they have a one-way trip, they use their jet card or their Jet Access program, ” he said. “If they have a round trip, they use their corporate airplane, so it’s through a combination of these products and services that a smart flight department today can really drive efficiency by using each of the products wisely.”
    CitationAir currently employs a roster of nearly 350 active pilots and approximately 200 support staff. In May, the company recalled the last of the 85 pilots that it furloughed in 2009 at the height of the recession [= timesizing, not downsizing]. As he transitions fully into overall leadership of the company, one of the major issues to demand Schultz’s attention will be labor negotiations. The company’s pilots voted in July to unionize, making CitationAir the third of the four major jet fractional providers with a unionized workforce.
    The company has since begun discussions toward a collective bargaining agreement with the pilots. “Depending on how aggressive the two parties are in negotiating will determine how long it will take. There really is no way to predict what that is at this point in time,” Schultz said
    Looking ahead, he believes the key to continued success rests with the clients. “The biggest challenge in the industry is paying attention to the customer, and it’s a balancing act because you have the needs of the customer, the needs of the business and you’ve got to maintain very high standards.”
    Cost factors such as equipment purchasing and maintenance, staffing, flight training and maintaining safety standards all serve to drive up overhead. “Balancing that against what the market will bear in terms of pricing is always the challenge,” he added.

  2. GMH presenting 32-hour workweek to board, by Nick Delgado, 1/1 KUAM.com
    GUAM - 2011 proved to be a challenging year for the Guam Memorial Hospital. The year included a change in the board and management, visits and scathing reviews by the Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare to a shortage of supplies and medicines. While hospital officials wait for follow up inspections to verify that they've come into compliance with regulations, GMH is still in a critical financial condition.
    Acting hospital administrator Rey Vega said, "The 32-hour workweek is being worked out yet, we want to make sure that as we do this 32-hour week we can not and should not be compromising care, so we're looking at it very seriously because it may have an adverse impact."
    The proposed 32-hour workweek would only affect administrative staff and management but would result in cutting down patient registration and patient affairs. GMH expects that the reduction in hours would save the hospital more than $4,000,000 annually. The board is expected to further discuss the proposal at their next board meeting this month.

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May 2-31/2010 +Jun.1
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Nov.27-30 (& Dec.)/2004
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