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

2/29/2012 – 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. Not your father's DMV - Cutting furloughs at motor vehicle offices is an early example of Mayor Hancock's effort to make city government more effective, editorial, DenverPost.com
    DENVER, Colo. - In touting the "reinvented" Camry, a new Toyota commercial also envisions a revamped Department of Motor Vehicles.
    In it, happy customers play video games and mini-golf and enjoy ice cream cones served by a smiling bureaucrat. A narrator describes the office as "a little nicer."
    In Denver, Mayor Michael Hancock isn't going for nicer at the DMV as much as he is hoping for faster.
    Hancock this week announced he would waive four furlough days for DMV employees in order to "improve customer service." It's a short-term step that serves as a good example of a longer-term effort to improve effectiveness across city government.
    Peak Performance, which is the administration's effort to bring business-management practices to the public sector, is underway in eight departments and should be in place across the city by the end of the year.
    The effort identified ongoing problems at the DMV early on.
    Three years ago, the average wait time at Denver's four offices — which process registrations, license plates, temporary tags and titles — was 13 minutes. The average wait time last year was 52 minutes.
    At the same time, the number of unprocessed mail and online renewals each month grew from several hundred to thousands. The backlog prompted many people — fleet managers and car-rental companies among them — who could have opted for online or mail renewal to send people to stand in line instead.
    Add in the furlough days, which city workers have been taking for about four years, and the snowball was rolling right along.
    Administration officials now realize money saved on furloughs (about $55,000 annually for the DMV) is offset by overtime payments as they try to reduce backlogged cases.

    [But they avoided layoffs, so the experienced staff is still there to handle the backlog.]
    David Edinger, head of the Peak Performance effort, called the decision to scrap DMV furloughs a "brute force" fix.
    And while the aim is to reduce both the backlog and wait times in the near term, no one believes that eliminating furloughs alone will return service to 2009 levels.
    Part of that is simply staffing. In 2009, the DMV employed 57 people and handled almost 350,000 registration renewals. With jobs going unfilled to save money, 46 employees processed 352,383 renewals in 2011. The city would like to have 53 employees in the DMV by the end of May, but the challenge of "doing more with less" remains.
    That's why we hold out hope for the Peak Performance plan to set goals for service and measure performance.
    DMV officials know they must become more efficient and are developing plans — increasing the number of people who renew via the Web or mail, for example — to get there.
    It's unlikely that Denver will ever see video games or ice cream in its DMV offices, but residents should expect improvement there — and across city government — as the Hancock administration drives on with its performance initiative.

  2. Red Ink Spilleth - Shortened School Year, 70 Layoffs Possible, by Brandon Fastman, Santa Barbara Independent via independent.com
    SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Governor Jerry Brown is gambling that school board meetings like last night’s will scare Californians into voting for temporary tax increases. But the stakes of that bet are exceedingly high. As the deadline looms for the district to submit a fiscal report that shows how it can cut $5.8 million out of the budget in case the governor’s proposed ballot box tax increases do not pass in November, the Santa Barbara Unified School District trustees will have to make some tough choices.
    At the meeting, Meg Jetté, assistant superintendent of Business, offered up a pupu platter of cuts. “You can play around with them as you choose,” she told the trustees. Her “menu,” as she put it, included nine items, among which were laying off up to 70 teachers, reducing 16 classified (or nonteaching) positions, reducing spring semester sections, reorganizing the district office, eliminating the use of contracted nurses, increasing ninth grade English class sizes from 25:1 to as high as 35:1, increasing K-3 class sizes from 25:1 to as high as 32:1;,implementing nine furlough days (of which at least five would be instruction days, Jetté told The Santa Barbara Independent), and cutting “Tier 3” programs (which often provide services to needy students) up to 30 percent.
    The cuts on that list add up to $11.6 million, but some would affect others. Furlough days, for instance would undo the need for class size increases and teacher reductions. Furthermore, the board last night voted to approve the layoffs of all temporary and some probationary teachers. Despite that approval, layoffs, class-size reductions, and furloughs must be negotiated with the teachers’ union.
    Layne Wheeler, president of the Santa Barbara Teachers Association (SBTA), told The Independent that the union is opposed to cuts to staff and programs. He referred to a shortened school year as “draconian” but also said he is negotiating with the district in good faith and, at the meeting, expressed confidence that a compromise could be reached.
    Board member Ed Heron actually advocated for furlough days — which would reduce teachers’ salaries up to 5 percent — reasoning that furlough days can always be added back to the school year if the budget improves, but laid-off teachers cannot be easily hired back in the middle of the year. Other board members voiced their support for different items on the chopping block, but nobody was enthusiastic about any of the proposed budget reductions. “I think yet again we’re in a situation in which they are all bad ideas, but we don’t have a choice,” said board member Monique Limón.
    The board will likely hash out the details of the budget in piecemeal fashion. However, the district must turn in an interim financial report to the Santa Barbara County Education Office by March 17 demonstrating that it can meet its financial obligations for the current year and two years out while maintaining a 3 percent cash reserve.
    Teachers must also receive layoff notices by March 15. The notified teachers are those with the least seniority. In reality, however, the budget is an amoeba-like organism that will change shape depending on state funding and negotiations between the district and the SBTA. If the governor’s ballot initiatives for temporary increases in sales and income taxes pass, they could generate $6.9 billion during the next school year. That will likely play a factor in how many laid-off teachers are actually hired back.
    Further exacerbating the district’s fiscal wellbeing is the fact that the state has deferred 34.8 percent of the district’s revenue, greatly tightening cash flow. In other words, the state is not giving the district all the funding it has approved. As Jetté put it, “It’s like your employer saying you deserve $50,000, but we’re only going to give $30,000 this year."

  3. County worker furlough program inches ahead, by David DeBolt, DailyRepublic.com
    FAIRFIELD, Calif. — The complexities of a county government furlough program became evident Tuesday during a workshop with officials, union representatives, a moderator and few members of the public.
    A uniform closure of the county government for up to 12 days a year does not appear possible, based on the discussion. A show of hands of the 70 or so in attendance showed no one, however, objected to a hybrid model if the county moves forward with furlough days.
    The 1 p.m. meeting was to collect comments from county employees to be used in the event that the Board of Supervisors moves forward with a plan to implement a furlough program. Officials have said a program of up to 12 days could save $3.2 million annually.
    County Department of Resource Director Bill Emlen summed up the discussion by saying there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all solution.”
    “There’s a lot of complexity to this issue,” Emlen said.
    Though attendees made it clear that furloughs are not preferred or are “a last resort,” there was no open talk against furloughs. There is language in several contracts with county unions that gives the Board of Supervisors the ability to implement up to 12 furlough days each year within the life of the contracts.
    Janet Cory Sommer, a labor relations attorney, led Tuesday’s discussion. Six furlough concepts were presented:
    1. fixed furlough days taken over a holiday period such as Christmas;
    2. predetermined furloughs with complete closure;
    3. floating furlough days used like vacation days throughout the year;
    4. a combination of pre-determined and floating furlough days;
    5. alternate work schedule; and
    6. turning existing paid holidays into unpaid holidays.
    Of all the options, a hybrid model appeared the favorite because of the diversity of county government services. Representatives from the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, Probation Department and others said a department-wide closure would not be possible because of 24-hour facilities they monitor, their schedules are tied to the state’s court system or because of public safety.
    Sheriff Gary Stanton said his administration may be able to take unpaid furlough days around Christmas or July 4.
    “The rest of the year we go pretty hot and heavy,” Stanton said.
    Nadine Roach, of Service Employees Union International Local 1021, said county residents would feel the impact of furloughs by longer lines, among other inconveniences. Jennifer Lariviere, president of the Solano County SEIU chapter, asked that other cost-saving measures be considered before furlough days.
    “It’s a last resort,” Lariviere said.
    There was a consensus among the crowd that the county should first do an analysis of each department to help in creating a furlough program. An analysis would need to be completed by May if it were to be used when the board considers next fiscal year’s budget.
    Each supervisor was also given an opportunity to speak. Supervisor Mike Reagan sees furloughs as a short-term solution that does not address the county’s structural deficit. Supervisor Jim Spering does not support a short-term furlough program, saying it could be extended to future years.
    A document given out at the meeting shows the counties of Santa Barbara, San Joaquin, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Yolo, San Francisco and cities of Dixon, Rio Vista, Concord, Fairfield, Sacramento, Vacaville and Vallejo have some sort of furlough program this fiscal year.
    Determining an exit strategy for the furlough program must also be considered, Stanton said. Yolo County government employees went into its furlough program “kicking and screaming” but now have become comfortable with it, he said.
    “It’s not a light switch,” Stanton said.
    Reach David DeBolt at 427-6935 or ddebolt@dailyrepublic.net.

  4. Court calls end to strikes at Frankfurt airport, Reuters.com
    FRANKFURT, Germany - A court called an end to walkouts by airfield staff at Frankfurt, bringing to an end three weeks of walkouts at Europe's third busiest airport in an increasingly bitter row over pay and conditions.
    The judge said the walkouts by 190 staff who guide planes in and out of parking places, which have resulted in the cancellations of thousands of flights, were illegal and that the workers had a duty to keep industrial peace.
    The ruling may now trigger compensation demands from German flagship airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), which has lost tens of millions of euros in revenue and seen bookings wane as a result of the strike.
    Board member Stefan Lauer had said on Tuesday that if the strike were declared illegal, the airline would consider making a claim, as it has done in the case of a threatened strike by air traffic controllers last summer.
    The GdF union, which said it would appeal the court ruling, is demanding higher pay and shorter working hours from airport operator Fraport (FRAG.DE) for the staff.
    A second attempt at pay talks ended acrimoniously on Friday night, with Fraport making a lower offer than before the mediation process and the union saying it would no longer give 24 hours' notice of strikes.
    Fraport was able to keep the effects of the strike under control by using former apron staff, thus ensuring around 80 percent of the airport's 1,300 daily flights could run.
    Fraport and Lufthansa, which was the hardest hit by the strike at its home base, finally went to the courts after the union asked air traffic controllers to join the walkouts, which would have brought the hub to a standstill.
    That move was blocked by the court in Frankfurt late on Tuesday night, but not before dozens of long-haul flights were cancelled or delayed.
    In all, 235 flights were cancelled on Wednesday out of a total of 1,260, most of them owing to the airfield walkouts which were due to continue until 0400 GMT Thursday. Around 1,800 flights have been cancelled in total since the walkouts began.
    Lufthansa said after the court ruling that flight operations could now start returning to normal, although it was too late to reinstate Wednesday's cancelled flights and there would likely be some delays and cancellations on Thursday as planes return to their scheduled positions.
    Adding to passengers' woes, services union Verdi on Wednesday threatened strikes of ground staff at Berlin's airports Tegel and Schoenefeld in a wage dispute there and said it would give only about 15 minutes advance warning.
    Frankfurt is Europe's third-busiest in terms of passenger numbers after London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle.
    (Reporting by Peter Maushagen and Victoria Bryan; additional reporting by Christian Ruettger; Editing by Jodie Ginsberg)

2/28/2012 – 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. Should a 21-Hour Workweek Be the New US Standard? by Marissa Brassfield, PayScale.com (blog)
    SEATTLE, Wash. - Should the U.S. ditch the standard 40-hour working week in favor of a 21-hour workweek? A report out of the New Economics Foundation argues that such a move would help the environment, boost the economy and promote social justice.
    The NEF cites Britain as a country that's achieved success by slashing its "normal" workweek to 21 hours, writing, "If the average time devoted to unpaid housework and childcare in Britain in 2005 were valued in terms of the minimum wage, it would be worth the equivalent of 21 percent of the UK’s gross domestic product."
    Read on for three of the many proposed benefits of a 21-hour workweek:
    1. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A shorter workweek would "help break the habit of living to work, working to earn and earning to consume," according to the NEF. Since workers would be commuting less often than usual, pollution from passenger cars would theoretically be reduced.
    2. Decreased unemployment. The NEF envisions a 21-hour workweek as a vehicle to evenly distribute paid jobs across the working-age population, lowering unemployment rates and the negative side effects of unemployment and long working hours.
    3. Economic growth. Independence from today's credit-fueled, consumption-hungry society could yield a more resilient economy. "Business would benefit from more women entering the workforce, from men leading more rounded, balanced lives, and from reductions in workplace stress associated with juggling paid employment and home-based responsibilities," adds the NEF.
    Such a drastic change in the way America works couldn't occur overnight, but the NEF model is compelling nevertheless. How do you think a 21-hour workweek would influence U.S. society?

  2. N.D. v. State Department of Education, Leagle.com
    N. D.; A. U.; M. D.; B. A.; G. S., Plaintiffs, and C. K.; C. J.; T. F.; J. K., disabled minors, through their parents acting as guardians ad litem, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
    No. 10-17909. United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
    Submitted February 14, 2012,** Honolulu, Hawaii. Filed February 27, 2012.
    Before: GOODWIN, TROTT, and MURGUIA, Circuit Judges.
    [Uh, then why is it on the Web?]
    Appellants C.K., C.J., T.F., and J.K., disabled minors, appearing through their parents acting as guardians ad litem, appeal the summary judgment to Appellee, the State of Hawaii Department of Education ("Department"), on Appellants' claim under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-87, "stay-put" provision, id. § 1415(J). Because the history and facts of this case are familiar to the parties, we recount them only to the extent necessary to explain our decision.
    This lawsuit arises out of the Department's decision to shut down Hawaii public schools on seventeen Fridays during the 2009-2010 school year. The Department implemented the so-called "furlough Fridays" in order to avoid teacher layoffs in the face of budget cuts. Appellants initially requested due process hearings from the Department regarding potential changes in their respective educational placements that might occur as a result of the furlough program and invoked the IDEA's stay-put provision, which mandates that "the child shall remain in the then-current educational placement of the child," pending any challenge to a proposed change in his educational placement. Id. § 1415(J). When the Department refused to apply the stay-put provision, Appellants sought relief from the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, asking that it enjoin the commencement of furlough Fridays. The district court denied Appellants' request for injunctive relief, and Appellants appealed. We affirmed the district court's denial of injunctive relief in a published opinion, holding that "Hawaii's teacher furloughs and concurrent shut down of public schools is not a change in the educational placement of disabled children." N.D. v. Haw. Dep't of Educ., 600 F.3d 1104, 1116 (9th Cir. 2010).
    Following our decision in N.D., the Department moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, and Appellants moved for a declaratory judgment and permanent injunctive relief. The district court granted the Department's motion, entering summary judgment for the Department on Appellants' IDEA claim and dismissing Appellants' Hawaii Administrative Procedures Act claim. In the instant appeal, Appellants seek relief only on their IDEA claim.1 We cannot reach the merits of Appellants' appeal, however, as this case is now moot.
    Article III courts lack jurisdiction to "`to decide moot questions or abstract propositions,' because `moot questions require no answer.'" Wolfson v. Brammer, 616 F.3d 1045, 1053 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971) (per curiam)). Accordingly, a live controversy must exist at all times during litigation, including appeal, and not just when the case is filed. Id. "A case may become moot after it is filed, when the issues presented are no longer live or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
    In their First Amended Complaint, Appellants asked the district court to declare that furlough Fridays violated the IDEA's stay-put provision and enter an injunction; they did not seek damages. Hawaii instituted furlough Fridays for the 2009-10 school year. The 2009-10 school year is over, and the Hawaii legislature restored funding for the 2010-11 school year, appropriating $67,000,000 from the Hawaii Hurricane Relief fund. Currently, there is no furlough program in place. Consequently, there is no injunctive relief that this Court could grant and declaratory relief is not available where a claim is otherwise moot. Log Cabin Republicans v. United States, 658 F.3d 1162, 1167 (9th Cir. 2011).
    We also reject Appellants contention that this case falls within the "capable of repetition yet evading review" exception to the mootness doctrine. This exception applies if (1) a reasonable expectation exists that the same parties will be subject to the same action, and (2) the challenged action is too short in duration to be fully litigated prior to its cessation or expiration. Alaska Ctr. for the Env't v. U.S. Forest Serv., 189 F.3d 851, 854 (9th Cir. 1999). Appellants have failed to show "that it is reasonable to expect that the [Department] will engage in conduct that will once again give rise to the allegedly moot dispute." Id. at 856 (internal quotation marks omitted).
    In June 2010, the Hawaii Legislature passed Act 167, which imposes a mandatory minimum of 180 instructional days on all public schools. Haw. Rev. Stat. § 302A-251(a). It took this step in response to furlough Fridays and the loss of educational time that resulted. See 2010 Haw. Sess. Laws, Act 167, § 1 ("[I]n light of the instructional hours lost due to furloughs, the purpose of this Act is to require the phase-in of implementation of a certain number of student instructional hours at all public schools . . . ."). Appellants, however, are unimpressed by Act 167, arguing that the next time a budget crisis occurs nothing would prevent Hawaii from repealing Act 167 and reinstating furloughs. We must, of course, concede that anything is possible, but it does not follow that Appellants have a reasonable expectation that such a series of events will occur. To the contrary, the passage of Act 167 suggests that the Hawaii legislature wishes to avoid ever again subjecting the educational opportunities of its students to the uncertainty of the budgeting process. Therefore, as a result of Act 167 and the mandatory 180 instructional days for which it provides, we find that it is unreasonable to expect that the Department will implement another furlough program.2
    Because Appellants' case is moot, we vacate the district court's judgment and remand for dismissal of the complaint. Log Cabin Republicans, 658 F.3d at 1167.
    VACATED and REMANDED with directions to DISMISS.

  3. Simplot in Portage to cut hours as potato shortage looms, by Murray McNeill murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca, WinnipegFreePress.com
    PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Manitoba, Canada - Some employees at the Simplot potato-processing plant in Portage la Prairie will see their hours cut in coming months due to a looming shortage of locally grown processing potatoes, industry officials say.
    Simplot spokesman David Cuoio said the Idaho-based food-processing giant has begun shifting some production from its Portage plant to other plants it owns in the U.S. Pacific Northwest rather than import potatoes to Manitoba to make up for the shortfall.
    As a result, some workers will see their hours reduced, Cuoio said, although no one will be laid off.
    "Our managers have come up with some very creative ways to ensure our employees are not laid off."
    Cuoio wouldn't say when the cutback in hours will occur or how many of the plant's 280 employees will be affected.
    "We anticipate being able to return to normal production levels at the Portage plant later this year, presuming Mother Nature will co-operate and the supply of raw potatoes will be adequate," he said.
    It was bad weather -- flooding and too much rain in the spring, drought conditions in the summer and an early fall frost -- that led to a big drop in potato production last year in Manitoba.
    Although Simplot has opted to temporarily shift production elsewhere, an industry official said the province's other big potato processor, McCain Foods Canada, has decided to import potatoes from Washington state and maintain regular production levels at its two plants in Portage and Carberry.
    Garry Sloik, manager of the Keystone Potato Producers Association, said that will enable McCain to avoid layoffs or reductions in hours.
    Portage la Prairie Mayor Earl Porter said that's also what Portage officials have been told.
    "McCain said it will be full-bore," Porter said, adding: "We haven't heard from Simplot."
    McCain spokeswoman Calla Farn confirmed in an email the company expects to import U.S. potatoes this summer to tide it over until the 2012 Manitoba crop is ready in August.
    Sloik said McCain told the association it has enough locally grown potatoes to last until the last week or two in June, so it should only have to import spuds for about six weeks.
    Last month, when the shortage was first disclosed, he said this will be the first time in more than two decades Manitoba has had to import potatoes.

2/26-27/2012 – 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. The payroll tax law's best measure - Tucked in the small print of the payroll tax bill is a work-sharing plan that could save more than a million jobs this year, 2/27 The [Manchester UK] Guardian via guardian.co.uk
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - One of the little-noticed items attached to the extension of the payroll tax cut was a provision that would promote work-sharing as part of state unemployment insurance systems. The provision, which is based on a bill introduced in the Senate by Jack Reed and in the House by Rosa DeLauro, would reimburse states for money spent on work-sharing programs that are part of their unemployment insurance system. It would also provide funds for the states that do not currently have work-sharing systems to establish them.
    This provision is a rare victory of bipartisanship and commonsense. The basic logic of work-sharing is straightforward. Under the current system of unemployment insurance, workers who lose their jobs can get roughly half of their pay in benefits. However, if a worker has their hours cut back because of inadequate demand, they don't get in any way compensated for the lost pay. This effectively encourages employers to go the route of layoffs, rather than shortening work hours, since that is the only way that workers can benefit from unemployment insurance.
    Work-sharing gets around this asymmetry. It allows workers to be compensated for part of their lost pay when their employer reduces their work hours. This means that if an employer decides to reduce the work hours of 50 workers by 20%, as opposed to laying off 10 workers, the 50 workers can get half of their lost pay (10% of their total pay) covered by unemployment insurance. This means that workers will end up working 20% fewer hours for roughly 10% less pay.
    This is an outcome that is likely to better for workers, employers, and the economy as a whole. It is better for workers because it keeps them on the job and in a situation where they can be continually upgrading their skills in accordance with changes in the workplace.
    By contrast, workers who are unemployed for long periods of time have great difficulty getting re-employed. Employers are reluctant to hire workers who have been out of the workforce for one to two years or longer. Unfortunately, a large number of workers now fall into this category.
    Work-sharing can also be beneficial to employers as many firms that have gone this route have discovered. By keeping workers on the job these firms are able to ramp up production quickly to meet new demand. If they had gone the layoff route, they would be forced to go through a costly and time-consuming process of hiring and training new workers. The expense associated with employee turnover can be considerable, even for the least skilled positions.
    Finally, the work-sharing route is by far the better route from the standpoint of the economy and society. It is a personal disaster for workers who end up permanently shut out from the labor force, but it also an enormous loss to the economy and society. We want to take to be able to use the skills that people have developed over a working lifetime, not throw them in the garbage.
    And, needless to say, the family of a worker who is unable to find unemployment will also suffer considerable hardship. It is much more difficult to raise children in a situation where a primary breadwinner suffers through a long period of unemployment.
    The provision in the tax bill will go far towards promoting the increased use of work-sharing, but there is still a long way to go. At the moment, there are less than 50,000 workers nationwide on work sharing programs. The extent to which this number increases will depend on efforts by states to promote the program and also their willingness to allow employers flexibility in its use.
    The potential impact of work-sharing on unemployment is enormous. While the economy as a whole is adding jobs, we still have an enormously high level of churn every month: roughly 4 million workers leave their jobs, with 2 million leaving involuntarily. If the number of people being laid off can be reduced by 5%, this would be equivalent to adding 100,000 additional jobs each month, which translates to 1.2m by the end of a year.
    Work-sharing has been used successfully elsewhere. Germany's unemployment is 1.5 percentage points lower today than it was at the start of its recession. This is not due to Germany's growth performance, which actually has been somewhat worse than the US. Rather, the difference is that Germany has been successful in persuading employers to keep workers on the job, even when this has meant a shortening of hours.
    We might not have the same success with work-sharing as Germany, but if we can generate 1-2m additional jobs by promoting shorter hours, this would be a really big deal. The bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last week is a big step in this direction.

  2. Information Regarding Furloughs, 2/26 SEIU Local 1991 campaign news via seiu1991.org
    MIAMI, Fla. - To clarify the agreement that was reached with management regarding furloughs, the following is actual language in the Memorandum of Understanding that was reached between SEIU Local 1991 and Jackson Health System:
    · Management has announced its intention to furlough employees for two (2) eight (8) hour shifts during the month of February 2012 where census allows. With regard to any such furlough hours imposed on bargaining unit members during the month of February 2012, the parties agree that upon ratification of the 2011·2014 Collective Bargaining Agreements, bargaining unit members who are furloughed during February 2012 shall have the right to buy-back the second eight (8) hours of furlough by utilizing eight (8) hours of their PL Time (an employee who upon ratification of the CBAs has already been furloughed for two eight (8) hour shifts in February may be paid for the second eight (8) hour shift with their PL Time, while an employee who has not yet been furloughed for a second shift shall be entitled to work that day and forfeit eight (8) hours of their PL Time, at the employee’s option). Nothing in this Agreement is intended to force the forfeiture of 8 hours of PL time by any employee, including any employee who would not otherwise have been furloughed due to census.
    · Additionally, the parties agree that. no employee shall be furloughed for more than sixty-four (64) total hours from November 2011 through February 2012. Any bargaining unit member furloughed for more than sixty-four (64) hours shall have the option of being paid with his or her PL time for all hours furloughed above sixty-four (64).
    [This makes sure that a furlough doesn't turn into a layoff; i.e., that a timesizing doesn't become a downsizing.]
    If you have any other questions, please contact your union representative, bargaining team representative or steward

  3. Women in Tabuk work in floristry, by Amal Al-Sibai, 2/27 SaudiGazette.com.sa
    TABUK, Saudi Arabia - Tabuk is well known for its cultivation of beautiful flowers. And, flowers from the city are exported all over the Kingdom for various occasions; however, prior to it, they undergo a process. So for doing it, who could be better handling those beauties than women themselves?
    [The woman handling flowers in a large greenhouse in the accompanying photo is covered up except for a slot for her eyes.]
    Twenty-one Saudi women are currently engaged at Astra Agricultural Company in Tabuk to cut, wrap, and preserve fresh flowers. The women’s supervisor, Lateefa Awaji, has been working at the company for six years and is paid a salary of SR 2100 a month.
    “The women who apply for jobs must initially receive professional training for three months. Afterwards, she is eligible for a monthly salary of SR1500. Women are attracted to the jobs at Astra due to the shorter working hours, a steady income, and the most important of all transportation facility. The company provides us with transportation because the flower green houses are too far from the residential areas in Tabuk, almost about 40 kilometers,” said Awaji.
    “The first batch of female employees we had six years ago complained of resistance and disapproval from their family members. However, today much has changed. Now there is a long list of women seeking jobs in the flower production department and also in the fruits and vegetables department,” said the director of flower production at Astra, Eng. Yousef Abu Fara.
    He further added, “The idea to employ female workers came about as part of our company’s project to contribute to the development of the society and opening up job opportunities for women in the industry.
    This initiative was strongly supported by Prince Fahd Bin Sultan, Governor of Tabuk region. Our green houses with a regulated internal environment have expanded and reached a total surface area of 240 square meters.”
    The women work from eight o’clock in the morning till at twelve noon. Their working hours are over at the call for Dhur prayer, they pray in a private prayer hall and are then served lunch by the company.
    The women who work at picking and packaging flowers enjoy several benefits, such as medical insurance, free means of transportation, a day off per week, and twenty-two days for their end of year vacation. Depending on how many years of experience the women have, their salaries range between SR1,500 and SR2,100 a month.
    According to Awaji, the female employees prepare a total of 4500 flowers each day to be transported to different regions of the Kingdom.
    They first pick and bring in the flowers, categorize them based on type and color, then they cut them to a suitable height and thorns are carefully removed from the roses. In the end flowers are wrapped to keep them fresh and undamaged during delivery.
    Fatima Al-Shehri is a Saudi mother of three children and she has been working in the commercial flower packaging department at Astra for five years. She earns SR 1,850 a month and she said, “I consider my coworkers my friends and among them, six are university graduates who hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Arabic language, or Islamic education, or business administration. Although our educational backgrounds may be different, we all work hard, take our job seriously, and respect one another.” A young Saudi woman, Jamila Al-Salami, works at Astra during the day and studies Islamic education through distance learning at the University of Tabuk.
    “I will be graduating at the end of this year. The company has been very supportive and they give me the day off whenever I have to go to the university to take exams. All thanks to Allah, I have had no problems in balancing my studies with work,” said Al-Salami.

  4. Bank officers' body calls for all-India strike tomorrow, 2/26 TheHinduBusinessLine.com
    MUMBAI, India - To press for its demands for regulated working hours, pay parity with State Bank of India officers, stoppage of cross mergers of regional rural banks, and five-day working week, the All-India Bank Officers' Association (AIBOA) has called for an all-India bank strike on February 28.
    The Association's move coincides with the strike call by central trade unions on the same day.
    Working hours
    “Though clerical and sub-staff in banks have fixed working hours of 6.5 hours and 7 hours respectively, the officers don't have regulated working hours.

    Despite core banking system being in place, they end up putting in almost 12 hours every day at branches,” said Mr Vishwas Utagi, General Secretary, Maharashtra State Bank Employees Federation.
    The public sector bank officers want pay parity with SBI officers, who get three retirement benefits — gratuity, provident fund (both employee and employer's contribution) and pension.
    Though they get gratuity, public sector bank officers get only their own contribution to the PF while the employer's contribution goes to give the pension.
    According to Mr S. Nagarajan, General Secretary, AIBOA, the demand of officers has been pending with the Government since November 2011.
    The central trade unions, among others, want concrete measures to contain price rise, strict enforcement of basic labour laws, universal security cover for unorganised sector workers, putting an end to disinvestment of Central- and State-level undertakings.

  5. Kimberly council cuts city workers' hours, by Robert Carter, North Jefferson News via njeffersonnews.com
    KIMBERLY, Ala. - There were few fireworks Monday night at the Kimberly City Council meeting regarding Mayor Craig Harris, but the council did vote to cut city workers' hours to 32 hours a week, in the wake of increased city expenses and declining revenues from business licenses and sales taxes.
    Councilman Bob Ellerbrock said that the city was about $30,000 down in incoming revenues, largely because the construction of the new Mortimer Jordan High School is now complete. Because of the shortfall, he recommended that the council cut workers' hours instead of laying off workers entirely. The council has done this in the past in similar circumstances, and opted for reduced hours instead of layoffs after gauging opinions of the workers.
    The cutbacks go into effect March 5.
    The council also decided to forgo its own monthly stipend of $100 each for the time being.
    The meeting was considerably calmer than the previous session, in which council members revealed that Harris had taken advances on his mayoral pay from the city, in what they claimed was a violation of the state constitution. Harris did not deny the advances, but voted against resolutions declaring no-confidence in his administration, and another calling for his outright resignation.
    At that meeting, Harris ruled that those motions did not pass because they were not unanimous. However in Monday's meeting, after questioning by Kimberly resident (and Morris police chief) Brian Cochran, Harris admitted that the city attorney had advised him the resolutions were valid, and had been entered into the record as such.
    Harris also stated that he would pay back the $1,175 outstanding balance that he owed "within the week."
    Harris was the subject of another call for his resignation, this time from his immediate predecessor. Ralph Lindsey, who also spoke before the council on two other unrelated issues, praised the council for their actions and called for Harris to step down. Lindsey was elected mayor in 2008, but resigned after he was diagnosed with cancer; Harris was appointed as his replacement by the council.

2/25/2012 – 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. Frankfurt airport hit by fresh strikes, Agence France-Presse via google.com/hostednews/afp
    FRANKFURT, Germany — Frankfurt airport, Europe's third busiest, was hit by a fresh wave of strikes, following earlier walkouts, after pay talks with management broke down, their union said.
    Some 200 apron control staff -- who direct aircraft in and out of their parking positions both from the control tower and on the tarmac -- have been striking since February 16. They want higher pay, increased bonuses and shorter working hours.
    The latest strike was to start at 2000 GMT Sunday and end on Thursday at 0400 GMT.
    The GdF union said late Friday that talks with airport operator Fraport had been broken off, opening the path for a new strike.
    Fraport insisted it had made concessions "on many points in the union's extremely high demands".
    Frankfurt airport, Germany's main hub, is Europe's third busiest after London-Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle.
    GdF repeatedly threatened strike action last year in a long-running wage dispute for regular air traffic controllers.
    A strike was averted when the union and Germany's air safety authority DFS reached a deal in court in October.

  2. Rockton facing deep staff cuts, by Matt Liparota mliparota@beloitdailynews.co, BeloitDailyNews.com
    [Deeper without the cut hours...]
    ROCKTON, Wisc. — Dwindling support for education in Illinois has caught up to the Rockton School District, necessitating major cuts to staff aimed to save the district $1.3 million.
    The Rockton School Board will cut 18 certified teaching positions, eliminate an assistant principal position and cut hours from the district in an effort to save $1.3 million. Five of the teaching reductions will come from retirements.
    The cuts are necessary because of increasingly sparse funding from the state over the last few years, said Superintendent Mike Greenlee. General state aid has gone down, as has transportation funding.
    “State funding is quickly eroding,” Greenlee said.
    Because of this, the district has had to go into its cash reserves to pay the bills for the past several years, spending more money than it’s taking in. The district’s deficit spending is expected to reach anywhere from $1.4-1.6 million this fiscal year, Greenlee said.
    “This is starting to drain our reserves,” Greenlee said.
    At that point, cuts become a matter of necessity. Greenlee said these cuts aren’t cuts anybody involved wanted to make, but the district couldn’t continue to justify spending as much as it is.
    “At some point, you need to start balancing your budget,” Greenlee said.
    Greenlee said the district also will look to “maximize” classrooms — 22 students in classes kindergarten through second grades, 26 in third through fifth grades and 29 in sixth through eighth grades, according to district guidelines.
    As the economy has taken a downturn, growth in the area has also begun to slow, Greenlee said, meaning fewer families with fewer children and thus lower enrollment numbers. This has also contributed to the decision to make cuts.
    “Once the economy kind of hit the wall, so did growth,” Greenlee said.
    In the past, reduction of staff was a simple matter of seniority, Greenlee said. Those with the least seniority were the first on the chopping block. Last summer, however, the state of Illinois passed new criteria for how staff cuts were to be handled. The new law brings “more things into consideration,” Greenlee said, including certifications and qualifications. The district has approached the cuts in that light, Greenlee said.
    Greenlee said the larger issue at hand is a lack of support for education at a state level.
    “I think the bigger thing people have a harder time with is just how bad funding has gotten in Illinois,” Greenlee said. “We talk about how important education is, and yet the funding for our schools continues to dwindle.”
    Despite the cuts, Greenlee stressed his belief that Rockton is a “great” school district — it merely has to approach education in a different way now.
    “We believe, without question, it will still be a great school district,” Greenlee said. “We still have got great people, and great people make all the difference in the world.”

2/24/2012 – 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. Push work sharing to soften impact of joblessness, by Marc Gruenberg, People's World via peoplesworld.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - A plan to promote work-sharing arrangements, where firms suffering from the recession would keep all present workers on board, but cut their hours - with unemployment benefits partially making up for lost pay - was inserted into the payroll tax cut-jobless benefits extension law that President Obama signed Feb. 22.
    The job-sharing plan is another attempt to cut the impact of joblessness even in a weak recovery, say its authors, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I. It's modeled on plans now operating in 23 states [24, he's missed NJ] and a national plan in Germany ["Short-work" = Kurz-arbeit = /koorts-R-bite/].
    There, in the depth of the recession, job-sharing meant unemployment stayed far lower than it did in the U.S., never reaching double-digit percentages. German workers facing layoffs instead took wage cuts, but companies paid them anywhere from half-pay - if there was a total layoff - to 67 percent, with jobless benefits topping those sums.
    "Work-sharing programs provide employers with an alternative to layoffs," said Dean Baker, co-director of the pro-worker think tank, the Center for Economic Policy and Research.
    Until now, Baker elaborated, laid-off U.S. workers collect up to 50 percent of their wages in jobless benefits, though the figure is far lower in some states. "Under work-sharing, struggling companies can cut back hours rather than workers and unemployment insurance benefits would pay 10 percent of their lost wages. This means that instead of a worker losing their job and receiving half their pay, they would now stay on their job after having their hours cut by 20 percent and get 90 percent of their pay," Baker said.
    The worker would still take a slight cut, rather than being laid off and suffering a huge cut, Baker added. When demand resumes and lets the firm again need a full-time workforce, the workers would be there already.
    "That benefits both employee and employer," Baker said. Employers "won't have to hire and train new people, they just increase hours for the existing staff."
    A fact sheet from DeLauro's office says the legislation is modeled not just on the German program but on work-sharing arrangements now existing in 23 states [24, he's missed NJ], all of which use jobless benefits to help partially replace lost wages.
    "Work-sharing is an innovative and strategic way for companies to move forward without laying off workers. It is essential that we save the jobs that we can, preserving our workforce and ensuring that our nation and our workforce will weather this tough economy," DeLauro said when she introduced the legislation in August 2011.
    Reed pointed out their idea would not only keep workers on the job, and ready to resume full-time employment when demand picks up, but it would also save both states and the federal government money they would otherwise spend on full jobless benefits. Otherwise, the states or the feds would be on the hook for half the worker's pay.
    The feds would pay for 100 percent of work-sharing costs for up to three years, the fact sheet on their bill says. States would also get grants to administer and promote work-sharing, and to enroll workers. And the program is targeting full-time workers facing layoff, as it bans participation by employers whose workforce is seasonal or temporary.
    The measure authorizes $100 million to pay for the work-sharing program's costs.
    States with work sharing laws are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, [New Jersey,] New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington.
    The main sections of the measure extend jobless benefits and the payroll tax cut for 160 million workers through the end of this year. That means only 4.2 percent of their pay is deducted for Social Security withholding. The extended federal jobless benefits will exist for a shorter time than they do now. Workers laid off from March through May are eligible for 89-99 weeks of coverage, while those laid off from June-September can get up to 79 weeks. Those laid off after September are eligible for 73 weeks.

  2. Work Less, Help Economy And Environment, HuffingtonPost.com
    [Shades of Anders Hayden's book, "Sharing the Work, Sparing the Planet."]
    LONDON, England - There's nothing really natural about the 40-hour work week -- let alone the 50-plus hours many Americans spend on the job.
    Some people argue the U.S. culture of busyness perpetuates unnatural states of unemployment, overwork, inequality, over-consumption, low well-being and high carbon emissions.
    "Employment law and welfare law encourages us, particularly in the U.S. and U.K., to work more than 40 hours a week," said Mike Harris, senior associate at the New Economics Foundation, an independent think tank in London. "That's bad for the economy, bad for the environment, and that's also bad for the person."
    In 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted a future in which the average person would be richer and work less -- like, say, 15 hours a week. He saw productivity gains allowing workers to achieve more in fewer hours, so why shouldn't the end result be more free time?
    Things didn't pan out that way. After a long decline in working hours paralleling improvements in efficiency from the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, the U.S. "stopped taking productivity growth in terms of fewer hours of work," said Juliet Schor, a sociologist at Boston College. Employers pay health care and other benefits per head rather than per hour in the U.S., so they responded to competition and recession in the 1980s by pushing some people out of the labor market and working the remainder harder. The result: more people unemployed and larger incomes for the over-employed.
    If we reverse this trend, we might help tackle many of the problems facing society today, including climate change, Schor explained in her talk at the non-profit Garrison Institute's annual Climate, Mind and Behavior symposium in New York last week. Her research has found that a reduction of 10 percent in working hours could trim carbon footprints by 15 percent due to decreased consumption of goods and energy.
    If you have more income, you can buy more stuff. A case in point: the average American doubled purchases of new clothing from 1991 to 2007, according to Schor.
    Time constraints can also have detrimental effects, both on the environment and on public health. If you live a mile from work, you might choose to walk rather than drive if not pressed for time. You might also choose to eat at home rather than rushing out for fast food. "Households that have more free time are able to do things that are lower impact," Schor said.
    Of course, few Americans can choose how many hours they work, whether more or less. Recent movements such as Occupy Wall Street assert that the disparity of work and money is unfair and unsustainable. The mounting push to adjust what is considered a 'normal' work week, by redistributing work across the population, has essentially the same goal.
    Some European countries are already taking this step.
    Marije Cornelissen, a member of the European parliament and Dutch Green Party, has never hired an employee to work more than 32 hours per week. She's done so out of her own self-interest, she said. "You get far more productivity per hour in a part-time work week," she said. (Unlike in the U.S., Cornelissen doesn't have to foot the majority of her employees' health care bills.)
    More than 10 years ago, Cornelissen's Dutch Greens initiated a successful effort to reduce the standard work week. Today, the typical employee in the Netherlands works fewer than 35 hours per week, often spread from Monday to Thursday.
    In the U.S., a trial program begun in Utah in 2008 compressed the 40-hour work week for state employees to four days. Without the need to commute or turn on the lights, elevators and computers on Fridays, employees helped cut the state's energy bills and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10,000 metric tons -- the equivalent of removing about 1,700 gasoline cars from U.S. roads. The workers also appeared to like the lifestyle change: 82 percent wanted to stay on the new schedule. Nevertheless, the program ended in September 2011.
    Meanwhile, Germany and France are among nations following the Dutch lead.
    "Emissions of greenhouse gases are 50 to 70 percent higher here in the U.S., compared to those countries," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. "In terms of damage to the planet, we're much worse."
    In addition to longer hours, both the U.S. and U.K. have higher unemployment rates -- above 8 percent, compared with 5 percent in both the Netherlands and Germany. "There seems to be some relationship. Shorter working hours make it easier to create more jobs," said Harris of the New Economics Foundation and lead researcher on a 2010 report that advocates a 21-hour work week.
    Germans currently work about 20 percent fewer hours than Americans, which means that an American employer needs about 20 percent more revenue to generate a new job.
    "By moving to shorter working hours generally across the working population, you can share out employment much more," said Baker. He added that the obstacle of employer-based health insurance will likely be overcome with President Barack Obama's health care plan.
    One of the greatest roadblocks to moving environmental policy now is concern over a struggling U.S. economy. A 2011 Gallop poll found the widest margin in nearly 30 years in how much Americans prioritize economic growth and environmental protection: 54 percent versus 36 percent.
    "As environmentalists, we need to embrace a broad agenda," said Schor, "we need to have a climate strategy that is also a strategy that improves the labor market."

  3. Frauenthal [Holding AG] Considers Short Time Work, Austrian Business & Financial News via FRIEDLnews.com
    [At last, some worksharing news from Austria! Speak up, you guys!]
    VIENNA, Austria - The Austrian component supplier experiences the first signs of the economic crisis. As orders are going down by 10% to 15%, short time work [= Kurzarbeit = worksharing] becomes an issue again.
    Frauenthal´s CEO Hans Peter Moser expects a difficult period for his company. Especially the automotive division of the Vienna-listed company faces a slump in new orders. Figures of 2011 were satisfying. Nevertheless, the fourth quarter already showed only a weak order stock.
    “We have a decrease in capacity utilization by 10% or 15%. At the moment, we can offset this by reducing our temporary workforce. However, if this situation becomes sustainable, we also have to take short time work into account.” says Moser. Though, for the time being, time work is not important.
    “We seem to bottom out right now. For the next quarters we recognize substantial optimism at our customers. In the second quarter, orders will rise again.” Moser explains. Frauenthal´s CEO is optimistic to offset the effects of the declining market through new orders. Also China and the U.S. are seen as growth markets. Recently, Frauenthal founded a distribution office in the U.S.
    Regarding the whole year of 2012, the results of Frauenthal´s automotive segment will not reach those of 2011. Moser expects a slight decline. “There will be no double-digit minus.” Though, Moser is more cautious. The expansion program to Russia had to be delayed. „As the macroeconomic circumstances developed not in the same way as forecasted, the pressure to expand into Russia is reduced.” At the beginning of December, Frauenthal considered to establish a joint venture together with a local partner in order to deliver a big truck manufacturer in Russia.

2/23/2012 – 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. Furloughs not needed after all, AP via Boston Globe, B6 [finder's credit to colleauge Kate].
    DALLAS, Tex. - Because of job-sharing and other steps, American Airlines won't have to furlough 500 flight attendants.
    [= timesizing, not downsizing!]
    Two weeks ago, American said it planned to cut 500 flight attendants because it’s flying less than it did a year ago.
    Yesterday, the company and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said furloughs won't be needed because so many workers signed up [for] job-sharing and voluntary leaves. [So there ARE some unions who realize this is their power issue - forget the small stuff like pay and benefits! Unfortunately, flight unions may be realizing it too late -]
    The good news is temporary, however. The furloughs were to be on top of 13,000 jobs that American still wants to eliminate under a reorganization.
    American and its parent, AMR Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection in November. Chief executive Thomas Horton has said the airline will shrink modestly.
    [- just like a violet...]
    Passenger capacity [capacity or actual carriage?] was down 2.1% in January compared with Jan/2011.
    American said it will increase flying after emerging from bankruptcy protection with lower costs.

  2. Monte Paschi seeks measures to contain staff cost, by Michel Rose, Reuters.com
    MILAN, Italy - Italy's third-largest bank Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena said on Thursday it was seeking to keep staff costs under control, by cutting work hours without resorting to lay-offs.
    [= more timesizing, not downsizing! So there ARE some CEOs, even banksters, who realize the near-panacea potential of this agenda!]
    "Among the possibilities, there is a cut in work hours ... the objective is to safeguard staff levels," the bank said in a statement.
    It said it had mandated its managing director Fabrizio Viola to negotiate an agreement with trade unions.

  3. President signs helpful new work-sharing provisions into law, posted by Rob Schofield, The Progressive Pulse via pulse.ncpolicywatch.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - President Obama signed the new payroll tax cut bill into effect last night – another piece of legislation that shows the Republicans in Congress are finally backing down at least a little bit on their market fundamentalist obstructionism.
    One of the best and most under-reported aspects of the bill is a provision that encourages employers to promote work-sharing as an alternative to layoffs. Such programs have worked well in Germany and other countries.
    One of the nation’s best economists [amen to that! - ed.], Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research, has been touting the concept for years and released the following statement in praise of the new law:
    For Immediate Release: February 23, 2012
    Contact: Alan Barber, (202) 293-5380 x115
    Washington, D.C.- Dean Baker, a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, released the following statement today applauding the signing of work-share legislation by President Obama.
    [See "Work Sharing Provision an Essential Part of Payroll Tax Cut Bill" on 2/18/2012 #1 below.]

  4. Economic Intelligence [oxymoron alert] - Don't Destroy Unemployment Insurance in the Name of 'Reform', by Chad Stone, U.S. News & World Report (blog) via usnews.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last week in this space, Dean Baker pointed to the work-sharing provision in the payroll tax/unemployment insurance bill Congress passed Friday as a rare victory of common sense and bipartisanship in Washington—and it was. But beyond that, I don't see much evidence of bipartisanship in the way the two parties view unemployed workers or the Unemployment Insurance system.
    [Who cares, Chad? Worksharing and timesizing are all you need. Hold the private sector's feet to the fire to clean up and recycle its own externalities = "disposable" employees(-consumers). If they think they need customers, they have to need payroll to fund them.]
    Is it a lifeline for workers struggling to find a job in an economy where there are still four unemployed workers for every job opening, or a precursor to what House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan described as "a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency?" Is it working as it should to provide support to a weak economy, or is it a budget-busting program in need of serious reform?
    [Chad has lost focus and failed to "pick his battles." He's off onto a far-secondary issue = more "maximum investment at points of minimum return."]
    It turns out that research mostly supports the view that Unemployment Insurance helps people through tough times rather than turning them into lazy slackers. As the Congressional Budget Office points out in a recent report, the slack we should be concerned about is the slack in the economy:
    "Slack demand for goods and services (that is, slack aggregate demand) is the primary reason for the persistently high levels of unemployment and long-term unemployment observed today, in CBO's judgment. However, when aggregate demand ultimately picks up, as it eventually will,
    [- notice this statement of reality-dissing faith - focusing on the superficial cyclical ups&downs of the economy that mask the deeper secular downtrend caused by the continuing lack of any mechanism to spread the leisure-building benefits of technology as long as CEOs' response to that technology is downsizing the workforce and associated consumer spending, instead of no-downside downsizing of the workweek - ]
    so-called structural factors—specifically, employer-employee mismatches, the erosion of skills, and stigma—
    [doesn't even mention a frozen pre-automation workweek = time blindness - wake up, CBO!]
    may continue to keep unemployment and long-term unemployment higher than normal."
    Policymakers should be concerned with the devastating effects of long-term unemployment. But stigmatizing unemployed workers doesn't help. Policies that increase demand would help, and CBO finds that Unemployment Insurance [UI] is the most cost-effective policy for doing that of the 13 they examine.
    [And once again, time blindness - they omit what we DID for over 100 years, we cut the workweek and redefined "full time" DOWNward. Douglas Elmendorf, wake up. Thirteen is an unlucky number. Don't you remember Woodrow WIlson's Fourteen-Point Program and W. Edwards Demings' Fourteen Points for Management? If you make it timesizing, the permanent form of the worksharing just passed in Congress, you can drop the 13 because time arrangements are not just another (14th) item on the list - they're the ink and paper of the list itself, not only structural but as Chomsky would say, deep-structural.]
    Reducing it for budgetary reasons is short-sighted. The increase in the deficit from it [UI] is inherently temporary; as the economy improves, its [UI's] cost goes down, and policymakers have always let the [UI] program expire once the unemployment rate is significantly lower than it is now....
    Most fair-minded people believe that people receiving Unemployment Insurance should be looking for work and be ready, willing, and able to take a suitable job. Most people also agree that government can play a useful role in facilitating the return of unemployed workers to productive employment. There is much to fix both in the unemployment system, especially in restoring it to solvency after the Great Recession, and in the labor market, such as finding innovative ways to reduce structural barriers to people returning to work (the CBO report discusses numerous options).
    Anyone seriously interested in Unemployment Insurance reform would do well to look at the findings and recommendations of the bipartisan, blue-ribbon "Norwood Commission" (the Advisory Council on Unemployment Compensation) from the 1990s. As the commission's statement of purpose (Page 10) recognized:
    "The most important objective of the U.S. system of Unemployment Insurance is the provision of temporary, partial wage replacement as a matter of right to involuntarily unemployed individuals who have demonstrated a prior attachment to the labor force.
    [But we can cut the constant quest for evermore temporary fixes if we move forward on the worksharing to timesizing agenda. You simply cannot maintain a frozen pre-automation 40-hour workweek forever against incessant waves of worksaving mechanization, automation and robotics. Let's quit straining for sufficient environment-bashing production and service to do so and just relax into dynamically sharing the yet-unautomated natural market-demanded employment.]
    This support should help to meet the necessary expenses of these workers as they search for employment that takes advantage of their skills and experience. Their search for productive reemployment should be facilitated by close cooperation among the Unemployment Insurance system and employment, training, and education services. In addition the system should accumulate adequate funds during periods of economic health in order to promote economic stability by maintaining consumer purchasing power during economic downturns."
    The Norwood Commission recommendations were aimed at strengthening the system while continuing to meet its primary purpose of providing a wage replacement to unemployed workers. In contrast, "reform" proposals that would deny benefits to unemployed workers and allow states to divert UI funds for purposes other than paying benefits are seriously misguided. You don't destroy the system in order to "save" it.
    Chad Stone is chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
    [Chad, Chad, Chad. Get back on issue. You started by mentioning worksharing and then you went wandering. Pick your battles. UI does not need your time and energy. Worksharing and timesizing do. And with enough timesizing, we can indeed safely dismantle the whole of our big bandaid programs = unemployment insurance, welfare, disability, prison... because employers will have a World War II-level hunger for help, and the private sector can re-shoulder its responsibility for employing&funding its own markets, without more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more ... leaning on government and taxpayers to do so.]

2/22/2012 – 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. Tax-Cut Bill Includes Updates to Jobless Benefits System, by Annie Lowrey, New York Times via nytimes.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tucked into a $140 billion bill extending emergency jobless benefits and a temporary cut to payroll taxes are several provisions intended to modernize the country’s outdated unemployment insurance system.
    President Obama was joined by Vice President Joe Biden as he made remarks on Tuesday about the agreement passed by Congress to extend the payroll tax cut.
    Experts described the little-noticed changes as marginal improvements, but important ones, and said they promised to aid the long-term jobless and help hold down the unemployment rate in future recessions.
    “We’ve had the same unemployment insurance system since the 1930s, and it really was designed for a different time,” Alan B. Krueger, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. “Most people on unemployment insurance back then had been temporarily laid off from manufacturing jobs. Obviously, that’s not true now — these are people who are often moving into a whole new industry.”
    The bill, which passed Congress on Friday and President Obama has said he will sign, allows states to use unemployment insurance money for programs that help move the jobless back into the work force. Such programs, like Georgia Works, often offer employers wage subsidies for taking on and retraining jobless workers.
    The bill also requires states to reassess the eligibility of workers for their unemployment insurance — confirming, for instance, that a person receiving long-term benefits is actively searching for a job. That reassessment provides an opportunity to tailor career counseling and other re-employment services to the long-term jobless.
    The bill additionally expands “work sharing” programs that can help reduce layoffs at big businesses. In effect, businesses would have the option of cutting the hours of five workers by 20 percent each, say, rather than laying off one worker. The business could then use unemployment insurance money to help supplement the workers’ wages to make up for the lost hours.
    The changes were a product of intense partisan wrangling, but have won bipartisan support since the bill’s passage. Representative Dave Camp, Republican of Michigan and one of the bill’s primary negotiators, described the reforms as “historic” in a statement, saying that the changes would “help the unemployed get the training and resources they need to move from an unemployment check to a paycheck.”
    Many conservative economists and research groups have applauded modernizing the unemployment insurance system and reorienting it toward helping jobless workers find new employment through the kinds of provisions included in the bill.
    President Obama, who has repeatedly called for turning the unemployment insurance system into a “re-employment insurance” system, also described the “important reforms” as a victory on Tuesday.
    Experts doubt that the changes will do much to wrench down the current unemployment rate or solve the long-term unemployment crisis. Only strong economic and jobs growth will do that, they said. But they said that the new provisions could help encourage employers to hire some of the 43 percent of unemployed workers who have been out of a job for more than six months. Moreover, the changes could help to reduce layoffs down the road.
    Work force experts say the current unemployment insurance system does little to help workers search for jobs, or to consider new industries or acquire new skills, if need be.
    “Today, our re-employment services mostly happen online or on the phone, and in groups,” said George Wentworth, a senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project. “Twenty-five years ago, you actually had hands-on assistance,” he added.
    Mr. Wentworth said the new provisions to assess the needs of long-term unemployed workers might help some of them expand their job searches. “If they’re someone who’s holding out for a specific industry or occupation, there will be someone to point out that the demand is not there, and to help them broaden their expectations.”
    Economists also applauded the work-sharing provisions, which have found success in states including Connecticut and Rhode Island as well as in countries like Germany.
    “Work sharing is an incredibly smart thing to do,” said Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, a research institution in Washington. “But it’s a tragedy that we didn’t do that on a large scale over the past four years.”
    The provision may help reduce layoffs in the coming years, Ms. Shierholz said, supporting the recovery. She also said that being laid off tended to hurt a worker’s earnings and career prospects down the road. Work-sharing helps to minimize economic pain and keep families afloat, she said.
    The bill maintains a two-percentage-point payroll tax cut for 160 million wage-earners through the end of 2012. It also keeps additional weeks of unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless, though it starts to taper the maximum weeks of benefits to 73 from 99. Additionally, it prevents a sharp drop in reimbursement rates for doctors who accept Medicare.
    The bill contains other changes to the unemployment insurance system, as well. It allows states to screen and test unemployment insurance recipients for drug abuse, in certain cases. But it does not require people receiving unemployment insurance to enroll in a high school equivalency program, as some politicians had suggested.
    The White House has previously called for a much broader range of policies to aid the long-term unemployed and help American workers upgrade their skills, including the American Jobs Act released in the fall.
    “My message to Congress is: Don’t stop here, keep going,” Mr. Obama said Tuesday, calling on Congress to keep passing provisions to aid workers.

  2. Frankfurt airport strikes to end Wednesday night, by Victoria Bryan, Reuters UK via reuters.com
    FRANKFURT, Germany - Five days of strikes at Frankfurt airport, Europe's third busiest, will end on Wednesday evening after the union agreed to start fresh pay talks for around 200 workers.
    The walkouts by ground crew who guide aircraft to parking positions began last week and were due to continue until the weekend. 
    Airport operator Fraport earlier on Wednesday wrote to the GdF union, proposing new talks without preconditions, but only if the strike was called off.
    The GdF, which wants higher pay and shorter working hours, said it would end the strike at 9 p.m. and hoped to start new talks with Fraport on Thursday.
    Just over a thousand flights have been cancelled since last Thursday, the vast majority of them from flagship carrier Lufthansa, which has mostly scrapped European services to give priority to intercontinental travellers.
    Lufthansa accounts for more than half of flights at the airport. It said the first four days of the strike have so far cost it a high double-digit million euro sum in turnover.
    Analysts previously estimated the first two strike days had crimped turnover by about 40 million euros (33.8 million pounds). Lufthansa had group revenue of 27 billion euros in 2010.
    Lufthansa's shares have barely been affected so far but on Wednesday were down 3.3 percent. Fraport said it has lost turnover of around 7 million euros.
    It expected around 174 cancellations from a total of 1,260 slights scheduled on Wednesday. The Lufthansa website showed just over 140 cancelled flights on Wednesday.
    More flights may have to be cancelled on Thursday as planes are out of position, Fraport said.
    Fraport Chief Executive Stefan Schulte said Fraport had the support of Lufthansa, other airlines and airports, and did not want to resort to legal measures to avoid aggravating the situation.
    The GdF was also involved in a bitter dispute over pay for air traffic controllers last year that went to the courts and ended with the transport ministry stepping in to force talks.
    Fraport has been using former ground crew to replace striking workers, with the number of flight cancellations dropping each day as staff became used to the role again.
    Fraport had said it will not agree to what it says are "unreasonable" demands for pay rises of 50-70 percent for a group making up only around 1 percent of its total workforce.
    The union has said the workers' jobs have become more complicated since a fourth runway came into operation.
    An attempt at mediation in early February failed, with Fraport rejecting the mediator's proposals, saying they went beyond what the union had been demanding.
    Frankfurt is Europe's third largest airport behind London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle in terms of passenger numbers.
    (Additional reporting by Peter Maushagen and Maria Sheahan; Editing by Mark Potter)

2/21/2012 – 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. Wonkbook: Muddling along in Europe, posted by Ezra Klein, Washington Post (blog) via washingtonpost.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - I'm having trouble deciding how to begin this morning's Wonkbook. Option A: The euro zone reached a deal to bailout Greece! Option B: The deal the euro zone reached won't work.
    What we all keep waiting for in the euro-zone crisis is a solution. Instead, doomsday just keeps getting delayed. Some would say you can't put off a reckoning like this forever. But perhaps you can. Europe, at any rate, is certainly going to try.
    Top stories
    1) Europe agreed on a new rescue package for Greece, report Matthew Dalton, Stephen Fidler and Costas Paris...
    2) But a new report warns that Greece may need further bailouts in the future, reports Peter Spiegel...
    3) NEW WORD OF THE DAY -- Lori Montgomery reports that "Taxmageddon" is coming!...
    4) Worries over Iran are pushing oil prices up, reports Benoit Faucon...
    5) KUZARBEIT WATCH -- Change is coming for the unemployment-insurance program, report Josh Mitchell and Naftali Bendavid: "The economic package that cleared Congress on Friday includes changes to the nation's unemployment-insurance program aimed at helping more Americans stay in jobs and others go back to work. Those changes, backed by President Barack Obama and some Capitol Hill Republicans, effectively broaden the base of workers who would get help...While supporters said the bill's primary aim was to lift the economy by boosting Americans' take-home pay, several little-noticed provisions will make long-term changes to jobless insurance. The bill will expand a program known as 'work sharing' that uses unemployment-insurance funds to supplement the paychecks of employees whose hours have been reduced as part of a company's cost-cutting. Supporters credit the program, used in Rhode Island and several other states, with encouraging companies to keep workers in part-time jobs rather than resort to layoffs."
    @BetseyStevenson: "Right now we have a UI system .. biased toward laying people off rather than cutting hours". Work sharing fixes that.

  2. Budget cuts equal cut hours at downtown Lynchburg library, WSLS via http://www2.wsls.com
    LYNCHBURG, Va. - Most days after school, 17-year-old Nicia Harden can be found tapping away at a computer station in Lynchburg’s downtown library, doing homework, Facebooking friends or scoping out one of her favorite fashion photography sites.
    The small library, within walking distance of her house, is one of Harden’s favorite after-school spots.
    But starting Tuesday, nearly half the library’s operating hours will fall prey to budget cutbacks, leaving it open just two afternoons a week.
    “Oh wow,” Harden, who does not have a computer at home, said when she saw a flyer announcing the reduced schedule.
    “I’m going to miss it,” she said. “I guess I’ll just stay home. I have nothing else to do.”
    Library hours are just one of many things that could wind up on the city’s chopping block as officials wrestle with yet another year of growing needs and anemic revenues.
    Ideas floated at recent meetings include nixing 30 city jobs, increasing trash tag fees, killing leaf collection and replicating Roanoke’s “Eat for Education” program, which raised meals tax to help fund city schools.
    City Council members, challenged to conjure up cost-cutting opportunities, spitballed some extreme concepts, like abandoning the city’s mandated combined sewer overflow repairs or busting up the Greater Lynchburg Transit Company’s union — neither of which appear to have traction given the legal roadblocks they’d face.
    But council’s willingness to even discuss such ideas highlights the pressure members feel as they gear up for their annual budget talks, which will formally begin next month.
    And that sense of anxious searching doesn’t stop with council. City Manager Kimball Payne said staff recently was eyeing a provision in the law to allow the city to levy partial property taxes against certain nonprofits.
    They eventually concluded little stood to be gained as the pool of taxable nonprofits was narrow and wouldn’t include major landowners such as Centra, Liberty University or churches.
    “You couldn’t really tax anyone,” Payne said.
    More immediate examples of austerity measures already underway include slashing the downtown library’s hours and reducing downtown trash pickup from twice to once a week.
    The city manager is holding a senior recreation position vacant, which may lead to the shuttering of a community center.
    Lynchburg’s community centers are primarily located in low-income neighborhoods. Each serves around 25 to 30 children a day, depending on their location and seasonal programming. Classes for adults and seniors also are provided.
    In 2010, the centers were a key piece of a major restructuring Lynchburg’s Parks & Recreation Department undertook in response to mounting budget pressures.
    While cutting back elsewhere, the department put a renewed emphasis on community centers, seeking to maximize use of the buildings and form new partnerships with other agencies to provide programming.
    “We made a shift to put more resources into our centers, because we really believe they are our best asset,” said Parks & Recreation Director Kay Frazier. “We’ve been following that as a structure and seeing really good results. We’ve been really pleased.”
    Every community center is staffed by one full-time and one part-time employee, but the program now is down a full-time person. To fill the void, Parks & Recreation has been bouncing staff around to ensure all locations have adequate coverage.
    “We are constantly shifting people around right now,” Frazier said. “We can’t sustain it.”
    If staffing remains at this level, Lynchburg may end up closing a community center. The city manager — who has been loath to fill any non-essential positions until the budget outlook is clearer — is currently weighing the option.
    He declined to say Friday what he was leaning toward.
    Payne said the hiring frost is being applied to multiple departments, and the stress has reached the point where department heads are “basically interrogating” one another at leadership meetings when one asks to fill a vacancy.
    “When people make requests, they’re asking, ‘Why it is necessary?’ So we’re having those discussions,” he said, adding multiple years of budget cuts left city staff working harder than ever to maintain high standards.
    “We’ve got employees who are constantly striving to deliver services better and are,” Payne said. “But the fractures starting to show.”
    The hiring frost is the driving force behind the cutbacks at the downtown library. Due to a staffing shortage at the main library, the downtown branch’s sole full-time librarian, Marilyn Martin, will now be splitting her time between the two locations.
    Martin, who’s been working at the downtown library for 25 years, said she’s just grateful to see the branch staying open, even if only on a part-time basis.
    “My thought is, if it has to be this way, we can make it work,” she said. “But I would hate to see it closed altogether, because it is an option for people.”
    Many people come to the library daily to use the Internet, check out books or read the latest newspapers, Martin said. She has even taken to bringing in newspapers from home to supplement the library’s copies because of the demand.
    “Some people cannot afford a newspaper, but they want to keep up,” Martin said. “They want to know what’s going on in their community. Things like that, which are just little luxuries for many of us, really mean something to them. Just because people are poor, doesn’t mean they don’t want to be informed.”
    The downtown library has been threatened past budget cycles, but always saved by an outpouring of public support, including $20,000 in private donations in 2010.
    Supporters cite the library’s significance to downtown revitalization, its value to inner city residents and downtown employees, and its standing as the city’s only public law library.
    The city manager, who will present his budget to council March 6, declined to say whether he might recommend closing the downtown library. But he noted the annual cost of operating the branch is only about $80,000 — nowhere near what the city needs to balance its budget.
    “We would need 100 more of those to close the gap,” he said.
    The reduction in downtown library hours begins Tuesday. The branch’s typical 40-hour schedule will be chopped down to 23 hours by closing the library Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and all day Fridays.
    These new hours were universally panned by library patrons.
    “I think we could do without traffic circles and keep the library open,” said David Vaughan, 39. “That traffic circle was crazy.”
    Patrick Day, 26, said he regularly walks down to the library, but isn’t likely to make the trek to the main library.
    “I guess I’ll just have to deal with the new hours,” he said. “It’s a little disappointing … This is a nice quiet place to come and read and learn. It’s going to be missed. At least on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.”

2/19-20/2012 – 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. One-sided view ignores the flaws, by Daniel Ben-Ami, 2/19 Fundweb.co.uk
    [Here's another article straaaining to find fault with the Boche and save face for ol' Blighty.]
    Britain and Germany share similar weaknesses [wrong], including low growth [Ben-Ami himself contradicts this below - Germany has the strongest growth in Europe = 3% in 2011, Britain less than 1%] and stagnating living standards [German living standards are solid, Britain's are sinking], suggesting that calls to emulate the German model should be treated with caution [applesauce]. LONDON, U.K. - Some influential figures are suggesting a novel solution to Britain’s economic plight: it should become more like Germany.
    [At least France is smart enough to admit this.]
    Although the German economy does have some enviable strengths such calls should be treated warily.
    The German economy is not as strong as is often assumed.
    [That's what we'd call a totally safe and content-free claim.]
    Indeed an irony of the calls to emulate Germany is that its advocates tend to miss how many of Britain’s weaknesses the country shares.
    [Actually not that many and in much milder doses.]
    John Cridland, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, has called for Britain to promote its “forgotten army” of medium-sized firms so they can be like Germany’s Mittelstand. He favours more support from the banks and the government to make such firms more competitive.
    [Not a bad idea for Britain - AND America.]
    Meanwhile, Maurice Glasman, an adviser to Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has also suggested several German-style reforms. He wants more worker representation on corporate boards [better for feedback], more emphasis on vocational training [good], less focus on banking [very good!!!!] and making high-end manufacturing a priority [good].
    It is easy to see why such calls appear attractive [like because they ARE attractive?]. The German economy grew by 3.6% in 2010 and 3.0% in 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while Britain only managed 2.1% and 0.9% respectively.
    [And Ben-Ami calls both of these "low growth" in the intro above?! Here he's calling himself a liar.]
    Germany’s performance in relation to unemployment is also much better. According to figures from Eurostat the unemployment rate in Germany was 5.5% in December 2011, compared with 8.4% for Britain. Part of the reason for Germany’s lower figure is its short-time working schemes (Kurzarbeit) that keep workers in employment when times are tough.
    In addition to the renowned Mittelstand, some of the best-known high technology large firms are German. Companies such as BASF, Bayer, BMW, Daimler, Siemens and Volkswagen are renowned the world over for the quality of their products.
    If anything the eurozone crisis has made Germany appear even more attractive. It looks like an island of strength in the midst of a tumultuous region.
    All of these points are true but they present a one-sided picture of the German economy. It has considerable weaknesses as well as genuine strengths. For a start Germany’s growth record over the past 20 years is not that good. It has roughly been in line with other advanced economies (see graph) – and that is not a particularly high benchmark. Admittedly Britain’s performance does not stand out either.
    It also looks likely that this year is going to be even worse for Germany than for Britain. British GDP growth is forecast to hit 0.6% with Germany at only 0.3%.
    A closer look at the composition of the growth reinforces the point that Germany has not been the resounding success some of its fans assume. In some senses Germany has been lucky as it has benefited from its strong exports to emerging economies. As the IMF’s annual article IV report noted in July: “The nature of the German recovery and its growth prospects are explained by the prominent role of external demand. More so than elsewhere by far, Germany’s crisis contraction and the recovery were driven by external demand.” The rapid growth of China and Russia were particularly beneficial for Germany. Overall Germany’s export-oriented economy contracted more than most of its peers but then also rebounded faster.
    The highly cyclical nature of Germany’s economy also helps explain why firms were willing to use Kurzarbeit schemes. They could hold on to workers for a minimal outlay in anticipation of an economic recovery.
    Nor is any discussion of German trade complete without considering the effect of its artificially depressed currency. If it had retained the Deutschemark its exports would have been much more expensive. Adopting the euro has given it a short-term economic boost but at the considerable cost of creating huge imbalances within the eurozone. In that respect it should be remembered that Germany is in the midst of a tumultuous region. It is likely that the cost of trying to stabilise the eurozone will be expensive and it may well end up failing.
    Another consideration is that German living standards have stagnated for two decades. Real wages have hardly changed and welfare benefits have been cut. In contrast British living standards rose during the years of the financial bubble and are in the process of falling. Both countries are failing to deliver rises in living standards to their inhabitants.
    Perhaps the least well understood aspect of the German economy is that it is also deindustrialising. According to figures from the World Bank the proportion of German GDP accounted for by industry fell from 48% in 1970 to 28% in 2010. The corresponding figures for Britain were 42% in 1970 and 22% in 2010. Britain started from a lower base than Germany and it has fallen to a lower figure. The British economy is also more dependent on financial services than Germany.
    But the trend in the two countries is similar. Both have become a lot less geared towards industrial production relative to their economies as a whole. Many commentators would argue that deindustrialisation is natural as the world is reaching the limit of the amount of goods it can absorb. But such an argument ignores the huge distance to go before scarcity is overcome on a global scale. There is still massive scope for improving living standards by increasing global production.
    None of these comparisons mean that there is nothing that can be learnt from Germany. There are many areas of technology and engineering where Germany is a world leader.
    Nor is the intention to suggest that all is well with the British economy. Britain is suffering from relatively slow growth, deindustrialisation and an inability to consistently raise the living standards of its inhabitants.
    The point is that in many respects the two countries share many common problems. Germany has a stronger industrial base but it is also entangled in the centre of the eurozone morass.
    [That is quite a different problem from Britain, which is still using its own currency and not in the eurozone. This writer is straining a comparison beyond all reality.]
    Both countries can learn from each other but neither provides anything like an ideal model for others to follow.
    [Wrong. The UK offers a model for sticking with your own currency instead of prematuring unifying currencies with a bunch of irresponsible parasites. And Germany offers a model for valuing and preserving your existing employment instead of downsizing your workforce and consumer base on the excuse of getting more modern jobs (so where ARE those new jobs in downsized Britain?), and then there's German apprenticeship system... - generally, Germany has more to emulate than Britain but this immigrant to Britain can't admit his adopted land is getting its Limey ass kicked by the Krauts.]

  2. Du Opens a new Call Centre in Fujairah Staffed 100% by Emirati Nationals, 2/20 PRNewswire via COMTEX via MarketWatch.com
    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Du is known amongst HR Professionals nationwide to be leaders in Emiratisation, with innovative initiatives structured across the company for recruiting and training national employees.
    Workforce localisation has long been a goal for the government in the UAE and across the Gulf region. This intent was reinforced by the Minister of Labour, HE Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash in April last year when stringent labour laws were passed requiring businesses to increase their intake of Emirati staff in skilled labour positions. Companies that fail to meet percentage quotas can be fined up to Dh20 000.
    Du predicts that they will reach 28% Emiratisation by the end of this year, and aim to increase that figure to 38% by the end of 2015. Financial incentives and shorter working hours are some of the strategies companies across the UAE are using to lure national employees. Fahad Al Hassawi, Head of human resources at Du has confirmed that local workers at the new call centre will be given an average premium of Dh4000 on top of wages earned by expats.
    The service industry in particular will need to incentivise hard and challenge Emirati perceptions of the private sector to hire national staff, which traditionally has not been seen as a respectable line of work for nationals. Du have successfully attracted locals to different types of roles. "There are 60 Emiratis employed in various functions at the customer care centre," says Mr Al Hassawi.
    Like most HR departments across the UAE, Du are looking at new ways of recruiting, training and developing nationals and improving their Emiratisation programme. They will be sharing their nationalisation strategies and success stories with HR professionals at 8th Emiratisation Congress, taking place in Dubai on the 6-9th of May 2012, in Dubai.
    The event will be looking at how the most successful companies across the UAE have developed their nationalisation programmes to achieve a skilled, experienced and productive national workforce.
    For more information about 8th Emiratisation Congress please contact Jihan Mohammed, Marketing Manager, IQPC Middle East, email enquiry@iqpc.ae or call +971-4364-2975 or go to http://www.emiratisationuae.com
    SOURCE IQPC Middle East

2/18/2012 – 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. Work Sharing Provision an Essential Part of Payroll Tax Cut Bill, by Dean Baker, (2/17 late pickup) USnews.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - This week, Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 that carried the essential provisions of work sharing bills proposed by Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. Rosa DeLauro. The bill would have the federal government pick up some of the expenses associated with state work sharing programs, thereby giving them more incentive to promote work sharing.
    [Fabulous! The biggest economy now has federal worksharing. It's not a fully independent program like Germany's Kurzarbeit because it seems to be supplemental to the worksharing programs that half the states have, but it's a big advance for the whole approach of switching from job cuts to hours cuts and ultimately for automatic adjustment of the workweek vs. unemployment and automatic overtime-to-jobs conversion.]
    This is a rare victory of common sense and bipartisanship in Washington. The existing unemployment insurance system tends to encourage layoffs, since unemployed workers can typically collect benefits equal to half of their wages. Work sharing, or short-time compensation as it referred to in the bill, allows workers who had their hours reduced to receive benefits equal to half of their reduction in pay. From the standpoint of the worker, the employer, and the economy as a whole, it is likely to be a better outcome if workers can be kept on the job working shorter hours rather than being laid off.

    There was support from across the political spectrum for this measure. One of the strongest proponents of work-sharing is Kevin Hassett, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who has been an adviser to many prominent Republicans. Internationally, the conservative government in Germany is among the most enthusiastic supporters of work sharing.
    Hopefully states will take advantage of the new provisions and flexibilities in the existing law to promote work sharing as aggressively as possible. Even with the economy improving, unemployment is likely to remain above normal levels for several years. Work-sharing can go far towards ameliorating the suffering.
    Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and has worked for the World Bank, the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, and the OECD's Trade Union Advisory Council. His latest book is The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.

  2. Strike hits flight services at Frankfurt for 2nd day, TheHinduBusinessLine.com
    BERLIN, Germany - A small[?] group of airfield traffic controllers caused severe disruptions to the flight operations at Germany’s Frankfurt airport for the second day as they stepped up their strike demanding shorter working hours and higher salaries.
    Around 200 traffic controllers guiding the taxiing of aircraft on the tarmac, who struck work between 8 pm and 10 pm local time yesterday, forced the cancellation of around 300 flights at Germany’s largest airport.
    German airlines Lufthansa, which has its European hub in Frankfurt, was the worst hit by the strike and it had to ground around 250 flights till Friday afternoon, according to a spokesman for the Fraport AG, the company which operates the airport.
    Most of the cancellations were German domestic flights and inter-European flights while almost all inter-continental flights took off and landed as scheduled, the spokesman said.
    The striking workers, who belong to the powerful air traffic controllers’ union GdF, announced there will be no strike today and tomorrow, but they will resume their work stoppage next week if no agreement is reached.
    “We are determined to continue our strike until our demands are met,” GdF management board member, Mr Markus Siebers, told a German TV channel.
    “We are satisfied with the first two days of the strike and we will continue to stand firm to achieve goal,” he said.
    A seven-hour warning strike held on Thursday afternoon led to the cancellation of more than 170 flights and severe disruption to the flight operations.
    They have been demanding between 40 and 50 per cent increase in their average annual salary of €45,000 and around ten per cent cut in their working hours to compensate for what they claim a “sharp increase in their workload” since the airport opened its fourth runway.
    Fraport said it managed to operate around 50 per cent of the flights as it did on Thursday by deploying former airfield traffic controllers now working in other departments at the airport and by training some of its staff in controlling the aircraft traffic on the ground.
    Airport officials said a travel chaos at the airport was avoided during the first two days of the strike by informing air travellers in advance about the flight situation, by enabling them to take other flights and by ferrying them by train to various destinations in Germany and in Europe.
    Even though no strike is planned for today, the officials said they expect some flight delays or cancellations as it would take at least a day for the airport’s flight operations to return to normal after two-day disruption.
    Fraport will have to pay a heavy price for operating 50 per cent of the flights. For the first two days of the strike, Fraport expects a loss of €4 million, the spokesman said.

2/17/2012 – 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. No job losses but shorter hours coming for American Samoa hospital staff, Radio New Zealand International via rnzi.com
    PAGO PAGO, American Samoa - Staff at American Samoa’s LBJ Hospital are to have their hours of work cut back in a couple of months’ time.
    The Governor, Togiola Tulafono, has announced that higher hospital fees have been scrapped, along with the decision last week by hospital management to start laying off staff.
    The hospital management made the moves after struggling for months with a funding shortage.
    Togiola has also authorised a loan of three million US dollars from the Workmen’s Compensation Account, which will be repaid with a two-percent hike in income tax for all wage earners in the territory.
    That loan is expected to last until April.
    Our correspondent Monica Miller says while jobs are not going, staff will be required to work a shorter week.
    “After the initial funding has been used up - this three million dollars - he says there would be reduction in hours for everyone across the board. There would be also be perhaps some hours cut in clinics, but the other thing that he brought is that he is still looking at the management level employees, and the salaries in there.”

  2. Commentary: A work-sharing program would help save jobs, by State Rep. Jim Ananich, The Detroit News via detroitnews.com
    DETROIT, Mich. - When you are in a hole, stop digging. When you have a deep cut, stop the bleeding. And when you are pulling yourself out of an economic depression, stop the job loss.
    Work sharing is a proven, bipartisan approach to do just that, and it is time for Michigan to add this tool to its economic recovery tool box.
    The idea works like this: During a down period in which businesses may need workers for fewer hours, work sharing allows them to reduce their hours while tapping into funding that would keep workers' wages whole.
    It is totally voluntary for the businesses and helps them keep well-trained workers on the job as well as helping workers keep earning a paycheck and benefits.
    With the heavy emphasis in our area of manufacturing-related jobs, we know firsthand the impact and ripple effect when demand for products ebbs and flows. Work sharing gives both businesses and workers the flexibility they need to manage these challenges effectively.
    Currently, 24 other states, both "red and blue," have taken advantage of this type of program and John McCain's presidential campaign chief economist, Kevin Hassett, is a strong supporter. In fact, Republican Gov. Christ Christie just signed New Jersey's version into law.
    According to an analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a national work-sharing effort could help private businesses create the equivalent of 2.4 million jobs per year. I introduced HB 4516 last April as one of my first bills because I believe this is a perfect example of the type of effort that Democrats and Republicans can agree on, businesses and workers can benefit from, and that can improve communities all across Genesee County and Michigan.
    Keeping workers on the job and getting others back to work is the key ingredient to fixing our budget, public safety, and education problems. The governor promoted work sharing in his message on work force development last fall and it is my hope that this support will give the bill the nudge it needs to receive a hearing and a vote in the Legislature.
    By reducing the amount of retraining costs a business incurs when demand picks up and keeping workers off the unemployment rolls when times are slow, everyone wins.
    Democratic Rep. Jim Ananich of Flint represents the 49th state House district [7x7].

  3. Germany vs. the Rest of Europe, by Floyd Norris, New York Times, B1.
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - The German economy has been one of the wonders of the world over the last couple of years. While the rest of Europe staggered, German unemployment fell to the lowest level in decades.
    This week the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of developed economies around the world, issued a new “Economic Survey of Germany.” The biggest challenge it could find facing the country was finding enough workers.
    It recommended steps to encourage more women to work.
    “Please accept our sincere congratulations for a well-managed economy,” said Angel Gurría, the O.E.C.D.’s secretary general, in a speech in Berlin. The country’s “growth model has been so successful in navigating through the stormy waters of the crisis.”
    The German labor system, with its incentives to move workers to part time rather than lay them off, does appear to have been critical in keeping the country’s unemployment rate from rising more than it did during the credit crisis.
    But the decline of unemployment since then has more to do with the fact that Germany — perhaps unintentionally but certainly effectively — has managed to assure that its currency is undervalued, both relative to that of its neighbors and to much of the rest of the world. That has helped the country’s exporters and brought more business to the country.
    In the Great Depression, many countries tried devaluations to gain export advantages over rivals. The strategy became known as “beggar thy neighbor.” It generally failed to work because other countries responded with their own devaluations.
    Now some of Germany’s neighbors have been reduced to begging. They cannot take a page from the Depression playbook and devalue their own currency. They no longer have one.
    The creation of the euro a dozen years ago at first seemed to provide a bonanza to many countries that adopted the currency. Their borrowing costs fell, as currency risk seemed to vanish and interest rates converged with the already low German rates. That cheaper credit helped them to borrow and grow. But most did little to hold down labor costs, or to enact structural reforms to let them cope with an environment where they could no longer regain competitiveness through currency devaluation.
    The result is that unit labor costs, one measure of competitiveness between economies, fell in Germany while they were rising in other countries. Since the crisis, they have stabilized and even declined in many countries, but they are not close to making up the difference. German costs are not rising either.
    That makes it much harder than it used to be for the rest of the countries in the euro zone to compete with Germany. Germans are correct when they say that it was mistakes made by the other countries — whether in allowing real estate bubbles in Spain and Ireland or borrowing too much and failing to enact structural reforms in Italy — that caused the problems. But the euro has become a straitjacket for troubled economies trying to recover.
    For Germany, the problems of its neighbors have helped it compete against non-European exporters, like Japan and the United States. The value of the euro is set by markets, but it seems reasonable to think it is based on some sort of average condition in the euro zone. If Germany still had its own currency, it would no doubt be stronger than the euro is now.
    The impact of currencies could be seen earlier this month on successive days when Nissan, the Japanese automaker, and Daimler, the German maker of Mercedes cars, announced profits. Nissan moaned about the yen, which makes it very difficult to make money exporting cars from Japan, while Daimler forecast strong earnings if the euro stays where it is. The euro has lost a third of its value against the yen since the credit crisis began.
    The O.E.C.D. report is worth reading for its explanation of labor policies that other countries should consider. In good times, many German workers work overtime but are not immediately paid for it. Those hours are credited to their account, and when times get rough they go on part time but are paid full-time wages, with the difference coming out of the account. Another government policy allows companies to reduce hours with the government making up two-thirds of the lost pay.
    Those policies no doubt reduce hiring when times are good, but also hold down layoffs when times are bad.
    Not all is rosy in the German labor market. Felix Hüfner, an O.E.C.D. senior economist in charge of the German desk, told me that he was worried about the fact that about two-thirds of younger German workers did not have permanent jobs. Instead, they have “fixed-term contracts,” which make it easier for companies to let them go when the contracts end. Germany may, he said, be in danger of becoming a “two-class society,” with most older workers in a protected group and most younger ones outside of it.
    The euro zone is also starting to look like a two-class society, with Germany and a few other northern countries in the top class and most of the rest in the bottom tier. France is somewhere in between.
    Within each class, attitudes are hardening against the other. “The birth defect of the euro was to put very different cultures of economic activity in the straitjacket of a single currency,” a commentator, Jan Fleischhauer, wrote in the German weekly Der Spiegel after an Italian cruise ship ran aground last month.
    “Be honest,” he added. “Did it surprise anyone that the unlucky captain of the Costa Concordia is Italian?” He asked whether anyone could imagine that a German, or even British, captain would have behaved as the Italian did.
    An Italian newspaper, Il Giornale, fired back with a front-page article denouncing the Der Spiegel commentary. “We are persons to avoid, a burden for Europe,” the author, Alessandro Sallusti, wrote. “The Germans are a superior race. We have already read that in the speeches of Hitler.”
    Germans are increasingly angry about having to bail out Greece and other countries, while those countries react bitterly to being forced to take orders from Berlin. The Financial Times reports that “a right-wing Greek newspaper depicts Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, in a Nazi uniform above the headline ‘Memorandum macht frei’ — an allusion to the memorandum in which Greece’s foreign creditors demand more austerity measures and to the Auschwitz slogan.”
    One of the great accomplishments of the European Union has been an end to the possibility of war in a Continent that started two world wars in the last century. But the euro increasingly appears to be a step too far, or perhaps not far enough. A currency union cannot endure if countries pursue very different economic, regulatory and fiscal policies.
    Greece is an outlier, a country that lied its way into the euro and should have been kicked out when that became known years ago. But other countries are also at severe disadvantages to Germany now, after a decade in which labor costs diverged so sharply. Neither austerity nor structural reforms are likely to improve their competitiveness in the near future. German inflation could help, but that is an idea with no traction in Germany.
    The euro has been very good to Germany, but if the country wants to continue to reap the benefits it needs to do more than angrily pay for bailouts while increasing its demands. Having already imposed an unelected prime minister on the Greeks, it now wants elections delayed to assure that the government continues to follow proper policies.
    The two classes of Europe need to either get different currencies or become much more integrated by agreement, not dictation.
    One trouble with “beggar thy neighbor” is that the neighbors don’t like it. During the Depression, they could retaliate by devaluing their own currencies. Now they are simply getting angry, and hitting back at Germany the only way they can, with Nazi allusions and, in Athens, burning buildings.

  4. Czech TPCA car plant to cut output, shorten work week, by Jan Lopatka, Reuters.com
    PRAGUE, Czech Republic - TPCA, the Czech car assembly plant jointly owned by Toyota Motor Corp and PSA Peugeot Citroen, will cut its working week to four days and reduce the number of shifts from three to two as of May due to weak demand in Europe, the company said on Friday.
    It said this year's output would reach 221,000 cars, about a fifth less than last year. TPCA makes the small Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1 models.
    The changes will lead to about 150 job losses among workers hired via external agencies and workers on fixed-term contracts, it said in a statement.

2/16/2012 – 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. Sheboygan Piggly Wiggly officials say union cuts were in response to growing competition, by Josh Linterieur, SheboyganPress.com
    SHEBOYGAN, Wisc. - Piggly Wiggly Midwest officials said Thursday that they were responding to growing competition in the grocery business last fall when they cut hours, wages and benefits for 19 union employees at the company’s south-side Sheboygan store.
    The move prompted the National Labor Relations Board this week to ask a U.S. District Court judge in Milwaukee to issue an injunction restoring those cuts, which NLRB officials allege violated federal labor laws.
    The cuts were made in September shortly after the union’s labor contract expired. Federal labor laws require employers to provide labor unions prior notice of such changes and an opportunity to bargain.
    But officials with the Sheboygan-based company said the changes were made “pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement,” and their actions were in response to growing competition form non-union grocers, including a Festival Foods grocery that opened that same month.
    “Unfortunately, increased competition and non-union stores in the grocery business in Sheboygan have placed additional pressures on the operation of our Sheboygan store,” said Gary Suokko, the company’s chief operating officer, in an email.
    “Piggly Wiggly remains committed to its union employees and providing the best value to our customers for their shopping dollars,” Suokko continued.
    The employees are members of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1473, which represents about 100 employees at the company’s store at 3124 South Business Drive.
    According to the NLRB’s injunction request, the union’s existing labor deal expired Sept. 7, after just one meeting to exchange new contract proposals.
    A week later, store officials notified 19 full-time employees they were being reduced to part-time status, resulting in those employees losing work hours, wages and certain contractual benefits, including health insurance.
    A separate administrative hearing on allegations that the company violated worker rights is scheduled to begin Feb. 22 in Milwaukee before an administrative judge.
    That hearing may also result in workers having their hours, pay and benefits restored, though any ruling by an administrative judge would be subject to appeal and could take months before going into effect, whereas a federal injunction would be enforced immediately.
    Piggly Wiggly Midwest has 102 Piggly-Wiggly-branded supermarkets in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The company licenses the Piggly Wiggly name from a New Hampshire-based firm and is not affiliated with similarly named chains elsewhere in the country.
    — Reach Josh Lintereur at 920-453-5147.

  2. Pullman porters' stories kept alive - Museum chronicles African-American labor movement, by Maudlyne Ihejrika, Chicago Sun-Times via suntimes.com
    CHICAGO, Illin. - "When I started work, we only got paid for A.M. time, no P.M. time,” an elderly, bespectacled gentleman recounts in an oral history of Pullman porters that is among historical treasures within a building on the South Side considered by many a hidden jewel.
    “Mostly, we made money from tips,” adds another. “If you ran South, you didn’t make much tips.”
    Both were members of the nation’s first chartered African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, organized in 1925 by civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph to take on America’s powerful Pullman Rail Car Co. Battling the long hours and scant pay for attendants on Pullman’s luxury sleeping cars, the group would not achieve recognition until Aug. 25, 1937. But in the process, Pullman porters would open the door to the ensuing civil rights movement.
    Many of the train waiters and porters interviewed by the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum — host to one of the nation’s largest collection of photos, family artifacts and personal memorabilia from the African-American labor movement — have long gone to their rest.
    “There might be five of them I know of that are still living,” says museum founder Lyn Hughes.
    “I’ve been in contact with maybe 100 of them over the years. But we’ve lost so many. Mr. Eugene Bowser, he died last month at age 94. I think he was the last one here in Chicago.”
    In transition also is the museum Hughes founded in 1995 with her divorce settlement and a state grant of $188,000. At the corner of 104th & Maryland, it’s housed in one of the Historic Pullman District’s original rowhouses built in 1880 by rail car titan George Pullman.
    Having carved the museum’s niche among national groups involved in the preservation of civil rights and African-American history — porters and their descendants nationwide coming forward to donate a majority of its collection — Hughes is stepping down.
    She had started the museum after taking an official tour of Historic Pullman that mentioned no role of African Americans. “The first book I picked up about the plight of African-American railroad employees touched me in a way that literally changed my life’s direction,” she says.
    Randolph and his union were responsible in 1941 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of an order banning racial discrimination in government hiring in order to avoid a planned march on Washington. Though it was called off, that march would set the framework for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, with Randolph as a leader and his union a major funder.
    Hughes later chronicled the stories of thousands of porters and their descendants in a national registry that became the noted, “An Anthology of Respect.” In it, families tell of inhumane treatment of the porters before the union won them shorter hours and better wages and treatment. “These jobs were considered menial, but these men turned it into a position of stature,” she says. “I wound up creating a unique institution that helped spark renewed interest in their movement. But it’s time for a young person to step in and carry the legacy to the next level.”
    Being installed as the new president at a Feb. 25th fund-raiser is a young man who grew up in Pullman. As a teen, David Peterson, now 30, lost two of his friends to violence there, and came home to work with the community’s youth after graduating from Florida A&M University in 2007.
    He volunteered at the museum during high school and summers home from college, and has worked there since 2009 while completing his master’s degree at DePaul University. And at the helm, he’s hit the ground running, with a youth engagement program “where hip-hop meets history.”
    “We have to keep coming up with more innovative ways to tell the story of the porters to my generation,” says Peterson. “The museum is important because it tells our youth a story rarely told in our history, that being a regular person of integrity and respect can get you the same legacy being a superstar can get you. It also shows them that being in the service industry is not something that should be looked down on, that there was a time it was a badge of honor.”
    The museum also will honor two of today’s union titans, Billy Hunter of the National Basketball Players Association and William McNary of USAction, the nation’s largest coalition of grassroots groups advocating social and racial justice, at the Feb. 25th event.

  3. Labour reform in Spain - Spanish practices - A change that may be more radical than it seems at first, (2/18 early pickup) The Economist of :London via economist.com
    MADRID, Spain - Spain's new government is learning to be wary of microphones. Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, was caught by one claiming his labour reform would provoke strikes. Luis de Guindos, the economy minister, was overheard calling it extremely aggressive. When the reform was unveiled in a decree of February 10th, expectations were of a radical simplification of Spain’s rigid labour laws, which help keep unemployment at 23% (and youth unemployment at 47%).
    This third reform in two years is a ragbag of measures. Among them are changes that hand recession-hit Spain a tool for survival inside the euro: internal devaluation. “The average salary will go down. That will improve competitiveness and the chances of exporting, eventually creating more jobs,” says José Ramón Pin of the IESE business school.
    [More suicidal sacrifice of the majority of the economy, domestic spending, for a minority of the economy, exports.]
    By cutting red tape, the new law makes it easier and cheaper to lay off workers.
    [as if they need to make it easier to lose jobs when, as it says below, they've already lost 2.9 million jobs in four years. What self-destructive morons.]
    For most firms, maximum lay-off payments will be reduced from 42 months’ pay to 12 months, says Mr de Guindos. That may not immediately affect growth, he adds, but it will hugely boost business confidence.
    [Just like the confidence of the band on the Titanic as it went down?]
    “The reform changes the idea companies have that labour rules are an obstacle,” says Salvador del Rey, of the Cuatrecasas International Institute, a think-tank. Another measure tackles Spain’s top-heavy collective-bargaining system. Whereas unions and employers previously imposed terms from above, companies can now break free of them. This means employers can negotiate shorter working hours or lower wages.
    Spain has lost 2.9m jobs in four years, with almost 300,000 shed in the latest quarter. It takes an average of 15 months to find work. Some reckon 400,000 more jobs may go this year, pushing unemployment to 25%. Sacking workers has long been a favoured way to reduce costs. With rules that stop people from switching jobs also being relaxed, the labour market will gain new flexibility.
    Spain’s labour laws, which date back to the Franco era, have condemned half the workforce to unemployment or to temporary jobs while the rest enjoy ironclad contracts and huge redundancy pay-offs. The new law blurs this insider/outsider divide and may thus get more people into stable employment. The decree comes on top of a January agreement by unions and employers to limit pay rises over the next three years. Mr de Guindos thinks most Spaniards see the need for labour reform. But its success in terms of growth may depend on unions’ choice between protecting jobs and keeping up their members’ pay.

2/15/2012 – 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. America's Unemployment Rate, by Larry Mendte, KPLR 11 via kplr11.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y. — Although the unemployment rate fell to 8.3%, the Congressional Budget office is predicting it will be back up to almost 9% by the end of the year and over 9% next year. But I have a long term solution to cut unemployment by as much as half.
    It’s called Kurzarbeit, it’s German for Short Work.
    Unemployment is 5.5% in Germany and here’s why.
    The German Government encourages companies to cut hours instead of cutting jobs.
    You see in a recession, demand goes down, so company profits go down and production goes down. This forces companies to cut the workforce from 10-20%. The German Government says instead of doing this, keep workers and cut hours by 10-20% instead.
    Then the Government pays those workers benefits based on only their lost hours.
    If we Kurzarbeit in this country, it would save the government and tax payers billions. It would keep people in their jobs and cut the unemployment rate almost in half.
    And companies love the plan too because it costs money to hire people and to retrain workers. If those companies can keep people in jobs and just cut hours instead, they could just increase the hours when the recession ends with no disruption of production.
    So why aren’t we doing trying the Short Work plan in this country?
    Many economists argue that what is good for Germany is not good for America. America, they will argue, grows faster when workers are laid off from a failing industry and forced to retrain to work in a growing industry.
    The problem with that argument is that the most recent unemployment statistics show that a record 5.5 million Americans have been unemployed for over 6 months and another 4.5 million have dropped out of the work force and quit looking. Ten million Americans who can’t find work, long term unemployment is a crisis in this country.
    Even if it is not a long term solution; Kurzarbeit helps get America working again in the short term and relieves the deep and desperate human toll of the recession.
    So when politicians tell you there is no quick solution to unemployment, we should at least give it a try, it’s a much better idea than what we’re doing now, nothing.

  2. ANALYSIS - German boom casts shadow over French election, By Daniel Flynn, Reuters Africa via reuters.com
    * Sarkozy wants to copy German "austerity" [our quotes], labour reforms
    * Hollande seeks to match R&D investment, unions' role
    * French left sees Berlin as too dominant in euro zone
    * Neither shares German embrace of globalisation
    PARIS, France - Germany's booming economy has dominated the early exchanges in France's presidential election campaign but President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist rival draw very different lessons from across the Rhine.
    While Sarkozy believes France must copy Germany's painful budget cuts, wage restraint and labour market deregulation to boost prosperity, Socialist poll frontrunner Francois Hollande warns that such austerity could choke off a fragile recovery.
    He wants to emulate Germany's investment in research, its support for small firms and its bigger role for trade unions in decision-making while keeping France's generous welfare system.
    "Not everything in Germany's economic model deserves to be copied," Hollande's campaign chief Pierre Moscovici said.
    While French growth has stalled, Germany's robust recovery stands in painful contrast. Stripped of its AAA credit rating by Standard & Poor's last month, Paris posted a record trade deficit last year. Unemployment is at a 12-year high.
    Over the border, joblessness is at 20-year lows and exports hit a record last year. Small wonder perhaps that a recent poll found that 62 per cent of voters thought France should take the German model as an example.
    "Germany has had huge success. That doesn't make us jealous, that inspires us," Sarkozy said in a television interview, pledging to learn from Germany's export-led growth.
    He praised the 2003-2005 Hartz reforms under former Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that liberalised the German labour market, helping it to shake off the hangover of unification with former-Communist east Germany in 1990.
    Sarkozy plans to raise VAT to cut France's high labour costs by shifting the tax burden from payrolls to consumption, copying a step Germany took in 2007. He also wants to let firms bypass sectoral wage deals and negotiate on a company basis -- effectively burying the national 35-hour work week which the Socialists introduced in 2000.
    Accusing Sarkozy of "capitulation to Germany", the Socialists say the Hartz reforms generated underemployment and raised the number of working poor. With no national minimum wage, roughly one-fifth of German workers are in low paid jobs -- a higher ratio even than in Greece.
    Hollande has vowed to renegotiate a fiscal discipline pact adopted by 25 European leaders last month, which Berlin made a condition of its support for euro zone bailouts. He wants to give more priority to growth and a larger role to the ECB.
    The Socialists aim to emulate German spending on research and support for small- and medium-sized companies that power exports -- the Mittelstand. They cite studies showing non-price factors have given German goods the edge over French merchandise -- technology, quality and product specialisation.
    "The Socialists seem to be missing the lessons of Germany's success: wage restraint and moving part of the supply chain to to cheaper countries," said Gilles Moec, senior European economist at Deutsche Bank. "The lack of serious supply side reforms in their programme is disappointing."
    Many on the French left see Germany's decade of wage deflation, accepted by trade unions to preserve jobs, as having sown the seeds of the euro zone crisis by helping make southern European countries less competitive.
    There can be little doubt that it has been instrumental in the divergent economic fortunes of France and Germany, its biggest trade partner.
    While unit labour costs in Germany crept up by just 2 percent between 1999 and 2010, in France they leapt by more than 20 percent, OECD figures show, as productivity gains were pumped back into wage increases to fuel domestic demand.
    French labour costs, which were a competitive advantage in the 1990s, have long since overtaken its neighbour's. Germany's federal statistics office said domestic wages averaged 29.20 euros per hour in 2010, 12 percent below France's.
    Non-wage labour costs such as health insurance and welfare charges accounted for 49 euros per 100 in France, almost twice the 28 in Germany -- something Sarkozy aims to address with the VAT changes he is seeking to rush through parliament.
    After ending the 1990s in trade surplus, France swung into deficit in 2000, the year it introduced the 35-hour week.
    Over the next decade, its trade deficit steadily grew while Germany's surplus boomed -- with most of this surplus coming from within the euro zone as its goods became steadily more competitive against France and southern European nations.
    Germany accounted for nearly one-quarter of France's 70 billion euro trade deficit last year -- the second largest factor after China. TOO MUCH SWAY
    Hollande argues that Germany has gained too much sway over the shape of the euro zone.
    He wants to remould the Franco-German alliance with a new bilateral treaty next year to bring greater equality to the relationship driving Europe, 50 years after the Elysee Treaty established regular summits between two countries.
    Critics say he is imitating one of his mentors, former Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who tried to renegotiate the euro zone's stability pact -- its set of budgetary rules -- after winning office in 1997.
    Jospin won a symbolic victory which did little more than change the name to "stability and growth pact" and many observers believe Hollande may struggle to achieve more in the face of German intransigence.
    However, Socialists close to Hollande are watching carefully for signs of Germany loosening its wage restraint. They see signs that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is already trying to unpick some of the Schroeder's reforms, such as favouring the introduction of a national minimum wage by sector.
    They are also hoping that elections in Germany in September 2013 usher in a left-leaning SPD-led government, which could pave the way to a more expansionary policy.
    Sarkozy says his proposed 1.6 percent rise in VAT to 21.1 percent will save companies some 13 billion euros a year in labour costs, easing the competitiveness gap with Germany. But some economists doubt the move will bring sufficient relief.
    "More consumption tax and less taxes on labour can help but it's not a slam dunk. It's too small," Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman told Reuters. "There is nothing wrong with the proposal but it's not going to solve the problem."
    Hollande has pledged to scrap that policy if elected and also wants to unpick Sarkozy's landmark reform raising the minimum retirement age to 62. He believes France's unions should have a more prominent role on the German model.
    Under German law, union members sit on the supervisory boards of bigger companies, leading to shared responsibility, fewer strikes and a tradeoff between temporarily shorter working hours and job preservation -- known as Kurzarbeit .
    French industrial relations are much more combative, dating back to a landmark 1906 Charter of Amiens, in which unions vowed to take no part in politics and pursue class struggle.
    With one of the most generous welfare systems in Europe, French voters are quick to protest against any reduction in entitlements. Millions demonstrated against Sarkozy's pension reform while there was hardly any protest when Germany raised the retirement age to 67.
    "We need make our unions more responsible," said oneHollande adviser, who requested anonymity because he works for a public institution. "In that respect, Germany can be a model."
    France has yet to embrace globalisation in the way that Germany did in the late 1990s, when companies ramped up direct investment in eastern Europe and shifted part of their supply chains there. Berlin's share of foreign investment in the region increased to almost 30 percent in 2004-2006.
    The French public debate is dominated by the fight to saveold jobs rather than create new ones. A spate of corporate closures, from ferry operator SeaFrance to lingerie maker Lejaby, has caused an outcry. Politicians on all sides slammed carmaker Renault when it opened a low-cost plant in Morocco this month.
    Studies show German offshoring not only boosted productivity of subsidiaries in Eastern Europe almost threefold compared to local firms, but also increased the productivity of the parent companies in Germany by more than 20 percent.
    Both Sarkozy and Hollande have pledged to prevent the relocation of industrial production outside French borders, particularly in strategic industries such as the car sector.
    Hollande has promised tax breaks for firms which repatriate production or keep it in France and vowed to make companies which move production outside France repay any past state aid.
    "France has not yet come to terms with globalisation," said Deutsche's Moec.
    (Editing by Paul Taylor)

  3. Britain's "Real Unemployment Rate" Approaches 7m, Sky News viA blogs.news.sky.com
    [Fine except that 7m is number unemployed, not unemployment rate.]
    LONDON, U.K. - A few months ago I wrote about the fact that the official unemployment figures mask the real weakness of the labour market at present. They fail to include the millions of people who want to work but are either shut out from the labour market or are working shorter hours than they’d like to.
    [Or rather, have the income they'd like to, the shorter hours the better.]
    Since then, the topic has gathered some weight, with the TUC yesterday releasing research calculating that based on this measure of “underemployment”, some 6.3m people are affected – not the 2.7m the official numbers indicate.
    With the help of James Knightley of ING we’ve once again crunched the numbers. Our finding is that in fact when you include the total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labour market, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, the total is actually just under 6.9m.
    What is more significant, though, is the fact that viewed through this lens, Britain’s labour market looks significantly worse than in the US. Until recently, Britain’s technical unemployment levels were below America’s (though that’s no longer the case this month). But as this chart shows, underemployment in Britain is significantly higher than in the US (where they call it U6 unemployment).
    Britain has an underemployment rate...of well over 22% and rising, while the US has underemployment...of just over 15%. You can see the [14%] disparity between [Britain's over 22%] underemployment and the official rate of unemployment [under 8%].

  4. Unemployment lower than expected but highest for 16 years, by John Hall, The Independent via independent.co.uk
    LONDON, U.K. - The UK's unemployment rate rose to a 16-year high today, as the flatlining economy continued to take its toll on the labour market.
    Unemployment leapt by 48,000 over the last three months of 2011, taking the jobless total to 2.67 million - a rate of 8.4 per cent and the worst employment figures since the end of 1995.
    The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance rose by 6,900 in January to 1.6 million, the 11th successive monthly increase.
    The number of women claiming the allowance increased by 1,500 over the last month to 531,700, the highest figure since the summer of 1995. This is partially motivated by government reforms that have forced single mothers to return to employment.
    There was also an increase of 22,000 in youth unemployment, taking the total to 1.04 million. This figure includes 307,000 in full-time education but seeking work.
    Data from the Office for National Statistics also showed employment increased by 60,000 to 29 million in the last quarter, mainly due to a rise of 90,000 in the number of part-time employees to 6.6 million.
    The 48,000 overall increase in unemployment was the slowest quarterly rise since last summer, when the jobs market was swiftly declining after positive results throughout much of 2010.
    Economic inactivity fell by 78,000 to 9.29 million, 23 per cent of the working age population. These figures include students, the long-term sick, early retirees and those who have given up the search for employment.
    Average pay grew by 2 per cent in 2011, although it fell from 1.9 to 1.7 per cent in the public sector - the lowest figure since 2001. 
    There were 1.39 million days lost through industrial disputes in the year to last December, the highest figure since 2002, while around 164,000 people embraced redundancy in the final quarter of last year, up by 17,000 from the three months to September.
    Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform, said: "The latest figures show some encouraging signs of stability despite the challenging economic climate.
    "With more people in employment and a rise in vacancies, it's clear the private sector is still creating jobs.
    "However, we are not complacent. With more people in the labour market we know that competition for those jobs is tough and we will continue to make it our priority to find people work."
    Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Month after month unemployment goes up. This is a crisis but the Government simply carries on with more of the same - an economic strategy that isn't working.
    "A further rise in youth unemployment is a particular concern. Long-term youth unemployment is now double what it was a year ago.
    "Instead of this dangerous complacency, the Government should be providing real hope to young people. They should be taxing the bankers' bonuses and using the money to help young people back to work."
    Dave Prentis, general secretary of the Unison union, said: "The Tories' economic policies aren't working.
    "With the number of women out of work at a 16-year high, and one in three unemployed people out of work for more than a year, Cameron's claims that we're all in it together sound increasingly hollow.
    Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said the rise in women's unemployment was "turning back time" on equality.
    She added: "These new figures must act as a wake-up call to Government - we are in a time of crisis. Cuts are threatening women's equality as jobs dry up, benefits are slashed and vital public services disappear.
    "Women will make up two-thirds of the estimated 700,000 public sector workers expected to lose their jobs by 2015.
    "Women are shouldering some 70% of the cuts to benefits, while it is women who are picking up the pieces as councils are forced to slash support services such as meals on wheels and after-school clubs."
    Martina Milburn, chief executive of youth charity The Prince's Trust, said: "Young people are facing the bleakest jobs market for decades, which is crushing self-esteem and derailing ambition. We need to act now to ensure an unemployed generation does not become an unemployable one.
    TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "These figures are bad, although thankfully not quite the disaster we saw at the end of last year.
    "With one in three jobseekers looking for work for over a year, and around six unemployed people for every job, the Government's mantra that there are plenty of jobs out there just doesn't ring true.
    "It's encouraging to see a small rise in employment, but this is entirely down to people taking part-time work because there are no full-time jobs available.
    "Any job is better than no job at all, even if it's on far lower pay and shorter hours, but people cannot afford to do this indefinitely.
    [Unless it's done companywide, citywide, shire-wide or countrywide, so that the flood of desperate resumes gets absorbed and employers have to bid against one another for good help - raising wages to levels such as 40 hours pay for 30 hours work.]
    We desperately need more full-time jobs paying decent wages."
    [No, you desperately need to redefine "full time" downward to levels appropriate for the age of automation and robotics. Perpetuating a 35-40 hour workweek in a robotized economy is ridiculous.]
    Region / Total / Change / Unemployment
    North East / 143,000 / minus 4,000 / 11.2%
    North West / 319,000 / plus 26,000 / 9.3%
    Yorkshire/Humber / 264,000 / minus 10,000 / 9.9%
    East Midlands / 188,000 / plus 1,000 / 8.2%
    West Midlands / 247,000 / plus 13,000 / 9.3%
    East / 213,000 / plus 3,000 / 7.0%
    London / 427,000 / plus 18,000 / 10.0%
    South East / 278,000 / plus 2,000 / 6.3%
    South West / 165,000 / minus 13,000 / 6.1%
    Wales / 134,000 / minus 3,000 / 9.0%
    Scotland / 231,000 / plus 16,000 / 8.6%
    Northern Ireland / 62,000 / no change / 7.2%

2/14/2012 – 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. CDA, WDA launches programme for mature workers by halving work hours, StraitsTimes.com
    More than 750 job seekers attended the Chinese Development Assistance Council's (CDAC) Jobs For Seniors job fair, tailored specifically for those aged above 50, on April 6, 2010. (photo caption)
    SINGAPORE - The South West Community Development Council (CDC) and Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) is launching a pilot programme for the security industry that is tailored for older workers by halving the training and working hours.
    Announced on Tuesday, the Silver Lining programme allows mature workers and back-to-work housewives who are new to the industry to have greater flexibility with shorter training and work hours. The programme will be launched at the Get Associated in your Silver Years Career Fair on Wednesday, at Hong Kah Community Club. The fair aims to encourage mature workers to stay employed to augment the scarce workforce and also to allow them to continue being active and socially engaged.
    Minister of State and Mayor of South West district, Dr Amy Khor, said the Silver Lining programme is for those who 'wish to work but for shorter hours for various reasons including family commitment'. 'This should help to attract the more matured workers to the industry. This concept can also be implemented for other industries such as the healthcare sector,' she added.
    Security firms at nine condominiums in the South West district have adopted the programme, where shortlisted job seekers will undergo a two-day course. These candidates will also be attached to one of the participating condominiums with a mentor for on-the-job training.

  2. 400 Swedish cabin crew strike over working hours, AP via BusinessWeek.com
    STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Union officials in Sweden say some 400 cabin crew members have gone on strike after they failed to reach an agreement with three airlines over working hours.
    The union, called Unionen, says the stewards who work for TUIfly Nordic, Novair and Primera Air went on strile on Tuesday.
    It says it wants its members to work a maximum of 42 hours a week, while the employers want to be able to schedule the cabin crew to work up to 60 hours a week.

    The three airlines fly for package holiday organizers Apollo, Fritidsresor and Solresor. The companies say they have arranged to use alternative airlines and that the strike won't affect their customers' travel plans.

  3. Apple's Tim Cook On Foxconn: Data Transparency, Work Hours Cap On The Way, by Austin Carr, FastCompany.com
    CUPERTINO, Calif. - Apple is in full-court press mode in response to flack the company has taken about poor working conditions at its supplier factories. On Monday, Apple issued a press release saying it will allow the Fair Labor Association to begin inspections at Foxconn, letting the FLA conduct audits of its its workplace environments and interview thousands of its employees on topics including safety, compensation, and labor hours.
    Today, at Goldman Sachs' technology and internet conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook stressed the company's commitment to safe workplaces and fair employee treatment. He spent the first nine minutes of his presentation discussing the topic, touching on problems in the supply chain and new initiatives the company has put in place to assure those problems do not happen again.
    "We believe every worker has the right to a fair and safe work environment free of discrimination, where they earn competitive wages and can voice their concerns freely," Cook said. "Apple's suppliers must live up to this to do business with Apple."
    Cook started on a rosier note before delving into many of the problems it faced from suppliers. Calling education the "great equalizer," he gave some insight into the opportunities Apple provides for its supply chain employees.
    [Boy, is he in dreamland. If there's any great equalizer, it would be a standard, enforced workweek ceiling.]
    He said Apple provides free classes for employees at local colleges in many locations of its supply chain, where employees can learn computer skills, english, and entrepreneurship. More than 60,000 employees had attended these classes, and many went to earn associates degrees. "This is a very powerful stepping stone for people looking to advance their careers or lives," he said.
    Of course, we hear more about child labor at Foxconn than we do education benefits, and Cook spent the rest of his discussion addressing such issues. "We think the use of underage labor is abhorrent," he said. "It's extremely rare in our supply change, but our top priority is to end it totally." Cook said that it would be a "firing offense" if a supplier was discovered to intentionally hire underage workers.
    Cook also said Apple was focused safety at the most granular level. "We don't let anybody cut corners," he said, adding that the company aims to introduce new standards for its entire supply chain. "If there's fire extinguisher missing from the cafeteria kitchen," he argued, then that cafeteria's safety isn't up to snuff.
    Lastly, Cook discussed excessive over time at Apple. According to Cook, Apple's code of conduct has a cap of 60 hours per work week (which is likely news to both China- and Cupertino-based employees). "We've consistently found violations to this code," he said. In response, Apple has started micro-managing supplier work hours.
    [or at least reporting supplier workhours -]
    In January, for example, the company collected weekly data for more than 500,000 worker in its supply chain, and found suppliers to be 84% compliant, a significant improvement from the past, Cook said.
    Now, the company will be reporting this data on a monthly basis on Apple's website, Cook said, "so it's transparent to everyone what we're doing."

  4. California 'underemployment' among worst in nation, by Kevin Smith, WhittierDailyNews.com
    SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California was among five U.S. states with the highest "underemployment" rate for 2011, according to a new Gallup poll.
    California and four other states - Nevada, Florida, Michigan and Mississippi - all ranked in the above-average underemployment category of 21 percent to 24 percent. Gallup defines underemployment as someone who is out of work or employed part time (less than 30 hours per week) who would prefer to be working full-time.
    [Easiest and most economy & ecology benefiting solution to this = CUT THE WORKWEEK as we did 18940-1940 and redefine "full time" downward.]
    Other economists have expanded that definition to include someone who is working for less money than they should be making, considering their skills or abilities.
    The Gallup poll lists an average range of underemployment as being 15.6 percent to 20.9 percent, and the below-average range as 6 percent to 15.5 percent.
    North Dakota and South Dakota ranked lowest in underemployment, both landing in a range of 6 percent to 11.9 percent.
    Nine other states posted an unemployment rate of 12 percent to 14.9 percent. They included Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kansas, Hawaii and Vermont.
    Cara Eichorn, who volunteers her time at Women at Work, a Pasadena-based career and job resource center, said many clients who use the agency's resources land part-time employment or contract work, rather than full-time employment.
    When someone is hired for contract work, she said, the employer typically won't include medical benefits.
    A company that receives a contract for a specific job might need to hire contract workers to meet that goal. But once the contract has been fulfilled, there's no guarantee the temporary workers will be kept on.
    "I always think strategically," Eichorn said. "If you were to accept part-time work, it should be with the goal of ultimately landing a full-time job either with that company or with someone else."
    Taking a part-time or contract job allows someone to get their foot in the door, she said, and if an employee works hard and provides value to the company it increases their chances of moving up in that company or getting employment with another firm.
    Robin McCarthy, Women at Work's executive director, said many clients are taking part-time work because that's all that they can find.
    "They are hoping it will move them a step forward," she said. "A lot of that goes to the idea of having a job is better than no job."
    McCarthy said about half of the clients her agency helps are not being paid what they're worth. But she has noted an uptick in job announcements.
    "There are more jobs coming in," she said. "That's encouraging."
    Gary Kaplan, an executive search consultant in Pasadena, said corporate executives who find themselves out of work as a result of layoffs or other reorganizations frequently network themselves into consulting roles.
    "They'll get a consulting role with a mid-sized or small-cap company," he said. "They can literally take on an almost full-time role on a contractual basis to help a company with a particular problem. On occasion, some can maneuver themselves into a permanent position."
    And in some cases, an employee will come full circle.
    "I know one executive who was let go in January of 2011," Kaplan said. "So he was doing some teaching and picked up a couple of small gigs. Then the company he had worked for before wound up with a crisis on their hands, so they brought him back at the same compensation."
    Better yet, when his current assignment is over the company has agreed to resume his severance package where it left off before, Kaplan said.
    Contact Kevin via email, by phone at 626-962-8811, ext. 2701...

2/12-13/2012 – 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. Work sharing: A win-win alternative to layoffs (guest commentary), By Gilda Z. Jacobs, 2/13 The Grand Rapids Press - MLive.com
    GRAND RAPIDS, 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. Part of 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.
    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.
    Michigan’s workers and employers need any help they can get to avoid layoffs. Michigan continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, and approximately one-half of all unemployed workers in Michigan remain unemployed for more than half a year. Workers want to keep their jobs, and businesses want to keep their talent.
    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. 
    Gilda Z. Jacobs is president & CEO of the Michigan League for Human Services, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy group focused on the needs of low-income citizens in Michigan.

  2. Germany looks to cut working hours, not jobs, 2/12 Al Jazeera via youtube.com/user/AlJazeeraEnglish
    BERLIN, Germany - Germany's Labour Minister is calling for wage rises across the country after two years of strong economic growth.
    Top Comments
    [1] German goverment spent 10 Billion € to help the whole economy (except banks) in the crisis. It worked.
    And spent another 15 Billion € to bail out just one bank (Hypo Real Estate).
    I think the 10 Billion € was the better investment. So why bail out banks if you can use that money directly to help companies who would suffer a crash of those banks?
    That should not be critics. I just dont know. Other countries spent hundreds of billion to bail out banks instead helping the real economy.
    lumberj23 1 day ago 16
    [2] well
    If you where to introduce this system into the US economy ...workers would be happy , healthcare would be better , education for everybody would be better and the GOP would scream COMMUNISM !
    There is a difference between solidarity and communism ...but hey , the stupid ones always rely on the GOP to tell them what to think and do !
    That is why a lot of those folks are religious...the "wish to be a slave" is still strong in some peoples mind...UNFORTUNATLY :-/
    GSO ?
    GermanStraight1 13 hours ago

  3. Balance: Save the world with a 3-day work week, by Harvey Schachter, The Toronto Globe & Mail via theglobeandmail.com
    LONDON, England - In 1930, famed economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that by the end of the century people would be working a 15-hour week. He figured we would no longer need to work long hours to earn enough to satisfy our material needs. Instead, we would be preoccupied with “how to use freedom from pressing economic cares” that accompanied societal prosperity.
    It hasn’t worked out that way, of course. The 40-hour work week remains a staple of Western society, and many people put in far more hours. But now a British think tank is asking us to rethink our approach, and adopt a 21-hour work week. The New Economics Foundation, based in London, England, argues that is what we should be working if we wanted better balance – not just between the time at work and the time immersed in other life pursuits, but also balancing hours worked more evenly amongst the population, and moving us towards a more balanced, sustainable, less carbon-dependent economy. Anna Coote, head of social policy for the foundation, said in an interview that other, less drastic targets were considered, but “we went with 21 hours as it’s the 21st century and it’s good to get people to think radically. That would be a three-day week.”
    The foundation does not expect it to happen overnight. Indeed, practically, it’s simply hoping that the report will lead us to reconsider our current work style and cut back, perhaps aiming initially for something like a 30-hour week, which in itself would be radical.
    France instituted a maximum 35-hour week in 2000, and one trade union study found 58 per cent of respondents felt it had a positive impact on their life, mainly because it reset the work-life balance equation. On the negative side, the foundation says the option to spread annual hours in longer weekly chunks over the year made work more variable and less predictable, especially for low-skilled workers. When Nicholas Sarkozy was elected president, his government changed the law, giving employers a free hand to impose longer hours.
    Ms. Coote says her foundation is not promoting a mandatory approach by government, but prefers cultural change. You may gasp at a 21-hour work week today – or even a 30-hour week – but you may have been equally unbelieving in the past that smoking could be curtailed, seat belt restraints and cycling helmets become common, and voluntary recycling become widespread. “We want to influence the climate of opinion and then change thinking. If in time we need a regulatory underpinning, that can be done, but first we need a change in attitudes,” she says.
    The report notes that the Factory Acts at the end of the 19th century first limited the paid working week and by the beginning of the Second World War the eight-hour day and the five-day week were beginning to be seen as normal. “Fewer workers clock in and out of their jobs these days, but the logic of industrial time still ticks away in our heads, shaping how we understand our lives,” the researchers state.
    The immediate fear many people will have is that their income will shrink. But Ms. Coote has two responses to that. The first is that when work is redistributed, it might mean the same hours or even more hours within a family, so income may not take as big a hit when, say, the husband spends more time at home with the children and the wife goes out to work 21 hours. But her foundation is also taking dead aim at overconsumption, and less income, she feels, will have a positive benefit. She notes that one of the fastest growing industries these days is self storage, with units dotting the edges of major metropolitan centres. “We are working to buy,” she says. “It’s an example of overconsumption – people buying things they can’t use.”
    The researchers expect that negotiations with employers might see workers sacrifice part of their pay increases for reduced hours, as the value of a shorter work week is recognized. In the transition period, companies might also clamp down on overtime, so hours are released for people currently working part time or unemployed. Governments would also have to look at eliminating some of the penalties companies face in payments like unemployment insurance for taking on new employees rather than working existing employees for longer periods.
    The researchers admit their report is meant as a provocation. But the resistance might come from the very people they are trying to help. People like to complain about the long hours they work, but in doing so it’s like complaining about the weather, something to talk about in a woe-is-me vein. But Ms. Coote says: “You can’t do much about the weather but you can change the way you work.”
    And if you do, the report says businesses will see greater productivity, as studies show long hours hurt productivity. Individuals, in particular men, will have more time for their families, as they work a three-day week. And the transition to retirement will be less painful; indeed, if 21 hours are the norm, that work week may even continue for many people through what are now retirement years, since it’s more comfortable.
    “A much shorter working week would change the tempo of our lives; it would re-shape habits and conventions and profoundly alter the dominant cultures of Western society. It would help to promote sustainable social justice, well-being, and the good life, to safeguard the natural resources of the planet, and to build a robust and prosperous economy,” they argue.

2/11/2012 – 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. NSW residents dreaming of Queensland [capital: Brisbane], ABC Online via abc.net.au
    SYDNEY, State of New South Wales, Australia - A survey has found one in four NSW residents would prefer to live in another state because of cost of living pressures, bad traffic and long working hours.
    The McKell Institute study surveyed 1,000 people and found more than half of the respondents faced rental or mortgage pressures, but stayed put because of ties to family and friends.
    Queensland [the next state north] was the most popular choice as an alternative home because of its climate, relaxed lifestyle, job opportunities and perceived lower living costs. [That's funny - we thought all Aussies were relaxed...]
    The Institute's executive director Peter Bentley says there is a link between people wanting to move and the quality of infrastructure and services.
    "In addition to working longer hours, a staggering 66 per cent of NSW workers drive to work with only one in five using public transport," he said.
    "When compared to other cities around the world, for example New York, we see that the majority [in other cities] take public transport.
    "If we want to rebuild NSW image as the best state to live in, residents want government and the private sector to build infrastructure like better roads and public transport to address the lack of affordable housing and to improve services."
    The study also found two-thirds are satisfied with their jobs and 46 per cent say work is a major source of stress in their lives.
    Of those employed, 38 per cent of NSW residents are working over 40 hours per week and 14 per cent are working over 50 hours per week.
    Almost one third are spending 40 per cent or more of their income on mortgage repayments.

  2. Harvard plans to consolidate libraries, shuffle employees - Will modernize and consolidate, Boston Globe, B1, also via bostonglobe.com
    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Harvard University announced yesterday a sweeping overhaul of its labyrinthine library system, including the consolidation of services, the shuffling of many of its 900-plus employees, and offers of buyouts to others.
    Details will be finalized over the next few weeks, but the changes will affect staff at every level, provost Alan Garber said in a statement.
    In a subsequent interview, Garber said the plans were necessary to bring the library up to speed in the digital age. “We’re trying to modernize the library to maintain its position as the leading academic library in the world,’’ he said. “We have unrivaled collections and a remarkable staff. We just haven’t been organized to take advantage of all that we have.’’
    With 73 semiautonomous branches, the library is the world’s largest academic collection, a point of pride at the school. But its size and structure have held back efforts to adapt to digital technology and the increasingly high cost of academic journals, said Garber’s statement.
    The library branches have individual staffs whose jobs could be redundant after services are consolidated. But Garber said there is no official number of staffers who could be targeted for early retirement plans or layoffs. “We aren’t even at a time at which we could give a meaningful answer to a question like that,’’ he said. And, he added, Harvard generally prefers “voluntary separations.’’
    Many Harvard librarians have complained on Twitter and a private e-mail list that they feel left out of the decision-making process that led to yesterday’s announcement. Some, fearing involuntary layoffs in the wake of controversial internal meetings last month, said cuts could hurt the library.
    “I want so much to trust this process,’’ said James Adler, who works in cataloging at the Divinity School. “I’m still hoping the university is looking to do the right thing.’’
    The plan calls for consolidating services across branches and developing systemwide policies on what materials are acquired, how they are stored and preserved, and how students and scholars can retrieve them.
    That is likely to mean canceling identical journal subscriptions held by different schools, a move that could provoke a conflict with academic publishers who will lose money as a result.
    Publishers have fought similar efforts at other schools, arguing that even after partial consolidations, the libraries remain separate.
    “We have heard of instances of duplicate electronic subscriptions as well as physical journal and books. That’s particularly inefficient,’’ Garber said. “We’re essentially paying twice for the same thing.’’
    The plan also suggests that the branch libraries’ information technology staffers and resources be combined with those of the university as a whole.
    On Wednesday, university president Drew Faust released a statement expressing her admiration for the university’s library and her concern that it is falling behind.
    Its decentralized organizational scheme “has left us unable to make integrated strategic decisions about the digital future, so that we have not kept pace with essential new technologies,’’ she wrote in a letter to the Harvard community. “It has led to duplications in services and acquisitions; it has caused us to miss economies of scale; and has produced overhead costs that are significantly higher than those of our peers.’’
    Many of the suggested changes for the library have already been implemented in some form at other universities, such as the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which reformed its library system a decade ago amid state budget cuts. That meant canceling many print subscriptions and merging science libraries.
    The university also shrank staff by 20 percent, mostly through a generous early retirement plan, said Jay Schafer, director of the libraries.
    Harvard, too, has shrunk in recent years. During the economic crisis in 2009, as part of a universitywide downsizing, it offered buyouts to library workers, laid off a small number of people, cut hours for others, and decided not to fill a few open positions.
    [Better to downsize hours for all than jobs for a few, and a few more, and a few more, and...]
    Rumors that Harvard’s new plan might call for more layoffs have provoked an outcry among librarians - especially after the contentious meetings in January, during which employees were told to fill out skills profiles and expect both voluntary and involuntary dismissals.
    Some 70 protesters - including librarians, Occupy Boston participants, and student labor activists - rallied in Harvard Square Thursday, chanting, “Hey, Harvard, you’ve got cash. Why do you treat your workers like trash?’’
    But Garber said that criticism did not resonate. “We’re talking about a vision for improving the library,’’ he said. “That’s a very odd way of looking at it.’’
    Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, said he appreciated the warm tone of Garber and Faust’s recent statements compared with the harsher tone of the January meetings. But he still wanted more details.
    “There’s been a cloak of secrecy wrapped around the reorganization plan,’’ he said. “It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a library, not a military organization.’’

2/10/2012 – 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. Garuda applies lower limits on work hours to keep pilots fit, by Sita W. Dewi, tribunnews.com via Jakarta Post via thejakartapost.com
    JAKARTA, Indonesia - National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia applies lower limits on work hours than those stipulated in governmental regulations to keep its pilots fit and healthy.
    “The official regulation applies a maximum of 9 hours of work per day for pilots, but we apply a maximum of 8 hours of work per day for our pilots,” Garuda spokesman Pujobroto told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
    Pujobroto added that the airline also provided a 12–hour rest interval for pilots before they fly, longer than the regulated 9-hour period.

    He said that the airline had carried out regular random drug and alcohol checks on its pilots and crew for the last seven years.
    “We randomly check on all crew, including ground crew, regularly. [The checks] could be in Jakarta or in Denpasar and could be conducted before departing or after landing,” Pujobroto said, adding that the airline had never found its pilots or crew using drugs or alcohol during the checks.
    The checks were also in accordance with international regulations demanded by countries to which the airline flies. “Otherwise, those countries, such as Australia, won’t let Garuda airplanes land,” he said.
    According to Pujobroto, the company has allocated a significant budget to carry out the regular checks.
    “We consider it as an investment, because flight safety is our top priority,” Pujobroto said without elaborating on the exact figures.

  2. A Carbon Allowance in Every Pot, by Dylan Walsh, New York Times via nytimes.com
    LONDON, England - Imagine carbon allowances as a playground commodity, like the marbles and baseball cards of earlier generations.
    That’s a subset of an idea from Ian Gough, a researcher at the London School of Economics. Citing the failure of international climate change policy to achieve results, he proposed a different approach in a recent article, arguing that the distribution and trade of personal carbon allowances — along with shorter working hours and higher taxes — should be embraced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions quickly and equitably.
    His proposal arises from the observation that, despite setting some of the world’s most ambitious goals, Britain’s current policy framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions falls short of legally binding targets and will disproportionately affect the poor.
    Britain has pledged to reduce its emissions to an amount that is 34 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The country’s absolute emissions have declined almost steadily since 1990, according to national measures.
    But Dr. Gough emphasizes the fuzziness of such figures, which account only for greenhouse gases emitted within the country. The calculation is far higher – 50 percent higher for 2006 – when emissions generated elsewhere to enable British consumption are factored in. In other words, the nation is conveniently outsourcing many of its emissions.
    He also reports that standard climate-change mitigation tools – efficiency measures, renewable energy standards and carbon markets – are likely to drive up costs for those with the fewest resources. “Any increase in the price of carbon will bear most heavily on low-income” households, Dr. Gough writes, reflecting a “contradiction between environmental sustainability and social justice goals.”
    He recommends personal carbon allowances as a first step toward addressing the problem. As unusual as the idea sounds, the British government considered the policy quite seriously in 2006. David Milliband, then environment secretary, led the initiative, announcing the need for “cumulative consistent radicalism” in the face of climate change. Two years later, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs scrapped the plan as “an idea ahead of its time.”
    Dr. Gough suggests that the intervening years may well have brought about an economy-wide recognition that “carbon rights” should be allocated equally among all British citizens.
    His support for reduced working hours, also an unorthodox environmental policy, has been linked to improvements in environmental health. A survey of industrialized countries by Juliet Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College, found that between 1970 and 2007, those with fewer working hours per year had significantly lower carbon footprints. Time-stressed families indulge in more carbon-intensive activities, like eating out, she wrote.
    Working hours “is one of the most powerful levers for transformational change in a system, and also one of the most underappreciated,” Dr. Schor said at a recent conference on the issue of work hours.
    Dr. Gough said he hoped that his paper would serve as a “rallying call” acquainting people with the notion that emission cuts should neither be outsourced to other countries nor shouldered by the poorest households.

  3. Greens back flexible work hours, CIO Magazine via cio.com.au
    CANBERRA, Australia - Unions and individual workers would be able to bargain with employers over flexible work hours for parenting and caring for family members, under a bill being brought to parliament by the Australian Greens.
    Greens MP Adam Bandt said research had shown Australians rank at the top of western nations in terms of working hours per week - an average of 44 hours for full-time workers - and most would like to work at least five hours less per week.
    But the burden for men and women who have caring duties has risen, he said.
    But Mr Bandt said many workplaces did not have the flexibility to allow employees to fulfil their responsibilities, especially fathers. 
    Under the bill, workers who had been with the same employer for more than 12 months would be entitled to request a change in work hours.
    Employers could refuse a request only on reasonable business grounds, and employees who were knocked back would have the right to take the matter to Fair Work Australia.
    Mr Bandt denied his proposal would make it more expensive for companies to do business or tie up employers in the industrial tribunal.
    "The good employers understand that a key to productivity in the workplace is having satisfied employees who are going to give their all when they are at work," Mr Bandt told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
    "The best workplaces are the ones where they have flexible working arrangements which allow employees to take care of their legitimate needs."
    He said overseas experience had shown few cases went to tribunals and once employers accepted the arrangements they became part of the work culture.
    Mr Bandt said the bill would also allow unions to include the arrangements in enterprise bargaining.
    "Under the bill, if arrangements are made at an enterprise level, they will be the arrangements that apply at that enterprise," he said.

2/09/2012 – 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. SC House not in session next week and will also take furloughs weeks before and after Easter, AP via TheRepublic.com
    COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina House is furloughing itself next week.
    House Speaker Bobby Harrell said the House will not meet for its normal Tuesday through Thursday schedule next week. The week off comes before debate on the budget starts in the full House Ways and Means Committee.
    House Speaker Bobby Harrell said the House will not meet for its normal Tuesday through Thursday schedule next week.
    The House also will not meet the weeks before and after Easter, which falls on April 8 this year.
    Each week of furlough for House members saves taxpayers about $50,000 in mileage reimbursement and pay for meals and lodging. The House took five furlough weeks in 2009 and four in 2010 to trim spending during the recession. It took two weeks off last year.
    The Legislature's January-to-June session is scheduled to end June 7.

  2. Hyndburn Council to save £2.1million in cuts, By Emma Cruces, LancashireTelegraph.co.uk
    HYNDBURN, Lancs., England - Major cuts are set to be implemented in Hyndburn as council bosses look to make £2.1million savings this year.
    Hyndburn Council said staff costs will be reduced by 25 per cent, the Cabinet Action Fund, a community spending budget, will be cut by 50 per cent and £10,000 which has previously been offered in financial support to Accrington Stanley will be axed.
    The council faces finding the savings on the back of £2.6million cuts made last year. Council leader Miles Parkinson said the budget focused on front line services and included implementing a freeze on council tax and ensuring parking in the borough remains free.
    Coun Parkinson said staff will be encouraged to job share and cut hours to avoid compulsory redundancies and wage cuts.
    He said: “The amount given to Hyndurn by central government traditionally is being continually axed and we have to make rolling cuts like these for the forseeable future.
    "The council are focused on front line services and we feel that back office savings can be made. Where staff hours may be cut we would prefer to keep hold of our employees and their experience because they make the council what it is.”
    Opposition leader Peter Britcliffe said: “Front line services in our communities were affected last year. Now I fear that the townships will further suffer.”

2/08/2012 – 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. A different approach - Pella Macomb moving to furloughs instead of layoffs, McDonough Voice via mcdonoughvoice.com
    MACOMB, Illin. — Officials from the local Pella plant say the move to rotating furloughs instead of voluntary layoffs this winter is a better move for both the company and its employees.
    The nearly 250 employees at the Macomb window manufacturing plant are each being given a week off without pay. Macomb Plant Manager Kevin Gaul said Tuesday that rotations for the furlough process are underway and will likely last into March.

    “The last three years, actually, we’ve done voluntary layoffs in the winter, which is obviously something we want to get away from,” Gaul explained. “... The approach we’ve taken with the voluntary layoffs in the last few years has been around what volume was planned to be for the winter. It was a three-to-four-month type need, so when you think of doing a layoff like that, it puts a lot of churn into the business, as well as people’s lives.
    “This year, we’re seeing this as a much shorter term thing, and that’s why we went to the rotating furloughs — to try to keep it very even across our business, and to try to minimize the overall impact on our team members.”
    Gaul added that the labor reduction happens in the wintertime because that’s typically when there is the least need for Pella’s products.
    In regards to the plant’s employees, Gaul said many will receive unemployment benefits during the week they’re furloughed.
    “As volume dropped off for us and we slowed down into the winter season, quite a few of our team members have told us they’ve actually qualified for their ‘waiting week,’” Gaul said, referring to the one-week, unpaid period workers who have qualified for unemployment benefits must serve in Illinois. “A number of (employees have) qualified for that because we were on reduced hours.”
    Despite the recent downturn in new home construction, Gaul and Macomb Mayor Mike Inman both said Tuesday that they expect the local Pella plant to be a long-standing part of the community.
    “Pella has said it is committed to Macomb and its full-time team members, and I don’t think (the rotating furlough process) is anything to go against that commitment,” Inman said.

  2. Amid Eurozone Crisis, How Germany Became Europe's Richest Country, PBS NewsHour via pbs.org
    SUMMARY - As European debt crisis negotiations approach the 11th hour on yet another bailout for Greece, Margaret Warner reports on some of the people behind the economic success of Germany -- Europe's richest country.
    TRANSCRIPT - JUDY WOODRUFF: And to Europe's debt crisis. Negotiations are going down to the wire on yet another bailout for Greece, one that would require German help. From Germany, Margaret Warner reports on some of the people who help make it Europe's richest country.

    FRANKFURT, Germany - MARGARET WARNER: The Restaurant Dionysos was packed on a recent night, heaping plates of Greek fare flying from kitchen to table. But at this eatery named for the God of wine, the drink of choice is German beer.
    The Greek-born owner spent years building this showcase of his homeland's cuisine for Frankfurt diners. But now the economic crisis in Greece and demands that Germany act as financial backstop to Europe has him wishing his old home behaved a little bit more like his new one.
    CHRISTOS KEZETZIDIS, owner, Dionysos (through translator): In Greece, it's a totally different world. I came here to work. In Germany, there's just more order and they do more work.
    MARGARET WARNER: That work ethic is forged at places like the Herrenknecht factory in Germany's booming Black Forest region. Owner and founder Martin Herrenknecht grew up in a tiny village here, the son of an upholsterer.
    MARTIN HERRENKNECHT, chairman, Herrenknecht, A.G.: My dream was always to have more people employed than my father. My father had 12 people.
    MARGARET WARNER: More than 4,000 people work for him, from young apprentices learning to shape metal to master craftsmen constructing the subterranean ground-eaters built here, tunnel-boring machines that can cost tens of millions of dollars.
    The secret to Germany's success lies in small-to-medium-sized family firms like this one that manufacture some highly specialized and indispensable piece of equipment. The Germans like to say, we make the thing that goes inside the thing that goes inside the thing.
    In Herrenknecht's case, it's a very big thing. Some weigh thousands of tons. Projects from the Beijing subway to New York's Second Avenue line to a train bed under the Alps all exploit Herrenknecht's indispensable feature cutting head that can readjust to any material on the spot.
    The founder credits much of his success to the centuries-old mechanical aptitude and ingenuity of the workers of his region.
    MARTIN HERRENKNECHT: Before, let's say 300 years, we built cuckoo clocks and, today, we build tunnel-boring machine. So we changed from the . . . cuckoo clocks to tunnel . . . boring machine.
    MARGARET WARNER: . . . That's quite an evolution. (LAUGHTER)
    MARGARET WARNER: Most of Herrenknecht's $1.25 billion in sales are worldwide, helping make Germany an export powerhouse.
    With just a quarter of America's population and a quarter of its GDP, Germany exports more than the United States in total, notes Norbert Walter, the former chief economist of Deutsche Bank.
    NORBERT WALTER, former chief cconomist, Deutsche Bank: We Germans have 1 percent of the labor force of the world, and we have 10 percent of the exports in the world. That gives you an idea of how successful and how oriented towards international markets we are.
    MARGARET WARNER: The 10-year-old common European currency also helps. A third of Herrenknecht's sales go to other Eurozone countries, and pricing his machines in euros, rather than what economists say would be a far stronger deutsche mark, makes them more competitive abroad.
    MARTIN HERRENKNECHT: If we were to have 17 different currencies, can you imagine every morning, I should study what is now, let's say, our relation to the Swiss -- to the French francs, to the peso, to the lira? I couldn't work like this.
    MARGARET WARNER: We've come to Germany to find out why it's doing so much better than its European partners. And part of the reason can be found here, in the southwest state of Baden-Wurttemberg. The castle behind me may date from the 1700s, but the economic model they've developed here is 21st century-plus.
    Just outside the state capital, Stuttgart, is another one of Baden-Wurttemberg's high performer[s], Trumpf [Gruppe]. Customers from Harley-Davidson to Apple buy its laser-driven metal cutting machines, $2.7 billion worth last year.
    The family-owned firm devotes 8 percent of revenues to R&D to keep its innovation edge. They invest even more in their 9,000-person work force, more than half here in Germany. Like most German industries, Trumpf hires them young, after the equivalent of 10th grade, for a rigorous three-year training and schooling program and a full-salary job afterward. Most stay far longer. And after college, paid for by the company, some go on to become managers.
    Apprentice Simon Richter is 19.
    SIMON RICHTER, Trumpf: I applied for . . . training because, yeah, I like the mechanical work, and not only the theoretical stuff at school. It's so always the same at school, and you don't know what do you need math for in your life later.
    MARGARET WARNER: So do you think you have a good future ahead of you?
    SIMON RICHTER: Yes, I have.
    MARGARET WARNER: Trumpf keeps the apprentice program going even in hard times, as when the 2008 global financial crisis melted down the company's sales.
    NICOLA LEIBINGER-KAMMULLER, CEO, Trumpf: It just hit us. Really went from one hour to the next, we didn't have any orders. At the same time, all over the world, no order. That was really cruel.
    MARGARET WARNER: CEO Nicola Leibinger-Kammuller watched as sales plummeted 40 percent in two years, and she had to drastically cut production. For most firms, that would have meant layoffs, but not here.
    NICOLA LEIBINGER-KAMMULLER: It's just a terrible thought having to lay off people, because we like our employees and we need them. And they are well-trained, and they're loyal. And they have been working for us for decades, some of them, or many of them have. And it's just a terrible thought to have to send them away.
    MARGARET WARNER: Instead, Trumpf turned to a new German program [actually not that new] called Kurzarbeit, or short work, cutting its employees' work hours and pay. The government made up part of the difference. And they got extra training on their off-days.

    Judith Schonemeyer and Sebastian Frederick say they didn't mind reduced wages. At least they kept up their skills.
    JUDITH SCHONEMEYER, Trumpf (through translator): We noticed that the financial figures were declining. Right from the beginning, it was clear. For me, it was one or two days a week I didn't work. We accept less money, so that once the situation improves, we won't have to start over again.
    SEBASTIAN FREDERICK, Trumpf (through translator): It gave us a secure feeling, especially the people with families, that they have job security, that the company stands behind them and that you get to keep your job. So everybody was happy to do without the 5 percent or extra hours.
    PETER LEIBINGER, vice chairman, Trumpf: The desire for security and safety is the most, so to speak, the strongest driver in German culture.
    [And apparently this desire goes all the way up to the top, unlike with American CEOs who think they'll be safe by surrounding themselves with thousands of desperate, angry and armed jobless people. The Germans are now the real conservatives, and their all-the-way-up desire for security will carry them through the deterioration of their export markets as luddism spreads to perpetuate the 40-hour workweek and their only way of maintaining their security is systemically indexing their workweek against their unemployment rate, Arbeitswoche-Verkürzigen gegen Arbeitslösigkeit - and automatically, smoothly converting overtime into overtime-targeted training and hiring.]
    MARGARET WARNER: Nicola's brother, Peter Leibinger, vice chairman of Trumpf, said the short work program, readily accepted by the German workers, positioned industry to restart quickly after the downturn, and it paid off big-time for Trumpf.
    PETER LEIBINGER: If we hadn't had this opportunity to use Kurzarbeit, we wouldn't have had the upswing that we saw, meaning 50 percent growth within one year for a company that makes a very difficult and complicated product and has to deliver that into the world. This wouldn't have been possible without us having our work force on board.
    MARGARET WARNER: The Leibingers' financial caution also helped them weather the global credit crisis. Trumpf carries no major debt, they say, and in good times, they bank the extra profits to reinvest later.
    NICOLA LEIBINGER-KAMMULLER: No yachting, no, no horses, no racing cars and stuff like that. And that's why usually we have enough money to reinvest with our money for research and development and buildings and acquisitions and so on and so forth.
    MARGARET WARNER: But even Trumpf is feeling a chill wind now from other E.U. countries, who account for half its sales. Since the euro crisis hit big last summer, there's been a slowdown in orders from customers in Italy and Spain and even France.
    PETER LEIBINGER: They said, we'd like to invest, we could use the extra capacity, but we're just so unsure about the future, we're going to wait for awhile.
    MARGARET WARNER: Martin Herrenknecht, with his European customer base, is torn over what to do about the crisis. This self-made man is frustrated that Germany is being asked to bail out less prudent and hardworking neighbors.
    MARTIN HERRENKNECHT: It's nonsense. They should control it in a better way. And it cannot be that we get retirement with 67 and the Greeks with 50.
    MARGARET WARNER: But then there's economic reality.
    Do you think that Germany is going to have to help support some of these countries?
    MARTIN HERRENKNECHT: I would say that's quite clear.
    MARGARET WARNER: That tension, how to shore up the euro zone on which Germany depends, without endangering its own hard-won prosperity is one the Germans haven't yet resolved.
    GWEN IFILL: In her next report, Margaret looks at the roiling debate in Germany over whether and when to shore up its indebted neighbors.

  3. Germany: First Solar scales production back, translated and edited by Becky Stuart, pv magazine via pv-magazine.com
    FRANKFURT, Germany - First Solar is to reduce production at its Frankfurt/Oder manufacturing facility in Germany by 50 percent. As a result, 1,200 employees will be moved onto six months of shorter working hours.
    A spokesperson for the thin film photovoltaic module manufacturer has told news agency DAPD that as of March 1, 2012, it will shut down 50 percent of its manufacturing production. It has already informed its workforce of the decision at a recent meeting held.
    First Solar only officially opened its second German plant at the start of November. The move saw the company doubling its production capacity in Frankfurt (Oder) from 250 megawatts (MW) to 500 MW.
    The goal of First Solar’s latest move is to "bring European production capacity in line with Continental demand," according to the spokesperson. The company can also then react to the reduced support for photovoltaic installations in the various European countries, like Italy, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, France, Germany and the U.K.

2/07/2012 – 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. Unemployment Insurance: Fix It or Start Over, by Merrill Goozner, TheFiscalTimes.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - In December, with time running out on extending unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless, the House passed its version of how to transform a system that dates from the 1930s and no longer meets the needs of America’s employers or workers. The bill required every person filing for unemployment insurance to have at least a high school education and pass a drug test. It also called for ten states to experiment with unspecified pilot projects that would be cancelled after three years if they didn’t cost less than traditional unemployment insurance.
    It’s too bad they didn’t check with Gov. Haley Barbour off Mississippi for a few other ideas to put in their bill. During the depths of the downturn, the former chairman of the Republican Party used a special incentive program created by President Obama’s much vilified American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to subsidize employers who hired the unemployed. The costly wage subsidy in Barbour’s Subsidized Transitional Employment Program and Services (STEPS) program started at 100 percent and was phased out over six months.
    "Mississippi STEPS is unique in that it is a program specifically designed to benefit both the employee and employer," Barbour said at the time in a press release. "The STEPS program will provide much-needed aid during this recession by enabling businesses to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities."
    Time is running out on extending unemployment insurance. Though Republicans in both the House and Senate are grumbling, Congress will likely reach some kind of compromise before the March 6 deadline. Cutting off extended benefits for the estimated five million people who have been unemployed for longer than six months would not only be bad economic policy according to economists, it would be extremely bad politics in an election year.
    But hopes are fading that the last-minute political maneuvering in the House-Senate conference committee will include many of the reforms that experts say the program needs. Devised for an era when workers temporarily lost jobs and quickly returned to the same employer, today’s unemployed are almost always permanently severed, are older, suffer longer bouts of unemployment, and often need new skills. They can also be well-educated, yet in need of help in making the transition to a new job or career.
    The existing system, which is operated by the states, is woefully underfinanced to provide any of those services. In fact, its systemic cash shortfall – the feds require that states tax employers a minimum of $42 per worker per year, and about a third of states are at or near that minimum – left most states severely undercapitalized and unprepared for what turned out to be the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.
    As of mid-January, 27 states and the Virgin Islands have borrowed $38.1 billion simply to maintain their basic programs, which provide an average of $296 per week in benefits for 26 weeks. The extension to a maximum of 99 weeks for the long-term unemployed is entirely federally funded.
    President Obama’s dead-on-arrival jobs bill introduced last September called for a series of reforms to modernize the U.S. system. They included a “Bridge To Work” program that would allow laid off workers to continue receiving jobless benefits while receiving on-the-job training. Modeled after the Georgia Works program the president visited, critics say a national program would need better guarantees that employers don’t use the program as a source of no-cost workers who would be let go once the insurance expired.
    The Mississippi program gets higher grades from the same critics.
    The president also called for an expansion of work-sharing programs, which now are authorized in 21 states [actually 24 now] but are poorly utilized. Under work-sharing, if an employer chooses to reduce the hours of a group or all employees to save jobs, the amount normally paid in unemployment benefits to those laid off would instead be spread among those on reduced hours, thus making up for some of the lost wages. Many European firms rely on work-sharing to maintain continuity in their workforce.
    “Germany’s work-sharing program is a substantial proportion of unemployment claims – a third,” said George Wentworth, the former general counsel to Connecticut’s labor commissioner and now a senior counsel for the National Employment Law Project. “Studies there have shown that even though there was a comparable decline in GDP (gross domestic product), their unemployment rate didn’t get anywhere near as high. The workers remained attached to an employer, and when things got better, they were able to go back to full-time work.”
    The president’s plan also called for greater one-on-one reemployment assistance for displaced workers, which has largely disappeared from the nation’s 50 state-based unemployment service agencies. Since the mid-1980s, the amount of money the federal government doles out for state labor agencies has remained stagnant at about $700 million a year, which in inflation-adjusted dollars amounts to being halved.
    To cope with the cuts, the states moved to electronic or telephone monitoring systems, where laid-off workers simply call in or go online to register for unemployment benefits and attest that they have been looking for work. To the extent states provide services, they are usually in the form of groups sessions that teach how to write a resume, how to interview or how to use a computer to search for jobs.
    It’s a far cry from the employment services offered in most states in the 1970s, where workers showing up at local unemployment bureaus for their benefits were interviewed by specialists who knew the local job market. “That system has basically been shrinking from neglect for over 20 years,” Wentworth said. “But studies show that if some unemployed workers actually get hands on counseling and job search assistance from a trained employment specialist, it actually helps them get back to work faster.”
    While rebuilding that system would save money in the long-run, it requires an upfront investment and the recognition that the aging of the workforce and the changing nature of unemployment may require a small increase in taxes on employers to finance the transition. The tax on employers for unemployment insurance in the U.S. is a third or less of what European firms pay, according to Wayne Vroman, an economist at the Urban Institute.
    That may have been understandable when labor markets were flexible and expanding. U.S. workers historically faced shorter unemployment stints than their European counterparts.
    But in this downturn, the average duration of unemployment rose from 20 weeks to 27 weeks and the share of people unemployed for six and 12 months are at historic highs. Moreover, only 11 percent of workers are on “temporary” layoffs from firms where they expect to get called back, which is no different than before the recession. “The U.S. is now older and older people have longer unemployment durations,” said Vroman. “What we have now is a much larger group that is permanently unemployed.”
    What we don’t have is an unemployment system to serve their or society’s needs – especially if we are going to expect them to be working long past the age that we used to consider time for retirement.

  2. Factories boom, but with few new workers, by John W. Schoen, ca.mg5.mail.yahoo.com
    BALTIMORE, Maryld. - The U.S. manufacturing sector is roaring back after the worst recession in generations. So why aren’t factory jobs coming back as quickly?
    One big reason: Business executives like Drew Greenblatt, owner of Baltimore-based Marlin Steel Wire Products, have figured out how to make more widgets with the same number of workers.
    [So who buys the extras, if the employment isn't increasing to provide more consumers?]
    To do so, he's had to upgrade the skills — and wages — of his employees. But his profits are bigger than ever.
    [And as they funnel to the 1%, they're less investable because there's less marketable productivity to invest in because there's less consumer spending because there's less payroll funding consumers and less employment.]
    Last July, the company, which makes wire baskets, installed $700,000 worth of robots, part of Greenblatt's ongoing efforts to use technology to improve producticvity.
    “In the old days, we had a $6 an-hour-guy who would hand-bend 300 bends an hour,” he said. “Now we have guy who’s paid $22 an hour with the robots but he’s giving me (20,000) bends an hour. Do the math.”
    For Greenblatt, the math goes like this: Last year, his revenues and profits were up 12 percent — his best year since buying the company in 1998. That year, Marlin Steel did $800,000 in sales with 18 workers. Today the company has 25 employees and does $3.9 million in sales, exporting to 33 countries.
    Automation raises productivity not just by making products faster; it also makes them better, said Greenblatt.
    “It’s better quality, so we have a lot less rework,” he said. “We have more reorders because the client is delighted. And we ship faster because we’re not going back and fixing things.”
    Productivity gains like those continue to show up throughout the manufacturing sector. The level of output per hour worked rose by 2.6 percent in the last three months of 2010, the Labor Department reported Thursday. A separate report by the Commerce Department showed that U.S. factory orders rose in December, pushed higher demand from businesses for machinery and communications equipment. Orders have risen in five of the past six months. The rise in orders has prompted manufacturers to boost hiring. On Friday, the government reported that the sector added 49,000 new jobs in January - even as bad weather dampened employment gains for other industries.
    Productivity is a pretty simple concept: It’s a measure of how much stuff a worker makes in a given number of hours. But increases in U.S. productivity are the result of complex forces that have been reshaping the manufacturing workforce for decades and are expected to continue.
    Recently, productivity got a boost from the fallout of a harsh recession that put weaker, less-productive companies out of business or forced them to sell out to stronger, more productive competitors.
    Widespread job cuts during the recession also transformed the workforce on individual factory floors, said Greenblatt. “The guys that are the survivors are the most proficient, the smartest, the hardest-working, best character people,” said Greenblatt. “And those people make more widgets per hour.”
    Productivity has also risen as American manufacturers have moved to specialize in more valuable products, sending manufacturing of cheaper goods overseas where wages are lower. As the value of American-made products has risen, so too has the average level of output per worker when measured in dollar terms.
    For example, an aerospace engineer who designs a landing gear for a Boeing 777 adds a lot more to U.S. GDP than a high school graduate bending metal into a dish washer. As the overall mix of American-made goods becomes more valuable, the U.S. economy produces more in dollar terms with same number of workers. So the economy becomes more “productive.”
    “A lot of the low-end and basic commodities are now produced somewhere else,” said Tom Runiewicz, an economist at IHS Global Insight who follows the manufacturing sector. “That means products higher up the value chain are manufactured here.”
    Demand for high-end goods
    Rising global demand for high-end, capital intensive goods is boosting exports for American manufacturers like Oshkosh Corp., a Wisconsin-based maker of high-end, heavy-duty specialty trucks. The company recently began hiring to keep up with increased demand from overseas customers and to fill a new truck order from the Defense Department. “We're ramping up from about 10 trucks a day to 40 to 45 in about another seven or eight months,” Oshkosh CEO Charlie Szews told CNBC last week. “So it's going to mean 650, 750 jobs for the Oshkosh community.”
    The order will also mean about $1 billion in business for the company's suppliers, said Szews.
    Manufacturing high-end products like fire trucks or military vehicles requires piles of capital to build the cutting edge plants and buy the sophisticated equipment needed to make them. Though American manufacturers have been slow to re-hire workers, they’ve been making big bets on capital investment coming out of the recession, especially in high tech products. “Production of high-tech goods has become a bigger proportion of overall manufacturing output,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Toronto-based Capital Economics. “That also skews the average productivity figures because productivity grows much faster in those industries.”
    At some point, productivity gains could become harder and harder to achieve and begin tapering off. But economists like Runiewicz say American manufacturers are a long way from reaching that point.
    “We are still in a period of this increasing productivity,” he said. "Mechanization and computerization is still advancing.”
    But while automation is advancing, millions of low-skilled factory workers are being left behind, said Runiewicz
    [And the mechanization and computerization and automation are losing their point because there's fewer and fewer people with earnings from jobs to buy all the stuff they're churning out - UNLESS we hire more potential consumers at shorter hours.]

  3. "Nicolas and Angela - this time it's serious", by Elena Casas, FRANCE24.com
    PARIS, France - It's the Sarkozy-Merkel love-in that makes all the front pages here in France - after their big joint TV interview last night. But is Angela Merkel's support really an electoral boon for Nicolas Sarkozy?
    Le Figaro congratulates Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel on their pact to stop François Hollande - saying his programme would put the euro in danger.
    Unfortunately, it's exactly those measures that Germany doesn't like - like the 35-hour working week - that are popular with French voters, as l'Humanité points out.

    [If true, Merkel doesn't understand the kinship between Deutschlands Kurzarbeit and les 35 heures de la France, confirming our view that even Europe doesn't understand what it's doing right.]
    Le Parisien has a poll Hollande will be happy to read - putting him ahead of Sarkozy even if Marine le Pen does not run.
    Libération focuses further to the left - with a front page interview with far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

  4. Overtime work in Japan -- no easy way to reduce working hours, by Kazuya Ogura, Waseda University via physorg.com
    TOKYO, Japan - Japanese workers are said to be hard working. One of the reasons is the long working hours. So-called full-time employees work some 2,000 hours per year, which is 400 hours longer than their counterparts in Germany or France.
    The number of working days for one year is 231, if we subtract—from 365 days of the year—holidays such as 104 days for two-day weekends, 15 days for national holidays, five days for year-end and New Year holidays, five days for summer holidays, and five days for other paid leave. If we divide 2,000 hours by the number of working days, the Japanese work about eight hours and 40 minutes per day.
    In reality, however, not many people constantly work eight hours and 40 minutes every day. People may sometimes work on the weekends, or they may not take paid leave. They may work until midnight when they are very busy. Regrettably, workers who can afford to take the above-mentioned holidays are very fortunate in Japan, to begin with. There are even statistics (“The Labor Force Survey” by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) showing that approximately 20 percent of workers in their late 20’s to early 40’s—i.e., in their most productive years—work more than 60 hours per week. “More than 60 hours per week” means exceeding the legal limit of 40 working hours by as many as 20 hours. If they do not work on the weekends, they do four hours of overtime five days a week. If they start working at 9:00 in the morning with a one-hour lunch break, they are working after the finishing time of 18:00 until 22:00 every day.
    Of course, not all workers do overtime. On the other hand, according to the research I have conducted, 85 percent of full-time employees work overtime. In other words, full-time employees who do not have overtime work are in the minority.
    There is also another problem which is rather difficult to see from the statistical data. The above-mentioned 2,000 hours are basically those with overtime pay, but people in Japan do considerably long hours of overtime work without such payment (overtime without pay). According to the research I have conducted, about half of the workers who do overtime have more than one hour of overtime without pay, at least.
    When asked about the reasons for overtime, the workers who do overtime indicate too much work as the number one reason. That is to say, there is too much work that cannot be done before the finishing time. Some people interpret this to imply “Japanese are inefficient.” I would not deny that.
    On the other hand, it is not reasonable to assume that all Japanese are inefficient. Even an efficient worker needs to do overtime work if the absolute amount of work is too great.
    I have recently conducted research on that issue as well, looking into the characteristics of the work done by workers with substantial overtime and/or long working hours, as well as their thinking. What I have found is the following.
    First, the workers who are mostly engaged in coordination with others and/or other companies work long hours. It means that they do not have enough time to do creative work such as casting their ideas into shape and preparing their materials, as they have to spend considerable hours attending meetings and making arrangements. In Japanese companies, meetings are not only for making decisions; meetings are deemed important as opportunities for sharing information and understanding with each other. As a result, meetings are held over and over again on the same subject. Several meetings are held before decisions are made.
    Second, managers are not able to concentrate on management. Legally speaking, overtime work should be done based on an overtime order from the supervisor. In reality, many cases of overtime work are recognized by the supervisor after subordinates have actually done the work. This problem is caused by the way managers do their work. They are unable to properly manage their subordinates. Many middle managers have their own clients in the sales department, for example. It is common for middle managers in Japan to be player-managers, as is sometimes the case in the world of sports. With managers unable to manage, it is natural that working hours for these managers as well as their subordinates become long.
    Third, there is the problem of the people who take their job seriously. Those who set a high target for their work, or who have more interest in work than leisure tend to work long hours. And in Japan there are many such workers. The above-mentioned overtime work without pay exists partly because workers with a strong sense of responsibility voluntarily do overtime so as not to apply for the overtime pay. Some people bring home their work to do.
    How, then, can we reduce working hours, even if only slightly? Unfortunately, there is no fundamental solution for working long hours.
    [That's what they said every step of the way from over 80 hours a week down to 40.]
    According to my research and analysis, it has been confirmed that direct measures for the working hour management are effective. They include “No Overtime Work Day (no overtime work on a certain day of the week), “warning to the sections with long working hours,” and “compulsory lights-out at the finishing time.” On the other hand, indirect measures—such as “management of the working hours by ID cards” and “counseling on working hours”—have not reduced the actual working hours.
    In summary, under the current circumstances, persistent measures, which have already been introduced by some companies, are the best path to reduce working hours.

2/05-06/2012 – 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. Solar panels sprouting on the Carrizo - More than 400 workers converge on plains to build two separate facilities, by David Sneed dsneed@thetribunenews.com, 2/05 San Luis Obispo Tribune via sanluisobispo.com
    CARRIZO PLAIN, Calif. - Construction activity is ramping up on two large commercial solar projects on the Carrizo Plain.
    More than 400 workers are employed building the two projects which, when complete, will produce 800 megawatts of power. Work on both projects began late last year, and construction is expected to take three years to complete. More photos: Click thumbnails to enlarge
    Furthest along is the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch by SunPower Corp., near the Kern County line. More than 360 workers are on site, said Ingrid Ekstrom, a SunPower spokeswoman. Work has progressed to the point that photovoltaic panels are being installed on tens of thousands of metal posts. As of the end of January, 30,390 panels had been installed, which is enough to generate nearly 13 megawatts of power, Ekstrom said.
    The 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm by First Solar is employing about 60 workers who are installing posts in the ground and doing preparatory work, such as installation of office trailers and road construction, said Alan Bernheimer, First Solar spokesman.
    The Topaz project is near Bitterwater Road, about four miles west of the SunPower project. Eventually, the work force at the project is expected to reach about 400.
    The project is getting back up to speed after First Solar furloughed about 50 of its 60 workers for about two weeks last month. The slowdown was designed to allow the company time to do some engineering reviews, Bernheimer said.
    Last week, First Solar announced that MidAmerican Renewables LLC, a subsidiary of one of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway companies, had completed its purchase of the Topaz Solar Farm. First Solar will continue to build and operate the plant.
    Both projects require that construction materials and heavy equipment be brought in on Highway 58 from Interstate 5. This can cause lane closures of up to 30 minutes on Highway 58 at the San Luis Obispo-Kern county line.

  2. 'Take shorter hours or redundancy', 2/06 HeraldScotland.com
    GLASGOW, Scotland - A west of Scotland woman got a letter from her bosses saying her hours and those of three other staff would be cut.
    [This is what happens when employees don't grab ahold of their shorter-hours lever and take the initiative in cutting hours, turning themselves from a surplus into a shortage and harnessing market forces to raise their wages in a timely fashion. At least this employer is giving them the choice. Most resume-overwhelmed, sales-underwhelmed employers would just dump them.]
    If they did not agree, one would be made redundant.
    A 60-year-old woman was fired after she was told by her bosses she was too old to retrain in new software and doing so could affect her mental health.
    [Actually, she was probably too expensive and they wanted to hire halfadozen desperate 20-somethings at minimum wage. Better get with knockin' that 1940 workweek down to 2012 levels, people, or it'll just get worse and worse.]
    A man was sacked after questioning how tips at a restaurant were shared. His contract said he would be paid £4.50 an hour with tips bringing his wage up to £6 an hour.
    An man [sic] was told his hours would be cut from 45 to 30 and his pay would drop from £8 an hour to £7. He was told to leave if he didn't like it. [Herald Scotland is squawking about all this and they can't even afford to hire a minimum-wage proof reader? (Or run copy through a basic grammar checker?) ]
    A boss told a staff member she was an unnecessary luxury, sacked her with one day's notice and refused to pay four weeks' wages she was owed.
    A 28-year-old labourer was laid off after seven years working for the same construction firm. The layoff lasted 26 weeks, but he received just a statutory payment after 13 weeks.
    [Not to joke about this or anything, but remember these are Scots employers we're talkin' about here, and Scots are legendary skinflints. In these cases, however, they're also cutting their own markets and their own throats.]

  3. Banks employee federations demands [sic] 5-day work week, 2/06 Economic Times via economictimes.indiatimes.com
    KOLKATA [=Calcutta?], India: All-India Bank officers' confederation and All-India State Bank officers' federation have demanded implementation of five-day work week for the banking industry.
    "In view of alternate channels available to customers such as ATM, internet banking, mobile banking etc, a 5-day week may be implemented in the banking industry," G D Nadaf, the general secretary of All-India Bank officers' confederation and All-India State Bank officers' federation said here yesterday.
    "This saves avoidable cost on water, power, energy, fuel etc, spent for four hours work on Saturday," Nadaf said, adding that 5-day week is in vogue at central government, establishments, Treasury, Forex, IT industries and foreign banks too.

    He also urged the Centre and the Indian Banking Association for early commencement of the 10th bipartite negotiations, resolution of residual issues and updation of pension in tune with central government pension scheme.
    He also alleged that bank officers are 'exploited' and forced to work for long hours in the absence of defined working hours.

2/04/2012 – 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. Ark. health officials cut home care program, AP via NECN.com
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Department of Health is cutting costs for a program that provides care for frail, recovering and terminally ill patients to avoid a $2.2 million budget deficit at the end of the fiscal year.
    The budget reduction measures include unpaid furloughs for some employees, a decrease in hazardous-duty pay and a decline in mileage reimbursements, Ann Purvis, deputy director for administration, wrote in a letter last month to workers. A reduction in federal Medicare reimbursement, a high number of patients who can't afford the services and new regulations have made it difficult for the program to break even, she wrote in the letter, which was sent anonymously to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
    "The ability to make adjustments to survive under these conditions is difficult for all home care agencies," Purvis wrote.
    The Health Department's program is the largest home health provider in the state, caring for more than 26,000 people annually regardless of their ability to pay, department spokesman Ed Barham said.
    The cost cuts will last through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
    Purvis said in an emailed statement Friday that she does not expect patient care to be affected by the recent changes. But the agency will have to find ways to control expenses in the next fiscal year.
    "Even though these same cost-saving measures may not carry into the next fiscal year, ADH Home Care Program, as well as private home care providers, will have to re-evaluate the way they conduct business and make adjustments in order to survive within the federal reimbursement constraints," Purvis said.
    Without the changes, the agency projected it would exceed its $76.3 million budget by $2.2 million, she said.
    Under the cutbacks, 22 managers will take a mandatory unpaid furlough in each two-week pay period, Purvis said.
    [Better to trim worktime than trigger job and spending loss. And good that everyone sacrifice together, starting at the top.]
    The agency cut supplemental hazard pay for direct care staff from 6 percent to 3 percent of base pay, and it cut travel reimbursements from 42 cents per mile to 33 cents per mile. Employees drive about 17 million miles a year to provide services to homebound patients, Barham said.
    The most recent measures follow the layoffs of 18 licensed practical nurses who worked in a special program for elderly patients.
    Funding cuts for public entitlement programs have hit private and public home health agencies hard, industry representatives said. Since 2007, Medicare has made six consecutive reductions in reimbursement to home health and hospice providers.
    "We expect these reductions to continue until 2014 as outlined in the Affordable Health Care Act," Purvis said, referring to the national health-care law President Barack Obama signed in November 2009.
    The Arkansas Department of Health's in-home program receives 65.5 percent of its funding from Medicaid, 28.9 percent from Medicare and 5.2 percent from private insurers.
    Nancy Elphingstone, executive director of the Home Care Association of Arkansas, said changes in federal regulations and reimbursements have affected the bottom lines of many of Arkansas' 174 Medicare-certified home health agencies.
    The changing regulations include a new policy that requires patients to visit their primary care physician before receiving in-home care. Agencies previously relied on referrals and on-site assessments by registered nurses, who conferred with doctors over the phone to develop treatment plans.
    In addition, Arkansas providers typically yield less of a profit from Medicare and Medicaid patients than providers in other states, Elphingstone said.
    "I feel like our agencies are doing what they should be doing, but as a result, their net revenue on a patient is not as much as it could be," she said.

  2. Furlough days to increase for Rome, Floyd County schools, by Brittany Hannah, Rome News-Tribune via RN-T.com
    [Timesizing, not downsizing!]
    ROME, Ga. - The number of furlough days for teachers is expected to increase during the 2012-2013 school year for both Rome City and Floyd County school systems because of revenue shortfalls.
    Because of a recalculation of funding distribution in the state’s equalization grant program, Rome City Schools is projecting three more furlough days than expected, making a total of 11 for the upcoming school year.
    According to Superintendent Gayland Cooper, his school system was anticipating receiving close to $900,000 from the grant, but now expects to receive only $77,000. To make up for the budget shortfall, the three furlough days were added.
    “This is very disappointing news to our school system,” said Cooper. “We can’t increase our revenues. We have to trim our expenditures.”
    The school system figured in eight furlough days during the current school year, which reduced the budget by $1.2 million, according to Cooper.
    Floyd County Schools also expects to be affected by state cuts.
    According to Tim Hens­ley, Floyd County assistant to the superintendent, an email was sent to teachers to prepare them for the possibility of as many as 10 furlough days during the 2012-2013 school year.
    “A lot will be determined by the setting of the state budget,” Hensley said.
    This year, the school system saved approximately $900,000 by instituting three furlough days. The furloughs were announced in the fall and were initiated beginning Jan. 1 as teacher planning days.

2/03/2012 – 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. Budget uncertainty hangs over GUSD, Gustine Press-Standard via westsideconnect.com
    GUSTINE, Calif. – Governor Brown’s initial budget proposal leaves a huge question mark hanging over public education, GUSD Superintendent Gail McWilliams related recently, and will require the district to prepare for the worst even as it hopes for the best as it crafts its budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
    Among the known factors of the governor’s proposal – which is still subject to revision as it goes through the legislative process – are that it would strip the district of $160,000 in transportation funds and would do away with funding for the transitional kindergarten program that was to start next year.
    The bigger concern and wild card in the budget outlook hinges on the November election.
    The budget proposed by Gov. Brown would essentially keep school funding at the status quo if two tax measures planned for the November ballot are approved, McWilliams related, but public education faces deep mid-year cuts if the measures fail.
    “We would lose about $340 per ADA (per-pupil funding, based on average daily attendance) for the year at that point,” McWilliams commented. “That equates to about $640,000 for our district.”
    For Gustine Unified, McWilliams said, the outcome could mean the difference between at least maintaining the status quo (if not continuing to give back to employees and restoring prior cuts, as the district was able to begin doing this year when furlough days were reduced from five to three) and having to look at deeper cuts, perhaps in the form of added furlough days.
    But the outcome won’t be known until November, long after the district must make its budget and staffing plans. The situation schools find themselves in, McWilliams said, is “horrendous.
    “You have to prepare as though you are not going to have that money. It would be irresponsible not to do that,” she explained.
    McWilliams said she has already approached employee bargaining groups to begin conversations about the coming year. She said the district will need to know in coming weeks whether employees are willing to continue concessions such as unpaid furlough days if need be.
    If bargaining units and district have not reached agreement, the district will probably have to look at issuing tentative layoff notices in March, the deadline for notifying teachers of possible job loss. Teacher layoff notices can be rescinded, but cannot be issued after March 15.
    “If we get to the point where we don’t have concessions, we have no choice but to go to programs and staffing,” the superintendent explained. “I’m really hoping we don’t have to go to that.”
    McWilliams stressed, though, that her preference would be to structure agreements with contingencies that hinge on the fate of the ballot measures. Furlough days, she said by way of example, could be scheduled for after the election and eliminated or reduced in number if the ballot measures pass and mid-year cuts are avoided.
    Five days of employee furloughs would save the district about $230,000, McWilliams noted.

    [and save jobs and the local spending rate.]
    She said the district will attempt to ask for employee concessions that would cover about 25 percent of the potential losses. That would allow the district to cover the remainder from its rainy day funds without depleting the reserves to precariously low levels, the superintendent explained.
    Transitional kindergarten
    The governor’s budget would eliminate funding for transitional kindergarten, the developmental program that was to start next year for students who aren’t old enough to meet the new age requirements to enter traditional kindergarten.
    In the absence of funding, McWilliams said that program will not be offered but the district will be prepared to offer transitional kindergarten if the state restores the funding.
    The program was designed for children who previously would have been eligible to enter kindergarten but do not meet the new age cut-off date. For years, children who turned 5 by Dec. 2 could enter kindergarten. This year, children must turn 5 by Nov. 1 to be eligible. That deadline advances to Oct. 1 in 2013 and Sept. 1 in 2014.

  2. DC's Budget Surplus: The Hand that Itches, Politic365.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Washington, D.C. is faced with a problem that is sure to make some other city governments jealous.
    The District has a $240 million surplus due to some drastic financial moves Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Council made in 2011. Among them were four emergency furlough days for District employees.

    [Timesizing, not downsizing!]
    There was also a tax increase from 8.50 to 8.95 percent on D.C. residents making over $300,000 annually. Officials sought the funds due to financial projections that would have left them short on funds.
    According to The Washington Post about $130 million of it is already appropriated. The remaining $110 million can be used in a general fund of sorts.
    Now that the city is sitting on some serious cash, the naysayers have come out to blast the leadership about overstating the financial needs last year. The mayor, Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, and Eric Goulet, Gray’s budget director have felt the heat from the public.
    Both sides of the argument over whether or not D.C.’s taxes should have been raised makes sense. At the same time, city leaders forgot about the economic realities of the past few years.
    They have $240 million in excess revenue at a time when other major cities are busy just trying to make ends meet. If the District government’s job is to serve the people, it seems that one way to do so is by saving for a rainy day. The U.S. economic climate is still uncertain, even though signs of progress are showing.
    The federal government, for instance, is constantly in debt and their struggles should be a reminder for D.C. officials of what not to do. Now is not the time to forget what it actually means for a major U.S. city to have cash in the bank.
    Obviously, city leaders saw some form of a financial emergency on the horizon and proactively put steps in place to avert a crisis. This is known as “doing your job,” which includes planning ahead and thinking about the near future. Unfortunately, their plan involved furloughs and tax hikes. However, the District could not continue operating as it did in the past and avoid financial trouble.
    D.C. Councilman Jack Evans had an idea to remove the tax increase on upper income District residents. That is feasible now that the city has extra operating funds. Overtaxing people does not make a lot of sense. Budgeting in the real world requires adjustments and takes into account the unknown and human error. It’s ok to go back and say, “We overestimated, so we need to make the following changes…”
    However, the argument that city leaders cried wolf in order to get more money out of residents is disingenuous. In these tough economic times, it makes more sense to err on the side of fiscal responsibility rather than living on the edge. The mayor and financial officials saw what they perceived to be a financial storm on the horizon and they appropriately planned. Most leaders would be lauded for that type of forethought, no matter what their party affiliation is.
    The harsh response from members of the D.C. Council and others says a lot about the financial state of the country. Some have failed to learn from the painful lessons of the Great Recession and how to save as much as possible from your overflow. The same strategies people use to operate their personal finances shows up when they take public office. Governments must learn how to save more money. That’s heading in the right direction.
    D.C. officials should take a step back and realize their financial situation is a rather good problem to have.

2/2/2012 – 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. Push for shorter work hours gets lukewarm response - Many workers prefer fatter paychecks to more leisure time [and thereby guarantee a future of labor surplus and thinner paychecks], by Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldm.com), The Korea Herald via koreaherald.com
    SEOUL, S.Korea - The government’s latest drive to reduce working hours is facing reluctance from workers who fear an impact on their paychecks.
    Yet, experts see it as inevitable that the country tackles the ingrained culture of long hours to boost productivity, improve workers’ quality of life and create new jobs.

    “Long working hours have prevailed in Korea under consent of three parties -- management, labor and government, with the management bent on reducing costs, unions on fattening paychecks and the government on achieving growth targets,” said Park Tae-joo, a professor at the Employment and Labor Training Institute. “Now, the government wants to break it.”
    The motive behind the government’s about-face appears to be employment, as the local economy creates fewer and fewer new jobs.
    “We must think of ways to reduce working hours at large conglomerates and distribute quality jobs to more people,” President Lee Myung-bak said last week.
    Shortened hours have many positive effects such as improving lifestyles, creating new jobs and boosting private consumption, he said.
    His remarks sparked a flurry of steps by the Ministry of Labor and other related agencies.
    They include a plan to regulate weekend and holiday work and the country’s first-ever rollback of exemptions to the labor hour rule currently in effect for 26 industries to just 10.
    “Korean workers put in longer hours, but their productivity lags. This is because of our culture that evaluates an employee’s work based on hours put in rather than their performance,” Labor Minister Lee Chae-pil said.
    In 2004, Korea introduced a 40-hour workweek rule and limited overtime to 12 hours per week. Still, many put in hours beyond the legal maximum of 52 hours a week, because of broad exemptions to the rule and a lack of guidelines on weekend and holiday work.
    The country has the longest average working hours among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
    Korean workers’ annual hours came in at 2,111 in 2010 against the organization’s average of 1,692.
    Some workers see the move as only worker-friendly at surface level, as they lack effective measures to boost workers’ income to reflect the rising costs of living.
    “It could threaten the livelihoods of many low income earners who are paid by the hour,” said Moon Yong-moon, labor union chief of Hyundai Motors, the country’s top automaker.
    According to the government’s estimation, about 2.34 million workers receive the legal minimum wage which is set at 4,580 won ($4.3) an hour this year. Another 2 million workers are thought to be earning even less than that.
    If a worker paid the minimum wage works 40 hours a week, he or she will earn 957,220 won a month.
    Better-off workers like Moon and other autoworkers could also face a significant cut in their salaries, as compensations for extra work, including daily overtime, weekend and holiday duties, account for nearly 40 percent of their monthly income.
    Park Jie-soon, professor of law at Korea University in Seoul who sits on the Korea Tripartite Commission, acknowledges the problems.
    “In some sectors such as food and beverages, accommodations and retail, the recommended reduction in working hours could lead to problems such as depressed wages,” he said.
    “It is essential that (the authorities) monitor those sectors continuously and study various measures to support them.”
    Employers, for their part, fear a rise in labor costs at a time when they face a formidable challenge from their peers in cheap-labor countries such as China.
    To adjust production volumes to fluctuating demands without extension of working hours, companies should be able to hire more during a boom time and then slim down in a downturn, but layoffs are almost impossible in the country’s rigid labor market, they say.
    “Such a drastic reduction of working hours, with no regard to the reality, will cause serious unwanted impact on industries,” the Korea Federation of Employers said in a press statement.

  2. Why Work-Life Balance Isn't Balanced - It's necessary, but not sufficient - Here's why focusing on wellbeing makes more sense, by Yamini Tandon, Gallup Management Journal via Gallup.com
    [No it doesn't. "Well-being" means different things to different people. Shorter-hour jobs mean more jobs, potentially enough for everyone and to spare, and plentiful job openings mean that employees can discipline difficult employers in the most effective way = QUIT and easily find another job.]
    WASHINGTON, D.C. - Sheela was doing well in her job. She had an eight-hour workday, great friends, a supportive family, good health, and she was paid well. Everyone around her thought she was happy and lived an ideal life.
    Sheela was well-compensated and appeared to have time to balance her career and personal life. But she was struggling.
    But Sheela's life was actually a mess. Her overly aggressive boss thought nothing of shouting at her in front of her colleagues. Though Sheela was a good performer, she was constantly anxious about the next time her supervisor would berate her. Though she was expected to work eight-hour days, her boss would call her at any time of the day or night.
    Sheela began to dread hearing her cellphone ring and was so worried all the time that she couldn't even sleep. She fretted that her colleagues and friends would lose respect for her, and she lost so much confidence that she couldn't handle even the simplest of social interactions. Sheela began to spend less time with her friends and family, where she would have to put up a brave face, and instead devoted more hours to work, where she could worry freely, obsessing over every detail of her job to the point of compulsiveness.
    By most traditional measures of work-life balance, Sheela was doing quite well. She was handsomely compensated for an eight-hour workday, and she appeared to have enough free time to balance her career and personal life. But in reality, Sheela was struggling. What's more, her frustrations would not be picked up by conventional measures of wellbeing, because those measures don't take into account the quality of people's experiences, nor do they incorporate people's own evaluations of their lives. Instead, those measures rely on factors like income and number of hours worked, under the assumption that these factors determine the quality of people's lives.
    Beyond work-life balance
    When the idea of work-life balance was first introduced, it was a revolutionary concept. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution and its resulting shift to manufacturing work made it possible for employers to require workers to labor longer hours than ever before in human history. In some industries, people toiled 14 to 16 hours a day, six to seven days a week.
    As researchers began to study the impact that these long hours had on stress levels, health, and family life, the idea of work-life balance gained currency, and many countries began to legislate limits to the workweek. Most developed nations now mandate 40-46 working hours per week, with a minimum of two weeks per year of holiday/vacation.
    The concept of work-life balance has been instrumental in influencing these changes and bringing about an improvement in the quality of life that is assumed to accompany shorter working hours. But the concept is useful only up to a point. Globalization has undermined the relevance of reducing worker hours to achieve work-life balance and has revealed limitations; the most significant is that at some point, limiting hours further is just not sustainable.
    France has mandated a 35-hour workweek, for example. But what can the country do next?
    [Solve more of its unemployment by cutting the workweek further, of course. Honestly, is that such a tough question for you, Yamini? AND the country can replace its kludgy training provision with a smooth and well-designed overtime-to-training&hiring conversion system. Despite Yamini Tandon's lack of imagination and general cluelessness, France is on the right track, but not until they get rid of Sarkozy and his attempt to undermine France's leadership in terms of the shortest nationwide workweek in the world.]
    The workweek can't be reduced indefinitely, as this has implications for a country's economic viability and competitiveness. In a globalized world, if workers in one country are unwilling to work for economically viable hours, then businesses will migrate to a country where they are willing to do so. In countries such as India and Pakistan, workers are motivated to work 10- to 12-hour workdays -- and this is unlikely to change soon due to the large number of workers willing to do so to move up the economic ladder.
    Another problem with the concept of work-life balance is that it takes the number of working hours into account but not the quality of the working experience. A person may spend 35 hours a week at work, but if that worker, like Sheela, has an abrasive manager or is in a highly stressful job or one that is not suited to her natural talents, then those manageable work hours are unlikely to enhance her quality of life.
    [Yes, they are, because those manageable work hours provide more leisure hours to look for a better job AND they provide more alternative good jobs out there to choose from because shorter hours spread around the technology-encroached-upon, market-demanded employment to more people via more shorter-hour job openings. Honestly, Yamini Tandon, if you can't "think two moves ahead in chess," then quit writing nonsense that is against your own best interests.]
    Conversely, a person may choose to work long hours because it allows her to progress in her career or to build a social system at work.
    [Fine. Then let her make disposable earnings on the money motive (inflationary) up to the nationwide workweek max (based, for example, on indexing the workweek against the unemployment rate) but beyond that, let her demonstrate her choice of non-monetary incentives (deflationary) by reinvesting overtime earnings in overtime-targeted job creation = "No overtime alone!"]
    Thus, the assumption that reduced hours at work lead to an improvement in personal life is too narrow, and probably faulty.
    [Not at all, on either count. This Yamini Tandon's thinking is too narrow and definitely faulty.]
    Other factors, such as social support, health, safety, and job fit, contribute greatly to the quality of a person's life.
    [And more alternative good jobs thanks to shorter-hours workspreading contribute greatly to everyone's accessing all these other, quality-of-life factors. If government got any more directive than that, it would be stifling.]
    Since the concept of work-life balance doesn't take into account these significant factors [nonsense, it certainly does take these significant, but non-standardizable factors into account],
    it does not provide direction as to how people can actually improve the quality of their lives, except for reducing the hours spent at work.
    [It is not government's role to provide this kind of detailed, unstandardizable direction. Yamini Tandon is evidently a very young person still looking for (s)mothering.] As such, it is not actionable.
    [On the contrary, the kind of nosy, picky direction Tandon craves is unactionable. Only general, standardizable, non-interferingly detailed measures are actionable by government, unless you want idiosyncratic and diversity-stifling dictatorship like Stalinism at the heaviest or Singaporism at the lightest (lashes for spitting in public?).]
    The assumption that reduced hours at work lead to an improvement in personal life is too narrow, and probably faulty.
    [No it isn't. Tandon's concept of government's role is way too broad and definitely faulty.]
    How we think about and experience our lives
    A more comprehensive concept -- one that's more appropriate for the 21st-century economy -- is that of wellbeing, which includes factors that contribute to our experiences and our perception of our lives.
    [Oh yeah, and all kinds of fundamentalist sects have detailed ideas of what constitutes "wellbeing" for every human being, regardless of the amazing and potentially-vital-for-humanity's-future diversity they already have on their own. Tandon better go join one of these sects so they can tell her exactly what to do at each and every moment of her waking life.]
    Until recently, wellbeing has been seen as an esoteric concept that is difficult to define and quantify.
    [It's not esoteric at all but it is so currently and potentially diverse, that it can only be defined by what we don't want it to be because we have found certain activities and mental states harmful.]
    It is most commonly understood as relating to wealth or health, perhaps because of the ease with which these things can be measured.
    One reason that wellbeing has been difficult to define is that it means different things to different people depending on what they consider important.
    [At last, a glimpse of the obvious.]
    To one person, it may mean prosperity or wealth; to another, it may mean values or community involvement or the realization of one's potential. This is why wellbeing should be measured at the individual level, though it may be aggregated for organizations, communities, and nations. And any measure of wellbeing must be broad enough to incorporate an individual's own choices and purpose in life while being specific enough to be compared and aggregated to facilitate action that can improve it.
    [The only actionable measure of wellbeing that currently and actionably satisfies these criteria on a national level is full employment. And the only core-economic design that can deliver full employment on a national level is unemployment-indexed workweek with automatic overtime-to-hiring conversion - with on-the-job training wherever needed. We call it timesizing. You got a better actionable measure, "actionable" meaning it implies a way to improve it? Let's see if Tandon has...]
    Gallup has developed a wellbeing metric that includes the five key elements of wellbeing: Career, Social, Financial, Physical, and Community.
    [No actionability. Where's the strategy?]
    These five distinct factors emerged from research that Gallup conducted across countries, languages, and vastly different life situations. Because these elements of wellbeing are universal, they can be measured and reported on for individuals, organizations, cities, countries, and regions around the world.
    [Yet more diagnosis with no cure. These five general, dare we say vague, factors are not actionable except in terms of ... full employment on a national, and later, international level via ... timesizing.]
    Because Gallup's wellbeing assessment measures these elements individually in addition to yielding an overall score, it is actionable [oh yeah?]: The assessment gives individuals, organizations, cities, and countries the ability to manage wellbeing by undertaking actions to improve it.
    [Such as?]
    If an individual has relatively low Social Wellbeing, for example, she would do well to focus her efforts on improving interpersonal relationships with friends and family.
    [Pablum. She can do that already. And she probably already knows about the problem already without Gallup putting a number on it. The question is, when is she going to get the time and money to concentrate on this when she's stuck, with no options, in an unlimited-hours or emotionally exhausting job, because there is no effective cap on her workweek and/or no attractive options in terms of jobs to switch to, with any necessary training included?]
    This can be managed over time.
    [Incrementing or decrementing figures is not managing, and managing is not solving.]
    As her Social Wellbeing increases, she may choose to concentrate on Career Wellbeing, for instance, or choose to address both elements by spending time socializing with colleagues and making friends at work. In this way, wellbeing can be measured and managed comprehensively at the individual, as well as government, state, city, or corporate levels, by taking its various components and their interactions into account.
    [Notice how we're focused on the individual level - this is like a sect, as if detailed ideas of individual salvation are The Solution. Well, we saw how well that worked in the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Witch Hunts, Jonestown... Just pay Gallup to get your five wellbeing measures and ... zowee!]
    Conventional metrics such as employment status, income, educational level, hours worked, and women's participation in the workforce are necessary to understand an economy, but they are insufficient when it comes to understanding and evaluating overall life satisfaction.
    [And understanding and evaluating life satisfaction is like art = chacun à son gout, and, de gustibus non disputandum est, nor are tastes standardizable or evaluatable except by arrogant elites who have little clue about the extent and value of harmonious diversity. Like so many well-intentioned people, the Gallup people have set their goals too stiflingly comprehensively, and "the way to hell is paved by good intentions."]
    Unless we begin to use a metric of a life well-lived -- as measured by one's own [and not Gallup's?] experiences and evaluation -- people like Sheela will continue to be under the radar, aware that something is amiss, but without an idea why or what to do about it.
    [And which would you prefer? Gallup leading her around by the nose with five vague measures potentially masking a lot of detailed but unmentioned qualitative assumptions about a "well-lived life" (but presumably with the same "over-aggressive" manager because Gallup has not relinquished one finger of its grip on her lack of job options), or Timesizing just opening up a lot of good job opportunities for her so she can discipline her manager in the most effective way - she can walk.]
    The Five Essential Elements of Wellbeing
    For more than 50 years, Gallup scientists [ooh, "scientists"!] have been exploring the demands [jawohl, National Socialism alzo hett a lot of demants on tsitizens!] of a life well-lived. More recently, in partnership with leading economists, psychologists, and other acclaimed scientists, Gallup has uncovered the common elements of wellbeing that transcend countries and cultures.
    [Heil, Gallup!]
    This research revealed the universal elements of wellbeing that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering.
    [How about just, a good job?]
    They represent five broad categories that are essential to most people:
    [and what about the curious minority to whom they are not essential?]
    Career Wellbeing: how you occupy your time -- or simply liking what you do every day
    Social Wellbeing: having strong [def'n?] relationships and love [def'n?] in your life
    Financial Wellbeing: effectively [def'n] managing your economic life
    Physical Wellbeing: having good health and enough energy to get things [def'n] done on a daily basis
    Community Wellbeing: the sense of engagement [def'n? and can we decline such engagement?] you have with the area [def'n?] where you live
    [Again, well-being means different things to different people, but an employer-perceived labor shortage, borne on a diminishing workweek indexed inversely to unemployment, creates respect for employees that is vanishing under today's deepening labor surplus. Anyway, this discussion is beside the point. There are certain system requirements for an advanced economy and the most basic one is maximum consumer spending. And maximum consumer spending requires full employment and maximum wages (maximum wages being a natural byproduct of full employment dba employer-perceived labor shortage, regardless of how short the workweek or how much The Onepercent whines - they complain the loudest and suffer the least. What about inflation? Controlled organically and naturally without clobbering growth by the expansion of deflationary incentive as people gravitate toward jobs they love and away from jobs they're just doing for the money and consequently, can never get money enough = inflation. Meanwhile, Gallup has evidently been taken over by control freaks who want to rationalize more surveillance. "Vote Gallup for Big Brother!" Gallup's pollsters are evidently getting bored and want to go beyond - guys, a change is as good as an overreach. Get a new career and leave Gallup's disinterested and unmanipulative polling - and welcome in that form - alone. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The landscape is littered with companies that overreached - tasty Boston Chicken when it stretched to bland Boston Market...]
    The proper realm of government is per-person variables (such as minimum reinvestment/person) at the most despecified level (such as of any earnings over an unemployment-indexed workweek threshold). The proper role of the free market is per-job variables (such as time per job, long jobs covered by multiple persons), at all more specific or detailed levels.
    There are two kinds of economically significant incentive: inflationary (money motive; adjective: quantifiable) and deflationary (all other, eg., job satisfaction, whatever that may be; adjectives: non-quantifiable and qualifiable only with loss of diversity and adaptibility-survivability dba competitiveness). The inflationary realm involves the per-person realm of government. The deflationary realm does not; that is, the deflationary realm is the rightful province of the free market. Keep Gallup's and everyone else's big nose out and reins off this realm and enjoy the natural wild(er)ness.]

2/01/2012 – 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. Right-to-Work[-without-joining-a-union] Laws Are A Waste of Time for Politicians and Unions: View, by the Editors, Bloomberg.com
    [The term "right to work" without the implicit and necessary-to-make-any-sense-of-it extension ("without joining a union") as used in this editorial is counter-intuitive, misleading, and deceptive to the point of fraudulent, but has unfortunately become common after a Republican-style hijack of the traditional term "right to work." This is right down there with Coalitions to Save the Forests manned by clearcutters. We will add the extension ("without joining a union") throughout.]
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - For the first time, supporters of right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] laws can claim victory in the industrialized Midwest. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels yesterday signed legislation making it illegal to require nonunion workers to pay union dues.
    Right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] laws have taken on oversized symbolic importance, outweighing the actual cost to unions or the real benefits to employers. Worse, the combat discourages the two sides from working together to manage cyclical ups and downs or to improve productivity, which increases profits, lifts wages and ultimately results in economic expansion.
    Unions loathe right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] laws because they can make organizing more difficult and, they [=unions = ambiguous reference! - editors!] insist, lead to lower wages and less generous benefits. Some governors, on the other hand, think a right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] law is the best proxy [=gauge =dyslex! - editors!] for how business-friendly their state is.
    Twenty-three states, mostly in the South and Southwest, now have such laws.
    Lawmakers in Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, and other states may try to follow, largely out of fear of being left behind in the race to attract companies.
    Republican U.S. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina is pushing for a national right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] law.
    Sparse Data
    A close examination shows that right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] laws are not as damaging to unions or as beneficial to state economies as the warring sides contend. Each wields powerful talking points, yet the supporting data is sparse.
    On the union side, the big myth is that the laws bar unions from organizing. Not so. Instead, by enabling workers to opt out of union dues, they reduce the financial payoff to organizers. Over time, that may weaken a union’s ability to attract new members, put together political campaigns or pay union administrative expenses. Still, it wouldn’t prevent a union from forming in the first place.
    On the right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] side, the big myth is that economic growth in states with the law is higher. Studies sponsored by the Mackinac Center, a think tank in Midland, Michigan, that favors right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union], conclude as much. But it’s not necessarily so. The Mackinac studies don’t disentangle the effect of right- to-work[-without-joining-a-union] laws from other factors, such as a housing bust, rapid population growth (a feature of many Sunbelt states) or a robust energy sector.
    Take Oklahoma, which became a right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] state in 2001. It has outperformed much of the country in recent years; its unemployment level, at 6.1 percent, bests the national rate of 8.5 percent. But joblessness in Colorado, Missouri and New Mexico -- Oklahoma’s non-right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] neighbors -- are also well below the national average.
    Moral Arguments
    Interestingly, some of the strongest arguments for and against right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] are moral -- and they exist on both sides. The personal beliefs of anti-union workers are stepped on when monthly dues are deducted from their paychecks, even though they don’t belong to the union. In right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] states, the same workers wouldn’t have to pay dues but would benefit from the higher wages a union might negotiate on their behalf. The unions have a word for that: free-loading.
    [Isn't this whole controversy obviated by the open- or closed-shop fork in the decision-making flowchart?]
    The answer isn’t right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] but better labor-management cooperation. Both sides might learn a lesson from Germany, where union members often sit on corporate boards and vote on management pay (helping to keep in check excessive, U.S.-style compensation). Germany’s unions also play prominent roles when the economic cycle turns down. One example is the “Kurzarbeit” plan, or short-work system, in which companies temporarily move employees into shorter workweeks during downturns. Companies pay only for actual hours worked, and the government provides as much as two-thirds of the remainder.
    Work-Time Accounts
    Many German companies also use work-time accounts, in which employees agree to shorter workweeks when demand is slow, then add hours in boom times -- without adjusting wages.
    Under the Kurzarbeit plan and work-time accounting, unions have gone along, knowing what’s good for the company is often good for them. At 6.7 percent, Germany’s jobless rate, a two- decade low, tells us that cooperation over conflict is worth considering.
    In the 1950s, about one-third of American workers carried a union card. Today, barely 12 percent do. Union membership in the private sector is a mere 6.9 percent. The decades-long slide isn’t the result of right-to-work[-without-joining-a-union] laws, but the loss of manufacturing jobs. In Indiana, union members made up 10.9 percent of the workforce in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, down from 15.4 percent in 2000.
    It may not be culturally or politically possible for U.S. unions and executives to emulate the German model, but with manufacturing making a comeback, it’s a good time for both sides to find a better way to resolve their conflicts.
    To contact the Bloomberg View editorial board: view@bloomberg.net.

  2. Jobs saved at Heron after working hours change, by Adam Hooker, PrintWeek.com
    [We're going to take a flyer here and guess that part of the change involves a reduction...]
    HEYBRIDGE, Essex, U.K. - Unite has said that a number of jobs have been saved at Wyndeham Heron after negotiations with the company.
    Wyndeham Group entered into consultation with 86 of the 300 employees at its Heron plant in response to a cut in capacity at the site.
    However, according to Unite, pressroom staff have agreed a change in shift pattern, which could reduce redundancies from 86 to 79.
    Unite national officer Steve Sibbald told PrintWeek: "We have negotiated a deal there for a more flexible shift pattern. It is designed to take into account specific contracts and has saved a number of jobs.

    "Unlike some employers, we achieved this through negotiation, discussion and agreement."
    The consultation continues and Sibbald added that the union would continue to discuss possible changes that could save further jobs.
    Wyndeham Group said that it did not comment on ongoing consultations.

  3. Monti takes on lobbies in fight to modernize Italy, Scientific American via AP via CBSnews.com
    [The trick is to modernize Italy along the upward lines of German worksharing (Kurzarbeit) and beyond to timesizing, incomesizing, etc. to ensure fast and plentiful enough monetary circulation to provide profitable investments, and not along the downward lines of the USA's employment and monetary coagulating "race to the bottom" against China.]
    ROME, Italy — Fresh bread on Sundays.
    It may not sound like a call to revolution, but it has come to symbolize Mario Monti's campaign to reshape Italy as a modern economy, as the reformist premier takes on powerful lobbies that have stifled economic growth by keeping swaths of the economy in the hands of insiders.
    These groups have long behaved like Medieval guilds — regulating standards, working hours and prices — and Monti now has a lengthening list of enemies that include bakeries, taxi drivers, pharmacists, lawyers, notaries, railroad workers and newsstand dealers.

    [The fact that vital working-hour regulation is still on the problem list here and not yet singled out as the Kurzarbeit kin of timesizing and the other balancing programs that guarantee higher quality-of-life, weights the odds here in favor of the race to the bottom.]
    In one bold stroke last month, Monti issued a decree that overturns decades of arcane rules that have coddled many of the small businesses that represent an outsized portion of the Italian economy. Bakeries will be able to open on Sundays and holidays, opening the way for fresh competition to established shops. The notoriously closed taxi industry will be liberalized. Rules preventing pharmacies from setting up close to one another are being lifted.
    "We want to create more space for competition and merit," Monti declared.
    Monti's mission is stirring waves of anger that indicate a tough battle ahead: Past Italian leaders have tried and failed to bust lobbies in the past — finding the old way of doing things simply too entrenched.
    Since Monti issued his decree on Jan. 20, taxi drivers have staged strikes to protest plans to issue more licenses; angry truck drivers have erected blockades against increased taxes on fuel; even normally mild-mannered pharmacists, objecting to an expansion of drug stores and working hours, plan walkouts.
    Monti and his new team of economic experts, named to succeed the discredited Silvio Berlusconi when Italy's debt crisis began to spin out of control in November, first enacted stiff austerity measures to tackle the emergency.
    A second sheaf of measures announced this year was aimed at reviving growth. That put him straight into the path of entrenched interests — unions, public employees and professional organizations — that have for decades cast a long shadow over politics and the economy.
    In many ways, these lobbies go to the heart of what makes Italy tick.
    Italian professions have long been protected by systems of patronage, personal favors and backroom dealing. Defenders of the Italian way say that keeping business closed to outsiders guarantees quality and tradition — think fine wines and tailor-made suits. Critics counter that it stifles innovation, entrenches corruption and leads to stagnation.
    Monti, an economics professor and former EU competition commissioner is being likened to Margaret Thatcher, who earned her the nickname Iron Lady by taking on labor unions as part of free market reforms that many say modernized Britain but also left it deeply divided and scarred by strife.
    Italy's small business lobbies have had a stifling effect on Italy's economy by blocking competition, keeping work hours short and perpetuating deep inefficiencies in business practices.
    For example, most pharmacies are closed Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. Newspapers are only sold at newsstands. Gas station owners in Italy have been barred, with the exception of some highway stops, from selling anything but petrol products, which many argue keeps gas prices in Italy among the highest in Europe.
    Monti said the aim is to reduce protectionism and the way industry in Italy "tries to create advantages for those who are inside the fortress to the detriment of those who are outside."
    Like in the Middle Ages, professions are handed down from generation to generation within the family, reflecting both tradition and the lack of social mobility that Monti wants to address. And Italy has remained stubbornly provincial, with regional quotas on notaries, taxis and pharmacies.
    While commentators have hailed Monti's program as revolutionary, many working men and women have rejected his ideas, reflecting the difficulty of change in this highly conservative country.
    "Monti sounds good, he wants to spur employment by giving out more taxi licenses," said 62-year-old Mario Parisi as he drove his cab across the Tiber River in Rome. "But more work for others means less work for me and I am only making ?,000 a month."
    The voice of business, the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, is praising Monti's efforts, pointing out that "in less than 20 words" — the length of his edict on bakeries — the government has changed the history of business in Italy by allowing breadmakers to work seven days a week.
    So far, at least, the reform package appears to be proving popular with the public. A survey published this week in the leading Corriere della Sera shows Monti with a 57 percent approval rating. The margin error on the telephone poll was 3 1/2 percent.
    Monti has remained remarkably impervious to public and political pressure. The technocrat has made clear that since he was not elected, he does not have to pander to voters or parties seeking favors, while keeping an open door to the sectors he is seeking to reform.
    After meeting with taxi drivers, the government did compromise on some measures. For example, if more licenses are issued, drivers who already have one will receive "tangible" compensation.
    A new government authority will decide city by city whether the number of taxi licenses should be raised or reduced, instead of issuing one rule for all. That already gives wiggle room for the powerful taxi lobby to fight for the status quo.
    Still, Monti has stood firm on the idea that removing privilege and opening sectors to greater competition can spur the economy.
    Growth — which in Italy has been stuck at zero for a decade — is viewed by economists as the best way to bring down Italy's dangerously high public debt of ?.9 trillion, or 120 percent of GDP.
    Italy is expected to enter a recession this quarter. The International Monetary Fund forecasts the Italian economy will contract in 2012 by 2.2 percent, while the Confindustria industrial lobby puts the shrinkage at 1.6 percent.
    One of the most corrosive effects of the pervasive clubbiness of Italian industry has been the way it keeps young people out of work. Italy is increasingly known as a gerontocracy that entrenches older generations in plum jobs. The nation has suffered an alarming brain drain as talented young people move abroad in search of work. One Italian in four under 30 is not studying, working or in training.
    "More competition also means more opening, more space for the young, less space for privilege and more recognition for merit," Monti told a press conference announcing the reforms. "It is not just a big economic operation, but also a big social action."
    But most Italians, for the moment, are worried about losing what they have — not about the possible longer-term gains of painful reforms.
    A new study produced by the Bank of Italy indicates that Italian families are poorer than just two years ago, and also carry more debt.
    Monti refuses to place all the blame on the politicians who preceded him.
    "Are we citizens doing our duty to help Italy grow?" he recently asked.

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

For more details, see our laypersons' guide Amazon.com.

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