4/29-30/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- New Venezuelan Labor Law reduces working hours - Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez specified that a maximum term of one year would be given for all companies to fit, 4/30 El Universal via eluniversal.com
CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez on Monday announced the shrinkage of working hours from 44 to 40 hours a week, upon the entry into force of the Labor Organic Law.
[Just like South Korea in seven steps by company size, largest first, from 2004 to 2011, and just like the USA in two steps, two hours at a time, from 1938 to 1940.]
He specified that a maximum term of one year would be set so that companies can make the appropriate adjustments. Under a legally binding provision, employees will have two continued days of leave.
Further, the law establishes the removal of outsourcing; a "prudential term" will be set for its implementation.
At Simón Bolívar Hall, Miraflores presidential palace, the Head of State disclosed as well the setup of a superior body to enforce the new Labor Organic Law. The new agency will be attached to the Executive Office.
Except for these announcements, the final version of the law is still unknown, in addition to all the changes needed to move forward in the transition to socialism.
Chávez insisted on the recount of severance payment based on the last wage and years of service, as well as double dismissal pay in the event of unjustified layoff. "They are the rights of workers and their families. I am certain that with these achievements, with all those benefits, you will make a greater effort towards the domestic production, towards the building of socialism," he uttered.
- Ernest Callenbach, 'Ecotopia' author, dies, by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle via sfgate.com
BERKELEY, Calif. - When the narrator of Ernest Callenbach's 1975 novel, "Ecotopia," arrives in San Francisco, capital of a breakaway republic, the only sounds he hears on Market Street are the whirring of bicycles, the hum of a few electric cars and the rippling of a once-underground creek.
Commercial high-rises have been converted to apartments. Workers own the factories. Health care is locally administered and universal. The workweek is 20 hours. Marijuana is legal. Energy is solar, food is organic and locally grown, and every home and restaurant has recycling bins. The head of state is a woman.
[A 20-hour workweek? Just what Arthur Dahlberg was calling for in 1932 ("Jobs, Machines and Capitalism") while the Technocrats were calling for four 4-hour days and the U.S. Senate was about to pass a 30-hour workweek. Note that Timesizing.com offers free consulting to any writers who want to write a novel or play set in a shorter-hours scenario: email@example.com x.Phil Hyde.]
It is "the way I would like to live if I could," the author told NBC News in a 1989 interview. The book, he said, was "my bet with the future."
Mr. Callenbach died April 16 at his Berkeley home at age 83. He had been diagnosed with cancer 10 months earlier and was surrounded by family members, said his wife, Christine Leefeldt.
Ernest "Chick" Callenbach - his family raised chickens on a Pennsylvania farm, and his father taught classes in poultry at Penn State - became a film scholar who studied cinema in Paris, then founded the magazine Film Quarterly in 1958 while working as an assistant editor for the University of California Press.
He served as the magazine's editor until 1991 while also editing the university's California Natural History Guides.
As the modern environmental movement emerged around 1970, Mr. Callenbach was increasingly concerned with water and sewage problems. He tried to write an essay prescribing a solution and finally decided on a futuristic novel, his wife said.
"We weren't doing it right, so I thought it was time to invent a country that does," he told The Chronicle in 2005.
"Ecotopia" was rejected by about 25 publishers - some of whom, Mr. Callenbach said, told him environmentalism was already outdated - before he and a group of friends came up with money for a small edition. After brisk early sales, it was picked up by Bantam Books. It has since sold nearly a million copies and been translated into 12 languages.
Somewhat flat in style and simplistic in plot - Mr. Callenbach called it a "melodramatic tract," his wife said - the book inspired advocates of a small-is-beautiful philosophy and low-impact lifestyle, became required reading in many college courses, and was a founding document of the Green Party in Germany and elsewhere.
The novel is set in a nation that consists of Oregon, Washington and Northern California. Mr. Callenbach's 1981 "prequel," "Ecotopia Emerging," explains that California split in two over north-south water wars just before the green-oriented, female-led Survivalist Party spearheaded a movement to secede from a United States beset by foreign wars and financial catastrophe.
The narrator, journalist William Weston, is the first U.S. citizen to visit Ecotopia in 20 years. Leery at first, he is won over by the good sense and friendliness of the populace, to say nothing of the sexual assertiveness of women in a land of gender equality, mandatory sex education and free access to abortion.
The book foresaw a San Francisco of bike lanes and urban gardening, with residents using their TV sets interactively to communicate with lawmakers and each other. Its car-free zones have shown up elsewhere. A downtown creek like the one Mr. Callenbach envisioned on Market Street opened for public recreation in 2005 in Seoul.
While critical of post-1970s retrenchment, "my husband always felt there was hope, especially from young people who read his book or heard about Ecotopian ideas and wanted to do something," Leefeldt said.
Mr. Callenbach's other books included "Living Poor With Style" in 1993, "Living Cheaply With Style" in 2000 and, also in 2000, "Bring Back the Buffalo!"
He lived simply as well, his wife said, building a drought-resistant, organic garden at home, constantly fixing and devising new gadgets, biking to his workplace for a time and then - like many Ecotopians - walking to work.
Besides his wife, whom he married in 1978, Mr. Callenbach is survived by a son, Hans Callenbach of New York; a daughter, Joanne Callenbach of San Francisco; and five grandchildren.
A celebration of his life is planned for late summer. The family suggests contributions in his name to the environmental or social organization of one's choice.
Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. firstname.lastname@example.org
[So how's the "Land of the Free" doin' on this mainline of progress and freedom? Not so hot, according to our next story -]
- Talk to boss about burnout, by Eugenia Mena, 4/29 (4/28 late pickup) Hire Standards via AZcentral.com
PHOENIX, Ariz. - When I was hired as a restaurant manager, my salary was based on a 40-hour, Monday-Friday workweek. It has been more than four months, and I have been working 55 hours a week plus helping with events on the weekends. I don't mind the hard work, but I'm getting burned out. Is there anything I can do?
If I understand correctly, you're a salaried employee so you don't get paid overtime. The restaurant business is one of the hardest professions because of the long hours, and I'm sure that when they hired you they explained that most of the time managers don't have a set number of hours, usually work harder and don't get compensated accordingly.
However, the time has come to talk to your boss and let him or her know that you are burned out and ask if you could get relief from other workers. As an employer, I worry if an employee is too tired. Usually, accidents tend to occur because the person is too tired to notice a potential danger.
Do you know how many hours you are willing to work? Before speaking with your boss, make sure you come up with a number of extra hours that you are comfortable with.
And if you feel you can talk more freely, try to make your boss remember that your workweek was Monday to Friday and that you don't mind helping them once a month -- or whatever number of hours or days you can -- but at this moment you need to work the original schedule discussed when you were hired.
-- Compiled by Georgann Yara
Have a question? Send it to Ask the Experts, The Arizona Republic, 200 E.Van Buren St., NM19, Phoenix, AZ 85004. E-mail to email@example.com or fax 602-444-8044
[On the other hand, there are actually some well-paid shorter-hours jobs in the USA, but the ones in our next story are still regarded as part time instead of downward-adjusted full time, and they're in government so they're resented -]
- Full salaries for Albany part-timers makes for gross pay - Six-figure salaries for Skelos advisers, by K. Lovett firstname.lastname@example.org, New York Daily News via nydailynews.com
ALBANY, N.Y. — It really pays to be a part-time staffer in the state Legislature.
In one of Albany’s dirty little secrets, some of the Legislature’s highest-paid employees aren’t required to work anywhere near full-time hours — but pull in salaries and benefits as if they did.
These workers — 345 in the state Senate, 271 in the Assembly — enjoy a special annual designation that lowers the mandatory number of hours they must work each week, compared with 35-hour weeks most employees put in.
The advantage, little known to the taxpaying public, is that having fewer required work-hours can free up these staffers to do campaign work that legally can’t be done while punched in on the state clock, insiders say. Or, in other cases, the workers are able to focus on their nongovernment side jobs.
“How does that benefit the public?” questioned Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/New York.
[Too bad Common Cause still has only an unprioritized and unstrategized "to-do" list of low-level targets, and remains clueless about the shorter-hours agenda, which would forward their overall mission and facilitate every lower-level agenda on their list faster than their current brushfire approach. Like most progressives, they waste a lot of time and energy "jumping on their white horse and riding off in all directions."]
“It raises questions as to whether this is a scheme to subsidize political activities on the taxpayers’ dime,” she added.
Of the 345 Senate staffers who get the special designation, 267 work for the GOP majority, and 78 toil for Democrats, according to the latest payroll records. Some 56 of the Senate “part-timers” take home at least $50,000 — and seven of them make more than $100,000.
The seven in six-figures are all top staffers, advisers, or counsel to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and the Republican conference. At the top is Thomas Dunham, Skelos’ director of operations, who is paid $165,000 a year. Senate GOP officials wouldn’t say how many hours he is required to put in each week.
In terms of those with lucrative side jobs, Skelos’ $140,000-a-year counsel, David Lewis, has a law firm that has been hired in the past by individual state senators. And, John LaValle, a private lawyer who is Suffolk County GOP chairman and the son of a state senator, makes $50,000 as the assistant counsel to the Secretary of the Senate — even though he is based on Long Island.
“These individuals have worked incredibly hard to help turn New York around, and have far exceeded the minimum hours required,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.
Among the Senate’s 20 highest-paid “part-timers” are five Democratic aides, led by Paul Rivera, the $80,000-a-year special adviser to Minority Leader John Sampson. He is required to work just 25 hours a week, and was in line to get a $50,000 raise until it was nixed after the Daily News reported it last week.
In the Assembly, which handles its payroll designations differently than the Senate, 40 “part-timers” gross more than $50,000 a year, records show. Most of the 271 total are year-round “part-timers” who still qualify for salaries and benefits that top those of many full-timers in the private sector. Others are considered full-time, but work just 30 hours a week.
Only one has a six-figure salary: Marc Kronenberg, who earns $107,703 a year as Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s chief of staff; he is required to work 30 hours a week.
Insiders say that those who are selected to be “part-timers” are often key players on the political front. The designation also allows them to more quickly bank compensation time for overtime work, and the comp time is then put toward campaign work, the sources added.
4/28/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Hollande offers tax hikes and 35-hour week to promote growth, By Larry Clifton, DigitalJournal.com
PARIS, France - Socialist Francois Hollande, who is running for president of France, said Saturday that he expects a wave of lay-offs if he is elected.
[Dumb thing to say.]
However, Hollande is blaming the future mass layoffs that he predicts on his opponent, incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Hollande is warning business leaders that “he would not stand by” while workers were turned to the streets, according to a Reuters report published Saturday.
[François, François, François - drop the bleeding-heart talk about "workers" and start talking about customers and consumers who are being deactivated by layoffs and wasted in unemployment.]
Admitting that companies would cut jobs and unemployment would rise after his election, Hollande blamed the entire affair on Sarkozy in advance, claiming the French President avoids talking about the coming industrial downturn and uptick in unemployment.
[Hollande cannot say that companies will cut jobs. That is for only the companies to say. He should quit doing his enemies' work for them.]
"We must tell these companies that we will not accept this without reacting," Hollande is quoted in the Reuters piece.
Hollande edged out Sarkozy by less than a percentage point in the first round of voting. The two will face each other in a run-off election May 6.
National Front leader Marine Le Pen finishing third with 18 percent, the far-right party's best ever showing at a national election. Sarkozy hopes to capture enough of her supporters to win in May.
Thursday, reports confirmed the jobless rate in France rose to nearly 3 million, the highest level since late in 1999.
For his part, Hollande campaigned to renegotiate a German-inspired EU budget discipline pact, betting on growth, even though he intends to raise taxes significantly on businesses and high-earners, many who employ individuals. Many analysts say Hollande’s election would put any European economic recovery in peril and others believe Hollande’s tax hikes will deter economic growth instead of stoking the economy.
Publically, Berlin has played down any threat Hollande presents to an EU economic recovery and instead emphasizes the need for an EU strategy to promote economic growth and jobs in the face of rising opposition to austerity within Europe.
Hollande also blamed Sarkozy for being too tough on immigration, claiming the president “fostered the far-right, which flourished in high unemployment areas.”
[In the age of global overpopulation and ecological constraints, you cannot possibly be "too tough on immigration," and Hollande is losing votes by claiming otherwise. Every economy should long since have been on steady-state migration = one out, one in. The reason for private property on the individual-person level is fixing responsibility and preventing problems from just going on and getting their negative consequences externalized = shipped off elsewhere for others to suffer. This is the same on the whole-economy level. No borders, no solutions.]
"The left's real responsibility is not convincing ordinary voters - workers, employees, rural people, even the young - that it was useful to vote for us," said Hollande. "It is to these voters who feel down trodden, who have suffered a lot in the crisis, that I must appeal as a candidate and as president," Hollande told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview.
["Was useful to vote for us"? Why is he speaking as if the key vote is in the past?]
Hollande plans to tax income over one million Euros at a whopping 75 percent and significantly increase taxes on large corporations including banks, which some say would stunt economic growth.
[THIS is what he should be rebutting, and it's easy to rebut with workweek reduction reaching toward full employment and maximizing consumer spending.]
He also told the Le Parisien he would propose an increase in France's minimum wage, already one of the highest minimum wage rates in Europe.
[If your workweek is low enough, you don't need a minimum wage because market forces, responding to a perceived labor shortage, will raise wages gradually and flexibly AND leave open a non-discontinuous wage continuum at the bottom to facilitate entry into the job markets.]
Hollande says he would like to bring back the 35-hour work week and roll back pension cut backs at a time when the whole region and most of the world is attempting to increase productivity [increasing productivity while weakening markets for it is pointless - as is expecting exports to compensate when other economies are following the same consumption-clobbering policies - plus decrements in the workweek tend to produce increases, not decreases, in productivity anyway, probably because of the "dawn" of the practice of prioritization] and scale back bloated government pension plans. Some analysts claim French, European and global economies would experience economic setbacks under a Hollande administration.
Unemployment in France is at 10 percent and approximately 20 percent of the country’s population are foreign-born immigrants.
[How did France get saddled with such unsustainably extreme immigration quotas, or was this more disastrous fine print in a "currency" union which was unfortunately a lot more of a fence-drop than just currency? As Robert Frost said, "Good fences make good neighbors" ! ]
- The Next Pension Crisis - Union plans are taking on water fast, The Weekly Standard via weeklystandard.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Talks between the Newspaper Guild of New York and the New York Times have been heated. In late March, the union forced the paper to drop its proposal to extend the workweek at the Times to 40 hours—any work over 35 hours and the paper has to pay overtime. The Times’s management bitterly noted that the shorter workweek costs real money and that “eight-hour days are the norm . . . in much of the world outside The Times.”
Following on the heels of this victory, the guild set its sights on another management proposal: transitioning workers out of a traditional pension plan and into a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k). Again, this is now the norm in much of the world outside the Times, but the union is having none of it. On April 18, New York Times guild members began circulating a YouTube video featuring some of the paper’s most senior staff excoriating Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. and “corporate management.” The pension move is an affront because “we’ve already been investing in helping save the paper,” said Times columnist Jim Dwyer.
If the guild has been helping the paper out of its dire financial straits, their pension plan doesn’t reflect that. According to the paper’s last annual report, the company pension plans are $522 million underfunded and have enough money to cover only 77 percent of the plans’ liabilities. The federal government considers pension funds endangered if they are less than 80 percent funded, and 65 percent funding is the threshold below which the government declares a pension plan to be in “critical status.” That’s the point at which a fund is likely to go into an accounting tailspin and never be able to cover its obligations.
If the veteran journalists at the Times weren’t so busy trying to protect their generous benefits, they might realize there’s a story here. Union pension funds—particularly multi-employer plans—are on the verge of collapse across the country.
This problem has been building for a while, largely as a result of an aging unionized workforce. A Government Accountability Office report found that since 1998 more people have been collecting benefits from multi-employer plans than paying into them.
As bad as this sounds, new rules from the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) requiring companies to disclose their pension liabilities have revealed the problems to be much worse than previously estimated.
Analysts at Credit Suisse crunched the numbers on 1,354 of the country’s 1,459 multi-employer pension plans and concluded they are collectively $369 billion short of the money needed to cover their liabilities and are only 52 percent funded. That’s more than double the $160 billion deficit previously estimated by FASB. Credit Suisse arrived at its figure by measuring the actual assets and obligations, as opposed to the plans’ “actuarial value,” an estimate that allows companies to discount their pension liabilities based on expectations of future returns that have turned out to be unrealistically optimistic.
“With multi-employer plans in bad shape, companies could get hit from a number of angles including increased contributions, difficult labor negotiations, higher withdrawal liabilities, and [mergers and acquisitions] could be impacted as acquirers have to price in the underfunding. The new insights may even change investor and rating agency opinions of certain companies,” according to Credit Suisse’s report, “Crawling Out of the Shadows: Shining a Light on Multi-employer Pension Plans.”
In other words, because of the new transparency requirements, the stock of unionized companies could take a big hit. What’s more, transparency about union pension liabilities could end up depressing entire industries. That’s because union pension plans are interconnected. If pension plans start failing in heavily unionized sectors such as construction, transportation, and supermarkets, it could have an ugly domino effect.
One of the reasons 401(k)s and defined contribution retirement plans began supplanting traditional defined benefit pension plans in the 1970s is that they had a big advantage for workers-—portability. Workers could quit their jobs and take their retirement plans with them. Multi-employer plans were Congress’s attempt to offer union members portability without sacrificing the advantages of being in a defined benefit plan. Unions can use collective bargaining to force companies to pool their pension plans. Workers can then move between companies—say from Ford to GM—with their pensions intact. Hence the term “multi-employer pension plans.”
The big catch is that multi-employer pension plans operate under “last man standing” accounting rules. If five unionized companies are in a multi-employer plan and four of them go out of business, the fifth company is on the hook to pay the pensions of the employees from the four other companies. For this reason, UPS stunned observers when it paid $6 billion—40 percent more than analysts had pegged its liabilities—to buy its way out of its multi-employer plan, rather than run the risk of being on the hook for the entire Teamsters union pension.
David Zion, one of the authors of the Credit Suisse report, is somewhat sanguine about the eye-popping numbers, noting that analysts on Wall Street have been anticipating this. “It’s been out there. I would expect that people that followed [industries such as] transportation and supermarkets knew that it was a risk. But what they’re able to do now is to start putting some numbers around it,” he says.
Still, Zion notes that there’s significant potential for this new information to impact public perception and markets more broadly. “To the extent that it shines a light on a claim that wasn’t really well factored in previously, that could have a negative impact on some stock prices.”
Brett McMahon, a longtime union critic and vice president at Miller & Long Construction, is much more blunt about the effects of multi-employer pension transparency: “This puts a concrete price on unionization. . . . If it doesn’t affect the public perception, it should.”
The sizable price tag also won’t help reverse the decline in private sector unions. Employers will fight harder than ever to keep workers from forming a new union—which can then force management into joining a multi-employer plan that may already be well on its way to failing.
The political ramifications of this are not trivial. In 2010, when Democrats still had control of Congress, unions tried to push Democrats, who received $400 million in campaign cash from organized labor in 2008, to pass something called the “Create Jobs and Save Benefits Act.” The actual text of the legislation would have made the massive multi-employer pension liabilities “obligations of the United States.” A $369 billion pension bailout that would only benefit 7 percent of the workforce wasn’t popular enough to pass then, and it’s definitely off the table with a GOP majority in the House.
However, this doesn’t mean the problem is going away. Multi-employer transparency is likely to accelerate the demise of union pension plans. If nothing else, this will swamp the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the taxpayer-funded backstop for failed pension plans. As of 2010, the PBGC had a total of $102.5 billion in obligations and $79.5 billion in assets, and it has been steadily accruing new liabilities. Further, the PBGC has a maximum annual multi-employer plan benefit of $12,870 per person. That’s not much to retire on, and given the outsize political influence of unions, there will be tremendous pressure on Congress to do something more for the victims of failed union pension plans.
Aside from alerting investors and employers, the perilous state of multi-employer pension plans should also be a wake-up call to Congress. The failure of many of these pensions is a matter of when and not if. It would be advantageous for Congress to have a plan in place to address the failure of union pensions before political pressures dictate they concoct one in a hurry. By the time they read about it in the New York Times, it will probably be too late.
4/27/2012 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- 11-30 hours per week optimal for cancer workers, OncologyUpdate.com.au
BRISBANE, Queens., Australia - Cancer workers who have 11 to 30 hours of direct patient care per week are the happiest, a Queensland survey shows.
The first reported cross sectional study to investigate the subjective well-being (SWB) of cancer workers found workers with less than 10 hours of direct patient contact had the lowest levels of SWB.
Participants who worked between 11-30 hours had the highest rates of SWB but once contact hours rose above 30 per week SWB started to drop off, the researchers said.
After surveying 544 cancer workers using the Personal Wellbeing Index for Adults the study published in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology found all other major factors impacting the SWB of cancer workers were personal.
“Being married, having no carer commitments, low psychological distress and having good to excellent physical health” predicted high levels of SWB, the authors from Princess Alexandra Hospital and The University of Queensland wrote.
Age, income and gender were also significantly associated with SWB in univariate analyses but during a multiple repression analysis the effects of these demographics were reduced, they said.
The authors proposed interventions be put in place to target SWB alongside existing psychosocial initiatives in cancer care.
Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology April 2012
- Nurses demand abolition of overtime loophole, by Zoe Wei & Jamie Wang /npw, Focus CNA via Taiwan News Channel via focustaiwan.tw
TAIPEI, Taiwan - A group of nurses protested outside the Council of Labor Affairs Friday against harsh working conditions, demanding the abolition of an article of the labor law that means medical staffers can be made to work long hours of overtime.
Wang Yun-hsu, a member of the preparatory group for the Taiwan Radical Nurses Union, urged the government to abolish Article 84-1 of the Labor Standards Act, which effectively makes long hours of overtime legal.
The article stipulates that should employers in certain job categories reach an agreement with their employees and report the case to supervisory agencies, they can be exempt from articles 30, 32, 36, 37 and 49 under the act.
These articles regulate the maximum number of working hours, the minimum number of weekly days off, and the maximum amount of overtime for employees. They also stipulate additional safety measures thatshould be provided to female workers during the 10 p.m.-6 a.m. period.
Wang also called on supervisory agencies to regulate a 48-hour interval between each shift rotation, as most local nurses have two to three types of work shift each week. He cited Article 34 of the act, which stipulates that work shifts should be rotated once per week and that employees be given adequate rest time.
The nurses complained that there are times when they need to work a late night shift one day and start a morning shift at 7 a.m. the following day.
The nurses said their long working hours have compromised their health, leading to a situation in which sick nurses are looking after ill patients in hospitals.
As for a recently announced government subsidy of NT$2 billion (US$67.8 million) as an overtime fund and for more new hires, the nurses said that with current working conditions, they can only hope they will live long enough to spend the money they make from working overtime.
The nurses said they will join labor rights activists in a Labor Day anti-poverty demonstration May 1 in Taipei to demand that their working conditionsbe improved immediately.
In response, Chen Hui-min, an official of the labor council's Labor Conditions Department, said her department will work with the cabinet-level Department of Health and enhance workplace checks toprotect the rights of medical personnel.
She said the labor council last year reviewed Article 84-1, under which some employers practice the "system of job responsibility," and decided that most medical personnel should have been excluded from the system by March 30 this year.
Under the system, employees are assigned tasks to complete, no matter how long the work takes.
However, the exclusion does not cover medical staffers that work in emergency rooms, delivery rooms, operating rooms, post-anesthesia recovery rooms, burn units, intensive care units and organ transplant groups who will not be excluded from the system until 2014, Chen said.
To prevent the article from being abused in the medical industry, Chen said the labor council has also worked out a guide employers should follow. The guide stipulates that daily working hours should not exceed 10 hours, daily working hours plus overtime should not exceed 12 hours and there should be a 12-hour interval between shifts.
The guide also says working hours should not exceed 168 hours over four weeks or 240 hours per full month. It also requires at least one day off per week or two days off every fortnight for employees, she said.
4/26/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Postal rescue passes Senate, by Corey Boles, Wall Street Journal, A2.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Senate approved a bill that would avert closings of post offices and distribution centers for two years and continue Saturday mail delivery.
It also would trigger early retirement for as many as 100,000 postal workers, as part of a plan to save $20 billion a year at the financially distressed U.S. Postal Service.
[This is saving jobs by sacrificing worktime per person, though work life cuts à la early retirement aren't nearly as effective as work week cuts.]
But a congressional rescue of the 237-year-old service remains in doubt as another bill languishes in the House.
Senators voted 62-37, on a bipartisan basis, for the legislation, which took shape during months of negotiations. Thirteen Republicans, mainly centrists and lawmakers from rural states, voted with the Democratic majority, while four Democrats, who voiced concerns about the impact on rural states, joined most Republicans in opposing the bill. Republicans in general were critical of the bill's impact on the federal budget deficit.
Under the bill, the early retirements would save $8 billion a year, and the Postal Service would receive $10.9 billion from the U.S. Treasury, money the service has overpaid to the federal employee pension system. The bill would allow current Postal Service retirees to opt out of the federal employee health-benefits system and use Medicare, which is generally cheaper, as their primary source of health-care coverage. It also would allow the Postal Service to set up its own health-care plan if management and labor unions agreed to do so.
"The financial situation facing the U.S. Postal Service is dire, but it is not hopeless," said Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.), one of the bill's main backers. "The time to act is now, and this legislation will provide the Postal Service with much-needed flexibility so it can rightsize, modernize and remain competitive for decades to come."
If Congress doesn't act, the Postal Service has warned, it would embark on its cost-savings plan, one that could see as many as 3,700 post offices and 223 distribution centers closed and overnight first-class mail delivery stopped in many rural areas of the country.
In a statement, the Postal Service's board of governors said the Senate action "falls far short" of a plan to return to financial viability. "It is totally inappropriate in these economic times to keep unneeded facilities open," the statement said. "There is simply not enough mail in our system today."
Legislation in the House, which takes a significantly different approach, has stalled because Democrats oppose it, many rural Republicans worry that it would curb mail service in their districts and some say it would make matters worse for the Postal Service, its employees and customers. A senior House Republican leadership aide said there have been no discussions among leaders about bringing a House bill to the floor soon.
"Instead of finding savings to help the Postal Service survive, the Senate postal bill has devolved into a special-interest spending binge that would actually make things worse," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which approved the House postal bill.
The Postal Service is under intense financial pressure as email and package-delivery services have been on the rise. The service lost $3.3 billion in its fiscal first quarter, ended Dec. 31, its worst loss ever in a period that is generally its strongest.
"Even in its current reduced state, it's carrying 165 billion pieces of mail a year," said Art Sackler, coordinator of the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, a group backing the Senate bill. "It's a critically important step to the process of getting to the point where the Postal Service is financially sustainable."
Officials at the Postal Service have said they don't believe the Senate bill goes far enough to cut spending.
Write to Corey Boles at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Loy Yang power workers prepared to strike, (4/27 over dateline) ABC Online via abc.net.au
LATROBE VALLEY, Vic., Australia - Workers at the Latrobe Valley's biggest power generator have voted to take industrial action.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union says workers at the Loy Yang A power station, in Victoria's south-east, are seeking a 35-hour week, in line with the industry standard.
The union's Greg Hardy says he is optimistic the dispute can be resolved during a meeting at Fair Work Australia tomorrow.
However, he says workers are prepared to start taking protected industrial action from next Wednesday.
He says the action should not affect the public but could be escalated if talks with Loy Yang Power fail.
"We haven't used a sledgehammer to crack a walnut, we're going in soft to begin with because we want to give the company the opportunity to see that we are serious," he said.
"Eventually it would make sense for them to conclude an agreement with us."
4/25/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- The agenda - Evan Soltas on Kurzarbeit and the Changing Sector Composition of the US Economy, by Reihan Salam, National Review Online (blog) via nationalreview.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - We’ve often discussed kurzarbeit — Germany’s short-term work initiative designed to mitigate rising unemployment — in this space, and I’ve endorsed pursuing a similar strategy of channeling resources that would otherwise go to unemployment benefits to keeping workers engaged. But now Evan Soltas elaborates on why kurzarbeit might not work as well in the United States:
When microeconomic differences generate macroeconomic differences, they require public policy differences. In Germany’s case, the inefficiencies of the labor hoarding encouraged by Kurzarbeit are offset by the losses generated from unemployment — skill atrophy and search frictions — given the violent volatility of trade volumes. That would probably not be the case in the United States, where recessions tend to induce large-magnitude changes in sector composition — that is, when a recession reduces employment sharply in a particular sector, that change in demand for workers tends to be permanent, and thus work-sharing would effectively delay the inevitable and be inefficient public policy.
[= polysyllabic blindness to the weakening of US consumer spending due to evermore longterm unemployment externalized into welfare, disability, incarceration, homelessness, clientless self-employment and suicide. And worrying about preserving your skill set under the smear of "labor hoarding" without worrying about the hoarding of employment by those still working "full time" on longer and longer actual workweeks, nevermind the system-atrophying hoarding of the money supply in the top income brackets, is just clueless.]
The larger point Soltas is making, however, is that the changing sector composition of the U.S. economy will likely have an impact on underlying growth potential.
[Since we are forcing "changing sector composition" upon ourselves with our true belief in Free Trade and resulting transference of high-wage, high-consumerspending jobs to China and India, the change is toward slower growth - why would we want to facilitate it?]
It is widely understood that some sectors are more amenable to productivity increases than others.
[Productivity increases that are unmarketable except in terms of military-industrial purchases by unsustainably indebted governments are also heading for slower growth.]
This is why inter-sectoral labor flows from agriculture to industry [i.e., manufacturing?] tend to be accompanied by rapid economic expansion, as Dani Rodrik often reminds us.
[Dani Rodrik must be talking about China or India, cuz that horse long ago fled the stable in the U.S. He'd even be kindof outdated talking about inter-sectoral labor flows in the U.S. from manufacturing to services. So why are we losing focus on the U.S. here - it's just clouding the argument with irrelevance.]
But when inter-sectoral labor flows go from industry to non-tradable sectors plagued by Baumol’s cost disease [i.e., from manufacturing to services?], growth often slows [because though a few service jobs are high-pay executive and tech jobs, most are low-pay low-consumerspending McJobs]. Barry Eichengreen, Donghyun Park, Kwanho Shin recently discussed this phenomenon in the context of fast-growing economies that run into a wall and plateau [=stop growing] as they transition to a more service-oriented, consumption-driven state.
[Bingo. But now we slip focus again back to underdeveloped economies -]
As economies converge [ie: as the underdeveloped catch up to the advanced?], further productivity gains become more difficult to achieve because merely mimicking best practices is no longer an adequate strategy. This is the central argument behind Brink Lindsey’s excellent essay on “Frontier [i.e., advanced] Economics“: at the frontier [cf. cutting edge of advancement], investment is necessarily less efficient because there has to be more trial-and-error in new managerial practices, new products, etc.
[So investment finally seen to be definitely not where it's at. (It's "at" consumer spending, and always was.]
Yet experimentation of this kind plays a far more important role in frontier [=advanced] economies tha[n] in those [less advanced economies] that still have room to converge. Per our previous post, this dynamic [=phenomenon] presumably contributes to some structural downshifting [=permanent slowing?] in growth levels [in advanced economies]. The question [is] whether we can keep our [U.S.?] economy sufficiently open to the kind of trial-and-error experimentation that gives rise to productivity breakthroughs.
[Again, productivity breakthroughs are useless without marketability breakthroughs = consumer spending jumps.]
In Lindsey’s view — which I share — this implies that regulation is particularly problematic in frontier economies.
[Waaay too simplistic - except for someone who still clings to the idea that economics is all about the investment scaffolding and not the consumer base.]
Unfortunately, the political dynamics push in a different direction.
[Or fortunately, if the politics tends to save and build consumer spending and marketable productivity to provide profitable and not just trial-and-error = unprofitable/unsustainable investment.]
It could be that the U.S. is experiencing a durable productivity shock [probably meaning "permanent productivity cut" rather than "cut in manufacturing durables"] going forward; [if so,] our economy will be more heavily tilted towards less productive sectors (e.g., public employment and our heavily subsidized health sector) than it was before.
[Again, no tragedy because less marketability because weaker consumer spending.]
People will then point to the postwar [WW2?] U.S. growth record as evidence that we can raise tax and spending levels dramatically without doing any economic damage,
[- and in fact, "with" doing dramatic economic healing!]
ignoring the fact that the postwar U.S. economy had a very different sector composition.
[which we could then restore, or with worksharing and timesizing, replicate in the services sector.]
This in turn will further ratchet down growth levels.
[How blithely he convinces himself that upsizing will result in downsizing, and v.v.]
This is just one scenario, of course. But I fear that it is a plausible one.
[With pundits like this, who needs putzes? At least he got his FIRST sentence right.]
- The Galling Misuse Of The German Example, by Alec MacGillis, The New Republic (liberal blog) via tnr.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - I don’t usually wade into global economic policy here on the Stump, but as Mitt Romney reminded us in his speech last night, the 2012 presidential race is “still about the economy—and we’re not stupid.” So after coming across a particular pet peeve of mine just now, I’m going to wade on in.
In its lead editorial today, the Wall Street Journal pushes back at the broadening ranks urging Germany to loosen up on its austerity mantra for Europe.
[A LIBERAL who doesn't have the sense to avoid the WSJ editorial pages?!]
I’m not going to get into that fight now—I figure this guy’s got it under control. But I am going to file an objection to a particular element of the Journal’s argument that I’ve seen regurgitated over an over the past few years, and not just by people on the right: the utterly false notion that Germany steered clear of Keynesian stimulus during the past recession. The Journal writes:
[Angela] Merkel’s government did the world an additional favor in 2009, amid the financial crisis, by rejecting calls from the International Monetary Fund, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Obama, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the same dominant Keynesian consensus to join the global spending party.
“They’ve already pumped endless amounts of money into the economy,” said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble in 2010 about U.S. policy. “The results are dismal.” (See our March 12, 2009 editorial, “Old Europe Is Right on Stimulus.”)
Germany’s resurgence might have been even stronger if Mrs. Merkel and her coalition partners hadn’t reneged on their tax-cutting campaign promises and raised VAT and other taxes in a bid to stay close to budget balance. Still, Europe is lucky that its largest economy remains strong and creditworthy.
Yet now Mrs. Merkel is widely berated for avoiding the policy errors that led to the debt crisis and for having the nerve to encourage other countries to emulate the reforms that worked in Germany. The Keynesians will never forgive the Germans for being right.
This is ridiculous—or as the Germans would say, laecherlich. No, the Germans did not implement a giant stimulus package, equivalent to our own $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That’s because they had in place a massive Keynesian[??] program of a different sort, one that was, it’s now clear, far more effective in providing counter-cyclical stimulus than anything we or other Western countries tried.
[Since when has worksharing been Keynesian? Keynes was unfortunately into makework, not sharework. If he had been into shared work, we'd all be A LOT better off and we and other Western countries would long since have tried it and standardized into it.]
Namely, kurzarbeit, or “short work,” a work-sharing program under which the government subsidized private employers to keep workers on the rolls, typically at reduced hours but only slightly reduced pay, rather than laying them off. The logic is plain: in a big cyclical downturn, it’s better to keep workers around for the eventual upturn (perhaps with some training in the interim) rather than laying them off, losing their skills, having to pay their unemployment benefits and then having to hire and train new people when business picks back up. Most crucially, the program keeps workers earning decent wages that they are in turn injecting back into the economy. The program’s a bargain—it cost Germany an estimated $6 billion or so in 2009. But it played a major role in keeping the country’s unemployment rate below 8 percent while ours soared.
So successful was kurzarbeit proving in 2009 that I challenged Larry Summers late that year about why the Obama administration hadn’t considered it here.
[Larry Summers is not a Worthy Opponent - but then, there are so few these days. At least the Bam has now got it into the Jobs Act in terms of encouraging the 25 states that already have it (generally underused) and the 25 states that don't to get it.]
His answer, in essence, was that the White House wanted to focus on growing the output pie back to where it had been, rather than just divvying up a shrunken pie among more workers. Well, sure, but how can it not be a good thing to have more workers getting paychecks—not to mention keeping the unemployment rate from crossing the politically disastrous 10 percent line? Others have argued that kurzarbeit is more suited to Germany because the country has more of the export-heavy manufacturing firms where the logic of work-share applies most clearly. But over time, regret over missing the boat on kurzarbeit has only grown, to the point where Congress recently tweaked the rules on unemployment benefits—several years too late—to make it easier to do kurzarbeit here in the future (more than a dozen states have small work-share programs of their own, but they never achieved the scale necessary to have a big impact.)
I’ll gladly continue to debate the merits of kurzarbeit some other time. For now, though, it’s enough to point out that it is deeply disingenuous for the Journal and other conservatives to be holding up as a paragon of austerity a country that was paying billions of dollars to keep people on the job—make-work, essentially—not to mention paying even more for the rest of the generous safety net that automatically kicked into gear in Germany. Merkel may be preaching austerity to the Greeks now, but when the recession hit, her country was as Keynesian as they come.
[Now Kurzarbeit is Keynesian?? If Keynes had had the insight to espouse worksharing instead of makework, we'd all be a lot better off today!]
4/24/2012 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Ron Paul Solves Jobs Crisis - 4-Day Work-Week! by Chrissy Benson(?), TheSpoof.com (satire)
DETROIT, Mich. - In a flash of insight he calls divine inspiration, presidential hopeful Ron Paul singlehandedly discovered the solution to the nation's current job crisis: scaling down the work-week from five days to four.
"It's so obvious!" exclaimed Paul to joyful supporters in Detroit, Michigan. "In fact, it's incredible no one's thought of it before. We'll have more than enough jobs if people work only four days a week."
However, not all Americans were ready to embrace Paul's proposed job-boosting solution. Some had hard questions for the candidate regarding the details of the four-day week.
"What I want to know is, do we get to pick the four days?" asked Regina Delaney of Oakland, California. "Because four days or no four days, I ain't working on a Saturday, I'll tell you that."
Others expressed concern at what they would do with an additional day of free time.
"Hopefully the networks will step in and come up with some better daytime TV for that extra day off," remarked Cal Bronson of Raleigh, North Carolina. "They probably will, but I'd like to know exactly what new shows are scheduled before I give a final yea or nay."
By contrast, some Americans wholeheartedly welcomed the notion of a statutorily imposed three-day weekend.
"He's freaking brilliant," pronounced long-time supporter and admitted slacker, Joel Greene of New York City. "He's got my vote. That is, assuming I get out of bed in time to make it to the polls."
The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.
- [And now, another radical idea -]
Mayor proposes more money for schools, by Robert Zullo, (4/23 late pickup) Richmond Times Dispatch via www2.timesdispatch.com
RICHMOND, Va. -- A week after a task force presented a list of major cuts to the city school system, Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones called Monday night for giving schools an extra $5.1 million from the city budget.
In an address to the City Council, Jones rejected two major task-force recommendations: eliminating health benefits for the school system's pre-Medicare retirees and implementing a three-day furlough for all school employees. That would have saved about $5.1 million, Jones said.
"The task force did exactly what I asked them to do in their first short-term phase. They identified the efficiencies and strategies without harming the classroom," Jones said. "I have scrubbed the numbers on the city government budget and have a plan for how we can find an added $5.1 million."
That money will come from a 1 percent across-board-cut to city government, largely by not filling vacant positions, trimming $250,000 budgeted for building a new ballpark on North Boulevard, cutting $1.5 million from fleet replacement and reducing the Dove Court rehabilitation project budget by $250,000.
"From the very outset, we wanted to hold the classroom harmless and we wanted to hold our employees harmless," Jones said in an interview. "When the recommendation came back for the furloughs, it kind of struck a nerve with a lot of people."
Councilwoman Cynthia I. Newbille of the 7th District said she would review each item proposed for cuts, rather than put forward a funding level for the schools.
"I think we're absolutely on the right track in terms of revisiting the recommendations," she said. She wouldn't make predictions about what might come out of the council's school-budget deliberations, however.
"I have colleagues who are absolutely committed to ensuring our schools have the best resources available," she said
However, the extra $5.1 million is a far cry from the $23.8 million Richmond Public Schools is asking the city for this year. It will be up to the City Council, which is considering amendments this week to Jones' proposed $780 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year, to determine the final amount of funding the school system receives. Only the School Board can decide how that money is spent, however. Councilman Bruce W. Tyler has called for giving the schools an extra $11.6 million to fund increased pension and insurance costs.
Jones' Monday night announcement was another twist in a saga that began in January, when the Richmond School Board voted to seek more money rather than implement a painful series of cuts drawn up by Superintendent Yvonne W. Brandon to make up the shortfall. That prompted Jones to assemble the task force, which was assisted by pair of consulting groups in drawing up a list of recommended cuts, including trimming more than 100 positions, outsourcing non-instructional services and increasing benefit contributions for employees.
David Ballard, a former Richmond School Board chairman, told the council Monday night that this year's budget process has "attempted to exclude the School Board."
"This year the school system was given an unreasonable deadline."
4/22-23/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- A Nation Overworked: Abandoning Happiness and Health for Paychecks: PART 1, 4/22 WashingtonTimes.com
LANSING, Mich. - In Japan, there is a word for “death by overwork,” it is “karoshi.” Americans are literally working themselves to death, so maybe our own version of this Japanese word will soon be made public. America is the most overworked nation in the developed world. We have become hostage to our jobs, largely due to employment laws that have made work-life balance unattainable.
In 1937, then President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as part of his New Deal agenda, establishing the five-day, 40-hour maximum workweek. The unions pushed it, and business leaders went along with it, since the research conducted in the five decades leading up to its passage consistently found that 8-hour work days and 40-hour work weeks kept workers productive, safe, healthy, and efficient over a long period of time.
The 40-hour workweek, however, has slowly become extinct. More people in the middle-income bracket, as well as those in professional/managerial positions (defined as those with incomes in the top 20 percent), are working longer hours.
In the 1970’s, 34% of men in professional-managerial positions worked 50-hours or more per week. Today, 38% of men in these positions work 50-hours or more per week. As far as middle-income male workers are concerned, 21% worked more than 50-hours per week in the 1970’s, whereas now 23% of male workers are at the mercy of their employers for a minimum of 50-hours per week. An even larger discrepancy can be seen with professional women, of whom only 6% worked 50-hours or more per week in the 1970’s, whereas this figure has since more than doubled.
Tragically, Americans are working approximately 11 more hours per week now than they did in the 1970’s, yet the average income for middle-income families has declined by 13% (when adjusting for inflation) since the 1970s.
When examining the average work weeks in other countries, you can only begin to wonder if they believe we have lost our sanity, or soon will. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Americans work an average of 35-hours per week, surpassing most industrialized nations.
European countries such as Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands boast the lowest average work hours per week, working just 27 hours per week. In Denmark and Sweden, the average work week is just 31-hours. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the average total work hours of Americans exceeds that of the Norwegians by nearly 500 hours over a span of a year, and that of the Danes by nearly 200 hours.
Ironically, a recent article published in Time ranked the world’s happiest countries based on Gallup polls from 2005-2011, and many of the aforementioned countries ranked in the top five:
It was determined that psychosocial satisfaction played a major role in their happiness. In fact, it played as much or even more of a role than prosperity. Strong social networks and better relationships with one another were common societal attributes in these countries. Apparently, many of those residing in these countries are forgiving of the frigid temperatures and harsh winters, and place a much greater value upon strong relationships and prosperity as it pertains to their happiness.
Could it be that the additional free time from not being captive at work for so long allows people more of a social life to bond and develop relationships with one another? Is it possible that a country’s wealth is just one of many factors that provide life satisfaction to its residents, and that the importance of work-life balance and tight-knit communities are being overlooked?
Americans work hard for a variety of reasons. We may be motivated purely by ambition and dreams of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Maybe it is service to others that motivates us to work hard; that desire to feel needed and wanted by our communities.
On the other hand, it has become more common that receiving a paycheck at the end of the week is all that keeps us working that dreadfully painful job. The job satisfaction rate has plummeted to 45% since the peak of the economic crisis, the lowest level ever recorded. We are working more and enjoying it less.
In this corporate “sink or swim” environment, people fear being laid off or underperforming and being passed over for a promotion, thus they feel obliged to perpetually work, even while on vacation. We have begun to take on a level of subservience that is cringing. We fail to assert our need to take time off from fear of losing our jobs and our livelihood, in spite of the fact that doing so would be beneficial to us and to our employers in the long term.
Overwork and Health
We are not machines, but human beings with vital organs that need to be nourished, rested, and kept active. There is a false assumption that we can endure long strenuous hours of mental (or physical) activity and focus without major consequences on our cognitive, emotional, or physical health.
A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology compared those working more than 55-hours per week to those working 35-40 hours per week. Participants in the study were all between the ages of 35-55 years of age. The researchers used a battery of tests, and each person was given a pre-assessment and post-assessment test to determine if there was any significant difference in cognitive decline after a 5-year period between the groups.
The findings suggested that fluid intelligence, which is associated with problem solving, short-term memory, and creativity, was significantly lower in the group that worked more than 55-hours.
If short-term memory and logic are indeed hindered, as indicated in the study, this will adversely affect productivity, and work quality, leading to more mistakes on the job. Moreover, it could affect your personal life as well, hampering your ability to find items, remember events, make wise decisions, be a good caretaker, etc.
Overwork is also associated with psychological distress. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental medicine compared those that do not work overtime to those who work overtime regularly to gauge whether longer work hours led to anxiety and/or depression. The study determined that those who worked overtime regularly had increased levels of anxiety and depression. This was true regardless of gender, or vocation.
This makes perfect sense, of course, since many people perceive their work as a major source of stress, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). We all need some stress in our lives, as it keeps us alert and motivated, but too much or chronic stress is not good.
Chronic stress elevates hormonal levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” and reduces levels of important neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are known to promote a positive mood. These neurotransmitters also play an important role in regulating our appetite, sleep, and energy levels. It is for this reason that if we do not allow the stress response to shut off for a period of time, we are susceptible to becoming depressed. In other words, chronically working a stressful job, with little time off and long hours, drastically increases your chances of becoming depressed.
Stress also leads to destructive habits. People under chronic stress are more likely to resort to alcohol, cigarettes, or other drugs as a coping mechanism. They are also less likely to engage in a structured exercise regimen. The reason for this is because stress is exhausting and unpleasant, and we seek to ease the discomfort.
If the average day for us involves long hours at work, indulging in alcoholic beverages to help unwind, and finally going to sleep, we are setting ourselves up in a deadly trap. Just think- the vast majority of your day was spent sitting and laced with anxiety and other stressors. Excessive sitting is linked to obesity, which in turn, is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a host of other illnesses. Not to mention, the alcohol you have been devouring routinely after work isn’t particularly good for your liver or brain cells.
Thus, the long work hour is the trigger, and the chronic stress, prolonged sitting, and possible substance abuse are the bullets.
What is the word for this in Japanese? Karoshi.
- Researcher suggests: 35-hour workweek [maximum] for parents, Contact: Jörgen Larsson Jorgen.firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 46-070-883-3370, 4/23 EurekAlert.org
GOTHENBURG, Sweden - Swedish mothers of small children work a lot more than in the 1970. This is an important reason why so many parents feel extremely pressured for time. One way to handle the stress is to take advantage of the right for Swedish parents to work half time, according to a new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg. The author of the thesis Jörgen Larsson suggests shorter workweeks for parents.
Jörgen Larsson's doctoral thesis is based on the observation that parents of small children are in the middle of the most hectic part of their lives. One major reason behind the time pressure is that parents work more hours than in the past. The total paid work time for mothers and fathers of small children has increased by an average of 10 hours per week since the 1970s.
The study, which is based on statistical analysis of 20 000 parents and interviews with 19 fathers, explores parents' temporal welfare. Temporal welfare is not only a matter of how pressed for time a person is; it also has to do with how satisfied you are with your allocation of time between for example paid work, children, partner, work at home and time to yourself. The temporal welfare is significantly lower among parents than among people without children at home.
In order to increase their temporal welfare, some parents choose to work part time, so-called parental part time. However, the gender differences in parental part time are much larger than in parental leave (28 % of mothers of small children and 2 % of the corresponding fathers choose to work 30-36 hours per week because they have children). This is not only a problem for women but also for men, as it gives them less space to establish close relationships with their children.
Larsson's interviews with men who work paternal part time reveal that their unusual choice is rooted in a desire for their families to escape time pressure, for their children to not have to spend long days in childcare and for themselves to be present with their families. Yet the decision to work paternal part time is closely linked to social class: 5 % of higher grade white-collar dads do, whereas the number for blue-collar and lower grade white-collar workers is only 1 %.
'Individual time strategies will not be enough to change this pattern. What we need is a new type of time policy at the political level,' says Larsson. 'Such a policy would have to consider the structural obstacles facing fathers who want to work paternal part time, for example that parents with small children are expected to work full time just like everybody else in most workplaces and that the traditional role of a man is incompatible with part-time work.'
'Personally, I'd like to see a voluntary 35-hour workweek for parents of small children. The parents would get a certain government compensation for lost income, maybe for a couple of years. This would give dads an incentive to reduce their work time since a family where both parents work 35 hours a week would get twice the compensation compared to if only the mother works 30-hour workweeks,' says Larsson.
The thesis has already been publicly defended. It can be downloaded at http://hdl.handle.net/2077/28371 (on page 27-31 in the pdf-file there is a summary in English).
4/21/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- 21 LEUSD Jobs Saved Under Tentative Agreement - Friday’s news comes less than 24 hours after the LEUSD governing board voted to approve layoffs for 73 district employees, by Toni McAllister, Patch.com via http://lakeelsinore-wildomar.patch.com
LAKE ELSINORE, Calif. - Twenty-one classified jobs in the Lake Elsinore Unified School District have been spared from the chopping block.
LEUSD spokesman Mark Dennis announced Friday evening that the California School Employees Association Chapter #598 and the district’s bargaining teams have reached a tentative agreement.
The agreement, which still requires ratification, calls for all CSEA members to take nine unpaid furlough days during fiscal year 2012-13. The furloughs will save the district $1,045,467, according to the announcement.
The agreement also states seven vacant non-teaching positions in the district won’t be filled during the upcoming year. The vacancies will save the district $392,753, Dennis announced.
Friday’s news comes less than 24 hours after the LEUSD governing board voted to approve layoffs for 73 district employees. With today’s tentative agreement, however, 21 of those pink slips will not be handed out.
The majority of the remaining job cuts are school bus drivers and transportation support personnel. On Feb. 9, the LEUSD governing board voted 4-0 to eliminate home-to-school transportation for the 2012-13 school year after Governor Jerry Brown proposed to cut funding for the program. The district has stated that if the governor brings back the funding, it would consider restoring school bus service for students but has warned there are no guarantees given its $15 million 2012-13 fiscal year budget shortfall.
- Voting for yesterday in France - The candidates and the citizens agree: Repeal the 21st century, op ed by Olivier Guez, NYT, A19.
[Another European who has zero clue what Europe is doing right. Better France should vote for "yesterday" when unemployment was 8.6% (spring 2001) before the U.S. recession hit France and Sarcozy started weakening the 35-hour workweek, than voting for "the day before yesterday" (1997) when France still had a 39-hour workweek and unemployment was 12.6%, or voting for a century and a half before yesterday when like everyone else, France had unregulated workweeks, tons of wasted consumers with no jobs or earnings or spending power, and beaucoup d'unmarketable productivity and unstable investment.]
[Another European who has zero clue what Europe is doing right. Better France should vote for "yesterday" when unemployment was 8.6% (spring 2001) before the U.S. recession hit France and Sarcozy started weakening the 35-hour workweek, than voting for "the day before yesterday" (1997) when France still had a 39-hour workweek and unemployment was 12.6%, or voting for a century and a half before yesterday when like everyone else, France had unregulated workweeks, tons of wasted consumers with no jobs or earnings or spending power, and beaucoup d'unmarketable productivity and unstable investment.]
FRANKFURT, Germany - From the subject of halal meat to the matter of driver’s licenses, the French presidential campaign that culminates in voting on Sunday has been marked by peripheral squabbles and endless invective among the 10 candidates. But few things have been said about the gravity of the French economic crisis: the deficits in France’s public accounts and balance of payments; its drop in competitiveness; its decline in international commerce; its apathetic growth.
[At least France tried to get upsizing ("growth") by timesizing instead of downsizing like Guez' idolized US and UK. And with such an irrelevant definition of GDP, "growth" is turning into a more and more accurate gauge of self-sabotage and unsustainability.]
Nor have we heard much about the threat of increased unemployment and reduced purchasing power from the austerity measures that the markets expect any president to take — right after the election, of course. As for civil war in Syria, the perilous transitions in Arab countries, Al Qaeda’s progress in the Sahel, or Iran’s nuclear program, the candidates have behaved as if nothing were the matter — as if France were tacitly abandoning all influence abroad.
These omissions say a great deal about the state of a country that has rarely seemed so avid in its navel-gazing, so inward-looking. In short, France in 2012 is an old nation that increasingly cultivates the temptation to be an island unto itself.
So many examples from these last few years come to mind: magazine covers devoted to President Nicolas Sarkozy almost every week; the Jan. 7 issue of Le Figaro, naming Joan of Arc Woman of the Year. An issue of Le Figaro Magazine devoted to a portrait of the French people declared: “France is noble in essence, the mother of liberty, the rights of man, letters, arts, and sciences.”
Transfuge, a Parisian literary magazine, offered a harsh assessment this month: French literature, obsessed with the past, is entering the 21st century walking backward. Indeed, the French don’t like the 21st century, and would gladly give it back. Their desire has its roots in a confluence of failures (the defeat in 1940 and the loss of their colonial empire) and the rejection, by other European nations, of building a Europe à la française — France on a bigger scale.
[On the contrary, France entered the 21st century leading the world with the lowest nationwide workweek - the ONLY nation that realized you couldn't stay at 40 hours a week forever into the age of automation and robotization. And this can't-see-the-obvious commentator has apparently completely missed the fact that all the successful economies of Europe - all of whom have shortened worktime per person, including longer vacations and shorter workweeks - have followed France's lead - including powerhouse Germany with Kurzarbeit. Yet so blind are European leaders (and commentators) that both Sarcozy and Merkel criticize 35 hours and praise Kurzarbeit as if they aren't the same thing in different packages.]
France has become a middling power, with a mass culture and a society of consumption like everyone else. Gaullism and Communism kept up the illusion that a great history, a great destiny were still France’s to be had. It didn’t pan out that way. So as the world heeds France less, the French long to shut themselves off from it, to turn toward olden days and protect themselves.
The electoral campaign flattered their aspirations. The populist candidates outdid themselves with magic formulas to get France out of history as fast as possible. Marine Le Pen, the favorite of young voters, promised the moon and the stars if France left the euro zone, limited employment and social benefits to French citizens and finally drove all foreigners out.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, that great orator, rekindled the spirit of revolutionary mythology by summoning Robespierre, Fidel Castro, Jean Jaurès, Hugo Chávez and Victor Hugo, while throwing to the wolves the bosses, the bourgeois, the journalists, Wall Street and the CAC 40 index on the Paris bourse.
The major contending parties — President Sarkozy’s center-right Union for a Popular Movement and François Hollande’s Socialists — did not rush the French people. The “tears and blood” Mr. Sarkozy promised them (a very Churchillian position that was coupled with German-style reforms and sacrifices) soon gave way to generous promises and the appointment of other scapegoats — poorly patrolled frontiers, fiscal exiles, free trade, the European Central Bank, clandestine immigrants.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hollande, the Zen master from the department of Corrèze, made do with waiting for a change in power, avoiding faux pas, reassuring his fellow countrymen by aping, as best he could, the virtuoso he claimed to follow: François Mitterrand.
[Wasn't Mitterand the visionary who tried in 1982 to get a 35-hour workweek by 1987 with five annual 1hr/wk cuts but the project got stuck in 1983 at 39 hours by a clueless vote-against-yourself populace?]
But all 10 candidates had one enemy in common: globalization, that perpetual movement [=Salvation by Perpetual Motion (SPM)] of capital, people and merchandise that endangers the French social model cherished by 90 percent of French people even as it threatens to definitively bring them to ruin.
[Isn't it funny that the people who most demonize communism accept it unthinkingly at the international level under a different name...globalization. Protectionism, by contrast, is simply principle of private property at the international level. Private property has boundaries so problems never get giantized and out of control and whole-system-destructive. Communism, however, has much in common with vulnerable mega monoculture in agribusiness, and of course, the sacred Race to the Bottom via tariffs-bad, "Free Trade" good, globalization, nevermind no advanced economy today got where it is via free trade.]
Among all inhabitants of developed nations, it seems, none hate globalization more than the French. All their political leaders have promised to “fight against” it. But no one fights globalization alone. No one can lie down alone in the path of history with impunity, not even the nation of the artiste Jean Dujardin.
While candidates promise brighter tomorrows, convinced “that the worst of the crisis has passed,” markets watch their every move; their European partners (and toughest competitors) pursue reforms even as emerging nations continue to grow at dizzying rates.
In 1981, France rejected the path being set by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.
[And lucky thing for France! cuz the U.S. is plunging into the toilet of no-system-feedback and a deactivated money supply (M1) via corrupt corrupt election & financial systems and an unlimited coagulation of M1 in the top 0.01%, and all the United Kingdoms except Wales are following as fast as they can, calling every up-arc in their steepening diagonally-downward economic deathspiral RECOVERY, nevermind that it's "jobless, stumbling, slow" or whatever.]
Mr. Mitterrand and his Socialists, with their Communist allies, embarked on a grand program of nationalization. Two years later, isolated, Mr. Mitterrand and his France "had to" [our quotes] turn abruptly toward austerity.
[Oh lovely, the very thing - on top of tax evasion and ubiquitous corruption - that's killing southern Europe as we speak! And I believe Mitterand lost an election so it wasn't "Mitterand and his France" who "had to turn abrupty toward austerity" anyway - it was someone else and their France which wound up in 1996 with such high unemployment that they had to turn from downsizing to voluntary timesizing with the Robien Law, and in 1997 to mandatory timesizing via the 35-hour workweek cuz "voluntary" wasn't working fast enough.]
It will be much the same in 2012: whatever the new president will have promised before the election, reality will intrude. France will wake up to austerity again: After all, it needs to borrow $233 billion by the end of the year.
[No it doesn't. It just needs to tax its Onepercent to reactivate its money supply on an emergency first-aid basis and shift more fully into Timesizing, to reactivate its money supply on a permanent basis. Guez, smarten up. When you've got a recession, you've already got austerity - with no further effort. Calling for austerity in a recession is like campaigning against consumption in a recession. A recession IS austerity and lack of consumption. If you're an ecologist, quit fighting against consumption and start fighting for more consumption with less environmental impact or as Bucky Fuller put it, "doing more with less." Example: one fiber-optic cable replacing thousands of copper telephone wires.]
Olivier Guez is a French journalist who writes for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
4/20/2012 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- 'Doomsday budget' has Prince George's school officials considering cuts, by Abby Brownback, Maryland Community News Online via Gazette.Net
PRINCE GEORGE, Mryld. - The Prince George’s County school system is considering program cuts, layoffs and furloughs as officials wait to see if the state’s “doomsday” budget, which would cut about $51 million from the school system, is replaced with a less severe budget agreement in a special legislative session.
“Considering the cuts we’ve made over the last several years, we don’t have extra money in programs to cut,” said school board member Donna Hathaway Beck (Dist. 9). “This would be people.”
The “doomsday” default budget, an austere back-up plan triggered when legislators left Annapolis on April 9 without passing a more palatable budget agreement, mandates $512 million in cuts to education, libraries and public safety across the state starting July 1. It eliminates the Geographic Cost of Education Index, which provides additional funding for jurisdictions — such as Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Baltimore — where educational expenses are higher due to the cost of housing, crime rates, and the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
The move means Prince George’s, where the school system’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget is $1.65 billion, could lose out on $38 million it would have received from the index in addition to $13 million in general schools funding. The county school system has budgeted based on a requested $907 million in state funding.
“This would have a substantial impact on our students, teachers, staff and schools,” Prince George’s Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. wrote on his blog recently. “If a special session is not scheduled to resolve the inaction on the governor's budget, our system will once again face draconian cuts that would likely result in even larger class sizes, program cuts and significant position reductions.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has until June 30 to call legislators back to Annapolis for a special session that could result in a different budget agreement.
“We want [legislators] to come back and settle whatever it is the issues are and make sure that they pass an appropriate budget,” said school board chairwoman Verjeana M. Jacobs. “Clearly, we’re not looking forward to losing $51 million, but I’m pretty confident ... we’re going to get through that process.”
Matthew Stanski, chief financial officer for the county school system, said his staff is working on various possibilities, including cuts to programs, and employee layoffs and furloughs, that could realize $51 million in cuts. Each systemwide furlough day saves about $5 million, officials have said.
Increasing class sizes at each grade level by one student would save about $13 million, Stanski said. But county and schools officials — along with school board candidates and parents countywide — have decried increasing class sizes.
“The most effective teacher is going to have a hard time teaching 45 students,” said board member Edward Burroughs III (Dist. 8). “We absolutely cannot afford to increase class sizes.”
County Councilman Derrick L. Davis (D-Dist. 6) of Mitchellville also opposes larger class sizes.
“Each time we do things that increase our class sizes, I bristle,” he said.
Though Burroughs wasn’t sure what could be cut, he said he would not support raising the student-to-teacher ratio or eliminating Reading Recovery, a program for first-graders struggling with literacy.
Cutting programs wouldn’t be enough to hit $51 million, Beck said. For example, two programs that were on the chopping block during budget negotiations last spring, Reading Recovery and the William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center in Brandywine, could only create about $3 million in savings combined.
“There’s only so many ways you can get to $51 million,” Beck said. “I don’t think you could avoid furloughs.”
The base funding amount per pupil in Prince George’s under the fiscal 2013 student-based budgeting plan was set at $3,110 this spring. Decreasing that by about $410 for each of the system’s more than 124,000 students would trim almost $51 million from the budget and, Stanski said, “we’re trying to stay away from that as much as possible.”
Davis said the school system and the county might have to consider consolidating smaller or underenrolled schools.
The school system has eliminated many central administration positions over the past several years, Burroughs said, and there’s no room for more cuts.
“Having to cut $51 million will directly negatively affect students and their achievement,” he said.
- Authorised January lay-off working hours fall slightly, Agenzia Giornalistica Italia via agi.it
ROME, Italy - INPS says authorised lay-off working hours fell slightly in January to just over 20 million. This corresponds to 37.08% of the almost 55 million hours authorised for the period.
This is slightly down on January 2011 (when over 21 million hours were taken up, as against an authorised 60 million), and significantly down on January 2010, when 31 million out of a possible 80.5 million hours were used.
Antonio Mastrapasqua, head of the INPS National Social Welfare Institution, said that "last year's trend has been largely confirmed by the early data for 2012, which shows that there is a significant gap between requested lay-off hours and those actually used. However, the data will need to be verified over the course of the year, especially given the fact that demand during the early part of this year has been high."
4/19/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Outside help no solution to euro zone troubles - Commentary: China can’t save Europe. Only Europeans can, By Andy Xie, Caixin Online via MarketWatch.com
BEIJING, China — Visitors to a recent conference in northern Italy became painfully aware of what ails the Italian economy. It was fascinating to watch how a ferry employee methodically slowed down the sales of tickets to a long line of tourists who watched aghast as the mostly empty ferries left without them.
[This is a management failure involving too few employees. So it actually contradicts the following paragraph.]
At train stations and on high-speed trains, redundant employees were obvious. The public sector problems in Italy are similar to China’s with the state-owned enterprises in the 1990s, only several times bigger.
[Never mind China's current over 20% = 200 million unemployed. Oh that makes a LOT more sense, duh yupyup.]
Italy’s private sector works better than the public sector but not by much. Numerous activities seem to be subject to government and union restrictions. Supply response is virtually not existent. The retail sector seems most market driven. It is relatively efficient compared to other sectors. Still it is less efficient than the retail sector in the United States or East Asia.
[Italy is not Europe. And it's the poster boy of gangster economies. Tarring Europe with Italy's brush is just stupid.]
Even without government or union restrictions, the Italian economy would opt for more leisure than most others, as the retail sector demonstrates. [Evidence??] But, the market choice would still be significantly lower than what the government and union rules dictate. [Evidence??] The Italian economy has stagnated for the last decade. [Data?] The anti-market rules must be a big factor. [What anti-market rules? This guy makes a lot of unsupported statements.]
If the Italian economy is deregulated [by ??] to permit quick supply response, it could grow briskly for many years, until the inefficiency is squeezed out.
[China is luddite with maximum labor and minimum automation - is its inefficiency squeezed out?]
The economy could be 20% to 30% bigger than now. Italy’s national debt is 120% of gross domestic product. The improved efficiency could pay for it all in six years. While there are many other factors causing Italy’s economic crisis, self-inflicted inefficiency must be the most important one.
Other European economies that are in trouble like Italy’s have similar problems in over-choosing leisure through collective actions like government regulations and union rules.
[Ireland doesn't. This is the same ol' simpleton's story of fewer people working harder as the robots march in and Unions Bad!]
The debt levels and fiscal deficits in the euro zone are not significantly higher than in the United Kingdom or the United States. The market, however, worries more about its problems because it doesn’t have confidence in its future.
[Now the market is a worrier with or without confidence in its future? This commentator is hallucinating.]
This is why outside help isn’t the solution. It merely gives the troubled economies the means not to address their problems.
The panda syndrome
One question I often encounter in Europe is the linkage between working conditions and human rights. The implied message is that China competes unfairly by denying its workers human rights. I strongly believe in human rights and humane working conditions. But where do fair working conditions end and market forces start?
[At the point where you've made the length of your workweek a market call by automatically adjusting it against unemployment to achieve full employment and maximum consumer spending.]
For example, if a worker labors 20 hours a day continuously [as in China], something is wrong. Hence, there should be some regulation on maximum overtime. What should that limit should be?
[System requirements in the age of robotics dictate as low a limit on overtime based on as short a workweek - as it takes for full employment and maximum consumer spending.]
A law that doesn’t permit overtime, i.e., a 40-hour maximum work week, is obviously bad policy.
[Obvious to whom?]
Many professions like medicine and retail inherently require longer working hours.
[Ever heard of shifts?]
Indeed, working hours should best be left to the market to decide, as long as workers are not coerced.
[Detailed working hours are a market decision, but maximum workweek and the weekly start of overtime have not yet become a market decision anywhere because they are not automatically adjusted against unemployment.]
Limiting what other people can do seems to be central to the current European thinking on fairness.
[Not "other" people - all people, like, no killing one another.]
When someone opens a shop longer than others, it forces others to open longer too.
[Not necessarily. And this sentence is unrelated to the foregoing.]
Since human rights should dictate working hours [but he just said "working hours should best be left to the market to decide" - this guy is babbling!], there ought to be a collective action [meaning "regulation"?? - this guy needs an editor] on how long every shop can open. That line of thinking is leading to all sorts of restrictions in Europe on how long a shop or any other business can stay open. [If he doesn't like it, why did he just say it "ought" to be?] Restricting work has become a significant part of the European concept on human rights.
[Now he's finally getting to his real focus. Chinese work 24/7 for peanuts so why shouldn't everyone else? This guy is a closet puritan= someone with the nagging suspicion that somebody, somewhere, is having a good time.]
Because Europeans cannot restrict working hours elsewhere this has caused them frustration. [Whaaat?] Complaining about working conditions in China, for example, has become a favorite explanation for European economic difficulties.
["European" economic difficulties are only southern European, plus Eire, and they can be easily solved by returning these difficult economies to their former separate currencies. Germany is doing great precisely because it has shorter working hours a la Kurzarbeit and France would be doing better if Sarcozy quit undermining the 35-hour workweek and automated the conversion of overtime into jobs.]
European practices in restricting work treat humans like an endangered species, such as the panda. [Oh nonsense. It treats humans like all-need-good-jobs like a single species instead of splitting the species into workers and drones as in China.] Indeed, many Europeans seem to behave like pandas, treating privileges as rights. [Gee, do pandas really treat privileges as rights? Then cut the panda program and leave them to extinction.] The panda syndrome is the root cause of the European debt crisis [southern European only]. If this psychology isn’t broken, the euro zone debt crisis isn’t likely to go away [unless southern Europe is dropped from the euro zone]. Bailouts merely alleviate the symptoms but don’t deal with the cause. [Bailouts don't even alleviate the symptoms.]
(Mostly) Made in China
Every economy has strengths and weaknesses. Globalization magnifies the consequences of such strengths and weaknesses. To prosper in today’s global economy, an economy must cut out the activities associated with the weaknesses and throw all the resources into the winners. [And let the weak starve? Hitler did that. We could also just drop the premature globalization, restore tariffs, and quit racing to the bottom and sacrificing all industries for the sake of one = export-import.]
Germany, for example, ditched its commodity industries and shifted its resources to the automobile sector. [That could be really bad when external commodity sources prove unreliable.] Most European economies have failed to do so. [A good failure in our view. Asian example: should Japan become dependent on foreign rice? We think not.]
Italy is the land of Prada, Gucci, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Parma ham, Tuscan wine, etc. Such renowned brands and products are deeply rooted in Italian culture. As the global economy grows, such products should bring enormous benefits to Italy. And they have, just not enough to close Italy’s trade deficit. The reason is Italy’s inability to increase supplies partly due to its labor market restrictions.
[If it increases supply, it decreases price. These are luxury brands. The name of the game is restricted supply.]
When tourists in Italy check out the shops near attractions like the Florence Cathedral, the products all exhibit distinct Italian design and workmanship and come at attractive prices. But the products are mostly made in China, maybe assembled in Italy, probably by Chinese workers in Italy. Whenever one sees a good price on a European product, it is most likely made in China.
[So restore tariffs and dump the Free Trade true belief.]
Some Italians complain bitterly about the “unfair” Chinese competition. They often quote examples of Chinese workers working in basements in Italy, i.e., unfair to Italian workers who wouldn’t work in basement.
[Then ship them back to China. Now we're getting onto the subject of non-steadystate immigration policy thanks to shortsightedly pennypinching employers.]
The chances are that Italy’s Chinese connection has added greatly to its strength.
[Our money is on its adding greatly to its weakness.]
Without the involvement of Chinese workers, Italy’s luxury sector would be much smaller and less profitable today. [What good are profits if they get funneled to the superrich who only use them for pecking order markers?] Italy’s labor market restrictions make its production costs too high. [Germany's fine with that because wages are also high.] Also, it is doubtful that Italy has such a big pool of labor for manually making its products. [Whaaat?] It is often assumed that Italian workers make better quality products, even if at a higher cost. I seriously doubt it. China makes so much that some products are inevitably shoddy. For luxury products, it is easy to find enough workers who could do equally good or better job than Italian workers. [A racist Chinese! Enough time wasted here.]
The impetus of collapse
Euro zone bailouts usually require fiscal cuts for the aid-receiving economies. The cuts are usually a fraction of the aid. If one believes that the cuts would be sustained, the cumulative amount seems to make sense relative to the aid. But, the cuts merely decrease fiscal deficits. The payback of the outstanding debts is assumed to be forever rolled over by the market. That assumption will be tested.
In 1998, Asian economies quickly tightened their belts amidst the financial crisis. GDP contracted at double digit rate for several economies. Restaurants went empty, as did business class seats on commercial flights. Luxury hotels had to offer massive discounts to attract business travelers. Nothing of this sort is happening in Europe. While euro zone economies have contracted a bit, people seem to be bent on enjoying life as usual. Restaurants, especially the expensive ones, have waiting lines. Luxury hotels are packed. Business class seats seem to fill quicker than ones in economy class. Europeans, while worried about the crisis, don’t seem to be acting the part.
The international environment has helped the euro zone get on with life as usual. The quickest way for a financial crisis to strike is a big devaluation. It cuts living standards immediately. In a world of loose monetary policy everywhere, the euro has done well. The real impact on broader society is from fiscal austerity. That is 1% to 2% of GDP. The lower interest rate may cut so much for household debt service. The pain from the crisis is yet to be felt.
The panic is limited mostly to financial markets and politicians that must deliver debt service. All the bailouts (including the latest tranche and the European Central Bank lending) are in the trillions, equal to Italy’s total national debt. Bailouts before the pain hits are not helpful for building social consensus for change.
China shouldn’t get involved
European political leaders have been going to China frequently. Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy is the latest. The objective is to get China to inject money into the euro zone, either through funding the International Monetary Fund, participating in the region’s bailout schemes, or buying assets. It is a bad idea for China to get involved. Greek bondholders have suffered a 70% haircut. Such restructuring has occurred frequently in European history. Italy could restructure its debt also.
Chances are that the euro zone won’t change its leisure-work balance. Fiscal austerity could only slow the increase in the region’s debt. And the region’s economies won’t grow much for the foreseeable future. To meet the debt service on the existing stock, the real interest rate needs to be negative. The ECB has to expand money supply to stabilize the region’s debt market, which causes inflation and a negative real interest rate. Investors in the region’s government debts will lose money in real terms.
Giving money to the IMF is the worst idea possible. It is under European control. China won’t have any say in how the IMF channels the money into the region. Participating in the region’s bailout schemes is similar to giving money to the IMF. China won’t have a say in how the money would be spent. As the region is still not embracing reforms to enhance productivity, any bailout is just throwing good money after bad. It doesn’t make sense for China to join such follies.
Buying assets, especially in countries like Italy, is a bad idea. The regulation regime and union rules make ownership not meaningful. Local businesses can keep control through political influence over various power blocks in the country. A foreign buyer could easily be robbed blind as the rules shift money from asset owners to workers. Unfortunately, the few cases of Chinese buying European assets fit this picture. Chinese buyers of European assets have done poorly. Until the region reforms to give ownership the same meanings as elsewhere, outsiders shouldn’t buy European assets.
China’s exports to Europe have weakened since the middle of 2011. Some argue that China helps itself by helping Europe. This is a bad argument. The direct impact on boosting China’s exports is likely negligible. It is far better for China to support exports through export-import financing.
As I observed above, European demand is affected by fiscal austerity. When the impact is fully absorbed, the region’s demand is likely to stabilize. Further, China could benefit in other markets. The crisis is making export financing scarce for European exporters. It creates an opportunity for China’s manufacturers in emerging economies.
China cannot save Europe. No one can. Only Europeans can, through increasing work relative to leisure. If Europe doesn’t change, financial assistance merely postpones the day of reckoning.
[Blind leading the blind.]
Andy Xie is a board member of Rosetta Stone Advisors Ltd.
["And who among you, if his child asks for a fish, will give him a stone?" - Rosetta or not.]
- Germany, the miraculous machine - Europe's largest economy is a study in how to contain a crisis, by Ralph Atkins, Financial Times via ft.com
FRANKFURT, Germany - In giant halls on a sprawling site in northern Germany, an army of builders is constructing exhibition stands for almost 5,000 companies attending the Hanover trade fair. Some are three storeys high, with private dining rooms for entertaining the most valued customers.
Since 1947, when it was established by Germany’s British postwar administrators, the fair has been a show of Teutonic industrial strength. This year it will cover an area 16 per cent larger than that of 2010. Boosting the numbers are almost 500 exhibitors from China – this year’s “partner country” – albeit in stands noticeably less showy than those of their hosts.
The 200,000 or so visitors expected in coming days will notice two things. First, how much Germany’s economic fortunes have become linked to China’s; exports to the country were worth €65bn last year, more than double the 2007 level.
The second thing they are likely to remark upon is the upbeat mood in Europe’s largest economy. Germany’s success is the flipside of the eurozone’s debt woes: low interest rates, a flood of inflowing capital, steadily rising global demand for its products and a weakening exchange rate have created some of the best trading conditions for years. “Nobody would have believed how strongly Germany would come out of this crisis,” says Wolfram von Fritsch, chief executive of the Hanover fair.
German joblessness has fallen to just 2.8m, or 6.7 per cent of the workforce, the lowest since reunification in 1990, “which at a time of crisis is something pretty unique”, says Otmar Issing, former chief economist at the European Central Bank. Business confidence indicators are climbing back towards record highs.
The question on the minds of exhibitors, and policy makers around the world, is whether it is too good to last. Germany getting it right “matters a lot”, says Marco Annunziata, chief economist at General Electric in the US. If good times persist, the country’s labour market success “might hold some lessons even for the US”. But if Germany slips, “the eurozone would find it even harder to navigate its financial crisis, with potentially disastrous global repercussions”.
Caution is warranted. For all its industrialists’ bravado, experts say there is a risk that German gross domestic product data next month could show the country was in technical recession – two quarters of decline – around the turn of the year after a collapse in economic confidence caused by last year’s escalation of the eurozone debt crisis.
While most economists expect a pick-up this year, it is unlikely to be strong, weighed down by fiscal austerity measures hitting demand across the rest of the eurozone. Constraints created by an ageing population and a sluggish, over-regulated service sector mean long-term growth rates will remain modest at best. Its politicians fiercely oppose attempting to boost growth with big tax cuts or higher public spending – oblivious to global concern that their insistence on fiscal prudence across Europe is driving the eurozone into deeper trouble.
Mr Issing argues the country has become “a model for Europe . . . The lesson learnt from Spain, Italy, Portugal – not to mention Greece – is that sustainable growth comes only if the economy is flexible enough”. But he worries Germans are becoming complacent and that the push for greater efficiency in, say, the pension system or labour markets is losing momentum. “My concern is that, because Germany is doing so well, it is already starting to endanger its future.”
Without the dynamic expansion in exports to China, growth in German GDP would have been about 0.5 percentage points lower (equivalent to €13bn) than the 3 per cent reported last year, according to calculations by Italian bank UniCredit.
The two economies are increasingly intertwined: Germany has the knowhow, China the mass market. But behind the smiles at Sunday’s formal opening – with Wen Jiabao, Chinese premier, joining chancellor Angela Merkel in Hanover – will be fears the embrace has become too strong. Visitors to the fair will be able to tick off icons of the Mittelstand, Germany’s industrial heartland, now in Chinese ownership: Putzmeister, which employs 3,000 making concrete pumps, was acquired in January, for example.
Worryingly, China’s growth has shown signs of slowing recently. If it suffered a “hard landing”, warns Andreas Rees of UniCredit in Munich, “it would undoubtedly be bad news for the German economy . . . You cannot have your cake and eat it: that is, benefit in the good times but not be hurt in the bad times”.
For now, such doomsday scenarios seem unlikely. For a start, say Mr Rees and other economists, the Chinese slowdown is unlikely to be abrupt. Moreover, as Chinese demand has weakened, other countries have picked up the slack. Growth in exports to Russia last year actually outpaced growth in those to China. “German exporters are pretty diversified. They have their niches, so it doesn’t matter where global growth comes from – so long as there is global growth,” says Dirk Schumacher
of Goldman Sachs in Frankfurt.
Commercially, what happens to Greece, for example, is irrelevant – German exports there last year were just 0.5 per cent of the total – unless eurozone problems create a broader threat to global economic confidence.
German industrialists have also become more “shock resistant”. When the failure of Lehman Brothers at the end of 2008 led to a collapse in demand for the country’s goods – and the economy contracted faster than most other industrialised countries – workers were not sacked on a grand scale as in the US. Encouraged by subsidies for Kurzarbeit, or short-time working, companies instead hoarded labour. As a result, domestic demand remained stable, allowing a quick rebound. “The difference today compared with 2009 is that industry has learnt to cope with short, deep crises,” says Mr von Fritsch. “Such crisis experience creates a calmer mood.”
The effects of German success are spreading, helping counter criticism it is doing too little to help neighbours. In a report last month, the Bundesbank noted the current account surplus with other eurozone countries had fallen from a peak of €108bn in 2007 to just €57bn last year. “As a result, almost half of the surplus that built up from a practically balanced position in 1999 has been dismantled since the beginning of the financial and economic crisis,” it concluded.
Much of the fall reflected weaker demand from crisis-hit European countries. But the Bundesbank argued neighbours benefited, for instance, by supplying parts to German manufacturers. It cited subsidies for car purchases during the 2009 slump, which boosted demand for foreign vehicles. The central bank could also have noted a more recent surge in wine imports from southern Europe – sales of Spanish wine were up 20 per cent last year. “Germany has been the transmission mechanism by which the eurozone benefited from Chinese growth,” says Mr Schumacher.
All of which has convinced Germans that their economic model is pretty nicely pitched. Almost a decade ago Hans-Werner Sinn, president of Munich’s Ifo economic institute and one of the country’s best-known economists, wrote a book entitled Can Germany Be Saved? The country was underperforming compared with other eurozone economies, with high wages undermining competitiveness and unemployment soaring. Today, Mr Sinn has a clear answer to his question. Germany “has been saved”, he says. “The demographic problem, the high costs in the new Länder [eastern Germany], are still there. But the problems of west Germany being too expensive, with wages too high, has been resolved . . . What helped was that other countries inflated away from Germany. That has contributed greatly to Germany’s success.”
Another crucial element was the labour reforms undertaken by the Social Democrat-led government of Gerhard Schröder, chancellor until 2005, and a push by companies to increase flexibility in the workplace.
Europe’s economies are clearly rebalancing, Mr Sinn maintains. “Capital markets have now understood that you can burn a lot of money in southern Europe. Germans’ savings, which previously drained to the south, often via the French banking system, now prefer to stay in the safe home haven, even if the rate of return is less. This has been the driving force behind Germany’s boom of the past two years.”
Much growth in the past two years has been driven by a rebound in investment spending and construction activity. Consumer spending has also accelerated, though it remains modest by the standards of the US and UK consumer-led economies.
Some in Germany even fret about “overheating”. The Bundesbank has expressed concern about property prices, which rose 5.5 per cent last year. Such talk still seems premature given that house prices have been flat for a decade. But there are signs of cost pressures building. With unemployment tumbling, trade unions have stepped up demands for higher wages. After weeks of sporadic industrial activity that paralysed public transport across the country, Ver.di, the services industry union, last month secured a 6.3 per cent pay rise over two years for 2m workers.
Economists at institutions such as the OECD argue that further extensive structural reforms are needed to ensure Germany’s economy can continue to grow at a fair clip without excessive inflation. These include greater liberalisation of the service sector and steps to encourage women to work longer hours. The average working week of a German woman is at present among the shortest in the industrialised world. “Still more needs to be done to strengthen the growth potential, not least in view of rapid population ageing,” the OECD warned in February. The risk is of escalating costs of the elderly falling on a contracting workforce.
Despite his optimism, Mr Sinn warns of a looming demographic crisis. “Of course, you can offset population ageing with immigration. After 10 years of low immigration and even emigration from Germany, the euro crisis has reversed everything . . . We have an immigration wave from other European countries. That will of course help the economy to grow – but it can’t make up totally for the lack of babies.”
Such concerns are evident in Hanover. One of this year’s highest-profile exhibits is a robotic exoskeletal hand worn like a glove by older production line workers to amplify the power of their finger muscles so they can work longer. More than 10,000 schoolchildren will tour the trade fair on trips designed to nurture enthusiasm for engineering. German industrialists – like Chinese planners – think long-term.
4/18/2012 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Work sharing: The way for states to reduce unemployment in the US - Individual US states should implement a 'work sharing' policy of reducing worker hours rather than laying them off, by Dean Baker, Reuters via Aljazeera.com
With further inaction by the US federal government, unemployment levels are not expected to return to normal until the end of the decade. (photo caption)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - It is clear that we are not going to see any major action from the federal government to reduce unemployment any time soon. There is no hope that this Congress will support another round of stimulus and not much more hope from the next Congress, even if the Democrats somehow regain control.
What that means is that we are looking at a long, painfully slow recovery. Assuming that the economy continues to generate 200,000 jobs a month, roughly its average over the last three months, we will not get back to more normal levels of unemployment until somewhere near the end of the decade.
And it is certainly plausible that progress will be worse. That story assumes a recovery lasting for more than a decade, something the United States has never experienced.
This means that we should expect to see a labour market in which millions of workers will be unable to find jobs for long into the future. They will be unable to adequately support their families, and may even lose their homes, all because the folks in charge of running economic policy don't know what they are doing.
While economic policy is best made at the national level, as a result of the bill that extended the payroll tax cut, there is a policy that states can pursue that might make a real difference. This bill included a provision that calls for the federal government to pick up the tab for state spending on work sharing as part of the state's unemployment insurance programme. This means that states can save themselves a great deal of money if they can encourage employers to use work sharing as an alternative to layoffs.
Work sharing, formally known as "short work", is an arrangement whereby employers reduce the hours of their existing work force instead of laying off workers. For example, if an employer was going to lay off 10 workers, she can instead have the same reduction in labour time by reducing the hours of 50 workers by 20 per cent.
Under the unemployment insurance system, workers would typically be entitled to roughly half of their pay if they were laid off. Under the short work system, the government would make up roughly half of the lost wages for workers who were put on short time. In this example, if their hours were cut back by 20 per cent, the government would make up half of the lost wages, or 10 per cent of their total wages. This leaves the worker earning 90 per cent of their former wages while working 80 per cent of the time.
The bill that extended the payroll tax cut included a provision that was taken from a bill originally proposed by Senator Jack Reed and Representative Rosa DeLauro that reimburses states for the money that they spend on their short work programme. This gives the 23 states that already have short work programmes in place an enormous incentive to promote work sharing as an alternative to laying off workers.
While the unemployment benefits that would be paid to laid off workers come directly out of the state's unemployment insurance fund, the state would be reimbursed 100 per cent for the money paid to workers who have their hours cut. The states that don't currently have programmes in place could also receive federal money to establish short work programmes.
At the moment, less than 40,000 workers nationwide are on short work programmes. To increase this number, states will first have to publicise the system. Many employees don't even know that the programme exists.
States should also try to increase the flexibility of the system. Most of these programmes were put in place more than 30 years ago. In many cases they are overly bureaucratic. For example, an employer may be required to specify in advance exactly which workers will have their hours reduced, and by how much time over a three to six month period. Such restrictions can make the short work system sufficiently unattractive that few employers will want to go this route.
However, there have been notable success stories. Germany's unemployment rate is lower today than at the start of the recession largely because it has encouraged employers to keep workers on the payroll working fewer hours rather than laying them off. Its growth has been no better than growth in the United States over the last four years.
There are also examples in the United States of companies that use work sharing effectively. In addition to keeping workers on the job, companies also benefit from retaining skilled employees. As a result, when demand picks up they need to only increase hours rather than search for and train new workers.
There also could be longer term benefits from work sharing. Workers in the United States spend many more hours on the job than their counterparts in other wealthy countries. We are the only wealthy country that does not guarantee workers some amount of paid vacation, sick leave, or parental leave. If work sharing gets workers used to the idea of working less for somewhat less pay, perhaps it will lead to a new push for getting the sort of guaranteed time off that workers in other countries take for granted. That would be a huge bonus from a policy that at the moment also offers the best hope for getting unemployment down to more acceptable levels before the end of the decade.
Dean Baker is co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, based in Washington, DC. He is the author of several books, including Plunder & Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy, The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich, Get Richer and The United States Since 1980 and The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
- Indio employees agree to more furlough to avoid massive lay-offs, by Xochitl Pena, The Desert Sun via mydesert.com
INDIO, Calif. - City employees are doing their part to help the city balance its budget and avoid massive lay-offs.
Members of the Service Employees International Union have agreed to continue furloughs for a third year, among other concessions, to help the city save almost $150,000.
The city is working to bridge a $4 million deficit in next year’s budget beginning July 1
and will still have to lay-off around 15 employees to cut cost.
But the concessions by SEIU and other employees will reduce employee cuts by about 60 percent.
“By not having this concession, more severe workforce reductions would be implemented,” said Jasmin Loi, human resources manager, in a staff report to City Council.
The Indio City Council today in a 5 to 0 vote approved authorizing the city manager to modify the contract with SEIU which represents about 20 mostly supervisory employees.
SEIU is the first union group to agree to more furloughs.
A tentative agreement that includes continuing furloughs has also been reached with the Indio Police Officers Association, but has yet to be formally approved by City Council.
The city is still negotiating with the Police Command Unit and the Laborers' International Union of North America. The city has about h250 employees in total.
Meetings with union groups to review the budget and establish a plan on helping the city balance its budget started in November.
“We are working on bridging that gap through reductions in staff, other reductions in operations and increases in revenue,” said Rob Rockwell, finance director of the deficit.
City officials had wanted to eliminate furloughs so employees could go back to work full time. Per the contract amendment though, furloughs for SEIU members will continue for another fiscal year until June 30, 2013.
In addition to the furloughs, employees have agreed to suspend merit increases and cafeteria health benefit increases.
There will also be a one-year moratorium on comp-time and vacation buy-backs. Only comp-time earned between July 1 and June 30, 2013 will be eligible for buy-backs. Anything prior to that period will not be eligible.
Non-union represented employees in managerial roles will also continue with furloughs to help cut costs, said City Manager Dan Martinez.
Every little bit helps, said.
“At this point what we’ve decided is about 15 employees. That number may change,” said Martinez. “It could have been easily 35 to 40 lay-offs.”
The city’s budget is still being finalized and will officially be approved in June.
- Part-time Britain hits record high as unemployment falls, by Louisa Peacock, Telegraph.co.uk
LONDON, U.K. - Record numbers of Britons are being forced to work part-time as they cannot find full-time jobs, while the number of women out of work has soared to a 25-year high, official statistics showed on Wednesday.
• A third out of work for 12 months or more
• Number of unemployed women hits 25-year high
• Long-term joblessness reaches worst total since 1996
• Fewer people aged under 65 could afford to retire
• Over-50s and young account for long-term unemployment rise
One-third of unemployed Britons have been out of work for 12 months or more, overshadowing the first fall in the unemployment rate in close to a year.
The number of people being forced to work shorter hours because they could not find full-time jobs has surged by 89,000 between December and January to reach 1.4m - the highest figures since comparable records began in 1992.
The rise in part-time working helped to ease overall unemployment, which fell for the first time in almost a year by 0.1pc, or by 35,000, over the period to reach 2.65m.
Dr John Philpott, economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: "A properly recovering jobs market is not characterised by a growing army of underemployed part-timers and pay rises still falling well short of price inflation."
Women bore the brunt of joblessness, with an extra 8,000 becoming unemployed in the three months to February, reaching 1.14m - the highest figure in 25 years.
The number of unemployed men was 1.51m over the period, down 43,000 from the three months to November.
The figures cast doubt over government claims the labour market is recovering and on the right track, experts said.
However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said changes to the way women's benefits are calculated, such as moving single mothers off lone parents' allowance and onto Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), account for some of the rise in female unemployment.
The number of people claiming JSA increased for the 17th month in a row in March, up by 3,600 to 1.61 million, the smallest monthly rise since last December.
Long-term unemployment hit a 16-year high, with the number of people out of work for over a year jumping by 26,000 to 883,000.
There was a 53,000 increase in the number of people in employment to 29m, although the figure is 57,000 down on a year ago.
However, there were 61,000 fewer retired people below the age of 65, the ONS said, suggesting fewer Britons felt they could afford to retire early in the curent climate.
This helped ease the economically inactive total, down overall by 25,000 to 9.3m. But there were 34,000 more "stay-at-home" mums, the ONS said.
Youth unemployment eased on previous quarters, with 1.03m unemployed 16-to-24-year-olds between December and February, down by 9,000 from the three months to November and the lowest total since last autumn.
The number of people classed as economically inactive, including those on long-term sick leave, students, those looking after a relative or who have given up looking for work, fell by 25,000 to 9.27 million, a rate of 23pc.
Average earnings increased by 1.1pc in the year to February, down by 0.2 percentage points from the previous month to the lowest since the summer of 2010.
Average weekly pay in private firms is £459, compared with £477 in the public sector.
There were 1.4m working days lost through strikes in the year to February, the highest total since 2002, largely as a result of last November's walkout by public sector workers in the row over pensions.
4/17/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Why not reduce work week? letter to editor by Charles Campisi, Toronto Star, A20 & via thestar.com
OAKVILLE, Ont., Canada - It is very surprising that while cutbacks by the federal and provincial governments will result in thousands of lost good jobs, neither the governments nor unions are considering the simple concept of a reduced work week to avoid layoffs.
Surely we will all be better off if we can control costs and still avoid layoffs of our fellow Canadians.
- Report: More employees taking their boss to court over work hours - Lawsuits over wage-and-hour laws up 32%,
USA Today via WDIV Detroit via clickondetroit.com
DETROIT, Mich. - You are not alone! According to a report in the USA Today, more workers nationwide are taking their employers to court over what they consider violations of wage-and-hour laws. The report says those types of lawsuits are up 32% compared to 2008.
The main grievance for workers is that they put in more than 40 hours a week without overtime pay. Workers are claiming they are forced to work off the clock or their jobs were misclassified as exempt from overtime requirements.
The other big complaint has to do with smartphones and other technology that allows work to take over their personal time. How many of you have watched friends constantly checking their iPhone or Blackberry for messages from work? It's become the new fact of life for many employees several different professions.
The USA Today reports that American productivity, or output per labor hour, rose 2.3% in 2009 and 4% in 2010 - a period that includes the recession's final months and its aftermath - vs. increases of 0.6% to 1.6% the previous four years. However, some economists say the gains are overstated because many overtime hours were not properly counted, as employees worked off the clock.
The Supreme Court's involvement
Even the United States Supreme Court is getting involved. It will hear a class-action suit against drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline. Sales representatives are arguing they should not be considered exempt from overtime pay, an argument that was backed by the Labor Department in another case. Glaxo says the sales force is clearly exempt under current law.
The controversy has reached the Supreme Court, but in a case involving an age-old profession: sales. Monday, the justices will hear oral arguments in a class-action lawsuit against drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline. Pharmaceutical sales representatives - traditionally classified as exempt from overtime pay - say they've been misclassified, a stance backed by the Labor Department in another case. Glaxo says the sales force clearly is exempt under current law.
- Parents, students and teachers plead for reprieve from North Portland's Humboldt, Tubman schools closure, by Cornelius Swart, The Oregonian via OregonLive.com
HUMBOLDT, Ore. - Almost 300 parents, students and teachers filled the gymnasium at Humboldt school last Thursday before members of the Portland Public Schools board and Superintendent Carole Smith to voice their objections to the proposed closure of Humboldt K-8 school and Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Young Women.
The two North Portland schools, which enroll fewer that 500 children combined, have been targeted by the district’s latest round of budget cuts.
Tearful students and irate teachers and parents pleaded to save their schools.
“I look around here and all I see are broken hearts,” said one Humboldt parent.
Humboldt is almost 90 percent minority students. The school is adjacent to the Humboldt Garden public housing community, and parents said they did not want to lose the close-knit community where children were not singled out as different from Portland’s majority white population.
Some parents said the cluster should have school enrollments re-balanced in a process similar to one just completed in Northeast Portland.
Other parents defended Tubman as a unique girls-only school that addressed the atmosphere of bullying, peer pressure, over-crowding and distraction that pervade other neighborhood schools.
“I’ve seen girls who can’t focus because of boys,” said 11-year-old Ella Crabtree, a sixth-grader at Tubman, through tears. “I’ve seen girls who can’t focus because the class is too big.”
Crabtree and others said Tubman offered a sheltered environment with small classes that some girls need in order to find their self-confidence.
“Tubman provides safety and teaches these kids who they are and who they want to be,” said Nicole Mattison, who moved her 13-year-old daughter, Megan, to Tubman from Arleta Elementary after the child became cowed by bullying. “Now, she wants to be a police officer.”
The group was unanimous in opposition to closures.
The most telling moment came late in the evening when those parents opposed to closing Humboldt were asked to show their numbers by standing. Almost the entire group got to their feet, then sat down. Then those supporting Tubman were asked to stand. The same group rose again.
The superintendent said it was heartening to see so many parents speak up for their schools.
“But it’s a shame that it has to be under these circumstances,” Smith said. “There’s nothing in this budget I want to cut.”
Smith’s budget also includes cutting 110 teacher positions. School Board member Bobbie Regan said instead of layoffs, $1.4 million could be saved each day if teachers were furloughed. A seven day furlough for teachers and 10 days for central administrative staff would fill most of this year's budget gap.
“I’ve never been for furlough days before,” Regan said. She believes that if the economy continues to recover, PPS will be in a better financial condition next year. “When you look at the number of teachers we’re going to lose, now is the time to take furlough days.”
Smith indicated that in either case maintaining Humboldt and Tubman would be a challenge.
State Rep. Lew Frederick, a former journalist and district spokesman, attended the event. He said it was unlikely Tubman would remain unchanged. Frederick wants to see the five-year-old school converted back to middle school as it once was.
“Middle schools make a difference,” said Frederick, who said he believes the district has constantly tinkered with North Portland schools. He said PPS consolidations in North Portland during the past several years have eliminated all middle schools but left wealthier neighborhood unchanged.
“The community," he said, "is tired of being an experiment.”
4/15-16/2012 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Building society to cut hours at eight offices, by Chris Elliott, 4/15 Cambridge News via cambridge-news.co.uk
CAMBRIDGE, England - The Cambridge Building Society is to cut the opening hours of eight branches – but insists it is not closing any or axing jobs.
From May 14, branches in Burwell, Cottenham, Milton and Chesterton Road in Cambridge will have their weekday hours reduced from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday to 9am-3pm.
The Bar Hill branch, which currently opens 9am-6pm Monday to Wednesday, and 9am-6.30pm on Thursday and Friday, will switch to 9am-5pm opening Monday to Friday.
From July 9, the branches in Melbourn, Soham and Cambridge’s Mill Road will all change to half-day opening, from 9.30am-12.30pm.
From May 14, three branches will have increased weekend opening hours – Cherry Hinton, currently 9am-noon on Saturdays, will stay open until 5pm; Bar Hill will extend its closing time on Saturday from 3-5pm, and on Sunday from 3-4pm; and St Andrew’s Street in Cambridge will open 9am-5pm on Saturday instead of 9am-4pm. That branch will also start opening on Sundays, 11am-5pm.
There will be no changes to the society’s outlets in The Grafton centre, Ely, Histon, Sawston, St Ives, Great Shelford, Newmarket and Cambourne.
A spokeswoman said: “Discussions with staff members have taken place and the majority of our members who may be affected by the changes have been informed. We have made no compulsory redundancies but three members of staff opted to take voluntary redundancy.”
Stephen Mitcham, The Cambridge’s chief executive, said the changes were in response to “the way people want to do business”. It has offered improved access to services online and via a customer contact centre.
He said: “It is evident that the way people want to do business with us is changing. I would like to reassure our members we remain committed to maintaining a convenient local branch network, where customers can receive expert advice.”
- Sarkozy Says His Policies Have Killed 35-Hour French Work Week, by Gregory Viscusi, 4/16 Bloomberg.com
PARIS, France - French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his policies have effectively killed the 35-hour work week.
“It has been abolished,” Sarkozy said in an interview on France 2 television, six days before the first round of presidential elections.
[Great! This should finish him as a presidential contender.]
Sarkozy, who is trailing in polls behind Socialist Francois Hollande, was asked why he hadn’t repealed the work-week limit instituted by a Socialist government in 2000.
[Real reason: because it was (and is) very popular (and it reduces unemployment) and he was scared to do it directly.]
He responded that his government had in effect eliminated the law by extending the number of overtime hours allowed and not taxing overtime work.
Sarkozy said nine million workers were using the extensions.
[And driving up unemployment and down their own wages accordingly. Dumba dumbdumb.]
To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at firstname.lastname@example.org
4/14/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Employee furloughs continue as Glendale cuts expenses, by Cecilia Chan, (4/06 Arizona Republic, late pickup by) TucsonCitizen.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. - he Glendale City Council this week directed its staff to continue with employee furloughs, to explore selling city assets and to possibly raise the city sales tax in the upcoming budget year.
The staff is crafting the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which begins July 1. It is expected to be presented during an all-day workshop April 17.
Since February, the council has combed through spending as it braces for a shortfall that one councilwoman estimated could reach $30 million. The city staff has not yet provided a revenue projection.
Mayor Elaine Scruggs came to this week’s budget workshop armed with 20 proposals that she wants to see in the staff’s budget in two weeks.
Chief among them is reducing the amount set aside to manage the city-owned hockey arena from $20 million to $11 million. Scruggs said after getting no response from the staff on the potential cost of operating the arena, she arrived at $11 million by reviewing past figures to operate Jobing.com Arena, home of the Phoenix Coyotes, and what Phoenix spends for US Airways Center, home of the Phoenix Suns.
“If I look at a budget with $20 million for arena management, it’s not a budget that I am going to approve,” Scruggs said.
She also asked the council to join her in asking the National Hockey League to release $20 million, which the city placed in escrow as part of a pledge to help the league pay for team and arena losses during the 2011-12 season. Scruggs seeks a payment plan-agreement with the NHL.
None of the council members responded to the mayor’s request.
Also on the mayor’s list: She supported the sale of the city’s 386-piece art collection that originally cost the city $1.6 million, eliminating swimming lessons and doing away with adult and youth recreation leagues, which costs the city $650,000 to operate.
And, Scruggs suggested trims in some departments, such as human resources.
Scruggs was disappointed by the staff’s list of city assets that could be sold: golf courses, the media center and some downtown buildings. The mayor said it wasn’t a complete list and some venues on the list cost the city more than they could get from a sale. She noted that the city spent $9.3 million on the Civic Center, which has an estimated market value of one-third of that.
Scruggs said that the staff must consider a sales/lease-back option similar to what Arizona did with some of its state buildings to plug a deficit in 2010.
“We need to put our assets up for sale pretty darn quick and lease them back to get over this hump,” she said.
Vice Mayor Steve Frate suggested that the staff look at selling or leasing the city landfill.
Councilman Manny Martinez said, “The big elephant in the room is furloughs.”
[Elephant or not, better to cut the workmonth than the workforce and markets = timesizing, not downsizing.]
He said instead of the 6.5 unpaid days for staff in place during the current budget year, the city may have to go back to 13 days of furlough in the prior year. Martinez said that option was better than layoffs. Scruggs and Councilwoman Yvonne Knaack backed the idea.
Councilman Phil Lieberman and Councilwoman Norma Alvarez did not. Lieberman said he worried about employees getting by and working without pay to keep a job.
Instead, he pitched a 0.2 percent hike in the city sales tax.
Frate instructed the staff to go through the budget with a “finer-tooth comb” to ensure that everything that can be cut is cut before he would consider a tax increase.
If a tax hike is needed, Frate said he wants one that would sunset.
Knaack called the budget review gut-wrenching and enlightening.
“No one wants to cut libraries but if we have to cut more hours, we have to cut more hours,” she said. “We have a huge deficit.”
Knaack said that if the council had asked more questions and had been more aware of Glendale’s finances the city would not be in the shape it is today.
“I think we could have better planned for it,” she said.
Councilwoman Joyce Clark was absent.
- Judges without staffs man their offices Friday, by Steve Fry, (4/13 late pickup) Topeka Capital Journal
TOPEKA, Kans. - Except for piped-in music, the hallways of the third and fourth floors of the Shawnee County Courthouse were silent Friday, the first of five court furlough days.
Those floors house most of the 15 judges of Shawnee County District Court. A police officer in jeans and a T-shirt waited in a hallway to see a judge about obtaining a search warrant.
None of the administrative assistants, court reporters, clerks from the clerk of the district court office, or staff in the jury coordinator's office or court administrator's office were working. They were off without pay on orders from Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss because of a budget shortfall.
Courts were handling only matters determined to be "critical functions," including certain criminal proceedings, child-in-need-of-care cases and juvenile cases, decisions in mental health cases, and issuing protection from abuse and protection from stalking orders, according to an order signed by Nuss.
In his division on the third floor, District Court Judge Frank Yeoman completed paperwork after he heard two mental illness cases from 8:15 to 9:30 a.m.
Two people had been picked up by Topeka police officers in Shawnee County, then transferred to Osawatomie State Hospital. The hearings Friday were conducted via a video hookup at the courthouse and the hospital in Osawatomie.
Ordinarily the results of the hearings would be filed with the clerk of the court, but on Friday Yeoman emailed the outcomes to the Osawatomie hospital.
On Monday, the outcomes will be filed with the clerk of Shawnee County District Court, which was closed Friday.
On most Fridays, Yeoman also would handle adoptions and the filing of yearly accountings in conservator trusts.
One floor up, District Judge Richard Anderson was handling criminal cases, including deciding whether to issue search warrants to law enforcement officers.
Anderson also fielded queries from victims seeking orders in protection from abuse cases. He filled out the paperwork for a protection order, then a Shawnee County sheriff's deputy was to come to the courthouse to pick it up.
Anderson also answered phone calls about the court schedule on Monday, a guardian and conservatorship case from 2002, and an offender trying to report to his probation officer, who was off Friday due to the furlough.
During a slow hour, Anderson worked on decisions in pending cases and prepared for an upcoming hearing.
The furloughs disrupt court business, Anderson said, noting that hearings in several murder cases would have to be rescheduled. Also to be rescheduled are 12 people who were to appear before him Friday, eight for sentencing.
"Those are serious cases with people who have been convicted of crimes," Anderson said. "I'm frustrated."
For those furloughed, they are losing 10 percent of their pay for five weeks, Anderson said, which is an economic hit for people with tight budgets.
"It's hard for people," Anderson said.
Anyone summoned for jury duty starting Monday should follow the instructions on the summons, court officials said.
Nuss signed an order scheduling Friday, April 27, May 11, May 25 and June 8 as furlough days throughout the state.
As a result, 1,500 court employees statewide are being furloughed a total of one week without pay due to the Legislature's inability to pass a bill to cover a $1.4 million budget shortfall for the courts.
Steve Fry can be reached at (785) 295-1206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
4/13/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Parma service workers create independent collective-bargaining unit, by Bob Sandrick, firstname.lastname@example.org, 216-986-5478, Sun News via Plain Dealer via cleveland.com
PARMA, Ohio - More than 70 workers in the city’s Service Department have formed their own independent union.
The new union — Parma Service Workers Local 1 — was officially created April 5 when the Ohio State Employment Relations Board passed a resolution approving it.
The SERB action was confirmed Tuesday by Christine Dietsch, SERB’s executive director.
Previously, the city’s service workers were represented by United Steelworkers 7001.
However, in February, the workers voted 64-9 to form their own bargaining unit.
David Byrnes — hired by the new union as business agent — said service workers took that action because they wanted “a different point of view” in their negotiations with the city.
“They weren’t happy with the way things were going,” Byrnes said. “They’ve been without a new contract since 2009.”
In November 2010, service workers and the city approved a fact-finder’s report that was supposed to lead into a new two-year contract, retroactive to April 2009, then-Mayor Dean DePiero said at the time.
However, Byrnes said the fact-finder’s recommendations were never “memorialized” into a contract.
Even if the fact-finder’s report had been memorialized, the contract would have expired in April 2011.
Since 2009, the city and service workers have disagreed over some issues.
For example, when the city faced a budget crisis in 2009, it asked union workers to take unpaid furlough days as a way to cut costs.
When service workers resisted furloughs, the city reduced their workdays from eight to seven hours.
[= cutting hours for all, not jobs for a few ... and a few more ... and a few more ... till ... no consumers, no markets.]
Service workers filed a grievance opposing the reduced hours but continued to work seven-hour days.
The fact-finder ruled that the city has flexibility to require furlough days or reduced hours, Service Director Brian Higgins said at the time.
On Tuesday, Higgins said the city wants to sit down and talk with the new union.
“We look forward to coming to the table and resolving any issues we have,” Higgins said.
- Shorter working hours for public school teachers pushed, by Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex, Sun.Star via sunstar.com.ph
MANILA, The Philippines - The working hours of public school teachers may be reduced by two hours if Congress approves a proposed law pushing for a six-hour work day.
Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and his son, Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, is urging the House Committee on Basic Education and Culture to approve their proposed House Bill 5223, or the “Six-Hour Work Day for Public School Teachers Act of 2011.”
Under the measure, teachers will also receive additional compensation for work done beyond the six-hour work day.
“Reducing their work hours from the present eight-hour workday will allow them to rejuvenate in mind and body, and allot more time for teachers to innovate and enhance classroom teaching,” the younger Arroyo noted.
Even as there have been recent enactments of laws increasing teachers’ pay, Arroyo said “their present work schedule has left them stressed out and exhausted much to the detriment of the students.”
“Our teachers are among our modern heroes. Let’s treat them as such,” he added.
The bill seeks to exempt public school teachers from the Civil Service Rules that prescribe the generally established rule on an eight-hour workday.
Republic Act 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers clearly states that teaching hours for teachers shall not to be more than six hours.
However, the issuance of a memorandum by the Department of Education has prescribed that teachers should allot six hours for actual classroom teaching per day while the remaining two hours for teaching-related activities.
4/12/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Lynchburg councilman's part-time proposal set off heated debate, by Alicia Petska, Lynchburg News and Advance via www2.newsadvance.com
LYNCHBURG, Va. - Councilman Turner Perrow says he was surprised and disappointed by Tuesday’s vehement reaction to his proposal to cut spending by moving immediately to a part-time workforce.
“It was absolute negativity from the get go,” he said Wednesday of the members who voted no. “I thought they’d be more open-minded and appreciate some out-of-the-box thinking that could help solve our budget problems … But they absolutely tuned it out. I was really disappointed in that.”
Perrow touched off a heated debate Tuesday by making a motion to set the real estate tax rate at $1.02 — less than the current rate.
The move would have negated a proposed 10-cent rate increase and dropped the current rate by 3-cents to offset the impact of the new stormwater fee. It also would have meant carving $6.7 million out of the city manager’s budget. The motion was defeated on a 4-3 vote.
Other council members denounced Perrow’s motion as irresponsible and demanded to know where he planned to cut that much spending.
Perrow replied the city could save millions in overpriced Virginia Retirement System contributions by moving to an all or mostly part-time workforce.
He proposed employees be cut back to 32 hours a week but given the same pay and health benefits, as well as a contribution to a private 401(k). Some additional employees would have to be hired to make up for the shorter workweek, he acknowledged, but the city still would come out the winner because it wouldn’t be paying its crippling 26 percent VRS rate.
The city has the highest VRS rate in the state and it’s expected to keep climbing. This year, officials expect to pay about $10 million into the system.
Perrow said those type of costs are unsustainable and will spell the city’s financial doom if nothing is done. The city manager has been talking more about the merits of part-time staffers and had planned to make a presentation on it to council next week.
“If someone said, Turner, you only have to work 32 hours a week and you’ll get the same pay, same health benefits and we’ll contribute to your 401(k), I’d be all over it,” Perrow said. “… The same pay for less work sounds pretty good to me. And it saves us money, which is the crazy thing about it.”
But other council members said Perrow was jumping the gun by trying to rush an untested idea with no cost analysis or assurances of success. The city could lose money or compromise services, they argued.
“I was surprised he would suggest a method to cut taxes that had not been thought through and developed with more detail than it apparently was,” Councilman Randy Nelson said Wednesday. “… I thought we were very open-minded. We tried to explore it. The problem was there weren’t any answers to our questions.”
Perrow acknowledged the proposal was incomplete, but said he was submitting a “concept” for council’s consideration and it was rejected out of hand.
Nelson said he’d be interested in considering the idea again, after its details had been fleshed out. He had concerns about how a part-time schedule would affect hiring.
“I’ll admit this is a new and innovative idea, but I don’t know how it would work,” he said. “I don’t know if it would generate any savings. I just don’t know. He was asking us to lower the tax rate without any of those details.”
Voting against Perrow’s motion were Nelson, Mayor Joan Foster, Vice Mayor Ceasor Johnson and Councilman Michael Gillette.
Voting with Perrow were councilmen Jeff Helgeson and H. Cary.
Cary called the other council members’ behavior “thoroughly unprofessional” Wednesday.
“They did everything they could to trash it instead of thinking about it,” he said. “Those guys seem to think we’re in the employment business. We’re in the services business, and we should be delivering them in the least costly manner possible. That’s what the taxpayers expect.”
Cary said he would have preferred if Perrow had suggested a $1.02 tax rate as a preliminary goal — letting council change its mind later if needed — rather than calling for a vote Tuesday. But he agreed VRS is a financial “albatross” around the city’s neck that can’t be ignored.
“The world is changing, and we’ve got to change with it,” he said. “Unfortunately, some people on council, four people, seem content to do business the way it’s been doing it for years and years. It’s time to take the blinders off and wake up.”
Cary, Nelson and Perrow said they don’t believe a $1.02 tax rate is achievable at this point.
Carysaid he imagined the budget would end up with some cuts and some degree of tax increase, but not the full 10-cents. Perrow said he’s waiting to hear the other side’s ideas.
“I was trying to set a revenue threshold and then discuss how we were going to make it work,” he said. “I came at it from a revenue side rather than an expenses-driven side. I imagine the other group is going to come at it from the expenses side first and then justify the revenues.”
- The Future Workplace Is Killing You, by Brian Fung, Business Insider via articles.businessinsider.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Welcome to the future of work: a world where everything moves faster, the hours are longer and steady jobs are harder to find.
Work has always been central to our lives — in the United States, the 40-hour workweek stretches back at least a century — but now, technology and the pressure of competing in a global economy is threatening to turn back the clock, making our toil an all-consuming affair once again.
Studies show that we're more productive than ever. American output has tripled since 1947, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But even as our careers give us a sense of purpose and belonging, research shows they're also driving us toward some pretty self-destructive behavior, raising the question: Are our jobs killing us? By committing to a lifetime of labor, much of it sedentary, are we inadvertently exposing ourselves to a kind of stress our bodies weren't designed for?
Research suggests that in general, the more we work, the worse our bodies fare. But how far does that wisdom go? Consider this a guide to help you answer the question: Is work bad for your health?
Are longer hours bad for you? Perhaps not directly. But they do lead to activities that carry greater health risks.
In 2010, Americans each worked on average a total of 1,778 hours. That's not nearly as bad as South Korea (2,193 hours), but the United States still spends more time at work than many of its fellow developed nations, including Japan, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom. What happens to your body when you spend more time at the office?
While there's scant credible research to suggest a longer workweek is harmful in itself, scientists have found a link between increased working hours and unhealthy behavior. In particular, working longer can lead to greater rates of cigarette use, less exercise and fewer check-ups, researchers at the University of Illinois discovered in 2010. The inverse also holds true: working fewer hours is linked to healthier behavior. When France cut the legal cap on weekly working hours from 39 to 35 in 1998, workers were 4.3 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes. They were also less likely to abuse alcohol. And for every hour cut from the workweek, the study's participants were 2.2 percent more likely to engage in exercise.
Even if the causal relationship between long workweeks and poor health isn't directly clear, what is clear is that the more time you spend at work, the less you have to take care of yourself. And that's just common sense.
What about working odd hours? Undoubtedly bad for you. The question is, why?
Some 15 million Americans work evening or overnight shifts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These night-owls are all at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, among other afflictions. What do these individuals have in common? Could it be that night workers are universally unhealthy to begin with? Or that healthcare for night workers is somehow different than for their daytime colleagues?
Actually, the link between poor health and hard work is unambiguous here. There is a connection, and it has to do with our natural sleep cycles. Scientists at Harvard Medical School tested this theory in 2009 when they deliberately interfered with their test subjects' circadian rhythms. After being woken progressively later and later in the day for eight days in a row, the subjects' blood samples showed a remarkable decline in leptin, one of the body's hormones responsible for controlling appetite. Stress-related hormones like cortisol rose dramatically, and so too did subjects' blood pressure. Indicators for diabetes, such as blood glucose and insulin, were also at dangerous levels.
Throw it all together, and what you have is a potent cocktail of abnormalities primed for combustion.
I work in an office. Should be pretty safe, right? Depends. Are you sitting down?
In some ways, office drones have it easy — they don't face the acute threats that challenge soldiers, firefighters or other people who have an occupational relationship with mortal danger. But as it turns out, desk jockeys face a far more insidious hazard: the swiveling, cushioned time bomb they plant their bottoms on every day.
In a widely publicized study last year that had test subjects walking around in motion-sensitive underwearand eating meals controlled down to the last calorie, Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that inactivity simply due to sitting led to wild swings in metabolism. Other research has shown that those who sit for at least 11 hours a day suffer a four in ten chance of dying within three years -- no matter how much exercise they get. Even if you're only seated for eight hours a day, your risk of death is still 15 percent greater than someone who sits for half that time.
4/11/2012 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Deutsche Bank May Face Strikes on Postbank Comparison, Welt Says, Die Welt via Bloomberg via BusinessWeek.com
FRANKFURT, Germany - Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) may face strikes at its four biggest subsidiaries as worker representatives demand more vacation and shorter working hours to bring them into line with staff at the lender’s Postbank unit, Welt said, citing Stephan Szukalski of the DBV financial services union.
Postbank staff work 39 hours a week and are entitled to 30 days vacation, while workers at the Deutsche Bank (DBK) subsidiaries have a 42-hour week and can take just 27 days off, the newspaper said.The DBV canceled the industrywide wage agreement at the end of March, Welt said.
Negotiations on behalf of the 4,000 to 5,000 workers will begin next month, Welt reported.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sheenagh Matthews in Frankfurt at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Young need not fear losing out, letter to editor from Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye of
Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia Star via TheStar.com.my
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - In reference to “Higher retirement hurts chances for middle-aged and new grads” (Sunday Star, April 8) regarding the raising of the retirement age and its perceived unfavourable impact on promotion opportunities to higher grades for the middle-aged and on young graduates looking for jobs:
The average lifespan of Malaysians has increased, with males living up to 75 years, and females 77 years.
This means that a retiree aged 55 has to support himself for another 20 years or more without a job or income.
As people are now living longer, it is only right that the employment system in both the public and private sectors allow workers to work as long as they are productive.
Moves are now afoot to increase the retirement age in the private sector from 55 to 60 in tandem with the public sector.
Employees aged 55 and above may still be efficient and able to contribute to the organisation they are attached to and the country as a whole.
It would be a loss to the employer if experienced workers are retired at 55.
When the retirement age is extended, both employers and employees stand to benefit. The older employees can offer higher skills and a wealth of experience to the organisation.
Employees would also be able to increase their retirement savings including the employer’s portion of EPF contributions which they otherwise cannot get if they do not work.
Both employers and employees should understand how the proposed new minimum retirement age law will affect them.
The new law will set a mandatory age limit where an employee cannot be retired by his/her employer before the employee turns the prescribed age.
However, if the employee chooses to retire before the minimum age, he/she has every right to do so.
This also means that if there are those who can work until 65 or 70, they can do so based on job availability and the needs of employees and employers, respectively.
Unless promotion is based on seniority alone, the fear that older workers will deprive the young people of jobs is unfounded.
Younger workers may have the paper qualifications but that does not mean they have the experience, wisdom, skills or even aptitude for the job.
Promotions are based on merit and often those who deserve the promotion will get it regardless of their age group.
A labour force market survey conducted by the Statistics Department indicated that up to January, about 12.82 million people were in the workforce and that 385,600 were jobless.
It was reported recently that there are a million jobs available in the country, while 12% of workers job hop every year.
In addition, the number of foreign workers is estimated to be around 2.04 million.
These figures show that there are jobs in our market.
Furthermore, it is estimated that 74,457 jobs will be created by the year 2020 under the Economic Transformation Plan and more new job opportunities will be created in the six economic growth corridors.
The young have numerous avenues to explore in the job market.
Good workers will be accepted anywhere but only the mediocre ones will be waiting for the older managers to retire so they can take their place.
Our younger workers should prepare themselves to venture overseas as Asean has plans to move to a free regional labour market much like the European Union starting in 2015.
Under the Asean Economic Community framework, member countries have agreed to pilot a free labour market plan by allowing specialists and professionals in several fields – medicine, dentistry, nursing, engineering, architecture, natural resources and geographical exploration, and accounting – to work anywhere they like across the region.
This means our younger workers may require a different set of skills compared with the older workers given the highly competitive nature of a regional job market and job mobility.
Retention of older workers can help maintain corporate skills and save employers the cost of re-inventing the wheel.
Young people have a tendency to job-hop and quit their jobs for greener pastures.
However, workers aged over 55 are five times less likely to change jobs compared with workers aged 20 to 24, reducing ongoing recruitment and training costs.
Finally, unlike younger workers, many older workers express a preference for working flexible hours; in some cases this can be shorter working hours, partial retirement, changes in shifts, longer leave, job rotation, and reduction in overtime or additional work responsibilities.
Flexible working hours can enable older workers to achieve work-life balance so that they can reconcile their working lives with their personal interests, commitments or care responsibilities.
There is no evidence of older workers blocking opportunities for younger workers over the longer term.
4/10/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Williamsburg County Sheriff's Office donates computers to Hemingway library, by Matt McColl, www2.SCNow.com
HEMINGWAY, S.C. -- For the past few years, the Hemingway Public Library has had to endure some pretty drastic cuts.
From closing on Wednesdays and having shorter hours on other days, to not having the funds to repair old equipment, the library has undergone some hard times.
[But at least they've cut hours, not jobs.]
On Tuesday, though, the Williamsburg County Sheriff’s Office sought to give a little help to local bookworms with their donation of three brand-new personal computers to the library.
The computers, which the sheriff’s office was able to purchase through funds the office receives for housing federal inmates, will most likely be allocated to be used by children.
Benjamin Hall, Benjamin Hall, the director of the Williamsburg County Public Library System said the donated computers will fill a much needed role in the library.
“It’s very generous,” Hall said. “The sheriff’s office has really helped out a lot and I don’t think they really know how much they’re helping the kids in the community in Hemingway andWilliamsburgCounty.”
The sheriff’s office donated three brand new computers in all, which Williamsburg County Sheriff Michael Johnson estimated to be worth $1,000 each.
The computers were partially installed Tuesday and will be given a full inspection by the Williamsburg County Public Library’s information technology office before they are put to full use.
While the funding for libraries has decreased at both state and local levels over the past few years, Hall said he hopes to see the Williamsburg County Public Library System receive a $50,000 raise in funding over the next fiscal year.
Hall said that should the library system receive the increase in funding, the money will go towards extending the hours of libraries throughout the county that have had to cut back due to budgetary concerns.
Williamsburg County Supervisor Stanley Pasley said although funding for libraries has been on the downfall recently, he is hopeful that coffers will be more open in the coming fiscal year.
“We’ve been working over the years to see if we can try to increase the funding that the libraries need,” Pasley said. “It’s just a difficult time that we find ourselves being faced with.”
Sheriff Johnson said he wanted the office to give back to the community, but more specifically, the libraries in the area.
“The library needs to be a place where you can have some quiet time and just reflect,” Johnson said. “You need to be able to just read or meditate and that’s what the library should be.”
- Sheryl Sandberg Leaves Work at 5:30 Every Day — And You Should Too, by The Jane Dough, Mashable Social Media via mashable.com
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Somewhere along the line, ending one’s workday before 8:00 p.m. became a source of shame and sign of laziness — or at least that’s what many of us have tricked ourselves into believing.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is familiar with the funny, uncertain feeling that comes with checking out soon after 5:00 to be with family, and although she used to worry about what others thought of her departure time (which is a completely reasonable hour to head home, by the way), she has finally reached a point where she can take off at 5:30 p.m. without the lingering concern of how others are perceiving her.
“I walk out of this office every day at 5:30 so I’m home for dinner with my kids at 6:00, and interestingly, I’ve been doing that since I had kids,” Sandberg said in a new video for Makers.com. ”I did that when I was at Google, I did that here, and I would say it’s not until the last year, two years that I’m brave enough to talk about it publicly. Now I certainly wouldn’t lie, but I wasn’t running around giving speeches on it.”
To make up for ducking out at 5:30 p.m., Sandberg said, she would send emails to colleagues late at night and early in the morning as proof that she was still giving her all to work:
“I was showing everyone I worked for that I worked just as hard. I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say, ‘Hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.’ And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.”
Many of us know the stigma against going home early all too well, especially in competitive work environments in which many judge work ethic by the number of hours spent in the office. There should never be any shame associated with heading home before 6 p.m. to eat dinner with one’s children and spouse, and Sandberg is sending a much-needed message to parents everywhere that it’s OK to leave work before dark for family time, especially since research has shown that children are healthier, happier and better performing students when they eat with their families.
In high school, my friends used to always say they envied my family for making it a rule to have dinner as a unit at least five nights a week, and I honestly feel I would have become a different person had my parents not prioritized it.
- Opinion: The average bank holiday costs the economy GBP2.3 billion - Do we really need so many? by Daniel Solomon & Douglas McWilliams, Centre for Economics & Business Research [Myth-Building & Propaganda?], Fresh [ie: Stale] Business Thinking via freshbusinessthinking.com
LONDON, U.K. - The average employee in the UK working full time works 1,647 hours a year. The average Korean works 2,191 [as if S.Korea is any model of the future]. That’s the equivalent of working nearly 4 more months a year at the British rate [progress is having to work less, not more - in fact, FREEDOM is more FREE TIME, not less! These idiots would have LOVED being 24/7 slaves. Freedom, even intelligence, is wasted on them].
[And these supposedly intelligent hominids of the early 21st century spend the entire article totally ignoring the huge effort-multiplying effect of technology, whether mechanization, automation or robotization. Their entire article is invalid. We include it only for their figures on annual worktime per person in various economies.]
Even the average US worker works more than we do at 1,695 hours a year. Only in the decadent European economy [Brits with the nerve to call Germans decadent? With idiot-savants like this, Britain is dumbing down faster than the U.S.!] do people work shorter hours than in the UK.
One of the reasons why we work such short hours is our bank holidays [nevermind persistent British employment-concentration and resulting high British unemployment and low domestic consumption]. In a regular year, there are eight bank holidays in England and Wales and 261 weekdays. The bank holidays mean that eight of these 261 weekdays, or 3% of weekdays, are taken as time off by many workers. This puts downward pressure on productivity [not when robots are working 24/7] and hence GDP [so what's so great about GDP? - oh, cuz French GDP is higher!].
On the other hand, people often use bank holidays to spend money — for example the Easter holidays are the peak time for spending on garden equipment and DIY [do-it-yourself projects].
The sectors that "lose" [our quotes] from bank holidays are offices, factories and construction sites. [Isn't it odd that these self-styled "fresh" business thinkers disregard employees' returning to work refreshed.] These sectors account for about 47% of the economy. Those that gain are retail, wholesale, hotels and restaurants. These sectors account for about 14% of the economy.
Quantifying the effects of bank holidays on the economy is difficult.
[Probably because your minds are overtired and your ideas stale.]
Our rough and ready calculations show that if the eight regular bank holidays were cancelled in an average year, annual GDP would rise by about 1.3%, or £19 billion [so what - are there any prizes for this?]. This means that each regular bank holiday makes annual GDP about 0.16% lower than it otherwise would have been [who cares?]. In a normal year, each of the eight regular bank holidays will result in £2.3 billion of forgone GDP [and how much worth of enjoyment, here unmentioned?]. The two Easter bank holidays we are all currently enjoying come with a price tag of 0.3% of GDP, about £4.7 billion.
[Wow, they actually mentioned the word "enjoying"!]
But this is not a normal year. With an economy teetering on the brink of recession, there is a lot of slack around and the productivity lost over Easter will probably be made up at other times in the year.
[Too little productivity is not the problem in a situation of high unemployment, but too little MARKETABLE productivity because of too weakened markets because of too many unemployment-deactivated consumers because of too much concentrated employment because of a still too-high ceiling on working hours per person.]
Though with disposable incomes under threat [because of labor surplus and high unemployment = overconcentrated employment & overhigh working hours], the additional spending this year is also probably scaled down from the usual level.
Special one-off bank holidays, such as the upcoming Jubilee, weigh less heavily on the economy than the eight normal bank holidays. This is because the tourism sector can get some benefit from additional foreign visitors and consumption might also be boosted by more than on a regular bank holiday. Nevertheless, these special bank holidays depress GDP as well — the Department of Culture Media and Sport estimates that the Royal Wedding last year cost the UK £1.2 billion or 0.08% of GDP.
[France has shorter working hours than Britain - AND higher productivity AND GDP! These guys are waaay offtrack.]
Should we reduce the number of Bank Holidays and make Easter Monday a working day as in the US?
[Another pair of dummies who want to copy the US in its period of fastest self-mutiliation and -deterioration.]
This is more a social than an economic judgement [maybe you better try to stick to economic - your judgement is flawed enough there]. Money is not the only thing and a healthy lifestyle needs time off to reflect and relax. We probably had too many bank holidays in April and May last year, when the combination of the Royal Wedding and late Easter combined with the May Day and early summer bank holiday to give 5 bank holidays in roughly as many weeks.
Because people took annual leave to bridge over some of the holidays, business lost momentum and this probably contributed to the rather weak economic performance over the year. But in a normal year 8 holidays is probably not too many — though they could be spaced out a bit better over the year.
[Brits must be smarting cuz France kicked their butt and bested them in GDP a few years ago. Ironically, they could get it all back by having more people work less per person - and thereby maximizing their consumption per capita. Consumption draws everything else in its train, whether up or down - they don't call it the consumer base for nothing, and it all depends on the employment basement.]
4/08-09/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Workzone: Pa. gets on work-sharing bus, by Len Boselovic, 4/08 Pittsburgh Post Gazette via post-gazette.com
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania is joining a growing number of states in tweaking its jobless benefits program in an effort to avert layoffs.
The state's Department of Labor and Industry recently posted rules for a shared-work program that was part of a broader workers compensation measure approved by state lawmakers last year. Under the program, if companies reduce the hours for all workers on a shift or in a department by the same percentage, employees will receive unemployment benefits based on that percentage.
Say a worker who is paid $400 for a 40-hour week has his hours reduced by 20 percent. That person would be paid $320 by the employer and receive $80 in employment benefits, based on information on the department's website.
Pennsylvania joins 22 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting work-sharing, which is a way to keep more workers on the job during economic downturns, said Neil Ridley, a senior policy analyst with the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Ridley said California adopted the first work-sharing program in the 1970s and the concept has gradually gathered steam since then. Since 2009, Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania have instituted programs.
The payroll tax cuts and jobless benefits package signed into law in February by President Barack Obama, a Democrat, provides up to $500 million in estimated incentives for more states to offer the plan, Mr. Ridley said.
Under Pennsylvania's program, employers will have to complete a Department of Labor and Industry application and certify they are cutting hours across the board as an alternative to laying off 10 percent or more of the work force, said Philip K. Miles III, a State College attorney who specializes in employment law. All the workers on the same shift or in the same department must have their hours reduced by the same amount, he said.
States that have adopted work-share programs set their own limits on how long workers can collect benefits and on how much hours must be cut, Mr. Ridley said.
In Pennsylvania, employers must reduce hours by at least 20 percent but by no more than 40 percent. Mr. Miles said workers covered by the program can collect jobless benefits for up to 52 weeks. They will not be able to collect benefits that long if they previously collected unemployment and their eligibility expires while they are on work-share, he said.
At unionized companies where workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements, the union's bargaining representative must sign a form consenting to reducing everyone's hours instead of laying off select people. It is not clear how unions will make that decision. Mr. Miles said that is an issue unions might want to address when they negotiate contracts.
The new federal money will be used in two ways, according to Mr. Ridley.
States with shared-work programs that meet federal requirements will be reimbursed dollar-for-dollar for benefits paid under their programs. States without work-share programs but that adopt temporary measures that meet federal requirements will recover 50 cents for every $1 of work-share jobless benefits they pay, he said.
The federal requirements will be contained in rules that the U.S. Department of Labor will write to implement the measure signed by the president in February, Mr. Ridley said.
Len Boselovic: email@example.com or 412-263-1941
- Argentine port workers to cut hours, no strike - Union, firms fail to reach deal on staffing, hours - Dock workers to limit day to eight hours in grains ports, 4/09 Reuters.com
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentine dockworkers
failed to reach a deal with agribusiness firms over working
conditions on Monday, vowing to limit working hours but averting
an all-out strike that could have severely disrupted grains
[Here's a new one: timesizing, not striking!]
Dockers represented by the SOMU union staged a 12-day strike
last month to hold negotiations, setting Monday as the deadline
for their demands on staffing and working hours to be met.
Last month's walkout delayed more than $500 million in
grains shipments from the South American country, one of the
world's biggest suppliers of corn, soybeans and wheat.
"The protest has already started. We're going to work to
rule for no more than eight hours," said Ruben Arredondo, a SOMU
[Employees should be working by the worktime rulebook anyway, because anything more than that spoils and corrupts employers, clobbers hiring and wages, and sinks the whole economy = the usual policy of Onepercenters: Suicide, everyone else first.]
"It will affect all the ports from Puerto General San Martin
to Bahia Blanca," he said, referring to two key grains-exporting
ports. "If we don't reach a deal soon, the protest will be
The union wants an eight-hour working day and is also
demanding that an additional crew member be assigned to the
motor boats that guide grains vessels to their docks. Currently
the crews work 12-hour shifts.
Cargill, Bunge, Molinos Rio de la Plata
, Noble and Louis Dreyfus are among the grainsexporters that operate in Argentina, where farmers are currently
bringing in soybeans and corn.
Guillermo Wade, an official from the CAPyM port industry
group, said the union's protest would cause difficulties during
the busy harvest season.
"If working hours are cut, it has an immediate impact in
delaying ships' movements and therefore putting the brakes on
the ports' entire logistical setup just as the harvest is coming
in," Wade said.
4/07/2012 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- USA Today requires most of its 1425 workers to take unpaid week off to offset weak ad sales, (4/06 late pickup) AP via WashingtonPost.com
McLEAN, Va. — USA Today is requiring most of its staff to take an unpaid week off to save money, as the nation’s second-largest newspaper struggles to sell more advertising.
The furloughs, which were announced Wednesday, are the latest in a series of cost-cutting measures by USA Today since 2008.
USA Today executives said in a memo to the staff that the newspaper is bracing for tough times in the current quarter, which ends in late June.
“The bottom line is that business conditions continue to be mixed and the national advertising environment remains volatile,” wrote the executives, Susie Ellwood and Evan Ray. Ellwood is USA Today’s executive vice president, and Ray is president of Gannett Publishing Services, a division that prints and distributes USA Today and 81 other U.S. newspapers owned by Gannett.
Most Gannett Publishing Services employees will have to go without pay for a week, too.
Gannett confirmed the furloughs in a statement sent to the AP late Wednesday but did not offer further details.
The furloughs affect all employees at USA Today and USA Weekend except those working in sports, travel, direct sales, according to the memo. The employees must take their furloughs by June 24.
USA Today’s website says the newspaper employs 1,425 people.
This is the fourth time in four years that the newspaper’s workers have been required to take a week off without pay. USA Today imposed a two-week furlough in 2009 and a one-week furlough in 2010. There were no furloughs last year.
“We know furloughs are difficult for you and your families and our management teams do not take these actions lightly,” Ellwood and Ray wrote in the memo. “The furloughs, however, will help us navigate through challenging headwinds and allow us to invest in future growth opportunities.”
The latest round of belt-tightening comes a few weeks after USA Today’s owner, Gannett Co., committed to return $1.3 billion to its shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks by 2015. Gannett raised the annual dividend on its stock from 32 cents per share to 80 cents per share for 2012.
Gannett’s earnings last year dropped 22 percent to $459 million. The company, which is based in McLean, Va., has seen revenue fall for five straight years. Gannett does not break out USA Today’s results in its financial reports. The company is scheduled to report its first-quarter results on April 16.
- New light shed on Swiss working hours, by Julia Slater, swissinfo.ch
BERN, Switzerland - The hours put in by Swiss workers have decreased by one third since 1950, according to a study sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation.
The authors of the study, Michael Siegenthaler and Michael Graff of the Swiss Economic Institute (KOF), have used new calculations which show that in 1950, the average number of hours worked per year was 2,400, as against 1,600 today.
[Ssssh, don't tell anybody, or some jealous American economist who has stood by while U.S. working hours increased by at least a month in roughly the same time period (see Juliet Schor's "The Overworked American") will start digging for something, ANYthing, to criticize Switzerland for, like, "Oh but their labor force is too rigid," or in a pinch, "The Swiss are getting lazy/unproductive/uncompetitive"/whatever - never mind they've declined to compete in the American-Chinese race to the bottom.]
Switzerland’s economic policies since the 1990s have been based on calculations which put the working year at only 2,150 hours.
The authors name three main factors to explain the change. Firstly, the working week has gone down from an average of nearly 50 hours to 42, and secondly, employees now get about five weeks of paid holiday a year, compared with two in 1950. The third factor is the great increase in the number of employees who are working part time – having half a day or more off each week. In the 1950s only about five per cent did this, whereas today it is more than 31 per cent.
The authors explain that employees have been able to obtain the reductions in their hours thanks to technological progress.
But they make clear that the drop in the number of hours does not contradict the fact that many people today feel stressed at work and suffer from burn-out.
“The number of hours as such doesn’t say anything about the intensity of labour, which has certainly increased because working conditions have changed, for example through constant availability,” they say.
How it was then
People entering the world of work today might find it hard to believe what life in the office was like five or six decades ago.
Agnes Zbinden, now 78, joined an advertising agency in Bern as a telephonist and secretary in 1963, and worked there for 25 years.
The work force was half men and half women. In the beginning, all the designers and copywriters were men, but over the years this changed as colleges started offering professional training for advertising assistants and women also took the qualifications. Even so, the advertising managers remained chiefly men.
At nine hours, the working day was an hour longer than normal in today’s offices – and extended by a ninety minute lunch hour. Zbinden started at 7.30 am and went home at 6 pm. But when they had long texts to type up, or booklets to bind, she and her colleagues didn’t leave on time.
“It went without saying that we sometimes had to work in the evenings to 10 o’clock, without overtime pay,” she told swissinfo.ch.
“We didn’t complain. We had quite a different attitude to the firm. I wasn’t married: for me it was like my family.”
When she started, she had three weeks holiday, which later went up to four.
“We didn’t have the money for a lot of holiday, anyway. If you want to go away for four weeks, it costs a lot.”
Not that she was complaining about her wages: jobs in the advertising sector were relatively well-paid.
Part-time work was an option, although it was not common. In the late 1980s Zbinden was one of two people in her office who took advantage of this: she took Friday afternoons off in order to do household chores. Another colleague cut her hours in the office in order to help her husband in his veterinary practice.
As time went on, the stress at work increased, Zbinden said.
“More was demanded of us. In the beginning we simply had our clients, but later there was a lot of competition,” she explained. In fact, her firm eventually lost a major contract and went bankrupt in the early 1990s, an experience she described as almost a “life crisis” for herself, and one from which her boss never really recovered.
In their study, Siegenthaler and Graff point out that since the total Swiss population has grown considerably in the last 60 years, the total number of hours worked has also increased. But they say that the increase is not as great as once supposed, since the data used up until now had underestimated the hours actually worked in the 1950s.
Labour productivity is calculated in terms of the amount of gross domestic product (GDP) produced per hour of work. So in the 1950s, productivity was in fact lower than previously thought: the GDP should have been divided by a larger figure – 2,400, not 2,150 – to arrive at the hourly product.
This means that although the researchers found that the growth in productivity had been stable since 1973 at a rate of about 1.3 per cent a year – which is relatively low for a member state of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – the slow-down in growth was not actually as dramatic as economists had believed for a long time.
The question is not of solely academic interest, as Graff explained to swissinfo.ch. Seco – the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs – uses such figures in shaping Switzerland’s economic policy.
“In the 1990s there was a major political discussion about Switzerland’s weak growth,” Graff explained. “Seco was one of those saying that it was essential to change things. Changing things meant economic reform: more flexible markets, opening up, and so on.”
The report is not suggesting that this was necessarily wrong, only that it was based on faulty premises. Nor is it suggesting that everything is rosy.
“In the last ten years, despite immigration and such like, pro capita income has not grown as strongly as one would have wished,” Graff pointed out.
But he stressed that the point of the study was not to suggest any specific changes in economic policy.
“I think if you asked ten people in Switzerland who know what Seco does, they would all say it should do something different. But each one would have their own opinion!”
4/06/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Unemployment Insurance Faces Changes Across The Nation, by Arthur Delaney firstname.lastname@example.org, HuffingtonPost.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - When Sean Davis of Lunenburg, Mass. lost his Census job in October 2010, he figured he'd be able to claim unemployment insurance for 99 weeks. That's how long benefits lasted, according to the state government and every news report about unemployment at the time. Of course, he hoped he'd find a job way before 99 weeks had passed. So far, no luck.
He wouldn't hit the 99 week mark until this summer, but when he called the state unemployment office several days ago to file his weekly insurance claim, he found that the rules have changed and his benefits will be stopping very soon.
"They told me that they were no longer doing the 99 weeks because of the federal government action," Davis, 40, said in an interview.
All across America, unemployment insurance is changing, and in most cases, it's becoming more stingy. More than a dozen states this month will lose eligibility for the second of two federal unemployment programs, subtracting as many as 20 weeks of benefits from the amount previously available to the long-term jobless. The shortened compensation period represents a compromise between congressional Republicans, who wanted even fewer weeks of federal benefits, and Democrats, who wanted to preserve federal programs in their entirety for the rest of the year.
Furthermore, unemployment claimants receiving federal benefits -- which kick in after a worker uses up the standard 26 weeks of state benefits -- now face stricter rules requiring them to keep a paper trail of their job search, thanks to the compromise law Congress enacted in February.
And at the same time federal programs are changing, state lawmakers are making changes of their own. Arizona and South Carolina are currently mulling drug test bills, while Georgia recently slashed the duration of state benefits.
HuffPost readers: Got a story to tell about unemployment? Tell email@example.com. Please include your phone number if you're willing to be interviewed.
Worker advocates dislike the changes, but there is one thing they're happy about: new federal support for work-sharing programs, which help businesses reduce hours instead of laying people off. The payroll tax cut legislation Congress passed in February included nearly $500 million for work sharing, which the National Employment Law Project and the Center for Law and Social Policy hailed as a "breakthrough" for the policy, also known as short-time compensation.
"This landmark legislation represents an unprecedented opportunity for states to launch and expand work sharing programs and help fend off layoffs now and in the future," George Wentworth, a NELP senior staff attorney, said in a statement.
Instead of laying off 20 percent of their employees, for example, businesses participating in a work-sharing program could reduce everyone's hours by 20 percent, and workers would receive unemployment insurance dollars for the time they miss on the clock. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia offer short-time compensation programs, according to CLASP. The new law allows states to receive full federal reimbursement for compensation paid to workers.
For labor groups, the good news about work sharing is partially offset by bad news about shorter benefits in Georgia. Last week the Georgia General Assembly reduced the maximum duration of state benefits from the standard 26 weeks to 20 weeks, or as few as 14 weeks if the state unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent (currently it's 9.1 percent). The changes will take effect in July. Georgia lawmakers modeled their legislation on benefit-slashing bills passed last year in Michigan and Florida.
Those cuts are a double whammy: Shorter state benefits will also mean shorter federal benefits, since the duration of federal extensions is based on the number of weeks available from states.
And federal benefits are already getting shorter on their own. In the February payroll tax cut deal, Congress preserved all federal unemployment programs for the rest of the year, but a state can't remain eligible for the second of the two programs -- known as Extended Benefits -- unless the state's unemployment rate is at least 10 percent higher than during a corresponding three-month period three years ago. Since unemployment rates across the country have slowly fallen since then, by October the program will have been phased out in the 30 states where it remains in effect. The maximum duration of benefits will fall to 73 weeks by the end of the year.
On April 7, the Extended Benefits program is ending in Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin (it has already ended in Michigan and Maine). According to a National Employment Law Project analysis of the arcane "trigger" system that determines whether a state is eligible for the program, Extended Benefits will stop on April 21 in Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, and Washington.
Sean Davis received a letter from the Massachusetts state government last week informing him that the week of April 7 would be the last one for Extended Benefits, "regardless of any remaining EB credit that you might have."
He had expected the benefits to last until summer. He said he's been looking for administrative work similar to what he was doing for the Census, but that most similar positions require a college degree that he doesn't have. He said he previously worked in warehouses.
"It's been a real pain," Davis said of his job search. "It just seems like half the jobs I'm looking for I would qualify for in terms experience want a higher level of education than I have."
- Behind the Disappointing Jobs Report, by Catherine Rampell, New York Times (blog) via economix.blogs.nytimes.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The March jobs report released today was disappointing. Economists had expected the nation’s employers to increase their payrolls by about 205,000 net, but instead payrolls increased by just 120,000.
Many of the underlying data points in the report were soft, too.
The average length of the workweek ticked down slightly, to 34.5 hours in March from 34.6 hours in February. The unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent,
[So here's a prima-facie corelation between de-facto shorter hours and lower unemployment, even without the urgently needed unemployment-countering workweek adjustment. The objection that unemployment fell -]
but that’s primarily because people dropped out of the labor force. (Only people actively looking for work are counted as unemployed.)
[This alternative explanation for the 0.01% decrease in unemployment is blurred by the consideration that our regularly published statistics are a joke, never tracking the actually bloating megahours of all those still working "full time" or the actually bloating population in what might be called "comprehensive dependence," including not only the officially unemployed, but also the working poor on food stamps and on all the other little handouts we use to hide our monstrous national "quality of life" and including also the people mentioned who "dropped out of the labor force" plus workman's comp cases and the disabled, plus welfare cases and the homeless and incarcerated and no-client "self-employed" (+/- suicides)... - all of which our nervous professional economists and business-school professors slough off as "externalities."]
Until recently, the survey that the unemployment numbers come from — based on interviews with households — had been showing better job growth than the employer-based survey of payroll growth. That gave economists hope that maybe they just weren’t reaching enough of the tinier companies that were expanding. In March, though, the number of individuals surveyed at home who said they were working also fell, by 31,000, after rising an average of 484,000 in each of the previous three months.
But there are bright sides. The number of people working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time work fell dramatically, by 447,000.
“One interpretation of the report, therefore, is that there was a shift from part-time employment into full-time employment, which is positive for the economy,” wrote John Ryding and Conrad DeQuadros, economists at RDQ Economics.
Another reason not to freak out is that this is just one month’s report. Given the unusually warm winter, perhaps the seasonal adjustments that the Labor Department uses are a little off.
Plus, bear in mind that the margin of error on all these numbers is huge. The headline number for payroll jobs is always plus or minus 100,000 jobs, meaning that March’s gain of 120,000 is not really statistically significant from 220,000 (or 20,000).
I realize that’s cold comfort, of course.
Ms. Rampell writes, "The headline number for payroll jobs is always plus or minus 100,000 jobs, meaning that March’s gain of 120,000 is not really statistically significant from 220,000 (or 20,000)."
Perhaps Ms. Rampell should have futher elaborated that February's "large" gain of 240,000 is not really statistically significant from 140,000. Similarly for the job gains of the preceding two months that were also portrayed optimistically in most media with nary a mention of their statistical significance.
Why do we have such high unemployment? If you talk to ten economists, you will get fifteen answers. Let me give you answer sixteen.
We were in a near-depression and we still have not climbed out of it. Depressions take more than a day to create and recovering from one takes a long time. Most families not only had their income drop, but also saw their net worth fall because of the decrease in value of their largest asset, their house. Further, housing values have been slow to recover. The result has been the consumer has lost confidence and has not been in a mood to spend.
[Never mind "mood" - more and more people just don't have the money.]
Teri Lee Weiss, (Corning) New York
"The [unemployment rate] number only represents those getting un-employment checks."
That is completely incorrect.
The unemployment rate is based on data collected in a survey that asks people whether or not they worked — and if they didn't work, whether or not they actively sought work.
Basically, that's it. Getting or not getting unemployment benefits doesn't enter into it. The survey doesn't ask about unemployment benefits, and no such number is included in the calculation of the unemployment rate.
See [the official government explanation]: *How the Government Measures Unemployment
Too bad there's so much misinformation about this subject. It's been done this way for over 70 years.
- What works for welfare reform - Ohio’s welfare rolls dropped by nearly a fifth in the last year because the state is cracking down on recipients of cash assistance, by Karen Kasler, WKSU News via wksu.org
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio’s welfare rolls dropped by nearly a fifth in the last year. And part of that is because the state is cracking down on recipients of cash assistance who aren’t working as required. Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler talked with leaders working with recipients about how this aspect of welfare reform is working – or isn’t.
“84,000 Ohioans are receiving cash assistance from the state, down from 102,000 last year. 36% of those who lost their cash assistance benefits in the last year didn’t meet a federal requirement that recipients work or participate in job training programs for about 30 hours a week for single parent families
[So for those suffering most from our frozen pre-automation 40-hour workweek, we have a different standard = a 30-hour workweek, because we have subliminally accepted the fact that a 40-hour workweek has become impossibly difficult for our entire population to find in the age of robotization.]
and 55 hours a week for two-parent households.
[So the "full-time" workweek today is even less for traditional two-parent families, averaging 55/2= 27.5 hours per person.]
For many years, Ohio didn’t meet that federal standard. And last year, the state got slapped with the largest fines in the nation – $130 million of which could come due to the feds this fall. Michael Colbert directs the state Job and Family Services Department. He says Ohio must avoid those federal fines, but that recipients must also work toward getting off public assistance.
“What you don’t want is a population that is going to be on public assistance for a year or six months or three months and not do anything. You want to pick up a skill. If we sanction you now, it is a personal decision. You have made a personal decision that you do not want to do 32 hours of work participation.”
That idea – that it’s a personal decision that recipients make not to work – angers Jack Frech. He heads the Job and Family Services agency in Athens County, one of the poorest in Ohio.
“We have folks in Columbus talking about realism for these folks and how they realistically need to go out and find a job. No one knows it more than they do. These folks love their children. They want to provide a better living for them. It’s as though we accept no responsibility for the fact that we set the benefit level at $450 a month.”
Frech maintains that benefit is so low many people his office sees can’t afford a car to get to a job – and that the state needs to go back to what it did in previous years and send more money their way. Colbert says while cash assistance is the only real money the state puts into recipients’ hands, they also can get help with food, housing, transportation and health care. But the reality for Joel Potts with the Job and Family Services Directors Association is that the law is the law, and that the agencies have little leeway in making exceptions for recipients who aren’t working.
“If they are assigned to work, they have three choices: they can do the assignment, they can ask to have their case closed, or we will have to move forward with sanctions. There’s no fourth option. Those are the three things. In that, it is a choice.”
Phil Cole is with the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies – a group of 50 offices which aren’t state agencies but work with people in poverty. He says recipients are at the mercy of a system that he says doesn’t work anymore.
“They’re given up. And that’s not the fault of the director, it’s not the fault of the state of Ohio, it’s not the fault of any of Joel’s members. It’s just the way the rules are set up. And the rules are wrong – we need to redo them. People shouldn’t have to make this choice of surviving or not surviving, which is really what it is. And when you’re surviving, you’re barely surviving.”
Cole suggests the three-year time limit to receive welfare benefits needs to be expanded to five years instead of three, because new projects and businesses that will bring new jobs often take years to develop. There are exceptions to that limit for some families, but it’s unlikely it will be expanded in the near future.”
4/05/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Samuel Gompers, 1850-1924: 'The Grand Old Man of Labor' - He was the first president of the American Federation of Labor, Transcript of radio broadcast, Voice of America via voanews.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. - VOICE ONE:
I’m Phoebe Zimmerman.
And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Program, People in America. Today we tell about one of the country’s greatest labor leaders, Samuel Gompers.
Samuel Gompers was born in London, England in eighteen fifty. His parents were poor people who had moved to England from the Netherlands to seek a better life. Sam was a very good student. However, when he was ten years old, he was forced to quit school and go to work to help feed the family. He was the oldest of five sons. Like his father, Sam became a tobacco cigar maker. He liked the cigar-making industry because it had a group of members. During meetings, workers could talk about their problems. This is where young Sam began to develop an interest in labor issues.
But life was difficult for the Gompers family in London, even with both Sam and his father working. They soon decided to move to the United States to again try to make a better life for themselves. In eighteen sixty-three, the Gompers family got on a ship and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. Seven weeks later, the ship arrived in New York City. The Gompers settled in a poor part of New York where many immigrants lived.
Sam soon learned that life in America was not easy. At that time, most people worked many hours each day for little money. They worked making goods in factories. Often these factories had poor working conditions. New York was known for these so-called “sweatshops.” Whole families, including young children, worked fourteen hours a day in sweatshops for just enough money to stay alive.
Sam hated the sweatshops and refused to work there. Instead, he and his father became cigar makers again. Soon Sam joined the Cigarmakers International Union. In those days, labor unions were not strong or permanent. They did little to help workers in their struggle for better working conditions and a better life. Sam believed this needed to change.
Sam Gompers was married at the age of seventeen. He became a father one year later. He earned a living making cigars in shops around New York City. Employers recognized him as a skilled and valuable worker. The men he worked with recognized him as an effective labor activist.
Sam also became a student of socialism. In eighteen seventy-three, he started working for an old German socialist, David Hirsch. Most of Mister Hirsch’s workers were also socialists from Germany. These men became Samuel Gompers’ teachers. They taught him much about trade unions.
One teacher was Karl Laurrell, who had been the leader in Europe of the International Workingman’s Association. Mister Laurrell taught Sam Gompers what labor unity meant. He also taught him about “collective bargaining.” This is how representatives of labor groups meet with the people they work for and negotiate an agreement. For example, labor and management might negotiate for more money, fewer hours and cleaner working places for workers.
In time, Samuel Gompers used his knowledge of labor issues to help cigar makers throughout New York form a single, representative union. It was called the Cigarmakers’ Local Number One Hundred Forty-Four. Each cigar shop in New York had its own small union that elected a representative to sit on the council of a larger union. In eighteen seventy-five, this council elected Mister Gompers as president of Cigarmakers’ Local Number One Hundred Forty-Four.
The union’s constitution was like the constitution of a democratic government. All people in the union had a representative voice. Experts say the organizing of Cigarmakers’ Local Number One Hundred Forty-Four was the beginning of the American labor movement.
Sam Gompers believed that one day all working men and women could belong to organized trade unions. He believed workers should not be forced to sell their labor at too low a price. He also believed each person must have the power to improve his or her own life. A person can get this power by joining with others in a union. He believed a democratic trade union can speak and act for all its workers. This is the same way a democratic government speaks for the people because voters elect officials to represent them.
Labor organizations began to grow stronger in America during the late nineteenth century. At the same time, Sam Gompers started to speak of new ideas. He dreamed of bringing all trade unions together into one big, nation-wide organization that could speak with one voice for workers throughout the country.
In eighteen eighty-one, Mister Gompers was sent as the delegate of the cigar makers union to a conference of unions. The delegates agreed to organize an alliance called the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada. The alliance held yearly meeting of national union and local labor councils. It was designed to educate the public on worker issues, prepare labor-related legislation, and pressure Congress to approve such bills. Sam Gompers was an officer in the alliance for five years.
During that time, he worked for several measures to improve the lives of workers and children. These included proposals to reduce the work day to eight hours, limit child labor and require children to attend school. He soon learned, however, that the alliance of unions had neither the money nor the power to do much more than talk about these issues. So, in eighteen eighty-six, Sam Gompers helped organize a new union for all labor unions. It was called the American Federation of Labor.
Sam Gompers was elected president of the American Federation of Labor in eighteen eighty-six. He held that position, except for one year, for thirty-eight years until he died. In eighteen ninety, the A.F.L. represented two hundred fifty thousand workers. Two years later, the number had grown to more than one million workers. Under his leadership, the A.F.L. grew from a few struggling labor unions to become the major organization within the labor movement in the United States.
As leader of the A.F.L. Mister Gompers had enemies both within and outside the labor movement. Some opponents believed Mister Gompers was more interested in personal power than in improving the rights of workers. They believed his ideas about strikes and collective bargaining could not stop big business. They believed the American Federation of Labor was a conservative organization designed to serve skilled workers only.
Other opponents considered Sam Gompers a foreign-born troublemaker who wanted to destroy property rights. At the same time, opponents in industry and business feared that the labor leader was demanding too much for workers. They said his talk violated the law, and that he excited workers and urged them to strike.
Sam Gompers was not troubled by any of these attacks. He argued that because there was freedom of speech in America, he would not be afraid to speak freely. He said that no one hated strikes more than he did because workers suffered the most in a strike. However, he said that in a democracy, strikes were necessary. After a strike, he said, businessmen and workers understood each other better and this was good for the nation. He said: “I hope the day will never come when the workers surrender their right to strike.”
Sam Gompers also had an interest in international labor issues. At the end of World War One, he attended the Versailles Treaty negotiations. He was helpful in creating the International Labor Organization under the League of Nations. He also supported trade unionism in Mexico.
Samuel Gompers died in nineteen twenty-four. He is remembered as “the grand old man of labor.” He worked during his whole life for one cause – improving the rights of workers. He led the fight for shorter working hours, higher pay, safe and clean working conditions and democracy in the workplace.
[Now shortening working hours aren't just matters of progress or compassion but an urgent sys req in the age of robotization = a system requirement to have anywhere near sufficient markets to match the quantum-leap-higher volume of products and services churned out by robots.]
In nineteen fifty-five, the American Federation of Labor joined with the Congress of Industrial Organization to form the A.F.L.-C.I.O. This organization has become an influential part of American economic and political life. It has also helped improve the lives of millions of American workers.
This Special English Program was written by Jill Moss. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. I’m Phoebe Zimmerman.
And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another People In America Program on the VOICE OF AMERICA.
- LA councilman calls for shorter hours at city park, LA Times via AP via Monterey County Herald via montereyherald.com
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—A Los Angeles city councilman wants the hours at City Hall park to be shortened and rules regarding tents to be clarified.
The Los Angeles Times says Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion Wednesday that asks the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would limit access to 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The park is currently open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The park has been closed since December when police evicted hundreds of Occupy LA protesters who had been camped there for two months. The lawn was destroyed and has been undergoing a $400,000 restoration.
The City Clerk's office says Huizar's proposal will be heard by the full City Council sometime next week.
Full article -
After Occupy L.A., lawmakers seek to limit access to City Hall park, (4/4 late pickup) Los Angeles Times via latimesblogs.latimes.com
Los Angeles police cleared out the Occupy L.A. camp at City Hall in November (photo caption)
LOS ANGELES, Calif.—In a move that seems designed to keep Occupy L.A. demonstrators from resuming nighttime protest at the park outside City Hall, a Los Angeles city councilman is calling for the park’s hours of operation to be shortened, and for rules regarding tents to be clarified.
Councilman Jose Huizar on Wednesday introduced a motion that asks the city attorney to prepare an ordinance that would limit access to 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Current hours of operation are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The 1.7-acre park is expected to reopen in May after city crews finish a nearly $400,000 restoration job. It has been closed since December, when police arrested hundreds of demonstrators who had been camped there as part of a national protest against income inequality and other economic and social issues.
Overnight camping is not allowed in city parks, and neither are tents that have more than two sides. But protesters were initially granted an exemption to those laws by sympathetic city leaders, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then-City Council President Eric Garcetti.
Lawmakers allowed the protesters -- and the hundreds of tents they erected -- to stay for two months before evicting them.
In the weeks after the eviction, some protesters were arrested after they returned to the fenced-off park. Others said they looked forward to the day the park was reopened, so that they could legally hold their 7:30 p.m. General Assembly meetings there. The group currently meets four times a week in Pershing Square, a few blocks away.
Along with limiting how late people can be in the park, Huizar's proposal calls for new mechanisms to enforce park rules. It also asks the city attorney to "clarify the language and definition" as it relates to tents in the section of the city's Municipal Code that regulates parks.
The tent became an enduring symbol of Occupy encampments across the country, in part because of demonstrators’ emphasis on fighting homelessness and foreclosures. Occupy L.A. protester Cheryl Aichele said she thinks the attempt to limit access to the park is misguided.
“It's too bad the city is wasting time talking about tents when they should be doing everything they can do to save people's homes so they don't have to live in tents,” said Aichele, who is part of a group of Occupy protesters who have been working with people who are facing foreclosure.
She said she didn't know whether her group planned to resume holding its meetings outside City Hall once the park was reopened.
Huizar's proposal will be heard by the full City Council sometime next week, according to an official in the office of the City Clerk.
- TNT to Cut Hours at Liège Sorting Facility on Slowing Business, by Alex Webb, Bloomberg.com
LIÈGE, Belgium - TNT Express NV (TNTE), the Dutch express- delivery company that United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) agreed to buy for $6.8 billion, plans to cut the hours of 1,130 workers at its Liege, Belgium, sorting facility after business slowed.
The reductions will come into effect on April 16 and last until the end of June, Cyrille Gibot, a spokesman for Hoofddorp, Netherlands-based TNT Express, said by telephone. There will be a maximum cut of two working days per employee per week.
“There will be a rotation system so that at any one time there will be reduced working hours for 650 people at night and 100 people working during the day,” Gibot said, adding that there are no plans at this stage to reduce hours elsewhere in the business.
United Parcel Service agreed to buy TNT for 9.5 euros a share, valuing TNT at 13 times its last four quarters’ earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Europe’s second-largest express-delivery service posted an operating loss of 105 million euros ($137 million) in 2011.
The reduced hours were reported earlier by Belgium’s L’Echo newspaper.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Webb in Frankfurt at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org
- US DoL Launches Guam Wage & Hour Enforcement Initiative Focused on Island's Construction Industry, by Betsy Brown, PacificNewsCenter.com
HAGATNA, Guam - Guam's construction industry is the focus of an enforcement investigation announced by the U.S. Department of Labor Friday.
The investigation will ensure that contractors working on federally funded projects are in compliance with federal labor laws.
According to a press release from U.S. DOL, investigators from the wage and hour division will be interviewing employees, and are prepared to interview those who speak Tagalog, Mandarin and other languages in addition to English.
Common violations that the investigators will be looking for include misclassifications of laborers and mechanics as exempt from the fair labor standards act, failure to pay employees for all hours worked, failure to pay required prevailing wages and fringe benefits (including overtime) and inadequate record-keeping of employees work hours and wages.
“When violations are found, the division will use all available enforcement tools – including litigation, civil money penalties, liquidated damages and debarment from future government contract opportunities – to recover workers' wages, ensure accountability among all responsible parties and deter future violations” the press release states.
For information about federal wage laws, you can call the U.S. DOL Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE or the Guam Field Office in Hagatna at 473-9243. You can also find information online at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
READ U.S. DoL's release in FULL below:
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has launched an enforcement initiative focused on Guam’s construction industry to increase employer compliance and remind construction workers, including those hired under the H-2B temporary nonimmigrant worker program, of their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act [FLSA], the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, and the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act.
The initiative aims to promote sustained compliance, particularly among contractors and subcontractors working on federally funded construction projects in Guam, but also will include investigations of other construction projects. Wage and Hour Division investigators – many of whom speak Tagalog, Mandarin and other languages in addition to English – will be interviewing employees and conducting thorough reviews of employment practices, pay records and circumstances of joint employment to identify and remedy violations.
Common violations found at federally funded construction projects include misclassification of laborers and mechanics as exempt from the FLSA; a failure to pay employees for all hours worked, including for travel time and cleanup activities; a failure to pay required prevailing wages and fringe benefits (including overtime); and inadequate record-keeping of employees’ work hours and wages.
Guam is experiencing an upsurge of federally funded construction projects in preparation for the relocation of U.S. Marines from Okinawa, Japan. This relocation will be one of the largest movements of military assets in decades and requires significant infrastructure developments, including new construction and improvements to roads and highways, bridges, operational training facilities, naval facilities and other base projects such as military family housing.
“This historic military realignment and development of Guam will be made possible through the labor of thousands of local construction workers,” said Ruben Rosalez, acting administrator of the Wage and Hour Division’s Western Region. “The division is committed to ensuring that these workers are paid their rightful wages and benefits in compliance with the law. The Wage and Hour Division is pursuing a number of strategies under this enforcement initiative to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used properly on federally funded construction projects, and to promote sustained compliance with the labor standards for which the division has enforcement responsibility in Guam.”
When violations are found, the division will use all available enforcement tools – including litigation, civil money penalties, liquidated damages and debarment from future government contract opportunities – to recover workers’ wages, ensure accountability among all responsible parties and deter future violations.
Investigators also are enlisting the cooperation of local partners – including the Guam Department of Labor and the Guam Contractors’ Association – to assist the division in identifying and addressing local patterns of noncompliance. Additionally, the division is reaching out to workers, employers, industry associations, community organizations, consulates and other stakeholders to inform them of the initiative, provide compliance assistance and engage their participation in promoting industrywide accountability and compliance.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as one and one-half times their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
The Davis-Bacon Act requires all contractors and subcontractors performing work on federal and certain federally funded projects to pay their laborers and mechanics proper prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits as determined by the secretary of labor. Additionally, the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act requires contractors and subcontractors to pay laborers and mechanics one and one-half times their basic rates for all hours worked over 40 in a week.
The H-2B visa program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States. Unlike in the rest of the United States and its territories, where the granting of labor certifications and the enforcement of the H-2B visa program is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, the H-2B program is administered in Guam by the territory’s governor under U.S. Department of Homeland Security regulations. Consequently, during this initiative, the Wage and Hour Division cannot enforce the H-2B regulations found in 20 Code of Federal Regulations 655 Subpart A; however, the division recognizes that H-2B workers are particularly vulnerable and will work closely with the Guam Department of Labor to ensure that employers comply with all laws, local and federal.
For more information about federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Guam Field Office in Hagatna at 671-473-9178.
Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
4/4/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Voters: No to electric franchise extension - City of Durango to see $900,000 hole in budget, by Jim Haug firstname.lastname@example.org, DurangoHerald.com
DURANGO, Colo. - Durango voters rejected a 20-year franchise extension for the La Plata Electric Association [LPEA] with 735 votes against and 694 for it, according to an unofficial tally reported Tuesday night that must be verified.
The election means the city will immediately lose the LPEA franchise fee, putting a $900,000 hole in the city budget. Officials said they will have to soon look for cuts to offset the loss in revenue.
City Councilor Sweetie Marbury predicted residents would feel the hardships with the loss of jobs and shorter hours at city facilities such as the Durango Community Recreation Center and the Durango Public Library.
“My stomach is in knots,” Marbury said before the announcement of the vote. “Where do we find almost a million dollars? There are consequences you will feel almost immediately.”
But City Councilor Paul Broderick had called the election “misleading and deceptive” because the ballot question did not explain the 4.67 percent fee that LPEA passes on to city consumers on their electric bill. Consumers might have thought that LPEA paid the fee, he said.
Deborah Betwee, a city voter, said she had opposed the franchise agreement because of the fee.
“I don’t like secret taxation, and that’s what this whole thing with the franchise fee was,” Betwee said outside City Hall on Tuesday afternoon after delivering her mail-in vote.
“La Plata Electric was collecting taxes for the city of Durango, only people didn’t realize that’s what it was,” Betwee said. “It’s not that we didn’t need the money, but it didn’t seem right.”
The franchise fee was to compensate the city for giving LPEA access to public right of way so it can work on city streets and infrastructure.
LPEA, a member-owned cooperative, will continue to provide power to its consumers or members in the city, but the electric cooperative will still have to work out an agreement with the city for using its public right of way, said Greg Munro, chief executive of LPEA.
City councilors and city officials were clearly upset with Broderick for galvanizing opposition against the franchise.
City Attorney David Smith told Broderick that “you conveniently ignore that the franchise agreement was published in full in The Durango Herald. I’m really distressed by your manipulation of the facts. I think it’s very unfair, and I’m disappointed, not that you care.”
In a response to whether a one-year extension of the franchise had violated the City Charter, Smith argued that there was leeway in the Charter for franchise extensions.
Councilor Doug Lyon said Broderick’s position was ”a nihilist ideology substituting for common sense.”
Lyon explained that the franchise fee was “conceptually no different than people who shop in our stores and pay sales taxes.”
Councilor Dick White said Broderick had not raised his objections “in a timely way” so the city could have responded before the election.
Another objection to the franchise was that the 20-year extension was too long considering rapid technological change, but Marbury said a 20-year agreement was standard for electrical utilities.
- Sokoto civil servants spend four [instead of eight] working hours in office, by Abdallah el-Kurebe, Vanguard Nigeria via vanguardngr.com
SOKOTO, Nigeria —The average civil servant in Sokoto State spends about four hours instead of the official eight hours, investigations by Vanguard have shown.
Although government offices open at 8am and close by 4pm throughout the country, civil servants in Sokoto State are usually in their offices between 11am and 2pm, thus spending only about three or four hours in office every working day, or about 15 hours a week instead of the required 40 hours.
This is even as the state chapter of the 3,685- man-strong Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, has threatened to embark on strike over alleged illegal deductions from the salaries of its members.
The union’s position was made known during a news conference in Sokoto, Tuesday, by the Secretary, Malam Mohammed Sani.
He said: ”In fact, some of our members received only N1,000 as salary after the illegal deductions were made. So, this is unacceptable to us and we will embark on strike if government fails to remedy the situation.”
However, the poor attitude to work has prompted Governor Aliyu Wamakko to warn that government would not implement the N18,000 new minimum wage if workers fail to change their poor attitude to work from this month.
Vanguard’s findings revealed that in spite of the governor’s warning, most workers still saunter into their offices late and leave few hours later, as observed by Vanguard thoughout last week.
In the course of the investigations, Vanguard visited the eight ministries located at the Usman Faruk Secretariat by 8.30am Tuesday.
It was discovered during the visit at the Ministry of Agriculture, that all directors and the Permanent Secretary were absent with only the Commissioner, Dr. Jabbi Kilgori, present.
Also, at the Ministries of Fisheries and Animal Health, Religious Affairs, Justice, Works and Finance, all directors, Permanent Secretaries and Commissioners were absent.
It was the same story at the Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs as only the Director of Local Government Matters, Alhaji Abdulkadir Jelani was present, while the rest were not available.
Also, at the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning it was only the Permanent Secretary was present while his counterpart in the Ministry of Works was said to have gone for a course at Kuru, Jos.
At the Cabinet office, it was observed that those in their offices included the Permanent Secretary, Administration and General Services, Alhaji Suleiman Ahmad, and Director of Administration (Political).
At the time of the visit, the Head of Service, Alhaji Abdullahi Wali was said to be indisposed, while the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Sahabi Gada was said to be in his second office at Government House.
By the state government’s calculations, additional N440 million was required monthly to implement the new wage increase, bringing the total monthly wage bill to about N1.28 billion.
Head of Service, Abdullahi Wali had said that punitive measures would be taken against workers who go to office late and were also in the habit of closing late. “Measures will surely be taken against these workers,” Wali said even as Governor Wamakko had also warned that workers must adhere strictly to working hours, a directive that has been largely [ignored?] by majority of civil servants.
Issuing a seven-day ultimatum to the state government to rectify the problem or face the wrath of the health workers, the Union expressed shock over the deductions in their salaries, in spite of the commencement of the payment of the new minimum wage of N18,000 in March.
4/03/2012 – 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 email@example.com unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Work Sharing Finds Breakthrough in New Federal Law - H.R. 3630 Provides $500 Million to States; First Federal Push for This Innovative Economic Security Program in 20 Years, Report By: National Employment Law Project (NELP), TheJobMouse.com
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The law President Obama signed in February to extend payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance (H.R. 3630) also provided a nearly $500 million expansion of work sharing, an employment strategy that helps businesses avoid layoffs during downturns and can dramatically reduce unemployment. Today, in the first of three papers, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a detailed summary of the new federal law and how states can access it to combat layoffs.
While work sharing is widely known abroad and credited in countries like Germany for preserving jobs and preventing a sharp rise in unemployment during the recent recession, the enactment of H.R. 3630 marks a major breakthrough for work sharing in the United States. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia already have existing work sharing programs, with six states having adopted work sharing laws since 2009 (Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania).
“This landmark legislation represents an unprecedented opportunity for states to launch and expand work sharing programs and help fend off layoffs now and in the future,” said George Wentworth, senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project. “As they grapple with a slow economic recovery and strains on unemployment trust funds, states should use this law to adopt an innovative economic security program that benefits workers, businesses and communities.”
“Few policy ideas have been as widely supported as work sharing,” said Neil Ridley, senior policy analyst at CLASP. “As more states adopt the program, more workers and businesses will be positioned to weather the next economic downturn. Even with the current economic recovery gaining steam, it is not too late for states to use work sharing to prevent layoffs in some sectors.”
Under work sharing, also known as short-time compensation (STC), a business that faces a slump in demand can reduce employees’ hours instead of laying off part of its workforce. An employer could temporarily reduce hours by 20 percent, for example, instead of laying off one-fifth of its staff. In states with a work sharing program, workers with registered employers can apply for and receive pro-rated unemployment benefits to help compensate for the reduced work hours.
The new legislation, which is known as the Layoff Prevention Act of 2012, was first introduced by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and later in the House of Representatives by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). It updates and clarifies short-time compensation provisions in federal law for the first time in 20 years. It provides two ways that states can use federal funding to adopt work sharing or expand existing programs. States with existing or pending programs that meet the new federal definitions of short-time compensation can receive 100 percent reimbursement for funds paid to employees under the program. States without work sharing programs can participate in a temporary federal program that makes work sharing immediately available to employers, and states are reimbursed for one-half the benefits paid to individuals. The temporary federal funds are available for either three or two years, depending on whether the state has a law enacted or not.
The new law requires that employers submit a written plan to the state workforce agency and certify that workers’ health and retirement benefits will not be reduced due to participation in the program.
In addition to the reimbursement options, the Act includes $100 million in grants to make state programs more efficient and more effective for workers and employers. Grants are also available to help states promote work sharing and increase outreach to employers.
“Work sharing is generally a little-known option for employers, even in states with existing programs, but this new law will hopefully change that,” said Wentworth.
The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers.
CLASP develops and advocates for policies at the federal, state and local levels that improve the lives of low-income people, with a focus on policies that strengthen families and create pathways to education and work.
- ND Sec State shortens office hours, cites workload, AP via JamestownSun.com
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger says he'll be shortening his office hours so staffers can catch up on paperwork.
Jaeger says there's been an explosion of business registrations and other filings that his office handles.
He says the office will be closed on Mondays except for taking deliveries. On Tuesday through Friday, the office will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Usually it's open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Jaeger says the shorter hours will allow staffers to finish paperwork more quickly. He says right now it's taking four to five weeks to process registrations.
He says the office now has more than 1,500 pending business registrations. The number of registrations has gone from an average of 770 per month to more than 1,200.
4/1-2/2012 – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org unless otherwise initialed ) -
- Banks call for Saturday afternoons and Sundays to be “ordinary working hours”, by Cara Waters, 4/01 SmartCompany.com.au
CANBERRA, Australia - Australia’s major banks are pushing for the definition of ordinary working hours [ie: banking hours] to be extended to include Saturday afternoons and all of Sundays.
[We need to rely more on regulation in terms of shorter shifts (worktime per person = government call based on need for maximum # of shoppers funded by a maximum # of employees) and less on regulation in terms of shorter business opening hours (worktime per job = market call).]
In a joint application to an award review by Fair Work Australia, the banks argue the changes would promote “flexible and efficient modern work practices in a way that has proper regard to the considerations of productivity and employment costs”.
The application made by ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and GE Capital Finance says: “The banks are, in substance, in no different position to many retailers or other retail providers such as telecommunications service providers and contract call centre operators, each of which has access to a modern award facility permitting ordinary hours to be worked on Saturdays and Sundays.
The banks claim that the Finance Sector Union’s (FSU’s) proposals to consolidate existing award provisions would “do nothing more than reflect historical and, in many respects, out-dated employment practices” and should be rejected.
All four financial institutions involved in the application already open some branches on Saturdays and Sundays.
Stephen Ries, spokesperson for ANZ, told SmartCompany the bank is happy to support the application but it does not impact ANZ as the bank already has the flexibility for Sunday work as part of its enterprise agreement with its employees.
“We don’t agree that this application will have any impact on penalty rates and there has been no application made to change penalty rates in the award,” says Ries.
The FSU has come out fighting against the banks’ “profit grab”.
“I think it is outrageous as this is an attack on the lowest paid workers in industry from an industry that is highly profitable and very productive,” says the FSU’s state secretary Geoff Derrick.
[The lowest paid workers need to refocus their efforts OFF self-defeating overtime and shift premiums for diversity-weakened religion-based taboo workdays, and ONTO a general redefinition of maximum workweek per person DOWNWARD to levels more consumer-fostering in an age of automation and robotization.]
“This is a lazy attempt to force people to give up their weekends and reduce their living standards.
“There is no promise of reducing fees and charges to customers, this is about propping up the bottom line by the most profitable banks in the world.”
Derrick claims there is no demonstrable public demand for increased bank trading as people are able to use internet and phone banking.
“There is no evidence that it needs to happen.
“There is no profit crisis here, there is a very productive workforce and ample access to services to the community.
“There is no reason to do this except for senior executives wanting to prop up their profits and bonuses at the expense of the lowest paid workers.
“At the moment the system works by penalty rates making volunteering for the weekend attractive. If you remove the penalty rates you remove the volunteers, which will impact on family life.
“A Tuesday is not the same as a Saturday or Sunday.”
The application follows calls by the retail and hospitality sectors for a review of penalty rates.
The Australian Retailers Association and the National Retailers Association are asking for penalty loadings to be halved while the Restaurant and Caterers Association has argued that penalty rates are an anachronism.
[Another take -]
Working weekends is ordinary: banks, 4/02 ABC Online via abc.net.au
Some of Australia's largest banks want their employees to work on weekends as part of their ordinary work hours. Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Bank, Westpac and GE Capital Finance have applied to Fair Work Australia to include the weekend in the definition of "ordinary hours of work" under the banking, finance and insurance award.
The banks argue that changing the definition of ordinary hours to include 12pm to 6pm on Saturdays and 8am to 6pm on Sundays would promote flexibility in the workplace.
In their submission to Fair Work Australia, the banks say they will retain existing penalty rates for employees who work on those days.
"The banks are, in substance, in no different position to many retailers or other retail providers such as telecommunications service providers and contract call centre operators, each of which has access to a modern award facility permitting ordinary hours to be worked on Saturdays and Sundays," the banks said in their submission.
"A variation of this nature is likely to promote flexible and efficient modern work practices in a way that has proper regard to the considerations of productivity and employment costs which form part of the modern awards objective."
Nevertheless, Federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten has labelled the move a "wage cut in stealth".
"And this is not a wage cut for the CEOs on several million dollars a year, this is potentially a wage cut for ... part-time workers, women workers, people who earn $40,000 to $50,000 a year," Mr Shorten said.
Mr Shorten wants the banks' chief executives to put their case to him.
"I'd be pleased to meet with the CEOs of Australia's leading banks and to hear the case why they want to extend ordinary hours from Monday to Friday that bank workers are under to Saturdays and Sundays," he said.
"I've also contacted the financial services union. They're happy to attend the meeting."
Westpac says only a small number of its staff would be affected by the move, because the change has already been incorporated into many of their enterprise bargaining agreements.
- Seattle Council asks public to weigh in on library levy to restore cut hours, by Scott Taylor, Examiner.com
SEATTLE, Wash. – The Seattle City Council is holding a hearing on Tuesday, April 3rd at Seattle City Hall to get feedback from Seattleites on the new proposed levy to support the Seattle Public Library (SPL) system. The council is considering whether to place the Library Levy on the ballot for the August 7, 2012 primary election.
Due to funding cuts since 2009, the Seattle Public Library has been forced to close system wide for one week a year, close 26 branch libraries two days a week and cut its annual collections funds by more than 13 percent. In response, the City Librarian and Library Board have proposed a seven-year temporary annual Library Levy of $17 million to be funded by an increase in property taxes (pdf).
If the Library Levy is approved by Seattle voters, next year the Seattle Public Library would be able to restore lost hours of operation and increase funding for book and materials acquisitions. Additionally, the SPL would be able to improve computer and online services including restoring 1,613 hours of free Internet access each week. This free Internet access is vital to allow people who cannot afford home access to perform job searches and get access to online government services such as Social Security and Medicare enrollment.
Library budget cuts a national trend
Seattle is not alone in facing cuts in library services. Across the country libraries are being forced to reduce hours, cut their budgets and in some cases close their doors. Nationwide, libraries have had an average of a two percent drop in book purchasing budgets and overall library service hours have been reduced by 16 percent since 2008.
In 2012, Congress cut funding by more than two percent for the Library Services and Technology Act programs. These programs provide funds to public, school, academic, research and special libraries to improve technological applications such as online access to library materials, licensed databases, specialized research information, and providing internet access. This places additional pressure on cash strapped state and local governments to fund libraries. Library levies are the only way some systems are able to keep their doors open.
Call to Action
If you believe that a robust Seattle Public Library system is essential to meet the educational, and societal needs of Seattle then attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday. If you can’t make the meeting contact the council by email, by phone at 206-684-2489 or on the council web site.
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