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

5/31/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Manager's procedures for shared work plan, (5/10 late pickup) EndicottInterconnect.com
    [Here's some Q&A from a company that's making use of the New York State worksharing program to preserve their skill set -]
    ENDICOTT, N.Y., USA - Employee Q & A: Shared Work Program (SWP)...
    1Q. What is the Shared Work Program (SWP) and when does it begin?
    1A. The program is offered through the NYS Department of Labor to assist companies facing a temporary decline in business. The Shared Work Program will begin the week of May 21, 2012
    2Q. Is there a waiting period under the Shared Work Program?
    2A. Yes, the SWP requires a one calendar week waiting period before the employee is eligible to receive benefits. An employee must have at least one day off without pay in a week to constitute the waiting period. There is no retroactive payment for the waiting week. Note: Some employees may have an open claim with unemployment which would not require the waiting period for the SWP. HR will provide instructions for employees in this situation once we are notified by NYS.
    3Q. How can I find out if I have an open unemployment claim on my own?
    3A. You can call 518-485-6375 (choose "claimant" option #3) and ask to check the status of your claim. Those with an open claim will not need to do a waiting period and could submit a continued claim form instead. Please have your manager notify HR if you determine that you have an open claim.
    4Q How do I apply and receive my Shared Work benefits?
    4A. If you have previously participated in Shared Work or Unemployment, your benefit will be provided by the same method as the last time – either direct deposit or direct payment card.
    For those signing up for the first time, there are two options:
    1) Direct deposit. For this option, employees are required to apply on-line in order to provide their bank information to the NYS Department of Labor. Note: You must apply online between Monday, May 21st after 7:30 a.m. and Friday, May 25th before 5 p.m. Please find the Shared Work Online Application Instructions available on ESS for help applying online. HR must account for all employees participating in Shared Work so you are also required to submit a paper based application. Employees will complete the application form and write “applied online” on the top of the form and sign on the bottom.
    2) Direct Payment Card. Employees who do not elect the direct deposit option will receive a packet sent to their home address from Chase Bank including: the Direct Payment Card, instructions to activate the card and select a Personal Identification Number (PIN), and general information about using the card.
    Note: If you have been on Shared Work or Unemployment in the past 3 years, the card you had will be reactivated by Chase. Those employees who no longer have their card can call Chase at 1-877-221-1634 to order a replacement once you have received the packet. If your card has expired you will receive a new one in the mail.
    5Q. Can an employee choose not to participate in the Shared Work Program?
    5A. Yes, employees are not required to receive benefits. To do this, the employee will complete the top of the application form, place a large X through the middle of form, write “NO” anywhere on the form, and then sign the form on the bottom. However, they still must work the same number of hours as their work unit.
    6Q. How does an employee qualify for Shared Work benefits?
    6A. NY State Department of Labor will determine an employee’s eligibility for the program. After filing your Shared Work claim, an initial determination letter will be mailed to you informing you of your eligibility including your weekly unemployment benefit rate.
    • The employee must serve a waiting period before receiving Shared Work benefit payments, unless a waiting period has already been served on an existing claim.
    • The waiting period for an employee who does not have an existing claim and is in a unit participating in the Shared Work Plan is presently planned for the week of May 21, 2012. Otherwise, it will be the first week in which they have at least one day off without pay and work the same number of hours as those in their work unit.
    7Q. What is the weekly amount that I will receive?
    7A. The State will go back 5 quarters (not including the last quarter) and calculate the SWP/Unemployment benefit based on the highest earning quarter.
    • The Shared Work weekly benefit amount will be the person’s weekly unemployment benefit rate multiplied by the percentage that their hours and wages are reduced under the Shared Work Plan.
    • One day of Shared Work will be 20% of your weekly unemployment benefit: the maximum weekly unemployment benefit is $405.
    • Any issues or concerns with this benefit amount should be addressed directly with the NYS Department of Labor at 518-485-6375 (choose "claimant" option #3.)...
    Endicott Interconnect is a world-class supplier of advanced electronic packaging solutions. With offices and manufacturing locations across the globe, we are a one-stop shop that provides you with everything you need to design, research, develop, analyze, prototype, manufacture, and test your: printed circuit boards, semiconductor packaging, new product solutions, assembly solutions, custom process equipment, and system level development and engineering.

  2. Komax Solar and Komax Medtech respond to difficult market environment, press release by Komax Holding AG via Thomson Reuters ONE via Reuters.com (The [corporate] issuer is solely responsible for the content...)
    LA CHAUX-DE-FONDS, Switzerland - Komax is taking steps to respond to the persistently challenging economic environment facing its Solar and Medtech business units. Komax Solar will be continuing the cost-cutting measures that have already been initiated, while Komax Medtech will be introducing short-time working at its La Chaux-de-Fonds site in June.
    The global solar market remains in the grips of a crisis whose end is currently difficult to foresee. As a result, Komax Solar is making further efforts to adapt its structures to the present demand situation. This will involve reducing the business unit's headcount by an estimated 70 people. Headcount at the beginning of the year was 285 employees, most of whom worked outside Switzerland. However, solar will remain an attractive market in the longer term. The product range is being further developed and marketing efforts continue. Komax Solar remains well placed to benefit from the expected upturn in the new market setting.
    Uncertainty about economic developments is putting a damper on investment activity by Komax Medtech's customers, resulting in further postponements to projects that have already been announced. Furthermore, Komax Medtech is much more affected by the continuing strength of the Swiss franc than either of the other two business units. The result is persistent spare capacity at its site in La Chaux-de-Fonds. To bridge this temporary state of affairs, Komax Medtech is introducing short-time working in June. This will ensure that capacity is retained to ramp up production the moment that new orders start to pick up again.
    For more information, please contact:
    Marco Knuchel, Head Investor Relations / Corporate Communications
    www.komaxgroup.com, Tel. +41 41 455 06 16, Fax +41 41 450 10 24

    The Komax Group is a leading manufacturer of wire processing machines, machines for the production of modules for the photovoltaics market and machine systems for the manufacture of inhalers and insulin delivery or injection systems. It employs a workforce of around 1100 people. Alongside production facilities in Switzerland, France, the United States, Malaysia and China, Komax also provides sales and service support via subsidiaries and independent agents in around 60 countries.

5/30/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. New legislation creates 'SharedWork Ohio' program, DailyAdvocate.com
    COLUMBUS, Oh., USA - State Rep. Jim Buchy has announced that the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 484, legislation that creates the “SharedWork Ohio” Program.
    The bill creates a program in which an employer who participates in the SharedWork Ohio program reduces the number of hours worked by employees in lieu of layoffs.
    Under the bill, an employer who wishes to participate in the program must submit a plan to the Director of Job and Family Services that satisfies specific requirements. If a SharedWork Program is approved, employees will maintain pension and healthcare benefits and are eligible to receive 26 weeks of unemployment benefits on a pro rata basis.
    Through United States House Bill 3630, as negotiated by House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama, the federal government will provide funds for the administration, cost and promotion of SharedWork Ohio. As employers continue to pay unemployment premiums, a net positive cash flow into Ohio’s Unemployment Trust Fund may reduce Ohio’s debt to federal government, triggering a decrease in unemployment tax rates for employers.
    “Currently, unemployment is high, and these people want to work. A job will give each man and woman the dignity that comes with a job,” Representative Buchy said. “Providing unemployment recipients the opportunity to work at a low cost to the employer benefits the employer and the employee by incentivizing workers to work at a lower paying job while unemployment dollars subsidize the loss in income to the family.”
    In 2009, shared work programs were credited with saving thousands of jobs across the United States, including 11,000 in New York and 24,193 in Missouri. Texas also credited shared work for saving 24,665 jobs in 2010.
    House Bill 484 now be sent to the Senate for further consideration.

  2. Author Jeff Rubin predicts de-growth expansion, by Matthew Burrows, The Georgia Straight via Straight.com
    VANCOUVER, B.C., Canada - Toronto author whose latest book is called The End of Growth has the following response to the De-Growth Vancouver political party.
    “I predict that their constituency will grow,” Jeff Rubin told the Straight during a recent book-promo swing through Vancouver. De-Growth Vancouver, which was the Work Less Party until 2011, fielded three council candidates in that year’s municipal election.
    Rubin was chief economist with CIBC World Markets before going rogue in 2009 to write Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller. Despite his new book incorporating many themes the political party ran on in the 2008 and 2011 municipal elections, Rubin said he had not heard of it or the de-growth conferences it organized in 2010 and 2011.
    Like the municipal candidates, Rubin claimed that unfettered economic growth cannot continue on a planet with limited resources.
    “I think that’s what prices are telling us—that triple-digit oil prices, they’re not the enemy; they’re the messenger,” Rubin said. “And the message they are sending is that we live in a finite world. And as we start to feel the boundaries of that finite world, I think the solution is less is more.”
    “As the expansion and the increasing human footprint—in Vancouver and elsewhere—continues to grow, it is very clear that at some point you reach the limits of that growth,” Chris Shaw, a De-Growth Vancouver city council candidate in 2011 and a Work Less Party candidate in 2008, told the Straight by phone. “Our position in De-Growth Vancouver was, let’s rationally deal with it while we still have a chance to rationally deal with it, and have a softer descent into sustainability rather than a crash into it.”
    Jeff Rubin suggested Germany’s [work]-sharing program Kurzarbeit could be emulated here. “The greatest challenge of slower economic growth is job creation,” Rubin said. “How is the economy going to be able to create as many jobs in a slower-growth gear? The answer is, it’s not going to. But maybe a way of dealing with this is, instead of one person being laid off, four people take a 25-percent cut in their time.”

5/29/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. French unions warn of mass job cuts in reform talks, Reuters via ChicagoTribune.com
    PARIS, France - French unions pressed President Francois Hollande to prove his job-saving mettle on Tuesday by handing his Socialist cabinet a list of looming company shutdowns that are threatening tens of thousands of jobs at the start of labor talks.
    [All Hollande has to do is let the market control the workweek (on the basis of a yearly, quarterly or monthly readjustment) via the unemployment rate = as long as unemployment is too high or rising, the workweek is too long for current levels of technology even if it's down to 35 hours a week in France - plus he has to upgrade France's conversion of chronic overtime into training&jobs.]
    Hollande, who came to power this month against a grim economic backdrop, has promised to reverse rising unemployment and shore up the struggling manufacturing sector, partly by pumping investment into small and medium businesses.
    As Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault held his first talks with union leaders to discuss the job situation ahead of a July summit on social issues, Hollande's immediate challenge was to respond to the warnings about layoffs in the pipeline.
    Hardline union CGT named 46 companies it said were planning to shut production sites in a list published in French media that showed about 90,000 jobs threatened directly or indirectly.
    Firms planning to close factories ranged from carmakers PSA Peugeot Citron and General Motors to retailer Conforama, according to the list.
    "We want to deal with these layoff plans immediately," Francois Chereque, head of the CFDT union, France's largest by membership, told Europe 1 radio. "We are urgently requesting the state to focus on jobs. Jobs are the Number 1 problem."
    The task of staving off an avalanche of job cuts falls to Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, present at Tuesday's talks, who has been given a mission to stop healthy firms from laying off workers.
    But critics are skeptical he will be able to do so, as courts have already struck down one attempt to freeze a layoff plan.
    Unions will also use Tuesday's talks to outline their views on how the new government should adjust the previous administration's raising of the retirement age and changes to the wage negotiation system and the minimum wage.
    [Unions need to quit sweating the deets (yes, wage demands are far-secondary and double-edged details relative to hours) until they have the fundamentals nailed down. And the fundamentals are, labor is a cheap surplus commodity until France gets the workweek down to where it tilts the economy from labor surplus to employer-perceived labor shortage (actually labor balance, as in "wartime prosperity") = full employment and maximum domestic consumer markets and marketable productivity for profitable or atleast stable investment.]
    Chereque said Hollande would have to fulfill a campaign promise to raise the minimum wage, but said a rise of more than 20 percent, as hardline union FO wants, would be unrealistic.
    Disagreement over the minimum wage and other issues could end Hollande's election honeymoon in the run-up to the July summit as the moderate CFDT clashes with the all-or-nothing approach of the FO and CGT unions.
    Hollande, who promised during his campaign to create tens of thousands of public sector jobs, has yet to explain how he will boost the private sector, which analysts say is hampered by excessively rigid labor regulations.
    France's first Socialist president in 17 years, Hollande wants to grant unions a position on company boards, where they would have more say on staffing decisions.
    "I want to significantly modify relations with the social partners," Ayrault told magazine L'Express in an interview.
    On pensions, he plans to use a government decree to tweak conservative former president Nicolas Sarkozy's two-year hike in the minimum retirement age to allow workers who started working at 18 or 19 to retire at 60.
    Asked whether Hollande's tax-and-spend policies could eventually provoke a lurch toward austerity, as was the case under former Socialist president Francois Mitterrand, Ayrault said: "Much now depends on European policy. It's indispensable that the Brussels summit on May 23 leads to a positive outcome."
    (Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

  2. Half of men in Estonia work overtime, by Toomas Hõbemägi bbn@aripaev.ee, BalticBusinessNews.com
    [Here's another economy that needs Timesizing, starting at a much more basic level than France -]
    TALLINN, Estonia - Half of males employed and a third of females employed work overtime, according to “Time Use of the Population of Estonia”, a publication of Statistics Estonia.
    In the Time Use Survey 2010, the actual working hours of employed persons were surveyed during one week.
    The results of the survey show that 26% of employees worked for 35–40 hours a week, which could be regarded as standard full-time work. 42% of employed persons worked more and 32% less than that.
    On the average men worked three hours and six minutes longer a week than women.
    Partly the reason is that women are more likely to have part-time jobs, also it is usually women who stay at home to care for sick family members.
    Employees with primary and basic education spent on average 3 hours and 20 minutes more per week on work than employees with higher education.
    The working week was longer in agriculture, trade, hotels and restaurants, and in transport and construction activities.
    Overtime work was performed by 42% of employed persons and 13% of employed persons had extremely long working week (over 48 hours).   49% of male and 37% of female employees worked overtime.
    Every sixth male and every tenth female employee worked over 48 hours a week. The young employed and the employed with lower level of education have a greater risk of long working hours.
    Three quarters of employees start their workdays between 7 and 9:30. 8 o’clock is the most common time for starting workdays as 38% of the employed start work at that time. 13% of employees start work at 9 o’clock.
    The most common end time of work is 17 o’clock when 24% or about a quarter of employees finish their daily work.
    Different from the start of the workday, the end times of workdays are still dispersed over a longer period.
    For example, every tenth employee is still at work at 20 o’clock.
    The Time Use Survey was conducted from April 2009 to March 2010 and it covered 7,000 respondents.
    The analysis of working hours is based on Time Use Survey weekly diaries, where the respondents were asked to mark their actual working hours during one week.

  3. We Work Too Hard, (5/28 late pickup) HuffingtonPost.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y., USA - In a recent opinion piece for the New York Times, author and professor of sustainable development Tim Jackson suggests we change the way we work. He writes that we should work less, focus our work on helping others and care less about productivity and more about making sure everyone gets a chance to work.
    Jackson's book Prosperity Without Growth is an exciting read. He tackles economics and climate science in one fell swoop by arguing that we will run into real roadblocks if we try to avoid the catastrophic effects of unemployment and climate change while maintaining an ethos that demands more growth every quarter of every year. While most economists would scoff at the idea of restricting GDP, Al Gore has argued that quarterly earnings reports should be stopped to prevent companies from valuing short-term growth over what is good for the country and the planet. Many economists and environmentalists recognize that fighting climate change will reduce growth somewhat, costing between 1 and 2 percent of GDP. So not everyone believes in the doctrine of productivity at all costs.
    Paul Krugman has been pointing out that productivity often doesn't increase by policies that are supposed to create it. Since deregulation in the 1980s and the rise of leveraged buy outs and shadow banking, productivity has actually slowed down. This not only calls into question how we think and talk about productivity, but whether trying to increase it is good for the American workforce.
    Productivity is supposed to increase living standards and income and actually reduce work hours. That isn't often the case in practice. The drive for higher productivity is usually predicated on the desire to eke out more income only. This is a miscalculation and a misunderstanding of productivity's other goal, to increase leisure. As Jeffrey D. Sachs writes in The Price of Civilization, "The greatest benefits of higher income accrue to the poorest households, to enable them to meet their unmet needs. For the middle class and especially for the rich, many factors other than income are far more important for personal happiness. Good governance, more trust in the community, a happier married life, more time for friends and colleagues, and meaningful and secure work all rank as far more important than another few percent of personal income."
    Sachs mentions how Americans have little say over work sharing compared to northern Europeans, which is a point Jackson also raises. Jackson writes, "One solution would be to accept the productivity increases, shorten the workweek and share the available work. Such proposals -- familiar since the 1930s -- are now enjoying something of a revival in the face of continuing recession. The New Economics Foundation, a British think tank, proposes a 21-hour workweek." Reducing work hours is a topic I also touched on in a previous blog post.
    Work sharing is more palatable to many in the business world than explicitly reining in GDP. In this economy especially, it makes sense to offer incentives for companies to institute work sharing in lieu of firing workers. This is just what Obama did in February, signing the Middle Class Relief and Job Creation Act, which will let Washington pay unemployment insurance benefits for workers in work sharing programs who would have otherwise been laid off.
    Lincoln Electric of Ohio is certainly not a company that espouses Jackson's recommendation to slow down the pace of efficiency. Lincoln Electric drives its workers hard, with the average work week in excess of 40 hours. But in the recession, the company reduced work hours as it has historically done. Utilizing this policy has avoided major layoffs since World War II. Paul Solomon reported for News Hour: "And, yet, here's the actual bottom line. For more than a century, Lincoln Electric has made money the old-fashioned way and is on track for $200 million in profits in 2011, while offering its workers essentially lifetime employment in still somewhat rusty Cleveland, Ohio."
    While Lincoln Electric's frenetic work pace does not make it the perfect example of Jackson's philosophy, the company's concern for all of its workers illustrates Jackson's principles beautifully. We are probably a long time from instituting reduced work hours in the United States, where political compromise has ground to a halt and seemingly radical ideas are flagged as socialist. The best route toward an economy that increases access opportunities for more workers (and a higher quality of life) is through incentives like those the federal government has instituted and others it could institute in the future. Tax incentives could also be used to get more companies reducing work hours and hiring more people.
    Politicians often use sports analogies to describe their debates and scrums, talking about how much skin they have in the game or how their opponents have moved the goal posts. It would behoove us to remember that slow and steady often wins the race, just as a more balanced approach to work life can be more beneficial than the helter-skelter mindset of our cut-throat labor market.

  4. Midday break from June 15, KhaleejTimes.com
    [Abu Dhabi is one place that could easily be enjoying more of the most fundamental human freedom, financially secure free time, with its eyes blindfolded and its hands tied behind its back - but isn't. But at least it's maintaining some worktime-per-person awareness, so there's hope -]
    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - This year’s midday break rule for labourers will come into effect from June 15, the Ministry of Labour announced on Tuesday.
    The rule bans companies from making the labourers work under the sun and in open areas from 12.30pm to 3pm until September 15. A decree to this end was issued by Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash, Minister of Labour, fixing the working hours during the summer season for the eighth year consecutively. The midday break rule, which was effective for two months in the earlier years, had been extended to three months in the last two years.
    [Hey, that's a substantial reduction in worktime per person after all.]
    Those who employ workers should provide them a sheltered place for rest during the break, the decree said. Daily working hours should be eight, and in case a labourer works more than that on a day, the extra time will be considered overtime and the worker will get paid extra wage as per the provisions of the federal law No 8 of 1980 on regularising work and amended laws, the decision said.
    The decree made it mandatory on employers to display the schedule of the daily working hours in Arabic at the work place to make it easy for the ministry inspectors view it when they conduct inspections. The schedule should also be written in a language understood by the workers.
    However, the decree excluded works, which for technical reasons are impossible to be stopped during the break time. The list of such works will be provided by the Undersecretary at the Ministry of Labour, Mubarak Al Dhahiri.
    The employer should provide cold drinking water and juices to the labourers and should adhere to the safety and public health rules and regulations. First aid kits and cooling facilities should also be provided at the worksite, the decree said.
    Companies those are found violating the rules will be slapped with a fine of Dh15,000 each time they are caught. In the event of violation, the inspectors will submit a report to the ministry, including the details of the violation and the number of workers who were asked to work during the break time, in order to re-classify the establishment.
    Mubarak Al Dhahiri said: “Enforcement of the decision for the eighth year stems from the keenness of the UAE Government in creating a safe working environment for the labourers.
    “The ministry will make all arrangements to monitor the implementation of the rule, and to make the employers and employees aware of the importance of it,” he noted. He, however, expressed confidence that the employers will adhere to the decision as the past years had seen a high rate of commitment to the rule. It provides rest for the workers and protects them from heat-related diseases, which increases their productivity and automatically reflect on the interests of employers, he added.

5/27-28/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Program a win-win for Vancouver WA manufacturer - Cadet retains valued workers while cutting costs in tough economy, by Aaron Corvin, 5/28 Columbian.com
    Vancouver-based Cadet Manufacturing's use of Washington state's shared-work program has enabled some of its workers, including Ros Sin, who assembles heating fans for the company, to keep their jobs in a tough economy. (photo caption)
    [See video about *Cadet's successful shared work program mislabeled "Portland's."]
    VANCOUVER, Wash., USA - It's a nasty hallmark of economic decline: companies lay off people, losing talented workers who, in turn, surrender their pay and benefits for a weekly unemployment insurance check that barely pays the bills.
    In some cases, however, the damage caused when companies and workers part ways in tough economic times is avoidable.
    Thousands of companies and workers in Washington state are finding that out as they turn to a long-running government program that enables employers to hang onto their workers while reducing payroll costs to ride out the economic storm.
    Run by the state Employment Security Department, the shared-work layoff-avoidance program lets employers reduce the hours of full-time workers while those workers collect partial unemployment benefits to partially offset lost wages.
    Thanks to the program, businesses save money and are able to keep valuable employees. Those workers, in turn, keep their jobs and benefits while receiving more income than if they were fully laid off.
    "It works equally well for the business and for the worker," said Bill Tarrow, deputy communications director for the state Employment Security Department.
    Statewide, the program saved at least 26,000 jobs in 2011, according to the Employment Security Department. Currently, 2,100 Washington companies and 23,000 employees are participating in the program. Before the economic crash, rarely more than 500 companies were involved in the program at any given time. The current number of participants includes 77 companies and 673 employees in Clark County.
    One of them is Vancouver-based Cadet Manufacturing, which makes a variety of fan, baseboard and floor heaters, and thermostats. The privately held, family-owned company, which employs 98 people and has revenues of roughly $25 million to $30 million annually, sought out the program in 2009 as the economy tumbled.
    Since then, the company has had no layoffs. An average of 10 Cadet employees per month have used the shared-work program. And the business has saved roughly $10,000 per month.
    Ros Sin, 32, who's been with Cadet for seven years and who assembles heating fans for the company, said using the program has meant stability for her and her family. Cadet's human resources department handled the paperwork. "We just had to sign our names," Sin said.
    A pilot program first
    The shared-work program's roots go back to 1983, when Boeing Co. — the aerospace giant and pillar of Washingon state's economy — laid off thousands of workers.
    The situation prompted state lawmakers to search for ways to keep workers attached to local companies in a downturn, according to Tarrow. The idea was to prevent laid-off workers from moving elsewhere for jobs, draining the state of talent.
    Eventually, Washington state, among a handful of states, took part in a federal pilot program aimed at keeping employers and their workforces intact. Washington state later made the shared-work program a permanent part of its unemployment-insurance system, which is funded by businesses through employee payroll taxes.
    In a recent survey by the state Employment Security Department, more than two-thirds of employers who participated in the shared-work program last year said it helped them survive the recession. Another 20 percent of businesses said that it probably helped.
    And nearly all of the employers who participated in the survey said they would not only apply to use the program again but recommend it to other struggling businesses.
    Any company may take part in the program as long as it's been registered in Washington state for at least six months before it submits an application.
    Employers typically use the program for up to a year. But they may apply to use it for longer than that.
    The program is for full-time, hourly employees who are eligible for jobless insurance benefits. Employers are allowed to reduce participating employees' work hours by at least 10 percent but not more than 50 percent.
    'Grateful' for program
    When Cadet Manufacturing faced a tough economy three years ago, it had to find ways to cut costs. Although it maintained its profitability, its sales were down. But the company didn't want to lose employees who, on average, had worked for the company for 10 years. Some of them had put in 20 years with Cadet.
    Tami Harmon, human resources manager for the company, knew of the shared-work program from her experience with a previous employer in Oregon.
    With management's blessing, Harmon got Cadet involved in Washington state's version.
    The company has received approval to use the program for three years now, Harmon said, and "we're hoping for a fourth year."
    As the economy continues to recover, she added, ideally the company won't need the program beyond a fourth year.
    Suffice it to say, it's been critical for Cadet.
    "We retain the talent," Harmon said. "I don't have to go out and search for new assemblers and try to teach them our way."
    Hutch Johnson, the company's president, said the program has enabled Cadet to hold onto its trained workforce, which is a "huge advantage" when it comes to sustaining a competitive edge.
    Sin, the Cadet worker who puts together fan heaters, said she just feels more secure.
    Even when her hours are shaved, she said, she still holds onto most of her income. She has all of her benefits, too. "I'm just really grateful for the program," she said.
    Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ; http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com

  2. Work sharing beats layoffs, by Rick Wilson, 5/28 The Charleston Gazette via wvgazette.com
    CHARLESTON, W.V., USA -- Given the political gridlock in Washington these days, the odds of getting decent legislation passed are pretty small. But it can happen.
    One example is the Middle Class Relief and Job Creation Act, which was signed into law in February. Somehow, a sharply divided Congress and a besieged administration managed to come up with a piece of legislation that could benefit employers, workers and taxpayers while saving states millions of dollars.
    Work sharing provisions of the law could help to lower unemployment rates and the costs of unemployment insurance. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, work-sharing programs, or short-time compensation, benefit both employees and employers. Employers reduce workers' hours rather than lay them off. Workers receive prorated unemployment insurance benefits to make up for hours not worked, and remain employed.
    Employers win by being able to keep trained employees on the payroll during cyclical downturns. Rather than hiring and training new workers when the economy picks up, they can just increase the hours of workers already on the payroll. This could save money as well as enhance productivity that would have been lost.
    Workers who are able to stay in the labor force also win. Few things are as damaging to individuals, families or communities as long term unemployment, which has grown dramatically in recent years.
    Prior to the Great Recession, few working people were jobless for more than six months. That number increased from 0.8 percent of the U.S. labor force in 2007 to 4.2 percent by 2010. This doesn't include those who have given up looking for work.
    According to a recent New York Times column by unlikely allies Dean Baker, a progressive economist, and Kevin Hassett, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, "Long-term unemployment is experienced disproportionately by the young, the old, the less educated, and African-American and Latino workers. "
    In a state like West Virginia, with its aging population, this is big deal. Baker and Hassett note that jobless workers between 50 and 65 have more than doubled. While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, they are only half as likely to be rehired. Their prospects for being rehired decline the longer they are unemployed.
    Workers between 50 and 61 who have been jobless for 17 months have only a 9 percent chance of finding a job in the next three months. For workers 62 and older, the odds are only 6 percent.
    This has all kinds of negative ripple effects. As New Yorker financial writer James Surowiecki notes, "Being unemployed is even more disastrous for individuals than you'd expect. Aside from the obvious harm -- poverty, difficulty of paying off debts -- it seems to directly affect people's health, particularly that of older workers." He cites a study of the 1981-82 recession that found experienced male workers had soaring mortality rates in the year after layoffs and much higher than average death rates even 20 years later.
    For reasons that are not entirely clear, jobless workers have a higher risk of dying from cancer, developing heart disease and psychiatric disorders, not to mention greater risks for divorce and suicide.
    Surowiecki also points out that unemployment isn't just a problem for the unemployed and their loved ones. "It's bad for all of us. Jobless workers, having no income, aren't paying taxes, which add to the budget deficit. More important, when a substantial portion of the workforce is sitting on its hands, the economy is going to grow more slowly than it could. After all, people doing something to create value, rather than nothing, is the fundamental driver of growth in any economy."
    Indeed, one factor that tends to pull down West Virginia's economic statistics is the fact that it has the lowest work-force participation rate in the country.
    Work sharing isn't a cure-all, but it could help keep some people attached to the work force who would otherwise be lost.
    Fortunately, the legislation mentioned above makes it easier for states to implement work sharing while also saving money. Under the new law, the federal government will pay 100 percent of work sharing benefits for up to three years for states that already have it and 50 percent for up to two years for states like West Virginia that agree to do it. Currently 24 states and the District of Columbia have work sharing.
    According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, West Virginia could receive $3.98 million if it passes legislation to implement work sharing. That would be enough money to provide regular unemployment benefits for more than 840 jobless workers for 16 weeks, at the national average benefit level of $296 a week. Not exactly chump change.
    It doesn't happen every day that we have a chance to benefit businesses, workers, taxpayers and the public sector at one stroke. But we have one now.
    The West Virginia Legislature should seal the deal.
    Wilson, director of the American Friends Service Committee's West Virginia Economic Justice Project, is a Gazette-Mail contributing columnist.

  3. Greece – for an anti-austerity government of the left, by Terry, SocialistResistance.org
    [Socialists are still putting timesizing way at the bottom of their priorities -]
    LONDON, England - Syriza’s stunning vote in the recent elections has shaken the Greek and European ruling classes to their foundations. It was a total rejection of the austerity package, on a progressive basis, by 60% of the electorate and has created not only the biggest crisis, but the most significant class confrontation in Europe since the Portuguese revolution of 1974.
    [So, Greece is trying Iceland's successful solution.]
    The combined left vote was 27%, with Syriza gaining 17%, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) gaining 8% and the Front of the Greek Anti-Capitalist Left (Antarsya) 1.9%. If we add another 6% who voted for the Democratic Left – a right-wing split from Syriza which is against total rejection of austerity because it believes Greece would kicked out of the Euro and therefore only wants to soften the package – the vote to the left of PASOK was nearly one third of the electorate. The inability of any party to form a government has resulted in the President calling a new election next month on the 17 June, and a caretaker government has been sworn in, led by high court judge, Panagoiotis Pikramenos.
    Before the election, Syriza was the only organisation to call for a united anti-austerity platform and for a united anti-austerity government if the left won. Syriza has decisively rejected austerity and the bailout conditions imposed in March by the Troika. Alexis Tsipras has called the 130bn Euro rescue plan “an agreement of poverty and wretchedness.”
    After the result – with the Greek left being offered a unique opportunity to form a government – Syriza again sought the unity of the left and workers movement, approaching the other left formations and the trade unions to try to put together a government of the progressive anti-austerity forces. But this was rejected in a sectarian fashion.
    Despite this, recent opinion polls suggest that the new elections could result in Syriza becoming the largest party and possibly forming a government. This is not guaranteed, but the momentum behind Syriza means that the ruling class and political establishment fear a new election. The EU elites have made it clear that they will make the new election into a referendum on the Euro, but that a second anti-austerity vote would mean the expulsion of Greece from the Euro. Massive international and internal pressure is being applied around this ultimatum – and between now and the election it will only increase. This campaign has already boosted the right wing New Democracy, which is now running neck and neck with Syriza in some polls.
    It is important that this ultimatum is rejected and the austerity offensive opposed. The Greek workers should take no responsibility for the debt. The demands in Syriza’s programme are imperative at this juncture.
    Meanwhile, many, mostly middle-class, Greeks have already begun withdrawing hundreds of millions of Euros from Greek banks – withdrawing 3bn Euros since the elections and investing in safer havens, especially in German bonds. This has raised fears of a run on the banks even before the results of a new election, with serious fears of the banks running out of money and the possibility of Greece falling out of the Euro in the short term. At the time of writing a crucial E18bn cash injection to stabilise Greek banks has been held up – all the Greek banks are on a life support system run by the ECB.
    It is to the great credit of Syriza and its leadership that they have held the line against the massive pressure on all fronts, which has been thrown against them. Syriza’s election platform is a radical anti-capitalist action programme, which will be an essential baseline if they eventually form a government. It includes:
    • A moratorium on debt payments.
    • Taxing the rich and a radical redistribution of income and wealth.
    • The nationalisation/socialization of the banks and their integration into a public banking system under social and worker’s control. The nationalization of all public enterprises, of strategic importance.
    • The administration of public enterprises based on transparency, social control and democratic planning.
    • The ecological transformation of the developmental model including energy, manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture.
    • Well-paid, well-regulated and insured employment, the restoration of the minimum wage and collective agreements, opposition to lay-offs, universal unemployment benefit and the introduction of a guaranteed minimum income.
    • A guaranteed minimum income or unemployment benefit, medical care, housing and access to all services and public utilities.
    • Price controls and price reductions.
    • The introduction of direct democracy and institutions of self-management under worker’s and social control.
    • Improved of the rights of women and young people in the family, the work place and in public administration.
    • The social inclusion of immigrants and equal rights protection.
    • Restoration of the pensions and the universal system of social insurance.
    • A free health service and universal, public and free education.
    • End to tax avoidance and tax havens.
    • Disengagement from NATO and shutdown of the foreign military bases.
    The manifesto concludes with a declaration that the current economic and social system has failed and must be overthrown! It goes on: “We are calling for a new model of production and distribution of wealth, one that would include society in its totality. Our strategic aim is socialism with democracy, a system in which all will be entitled to participate in the decision-making process.”
    It is a programme that puts Syriza in good stead for the challenges that will come if they win the election. Cancellation of the debt will be of crucial importance if such a programme is to be carried out.
    Syriza is accused of ambiguity over the Euro because they do not call for withdrawal. The fact is, however, that they are dealing with a contradictory situation amongst the population. Whilst a big majority are against austerity they are also in favour of staying within the Eurozone – which are mutually incompatible aspirations. Syriza has rightly confronted this situation with what is essentially a transitional approach. They do not call for exit from the Euro but say that they will make no sacrifice for the Euro. They then advance a series of demands, which are incompatible with membership of the Eurozone. This puts the ball in the court of the EU elites. If they want Greece outside of the Euro they have to expel it from the Euro.
    Tsipras has also said the threat to accept more austerity or exit the Eurozone was a high stakes game of bluff, led by Berlin, which would not happen because the Eurozone had too much to lose. This is a clear reference to the threat of ‘contagion’ within the banking system, which would probably lead to Portugal and Spain crashing out of the Euro and the possible collapse of the Euro itself, with Bond yields going through the roof. This would lead to slump. Merkel has even called for a specific referendum on the Euro to be held alongside the election itself! Division is therefore opening up among economists and within the European political leaderships, with many arguing that the European Union can’t afford to allow Greece to leave. This would provide a Syriza-led government, according to Tsipras, with a powerful bargaining position. However, a new ‘Marshal Plan’ to shore up Greece and Southern Europe would represent a total and massively costly about-turn by Germany, which seems unlikely. It would be rash to assume that this will happen. The stakes are too high. What is far more likely is that Merkel will hold the line and every nerve will be strained to terrify the Greek population into voting for the establishment parties on June 17.
    However there is ambiguity in Syriza’s position, for while presenting a radical anti-capitalist platform against the bail-out and austerity, Tsipras has also called for negotiations to reform the Euro and the EU. A position of not calling for a break with the Euro is not a political problem if Syriza and its supporters are fully prepared for such an eventuality. In order to advocate debt repudiation, effectively you have to be prepared for expulsion from the Eurozone as a probable consequence. This approach needs to be strongly up-front in the election campaign if the electorate is to be armed against the threats and ultimatums it will face.
    In this situation, nationalising the banks, imposing capital controls, taxing and collecting taxes from the rich, canceling internally held public debt, freezing the assets of the wealthy to stop them being moved out of country, will be necessary and urgent moves.
    These are demands in Syriza’s programme that must be implemented at the beginning of any term of office, so that the new government can pay state employees, pensions, and also importantly, to immediately control the flow of capital and protect Greece from the manoeuvres of international finance. The nationalisation of the banks will allow the government to stop a run on the banks, ring fence the financial system and cancel internally held public debt, which is the majority of the Greek public debt. These are the measures needed to begin the fight-back against the ravages of austerity.
    Other measures are also important, such as opening the books to public scrutiny of private companies, the nationalisation under workers control of firms creating redundancies, factory occupations and the building of local support committees, which are already emerging, sharing of the work equally between all those who want to work – work sharing with no loss of pay. Action should be started to recover the billions of Euros that the ruling class has already taken out of the country.
    If implemented these measures would ignite an international explosion, and would have a domino effect elsewhere. There is considerable fear of ‘contagion’ in the European banking system at a time when the firewall designed to bail out other banks, especially in Spain or Italy, is not yet fully funded – this could result in the collapse of the Euro. A maelstrom could threaten to bring down a new left government in Greece. Consequently a massive mobilisation of the Greek working class and international solidarity will be needed.
    A Syriza government should prepare for a possible expulsion from the Euro and devaluation by drawing up a plan to take all necessary measures to protect the working class. A re-introduction of the Drachma in these circumstances i.e., on a capitalist basis, will not be easy for the Greek working class, but will allow Greece to have some control of exchange rates. Weaker economies like Greece and Portugal after entering the Euro became uncompetitive due to suddenly inheriting a stronger currency. An important part of their crisis stems from Euro membership. Under the fixed Euro for all, weaker economies could not compete with Germany, leading to industrial decline and unemployment, but at the same time credit was cheap, encouraging a massive growth of private and personal debt in these countries – enabling them to buy German goods. In effect the German economy is being subsidized by the single exchange rate, enabling it to unload its goods onto countries like Greece or Portugal.
    Another important demand Syriza has made is to end tax avoidance. This is on a massive scale and would be difficult to achieve quickly because of entrenched systems of patronage. A restructured tax authority to collect taxes efficiently would be needed. This policy is essential, for clamping down on tax avoidance and corruption and canceling the debt repayments would alone eliminate the Greek deficit.
    A Syriza led government that carried out its policy to restore pensions, would have to provide alternative retirement through nationalising the pension system and creating the free provision of all basic needs after a certain age. This would be made possible by offsetting losses from defaults to the country’s banks and pension funds, as most public debt is held domestically. This in turn would leave a smaller proportion of the debt owed to foreign banks, pension and insurance funds. The heavy taxation of the rich and wealthy and corporations are important here as well.
    Defaulting on the debt repayments and leaving the Euro, which will result, will be essential to put an end to the austerity attacks, boost exports, lifting the burden of debt repayments, allowing the economy to recover, creating jobs and develop by orientating demand towards the internal production that meets peoples’ needs in a green sustainable way. A boost in exports would offset the inflationary pressure of devaluation.
    If implemented by the Greek people this programme would inspire all of us across Europe who are fighting the same type of austerity attacks. It would be the start of the building of a different type of society – one determined by the people for the people, which will put an end to the greed of the bankers and politicians.
    However, as the Greek working class faces another election, there is a serious problem that cannot be avoided – the issue of the unity of the Greek left. Before the election Syriza was the only organisation to call for a united anti-austerity platform and for a united anti-austerity government. If there are new elections both the KKE and Antarsya (though the KKE more stridently) have already said that they will not only stand their own candidates but will not give support to, or would ‘not prop up’ a Syriza-led government if it were elected! This, they say, is because Syriza’s platform is reformist, and not revolutionary. But a more extensive revolutionary programme is something that must be and will be discussed and developed as the struggle advances and should not to be counterposed by revolutionaries to the immediate needs of the struggle as it unfolds today.
    The most appalling sectarianism comes from the KKE, which, in third-period Stalinist style, has declared not only that Syriza is reformist but that reformists are the main enemy! Antarsya rejected the appeal in favour of a call for mass action against the cuts and declared that they would not ‘prop-up’ a Syriza led government! With the Greek SWP section the main force in Antarsya, this approach is reflected by the SWP in Britain. An article by Alex Callinicos in SocialistWorker has nothing to say about the governmental situation in Greece, or of left unity, but accuses Syriza of ambiguity, of refusing to break with social liberalism, and of seeking to contain the situation within the framework of capitalism. This he says, “underlines the necessity of building a revolutionary left that is part of this great movement sweeping Europe but maintains its own political identity”. We can agree with the last sentence but that must be as an active part of the Syriza coalition and with a united front method.
    This is a dangerous situation. A victory for the left is not guaranteed, but we could see an anti-austerity government with a radical anti-capitalist action programme either denied office – and the austerity continue with all its consequences – or be opposed once taking office by other sections of the left! We therefore make the strongest possible appeal to all sections of the Greek left to unite behind Syriza in the upcoming elections and to unite behind a Syriza-led anti-austerity government if it is elected. Of course the movement must be vigilant, but in the concrete situation that exists in Greece today, building a broad anti capitalist organisation like Syriza – that can unite the working class –is what is needed, and what revolutionary Marxist currents should be engaged in.
    We call on the KKE and Antarsya to break from sectarianism to become part of such a movement and a possible left government. If Syriza carries out its programme, and there will be massive pressures against it doing this, it would be a true Workers Government, leading to the first major political battle in Europe against austerity and the capitalist crisis. The Marxist left should do everything in its power to ensure this succeeds, not stand aside in sectarian purity and isolation.
    To conclude, the new elections, in which Syriza stands every chance of becoming the largest party, or winning, could lead to a coalition government of the anti-bailout, anti-austerity forces. The task of revolutionaries is to fully support the formation of such a government, but with vigilance against any compromise on Syriza’s action programme. This is particularly important if the reformist Democratic Left holds the balance of power and according to opinion polls two thirds of Syriza’s voter in the first round were in favour of a political compromise to form a government. However it is important to recognise that Tsipras has shown no signs of any political compromise on Syriza’s programme. He states time and again that the “memorandum of understanding must be revoked.”
    If at the end of this remarkable opportunity the Greek left and workers movement fails through internal divisions to form a government when the opportunity had been there and the right-wing take control as a result the organisations which opted for sectarian isolation will have a great deal to answer for, and not just in Greece. In fact the strategy of building broad parties (either anti-capitalist parties like Syriza or radical left reformist formations in other situations) capable of uniting the left and radical trade unions across the political spectrum, from revolutionary socialists to those who have not reached such conclusions, is designed for exactly this kind of situation – when no single current or tradition can meet the challenge alone.
    It is an urgent necessity for the social movements in Europe to show active, practical solidarity with the Greek people and to constitute a common European platform of resistance to austerity, which in Greece must include cancellation of the debt. In Britain, this means building support for the Greek solidarity campaign, set up by CoR and the Peoples Charter, and supported by SERTUC and the TSSA. Across Europe it means following up the eminently sensible proposal which appears to have emanated from the indignados movement in the Spanish State for a day of action against austerity on June 16, the day before the Greek elections, with a major focus on solidarity with Greece.
    This statement was agreed at a meeting of the Socialist Resistance National Committee on Saturday 26 May 2012.

5/26/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Ohio Needs a Shared Work Program, column by Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), (5/25 late pickup) OhioHouseGOP.blogspot.com
    COLUMBUS, Ohio, USA - If you could give employers the option to prevent layoffs without increasing their costs, is that the kind of legislation you’d expect to earn bipartisan support? The answer, of course, is yes.
    Yet too often, when debating legislation in Ohio, the conversation shifts to who benefits more – workers or businesses? After all, legislation has to lean one way or the other, right? I disagree. I believe that, sometimes, we all can get along, Republicans and Democrats, putting the greater good first.
    By way of illustration, I want to share my experience with my fifth bill as a freshman legislator. On March 14th, I introduced House Bill 484, aka “SharedWork Ohio”, with a total of 19 co-sponsors ranging from staunch conservatives to progressive liberals – members that advocate for businesses and those that advocate for labor unions.
    SharedWork Ohio (HB 484) creates what is known as a “shared work” or “short-time compensation” program. The idea is simple: rather than face traditional layoffs, employees share the work that’s available, while collecting partial unemployment. It’s basically a cost-neutral swap for employers.

    Why is this valuable? For the employee, the answer is obvious. They keep their job and benefits while avoiding any potential downward spiral from losing their job. Employers, on the other hand, keep their talented workforce intact, saving money without layoffs.
    When I think of shared work, I think of the best qualities of Ohioans: a willingness to help others, recognition that change is sometimes necessary and belief that better times are ahead. Shared work can help mothers and fathers avoid having to tell their families: “I lost my job today.”
    You might expect shared work to be possible in Ohio today. To an extent, reduced hours are possible. But until Ohio implements a formal shared work program, we will continue to incentivize layoffs over a reduction in hours because layoffs are what our unemployment system currently supports.
    A secondary benefit of shared work is that it can indirectly lead to lower taxes. As a result of the recent recession, Ohio owes approximately $2.3 billion in federal unemployment loans. That debt has triggered higher unemployment taxes in Ohio. Because shared work is federally funded for three years, under Congress’ recently passed H.R. 3630, SharedWork Ohio has the potential to offset our existing debt and thereby accelerate a reduction in Ohio taxes. That will help Ohio employers’ bottom line.
    Ultimately, businesses have the right to choose layoffs, and in many cases, this will still occur. Such is the case when business is slowing down permanently. But, in other cases, shared work offers a valuable alternative for cyclical downturns as well as transition periods.
    For workers training for new jobs, shared work allows them to learn new job skills during their time off while staying employed the rest of the week. This makes job training easier than ever, which is especially important in a global economy where human resource needs change frequently.
    Twenty-three states already have shared work programs including Texas, Missouri and New York. It’s not a new idea; it’s just an overdue one for Ohio. From Ronald Reagan, who signed the first federal program into law, to Barack Obama, who negotiated an employer-friendly modernization of the program into law this year, shared work has earned bipartisan support for over thirty years.
    It’s time for Ohio to start its own shared work program.
    phil hyde said...
    congrats - you guys will bring us to 50% of the states with worksharing programs, and worksharing brings us halfway to the economy of the next century, where maximum economic dynamism and stability is guaranteed by automatically converting chronic overtime into training and jobs, and automatically creating enough chronic overtime to achieve full employment - by slowly adjusting the fulltime workweek downward to squeeze out the market-demanded employment on everyone, no artificial government job creation or massive safety net needed = "timesizing" not downsizing!

  2. Let's focus on making U.S. Postal Service competitive, Smith urges, by Jessica Kokesh, KearneyHub.com
    KEARNEY, Neb., USA — Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., said Congress needs to be flexible when considering cuts to the U.S. Postal Service in the future.
    Smith, who stopped in Kearney, Gothenburg and North Platte on his way home to Gering Friday, said the recent decision to cut hours at thousands of rural post offices was a better solution than closing them.
    “It’s doable,” he said. “It’s not always the most convenient, but it’s certainly better than nothing at all.”
    Smith said cutting hours is not a permanent solution, but a transitional one that will not solve the Postal Service’s money woes. Cutting 10,000 of the smallest post offices in the nation wouldn’t affect even 1 percent of the Postal Service’s budget, he said, and finding flexible solutions needs to be the key.
    “I don’t want Congress, the heavy hand of government, to get in the way here to make the Postal Service less competitive,” he said.
    “We want them to be competitive. They’re an important part of commerce across America, especially in rural areas.”
    The Postal Service and other fiscal issues have been top issues with his constituents this year, Smith said.
    Smith won the Republican primary for his seat May 15 and said he was happy with voter turnout.
    “I know the American people care deeply about the condition of our county and the direction of our county, and it’s great to see people involved because they care,” he said.
    Smith will be in Nebraska for the Memorial Day Weekend and will be present at services in Arthur Monday.
    email to: jessica.kokesh@kearneyhub.com

  3. Study shows Indonesia facing job creation challenge, by Elly Burhaini Faizal, TheJakartaPost.com
    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Despite the country’s vibrant economic growth and development over the past few years, the Indonesian government is still unable to create decent jobs for its growing population.
    A recent study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) titled “Decent Work Country Profile — Indonesia” shows that Indonesia’s economic growth has reduced poverty as well as increased the level of productivity.
    However, it’s still hard for the government to provide its population with decent jobs — employment with proper working hours, fair income and social protection of workers and their family members.
    [It is NOT a government responsibility to provide its population with jobs - THAT is a private-sector responsibility. The government's responsibility is ONLY to adjust the definition of "proper working hours" to a level that enables private-sector employers, on an equal footing, to provide full employment for maximum domestic consumer spending and maximum marketable domestic productivity for maximum sustainable domestic investment, given the nation's level of technological productivity as manifested by its comprehensive unemployment rate (counting ALL dependents on the taxpayer) - however short a "full time" workweek it may require. And to enforce smooth and automatic overtime and overwork conversion into training and hiring throughout the grassroots and up and down the corporate hierarchies.]
    According to David Williams of the ILO’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific (ILO ROAP), economic growth in Indonesia had helped children continue their primary education and this had improved literacy rates.
    “Such improvements are important components of the social economic context for decent work and the development of other aspects of decent work as well,” said Williams.
    At the same time, however, tough challenges remained. The primary challenge was to create decent employment for the country’s growing population.
    Williams spoke at the launch of the ILO’s decent work country profile in Jakarta on Wednesday. The report follows the ILO/European Commission project “Monitoring and Assessing Progress on Decent Work (MAP)”, which took place in nine countries, namely Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Indonesia, Niger, Peru, Russia, Ukraine and Zambia.
    The study shows that the proportion of the working age population, for example, remained stagnant at around 60 percent for more than a decade. The disparities between men and women’s participation is still huge.
    Current unemployment is lower than it was 6 to 7 years ago, but it is still higher than in the mid 1990s.
    “We see through the report that young people in Indonesia are now disproportionately affected by joblessness,” said Williams, who is also the author of the ILO’s Decent Work Country Profile — Indonesia.
    “The most worrying fact is that females face barriers in education and employment,” he added.
    In 2010, for example, women made up a large share of prestigious occupations, such as managers and legislators, as gender gaps between men and women narrowed. Still, women were still far more likely to find themselves less well-off than other workers, with lower real wages and a higher proportion of low-paying jobs.
    The quality of employment is still also a major concern despite improvements. The number of workers in the informal economy is still large, making up about 50 percent of employment. At the same time, the number of casual workers is also on the rise. “These jobs are typically lacking core components of decent work, such as access to social protection, work places, decent working hours and adequate salaries, for example,” said Williams.
    In 2010, nearly 75 percent of regular employees and 50 percent of casual employees were working more than the 40 hours per week as mandated by Indonesian law.
    Andreas Roettger, the head of the European Union (EU)’s economic cooperation and good governance section, said the issue of decent work was important for developing countries. “It may be because sustainable, lasting development requires a productive society that will ultimately enhance output and growth,” he said.
    The ILO’s profile of Indonesia identifies both policy progress and areas of improvements in the country’s decent work landscape since the late 1990s.

  4. Working Hours Around The World: OECD Study Shows Shorter Hours In Canada, U.S., Huffington Post Canada via huffingtonpost.ca
    TORONTO, Ont., Canada - The famed economist John Maynard Keynes once predicted that his grandchildren would work a 15-hour week. If that’s the future, we’re getting there very slowly.
    Canada has seen its average working hours shrink slowly but steadily for the past decade, according to data from the OECD, with the average number of hours falling from 1,775 in 2000 to 1,702 in 2010. The U.S. saw a similar decline, from 1,836 hours to 1,778.
    But that doesn’t mean Canadians are growing lazy, or taking longer vacations, or even fulfilling Keynes' prophecy. It likely reflects the fact that a greater part of the workforce is now part-time.
    Canada places roughly in the middle of the pack among the 34 developed countries that are members of the OECD. Some major economies, including Brazil and China, are not part of the OECD and are not listed in its survey.
    The survey suggests there’s not much obvious linkage between the number of hours worked and how well an economy is doing. While South Korea and Chile topped the list with the longest working hours, in third place was Greece, where an ongoing economic crisis has not done anything to change the country’s long working hours. Greece’s hours have barely budged in a decade.
    The shortest working hours are all to be found in Europe, particularly in affluent northern European countries. The Netherlands clock in with the shortest hours of all -- 1,377 hours on average per year, or nearly 20 per cent less than Canadians work. Germany comes in second (1,419 hours), and in third is Norway (1,414 hours).
    Jon Messenger, a senior researcher at the International Labour Organization, told the BBC that the shrinking-hours phenomenon seen in many Western countries, including Canada, is the result of the rise of a part-time work force that has been supplanting the traditional full-time workforce.
    "You have more and more people working part-time hours," says Messenger. "They're quite capable of supporting themselves [questionable!], quite capable of producing what they need to produce [for sure in the age of automation and robots], so it's just not necessary to work longer than that."
    Messenger also noted that a country with long working hours isn’t necessarily producing more.
    "Generally speaking, long working hours are associated with lower productivity per hour. Workers are working very long hours to achieve a minimum level of output or to achieve some minimum level of wages because frankly they're not very productive," Messenger told the BBC.
    A 2010 report from the New Economics Foundation argues that developed countries have made enough productivity gains to work a 21-hour work week. And while some observers argue in favour of that, saying that it would reduce unemployment and halt the unsustainable growth in consumerism, other see the goal as unrealistic. Given additional free time, people will use it to earn more money, they say.
    [Absolutely fine IF they reinvest overtime earnings in overtime-targeted training and jobs!]
    As Robert Skidelsky wrote in the Guardian: "People will continue to trade leisure for higher incomes."
    [Accompanying stats:]
    Top 10 countries with shortest average annual working hours per person [using technology?]
    1 Netherlands 1377
    2 Germany 1408
    3 Norway 1413
    4 France 1439
    5 Denmark 1537
    6 Ireland 1540
    7 Belgium 1551
    8 Austria 1599
    9 Luxembourg 1616
    10 Sweden 1624
    [Booby Prize - Bottom] 10 countries with longest average annual working hours per person [luddites?]
    10 Mexico 1866
    9 Turkey 1877
    8 Estonia 1880
    7 Israel 1929
    6 Poland 1939
    5 Hungary 1956
    4 Russia 1973
    3 Greece 2017 2 Chile 2068
    1 S.Korea 2193

5/25/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Ohio House Passes Legislation Creating the SharedWork Ohio Program, (5/24 late pickup) OhioHouseGOP.blogspot.com
    [Today's stories show worksharing is an emergency nonpartisan priority: we either swap downsizing for timesizing or...no economy.]
    COLUMBUS, Ohio, USA - Today, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 484, legislation that creates the “SharedWork Ohio” Program. Similar legislation was introduced in the 128th General Assembly, but failed to secure passage.
    This legislation, sponsored by State Representative Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), creates a program in which an employer who participates in the SharedWork Ohio program reduces the number of hours worked by employees in lieu of layoffs.
    Under the bill, an employer who wishes to participate in the program must submit a plan to the Director of Job and Family Services that satisfies specific requirements. If a SharedWork Program is approved, employees will maintain pension and healthcare benefits and are eligible to receive 26 weeks of unemployment benefits on a pro rata basis.
    “The 'SharedWork Ohio' program is designed to allow employers and employees to work together by opting to reduce employees' work hours in exchange for eliminating potential layoffs,” said Representative Duffey. “This legislation addresses a system that is currently biased toward layoffs and instead fosters an environment of productivity and prosperity.”
    Through United States House Bill 3630, as negotiated by House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama, the federal government will provide funds for the administration, cost and promotion of Sharedwork Ohio. As employers continue to pay unemployment premiums, the net positive cash flow into Ohio’s Unemployment Trust Fund may reduce Ohio’s debt to federal government, triggering a decrease in unemployment tax rates for employers.
    “The bipartisan support that SharedWork Ohio received today is a positive and significant step toward saving jobs in Ohio” Rep. Duffey said “Now we must urge the Ohio Senate to pass HB 484 during its next session in order to avoid any potential loss in federal funding. I know this will require Senate assistance in expediting the legislation, and see if they can see to it, the Ohioans whose jobs are saved will be deeply appreciative.”
    House Bill 484 passed with a vote of 81-15 and will now be sent to the Senate for further consideration.

  2. Research Roundup: How States are Spending Foreclosure Settlement Money, How States are Spending Foreclosure Settlement Money, How States Can Save with Work-Sharing, and much more, Progressive States Network (blog) via progressivestates.org
    [Most "let's list priorities" progressives have not yet prioritized their list, let alone realized that worksharing is not just another item but the ink and paper of the list itself. No other progress can be locked in while the playing field of the job market is almost vertically sloped in favor of employers, and by extension, the playing field of the economy is almost vertically sloped in favor of the top 1% of the top 1%. Worksharing creates the wage-raising labor "shortage" (actually balance) without which capitalism turns into a tiny but massive black hole of sluggish hyperconcentrated money.]
    NEW YORK, N.Y., USA - In this week’s Research Roundup:
    [1] Reports from both Enterprise Community Partners and ProPublica on how states are spending their share of the $2.5 billion they collectively received in direct payments from the foreclosure settlement with big banks,
    [2] the National Partnership for Women and Families surveying laws that help new parents in all 50 states,
    [3] the Pew Center on the States on the findings of their first analysis of economic mobility at the state level,
    [4] the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on how state budgets continue to feel pain from the effects of the recession,
    [5] the Urban Institute on how almost every state has seen access to health care deteriorate for their adult residents over the past decade,
    [6] the Center for Economic & Policy Research on both the significant savings states could experience through work-sharing
    [7] and the size and characteristics of states’ unionized workforces,
    [8] the Economic Policy Institute on the declining labor force participation rate and whether it is due to cyclical or structural changes in the economy, and
    [9] the Commonwealth Fund on how most private individual health plans will fall short of what can be sold through the health exchanges as of 2014:
    [1] Understanding how States are Spending their Share of the National Mortgage Settlement — Enterprise Community Partners
    Where Are the Foreclosure Deal Millions Going in Your State? — ProPublica
    These two reports survey how states are planning to spend their share of the $2.5 billion in direct payments they are receiving as part of the mortgage settlement finalized with the five biggest banks in April. The settlement documents, Enterprise notes in their report, provide some general guidelines to states for the use of the funds: that, “to the extent practicable, such funds shall be used for purposes intended to avoid preventable foreclosures, to ameliorate the effects of the foreclosure crisis, to enhance law enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute financial fraud, or unfair or deceptive acts or practices and to compensate the States for costs resulting from the alleged unlawful conduct of the Defendants.” However, as Enterprise reports after having contacted officials in all 50 states, only 26 states are using “substantially all of their funds for housing,” while 9 are only using part of their funds for housing, and 6 not using their funds for housing at all — Alaska, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia. ProPublica’s report “contacted every state to determine whether the money will be going to consumer-focused efforts related to the settlement or not,” and compiled a useful map and sortable chart of how the funds are intended to be dispersed state-by-state.
    [2] Expecting Better: A State-by-State Analysis of Laws That Help New Parents — This second edition of this report from the National Partnership for Women and Families is a “comprehensive state-by-state analysis of laws that relate to workplace rights and protections for new parents.” The survey grades all 50 states, taking into account policies that benefit new parents including the availability of paid family leave benefits, paid medical and pregnancy disability leave, paid sick leave, and workplace protections for nursing mothers. California and Connecticut earn overall “A” grades and states earning a “B” include Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Among the highlighted policy shifts since the first edition of this report are Connecticut becoming the first state to pass a paid sick days law in 2011, and New Jersey joining California in establishing a paid family leave insurance program in 2008 that provides new parents with partial wage replacement for up to six weeks.
    [3] Economic Mobility of the States — A new interactive tool from Pew Center on the States, this detailed study aims to survey Americans’ economic mobility at the state level through analyzing data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. As the authors note, the research for this report focused on Americans in their “prime working years, examining earnings averaged between ages 35 and 39 (measured between 1978 and 1997) and how those earnings rose or fell 10 years later when the same adults were between ages 45 and 49 (measured between 1988 and 2007).” The analysis allows users to explore economic mobility by three measures: “absolute mobility,” or residents’ average earnings growth over time; and “relative upward mobility” and “relative downward mobility,” or the movement of an individual’s rank on the earnings ladder relative to their peers. Among the key findings are that three states — Maryland, New Jersey, and New York — have better mobility on all three measures, while five more — Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Utah — have better mobility on two of the three measures. The nine states with lower upward and higher downward mobility are all located in the south.
    [4] States Continue to Feel Recession’s Impact — This latest update from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on the state budget picture for fiscal year 2013 “continue to show that states face a long and uncertain recovery” following the impact of the recession three years ago. In all, the authors indicate that 30 states have addressed or have projected budget shortfalls totaling $54 billion for the upcoming fiscal year — still feeling the impact of the Great Recession, which caused the “largest collapse in state revenues on record.” Importantly, the authors note that the shortfalls are now “all the more daunting because states' options for addressing them are fewer and more difficult than in recent years, noting that “temporary aid to states enacted in early 2009 as part of the federal Recovery Act was enormously helpful in allowing states to avert some of the most harmful potential budget cuts in the 2009, 2010 and 2011 fiscal years... but the federal government allowed that aid to largely expire at the end of fiscal year 2011, leading to some of the deepest cuts to state services since the start of the recession.”
    [5] Virtually Every State Experienced Deteriorating Access to Care for Adults over the Past Decade — This report by the Urban Institute, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of its Affordable Care Act (ACA) Implementation Monitoring and Tracking Series, shows that “the ability of U.S. adults to access basic health care services has declined in nearly every state over the last decade.” Among its findings are that, over the past decade, adults who did not have health coverage saw even greater declines in access to basic health care services compared to those who did have coverage. By 2010, the authors note, “almost half of uninsured adults (48.1%) had an unmet health need due to cost, compared to 11.2 percent of insured adults.” The share of adults experiencing unmet medical needs due to cost rose by 6 percentage points from 2000 to 2010, while for uninsured adults, it rose by 10.8 percentage points.
    [6] States Could Save $1.7 Billion per Year with Federal Financing of Work Sharing — The Center for Economic and Policy Research released this issue brief showing how states could save up to $1.7 billion per year by taking full advantage of work sharing provisions signed into law by President Obama as part of The Middle Class Relief and Job Creation Act in February 2012. The report notes that those provisions, including federal financing of work sharing programs that could allow employers to reduce workers’ hours rather than lay them off and workers to receive partial unemployment insurance benefits, “could help states reduce their unemployment rates and also save unemployment insurance (UI) costs for up to three years.”
    [7] Size and Characteristics of States’ Union Workforces — Another Center for Economic and Policy Research issue brief surveys and ranks states by their rate of unionized workers, and the gender and racial makeup of unionized workers, based on an analysis of the Current Population Survey. The overview of state workforces shows how widely the rate of unionization varies state by state — from New York with a 26.4% unionization rate to North Carolina, with a rate of only 4.4%.
    [8] Labor force participation: Cyclical versus structural changes since the start of the Great Recession — This Economic Policy Institute report, gleaning from data included in the forthcoming The State of Working America, 12th Edition, explores why the labor force participation rate, defined as “the share of working-age people who either have a job or are jobless but actively seeking work,” dropped by 2% over the four years following the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007 — and even further in the first few months of 2012. As the authors note, “a debate has recently arisen over whether this decline is a direct result of the lack of job opportunities in the Great Recession and its aftermath (these changes are generally labeled cyclical)—or is instead a result of long-run trends, such as baby boomers beginning to retire (changes that are generally labeled structural).” The authors conclude “around two-thirds of the drop in labor force participation is cyclical, while around one-third is structural.”
    [9] More Than Half of Individual Health Plans Offer Coverage That Falls Short of What Can Be Sold Through Exchanges as of 2014 — The Commonwealth Fund released this study showing how “more than half of Americans who have health coverage through the individual insurance market are in plans that would not meet the standards for ‘essential benefits’ set by the Affordable Care Act.” The Affordable Care Act sets up four tiers of plans that will each cover the same benefit package — dubbed platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. While fewer than 1% of Americans currently enrolled in group plans have coverage below the standard for set for inclusion in the health exchanges, over 50% of Americans with individual plans currently have coverage below that standard.

5/24/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Senate passes Michigan 'shared-work' bill, by Karen Bouffard, DetroitNews.com
    LANSING, Mich., USA — Workers who have had wages and hours reduced will be able to continue working while receiving unemployment benefits under a bill passed unanimously in the [state] Senate on Wednesday.
    Democrats and Republicans supported a GOP-introduced bill to create a "shared-work" program for workers whose employment has been scaled down to help businesses avoid layoffs.

    "This bill allows people to go on reduced schedule and still be able to work and have it not count against their unemployment," said state Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale, who sponsored the bill.
    The Republican majority turned down an amendment by state Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, that would have restored state unemployment benefits to 26 weeks, following a reduction to 20 weeks last year. Gregory then urged his fellow Democrats to support the bill even without that amendment, saying it's a "solid" bill to aid workers and employers.
    "What matters is that the Senate is taking action to provide help to Michigan's unemployed workers," Gregory said.
    Employers participating in the shared-work plan would have to certify that it would be in lieu of temporary layoffs affecting more than 15 percent of the employees, and would result in an equivalent reduction in work hours.
    The bill now goes to the House.
    [So now we watch for passage in the House, the Governor's signature and the date of enactment.]
    kbouffard@detnews.com (517) 371-3660

  2. Ohio’s SharedWork plan hits partisan snags, by Maggie Thurber, Watchdog.org
    COLUMBUS, Oh., USA — Consideration of H.B. 484 creating the SharedWork Ohio Program hit some partisan snags Wednesday as it was debated in the House Commerce, Labor & Technology Committee.
    The bill would create a new program allowing employers to reduce work hours of their employees who would then be able to collect partial unemployment for up to 26 weeks. The program would allow the employers to avoid full layoffs and keep needed staff while allowing employees to keep their jobs and health insurance, and continue to accrue seniority and retirement benefits.
    The bill had bipartisan support but a requirement for employers to obtain union approval prior to participation resulted in a split along party lines.

    Democrats challenged the removal of the union sign-off provision in the substitute version that was presented to the committee for a vote. Rep. Matt Szollosi, D-District 49, citing the National Labor Relations Act, questioned whether the lack of a union approval would pre-empt the federal law.
    Rep. Mike Duffey, R-District 21, the bill’s sponsor, noted that recent language agreed to in the federal work share program removed the union requirement. He explained that the provision in this bill had become a point of impasse since business groups opposed it, adding “I want to move the bill.”
    Rep. Bob Hagan, D-District 60, defended the removal of the provision, calling it a compromise for the unions. Duffey agreed, explaining that employers with collective bargaining agreements already have contracts that dictate consultation with their unions regarding work hours, so it was not necessary to mandate such action in the law.
    Employers, he added, wanted to be free to handle such negotiations themselves and not be subject to an “inflexible” requirement enshrined in law.
    The National Federation of Independent Businesses in Ohio, a supporter of the bill, backed the removal of the requirement.
    “We feel retaining such a provision will only serve to hamper the ability of an employer to make an important business decision to retain her/his employees through use of the short-time unemployment compensation program,” said Chris Ferruso, legislative director of the organization that advocates for privately owned businesses.
    The bill was approved by the committee and is schedule[d] for a House vote Thursday.

5/23/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Post Office backs off plans, DailyCommercial.com
    LEESBURG, Fla., USA - The U.S. Postal Service is backing off a previous plan to close thousands of post offices, including the Haines Creek facility in Lake County, and will instead cut hours at 13,000 rural facilities in an effort to save $500 million a year.
    [Timesizing, not downsizing!]
    In response to a backlash against massive closures, the Postal Service said it will cut hours at the targeted post offices, which would remain open between two hours and six hours a day. This includes post offices in Yalaha, and Tangerine.
    In addition, thousands of employees will be affected when jobs shift from full-time to part-time positions. The announcement was part of a broader plan that aims to save rural post offices from closing.
    "Any rural community that wants to retain a rural post office, we'll work with them to do that," said Patrick Donahoe, the postmaster general.
    The Haines Creek Post Office -- named for Haynes Creek but historically misspelled -- was the only Lake County office targeted for closing.
    The proposed plan to introduce shorter hours would happen over the next two years and be completed by September 2014, according to the postal service. This includes:
    • The Yalaha Post Office at 8712 County Road 48, from 8 to 6 hours a day.
    • The Sumterville Post Office at 445 S. U.S. Highway 301, from 8 to 6 hours a day.
    • The Tangerine Post Office at 5424 Lake St., from 8 to 6 hours a day.
    The USPS also plans to consolidate its network of 461 mail processing locations, which mostly involve transferring operations to larger facilities.
    "Given that the Postal Service is currently projecting a $14 billion net loss in FY2012, and continuing annual losses of this magnitude, we simply cannot justify maintaining our current mail processing footprint," Donahoe said.
    In all, the USPS said it will close 229 processing centers -- about half the total -- and it expects to save another $2.1 billion a year after the plan is fully carried out in 2014.

  2. Single and off the fast track - It's not just working parents who step back to reclaim life, by Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal, D1.
    On a typical day last week, Anne Marie Bowler read the morning newspaper in her apartment in New York's West Village. (photo 1 caption)
    On the way to work, she stopped at a local coffee shop, where she could also spend time catching up on email. (photo 2 caption)
    When it was time to go, she rode her bike to the law office she and a co-worker started so they could have more work-life balance. (photo 3 caption)
    ["Working to live, not living to work."]
    NEW YORK, N.Y., USA - Anne Marie Bowler left work one day last week to enjoy dinner with a friend at a sidewalk café "before the sun went down," she says. Recently she ducked out of the office to attend a charity golf outing. And Ms. Bowler also likes to make time for long evening bike rides through Central Park.
    She could never have done these things at her old job.
    Ms. Bowler worked 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. or later at a big law firm in New York City for years. The daunting workload often forced her to cancel plans with friends or time at the gym, and she yearned for more control. At age 30, she and a colleague who had just returned from maternity leave quit to start their own law firm.
    She is still immersed in clients' cases and often works long hours. But "I wanted to have a life—a full life—which meant not just always working," says Ms. Bowler, now 36.
    It's the refrain of millions of working mothers across the country who exit fast-track careers in their 30s. But Ms. Bowler is single.
    Much of the research on work-life conflict focuses on harried working mothers trying to juggle everything, desperate for more time, with lots of reasons to leave work early. But an even higher proportion of single women yearn for more free time; 68% of childless women say they would prefer having more time over more money, compared with 62% of women with children, according to a 2011 More magazine survey of 500 college-educated professional women over 34.
    "People talk about, how do working mothers do it? But how do singles do it?" says Sherri Langburt, founder of SingleEditionMedia.com, a New York agency that advises brands on marketing to singles and runs a network for bloggers on singles topics.
    Without a partner to help, singles must "get the laundry done, get to the gym, buy groceries and get to the job," plus plan social activities or volunteer work and sometimes care for aging relatives, too.
    "No one is focusing attention on those women or men, who are achieving such great levels in their careers, all alone," Ms. Langburt says.
    As more young adults delay marriage into their 30s while career demands intensify, many increasingly feel overloaded. Many set high expectations for themselves, dating, staying in shape, doing volunteer work, and helping family—while still getting stellar performance reviews.
    Conflicts with child-rearing duties are often cited as the reason large numbers of women quit corporate jobs midcareer. But many single women without kids also consider quitting for personal reasons. In a recent McKinsey & Co. study of 60 companies for The Wall Street Journal, researchers surveyed a small sample of women who were planning to leave their companies in the next two to three years and found surprising similarity between reasons cited by mothers and non-mothers—a desire to gain more control over their personal schedules and needs.
    Even though she left the big law firm, Ms. Bowler still takes late-night and early-morning calls and handles complex litigation. On a recent golf outing, she checked and sent email every hour and called her voice mail twice.
    But "my schedule is much better. I've made it better," she says. She has freedom to attend more professional networking and education events, and to explore new areas of the law that interest her, including a seminar this summer on fashion law.
    She travels more, including vacations to India and Brazil. And she enjoys being able to "have a steady schedule, making social plans with people and keeping them," says Ms. Bowler. On days she and her partner, Sari Gabay-Rafiy, leave the office before dinner, "We say, 'Oh, it's five o'clock. That used to be snack time' " at their former law firm.
    Juggling Non-Work Duties
    Single professionals report going to extremes to manage non-work duties—buying extra socks and sheets to avoid doing laundry, cooking and freezing 20 meals at once to save time or jamming two or three workouts into the weekend to try to stay in shape.
    A 37-year-old New Jersey project consultant with an active social life says she faces piles of dirty dishes, laundry and unanswered mail when she gets home each evening, and she can't get started on important financial planning.
    "Some of my friends who are married or in long-term relationships are always asking me for my fun New York City gossip and my 'Sex and the City' lifestyle," says Melissa J. Anderson, 29, a website editor who lives in Brooklyn. But that "is not exactly the case."
    She commutes an hour round-trip to her job, where she puts in a 10-hour workday, and attends work-related events several evenings each week. Weekends, she volunteers at an AIDS charity, works a few more hours and squeezes in time at the gym. She recently dined on beans and rice for a week because she couldn't make it to her neighborhood grocery store before it closed at 8 p.m.
    Employers Taking Steps
    Many employers have added "work-life benefits," such as flexible scheduling and personal time off, in an effort to keep all kinds of employees happy, with and without kids and spouses.
    But the benefits only go so far. Heavy workloads keep many employees from using them. And for men and women alike, some managers still assume singles don't have anything to do but work and pile on extra duties and projects, according to research by Wendy Casper, an associate professor of management at the University of Texas at Arlington.
    When Craig Ellwanger's former bosses hired him as an ad-sales representative in 2006, they were glad he was single with no kids, Mr. Ellwanger says. They told him in the interview, "We're going to ship you all over the place. Don't get too attached to any place or anyone." He spent half his time on the road, living in hotels or company apartments. Dating was difficult; his schedule "was definitely very taxing" for his girlfriend. "It was pretty much a long-distance relationship," he says. They married briefly then divorced, partly, Mr. Ellwanger says, because his job was so consuming that he couldn't separate the stresses from home life.
    Resorting to Ramen Noodles
    As pressure to increase sales kept mounting, "I was really becoming more irritable," avoiding social activities, he says. Battling insomnia, he stopped seeing friends and stayed home alone on weekends, watching football on TV and putting off laundry, grocery shopping and paying bills. Although he normally relishes cooking, he reverted to dining on ramen noodles.
    Finally in January, he quit, telling himself, "I've got to do this before I go crazy."
    Now, Mr. Ellwanger, 31, works full-time on an exotic-game website he founded for hunters and others to learn about and find different species around the world. The paychecks are smaller and uncertain. But he loves the work, and the balance with his personal life is far better. He visits family members more often and golfs with friends. He has resumed cooking meals for his friends, such as braised ribs, and hopes to resume dating. And, he says, "I'm sleeping like a baby."
    [Actually, we'd prefer if this wanger went back to killing himself rather than getting beautiful wild animals killed as a "game."]
    Write to Sue Shellenbarger at sue.shellenbarger@wsj.com

5/22/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. SD Unified lays off more than 1,500 - SD teachers rally to save jobs, by Maureen Magee, Unified Teachers San Diego via UTsandiego.com
    SAN DIEGO, Calif., USA - After months of rallies, protests and unsuccessful pleas for union concessions, the San Diego school board Tuesday night finalized sweeping personnel cuts that could drive up class size and leave roughly one in five teachers in the district without a job come September.
    The board voted 4-1 to formally authorize all but 132 of the 1,666 pink slips issued to teachers in March. Hundreds of nonteaching employees have also been laid off under the San Diego Unified School District’s grim budget plan.
    Board Vice President Scott Barnett was the lone no vote.
    Board President John Lee Evans said he remains hopeful that the teaching jobs would be saved through concessions from the teachers union.
    “There is still time to make a deal,” he said. “We have until about the middle of June to come to some sort of agreement regarding concessions. It’s the eleventh hour, and in the eleventh hour is a time when things get done.”
    Even as the board confronts up to $122 million in cuts to next year’s $1.1 billion budget, a majority of trustees attempted to reassure the public and the financial community about the stability of the district.
    District officials stressed over and over Tuesday that San Diego Unified, though strapped for cash, is solvent, well managed and in no need of an emergency state takeover.
    At the recommendation of district financial advisers, the board adopted a resolution stressing that the district is committed “to keeping the district fiscally sound during difficult economic times.”
    The formal resolution also served to counter board Barnett’s recent declaration that the district is essentially already insolvent and should rescind layoffs while it prepares for state takeover. Persistent talk of insolvency has made its way to Wall Street and has made bankers uneasy about the district’s future.
    San Diego Unified officials will include the resolution in applications for routine loans to be used to pay the bills as it waits for the state to issue education funding next year. Like many districts, San Diego Unified uses Tax Revenue Anticipation Notes, or TRANS notes, while it waits for its tax revenue from the state.
    The board passed the resolution 4-1 with Barnett opposing because he said it offeres a misleading and overly optimistic view of district finances.
    Hundreds of teachers rallied outside the district headquarters in a last-ditch effort to convince the board to rescind layoffs.
    Tierrasanta Elementary School teacher Melody Welch is among those losing her job — and health insurance — June 30. The single mother is expecting her second child Sept. 1.
    “It’s a stressful time, because I can’t even help myself by job searching,” said Welch, who has taught in the district for a decade. “I’m just hoping for the best, that the board will rescind the layoff notices.”
    Of the some 1,000 teachers who contested their pink slips before an administrative law judge, only a handful proved their layoff notices were issued in error. The board approved the judge’s recommendations, including one that upholds the district’s plans to exempt some teachers from the seniority-based layoffs, including those who work at language immersion schools and other specialty campuses.
    Since last summer, San Diego Unified has been asking the teachers union to accept concessions — in the way of extending furlough days for a third year, forgoing pay raises set to take effect in July — to save jobs.
    [Trying for timesizing not downsizing - to save jobs.]
    Under their contract with the district, teachers are due pay raises come July.
    Rumors surfaced last week that the San Diego Education Association was on the verge of accepting concessions. But union president Bill Freeman dismissed that notion, saying the majority of layoffs issued by the district are unnecessary.
    Although the union wants all layoffs canceled, labor leaders are pushing for the district to, at least, rescind 400-plus notices since that many teachers typically retire, take leave or vacate their job due to other reasons each year.
    Once teacher layoffs are official, the district can rehire teachers if its finances improve through concessions or other means. However, once the board votes to authorize the layoffs in May, it makes it difficult for teachers who are hired back to get placed back in their most recent classrooms.
    San Diego Unified has until June 30 to adopt a final budget.
    [Here's another article today that doesn't mention any kind of timesizing - but dramatizes the crisis -]
    A Teachers' Voice - Saving jobs, by Leslie Barkley, UkiahDailyJournal.com
    UKIAH, Calif., USA - The state of California is in turmoil. Governor Brown just released the May revision to his January budget proposal. With revenues billions of dollars below earlier projections, things look grim for California.
    To help balance the California budget, Governor Brown has joined with a large coalition of community groups, educators, public workers, unions and citizens to work towards increasing revenues. Failing the passage of the revenue increase initiative, we will undoubtedly see massive cuts to public education and health and human services.
    Since the economic downtown, California public schools have been cut $20 billion. School districts have already eliminated expenditures that are not mandated. Teachers and support personnel have been laid off as class sizes have increased, high school courses have been eliminated, funds for sports, art and intervention programs have disappeared in many districts. All but essential services have been greatly reduced or eliminated. Where will further cuts be made?
    In most school districts, somewhere around 85 percent of the budget covers salaries.
    In other words, the bulk of a school district's budget pays for jobs. These jobs bring money into the community. The livelihood of our families, friends and neighbors depend on their jobs. Our local economy relies on jobs. Most importantly, jobs represent adults who provide support and guidance to the children of our community.
    As class sizes increase and support services are eliminated due to reduced budgets, the ratio of students to educators grows. Children with academic and emotional needs have fewer adults to turn to. Whether in the classroom, on the bus, in the library or in the cafeteria, children have fewer adults to turn to. Without mentors, students run the risk of falling through the cracks.
    Meanwhile, the state and federal government insist on students meeting rigorous, high standards. Students are under enormous pressure to perform well on standardized tests. School districts increase class sizes and eliminate support programs due to budget cuts, yet expect students to meet rigorous academic goals. So, students struggle with higher academic expectations and less support to reach those goals.
    It is time to stand up for students and assure adequate funding for public education, health and human services. The future of our community rests on providing today's students with a high quality education. We must invest our future through investing in our children's education today. Clearly, state revenues must be increased to preserve jobs.
    Preserving jobs contributes to a thriving economy. More specifically, saving jobs in education, health and human services assures that our children will thrive.
    Leslie Barkley is a first grade teacher at Grace Hudson Elementary and the local chapter President of the California Teachers Association.

5/20-21/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Work sharing Michigan Senate considers unemployment reform aimed at preventing layoffs, Michigan Live via mlive.com
    LANSING, Mich., USA — State lawmakers are considering a work share bill that supporters say should help prevent layoffs.
    [So this will be a 25th or 26th state with state-level worksharing?]
    Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Adams Township, introduced a bill this month to allow work sharing, where employers facing potential layoffs could instead decrease worker’s hours and let employees collect unemployment benefits to make up part of the lost wages.
    Work sharing programs have been used in 23 U.S. states as well as some European countries as a way to minimize pink slips and maintain a skilled workforce, making it easier to adapt when demand improves.
    The bill passed committee with bipartisan support last week and now heads to the full Senate.
    Gov. Rick Snyder called for work share legislation last December in a speech about developing and connecting Michigan’s talent.
    “Today’s unemployment compensation system is not adequate or agile enough to retain our best talent,” he said in the speech. “Much of our young and highly skilled talent is mobile, making it easy to seek work elsewhere after a layoff.”
    Snyder’s administration is excited to see the bill moved through the legislature, said spokeswoman Sara Wurfel.
    President Barack Obama also has backed the idea. The payroll tax cut extension bill he signed in February contained funding to maintain work share programs in 23 states and create programs in others.
    Here’s how work sharing would play out under Caswell’s bill:
    An employer decides that instead of laying off workers, it will cut employees’ hours from 40 to 30 hours a week, representing a 25 percent reduction in hours. If the employer meets all the criteria set out in the bill, its workers could receive 25 percent of what they would normally receive in unemployment benefits had they been laid off.
    “It would keep everybody working, it would enable a company to keep skilled workers … and not lay them off and then when things pick up they’re still on the payroll,” Caswell said.
    Employers that are up-to-date on their unemployment taxes could only use the program once for a maximum of one year. They couldn’t lay off any employees in the affected department during the duration of the plan, which could end up lasting fewer than 52 weeks.
    An argument against the policy is that it's better to let jobs shift and encourage entrepreneurialism and investment in growing sectors of the economy, according to a 2009 blog post by James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank out of Washington, D.C.
    But employers aren’t likely to use work sharing unless they expect demand to eventually rise, said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
    [And the more immediate layoffs you have, the less likely there'll be "growing sectors of the economy" for entrepreneurialism, investment and places for jobs to shift to. If layoffs in any sense WORKED, where is the growth? James Sherk is shirking his duty to accept the obvious.]
    Baker recently co-authored an op-ed piece in the New York Times that promoted work sharing.
    “You see demand has fallen by 20 percent and you know it’s never coming back, odds are you’d probably make the decision to lay people off,” he told MLive. “This would make sense for an employer to do in a context where they’re expecting demand to come back.”
    He said the policy has worked in Germany, where the unemployment rate is lower than it was at the beginning of the downturn.
    Email Melissa Anders at manders@mlive.com.

  2. Work sharing could limit layoffs if Ohio legislature approves bill, by Olivera Perkins, 5/21 PolicyMattersOhio.org
    COLUMBUS, Ohio, USA - Ohio is trying to make it harder for employers to lay off workers.
    Instead of giving workers the ax, employers would be encouraged to cut their employees’ hours under a bill pending in the Ohio House. In turn, employees would be able to receive unemployment benefits for their reduced hours.
    The practice is known as work sharing or short-time compensation. Though it would be new to Ohio if it passes, work share has existed nationally for about 30 years. Its popularity is increasing, primarily because the federal government is providing money to states where the policy is law.
    “You don’t lay off people, so Mom and Dad don’t have to go back to their families and say ‘I lost my job today,’” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican State Rep. Mike Duffey of Columbus. “We can avoid all the dysfunction and costs layoffs create for individual families, communities and employers.”
    State Rep. Ron Young, a Republican from Leroy Township and chair of the Commerce and Labor Committee, said he expects the committee to vote on the bill this week. A provision requiring companies with collective bargaining agreements to have unions approve work-sharing plans has led to disagreement among some lawmakers and groups who otherwise support the bill. Young is hopeful common ground can be found.
    For the most part, work sharing has garnered bipartisan support and won the favor of liberals and conservatives in Ohio and nationally. The mostly liberal Policy Matters Ohio, and the mostly conservative Ohio Chamber of Commerce, for example, both support the concept. However, Policy Matters agrees with the union sign-off, while the Chamber opposes it.
    A similar work-sharing bill did not make it out of committee in 2010, when Ohio’s unemployment rate for much of the year was at 10.6 percent, a post-recession peak. (Last month’s rate, released Friday, was 7.4 percent). Duffey said winning the support of his colleagues from both parties was easy this time since the federal government is picking up the tab.
    Duane Morris, who was laid off from his job as a certified public accountant in 2010, believes work sharing is valuable. However, he said government funding should be focused on getting jobs for the underemployed and the long-term unemployed, whose predicaments he considers more pressing.
    Morris of Northfield Center said tax credits to companies that hire the underemployed and long-term unemployed could help reduce their numbers.
    “(Work sharing) already helps people in the payroll system,” he said. “By hiring the unemployed person or the long-term unemployed, you are helping those who weren’t paying taxes. That could produce a big jolt to the economy with a ripple effect.”
    The Middle Class Relief and Job Creation Act that President Barack Obama signed into law in February allows the federal government to pay for unemployment benefits for residents in work-share programs. Washington will pick up the bill for up to three years, ending in 2015. About 25 states have already approved job sharing.
    In addition to paying benefits, $100 million has been set aside to cover administrative costs that states incur for running the program. Individual companies would be allowed to have their employees receive work-sharing subsidies for a year.
    “We want this to be a short-term model that businesses use instead of layoffs,” said Jane Oates, assistant U.S. Secretary of Labor for employment and training.
    Oates said the one-year limit is designed to prevent employers from trying to take advantage of employees by paying them less in salary and benefits.
    “It should not be a permanent model that businesses look to get subsidies from the UI (Unemployment Insurance) fund to keep more workers and only engage them for 20 hours a week or less,” she said. “We don’t want businesses to hire two part-time people for a full-time job.”
    The savings to states that participate in the program could be substantial, according to Nicole Woo, director of domestic policy for the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C.
    She recently wrote an issue brief on the topic with colleague Dean Baker, saying that states could save a total of $1.7 billion a year in UI costs. Ohio could save more than $71 million a year in UI costs, should legislators pass the bill, she said. Without legislative approval, Ohio would get half that, have to pay administrative costs and only receive two year’s funding.
    Woo and Baker based their figures on the percentage of work sharing participation in Rhode Island, which has embraced the practice more than any other state. They reasoned states with work-sharing laws could save about 5 percent of their Unemployment Insurance costs with the federal subsidy, which is based on Rhode Island’s peak participation rate .
    The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services doubts if the savings would be as big a Woo and Baker’s projection.
    “During a good economy, when there would be fewer layoffs and therefore fewer opportunities for work sharing, the savings are likely to be smaller,” ODJFS spokesman Benjamin Johnson wrote in an e-mail. “Participation is also voluntary, and it is difficult to estimate how many employers would choose to participate in a work sharing program.”
    Still, he said ODJFS is in favor of work sharing as long as “there aren’t any unexpected requirements for states that accept the funding.”
    Woo said even though layoffs have dropped, she and Baker used the higher figure because every month, thousands of workers are laid off in Ohio. Also, the federal financing should serve as strong incentive for high levels of participation in work sharing, she said.
    For most supporters, the compelling draw of work sharing is its ability to curb joblessness. Baker estimates the U.S. unemployment rate — which was 8.1 percent in April — would fall about 0.5 percentage points, based on the same participation rate used to calculate savings to the states.
    Woo said perhaps millions of people nationally would not have lost jobs had an extensive work-sharing system been in place. She pointed to Germany, where she said the jobless rate is lower than when the economic downturn hit.
    “Rather than lay off workers in the way that we saw in this country, Germany used work sharing very aggressively by encouraging employers to reduce the hours of their employees rather than lay them off,” Woo said.
    James Sherk , a senior policy analyst in labor economics, at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., disagrees. In fact, he doubts the ability of work sharing to save jobs here or abroad.
    “It is true that Germany’s aggregate unemployment rate didn’t go up as much, but in-depth studies have taken a look under the hood and found that the work-sharing programs contributed very little towards that,” he said.
    Sherk also fears the subsidy will be used to prop up dying businesses and occupations. He said funding could better be used for online job training, which he said tends to be low cost. Money could also go toward not raising taxes to encourage business growth.
    Oates said the program allows for workers to receive retraining while they collect jobless benefits. Besides, work sharing isn’t meant as life support for terminally ill businesses, she said.
    “Quite frankly, for some companies, this is not going to be an appropriate model,” Oates said.
    Work-sharing supporters say the program is good for both businesses and workers because it enhances stability. Several point to Lincoln Electric in Euclid which, for the most part, doesn’t lay off employees who have at least three years seniority and a good work history.
    During the harsh economy of 2008-09, the company cut many employees back to 30 hours. During an economic uptick, employees have mandatory weekly schedules often of more than 55 hours. Ramping up was easy when the economy improved, said Doug Lance, vice president of Cleveland operations.
    “We have a core competency or knowledge that gets to stay here through those down cycles,” he said. “It allows us to swing the pendulum back quicker.”
    Employees at Lincoln Electric are cross-trained. During the downturn, many were moved from production to Research and Development, where they worked on products that could be manufactured once the economy improved. When companies suffer major layoffs, progress in all departments often slows down, Lance said.
    “When the recovery came, we were ahead of the competition,” he said.
    John Wasko, who works in R&D, remembers not experiencing the anxiety of many factory workers as layoffs were mounting during the recession.
    “I have a lot of friends in the past at companies who have lost their jobs during down times,” Wasko said. “I know that once I perform at expected levels, I won’t lose my job.”
    If Ohio had a work-sharing law, workers like Wasko would probably have been able to get jobless benefits for the reduced hours. Roy Morrow, Lincoln Electric’s director of corporate relations, said the company doesn’t want to comment on the bill or how it would affect its employees because officials hadn’t reviewed it.
    Many businesses support the bill, said Tony Seegers, director of labor and human resources policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Still, they don’t support the provision requiring union approval before implementing work sharing.
    “We shouldn’t be putting this into state statutes, especially since the federal law doesn’t require it,” he said.
    Young, the House committee chair, said he believes the provision should be removed from the law because most union contracts already outline terms governing reduced hours.
    Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, which supports having a collective-bargaining provision, said Minnesota is the only state without one.
    “I think this has become part of an ideological assault on labor,” he said.
    Young disagreed.
    “If workers want to collectively bargain, they have every right to do that,” he said. “I will fight for their right to do that. At the same time, companies should have the right to control their work force. If they can’t, they are not going to stay in Ohio.”
    Despite the chasm, Young is confident an agreement can be reached before this week’s vote.
    Work sharing could limit layoffs if Ohio legislature approves bill.

  3. Time check on working hours, 5/21 The New Age Online via .thenewage.co.za
    JOHANNESBERG, RSA - This is part of a series of weekly columns about the workings of labour laws written for The New Age by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA):
    The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) receives complaints and queries about working hours every day. In South Africa, we have a law on working hours and other minimum conditions of employment. It is known as the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA).
    The BCEA also lays down other minimum conditions of employment such as annual, sick and maternity leave, overtime work and overtime payments, among others. The BCEA is meant to protect workers and is policed by Department of Labour inspectors. To better understand the law on working hours or working overtime, let’s look at the experience of Nomsa, a Sandton domestic worker.
    Nomsa works for Carol, a single mom with two young boys. She lives on Carol’s property. Nomsa starts work every day at 6.30 am. Her work day involves making breakfast for the family, getting the older boy ready for preschool, and caring for the baby while cleaning the house, doing washing and other household chores. Later, she fetches the older boy from preschool and makes lunch. While looking after the boys in the afternoon, she irons and prepares dinner. Nomsa baths both boys and has dinner ready by 6 pm, when Carol gets home. Her long day of 12.5 hours ends at 7pm, after washing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen.
    Nomsa is not allowed to take an afternoon off during the week. She also works every Saturday for about five hours until lunchtime and some Sundays, when asked to look after the boys or to help in making Sunday lunch. Nomsa often babysits, as Carol goes out at night, often until well after midnight, especially over weekends. On public holidays, Carol requires Nomsa to come in and make breakfast and make up the beds, which usually takes two hours, before she is free to go off duty. Once a month, Nomsa is given a weekend off. Carol pays Nomsa extra money for Sunday work and for babysitting at night.
    Because of her working time, Nomsa is always very tired. She suffers from swollen feet and high blood pressure. She feels that her long working hours at her age of 52 is damaging her health. Even when she is not feeling well, Nomsa goes to work as there is nobody to stand in for her. Nomsa tried to persuade Carol to hire extra help but Carol says she can’t afford it.
    Nomsa needs her job but is very unhappy. What does the law say about Nomsa’s situation and what can she do about it? Chapter two of the BCEA says Carol has a duty to consider Nomsa’s health and safety when arranging her working hours.
    By law, Nomsa should not be working more than nine ordinary hours per day (excluding overtime) in a five-day working week. Or, not more than eight hours per day in a six-day working week, with very short breaks and rest periods. For example, Nomsa should be allowed to take a meal break after every five hours of continuous work. Her lunch break should be one full hour. Or, Nomsa and Carol can agree in writing to a shorter lunch break of 30 minutes.
    Nomsa is on duty throughout the day because she cannot leave the children alone. She is therefore working almost non-stop for 12.5 ordinary hours every day (62.5 hours per week, from Monday to Friday). This excludes the hours that Nomsa works every Saturday and the extra hours she puts in babysitting and on Sundays. Regularly working such long hours is against the law.
    Even if Nomsa and Carol agreed to such long working hours, this would be illegal. A worker and employer cannot make agreements that break a law.
    The following, therefore, are also very important legal (BCEA) considerations when organising working time:
    • Rest periods (daily): Nomsa should ideally have a complete rest period every day of at least 12 hours. Because Nomsa lives on the premises, this rest period can, by agreement, be reduced to only 10 hours.
    • Rest periods (weekly): Nomsa should have a continuous rest period of at least 36 hours per week. This is usually the weekend and can, by agreement, be reduced to only eight hours in any one week on condition that the employee is given the same number of extra rest hours the following week.
    • Limit overtime work: Wherever possible, keep overtime worked in any one week to a maximum of 10 hours and three hours on any one day.
    • Weekend work: Where overtime weekend work is a requirement as part of the normal working week, plan it so that the worker has a rest period of 36 hours. In Nomsa’s case, working Saturday afternoons, babysitting at night and working on Sundays does not allow her to have a proper non-working rest period.
    • If Sunday is not part of the normal working week, the worker does not have to agree to such work and cannot be forced to do it or victimised for not agreeing to do so.
    • Night work: While the law allows for night work (work between 6 pm and 6 am), this too is not compulsory and her health situation should also be considered.
    • Generally, persons working at night are entitled to a “night work allowance” and transport home should be made available by the employer. When employees work after 11pm, especially those working with machinery, chemicals and so on, employers have a responsibility to inform workers of any health and safety risks associated with such late night work – and the right to undergo a medical examination before agreeing to late night work. This must be in writing or orally, in a language the employees understand
    • The Code of Good Practice on the Arrangement of Working Time, which forms part of the BCEA, is very strict about the special attention employers must pay to the health and safety needs of employees doing night work.
    • Public holidays: A worker has to agree to work on public holidays. In Nomsa’s case she can agree to do so but should be paid at overtime rates.
    • Overtime pay: Generally, workers should be paid double pay for working on a Saturday and Sunday that does not form part of their normal working week, and time-and-a-half for other overtime hours worked. That is, in the evenings and on Saturdays.
    What could Nomsa do about her problem? Firstly, she could talk to Carol about her health concerns and her need for more rest time and remind her of what the law says. She could also advise Carol that both legally and for health considerations, she is unable to “regularly” babysit at night or to work on Sundays and public holidays.
    Nomsa can also ask to be given time off, instead of receiving overtime pay for the extra hours worked, or a combination of overtime pay and some time off.
    If talking to Carol does not assist in solving her problem, Nomsa can report Carol’s illegal arrangement of working time to the Department of Labour, which has the power to investigate and require that Carol obey the law or face legal penalties.
    For a copy of the CCMA information sheet on working time, visit the website at www.ccma.org.za, or for free advice contact the CCMA call centre at 0861161616.

5/19/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Magdalena Schools face spending cuts, by Lisa Alvarado, El Defensor Chieftain via dchieftain.com
    MAGDALENA, N.M. - Magdalena’s School Board will have to make significant cuts to adjust to a loss of approximately $300,000 for school year 2013.
    Magdalena School Superintendent Mike Chambers said during the board’s May 14 meeting that every effort was made to spread the roll-backs across the board and minimize negative effects to students.
    “Making these cuts was not an easy decision,” Chambers said. “People think we do it willy-nilly, without thinking about it, but it’s not true.”
    Chambers said administrators analyzed the budget to determine where cuts could be made that won’t severely harm any program.
    “Our senior staff team sat down and decided that rather than cut one group heavily, instead, they would share the burden,” he said. “This is not great, believe me, but it’s something we can live with.”
    [Timesizing, not downsizing = TS not DS!]
    The cuts involved include the following:
    All staff will take a furlough day. Teaching staff’s furlough will be accomplished by cutting an in-service day. Non-teaching staff will take a day off without pay on October 8.
    • Preschool will now only be available for a half day, and only for those children age 4 who meet the necessary financial approval, given state and federal funds.
    • Kindergarten will go to half day only.
    • Physical education for elementary school will be every other day, with students participating on a rotating basis.
    • After-school tutoring is on the books, but the extent to which it will be offered remains a question, based on resources available when school is in session.
    Shocking Discovery
    As part of the finance discussion, Chambers also raised an area of concern involving the Socorro Electric Cooperative. He said the co-op came onto district property in February and “didn’t notify anyone, didn’t say anything,” and installed new meters with multipliers that have significantly increased the district’s electrical cost. The multipliers were set to 80, which means use rate is multiplied by 80 to determine cost during peak usage hours.
    Dorothy Zamora, business manager for the district, reported the district’s total annual cost for power during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, was $94,370. She said the billing totaled $108,804 so far this fiscal year.
    Zamora said the monthly charges started doubling in February.
    “Our monthly costs are now approximately $11,500, and at that rate we expect to pay $135,500 for school year 2013, if rate calculations stay the same.”
    Chambers told the board he has requested a meeting with the co-op to discuss the issue.
    Tier Success
    Socorro Elementary Principal Kitty Martin said she was “very excited” to present the initial results of the district’s use of a tier system. The system was set in play this past spring to address low MAP scores.
    Tier success may be a model to help to district meet the new Common Core requirements, in which all schools in the state are expected to fully meet by the end of school year 2013. School administrators separated students based on these scores into tiers, with the elementary school most fully utilizing this strategy.
    Tier 1 – students performing at or above the grade level requirements
    Tier 2 – students performing slightly below level, with sub-par performance extending to a year-and-a-half behind expectation
    Tier 3 – students performing at levels two years or more below expected levels
    Martin presented highlights of the following significant improvements:
    In the fall of 2011, students in kindergarten through fifth grade were significantly below grade level in reading and math. The result of tiering, she said, has meant that scores across the board indicate students are now at expected levels. The largest growth was demonstrated by those students who were the furthest behind.
    “We think we can apply this to middle school and high school. It’s an excellent start,” said Martin.
    Martin also reviewed teacher performance grades, another requirement.
    Applying similarly rigorous requirements to teachers as to students, the grading system awards A grades to teachers deemed exemplary, Bs for very effective, Cs for effective, Ds for minimally effective and Fs for not effective.
    Last year’s grading resulted in poor grades for teachers, including 10 receiving an F, one D, six receiving a C and two scoring a B.
    This year, teacher grades improved significantly. There were no failing grades, five received a D, 14 a C and there were two Bs.
    “That’s what we want — this across-the-board improvement,” Chambers said. “It’s a tough discussion, but basically it’s no excuses. We need teachers to be up to par, period.”
    In Other Business
    • Guidance Counselor Sandra Montoya reported success with the recent RESPECT program, which educated students about bullying and other anti-social behavior and its consequences. To help illustrate the impact of negative behavior, students attended a criminal court proceeding in Socorro.
    “I would say it made a great impression,” she said. “Two boys who attended said it really got to them. They may not have talked or asked questions while they were there, but later on it was evident.”
    • Chambers also discussed the recent possible power surges throughout the school, one of which resulted in a downed server. There were “multiple reports” of lights going off in classes, and office equipment short-circuiting. The district contracted with an independent electrical contractor to trace the source of the problem. Chambers said the investigation will help identify if the contractor associated with the recent Ag building construction may be at fault, or if it may be connected to electrical changes done by Socorro Electric Co-op.
    • The board unanimously approved the inclusion of GRADS (Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills) for next year. An overview of the program indicates participating pregnant teens and new parents will receive child care information, decision-making help and discussions of the impact of early parenting.
    “This is something that will benefit our boys, too. They need this information,” said Board President Gail Armstrong.
    • The board determined that elementary summer school will run June 4-28, middle/high school from June 18-8, and credit recovery from July 2-19.
    -- Email the author at lalvarado@dchieftain.com

  2. Tunkhannock Area to raise taxes 4 mills for 2012-13 school year, by Robert L. Baker, Scranton Times-Tribune via ttp://thetimes-tribune.com
    TUNKHANNOCK, Pa.- The Tunkhannock Area School Board's budget committee on Thursday put the finishing touches on a 2012-13 preliminary budget that is balanced and has no teacher furloughs or extracurricular activity cuts.
    It does reflect a 4-mill tax increase that will see property tax bills go up around $120 for a property assessed at $30,000. That alone will bring in $1.4 million in new revenue.
    A mill is a $1 tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value.
    The 2012-13 preliminary budget also exhausts a $2.4 million fund balance carried forward from 2011-12.
    The board likely will vote to approve the preliminary budget at its meeting Thursday to allow time for public review before a final budget has to be approved by June 30.
    Board members agreed earlier Thursday evening that they would try to adopt a final budget at their June 21 meeting, but acknowledged they would likely not know what Pennsylvania's General Assembly was providing local districts in its final state budget.
    Budget chairwoman Sandra Lane said that depleting the fund balance creates a serious cash-flow problem and money needed to be restored to it.
    Board member Marty Migliori said that given anticipated increases in the district's financial responsibility in future years for state retirement, "It's not going to get any easier next year, and will probably be a lot worse."
    Board member Mick Cronin told Superintendent Michael Healey to "draw up a furlough plan that will allow us to get into a reasonable fund balance range."
    Mr. Healey said he needed direction from the board as to how much to proceed in furloughs
    and in deciding precisely how to trim $100,000 from the extracurricular activity budget.
    Board President Rob Parry told Mr. Healey that a good working document would show a fund balance carried forward of at least $1.5 million.
    The budget committee agreed that it would meet again on June 4 at 7 p.m. to take a look at where the budget stood in advance of its June 21 meeting.
    Contact the writer: bbaker@wcexaminer.com

5/18/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Study shows Canadians are improving their work-life balance, Toronto Globe, B17.
    CALGARY, Alta., USA, oops, Canada - It may be news to you, but many Canadians are feeling better balance between their work and personal lives.
    [It is news to us, but it's all very squishy-subjective-vulnerable to employer pressure, and the third paragraph puts the lie to this whole "feeling".]
    A study by office space company Regus PLC found the proportion of Canadian office workers who feel that their work-life balance has improved has risen by 16 per cent over the past two years.
    [Good if true but the Regus study was probably commissioned by the Harper regime.]
    Despite spending more time at work this year,
    [Oops, with this admission, "feelings" pale in comparison! - especially in a context of job insecurity and high unemployment...]
    65 per cent of respondents said they feel they have enough time to spend at home or on personal pursuits. And 71 per cent of respondents said they enjoy their work more and believe they are achieving more than they did two years ago.
    [Ah, the happy slave, grovellingly grateful to still have a fulltime job, even if it's a blank check on their lives!]
    A big reason appears to be the fact that more employers are instituting policies that allow more flexibility about where and when employees do their work, said Wes Lenci, Calgary based vice-president of Regus Canada.
    [Hmm, "Calgary based"? That clinches it. It's Harper Thought Control.]
    Over 43 per cent of respondents in the survey reported that their companies are doing more to reduce the time employees spend commuting compared to 2010. And in an earlier survey of employers, 88 per cent of Canadian businesses reported offering some kind of flexible work arrangements for employees. These include setting up satellite offices closer to where employees live or giving them the opportunity to work from home one day a week.
    However, in 45 per cent of the companies, the perks were mainly available only to senior employees.

  2. Chained to your smartphone? Shut it down for a night - Harvard Business School study found employee satisfaction, work-life balance jumped when staff were forced to hit the off button, by Wallace Immen, Toronto Globe, B17.
    CAMBRIDGE, Mass., USA - At what's supposed to be a romantic dinner, you're distracted by the incoming business messages on your smartphone. At the Little League game, you miss seeing your kid slug a hit to start a rally because you're texting a reply to a question from the boss.
    No matter how much you might want to shut off, the sheer ability to be reached 24/7 can make you feel shackled to your smartphone or netbook or laptop, even at the beach or in bed.
    "That makes modern office workers feel increasingly overwhelmed, overworked, always interrupted and lacking time to focus," found Harvard Business School leadership professor Leslie Perlow, whose research led to a book: Sleeping with Your Smart Phone.
    While employees might find it impossible go cold turkey and ditch their addictive gadgets, in a study Prof. Perlow found a successful strategy to help workers turn off and focus on their personal life in their after-work hours.
    The answer can be as simple as giving each team member a predictable night off. She persuaded 10 consulting teams at Boston Consulting Group to agree to cover for each other to allow each of the team members one night each week in which they wouldn't be responsible for fielding calls from work or clients.
    The results were stunning. Over the course of three years, employee ratings of their work, as well as their personal lives showed continual improvement.

    Before the program, only 43 per cent said they felt they have sufficient control over their work schedule; by the end of three years, that had risen to 59 per cent. The proportion of people who said their work gives them a sense of personal accomplishment rose from 71 per cent to 81 per cent.
    The proportion who felt their team is collaborating well also rose significantly: from 39 per cent to 71 per cent. And there were large increases in feelings that colleagues are considerate of their personal time and that their work adds significant value to clients.
    "Consulting is an extreme case; if it works there, it will work anywhere," Prof. Perlow said. In consulting and professional services there is an expectation that you must be accessible round the clock to respond to client needs.
    In interviews with the consultants, she found that a consistent underlying source of stress was the unpredictability of the demands and the inability to make plans and disengage during their time away from the office.
    The experiment started at BCG's Boston office and when she presented the idea there was initially a lot of anxiety, Prof. Perlow said. "People feared missing client requests but just as importantly they worried that they'd be more overloaded on nights they were covering for someone else."
    However, the participants found that almost invariably the calls they feared missing were not as urgent as they had believed and once callers understood the night off rule, they sent fewer requests.
    The rule was that the backup team member could contact the off duty employee if a request from a client actually required an immediate personal response. "It turned out, 98 per cent of the time they didn't have to," Prof Perlow said.
    Prof. Perlow found enthusiasm grew as participants discussed how the experiment was working for them and how they felt during weekly team meetings. "You can't go it alone, it has to be a team effort. But by starting small and regularly reinforcing the advantages, the idea will continue to grow," she said.
    The experiment has become self-perpetuating and in its fourth year employee ratings of their satisfaction continue to rise, she said. It's now being implemented in all of BCG's operations around the world and similar programs are being rolled out in several other organizations in different industries.
    "The real lesson here is that when you combine some predictable time off with a process of discussing the goal, people start working together better because they feel more ownership and more in control of their work and life."

  3. Jerry Brown's furlough plan would drain Sacramento economy, Sacramento Bee (blog) via blogs.sacbee.com
    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The Bee's state pay database guru Phillip Reese has run the numbers on what Gov. Jerry Brown's four-day, 9.5-hours-per-day workweek would do to the Sacramento region's economy. The annual impact: $230 million in wages taken out of circulation:
    Brown state worker pay proposal would cut $230 million in wages from local econony [sic - do we hear "ecomony"? How about ecomommy??!], By Phillip Reese preese@sacbee.com
    Despite a push to diversify its economy, the Sacramento region still depends heavily on government wages.
    The state employs roughly 75,000 workers in Sacramento County, excluding those working for its two college systems and the legislature. Collectively, they earned about $4.4 billion last year, far more than state workers in any other county, according to the State Controller's Office. State workers based in Yolo, El Dorado and Placer counties earned another $200 million.
    As part of his proposal to close a $16 billion deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to cut state worker pay by 5 percent (and introduce a four-day workweek for most state employees).
    Cutting pay by 5 percent would take about $230 million in wages from Sacramento's economy, enough to potentially support a few thousand jobs. The cuts would represent a decline of about $1 for every $200 in wages earned in the region.
    After years of growth, state wages have been stagnant recently, climbing slightly last year as furloughs ended....

  4. $1.2 billion school system budget receives final approval in Gwinnett, By Nancy Badertscher, Atlanta Journal Constitution via ajc.com
    LAWRENCEVILLE, Gwinnett Cnty., Ga., USA - With little fanfare, the Gwinnett County Board of Education gave final approval Thursday night to a 2012 budget that calls for two unpaid furlough days for most employees, two extra students per classroom and nearly 600 fewer people on the payroll.
    [Probably 700-800 fewer people without the furlough days.]
    Spending for day-to-day operations of the state's largest school district will be $1.2 billion for the fiscal year that starts July 1, down $60.6 million from this year.
    "It's a very tough budget," said Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. "It's one we have lots of concerns with, but it will allow us to continue to do what we need to do."
    The largest share of the savings -- $43 million -- will come from leaving vacant 585 jobs, where employees -- mostly teachers -- have retired, resigned or transferred, and adding an average of two students per classroom.
    The system will save another $10 million by furloughing employees for a fourth straight year. The two unpaid furlough days will apply to all employees, with the exception of bus drivers and school nutrition workers.
    School districts are winding down work on budgets that call for drastic cuts next year, including the elimination of at least 2,000 jobs in metro Atlanta. For them, a combination of factors is at play: under-funding from the state, falling property taxes and the end of federal stimulus money that had helped bridge the gap.
    Gwinnett, in the past, has been able to survive state budget cuts on the strength of its tax digest, school board member Robert McClure said. But that's no longer the case, he said.
    School property taxes are forecast to be down $36 million this year because of declining property values, said Rick Cost, the school system's chief financial officer.
    The school system is not dipping into savings to fund the budget. Raising property taxes wasn't really an option either. Gwinnett's school tax is 19.25 mills, just below the 20-mill maximum.
    The system will maintain its current hiring freeze, though the district will hire about 50 new teachers based on a projected enrollment increase of 692 students, far fewer than the norm for the system of nearly 163,000 students.
    School board chairman Louise Radloff has called this "one of the most difficult" years in the nearly four decades she's served on the board.
    She and other board members have voiced concern that the continuing cuts to education spending could have a negative effect on student learning.
    "We've got to prepare our kids for the next generation," Radloff said recently, "and it's critical that we be able to do so with adequate funding."
    For a fourth straight year, the district won't be giving teacher raises based on training and experience, even though Gov. Nathan Deal announced in his State of the State address in January that he was sending local school districts $55.8 million for that purpose.
    Gwinnett's share -- $7.8 million -- will instead go to cover other expenses. For next year, the system is facing an $11 million increase in its share of employee health insurance premiums for more than 6,000 classified workers, including bus drivers and clerical workers.
    McClure said educators in the school system continue to do incredible work under trying circumstances.
    "It's not going without notice," he said.

5/17/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Senate Committee Takes Action on Work Sharing Legislation [for Mich.], by Jason Cooper, 1470WFNT via wfnt.com
    LANSING, Mich., USA - Representative Jim Ananich (D-Flint) and Senator Vincent Gregory (D-Southfield) praised the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee’s passage yesterday of Senate Bill 1094, legislation sponsored by Senator Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) to implement a work-sharing program in Michigan to help part-time workers. The bills closely mirror legislation introduced by Senator Gregory and Representative Ananich in 2011.
    [Work sharing, not shearing. Timesizing, not downsizing.  So this will be a 25th or 26th state with state-level worksharing?]
    Gregory said “it doesn’t matter whose name is on the bill, what matters is the legislature taking action to provide help for Michigan workers struggling to get by and enable companies to retain top-flight talent. We have been calling on work-sharing legislation for more than a year and I applaud Senator Caswell’s efforts to finally get some traction on this important lifeline for working families.”
    Similar to SB 1094,  SB 697 and HB 4516 would create a work-sharing program for qualifying employers in Michigan that would allow for the payment of unemployment benefits to individuals whose wages and hours have been reduced. This would allow employees working part-time to also collect unemployment benefits and enable companies to retain multiple employees rather than laying them off. Work sharing has proven to be an effective tool in other states to reduce unemployment and help part-time workers stay afloat. It has also enabled businesses in other states to keep their payroll commensurate with their production and adjust to downturns in demand without losing valuable employees.
    “Work sharing is a great example of lawmakers helping other people save their job, instead of just maneuvering to save their own,” said Ananich [=something all labor unions should learn]. “Thanks to Senator Caswell’s leadership, this effort to prevent layoffs in Michigan took a huge step forward.”

  2. SEIU Local 1000 district president opposes workweek proposal, Sacramento Bee (blog) via blogs.sacbee.com
    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Here's an open letter that job steward and SEIU Local 1000 DLC President Thomas Lee Perine sent Wednesday to the members he represents. We're posting it here unedited and with his permission:
    Dear DLC 790 Executive Board Members, Job Stewards and Activists -
    Tonight is the Local 1000 Council monthly conference call. I will be on the call.
    I intend to voice opposition to the forced pay cut and work hour proposals that have been floated in the media recently. President Walker was quoted as saying that a majority of our members would support this proposal. Based on the feedback I've been receiving from the members we represent, a majority of members do not support this idea.
    What I would like to see is an expansion of the current voluntary personal leave program. Currently our members can opt-in to one day (8 hours) of personnel leave with a resulting ~5% reduction in pay and no effect on retirement. I have been participating in the program since it was first offered years ago.
    My proposal would be that our members would be offered the option to purchase up to two additional days per month (up to 16 hours) with no option for the State to deny the leave purchase if a member chooses to opt-in and no change to retirement for those who participate.
    The "no denial" clause is important because otherwise many agencies will deny requests based on "operational need" and there will be no opportunity for cost savings.
    This proposal will protect our members who cannot afford any more pay sacrifices and those who do not have an option to change their work hours because of family or other personal obligations or desires.
    Your thoughts are important to me. What do you think? What are you hearing from our members?
    Please note that I have shared this email message with the rest of our union leadership.
    I am confident that we can all work together to find a solution that does not put additional undo hardships on state employees while we yet again do our part to help the State during these days of unprecedented budget crises due to the failures of Wall Street and unchecked corporate greed.
    In solidarity,
    Thomas Lee Perine, Job Steward & President DLC 790 SEIU Local 1000
    Department of Child Support Services

5/16/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Teachers Union President: No Concessions Planned, by Will Carless, Voice of San Diego via voiceofsandiego.org
    SAN DIEGO, Calif., USA - Bill Freeman, president of the San Diego Education Association, just called to respond to claims made yesterday in an extraordinary open letter from Camille Zombro, the former teachers union president.
    In her letter, Zombro heaped criticism on Freeman, saying the union was close to offering concessions on pay and benefits, and claiming she and a fellow colleague were “purged” from the union because they refused to follow Freeman’s agenda for negotiating an agreement with the school district to solve its fiscal crisis.
    Freeman characterized Zombro’s comments as “sour grapes,” and said several of the claims she made are “absolutely untrue.”
    “It’s very unfortunate that Camille Zombro would do this during such troubling and difficult times,” Freeman said. “To take this divisive measure is very sad, particularly for someone who has supported her for many, many years.”
    Sounding emotional and tired, Freeman said he would talk to me more tomorrow. But I managed to ask a couple of quick, specific questions.
    I asked why SDEA Executive Director Craig Leedham was removed from his office. Leedham was placed on administrative leave in March and Zombro claimed that he had been forced out, with “no just cause or progressive discipline.”
    Freeman would only say that Zombro’s claims are “absolutely untrue.” He said he would elaborate Wednesday on Leedham’s removal.
    I also asked about Zombro’s claim that the union is close to making concessions. He said that was not accurate.
    Freeman said the union’s representative council, made up of reps from around the district, voted overwhelmingly to open lines of communication with the district. Just because the union’s talking to the district doesn’t mean it’s going to make concessions, he said.
    Hopefully, I’ll be able to have a more in-depth conversation with Freeman on Wednesday.
    A couple of other follow-ups to the Zombro story:
    • The Breakfast Club blog, which was started to put pressure on the SDEA, and which yesterday featured Zombro’s letter, has a new post. This one is from union secretary-elect Michelle Sanchez, who claims that free speech is being stunted at the union.
    Sanchez raises concern that the union is effectively seeking to censor “subversive” groups within it by changing its bylaws. She writes:
    "I honestly can’t believe what is happening to our union or that our leadership is spending time, energy, and money on this when we have more pressing issues to deal with like 1,700 laid off members! I assume that these bylaw changes are in response to Camille’s email, and the efforts of myself and a group of other SDEA members to found the Breakfast Club Action Group… A group we founded only after being told repeatedly at the membership meetings to go organize ourselves to fight against layoffs and keep our contract closed.
    "We are hardly 'subversive,' as we have a public website, and have been explicitly organizing to pressure the School Board to recall layoffs while keeping their hands off of our contract. How can we be 'subversive' if we agree with SDEA’s message of 'No Concessions! No Layoffs!'?"
    • School board president John Lee Evans emailed me a statement in response to Zombro’s letter. Here it is in full:
    "It is not surprising that the union would be in turmoil in the midst of this economic crisis. This is difficult for all of us, including the school board.
    "I believe that the rank and file teachers want to make a deal to save our academic programs and to protect class size, as well as preserving jobs. Bill Freeman, the teachers’ union president has repeatedly said this year that the union will not stand by and watch the district falter. Even as long ago as last November President Bill Freeman and the then-Executive Director of the teachers’ union, Craig Leedham, both acknowledged to us the seriousness of the economic situation and that they would need to make a deal. They wanted to wait until the Governor’s proposal in January. When that did not look good, they wanted to wait until the May Revise.
    "The May Revise came in and it did not improve and is actually a little worse. Now is the time to sit down and talk about concessions to save our classrooms and to save jobs. Some people oppose collaboration and want to approach everything as us vs. them. This school district belongs to all of us (parents, teachers and employees, students and community members) and we have to come up with a local solution because Sacramento has shortchanged public education in the state budget. The November ballot measure is too late for next year.
    "We must work together as adults and not resort to extreme statements ranging from 'there is no financial problem' to 'the sky is falling in.' The truth is that this is a very difficult economic time and we need to work together, not against each other. The eleventh hour is approaching. We need to make a deal within the next few weeks."
    Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5670.
    (11) schoolboy, posted at 10:31 am on Wed, May 16, 2012...
    Teachers are part of the fabric of this community, and need to be responsive to the both budget and social realities. A hard-line approach won't work - smart negotiations might. If SDEA is too dysfunctional to see that, the only solution is to open this up to a vote of the membership. My guess - I could be wrong - is that majority of teachers would vote no pay cuts, no pay raises, -- keep jobs, benefits & furlough days.
    [Furloughs, not firings! = Timesizing, not downsizing!]
    Only a vote will tell. And that vote would *hurt me* - I am nearing retirement & need pay increase would be a big help. But (1) I have solidarity with younger members who are losing jobs (2) I want to safeguard support for public education vs. the right wing agenda , and if it means shared sacrifice, so be it. And (3) I don't need a weatherman....

  2. Overtime lawsuits hit a snag - Cases that pit employees against big banks hang in balance before Ontario Court of Appeal, by Jeff Gray, Toronto Globe, B9.
    TORONTO, Ont., Canada - A Ontario judge has blocked a proposed class-action lawsuit against Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce that alleged the bank wrongly denied overtime pay to thousands of its employees. But the case is one of several similar lawsuits before the courts.
    The Bank of Nova Scotia, Canadian National Railway Co. and others have also faced putative class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of thousands of workers demanding hundreds of millions in unpaid overtime.
    In the U.S., similar cases have forced big companies to pay out millions to employees who were denied overtime cheques, or were wrongly classified as managers exempt from overtime-pay requirements. These blockbuster cases emboldened plaintiffs’ lawyers north of the border to launch similar cases.
    [A real recovery requires (A) enforcement of existing weak overtime penalties and (B) conversion of overtime into OT-targeted training&jobs. If employers want customers, they're the only ones out there to fund them unless they want higher taxes.]
    But the recent ruling from the Ontario Superior Court appears to suggest that overtime lawsuits are facing more scrutiny in Canada. In his ruling late last month, Mr. Justice George Strathy denied a proposed overtime class-action suit against CIBC “certification,” or the green light a class action needs to proceed.
    However, observers say the real ground rules for this kind of case will be laid down in a series of three decisions expected soon from the Ontario Court of Appeal. The province’s top court is weighing the future of another, separate overtime case against CIBC and cases against Bank of Nova Scotia and CN.
    Meanwhile, Judge Strathy’s ruling in the latest case, known as Brown v. CIBC, quashes a lawsuit launched on behalf of analysts and investment advisers with the bank and CIBC World Markets who were seeking overtime pay.
    The judge’s problem with the case was that the plaintiffs asserted all employees classified as “analysts” or “investment advisers” had been wrongly denied overtime. The judge found that some employees with these job titles are in fact managers and are not entitled to overtime pay. In fact, hundreds of different jobs at CIBC, with different responsibilities, bear the label “analyst.”
    “Class members have little in common but their names,” Judge Strathy writes in his ruling. “The key issue of fact – namely, whether or not a person has managerial responsibilities – which is critical to the determination of overtime eligibility, cannot be determined on a common basis.”
    The judge also notes that there was no evidence that other investment advisers, besides the proposed representative plaintiff Bryan Singer, had ever complained about overtime pay. Some, the judge details in his ruling, make more than $1-million and routinely wine-and-dine clients outside of work hours. (Lawyers for the plaintiffs could not be reached.)
    The three overtime cases now before the Ontario Court of Appeal may not be so easy to bat away.
    One of them is a class-action suit that Judge Strathy ruled should be certified: a case against Scotiabank launched by former employee Cindy Fulawka. She sold mortgages and small-business loans for the bank for almost 20 years, mainly in Saskatchewan, and says she was expected to skip lunch and stay well past quitting time, working two hours a day without pay.
    An earlier class action against CIBC – and the first to target a Canadian bank – is also one of the trio still in the hands of the Ontario Court of Appeal. That case, filed by Toronto teller Dara Fresco, dates back to 2007. However, it was denied certification as a class action in 2009, when a judge ruled there was no evidence of a “systemic practice of unpaid overtime” at CIBC.
    The third case on appeal was filed on behalf of front-line rail supervisors with CN demanding overtime pay. It was certified by Mr. Justice Paul Perell in 2010.
    Toronto lawyer Louis Sokolov with Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP, who is working for the plaintiffs on all three cases still before the Ontario Court of appeal, said the latest ruling from Judge Strathy knocking down an overtime case isn’t an omen.
    “Ultimately we will hear from the Court of Appeal the larger principles regarding these cases,” Mr. Sokolov said.
    Patricia Jackson of Torys LLP in Toronto, who acts for CIBC in both cases against the bank, points out that judges have so far ruled consistently against the plaintiffs in her cases. But she wouldn’t speculate on what the Court of Appeal might do.
    Former Ontario Labour Relations Board chairman Morton Mitchnick, now a lawyer with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, acted for Scotiabank and for CN at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
    He said even U.S. courts are now backing away from their enthusiasm for class-action cases launched by employees, citing recent U.S. rulings including the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision last year to quash a sex-discrimination case filed against Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
    “In the U.S. you now see the courts there taking a more cautious approach, and starting to roll back,” Mr. Mitchnick said.

5/15/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Older Workers Have Highest Long-Term Unemployment - NELP Urges Congress to Prevent Age Discrimination in Hiring and Help Older Workers Reenter Workforce, by Lynn Herman, TheJobMouse.com
    WASHINGTON, USA – Unemployed workers over the age of 50 continue to face extreme challenges in the labor market, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) told the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging today.
    In Congressional testimony, NELP Executive Director Christine Owens explained that older workers are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the long-term unemployed – in 2011, more than half of older jobless workers were out of work for at least six months (54.3%), and those high rates have continued into 2012. The trends stem from a range of factors including age discrimination, employers refusing to consider unemployed workers, and industry shifts that require older workers to realign their skills to today’s labor market.
    The testimony came as part of the hearing, “Missed by the Recovery: Solving the Long-Term Unemployment Crisis for Older Workers.”
    “The prospects are dim for older workers who lose their jobs,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project. “They have the highest rates of long-term unemployment of any age group. They face pointed discrimination when they go looking for work, and they are especially vulnerable to financial instability. Congress needs to take extra steps to address the difficulties that some of the most seasoned members of the workforce are experiencing.”
    In the first quarter of 2012, just over half of jobless workers ages 50 and older (50.7%) were long-term unemployed. Approximately four in ten, or 39.4 percent, had been out of work for at least one year. As the testimony documents, prolonged periods of unemployment can have a severe impact on older workers’ retirement prospects and later-life wellbeing.
    The NELP testimony highlights the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 and the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act as two ways Congress can intervene, prevent and remedy much of the discrimination and challenges older workers experience.
    The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 (FEOA), pending in both houses of Congress and introduced in the Senate by Aging Committee Member Senator Blumenthal, would preclude employers and job recruiters from excluding the unemployed from job consideration simply because of their unemployment status. Because long-term unemployed workers are disproportionately older, older workers are more likely to be affected by exclusionary hiring practices based on employment status.
    The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) was introduced in March by Senators Harkin and Grassley, with Senator Leahy as a co-sponsor, to preserve the rights of older job applicants and employees who are turned down for jobs or treated differently at work in part due to their age. The bill expressly repudiates the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gross v. FBL Financial, in which a five-to-four majority held that plaintiffs in age discrimination employment cases must prove not only that unlawful age considerations were a factor in an employer’s action, but that age discrimination was the deciding factor in the decision. Among other things, the bill states that courts may not require workers to prove that age discrimination was the deciding factor, but merely a motivating factor, when turned down for a job.
    Finally, the NELP testimony also calls for workforce development and work-sharing programs to address the special training needs of older unemployed workers and reduce layoffs now and in the future.
    “The severity and impact of long-term unemployment among older workers calls for clear and immediate action on policies that address barriers these workers face in the labor market,” stated Owens.
    “Congress should take note of the numerous states considering legislation to ban hiring discrimination against the unemployed, and immediately pass the federal version. Addressing long-term unemployment among older workers also requires targeted reemployment strategies, such as job training and subsidized employment programs. Without measures like these, the harsh effects of the Great Recession will continue to impact older workers for years to come.”
    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. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org.

  2. Opening Statement of Senator Herb Kohl, Special Committee on Aging Hearing – May 15, 2012: Missed by the Recovery: Solving the Long-term Unemployment Crisis for Older Workers, aging.senate.gov (finder's credit to Dawn Lobell)
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - Good Afternoon. I would like to thank our witnesses and welcome everyone attending today’s hearing.
    While Americans were hit hard by this recession, the ramifications for older workers were particularly severe. Once older workers lost their jobs, they struggled far more than other groups to find work again. In 2007, less than one in four unemployed older workers was out of work for more than half a year. But only four years later, more than half of unemployed workers over 55 are confronting long-term unemployment. And as a bipartisan opinion piece in the New York Times over the weekend stated, this problem is “nothing short of a national emergency.”
    [The bipartisan opinion piece mentioned focuses on worksharing. It's titled "Opinion - The Human Disaster of Unemployment" and we included it yesterday (5/13-14/2012 #1) - see below.]
    One solution that shows real potential was developed in Connecticut by one of our witnesses, Joe Carbone. He has created an innovative program called Platform to Employment that works individually with those out of work to ensure they have updated skills to thrive in today’s economy. The program partners with local businesses to place these workers into internships. So far, 70 percent of those internships have turned into jobs. This program shows real promise to get people back to work and needs to spread across the country.
    However, it is also important that we look at some of the other reasons why older workers have been kept out of work for so long and address what we can do about it. We asked the GAO to look into the issue and it found that employers are wary of hiring older workers – sometimes because they are concerned about health care costs – but other times because they assume that if you are over 55 or have been out of work your skills are not up to date.
    The GAO surveyed experts who highlighted a number of approaches the government could take to help address this problem. One suggested approach, addressed in my Older Worker Opportunity Act, would provide tax credits for businesses employing older workers with flexible work programs. Another area the experts mentioned is discrimination. Today, I am announcing my support of the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act, a bill authored by Senators Harkin and Grassley that is aimed at restoring the rights of older workers to pursue claims of age discrimination.
    One common theme we have heard is that older workers want to keep working not only because they need the money but because they want to remain relevant and productive members of society. We need to encourage this. Left unchecked, long-term unemployment among older workers is a problem that will continue to grow as our workforce grays. In only four years from now, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that nearly one in four workers will be over the age of 55. We hope this hearing raises awareness about this growing problem and provides some solutions to consider.
    I thank you all again for being here today. And now I turn to our Ranking Member, Senator Corker, for his opening remarks.

5/13-14/2012 (Su-M) – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Opinion - The Human Disaster of Unemployment, by Dean Baker & Kevin Hassett, 5/13 (5/12 pre-pub) NY TImes Sunday Review via nytimes.com
    WASHINGTON, USA - The American economy is experiencing a crisis in long-term unemployment that has enormous human and economic costsThe American economy is experiencing a crisis in long-term unemployment that has enormous human and economic costs. 
    In 2007, before the Great Recession, people who were looking for work for more than six months — the definition of long-term unemployment — accounted for just 0.8 percent of the labor force. The recession has radically changed this picture. In 2010, the long-term unemployed accounted for 4.2 percent of the work force. That figure would be 50 percent higher if we added the people who gave up looking for work.
    Long-term unemployment is experienced disproportionately by the young, the old, the less educated, and African-American and Latino workers.
    While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, they are about half as likely to be rehired.
    [The first part of this sentence is a surprising, false statement from these two otherwise canny economists. It is rebutted in tomorrow's article (above) and here's one of the comments below this article today that also rebuts this statement: [Jim, SC: "While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers..."
    I must respectfully disagree with the authors statement. In 2009, I along with seven others were laid off from a private college in South Carolina. All over the age of 40, most over 50 and more than 50% women. In the years to follow more than a dozen others have been let go. My immediate supervisor told me he was instructed to build a case against the highest paid employees of the department as we could be replaced by young employees in a year...]
    One result is that older workers have seen the largest proportionate increase in unemployment in this downturn. The number of unemployed people between ages 50 and 65 has more than doubled.
    The prospects for the re-employment of older workers deteriorate sharply the longer they are unemployed. A worker between ages 50 and 61 who has been unemployed for 17 months has only about a 9 percent chance of finding a new job in the next three months. A worker who is 62 or older and in the same situation has only about a 6 percent chance. As unemployment increases in duration, these slim chances drop steadily.
    The result is nothing short of a national emergency. Millions of workers have been disconnected from the work force, and possibly even from society. If they are not reconnected, the costs to them and to society will be grim.
    Unemployment is almost always a traumatic event, especially for older workers. A paper by the economists Daniel Sullivan and Till von Wachter estimates a 50 to 100 percent increase in death rates for older male workers in the years immediately following a job loss, if they previously had been consistently employed. This higher mortality rate implies that a male worker displaced in midcareer can expect to live about one and a half years less than a worker who keeps his job.
    There are various reasons for this rise in mortality. One is suicide. A recent study found that a 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate (say from 8 to 8.8 percent) would increase the suicide rate for males by 1.47 percent. This is not a small effect. Assuming a link of that scale, the increase in unemployment would lead to an additional 128 suicides per month in the United States. The picture for the long-term unemployed is especially disturbing. The duration of unemployment is the dominant force in the relationship between joblessness and the risk of suicide.
    Joblessness is also associated with some serious illnesses, although the causal links are poorly understood. Studies have found strong links between unemployment and cancer, with unemployed men facing a 25 percent higher risk of dying of the disease. Similarly higher risks have been found for heart disease and psychiatric problems.
    The physical and psychological consequences of unemployment are significant enough to affect family members. The economists Kerwin Charles and Melvin Stephens recently found an 18 percent increase in the probability of divorce following a husband’s job loss and 13 percent after a wife’s. Unemployment of parents also has a negative impact on achievement of their children. In the long run, children whose fathers lose a job when they are kids have reduced earnings as adults — about 9 percent lower annually than children whose fathers do not experience unemployment.
    We all understand how the human costs can be so high. For many people, their very identity is their occupation. Few events rival the emotional strain of job loss.
    It seems clear that neither political party was prepared to deal with the crisis of long-term unemployment. In spite of the severity of the downturn, there was a general expectation that the economy would bounce back, as it had after previous downturns.
    Some countries that were more familiar with long-term unemployment, notably Germany, were much better prepared to deal with the fallout from the crisis. The German government aggressively pushed work-sharing measures. This meant that instead of workers’ being laid off and receiving unemployment benefits, the German government helped companies keep employees, working fewer hours, on their payrolls by subsidizing their wages with the money saved on unemployment benefits.
    The result of this policy is that Germany’s unemployment rate is now lower than it was at the start of the downturn, even though its growth has been no better than ours.

    Thankfully, there is some effort to learn from this model. The recent bill that extended the payroll tax cut included a provision that covered the cost of work-sharing programs in the 23 states that already had them as part of their unemployment insurance systems, and it helped other states start such programs. This should slow job destruction in those states, which will improve chances for all workers seeking employment. From now on, the first line of defense during a recession should be to expand work sharing rather than simply extend unemployment benefits.
    But these changes come late, and we must get much better at sending a lifeline to those who are hardest to reconnect.
    In the United States and elsewhere, government training programs have a mixed record at best. Some people have suggested that the unemployed be encouraged to start their own businesses, and entrepreneurship is one valid option for some. But given that most new businesses will fail, it may not be the best advice to tell older workers who have lost their jobs to also put their savings at risk to start a new business.
    Clearly, an improving economy will help some, but those who have been out of work for an extended period have a difficult time finding jobs for many reasons. They are more likely to be discouraged, more likely to have seen their skills wane, and more likely to be seen as a risk by a prospective employer.
    Policy makers must come together and recognize that this is an emergency, and fashion a comprehensive re-employment policy that addresses the specific needs of the long-term unemployed. A policy package that as a whole should appeal to the left and the right should spend money to help expand public and private training programs with proven track records; expand entrepreneurial opportunities by increasing access to small-business financing; reduce government hurdles to the formation of new businesses; and explore subsidies for private employers who hire the long-term unemployed. Those who hire for government jobs must do their share, too: managers who are filling open positions should be given explicit incentives to reconnect these lost workers.
    Every month of delay is a month in which our unemployed friends and neighbors drift further away.
    Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Kevin Hassett is director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
    244 Comments - Readers shared their thoughts on this article. ...
    [5] nasochkas, Cambridge, MA
    There are definitely some things we can learn from Germany's success in preventing large scale long-term unemployment. However, what this article - and many others who tout the German model - fail to point out is the extremely low rate of labor force participation in Germany. The country is great at keeping those who are working in at least part-time employment, but it is far from great for getting people to participate in employment to begin with. As an example, it has rather high barriers, both economic and cultural, to working mothers.
    [Oh, you mean like WE had in the 1950s and 60s when one parent could comfortably support the whole family? But when the then-grown-up babyboomers entered the job market around 1970, they restored the wage-depressing labor surplus of the Great Depression and plateaued wages - so housewives jumped into the job market to augment the family income - and heightened the labor surplus and started the decline of real wages? You mean like that? And we're supposed to regard this as a negative in your view? And you want us to get upset about CULTURAL factors like the way one German parent focuses on being a full-time parent? Like we're supposed to BLAME them for that while we've forced both parents into the job market and now need strangers to bring up our kids while we cry for more child care? Your cultural superiority has "feet of clay".]
    This is one of the reasons that Germany has a very low rate of domestic consumption and must rely on exports so heavily, which can be a problem when the rest of the world is struggling economically.
    [Bet their rate of domestic consumption per capita is much higher than ours, when you subtract such puff as our massive military and "homeland security" spending thanks to our fear-mongering Bush (and Obama?) regime. "Must" rely on exports so heavily - for what? Germans have high wages - German families can buy anything they need and most of what they want. Thousands of them vacation in our Southwest cuz they love the Grand Canyon and cowboy movies. There's no "must" here except in the minds of a few obsessive index-competitive elites. Germans are fine with or without exports because their money supply isn't funneling to the top 1% of the top 1%. We are deteriorating with or without exports because our money supply IS funneling to the 0.01% of our population. AND the question here is, who's relying on who(m)? The Germans aren't forcing the rest of the world to buy their goods and services. The rest of the world is responding to and relying on the superior quality of German goods and services. Why does Germany have superior quality? Maybe because while introducing worksaving technology, Germany passed along the worksavings to the general public in the form of shorter work time and more free time (longer vacations and shorter workweeks), thus maintaining its high wages and one-wage-earner families. What did we do instead? We passed the worksavings along in the form of higher unemployment, more job insecurity, longer work time and less free time (shorter vacations and longer workweeks). And we're supposed to BLAME the Germans for being smart and free and pat ourselves on the back for being stupid, anxious and overworked - if we still have a job? If the rest of the world wants to quit struggling economically, it can easily centrifuge its coagulated money supply by doing what the Germans did: shortening and spreading worktime and increasing financially secure leisure and family time.]
    There is no panacea for designing economic policy out there. All models have trade offs. What our political system is horrible at is explaining those trade offs to the voters and then helping them pick the ones they prefer.
    [Last sentence irrelevant. Second last, sure all models have trade offs but some trade off unsustainabilities, like fewer people working longer workhours in the age of robotics, and become more sustainable, like Germany, while others trade off sustainabilities, like more people working fewer hours in the age of robotics, and become less sustainable, like the USA. Emergency worksharing funded by unemployment insurance premiums is the closest thing we have to a panacea in economic policy design. And it leads on to permanent "timesizing" funded by overtime profits and earnings or taxed-away overtime profits and earnings from companies and individuals who decline to reinvest them in OT-targeted training and jobs. And timesizing leads on to similar balancing programs in the money variables. Just because YOU can't imagine or design a panacea-level economic policy does not mean none exists. There's no place for such self-excusingly arrogant negativity.]

5/11-12/2012 (F-Sa) – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. WV's representatives react to new USPS plan, by Whitney Burdette, 5/11 (5/10 late pickup) StateJournal.com
    CHARLESTON, W.V., USA - Members of West Virginia's congressional delegation have been urging the United States Postal Service to rethink closing 150 rural post offices across the state.
    Now, in the words of Sen. Joe Manchin, those members of Congress are "encouraged" by a new plan that would limit retail hours rather than close facilities.

    [= Timesizing, not downsizing!]
    "I spoke with the Postmaster General last night and I'm encouraged that he changed course and took a new approach to save money in his agency," Manchin, a Democrat, said in a May 9 news release.
    The Postal Service announced late last year that it would close 3,700 rural post offices nationwide in an effort to save money. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has said the agency loses $25 million daily and closing or consolidating a number of facilities could ease that financial burden. However, members of Congress who represent rural areas pushed back and urged the Postal Service to hold off on closing any rural post office until Congress could draft a reform bill. The Postal Service's moratorium on closures expires May 15.
    But a new plan announced by the Postal Service May 9 would prevent closures and instead limit retail hours. Customers would still have access to their post office boxes, however. But Manchin said the Postal Service needs to do more than just limit hours.
    "This compromise isn't perfect," he said. "I expect that if the Postal Service is going to make any changes to the services they are providing to constituents, they will also explore alternative cost-saving measures like reducing executive compensation, getting rid of unused space and ending advertising sponsorships. I will be watching very closely to ensure that our rural communities do not bear the brunt of changes being made at the Postal Service."
    Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he also is concerned about what he calls "the Postal Service's constantly shifting plans."
    "On its face, this move looks like an improvement over the previous proposal to flat out close 150 post offices in West Virginia," Rockefeller said in a statement. "But I continue to be very concerned about the Postal Service's constantly shifting plans and lack of information about how its proposals will impact jobs and services in our state. This new plan will potentially impact far more West Virginians and it fails to take into account the many other options for reducing costs besides cutting postal jobs and services in rural areas like West Virginia."
    However, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said he was pleased with the Postal Service's new plan. Rahall has been vocal about his disdain for rural facility closures.
    "Today's newest Postal Service plan appears to be welcome news for southern West Virginia families and businesses who joined me in the hard fight over these months to save our post offices," Rahall said in a May 9 news release. "However, cutting back the hours for so many post offices is no small matter, and we need to examine the details of the plan and get a better understanding of its potential impact on mail delivery services and communities. We ought not be shy about letting postal officials know our views and getting our questions answered."
    The new plan is still subject to scrutiny by the Postal Regulatory Commission. Donahoe said in a news release that the USPS will file a request for an advisory opinion with the commission by the end of the month. If the plan is accepted, full implementation will not be complete until September 2014.

  2. SJC upholds police furloughs, 5/11 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (blog) via masslawyersweekly.com
    BOSTON, Mass., USA - The Supreme Judicial Court has rejected a state police union’s challenge to a mandatory furlough plan.
    The union, along with a number of captains and lieutenants, argued that G.L.c. 150E provides them with the statutory basis to seek declaratory relief against the application of the furlough plan. The plaintiffs also invoked G.L.c. 149, §§ 148, 150, and G.L.c. 22C, §28A, to seek monetary reimbursement for wages lost because of the furlough plan.
    The SJC was unconvinced.
    “In short, the plaintiffs’ claims do not come within the ‘ “zone of interests” arguably protected by’ G.L.c. 150E,” Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland wrote for a unanimous court. “[W]e conclude that a prospective reduction in the number of days to be worked does not deprive the plaintiffs of any wages ‘earned.’”
    The 12-page decision is Massachusetts State Police Commissioned Officers Association, et al. v. Commonwealth, et al., Lawyers Weekly No. 10-076-12.

5/10/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. NI officials pleased post offices staying open; 'we can deal with shorter hours', North Iowa Media Group via Mason City Globe Gazette via globegazette.com
    Marilyn Hamilton, Postmaster Relief at the Swaledale Post Office, sorts mail Wednesday. (photo caption)
    HANLONTOWN, Iowa, USA - Officials in North Iowa towns whose post offices were among those targeted for closing said they are pleased the U.S. Postal Service now intends to keep them open.
    “If that’s what happens, that would be really good,” said Hanlontown City Councilman Robert Michaelis.
    Even though the Postal Service plans to reduce hours at rural post offices, federal officials are at least trying to find other options rather than closing them, said Crystal Lake Mayor Jeff Logalbo.
    “We need to keep post offices open,” Michaelis said. “We can deal with shorter hours.”
    Kensett Mayor Tom Dakin said the status of the post office there had appeared to be “in limbo.”
    “We had our fingers crossed that we would avoid the crosshairs” because Kensett is located along a major Worth County mail route, he said.
    “Reduced hours is better than a closure,” Dakin said.
    In a statement released Wednesday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he is pleased the Postal Service “has taken a more thoughtful approach in addressing their fiscal concerns.”
    The Postal Service “heard loud and clear from the hundreds of Iowans who showed up at town meetings across the state” to voice their concerns about how the closings would affect their communities, he said.
    “I am proud of the Iowans who stood and made their voice heard on this very important issue and thank the congressional delegation for engaging on this issue,” Branstad said. “To rural communities, a post office is an identity, a way of life and most importantly a critically vital economic development tool.”

  2. Postal proposal would spare facilities but cut hours at Vermont post offices, BurlingtonFreePress.com
    BURLINGTON, Ver., USA - Hours could be reduced at 145 rural post offices in Vermont under a new strategy announced Wednesday by the financially beleaguered U.S. Postal Service.
    The plan, to be phased in during the next two years, would keep rural post offices open but cut back on window service — from eight hours to six or four hours, in most cases. Lobby access would not be affected.
    The proposal would keep open rural post offices that were in danger of being closed.
    Patrick Donahoe, postmaster general, said in a statement that “we’ve listened to our customers in rural America, and we’ve heard them loud and clear — they want to keep their post office open. We believe today’s announcement will serve our customers’ needs and allow us to achieve real savings to help the Postal Service return to long-term financial stability.”
    Losses have mounted at the Postal Service with declines of mail volume in the face of increasing Internet use. A record loss of $14.1 billion has been forecast by the end of this year.
    About 3,700 low-revenue post offices nationally, and 15 in Vermont, had been under review for possible closure, but that option appears to have been scrapped in favor of keeping them open with scaled back operation.
    Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., characterized Donahoe’s announcement as “good news, bad news.”
    The good news, he said, is that Donahoe is rethinking the plan to shut down post offices. The bad news is that many rural facilities would see their hours reduced. Sanders stressed that the plan to cut back hours is just a proposal and would have to go through regulatory review.
    “I will work as hard as I can with communities that think they need longer hours,” Sanders said.
    Thousands of post offices where hours could be reduced were identified for each state on the U.S. Postal Service website in “a preliminary list that requires additional review, analysis and verification and is subject to change.”
    In the greater Burlington area, they included post offices in Ferrisburgh, where hours would be cut from eight to four; North Ferrisburgh, six hours; Jonesville and Underhill Center, four hours; Starksboro, six hours; Monkton, four hour hours; Highgate Springs and Isle La Motte, four hours; North Hero and St. Albans Bay, six hours.
    Under the new plan, communities could opt to create a so-called Village Post Office inside a library, government office or business such as a grocery or hardware store. They also could choose to close one postal facility while keeping a nearby one open.
    “The post offices in rural America will remain open unless a community has a strong preference for one of the other options,” said Megan Brennan, the Postal Service’s chief operating officer. “We will not close any of these rural post offices without having provided a viable solution.”
    The latest move comes as the Postal Service is making a broad push for Congress to pass legislation this summer that would allow the agency to move forward on its multi-billion dollar cost-cutting plan, which includes an end to Saturday mail delivery.
    Sanders said he hopes a bill approved by the Senate, which provides the postal service with more financial protection and allows more flexibility for rural post offices in the services they provide, will be passed by the House. He said he’s cautiously optimistic that the White River Junction processing facility, with its 245 jobs, will not be closed.
    Contributing: Free Press staff writer Tim Johnson, The Associated Press, Gannett News Service reporter Christopher Doering.

5/09/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. USPS to Cut Hours, Not Close Post Offices, ABC News (blog) via abcnews.go.com
    [= timesizing, not downsizing!]
    WASHINGTON, USA - After 10 months of angst and outrage that spanned from rural Montana to Capitol Hill, the U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that the 3,700 post offices targeted in May for closing will remain open.
    Instead, USPS plans to reduce the hours of operation at 13,000 rural post offices from a full eight-hour day to between two and six open hours per day, a move that the struggling mail service claims will save about $500 million per year.

    “This is a win-win,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said at a news conference Wednesday. “The bottom line is that any rural community that wants to retain their post office will be doing that.”
    Under the new plan, about 9,000 current full-time postal employees will be reduced to part time and lose their benefits after the offices they work at are put got to two to four open hours per day.
    Another 4,000 full-time employees will see their hours reduced to part-time, but will retain their benefits. These workers will be at post offices whose hours are reduced to six hours per day.
    “If we can shrink the labor cost we can keep the building open, that’s not hard to do, and ensure that customers have access,” Donahoe said.
    Even though many post offices will have vastly reduced operating hours, people will still be able to access their P.O. boxes all day. 
    “We think this is the responsible thing to do,” Donahoe said. “Any company that listens to their customers would come up with a good solution like this.”
    But House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who has co-sponsored a postal reform bill in the House, said today’s plan only addresses a small fraction of the Postal Service’s massive budget shortfall. Rural post offices that will be impacted by the plan account for less than one-eighth of the $5 billion USPS spends each year on operating post offices, Issa said in a statement.
    “To achieve real savings creating long-term solvency, the Postal Service needs to focus on consolidation in more populated areas where the greatest opportunities for cost reduction exist,” Issa said.
    Under the plan announced last summer, the Postal Service was reviewing 800 urban post offices for possible closure. All of those city offices, many of which are clustered within blocks of each other, will remain untouched under the current plan.
    The postmaster general noted that USPS’s plan to reduce operating hours achieves only a fraction of the $22.5 billion in cuts necessary to put the Postal Service back in the black. The USPS has posted a multi-billion budget shortfall last year in part because first class mail volume has plummeted 28 percent over the past decade.
    Donahoe is also pushing for a plan to reduce mail delivery to five days per week and reform the postal employee retirement system, but has to have Congressional approval to implement either item. Postal reform is currently caught in a tug-of-war between the House and the Senate.
    “This is just part of the way there and it’s just part of an overall plant to address all of the issues we have from a cost standpoint,” Donahoe said.
    The postmaster general set a goal for Congress to pass, and the president to sign, comprehensive postal reform by this summer.
    “Whether it’s a Senate or a House issue, let’s take that off the table,” Donahoe said today. “Let’s get this legislation done.”
    The Postal Service aims to start reducing office hours at selected rural post offices starting around Labor Day and have all 13,000 offices now under review operating under reduced hours, consolidated with a nearby post office or local business or closed in favor of rural delivery by the fall of 2014.
    “We will not consolidate rural post offices without first having sought community input and we will only consolidate post offices if the community has a strong preference to do so,” said Megan Brennan, the postal service’s chief operating officer. “Our goal is to keep open as many rural post offices as possible.”
    Brennan said she expects that “very few” of these small-town post offices will close as communities opt for shorter hours instead.
    One in four post offices bring in, on average, a mere $52 in revenue per day and serves about four people. A full quarter of the 31,000 post offices operated by USPS operate at a loss and the 13,000 offices now under review have less than one hour of work per day, on average, Donahoe said.
    He said that by reducing operating hours and thus the number of hours people work and the number of employees receiving benefits, the postal service will cut operating costs at rural post offices by 40 percent.
    Since USPS announced their decision to begin cutting post offices in July, 500 have already closed and will remain closed under the new plan. But the 400 offices that had been targeted for elimination will now remain open and operate for between two and six hours per day.

  2. France's 35-Hour Workweek is "Much Criticized" In the Washington Post, by Dean Baker, BusinessInsider.com
    WASHINGTON, USA - A Washington Post article on the likely composition of France's new socialist government mentioned Martine Aubrey, a former minister, who it identified as the main proponent of "the much-criticized 35-hour workweek in the 1990s." There is probably no major policy change that could not be described as "much criticized," however they generally do not appear with this characterization in the Washington Post and other major news outlets.
    In fact, the 35-hour workweek has proven to be hugely popular in France
    . Nicolas Sarkozy, the current president, had attempted to role back the law, but he was forced to back down in the face of overwhelming public opposition. The result was that he only made relatively minor changes in the law.
    [Though a story we found a couple of weeks ago (4/15-16/2012 #2) said Sarkozy was boasting to the right that he'd "killed" the 35-hour workweek, and some French people Phil Hyde has met on the Montreal-New York train have also used similar extreme language.]
    Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

5/08/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Work Sharing Could Save States $1.7 Billion Per Year, EurasiaReview.com
    WASHINGTON, USA - Though the unemployment rate ticked down slightly in April, the latest data show that millions of Americans continue to be laid off from their jobs. Work-sharing programs could help curb some of these job losses and shave billions of dollars off state budgets across the country. A new CEPR issue brief [Center for Economic Policy & Research] examines the work-sharing provisions of new federal legislation and the potential savings.
    Work-sharing programs, also known as short-term compensation, can be beneficial to both employers and employees. Rather than laying off workers, employers can shorten workers’ hours. The workers, in turn, receive pro-rated unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for the hours not worked and remain employed. Employers are able to retain trained employees, and, when demand picks up, avoid the costs of hiring and training new workers by simply increasing the hours of existing staff.
    Provisions of the recently passed Middle Class Relief and Job Creation Act offer federal support for work-sharing programs, giving states more incentive to promote work sharing. Prior to passage of the law, states had to pay the regular UI benefits provided to workers in work-sharing programs. Under the new law, the federal government provides 100 percent of work-sharing UI benefits for up to three years in states that already have work-sharing programs and 50 percent for up to two years in states that enter an agreement with the federal government to provide work sharing.
    Though take-up of work sharing is low at the moment, potential savings of $1.7 billion dollars per year nationwide may make the programs more attractive. Participation has varied from state to state, with Rhode Island seeing over 20 percent of UI claims from work-sharing when the program was at its peak in 2009. If other states saw similar levels of participation, the savings would be substantial. Among states that already have work-sharing programs in place, California could realize savings of $319,377,200. New York could save $158,581,600 and Pennsylvania could save $136,180,800. Among states that do not currently have work-sharing programs, New Jersey could save $57,359,700; Illinois could save 53,976,600 and Ohio could save 35,620,300.
    With millions of workers still being laid off every month, the work-sharing provisions could make an important and positive difference in the lives of millions of workers, employers, their families and communities. These provisions mean states can also improve their finances by promoting work sharing. However, states will need to work to take full advantage of the new law in order to reap these benefits.

  2. France's next prime minister could be a woman, by Hajer Naili, UPI.com
    PARIS, France - France's newly-elected President François Hollande committed to having more women in government, but will he name a woman to the post of prime minister?
    The question swirls around Martine Aubry...a politician most linked to the popular 35-hour workweek law, known as the "Loi Aubry." Her name is also closely associated with the universal health care coverage law.
    Aubry competed with Hollande for the nomination of the Socialist Party and has been the party's first secretary since November 2008. After joining the Socialist Party in 1974, Aubry was appointed labor minister by Prime Minister Edith Cresson in 1991. Six years later in 1997, she became minister of social affairs in the government of Lionel Jospin.
    Aubry has been mayor of Lille (Nord) since March 2001.
    Another strong contender is Manuel Valls, a socialist deputy since 2002 who also sought the party's nomination.
    During the presidential campaign, Hollande was considered as the strongest proponent of women’s rights according to a survey conducted in February by the Paris-based polling group CSA and the women’s magazine Terra Femina with 15 percent of respondents’ vote.
    Now he is elected, many French parents are likely to watch Hollande for signs that he will follow through on his stated support for extending paid parental leave to 18 days from 11.
    For background on Hollande's position on policies affecting women in particular, see, French Women Wield Little Influence in Elections.
    Hollande's socialist predecessor François Mitterand, president from 1981 through 1995. was the first president of the Fifth Republic to create a ministry dedicated to women’s rights. A woman, Yvette Roudy, ran the office for five years. One year after Mitterand’s election, in 1982, the international day of women on March 8 acquired a formal status in France.
    Mitterand was also the first president to appoint a woman, Edith Cresson, as prime minister in May 1991. She served for less than a year and left office in April 1992, making her the country's briefest prime minister.
    Hollande has promised to establish his own ministry of women's rights to tackle the issue of inequalities between men and women in all aspects of society.
    President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be leaving office in a few days after losing to Hollande on Sunday, broke a taboo by becoming the first divorced elected president in 2007.
    Hollande is now the country's first non-married president. His close companion of several years, however, is Valerie Treirweiler, 47, a political journalist with the well-known weekly Paris Match.
    A few years ago, Hollande separated from Ségolène Royal, the 2007 socialist candidate with whom he has four children.

5/06-07/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Hollande's Top Ministers May Include Ayrault, Aubry, Moscovici, by Tara Patel, 5/06 Bloomberg.com
    PARIS, France - Francois Hollande, France’s Socialist first president since 1995, will consider party stalwarts including parliamentary leader Jean-Marc Ayrault and Martine Aubry, author of the 35-hour work week, as top ministers.
    “We have to get away from austerity in Europe,” Ayrault said today in television interviews. “The election of Francois Hollande will allow the reordering of Europe.”
    Hollande has said he’ll choose as prime minister a “uniter, who knows lawmakers well, knows the Socialist Party well and knows me well.”
    That describes Ayrault, 62, who has headed the Socialist group in parliament since 1997 and is the mayor of the western city of Nantes. Ayrault is also a member of the defense commission at the National Assembly.
    “The next important signpost in France will be the selection of a prime minister,” said Antonio Barroso, an analyst at Eurasia Group in London. “Whomever Hollande selects will set the whole tone for his government.”
    The French return to the polls June 10 and 17 for two-round legislative elections for lawmakers at the National Assembly, where the defeated Nicolas Sarkozy’s party currently holds a majority.
    “We can’t set things right if we don’t change the method,” Ayrault said today. “We know the situation is difficult. We will start with an audit of the state finances.”
    Among Hollande’s economic advisers and candidates for cabinet posts are former Finance Minister Michel Sapin and Jerome Cahuzac, a surgeon and lawmaker who heads the National Assembly finance committee.
    Aubry’s Future
    One question mark is over the future role of Aubry, mayor of the northern city of Lille and Socialist Party chief. Aubry is best known for having served as labor minister twice, putting in place the country’s 35-hour work week, which has been criticized for hurting French industrial competitiveness.
    [No country needs sancrosanct "Competitiveness" in a race to the bottom. What every country needs is to maximize domestic consumption and monetary circulation, and that's what full employment however short a workweek it takes in an automated context DOES. The 4-hour cut from 39 to 35 hours/week cut employment 4% from 12.6% when it was voted on in 1997 to 8.6% before the US-led recession hit in 2001. All France needed to do was CUT THE WORKWEEK DEEPER and spread the unautomated employment further. No workweek is forever in the age of robotization. "Radical!" Oh please, America's most conservative corporations, insurance companies, had voluntarily adopted 35-hour workweeks in the 1960s and the U.S. Senate passed a 30-hour workweek in 1933.]
    Running against Hollande in the Socialist primaries, Aubry suggested he would represent the “soft left” and accused him of having a right-wing bent.
    Former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius may be a favorite for the foreign ministry, according to the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
    Other advisers to Hollande during the campaign were Manuel Valls and Pierre Moscovici, who could be potential cabinet members, while Jean-Yves le Drian, a regional representative in Brittany, is a possible defense minister, according to the JDD.
    Hollande has pledged his cabinet will have gender parity so women who could be included are Socialist lawmakers Delphine Batho, who was a Hollande spokeswoman during the campaign, Aurelie Filippetti and Marisol Touraine as well as Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, another one of his spokeswomen who is deputy to the mayor of Lyon.
    To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net
    To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net

  2. Banks back down on work hours, 5/07 Sydney Morning Herald via smh.com.au
    SYDNEY, N.S.W, Australia - Australia's major banks have quietly shelved their bid to extend the definition of ordinary working hours to include Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
    It is a sign that the sector is easing up on workplace reforms amid its current job shedding.

    Commonwealth Bank yesterday became the latest to detail job cuts, saying it would axe 100 mortgage-related roles, as it battles a sector-wide slowdown in demand for loans.
    In March, ANZ, CBA and Westpac applied to Fair Work Australia to amend an award covering the sector to allow weekend work to be considered part of the ordinary working week. The banks argued the move would improve flexibility of staffing branches and call centres on weekends.
    Unions feared the push was part of a broader move by banks to abolish penalty rates for weekend work. Banks pay staff time and a half for working on Saturday afternoons and double time for Sundays.
    Michael Tamvakologos, a partner with law firm Ashurst Australia, which represents the banks, yesterday told Fair Work Australia the banks ''do not wish to press'' the application to extend working hours.
    A Fair Work Australia directions hearing had been scheduled for tomorrow, but may now be cancelled, given the banks do not intend to pursue the issue.
    While the more controversial aspects of the award have been scrapped, banks will still press ahead with changes to annual leave, including asking staff to draw down on excessive leave balances.
    A Westpac spokesman confirmed that the application had been withdrawn.
    The spokesman said the award applied only to a small proportion of the bank's staff and there were no plans to change penalty rates.
    In their initial application, the banks argued they were ''no different'' from most retailers and service providers such as telecommunication companies or call centre operators, where work on Saturday afternoons and all of Sundays fell under the definition of ordinary hours.
    Finance Sector Union national director Wendy Streets said there was never any justification for the banks to try to change workers' entitlements.
    ''These banks should completely and utterly rule out any further attack on working hours and weekend penalty rates [i.e., premium wages],'' Ms Streets said.
    An ANZ spokesman said his bank was not affected by the application because its workplace agreement with its staff allowed for the extension of ordinary hours into weekend work.
    CBA said yesterday it would close its Melbourne mortgage services processing site at the end of the year and shift some processing services interstate.
    The announcement came just months after CBA chief executive Ian Narev insisted his bank had no plans for wholesale job cuts and pledged not to send jobs overseas.
    A CBA spokesman yesterday reiterated the bank's pledge not to send jobs overseas.
    While not directly touching on the topic of weekend work, ANZ chief executive Mike Smith last week said labour flexibility was ''important for any economy''.
    ''I think the issue of competitiveness is an important one for Australia, it's one we've really got to look at,'' Mr Smith said. ''We have to be realistic that we're part of the global economy and we have to therefore remain competitive.''
    US financing group GE Money was initially party to the action to extend working hours, but it withdrew soon after the application was lodged.

5/5/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Why minimum wages and shorter working hours can be beneficial, by Pak Sako(?), TheMalaysianInsider.com
    KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Barisan Nasional government has announced a minimum wage policy.
    Mahathir Mohamad, a former prime minister, confessed in The Malay Mail his aversion towards minimum wages [Agree] and shorter work hours [Disagree].
    [Shorter hours and the resulting labor shortage harness market forces in raising wages and making minimum wages unnecessary - thus avoiding the gap at the bottom of the wage ladder that poses an obstacle for new entrants into the job market or entrants into new skills.]
    He argues:
    1. Malaysians have “far too many holidays”, implying we work short hours
    2. And that’s why productivity is low, because “when we work a lesser number of days our productivity must decrease”
    [Can a former prime minister really be this ignorant? Productivity is a per-hour measure, not a measure of total production from total hours worked. That would be "total product" or "total output." Again, productivity is output per hour. Repeat twenty times. Pak Sako (if that's the name of the author of this overall article) also rebuts this nonsense below AND our first timesizing story yesterday (5/04/2012 #1 below) also rebuts it - from actual U.S. experience last quarter.]
    3. It is hard to increase productivity to match the minimum wage rise when we already have too many holidays
    [Is Malaysia still so underdeveloped that it has no mechanization, automation or robotization? It is certainly EASY to increase output per hour = productivity in the age of automation and robotization. Again, Pak Sako (if that's the author's name) also rebuts this technological blindness below.]
    4. With minimum wages, other employees of different grades will also start to demand for pay rises
    [If true, this would argue FOR minimum wages, because higher general pay levels would keep too large an amount of the national money supply from funneling to and coagulating in the topmost income&wealth brackets = among too small a population to maintain its rapid circulation - and causing, yes CAUSING, recession and depression.]
    5. Thus without commensurate increases in productivity, production costs for businesses will balloon and eat up a larger chunk of a firm’s revenue
    [HARDLY a problem when CEOs are deep-skimming the firm's revenue and effectively taking those millions out of circulation, since they were already spending all they cared to and their simple-minded diversion of evermore money to their own accounts starves the markets for the massive levels of productivity they NEED to invest in - and UNmarketable productivity does not make for profitable or even sustainable investments.]
    6. That’s apparently disturbing news for competitiveness, and cannot be good for development
    [The Great Leak Upward of corporate revenues to top executives and the financial sector is the worst news for competitiveness and development, not to mention the simplistic belief in Free Trade, which, like Marxism, requires that "all men(and economies) be angels."]
    7. The West has been overpaying their people; that’s why they are in “great financial trouble”
    [Only their Onepercenters = their top executives and Wall Street - the 99% is underpaid, and that's why the weakened consumer base and employment basement can no longer supply enough markets for enough marketable productivity to provide sustainable investment targets for the trillions of dollars crushed into the accounts of the Onepercent.]
    8. We too “pay more for less work”, therefore we may face the same fate.
    [Not if "less work" means "fewer hours with output Multiplied Massively by autoMation - somebody wake up this former PM to the facts of leaping technological productivity - we have entire factory systems in New England with NO employees - it's ALL automated - and it's called Lights Out Manufacturing cuz they don't even have to turn the lights on. Humans visit once a week or so to drop off raw materials and collect finished product. Wake the hell up, Mahathir Mohamad!]
    Mahathir speaks largely for business and industry.
    [- much of which is apparently stuck in the 19th century.]
    For a topic of consequence, his biased opinion was published as if it were the final word.
    [Yeah, "final" in the sense of Suicide, Everyone Else First.]
    No counter-commentary was published to provide balance.
    I [= Mr. or Ms. Pak Sako?] therefore offer a response.
    Do Malaysians really have “excessive holidays”?
    Mahathir states that we “have holidays for the holy days of all religions, however small the followers”.
    Malaysia has 16 public holidays. Buddhist Thailand has 17.
    Looking East, we find that industrious South Korea has just two fewer holidays than we do. Workaholic Japan has 18 national holidays. Competitive Hong Kong enjoys 20 public holidays.
    Turning westwards, Sweden observes 13 national holidays, with the day before many of these holidays taken as de facto holidays, either fully or in half (businesses close shop at noon).
    Mahathir claims that such nations— those that “overpay workers” and have “too many holidays”— are destined for bankruptcy.
    Not true.
    The biggest debtor nation plagued by bankruptcies is paradoxically the United States, the land where business reigns supreme, and where workers are among the most productive and get among the least number of holidays of all the developed countries.
    The West’s “great financial troubles” have other causes, not just high salaries, temporary unemployment support or minimum wages as Mahathir suggests.
    [The United States certainly doesn't have high salary levels, except for top executives - which funnels and decirculates the national money supply and definitely represents the major cause of U.S. financial troubles.]
    Do Malaysians have short working hours?
    The working week in Sweden is 36-40 hours split over 5 days. In Denmark it is 37 hours a week.
    France has had 35-hour working weeks as a legal limit, now stretchable to 38 hours. Germans work between 35 to 42 hours full-time a week.
    In Malaysia, The Employment Act sets the work week as 48 hours, with 6 working days per week and a maximum of 8 working hours per day.

    Many Malaysians in the private sector but also doctors in the public sector commonly work longer, till late at night. Malaysians also sacrifice precious non-working hours in traffic-snarled roads and catching infrequent trains to serve their employers.
    Sick and overworked workers frequently request medical leaves.
    Most Malaysian workers in the private sector are not entitled to as many paid annual leaves as Scandinavian or German workers who get between 4 to 6 weeks off a year.
    There is little truth in the statement that Malaysians are spoiled by short working hours.
    A smaller falsehood: Mahathir claims we “automatically replace any holiday which falls on Sunday or Saturday with another day of holiday”. That rule applies only for Sundays.
    Does productivity decline if we work fewer days?
    Not necessarily. Many Europeans are about as productive as the Americans but work fewer days in a year.
    The point is that it is often about getting a lot accomplished in the hours that we actually work (productivity defined), and orienting productive energy towards appropriate goals.
    It’s also about being enabled to get plenty done in a given set of hour, with the right tools and environment and with time off to replenish our bodies and minds to regain the capacity to work well again.
    It is about being driven internally to work because we are happy doing what we do (a job we like, a job with avenues to excel, flexible hours or the choice to work part-time).
    If Malaysians work long hours but don’t get as much done as the Europeans or other Asians do, that cannot be blamed on having short working hours or minimum wages.
    It would have more to do with attitude problems that must be changed. These include a sense of entitlement and a tendency amongst some towards laziness. This is partly politically induced.
    There is also the institutional disincentive acting against the impulse to work hard in workplaces where the norm is for everyone to take it easy.
    A lack of rest and socialising opportunities outside work could also be contributing to the inclination to slack off during work hours. 
    It may in cases be better to have fewer working hours and days and be stimulated to pack in solid work when we do actually work.
    With minimum wages, must workers increase productivity? Will others also ask for pay rises?
    Minimum wages are not about lavishing workers with free pay rises and perks; that’s the exclusive domain of board of directors.
    Minimum wages are about accepting that we live in a humane society where workers should be able to fulfill the basic human needs for subsistence and reproduce their capacity to do productive work.
    These basic human needs must be carefully defined and should inform the policy process of setting minimum wage levels.
    Setting appropriate work hours is also important because money does not buy everything, and certainly not the best things in life like health, relationships, social bonds and moments communing with nature.
    Those who reject minimum wages tend to overstate the importance of business for business’s sake, believing that ‘what’s good for business is good for the country’. For them, nothing should stand the way of the compulsion to make high profits (but high wages on the other hand are considered bad).
    They argue that this is as a vital freedom or even a necessity, regardless of the consequences on society.
    They do not comprehend that private enterprise was originally envisioned as a means to achieving desirable public ends.
    They forget that many of the poorest workers for whom a minimum wage would apply already work hard, and work more than for what they get paid (and would be glad to work and work harder still if they knew they would get paid enough to feed their families).
    Minimum wages apply only to those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder.
    Setting minimum wages does not mean that engineers, lawyers and other professionals will start to clamour for a raise.
    These other grades of employees mostly earn enough to fulfill basic needs that are obtainable with money.
    Will rising production costs make firms less competitive?
    A firm survives and thrives so long as it can continue to produce, sell and earn a profit. Firms do not close if production costs go up, unless net profits fall to zero or less. Firms can make plenty of profit and remain competitive with increased production costs if revenues are large enough and they are efficient.
    The issue boils down to a trade-off between what the capitalist wants to retain for himself as profits and what shall go to the workers as wages.
    Suppose a thoughtful business owner decides to take in a pure yearly profit of RM13 million instead of RM15 million, keeping the sales prices of his goods constant (i.e., no mark-up and inflation). He allocates the forgone RM2 million for minimum wage increases (a raise of RM 300 per month for each of his 500 workers).
    It is hard to imagine how his business would go bust or become less competitive simply by doing the above.
    In reality, workers are in an unequal position in bargaining power; employers and business owners are almost always in a dominant position in determining wages.
    Unlike our hypothetical business owner above, the actual businessman tends not to easily or fairly share the returns of the business.
    Poor and desperate workers are under greater pressure to accept whatever scrap of a wage a businessman throws at them. The businessman can afford to do so; for he is not equally desperate, and has more resources and options to fall back on.
    Setting a minimum wage floor would help level the playing field.
    Minimum wage rules however should not be taken as a substitute for wage bargaining.
    Unions can and should be able to increase the wages of the lowest paid workers above the minimum wage.
    Final comments
    An appropriate needs-based minimum wage that is periodically adjusted, apart from being a guide for fair remuneration, could serve to motivate workers.
    Locals who previously did not take up a low-paying job might take it up given an adequate minimum wage, relieving worker shortages in certain industries.
    It could mean we do not need to bring in as many foreign workers into the construction and plantation industries and reduce the associated social costs that fall on society and government.
    But the government must enact policies that ensure that local workers are hired; a minimum wage does not guarantee that employers will hire them; businesses could continue to hire foreigners even under a minimum wage policy.
    The government could impose a moratorium on the influx of foreign workers, or require that a certain percentage of workers in certain industries must consist of locals. The government could help provide training schemes for interested locals who might want to work in construction.
    Like the minimum wage, legislating reasonable work-hour rules for employees in the private sector would contribute to a healthy work-life balance that could enhance productivity.
    Productivity gains could be obtained by setting and enforcing appropriate work performance standards within the framework of minimum wages and shorter work hours.
    Clearly, we do not need to engage in the race-to-the-bottom model of economic development.
    Alternatives exist that are worth exploring [for example, on] — cpiasia.net [and of course, Timesizing.com].
    This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

  2. Public chimes in on BOE budget shortfall, By Michael Prochaska, (5/03 late pickup) MorganCountyCitizen.com
    MORGAN COUNTY, Ky., USA - The Morgan County Board of Education (BOE) was both transparent concerning its projected $4.8 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2013 and open to advice at its April 23 district two meeting at Centennial Baptist Church in Rutledge.
    “Things aren’t going to get better if we wait one more year to make adjustments,” Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett said. “We have to face the fact that this is the type of situation that we are going to see ourselves in.”
    Bennett outlined several proposed reductions that could save a total of $1.5 million. First, he said, the board could continue an existing measure of staff attrition, which leaves retiring or resigning staff positions vacant. Another option is to reduce funding for instructional materials and technology by about 10 percent or up to 20 percent if necessary. And although layoffs are not on the table, Bennett said it might be the time to reduce the work calendar for teachers and administrators by 10 days. Bennett said that doing so could not technically be called “furlough days,” because furloughs affect teachers’ retirement but that many school systems already have 10 furlough days in place.
    Last week, the board voted unanimously to eliminate the payroll salary step that credits teachers who've taught for 25-plus years. The removal of the salary step is projected to save the school system more than $9,000 in FY13 and almost $102,000 by FY2023, according to the Morgan County Citizen.
    Several members of the public inquired about reducing the number of days in the student calendar, as opposed to the teacher calendar. Bennett said a reduction in student days would impact the school’s clerical staff, bus drivers and cafeteria workers, and the possibility of increasing the number of hours Mon-Thurs for a four-day school week would be hard on working parents who don’t want their children home alone on Fridays.
    But attrition ultimately affects class size, Bennett said, and “the county has to decide where is that tipping point.”
    Dan Mathews, a father of two children enrolled in Morgan County Primary School, said a small class size (right now averaging between 20 and 25 students, according to Bennett), speaks to the quality of education the student receive.
    “I don’t have the data on it, but I think a smaller class is probably better up to a certain point, especially in areas such as special education and primary school,” he said.
    Mathews, Director of Camping Services at Camp Twin Lakes, also asked if the school system could look for money from non-profits and grants.
    While some funding is provided by philanthropic groups and donors, Bennett said grants are scarce for schools with high test scores and whose student population comes from median income families. “An underperformance school system is eligible for many more funds than a high performing school system,” he said.
    A lot of funding, Bennett said, comes with strings attached, like an Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST), which can only be used for capital outlet like building and infrastructure. “We can’t use it for salaries; we can’t use it for instructional materials. I wish we could…but the state by law doesn’t allow us to do so,” he said.
    Of the projected $8 million in reserves, $6 million is needed to meet payroll from August through November because property tax revenue can’t be utilized until later in the school year, Bennett said.
    “The problem with the reserves is that it postpones what we have to do ultimately anyway,” Bennett said. “It’s like dipping into your savings account and not adjusting anything in your spending.”
    Another $2 million from the general fund was being saved in anticipation for building a new school, originally discussed for Rutledge. With the announcement of Baxter International, Bennett said, it’s unclear whether there would be a renewed interest in a new school based on potential growth.

5/04/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. US work hours rise as productivity drops in Q1, by Lucia Mutikani, (5/03 late pickup) Reuters via Employee Benefit News
    [Here's another reason for shorter hours: longer hours = more tiredness & boredom = higher unemployment = weaker markets = less incentive to invest...]
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Nonfarm productivity fell in the first quarter as companies hired more workers to maintain output [so hiring is bad according to the simplistic never-mind-whether-it's-marketable-or-not productivity counters], but a moderate rise in wages suggested little pressure on company profits [or executive "compensation"] and inflation.
    Productivity slipped at a 0.5% annual rate, the Department of Labor reported on Thursday, after rising at an upwardly revised 1.2% rate in the last three months of 2011.
    The decline in productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, was in line with expectations. Fourth-quarter productivity had been previously reported to have increased at a 0.9% rate. The fall in productivity was the first since the second quarter of 2011 and the biggest decline since the first quarter of that year.
    Productivity grew rapidly as the economy emerged from the 2007-09 recession, peaking at an 8.3% growth rate in the second quarter of 2009. The gains were driven by companies' cutting costs, particularly for labor.
    But businesses are finding it hard to squeeze more output from the existing pool of labor. In the first quarter, employers added about 635,000 new jobs to their payrolls, even though the economy grew at an anemic 2.2% annual rate.
    Some Federal Reserve officials, including Chairman Ben Bernanke believe companies drastically cut their workforces and are now seeking an alignment with the expected demand for their products.
    The productivity report showed unit labor costs grew at 2% rate in the first quarter after increasing at a 2.7% pace in the fourth quarter.
    However, the slump in productivity and the rise in labor costs are unlikely to pressure corporate profits given that businesses have very strong balance sheets. American companies are sitting on an estimated $2 trillion cash pile.
    Wage inflation remains benign amid an 8.2% unemployment rate. In the first quarter, hours of all workers increased at a 3.2% rate after rising at a 2.4% rate in the October to November period.
    The increase in hours last quarter was the largest since the second quarter of 2010.
    Growth in compensation per hour, when adjusted for inflation, fell at a 0.9% rate after rising 2.6% in the fourth quarter.
    (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)...
    1 Comment Posted by: Karen B | May 3, 2012 2:51 PM
    [And here's another updated argument against long hours -]
    Anyone who works where employees are allowed to be on cell phones and such technology should expect production to decline. All over my building people are answering their own cell phones and twittering and playing on PCs. Managers seem cautious about putting a stop to it but I expect such technology is eating away at actual work production and the quality of office work.

  2. Five-day work week notified, (5/03 late pickup) DAWN.com
    [Presumably down from five&ahalf (or six?).]
    KARACHI, Sindh, Pakistan - The Sindh government has decided to observe a five-day working week with immediate effect, says a notification issued by Chief Secretary Raja Muhammad Abbas on Thursday.
    “In pursuance of the decision taken by the prime minister during the energy conference held at Lahore [Punjab Province], the government of Sindh [Province], with the approval of the competent authority, has declared a five-day working week, which will be observed with immediate effect,” read the notification.
    The office timings in all government offices, autonomous, semi-autonomous bodies, corporations and local councils under the administrative control of the government of Sindh would be observed from Monday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm. There will be a 30-minute break for prayers/lunch from 1pm to 1.30pm.
    On Fridays, the office timings will be from 9am to 5pm with a 90-minute break from 1pm to 2.30pm for prayers/lunch while Saturdays and Sundays would be observed as holidays.

  3. Historic sites, parks to lose interpreters, By: Mia Rabson mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca, WinnipegFreePress.com
    [Bush-brainwashed, religious fundamentalist, democracy-sabotaging, power-usurper Harper is still getting tutored by the economy-poisoners of the armageddon-accelerating babyBush regime - cut jobs, bash the ecosystem, but still expect Growth (alias UPsizing) from DOWNsizing, and still expect sustainability from ignoring history and neglecting nature. So, shorter hours but definitely not the best way -]
    OTTAWA, Canada -- Visitors to national parks and historic sites will find shorter hours and fewer services available in the spring and fall as the federal government cuts $29 million from the Parks Canada budget over the next three years.
    In Manitoba [province, capital Winnipeg], it means outside of July and August, visitor-centre hours at parks and historic sites will be cut or eliminated except on weekends. Lower Fort Garry, for example, will not have any interpreters available on weekdays, starting in September,
    The characters who bring the site to life -- the blacksmiths and fur traders and wool spinners -- will only be on hand on weekends.
    Also in September, Manitoba's most popular national park, Riding Mountain, will cut back visitor-centre hours to five days a week (Thursday to Monday) from seven days.
    York Factory Historic Site, south of Churchill, will only be open for special-event bookings. The site is remote, accessible only by water or air, and doesn't get many visitors outside of special bookings, said Bill Fisher, a spokesman for Parks Canada.
    Fisher said 26 of the 70 Parks Canada jobs in Winnipeg are being eliminated. Many of them are in a field office that provides technical and scientific expertise. "It will take longer for some work to get done," he said.
    Another 18 jobs will disappear in other parts of the province. There are about 200 Parks Canada employees in Manitoba, including seasonal workers.
    "We tried to address the reductions the government asked for by cutting positions and functions where it will have the least impact on visitors," said Fisher.
    Fisher said the agency is cutting back on services at slower times. The summer months, when visitors are at their peak, will remain fairly stable, but there will be changes to hours and services in most parks and historic sites in less busy months, he said.
    "We're not closing any of our parks or sites," he said.
    Information about the two national parks and nine national historic sites in Manitoba will be posted on the Parks Canada website.
    Fisher said the changes won't begin until the fall because there are agreements for tours with tourism operators and school groups.
    He said hours for the spring may be more flexible, depending on need. School groups, for example, would only tour Lower Fort Garry on weekdays, so it might be necessary and possible to have interpreters available one or two days during the week as well in the spring.
    The cuts to Parks Canada are part of a government-wide, $5.2-billion, cost-cutting exercise which will see more than 19,000 jobs eliminated.

5/03/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. May Day: From the Haymarket Massacre to the Occupy Movement, by Lawrence Wittner, HuffingtonPost.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y. - Many people might be surprised to learn that the May Day celebrations that occurred around the world in 2012 were born more than a century ago out of a struggle by American workers for the eight-hour day.
    The late 19th century was a particularly hard and brutal time for working people in the United States. The rise of giant corporations fostered accelerated exploitation of workers in the interests of profit by the wealthy few. In the new, giant factories, it was common for workers to labor from 60 to 80 hours a week. Many workers had a six-day workweek, but a seven-day workweek was the standard for steel mills, oil refineries, paper mills, and other highly mechanized plants. The industrial accident and death rate soared to new heights -- not only thanks to new, dangerous machines and the use of child labor, but because of worker exhaustion. In 1881 alone, an estimated 30,000 American railway workers were killed or injured on the job. 
    Although popular celebrations on May 1 can be traced back to pagan times, they became connected to the lives of workers as a result of these lengthy, exhausting workdays and workweeks. In the United States, a campaign to limit the workday to eight hours picked up steam in the 1880s, thanks to its backing by the Knights of Labor (a rapidly-growing labor federation), small craft unions, and leftwing supporters of the working class. Among working people, a popular slogan swept across the country: "Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will." Meanwhile, the corporate titans of the era closed ranks against the eight-hour day movement, with the New York Times condemning it as "un-American."
    Gradually, plans took shape for a day of worker protests demanding the eight-hour day. And on May 1, 1886, protests erupted all across the United States, with some 340,000 workers taking part. An estimated 190,000 went out on strike. In Chicago, a center of the eight-hour day agitation, some 80,000 workers walked off the job, with most of them joining a vast parade through the city streets. At a concluding rally, the marchers were regaled with speeches condemning the exploitation of workers by big business.
    Although things passed peacefully enough during the great demonstration in Chicago, soon after that the local police launched an assault on union members by gunning down locked-out workers at the nearby McCormick Harvester Plant. When an explosion of unknown origins went off at a subsequent protest rally at the Haymarket, a large open square in the city, police also opened fire on that worker gathering, killing some and wounding hundreds of others in what became known as the Haymarket Massacre. Radical labor agitators were arrested and blamed for the bloodshed, although most of them were not present at the rally. Four of them were executed.
    Nevertheless, the march of labor was unstoppable.
    [No, it was very stoppable. It lost battle after battle but somehow won the war for shorter hours. But it took three times as long: 25 years (1840-1865) to go from the 12-hour day to the 10-hour day. 75 years (1865-1940) to go from the 10-hour day to five 8-hour days = the 40-hour week. At this rate it will take us till 2025 to get the 6-hour day, 30-hour workweek, despite having passed it through the US Senate by 53 to 30 on April 6, 1933 - and seeing FDR sandbag it in the House.]
    Although the Knights of Labor crumbled rapidly during the time of hysteria and repression that followed the Haymarket Massacre, the new American Federation of Labor vowed to continue the eight-hour day movement, and set May 1, 1890 as a day for further action. Joining the call for May Day protests, the International Socialist Workers Congress, in 1890, helped organize May 1 parades, meetings, and rallies throughout Europe in support of the struggles of American workers. Starting in 1891, May Day demonstrations became annual events in the United States and many other countries.
    Decades later, Communist governments, eager to appear as champions of the working class, organized official May Day celebrations in their countries, and this, in turn, led to a falling off in support for May Day in non-Communist nations. In 1958, Congress -- anxious to undermine the significance of May Day as a time of worker protest -- declared May 1 to be Loyalty Day, which thereby became an official U.S. holiday. Nonetheless, the tradition of May Day as an occasion for the display of workers' power continued in many lands and, in the post-Cold War years, began to revive in the United States. It received a major boost on May 1, 2006, when mostly Latino immigrant groups in the United States launched massive protests and strikes against anti-immigrant legislation. And, on May 1, 2012, that tradition of protest against exploitation of workers was drawn upon by the Occupy movement, which held May Day demonstrations and rallies -- often with a significant union presence -- in numerous cities and towns across the United States.
    Of course, the labor movement's long and difficult campaign for the eight-hour day was won in 1938, when the Roosevelt administration -- as part of its New Deal program -- shepherded the Fair Labor Standards Act through Congress. This legislation made the 40-hour workweek the norm and established a minimum wage for American workers.
    But, in recent decades, the drive of the wealthy to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of society has grown considerably more intense, and certainly more flagrant. Popular anger has grown over Wall Street impunity, huge tax breaks for the rich, unlimited spending in election campaigns, corporate destruction of the environment, and the widening gap between the falling wages of workers and the rising income of corporate executives. Therefore, it seems likely that the struggle for economic justice will heighten in coming years, with May Day continuing to serve as a potent symbol of worker discontent.
    Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual (University of Tennessee Press).

  2. 80th May Day march for union stalwart, by Michelle Hoctor, (5/04 over dateline) IllawarraMercury.com.au
    WOLLONGONG, N.S.W., Australia - Fred Moore is a veteran union fighter from way back but there was one battle from which he back-pedalled with lightning speed.
    Having won the fight for a 35-hour week in 1970 after decades of trying, Mr Moore and his union comrades faced a new challenge which would not be overcome - the women’s liberation movement.
    The winds of change blew in with the annual May Day march when formidable opposition arose from female union members over the May Day Queen tradition.
    ‘‘The feminist movement had arrived and we had some very militant women ... They pulled me to one side and said, ‘Now listen, Fred, you’re the president [of the May Day Committee], it’s up to you. But if you persist in this, you’ll go down with it’,’’ he said. 
    ‘‘I backed off pretty quickly. With them women, I was always pretty wise.’’
    Tomorrow’s Wollongong May Day march will be significant for Mr Moore, marking his 80th consecutive year at the event.
    His first march was at the age of 10 at Lithgow with his coal-mining father Fred snr and uncle Bill in 1932.
    His most compelling memory was attendance of ‘‘Basher Gang’’ members, hired by fascist movement The New Guard to curb union activity and notorious for using force by any means.
    Mr Moore was a coalminer from the age of 14, and with his formative years shaped by the Great Depression, the fight for workers’ rights became part of his psyche.
    It ensured that he attended every annual march, first in Lithgow, then Sydney and finally the Illawarra, where he has been a fixture for the past 60 years, often leading his comrades on behalf of the Miners’ Federation.
    A father of five daughters, he included his girls in the annual event, alongside his late wife, May.
    Mr Moore, who turns 90 in September, said the Wollongong events were once occasions to remember.
    ‘’’Every miner would have their lodge - Coalcliff Lodge, Bulli, Mt Keira [Kemira] - and they would bring their beautiful banners which they carried with great pride [as] hundreds of people lined the streets,’’ he said.
    The heyday has passed, with the number of coalminers and steelworkers which once swelled the ranks now not so great, but he said it was important to maintain the tradition.
    ‘‘People today don’t realise that these things were never given benevolently - they had to be won. It’s important to continue the march to protect conditions won and the way of life.’’
    Tomorrow’s march will assemble at Lowden Square at 10am and proceed to Crown St Mall.

  3. Court Upholds Use of Fluctuating Work Week Method in Connecticut, by Pullman & Comley, Connecticut Employment Law Blog via JD Supra (press release) via jdsupra.com
    [This story tells where Walter Reuther may have got the idea for "fluctuating adjustment of the workweek against unemployment" that he mentioned at the UAW Convention in Atlantic City in 1964.]
    My colleague, Mick Lavelle, has this post on a topic that few know about and even fewer understand: The Fluctuating Work Week. For more background on the subject, I’ve talked about it in earlier posts here and here.
    HARTFORD, Conn. - Interpretation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act is aided[??] by hundreds of pages of regulations and U.S. Department of Labor advisory opinions. Connecticut’s wage-hour statutes, which cover the same ground, have far fewer interpretive aids.
    But since states can regulate payment of wages, work hours and overtime practices more strictly than the federal law
    [- this principle is kept under Timesizing, and generalized; for example, cities can be stricter (eg: shorter fulltime workweek) than states but not laxer (eg: longer workweek), states can be stricter than federal but not laxer -]
    (which is why many states, including Connecticut, have a higher minimum wage),
    [- under Timesizing, minimum wage is abolished as unnecessary and productive of a dysfunctional gap at the bottom of the wage ladder against new entrants to the job market; in jurisdictions where resistance to minimum-wage abolition is encountered, a target wage level can be substituted for a target employment level in directing the fluctuation (mostly downward) of the workweek and consequently "grip" of the overtime-to-jobs conversion -]
    it is often a question as to whether Connecticut allows a wage payment practice that is clearly acceptable under the FLSA. 
    One such practice is the payment of overtime calculated on a “fluctuating work week”.
    The fluctuating work week method has been allowed under federal law since the 1940’s. A recent and well-reasoned Connecticut Superior Court decision, *Roach v. Moran Foods, issued on March 16, 2012, now seems to establish that Connecticut employees can use the fluctuating work week and be in compliance with Connecticut law
    . (You can view the complaint in the case *here.)
    [The hotlinked courtcase seems to refer to the fluctuating workweek method in common speech as "Chinese overtime," reminiscent of the phrase "Chinese firedrill," meaning when everyone jumps out of a car at a stoplight and changes seats. Colleague Kate thinks she must have learned it at Cornell in the late '60s.]
    The most important element in the fluctuating work week method is that an employee’s work hours genuinely fluctuate from week to week. The employee can be paid an equal amount each week (much like a salary), and his hourly rate is determined by dividing the pay amount by the number of hours actually worked in any week. The employee is paid overtime (that is, the extra half-time) for all hours in excess of 40.
    Let’s say an employee is paid $800 per week. Under the usual method, this would be $20 an hour for a 40-hour week. It’s a good deal for the employee in weeks in which fewer than 40 hours are worked; in a 20-hour week, he gets the equivalent of $40 per hour. But in a 50-hour week, the regular rate is only $16 per hour. Since the $800 covers all hours at the regular rate, the employee is owed half-time, $8 per hour, for the extra 10 hours over 40, or $80. Without the fluctuating work week method, his overtime would be $300.
    There is an important caveat – the regular rate under the fluctuating work week can’t be below the minimum wage. When I started drafting this post, I chose $400 as the weekly pay, but my 50-hour example resulted in a regular rate of $8, and the minimum wage is $8.25. So I inflated my example to $800 per week.
    One other important caveat is that the fluctuating work week method must be established in a clear agreement between the employer and the employee. This should be in writing and signed by the employee.
    The fluctuating work week may not be for every employers, but in the right situation, it can be a very useful way of paying employees while controlling costs.
    Published In: Administrative Law Updates, Labor & Employment Law Updates
    DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

5/02/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. May we have hope? letter from Cynthia Odierna of Naples FL, Naples Daily News via naplesnews.com
    NAPLES, Fla. - "Mayday," as a distress signal at sea, summons help for vessels too far offshore to communicate on their own behalf and derives from the French venez m'aider, "come help me."
    It's clear that the country is up the creek without a paddle, fraught with hardship aimed at the less fortunate. Unprecedented is bounty for the wealthy, banks and corporations, while "economic downturn'' excuses increased class sizes, hiring freezes, cut hours and benefits — despite record profits and proof of increased worker productivity.
    The 99 Percent Movement looks to no particular entity to rescue America and expects nobody to communicate on our behalf.
    We reclaim May Day as our holiday. Using unwavering voices, we realize the fact that change starts in the streets — from ending slavery, women's suffrage, civil rights and those still being fought for like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender equality, immigrants' rights, etc.
    How fitting that joyous pagan festivity, morphed into (often life-threatening) international actions of students' and workers' solidarity, continues as the baton has been passed on to the Occupy movement.
    Despite a consistent, organized effort at marginalizing, intimidating and silencing those who continue to talk truth to power, Occupy Naples celebrates our zeal for equitable, positive change as we appreciate workers worldwide.
    Let's take the 1 percent lemons and make 99 percent lemonade!

  2. Local offices will feel impact of judicial furloughs, by Marla Toncray marla.toncray@lee.net, Ledger Independent via maysville-online.com
    FRANKFORT, Ky. - Due to budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year, courthouses across the state will be closed for business and employees furloughed in an effort to save money.
    The furloughs will affect nearly 20 people in Mason County, with nine of those being in the Circuit Clerk's Office, according to Kirk Tolle, Mason County circuit clerk. Tolle said the three furlough days, one each in August, September and October are just the first days announced, with more anticipated for the second half of the fiscal year, which runs July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013. The furloughs also affect the offices of District Court Judge Todd Walton, Circuit Court Judge Stockton Wood; court designated workers, drug court employees and pretrial offices.
    The furloughs affect 2,600 Court of Justice employees across the state, Tolle said.
    According to an email sent to Court of Justice employees from Chief Justice John D. Minton, with final passage of House Bill 269, the Kentucky General Assembly reduced the total funds available to the Judicial Branch by $25.2 million for fiscal year 2013. In his email, Minton said this includes a permanent reduction to the annual base operating budget of $16.2 million and a one-time transfer of $9 million in payroll to the state's general fund by June 30, 2012. The legislature mandated that this amount for the June 30 state payroll be moved to July 2 to shift that expense to the next fiscal year.
    A competitive wage base, new case management system and salary increments were also not approved for Judicial Branch employees by legislators, according to Minton's statement.
    The following are details of the budget reduction plan developed with Administrative Office of Courts Director Laurie Dudgeon and Budget Director Carole Henderson and approved by the justices of the Supreme Court. The following take effect July 1, 2012 unless otherwise noted.
    Reductions: close the Kentucky court system statewide to furlough all KCOJ employees for three days in 2012 - Aug. 6, Sept. 4 and Oct. 15; implement hiring restrictions requiring a new process to fill vacancies; convert 100-hour part-time employees with benefits to 80-hour part-time employees without benefits on June 30, 2013; reduce and cap the number of Drug Court participants; reduce operating expenditures by $1.6 million; eliminate the Kentucky High School Mock Trial Tournament program.
    Charges for Criminal Record reports will also increase: Kentucky schools will be charged $10 for criminal record reports they currently receive for free and increase the cost of criminal record reports for all other customers from $15 to $20.

5/01/2012 – News bits about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still an afterthought when any economy that's still around in 50 years will have long made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Secondary Sources: Moral Case for Capitalism, Job Sharing, Taxmageddon Chart - A roundup of economic news from around the Web, By Phil Izzo, Wall Street Journal (blog) via blogs.wsj.com
    [Job sharing is splitting a 40-hr/wk job. Work sharing is much more flexible.]
    NEW YORK, N.Y... – [Work] Sharing: Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers note the benefit of work-sharing programs.
    “If you cut 10 percent of your workers, they qualify for unemployment insurance, but if you keep all your workers and cut their hours by 10 percent, there’s no parallel insurance. By treating the two actions differently, the government tilts the playing field toward cutting people rather than hours.
    A little-noticed provision in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in February, aims to change the situation.
    The idea, known as work sharing, is that you can get partial benefits when your company cuts part of your job. Because the prorated compensation will make workers less reluctant to accept shorter hours, economists reason that it is likely to shift the incentive from firing people to cutting hours.
    It’s one of those rare win-win reforms. For workers, it means avoiding the despair of joblessness. For employers, it means that when weak demand next hits, it will be easier to hang on to the investments they have made in finding, hiring and training the right people.” ...
    [Turns out this is just a Wall Street Journal blog excerpt from a longer article by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers - and that longer article showed up last night and here it is -]

  2. [Work] Sharing Would Ease the Pain of Recessions, by Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, Bloomberg.com
    PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - No one likes to fire people, and no one likes to be fired. So it’s odd and unfortunate that U.S. employers do it much more than they need to.
    Even when business is slack, there’s an alternative to cutting jobs: Companies could reduce hours, spreading the pain across all their employees. Too often they don’t, because an anomaly in the country’s arcane unemployment-insurance system supports firing people.
    Here’s the problem: If you cut 10 percent of your workers, they qualify for unemployment insurance, but if you keep all your workers and cut their hours by 10 percent, there’s no parallel insurance. By treating the two actions differently, the government tilts the playing field toward cutting people rather than hours.
    A little-noticed provision in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in February, aims to change the situation. The idea, known as work sharing, is that you can get partial benefits when your company cuts part of your job. Because the prorated compensation will make workers less reluctant to accept shorter hours, economists reason that it is likely to shift the incentive from firing people to cutting hours.
    It’s one of those rare win-win reforms. For workers, it means avoiding the despair of joblessness. For employers, it means that when weak demand next hits, it will be easier to hang on to the investments they have made in finding, hiring and training the right people.
    Permanent Impairment
    Research has shown that job losses during a recession can permanently impair people’s prospects as skills atrophy and motivation wanes, hurting them and also causing losses for businesses and the broader economy. Some studies show that the future annual earnings of the unemployed fall by thousands of dollars, and that the effect persists for decades. Staying in the workforce, even with reduced hours, mitigates these long- term losses.
    We don’t have to wait for the next recession to reap the benefits. Right now, businesses are trying to figure out if demand is likely to stay strong enough for long enough to justify paying the upfront costs of hiring. Because this new policy makes it more likely that they can keep these workers around even if the economy falters, the initial investment is more likely to meet a cost-benefit test.
    The policy can boost recoveries, too. If employers reduce hours instead of headcount during recessions, they can easily increase hours again when demand returns, avoiding the upfront costs and complications of hiring new workers.
    The experience of Germany offers good evidence that work sharing yields a more resilient workforce. During the Great Recession, the country experienced a similar decline in output as the U.S. Yet unemployment rose by only about half a percentage point, and quickly snapped back, thanks in large part to work-sharing programs [called Short Work or in German, Kurz-arbeit].
    In the U.S., the jobless rate increased by more than five percentage points and has yet to recover. The full benefits of the German [Kurzarbeit] program may not transfer easily to the U.S., where unions and collective bargaining are less dominant.
    A more relevant example might be Canada, where a work-sharing program helped limit the recessionary increase in unemployment to about 2.5 percentage points. The country has since reversed about half of that loss. [So, Germany, gung-ho federal worksharing, unemployment rose 0.5% and recovered 0.5% = completely.
    Canada, federal worksharing, unemployment rose 2.5% and recovered 1.25% = half.
    USA, state system in only 17 states during the downturn, now up to 25 states, unemployment rose 5.0% and recovered 0.0% = not at all.
    Sadly, the U.S.’s federal-state hybrid system has struggled to get work sharing off the ground. Each state needs to enact legislation authorizing the reform. Perhaps more importantly, they must spend money to administer the program and teach businesses that cutting hours is now a better option. So far, few have succeeded.
    The legislation passed in February attempts to kick-start the process by authorizing a temporary federal program and providing states with seed money. In the longer run, though, work sharing can succeed only if state governments are committed to it.
    The example of Rhode Island demonstrates that it can be done. The state administers a work-sharing program that, during the depths of the recession, meant that more than 15 percent of people receiving unemployment compensation had kept a foot in the workforce. Although the state’s jobless rate remains high, it almost certainly would have been worse without the program.
    The Great Recession has reminded us how painful unemployment can be. It doesn’t have to be quite so bad. Shared sacrifice would mean less sacrifice.

    (Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, both professors at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, are Bloomberg View columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.)
    To contact the writers of this article: Betsey Stevenson at betseys@wharton.upenn.edu
    Justin Wolfers at jwolfers@wharton.upenn.edu
    To contact the editor responsible for this article: Mark Whitehouse at mwhitehouse1@bloomberg.net

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