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Timesizing News, January 2015
[Commentary] ©2015 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Harvard Sq PO Box 117, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080


1/31/2015 – News & opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Must you be a ‘work martyr’ to change the world? by Kate Aronoff, WagingNonviolence.org
    Occupy Wall Street activists [24/7!] at Zuccotti Park in September 2011. (photo caption)
    PHILADELPHIA, Pa., USA - An article at CNBC this week [http://www.cnbc.com/id/102363524] described the phenomenon of “work martyrs,” employees who routinely work more than 50 hours a week, many without overtime pay. One Gallup poll found that four in 10 Americans work more than 50 hours a week, and that the national average work week is an astounding 47 hours. Chronically connected to email on their phones and laptops, 35 percent of workers, according to a Pew Survey, find their working days extended unwittingly. What’s more, researchers at Stanford University have found that few benefit from chronic overwork, even bosses: “Employee output falls sharply after a 50 hour work week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours — so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours.” Sadly, the phenomena of “work martyrdom” and its consequences don’t end in traditional office settings.
    There’s a tragic irony in the willingness of progressive organizers to support hard-fought labor reforms like paid sick days and shorter work weeks while pulling all-nighters — either unpaid or underpaid — for a particular cause or organization, no matter how just [or necessary for humanity's sustainability].
    [Not to mention someone who's "on" 24/7 to shorten the workweek!]
    In college, we played a game, often unconsciously, known as “misery poker” — a competition to, masochistically, determine who had the most tests to study for, papers to write, problem sets to turn in, etc. Similar dynamics play out in organizing spaces, complaining about how many hours of conference calls you’ve stacked up in a day, running between meetings or plugging hours into a planning document — in some ways as an attempt to prove to fellow organizers one’s unrelenting commitment to the cause, to “doing the work.” It’s no one’s fault, per say, just an unfortunate condition of organizing within an economic system that values a certain image of productivity that’s premised on the appearance of “hard work.”
    The same logic drives tech start-ups in Silicon Valley and first-year Wall Street bankers to clock-in 80- and 90-hour weeks. Unsurprisingly, it seeps into our organizational cultures. The illusion, or even reality, of perpetual work isn’t only unhealthy, it also creates massive barriers to entry for all but a committed few. Google and JP Morgan recruit with the promise of six figure salaries that make people willing to sacrifice their sleep and personal lives. Having a good deal fewer figures — if any — to offer, the justification for “work martyrdom” becomes even more faint for those trying to build a mass movement. What we can offer, though, is a sense of community, purpose and belonging.
    In the “Purpose Driven Church,” evangelist Rick Warren explains how he built a 20,000-person mega church, Saddleback, essentially from scratch. Warren’s motivation in building the church was to spread the Gospel to as many people as possible, whether long-devout Christians or secular newcomers. He outlines the questions parishioners ask themselves when deciding whether to commit: Will they make friends? Are they actually needed? What is the benefit in joining to them? What is expected or required of them if they join? Most people, Warren argues, are looking to meet basic human needs, to feel a sense of belonging and usefulness. As people with busy lives (full time jobs, maybe kids) they also want clear expectations for what sort of time commitment “joining” will entail. If what people see in the movement is a group of caffeine-fueled workaholics chronically hunched over their laptops, what image does that project to newcomers? It’s certainly not a friend group that’s easy to join, or a commitment that fits neatly within a 40 — or 47 hour — work week.
    Granted, there are massive differences between building a mega church, working tirelessly to produce profit for any given corporation, and attempting to bring about a popular movement for progressive societal transformation. The “get shit done” mentality isn’t an entirely worthless one. The revolution will, unfortunately, be underfunded and very likely require more than a few sleepless nights, not to mention long work weeks. That’s also not to say we should be looking for ways to burn people out before the age of 40.
    While we’re not yet able to — as Marx dreamed in “The Germany Ideology” — “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening,” and “criticize after dinner,” we can pull ourselves away from our email and out of a cycle of around-the-clock work. An experienced organizer I know once told me, “I only work 40 hours a week because I know too many [former organizers turned] organic farmers.” Certainly, we need organic farmers. But we also need organizers who can sustain themselves for the long haul.
    Kate Aronoff is an organizer and freelance journalist based in Philadelphia, PA. While in school, she worked extensively with the fossil fuel divestment movement on the local and national level, co-founding Swarthmore Mountain Justice and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network (DSN). She is currently working to build a student power network across Pennsylvania. Follow her on Twitter @katearonoff

  2. Tech Mahindra confident despite 20% profit drop, (1/30 late pickup) TheHinduBusinessLine.com
    MUMBAI, India - IT [info tech] solutions company Tech Mahindra has reported a 20 per cent fall in net profit for the third quarter ended December 31, 2014. This decline must be seen in the context of exceptional gains related to taxes and past provisions recorded in the comparable year ago period by the company.
    The company’s net profit in Q3 stood at Rs 805.3 crore as against Rs 1010 crore in the corresponding quarter a year ago.
    Revenue went up by 17.4 per cent to Rs 5751.7 crore (Rs 4898.5 crore)
    For the quarter ended December 31, 2014, Tech Mahindra had reported an exceptional gain of Rs 120 crore, representing a write back of the estimated excess provision for contingencies provided in an earlier year by erstwhile Satyam.
    Moreover, the company had recorded a tax writeback of Rs 226.6 crore in order to protect itself from various taxation disputes related to Satyam. The provision for taxation in December 2014 quarter was almost ten times higher to Rs 251.2 crore (Rs 26.4 crore). Mahindra Satyam merged with Tech Mahindra last year.
    On a year-on year basis, Tech Mahindra’s net profit went up by 12 per cent.
    The company management expects to sustain this momentum going forward. “The good news is that all major geographies did well in the quarter gone by. We are seeing strong traction in the US and Europe,” said CP Gurnani, Chief Executive Officer of the company.
    The third quarter is generally a weak quarter for software companies due to factors such as fewer working days, broad-based furloughs (a furlough is a temporary leave of some employees due to special needs of a company) across industries and lower project based spending by clients.
    [Better furloughs than firings, timesizing not downsizing!]
    All indications are that Q4 may be a better quarter for the Mumbai-based IT company.
    In line with the commentary from other frontline IT services firms, Tech Mahindra said that digital transformation will be a key theme for growth in calendar 2015.
    Taking cues from rivals Infosys and HCL Technologies, Tech Mahindra has decided to give one bonus share for every share held in the company. The company has also decided to split its shares in the ratio of 2:1. This means, after accounting for the bonus issue and stock split, an investor who holds one share of Tech Mahindra will not get three additional shares of Rs 5 face value
    Shares of Tech Mahindra were down by 0.83 per cent to close at Rs 2878.3 on the Bombay Stock Exchange today.


1/30/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. SC State seeking additional $14 million in 2015-16, by Seanna Adcox, (1/29 late pickup) AP via IslandPacket.com
    COLUMBIA, S.C., USA — Financially troubled South Carolina State University is seeking an additional $14 million, which includes $6 million to pay off a state loan lawmakers approved last spring.
    University President Thomas Elzey told a House budget-writing panel Wednesday the school currently owes $17.5 million. Its debts include $10 million in outstanding bills and the state loan the school is supposed to pay back this year but can't.
    Elzey also wants permission to furlough all university employees seven days within the next six months, saving $900,000. The furloughs, combined with program cuts, will create a balanced budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30, he said.
    [Better furloughs than firings, timesizing not downsizing!]
    He could not detail the cuts, and the budget would balance without factoring in the debt.
    "You can't forget those. They're still there," said Rep. Garry Smith, R-Simpsonville.
    Elzey reminded the panel he sought a $13 million grant last spring from the Budget and Control Board to pay long-overdue bills. Instead, the board chaired by Gov. Nikki Haley approved, at her recommendation, a loan to pay the oldest bills and keep the school afloat.
    "I knew it was a problem," said Elzey, who took the school's helm in 2013. "It just creates a hole for tomorrow."
    The state's only public historically black college is digging out of a hole created by years of declining enrollment, along with a drop in state funding and federal changes that made many students ineligible for grants. Despite the fall-off in revenue, the school continued to spend as if nothing changed, Elzey said, adding that it took him a while to uncover the problem's extent.
    Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, sought more information on the school's plans to return to solvency.
    "All the talk and fluff is great, but I'm interested in specifics about what the university's plans are to deal with the declining enrollment because that's where the money is," she said.
    Enrollment continues to decline, with about 3,000 students starting this semester, down 300 from last fall and 800 from fall 2012.
    Legislators understand the important role and proud history of the college, founded in Orangeburg in 1896, but "we're going to have to exercise some tough love," Cobb-Hunter said.
    The school's current debt includes $1.5 million received as a first payment under a separate bailout approved last month.
    Over Haley's objections, the financial oversight board agreed to dip into reserves to give SC State $12 million over three years. Elzey said he hopes to soon receive the remaining $4.5 million slated for this fiscal year. The three-year plan means some vendors will have to wait several years to get paid, he said.
    His presentation included a five-year, $50 million plan to stabilize the university and attract and keep students. The negative attention and probationary accreditation status due to the school's fiscal problems are causing students to go elsewhere, he said. Just 14 percent of freshmen are graduating from the school within four years, according to the presentation.
    "It's difficult to stay competitive if we're just standing still and paying our vendors," Elzey said. "This is the money we need to move forward."
    But he did not request that money from the state. Aside from the $6 million, he sought $750,000 to expand the school's nuclear engineering program, $5.1 million for a new hot water boiler system, $1.5 million for maintenance, and $340,000 to demolish two buildings.
    "The bottom line is we are worth it. South Carolina State is worth it," Elzey said.

  2. Premier: Expense Reductions Not Fully Reached, (1/29 late pickup) Bernews.com
    HAMILTON, Bermuda - Cost reduction options both the Unions and Government agree on included suspending the Ag Show for a year, putting a cap on financial assistance, consolidating schools and reducing the travel budget, Finance Minister Bob Richards said today.
    The Minister also said, “The Unions agreed to accept overtime that is normally paid at double time, at time and one half. They did not agree to any changes to overtime that is currently paid at time and one half.”
    [The unions, in order to avoid wage-depressing Bermudian labor surplus, should be pushing for OT-into-Jobs (converting chronic overtime into training and hiring) instead of overtime premiums.]
    Minister Richards was speaking at a press conference today [Jan 29], along with Premier Michael Dunkley, with the press conference being held in order to update the public on the ongoing negotiations with the Unions.
    “I thought it important this afternoon to provide an update to the public, particularly based on the announcement made by the members of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress [BTUC] late last night,” Premier Dunkley said.
    “But first I think it’s important to clarify some media reports emanating from last night. I want to stress that as it relates to Mr. Furbert’s comments that I was invited to last night’s press conference – the public should know that I never received an invitation to attend the press briefing – which in Government’s view was entirely premature.”
    The Premier added, “I think it is very, very important to stress that the required reductions in expenditure just have not been fully reached, contrary to the BTUC’s announcement last night.”
    ”The Ministry of Finance, and Cabinet Office, are verifying the numbers as we speak, but early indications are that the spending targets of Government have not been fully achieved at this point.
    “Thus, we maintain that we must consider all options,” continued the Premier. ”If the Unions cannot agree to a Furlough – and to be clear a furlough cannot be implemented without their agreement – then the Government would need to consider reductions in service levels and programmes.”
    [Furlough not firing, timesizing not downsizing!]
    Premier Michael Dunkley’s full statement follows below:
    Good afternoon,
    I thought it important this afternoon to provide an update to the public, particularly based on the announcement made by the members of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC) late last night.
    But first I think it’s important to clarify some media reports emanating from last night.
    I want to stress that as it relates to Mr. Furbert’s comments that I was invited to last night’s press conference – the public should know that I never received an invitation to attend the press briefing – which in Government’s view was entirely premature.
    I think it’s also critical to note that throughout the day yesterday, throughout the disagreements and the impasse, great strides were made by the Government team to ensure that we made progress in getting both parties back to the negotiating table. And I want to commend the ?efforts of all involved towards reaching this significant goal.
    Last evening, when I joined the members of the BTUC on the Cabinet steps to announce that the Government and the union had agreed to meet to consider additional cost reductions – which included a number of options identified by the Cabinet – I also made the very critical point, that the Government and the BTUC agreed that continuing the furlough day would be considered as a last resort.
    Last night’s negotiations were at an incredibly delicate stage and it was Government’s view that any cost reduction considerations be reviewed and vetted by the Cabinet before any announcement was shared with the public.
    I think it is very, very important to stress that the required reductions in expenditure just have not been fully reached, contrary to the BTUC’s announcement last night.
    The Ministry of Finance and Cabinet Office are verifying the numbers as we speak, but early indications are that the spending targets of Government have not been fully achieved at this point.
    Thus, we maintain that we must consider all options.
    If the Unions cannot agree to a Furlough – and to be clear a furlough cannot be implemented without their agreement – then the Government would need to consider reductions in service levels and programmes.
    That said, it is Government’s intent to move forward with producing a National Budget for 2015/16.
    In closing, the decisions that Government makes will affect all sectors of the community. But the Government’s fiscal and economic challenges require that very tough and difficult decisions must be made.
    As I have noted, we must continue to build confidence in Bermuda so that we all can continue to grow and prosper.

    Minister Richards’ full statement follows below:
    Good afternoon:
    To ensure that the public are fully aware of the kinds of cost reductions being considered, I wish to share some of the proposals that have been agreed to by the Government and the BTUC.
    The Unions have agreed to our proposed expenditure reductions, including:
    ~ Place a cap on Financial Assistance to reduce the allocation by $5M;
    ~ To achieve savings of approximately $1M by consolidating schools;
    ~ To reduce the Travel budget by $1M;
    ~ To raise the GEHI contribution that employees pay for uninsured spouses from 50% to 75%, saving $1.6M; and
    ~ To suspend the Agricultural Exhibition for one year for a savings of $0.4M
    .


1/29/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Several stores close in Douglas, others cut hours, by Alex Shabad, (1/28 late pickup) WZZM13,com
    DOUGLAS, Mich., USA -- A popular summer destination along the lakeshore [Lake Michigan, but Douglas is also on mighty Lake Kalamazoo!] is taking an economic hit, with a series of stores closing and others cutting hours.
    [Hourscuts are definitely better than closings!]
    Business leaders in Douglas are calling for a new plan that will make the downtown more attractive for stores and customers. Right now is the slow winter season, but business leaders worry that if nothing is done, the busy summer season could be impacted.
    During the winter in Douglas, several businesses seem to be hibernating. On one half of Center Street, WZZM 13 found more stores that were closed than open, with some having left the area for good.
    For a hot meal, the Back Alley Pizza Joint is one of the few places to go downtown.
    "We're one of the only restaurants that are open seven days a week," says Leigh Taylor, manager of the Back Alley Pizza Joint.
    However, even there, sales are only about a quarter of what they are in the summertime.
    "The money from the summertime gets us through the winter months," says Taylor.
    Jim Petzing, president of the Saugatuck-Douglas Business Association and a local restaurant owner, showed WZZM 13 five stores that have permanently closed in the past three months. He worries that will also impact summer tourism.
    "The less stores you have, the less energy and activity you have," says Petzing.
    Now, Petzing would like to see building owners make rent more affordable for stores. He also wants store owners to team up and agree on a new policy to attract tourists.
    "Like consistent store hours in-season and out-of-season," says Petzing.
    Earlier this week, Petzing met with other community leaders to discuss a long-term plan for growth in Douglas.
    "That says our best opportunity for growth is through the millennials who are our 10 to 30 year-old's," says Petzing.
    "Put an ice skating rink in the winter time, have little horse-drawn carriage rides," says Taylor.
    Petzing says store owners in neighboring Saugatuck have similar concerns. However, he says right now, improving Douglas' economy is the main priority.
    Now, business leaders are asking who leads the effort to improve downtown moving forward. Is it store owners, the government, or someone else? Petzing says that will have to be decided in the months to come.

  2. Is Kurzarbeit a recession solution for here? C2E! via Connect2Edmonton.ca
    EDMONTON, Alta., Canada - 28-01-2015, 05:10pm #1 KC, addicted to C2E...
    Is Kurzarbeit a recession solution for here?
    I've posted mention of this on other threads - but thought it deserved its own in these times
    .
    Quote:
    Germany’s Short Work Week, Kurzarbeit, Moving East, by Sean Carney, 8/20/2014 [#1] WSJ
    excerpt:
    "A German solution to save jobs in the long run amid temporary falls in economic activity is set for introduction in neighboring Czech Republic.
    The Czech government, labor unions and business leaders this week found initial consensus for the short-time regime, called kurzarbeit in German, that prevents companies from rapidly reducing head counts and worsening local labor markets due to macroeconomic downturns.
    In the short-time regime, the state funds some labor costs at businesses to keep workforces intact and to prevent the government from having to pay full unemployment benefits which would be more costly.
    At the same time, tax revenues remain somewhat stabilized while workers and their families don’t face the bleak prospects that come with being laid off..." ...
    "The plan’s supporters—which includes the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—say it is a win-win situation in times of macroeconomic downturns. ..."
    http://blogs.wsj.com/emergingeurope/2014/08/20/germanys-short-work-week-kurzarbeit-moving-east/ or just click here and scan down to 8/20/2014 #1
    Quote:
    Short-Time Work: The German Answer to the Great Recession*, by Brenke & Rinne & Zimmermann, Discussion Paper No. 5780, June 2011
    excerpts:
    "Short-time work was the “German answer” to the economic crisis. The number of short-time workers strongly increased in the recession and peaked at more than 1.5 million. Without the extensive use of short-time work, unemployment would have risen by approximately twice as much as it actually did. Short-time work has certainly contributed to the mild response of the German labor market to the crisis, but this is likely due to the country-specific context. Although the crisis has been overcome and employment is strongly expanding, modified regulations governing short-time work are still in place. This leads to undesired side effects. ..."
    "...According to the Federal Statistical Office, the size of the working population remained at a record level of more than 40 million people through both 2008 and 2009. Short-time work made a substantial contribution to this astonishing development: the long existing regulations governing its use were already modified at the beginning of the crisis. This significantly helped to cushion the job losses by extending subsidies for a temporary reduction in working hours. In addition, short-time work helped German companies be well prepared for when the demand for their goods increased again. They were able to expand their production without time loss. Short-time work is a rather uncommon instrument internationally, and it therefore may be labeled as the “German answer” to the economic crisis.1 ..."
    "...During the course of the crisis, the traditional instrument of short-time work was especially common in Germany’s industrial sectors which heavily rely on exports as well as service sectors closely linked to industrial production. ..."
    http://repec.iza.org/dp5780.pdf
    Quote:
    Making short work of things, by R.A., 8/04/2010, WASHINGTON
    excerpt:
    "...The downside to such a policy is that it reinforces the structure of the economy that prevailed prior to the recession. Depending on the extent to which one credits structural factors in generating the recession, that's either no big deal or a huge negative."
    "American adoption of a work-sharing programme wouldn't do much good at this point; the big gains accrue during the period of falling demand, when firms are slashing away at payrolls. At this point, Germany and America can simply stand back and watch the comparative experiment unfold, as the former considers the need for structural reform while the latter wonders how to put back to work the millions of labourers who have been off the jobs for a year or more."
    http://www.economist.com/blogs/freee...erman_recovery
    Quote:
    In Germany, a Broad Recovery Is Under Way, by Jack Ewing, 8/03/2010, NYT
    excerpt:
    "Many larger German companies also resorted to short work. Siemens, which at one point had 19,000 German employees on reduced hours, said last week that all were back working full time again. Siemens has 128,000 employees.It may even turn out that short work improved German competitiveness by encouraging workers to use the free time to improve their skills."
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/bu...l?ref=business


1/28/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. The Swiss introduce their version of a 35-hour week, by LeNews.ch
    BERN, Switzerland - On 27 January 2015 the Swiss government announced that Swiss companies could reduce their wage bills by cutting staff working hours and compensate them for the lost pay with partial unemployment benefits. The objective of the measure is to limit layoffs brought about by the rapid rise of the Swiss franc. Companies are required to demonstrate that the need is driven by the strengthening of the franc.
    While this might be an effective way to reduce short-term layoffs it is an economic own-goal. If Swiss workers work less, they will produce less and reduce company output. This will in turn reduce national output increasing the possibility of a recession. It will also eventually require an increase in taxes (or payroll taxes) to pay the additional unemployment benefits thus reducing the take-home pay of all workers. Thinner wallets will then reduce aggregate spending power negatively impacting on the demand side of the economic equation aggravating the problem further.
    It is akin to the French 35-hour week. The logic ran that if staff could only be hired for 35 hours a week then employers would need to employ more of them. It assumes that output and the demand side of the economy are unaffected.
    [No, it assumes that generally output would be the same (or increase due to less incentive for luddism) but demand would increase because there would be more employees with higher consumer confidence.]
    This policy, introduced in France in 2000 failed to deliver.
    [No it succeeded in reducing unemployment 1% for each of the 4 hours cut from the 39-hour workweek. In 1997 when it was voted in, French unemployment was 12.6%. Once the 35-hours was fully implemented for large and small companies in spring 2001, unemployment was down to 8.6%. Then France got hit by the US-led recession and unemployment went back up to 10-point-something when a downward-adjustible workweek and more targeted efforts to convert chronic overtime into training and hiring would have kept unemployment at 8.6 or less.]
    The challenge to this thinking is that it is based on the lump of labour fallacy, a belief that the number of jobs is fixed. Most economists believe it is variable.
    2 Hours More per Week [unpaid]
    [unpaid work = slavery ... some "solution"!]
    In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung Peter Spuhler, the boss of Stadler Rail, made an alternative suggestion to address the challenges of the strong franc. He suggested that workers work an extra two hours a week for the same pay. This is based on sounder economic logic.
    [Extra work without pay? Is this a serious suggestion, because work without pay is slavery. Does Spuhler and LeNews seriously want to bring back slavery? Ever heard of incentive? Let them go first!]
    It would hopefully increase output [historically, slavery had notoriously low productivity because of lack of incentive] and revenue (or at least maintain it after CHF price reductions) relative to existing wage bills allowing businesses to avoid layoffs. In addition, it would maintain aggregate spending power by avoiding the inevitable increase in payroll taxes that will be required to pay the additional unemployment benefits that will result from the Government’s plan.
    [Here's another article on this topic, plus see yesterday, below.]
    Shorter work hours touted in response to strong franc, (1/27 late pickup) swissinfo.ch
    BERN, Switzerland - Swiss companies may reduce employees’ hours to help compensate for the current exchange rate fluctuations, Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann announced on Tuesday. Most business groups and unions are pleased.
    The move comes in response to the extraordinary appreciation of the Swiss franc after the Swiss National Bank (SNB) decided to axe the CHF1.20 exchange rate cap against the euro on January 15. The Swiss franc is currently at parity with the euro.
    By allowing short-time work – in which people work fewer hours while the state tops up their pay – Schneider-Ammann hopes to preserve jobs. Supporters of short-time working say it allows companies to retain workers they might find hard to re-recruit later.
    Employees whose hours are reduced should be eligible for unemployment compensation.
    Unemployment insurance law provides for workers to be covered when the short-time work is economy-related and likely to be only temporary. However, unemployment insurance does not cover short-time work caused by normal business risks.
    Although exchange rate fluctuations could be considered a regular risk for a business, the economics ministry says that the problems encountered in the wake of the SNB’s abolition of the minimum exchange rate should be classified as extraordinary in terms of extent and scope.
    Certainty and Flexibility
    “The decision gives firms certainty. It makes it clear that in this situation, exchange rate fluctuations are not considered operating risks,” Roland Müller, director of the Employers’ Association, told Swiss public radio, SRF.
    Both Müller and the Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse) said they did not believe that many companies would avail [themselves] of short-time work just yet.
    “In the long term, however, this depends on demand from the eurozone,” Cristina Gaggini of EconomieSuisse told the Swiss News Agency.
    Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Association of Small & Medium-Sized Enterprises, was quoted as saying that he was relieved because the measure would help give businesses more flexibility.
    Travail Suisse, a national umbrella group of unions, welcomed Schneider-Ammann’s decision and called short-time work the right tool to support industries in crisis situations.
    However, the main Trade Union Federation dismissed the decision as “plaster policy” – as in trying to heal a big wound with a little bandage. The federation called on the SNB to bring the franc-euro exchange rate back to a sensible level.
    [We think Bing's and our translation yesterday is better.]

  2. Continued Assaults on Health Reform, editorial, New York Times. page A22 & via nytimes.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - Having failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act outright, congressional Republicans are moving ahead with plans to dismantle it piece by piece.
    Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would undermine the so-called employer mandate, which requires certain employers to provide insurance or pay a penalty. In all, 240 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted for the bill while 172 Democrats voted against it. In the Senate, two Democrats recently joined dozens of Republicans to sponsor a similar measure.
    Like other attempts to weaken health care reform, the bill, named the Save American Workers Act, is based on false premises and offers false promises. But its bipartisan patina makes it a threat, as do the catchy if misleading assertions of its supporters to win public support.
    At issue is the threshold at which the employer mandate kicks in. The law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide insurance to those who work more than 30 hours a week, or pay a penalty of $2,000 to $3,000 per worker. Most of the roughly 230,000 companies with 50 or more workers already provide health insurance, while about 11,500 of such companies do not.
    The House bill, however, would encourage many companies that provide insurance to stop doing so. It would require coverage (or a penalty) only for employees who work at least 40 hours a week, on the ground that 40 hours is the standard in employment law for a full-time worker. That is true but misses the point of the health care law, which sets a 30-hour threshold to ensure the broadest possible coverage without unduly burdening companies or taxpayers. The law is not intended to address employment-law standards. Turning the issue into an argument over the definition of “full time” is specious.
    [But what an overdue argument that is in the Age of Robotics, and how ironic, once again, that the backward Republicans are speciously bringing it up when the self-styled "progressive" Democrats should have brought it up long since and hammered, hammered, hammered the 1940 forty-hour definition of "full time" down down down. Only THAT would have avoided the mounting, wage&spending-depressing labor surplus on the one hand and on the other, the massive economy-slowing coagulation of the money supply in the financial sector among the wealthiest 0.001% of the population, who can't possibly SPEND-recirculate such an enormous windfall, who DONATE a smaller percentage than any lower bracket, and who now can't possibly find enough marketable productivity to provide solid investments for their giantized investment power.]
    Republicans have also argued that a higher, 40-hour-a-week threshold would protect employees from having their hours cut by employers seeking to evade the coverage requirement. That’s backward. A higher threshold would put more workers, not fewer, at risk of shortened workweeks. With a 30-hour threshold, the employees in danger of cutbacks are those who work around 30 to 34 hours a week, about 7 percent of the work force. With a 40-hour threshold, the employees in danger of cutbacks are those who work 40 hours or more a week, nearly half of the work force.
    One thing Republicans don’t say is that raising the hourly threshold would worsen the deficit as more employees turn to publicly subsidized exchanges to find insurance.
    President Obama has vowed to veto legislative attempts to weaken or undo the health reform law. But that could prove difficult if the measure were attached to other important legislation. The attacks on health reform are senseless, but the danger that they could weaken reform is real.
    [& here's an example today of just such specious (but overdue) arguing over the definition of "full time" employment in America -]
    Will healthcare provision hurt millions of workers? WOAI/KABB via Fox 29 via FoxSanAntonio.com
    SAN ANTONIO, Tex., USA - Executives with some of the country's largest restaurant chains say full-time jobs [may] disappear in 2015, due in part, to the Affordable Care Act.
    [At least by our pre-technology definition of "full-time," frozen solid since 1940 before computers, robots, artificial intelligence and even before transistors replaced vacuum tubes.]
    Those business leaders say a provision within the ACA, namely its definition of a full time work week as 30 hours, not 40 hours.
    Under the ACA, businesses must provide health insurance for workers who put in at least 30 hours a week or face fines of $2,000 per employee.
    "There comes a point when things are so expensive that it becomes irrational," says CKE Restaurant Holdings Andrew Puzder.
    "They want more hours, they need more hours and we want to give them more hours, but this 30-hour cutoff is something is something that means it's economically inefficient to give them more hours," adds Puzder.
    Healthcare advocates like Vincent DeMarco are disappointed to hear businesses are still looking for ways to get around the healthcare law.
    "So the big businesses that provide healthcare for all their employees are in effect subsidizing businesses that don't," says DeMarco. "So, it only makes sense all larger businesses provide healthcare and we call that fair share."
    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics disputes there is a shift toward more part-time jobs.
    [Which is a good thing because more jobs is MORE JOBS and less unemployment and less labor surplus and more labor "shortage" and more upward wage pressure and less funneling of the national revenue to the topmost 0.001% and wasteful decirculation with them, relative to the warp-speed circulation of money in the rest of the population as you go down the brackets.]
    House leaders passed a bill this month to protect the 40 hour work week. The Senate is expected to take up the measure soon.


1/27/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Short-time working at Tayto 'seasonal', (1/28 early pickup) PortadownTimes.co.uk
    TANDRAGEE, N.Ireland, UK - Around 250 workers at Tayto in Tandragee were placed on short-time hours this week, with the day shift cut by half-a-day to four [hours], and the night shift from four nights to three.
    A notice to that effect was placed on the notice board at Tandragee Castle
    and a follow-up meeting with management was set up midweek to allay fears.
    A statement from the management said that the situation was a “seasonal” one caused by post-holiday time variations and happened after peak production times like Halloween and Christmas.
    A source among the workers said that work was often transferred to mainland factories like Corby and in Wales, “and sometimes we don’t know where we stand with major orders being moved around”.
    It is also understood that a number of temps are laid off from time to time, but overall the short time working rarely lasts too long and Tandragee returns to normal.
    The company said, “We always anticipate seasonal variations in work patterns in the snack industry.
    “Major holiday periods such as Halloween always show a huge increase in demand for our products. This is particularly true in the lead-up to Christmas when we are extremely busy and working extra shifts.
    “In January, demands always drops substantially and so shift patterns change. The company is performing well and there is no cause for concern."

  2. Economy Minister Schneider-Ammann again allows Kurzarbeit (worksharing) - Not all are happy about this decision \-\ Federation of Trade Unions: "Kurzarbeit is bandaid politics", by rsz, SDA via TagesAnzeiger.ch
    [Gewerkschaftsbund: «Kurzarbeit ist Pflästerlipolitik» Wirtschaftsminister Schneider-Ammann ermöglicht wieder Kurzarbeit. Nicht alle freuen sich über diesen Entscheid. Translation by Bing, cleanup by PH]
    Because of the strong [Swiss] franc, the Federal Council had already approved Kurzarbeit in 2011... (photo caption)
    BERN, Switzerland - Loss of working hours will be compensated by unemployment insurance, as announced by the Department for Economic Affairs, Education and Research [DEER] on Tuesday. With this measure, Schneider Amman wants to prevent jobs from being lost.
    At the press conference after the meeting of the Federal Council, Schneider-Ammann said Kurzarbeit was still not a big topic at the moment. "As of today, we still have lots of business going forward," he said. But you can still access this program if necessary.
    12-Month Claimability
    The executive authorities of unemployment insurance were instructed to consider loss of workhour losses due to foreign exchange fluctuations as claimable. Herewith and from now on, as long as the other eligibility requirements are met, requests for settlement of Kurzarbeit compensation on grounds of exchange-rate fluctuations will be authorized.
    Claims must be made within 12 months. For now, the kind of extension legislated by the Federal Council in 2011 is not anticipated, as DEER spokesman Noé Blancpain revealed in response to a question. As a measure to alleviate the impact of the strong franc, the Federal Council had extended the coverage period to 18 months at the time.
    Also, Parliament had adopted an aid package in the neighborhood of 870 million francs to boost the impacted sectors. Five hundred million of that amount were reserved for the unemployment compensation fund targeting Kurzarbeit compensation. Such additional funding according to Blancpain is currently not foreseen.
    Already in 2011 Approval for Kurzarbeit Compensation
    In response to a question, Ivo Zimmermann, spokesman for the industry association SwissMEM, welcomed the decision by Schneider-Ammann. In previous crises, the Kurzarbeit program was a proven job saver.
    Zimmermann has no doubt that in the current situation too, companies will introduce short-time working. Many requests currently received by SwissMEM relate to this topic. This will not solve the problem of the strong franc, "But it helps to preserve jobs," said Zimmermann.
    The money which the 2011 Parliament earmarked for unemployment insurance was ultimately not used up. The reason was the minimal interest rate that the National Bank introduced shortly after the decision.
    In 2011, unemployment insurance spent only about 96 million for Kurzarbeit compensation. However in 2010, it had still been 538 million francs, in 2009 as much as 997 million Swiss francs.
    "Bandaid Politics"
    Among the trade unions, opinions go against one another. The Swiss Work (TravailSuisse) umbrella association of unions welcomed the decision by Schneider-Ammann. Kurzarbeit was the right program to support healthy industries and sectors in crisis situations, the association writes.
    By contrast, the Swiss Trade Union Federation (Schweizerische Gewerkschaftsbund=SGB) stuck by its criticism whereby the National Bank [now] has to strain for a rate within "reasonable range." The decision to allow Kurzarbeit is therefore only "Bandaid Politics," it said in response to a question. The underlying problem - the raising of the minimal euro rate - was not addressed on this occasion.
    No Big Demand Expected
    The Swiss Trade Association (Schweizerische Gewerbeverband=SGV) responded with relief. With recourse to Kurzarbeit in the cards, wriggle room would increase, SGV Director Hans-Ulrich Bigler of the SDA said. But it was difficult to foresee how the situation would develop. Currently, SMEs' [small and medium enterprises'] order books are still full.
    The EconomieSuisse Business Federation does not believe that, short term, many companies will make use of kurzarbeit. "In the long run, this depends on demand in the eurozone," explained Executive Board Member Cristina Gaggini to the SDA news agency.


1/25-26/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. More work for same pay: firms tackle high franc, by Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch), 1/26 TheLocal.ch
    ZURICH, Switzerland - Responding to the surge in the value of the Swiss franc, certain companies in Switzerland are asking their employees to work longer hours without any extra pay.
    [Slavery Alert!]
    Peter Spuhler, the head of manufacturing company Stadler Rail, has proposed that workers put in two hours a week extra unpaid.
    The proposal is just one way Swiss companies, particularly those in the exporting business, are responding to the high franc.
    Employees would be ready to accept a long work week without extra pay “if it is a temporary measure,” Spuhler told the SonntagsZeitung newspaper.
    But the Stadler Rail boss said it would be a mistake to cut wages because now is not the time to reduce the purchasing power of Swiss workers.
    The franc was trading above the euro on Monday in the wake of the Swiss National Bank’s decision earlier this month to abandon a policy of pegging the Swiss currency to a level of 1.20 against the euro.
    A strong franc makes the cost of Swiss goods more expensive to foreign customers.
    Spuhler noted his company had already made cost-saving measures to adjust from several years ago when the euro was worth more than 1.50 francs.
    “Most companies have thought in the last few days about a hiring freeze and many have already imposed it,” Hans Hess, president of industrial group Swissmem, told SonntagsZeitung.
    Swissmem is an association representing engineering, electrical and metal companies that employ 330,000 people and whose products accounted for almost a third of Swiss exports in 2013 with a value of 65 billion francs.
    Other companies have already applied to cantonal employment offices to implement short-time working arrangements (Kurzarbeit), which involve reduced working hours to avoid layoffs.
    Under such arrangements, the employment offices subsidize pay.
    Business groups are calling for a relaxation of conditions to allow such deals on a temporary basis.
    Other business leaders are asking the Swiss government to cut taxes and reduce government bureaucracy.
    Hans Grunder, a Conservative Democratic Party member from the canton of Bern, is advocating the abolition of sales tax on tourism services and restaurant food for a year.
    “The situation is very dramatic,” Grunde told the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper.
    “Swiss tourism and gastronomy has in one fell swoop become twice as expensive as abroad.”
    Grunder said such a tax holiday would cost the government 800 million francs a year but it would send a “huge signal” to tourists.

  2. Government tells unions more cuts needed, 1/25 RoyalGazette.com
    HAMILTON, Bermuda - On the eve of a union meeting this morning to discuss the future of furlough days, the Bermuda Government has said that further savings are needed to meet its debt reduction plan.
    In a statement released yesterday afternoon, the Bermuda Government said that it respects the Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC) choice to take the issue to its members, emphasising that the furlough option was intended to protect members’ jobs and pensions.
    However, Michael Dunkley, the Premier and Minister for National Security, warned the unions of the negative impact that the disruption of public services may have on the community, especially given the timing of it at 10am.
    “We are very grateful for the contributions of the working group as well as technical officers across the public service for identifying cost-cutting proposals,” the Premier said.
    “We acknowledge that a great deal of work has been undertaken and we appreciate all of the dedication and commitment that the unions have provided towards not only this process but towards ensuring the strong representation for their members.
    “At this stage, however, we need to factor in possible savings from a furlough day or a furlough-day equivalent. It is not the Government’s desire to displace public officers at this time, but the stark reality is that we cannot maintain employment numbers at the existing salary levels without the furlough day.”
    [Furlough, not 'displacement' - timesizing, not downsizing.]
    The statement noted last October’s meeting of the Budget Reduction Working Group made up of BTUC members and government representatives to identify opportunities to achieve a 5 per cent savings on Government’s operational budget.
    “The collaborative effort generated a proposal that could yield an estimated $37 million,” the statement said.
    “Other savings have also been identified. Notwithstanding, it should be stressed that with this level of savings, Government will still incur a deficit of over $200 million in the upcoming 2015-2016 National Budget, which will add to the Government’s current debt of $2.185 billion.
    “The reality is that the Government needs to find further savings to meet its deficit reduction plans, as the current deficit and debt levels are not only unsustainable but economically and fiscally imprudent.”
    Government noted that the working group’s discussions ended last month, while the next Budget is due in a matter of weeks.
    The statement continued: “The Government respects the BTUC’s decision to put the furlough day proposal matter before its members.
    “The furlough option, which the BTUC agreed to previously, is designed to preserve their members’ jobs and protect their pensions; any other option could impact the same negatively. In light of tomorrow’s (Monday) combined full membership meeting, the Government calls on the unions to be mindful of the impact of the disruption of services on the community given the time of the meeting.
    “Also, the Government acknowledges the efforts being undertaken by the various unions to ensure that the public schools and rest homes have adequate coverage during the meeting period.
    “As an added note, it is Government’s intent to call upon all sectors of the community to contribute to the budget reduction and savings process and it is hopeful that the leadership of the BTUC and others will continue to lend their support to the Government to conclude this collaborative process.”
    The Ministry of Education later confirmed that all public schools will be open today. School principals and administrators will be on site at each school, with students expected to report at the normal time.


1/24/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Guest Commentary: A detailed look into the debate over full-time workweek, by K. Michael Ward, (1/22 late pickup) The Wilson Agency via Alaska Journal of Commerce via alaskajournal.com
    ANCHORAGE, Alas., USA - On Jan. 8, the U.S. House approved legislation that would change the definition of a full-time employee under the Affordable Care Act to 40 hours.
    [But it is guaranteed a veto, so according to Republicans, the US now (finally!) has a full-time workweek of 30 hours - a mere 82 years after the US Senate, by a vote of 53 to 30, passed the Black Thirty Hour Work Week to end the Great Depression (April 6, 1933, S.5267) but a Democratic president, Franklin Roosevelt, blocked it in the House and so the Depression continued for another 8 years.]
    Currently, the threshold is set at 30 hours, meaning that employers with 50+ employees will have to provide affordable health coverage to all employees working 30+ hours, or pay a fine.
    There are many arguments for and against the new legislation, but putting opinion aside [huh?], I would like to take a look at the issue through the eyes of business.
    [In short, "putting opinion aside," he would now like to dwell on the opinion of business.]
    Each year, businesses develop a sustainable budget [huh?].
    | [If any version of the yearly budgets they developed was truly sustainable, they wouldn't have to develop one each year.]
    The need to provide health insurance to all employees working 30+ hours is a very large expense that will need to be added to the budget. Businesses now have to re-work their budget in order to afford the new expense.
    Take a look at it this way: you have a monthly income and have developed a personal budget to allocate your money each month to your needed expenses (mortgage, car payment, food, etc.).
    All of a sudden, you have an additional expense that comes up. In most cases, you can’t increase your income to be able to cover the additional expense. You have to develop a plan to re-arrange the allocation of your money in a way that will be the easiest and do the least damage to your current budget.
    For businesses now needing to deal with providing health insurance to a large number of employees to whom they did not previously provide health insurance, the easiest solution is to cut their employees’ hours so that employees are below the 30-hour threshold. I feel that this will be the most common solution to the dilemma, because it is what I have heard time and time again from Alaskan businesses faced with this issue.
    [And so much the better, because if they really need those extra employee hours, they'll have to hire more employees and reduce the unemployment burden on taxpayers and the wage-depressing labor surplus and markets will increase and so will marketable productivity for sustainable investment.]
    From a humanitarian standpoint, it may not seem as if it is the best solution; it may even look selfish on the part of the business, but many people tend to forget that there are times when it is necessary to make tough decisions to keep the business running afloat, which at the end of the day leads to a better financial impact on the economy.
    [No, at the end of the day the tough decisions many businesses find it necessary to make are not to keep the business afloat but to keep paying top executives outrageous multiples of ordinary employee incomes. And at the end of the day the financial sector's coagulation of the money supply has the same effect on the economy as a huge hematoma on the body.]
    Many critics of the new legislation use the fact that employers will choose to cut employees hours as a counter-argument. However, if an employer is going to cut an employee’s hours, they will do it regardless of whether the threshold is set at 30 or 40.
    [The point the CBO makes is that three times as many employers will do it if the threhold is set at 40 than will do it at 30, because there are three times as many employees just above 40 than just above 30.]
    At least if the threshold is set at 40, an employer will only need to cut the employee back one hour to 39 hours. I think that Congressman Paul Ryan put it best when he said, “Well, 39 is a lot better than 29.”
    [Better for whom for how long? Maybe it appears better for business in the short run, but in the long run it just coagulates employment on fewer people, marginalizes more of the workforce and weakens further consumer spending and all the markets that depend on that, including the financial markets.]
    For low-income workers, that can make a huge difference.
    [Not if there are lots more jobs opening up, many at higher wages...]
    Another drastic way that this will affect businesses is that many carriers require require a 75% participation rate among eligible employees (not including those that have other eligible coverage) in order for the company to keep their insurance. Since “affordable health care” isn’t very affordable to low-income workers [there are state programs to help them!], many workers may choose to opt-out to avoid paying the premiums [even more are excluded now]. If enough opt-out and the employer loses insurance, it will hurt all those employees who had insurance through the employer [or the employer can change insurance carriers].
    I often ask myself, where did the 30 hours come from? What was their reasoning behind that number? So far, I have not been able to figure out the answer. It doesn’t make sense.
    [The US Senate passed a 30 hour workweek bill in 1933 that would have ended the Great Depression in a year and a half by spreading the vanishing work and wages and re-engaging the Multiplier Effect in the positive direction. A ten-hour drop from 40 to 30 motivates hiring to make up for the lost 10 hours. A five-hour drop less so because the loss of only 5 hours is easier to try to squeeze out of exisiting employees regarding the new workweek not as a reduction but a compression.]
    However, 40 hours makes a lot of sense [or is just more familiar, having been frozen for 75 years regardless of worksaving technologies] and will lead to much less confusion for both the employer and employee.
    Why does 40 hours make sense? Forty hours is the standard that the Department of Labor uses to determine full-time status [since 1940 regardless of mounting labor surplus in the age of robotics] and to determine what qualifies as overtime. In addition, the majority of employers define full-time in their job descriptions and policies and procedures as 40 hours.
    It is important to remember that if the requirement is set at 40 hours, employers can still choose to provide health insurance to employees that work less than 40 hours, as is the case with many generous employers that I have worked with.
    [The number of generous employers has been inadequate to maintain anything like full employment and maximum markets and robust growth, let alone a real recovery.]
    The issue is what happens when employers are forced into a situation that is not beneficial or sustainable to their financial strategy.
    [The CEO and buds has to make do with less compensation?]
    Affordable health insurance is extremely important and it would be ideal to live in a society where everyone has access to it. That being said, it is an extremely costly expense that not all businesses or employees can afford to pay. I am hopeful that one day we will find a viable solution.
    [Gee, it's so hard to look up to Canada or any of the other advanced economies to "find" the viable solutions that they have been fine-tuning for decades and that are completely unlinked to employment.]
    K. Michael Ward, MPH, SPHR, GPHR, is an employee benefits advisor at The Wilson Agency and has both senior professional and global professional certifications in human resources
    [They actually PAY this person who can't figure out where the 30 came from or where to find a whole selection of viable solutions, and who writes at the 8-year-old level of mil specs and doesn't bother to get a second opinion, that of the employee and not just the employer, for instance? When can we look forward to his advocacy for the good ol' 48- or 54-hour workweek? Let's really give suicidally myopic & self-coddling employers what they seem to want: maximally concentrated employment and coagulated incomes - and minimal markets because sooo many consumers are mystifyingly "holding back" (and totallly coincidentally have zip spending money). This K. Michael Ward clearly has no imagination except of the sort that goes, "If the (6x12=) 40-hour workweek was good enough for Moses, it's good enough for the age of robotics and AI!"]

  2. Commissary hours would be cut under draft budget proposal, by Karen Jowers, (1/23 late pickup) Military Times
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - Many commissaries would have to cut their hours and days of operation — as much as two days a week, in some cases — under a draft Defense Department budget document that details proposed reductions in the commissary budget for fiscal 2016.
    [Better to cut hours & days than jobs = timesizing rather than downsizing!]
    The draft document obtained by Military Times presents various options for the Defense Commissary Agency to meet a DoD mandate [Dept. Of Defense = Defense Dept.] to come up with $322 million in annual savings — nearly one-fourth of DeCA's [Defense Commissary Agency's] annual baseline budget of $1.4 billion.
    Those options are under discussion as defense officials work to finalize their fiscal 2016 budget request to Congress, scheduled to be sent to Capitol Hill in early February. Because plans are still in flux and no final decisions have been made, a A DoD spokesman declined to comment. One source said discussions are already ongoing about changes to some of the commissary proposals outlined in the document.
    If last year is any indication, lawmakers may not be receptive to suggestions about cutting the commissary budget to such a severe degree. In their fiscal 2015 budget request, DoD proposed cutting $200 million in DeCA funding, the first phase of a proposed three-year plan to slash the DeCA budget by $1 billion. In the end, lawmakers restored that $200 million to the budget.
    In the new draft plan for 2016, DeCA outlines $183 million in operating costs cuts, to include paring back the number of employees per store by an average of six, down to 45. The 241 commissaries in the system now average 51 employees per store.
    Days of operation would be reduced at 183 stores, according to the draft. In one example provided, the commissary at Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base Hawaii would have its weekly operating days and hours reduced from seven days and 60 hours per week to five days and 49 hours per week. According to the draft, if the services wanted to add more operating hours for a particular base outside the model DeCA would use, they would have to provide funding out of their own budgets to cover the costs.
    The draft document says the proposed reductions in operating hours would save more than $29 million, while proposed cuts in days of operation would save $58 million.But in addition to the $183 million DeCA might save with these and other reductions, more drastic moves would be required for DeCA to achieve the remaining $139 million in savings requested by defense officials — involving fundamental changes to the law that applies to commissaries.
    In that regard, one of the subtlest but most far-reaching changes would remove from law the longstanding requirement that commissary items be sold "at reduced cost." Over the years, the commissaries have consistently touted the fact that patrons save an average of 30 percent compared to off-base grocery stores.
    According to an analysis of the legislative proposals, removing those three words — "at reduced cost" — from the law would be a recognition that "the commissary of the future will exist like a partially appropriated funded version of an exchange, rather than as an element of compensation."
    Instead, items would be priced at levels "sufficient to finance operating expenses" of the stores. Under current law, taxpayer funds cover operating expenses so that commissary items can be sold at lower cost.
    The proposals already are raising alarms in some quarters.
    "This is a death knell for commissaries," said Tom Gordy, president of the Armed Forces Marketing Council, when asked about the proposals. He said the plan would be a "death knell" for the commissary benefit as as generations of troops have known it.
    "If it moves forward, it's an indication that DoD is saying, 'We'll no longer provide this benefit — it's a business.' This is not good for military families," Gordy said.
    Another legislative change proposed in the draft document would allow commissaries to sell beer and wine — everything that a commercial supermarket sells, except for distilled spirits.
    A number of other proposals in the draft document also would increase costs to customers if they become law, down to a 10-cent charge for each paper or plastic bag that a customer uses. Commissaries have been encouraging customers to bring reusable bags to the stores for years, and the stores sell such bags as well.


1/23/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Elizabeth Warren Scolds GOP Senate: ‘This Bill Is Corporate Welfare’, Inquisitr.com
    ['Scolds'? And below, 'scolded'? Would they use this word if they weren't talking about a female senator - and trying to belittle her? She's come up with an awfully good point in an awfully good soundbyte. These cowardly male media hacks must be worried.]
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) scolded the Senate on Thursday over a bill that will redefine a full-time work week under the Affordable Care Act as 40 hours instead of the current 30 hours, saying, “This bill is corporate welfare.”
    Under the proposed legislation, companies would no longer be responsible for providing health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week, which, under the current legislation, they are required to do. Instead, Republicans and a handful of Democrats say that the current 30-hour standard gives employers an incentive to cut hours in order to get around Obamacare requirements, saying that full-time employees must be offered insurance.
    Under the legislation, which has already passed the House, businesses would be obligated to provide health care only to employees who work 40 hours a week or more, rather than 30.
    Despite the claims of the supporters of the new legislation, though, broader economic indicators show that very few businesses have shifted workers to part-time in order to avoid providing insurance, and those who have are seen as the exception rather than the rule. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part-time work has actually fallen since the law was passed.
    In an ironic contrast, though, a Congressional Budget Office report released earlier this month says that if the standard of full-time is shifted from 30 hours a week to 40, many workers will be at risk of having their hours cut, which is exactly what supporters of this legislation say they are working against. This will occur because a much larger percentage of the workforce — about half — works 40 hours a week, whereas fewer than one in 10 employees work around 30 hours a week.
    The CBO states that the proposed legislation would increase the incentive to cut workers’ hours from 40 a week to just below and, as a result, up to one million workers could lose their employer-backed insurance. Many of those workers would need to then purchase tax-subsidized policies through the Affordable Care Act exchange, which would add an estimated $53.8 billion to the deficit.
    Senator Warren made a clear case that the proposed bill effectively shifts the responsibility of providing workers health insurance away from companies and onto taxpayers during a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions.
    “This bill is corporate welfare. Big corporations would get to cut health benefits for millions of workers, and push people out of their employer insurance plans. Some of those people will lose their health insurance all together. Others would be pushed onto federal programs, expanding the reach of Obamacare, and taxpayers would get stuck with the tab.
    “I’m against adding $53 billion to the deficit so that corporations can push their costs and responsibilities onto the government.”

    Economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, who once led the CBO, testified at Thursday’s hearing in favor of the Republicans, saying that although his former agency’s numbers were crafted “in good faith,” he disagreed with the findings, suggesting that companies already providing health insurance would not have incentive to cut hours from 40 to 39.
    “We’ve come down on different places, I think it’s open to question,” Holtz-Eakin said.
    But Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was quick to point out the fact that Holtz-Eakin is now the president of the American Action Forum, which is part of a coalition of groups dedicated to repealing Obamacare.
    “I’m not sure that when you’re aligned with a group that has a banner that says ‘Help us stop Obamacare,’ that your estimates are necessarily in good faith,” Franken said.
    [Touché.]

  2. Labor reform proposals short on measures to prevent overwork, editorial, The Asahi Shimbun via ajw.asahi.com
    TOKYO, Japan - An advisory council for the labor ministry discussing regulations concerning working hours has released a draft outline of revisions to the Labor Standards Law. This outline will serve as the basis for a bill that the government plans to submit to the ordinary Diet [=Parliament] session that is scheduled to convene on Jan. 26.
    In a nutshell, the outline is long on deregulation measures that have been called for by the business community but short on proposals to prevent “karoshi,” or death from overwork, and curb long hours that could lead to suicide.
    As for deregulation, the document calls for using flextime, a variable schedule that allows workers to decide when to start and finish a day’s work, to make it easier to respond to fluctuations in the amount of work that needs to be done.
    [Hold on just one little minit there, that sounds like an employer call, not an employee decision.]
    It also proposes an expansion of the scope of work categories that are allowed to adopt a discretionary work system, in which pay is not based on actual hours worked but by the time supposedly required to perform the job. The outline calls for simplified procedures in using this system.
    The council’s most high-profile proposal is the introduction of a new pay system for well-paid specialists. Under this system, which covers certain categories of experts with high levels of vocational skills and fat paychecks, no extra pay will be offered for overtime or working on holidays or late at night.
    The government has been promoting this system as a new style of work with job performance evaluated not by the hours worked but by the results.
    [And who defines those results? - not the employee!]
    But this argument is not convincing because the Labor Standards Law does not ban performance-based wage systems. Pay systems can be determined through negotiations between each company's labor and management.
    There is a similar pay system applied to top executives. But this system doesn’t eliminate extra pay for working late at night.
    The proposed new system, which does not even require extra pay for late-night work, represents a radical departure from the traditional notion of remuneration.
    [Japan continues its departure from Ed Deming's balance of power between employees and employers via the lifetime employment guaratee, toward US-style absolute power for employers - with a resulting fall in wages and consumer spending and economic growth. So with their self-spoiling, Japanese employers continue plunging their nation from a first-rate power to a second-rate power to a third-rate power... Sound familiar? So, soon they'll mysteriously become as luddite as India, and as cruel to their females as India, China, Arabia, and Africa.]
    If a new pay system must be introduced, it is vital to take steps to prevent unreasonably long working hours and rigorously monitor how the system is actually operated.
    If labor regulations are simply eased without such efforts in a society where corporate employees are often forced to put in long hours, workers will inevitably become uneasy.
    What is important is to ensure that society will be freed from the problem of overwork.
    The draft outline of revisions to the Labor Standards Law is not encouraging from this point of view because many of the proposed measures to prevent overwork would not be legally binding, as they would be administrative “notices” or “guidance.”
    The advisory panel has postponed making its proposal on the issue of the labor-management agreement that is required when workers are asked to work for more than eight hours a day.
    This agreement in principle caps the total hours of overtime per month at 45 hours. But a special clause can be inserted into the agreement to allow overtime to surpass 80 hours per month, which is a criterion for recognizing death from overwork [='karoshi'] under the work-related accident compensation program.
    Critics have argued that this agreement has effectively promoted long working hours. Some members of the labor ministry’s council argued for rethinking this system.
    To be fair, the draft outline also calls for enhancing government oversight to enforce labor regulations.
    Any measure for that purpose, however, will not be very effective if the number of labor standards inspectors responsible for cracking down on violations is not increased while the law defining their regulatory powers remains unchanged.
    The regulatory reform in this policy area should be designed to ease unnecessary regulations in response to demand while strengthening regulations concerning problems that clearly require tighter government control.
    We urge the labor ministry’s council to work out more effective measures to prevent overwork before it makes its final proposals.

  3. Staff Reductions and Furloughs for DOL Employees, (1/19 late pickup) Northern Agriculture via NorthernAg.net
    HELENA, Mont., USA - The Montana Board of Livestock [DOL] held a meeting by Conference Call on Thursday afternoon to discuss the potential Budget shortfall for the 2015 Fiscal Year which ends June 30th.
    Department of Livestock Executive Officer Christian MacKay told the Board that under current trends, DOL staff projected that by the end of the fiscal year in June, the four divisions that are funded by per capita fees would have collectively spent $225,815 more than budgeted.
    To address this, DOL has already begin implementing expense reductions that are projected to save $129,329 over the remainder of the fiscal year; mostly by eliminating some staff positions such as four Administrative Clerks at local auctions, a District Brand Inspector, a Clinical Technologist position at the Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman, as well as IT staff, an Information Officer, and Compliance Technicians in Helena.
    The impact of those staff reductions may include fewer personnel at some auction markets, and in the Department in Helena, and delayed services at the diagnostic lab.
    Unfortunately the Board determined that those expense reductions that have already begun will not be enough to cover the expected shortfall, and at least another $96,486. in additional cuts would be needed.
    The Board then voted to further reduce spending through June 30th by reducing the paid hours across all four divisions (Brands Enforcement, Animal Health, Diagnostic Lab, and General Services) by cutting current employees back from 40 hours per week to 36-hour weeks.
    [And without the shorter workweeks (four 9-hour days?) more staff reductions would be needed. So, timesizing not downsizing!]
    The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Livestock will be January 26-27 in Helena.


1/22/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Standard working hours no closer as labour groups demand legislation, by Jennifer Ngo jennifer.ngo@scmp.com, (1/23 over dateline) South China Morning Post via scmp.com
    HONG KONG, HKSAR, China - Labour activists fear a discussion on standard working hours will run into overtime, as government advisers refused on Friday to commit themselves to recommending legislation that will deal with the city's notoriously long work days.
    An advisory committee appointed by the government conceded the long hours had to be regulated, but its chairman, Leong Che-hung, would not say if that would equate to passing laws to enforce that.
    "I cannot give you an answer for that," Leong said yesterday, after the committee's first meeting of the year.
    Instead, the advisers - now two years into their three-year stint - have formed a new task force to discuss two consultation reports about the conditions of the city's army of around 3.9 million workers. According to local media, the reports indicated that about 728,000 workers work around 50 hours a week - five hours overtime - with 70 per cent not receiving extra pay.
    Leong will chair the task force. Other members include Federation of Trade Unions chairman Stanley Ng Chau-pei, Federation of Hong Kong Industries chairman Stanley Lau Chin-ho, and existing committee members.
    Leong said details of the reports had yet to be finalised, so the findings would not be released to the public for fear this might "stifle discussion".
    Labour groups worry the committee will fail to come out with an acceptable proposal by the end of its term in March next year. They criticised the committee for not releasing the preliminary consultation findings.
    Speaking on behalf of various labour group and union representatives, Yau Chi-hang said: "We worry whether they can finish public consultation and hand in a recommendation accepted by the working class in time.
    "For the committee members, producing a report or a recommendation a day earlier or later may not make a difference, but for the working class, it is yet another long day at work."
    Yau, together with a dozen other representatives, protested outside the committee's meeting place on Connaught Road, demanding the release of the first round of consultation results.
    They also handed a letter to Leong, who responded by saying: "I will make sure we hand in a policy recommendation."

  2. "Nurses Know the Truth," Correct the Record on the 30-Hour Rule, by Chris Barton, director of the SEIU Nurse Alliance Northwest, Service Employees International Union via seiu.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - Members of Congress are resuming their anti-factual attacks on the Affordable Care Act so the SEIU Nurse Alliance is resuming our "Nurses Know the Truth" blog posts. Nurse leaders nationwide will weigh in with evidence-based facts and offer our own front-line experiences, too.
    First up: shedding light on the truth about the new rule that just went into effect Jan. 1 requiring employers to provide healthcare coverage to anyone who works at least 30 hours a week or else pay a penalty. Republicans trying to undo that provision are spreading three dangerous mistruths:
    MISTRUTH No. 1: Obamacare's 30-hour rule is causing working people to have their hours cut.
    FACT No. 1: The United States is not experiencing a new shift toward more part-time work at all; the opposite is true.
    The trend of employers shifting more working people to part-time hours began long ago, spiking at the start of the Great Recession; it has been decreasing since the new healthcare law passed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    Registered nurses and many other technical staff in hospital settings typically work three 12-hour shifts per week. Given the 24-7 needs of a hospital, a 36-hour workweek makes sense for both scheduling and patient care needs.
    Defining the workweek as 40 hours could negatively impact 1.7 million registered nurses and advance practice nurses employed not only by general medical and surgical hospitals, but also by other specialty hospitals and by psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, according to the American Nursing Association.
    MISTRUTH No. 2: Redefining the work week as 40 hours would protect people now working full time.
    FACT No. 2: It would hurt more working people as employers turn more of them into part-timers.

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned, as recently as Jan. 7, that this measure was likely to create even more part-time jobs. It provides a "perverse" incentive for companies to cut hours for more people, as Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) put it. The White House noted it would "create the very problem it claims to solve."
    Given the nursing shortage in our country and the need to provide safe, quality care in the face of it, nurses probably won't have our hours cut. However, if the workweek is defined as 40 hours, many of us who work in healthcare--the very people dedicated to providing high quality care to others--could have our employer-provided insurance coverage cut.
    MISTRUTH No. 3: What this change might do to the federal budget isn't that important.
    FACT No. 3: This legislation will be costly to both working people and all taxpayers.
    In fact, an estimated 1 million working people would lose their employer-provided healthcare coverage, according to the CBO. Employers who are no longer required to pay fines for not providing coverage to their employees would increase the federal deficit by $53 billion over 10 years, according to the CBO. With no plan to pay for that gap, it looks like it will be taxpayers footing the bill.
    For working people such as nurses who may lose our healthcare coverage but still earn too much to qualify for any help affording coverage, the choice will be between paying out of pocket or going without health insurance. In nursing, a large percentage of our colleagues are senior staff who might be tempted to take early retirement from physically demanding jobs. Receiving good benefits, especially good healthcare coverage that can be so costly for aging workers, is a strong incentive to stay on the job and mentor the next generation.
    For all these reasons, the SEIU Nurse Alliance is skeptical of efforts to move the Affordable Care Act's definition of the work week to 40 hours for purposes of requiring employers to cover working people. We urge members of Congress to look beyond the beltway sound bites, and vote in the interests of working people in their districts.
    Chris Barton is director of the SEIU Nurse Alliance Northwest.


1/21/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. 9 to 5? Try 5 to 9, by Mitchell Oliver, GeorgiaStateSignal.com
    ATLANTA, Ga., USA — The greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less.
    Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with this statement. After being asked to work harder during work on his masterpiece “The Last Supper,” he replied with what I feel to be a great reflection on modern work in our society.
    Fast forward to today and we see that unfortunately not many people agree with the laid-back lifestyle of Da Vinci.
    The House of Representatives recently passed a bill that states that under Obamacare, a “full-time” job is now defined as a 40-hour work week (as opposed to the previous definition set at 30 hours).
    [How ironic and hypocritical, considering the short and infrequent workweeks of U.S. congressmen!]
    While this might seem like an arbitrary change to some, it brings to light a big issue: employees getting their hours cut so that they don’t qualify for health care. I’ll touch on this topic another time.
    The bigger question should be, why in the world are we working 40-hour weeks? How many of those 40 hours are actually spent working? Why don’t we have the 15-hour work week that famous economist John Maynard Keynes predicted would be the norm by the year 2000?
    There are lots of questions and unfortunately not many answers. A 15-hour work week (3-4 hours a day) seems like some futuristic utopia that you might see in a science fiction novel. But with all of our technological advances and breakthroughs in labor efficiency, why does the average American work 46.7 hours per week?
    To help begin to tackle these questions, let’s take a quick look back at the most American invention since burgers and fries: the 40-hour work week. In the roaring ‘20s, factory owners pushed their employees to the brink of exhaustion with 10-16 hour work days.
    Enter Henry Ford who sees overworked employees as a liability not for their safety but for his sales. His rationale was that if there were a 5 day work week, people would have more time off and in turn more time to — you’ll never believe this — realize they needed to go out and buy stuff. In Ford’s own words, “Leisure is an indispensable ingredient in a growing consumer market because working people need to have enough free time to find uses for consumer products, including automobiles.”
    So in some strange turn of deceptively dastardly events, the work week as we know it was invented to give us more time to go consume and spend the money we worked all week to earn. And that’s exactly what we do! But that’s yet another topic on personal finance and delayed gratification for another time, my friends. We’ve got issues at hand!
    The 40-hour work week has been commonplace since its inception, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to stay that way! Studies have shown that we all have a 24-hour sleep cycle and some are more “night owls” and some are “early risers.” While everyone assumes night owls just need to get over it and work a 9-5 job, tests prove some workers are more efficient and produce more when working a later work schedule.
    A University of Brussels study showed that participants who woke up at noon opposed to the early birds at 6 a.m. had less mental fatigue and higher attention spans 10 hours after waking up. So we have a little science to help denounce the 40-hour work week, but it’s more than just feeling alert or not — there’s a lot of emotional and mental fatigue of being overworked week in and week out.
    But there’s hope yet. A web company named Quirky has begun to shut down their company for a four week block during the year. In an e-mail to employees, CEO Ben Kaufman wanted his employees to have time to just unplug for a while. “Time for us to explore other creative interests. Relax without worrying about what we’re missing.”
    Or take Cristian Rennella, the owner of a Latin American search engine, who grew his company over 200 percent after allowing all employees to take fridays off. I love ideas like these and I hope other companies try other experiments with the work week in the future.
    While I know drastic changes won’t happen anytime soon, I am in full support of any and all small businesses who are taking unique approaches to the work week. Many entrepreneurs are realizing that the best way to productive, alert, happy employees is through alternative work weeks and unique vacation plans.
    Hopefully more and more will get on board in the years to come. Until then, as the great Dolly Parton once said, “Workin’ 9 to 5, what a way to make a living. Barely getting by, it’s all taking and no giving."

  2. Board votes 4-3 for two appraisers, by Tony Herrman therrman@hastingstribune.com, HastingsTribune.com
    HASTINGS, Neb., USA - To help comply with a state statute, members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors agreed to allow County Assessor Jackie Russell to hire two appraisers.
    Russell, who took office this month, requested permission during the county board’s regular meeting to hire the two appraisers to work 35 hours per week.

    She went to the board because the hires most likely would max out her department’s budget and it potentially could go over by as much as $2,000.
    Even at 35 hours, the two positions would be considered full time and include benefits.
    [Now, what's all this about the French being lazy because they have a 35-hour workweek? - which we Americans would NEVER have, oh no! But below is another US case -]
    Russell referred to a 2008 statute that states all property needs to be reviewed every six years.
    Russell said that Adams County, which has more than 16,000 parcels, is currently about 6,000 properties behind schedule.
    “We feel, as the appraisal staff prior to taking on this position, that we have been short staffed throughout the last four years,” Russell told the board.
    The board approved the staff increase by a 4-3 vote.

  3. From the Mound: This and that: Government shouldn’t be an employment service, by Dennis Mansfield, MorningStarPublishing.com
    KALKASKA, Mich., USA - As the saying supposedly goes, governing is about priorities. It’s supposed to be about making the hard decisions in life.
    I’m wondering if that’s true, at least here in Kalkaska County, where government seems to be more about allegiances and jobs.
    Last year, I watched as the Kalkaska County Board of Commissioners approved a clerk’s position for one of the departments, which one is not important. What is important is that, without much fanfare, the position was approved at 35 hours per week with the employee to receive full benefits.
    Let’s just assume the position was needed. And, let’s assume the person filling that spot does a great job. Wonderful. But, I still have an issue with it.
    I’m not sure about the rest you, but I’d love to have a less than 40-hour-a-week job and still get full benefits. Those jobs are hard to find, because in the private sector they don’t exist. Or, if they do, I’ve been unable to find such a job.
    [Have you done a Google news search on 35-hours? We find half a dozen or more 35-hour job openings that way every day.]
    But, hold on, let’s go back to the apparent history of the 35-hour county job. According to county officials I spoke with, workers were limited to 35 hours per week years ago as a cost-saving measure.
    Really, it was probably a good idea at the time. The county saved money, while also saving jobs and not losing trained employees to budget cuts. It probably seemed like a win-win, even if the employees impacted by the decision had to deal with a few less dollars in their paychecks each week. At least they didn’t have to go look for new jobs.
    To me, there’s also a flipside to this. The county, without going back and correcting the work week back to 40 hours, is now paying for full-time benefits to people who aren’t full time, at least not by what most of us consider being “full time.” That’s 40 hours.
    And, as an addendum, I’ll let you know I just recently found out that one county employee is set to receive retirement benefits for working just five hours for 10 days a month. How about them apples?
    The issue also now takes on added importance as the Affordable Healthcare Act, better known as Obamacare, becomes more fully implemented. Obamacare, in a misguided or mistaken idea of trying to have employers provided health insurance to more workers, redefined “full time” as 30 hours.
    Either the Democratic leadership is stupid as I think them to be, or they had a hidden agenda here. Pick one. But, it was fairly obvious to most people what would happen – employers would cut part-time employees to less than 30 hours to avoid having to pay for benefits.
    So, wouldn’t it be wiser for the board of commissioners to look at restructuring the work week?
    After all, according to the conversations I’ve heard at county meetings in the past couple of years, insurance and retirement costs are becoming a bigger budgetary concern for commissioners and even larger burden for county taxpayers.
    The answer seems to be simple – if you’re going to get full benefits, work 40 hours a week. If you’re not working 40 hours, then the county should save the cost of paying out benefits and limit those positions to less than 30 hours. It only makes sense, even if it means creating multiple part-time positions or cross-training employees to assist in other departments, when needed.
    Of course, I can only imagine the looks of many at the Kalkaska County Governmental Center the next time I stop by. I’m sure several won’t be happy. In many ways, I don’t blame them.
    However, the governmental center doesn’t exist for a relatively small group of people to benefit from a larger group, many of whom might be struggling and living without such things as health insurance and retirement plans, yet are paying the bill through their tax dollars.
    Government is there to provide mandatory or needed services at the lowest costs – period. That can’t happen if leadership is making bad business decisions.
    It can be easy at times to forget the true purpose of governing, especially for seven people who only meet now and then, yet are burdened with the sometimes overwhelming tasks of county government.
    Unlike the folks in Lansing or even Washington, D.C., I won’t make the accusation they’re out of touch with us common folk. I don’t think that’s the case at all.
    But, it can be hard to make those tough decisions when it impacts people you know, with whom you work and live with. Still, for the benefit of the entire county, that’s what they have to do.
    Readers may contact contributing writer Dennis Mansfield via email at dennislmansfield@gmail.com or find “The Mound” on Facebook at www.facebook.com/fromthemound.


1/20/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. City’s furlough lift tabled until Feb. 2, by Nancy Spencer, (postdated 1/21 00:00 by source) DelphosHerald.com
    DELPHOS, Ohio, USA — City workers will wait at least one more council meeting before they learn if their work week is back to 40 hours or will remain 37.
    Delphos City Council [Jan.19?] voted 5-2 to table the ordinance until the Feb. 2 meeting after an amendment proposed by councilman Joe Martz to begin the new hours and pay on July 1 was defeated.
    [Evidently they're calling a 3-hour/week hourcut for everyone a "furlough" here, but since there was evidently a prorated paycut, it was probably instituted some time in the past to avoid layoffs.]
    Martz had asked for the extension on the effective date of the ordinance until council had a chance to see the department head budgets this week and the proposed plans for fixing issues at the wastewater treatment plant.
    “We might be a little too early to see exactly what the income tax increase, the Lakeview Farms expansion and the money saved by going to central dispatching does for our bottom line, also,” Martz said.
    Councilman Andy Knueve agreed.
    “I would like to hear what they have to say about the wastewater treatment plant before we vote on this,” he said.
    Safety Service Director Shane Coleman told council there would be a presentation on options for the wastewater treatment plant at the Feb. 2 meeting.
    An amendment to policy on overtime worked by salaried employees proposed by Josh Gillespie met a similar fate. Gillespie had two proposals, the first to eliminate compensation time all together for salaried employees and another to grant compensation time after 48 hours are worked at the discretion of the administration and time must be used within 30 days.
    Councilman Del Kemper asked the mayor how managers would use their compensation time under those constraints.
    “That’s a good question,” Mayor Michael Gallmeier said. “I’m OK with 45 hours expected. All department heads are short-staffed and I’m afraid they would assign some duties to hourly employees that would eat up the savings.”
    Kemper agreed that 45 hours wasn’t unreasonable to expect from a salaried employee.

    [Interesting decisions: hourly employees get overtime pay (or comp time?) after only 40 hrs/wk and salaried employees get only comp time and only after a longer workweek of 45 hours (which is probably actually in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act).]
    Gillespie said he preferred to eliminate compensation time for salaried employees.
    Knueve said he would like to look at some numbers before deciding either way.
    “I’m not comfortable voting on this right now,” he said.
    Knueve called a Legislative Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2 prior to the regular council meeting.
    “We will also have more information on the wastewater treatment plant at that time and the other numbers to look at,” Knueve added.
    Council heard on second reading an ordinance authorizing the mayor and/or safety service director to enter into contracts for the purchase of materials and commodities necessary for the operation of the city’s various departments including stone aggregrate, water meters, bituminous materials and chemicals.

  2. Harder Work, Longer Hours Lead to ‘Risky’ Drinking Habits, Study Finds, by Bary Alyssa Johnson staff@latinpost.com, (1/19 late pickup) LatinPost.com
    NEW YORK, N.Y., USA - a newly released study examined the correlation between hours worked each week and drinking habits and found that -- worldwide -- individuals who work longer weeks than their peers were prone to heavier alcoholic-drinking tendencies.
    The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), examined data on over 330,000 people living in 14 different countries. It found that employees who worked longer than the average work week (defined in the study as 48 hours or more) were 11 percent more likely to engage in heavy drinking than their colleagues.
    The parameters used by the BMJ researchers to conduct this study defined heavy, or "risky" drinking as over 14 drinks a week for women and over 21 drinks per week for men.
    The results showed that approximately two million hard-working men and women in countries all around the globe have innate tendencies to drink heavily due to their long hours in the office.
    [Compare tomorrow's story from India -]
    Survey: 35% tobacco-chewing cops have precancerous lesions, by Sumita Pal, 1/21 ('1/22' timezone issue) Daily News & Analysis via DNAindia.com
    DELHI, India - Unusually long working hours and the resultant stress is the cause behind around 30% of the police force consuming tobacco, a recent survey by the Cancer Patients Aids Association has revealed. Among them, 35% had precancerous lesions...


1/18-19/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Manroland Sheetfed cuts production hours on dip in China orders, by Simon Nias, 1/19 PrintWeek.com
    LONDON, U.K. - Manroland Sheetfed has returned to short-time working, following a drop in demand from China, [for] approximately 800 staff at its manufacturing facility in Offenbach, according to German media reports.
    All areas of the company are said to be affected by the short-time working, except those that carry a legal exception such as trainees and their trainers.
    [Well here's an interesting design feature - is it universally necessary or, under what conditions?]
    The reduction in working hours is a result of a drop in orders from China, according to newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, which said that short-time working had been registered until the end of June.
    Normal hours could be reinstated sooner if the company sees an improvement in orders in the second quarter, following the Roland 700 Evolution press launch in November 2014.
    Employees at the Offenbach plant last experienced a reduction in their contracted hours prior to June 2011, when the company reinstated normal working hours after almost three years of short-time working.
    This is also the first instance of reduced working hours since the company was bought out of administration by Langley Holdings in early 2012 and restructured to break even on just 100 press sales a year.

  2. Americans, why are the French so lazy and only work 35 hours per week with no overtime? by 'Ted Mormon Statesman Vader,' 1/18 Yahoo! India Answers via in.answers.yahoo.com
    Do u think the French are lazy? Even UK now has surpassed them in terms of GDP. Do u still buy their Louis Vuitton? Do u buy their French cars? Do u buy their Charlie Hebdo with funny comics? What do u think?
    DELHI, India - Answers (17)
    Elaine M answered [over 24 hours] ago
    They've got a country the size of Wisconsin and half of it is mountain. The population is smaller than you'd think. If their economic business doesn't have a full 40 hour work week to keep it going, I'd figure that counts to the good. You can spend more time with family and your personal life. If you got your head out of your butt you'd realize other countries are NOT the USA and don't operate the same way.   .\.
    phil answered 16 hours ago
    Starting with the last answer from Elaine M. [above] ya gotta wonder why these geniuses don't use their computers to get some real data. France at 247,367 sq miles is over four times larger than Wisconsin at only 54,314 sq.mi. Only a third of France is mountainous (http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/europe/lgcolor/frcolor.htm). The population is 66 million, almost twice that of Canada. But she's right about the irrelevance of the 40-hour workweek in the age of robotics - the U.S. Senate passed a 30-hour workweek in 1933, FDR blocked it in the House & regreted it 2 yrs later. Lots of US companies and industries had 35-hr workweeks way back in the 1960s, like insurance and academe. Wall St itself had 37.5 hrs/wk for clerks in the 60s cuz my wife was one. And France surpassed the UK in GDP several years ago. Latest figures in Wikipedia: France $2,806,432 million and UK only $2,678,455 million. There's some stupid fad among the Dumber Set on the Inter Net to whack France - UK PM Cameron makes it his stupid hobby - probably just jealous of their GDP. The French work longer hours than the Germans since the 35 hours isn't that well enforced and practice more 'timesizing' instead of downsizing than the USA. - MrTimesizing.com
    Source(s): TimesizingNotDownsizing.com ...
    Bluestocking answered 2 days ago
    The French refuse to be exploited by employers whose only thought is profit. There is a life outside work which consists of eating, drinking and making love to have a family. The USA is in the grip of the Capitalist system which employs workers when it suits and throws them aside when profits sink. The stupid thing is that the USA citizens fall for it.
    CaduceusGirl answered 2 days ago
    For some reason, the French government thinks that lowering the amount of hours worked in a week increases productivity.
    [No it doesn't - it thinks that lowering the amount of hours worked in a week increases employment and consumer spending, because when it lowered the workweek 4 hours between 1997 and spring 2001, employment went from 12.6% to 8.6%, and the developed world became the developed world while cutting an over-80-hour workweek in half between 1840 and 1940, which thanks to the multiplier effect, made employment and consumer spending and marketable productivity over twice as high than it would have been if the 80-hour workweek had been frozen forever, as the 40-hour workweek is now.]
    If that were the case, Germany wouldn't be kicking them into the dust with their work ethic and production!
    [Wake up and quit being so ready to believe all the France-bashing on the Internet. The French work longer hours than the Germans - see 12/28-29/2014 #2: "But in reality, France’s 35-hour week has become largely symbolic, as employees across the country pull longer hours and work more intensely, with productivity per hour about 13% higher than the eurozone average" and see 12/19/2014 #1: "It bears repeating: we work more, on a weekly basis, in France than in Germany."]
    Source(s): My 16 year old head :D
    [Your "16 year old head" needs some facts from Wikipedia and Timesizing.com.]
    RayHere answered 2 days ago
    The UK has always been a little ahead of the French in GDP
    [It has until a couple of years ago.]
    Smilin' Jim answered 2 days ago
    The French are under producers, dependent upon America for the national security and no longer innovators in science and technology.
    [Ignorance abounding! The French aren't under producing - everyone else is over producing - that's why prices are falling. Productivity doesn't count unless it's marketable. As for national security, France is actually a big manufacturer and exporter of weaponry. If it was "dependent upon America for the national security" when Charlie Hebdo got hit, America wasn't doing a very good job. And the U.S. is actually closing bases in Europe to save money ("The Pentagon plans to close a number of military bases in Europe in a bid to save an estimated $500 million a year," Wall St Journal, Jan.9, A1 pointer to A5).]
    BeBe answered 2 days ago
    I love the French.
    durango joe answered 2 days ago
    35? I thought that they had a 30 hour work week. They also get more vacation time.
    [That's right - Paris empties out for the whole month of August.]
    Star Man answered 2 days ago
    They probably don't goof off at work as much as resentful Americans.
    Ding fries are done. answered 2 days ago
    i think their laziness is why the US had to save them from the Germans twice.
    [So the US was lazy in 1781 when the French navy saved them from the Brits? And the Germans were lazy in 1806 when nobody saved them from the French under Napoleon at the Battle of Jena?]
    xpatinasia answered 2 days ago
    They aren't lazy.
    Al answered 2 days ago
    there's more to life than working every minute of your life, son
    Anonymous edited 2 days ago
    at least they work. Obama has a setup going where you have free housing, eat and go to college free..why work
    walt answered 2 days ago
    almost as lazy as the Spanish
    StephenG answered 2 days ago
    they are not lazy they are sensible, it creates more jobs and more leisure time for family etc
    Sam answered 2 days ago
    too busy placating to Moslem invaders
    LA Snow answered 2 days ago
    Are they leaning on others?


1/17/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Poll: Is 30 hours a full work week, as Obamacare says? by Jonathan D. Salant, True Jersey via nj.com/politics
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Should Obamacare require companies to give health insurance to employees working 30 hours a week?
    Under the Affordable Act Act, dubbed "Obamacare," companies employing at least 50 full-time workers must provide access to health insurance to their workers or pay a fine. The law defines "full-time" as working at least 30 hours a week. Statistics guru Nate Silver's 538.com website says some employers are cutting their part-time workers' hours so they stay below the 30-hour threshold.
    House Republicans say a full work week is really 40 hours, and have passed legislation to amend the health-care law to reflect that. “For decades, employers have used the 40-hour work week as a standard for workforce management,” said Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.).
    The bill is now before the Senate.
    If Congress increases the threshold to 40 hours, as many as 1 million Americans will now lose the health insurance provided by their employers, according to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation. Furthermore, such action would increase the federal deficit aid by $53.2 billion during the period 2015 to 2025 as fewer companies will pay penalties for not providing coverage.
    [Plus one of these proliferating articles said that since there are a lot more people working at or just over 40 hrs/wk than at or just over 30 hrs/wk, a lot more people would have hours and pay cut to 39 if the 40 threshold is restored than would have hours and pay cut to 29 if the threshold remains at 30. Plus the hiring effect of the unintentional(?) worksharing of the 30-hour level would be lost.]
    The White House said the bill would provide incentives to companies to reduce their workers' hours under the 40-hour threshold, thus removing the requirement that they provide health insurance.
    President Obama has said he would veto the bill.
    Should Obamacare require companies to give health insurance to employees working 30 hours a week? Vote in our informal, unscientific poll.
    [http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/01/poll_is_a_full-time_employee_someone_who_works_30.html]
    Poll: Should Obamacare require companies to give health insurance to employees working 30 hours a week?
    Yes. More workers will have coverage. [377 votes as of 1/19 3pm]
    No. Use the traditional 40-hour work week. [588]
    Don't know [20, total votes 985]
    Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at jsalant@njadvancemedia.com.

  2. Shorter work week improves productivity - Better conditions motivate, The Yomiuri Shimbun via The Regina Leader-Post via leaderpost.com
    Some small Japanese companies have successfully improved their business performance by improving working conditions, which includes a four-day work week and allowing staff to moonlight - most companies in Japan prohibit dual employment. (photo caption)
    TOKYO, Japan - Some domestic Japanese companies have successfully improved their business performance by creating working conditions that better motivate their employees, including fourday workweeks and allowing them to have second jobs.
    [The four-day workweek spreads the vanishing human employment in the age of robotics and conduces to economic prosperity, but the second jobs goes in the opposite direction.]
    One such company is Aki Co., located in a mountainous area of Kunisaki, that manufacturers and sells kits of cardboard pieces that can be assembled into various 3-D objects.
    Aki converted an idle primary school building into its current office building.
    "First, we create three-dimensional computer images of products, and then use precision lasers to cut cardboard into elaborate components," Aki president Yuki Matsuoka, 52, said. "No one else is likely to create such exquisite articles."
    Aki is unusual not only for its products - it operates under a four-day workweek system.
    The company's 13 employees work 10 hours a day from Monday through Thursday. Company meetings, which were considered a waste of time, were abolished, resulting in a boost in employee motivation.
    Since the introduction of the four-day workweek in June 2013, the company's sales have risen nearly 30 per cent.
    One company, En Factory Inc., even encourages its workers to take outside jobs, although most companies prohibit dual employment.
    Kenta Kato, 48, president of the Internet-related service firm based in Tokyo, said: "I don't say my employees should have just any side job. I recommend them to do side work that can give them a chance to think about business management. Doing so fosters their initiative and a sense of professionalism, and improves their business sense."
    In fact, half of the company's 22 employees enthusiastically work at side jobs. One of them, Takahito Yagami, 35, manages websites for disseminating information mainly about his home city, Futtsu.
    He said he wanted to pour more energy into his side jobs beginning this month. "I'll work in businesses that can contribute to my home city and are rooted in the local community," he said. The number of company employees who wish to do rewarding work is not small.
    Recruit Career Co., a jobplacement company that also helps workers who want to change jobs, began a service named "Sankaku" in September 2014.
    The service aims to connect employees of major companies and startup firms.
    The selling point of the service is that company employees can participate in management of the startups without quitting their current jobs.
    Kanta Akiyama, 30, who developed the system of the Sankaku service, said: "Startups lack people with experience and skills. Employees of major companies cannot switch jobs so easily even if they want to test their potential. I thought it would be good to match the needs of the two sides."
    Unlocking people's motivation can benefit both companies and Japanese society.

  3. Xiaomi employees work for insane hours: Hugo Barra, The Times of India via timesofindia.indiatimes.com
    NEW DELHI, India - Xiaomi's vice president of international, Hugo Barra, has revealed the crazy hours that employees at the Chinese smartphone manufacturer work. In an interview with the BBC, Barra claimed that Xiaomi's standard working hours are from 9.30 in the morning through to 9.30 at night. That's a huge demand to make of staff, even[?] at tech companies.
    [12-hour days? That went out in the USA by 1865. So much for "technological progress."]
    Here's Barra's answer when asked about the culture at Xiaomi: Our company working hours are 9.30 in the morning to 9.30 in the evening, and that's just the regular working hours, plus one hour for lunch. But show up in our office here at 11pm and you'll see that 80% of the people are still around often because they're working on something that they feel is so important that they need to spend extra time on it.
    Xiaomi's working hours are similar to its biggest rival: Apple. Two former Apple managers revealed in a podcast just how much time the company demands.


1/16/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. North Sydney Council execs ask for more leaves to help work life balance, by Dhiraj Pal, HealthAim.com
    NORTH SYDNEY, Qnsld., Australia - Senior North Sydney Council staff, whose combined earnings are more than $1.5 million, are in line to benefit from extra leave concessions. Sydney council senior staff demands an extra 10 day leave to manage “work life balance”. Presently they are getting 20 leave benefits annually. The decision was taken in a meeting held at the council office in Sydney. North Sydney Council’s general manager Warwick Winn and six executives are to benefit from the move.
    The decision, however, was frozen with a rescission motion by North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson. She wants further investigation into the matter as the new policy is unheard of in government as well as in the industry.<BR> ["Unheard of" except in the U.S. Congress whose average workweek and number of workweeks per year is at an all-time low. But if "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," then what civil servants get, private-sector employees should get.]
    She advises the council to be mindful of their decision. “I believe other executives out there would be amazed at such a request”, she quoted.
    Winn however praised the decision of giving more leaves to the council’s senior staff. He requested to comply with the decision as early as possible. He said that the senior staff has to work for long hours in the office and work very hard for the organization and the community to meet the expectations. The decision would benefit them to manage work-life balance, which would gives them more time to spend with our families. The working capacity would also be increased, according to Winn, after getting proper resting time. He also made clear that the leave will not be debited from annual or long-service leave entitlements. It is a leave on full pay, he said.
    He added that the staff meetings are often held after 6 pm. working beyond the office hours. In contrast, indoor council staff works a 35-hour a week. This created frustration in the senior staff, according to him. Thus, Winn argued, it has become necessary to provide some relief in terms of mental calm and peace on the part of the senior staff.
    Online reactions to the leave concessions have been largely critical. In Australian tabloid The Daily Telegraph, a commenter under the name rhys2 wrote: “It seems as if Mr Winn and his colleagues are only prepared to work 35 hours for their $322K! Possibly if they wanted such short hours they should not have entered Local Government Public Service? Many cops spend their own time doing the paperwork for offenders charged at the end of their shift, plenty of solicitors would work 50 -60 hours a week for half this amount, etc, etc.”
    “Is this a joke?” online user Thomas asked in The Daily Telegraph. “If so it is both funny and well thought out – however I fear it is not a joke, and that the General Manager is asking for an additional 2 weeks paid leave because his Council is working so well……chortle chortle.”
    Do you feel that the additional leaves by the staff are warranted or not?

  2. Unsubtle subterfuge - So-called ‘workers’ act could trim health benefits, editorial, Eugene Register Guard via registerguard.com
    EUGENE, Ore., USA - As part of their effort to chip away at and eventually repeal the [federal] Affordable Care Act, House Republicans — with the help of 12 Democrats — passed a bill on Jan. 8 to change the act’s definition of full-time worker to 40 hours per week from the current 30 hours. The vote was 252-172. The bill now goes to the Senate, where the new Republican majority (54 to 44, with two independents [American heros Bernie Sanders VT & Angus King ME, both in sane New England!]) is expected to pass it and send it to President Obama, who has promised a veto.
    The same bill was approved by the House in the previous Congress but couldn’t get through the then-Democratic-controlled Senate.  Reps. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., sponsored the new version and have picked up at least four Democratic co-sponsors, including Oregon Fifth District Rep. Kurt Schrader.
    Supporters of the bill are disingenuous, if not outright hypocritical. They call it the “Save American Workers Act” when in fact the bill would hurt the people it purports to “save.”
    The ACA this year requires employers of 100 or more people to provide them with health insurance coverage if they work 30 hours or more. Employers of 50 to 99 workers come under the law next year. Republicans and business leaders contend the 30-hour rule is forcing some employers to reduce their employees to 29 hours a week or less to avoid having the pay for health care insurance.
    But no one is forcing employers to do that — they’re choosing to do it to protect their bottom lines. And it’s true that some financially pinched, shortsighted and/or callous employers have been doing it, primarily in the retail and restaurant industries. In doing so, they’ve not only made life harder for their mostly low-wage, minimal-benefits workers, they’ve also risked having higher employee turnover, which creates the prospect of having to hire additional part-time employees to cover the hours they cut, and increased their training and scheduling costs.
    The Save American Workers Act would allow them to deny health insurance benefits to employees working 30 to 39 hours, which could also lead to higher turnover, hiring, training and scheduling costs.
    Supporters of the bill say if it becomes law, those now working less than 30 hours could make up for not having health insurance coverage by working up to 10 hours per week more, an example of supporters’ convoluted thinking. The more likely scenario is that some employers would reduce their 40-hour employees to 39 hours or less to avoid paying, or helping pay for, their health insurance.
    There’s no evidence supporting Republicans’ repeated claim that the ACA’s 30-hour definition of full-time employment has caused employers to cut jobs. FiveThirtyEight, an online site specializing in political analysis, said recently that the number of full-time jobs has grown sharply since late 2011 while the number of part-time jobs has remained essentially flat.
    The real reason the Republicans and their cohorts — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and like groups — want to raise the ACA’s definition of full-time worker to 40 hours is so they can shift the cost of health care insurance for their employees onto taxpayers.
    Employers will be penalized $3,000 for each full-time employee who buys federally subsidized health insurance on a government-sponsored exchange. Those penalties are expected to add up to millions of dollars annually and be a crucial part of how the ACA is funded.
    But some employers have realized they can avoid paying for health care insurance for their employees and avoid paying the ACA penalties if they render their employees less-than-full-time workers. It’s a win-win for the employers but a losing situation for employees whose hours are cut so they don’t qualify for health insurance. If the Save American Workers Act becomes law, the health insurance benefits — current or pending — for the 3 percent of the workforce who now work 30 to 40 hours per week would be put at risk as well.
    A veto will be well-deserved.

  3. Long working hours at office turns you into the most dangerous folk in the world, Indo-Asian News Service @indiacom via us.india.com
    [This is the most fun of today's many stories of the hazards of long working hours, which are generally on the order of long hours at work, long hours at the bar, ie: long working hours conduce to alcoholism.]
    NEW DELHI, India - My psychotherapist says I have “revenge addiction”. I am SO going to get the @$%@*& for that. Meanwhile, I just noticed that pretty much all office cubicles in the world have padded cell walls, just like lunatic asylums. Mine are a soothing beige-grey in color. There’s a message there, right?
    One of my office neighbours says that people who sit at boring desks all day are actually the most dangerous folks in the world because cramping the human spirit eventually leads to violent outbursts – which she says appears to be the theme of a new Hollywood blockbuster, called “The Accountant”. I quickly added it to my list of Films Not To See.
    A web search revealed that in this movie, Ben Affleck appears as an office worker who has a dull job during the day but kills people in his spare time. Clearly a clever blend of the average office worker’s actual and imaginary lives, or at least mine.
    My colleague said she would be happy to watch Ben Affleck sitting in an office as long as he had his shirt ripped off. This would need a bit of creative licence – shirt-ripping-off doesn’t happen much in modern offices, except during end of year parties, when it becomes mandatory.
    Actually, thinking about it, the central character in “The Shawshank Redemption” is an office worker who actually performs “live accountancy” during the movie. “Look Who’s Talking”, so I read, is about an auditor whose newborn baby delivers wisecracks in the voice of Bruce Willis. I have not seen “Look Who’s Talking”, as it is clearly a deeply disturbing horror film.
    My colleague reminded me that the main character in “Moonstruck” is an accountant, played by Cher, an actress who gives me the creeps, as she does not have a single wrinkle despite being a succubus of well over 200 years of age. But why do filmmakers feel they have to give modern office workers secret lives to make us interesting? Our lives are already filled with tension and high drama.
    For example, consider the race against time when you have to shut down all your open internet windows in the few seconds before your boss reaches your desk. Clickclickclickclickclick – my fingers move so fast that time and space are warped over my keyboard.
    And if they want a good movie dialogue, they could just use standard office banter. I once had a boss who thought he was funny, and we had the following exchange over the office intranet system. Boss: “I need a laugh, can you send me a joke?” Me: “I’m doing some work.” Boss: “That’s not bad. Can you send me another?”
    And of course, there’s drama. Last month, a guy at a cubicle three metres away from me had a screaming tantrum, swore at the boss and resigned, slamming the door.
    Usually, if there’s a commotion, our heads float up like those of prairie dogs, but this was a show of human emotion so we sank deep into our cubicles, some of us probably right down to floor level. I was so shaken that I lost half a day’s work. Fortunately I do not have revenge addiction. But I might just get it anyway.


1/15/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. R.I. gets $328,000 federal grant to help fund workshare program, by Kate Bramson kbramson@providencejournal.com, ProvidenceJournal.com
    [Worksharing inches ahead in the U.S.]
    PROVIDENCE, R.I., USA — Rhode Island has received $328,092 in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Labor to support its “work sharing” program that is credited with helping prevent job layoffs — by saving 14,843 jobs in Rhode Island since 2008 — U.S. Sen. Jack Reed announced Thursday.
    The program allows struggling companies who need to reduce costs to retain employees who would otherwise be in danger of being laid off. Instead, the companies temporarily reduce those employees’ work hours, and the employees are eligible to receive partial unemployment benefits to help make up what they’ve lost in wages.
    The idea behind the program is that people keep their jobs,
    and go back to full-time work when the companies are on better financial ground, and companies don’t lose their skilled workers and then face costs of rehiring people, or finding new employees they’ll have to train when the firms are doing better.
    Reed was the lead sponsor of the Layoff Prevention Act, which was signed into law in 2012 as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act. The law provides an estimated $500 million nationwide to help businesses and state governments partner to save such jobs.
    Since 2012, Rhode Island has received more than $6.3 million in federal reimbursements and grants. Reed’s office says the program has helped save about 1,270 jobs in Rhode Island during that time.
    However, Rhode Island had implemented its worksharing program back in 2008, before the federal law was passed. The state covered the costs of employees’ partial unemployment benefits during the years before the federal law passed. Now, the federal government covers those costs.

  2. Update: Philadelphia Fed 6.3 vs 18.7 expected - More from the Philly Fed's press release, StreetInsider.com (subscription)
    PHILADELPHIA, Pa., USA - Manufacturing activity in the region increased modestly in January, according to firms responding to this month’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey. The survey’s current indicators for general activity and new orders fell from their readings in December, suggesting a slower pace of growth. Firms reported continued moderation in price pressures, attributable to lower energy costs. Overall, firms reported that lower energy prices were having overall net positive effects on manufacturing business. The survey’s indicators of future activity show continued optimism about continued growth over the next six months.
    Indicators Suggest Slower Pace of Growth
    The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, decreased 18 points, from a revised reading of 24.3 in December to 6.3 this month (see Chart 1).* Demand for manufactured goods, as measured by the current new orders index, decreased 5 points, from a revised reading of 13.6 last month to 8.5 this month. Shipments also fell, with its index falling 22 points to -6.9, its first negative reading since February 2014. Firms reported shorter delivery times and a decrease in unfilled orders this month, on balance.
    Firms’ responses suggest weaker labor market conditions in January. The percentage of firms reporting a decrease in employees (15 percent) exceeded the percentage reporting an increase (13 percent) for the first time in 19 months. The current employment index fell 10 points, from 8.4 to -2.0. Firms also reported reductions in the workweek: The percentage of firms reporting a shorter workweek (23 percent) was greater than the percentage reporting a longer workweek (16 percent).
    [So timesizing is already happening anyway, but not the best way and not even within a version of economic "software" that regards workweek reductions as a necessary and natural benefit of worksaving technology.]
    Firms Report Continued Moderation in Input Prices
    Input price pressures continued to decline for reporting manufacturers: The prices paid index fell 5 points to 9.8 in January and has now declined 15 points over the past three months (see Chart 2). Most firms (68 percent) reported that input prices were unchanged. With respect to prices received for manufactured goods, nearly the same percentage of firms reported price reductions (8 percent) as reported price increases (8 percent). The prices received index fell 10 points to just below zero, its lowest reading in 21 months. The largest percentage of firms (84 percent) reported no change in manufactured good prices.
    Most Future Indicators Remain at High Levels
    The diffusion index for future activity edged up by less than 1 point, to 50.9, in January and has remained near its current level over the past five months (see Chart 1). The future index for new orders held steady, but the future shipments index fell 7 points. More than 52 percent of the firms are expecting no change in their employment levels over the next six months, while the percentage expecting increases (33 percent) was substantially greater than the percentage expecting employment decreases (8 percent). The future employment index decreased slightly, from a revised reading of 24.9 in December to 24.0 in January.
    Energy Price Reductions Are Having a Net Positive Effect
    In this month’s special questions, firms were asked about the effects of lower oil prices on manufacturing business (see Special Questions). The responses indicate that the effects have been positive for most firms. Nearly 63 percent of the firms reported positive effects, while 16 percent reported negative effects. The largest percentage (39 percent) characterized the effect as slightly positive. The most frequently cited impact was that falling energy prices were lowering the costs of production (57 percent of the firms). For 23 percent of the firms, energy cost reductions were increasing sales margins. On the negative side, nearly one-third of the firms indicated they had experienced declines in business from energy production-related customers, but 10 percent reported demand increases from nonenergy-related customers. With regard to the firms’ own expectations for energy prices over the next six months, firms were evenly divided about whether there would be an increase or decrease in future demand for their manufactured products.
    Summary
    The Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey suggests a slower pace of expansion of the region’s manufacturing sector in January. The indicators for general activity and new orders both suggest moderating growth. Firms reported an overall reduction in shipments and labor usage for January. Respondents also indicated that price pressures were reduced and that lower energy prices are having net beneficial effects. Firms remain optimistic about increases in overall business and employment over the next six months.


1/14/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Reduce the Workweek to 30 Hours - Should we rethink "full-time work"? Fewer hours mean less stress, less illness, more loyalty and a healtheir environment, by Anna Coote, New York Times via nytimes.com
    LONDON, England - We used to send children down mines, sack women when they got married and expect workers to put in 12-hour day, six days a week. For more than 200 years, we have associated better working conditions and shorter hours with human progress. An average workweek of 40 hours nowadays looks old fashioned and backward.
    We need a slow but steady move toward a 30-hour week for all workers. This will help solve a lot of connected problems: overwork, unemployment, overconsumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other and simply to enjoy life.

    People working shorter hours generally have a smaller ecological footprint. If you are tied to the workplace for 40-plus hours, you don’t have much time for the rest of your life. So things have to speed up. You travel by plane or car instead of train, foot or bike. Convenience-driven consumption takes a heavy toll on the environment.
    Some say it can’t be done because wages are too low. So let’s raise wages. No one should have to work long hours just to get by. Some say it’s uncompetitive. But there’s no match between average working hours and the strength of a country’s economy. The Netherlands and Germany have a shorter workweek than the United States and Britain. But the Dutch and German economies are stronger, not weaker. Workers on shorter hours tend to be more productive hour-for-hour. They are under less stress, they get sick less often and they make a more loyal and committed workforce.
    We ended slavery, built the railways and won votes for women. All these once seemed impossible. We can do the same for working hours. It’s only a matter of time.
    Anna Coote is head of social policy at the New Economics Foundation in London. She is a co-editor of "Time on Our Side" and co-author of "21 Hours."

  2. Guest Voices: Surviving the Great Recession, by Larry Gottsman, San Antonio Express-News via expressnews.com
    SAN ANTONIO, Tex., USA - The Great Recession, as it was termed, certainly caused some anxiety among those of us who own small businesses. I remember in mid-2009, I was forced to make some changes that I knew would not be popular with my staff. Our revenues had shrunk to about 60 percent of those from the previous year, and we did not see any light at the end of the tunnel. Projects either were being put on hold or simply canceled. It was time to trim our overhead, and that meant slashing jobs.
    I am what some would call a soft manager. In my vocabulary, however, soft management does not mean weak management. I’ve always believed that those who support me do not need a dictatorial-style leader and that soft leadership is more likely to lead to open dialogue, which ultimately benefits everyone.
    Our financial condition in 2009 was such that I had come to the conclusion that, at a minimum, we needed to trim at least 20 percent of our staff, as a first step. So I conferred with my general manager, and he suggested a meeting with all the employees in order to sort things out and gain their perspective. I agreed, and spent a great deal of time preparing for this meeting. I wanted them to have the facts and to know that these cuts had nothing to do with their efforts. I also wanted to show my appreciation for all they had done up until that point.
    As I opened the meeting, one of my salespeople asked if there weren’t some alternatives to the layoffs. Then a production supervisor spoke up and said she would be willing to work a four-day workweek until things improved. Before long, everyone was open to the four-day workweek — and we had our 20 percent savings. Several individuals then asked for some guarantee as to when we might be able to get back to a full workweek, and I had to tell them that there were no guarantees.
    But, eighteen months later, we were able to return everyone to a five-day workweek — without losing any of our key players. It’s a much better situation than having to hire and train new individuals to fill posts that might have been eliminated during the tight times.
    I wonder what might have happened had I not agreed to the all-inclusive meeting suggested by my general manager. I knew, going into it, that I was going to be vulnerable to the give-and-take of emotions. Yet, had the meeting never happened, the layoffs most likely would have been made and those who were not affected would be wondering if they might not be next. I am certain that this would have added to their emotional strain and made our recovery process much more difficult.
    I’ve never been able to understand dictatorial management. I want those who support me to always know what’s happening in our organization and, more importantly, I want them to know “why” things are happening. And if they have an idea that may positively affect the “what” or the “why,” I don’t want it to be translated by an intermediary such as a department head.
    Back in 2009, I was only looking for a survival mechanism, and the simple formula for cutting costs was layoffs. I learned that being open to new ideas — a four-day workweek — is a much better survival mechanism and likely will result in a more unified company with goals that are understood by all. Better yet, you (as owner, manager) will become known as someone who is open to change regardless of the source.
    Larry Gottsman is president of Aetna Sign Group.

  3. What's Behind the Bill Designating a 'Full Time' Work Week at 40 Hours? 1200 News Radio WOAI via woai.com
    SAN ANTONIO, Tex., USA - A measure which has passed the House and is making its way through the newly-Republican Senate would declare that a standard full time work week consists of 40 working hours a week.
    Huh?
    Brad Oxford, who is an expert on employee compensation law at the San Antonio office of Strasburger & Price says, yes, a 40 hour week has been considered the standard in the U.S. for decades, but the measure in Congress only covers one topic--the very controversial Affordable Care Act.
    "This has nothing to do with employment laws," he said. "It only has to do with whether employers have to provide health care coverage."

    He says the current standard for a 'full time employee,' meaning an employee who must receive employer-provided health care benefits under the ACA, was set by the law at 30 hours a week. The measure being pushed by congressional Republicans would up that to 40 hours a week.
    "It would be a break for employers, and it would be a hit, so to speak, on employees," Oxford said.
    The so called Save American Workers Act is a key priority of the Republicans now that they control both houses of Congress, and it has been a priority of employers since Obamacare was first approved.
    Designers of the ACA set a thirty hour floor for benefits on the idea that it would be difficult for employers to cut workers' hours from 40 to 29 a week so they would fall under the Obamacare threshold. Opponents of the bill, including the White House, say now that the floor has been set at 40 hours, employers can simply shave one hour of work off an employee's schedule each week, which wouldn't result in a significant loss of productivity, but could save the employer a bundle in health care benefits.
    Employers say they have been busy 'restructuring their work force' to avoid the most onerous mandates of Obamacare, and have had to move many full time employees to part time work. They say the new law will enable them to keep workers on what is essentially full time, without have to be hit with huge costs for health insurance.
    Oxford says the 40 hour level will not affect any other aspect of employment, from who is eligible for overtime to pensions to retirement benfits. Just Obamacare.


1/13/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Working hours: Get a Life, The Independent Singapore News (blog) via theindependent.sg
    [New material: the Stakhanovite intern, the Greeks, opportunity cost, ...]
    SINGAPORE - Bertrand Russell, the English philosopher, was not a fan of work. In his 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness”, he reckoned that if society were better managed the average person would only need to work four hours a day. Such a small working day would “entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life.” The rest of the day could be devoted to the pursuit of science, painting and writing.
    Russell thought that technological advancement could free people from toil. John Maynard Keynes mooted a similar idea in a 1930 essay, “Economic possibilities for our grandchildren”, in which he reckoned people might need work no more than 15 hours per week by 2030.
    But over 80 years after these speculations people seem to be working harder than ever. The Financial Times reports today that Workaholics Anonymous groups are taking off. Over the summer Bank of America faced intense criticism after a Stakhanovite intern died.
    But data from the OECD, a club of rich countries, tell a more positive story. For the countries for which data are available the vast majority of people work fewer hours than they did in 1990.
    And it seems that more productive — and, consequently, better-paid — workers put in less time at the office...
    The Greeks are some of the most hardworking [people] in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher.
    [There a lesson in there somewhere but workaholics will never find it, however obvious.]
    One important question concerns whether appetite for work actually diminishes as people earn more. There are countervailing effects. On the one hand, a higher wage raises the opportunity cost of leisure time and should lead people to work more. On the other hand, a higher income should lead a worker to consume more of the stuff he or she enjoys, which presumably includes leisure.
    Some research shows that higher pay does not, on net, lead workers to do more. Rather, they may work less. A famous study by Colin Camerer and colleagues, which looked at taxi drivers, reached a controversial conclusion. The authors suggested that taxi drivers had a daily income “target”, and that:
    When wages are high, drivers will reach their target more quickly and quit early; on low-wage days they will drive longer hours to reach the target.
    Alternatively...people who work fewer hours [may be] more productive. This idea is not new. Adam Smith reckoned that
    [T]he man who works so moderately as to be able to work constantly, not only preserves his health the longest, but in the course of the year, executes the greatest quantity of works.
    There are aberrations, of course. Americans are relatively productive and work relatively long hours. And within the American labour force hours worked among the rich have risen while those of the poor have fallen.
    But a paper released yesterday by the New Zealand Productivity Commission showed that even if you work more hours, you do not necessarily work better. The paper made envious comparisons between Kiwis and Australians—the latter group has more efficient workers.
    So maybe we should be more self-critical about how much we work. Working less may make us more productive. And, as Russell argued, working less will guarantee “happiness and joy of life, instead of frayed nerves, weariness, and dyspepsia”.
    The original article appeared in The Economist.

  2. Govt to change work schedules at primary health centers, ArabNews.com
    JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - The Health Ministry is re-examining working hours of employees at 2,300 primary health care centers across the Kingdom to ensure best quality for patients.
    According to sources quoted in the local media, the move comes in response to a statement issued earlier this month by Mohammed Al-Dosary, director of legal affairs department at the ministry, in which he challenged the legality of single shift working hours for employees at these centers. Al-Dosary argued that the current shifts violate regulations, and may cause legal and financial problems for the ministry in the long run.
    After the statement was made public, a number of employees claimed they were surprised to hear Al-Dosary’s position, and questioned the timing of his statement.
    Muhammad Rashid, an employee at Qassim health department, said the decision to establish single shifts for workers was taken by former Health Minister Hamad Al-Manea. “Why has the legal affairs department kept silent for 10 years?” he asked. Abdullah Al-Basheri, another employee at the same center, said former Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih had also supported the decision to unify the quantum of work hours for all health sector staff.
    Other health care workers, such as Umm Muhammad, a health care employee in Qunfuda, called on officials to listen to the demands of the sector’s employees and take the appropriate decision according to their requests.
    Al-Dosary argued that his office has clarified the legal aspects regarding the issue, and stressed that his department’s role is to provide legal advice and recommendations to the ministry regarding all decisions.
    Fakeih had already tackled the issue during his term at the Health Ministry, approving a resolution to amend working hours at health care centers throughout the Kingdom. Shifts were changed from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday to Thursday, effective Safar 1, 1436.
    [OK bottom line - was that a reduction or an increase?]


1/11-12/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Japan's changing workplace: Firms improve results by boosting motivation, 1/11 The Yomiuri Shimbun via chicagotribune.com
    TOKYO, Japan — Some domestic Japanese companies have successfully improved their business performance by creating working conditions that better motivate their employees, including [the good news:] four-day workweeks and [the bad news:] allowing them to have second jobs.
    [Four-day workweeks, even if 10 hours a day, give employees more free time because they save dressing for and commuting to work. Second jobs (aka moonlighting) on top of "full time," however currently defined, worsen unemployment, labor surplus, low wages, spending, circulation and investment bubbles.]
    One such company is Aki Co., located in a mountainous area of Kunisaki, that manufacturers and sells kits of cardboard pieces that can be assembled into various 3-D objects.
    Aki converted an idle primary school building into its current office building.
    "First, we create three-dimensional computer images of products, and then use precision lasers to cut cardboard into elaborate components," Aki President Yuki Matsuoka, 52, said. "No one else is likely to create such exquisite articles."
    Born in Kunisaki, Matsuoka graduated from an art university. Aki has grown into a company that enjoys popularity both at home and abroad. In fact, about 20 percent of total sales comes from overseas.
    Aki is unusual not only for its products — it operates under a four-day workweek system.
    The company's 13 employees work 10 hours a day from Monday through Thursday. Company meetings, which were considered a waste of time, were abolished, resulting in a boost in employee motivation.
    Since the introduction of the four-day workweek in June 2013, the company's sales have risen nearly 30 percent.
    "If we worked under the same sense of time as that in urban areas, we couldn't make a living in a provincial area," Matsuoka said. "I have tried to improve productivity and shorten work hours so my employees can use the spare time for local community activities and raising their children."
    One company even encourages its workers to take outside jobs, although most companies prohibit dual employment.
    The company is En Factory Inc., an Internet-related service firm based in Tokyo.
    Kenta Kato, 48, president of the company, said, "I don't say my employees should have just any side job. I recommend them to do side work that can give them a chance to think about business management. Doing so fosters their initiative and a sense of professionalism, and improves their business sense."
    In fact, half of the company's 22 employees enthusiastically work at side jobs, such as production and sales of pet supplies, and management of social networking services inside other companies.
    One of them, Takahito Yagami, 35, manages websites for disseminating information mainly about his home city, Futtsu.
    He said he wanted to pour more energy into his side jobs beginning this month. "I'll work in businesses that can contribute to my home city and are rooted in the local community," he said.
    The number of company employees who wish to do rewarding work is not small.
    Recruit Career Co., a Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo-based job-placement company that also helps workers who want to change jobs, began a service named "Sankaku" in September 2014.
    The service aims to connect employees of major companies and start-up firms. Though the service is still being offered on a trial basis, about 50 companies and thousands of company employees have already registered.
    The selling point of the service is that company employees can participate in management of the start-ups without quitting their current jobs.
    The start-ups display their needs and problems on the website, and registered company employees contact the firms if they think they can help them.
    Though the company employees are not paid for their outside activities, Hiroaki Ito, a 30-year-old employee of a major telecommunications company, said, "I was impressed as I knew that people running start-ups are taking risks and working as if they are betting their lives."
    Kanta Akiyama, 30, who developed the system of the Sankaku service, said: "Start-ups lack people with experience and skills. Employees of major companies cannot switch jobs so easily even if they want to test their potential. I thought it would be good to match the needs of the two sides."
    Unlocking people's motivation can benefit both companies and Japanese society.

  2. Hillcrest College in financial crisis, by Kenneth Nyangani, 1/12 NewsDay.co.zw
    MUTARE, Zimbabwe - Hillcrest College, an elite private college based in Mutare, has reportedly been hit hard by a financial squeeze forcing it to introduce a short working week to reduce the wage bill.
    Workers told NewsDay yesterday that school authorities were also mooting slashing teachers’ salaries by 20%. Some of the teachers at the college are reportedly earning between $1 000 and $1 500 per month depending on their grades while general workers’ wages were pegged at between $250 and $500.
    Acting headmaster Obert Chitongo in a recent memo addressed to staff confirmed the college’s financial situation.
    Part of the memo read: “Following the works council deadlock on the proposal by management to introduce the short time work system in 2015 as a special measure to avert retrenchment in terms of section 12 D (2) of the Labour Act, in light of the financial challenges the school is facing, an application will be submitted to the National Employment Council for Educational Institutions Retrenchment Committee for approval to place workers on short time work. In the interim, you will be placed on short time work starting this month (January) pending the approval by the Nec retrenchment committee.”
    Chitongo added: ‘’You are further advised that while you are working short time you shall be paid the hourly equivalent of your weekly or month wage for the hours actually worked.”

    [i.e., prorated pay, although "short time working" alias worksharing in the U.S. usually involves some cushioning of the financial impact on employees from the unemployment insurance fund, and none of the possible vindictiveness that may be involved in this situation -]
    However, disgruntled workers who spoke on condition of anonymity disputed the claims saying the school authorities were just out to fix [=get back at?] them for successfully fighting for payment of their back-pays.
    “I think they are trying to fix us after we won our case of back-pays of 2009. We are going to approach the authorities because this is just unfair. We are going to sit down with them so that they can reverse their decision,’’ one of the affected workers said.
    The college, which attracts children from well-to-do families mainly from Mutare, comprises a preparatory, primary and secondary school.


1/10/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- & small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ([commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed) -

  1. Should We Have a 40 Hour Work Week? by Ian Smith, (1/08 late pickup) blogs.fedsmith.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - The House passed legislation today that would change the definition of full time employment under Obamacare from 30 hours back to 40. The bill has no chance whatsoever of passing (even if it gets through the Senate, the president has said he will veto it), so it really is just a political statement.
    Under Obamacare, the law’s definition of full-time workers who must be offered employer-provided health insurance are those who work at least 30 hours per week. Critics say that companies are cutting workers’ hours to come in below the 30 hour threshold in order to cut costs, which then has the unintended effect of reducing the available number of full time jobs, hence the stated purpose for the legislation that was just passed by the House.
    Putting the politics of the situation aside for a moment, this got me thinking about a basic question raised by all of this: What should be considered working “full time?”
    Even if it was done unintentionally, the definition of “full time employment” as written in the legislation is one that seems to be moving us towards a new standard. If the insurance guidelines for the entire country are based [on] the assumption that when an individual works 30 hours in a week he is then considered to be a “full time employee,” one could logically conclude that this is considered to be the standard to use when defining full time employment as it relates to other situations that arise in the future.
    When I was growing up, and for all of my adult life up to this point, it has always been drilled into me that working “full time” meant you worked a minimum of 40 hours per week, at least for the purposes of benefits and job classification.
    I was curious what those of you who read FedSmith.com think of this – what should the definition of “full time employment” be in America today? Should it be 40 hours, or 30, or something else? And who should be responsible for deciding this standard? The government? Individual workers? Companies providing the jobs? Would having a shorter work week be good or bad, and what might the consequences or benefits be from changing to something different?
    It’s an interesting discussion and one that seems to have been put into the spotlight by the debate in Congress, even if done so inadvertently.

    [And a lucky thing too, because it's the most important question for human progress during our lifetimes after "How do we continue avoiding a nuclear exchange?" because a right answer will give more people more free time and money (it's a paradox but systemically it's true because of how market forces respond to labor supply) to deal with all the other pressing problems. How should "full time" be defined today? Flexibly, in response to underemployment. It should not be a frozen 40 or 30 but a flexible figure adjusted regularly, usually downward to create more chronic overtime to convert into training and hiring. Who should decide? The Market should decide, but in this case the closest we can some to letting The Market decide is (1) to have a safe range of acceptable work per person per week, with an upper and a lower limit, (2) the upper limit should be flexibly defined by the lower limit in the sense that if there are too many people below the safe range (in today's terms, "too many unemployed"), the upper limit is adjusted downward by a referendum-determined amount and schedule, (3) the lower limit should be flexibly defined by a regular referendum of the affected population or constituency: "any adult who has averaged less than X (fill in the blanks) workhours a week for over the past Y weeks is "underemployed" and should contribute to an adjustment in the onset of "overtime," and any adjustment should take place at Z hours (2?1?1/2?1/4?)per A (year?halfyear?quarter?month?)." Why not let companies providing the jobs decide? Because they usually assume other companies are going to provide the jobs whose earnings fund their markets. Until we have full employment, having a shorter workweek would be good. The benefits would be full employment, maximum markets, and maximum marketable productivity to provide a maximum of investments with a maximum of stability and profit. The basic concept was called "flexible adjustment of the workweek against unemployment" by Walter Reuther at the 1964 UAW Convention in Atlantic City.]
    Take this short survey below, and please also share your thoughts in the comments below. I’ll do a follow up post in the near future with a compilation of the survey feedback and your comments.
    1. How many hours should be considered a "full time" work week?
    How many hours should be considered a "full time" work week?
    O 50 hours
    O 40 hours
    O 30 hours
    O 20 hours
    [X] Other (please specify):
    [A flexible figure adjusted regularly, usually downward to create more chronic overtime to convert into training and hiring]
    2. Who should ultimately be responsible for setting the definition of "full time employment?"
    Who should ultimately be responsible for setting the definition of "full time employment?"
    O The federal government
    O Individual state governments
    O Individuals/workers
    O The employing organization/company
    [X] Other (please specify):
    The affected population or constituency via poll or referendum, which can work up through corporate, regional, industrial, and economywide workforces in the private sector, and/or through municipal, county, state and national workforces. These can be simultaneous and divergent, as long as all lower-level workweeks are equal to or lower than all higher-level workweeks. The principle at work here is a generalization of "No taxation without representation," namely "No legislation without feedback."]
    About the Author - Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian has worked in the web development field since 1998 and does the development and programming for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.
    [Here's an additional, less articulate article on this topic -]
    House bill re-defines work week, by Frank Lewis flewis@civitasmedia.com, (1/09 late pickup) Portsmouth Daily Times via portsmouth-dailytimes.com
    PORTSMOUTH, N..H., USA - As a part of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, the full-time work week was changed from 40 hours to 30 hours, but if U.S. Representative Bill Johnson, whose district includes parts of Scioto County, has his way, it will go back to the old definition.
    The House of Representatives passed the Save American Workers Act by a bipartisan vote of 252-172 earlier in the week. The law would require the work week to be defined as 40 hours rather than 30. It would gut the employer mandate, which is a controversial part of the ACA. Employers would only be required to provide health benefits for workers who work 40 hours or more per week. Employers would then be able to give full-time workers 39 hours of work and avoid providing health insurance to the employee, which is required under the ACA. It’s much more difficult to cut a full-time worker’s hours to 29 hours to avoid providing health care.
    “The 30-hour distortion of America’s traditional work week, as mandated by Obamacare, hits lower and middle income Americans the hardest as it forces hard-working taxpayers to work fewer hours resulting in less take-home pay…and that’s wrong. Less money in the pockets of families makes it harder to save for college, buy a house, or put food on the dinner table. I was proud to co-sponsor the Save American Workers Act that would reaffirm the 40 hour definition as full-time employment – and, as a result, provide the American people with more income and greater opportunities for advancement,” Johnson said. “Congress has been in session less than a week, and President Obama is already doing his best Harry Reid imitation; he’s already issued three veto threats – one of which is for this important bipartisan legislation. It’s time for President Obama to side with the American people and sign these common-sense bills.”
    Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.
    [Here are some other themes in recent articles on this topic -]
    40-Hour Full-Time Workweek Bill Passes As Congress Starts War Against Obamacare, (1/09 late pickup) Inquisitr.com
    [So, "war" against Obamacare. Or just -]
    House passes 40-hour work week legislation to gut ACA, (1/09 late pickup) BigNewsNetwork.com
    ["Gut" Obamacare. Or even just -]
    House approves two Obamacare tweaks intended to help small businesses, by J.D. Harrison, (1/09 late pickup) WashingtonPost.com
    ["Tweak" Obamacare -]
    [One -) ...Permit small businesses to hire military veterans but not count them toward their company’s total under the Affordable Care Act. Under the law, businesses with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty...
    (Two -) ...Change the full-time worker definition to cover one who works at least 40 hours per week [instead of at least 30]...

  2. Augusta's main library cutting hours to cut cost, News 12 WRDW via wrdw.com
    AUGUSTA, Ga., USA - The Augusta-Richmond County Library system is making some changes to save money.
    The main library on Telfair Street in Downtown Augusta will now be closed on Sundays, according to the library director. It was the only library in the county open on Sunday. The library will also have shorter operating hours on Friday and Saturday.
    Library Director Darlene Price says she's had to lay-off 7 to 8 part-time workers in October and cut two more jobs in December.

    [How many more layoffs would there have been without the hours cuts?]
    Price says the budget has been the same for the past 7 years, but budget cuts were still needed. She says more money is being spent on maintenance cost in the new building.
    The library board of trustees will meet after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to discuss the changes of hours.
    [Compare this library headline today -]
    Dubuque library's hourscut a dour subject, by Ben Jacobson ben.jacobson@thmedia.com
    [But better than a jobscut.]
    DUBUQUE, Iowa, USA - Dubuque's hiring freeze is cited for service reduction that could downgrade Carnegie-Stout's state accreditation status.
    The warm, friendly confines of Carnegie-Stout Public Library are a popular destination for Jocelyn Heitkamp and her clients.
    However, the library's new, abbreviated hours could become a complication for Heitkamp, who works closely with disabled adults. ...


1/09/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Definition of 'full-time' work varies widely, debate on shifting Obamacare threshold to 40 hours points out, by Diane Stafford, Tribune Content Agency via The Kansas City Star via (1/08 late pickup) insurancenewsnet.com
    KANSAS CITY, Mo., USA -- America's 40-hour work week took center stage Thursday as House Republicans made it the focal point of their latest effort to eviscerate Obamacare.
    The House passed a bill 257-172 saying employers covered by the Affordable Care Act would have to offer health insurance to workers regularly working 40 hours a week. The current standard is at least 30 hours a week.
    Republicans contend that the 30-hour threshold causes businesses to cut workers' hours and cut jobs. They say a 40-hour rule would create jobs. Democrats disagree, seeing greater economic harm overall by reducing the number of ACA-covered workers.
    Those who are championing the change also are saying it will "restore" the 40-hour full-time work week.
    But many employers and labor law experts don't see what, exactly, needed restoration. In the United States, what actually constitutes a full work week has traditionally been a matter of employer discretion.
    At the Kansas City law firm of Spencer Fane Britt & Browne, for example, 37½ hours a week -- not 40 hours -- is the definition of full-time employment. That's what it takes to be offered employee benefits there.
    At workplaces across the country, "full-time" can mean 40 hours a week. Sometimes, it can mean 35. Or something else.
    Except for setting 40 hours a week as the line beyond which overtime must be paid to eligible employees, U.S. laws haven't strictly defined full-time work.

    But then came the Affordable Care Act, which injected a new number into law: 30.
    The health insurance law said employees who work 30 hours a week must be considered "full-time" and must be offered health insurance by employers covered by the law.
    Congressional Republicans see raising the 30-hour threshold as a way to limit the ACA. Since enlarging their majority in the House in the midterm elections and taking over the Senate, they've been emboldened to mount attacks on the law.
    The bill passed Thursday now goes to the Senate, where the Democratic minority is expected to block the measure.
    f the Senate should pass the bill, it would still need President Obama's signature, and the president's budget office said Wednesday that he planned to veto the bill if it reached his desk.
    In the House, Republicans would need 290 votes to override the veto, but Thursday's vote indicated there wouldn't be enough support to override.
    While the latest challenge to Obamacare was framed by Republican leaders as "restoration" of the 40-hour work week, it may surprise many Americans to know that "there's no law that says the standard work week is 40 hours," said Sue Willman, an employment law attorney at Spencer Fane.
    Willman is a nationally recognized expert in U.S. labor law, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, which set many labor standards. From her vantage point, the latest effort to dismantle Obamacare is more "unnecesssary controversy" than an assault on a foundation of the U.S. workplace.
    "Basically, employers can define 'full-time' any way they want," Willman said. "And they can define it separately for each kind of employee benefit they offer, whether it's vacation days or sick days or health insurance."
    The Congressional Budget Office said the health care law's definition probably would cut about 1 million U.S. workers out of employment-based health insurance. The losers could be employees who work at least 30 hours a week for covered employers but don't work as many as 40 hours.
    The law requires that employers offer health insurance to full-time employees or pay a penalty, starting this year for businesses with 100 or more full-time employees and in 2016 for employers with 50 to 99 full-time employees.
    Terry L. Berger, a former district director in Kansas City for the U.S. Department of Labor, isn't sure there'd be a quick employee benefits fallout if the health care law was changed.
    Since leaving the Labor Department, Berger has been a consultant advising employers about labor laws. He said his clients "generally complain about government dictates" over how they run their businesses, but the letter of the law typically doesn't motivate them to offer -- or not offer -- employee benefits.
    "Well-established business people who are looking down the road to keep their operations successful are taking the approach of providing the best benefits they can afford," Berger said. "They'll offer health benefits if they can. The people trying to get by as cheaply as they can will be the ones who try not to pay overtime, too. This has always been the case with labor laws."
    Support for changing the ACA's full-time definition to 40 hours comes from the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some trade groups that represent companies with large shares of part-time workers.
    One early effect of the health care law has been for some workplaces to cut part-time workers' hours to under 30 so that they wouldn't meet coverage mandates. The change to 40 hours would let employers assign more shift hours without the required health benefits hassle or expense.
    Rep. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican and the bill's main sponsor, said the 40-hour threshhold would "remove this perverse incentive to reduce hours and wages when they are most needed by our hourly workers."
    Those favoring the change to a 40-hour definition for health insurance purposes applauded the House vote.
    On behalf of the International Franchise Association, president Steve Caldeira said that "restoring the 40-hour work week definition is a common-sense legislative fix to the Affordable Care Act that will put more money in the pockets of hard-working Americans and allow small businesses the flexibility they need to manage their workforce."
    But Democrats and labor supporters who back the ACA's 30-hour requirement express doubt that employers would increase part-timers' hours if the coverage threshhold moved to 40. Rather, they're afraid more part-time workers would be working without health care benefits.
    "They shouldn't masquerade this as an assault on the work week," said Judy Ancel, director of the Worker Education and Labor Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. "Americans have been losing the 40-hour work week because of under-employment (part-time hours) and over-employment (overtime) for years now."
    To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com. Follow her online at kansascity.com/workplace and @kcstarstafford.

  2. 4-day work week permanent in Belding, by Cory Smith, (1/08 late pickup) TheDailyNews.cc
    BELDING, Ohio, USA — A 16-month trial period that revolved around the number of days worked per week by city employees has now come to a finite conclusion.
    In a 4-1 vote by members of Belding City Council Tuesday, with councilman Dennis Cooper opposed, city employees will now permanently work a four-day work week, consisting of 10-hour days, working 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
    Previously, employees worked a traditional five-day week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but on July 16, 2013, city council implemented a six-month trial period to switch to the four-day format.

    “One of the primary reasons that we did this was that we were looking at a customer service component for those people who worked at the same time city hall was open,” Belding City Manager Meg Mullendore said. “We wanted to extend and afford opportunities for them to come in and conduct business.”
    The trial period was extended twice, on Jan. 21, 2014, and again on June 17 that same year, with stipulations that the city gather comments from citizens on the switch as well as perform a study on any possible cost savings.
    The public feedback has been positive, according to Mullendore.
    “We’ve had numerous comments from people utilizing it that have stated … they are grateful (they) didn’t have to take time off from work to come in (to city hall),’” she said.
    However, she added, no analysis of cost savings has been completed.
    The harsh winter of 2014, combined with a recent switch to LED lighting at city hall and a new boiler system, have complicated the ability to perform an accurate study, according to Mullendore.
    “Unfortunately, last winter was so harsh, no one experienced any type of savings relative to decreased costs,” she said.
    Mullendore said with the recent upgrades at city hall, the city will recognize a savings in combination with the four-day work week.
    “We believe now, along with some of the upgrades that have occurred relative to heating and cooling, as well as the LED lighting, that we will recognize cost savings,” she said.
    Cooper said he wasn’t satisfied without documented evidence that there is a cost savings for the city.
    “We’ve asked for a report for savings the last two or three times and we haven’t gotten a report, so there’s been no savings with this that we can document,” he said.
    “We haven’t had a good measure yet in which to present to you those findings,” Mullendore responded.
    Cooper said along with a lack of an official study, he believes the city needs to be open and available to the public throughout all five days of the traditional work week.
    “My big issue here is, there is a variety of ways that we can accommodate these extended hours and still have our city hall open to the public five days a week,” he said. “We can stagger a shift, we can rotate shifts, there’s a variety of ways to do this.”
    Mullendore said staggering shifts “would be impossible” due to a limited staff.
    “That would leave us with just one person at the desk a lot of the times, from a safety perspective, that’s not feasible,” she said.
    Cooper suggested hiring an additional part-time employee or pursuing other options to solve the safety issue.
    “I don’t think it’s as beneficial as we’re making this out to be,” he said. “I’m whole-heartedly against four 10-hour days.”
    Councilman Jerry Lallo said he had no issue with the switch to the four-day format.
    “I know we can’t make everybody happy … but I do know this is utilized by third shift workers quite a bit before 8 a.m. and businesses that are open until 5 p.m., and they appreciate the extra hour that we are open,” he said. Right now, I don’t see a problem. It’s not really broken.”
    Cooper stated he doesn’t believe the traditional five-day format was broken.
    “I don’t know why we can’t go back to the more traditional work hours so whoever needs to be available can be available for the public,” he said. “What if a business needs to transact business on a Friday?”
    Mayor Ron Gunderson said he has only heard positive remarks from members of the community on the four-day format.
    Mayor Pro Tem Tom Jones and councilman Mike Scheid said they were OK with voting the four-day system through permanently as long as the city continued to explore offering a few hours of availability on Fridays.
    “I think it’s probably been working out pretty well. I’d still like, over time, to figure out some way to have some staffing on Fridays,” Jones said. “But overall, I think it’s been pretty well accepted.”
    Cory Smith..is the current Belding beat reporter for The Daily News, as well as the multimedia reporter, producing video and photo content for the paper's website. Cory is a hometown kid, having graduated from Greenville High School in 2004. He then went on to study Journalism at Michigan State University where he also played trumpet and marched as a member of the Spartan Marching Band for four years. Cory Smith has written 761 articles.


1/08/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first & foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. House Votes Down ACA's 30-hour Workweek, by Loretta Lewis, Talk Radio News Service via talkradionews.com
    [In the age of unprecedented worksaving technology? Talk about going backward! But at least the nation is talking about manipulating the workweek instead of the workforce: timesizing not downsizing.]
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA – The GOP-dominated Congress had their first stab at dismantling the Affordable Care Act on Thursday when legislation passed that would waive fees on businesses that do not offer health insurance to employees working fewer than 40 hours per week.
    A 252-172 vote approved the legislation, with 12 Democratic votes and no Republican opposition.
    Written into the Affordable Care Act is language that defines full time as a 30 hour week and mandates that businesses provide insurance to full-time employees. With the amendment, employees working less than 40 per week would not benefit from employer provided health care.
    It will now advance to the Senate, accompanied by a veto threat from The White House.

    [Here's another version of this story today -]
    House Votes to Change Health Law's Definition of Full-Time Worker - Raising Workweek Requirement to 40 Hours Sets Up First Big Partisan Fight of New Congress, by Siobhan Hughes, Wall Street Journal via wsj.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA—The U.S. House of Representatives voted to ease requirements for when employers must offer workers health insurance by changing the health law’s definition of a full-time worker, setting up one of the first big partisan fights of the Republican-controlled Congress.
    The vote was 252-172. Some 12 Democrats joined 240 Republicans to vote yes, while 172 Democrats voted no....
    [And another version -]
    Obama issues veto threat as Republicans flex muscles in new Congress - Republicans push bills to approve Keystone and redefine the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time work week from 30 hours to 40, by Amanda Holpuch, The Manchester Guardian via theguardian.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - The promises that Republicans and Democrats made about bipartisanship and cooperation in the immediate wake of the midterm elections that gave the GOP control of both houses of Congress have quickly proven hollow. In the two days since the new Congress resumed, Republicans have pushed two bills aimed at rebuking Barack Obama, and the White House has responded by threatening to veto both.
    “It seems like every day we have a new veto threat,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday.
    White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday that the president would veto a bill to force approval for construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, and a bill that would change the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time work week from 30 hours to 40.
    Republicans believe that the 30-hour full-time threshold has driven employers to cut workers’ hours below that amount. Under the ACA, businesses that employ 50 or more full-time workers must offer health insurance to those workers or pay fines.
    “One of the worst things we could do is destroy the 40-hour work week, which has been a part of American culture and life for a very long time,” said McConnell.
    About 1 million fewer Americans would have health insurance if the bill were to become law, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office. The analysis also predicted that more than 500,000 people would seek coverage through subsidized insurance programs like Medicaid.
    “It [the 30-hour threshold] is wreaking havoc out in society,” McConnell said. “Regardless of what the congressional budget view may be of the impact on the US budget, we know the impact on family budgets and it’s not good.”
    Republicans also affirmed that they will aggressively push to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, even with Obama’s veto threat hanging overhead.
    “It’s conceivable that it could be added to any vehicle that might be moving through in the next few months if it fails as a standalone,” South Dakota senator John Thune said. “I should say it won’t fail, but if the president vetoes it and we don’t have sufficient votes to override the veto, I could see it being added to some other must-pass legislation down the road.”
    Republican leaders did say there could be bipartisan agreements in the near future, particularly on the repeal of the ACA’s medical device tax and on trade issues. “I’m happy the president has become a born-again free trader,” McConnell said.
    Earlier Wednesday, McConnell had said the new Republican Congress is connected to positive economic growth in the US. The Democratic national committee responded in an emailed statement with the subject line: “DNC to McConnell: Hahahahahahahahahahaha."

  2. Working parents 'consider cutting hours because of childcare cost', ITV News via itv.com
    LONDON, U.K. - A fifth of working parents are considering reducing their hours or giving up their job altogether because of childcare costs, a new study has revealed.
    [Hours are reducing anyway, but not the best way.]
    A survey of 1,000 parents of children aged up to 16 also found that many were planning to cut back on essentials this year because of the financial strain of childcare.
    More than two thirds of those polled by the charity 4Children paid for childcare, and around one in five of those said they are thinking about reducing their working hours or quitting their job.
    Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said: "Childcare represents a huge financial challenge for most parents and our poll shows the real impact costs are having on family life - from giving up work to cutting back on essentials."
    "Removing parents' choice as to whether or not they continue to work after having children is not the answer for families or for the economy," she added.
    Labour seized on the findings, saying that childcare costs have "rocketed" since 2010.
    But a government spokesperson said the Coalition were doing "more than any other government" to tackle childcare costs.


1/07/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Gavel to Gavel: Employers should heed FLSA rules, by Diana Tate Vermeire, ThinkProgress.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - The Fair Labor Standards Act can be broken down into three basic components: classification of employees, establishing the workweek and calculation of overtime. Understanding the overarching concepts for these areas is important for employers to remain compliant with the law’s requirements.
    [1] Classifying employees under FLSA is a fact-intensive determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis. A proper classification must be based on the functions/duties an employee actually performs in the day-to-day job as opposed to what her job description says her duties are.
    When determining if an employee is exempt or non-exempt from FLSA protection, there are six primary exemptions that employers may consider: executive, administrative, professional, computer-related occupations, outside sales and highly compensated employee. Each of these exemptions carries specific criteria as specified by the statute.
    [2] Because employees are entitled to overtime pay for work performed in excess of 40 hours per workweek, defining a workweek is essential for the proper calculation of overtime. By law, a workweek is defined as 168 hours over seven consecutive 24-hour periods.
    While a workweek does not have to coincide to a calendar week, it must remain fixed. Further, a business can establish a companywide workweek that covers the entire company and all employees or it can fix separate workweeks for groups of employees. Also, there is no limit to the number of work hours an employer can require in any week.
    [Not even all 168 hrs/wk? If true, then on this point, the Working Hours Directive of the European Union, which sets a maximum too high but far below 168, is far advanced over the 1938-vintage FLSA.]
    [3] When considering calculations for overtime, it’s important to note that under the law, overtime begins only after 40 hours, even if a company’s workweek consists of fewer hours. Voluntary work and interrupted meal times count for the purposes of determining whether overtime pay is due, but vacation time, sick time or paid time off do not, unless dictated by an employer’s policy.
    Overtime pay is not required simply because an employee worked on a weekend, holiday or regular time off. It should be noted that a policy requiring employer approval for overtime work does not prevent an employee from being entitled to overtime pay.
    Diana Tate Vermeire is an attorney with the firm of GableGotwals. She can be reached at (405) 235-5519 or dvermeire@gablelaw.com

  2. Reduced work hours benefit productivity, by TISG, TheIndependent.sg/blog
    SINGAPORE - ...A new paper by John Pencavel of Stanford University..shows that reducing working hours can be good for productivity.
    Economists have suspected for some time that longer work hours could eat into productivity. John Hicks, a British economist, reckoned that “probably it has never entered the heads of most employers…that hours could be shortened and output maintained.” Hicks reasoned that with longer hours, output per hour would fall. As workers slaved away for longer and longer, they would lose energy, which would make them less productive.
    Mr Pencavel looks at an unusual data set: research undertaken by investigators of the British “Health of Munition Workers Committee” (HMWC) during the first world war. Britain was desperate to maximise productivity, given the almost insatiable demand for weapons and ammunition.
    HMWC had to provide the government with advice regarding the health and efficiency of workers in munitions plants: how could productivity be maximised? As part of its investigations, the Committee commissioned studies within munitions factories into the link between work hours and work performance.
    It concluded, after much investigation, that British munitions workers needed shorter hours. Mr Pencavel analyses of the data collected by the committee and sees if their calculations were up-to-scratch.
    The researchers collected a huge amount of data (most of it on women, who dominated the munitions industries). It was easy to measure hours worked. It was also pretty straightforward to measure output, since lots of the workers were paid on a piece-rate basis. Mr Pencavel crunches the data and concludes that there was a “non-linear” relationship between working hours and output.
    Below 49 weekly hours, variations in output are proportional to variations in hours. But when people worked more than about 50 hours, output rose at a decreasing rate. In other words, output per hour started to fall (in the jargon, “the marginal product of hours is a constant until the knot at [about 50] hours after which it declines”)...
    Reducing hours, say, from 55 to 50 hours a week, would have had only small effects on output. The results are even starker when we are talking about very long working hours. Output at 70 hours of work differed little from output at 56 hours. That extra 14 hours was a waste of time.The crucial point that emerges from Mr Percavel’s analysis is that reductions in working hours do not always result in higher output per hour (which is what our initial correlation seemed to suggest). Rather, the initial level of working hours has to be so high.
    The HMWC also reckoned that the absence of a rest day (like Sunday) damaged hourly output. Mr Pencavel’s regression analysis confirms it. He estimates that output is slightly higher on the 48-hour working week (with no work on Sunday) than on the seven-day work schedule.
    Of course, these results say nothing about output in service-sector professions, where most people in advanced economies are employed today. I would bet, though, that the results are even more pronounced. For work that is largely self-directed, and which requires intellectual engagement, you may achieve more in an hour of hard work than in a day’s worth of procrastination.
    Mr Pencavel solemnly intones that the “profit-maximising employer will not be indifferent to the length of…working hours over a day or week.” Of course, attempting to tell that that to your boss the next time you attempt to leave the office at half past two may result in unsatisfactory outcomes.
    This article first appeared in The Economist (see 12/09/2014 #3).

  3. How long is a workweek? The latest Obamacare fight, by Jackie Farwell, BDN Maine via BangorDailyNews,com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - The new Republican majority in Congress is out of the gate swinging at Obamacare this week, aiming for one of the law’s most debated provisions: the employer mandate.
    Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with at least 50 employees must provide health insurance to their full-time workers or pay a fine. The business lobby has made no secret of its loathing for the mandate, and the requirement has already taken a hit, with President Barack Obama’s administration delaying the implementation in 2013.
    Republicans now seek to escalate that hit into a full-on pummeling. Wednesday’s political drama centered on what, exactly, constitutes “full time.” Republicans, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, want to define full-time workers as those who work at least 40 hours a week. The House took up the legislation Wednesday, with a vote scheduled on Thursday, and Collins touted her bipartisan companion bill — first introduced last June with Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana — during a Wednesday morning news conference, just hours after Obama issued a fresh veto threat.
    Forty hours sounds straightforward enough, right? That’s the standard American workweek.
    But the law defines full time as 30 hours a week.

    [Radical, right? Except the U.S. Senate passed a full time = a 30-hour workweek bill EIGHTY years ago and FDR regretted not pushing it through the House when he had the chance. It would have ended the Great Depression in two years max instead of getting government into endless makework programs - CCC, NRA, TVA, WPA(=only30hrs/wk anyway!)... - and the "Four Big Socialisms": minimum wage, workman's comp, unemployment insurance, and social security, none of which would have been necessary if FDR has forced the private sector to fund their own markets through their own employees and recycle their own disposable employees - by systemically redefining "full time" lower as levels of worksaving technology rose higher.]
    Why the controversy?
    Employers must pay up. This affects businesses with at least 50 “full-time equivalent” employees, a calculation that can also include part-time workers. (Two employees who each work 15 hours a week equals one full-time equivalent). If a business doesn’t offer decent, affordable insurance to its full-time workers, it must pay a $2,000 fine per employee (minus the first 30 workers). So under the ACA, businesses that currently don’t provide coverage must pay either the cost of offering new insurance or cough up a fine to Uncle Sam. That’s bad news to many employers, especially those continuing to struggle to bounce back from the recession.
    Employers kick in nearly $5,000 a year on average toward premiums for each worker with single coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. So for many businesses, the penalty, or cutting hours, are cheaper options.
    The mandate kicks in this year for large employers, those with more than 100 full-time workers, and in 2016 for those with 50 to 99 employees.
    Employers aren’t happy about that. Critics argue the requirement encourages employers to avoid adding new employees to stay below the 50-worker threshold, in the mandate-free zone. And some businesses are cutting back employees’ hours to avoid having to offer them insurance. Trim a worker’s hours from 30 to 29 a week, suddenly the ACA no longer considers them full time, and the requirement to offer them expensive insurance goes poof, the reasoning goes. Upping the threshold to 40 hours a week would protect part-time workers, Collins said Wednesday at the Washington, D.C., news conference.
    “Our goal is simple,” she said. “We want to protect part-time workers from having their hours reduced and their paychecks cut because of the definition in this law.”
    While some employers are taking that step, they’re the exception, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Obamacare isn’t causing a shift toward part-time work, labor data show, but the reintroduced legislation could, contradictorily, make that more likely.
    Even some conservatives oppose the 40-hour bill. The 40-hour definition could actually prove more harmful to workers, many health policy experts argue. Yuval Levin, a conservative political activist and academic, wrote in November in the National Review that the legislation “seems likely to be worse than doing nothing.”
    Why?
    Because many more Americans work 40-plus hours a week than work just over 30, according to Bureau of Labor statistics. Just over 7 percent of the workforce puts in 30-34 hours a week, while nearly 44 percent works 40 hours a week. So those employers looking to save money could potentially trim the hours of many more workers under the new legislation. That could certainly boost employers’ bottom lines, but worsen the outlook for the working man and woman, the opposite of what supporters of the legislation say they want.
    Just repeal the employer mandate rather than mess with it this way, Levin argued. The 30-hour threshold was established in part for this very reason, to limit businesses from trimming hours “by putting the cut-off well below the number of hours that most workers put in — employers are less likely to reduce a worker’s load by 10 hours than by just 1 or 2 to avoid the mandate.”
    This won’t affect most businesses. Nationally, about 96 percent of all employers are small businesses with fewer than 50 workers, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, and they’re exempt from the mandate to provide insurance.
    As for larger businesses, more than 95 percent already offer health insurance voluntarily, the Kaiser reports. In Maine, it’s even higher, nearly 98 percent. Those companies — which choose to offer insurance to attract good employees, among other reasons — won’t suddenly drop benefits or reduce hours from 40 to 39 a week to get around the legislation, a “completely bogus argument” made by the White House, Collins said.
    Still, organizations that rely heavily on part-time staff will be devastated if the 30-hour threshold survives, including public schools, restaurants and nonprofit hospitals and home health care organizations, Collins said, flanked by representatives from Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems [EMHS] and the National Restaurant Association.
    “We simply do not have the revenue to provide our workers with benefits and insurance,” Lisa Harvey McPherson of EMHS said, warning that home health agencies will be forced to cut workers, increase waitlists and potentially close down, shunting patients to nursing facilities.
    People without insurance cost all of us. If workers who have insurance through their jobs lose those benefits, more will turn to government coverage or the marketplaces created under the ACA. Many will qualify for federal subsidies funded by taxpayers, which will increase the deficit, while others will go without coverage.
    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that changing the ACA’s definition of full-time work to 40 hours a week would cost $45.7 billion over 10 years. That price tag includes paying out the subsidies, footing the bill for more people enrolling in Medicaid, and less revenue from the employer mandate penalties, because fewer companies would have to fork over the fine.
    [And here's another juicy article today on this latest piece of stupid obstructionism from my Good Old republican Party (GOP) -]
    Republican Leaders Deploying Untruths on 40-Hour Health Bill, by Pres. Bob Greenstein of Ctr. on Budget & Policy Priorities, huffingtonpost.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - While political leaders often stretch the truth to make their case, they usually don't claim the opposite of the truth. That, however, is essentially what Republican congressional leaders are doing by claiming that a measure before the House tomorrow to alter a provision of health reform will safeguard the 40-hour work week and thereby protect workers. House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan claims in today's USA Today, for example, that the bill will enable "more people [to] work full time." In fact, it clearly will do just the opposite.
    The issue is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that employers with at least 50 full-time-equivalent workers must either offer health coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week or pay a penalty. On Thursday, the House will vote to limit this employer requirement to employees who work at least 40 hours a week. In the same vein as Paul Ryan, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have claimed the measure would protect the 40-hour work week by "removing an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours and better pay created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010." Some news accounts have taken this claim largely at face value, essentially presenting it as a fact.
    But the claim is preposterous. Here's why:
    To date, there has been little evidence that employers are shaving employees' work hours to avoid the ACA's employer mandate. One reason is that so few workers are at risk of having their hours reduced -- only 7 percent of U.S. workers work between 30 and 34 hours a week (i.e., within five hours of the 30-hours threshold) and thus risk having their hours shaved to put them below the threshold.
    By contrast, 44 percent of U.S. workers work 40 hours a week (and several percent more work between 40 and 44 hours a week). As a result, it's the Republican leaders' proposal that would weaken the traditional 40-hour work week by placing far more workers at risk that employers will cut their hours to push them below the threshold. Influential conservatives such as Yuval Levin and Ramesh Ponnuru agree that the Republican proposal would place more workers at risk of having their work hours cut.
    That proposal would have a second effect as well -- it would allow employers with 50 or more employees who do not offer coverage to employees working 30-39 hours a week to do so without facing any penalty. That would be a boon to affected businesses and corporations. But it would impose a hit not only on some affected employees, but also on taxpayers. That's because large employers who don't offer coverage would escape penalties for workers who are employed 30-39 hours a week, and also because the lessened availability of employer-based coverage would push more employees who work those hours into the ACA's insurance marketplaces -- generally with federal subsidies to make coverage affordable -- or into Medicaid. When the Congressional Budget Office examined this proposal last year, it concluded the proposal would boost government costs -- and budget deficits -- by $46 billion over 10 years.
    The ACA remains controversial, and lawmakers have every right to propose changes in it. But let's try for a little more truth-in-advertising about what proposals would and wouldn't do, especially when they would affect large numbers of Americans.
    [And another of today's juicy articles on this -]
    Latest GOP Obamacare Bill Could Add $53 Billion To Deficit, Congressional Budget Office Says, by Michael McAuliff, mike.mcauliff@huffingtonpost.com
    One of the House Republican leadership's first bills of the new Congress will add some $53 billion to the deficit and cost hundreds of thousands of Americans health insurance, according to a new report by Congress' non-partisan budget office.
    The bill, the Save American Workers Act, aims to redefine the number of hours that people work each week before their employers fall under the Affordable Care Act, raising the threshold from 30 hours to 40. Under current law, larger firms that don't provide health insurance for people who work more than 30 hours will be fined. The bill would raise the fine threshold to 40 hours.
    Republicans argue that by requiring companies to provide health benefits to anyone who works more than 30 hours, the Affordable Care Act creates an incentive for employers to cut hours to less than 30. Analysts say there is no evidence of that alleged trend, however, and a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that involuntary part-time work has actually fallen since the peak of the recession and the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
    The Congressional Budget Office "score" of the bill released Wednesday suggested the shift proposed by the bill could actually worsen the healthcare situation, even as it raises costs to taxpayers.
    According to the analysis, about 1 million workers would lose their employer-based health care coverage because businesses would have even more incentive to cut hours than they do now. That's because vastly more Americans work 40 or more hours a week than those who work just over 30.
    "Because many more workers work 40 hours per week (or slightly more) than work 30 hours per week (or slightly more), [the bill] could lead employers to make changes that would affect many more workers than will be affected under current law," CBO says.
    Since the employers would pay less in fines under the new bill, it would cost about $31.8 billion worth of revenue over 10 years, the CBO says.
    And with some million workers losing employer health insurance, they and their families would have to turn to Medicaid, the subsidized health care exchanges, and the Children's Health Insurance Program. That would end up costing taxpayers about $21.4 billion over the next decade.
    On top of those effects, about 500,000 people would lose health insurance altogether, the CBO says.
    Informed that there was no evidence that the mandate for employers to provide health insurance was causing a shift to a "part-time economy," and that the bill itself would create such a problem, the lead sponsor of the bill, Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), said he knew better from anecdotal evidence in his own district, and insisted the bill was necessary.
    "We all acknowledge this is a problem," Young said Wednesday at a meeting of the House Rules Committee, which was drafting the procedures under which the bill will be considered on the House floor Thursday.
    He argued that since the employer mandate had been delayed until this year, it was too soon to see evidence for his position.
    "The employer mandate wasn’t fully implanted until Jan. 1, so perhaps that’s why robust evidence hasn’t been collected," he told Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, who had raised the issues.
    "You string together enough anecdotes, and you start to observe a pattern," Young insisted.
    Levin was not impressed with his reasoning, however; he cited the CBO report, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and called the name of the act "1984-ish" in that it purports to save workers when it actually harms them.
    "If you move the requirement from 30 house to 40 hours, what you're doing is creating an incentive for more people to be shifted to part-time work," Levin said. "You're hurting workers, you're creating more part-time employment and you're increasing the deficit. That's a double or triple whammy."
    The bill does have some Democratic support, and is likely to pass the House. It faces a tougher battle in the U.S. Senate. But if it does pass Congress, President Barack Obama has promised to veto the measure.
    Similar to Young, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was not worried about the CBO findings about the deficit implications or the negative impact on full-time workers, suggesting he also knew better than the numbers crunchers' data.
    Asked at his Capitol Hill news briefing Wednesday if the information gave him pause, he offered an unequivocal "No."
    "One of the worst things we can do is destroy the 40-hour work week, which has been a part of American culture and life for a very long time," McConnell said, despite the findings that many more 40-hour workers would be hurt by shifting the threshold.
    He also insisted the 30-hour threshold had to be ditched, regardless of the deficit cost.
    "It is wreaking havoc out in society regardless of what the congressional budget view may be of the impact on the U.S. budget," McConnell said. "We know the impact on family budgets, and it’s not good. So I think there’s almost no chance we won’t be voting on that at some point."
    This story was updated to include comments from McConnell.
    Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

    [And yet another of today's juicy articles on this -]
    GOP serves up economic double whammy, by Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), TheHill.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - House Republicans are bringing up a double whammy on Thursday – ending health care from their employer or altogether for millions of Americans and hugely increasing the deficit by nearly $46 billion over 10 years. The legislation they’ve proposed would amend the employer responsibility provisions of the Affordable Care Act to redefine full-time work from 30 hours a week to 40 hours.
    The 30-hour threshold in the Affordable Care Act was designed to minimize the likelihood that employers would avoid the law’s requirement of health coverage. Increasing the number of hours to 40 would make it significantly easier to shift workers into part-time status by just a slight reduction of hours. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, redefining full-time work as 40 hours would place more than five times as many workers at risk of having their hours cut so that their employers can avoid providing health insurance. Only a small share of today’s workforce – roughly seven percent – works between 30 and 34 hours a week, putting them most at risk of having their hours cut below the current 30-hour threshold, while approximately 44 percent work 40 hours a week.
    This legislation would also add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit. In July 2014, the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation – federal organizations tasked with providing nonpartisan analyses for Congress – estimated that changing the definition of full-time to 40 hours would increase the deficit by nearly $46 billion over the next 10 years. Furthermore, these organizations estimated that the legislation would reduce the number of people receiving employment-based coverage by about one million, increase the number of people receiving insurance through public programs like Medicaid by more than 500,000, and increase the number of uninsured by up to 500,000.
    Some conservatives, even those opposed to any employer mandate, are speaking out against the legislation. Yuval Levin, a conservative commentator, wrote in the National Journal that redefining full-time work to 40 hours “would make for a worse effect on workers and on the economy. So by setting the definition lower, Obamacare’s architects were trying to mitigate the damaging effects of the employer mandate some, and by setting it higher Republicans would be worsening those effects.”
    This legislation to change the definition of full-time work continues the Republican propaganda campaign that asserts that the Affordable Care Act is bad for the economy, bad for employers, and bad for workers. But the evidence shows otherwise. In fact, independent fact checkers have refuted the Republican claim that health reform will “kill jobs.” Since enactment of the health law, the United States has added almost 11 million jobs to the private sector. In the past year alone, the number of full-time workers has grown by more than four million, while the number of part-time workers has actually decreased by more than 800,000.
    Republicans’ answer to taking away health care is to take away American jobs. It’s high time that they put the economy and the middle class first.
    Levin has represented congressional districts in the Detroit suburbs of Michigan since 1983. He is ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee.


1/06/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Conservatives Realize Their ‘Fix’ To Obamacare Would Actually Make Things Much Worse, by Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress.org
    [or in a punchier headline from tomorrow -] The GOP's latest Obamacare "fix" will be a total disaster if it passes, Vox.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - Now that the incoming Congress ensures a GOP majority in both chambers, the Republican Party is turning its attention back to potential “fixes” to President Obama’s health reform law. This week, in what represents the first major bill of the 114th Congress, the House is scheduled to take up legislation that world redefine the definition of a “full-time employee” under the law to a worker putting in 40 hours per week instead of 30 hours per week.
    It’s a policy change that Republicans have long championed, and was quickly identified as one of the party’s top priorities after the 2014 midterm elections. But now that Congressional approval may be in sight, some conservatives are having second thoughts. As the New York Times reports, the GOP is encountering some unexpected resistance to the 40-hour change from the right.
    The policy question centers on Obamacare’s employer mandate, which requires large companies to extend health care to at least 95 percent of their full-time workers. The law currently includes employees working at least 30 hours each week in that category. Over the past several years, Obamacare opponents have claimed that the 30-hour threshold “redefines full-time” in a way that harms American workers.
    “The 30-hour full-time employee definition fundamentally alters more than 40 years of federal policy that considered ‘full-time’ to be a 40-hour work week,” House Republicans say on their website, arguing that service sector employees who work between 30 and 40 hours will be in danger of having their hours cut so their employers can avoid offering them insurance.
    There’s just one problem: Moving the threshold up to 40 hours a week wouldn’t solve the issue of companies cutting workers’ hours in order to trim health costs. In fact, there’s evidence that would simply make it even worse.
    According to a study from the Commonwealth Fund, about 2.6 million Americans work between 40 to 44 hours per week and don’t currently get offered insurance through their job. If Obamacare’s definition of full-time work gets changed, these people would be considered at “high risk,” since their bosses could continue avoiding giving them coverage by cutting their hours below 40 weeks.
    [More complete and relevant information is given in the article below: "...nearly 29 million employees of large firms work between 40 and 44 hours a week, compared with 7 million people who work between 30 and 39 hours a week." This raises the specter of cutting 29 million employees, without or with current health insurance, to below 40 hrs/wk to "save" money on their premiums.]
    “Compared with the current 30-hour definition, at a full-time definition of 40 hours per week, there are more than twice as many workers at high risk of hours reductions because they are within five hours of the full-time definition at firms that do not offer health insurance coverage,” the researchers concluded.
    It makes sense when you think about the fact that, as the GOP points out, federal policy has long considered 40 hours to be a full work week. Most Americans are already working that much. Right now, it wouldn’t make sense for companies to cut those people down to 29 hours per week to avoid giving them health care. But if companies only need to cut them to 39 hours, that starts looking like a more feasible business solution.
    “I call this the ‘send people home a half hour early on Friday and deny them health insurance’ bill,” Tim Jost, a health care scholar at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, told Mother Jones.
    According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, the policy will also cost the government more money. As more full-time workers lose employer-sponsored health insurance, about a million of them may shift over to Medicaid or the health marketplaces, increasing the federal deficit by an estimated $73.7 billion over 10 years.
    Some conservative Obamacare opponents are starting to realize this. A recent op-ed in the National Review argues that changing the threshold to 40 hours doesn’t make sense. Bill Kristol, who edits the right-wing Weekly Standard, has urged House Republicans to “show clout by blocking this ill-advised ‘fix’ of Obamacare.”
    As the New York Times notes, the growing dispute highlights the fact that anti-Obamacare rhetoric doesn’t necessarily translate into viable policy fixes. Indeed, despite the fact that the Republican Party has spent the past four years attempting to dismantle the health law, the party hasn’t yet offered a serious alternative. When GOP candidates have put forth health care proposals, they have borrowed heavily from the policies already included in Obamacare.
    “It’s one thing to say that’s an easy change,” Joseph Antos, a health care analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told the Times. “There’s nothing easy about changing any one sentence in the Affordable Care Act."
    [Another version of this story -]
    Yuval Levin: Forget 40-hour Workweek - Ditch Obamacare Mandate, by Melissa Clyne, NewsMax.com
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - Instead of trying to change Obamacare’s definition of a full-time worker from 30 hours to 40 hours a week, the new Republican-led Congress should repeal the employer mandate altogether, writes the National Review’s Yuval Levin.
    Redefining a full-time worker under Obamacare is one of the first bills the 114th Congress is tackling, but The New York Times reports that a group of conservatives agree with Levin and others that the proposed legislation "seems likely to be worse than doing nothing."
    "Putting the cutoff for the employer mandate at 40 hours would likely put far, far more people at risk of having their hours cut than leaving it at 30 hours," Levin wrote. "That would make for a worse effect on workers and on the economy.
    "So by setting the definition lower, Obamacare’s architects were trying to mitigate the damaging effects of the employer mandate some, and by setting it higher Republicans would be worsening those effects."
    One of the key provisions of Obamacare mandates that small- or medium-sized business with more than 50 full-time employees (defined currently as someone who works at least 30 hours per week) must provide health coverage for those workers or be subject to a fine.
    Republicans have long argued that the 30-hour threshold will prompt employers to cut staff hours to stay below the 50 full-time employee mark.
    But Levin and some other respected conservatives, including Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, think it’s a bad idea to tinker with a law they believe should be tossed altogether.
    "Main case vs. 30-hour work week legislation: Why should Republicans try to fix Obamacare? Dismantle, yes. Fix, no," Kristol tweeted Tuesday morning, followed by a second tweet a few minutes later calling for House conservatives to "show clout by blocking this ill-advised "fix" of Obamacare."
    Levin cites a study that found nearly 29 million employees of large firms work between 40 and 44 hours a week, compared with 7 million people who work between 30 and 39 hours a week.
    "For reasons of both policy and politics, it seems to me that a repeal of the employer mandate makes much more sense than an adjustment of its definition of full-time work," he writes. "And that adjustment, quite apart from the appeal of other measures, seems likely to be worse than doing nothing."
    A vote in the House to change the definition of full-time employee to 40 hours is scheduled for Thursday. A similar bill passed the House last year.
    President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it.
    [And the possible source of this article is the following article -]
    Health Reform Not Causing Significant Shift to Part-Time Work But Raising Threshold to 40 Hours a Week Would Make a Sizeable Shift Likely, by Paul N. Van de Water, Center on Budget & Policy Priorities via cbpp.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - Congressional leaders have tentatively scheduled a House vote early in January on a measure to raise the threshold for health reform’s employer mandate from 30 to 40 hours.[1] The health reform law requires employers with at least 50 full-time-equivalent workers to offer health coverage to employees who work 30 or more hours a week or pay a penalty.[2]
    House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell call the 30-hour threshold “an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours” of work and propose raising it to 40 hours.[3] In reality, however, that step would lead to fewer hours of work for employees and more part-time work — the exact opposite of what their rhetoric about “restoring” the 40-hour work week implies.
    Recent data provide scant evidence that health reform is causing a significant shift toward part-time work, contrary to the claims of critics. The number of part-time workers who would rather be working full time is shrinking. And there’s every reason to believe that health reform will have only a small effect on the part-time share of total employment.
    More important, raising the law’s threshold from 30 hours a week to 40 hours would make a shift toward part-time employment much more likely — not less so. That’s because only a small share of workers today — 7 percent — work 30 to 34 hours a week and thus are most at risk of having their hours cut below health reform’s threshold. In comparison, 44 percent of employees work 40 hours a week, and another several percent work 41 to 44 hours a week. Thus, raising the threshold to 40 hours would place many more workers at risk of having their hours reduced. In short, it’s the present legislation, not health reform, that threatens the traditional 40-hour work week the legislation’s sponsors say they want to protect.
    Data Don’t Support Claim of Big Shift to Part-Time Work
    The share of part-time jobs rose sharply during the recent recession, as it does in every recession; employers cut workers’ hours when demand for the firm’s products or services weakens. Did this share continue to grow as we approached the start of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) employer mandate in 2015? The answer is no.
    Part-time workers represent 18 percent of total employment — below the post-recession peak of 20 percent. Since President Obama signed health reform into law in March 2010, all of the overall increase in civilian employment has been among people who usually work full time.[4] These data are consistent with a recent Urban Institute analysis that found little evidence that health reform has increased part-time work.[5]
    The share of involuntary part-timers — workers who’d rather have full-time jobs but can’t find them — tells a similar story. If health reform’s employer mandate were distorting hiring practices in the way critics claim, we’d expect the share of involuntary part-timers to be growing. Instead, as Figure 1 shows, it is down about two percentage points from its peak.
    (FIGURE 1 - Involuntary part-time work has fallen from post-recession peak)
    To be sure, some employers have announced they are cutting certain employees’ hours to avoid the requirement to provide health coverage to full-time workers, but they are the exception. And while it’s too early to know exactly how much health reform will ultimately affect the amount of part-time work, there’s every reason to expect the impact to be small as a share of total employment.
    In particular, there simply aren’t as many potentially affected workers as the critics expect: only about 7 percent of employees work 30 to 34 hours a week (and thus would be easiest for employers to shift below 30 hours). Moreover, less than one-half of 1 percent of employees work 30 to 34 hours a week and are employed by businesses affected by the employer mandate and do not have insurance.[6] And only some of these workers would likely be at risk of having their hours cut.
    “Recent research suggests that the ultimate increase in the incidence of part-time work when the ACA provisions are fully implemented is likely to be small, on the order of a 1 to 2 percentage point increase or less,” according to economists at the San Francisco Federal Reserve. They note that this conclusion “is consistent with the example of Hawaii, where part-time work increased only slightly in the two decades following enforcement of the state’s employer health-care mandate.”[7]
    In addition, low-wage workers who work less than 30 hours a week are eligible for subsidies to purchase health insurance in health reform’s insurance exchanges (also known as marketplaces). For many of these workers, the value of this health insurance subsidy would more than make up for a loss in earnings from working slightly fewer hours.
    Raising Threshold to 40 Hours Would Make Shift to Part-Time Work More Likely, Not Less
    Raising the cutoff for the employer mandate from 30 hours a week to 40 hours would make a shift toward part-time employment more likely — not less so. Since 40 hours is the typical work week, employers could easily cut back large numbers of employees from 40 to 39 hours so they wouldn’t have to offer them health coverage. The result would be less employer-sponsored health coverage — and thus higher federal spending for Medicaid and premium tax credits. In addition, the penalties collected from employers who fail to meet the requirement to offer coverage would fall. Raising the threshold to 40 hours would increase budget deficits by $46 billion over 2015-2024, according to the Congressional Budget Office.[8]
    As Figure 2 shows, only about 7 percent of employees work 30 to 34 hours a week (that is, at or modestly above the health reform’s 30-hour threshold), but 44 percent of employees work 40 hours a week and would be vulnerable to cuts in their hours if the threshold rose to 40 hours.[9]
    ( FIGURE 2 - Raising Threshold for Health Reform's Employer Mandate from 30 to 40 Hours Could Affect Many More Jobs )
    If you exclude workers at firms that already offer health insurance and thus won’t be tempted to cut workers’ hours, more than twice as many workers would face a high risk of reduced hours under a 40-hour threshold than under the current 30-hour threshold, according to New York University economist Sherry Glied and a colleague.[10]
    Health reform’s employer mandate may well have some effect on hours worked, although that hasn’t yet shown up in the data. But since few workers who lack health coverage are near the 30-hour cutoff, any such effect is likely to be small: the employer mandate is very unlikely to prompt much of a shift toward part-time work. Raising the cutoff to 40 hours, however, could turn the misleading claims of health reform critics into harsh reality.
    End notes:
    [1] The House passed similar legislation during the 113th Congress: H.R. 2575,The Save American Workers Act, https://www.congress.gov/113/bills/hr2575/BILLS-113hr2575pcs.pdf.
    [2] Kaiser Family Foundation, “Employer Responsibility Under the Affordable Care Act,” updated December 17, 2014, http://kff.org/infographic/employer-responsibility-under-the-affordable-care-act/.
    [3] John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, “Now We Can Get Congress Going,” Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2014.
    [4] Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey; employment level (series LNS12000000); employment level – part-time for economic reasons, all industries (series LNS12032194); part-time for noneconomic reasons (series LNS12005977). Data are as of November 2014. BLS defines part-time work as less than 35 hours a week.
    [5] Bowen Garrett and Robert Kaestner, Little Evidence of the ACA Increasing Part-Time Work So Far, Urban Institute, September 2014, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/413217-Little-Evidence-of-the-ACA-Increasing-Part-Time-Work-So-Far.pdf.
    [6] Sherry Glied and Claudia Solis-Roman, What Will Be the Impact of the Employer Mandate on the U.S. Workforce?, The Commonwealth Fund, October 2014, http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/media/files/publications/issue-brief/2014/oct/1778_glied_what_will_be_impact_employer_mandate_ib_v2.pdf.
    [7] Rob Valetta and Leila Bengali, “What’s Behind the Increase in Part-Time Work?,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Business Letter, August 26, 2013, http://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/publications/economic-letter/2013/august/part-time-work-employment-increase-recession/. Since 1975, Hawaii has required nearly all employers to provide health insurance to employees who work 20 hours or more a week for four consecutive weeks. Employers must pay at least half the premium, and the employee’s contribution must not exceed 1.5 percent of wages.
    [8] Congressional Budget Office, Letter to the Honorable Dave Camp, July 17, 2014, https://www.cbo.gov/publication/45544.
    [9] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, persons at work in agriculture and nonagricultural industries by hours of work, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat19.htm.
    [10] Glied and Solis-Roman
    .

  2. Labor groups protest to push shorter work hours, by Lii Wen, TaipeiTimes.com
    ABOLISH 84:Civic groups took aim at the raising of the overtime cap and Article 84 of the Labor Standards Act, saying it was a back door for unscrupulous businesses
    TAIPEI, Taiwan - A coalition of labor groups rallied in front of the Ministry of Labor building yesterday, saying that a proposed amendment to the Labor Standards Act failed to shorten work hours for the “overworked nation.”
    Although the ministry’s proposed amendment would shorten work hours from 84 hours per two weeks to 40 hours per week, it also plans to increase the legal cap for overtime to 60 hours a week, from 46 hours.

    With the proposed amendment being evaluated by the Executive Yuan, ministry officials said that they hope for it to pass during the Legislative Yuan’s next session, which is to begin next month. If passed, the new regulations would come into effect next year.
    Led by the Taiwan Labor Front, the labor activists said reducing work hours to 40 hours meant little without other reforms, adding that Article 84 of the act — which lists certain occupations as exempt from the cap on work hours — should be abolished.
    The activists described Article 84 as a “back door” that allows businesses to overwork employees.
    Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-liam (???) said that Taiwanese work an average of 2,124 hours a year, a figure that is much higher than average working hours in the US, Japan, and Germany, which stand at 1,788; 1,735 and 1,388 hours per year respectively.
    “Taiwan has already become an ‘overworked nation,’” Son said, adding that long hours have not brought economic growth.
    The activists demanded that national working hours be lowered to less than 2,000 hours a year.
    Kaohsiung Confederation of Trade Unions president Chiang Chien-hsing (???) said that out of 32 cases of karoshi — a Japanese word that means “death from overwork” — 11 were security guards, who are not protected by the cap on working hours.
    In response, the ministry said the decision to increase the amount of overtime work from 46 to 60 hours a week was made after engaging in more than 30 meetings with labor groups and business organizations, adding that work hours are capped at 12 hours per day to protect workers from overwork.
    The ministry added that it has continually worked to remove occupations and industries from inclusion in Article 84 of the Labor Standards Act, effectively bringing more workers under the protection of the legislation.


1/04-05/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Why working [Iberdrola’s timetable of] 8am to 3pm is still a dream for most Spaniards, by Pablo León, 1/05 EL PAÍS in English via elpais.com
    Power company Iberdrola’s timetable has made its 9,000-strong workforce happier
    But the rest of the country’s private sector is reluctant to make the change

    MADRID, Spain - It’s 3pm on a typical Tuesday afternoon in one of the new districts built in Madrid’s northeastern outreaches, and thousands of people are pouring out of a high-tech building. In a country notorious for its late eating habits, the casual observer might be forgiven for thinking these employees were going to lunch. But they work for electricity utility Iberdrola, which in 2008 introduced compressed working hours for its 9,000-strong workforce. The day begins at 7.15am and ends at 2.50pm, with a 45-minute flexi-time option.
    [So you can work 8-2:50 or shift flexibly shift your whole range up to 45 minutes earlier to 7:15-2:05? If so, it's a 6hr50min day = 36hr10min workweek assuming we're talking about a five-day workweek.]
    “This is something that can be good for staff and can certainly benefit companies,” says Ramón Castresana, Iberdrola’s head of human resources. Six years on from the initiative, Castresana, who was behind the move, says the facts speak for themselves: “We have improved productivity and increased our working hours by more than half-a-million per year. We have reduced absenteeism by 20 percent, while accidents in the workplace have fallen by 15 percent.” But despite the evidence, Iberdrola is alone among Spanish private-sector employers in moving toward more rational working hours [than what?], although Barcelona-based brewery Damm is about to follow suit.
    “You arrive at work with a different mentality,” says Teresa Roch, a 31-year-old who works in Iberdrola’s human resources department. After a period spent working in Scotland, she joined the company in July 2013. “In Glasgow, I worked right through the morning until lunchtime. A lot of my colleagues didn’t bother going out to eat, and ate a sandwich at their desks, checked their emails, or read the paper. And nobody stayed on after hours,” she says.
    In contrast, Spain continues to cling to old habits, with long working days still the norm: this means stretching the day out, and making up for time lost in the morning by staying on into the evening.
    [So this innovation does away with the evening hours? If so, how can it mean "working an extra 15 hours a year" as mentioned below?]
    “You have to fill in the time, because nobody is capable of being productive for 10 hours,” says Roch. “That’s why people look for other distractions.”
    Paz Montes, a 47-year-old in the company’s supply department, worked for Iberdrola for 10 years before it introduced a compressed week. “We had a union meeting where we were told what the company was proposing,” she says. “People were skeptical. We thought that the idea was simply to get rid of the compressed week we worked in the summer months. When they said that the idea was to extend it, we were all very surprised.” But the unions were initially hostile, complaining that the proposal meant working an extra 15 hours a year [how so?]. There were also problems with some sectors of the company’s management, who found the adjustment difficult. At the same time, some employees were concerned that they wouldn’t know what to do with the free time they would suddenly have at their disposal.
    [Poorly written article! How can there be 15 extra hours a year and more free time?]
    Castresana admits there were initial problems: “It’s hard adapting to new hours after 30 years following the same routine,” he says, adding: “This was a major change in our working culture, and we had some people who asked if they could opt out and continue working their old hours.” Montes says that her colleagues soon began to realize that they could use their time outside work to learn a new language, or go to the gym, or any number of activities: “I don’t know if anybody actually bothered to though!” she jokes.
    The unions were initially hostile, complaining that the proposal meant working an extra 15 hours a year
    “But people soon made the switch,” Castresana continues. “And it didn’t cost the company anything to do this. Our workforce is aware that they have to use their time at work to the best advantage, get the job done, and then leave on time. They don’t interrupt their work, and just concentrate on the task at hand. The result has been a huge increase in productivity.”
    He says that one of the reasons Spaniards, and by extension, Spanish companies, may be reluctant to work a compressed week is simply habit, as well, to some extent, due to the benign climate in much of the country. “There are more hours of daylight here, and the shops stay open late, so there is less hurry to get things done. It’s deeply rooted, and so we spend more time at work.” A survey by employment agency Randstad in 2013 showed that 80 percent of employees said they worked more hours than the previous year, most of whom did so without actually doing any more work.
    Montes says that the compressed working week at Iberdrola has meant she rarely has to work after hours. “And even if you do work a little extra to finish a project off, you are still leaving at a reasonable time. But I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I have had to stay beyond 3pm. Knowing that you have time for yourself changes things completely. I am a lot happier at work now,” she says.
    Perhaps more Spanish companies would be inclined to make the move to a compressed week if they were aware of the benefits, says Castresana. Rational Time, a time-management consultancy, recently noted in a study that, “poor management of working hours and lack of flexibility can have a negative impact on companies.”
    “I feel that my professional and family life are now balanced,” says Montes, a mother of two. “I no longer feel stressed out trying to fit everything in,” she says. Like most of her colleagues, she eats at the office, and leaves a little later. “We’re allowed to adapt our hours to our working lives,” she says, adding that she now feels more in control of her life. “My friends are very envious, and I can see why, I think that most people would work better under these conditions.”
    Castresana says that Iberdrola has been approached by several large companies about the experience of the compressed week. “In 2015, we’re going to sign a new agreement, and I have no doubt that we will continue with this arrangement. I think that the coming generation of employees will demand these kind of collective agreements, and that this will soon spread as the norm throughout Spain.”
    The cost of long working hours
    A study by the University of Zaragoza shows that compressed working hours reduce costs and increase productivity on average by around six percent.
    Spaniards [in general] leave work around two hours later than their counterparts in the rest of Europe, says a commission set up in Spain to look into working hours.
    Companies that give employees a feeling that they are being looked after, typically by offering compressed hours and flexi-time, tend to have happier workforces, as well as seeing an increase in productivity by up to 19 percent, according to a survey carried out by Spanish business school IESE and consultants Edenred in 2012. Furthermore, employees feel up to four times more committed to their work. However, due to the crisis, Spanish companies have cut spending on work-life balance by 40 percent, according to a survey by consultants PeopleMatters.

  2. House To Vote Thursday On 30-Hour Work Week Bill, 1/04 (1/05 early pickup) IndianaPublicMedia.org
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - The new Republican Congress will be sworn in tomorrow, and a Hoosier-authored [=Indianan-authored] change to the federal health care law will be the first agenda item.
    The House plans to vote Thursday on a bill to roll back the health care law’s redefinition of full-time work as 30 hours a week.
    Ninth District Congressman Todd Young, R-Indiana, is co-authoring the bill for a second straight Congress.
    Young estimates the change would cost part-time workers $75 billion in lost earnings.
    [But he's ignoring the wage-raising effect of the law's incentivation of the hiring of more workers to replace the hours lost in the dread Obamacare-premium avoiding drop from 40 to less than 30 via the decreasing effect that extra hiring would have on the current surplus of jobseekers.]
    And he says the trade-off of getting more workers insured isn’t worth it.
    [Easy for him to say as a congressman with a luxurious federal government health plan.]
    “The new threshold has incentivized employers, who often times cannot afford government-sanctioned health insurance to all the employees, to drop their hourly workers down from say 39 or 38 hours below that 30 hour threshold,” Young says.
    Young says the Congressional Budget Office calculates the 30-hour standard would add fewer than half-a-million workers to the insurance rolls.
    He also predicts bipartisan support. Illinois Democrat Dan Lipinski is Young’s co-author in the House, while Indiana Democrat Joe Donnelly authored a Senate version of the bill in the last Congress.
    But Young says it’s not clear whether President Obama will sign or veto the bill.
    The 30-hour standard hasn’t taken effect yet, due to the delay in the law’s employer mandate.


1/03/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Time for four-day work week? by Tom Mills, SaultStar.com
    SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont., Canada - If Dolly Parton sang the story of 9 to 5 today, as she did in her 1980 Grammy-winning anthem, I wonder if it would strike as strong a chord?
    In that era 35 years ago, the standard workweek was some variant of Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Service providers, industrial employees and other shift workers were exceptions to the rule.
    But that's pretty well been blown out of the water by developments such as extended business hours for stores, banks and offices and technological advances that have made work more portable.
    Now there are rumblings that the four-day workweek, a concept batted around since the 1950s, might become the new normal, perhaps in 2015.
    Of course, a shorter workweek almost never means fewer hours of work. There might be fewer shifts, but generally they are longer. Workers at steel plants, hospitals and some stores and restaurants know all about this.
    [An example of this is billionaire Slim Helu's proposal for a three-day workweek, but each workday would be 10-11 hours instead of 8, but hey, it would still be a reduced workweek of 33 hours instead of 40. And a four-day workweek with workdays lengthened to 9 hours would still be a reduced workweek of 36 hours. And any reduction in the workweek, though efforts would be made to get the same output out of less worktime as in "condensed" workweeks, would also iinduce more hiring, as it did 1840-1940 when we for the most part haphazardly cut the workweek in half (from 80 to 40), because why maintain productivity if markets are weak?]
    But it still can be a win-win for both employers and employees. So a number of news stories in the past year have reported widespread support for four-day weeks in industry, government and business.
    Companies taking that route have seen both output and morale rise.
    "When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what's important," software company owner Jason Fried noted in an op-ed for the New York Times.
    Workers on standard shifts waste as much as two hours a day doing things like surfing the web and making personal calls, Lynn Stuart Parramore reported in an Alternet.comarticle in July.
    Having one weekday off lets them do more of that stuff, and personal business such as medical appointments and errand-running, on their own time.
    Workers also spend less of their own time preparing for and commuting to the workplace, with one fewer day of work each week.
    A longer weekend can make people feel they aren't trapped in their job, that their lives have more balance and they have more time for themselves and their families.
    Ryan Carlson, CEO of the Treehouse online education company, told Parramore his staff return to work "invigorated and excited" after a three-day weekend.
    They might also be healthier.
    According to the National Post, one leading U.K. doctor advocates a four-day workweek to reduce stress and assorted health issues associated with sitting and working.
    "People can enjoy their lives, have more time with their families and maybe reduce high blood pressure because people might start exercising on that extra day," said John Ashton, president of the U.K. Faculty of Public Health.
    Cities, school boards and some U.S. states that switched to four-day weeks have saved money on transportation, electricity and heating and cooling costs as well. A four-day workweek could help the environment by reducing fuel consumption.
    It seems like an inevitable step for a society that increasingly separates its work and personal lives, making the business day all business.
    In a much-earlier age of six-day workweeks, business and socializing tended to blend and commerce was conducted at a more leisurely pace.
    Service was more personal and involved conversation with friends and neighbours in a time before express lanes and drive-throughs were invented.
    Businesses might close down and employees head home for lunch. A barber, dentist or merchant might post a "Gone Fishing" sign on his door on a pleasant afternoon. Bankers kept bankers' hours.
    Even the pace of industrial labour tended to be dictated by the worker, before machinery became so high-tech.
    But in a way those olden times were more progressive than our own, because they placed the emphasis more on the job to be done than the hours to be put in.
    And that might be the biggest knock against a four-day week. It still measures work by the clock. It makes time more important than results.
    My own experience in an assortment of workplaces convinced me that people tend to produce higher quality work and use their imagination and skills more if they can walk out the door when the job is done, whether that's after six hours or after nine.
    The same reporters and editors who seemed to be wasting time on a slow news day would work their butts off when a big story broke.
    So the four-day workweek might be a good fit for our time and a sensible way to cut waste, improve productivity and boost morale.
    But maybe it's not revolutionary enough.
    Email tom.mills@sunmedia.ca to contact Tom Mills. Comment at saultstar.com.

  2. Augusta's federal workforce gets 1 percent pay raise in new year, by Meg Mirshak, (1/02 late pickup) The Augusta Chronicle via chronicle.augusta.com
    AUGUSTA, Ga., USA - The new year brings a small pay raise for more than 18,000 federal employees in the Augusta area.
    Between 15,000 and 16,000 uniformed service members and nearly 3,400 federal civilian employees at Fort Gordon will receive a 1 percent raise. Another 342 federal workers at Savannah River Site also get a raise, which takes effect on Jan. 11, the first day of the first full pay period in 2015.
    Because the Augusta area has a sizable federal workforce, the pay raises authorized by President Obama are enough to make a noticeable impact on the local economy, said Tammy Shepherd, president and CEO of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.
    “It’s a definite benefit. Even 1 percent can help generate additional revenue for businesses,” Shepherd said.
    Federal employees also received a 1 percent raise in 2014, preceded by three years of pay freezes.
    Shepherd said the local economy took a hit when the federal government enacted furlough days in recent years.
    [But not nearly as big a hit as it would have taken if the federal government had enacted layoffs instead of furlough days!]
    The pay raises will likely change spending habits for those workers, she said.
    “Many of those employees have gone through furloughs. In that situation, we saw a negative impact because those employees didn’t have discretionary money to spend,” Shepherd said.
    [Going through layoffs is a lot more traumatic, and negative in its impact on discretionary money to spend.]
    Military service members will also receive increases for housing and food allowances, according to a Defense Department news release. On average, basic allowance for housing will increase a half percent. The annual adjustments to non-taxable cash payments for food will increase 2.9 percent, a change based on food prices measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
    Fort Gordon Public Affairs Officer J.C. Mathews said a “vast majority,” but not all, of the 3,400 civilian employees will receive raises. A small number are covered by special pay plans that set pay using other methods.
    Contractors at Fort Gordon and Savannah River Site are not affected by the pay raises.


1/02/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde (PH3) ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Short-time work [=German "Kurz-arbeit"] threatens to stop the South Stream gas pipeline project, dpa-AFX via faz.net (translated by Bing, cleanup by PH3)
    MÜLHEIM, N.Rh.-Wfal., Germany - Short-time working for hundreds of employees at the tube manufacturer Europipe, Mülheim an der Ruhr, may be threatening the South Stream gas pipeline project with a stoppage.
    [A strange phrasing that blames the first-aid measure for the injury.]
    Deutsche Presse-Agentur learned this from employee circles on Friday. The companies and IG Metal initially had no comment. Europipe is in a corporate group with Salzgitter AG and the Dillinger Hütte. At the end of the year, it was announced back in early December that the initial production stoppage was suspended till at least February 19 for the planned line from Russia.
    Salzgitter AG said on Friday it would give no information about possible short-time work. "It's also not fair to our employees. Once these things have been resolved, they will know directly from corporate," said Salzgitter.
    If the overall project is finally buried, seems unclear despite definite signals. The head of the Russian energy group Gazprom , Alexej Miller, had declared the project abortive in early December and said that as an alternative Russia and Turkey agreed on an offshore pipeline. The consequences for pipe production in Germany are largely unclear going forward.
    Salzgitter had let it be known in late December that the new project stoppage till mid-February, or even longer, likely meant a profit setback "in the lower double digit million range."
    [Here at last, the real culprit!]
    A spokesman said on Friday it is trying - as shared at the end of December - to find employment to substitute for that lost. "Whether and when it will succeed, no one knows at present. Therefore the estimates mentioned by us are to be understood as ball park."
    / loh/DP/she

  2. Police complain working overtime, stress, DailySabah.com
    ISTANBUL, Turkey - Members of the Turkish National Police have complained of lengthy working hours, lack of payment for additional duties and the impact of the heavy [toll] of work on their mental health. A report by the state-run Ombudsman Institution, prepared after complaints filed by several police officers, points out the hardships of police officers.
    According to the report, 157 police officers have committed suicide in the past five years, and 2,323 policemen have undergone treatment for mental illness.
    The majority of police officers work an average of 57 hours a week, and the lowest working hours is 41. The average number of working hours a week in other countries is about 40 hours. Member of the police force complain that despite the lengthy working hours, their salaries remain low and they are not paid bonuses for additional duties such as working overtime during extraordinary situations such as unrest or riots, etc.
    The report quoted a survey of 800 police officers, which found that the mental state of the majority of police officers was affected due to their occupation. Most police officers interviewed in the survey say that their occupation hampers their family life, while less than half believe being a policeman is not as reputable in public as before.
    According to the report, average life expectancy in Turkey is 73.8 years, while this drops as low as 55 for police officers.
    [Another rebuttal to "Work hard to get ahead." This testifies that long hours is individual suicide, and it's certainly systemic suicide, since it translates into labor surplus and lower pay, especially in the age of robotics and artificial intelligence, "Puritan work ethic" be damned!]
    Chief ombudsman Nihat Ömerog(lu advised the government to enact new laws to relieve the policemen of their burden. The advice includes payment of bonuses for additional duties, decreasing working hours and more efficient psychiatric support,


1/01/2015 – News and opinion about the timesizing alternative to downsizing, reinvented thousands of times every day in every recession by mainly mid- and small-size companies, but still today an afterthought, though any economy that's still around 50 years from now will long since have made it first and foremost - ( [commentary] by Phil Hyde ecdesignr@yahoo.ca unless otherwise initialed ) -

  1. Obamacare employer mandate takes effect today, by Rick Moran, AmericanThinker.com (blog)
    WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - The Obamacare employer mandate that requires companies with more than 100 employees to offer insurance coverage to 70% of them goes into effect January 1, 2015. Those companies with between 50 and 100 employees will be forced to offer coverage next year.
    The employer mandate was delayed a year for political reasons. Employers are not expected to have a problem covering employees, but the reporting requirements to the IRS are a nightmare.
    Washington Times:
    But human resources departments will grapple with IRS reporting requirements from day one to document their compliance and avoid tax penalties, a task that can get Byzantine and expensive for companies with lots of part-time workers and seasonal workers, who add up to full-time “equivalents.”
    The employer mandate has been a political football since the health care law passed in 2010, as critics say employers have stopped hiring or cut hours to stay under the mandate’s thresholds.
    The White House delayed the mandate twice, moves that Republicans lambasted as political ploys to delay enforcement until after the midterm elections.
    The issue will be thrust back into the public eye in the coming weeks, when congressional Republicans taking control of both chambers try to force changes to the rule.
    GOP lawmakers say leadership will hold votes to change the mandate’s definition of full-time work from 30 hours to 40 hours, as even some Democrats fear the nontraditional definition is hurting the workforce.
    [Nontraditional definition of full-time as 30 hrs/wk? Quite the contrary. Congress nearly passed a 30-hour workweek in 1933 to spread the vanishing unautomated employment in the age of early automation, and now 30 is long overdue in the age of robotics and artificial intelligence. Or, we can keep downsizing to get growth (=upsizIng), concentrating the market-demanded employment on fewer people, funneling the national income to a tinier percentage of the population, and disguising a deepening depression as a "slow recovery."]
    Republican lawmakers have coined a phrase, “the 29ers,” to describe people whose hours were cut because they were suddenly considered full-time workers eligible for health insurance.
    [If there were enough of them, it would force hiring, mop up the officially denied labor surplus, and raise wages. Going back to 40 will just reconcentrate employment and weaken the consumer base (including base-providing consumer spending).]
    Rep. Michael Burgess, Texas Republican, told The Washington Times in mid-December that the vote [to change the mandate’s definition of full-time work from 30 hours to 40] would raise awareness among any employees who do not realize they are subject to IRS reporting requirements under the mandate. 
    Ms. Pearson [Caroline Pearson, a vice president at Avalere Health, a Washington-based consultancy] said the shift from 30 hours to 40 hours should not be a major problem for companies, which would “happily adjust” their reporting.
    But Congress’ budget scorekeepers have estimated the move would raise deficits by $73 billion over 10 years, as the government would collect fewer penalty payments.
    Massive confusion is likely this tax season as employers and individuals alike will struggle with new forms and new requirements. This will be a boon to tax prep firms like H&R Block, who have been advertising their expertise in Obamacare compliance.
    The shift [back] to a 40 hours a week mandate will [or would?] probably eliminate some jobs, but not affect as many employees who would have [or have had?] their hours cut to under 30. And when the dust clears, it's likely that compliance costs [either way?] will make [or are making and will continue to make?] it more expensive for businesses and individuals alike.
    [But how do they compare with compliance costs associated with the chaotic and expensive blizzard of health insurance plans without Obamacare? Incomplete data here!]

  2. Working hours push Barbour factory workers to strike - Why are workers at the Barbour factory going on strike? by Robert Gore-Langton, Express.co.uk
    [The question is never really answered. But least it's raising hours consciousness.]
    SOUTH SHIELDS, Co.Dur., England - The Barbour waxed jacket is a true British icon worn in countries all over the world. Far from being outsourced to the Far East, J Barbour & Sons remains based in the North-east with its headquarters in Simonside, South Shields.
    But a threatened strike over new working shifts (more late shifts to meet a global surge in demand) has meant disruption at the factory.
    [Why would more late shifts disrupt a factory? Why would workers care if their own hours weren't being lengthened, just more shifts added for more workers and more employment and economic vitality? Is this article just a marketing piece in disguise? Oh well, we poissonly have nevah hoid of wacks jackets... = poifeck for Gloucester fishermen?]
    The firm has clearly cheesed off its workforce, which makes 100,000 jackets a year, all by hand. Let's hope for some rapid conciliation. A world without Barbour jackets - their slogan should be "wax not wane" - is unthinkable. Worn by farmers and fashionistas they are as British as bad weather.
    HISTORY
    For 120 years Barbour has been making rainproof gear, originally for fishermen, sailors, farmers and lovers of the great outdoors. The company has been going ever since a travelling draper, John Barbour, opened his first shop in South Shields in 1894. The range was based on oil cloth, a brilliant material that shed water like a duck's back but which also breathed.
    John's sons Jack and Malcolm came on board as partners and by 1908 the first Barbour catalogue appeared and was selling its gear to all parts of the empire. Then came the motorbiking craze in the 1930s and the firm supplied British international motorcycling teams for three decades in Barbour-oiled cotton suits. The one-piece waxed suit - the Barbour International - was the basis for every design since. It was amazingly popular, even with the ladies.
    It was a family tragedy that proved the springboard to real success. John Barbour began working with the company in 1957 aged 19. He and his wife Margaret had a baby daughter and were blissfully happy.
    Then at 29 John died of a brain haemorrhage. His widow had trained as a teacher and had no retail experience but she learned the business from the floor up. She was totally unaware she would become chairman of the company and, as she is now, Dame Margaret Barbour is one of the matriarchs of British design.
    Back in the late 1960s Dame Margaret zoomed about Europe going to country trade fairs to see what the opposition were making and to understand the sort of outdoor clothing people needed. The horsey set wanted a short riding jacket so she got jockey Willie Carson to test pilot a design.
    DEEP POCKETS
    The shooting set required a jacket with deep pockets in which to stuff cartridges, birds and dead rabbits. She made it. And the farmers and the like who work outside all day wanted a jacket with hand warming pockets. All of these Barbour pioneered.
    It was only when the clothing's practicality was mixed with stylishness that Barbour took off. When the colour blue was first introduced - mamma mia! - the Italian market went berserk as the jackets looked great with tight jeans. Never mind a farmyard, suddenly all you needed was a Barbour and a Vespa scooter.
    Today the company makes everything from eyewear to scarves, caps and even quilted dog coats. Barbour remains entirely family owned and run solely by women. Dame Margaret's daughter Helen, 45, is vice-president and incidentally the same age as Dame Margaret's favourite Barbour jacket. Like her it's still going strong.
    THE SLOANE RANGER YEARS
    Traditionally Sloane Rangers were well-connected, well-off and centred around Sloane Square in London with Peter Jones as their corner shop. The girls were noted then for wearing pashmina shawls, pearls and Alice bands. They met in Fulham's White Horse pub, known as the Sloaney Pony, where every style of Barbour could be seen on parade during the 1980s.
    THE FULL WAX
    The jackets were adored by men because they matured like wine. If a jacket is rewaxed once a year - male owners learned to apply wax and melt it into the cotton with their girlfriend's hairdryer - it will last. A battered jacket is a status symbol and an heirloom. The oldest jacket that the company is aware of - it's in their vault - dates back to 1911.
    Unlike the once socially smart Burberry coat, whose trademark checks became associated with "chavs" and Essex Man, Barbour has never lost its connection with the upper classes.
    Today handsome Lord James Percy is a brand ambassador. He is one of the best shots in England, even better than his big brother the Duke of Northumberland, and is feared by every pheasant in the kingdom. For the company he has helped design a line of shooting jackets that are a must-have for any competitive shot.
    Barbour is still associated with motorcycling but much more so with horses and in particular the Household Cavalry Polo team, which Barbour has sponsored for more than a decade.
    ROYAL BARBOUR
    The company has three Royal Warrants, from the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. The Queen wears other brands of outdoor waterproofs but she has been Barbour's most high-profile customer for decades.
    But it was when Barbour fan Lady Diana was engaged to Prince Charles that the jacket really took off. Today, of the top royals, Kate wears a new Barbour, Camilla a more beaten-up thing. Prince Charles has a coat so patched up it's impossible to tell if it's a Barbour or not.
    The company doesn't go in for handing out freebies to the rich and famous in the hope of publicity. Even the Queen has to buy hers. Kate Moss paid cash as did Alexa Chung, Billie Piper and the Arctic Monkeys, who have all helped make Barbours a big hit with the hipster set. When Lily Allen wore a Barbour at Glastonbury it was a massive shot in the arm for sales.
    James Bond wears a Barbour. In the film Skyfall, Daniel Craig swaggered about the Highlands in a £399 Barbour jacket. The wardrobe department bought 25 for the shoot - Craig obviously gets through them - and when the film came out demand rocketed. The company was laughing even if it isn't now.
    But not even Bond can compete with our sovereign. When Helen Mirren wore a Barbour in the 2006 film The Queen, America went mad for the jacket and sales trebled.
    Dame Margaret Barbour has met the Queen many times. When she asked if Her Majesty would like a new Barbour for her silver jubilee, the Queen politely declined and asked if she could perhaps have her old one re-waxed.




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For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing on Amazon.com.

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