Timesizing News, 1998 and previous years
[Commentary] ©2000-2004 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080
[One company that does it right -]
10/10/1998 Volkswagen won't add workers next year - An expected slump in auto sales ends a 4-year hiring spree [that increased worldwide workforce by 19%], Bloomberg via NYT, B2.
Volkswagen has hired 12,000 people so far this year, though it does not expect to hire any more this year or next, because of a more flexible manufacturing process and an expected slowdown in demand, Peter Hartz, the memger of the company's managing board responsible for personnel, said [Oct. 9] in an interview. "The best employment program there is are good products, but it would be a great thing if we can keep the number of employees we have at the moment," Mr. Hartz said....
Mr. Hartz, who was in Frankfurt to receive an award on behalf of VW for hiring the most people in Germany last year, said Volkswagen had added 47,000 workers in the last four years at its 38 production sites around the world. The total number of employees, including those at Audi, SEAT and Skoda, is now 295,000 people.
Mr. Hartz said that in the future, to avoid a hire-and-fire atmosphere, company negotiations with workers would focus more on the length of the workweek rather than job numbers. [YES!] A main point in wage talks with German workers next year will be an extension of the 28.8-hour week [back] to 35 hours.
"There is a new ideology now where we speak about new orders," Mr. Hartz said. "If we have many, then we work a lot. If we have few, we work less and try to organize it without firing people."
Volkswagen's shares rose 4.3 marks [Oct.9], to 101 ($62.81).
[VW of Germany, together with Nucor of Charlotte and Lincoln Electric of Cleveland, is one of the smartest companies in the world for kicking around its workweek instead of its workforce and thus preserving skills, morale, and markets. We predict the shares of these three companies and others like them will soon be the safest havens in the stock markets worldwide. VW in the early 90s saved its hometown of Wolfsburg by taking a town-gutting downsizing of 30,000 job-equivalents in terms of a workweek downsizing (i.e., a "timesizing") of 6.2 hours from a 35-hr corporate workweek to a 28.8-hr one. Pay came down halfway to the 32-hr level, but EVERYONE KEPT EMPLOYED. Contrast this with the dinosauroid stupidity of General Motors, whose 74,000 layoffs in the early 90s destroyed their hometown of Flint, Mich. and was rightly ridiculed in Michael Moore's movie, "Roger and Me."]
9/06/1998 Saying 'no' to the boss - Workers are rebelling against forced overtime, by Lonnie Golden, Bos Globe, C1.
The Bell Atlantic and US West telecom work stoppages, the strike by Northwest Airlines pilots, and the walkout at General Motors all involve disputes over mandatory overtime.... Since 1989, Americans have, on average, increased their workweek by more than two hours. That adds up to three weeks a year. In contrast, every country in the EU has witnessed a decline in work hours over the last 10 years.... Thus the stage is set for a new national discussion about how long a workweek should be....
[Note that timesizing says the workweek should not be fixed but slowly adjusting against an unemployment rate that must be redefined to include everyone dependent on the taxpayer - welfare, disability, homelessness, prisons. The target rate should be set by a repeating referendum and, if unemployment goes up, the workweek should adjust downward and vice versa. The adjustment would never be more than an hour a month, and the adjustment rate would also be set by the referendum.]
2/11/1998 France plans to cut work week to aid idle, by Ian Phillips, AP via Detroit News via detnews.com via RadioTony.
PARIS - A government plan to slash double-digit unemployment by introducing a shorter work week passed its biggest hurdle Tuesday, but big business remained skeptical, fearing it will destroy jobs....
Unemployment, France's most pressing problem, stands at 12.2% and shows few signs of falling sharply. Socialist Premier Lionel Jospin, swept to office in June  on a pledge to combat unemployment, says his proposal will create jobs by spreading work around..\..
But the National Association of Business Leaders contends that a blanket 35-hour week "will have negative consequences for businesses and thus for employment."
[A curious counter-intuitive notion. How do they support it? Chiefly by ingrained short-sighted self-destructiveness like this -]
The world's largest tire manufacturer, Michelin, has even threatened to move its business out of the country if forced to comply..\..
[An advanced economy can only benefit from the departure of corporations that are determined to strangle their own and everyone else's markets by maintaining 1940-level workweeks regardless of how many decades pass and how much super-productive, super-efficient technology pours into the economy. As Reuther replied to Ford when the latter had taunted, "Let's see you unionize these robots" - "Let's see you sell them cars."]
The National Assembly approved on first reading the government's bill to reduce the work week to 35 hours from 39 hours. Under the measure, all employers will be required to implement the law by the year 2002.
"We share the conviction that everything must be done to reduce the unemployment rate, and cutting the work week is a means among others," said Labor Minister Martine Aubry....
[No, Martine, it is the means among others. In fact, do this right, and the only other means you have to worry about is relaxing the things that stand in its way, like the restriction of health insurance to persons working a minimum of 39-40 hours a week.]
10/06/1997 [European trade] unions still firm behind shorter workweek, PR newswire, www.etuc.org/press_archives/press97/PR2397.cfm (live link as of 5/5/99)
Any suggestion that the *European Trade Union Confederation's [ETUC's] discussion conference...on 2 and 3 October  in Brussels on "New paths in working time policy" signals a ditching of the demand for the 35-hour week would be jumping to simplistic conclusions. The reality is anything but. The negotiated 35-hour week was reaffirmed at the ETUC's Brussels Congress. It was, is and will remain a priority for European trade unions. But today's mass unemployment means that the reduction/reorganization of working time must be tackled in different and even more ambitious ways. So the 35-hour week has acquired new dimensions, like action to cut overtime, bringing in continuing vocational training throughout working life, opportunities for phased retirement.... The common aim of all these things must be to create the extra new jobs needed....
2/29/1996 Nurses OK hours cut to save jobs at hospital, by Diane Lewis, Boston Globe, p. 30.
At a time when job security is uppermost in workers' minds, nurses at *Brockton Hospital, Brockton, Mass., have come up with a job-saving plan [called 'the flex program' as recently as 9/98]: Rather than the layoff of 86 nurses, the staff has agreed to reduced hours and pay cuts.* Reached Tuesday [2/27/96], the agreement between the Massachusetts Nurses Association [MNA] and the hospital not only saves jobs but also gives supervisors the ability to adjust staffing levels to meet daily patient volume.
Under the plan, which is expected to be signed by both parties early next week, about half of the 395 nurses in the MNA bargaining unit may give up one day a week or choose so-called flex positions and work a minimum of 24 to 32 hours weekly, with full benefits. When patient volume increases, nurses in flex positions would be asked to work 40 hours a week.
Jennifer O'Brien, a...registered nurse who joined the staff in July, said she was certain she would have been laid off if the hospital had not accepted the plan. 'I'm new, which means without this plan I would not have a paycheck,' said O'Brien, who will now work in a 24 flex position, which means she will be guaranteed at least 24 hours of work a week. She will continue to receive full health and pension benefits.
Jody Fleit, a member of the union's negotiating team and vice president of patient services, developed the plan while reviewing the hospital's declining inpatient population and its staffing patterns. 'We were looking at a fairly large change in the work force,' said Fleit. 'Every year, we have had some attrition. But in the last year or so, as the economic situation became tighter, turnover in our nursing ranks dropped to less than 1 percent. So for us, the challenge was to save jobs and have the right number of work hours per patient every day.'
[Every time the economy gets tight, dozens of unheralded workforces reinvent this wheel. Maybe it's time we standardized it. And for those of you who think that 'unions would never go for it,' note that this plan was a union initiative. Hey, faced with losing 86 union jobs or shortening and flexing up hours, the union made the obvious choice.]
[*But what about those proportionate paycuts? You saw Jennifer O'Brien's reaction - "Without this plan I would not have a paycheck." Small paycheck (here with "full health and pension benefits"!) or no paycheck - choose one. And as we apply this strategy on a larger and larger scale, we engineer a gradual cut in our huge hidden labor surplus and free-market forces of supply and demand do the rest, restoring pay to previous levels - and to potentially higher levels if we choose to share the work and cut the workweek even further - Timesizing.]
11/29/1993 - VW Tries Work-Sharing, Washington Post via highbeam.com.
VOLKSWAGEN, the German automobile producer, will now shift its employees to a four-day week to share the work and avoid layoffs. The alternative, it said, was to fire nearly a third of its workers. The idea of sharing work has developed great appeal in Western Europe, where the unemployment rate is approaching 12 percent (it's 6.8 percent in the United States). Politicians throughout Europe have seized the idea of a four-day week as a device to hold down layoffs in the midst of a bad recession. Because VW's largest shareholder is the government of the German state of Lower Saxony, the company is more sensitive to political and social opinion than most.
But work-sharing is a dubious remedy...
[No it isn't - it's what we should have been doing instead of freezing the full-time workweek in 1940 at the 40-hour level which was too much even for our 1940 level of worksaving technology.]
11/11/1993 Labor Wants Shorter Hours To Make Up for Job Losses, NY Times via encyclopedia.com
Union leaders and some economists are beginning to talk seriously about what once seemed a far-fetched remedy for disappearing high-pay jobs: a shorter workweek.
This may not sound like a particularly novel idea; millions of part-timers already work far fewer than 40 hours a week.
But the unions would insist that regular full-time workers whose weeks are cut to 35 hours or so [and] keep their 40-hour pay and benefits.
"There's no question that the long-term salvation of work lies in reducing working hours," said Thomas R. Donahue, secretary-treasurer of the 95-union American Federation of Labor....
11/13/1992 Ford, Chrysler plan to idle three plants, Wall Street Journal, A4.
DETROIT - Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. plan to temporarily close a total of three assembly plants next week because of slow sales.
[Ergo, 'timesizing, not downsizing' on a workmonth-adjusting rather than a workweek-adjusting basis.]
Ford said beginning Monday it will idle next week its Kansas City MO car assembly plant, which builds the Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz sedans, and its Wayne MI truck assembly plant, which builds the Ford Bronco SUV and F-Series regular-cab pickup truck.
Ford said a total of nine car & truck assembly plants worked overtime this week.
Chrysler said its Sterling Heights MI assembly plant, which builds the Dodge Daytona and Shadow and Plymouth Sundance, will be idle next week. [However,] Saturday overtime is scheduled at Chrysler's Bramalea ONT assembly plant, which builds the new Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision sedans.
Altogether, the 10 major automakers plan to build 123,551 vehicles this week, down 5.5% from the 130,684 built a year ago. But...the projected output is up 5.1% from the 117,581 built last week....
3/3/1992 More Japanese Workers Demanding Shorter Hours and Less Hectic Work, By STEVEN R. WEISMAN, NYT via nytimes.com.
In self-satisfied tones, Japanese leaders have recently been calling Americans lazy and praising their own workers' eagerness to toil and sacrifice for corporate Japan.
But these days, despite the comments of some Japanese spokesmen, the legendary willingness of Japanese workers to toil long and hard without complaining is giving way to a new debate over whether Japanese are working too hard. Increasingly, Japanese are willing to answer yes.
Take Takechi Kikuchi, for instance.
On a routine day, Mr. Kikuchi recalled recently, he had only two and a half minutes to bolt in the gasoline tank and hurriedly attach 10 other parts to each automobile moving down the Nissan assembly line. At peak times, the process was speeded up, and he had to put in up to 12 hours a day.
"We used to mutter plenty of complaints, but we knew nothing would happen," Mr. Kikuchi said. "At the end of the day, I was so tired that I only felt like watching television or going to bed."
Because of complaints from workers like Mr. Kikuchi, unions have begun demanding shorter hours, and workers are saying more openly that their long hours on the job have not yielded sufficient benefits or improved standards of living.
"The Japanese are clearly overworked," said Hiroyuki Kawaguchi, assistant general secretary of Rengo, the nation's largest trade union federation. "After all these years of prosperity, we are at a turning point. From now on, the system must respond to our demands for shorter hours."
Average Hours Have Been Falling
Mr. Kawaguchi's prediction may be overstated, but the downward trend in work time is clear and has been for some time. Many offices and factories that used to be open on Saturday have started to stay closed all weekend in the last couple of years. The average time worked by Japanese declined from 2,432 hours a year in 1960 to 2,009 last year, according to the Ministry of Labor.
The Ministry has set a target of 1,800 hours next year and is pushing for legislation to achieve the goal. Few believe that it can be reached, but it has become politically popular in Japan to call for everyone to stop working so hard.
"Shorter working hours and more comfortable workplaces are national goals to make our working lives less stressful," Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa said in a recent speech, sounding a note that contrasted sharply with his recent comment that Americans may lack a "work ethic."
Despite the decline in work hours, Japanese still work harder than Americans. By some calculations, they work the equivalent of a month more than their American counterparts every year.
While it is difficult to quantify the average Japanese workweek, auto workers at peak periods typically work 12-hour shifts with any time put in after the standard 8-hour shift paid at 125 percent of the normal pay. White collar workers typically put in 13-hour days or more with no overtime paid.
The Labor Ministry's statistics showing that Japanese work shorter hours probably exaggerate the trend because Japanese companies routinely underreport the hours their employees work. A recent survey found that 55 percent of employees worked unpaid -- and unrecorded -- overtime.
Last month, labor inspectors raided 80 branches of a dozen big financial institutions, where a third of the employees were found to have been improperly required to put in large amounts of unpaid overtime.
The Government reprimanded the offending companies -- many of them the cream of corporate Japan -- but carried out no punishments. But the companies were clearly embarrassed. So was Hitachi Ltd., which was recently sued by a factory worker claiming he had been dismissed because he refused to work overtime.
More Identification With the Company
Part of the reason that Japanese seem to work harder relates to cultural distinctions, including the fact that Japanese identify more with their companies than workers in other countries do and therefore accept and enjoy a great deal of socializing connected to the office or factory.
A recent survey by the Hakuhodo Institute for Life and Living, a research institute, said Japanese are far more dedicated to their workplaces, and like to spend more time there than Americans. For instance, a majority felt that group morning calisthenics on the job and singing the company song were entirely appropriate.
Japanese white collar workers also routinely go out evenings with their bosses or colleagues, returning home toward midnight. They go on weekend outings, golf games and other activities, not considering this to be part of work, even though their attendance is viewed as less than voluntary.
Most office workers in surveys also say that if their supervisor works late, they feel they also have to stay late, even if there is no work to do. For these reasons, armies of commuters heading home late at night do so after what workers in other countries might not consider real work.
"By objective standards, it may seem crazy," said a young bureaucrat at a major Japanese ministry who usually does not get home until midnight. "The dilemma of white collar workers is that they dislike working late, but they haven't found a practical alternative."
Two Industrialists In Bitter Debate
The debate over work and its benefits has produced an unusually bitter argument in public between two respected industrial figures.
On one side is Takeshi Nagano, president of the Japan Federation of Employers Association, who is battling the labor unions' drive for shorter working hours and higher wages.
On the other side has been Akio Morita, the chairman of Sony Corporation, one of the best-known Japanese businessmen, who has written articles and given speeches demanding that workers be allowed to share more of Japan's prosperity.
Mr. Morita said the past suppression of wages and demand for long hours have been part of a corporate strategy to enhance profits and make companies more competitive.
The strategy, he said, has led to Japan's huge trade surpluses over the years. Now, of course, the surpluses are spreading alarm as well as envy.
"Rather than building vast reserves of cash, Japanese companies should show a greater willingness to share the fruits of their profits with worldwide stockholders and employes," he said in a speech.
In 1990, Japanese workers in the manufacturing sector earned an average of $12.42 an hour, compared with $10.84 an hour in the United States. But these figures are at the current exchange rate; at rates prevailing until a few years ago, Japanese hourly wages were much lower than American hourly wages. Japanese workers also say that because the cost of living in Japan is much higher than in the United States, their purchasing power is well below that of American workers.
Mr. Morita's comments in favor of workers have gotten widespread publicity and support. "Japanese workers are getting kind of fed up with the hard work," said Haruo Shimada, professor of economics at Keio University in Tokyo, who studies labor issues.
"A few years ago, when the economy started to boom, unions actually cooperated with companies to step up the work," Mr. Shimada added. "Everyone worked liked crazy for a few years, but then they realized they were actually losing out."
Unions Considered Part of the Problem
Often, however, the unions are regarded as part of the problem, not the solution. This is because almost all unions for private companies in Japan are company unions. Their officers are company employees who can expect to be rewarded by the company if they do a good job in curbing union militancy.
A Nissan auto worker, for instance, said that at the height of car production in 1987, the company speeded up the work and the unions did nothing. He said that pauses of 10 seconds between tasks were eliminated and that workers had to carry parts on their belts to save the time taken to get them from the shelf.
"The workers were totally uninterested in what the union does, because the union is useless and powerless," said the worker, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They just do whatever management wants."
Further, Japan has pioneered in breaking work forces down into small units responsible for keeping output up. In such a setup, fellow workers suffer if someone takes a day off, even for illness. Absenteeism and sick leave are very low in Japan, compared with other industrial countries.
Another Nissan worker, interviewed outside a factory in Yokohama, said a colleague recently wanted to leave at 5 P.M. after a long day to attend a parents night at school. But he succumbed to the pressure of other workers to stay on the job.
"We felt bad, but that is the way the system works," he said.
Head Bands Reduce Mopping of Brows
Not surprisingly, critics on the left in Japan see such techniques as exploitive. A Communist member of Parliament, Tetsuzo Fuwa, recently accused Toyota and Nissan of working factory employees in long shifts "as though they are living in the 19th century."
"The company supplies workers with head bands to save the seven seconds necessary for workers to mop their sweating brows," he added.
Not everyone feels exploited, however. Mr. Kikuni, the Nissan worker who got tired when his assembly line was speeded up, said he managed to get used to the faster pace during the time it was in force last year. "I didn't really mind too much because I needed the extra money," he said.
More recently, the pace has slackened because car sales have slumped, and Mr. Kikuni has transferred from the speeded-up plant, in Tokyo, to another Nissan factory, this one assembling engines, in Yokohama. "I don't think anyone feels overworked now," he said of his eight-hour shifts.
In the automobile industry, one widely praised feature -- the system of lifetime employment guarantees -- actually worked against employees.
In the late 1980's, when demand for cars soared, output increased from 3.4 million cars to 5.1 million in 1990. Companies were reluctant to hire new workers for fear they would have too many when output fell off, so they simply had everyone work longer hours. The company unions went along with enthusiasm.
"Rank-and-file members generally agree that they should make an extra effort when the cars made by our company are selling well," said Katsutoshi Aihara, secretary general of Nissan's labor union. "Our workers feel they cannot refuse overtime when consumers want our cars."
Looking for More Out of Life
Going against such demands, many studies have found that Japanese are looking for something more out of life than toiling at the factory or office. The Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living, in its study last year, said the myth of Japanese "workaholics" was breaking down.
"Contrary to popular misconception, they are not ants slaving away for the company at the expense of their private lives and families," the institute said. "A growing number are beginning to pursue non-job-related interests and are beginning to enjoy their family life more."
The debate over whether Japanese or Americans work harder is clouded finally by definitions of what constitutes work. Japanese work long hours, but a lot of it is spent going through the ceremonies of meetings, consensus-building, exchanging business cards, having tea and building relationships.
"American professionals in offices may work fewer hours, but they work more intensely than Japanese," said Masamoto Yashiro, executive vice president at Citicorp in Japan. "In the United States, you know, you can get straight down to business. You just can't do that in Japan."
Photo: The willingness of Japanese workers to toil long and hard is giving rise to a new debate over whether they work too much. A poster in Tokyo showing changes in weekly work hours over the last few years, and projecting further changes, calls on workers to pursue non-job-related interests. (Associated Press for The New York Times) Graph: "On the Job" compares average annual hours worked in manufacturing in Japan with US rate, 1960 - 1990. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Japanese Ministry of Labor)
1/21/1992 Japanese have tough words on US, auto pledge, AP via Boston Globe, front page.
[This is where a Japanese official called Americans lazy. We always thought Juliet Schor wrote "The Overworked American" to rebut this but since it was published in '91, the truth must have been merely that her newly published book was used as the prime rebuttal of the charge. We've been sorting out and reducing our newspaper piles lately and this was the earliest BG issue we had in the current fire hazard, and the only issue from the first half of 1992. We had for some reason kept the whole issue, and so in our reduction campaign we still had even the sports section to throw out!]
TOKYO - Japanese officials yesterday denied having any commitment to buy more US autos and parts, while a senior Tokyo lawmaker placed the blame for the US-Japanese trade imbalance on what he described as lazy and poorly qualified workers.
"American workers don't work hard enough. They don't work, but demand high pay," Japanese newspapers quoted Yoshio Sakurauchi, speaker of the House of Representatives, as saying.
[There's even a photo of Yoshio on p.7 where the article continues. Note the outdated mentality of "work long, not smart" among the elite in one of the most automated economies in the world, good and sufficient explanation for why the Japanese economy tanked so fast when they abandoned their traditional lifetime employment, copied American downsizing, and rapidly deflated their consumer base.]
Japanese, like Americans, generally work a 40-hour week, but with overtime Japanese commonly stay at their jobs 44 or 45 hours a week.
[Yeah, and 10,000 of them die each year from "karoshi" = death from overwork.]
The Yomiuri newspaper said Sakurauchi, 79, called the United States "Japan's subcontractor."
[Go for it, Yoshio!]
"If America doesn't watch out, it is going to be judged as finished by the world," Sakurauchi was quoted as saying....
[Yeee haaaw! Well, it's taking a little longer than Yoshio expected, and Japan - and the rest of the world, Europe last - is accompanying us downward, but it's happening. And all because we're using technology to downsize our employees (and necessarily, consumers!) instead of to upsize our financially secure free time. "Passive luddism" we call it - the perversion of the whole purpose and promise of technology = to make life easier for everyone.]
5/01/1986 *Work sharing programs: an evolution of their use, by Cavin & Hershey & Kerachsky & Nicholson, Monthly Labor Review [USA]; May86, Vol. 109 Issue 5, p31, 3p.
[These geniuses really mean "Work sharing programs: an evaluation of their use" and that may be the real title of their paper with the booboo made by some later keyboarder.]
1/1/1984 Short-time working or lay-offs? Experience from Canada and California, by Juan M. Mesa, International Labour Review; 1984, Vol. 123 Issue 1, p99, 17p, 2 charts.
1970 Bill [Hewlett] and Dave [Packard] in 1970...chose cutting work hours 10% over firing 10% of the company.... (see "HP's fierce face-off - Despite a brutal boardroom battle, Carly Fiorina is closing in on her Compaq [prey]," by Chris Taylor, 3/04/2002 Time Magazine, 46).
[For years we heard that HP was a good company to work for. Little did we suspect that a timesizing, not downsizing mentality was behind it. This 10% hourscut instead of 10% jobcut was similar to the Robien Law in France in 1996-97.]