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Timesizing News in January, 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080


1/31/2001  glimmers of timesizing -

1/27/2001  glimmers of timesizing - 1/26/2001  glimmers of timesizing - 1/24/2001  glimmers of timesizing -
  1. Caterpillar enlists seasonal layoffs, AP-NY-01-23-01 1618EST via AOLNews via RadioTony.
    [They probably mean "temporary" layoffs. There's nothing necessarily seasonal (i.e., cyclical on an annual basis) about the downturn in demand that Caterpillar Inc. is reacting to - and reacting to much more appropriately than downsizing.]
    PEORIA, Ill. - About 2,500 Caterpillar Inc. employees are temporarily out of work without pay this week while the company shuts down some plants as part of an effort to bring production in line with demand.
    [But unlike a lot of Americans this week, they still have a job next week.]
    About 1,500 of the affected employees work at Caterpillar's Mossville truck engine plant and 977 work at the track-type tractor facility in East Peoria. Divisions at both plants are shut down this week but are expected to begin production again next week.
    Caterpillar, the world's No. 1 maker of heavy construction machinery, announced last week that demand for its products in North America is expected to decline this year.
    [And by cutting worktime instead of workforce, Caterpillar has avoided reducing demand further.]
    The Peoria-based company designs and makes mining, construction, and agricultural machinery and engines. It operates manufacturing plants in 22 countries.

  2. Swedish steel workers agree to 7% wage increase over 38 months, Bloomberg Jan/23/2001 5:45 ET via AOLNews.
    Stockholm...- Swedish steel workers and employers agreed on pay increases of 7% over 38 months, newspaper Dagens Nyheter said. The agreement, affecting 27,000 workers, entails a reduction in working hours equivalent to a 1.5% pay increase in the 38-month period, the newspaper said.
    [Do they mean "includes" a reduction in working hours...?]
    "It's a satisfactory agreement," said Goeran Johnsson, chairman of Metall, the union representing the steel workers. "We have real salaries every year [meaning not degrading due to inflation??], shorter working hours, and have brought about some other improvements."
    [So how much of a time reduction is that? We aren't told, because American media are kinda clueless about time management where it really counts = workshare per person per week. Apparently there was also another group of employees who came to a similar agreement last week -]
    Last week, workers in the plastic, rubber and drug industries agreed to annual wage increases averaging 2.3%, and a reduction in working hours equivalent to three days over 38 months....
    [But if we're talking about three 8-hr days, this only gives us (3x8)/38= 24hrs/38months= only 0.63 hr or 38 minutes a month. How meaningful is a reduction of only 38 minutes a month? Maybe some light is shed on this by the contract with the Swedish paper and pulp workers described above on 2/07/2001.]

1/23/2001  glimmers of timesizing -
  1. [Two] auto parts suppliers will temporarily lay off 10,300, AP via NYT, C4.
    ...The Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. and the Visteon Corp. said they would temporarily lay off a combined 10,300 hourly workers this week. The 'layoffs' [our quotes] are a result of slowing vehicle sales and production cuts by automakes. Delphi, the world's largest automotive supplier, said it would 'lay off' 4,300 workers for a week. Nearly half will be at 25 sites in Ohio, and the rest in Mich., Ind., and NY, a spokesman said. The Visteon workers, about 6,000, are largely in Mich., Ind., and Ohio, a spokeswoman said.
    [Primitive, but - a primitive step on an advanced technology is way ahead of a sophisticated step on a primitive technology like providing counselling and outplacement services for the victims of your suicidal downsizing policies. What's the most advanced, flexible, gradual and market-oriented version of this "cut hours, not jobs" approach look like? Check out Timesizing, not downsizing.]

  2. Poll - U.S. jobless rate seen rising modestly in 2001, by Daniel Sternoff, Reuters 10:42 01-22-01 via AOLNews.
    ...Stephen Slifer, chief economist at Lehman Brothers, said..."Businesses are cutting back on overtime, letting go of temporary workers, and working people shorter hours rather than just going in and laying off bodies....
    [Great - anything that impacts the workweek instead of the workforce (alias consumer base!) is on the right track.]
    The reason is that the unemployment rate is at 4%...."
    [But see our warning about the supposedly low U.S. unemployment rate.]
    "...If the slowdown proves to be fairly short-lived, you may not be able to get those folks back five to six months down the road," he said.
    [This is the skill retention argument for cutting hours, not jobs, and a good one it is, with spoiled employers so reluctant to train these days.]
    ..\..Said John Ryding, senior economist at Bear, Stearns & Co. in New York..."There is a backlog of job openings that have been created over the last 1-1/2 to two years."
    [We wish we were as gullible as John, but a lot of employers talk big about hiring, and he has not discounted for this "happytalk factor."]
    "You can see that in the gap between job creation and indicators of hiring intentions. The two used to track each other closely. Now hiring intentions have exceeded job creation for the last couple of years," he said....
    [We infer that "the two used to track each other closely" in the early 1990s when there was a genuine labor surplus in the highly publicized high-tech area and employers started with flexible job descriptions and bigger training budgets. However, that flood of resumes spoiled them into tightening their job descriptions and cutting their training budgets. Now there is a skills shortage, not a labor shortage, but spoiled employers don't want to accept that, flex up their job descriptions and beef up their training. So hiring lags "hiring "intentions." And (1) spoiled employers are still waiting for perfect employees to fall into their laps, and (2) today, even if some did, many employers won't hire them anyway because they have a hiring freeze till the downturn disappears, or they want to hold out for some visas to bring low-wage, malleable youngsters over from Asia.]

1/19/2001  glimmers of timesizing -
  1. ['timesizing, not downsizing' -]
    G.M. says it will close three more factories for a week, Bloomberg via NYT, C3.
    ...three of its 29 North American factories and furlough 2,450 workers next week to reduce production because of slack demand. Plants in Oklahoma City, Orion Township MI, and Oshawa ONT will be affected. Three other plants were idle this week. The temporary closings are part of GM's plan to reduce Q1 production by 21% from levels of a year earlier, to 1.2m vehicles.... It expected profits in Q1 to be marginal.

  2. 2 more glimpses at the great French workweek experiment -

[Primitive timesizing reinvented throughout the U.S. as recession clamps on -]
1/18/2001  U.S. Southeast economic outlook clouded by layoffs, by James Pierpoint, Reuters 22:06 01-16-01 via AOLNews.
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 17 - ...The region's furniture manufacturers have been squeezed financially by bankruptcies of major retailers such as Richmond, Va.-based Heilig-Myers, the largest US furniture retailer, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in August. In recent years, furniture makers have worked closely with retailieeres to trim devilvery times. As a result, they were forced to cut production and shorten workweeks at the first sign of slowing retail sales nationwide....
[Our culture, groomed by makeworker FDR, keeps spinning workweek shortening as negative, but think about it - it's preventing layoffs. And if every company did it instead of cutting their workforce, we would not have "slowing retail sales nationwide," because people would still have their jobs, they would feel in control instead of too insecure to spend money, there would be no expanded "army of the unemployed" to drive wages (and spending) down further, and people would have more TIME to shop. Our Timesizing program says it all.]

[So how is the shorter-workweek thing playing in Europe? Here are some hints -]
1/17/2001  INSEE study shows German wage rises outpace French, by Matthew Green, Reuters 14:52 01-16-01 via AOLNews.
PARIS...- A study [by Statistics France] of French and German wages showed on Tuesday that pay is rising faster in Germany.... Commentators say France's introduction of legislation to cut the working week to 35 hours from 39, which came into effect last year, allowed many companies to cap salary rises in return for shorter working hours...
[That would make sense, because a cut in hours without a commensurate cut in pay would equate to a pay raise anyway.]
...but that effect could wear off in coming years.
[Oh it definitely will. That's the whole point of cutting hours - to dynamize markets by centrifuging income and wealth.]
..\..Economists say French workers' pay demand could pose the greater inflationary risk in 2001.
[Well, since there's no centrifugation and bridging of the income gap without pay increases, if those increases per se are a kind of inflation, then there's a positive kind of inflation, a kind that centrifuges income and wealth and thereby dynamizes markets that over time, get more and more strangled by the relentless centripetal (concentrating, centralizing, consolidating) forces on income and wealth.]
...As French job creation outpaced its German neighbour...
[so the workweek cut is doing exactly what it was meant to do, despite the sneers of many conventional economists such as the editors of The Economist magazine of London]
firms are reporting greater difficulties in hiring workers from a shrinking pool of labour, raising the scope for workers to demand higher pay settlements.
[Two comments -

  1. This is exactly the way hourscuts are supposed to work in order to boost domestic spending and rev up the economy to somewhere closer to its potential - they create a shortage of labor and market forces raise wages and centrifuge income and wealth - get it out of storage and into circulation. The more concentration, the less circulation and conversely, the less concentration, the more circulation.
  2. If French employers are starting to complain about hiring difficulties when their unemployment rate is still up at the 9.2% level, as it was in Nov. (although that was the lowest in 9 years), French employers have been pretty damn spoiled by the labor glut that they have so carefully fostered all these years with their outdated exaggerated workweek - spoiled in hiring, and starved in domestic markets. Once they start paying their employees some fraction of what they should be getting and quit grabbing it all into storage in their own fat pockets, they'll see gradual dramatic rises in their markets.]
The recruitment problems are mainly limited to qualified labour and in specific sectors for the moment...
[Well the answer to that is a tax on overtime and an exemption or even subsidy for overtime-targeted on-the-job training. Employers around the world have been so spoiled by floods of resumes, especially in the early 1990s, that they apparently haven't noticed how much they raised the bar and tightened their job qualifications to cut down their resume reading time. And they certainly haven't noticed how much they've cut their training budgets in the meantime either.]
...but the French central bank is already warning that this could become a more general pattern.
[Of course, and that's what will deliver to French employers much bigger and stabler domestic markets, more immune to recessions elsewhere. But lest you think, dear reader, that all of Europe is as smart, adventurous and futuristic as the French (if you call a louzy drop down to a 35-hour workweek "futuristic" at the dawn of the Third Millennium - let's face it, it's hardly radical), here's a glimpse from an article on Sweden that some parts of Europe are just as dumb as us in losing the balance of work and life -
Swedish companies try to lure graduates with vacation, DI says, Bloomberg Jan/16/2001 8:24 ET via AOLNews.
Swedish companies are enticing graduates from the Stockholm School of Economics with longer vacations and shorter working hours to counter high salaries being offered by UK firms, said newspaper Dagens Industri, citing Erik Winqvist, chairman of the school's industry committee....
According to Winqvist, Swedish management consultancies are emphasizing they can offer new hires longer paid vacations, parental leave, and a work week of less than 100 hours, the paper said....
[Hmm. Well, that implies that the UK is as sick as us with workoholism, but it begs the question, haha er heh heh, how much "less than 100 hours" a week in Sweden?]

1/07/2001  weekend glimmers of timesizing -

1/06/2001  glimmers of timesizing - 1/05/2001  glimmers of timesizing - 1/04/2001  glimmers of timesizing - 1/03/2001  glimmers of timesizing -
  1. France seeks shorter-workweek funds, by Emmanuel Georges-Picot, AP-NY-01-02-01 2227EST via AOLNews.
    PARIS - France is looking for new ways to make economically viable [with tax concessions] a law that cuts the workweek [from 39] to 35 hours.... But the government has pointed to a falling unemployment rate as proof that its [workweek-cutting] policies are working. The jobless rate has fallen from 12.6% in November 1997, just after the government's election, to 9.2% in November this [past] year..\..
    [That's a drop of 3.4% in two years - an average of 1.7% per year - from merely reducing part of the nation's workweek by a measly 4 hours! Wake up to worktime economics, you time-blind academics!]
    ...A court [blocked the government's] planned financing measures [in terms of] a broadening of a corporate eco-tax on carbon emissions and other measures. These measures were outlined in the 2001 budget; but last Friday, the country's constitutional court ruled that the financing measures were unfair, leaving the government short $507m.... The government had planned to extend this tax to some 40,000 firms. French industry has argued that the tax was unfair and indiscriminate..\.. The constitutional court did not question the legitimacy of the...tax, but deemed it should not be broadened....
    Olivier Eluere, an economist at Credit Lyonnais, said the government should be able to finance the 35-hour workweek law since it is likely to meet its forecasts for tax revenue in 2001 amid buoyant economic growth..\.. The government has had to offer companies, particularly small ones, tax concessions to encourage them to reach agreements with trade unions and workers to cut hours and hire more staff. Companies with more than 20 staffers were required to implement the policy as of Feb. 1, 2000, but businesses with fewer than 20 employees have until January 2002.... The shorter workweek law has received scorn from many employers, who say it is too expensive and criticize the government for meddling in the economy.
    [Too expensive when it has relieved them and the government from supporting 3.4% of the workforce as parasites, and can relieve them of supporting the remaining 9.2% as well? Again, we're seeing some pretty stupid and near-sighted employers, who aren't even noticing the added economic dynamism in France, compared with the rest of Europe and especially compared with the USA and Japan. Why? More earners, more spenders. "The less concentration (of income and wealth), the more circulation." Some of these employers accuse shorter-hours proponents of laziness, but maybe it's the employers who are the lazy ones, since they don't want the additional business that is generated by spreading more evenly the market-demanded employment.
    [And as for criticizing the government for "meddling in the economy," clearly they have not yet realized that this one policy (worksharing) has the potential to get the government out of the economy in almost every other way - because almost everything modern government's do is motivated by the need to bandaid all the problems and distortions caused by brontosaur-levels of the workweek that have remained frozen at 1940 levels despite 60 years of advances in automation, robotization and all kinds of other efficient, work-saving technologies. If the government "meddles" the right way, in the right part (the center) of the economy, it can quit its meddling everywhere else.]
    ..\..A Finance Ministry official...said Tuesday that the government was studying how to fill the financing gap.
    [Nothing simpler, except that it's sooo hard to see the obvious. The fairest way to buffer the transition for small firms is to tax overtime, that is, the profits or savings from overtime as compared to the costs of hiring additional employees that companies. Of course, you have to grant an exemption to companies that reinvest their overtime profits into training and hiring (particularly OJT - on-the-job training). Right now France has the most primitive and rigid form of the shorter-worktime approach. Timesizing is the most advanced and flexible form.]

  2. Air France says strike by cabin crew won't disrupt services, Bloomberg Jan/02/2001 4:47 ET via AOLNews.
    PARIS - ...The strike was called by the CGT, FO and CFTD unions, which represent a minority of the company's 10,000 cabin crew....
    [Let's cut to the chase and glean the reason for the strike from the end of the above(!) article - "...Air France flight attendants...complain they were given less favorable terms than pilots in an August agreement to cut hours. Air France said it had canceled some flights and was chartering planes from other airlines to carry its passengers." Now back to the current article -]
    "The strike is having no impact on flights," said Brigitte Barrand, an Air France spokeswoman..\..
    [Maybe she means no impact on passengers.]
    Only a minority of companies have so far applied the law....
    [That's strange, considering the other article said that companies over 20 employees had to apply it last Feb. 1, which got postponed to Feb. 15, we believe. Is the paradox explained by the possibility that there are so many more small companies in France than large ones?]
    Work hours are harder to define for pilots and cabin crew than for other workers, analysts said, because they include the number of hours in the air, preparation for the flight as well as obligatory rest during stopovers and at home....
    One thing reformers started noticing as soon as they started pushing to standardize and reduce the workweek below the 80-84 hour level way back in the 1840s, was that EVERY SINGLE OCCUPATION felt that ITS "work hours were harder to define than for other workers." All we have to say to that is, all you sweetie pies you know that you are soooo speshull to ol' Mr. Timesizing (so for gawdsake, cut the crap!).]

[Delta forced to 'timesize' by safety-concerned pilots -]
1/1/2001 Delta Air to cut five Las Vegas flights, AP via Boston Globe, E8.
...of its 27 daily round-trip flights. "...This is due to pilot unavailability," said Delta spokeswoman Kay Horner.... Delta and its pilots are locked in a contract dispute about overtime and the late-night flights....
[There are many statistics over the years of a higher accident rate for bus and truck drivers during overtime hours....]


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