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Timesizing News, July 1-15, 2001
[Commentary] ©2001 Phil Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
7/14/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
7/13/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Top Taiwan think tank cuts GDP view by over half, Reuters 00:17 07-13-01 via AOLNews.
TAIPEI...- Taiwan's top research institute, the state-funded Academia Sinica, slashed its forecast for the island's 2001 economic growth by more than half to 2.38% on Friday.... It estimated private investment would shrink 11.42% this year, hurt by a credit crunch caused by a rise in overdue loans, declining growth in Taiwan's biggest export business of electronics, as well as political disputes over the length of the workweek and China investment restrictions....
[Sounds like the main track of economic advance is heating up in Taiwan. Too bad no details are given.]
Record-high unemployment, which hit 4.22% in May, as well as a stock market hovering around a nearly six-year low, was expected to cut private consumption growth to 2.95%....
["Doncha Luv"... the way they spin the greatest locus of unspendable income concentration, the stock market, as a serious factor in consumer spending ("private consumption"). The so-called "wealth effect" is one of the biggest loads of BS that Wall Street has ever dumped on the American people to (A) justify it's dysfunctionally limitless concentration and (B) keep itself from feeling so isolated and insulated from the vast majority of people in the nation and the world who do not have unspendably vast hoards.]
7/11/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Volkswagen - Ferdinand Peich has powered Volkswagen to the top slot in Europe. Now he is stepping down, and troubles are building. What's next?, Business Week July 23 2001 preview article 07/12/01 18:42 via AOLNews.
...According to World Markets Research Center in London, production at the Wolfsburg plant runs at 46 cars per worker per year, compared with 101 at Nissan Motor Co.'s British factory in Sunderland..\.. Volkswagen CEO Ferdinand Piech...would love to change that. In 1993, to buy labor peace, he cut the workweek at VW's German plants from 35 hours to 28.8. That saved 30,000 jobs.
But now VW workers can make upwards of $34 an hour. Piech is trying to push through a plan to lower the base wages of new German workers and link them to output instead of hours.... Cutting such a deal is turning into a hard slog. The unions concede they need to be more flexible. But they are resisting management's demands to increase the workweek to more than 40 hours during peak production without paying overtime....
[And so we verge on sliding backwards.]
If this doesn't succeed, VW threatens to put new projects in places such as the Czech Republic, where wages are less than one-third German levels....
7/10/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- F.A.A. denies airline plea on pilot rest, NYT, C10.
[More like "plea to ignore pilot rest"!]
The Federal Aviation Administration yesterday denied a request from major airlines to suspend its enforcement of the rule limiting how many hours each day a commercial pilot can work.
[Note the growing disdain for customers and their safety. Note this market failure to enhance passenger safety.]
In a letter to the Air Transport Assoc., the industry's principal lobbying group, the agency said the "flying public would be harmed" if the government honored the industry request....
[But what do these goddam CEOs care? They've got enough money to do all their traveling on their own private jets with well-rested pilots and never have to risk their lives on their airlines' planes. Now if only we could get these limits applied to American physicians, particularly surgeons.]
Pilots are [currently] limited to working 16 hours a day. But airlines have long interpreted the rule to be flexible if air traffic delays or weather extend a pilot's duty time beyond the limit.
Last November, in response to a request from an American Airlines pilot, the F.A.A. said that the rule applies to actual hours on duty, not just what the airline schedules.
The industry argues that the agency's interpretation will cause more disruption for passengers as airlines are forced to pull flight crews off duty....
[What morons! As if a plane crash wouldn't disrupt a lot more than a passenger's day.]
The Air Line Pilots Assoc., the nation's largest pilot union, applauded the F.A.A. stand.
...Some pilots have criticized the agency for not taking action against airlines that have continued to violate the rule since [last November when] the F.A.A. issued its clarification [but] Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, said yesterday that there is a fine pending against one airline. She would not name the carrier, she added, because the fine has not been issued yet.
[Oh that's real effective - secret unissued fines! And while we're carping, how come the Times buried this baby back on page 10 of the biz section when it affects so many business travellers?!]
7/08/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Conexant realigns manufacturing, announces additional restructuring and expense-reduction initiatives, Business Wire BW0195 JUL 09,2001 8:45 EASTERN via AOLNews.
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif...- Conexant Systems Inc. (Nasdaq:CNXT) [yester]day announced a strategic manufacturing realignment intended to accelerate the company's transition to a fabless CMOS business model, and detailed additional restructuring and expense-reduction initiatives, including a reduction in workforce of approximately 450 people. The additional measures are necessary to further rationalize Conexant's operations with current and anticipated revenue levels and position the company for a return to profitable growth. The company also provided preliminary third fiscal quarter financial results that, excluding the impact of one-time charges, were at the low end of prior earnings guidance....
Conexant's restructuring and expense-reduction initiatives include the resizing of manufacturing operations, temporary wafer fabrication plant shutdowns, and reduced workweeks for employees at the company's assembly and test facility....
Temporary plant shutdowns totaling two weeks during the September-ending fourth fiscal quarter will occur at the company's wafer fabrication facilities in Newport Beach and Newbury Park. Employees at the company's Mexicali, Mexico, assembly and test facility will take off one day per week without pay through the end of the fourth fiscal quarter.
[Hey, four-day workweeks to avoid even more layoffs = Timesizing, at least as a mitigator if not a complete alternative to downsizing.]
Product shipments to customers will not be affected by these cost-saving activities....
7/7/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Who has the time? It's work, work, work, by Gary Cross, 7/08/2001 BG, D8.
Once again it's summer, and many of us are anticipating or enjoying our two-week vacations. We may be grateful - ...until we hear that the Germans get 30 days of paid vacation and the French enjoy five weeks.... While Italian workers are entitled to an average of 42 vacation days, Americans receive only 13..\..
This entitlement dates back to the years between the world wars when [European] governments began not only to set maximum workdays (similar to our 40-hour standard...) but also legislated vacation rights.
For example, the two-week vacation was one of the great victories of the Popular Front in France in 1936. The paid holiday was the only idea that the left and right shared. Both believed that wage earners should have an extended vacation to escape crowded cities and factories long enough to return to ancient villages or the seaside for family reunions.
By the 1960s...Europeans had discovered sunny Spain and Greece on their own continent and world travel as their governments extended vacations with each advance in national prosperity.
Today, the French add to their vacations by trading in hours won from their newly reduced workweek of 35 hours for longer getaway time.
This "luxury" of leisure [our quotes - ed.] has not seemed to affect productivity in France or elsewhere in Western Europe, where output per labor hour has surged in recent years despite an average work year of 1,737 hours (compared with 1,562 hours in Germany and 1,365 in the Netherlands).
[Quick chart of all this -]
Average workyear -
[Gary Cross, as an historian with his brain in the past, may be forgiven for thinking that productivity still has some connection with manhours, but most of our economists, analysts and media people share this view, even though it has now been completely obsoleted by wave after wave of worksaving and output-multiplying technology for decades now. For more excerpts from this article, see the bottom of our vacations page.]
- Western Europe - 1737 hours
- Germany - 1562 hours
- Netherlands - 1365 hours
- Go ahead, take a vacation - The French do it better, by Peter Mayle, Boston Globe, D8.
Two weeks a year in America. Five weeks a year in France. There you have the most obvious difference between the vacation and les vacances. That, you might think, is unfair enough; but worse is to come.
It is not only that les pauvres americains [the poor Americans] are forced to make do with vacations that any sane French person would consider ludicrously, brutally short. To add to Americans' misfortune, even when they do take their [measly] 14 days off, they are almost always accompanied [by] guilt.
How could it be otherwise? There they are, for 50 weeks a year, steeped in the work ethic [still "working hard" in the age of "working smart"], driven by the need to succeed [but "what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul"], conditioned by the [AngloSaxon] mania for furious activity.
["Cursed is he who must always be doing." "The majority of men lead lives of quiet desperation." "Let your affairs be as one or two, and not as a hundred or a thousand." Thoreau.]
...My friend and personal leisure consultant [down here in the south of France in Provence], Etienne...is rich in vacation time, if not in salary....
This is not an exceptional schedule, or is it reserved for the wealthy. There are thousands of Etiennes in Provence, hundreds of thousands throughout the rest of France.
- Each January, to recover from the rigors of Christmas and New Year's, he drives his family to the French Alps - a trip of 3-4 hours - for a week on the slopes.
- ...In April, he takes a week in the hills behind the Cote d'Azur, where his mother-in-law has a small house. (He walks, he sniffs the mimosa, he plays [lawn bowling].)
- The month of May needs very little additional help...since it is a series of public holidays that conveniently stretch into a series of long weekends, perfect for short expeditions to the mountains or the sea.
- ...At the end of August...when the rest of the world is going back to the office, Etienne and his family head for the newly peaceful, still-sunny beaches near Marseille, where they spend the first half of September.
- The fifth and final week of [French vacation], usually in October, is taken at home, tending to the garden, with a couple of days of hunting wild boar in the forest.
...Despite all those five-week vacations [and nearly 50% of the workforce now on a 35-hour workweek], the country seems to survive very comfortably. The economy is doing pretty well.... And the French...taking their ease, look across the Atlantic and shake their heads in wonder at the curious habits of their friends in the "New" World.
[Our quotes - ed. - because there's nothing new about short or no vacations. In fact, "work work work" is very old, as the accompanying article has it - "Who has the time? It's work, work, work," by Gary Cross.]
- [An accompanying graph indicates that France has the fifth shortest workyear in the developed world -]
Consider this... By the numbers, International Labor Organization via Boston Globe, D8.
[We reverse the order of the graph to make it a positive race for the least work instead of a backward race for the most work.]
The US [trails] the industrialized world in the [race for the lowest] average number of hours spent on the job.
Average annual hours worked
Germany 1574 [compare above, 1562]
New Zealand 1838
United States 1966
[It begins to get uncomfortable when, despite the end of the Cold War, the biggest economy with the most nuclear weapons becomes the most self-spiting and -punishing when it comes to quality of life and using technology, not to make life easier and more enjoyable, but to make it harder and more stressful. Notice that we are in the company of another large economy (Japan) that has been in chronic depression for the last ten years, and in the company of an economy that, if it is actually part of the industrialized world, is in the part that is closest to the third world (Turkey).]
Workers of the world, take back your time, chart by Globe staff, 6/15/2003 Boston Globe, H4.
...Average hours worked per year, per worker [in] 2002, from Office [sic, if = *OECD, should be Organisation, not Office, of Economic Cooperation & Development [= U.N. agency? or 'USA in a glove,' like IMF & World Bank, with British veneer cuz 'Organisation' with /s/, not /z/? Their *mag website groups them with IMF.]
[order reversed celebrate the basic freedom of free time -]
west Germany 1428
Great Britain 1707
United States 1815
7/05/2001 glimmers of timesizing -
- Jobless rate edges up to 4.5% for US, by Sue Kirchhoff, Boston Globe, C1.
...Unemployment is only part of the story. The number of people working part time because they could not find full-time jobs rose by 266,000 to 3.6m in June. Part-time employment has risen by about a half-million people in the past three months. "There are a lot more people working part time than want to," said Cynthia Latta, economist at DRI-WEFA.
[So hey, it's happening anyway. So why don't we just go with the flow and channel it in a more positive and lucrative way - à la Timesizing for instance.]
"In some areas where it's hard to get help, businesses, rather than laying people off, are just cutting back on the hours."...
[Whoa, an economist actually acknowledging that worktime is being used as an economic variable, in fact a control variable. Next step - they realize it's THE economic variable for the beginning of the Millennium.]
- Philippine industry facing output cutbacks, layoffs, by Michael Barker, Reuters 04:50 07-06-01 via AOLNews.
MANILA...- Faced with the double whammy of declining exports as the global economy slows and higher input costs as the peso slumps, some Philippine manufacturers have quietly begun cutting back output and laying off staff. The Semiconductors & Electronics Industry Assoc. of the Philippines said its members have begun taking a number of cost cutting steps recently as demand has slowed. "Some are laying off people, some are shortening their work weeks," Assoc. exec. dir. Ernesto Santiago said, adding inventory levels have also been sharply reduced....
Federation of Philippine Industries sec. gen. Joseph Francia said the currency's decline was ratcheting up costs to painful levels for import-dependent firms.... Francia said he had anecdotal evidence that some companies his association represented were scaling back production or letting workers go, but was loathe to predict mass job cuts....
Employers Confederation of the Philippines president, Donald Dee, said the exchange rate has got to a point where manufacturers are now under heavy pressure to raise their prices.... With demand for manufactured goods down, companies were now having to take a close look at their staffing needs, Dee said, although they were trying to avoid wholesale job cuts. "I do not see massive layoffs or closures of factories.... Yes there is going to be some slowdowns especially in domestic industry and so what we are trying to tell members to do is to rotate their workers rather than laying them off."...
[The only thing we can figure to explain this concept is that companies have cut back on shifts, e.g., from three 8-hour shifts per day to just two. And Dee is urging companies not to lay off third-shift workers but to rotate them through the other two shifts to keep them on the payroll and avoid layoffs. If this is correct, it's yet another way we hadn't thought of to do Timesizing, Not Downsizing.]
- Air Canada urges staff to voluntarily cut hours, by Keith McArthur, Toronto Globe & Mail July 4 2001 via Tom Walker via SWT e-list.
Air Canada chief Robert Milton is urging employees to voluntarily reduce their hours or take a leave of absence to help the airline cope with the economic slowdown.
There is little hope left for an economic recovery in the second half of the year, the president and CEO told employees recently in a recorded telephone message. As a result, Air Canada is looking to aggressively reduce all its expenses, including introducing new programs to lower labour costs.
"When these programs are revealed, I ask all of you who would be in a position to accommodate reduced work hours to please consider them seriously, especially throughout the slower winter months," Mr. Milton said.... Mr. Milton said the company will work with its unions to develop programs to promote voluntary leaves of absence, reduced work hours, job sharing "and any other voluntary surplus mitigation initiative that we can sensibly think of."...
[Why is he trying so hard to avoid layoffs?]
Air Canada has separate contracts with most of its unions, guaranteeing job security over the next three years. It has also promised Ottawa, as part of its acquisition of Canadian Airlines, not to lay off workers involuntarily until March, 2002....
Late last year, Air Canada announced plans to cut 3,500 jobs or 8% of the work force through attrition and a voluntary separation package. To date, about 1,350 employees have left the airline, with the remainder scheduled to leave by the end of the year.
Like most other large North American airlines, Air Canada is suffering from high fuel prices and an economic slowdown that has resulted in a dramatic reduction in business-class passengers. Business revenue at U.S. airlines fell as much as 15% in May from the previous May, according to one estimate....
- IFO head warns German unemployment heading higher, Reuters 03:25 07-04-01 via AOLNews.
BERLIN...- German unemployment is worsening to the point where it will be higher even in a year-on-year comparison by October at the latest, the IFO research institute was reported on Wednesday as saying.... But despite the monthly increases, unemployment has [so far] remained below year-earlier levels....
Separately, Horst Siebert, head of the Kiel-based IFW institute and one of the government's panel of economic advisers or "wise men," accused the government of "re-regulating" the labour market with recent changes to employment rules.
[Such as?? - We aren't told.]
He called for a departure from industry-wide pay settlements where necessary and said Volkswagen [VW] AG's planned "5000 x 5000" scheme, which has foundered so far on opposition from the IG Metall engineering union, would have been the right signal. VW planned to create 5,000 new jobs at 5,000 marks ($2,166) a month to work on flexible contracts based around a maximum 42.5 hours a week. But IG Metall set 35 hours as an upper limit, saying anything more would undermine an existing agreement under which workers have a four-day, 28.8-hour week.
[This was the agreement reached in the mid-1990s to save VW's headquarters town of Wolfsburg when VW was looking at 30,000 layoffs, and to avoid that, they instead cut hours for the whole company from the then-prevailing 35-hrs/wk level to 28.8 hrs/wk = four 7.2-hr days per week. Horst Siebert may be in Germany but he evidently "doesn't get" the whole new world introduced by automation and robotization where reduced worktime per person is no longer optional, it is imperative if we want to avoid the Ford-Reuther economic meltdown (Ford "Let's see you unionize these robots!" - Reuther "Let's see you sell them cars...").]
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