Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, May 1-10, 2002
[Commentary] ©2002 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
5/10/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
5/09/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
- Scotland drivers call off strike, AP 05/09/02 14:27 ET via AOLNews.
EDINBURGH... - Train drivers in Scotland accepted a 14% pay raise Thursday,
ending the threat of more walkouts which have crippled train services across Scotland in recent weeks.... ScotRail said the deal was based on a 3% "no strings" increase plus a further 11% for productivity gains..\..
The announcement follows several days of negotiations between ScotRail and representatives of the train drivers' unions Aslef, who voted 398 to 242 in favor of the deal.... The rail firm has been running a reduced timetable during the 5-month dispute during which the drivers refused to work overtime or train new drivers, and went on strike for 4 days.
[Good juxtaposition between overtime and training. Reminiscent of Timesizing.com's overtime-to-training conversion phase. But until the labor movement, all over the world, converts overtime refusal from a mere occasional strike weapon to a constinuous focus and modus operandi, they will be weakening themselves and frying their own bargaining power. Labor has yet to realize that the strict control of worktime per person is their ultimate power lever. They lose that and they shrink - as indeed they have in America the last 62 years, with a temporary reprieve while World War II set the limit for them - the limit on rapid growth of labor hours searching for slow growth of employment hours. If labor fights for higher pay, they're fighting market forces and they'll get nothing in the long or not-so-long run. But if labor fights for shorter hours, they're co-opting market forces onto their side and they'll get their fair share.]
5/08/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
- Nurses send 'wake-up call' on mandatory overtime by setting off alarm clocks at Capitol - Mandatory overtime jeopardizes patients, makes nursing shortage worse, nurses say, PRNewswire 05/08/2002 11:00 EDT via AOLNews.
WASHINGTON...- Hundreds of nurses sounded the alarm - literally - about the dangers of mandatory overtime today by setting off alarm clocks in front of the U.S. Capitol. "Nurses are working too much overtime, and our patients are at risk," said Mary Ellen Costa, a nurse from Massachusetts. "We live in constant fear that we'll make a mistake." Nurses are working an average of 338 hours of overtime a year, according to SEIU [Service Employees International Union], the largest and fastest growing healthcare union in the nation.
Mandatory overtime is contributing to a growing shortage of nurses willing to work in understaffed hospitals. "Without a ban on mandatory overtime, we will not be able to keep experienced nurses where they're needed most - in our hospitals," said Ann Louise Tetreault, an RN at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.
The nurses called on Congress to pass the Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act (HR 3238, S 1686), which limits the use of mandatory overtime for nurses except in the case of an emergency.... The event was part of a national "Wake-Up Call from America's Nurses," as nurses from around the nation held events and telephoned their members of Congress and state legislators from their homes and hospitals.
Five states WA, ME, OR, NJ, and MN - have placed restrictions on the practice of mandatory overtime for nurses, while 18 other states are considering similar action.
The SEIU Nurse Alliance is part of the 1.5m member SEIU, the largest and fastest growing union in the AFL-CIO and the nation's largest healthcare union, representing more than 755,000 healthcare employees.
[The Timesizing.com redesign of overtime completely demotivates it for anyone looking for financial advantage from it. For corporations, it's got to be an emergency that brings it up - no chance of saving on benefits or making it indefinite. For individual employees, it's got to be a job of love or they quit at the ceiling on the workweek - whatever level it may self-adjust to as it slowly counters the rise or fall of unemployment.]
5/07/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
- German strike reaches second day, by David McHugh, AP 05/07/02 08:37 EDT via AOLNews.
The first major strike by the country's largest industrial union in seven years shouldn't have much impact on the economy, the Labor Office said Tuesday as...the powerful IG Metall union, representing 2.7m auto, electronics and machinery workers nationwide..\..shifted its one-day walkouts to the aluminum-processing, medical equipment and power tools industries.... Some 50,000 workers..\..in the key industrial state of Baden-Wuerttemberg...idled some 20 plants Monday in the automobile industry, stopping work at both suppliers and manufacturers. Daimler-Chrysler was the main target, with 6 plants struck, but workers also stayed off the job at VW's Audi division, sportscar maker Porsche, Delphi auto supplies, and US-based tractor maker John Deere....
It's the first time the union has struck since 1995, when 22,000 workers staged a 2-week walkout at smaller companies in Bavaria over wages. This time, the union says it wants more money to compensate workers for inflation, productivity increases, and [overly] moderate increases from 2000 and 2001.
Members earn an average of 2,000 euros ($1,800) a month, with a 35-hour week, six weeks of paid vacation, and annual bonuses.... Unions get seats on corporate boards, generous benefits and labor laws that deter layoffs.
In return, they often moderate wage demands and rarely strike.
- Germany lost far fewer days than most industrial countries to strikes over the past decade, only 11 per 1,000 workers per year on average.
- In the United States, the average was 51 days,
- in France, it was 77 and
- in Spain, 327 [!!!]
- Newsmaker - Mer, man of steel, to run French economy, by Brian Love & Tom Pfeiffer, Reuters 05/07/02 13:31 EDT via AOLNews.
PARIS... - Francis Mer, named France's interim finance minister on Tuesday, is hardly the kind of person who will lose his nerve in the new job. He is currently head of the biggest steel company in the world, Arcelor.... Though he condemned the lack of discussion with business before the previous left-wing government instituted a 35-hour week...
[maybe with nearly 13% unemployment and a plan 15 years ago to cut the 40-hr workweek 1 hr/yr till it reached 35 hrs/wk which got stuck at 39 hrs/wk for the last 14 years - maybe with that plan sitting around for a decade and a half, just maybe the government figured everyone had already had enough "discussion."]
...Mer seized on the opportunity the law afforded to bring in more flexible working hours and out-of-hours training....
[presumably at his steel company.]
5/06/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
- Newsmaker - IG Metall's Zwickel relishes High Noon with bosses, by Clifford Coonan, Reuters 05/06/02 12:18 ET via AOLNews.
BERLIN - Klaus Zwickel, head of the IG Metall engineering trade union which is staging Germany's first industrial strike in seven years, is a tough negotiator and a fan of Gary Cooper. "High Noon," the classic tale of Cooper's stubborn resistance in the face of overwhelming odds, has clearly influenced...Zwickel in his dealings with Germany's bosses. His tough approach to pay bargaining has won him few friends among employers - in 1992 he won a wage increase of 6.35% for engineering sector workers, which employers at the time described as a catastrophe.
Zwickel is also known as a relentless negotiator. When IG Metall...whose 2.6m members made it Germany's biggest until the foundation of the services union Verdi last year..\..won the 35-hour week for its members in western Germany in 1995, he called for an even shorter working week....
- [good news from 35-hr workweek France]
French industry sees brighter demand prospects, by Paul Carrel, Reuters 05/06/02 10:23 ET via AOLNews.
PARIS...- French businesses expect demand to improve further in the current quarter after a pickup early this year and particularly strong performance by the services sector in April, surveys showed on Monday. In a quarterly survey of some 4,500 firms, national statistics office INSEE said firms had reported an improvement in overall demand in the first quarter of this year after a fall in the final three months of 2001.
[Though all in all, because of its relatively small (only 10%) dependence on imports, France was less impacted by 9/11 than any other large economy.]
Demand...in April...at supermarkets was up 3.1% compared with the same month a year ago, retail federation FCD said on Monday. A separate CDAF/Reuters survey of purchasing managers for the French services sector showed the strongest rise in demand for services since March 2001 and growing backlogs of work, underscoring an economic recovery after last year's slowdown. Service sector companies also took on more staff overall in April, partly in order to meet government requirements to limit the working week to 35 hours.
...A sustained improvement in job prospects is crucial to boosting households' [consumer] confidence [and consequent willingness to spend], economists said....
- [and stronger demand meant stronger growth -]
Services sector shows more robust growth in France, Reuters 05/06/02 03:51 ET via AOLNews.
The French services sector grew faster in April and took on more staff...according to a major survey. The April CDAF/Reuters Purchasing Managers' Index for the French services sector showed the strongest rise in demand for services since March 2001 and growing backlogs of work. The headline business activity index rose to 55.5 in April from 54.7 in March, showing the sector expanding for the 5th month running after 9/11 knocked it into a brief contraction....
The survey showed some inflationary pressures reawakening in goods and labour costs, and service companies became a little more confident about raising their own [prices]. The input price index rose to 59.9 from 59.3, while the prices charged index rose to 56.9 from 54.3.... The main factor driving higher costs were wage bills, partly linked to honouring the 35-hour week..\..said NTC Research, which compiles the survey....
[Hey, where do they think consumers are getting the spending money to power the robust growth?]
- Markets eye parliament election after Chirac win, by Dominique Vidalon, Reuters 05/06/02 19:50 ET via AOLNews.
PARIS...- European financial markets breathed more easily on Monday after conservative incumbent Jacques Chirac crushed far-right leader and anti-euro firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen in France's presidential election.... Chirac had earlier promised to lower taxes and social insurance charges for corporations, step up privatisations and make Jospin's controversial 35-hour work-week law more flexible....
[Controversial only to those who like high unemployment and low consumer markets.]
- Newsmaker - Chirac looks beyond Paris for new prime minister, by Tom Heneghan, Reuters 05/06/02 06:44 ET via AOLNews.
PARIS...- By naming provincial moderate Jean-Marie Raffarin his prime minister Pres. Jacques Chirac has signalled to France's angry voters he has heard their protest against an arrogant and isolated Parisian power elite.
Raffarin...a senator and head of the Poitou-Charentes regional council in western France, has kept such a low profile nationally that his name rarely figures among the so-called "grand tenors" or "elephants" leading the conservative camp.... He wants the 35-hour work week, Jospin's flagship reform, to be made more flexible, and more aid granted to small businesses....
[If that was Jospin's flagship reform, he sure didn't boast-sell it much during the campaign - mistake!]
- New PM Raffarin has 10-part plan for French reform, Reuters 05/06/02 07:23 ET via AOLNews.
PARIS...- Conservative Jean-Pierre Raffarin, named on Monday by Pres. Jacques Chirac as France's prime minister, published early this year a 10-part reform plan stressing decentralisation and liberal economic policies. Following are excerpts of a programme he detailed in his book "For a New Governance" published in January.
- Modernise the republic:
- Reinforce the role of the president....
- Protect democracy....
- Resume decentralisation of power....
[This would seem to conflict with his first point under #1. Is he centralizing or decentralizing?!]
- Rethink the education system....
- Open up family policy....
- Promote social democracy:
- Allow small businesses to opt out of the 35-hour work week by having a larger quota of allowed overtime.
[The 35-hour workweek should be first, not buried in #6, and it should be about more closely approaching full employment by keeping the workweek adjustable and letting unemployment (UE) control the workweek - if UE is high or rising, the workweek gets shorter, and v.v. This could be bolstered by reducing the incentives to remain unemployed indefinitely. If employees are more empowered by the absorption of the unemployed into the workforce, then it can be left to market forces to discipline small businesses into respecting the shorter workweek, wherever it fluctuates. It would also help to integrate the training system by establishing automatic overtime-to-training conversion.]
- Create a new social pact to protect the social security system.
- Assure transparency in public works....
- Favour policies to create wealth....
- Invent European governance....
- Open our culture to the world....
- [hey, whatever France does with its 35-hr workweek, it's still light years ahead of the USA -]
Medical students sue over residency program - Suit to challenge system of assigning new doctors to low-paid hospital residences - After years of medical school, making $10 an hour, by Adam Liptak, NYT, front page.
...The defendants, including seven medical organizations and more than 1,000 private hospitals, have used..\..the matching program \that\ tells [students] where they will spend the next several years as medical residents...to keep residents' wages low and hours long. Almost all 1st-yr residents make less than $40,000 a year and often work 100-hour weeks....
The matches are based on ranked lists submitted by hospitals and the 15,000 or so students, and both sides agree in advance to accept the match. There is no room for negotiations about wages, hours or other terms of employment....
According to the Assoc. of American Medical Colleges, which operates the program and is a defendant in the suit, the average 1st-yr resident, having completed four years of medical school, is paid $37,383.... 100-hour work weeks for residents are common, meaning that they often make less than $10 an hour..\..
[We'd like to see that 100 hours come way WAY down, rather than any fiddles with pay. Who wants a zombie working on you when you go to the hospital?!]
Said Dr. Paul Jung, one of the plaintiffs...the low wages and long hours have serious consequences.... "I had to constantly battle fatigue as a factor affecting the quality of my life and the lives of my patients," he said....
[A splash of letters to the editor tomorrow (5/08/2002 NYT A30) contained some gems -]
- Would ruling in the residents' favor further increase the skyrocketing costs of health care?... Yes, but I'd bet that patients treated by sleep-deprived residents would argue that it would be well worth it. (Joshua Dym of the Bronx)
[In other words, treatment by zombies is not "health care"! - as hammered in by another reader -]
- How are patients expected to get quality care when the provider of that "care" [our quotes - ed.] is working 16-hour days?... I wouldn't have my car serviced by a mechanic who worked 100-hour weeks for $10 an hour.... (Anthony Tortorelli of Westport CT)
[Right on, Tony!]
- [one female MD gets sniffy about the training aspect -]
...Residents are not employees; they are students.... The "salary" provided to residents is thus not a salary, but a stipend intended to support them while they complete their education. (Dr. Katharine Wenstrom of Birmingham, Ala.)
[Honest to Gawd, southerners are sooo retro! A lot of doctors, men as well as women, have the Real Nice attitude - "I went through hell! Why shouldn't they?!" But this "wen" on the butt of progress is rebutted by another woman doctor, from the north -]
- Your...article...didn't mention an important driving factor in seeking higher pay. Most residents earning [the] $38,000 salaries face educational debts often greater than $150,000. The need to repay loans, often while trying to start a family, is what makes the salary so difficult to live on.... (Dr. Deborah Wexler of Boston)
[Dr. Deb goes on to hit another home run -]
Just think: instead of abolishing "the Match," we could be consistent and allocate our health care resources as efficiently as we do our medical students.
[Touché - a leetle plug for universal healthcare.]
5/04/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
- German union calls one-day strikes - Series of actions target car makers in one key region, by David McHugh, Boston Globe, A7.
SINDELFINGEN, Germany - The overnight shift at a major DaimlerChrysler plant yesterday launched the first strike in seven years by Germany's largest industrial union, one that could slow the recovery of Europe's biggest economy.... The 2.7m-member IG Metall...has said it wants a 6.5% increase as part of a one-year deal to compensate workers for moderate increases in the past, inflation, and higher productivity....
IG Metall members earn an average of about $1,800 a month, plus benefits including six weeks of paid vacation and bonuses....
[Eat your hearts out, Americans, Brits and Japanese!]
5/03/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
- Germany's construction sector wage talks fail, Reuters 05/03/02 16:34 ET via AOLNews.
FRANKFURT...- Germany's 950,000 strong construction union IG Bau said on Friday it had ended 10 hours of talks with employers without success, raising the possibility of another sector joining engineering workers on strike. Klaus Wiesehuegel, chairman of IG Bau, which is seeking a 4.5% pay rise as well as a reduction of the working week, said he would seek arbitration in a final bid to find a solution....
On Monday, the 2.8m strong engineering union IG Metall will launch the first full-blown strike since 1995, when 50,000 workers in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg [lay] down tools. Strike action will hit 80 firms next week.... The one-day stoppages at individual firms could hit top manufacturers including Daimler-Chrysler and Porsche and may dent the fragile recovery of Europe's largest economy....
- NSW building unions to work together, 05/3/2002 11:54 AEST via AOLNews.
AUSTRALIA - All six trade unions covering the building industry in New South Wales have signed an historic pact to work together. The agreement to put aside differences comes in the lead up to industry-wide wage negotiations later this year where unions will be pushing for a shorter working week....
5/02/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
- [first, a mention of some good news -]
Analysis - Political climate clouds French reform prospects, by Noah Barkin, Reuters 05/02/02 06:58 ET via AOLNews.
PARIS...- In his campaign for the French presidency, incumbent Jacques Chirac has promised to lower taxes and social charges for corporations, step up privatisations and make the controversial 35-hour workweek law more flexible.
[Noah Barkin is evidently conventionally minded and short-sighted, frightened by the "radical" idea of a 35-hour workweek at the dawn of the Third Millennium and ignorant of the fact that our great-grandparents expected us to be working only 20-25 hrs/wk by now, just as their grandparents expected their 80-hour workweek to be cut in half. And it was - that time.]
But now experts believe fears of a backlash from emboldened foes of globalisation could seriously curb a new French government's appetite for pursuing economic reforms that many view as crucial to France's future....
[Parsing this multiply negative and self-contraductory sentence is something of a challenge. It seems to mean that a hard swing to the left in reaction to Le Pen (who opposes globalization) may put a damper on changes that would give businessmen more freedoms, which Barkin views as necessary, but for some reason Barkin isn't applauding the presumably associated reaction in favor of globalization, because he's too committed to spin the left as bad. It's an interesting tightrope that a lot of commentators are walking these days, because they're mostly moronic rightists rather than moronic leftists, but they're also embarrassed by certain ideas of the far right, such as tighter immigration policies, presumably because they've absorbed the propensity of the top corporate skimmers for wage-depressing labor surpluses. What people like this call economic "reforms" are the kind of thing the IMF and the World Bank have been using as economic "development" ideas for decades - and they have more deeply impoverished countless third-world countries - because they ignore the G. K. Chesterton flaw and wind up just concentrating even more unspendable spending power in the hands of those who already far more spending power than they do or can spend, thus further enfeebling consumer markets and destabilizing investments and financial markets.]
Analysts believe the Socialists, who could stil eke out enough support in the parliamentary elections to lead the next government in another uneasy "cohabitation" with Chirac...
[A kind of cohabitation is standard in many US states, including Mass., where we have a governor from one party (R) and a state house overwhelmingly controlled by the other (D).]
...may swing sharply back to the left to adapt to the mood of the electorate. [Leftist] Jospin was sanctioned by voters after he saw through more privatisations than any previous French government and declared during the campaign that although he was a Socialist, his programme was not.
[Such are the multiple contradictions in the decades before the middle way of One-Control Capitalism is generally recognized and embodied in major political parties.]
This has not been lost on the left-leaning core of the party, which under Jospin pushed the introduction of the 35-hour workweek and legislation to punish firms that laid off workers.
[It's not about punishment. It's about disincentivating layoffs because they are, in the aggregate, suicidal. And a lot of companies indulge when they're in profit and there's no need, thus demonstrating the exact mechanism of downturn. Some CEOs just assume that markets come out of thin air like magic, or that someone else can employ their markets while they just take advantage of "found markets" and continue concentrating and consolidating profits into unspendable black holes of spending power. But with the One Control of workweek adjustment against non-self-support, what spoiled employers perceive as an acute labor shortage soon develops and you don't need to micromanage the disincentivization of layoffs, - employee turnover does it for you, because employees with options just don't put up with the kind of disposable-employee attitude that these short-sighted, all-the-more-for-ME CEOs manifest.]
Business leaders wary. France's business leaders, already smarting from laws such as these, are fearful of what the next government - right or left - will mean for them.
[This is utter nonsense. France was hurt less by the global downturn than larger Germany (see "Germany looks like Europe's weak economic link" on 4/28/2001 #1) or any other EU economy except erstwhile subsidized Ireland. French consumer markets boomed, thanks to the 4-hour workweek cut and its 4% reduction of unemployment (see "French buying more books, CDs, due to 35-hour week" on 4/29/2001) and French business leaders experienced more flexibility than before (see "French labour plans pose few perils for euro growth" on 4/26/2001 #3 on same page as "Temps give French firms flexibility in tough times" on 4/21/2001 #2 and see "Layoff outcry masks better French business climate" on 4/07/2001 #1).]
They point to IMF statistics which show that France badly trailed its large European neighbours in luring investment in the latter half of the 1990s and saw a significant outflow of investment from domestic corporations during the same period....
[Well halfway through the 1990s, French unemployment was still climbing - under a rightwing government - until it peaked at 12.6% in 1997, but then Jospin got in and started talking about employing more people by cutting the workweek to spread the work around, and by last year in the article "Layoff outcry masks better French business climate" on 4/07/2001 #1 in a section titled "France lures investors," we find these sentiments, "Even companies in which the French state owns a stake...have emerged as global leaders in their sectors and attracted US and British investors.... The French economy has grown faster than that of traditional European powerhouse Germany since 1997." So Noah "Biassed" Barkin is misleadingly focusing on old bad news associated with the right and ignoring recent good news associated with centrist One-Control Capitalism (the one control being workspreading) which the French left happens to have stumbled upon, but which neither side has a monopoly on, considering the Republicans eclipsed the Democrats in shorter-hours legislation from 1860-1933.]
- [then, some bad news -]
Some colleges calling an end to Fridays off, by Jenna Russell, Boston Globe, front page.
...The 3-day weekend has become the standard on many college campuses, where most students don't want classes on Friday - and many faculty members don't want to teach them. At some schools, the number of class meetings on Friday is nearly 2/3 smaller than other days of the week, prompting Duke University officials to lament that classrooms are "virtually unused" after noon on Friday....
But now some college administrators are saying "enough."
[They completely miss the real reason - the global labor surplus and the deepening of pervasive job insecurity - which led everyone in the world to fear being the first to leave the office in the evening, so the ambient culture changed toward intensified workaholism, and to retain credibility (and alumni donations and gov't grants) in such a world, academe had to follow suit. But here's this article's whackiest reason -]
- At Clark University in Worcester MA, the faculty recently voted to beef up the Friday schedule after realizing that there are almost 3 times as many class meetings on Mondays and Wednesdays as there are on Fridays. Though it was convenient for faculty members who faced long commutes or heavy research schedules, administrators successfully argued that the 4-day week was damaging academic life on campus....
[Whatever that is.]
- Similar changes, including more classes on Friday, took effect this year at Wesleyan College in Middletown, Conn., where administrators say they scrutinized the schedule after students complained that there were too many mijdweek classes....
- At Wellesley College [in Boston], officials are increasing class meetings on Mondays rather than Fridays to allow more academic gatherings and prevent hard choices between courses. Tufts [University], too, is trying to distribute courses better.
[Sounds like a better solution to us. But whoa, sounds like they ran out of real examples. How are they going to get thru another 21½ column inches? Oops, if we skip their irrelevant blurb on Duke, we get -]
- ...Two years ago...department chairs at the Univ. of Southern California were asked to add Friday classes to address concern over rampant long weekends that "work against the creation of a serious academic climate," according to a memo.
[Again - "Whatever that is."]
The back-to-class movement has been brewing at least since the mid 1990s, when studies showed that a lack of Friday classes could be a factor in alcohol abuse by students.
[The old "devil finds work for idle hands to do" routine - never mind the leisure industries, never mind that -]
the four-day week facilitates off-campus pursuits like jobs and travel..\..
Changing a college schedule is about as easy as "moving a graveyard"..\..said Douglas Little, dean at Clark University....
[Maybe that's because academe and the graveyard have so much in common?]
5/01/2002 primitive Timesizing in the news -
- [Here's a strange one - a report from Japan on the Netherlands! Hey, we're not hearing much directly from Holland/Netherlands, so, whatever we can get.]
Work-sharing helps create jobs, sustain growth: gov't report, Kyodo 05/01/02 05:41 EDT via AOLNews.
TOKYO...- Work-sharing practices help countries create jobs and sustain economic growth, but leave questions about productivity, the Cabinet Office said Wednesday in analyzing the [work]-sharing scheme of the Netherlands.
[Productivity is meaningless without markets. "Cabinet Office"? Sounds like something close to the Prime Minister. Does this mean that the Japanese Minister of Labor is focused on worksharing in Germany (see 1/15/2002 #2), and the Prime Minister is focused on worksharing in Holland? And nobody's admitting to looking at the economywide experience with workweek reduction in France? What gives? It really would be nice to have the time and money to track down questions like this. Phil Hyde will have the time round about July when he finishes his two little backup books. God knows when he'll have the money. It would be great to track down the exact wording for all current shorter hours/worksharing/timesizing legislation too, such as the US 1933 Black-Connery 30-hour workweek bill (and the rest of the US historical legislation excerpted), the French 1996 Robien Law, the French 1999? 35-hour workweek law, plus any Dutch and Deutsch legislation we can come up with. To our knowledge there is absolutely no place on the Web besides our only embryonic legislation page that's even thinking about this. What a disgrace to have such a gap at the dawn of the Third Millennium on this cutting edge of human progress.]
The office said in a report that the Netherlands reduced its unemployment rate from 11.9% in 1983 to 2.7% in 2001 following the introduction of the work-sharing system in 1982 based on agreements among the government, company management and workers.
[Whoah, even more dramatic than France, with its drop from 12.6% in 1997 to 8.7% in 2001 (see 8/01/2001 #1), which was the lowest in nearly 18 years (ie: since 1983)! Why haven't we heard of this before? Why haven't Netherlands' results been splashed all over the world?!]
The western European state increased its GDP by an average 3.0% per year from 1991 to 2001, said the report, which analyzes key trends in the world economy today. The introduction of [work]-sharing changed the employment structure in the Netherlands and allowed both men and women to take up jobs, boosting employment opportunities mainly on a part-time basis in health, medicine and other service sectors.
[Here's the one weirdness about the Dutch experience - they're still clinging to a rigid and outdated concept of "full time."]
The report said the work-sharing system brought positive results in the [Netherlands] by combining with other policies such as taxcuts and equalizing differences in unemployment allowances for full-time and part-time workers.
At the same time, the report pointed out that the system has some problems, saying
Meanwhile, the report also touched on tax reforms that have been implemented in the U.S. and Britain. Lowering tax rates and expanding tax bases helped the two countries stimulate their economies in the medium to longer term.
- shortened working hours make it difficult for employees to fully demonstrate their skills and abilities.
[This is a new one! Define "fully." Sounds like something that could easily be said at any level of the workweek including 80, 100, 120 hours (and is actually being said right now by the "managers" of American medical students - see earlier stories) and sounds like merely a result of rigid thinking to the effect that "full time" has to be 40 hrs/wk or more. If there's any real need to work longer workweeks in certain skills, the workweek limit for them can be annualized to prevent violation. This is not rocket science. Even the rigid new shorter French workweek has provision for annualization.]
- It also said frequent staff turnovers make it hard to boost productivity for single operations.
[God knows what has been translated from Dutch to Japanese and then from Japanese to English "turnovers," but if multiple shifts are referred to, "suturing shifts" is a familiar and entirely solvable management problem. Since many modern mechanized process are continuous, practically everything in manufacturing today could be regarded as "single operations" by whining incompetent managers.]
- Moreover, the report said work-sharing increases individual labor costs, leading to price increases of around 4% since 2000.
[If that's what it takes to have enough employed people to absorb all the technology-amplified productivity, so be it.]
[No they didn't, at least in the U.S. where tax "reform" simply complicated the tax system and made more work for tax consultants. Such stimulation as there was in the U.S. came from militarization under Reagan and prison building under Bush and Clinton. And if Massachusetts is any indication, we're about to see a round of tax increases at the state level to make up for all the responsibilities that the federal government has sloughed off to achieve showy tax "rebates" etc. And as for "expanding tax bases" by resorting to sales taxes everywhere, especially in Canada, has had a dampening effect on business and on retail productivity. Same with value-added taxes that just slow down economic processes and collect a minimum of revenue with a maximum of overhead. But all in all, a very informative article from Japan.]
- Korea workers rally for better working conditions, Reuters 05/01/02 06:00 ET via AOLNews.
SEOUL...- Thousands of workers rallied in major South Korean cities on Wednesday, demanding a shorter workweek and a halt to plans to privatise utilities, which they fear will lead to massive layoffs.... "We want the government and management to implement the 5-day workweek with no sacrifice on (the part of) workers," said Sohn Nark-koo, spokesman for the KCTU [Korean Confederation of Trade Unions]....
The government hopes to start the shorter workweek, one of Pres. Kim Dae-Jung's campaign promises, from the second half of this year for large companies in return for workers accepting pay cuts and fewer holidays....
[The caption of a Reuters photo dated May 1, 2002, stated that the rallies included "tens of thousands of South Korean workers," not just "thousands" as here. It says, "Members from the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) hold small banners during a rally in Seoul May 1, 2002.... The banners read, 'Reduction of working hour [sic] without any discrimination.' " The caption of an AP photo reads, "Protesters shout a slogan during a rally celebrating May Day near the National Assembly in Seoul, Wed., May 1, 2002. Thousands of workers demanded an early introduction of shorter a workweek [sic] without a cut in pay." We believe the Korean workweek is currently 5.5 days, with a half day on Saturday.]
- [Let's try Australia.]
Senator criticises focus on asylum seekers on May Day, Australian Broadcasting 05/01/2002 16:06 AEST via AOLNews.
The Northern Territory Country Liberal Party Senator, Nigel Scullion, says May Day should be set aside to commemorate what trade unions have done for workers, not for protesting about Australia's refugee policy.... He said, "May the first is to celebrate the fact that my 10-year-old doesn't have to go to work. May the first is all about celebrating the work that trade unions have done historically to ensure we've got the 35-hour week...."
[Does Australia currently have a nationwide 35-hour workweek like France, or just the Northern Territory?]
- Britons say they work longer hours, but they produce less, by Suzanne Kapner, NYT, A11.
LONDON...- Britons are working longer hours than they did a decade ago, but are less productive than their counterparts in the U.S. and continental Europe, according to a survey released today. The research, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Council, a government-financed agency, debunks several workforce myths, including the notion[s]
[And they missed the big one - that long hours equate to productivity.]
- that goldwatch employees who spend their entire careers with one company are a dying breed, and
- that the new economy has created a transient workforce made up of professional free-lancers who jump from job to job.
Policy makers in Britain have promoted the idea of a more flexible workforce, in which people held more part-time or temporary jobs and often worked from home, as one benefit of the new economy. The new type of employee even got a new name - the portfolio worker - and was supposed to benefit from a more flexible schedule and shorter hours.
But like so much of the new economy, that [is] wishful thinking.
One of three British men and one of 10 women work more than 50 hours a week, said Prof. Peter Nolan, director of the Future of Work program at the Economic and Social Research Council. That is on average about 10 hours more than people work in most other European countries; Americans still work longer hours. Yet Britain is two-thirds less productive than the U.S. and one-third less productive than Europe when it comes to manufacturing output, Prof. Nolan continued.
- A vast majority of the 2,500 people surveyed, 92%, held permanent jobs in 2000, up from 88% in 1992, the last time comparable research was conducted.
- People are also staying in their jobs longer and working more hours than they did a decade ago....
[Less productive than shorter hours Europe? Ergo, long hours don't equate to productivity. Perhaps they equate to un-productivity. If the only counter-example is the U.S. and the big cheese is always suspect for fiddling the figures. Productivity is notoriously difficult to quantify.]
The long hours are beginning to take a toll, it seems. Only 16% of those questioned said they would work longer hours than they do to help their organization, compared with 21% who said they would in 1992.
The findings have re-ignited a debate between business and labor groups. The Trades Union Congress, representing about 6.7m workers, wants Britain to adhere to a European Union directive that limits people to a 48-hour workweek. The Confederation of British Industry [CFI] is opposed to any limit. "There is no need for a nanny state," Richard Dodd, a spokesman for the business federation, said today.
[Apparently CFI wants the return of the 80-hour workweek or more. Let them get it and see how many markets they have left with half as many people employed. Apparently myopic Dodd wouId prefer a macho state with concentrated employment, widespread dependency, feeble markets and unsustainable investments to a "nanny" state with a short and enforced workweek maximum of 48 hours or less and full employment, full markets and solid investments. Presumably, like many insulated employers, Dodd claims that employees choose to work long hours, ignoring the pressures of layoff threats and high unemployment -]
John Monks, general secretary of the union group, countered, "People do not work long hours out of choice, but because of the pressures of the job."
[and the job market.]
Despite the government's effort to encourage investments in technology
[thus taking over even more human employment - without automatic downward workweek adjustment in place...]
and breathe life into the digital economy, the fastest-growing jobs over the past decade were often menial, low-wage positions. The number of hairdressers grew the fastest, quadrupling 302% since 1992, Prof. Nolan said.
[Ah, wouldn't quadrupling have to be 402%? Wonder how Dodd likes this "macho" long-hours economy - everyone's forced to become a hairdresser because all the other work is so concentrated on so few! To paraphrase Churchill, "Never in the course of human employment have so many sought to dress so much hair for so few."]
Stockers in stores ranked No. 8, behind nurses, housekeepers, call-center operators, welfare workers, education assistants and software engineers.
- French unemployment rises slightly, AP 04/30/02 10:33 EDT via AOLNews.
PARIS - The French unemployment rate pushed above 9% in March for the first time in 5 months, officials said Tuesday. The overall unemployment rate reached 9.1%, up from 9% where it had stood since November, the INSEE statistics agency said....
France's jobless ranks have decreased significantly since June 1997, when Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's government took office, pledging to tackle unemployment with a law to shorten the workweek from 39 to 35 hours. The unemployment rate was at a postwar high of 12.6% at the time..\..
[And since it came down to 8.7% last summer, the workweek reduction cut unemployment 1% for each of the 4 hours cut from the workweek.]
There were 2.419m job seekers in March, or 13,000 more than in February - a 0.8% rise....
Now, opponents contend [Jospin's] government has created precarious jobs with no long-term future.
[But he didn't "create jobs" at all. He simply spread around natural, market-demanded employment more evenly, and if that's precarious, then "opponents" have nothing to blame but the free market - and the fact that the workweek needs to cut even further to spread the technology-diminished human employment even further.]
- Factbox - Euro zone wage settlements, Reuters 04/30/02 09:41 ET via AOLNews.
FRANKFURT...- German workers on Tuesday voted for a strike in support of a 4% wage claim.... More than 80% of the members of the powerful engineering and metalworkers' union IG Metall in the Berlin-Brandenburg region supported the strike in a ballot....
[If these employees had any engineering smarts, they'd realize that the most natural and flexible way to raise wages is by cutting hours and creating a shortage of their labor. As it is, they are fighting market forces. Cutting hours would harness market forces on their side. French employees are a little smarter -]
The European Commission said in a recent report that due to a positive wage drift, per-capita wages rose by 4.5% in 2001 and contributed to a rise in unit labour costs of 5% - above average productivity....
- France - France has no national system of collective bargaining [like most of the rest of the EU] and wage deals in the last couple of years have been absorbed by the shift to calculating pay under the 35-hour working week.
[Now French employees need to push that workweek level further down and get additional wage-boosting cuts in the unemployment rate.]
Public sector pay deals this year have been kept down, though there has been pressure from unions ahead of a presidential poll (in which the second round of voting takes place on Sunday) and parliamentary elections in June.
[France stupidly lagged with public-sector workweek reduction instead of leading the way with it. The gov't just came down this January along with small companies, so they're still in the midst of "wage deals being absorbed by the shift to 35 hours." Again, if that shift was really adequate relative to the unemployment problem, wage raises would be continuing regardless, and the resulting centrifugation of the national income would be producing a solid upturn, instead of merely a milder-than-the-rest-of-Europe downturn.]
Customs officers were offered a rise of 2-3.5% last month. In the private sector, Shell France refinery workers agreed to a 3.2% pay increase in December....
[That takes care of the #1 & #3 European Union (EU) economies - UK is #2 - as of 1999 per The Economist's Pocket World in Figures. We'll jump down to Greece (#15) now to pick up their worksharing initiative and then resume order by size - this Reuters article has them in chaotic order after Spain.]
- Greece - Greece's largest trade union GSEE agreed with employers earlier this week [on] a 5.4% pay hike for 2002 that could be topped by up to 1%, depending on inflation. The Confederation of Greek [Employees] (GSEE) - an umbrella group representing about 2m workers - also said it had clinched a deal on a 3.9% wage rise for 2003.
GSEE is also seeking a cut in weekly working hours to 39 from 40 currently, while employers are aiming for cheaper overtime pay in exchange..\..
[The easier overtime would render it meaningless. However, it's good to hear that Greek employees are getting "on issue" and going for the strategic center of bargaining power - reducing their own wage-damping abundance by cutting hours.]
- Italy - No major wage talks are scheduled later this year with the spotlight now on Silvio Berlusconi government's proposals of labour market reforms, vehemently opposed by the unions.
[It really is astonishing that Italy has not learned from France's positive experience with worksharing via workweek reduction, but maybe their problems aren't acute enough yet.]
In February, unions negotiated a 5.6% pay rise over the next 2 years for around 3.5m public-sector workers, just below the initial 6% demand....
- Spain - ...Wage increases in 2000 and 2001 easily exceeded those in 1998 and 1999, when average settlements came in at 2.6% and 2.7% respectively..\.. In 2001, the average increase for salaries covered by collective agreements was 3.6%.... Just over half [8m] of Spain's labour force have either company or sector collective agreements. Of these, 74% have revision clauses which automatically adjust their wages upwards if inflation overshoots the official forecast for the year.
- Netherlands - ...The main FNV trade union has issued a guideline with a 4% pay rise but deals struck so far came in with increases of 3-3.5%. Most deals so far were for smaller sectors but a major and usually trend-setting one was for Philip Electronics where a 16-month agreement with a 3.25% rise for Philips' 29,000 Dutch workers was reached on April 18 after a one-day strike.... Economists have said that Dutch inflation rates, currently among the highest [=??] in the EU, have been fuelled by wage demands in a tight labour market.
[Moderate inflation is nature's way of telling us that we should be spreading and sharing the employment, income and wealth at a faster rate than we're doing. Inflation rewards active earned income and penalizes inactive unearned income. It centrifuges and activates spending power. Every solid boom is accompanied by some inflation. By contrast, bubbles (empty booms alias 'jobless recoveries') and slumps go with low inflation or deflation, and 3rd-world conditions go with stagflation (simultaneous high unemployment and inflation).]
- Belgium - ...Unions and employers agreed in December 2000 on a national labour agreement for 2001-2002 [that capped wage hikes at] 6.4%...to safeguard the country's competitive position against neighboring countries, namely France, Germany, and Holland. Wages are not allowed to rise higher than the average of these three countries..\..
- Finland - Some 90% of Finnish wage-earners are covered by a centralised incomes agreements signed in late 2000 calling for a 3.1% rise in 2001 and 2.3% in 2002 and expiring at the end of this year....
Finnish doctors, also highly unionised, opted out of the centralised agreement and struck last year and got a 2-year deal raising salaries by 10.5%....
[Time to break the bottleneck on training Finnish doctors. We suggest overtime-to-training conversion in either the corporate format or the individual player format.]
- Portugal - ...Benchmark public sector wage rises for 2002 were pegged at 2.75% in talks at end-2001. Pay talks between the government and unions usually kick off in October....
- Ireland - ...National wage deals between unions, employers and the government, which capped pay in return for tax cuts, have been in place for 15 years and were credited in Ireland's recent economic boom.
[Not to mention the billions in EU subsidies.]
The last national agreement "Partnership for Prosperity and Fairness" was signed in April 2000. The agreement provided for wage increases of 18.07% over 33 months. It expires on Nov. 30, 2002 and is up for negotiation...but the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has signalled the unions may return to plant-by-plant wage bargaining. The move is seen further fuelling the country's stubbornly high inflation [around 10% last year] as labour shortages have already forced employers to bid up wages....
[That's the same way Timesizing works. Labor shortages engage market forces in flexibly raising wages and benefits, thus centrifuging the nation's spending power out of its unspendably tight concentrations and creating the kind of solid boom that Ireland has been experiencing. Ireland alone in Europe is doing better than timesizing France, but Ireland has received billions in subsidies from the EU.]
[That's good, because they're probably grossly undercounting productivity.]
- Calais the French town that fell to Le Pen, Reuters 04/30/02 09:49 ET via AOLNews.
CALAIS -...Le Pen, who faces conservative incumbent Jacques Chirac in a runoff on Sunday, has a fire-and-brimstone air about him that feeds off disillusion with mainstream politics, whether he is blaming Europe, globalisation, or immigration for France's ills.
[Hmm, we have not heard him blaming the 35-hour workweek yet though. Significant?]
His National Front movement does not even have an office in Calais, a dreary port town on the Channel coast where the main business is selling cheap wine, cigarettes and a speedy meal to low-budget day trippers who take the ferry over from Britain. That did not stop the largely working-class population from putting Le Pen first in the opening round of the presidential election on April 21 with 18.5% of the vote, higher than he scored on average across the country. [Still,] it is hard to find a resident of Calais who admits to having voted for Le Pen on April 21, possibly because it is not something to shout about in a town where for 20 years the mayor has been a Communist..\..
[Ah, the beauty of the secret ballot! Must be some mighty wrong priorities when the left can't even convince its natural constituency! Too in love with traditional ooey-gooey liberalism and micromanagement? Or just a failure to make the connection between workweek reduction and macromanaging smaller government on one hand, and workweek reduction and lower unemploment on the other hand. Consider this astonishing feedback, first because it's from a well-off banker and second because it seems to ignore or belittle the 4% French unemployment cut since 1997 - one percent for each hour's cut in the national workweek (39 to 35) -]
...Said Antoine Decourcelle, a well-heeled local banker..."This was an industrial town, mostly lace and textiles. But unemployment runs through entire families from grandfather to grandchildren. It creates ghettos."
Breeding discontent - Unemployment in Calais, a town of close to 80,000 people [that belonged to England 1347-1558], is officially put at around 13%, well above the national average of 9%. Decourcelle said he thought it was closer to 18% in large parts of the town and hinterland....
[How high was Calais' unemployment in 1997 before businesses started preparing for the 35-hour workweek?]
...French food giant Danone plans to shut..\..the bleak, red-brick Lu biscuit factory, sparking a battle with unions over 580 jobs and traumatising Calais. "The government introduced the 35-hour week, but people here just want work," Decourcelle said.
[If Calais' unemployment is so high now in Calais and at least one businessman is concerned about it, why doesn't Calais branch out on its own and create a lower-than-35-hr workweek to spread what work there is even further and optimize and dynamize local spending and markets?!]
Much of what Le Pen says strikes a chord even if he is short on substance and big on firebrand rhetoric, accusing the nation's leading politicians of ignoring "the little man." He promises to expel illegal immigrants, raise wages for low-skilled labour and reinstate border controls and customs duties to protect French companies and jobs from the cut-throat competition brought by European integration....
[The lovely liberal left has yet to realize that internal hemorrhaging (interest rates) and external leakage (imports, immigrants, babyboom) can completely negate any progress you make even by the most effective of worksharing methods. And jumping to free trade a la NAFTA or EU without even caps on employment concentration (in an age of robotozation!) let alone income and wealth, is just a ticket to continent-level concentration of spending power into unspendable densities, and consequent chronic depression. That's why our Timesizing full-employment program is preceded by democratic controls on internal hemorrhaging in Phase One and followed by democratic controls on external leakage in Phase Five.]
Industrial decline and unemployment appear to be the primary causes of frustration with the way the country is governed. Immigration and insecurity follow, along with a feeling that European integration is more about liberalisation of trade and finance than [improving] the everyday lot of ordinary people.
[Bingo. With no caps on wealth, income or even employment per person, the big boys just want a bigger population to loot.]
...Many...immigrants are only in Calais because there are regular trains through the Channel tunnel to Britain and ferries and they hope to sneak aboard as stowaways one day or another. But residents are very uneasy. "I have friends who went away on holiday and there were 30 Kosovars in their house when they returned," said Decourcelle. "The French are not Nazis but they need respect. I've been told it costs 80,000 francs a year ($11,000)...for each immigrant. That's fine but where do they get the money?"
[From us taxpayers, pal - your suspicions are correct. Let those who think that immigration controls are "isolationist," "racist" or "fascist" restore and enforced the financial sponsorship requirement for immigration, that is virtually ignored today in America. Let they themselves fund and house the immigrants they so devotedly want and quit "doing good with other people's money," in Milton Friedman's memorable phrase.]
...What does the government do for workers?" Simone Rollet, a retired nurse, asked. "And Le Pen is right about the Europe of Maastricht," added her husband. "France would do better to close the border than the factories," he said..\..
[Whoah, now there's a compelling sound bite!]
"Yes I voted for Le Pen. And so what?" \said Jean, a man\ who refused to reveal his family name.... "The media is obsessed with demonising him as a racist and a fascist. It's not that. At least he might go and do something."...
[Guess one percent drop in unemployment per one hour cut in the workweek isn't enough if you just stop cutting when you've still got 9% more unemployment to absorb. That's why Timesizing keeps that workweek adjustable and unfrozen. As Friedman said, "Let the market decide!" - and never mind the idealistic socialist planners who really have no a-priori idea what the most prosperity-yielding level of the workweek should be at the moment, let alone for all future time.]
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