Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, Oct.21-24, 2003
[Commentary] ©2003 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
10/24/2003 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - we have #1-2 on Time Day, 3 on Nucor, 4 & 5 on Germany, 6 on Europe, 7-10 on New Zealand - all are 10/23 via GoogleNews & searched-collected-prescreened by Alan Applebaum of Brookline MA USA (except #1-3, which are direct from 10/24 BG & WSJ hardcopy), and all excerpts & comments are by Phil Hyde unless otherwise noted -
10/23/2003 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/22 via GoogleNews & searched-collected-prescreened by Alan Applebaum of Brookline MA USA (except #2, which is direct from the 10/23 WSJ hardcopy), and all excerpts & comments are by Phil Hyde unless otherwise noted -
- It's about time, editorial, Boston Globe, A22.
Another revolution could start in Fanueil Hall today as area speakers from academia, health care, and business call for Americans to consider the state of the frazzled lives on "Take Back Your Time Day."
Here's hoping Boston's frazzled will leave their desks on this Friday before the weekend with the extra hour in it to catch some of the noon-to-2 pm program. It is part of a worthy national movement that has so far been barely on the radar of most people, who may be too busy and too tired to revolt.
John de Graaf, national coordinator for the event, says planners had envisioned thousands of Americans taking today off to clamor for change - guaranteed vacation time, a shorter workweek, and simpler lifetstlyes.
"That was a pipe dream," he said in a phone interview, sounding exhausted himself from working two jobs - as a public TV producer in Seattle and as a modern Paul Revere seeking to awaken overworked Americans to a better way.
The call is being issued in small public forums around the coutnry as well as in campus workshops and programs sponsored by religious organizations. In the Boston area, groups have been meeting over the past month.
"Peope are just starting to plug into this," says de Graaf, who expects the movement to catch fire in the next couple of years, prompting legislation the way the first Earth Day was the catalyst for environmental laws.
America is the only country in the industrialized world that doesn't have a law guaranteeing paid vacation time," he says [except possibly New Zealand - see below #7-10 - if you call NZ industrialized], noting that most US companies give their workers an average 11 vacation days per year, while no country can get into the EU without mandating at least 4 weeks.
Juliet Schor, the Boston College sociology professor who wrote the 1993 [actually 1991] book "The Overworked American", has found that the workload only continues to increase. She notes that from 1973 to 2000 the average US workers took on an additional 199 hours per year, going from 1,679 hours to 1,878.
The reasons are a weave of ego, fear, pressure [backed up by a self-mutilating corporate culture of downsizing] from managers reacting to pressure from shareholders, and a volatile economy [engendered by all the thoughtless downsizing - even when in profit]. For the working poor it's worse: They can hold two or three part-time jobs with no benefits and still fall behind.
The new movement not only seeks change in the workplace but hopes to focus Americans on the way time poverty translates into a weakening sense of community, fragmented families, illness, and an [obese] fast-food society obsessed with consumption - the reward for working so hard.
It's time to ask the big question, says de Graaf: "What is an economy for?" The answer might prove to be as stunning as the first great American experiment.
- Overworked Americans are urged to find a balance, by Eli Sanders, Boston Globe, A3.
SEATTLE - Overworked, unsatisfied and stressed out, physician Jeanne-Marie Maher decided she'd had enough. No more being haunted by her pager, her voice mail, and her cellphone. No more coming home, sitting down to dinner and then getting right back on the computer to manage medical charts.
Maher, 50, quit her job as a doctor, retrained as a life coach, started spending more time with her family, and joined a "Seattle-based movement urging Americans, who work longer hours than citizens of any other industrialized country, to reclaim their personal Time.
"I needed to find balance," Maher said. "Now I get up without an alarm clock. I have breakfast with my husband. I will often take time to work out, or my husband and I will go for a bike ride."
The movement, which has proclaimed today national Take Back Your Time Day, aims to draw attention to the social and personal costs of America's increasingly long work hours.
Teach-ins, lectures, and readings will be held in cities around the country, including a lunchtime event today at a downtown Seattle mall and a noontime speakout at Faneuil Hall in Boston. The timing of the day, nine weeks before the end of the year, carries a message: Americans work an average of nine more weeks per year than people in Western Europe, said organizers citing statistics from the ILO. To even things up, we all would have to stop working from today until New Year's.
"There's a very high cost to our obsession with productivity and growth," said John de Graaf, a Seattle documentary filmmaker who came up with the idea for a day that would at first aim to raise consciousness and eventually lead to political organizing and legislative change.
Although the U.S. is the most productive country according to GDP per capita, de Graaf said, "GDP doesn't measure many things that are very important to human happiness."
Citing studies and statistics, de Graaf and other organizers in the movement said the "time poverty" of Americans contributes to the decline of family, community, and civic life, and also harms the country's health.
[We would argue that the most compelling reason, for the power elite, is that it harms the country's economy. It ironically greatly restrains economic growth by artificially pushing up productivity on one hand and artificially pushing down consumption on the other, despite increasingly desperate advertising, by thoughtlessly downsizing the workforce, thus converting 100,000s of confident consumers (i.e., downsized employees and their dependents) into hesitant and apologetic consumers.]
Among the trends organizers noted: Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, infertility, and mental disorders are on the rise. Studies indicate 2-income couples surveyed reported have only 12 minutes a day to talk to each other.
The root of the probem, acording to organizers, is that instead of investing decades of gains in efficiency and productivity into more personal time [by timesizing = trimming worktime for all], America has [downsized, and thereby] invested the gains in increased production while also increasing [surviving] employees' work hours. The result, orgnaizers said, is a vicious cycle: Longer work hours and increased productivity create more goods and services to consume than ever before. The time poverty that results from long work hours creates a greater need to buy goods that enable workers' hectic schedules. The need to buy more goods then feeds back into the need to work more hours, which was why workers needed more goods in the first place.
"The problem has gotten worse in a historical sense," said Juliet B. Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College and author of "Overworked American: The unexpected decline of leisure." She is scheduled to speak at today's event at Faneuil Hall.
At the end of World War II, "the US had the shortest working hours among...industrialized countries," she said. "We now have the longest. We have surpassed Japan which when I wrote my book [in 1991] was seen as the world's workaholic country. The average American worker is putting in 200 more hours per year than he or she was in 1973."
According to a recent study by the group Center for a New American Dream, about half of the Americans surveyed said they would be willing to trade a day off work each week for a day's less pay each week. Respondents also said they would be willing to trade a pay cut for more free time or less stress and pressure.
"This is basically the wealthiest big country in the world [not saying much when comparing to China, India, Russia, Brazil], and yet its workforce is being pushed harder and harder in the name of some kind of economic discipline or scarcity rationale - that somehow we don't have the choice but to work these long hours," Schor said.
[Her story doesn't include depression.]
The original creators of the movement, whom de Graaf described as mainly white, middle-class intellectuals, said there is another choice: Invest some of America's productivity dividend in reduced work hours and focus on improving workers' nonmaterial standard of living.
[If there is another real choice in the context of an ongoing downsizing response to technology, it must be completely in the realm of government - to impose a fluctuating workweek that automatically offsets un(der)employment and thereby serves as a safety net and "clean up" for all the disposable employees the private sector is constantly tossing out.]
Organizers said Take Back Your Time Day has broad support, from unions, churches, conservatives, and liberals. "This issue cuts across a lot of traditional divides," Schor said. "There are not too many people who are going to say: 'Oh no, we don't work enough.' "
[She should read some of the articles coming out of the leading shorter-worktime countries in Europe these days - there's one (#4 today) from Germany below.]
For now the focus is on raising consciousness rather than proposing solutions. Earth Day started this way, organizers said, and within a few years that day helped to produce some of the most significant environmental legislation in the country.
[Only to see much of it undone by the neo-con artists of the Bush administration.]
Although the movement does not yet endorse specific soltuions, individuals involved in the movement do. Among their ideas: a mandatory 4-week paid vacation [just now under heated discussion in New Zealand according to our articles 7-10 today below], on par with European countries [and Australia]; a limit to mandatory overtime; and a national healthcare system that would allow workers to consider changing jobs without the threat of losing health coverage.
[Ah, that's not the problem. The problem is that if health insurance is tied to "full time" employment and "full time" is frozen at 40 or any other rigid level, a personal decision to "take back your time" includes a personal decision to cast off your health coverage.]
The movement's handbook, edited by de Graaf, contains ideas for how individuals can take back their time, including canceling appointments and buying and doing less. Stephen Bezruchka, senior lecturer at the University of Washington's School of Public Health and Community Medicine, said these ideas are "clever, but they're not going to make much difference. Who the book doesn't reach is the poor.... The poor pay a much bigger price than you and I." De Graaf said, "I certainly agree that it's much more difficult for people who are in those situations to be activists in this movement." But he added, "Those are the people we're working for, and they're very supportive of this.
[Presumably meaning "those are the people we're working to restore to a world of one-job with a technolgoically appropriate workweek" rather than either working megahours on 3 part-time jobs with no benefits or living in UI/welfare/disability/homeless shelter. Here's the accompanying chart -]
On the clock, blowout chart by James Bennett based on data from German Institute of Economy Labor & Welfare, and KRT.
American industrial workers spent more hours on the job in 2002 than their counterparts in other industrial nations.
Nations, ranked by [Avg fulltime?] weekly hours, followed by Avg annual hours [different from simply "weekly times 52" because of holidays & vacation] -
Switzerland, 40.5, 1844
Finland, 40, 1708
Greece, 40, 1840
Italy, 40, 1720
Luxembourg, 40, 1784
United States, 40, 1994
Portugal, 39.3, 1769
Japan, 39.2, 1803
Ireland, 39, 1810
Sweden, 39, 1710
Austria, 38.4, 1720
Spain, 38.4, 1722
Germany (E), 38.3, 1685
Netherlands, 37.5, 1670
Norway, 37.5, 1695
United Kingdom, 37.2, 1693
Belgium, 37, 1702
Denmark, 37, 1650
France, 35.7, 1605
Germany (W), 35.7, 1557
- [timesizing doesn't solve everything -]
Nucor's net fell 59%, pointer summary (to A10), WSJ, front page.
...on soft demand and rising scrap steel prices. Nucor was the first big US steelmaker to report results.
[Interesting that timesizing Nucor is now rated as a "big" US steelmaker.]
- Germans working less and less, www.expatica.com.
[If that's not "progress," how do you define it - working more and more?]
WIESBADEN - Average working time for employees in Germany is continuing to drop, continuing a trend of the past 32 years, officials reported Thursday. In a report coming amid often bitter debate in Germany about the need for labour 'reforms', the Federal Statistics Office said that in 2002, the average German employee worked 1,443 hours during the year. That compares with 1,541 hours in 1991, the first year of Germany's east-west reunification.
The trend towards shorter working time is documented by figures on the former West Germany, the office report noted. In 1970, the yearly average was 1,956 hours. By 1991, this was down to 1,542 hours.
[With inrushing automation and robotics, this is exactly as it should be and needs to be if more and more consumers are not to be disemployed and de-activated, along with their dependents.]
The office spoke of two factors in the decline in working hours by German employees. In the 1970-1990 period the decline was the result of wage and vacation accords between employers and workers, which cut working hours and increased the vacation time. In the 1990s the main factor was the rise in part-time employment, the report said.
[No mention of the role of technology in shrinking the number of natural, market-demanded working hours remaining for humans? How unGermanly inefficient.]
While the number of employees overall rose slightly - from 38.5 million in 1991 to 38.7 million in 2002 - part-time work for many employees reduced the overall yearly average of working hours per worker in Germany.
- Waiting to break the last taboo, By Heike Goebel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
[Herr Goebel's "last taboo" was the consumerbase-building progress that far-sighted industrialists and unions painstakingly built over the last 200 years. If near-sighted 'reformers' like him succeed, watch Germany meltdown into a Mittel-Europa sweatshop with lower living standards than Turkey.]
GERMANY - The diagnosis is sobering: The labor market 'reforms' [our quotes] that have caused the Social Democratic-Green government so much pain in the first year of the current legislative period have shown no measurable results so far. Every month, the Federal Labor Office has to push off the long-awaited upswing on the labor market.
[This appears to be an admission that what so-called 'reforms' that have already been implemented have failed so far. Perhaps they're looking in the wrong corners for things to modify. Maybe they should look at the elephant in the middle that everyone's ignoring, the fact that technological worksavings require compensatory reduction of worktime per person that is not happening. And when that doesn't happen, market-demanded employment and skills concentrate on fewer people, disemploy people, and weaken domestic demand. You wind up with huge productivity and tiny markets. The whole "global economy" is going this way because of "time blindness" = the assumption that we can just "set it and forget it" as far as the workweek is concerned, even though we were repeatedly shortening it in the period from 1776 to 1940.]
Real improvement is now projected for 2005 at the earliest, and even that's an optimistic forecast. Action is missing from politicians' debate about changes to German firing regulations, unemployment aid and social welfare. Too much heed has been paid to the interests of 'reform' opponents within the coalition parties, whose votes weigh heavily because of the government's slim parliamentary majority. They've effectively managed to block attempts to loosen firing regulations.
[Maybe that's because no one's making a clear distinction between mass layoffs, which should be replaced by timesizing, and individual case-by-case firing for just cause, which is necessary.]
Unless the opposition Christian Democratic Union manages to influence the legislative process, excessive worker protection will remain a grotesque hindrance to employment.
[Funny we never hear about the grotesque hindrance to employment of 'excessive employer protection', but then, employers own the media. The main hindrance to employment is the contradiction between higher and higher technological productivity and, instead of an automatic hours-reduction work-spreading response, a mass-layoff response which turns confident consumers into taxpayer-dependent, apologetic consumers. In other words, the main hindrance to employment is a pre-technologically long workweek and a pre-technological mindset that still back with "work hard to get ahead" instead of "work smart to get ahead."]
The governing coalition was more rigorous when it came to exerting pressure on the unemployed.
[Yeah, it's always easier to kick people when they're down.]
The planned limitation of unemployment aid to 12 months for younger job seekers and one-and-a-half years for older idled workers increases the incentive to take up work.
[No, an incentive is positive and this is negative. This just increases the disincentive to stay on unemployment and taxpayer-dependent. There's still no positive incentive to take up work because there is still LITTLE HIRING going on, as Herr Goebel has just implied in his concern about "hindrance to employment" and there is still LITTLE ON-THE-JOB TRAINING. This is all the similar to the U.S., where there's stick but no carrot (except for those already with mountains of carrots) = not an effective solution.]
But German unemployment insurance remains generous, and older job seekers can still use it as a bridge into early retirement. Few believe these measures will really reduce unemployment.
[Worklife reduction, whether by prolonged education or early retirement, is not as effective as workyear reduction by longer vacation time, which in turn is not as effective as workweek reduction, whether by shorter workdays or longer weekends.]
A glance at the draft law on the pooling of unemployment benefit and social welfare reinforces this skepticism and shows that leftwing members of the coalition parties have also had their say here. The last of the government's “Hartz“ labor market reform laws, which the Bundestag passed last Friday, cements the preferential treatment of long-term unemployed in social welfare through a host of special regulations.
The two measures - higher social welfare and a minimum wage - will prevent the long-term unemployed from accepting badly paid jobs.
[If the workweek is short enough to create plenty of options for employees and a perceived labor shortage for employers, you don't need minimum wage laws and indeed, a minimum wage is destructive, creating a gap in the wage ladder for people clawing their way back into the job market.]
Here, too, hope rests on the opposition. They should push through 'corrective' measures with their majority in the Bundesrat chamber representing the states. Germany will otherwise have missed a crucial opportunity to restructure state provisions so that they no longer hinder employment.
Even if the labor market laws were markedly improved in coming weeks, their impact should not be overestimated. At best, the Hartz proposals can remove flawed incentives on the supply side of the labor market, which raises hopes that existing vacant jobs will be filled better in the future. But that isn't enough to get the more than 4 million officially jobless into work.
Hartz won't win the fight for jobs. Anybody who does has to lower labor costs and improve companies' investment conditions.
[No, anyone who does win the fight for jobs simply has to get Germany to share the vanishing work and thereby maximize its domestic consumer demand, since in this global economic climate, no other country's consumer demand can be counted on to rescue any one economy, including Germany.]
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder admitted as much in his reform speech last spring, but the government is having a hard time presenting a rigorous reform concept. Real relief will only materialize when social insurance financing is decoupled from wages and salaries altogether, but this debate has only just started.
[The best social insurance is training and hiring, and training and hiring should be financed by corporate overtime profits and individual overwork earnings.]
The government's fiscal policy is a dangerous uncertainty factor in companies' investment planning. Government debt is soaring as Germany's social systems remain unreformed, and the Finance Minister Hans Eichel is responding with erratic tax decisions. Businesses thus hesitate to make investments that would also boost job creation.
While politicians have finally acknowledged the damaging effect of non-wage labor costs and high taxes on employment, there is one last taboo: the wage bargaining cartel. With their influence on wages and working hours, employer associations and unions have a firm grip on the real key to job creation.
[Unions' influence on wages has bucked market forces and keyed job destruction. Unions' influence on working hours has harnessed market forces and indeed been a real key to job creation.]
Even when jobs are on the line, German companies can hardly circumvent sectoral collective bargaining agreements.
Company-level “alliances for jobs“ are conceived in a legal gray area. Economists therefore uphold the legal introduction of opening clauses in collective bargaining agreements as one of the most effective measures to rebalance the interplay between demand and supply on the labor market. Those who don't use such measures act negligently.
- EU's small start on big 'reforms' [our quotes], by Peter Foster, National Post.
[Here a Brit with his head stuck in the pretechnology era opens his big ignorant mouth.]
So Europe is at last getting it. Sort of.
[No, parts of Europe are at last losing it.]
Certainly gone are the glory days of Mitbestimmung and dirigism, when success was claimed to lie in having board members with overalls, and brilliantly stupid state planners' sketched industrial strategies that never worked.
["Never worked" for whom? Top executives envying American CEOs' 400-times average pay - regardless of deflationarily weak consumer demand?]
The grim state of their economies is forcing Germany and France to embrace 'reforms' that look positively Thatcherite. But their last and grandest delusion, the one of which Mrs. T. was almost most wary - that of a European superstate - still lingers.
[Why are some Brits sneering at the goal of a European superstate? First, there's a history of rivalries between Britain and the Continent. For almost the entire Second Millennium, Britain and France were at each other's throats, and there were episodes of battling Spain and the Netherlands in the mid-millennium and battling Germany and Italy in the late-millennium. But there's another, more current reason - Britain already has a "hidden committee", economically and linguistically speaking, with fellow-anglophone USA - Britain doesn't need a European superstate, since they're a sidecar of the American superstate, especially now that they have gullible Blair reassuring them that Bush is not turning the American superstate into a stuporstate.]
Eurosummiteers continue to lucubrate over the EU's first constitution. You don't even have to look at it to know that it is in danger of becoming a Declaration of Dependence.
[Granted it's premature in terms of European nations' economic evolution, but it's not a moment too soon in terms of the American superstate's going off the deep end. If Bush is re-elected, there will still be a few dangerous years before his policies cripple America enough to be dismissed as the dominant world player and relegated to the bleachers beside Japan, China, India and Brazil.]
On the bright side, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has just introduced a sweeping package of 'reforms' in health care, welfare and labour markets. Now there will be (gasp!) user fees for visits to the doctor and stays in hospital. No more lounging around on the dole for 32 months. No more turning down jobs because you feel yourself "overqualified."
[Nope, just universal downward mobility. What a "solution"! Because still no on-the-job training programs for upward mobility, and no worksharing and employment-spreading programs for upward mobility. And downward mobility also means weaker consumer demand, despite vaunted productivity. Put those together and you get excess capacity, excess inventories and "under-consumption" - in a word, depression.]
In France, the 35-hour week has been exposed for the monstrous economic fallacy it is.
[Then why isn't Peter Foster's favorite frozen workweek, of probably 40 hours (or maybe 48?), being "exposed for the monstrous economic fallacy it is" relative to a desirable 54-hour workweek, or possibly a 60- or 72- or 84-hour workweek? Foster's shallow analysis and pre-technological Puritan work ethic (and self-righteousness) is showing.]
Budget Minister Alain Lambert earlier this month revealed [or rather, misrepresented, by not deducting the unemployment costs it saved] that the scheme has cost a whopping $23.3B. Indeed, Mr. Lambert blamed the 35-hour workweek for putting France's deficit over the 3% of GDP limit required by the EU. Another of its gruesome side effects was its contribution to those 14,000 heat wave deaths last summer.
[Oh yes, Lambert would lambaste the 35-hour workweek as the root and cause of every little problem he can find in France today - despite the fact that as it was being bruited and implemented between 1997 and 2001 - in the wake of a voluntary version from the rightwing (the Robien Law) - France's unemployment rate came down one percent for each of the four hour's cut from the workweek. The workweek came down from 39 to 35 hours and France's unemployment rate came down from 12.6% in 1997 to 8.6% in mid-2001. And it couldn't all have been the Internet Bubble because the US unemployment rate only came down from 6 to 4% in that period.]
The EU still has its fans. Some claim that Germany and France are not being forced to dismantle their overbloated and sclerotic systems because they have been headed for disaster for more than 100 years - from the moment Bismarck introduced a little socialism in order to ward off a lot of socialism.
[Foster is apparently oblivious to how much of the foundation consumer market demand he owes to "socialism."]
No, apparently it's all a "demographic" problem. Seems that if everybody had lived healthy lives and then dropped dead on the day of their retirement, things would have worked out fine.
[Huh? That would kill off a lot of consumers - if they have pensions, and if they don't, as increasingly in Foster's dreamworld, the USA, they have to go back to work in Macdonald's till they drop in their tracks.]
Other clutchers-at-straws claim that what brought European countries to realize that their systems didn't work wasn't 14 million people milling around without jobs: it was the wise governance of the European Union!
[No, it was the introduction of waves of labor-saving technology on the promise of "easier lives for everyone" - with no automatic, unemployment-countering workweek adjustment in place to deliver on that promise.]
...The EU requirements to keep deficits to less than 3% of GDP were designed, it should be remembered, so that all its members could be herded into a single currency in order to complete the economic integration of Europe.
[Granted the single currency was premature economically - but not politically. And we note that in the meantime, Britain has moved its currency closer to possible union with the U.S. by losing shillings and reassigning 100 pence to the pound. And correct us if we're wrong, but unlike Canada, hasn't Britain retained Fahrenheit and miles instead of adopting the French centigrade and meters? All that remains is to start driving on the right and peg 40-50 pence to the dollar.]
One can argue about the merits or otherwise of adopting common currencies, but the bigger question was what this was all for. Visions of socialist superstates still dance in the minds of many who argue that "counterweights" are needed to the size and power of the United States. But counterweights for what?
To promote what?
If the ultimate purpose of European Unionists was a common political position, then that notion has been blasted to shreds by the Iraq war, and a good job too.
[If it hadn't been for France and Germany, who stood against it, all political opposition might have been intimidated into "a common political position" - which since it coincides with Foster's apparent Bush-worship, would probably induce him to suddenly oppose "blasting to shreds" a "common political position."]
But the internal Eurovision has also been fundamentally defective from the start, based as it was on an exclusionist trade bloc model.
[Foster has bought the neo-con neo-liberal agenda in every detail - what a nice neat and simple world - pre-emptive wars based on spectral evidence, and free trade forever (except when Bush wants US tariffs or tariff-equivalent foreign currency manipulations as Japan declined to implement last week).]
British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown raised a stir with an article in The Wall Street Journal, reprinted on this page last week, which castigated not only the trade bloc model but what he regarded as the continued flawed priorities of the European superpowers. Europe had, he said in so many words, to ditch the trade-is-war model and realize that it needs a strong America, not a weak one.
[Does Bush's unilateralist America "need" a strong Europe? Whichever answer you try tells you whether Europe "does" or "should" need a strong America. As the ancient rabbi said, "Fear those who fear you." And we remind Foster that he appears to be recommending an America-needing, dependent Europe here, while just above he was castigating Europe for its constitution-in-danger-of-becoming a "Declaration of Dependence." Make up your mind, Foster. We happen to believe it's better for European economies to be dependent on one another close at hand than on the superpower across the Atlantic, especially when its government has been seized by a cadre of ideologs like you.]
Meanwhile, there is no avoiding globalization, at least if you want to share in its benefits.
[What "benefits"? And by the way, if you check your history, we've phased in and out of one form or other of "globalization" for centuries.]
The founders of the European Union envisioned a single trade bloc that would integrate economically, culturally and politically. But economic integration [alias speculation, or "playing the float", or CEO-orchestrated looting and income concentration and self-absorption, or media control] noted the Chancellor, has gone global, while cultural and political identities have remained rooted in the nation state.
This means Europe has to ditch a number of flawed notions, including tax "harmonization," whose priority is that everybody pay equally, and through the nose. It must also accelerate its movement away from overregulation, must make its labour markets more flexible, and must become more outward-looking.
[This know-it-all is getting tiresome.]
But of course Brussels wasn't built in a day, and the bureaucratic megastate will not be quickly deconstructed. Among the less welcome German reforms, for example, is that the federal labour office is suddenly to change from being a doler-out of benefits to a finder of jobs. It may take some time for them to figure out that the best incentives to finding a job are (a) that you have to, and (b) that when you find it, you won't have to work half the week so that others can sit on their lederhosen.
[This 17th-century brain in the Age of Robotics will find rather that it's a matter of having to work only half the week so that others can get off their lederhosed butts and work for the other half, because if you work the whole 40-plus hour/week and the robots are already shouldering 10-15 of your hours and doing it faster and better, you're either going to have to starve the others or support them with charity, if not taxes. The big weakness in Foster's thinking is his facile assumption of the Infinite Employment Fallacy in the Age of Robotics. He wants increasing carrots for employers, but decreasing or zero carrots for employees. Foster wants only sticks for the unemployed, never mind training or good jobs. But if he forces unemployed programmers and lawyers to work at McDonald's, what's he going to use to justify continued import of desperate Turkish and African guest workers "to do the jobs no Brit or European wants to do"? Foster lives in a simple, old-fashioned world where resources are infinite, jobs are infinite, technology has no impact on the job market, everyone (else) should take off all their tariff clothes and stand tariff naked (regardless of what Foster himself "has" to do) and CEOs are just and wise. This will only change if and when Foster himself or a really close friend or relative is downsized instead of timesized. We've seen this before. Steve Roach of Morgan Stanley went round the world preaching the "Get out of my way!" partyline of nearsighted CEOs in the early 90s. Then his sister got devastatingly downsized and he became skeptical - what CEOs call, in polite company, a "contrarian."]
- Work-Life Balance: Backgrounder, press release from New Zealand Government.
In August this year, Labour Minister Margaret Wilson announced government would establish a work-life balance programme to develop policies and practices promoting a better balance between paid work and life outside of work. Prime Minister Helen Clark recently said the cutting edge policy for the future will be centred round the work-life balance area, looking at how people are balancing the demands of work and their life outside work. The next stage of the programme, the consultation phase, will begin in November, with an announcement from the Minister to be released, appropriately, around Labour weekend.
The following backgrounder may be of assistance to leader writers or columnists who may be considering this issue for Labour weekend coverage.
There’s a widely shared belief that New Zealand offers a special quality of life, that it’s a great place to raise a family and that we’re never far away from taking time out – that we are reasonably laid back and know how to enjoy ourselves. It’s an image that attracts people from all over the world to settle here. Over the past 20 years in New Zealand the demands of the modern workplace have been perceived as impacting heavily on family life and the ‘community’ as a whole. Balancing the demands of work and home is an increasing source of tension. To maintain and enhance that special quality of life we lay claim to, we need to take stock of how we – as individuals, employers, communities and a country are shaping our lives and
realising our potential. What’s at issue is the extent to which people have real choices and control over their
circumstances. Government believes that work is only one dimension of living and should not crowd out and distort family life, recreation and personal development.
The two biggest work-life balance problems are about those who don’t have enough work and the opposite, those caught in the all work-no life trap. In this second group, there’s the low paid people who need to work long hours to earn sufficient income, and the highly paid, who may feel coerced by workplace culture into working more hours than they want to.
New Zealand’s particular issues
There are nearly two million New Zealanders in the workforce. Our population is ageing and as the number of those of working age shrinks, it will become increasingly important to find ways to allow more people to actively participate in the workforce. We need to ensure as many people as possible can take part in work and we can attract skilled talent from overseas, while enhancing the quality of care for dependants and community cohesion. To do this, New Zealand has to reduce the barriers to work facing many people, especially those with caring responsibilities.
The far greatest numbers of companies in New Zealand are small enterprises. That means we face special challenges in optimising the way we work and balance our lives. We will need to be that much more innovative in our solutions so we can support and develop work-life balance in smaller firms. Provision of work-life policies may be more likely to be informal.
Many may already have effective arrangements in place that aren’t recognised as ‘work life balance’ policies as such.
Women particularly know all about juggling family life with either furthering their careers or fitting in jobs to
supplement the family income. It is now important that men be brought into that frame because they can also suffer from all work and no play, finding little time to spend with their children. The EEO Trust recently ran a Fathers’ Day survey which clearly showed men are saying they want more flexibility from work to be the kinds of fathers they want to be.
Work life balance has a lot to do with families but it’s not just about family issues. When work is impacting on life to the extent that it feels there is no flexibility or little choice, then it’s an issue, irrespective of age, gender or culture.
Progress so far
We are not starting with a blank sheet. A number of specific pieces of work with implications for work-life balance are currently under way across government. These include: the Taskforces on Pay and Employment in the public service and the public health and education sectors; amendments to improve the clarity of the Holidays Act; The Action Plan for New Zealand Women; further work on funding for early childhood education; and research into the extent to which childcare is a barrier to workforce participation for beneficiary families moving into employment.
The Paid Parental Leave policy has been in operation for a year now with about 14,000 families enjoying the benefits.
98% of mothers who have got paid parental leave are taking their full 12 weeks leave. A third of employers surveyed recently said the policy had positive impacts for their business, especially enhanced staff satisfaction and the improved likelihood of retaining experienced staff. Only 10% of employers had negative reactions. A recent analysis of work-life provisions in collective agreements in New Zealand showed that nearly half the agreements include the provision for compressed work weeks such nine day fortnights, 79% have a provision for part time work and 42% of agreements provide for time off in lieu.
The EEO Trust each year acknowledges companies who have introduced flexibility into their workplace and who have achieved the dual goal of increasing productivity and effectiveness in their business while enabling employees to better integrate their work and personal lives.
The Trust’s Work and Life Awards have been running for six years and include examples of companies who demonstrate that work-life balance can be a win-win situation, for employers and employees. Benefits reported by companies include increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and sick leave and better chances of attracting and retaining high performing employees.
Not surprisingly, research confirms that if people are allowed to work the hours or working patterns that balance their work and home lives, they are likely to contribute more to the company they work for.
The kind of work-life improvements being explored include options like time banking, where can staff can put in more hours at one time to take time off later or career break schemes where staff can leave for a certain length of time and return to their own job. Childcare and eldercare facilities, home working arrangements, term time working and nine-day fortnights are all examples of how companies have introduced flexible work arrangements.
Government policy has a significant influence on people’s work-life balance. It sets the ground rules for how workplaces operate, how people receive income support and assistance finding work, how people are educated and how childcare is structured and funded, among other things. Therefore government does have a major role in promoting work-life balance.
An essential part of a sustainable economy is having a sustainable workforce that can balance their work and their lives.
Work-life balance will contribute to both social and economic outcomes – it is an essential component of progressing these outcomes in tandem.
Government is looking for an overall outcome of improved work-life balance for all New Zealanders, but no decisions have been reached about the best way to achieve this. In the coming months, there will be a major stock take of the many ways in which government already impacts on people’s work-life balance and how best to coordinate those policies and practices.
We are also taking part in an OECD review of our family-friendly policies, which will give us a clearer idea of how our policies and practices compare with other countries. A scorecard will be established as a way of measuring how well New Zealand is doing over time and in comparison with other countries.
There is a national economic and social need for New Zealand to address work-life balance. It makes economic sense. It can enhance productivity and increase the quality of work. It can increase job satisfaction, reduce labour costs and help companies retain staff longer. Equally important, work-life balance strengthens families and communities.
What other countries are doing
In 2000, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) commented that the provision of family-friendly policies by employers across OECD countries was ‘patchy’. But work-life balance is on policy agendas as governments recognise the costs of protracted stress on individuals and families, stress related health problems and lost productivity. Where governments have developed integrated programmes, these have tended to focus on work and family. The first wave of policies have been on quite specific initiatives such as childcare and paid parental leave. The focus is now broadening, as countries understand more about the complexity of demands on business and on individuals.
The next steps
The consultation exercise beginning in November will involve employers, employees, communities and individuals throughout New Zealand. The aim is to accurately reflect the different realities that people face, and to get feed-back on factors that help people achieve some measures of work-life balance to identify examples of good practice that could be of use to others. The aim is to get people to start thinking about the issues and what helps them.
There will initially be consultation with key stakeholder and community organisations followed by discussions with a wider public, from February next year. People will be invited to say what work-life balance means to them and to give their ideas about what things work well at the moment and what could work better.
Government will consider policy options, based on all the material gathered and the findings from the consultation.
The work-life balance programme is about looking for the smartest ways to ensure we are making the best choices possible.
It’s about everyone who feels conflict in striking the right balance between work and ‘life’ – and at some time in our lives, that’s just about all of us.
A website has been established providing information about the work-life balance programme and how people can get involved. It also includes links to other sites featuring work life balance issues.
The website, operating from Labour weekend is *http://www.dol.govt.nz/worklifebalance.asp.
- Families come first for work-life balance, press release from NZ Green Party.
NEW ZEALAND - Green MP Sue Bradford has renewed calls for the Government to introduce four weeks annual leave for all workers as part of its work-life balance consultations. Ms Bradford, the Green spokesperson for Labour, said four weeks annual leave would only begin to redress the imbalance of 15 years of workplace encroachment on the lives of workers and their families.
"The Greens support the Government's intentions to redress the work-life imbalance but it is crucial
that the 'engagement process' actually engages action, not just talk," said Ms Bradford.
"It's no good talking pretty words about the work-life imbalance, the Government needs to put its money where its mouth is.
"The Government must support Matt Robson's bill as soon as it can, and it would do well to forget about this
clumsy incremental approach being proposed. "Splitting an extra week over three years would only slow down the reasonable progress New Zealand has made towards four weeks annual leave and would also impose unnecessary compliance costs onto employers.
[We have never been fans of 'shock therapy' and feel it did not work well in Russia in the 1990s. We are fans of Lao Tzu, who said, "Rule the empire as you would cook a small fish." - i.e., delicately.]
"Work-life discussions should also consider raising the minimum wage so that the many parents who are
currently forced into two or more jobs just to make ends meet can spend time with their families instead of passing like ships in the night," said Ms Bradford.
[The goal should be to reduce worktime, preferably in the form of the workweek and not merely the workyear, sufficiently that market forces will nudge up wages such that no further government interference in the form of wage controls will be required.]
Green support is essential for the Government to pass measures to redress the work-life imbalance.
"As far as we know, despite calling themselves family-friendly, United Future do not support an extra
week's annual leave for workers," said Ms Bradford. "Families have suffered because people's time has been encroached on by workforce casualisation, longer work hours and working more than one job just to make ends meet. "It's important we protect the needs of workers to have time out for themselves and to spend with their families. This includes flexible working hours to make it easier for workers to respond to family needs,rather than families having to respond to employers' wants," said
Green MP Sue Kedgley has drawn up a private member's bill, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Bill, which would allow employees with young and dependant children the right to request reduced, part-time or flexible working hours.
- Holidays plan makes farce of growth aims, press release from New Zealand Business Roundtable.
"The government's latest plan to legislate for 4 weeks annual holidays makes a farce of its professed 'top priority' goal of better economic growth", Roger Kerr, executive director the New Zealand Business Roundtable, said today.
"How can working less promote either higher incomes for workers or higher levels of output and growth?
[By removing resistance to robotization and spreading the jobs and spending power over the whole potential workforce instead of disemploying ever more employees and de-activating ever more consumers. Get your damn brain out of the 17th century and wake up to the impact of hyper-efficient and productive technology!]
"Parliament cannot legislate better conditions for workers out of thin air. If it could, why stop at 4
weeks leave? Why not legislate for 5 or 6 weeks, and throw in a 10% pay rise and a company car as well?
"Only increased productivity can support higher wages and longer holidays. The plan does nothing to increase productivity, and other anti-growth and anti-business policies are reducing potential productivity growth.
"Even Ross Wilson of the Council of Trade Unions recognises that workers largely bear the costs of extra mandatory holidays themselves when he says "workers had already helped to bankroll the exercise through years of accepting modest pay increases". In fact they have done no such thing, but they will face such offsets if longer holidays are imposed.
"Workers and employers are perfectly able to work out the combinations of pay, leave and other working conditions that suit their needs. Their needs and preferences are not all the same. Mandating an extra week's leave will be akin to imposing something like a 2% pay sacrifice on the average worker. Those hardest hit will be low income workers, who typically prefer more work opportunities and higher pay."
Mr Kerr said that the government's point that Australia has legislation providing for a minimum of four weeks annual leave was irrelevant.
"Australia also has average incomes, wages and productivity levels 20-30% higher than New Zealand's.
[And you think their work spreading has nothing to do with that?]
US productivity [cuz we don't count all our hours] and income levels [cuz we give it all to the top executives] are higher again, yet the United States has no mandatory annual leave and American workers typically take 3 weeks leave [we wish!] or less. There is widespread recognition in France that legislating for a 35-hour working week was foolish,
[not any more - wake up, little man, to the latest from Chirac.]
and incomes are stagnant in Germany and other European countries with long holiday provisions.
[That's because they need to go down further in their workweek and include all their 9-10% unemployed in the job market - and as confident consumers.]
Does New Zealand want to go in the direction of a bunch of economic losers?
[The economic losers you should be worried about are average Americans who are on a slippery slope to turning the U.S. into a giant sweatshop with mass unemployment and poverty, like India and China.]
"This issue is not about a better deal for workers, which only productive workplaces and a growing economy can deliver", Mr Kerr concluded.
[You're right. It's about a growing, instead of a shrinking, consumer base.]
"It is about union officials and politicians trying to attract support by pretending to help workers
but in reality dictating how they and businesses should organise their affairs, and making many worse off in the process.
[Nope, their demands just happen to coincide more with a growing consumer base than your narrow thinking.]
"Economically literate commentators should be exposing this charade, which is totally at odds with the government's professed interest in getting New Zealand back up the OECD income ladder."
[What's an ambitious SOB like you doing in a beautiful backwater like New Zealand. We'd be glad to eat you for lunch here in Boston or New York.]
- Work-life Balance - Summary of discussion at CTU Biennial Conference 2003,
press release from New Zealand Council of Trade Unions [CTU] Biennial Conference 2003.
In 2002 the CTU released the Thirty Families Report as part of the CTU's wider Get a Life! campaign. It highlighted that work hours was a significant issue for many workers, their families and communities. Since then the CTU has identified the need to build on the Thirty Families report by exploring other areas of work-life balance that are of critical importance to workers and develop organising and campaign activities that can contribute to improving work-life balance for workers.
Addressing the challenges of balancing work and life is developing political momentum. In August the Government established an interagency steering group chaired by the Department of Labour to develop and co-ordinate an integrated work programme to develop policy options around work-life balance. It is anticipated that this process will include substantive public consultation between late October and December 2003.
The CTU has developed a discussion paper to assist in informing the next phase of CTU's work programme relating to work-life balance. This conference paper summarises key points in the discussion paper.
What is work-life balance?
Discussion about the meaning of work-life balance often draws on the soft components of work-life balance such as free gym memberships and coffee machines at work. However, for unions, the fundamentals of decent work such as secure employment, decent pay, leave and working conditions, supported by quality and affordable care arrangements for their families, significantly enhance workers ability to balance work with the rest of their lives.
The right of workers to just and favourable conditions of work, and to rest and leisure including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay are fundamental human rights reflected in the International Bill of Rights and other United Nations Human Rights Instruments. In addition, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has a developed number of standards that support a range of dimensions of work-life balance.
The CTU's focus is on those measures required to create an environment where all workers, without discrimination, are able to choose employment arrangements that maximise their full potential in paid employment and family, social and cultural life. However, it is also recognised that the scope of issues affecting work-life balance go beyond people already in paid work and extend to unpaid work and broader issues relating to social safety nets.
What are the issues?
Although it is true that the availability of part-time work has enabled many workers to choose[??] less hours and spend more time caring for dependants, to study or pursue other interests, it is not a solution that delivers benefits to everyone.
There is also an ongoing challenge of ensuring this work is secure and meaningful for workers.
One of the most salient features of unions' experience is the way work-life balance is not a problem exclusive to one area and impacts on workers in all corners of the labour force. In addition, no single solution is capable of delivering work-life balance outcomes for everyone. Strategies need to be flexible, meet the needs of a diverse workforce and recognise the intersection of issues.
The concerns of unions are concentrated in six areas or work and life:
Life, family and community responsibilities.
- Modes of employment [meaning??].
- Hours of work.
- Leave entitlements.
- Workplace culture
The discussion paper explores these areas in detail and identifies a wide range of concerns including the effect of precarious employment arrangements, long hours, understaffing and excess workloads, under-employment, health and safety, breaks, eligibility for leave, pay discrimination, erosion of overtime, low pay, entrenched workplace cultures and the impact on wider family and community responsibilities.
Developing concrete actions that improve work-life balance in these and other areas identified in the discussion paper demand a broad range of responses from a range of players. The government, employers, unions and the community all have a role. The government has a clear role in leading by example as an employer, regulator and funder. Employers have an interest in the business benefits of work-life balance such as increased staff retention, reduced absenteeism, a better recruitment pool, increased staff loyalty, morale and job satisfaction, and improved public image. Unions on the other hand can take leadership through collective bargaining and advocating for improvements to the minimum code on behalf of members. Nevertheless, it is important to note that a core element of improving work-life balance is about changing the entrenched values and culture of workplaces....
From the outset, the Government has a clear role in taking the lead as an employer, funder and regulator. Areas where the Government can take the lead include:
1. Addressing information gaps and ensuring the collection of robust statistical data about casual, temporary and fixed term work in New Zealand.
2. Operating as a model employer and funder. This includes:
3. The continuous improvement of the minimum wage, and phasing out of the youth minimum wage.
- Ensuring that State sector employers recognise and support work-life balance.
- The Government engaging in responsible contracting to ensure minimum requirements relating to work-life balance are included contracts with the private sector.
- Ensuring that that work-life balance is a core consideration in policy making, implementation and evaluation.
- Strengthening EEO monitoring and compliance provisions in the State sector.
4. Adequately resourcing the recommendations of the Pay and Employment Equity Taskforce including those that will support the extension of outcomes to the private sector.
5. Amending the Employment Relations Act to provide greater recognition of collective bargaining.
6. Strengthening monitoring and compliance mechanisms in existing EEO legislation.
7. Greater protection of workers in various forms of precarious employment. This includes:
8. Amending the minimum code to extend leave entitlements. Th[is] includes:
- Tightening the use of fixed term contracts so workers are assumed to be permanent unless there is a genuine reason for not doing so.
- Ensuring coverage clauses in collective agreements cannot exclude casuals.
9. Legislating to provide breastfeeding breaks and facilities upon a return to work from parental leave.
- Legislating for four weeks annual leave.
- Removing the threshold qualifying period of six months for bereavement leave and special leave.
- Amending the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act to:
a) address the exclusion [from the Act?] of workers who work less than 10 hours a week;
b) address the exclusion of employees who have changed employers during the past 12 months;
c) increase period of leave to 14 weeks consistent with ILO Convention 183 on Maternity Protection;
d) extend entitlements to seasonal workers and workers subject to shutdowns;
e) consider the case for extending the scope of paid parental leave by introducing a partial levy for the self-employed, along the lines of the existing ACC levy on those who are self-employed; and
f) setting the payment level at 100% of earnings up to a maximum cap, set at the average male wage.
10. Specific recognition in the minimum code of the right to breaks during work time.
11. Ratifying ILO Convention 156 concerning the rights of workers with family responsibilities.
12. Ratifying ILO Convention 103 providing for paid breastfeeding breaks for women.
13. Ensuring the activities of the EEO Commissioner and EEO Trust are well resourced to enable both to develop streams of work contributing to work-life balance.
14. Reform of the benefit system. This includes a reduction of the abatement regime which is a high effective marginal taxrate for beneficiaries, and increasing benefits by $20 per week with the aim of progressively restoring benefit levels in real terms to 1990 levels prior to benefit cuts.
15. Improving access to quality affordable childcare and education including progressively introducing universal free early childhood education.
Unions have a distinct role and responsibility in collective bargaining and campaigning on behalf of members. However, this must be supported by robust collective bargaining provisions in the Employment Relations Act which provide that bargaining is a fundamental and/or defining characteristic of union membership.
Strategies for unions can include:
1. Continuing to bargain for improvements in collective employment agreements that improve work-life balance. This includes:
2. Campaigning for legislative change and ratification of international human rights standards. This includes:
- „« Improvements in pay, including the payment of overtime.
- „« Promoting recognition that workers, regardless of their mode of employment, have access to training and other career opportunities. This includes prioritising paid training in work time.
- Defining unreasonable hours and/or unreasonable overtime.
[Any overtime is unreasonable and should automatically trigger training and hiring.]
This includes the right to refuse unreasonable overtime in agreements.
- Developing guidelines or clauses relating to reasonable workload levels.
- Negotiating timelines relating to hiring replacement staff when an employee leaves.
- Specific recognition of breaks.
- Provisions that define when the distribution and number of hours in a set time period become the permanent hours of an employee.
- Extending the coverage and payment of paid parental leave and holidays above statutory minimum entitlements.
- Family friendly, work-life balance and EEO policies and programmes. This can include a array of provisions such as paid breastfeeding breaks during working time; religious and cultural leave for days of cultural significance; part-time employment options upon re-entry into work after a period of paid parental leave and access to phone calls to family during work time.
- Unions must also take the lead as model employers.
- Changes to the Holidays Act and Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act.
- Continuous improvements in the minimum wage and phasing out of the youth minimum wage.
- Specific legislative recognition of breaks during work time, including breastfeeding breaks.
- Strengthening monitoring and compliance mechanisms in existing EEO legislation.
- Organising around future recommendations of the Pay and Employment Equity Taskforce with a view to promoting pay and employment equity for all workers in the public and private sectors.
- Campaigning for the ratification of ILO Conventions 156 concerning the rights of workers with family responsibilities and ILO Convention 103 providing for paid breastfeeding breaks for women.
Next steps for unions include:
- Investigating the effect of the European Working Time Directive and options for specific recognition in legislation of the right to refuse "unreasonable hours of work" taking into account the needs of different industries.
- Contributing the perspective of the union movement in the context of the Government's consultation on work-life balance.
- Improving the sharing of information on experiences, policies and practices relating to work-life balance to shape where unions want to go.
- Developing a manual of model clauses relating to work and life for collective bargaining purposes.
- Organising around work-life balance in unions and developing union strategies.
10/22/2003 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/21 via GoogleNews & searched-collected-prescreened by Alan Applebaum of Brookline MA USA (except #1 &2, which are direct from the 10/22 NYT & WSJ hardcopies), - all excerpts & comments are by Phil Hyde unless otherwise noted -
- Union leader vows to fight Schroeder economic 'reform' plans [our quotes], by Bertrand Benoit.
BERLIN - Frank Bsirske, the chairman of Verdi, said yesterday that the German trade union would fight the government's economic and structural 'reforms' with all the means at its disposal.
The labour leader and Green party member urged members of his union, the world's
largest, to "interfere" in the political decision-making process but he stopped short of
calling for mass protest. German unions have been on the defensive since attempts to rally members against Chancellor Gerhard Schroeders 'reform' plans faltered this year after street protests failed to materialise.
[So Germans are losing their quality of life because they're not willing to fight for it? You gotta hand it to the French - they're out on the streets at the drop of a hat.]
IG Metall, the country's second largest union, saw its credibility further dented in June
when a politically motivated strike aimed at imposing a 35-hour week in the former East Germany flopped - the first such defeat in 49 years.
[Flopped for a lot of engineering employees but succeeded for steelworkers.]
Similarly, despite robust[?] opposition, Verdi, which represents service-sector employees, could not reverse government plans to extend weekend shopping hours.
[And this fight may have been irrelevant anyway. It should have been focused on keeping worktime-per-employee short regardless of how long worktime-per-business gets.]
These defeats hit organised labour [more like "these wimp-outs afflicted unfocused labor"] at a time when it was already losing influence. Not only has union membership been in decline for years but employers have been pulling out of collective wage bargaining, which large unions have used as political leverage for much of the postwar period.
[German labor has the same focus problem as American labor. They've lost focus on their power issue = keeping control of the aggregate supply&demand for labor by continuously reducing worktime per person to prevent a power-draining labor surplus in the context of constantly inrushing automation. Without this strategic all-points priority, labor has become irrelevant - to itself and to the overall progress of humanity.]
Underlining this loss of relevance, Mr Schroeder stayed away from the Verdi congress's opening on Sunday. Standing in for him, Joschka Fischer, the Green party foreign minister, told the assembly demographic change and globalisation had made 'reforms' unavoidable, "even painful ones".
[And these suicidal 'reforms' will further weaken Germany's already weakened consumer demand, and push the nation further down the dirt road to the Third World, same as Japan and the USA.]
Since the summer, Verdi and IG Metall have been treading a narrow path, criticising the government's labour law, tax and social security 'reforms' while seeking to avoid confrontation. Acknowledging the declining significance of sector-wide tariff negotiations as a political tool, Mr Bsirske said "tariff policy will not be able to make up for all that is being threatened in the field of social policy. We cannot confine ourselves to tariff talks. We must make our voice heard loudly whenever it comes to the interests of employees. We must interfere in the decision-making process of the political parties."
[Cut the talk and get those street protests going - that's evidently where union organization originally failed in the current episode of disempowerment.]
- The power nap's 15 minutes is over: An unlikely fad gets a rude awakening, by Sue Shellenbarger, WSJ, D1.
After a brief "power napping" craze in the late 1990s, workplace napping has retreated to the corporate closet....
[Never mind its scientifically documented boost for creativity, let alone productivity.]
Employers who allow shift workers, including [at] white-collar operations such as call centers, to take naps on their breaks dropped to 21% this year from 44% in 2002 and 48% in 2001, says a survey of 532 companies set for release next month by Circadian Technologies, Lexington MA. The study also found that more employers - 52% compared with 38% in 2002 - are punishing workers who catch a few Z's by reprimanding or suspending them....
[The self-important grind intensifies - along with humanity's deepening overpopulation, labor's deepening surplus, and everyone's creeping cynicism.]
Salaried workers are also seeing their employers back off policies that encourage napping, says Kevin Sheridan of HR Solutions, a Chicago mgmt-consulting firm. Snoozing in the office just "doesn't look good" to customers [so who does it in front of customers?] or co-workers [until they have a "nap attack"], he says.
[Here's the key element, as usual -]
With layoffs rife, "the last thing you want is to be viewed as the slacker in the naproom."
[unless you're Wally in the Dilbert cartoon strip (e.g., 11/02/2003 Boston Sunday Globe, cartoons 1) - whose approach to work, as colleague Kate points out, is looking more and more like a pathway to sanity in the face of top-executive stu- & cu-pidity. (Too bad they've got a "cu-" without a clue.)]
[Here's some of the scientific documentation -]
There's growing agreement among scientists and lawmakers that a nap at work can be a good thing. A 2002 study at Harvard University showed a midday nap can sharply improve performance on mental tasks.
[And now, in a completely opposite direction -]
State lawmakers are also cracking down on sleepy drivers,
[whom no scientists condone]
suggesting that employers might be held liable for demanding heavy overtime without taking steps to combat worker fatigue.
- New Jersey last summer passed Maggie's Law, making drowsy driving a crime.
- New York lawmakers are considering a similar measure....
- Employers looking for places to cut trim back worker flexibility programs, AP via Sioux City Journal Online.
[Here's the AP "take" on the following CCH press release.]
NEW YORK - Many employers who embraced telecommuting, job-sharing and compressed work weeks in the competitive job market of the 1990s are cutting back such "work/life" programs now.... "It's hard economic times [for employees, easy times for employers]," said Lori Rosen, a workplace analyst for CCH Inc., a Riverwoods, Ill.-based business information publisher that released a survey on work/life programs Wednesday. "People are saying where can I cut? And it's looking like they're saying, well this is a benefit. I gave it. I can take it away."
[And they can, as long as they are undisciplined by lack of employee retention alias high employee turnover, due to plenty of employee job options, due to general labor shortage.]
The survey of more than 400 employers found that companies offering job-sharing dropped from 37% in 2002 to 30% this year. Those offering compressed work weeks - programs that let workers put in their hours over four days rather than five - fell from 49% to 40%.
[So in this definition, compressed workweeks are irrelevant to reducing labor surplus - we need actual reduced workweeks alias timesizing.]
Telecommuting fell from 47% to 45%.
The survey, conducted in June, echoes findings by other workplace experts. When the Society for Human Resource Management surveyed its membership of personnel executives earlier this year, 55% said their companies were offering flextime, in which employees can shift their day-to-day work hours. Last year 64% of the companies offered flextime.
The number offering telecommuting, job-sharing and compressed work weeks also declined, but to a much smaller degree. It marked the first decline in family-friendly benefits after surveys chronicled their popularity rising through most of the 1990s, said Frank Scanlan, an SHRM spokesman.
Meanwhile, some companies are continuing to offer such programs but devoting much
less money and manpower to running them, according to a survey of personnel
executives earlier this year by the Alliance for Work-Life Progress and the newsletter
Work/Life Today. "The work/life area is sometimes considered something of a soft benefit, so it's often the first to go. It's expendable," said Sharon O'Malley, the newsletter's publisher.
...But SHRM's Scanlan said the benefits probably will rebound as the economy recovers and employers reassess matters.
[If the economy continues with a jobless or permanent job-loss "recovery", benefits and pay will continue to erode rather than rebound.]
"These are benefits that do wonders for morale, and employees love them," he said. "And they don't cost the organization a lot of money."
[No matter. Unless the labor surplus is reduced and the discipline of management restored, management will still go after cutting costs involving even just a little money.]
[Here's the original CCH press release -]
Worker Absenteeism Drops, But Could Rise Again, Says CCH Survey, SmartPros.
RIVERWOODS, Ill...- The rate of unscheduled absenteeism and the cost to employers of last-minute no shows dropped in 2003, according to a new survey. The 13th annual CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, shows that the absenteeism rate declined to 1.9% in 2003 from 2.1% in 2002, and the average annual per employee cost of absenteeism dropped to $645 from $789 in 2002.
The current economy may be among the factors in the overall reduced rate and cost of
absenteeism, experts say. "Employees may be more fearful of taking off time given the tight job market," said CCH workplace analyst Lori Rosen, JD.
[The higher the official unemployment rate, the much higher the actual un(der)employment rate, the greater the labor surplus, the higher the level of job insecurity, the lower the level of employee bargaining power, the more fear among employees of job loss, and the less free employees feel to push the envelope - including staying home when sick after using up all their sick days.]
"It's also worth noting that costs are down significantly, which is in part a result of the fact that employers have been aggressive over the past year at finding different ways to control wages. For example, many employees who are now coming back into the workforce are doing so at a lower rate."
The survey also found that most unscheduled time off, 36%, is due to personal interest. The remaining two-thirds of unscheduled absences are due to family issues, personal needs, entitlement mentality, and stress.
Organizations that report a below-average worker morale are more likely to have
unscheduled absences - the rate is 17% higher at these companies, says the survey.
Furthermore, whereas employers set aside an average of 4.4% of their budgets for
absenteeism, employers increase this to 5.3% when emoployee morale is factored
"This should be a real wake-up call for employers who think employee morale doesn't
matter or can easily be addressed," said Rosen.
Of the programs rated highest in curbing unscheduled absences, four of them provide
employees with greater control over when and where they work. These include:
Alternative Work Arrangements, Compressed Work Week; Job Sharing; and
Telecommuting. However, the survey reveals a decline in the number of employers
offering programs that provide flexibility. The work-life programs most likely cut are:
Compressed Work Week; Job Sharing; and Telecommuting.
Rosen noted that the decrease in work-life programs, which help people balance personal and professional demands, combined with employers' high expectations in a tight economy, could place greater strains on workers and result in higher absenteeism.
[So just dump the high-absence employees - such is the lethal license of labor surplus.]
An emerging issue that employers need to learn to manage, especially when so many are operating with as small of a staff as possible, is presenteeism. This is when employees come to work sick, explained Rosen.
"With fewer people doing the work, employers need greater productivity from each
person. Employees may feel pressured not to take time off or, on their own, may simply
feel they are too busy to miss work, even if they're legitimately sick. But when employees go to work sick, they risk infecting their co-workers and they're also probably not going to be effective."
CCH recommended that employers pay particular attention to employee morale in order to curb unscheduled absenteeism. Tips include:
For more on the survey, visit *cch.absenteeism.com.
- Have a flexible time-off plan
- Help employees to understand both the overall corporate scheme and specific processes of which they are a part
- Try to improve the interpersonal relationships of co-workers
- Institute employee suggestion and complaint programs
- Improve the chances for advancement for good employees. Improve the chances for advancement for good employees
- Choosing The Right Shift Schedule Optimizes Safety, Quality, And Production
Efficiency, press release by Circadian Technologies Inc. via PRNewswire.
LEXINGTON, Mass...- When demand rises, smart companies rise to meet it - by balancing production requirements with the needs of staff. Nomaco Manufacturing, which manufactures extruded plastic foam components, has an exclusive product utilized in the manufacturing of mattresses. High volume mattress sales made it necessary for Nomaco's plants to expand from manufacturing 5 days a week to 7 days a week. Over the past few months, increased demand has required an extraordinary amount of overtime on weekends. Nomaco selected a shift schedule designed to improve employee performance, safety, and health. The 12-hour shift schedule will provide every other weekend off (26 weekends off per year), culminating a three-month-long joint effort between management and employees.
[Ridiculous. No 12-hour shift is safe, healthy or efficient in terms of human performance. Circadian Technologies is incompetent and has fatally compromised itself in bowing to short-sighted, self-destructive, obsessively grasping and undisciplined management.]
"The facility was faced with a real dilemma - a new product quickly outstripped the
production capacity of the 5-day operation. It was creating a situation where employees were starting to have to work all their weekends to keep up with demand," confirmed Julian Young, Vice President of Operations at Nomaco.
["Having to work all their weekends"? - Only because Nomaco management is suicidally spoiled by labor surplus and intent on employee burnout and OK with the slow starvation of its own (and the economywide) consumer-base.]
"We contracted with Circadian Technologies, Inc. (CTI), a world-leading consulting firm in the conversion of 5-day operations to continuous operations.
[No, you'd already "contracted" a disease and in Circadian, you hired a "Typhoid Mary" to give you the coup de grace.]
"The business case for operating on a continuous basis was confirmed, and all required business needs and conditions were verified and explained to the employees and other stakeholders. CTI then worked directly with the employees to find a schedule that best suited the needs of the majority."
[Ha. A majority of job-desperate, easily replaced employees, in a national and global labor surplus.]
Circadian implemented a Shift Scheduling Optimization Process (SSOP) that provides
the means to determine the proper staffing and crewing to efficiently run the operation
continuously. The full 7-day operation provides a 40% productivity increase over the standard 5-day operation via adding a fourth crew to maintain an average 42-hour work week. The company selected a fixed 12-hour schedule that limits the number of consecutive work days to three in a row, provides for half of the days off each year, and also gives the employees every other Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. In addition, employees get every other Monday and Tuesday and every other Wednesday and Thursday off.
The schedule was implemented July 7, and the facility is now meeting its new demands without[?] having to overwork its staff. All manufacturing employees were involved in the schedule selection process. They received training on how continuous operations can be constructed, then completed a preference survey designed to pull out the schedule development criteria desired by the majority of the employees who would have to work the schedule.
[Oops. A Freudian slip. If the schedule is so great, why are we talking about it as if it's some kind of gauntlet that will "have to" be run?]
Circadian designed nine schedules, and the employees, through a dual ranking process, pared the options down to one preferred schedule. Employees will be surveyed after one year to assess the impact of the new schedule on employee performance, health, safety, and quality of life.
[The results of all such "employee friendly" and "democratic" surveys will be strongly influenced, not to say skewed, by the prevailing power gradient between employees and employers, and that in turn will be determined by the prevailing supply and demand of labor compared to jobs, that is, the prevailing labor surplus or shortage.]
About Nomaco Manufacturing:
Nomaco (No-may-co) was founded as a subsidiary of NMC S.A., their Belgian sister
company, in June of 1979.
[Wasn't it a Belgian king who continued slavery in Africa well into the 20th Century? See Adam Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost" (1998).]
The industries serviced include transportation, recreation, agriculture, toys, packaging, construction, OEM appliances and marine. Nomaco's manufacturing facilities (comprising over one million square feet) continue to expand, with plants in Zebulon, Youngsville and Tarboro in North Carolina.
About Circadian Technologies, Inc.
Circadian is the leading international research and consulting firm assisting companies
with extended hours operations to improve profits by increasing productivity and reducing the increased costs, risks, and liabilities of human factors. Circadian's mission is to empower its clients to effectively use extended operations to compete in the global 24/7 economy [buzzword alert].
[Circadian's focus on extended hours suggests they're empowering clients to compete in a race to the bottom.]
Extended hours operations encompass all work environments with irregular schedules, night and evening shifts, or extended hours, typically outside the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Since its incorporation by Dr. Martin Moore-Ede in 1983, more than half the Fortune 1000 has benefited by working with Circadian. For more information, visit www.circadian.com.
10/21/2003 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 10/20 via GoogleNews & searched-collected-prescreened by Alan Applebaum of Brookline MA USA (except #1, which is direct from the 10/21 WSJ hardcopy, & all excerpts & comments by Phil Hyde) -
- [more pressure for fluctuating adjustment of the workweek to automatically maximize consumer demand by guaranteeing full employment, alias Timesizing -]
Robot sales surge, by Elizabeth Olson, NYT, C3.
Record sales of industrial robots in the first six months of 2003 have reversed a two-year downturn, and point to a revival in the global market for the machines, according to a UN report. Sales of domestic robots to mow lawns or vacuum carpets fueled the sales. North America led the way, with sales up 35%. The EU posted a 25% increase in sales, and Asia registered an 18% increase - with Japan remaining the world leader in industrial robot use - in figures released by the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the International Federation of Robotics.
[Note that Japan, with the second-longest working hours per year in the industrialized world (after U.S.), has been in the economic toilet for over a decade. Recall Ford, "Let's see you unionize these robots!" Reuther, "Let's see you sell'em cars."]
- Short hours, big pay and other little lies from your future boss, WSJ, B1.
[This story is about how misleading some job offers are, and unfortunately, this story is just as misleading because the headline is the only place in the whole article where short hours are mentioned.]
- [short version]
Employers trim family friendly benefits, www1.hrnext.com .
[We had a previous article on this happening in the San Diego area on 9/27-29/2003 #8.]
As the economy continues to inch toward recovery [or further deterioration due to continued downsizing], more employers are targeting flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and job sharing for reductions, USA Today reports.
[Job sharing is splitting a "full time" 40-hr/wk job. It's a limited kind of the more general, flexible and useful work sharing (of the sort used in the Timesizing program), which redefines "full time" to less (or more) than a 40-hour week.]
It is the first time in years that employers have eyed these benefits, which many consider family friendly, for possible cuts, according to the newspaper.
The newspaper cites a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management that found fewer companies offering benefits like telecommuting, flexible schedules, and adoption assistance.
USA Today spoke with 20 employers and benefits experts to find possible reasons behind the cuts. They say that because the jobless economic recovery means that more workers are competing for the same positions, the benefits are no longer needed to attract and retain workers.
[As Samuel Insull, utilities executive and inventor of insulation, said, "My experience is that the greatest aid to efficiency of labor is a long line of men waiting at the gate." Quoted in Franklin Folsom's "Impatient Armies of the Poor" (1991) p. 217.]
Employers and benefits experts also tell the newspaper that rising healthcare costs are to blame for some of the reductions.
[Rising healthcare costs? What about super-rising executive pay?]
Many companies are trying to offset the increases in healthcare costs with reductions in what they view as nonessential benefits, according to the newspaper.
[Longer, original version -]
More companies downsize family-friendly programs, by Stephanie Armour, USA Today.
For the first time in years, companies are taking the ax to programs considered family
Telecommuting, flexible schedules, job sharing and other programs long championed as
critical for making companies responsive to family needs are being scaled back after
years of steady gains.
A survey this year by the Society for Human Resource Management found decreases in
the number of companies offering full-time telecommuting, flextime programs and
The organization, whose research is widely followed, is the largest in the world focused
on human resource issues. The survey is based on responses from nearly 600 of its
members, including small, medium and large employers. They were asked about more
than 190 benefits.
Bolstering the findings: Nearly a third of companies have cut the number of employees
who specialize in work-life benefits, according to a poll by the monthly newsletter
Behind the decreases, according to more than 20 employers and benefits experts:
The cutbacks could backfire if productivity gains suffer [productivity is hardly a problem in the Age of Automation] and could lead to retention problems as the jobless rate drops....
- Labor market. With 9 million people out of work, companies no longer need to offer varied benefits to attract and retain workers.
"Benefits went past what the market could bear, and now they're coming back into line," says Jim Bird, president of WorkLifeBalance.com, an Atlanta-based provider of work-life balance training.
[Not real helpful, Mr. "WorkLifeBalance". How about, "Went past what the bargaining power of employees could support" - now that they've totally lost their focus on keeping working hours short enough to prevent a power-draining labor surplus.]
- Productivity needs. In some cases, employers who have adopted family-friendly programs have found not all jobs are suitable to such arrangements. More than a quarter of supervisors say telecommuting can compromise job performance, says a 2001 survey by OfficeTeam, a staffing firm based in Menlo Park, Calif.... [However,] Eileen Petridis...a Cleveland mother of two and media relations specialist, says
telecommuting one day a week "is the main reason I'm still here"..\..
- Cost savings. Companies are looking for savings because of escalating health care costs. While making workers share more health costs ["share"?? did somebody say "share"?! - what's that?], some are dropping non-essential benefits. That includes such programs as adoption assistance, scholarships and child care referral services.
[The only thing that disciplines management is "retention problems" - and they require full employment. A 6% official unemployment rate, or anything over 2% officially, will hardly lead to retention problems.]
- Chirac reaches out to the people, by Philip Broughton, Telegraph.co.uk (UK).
VALENCIENNES, France - President Jacques Chirac, beset by falling popularity ratings, went to a troubled former industrial town yesterday to re-establish contact with ordinary France and try to show he is
more than a foreign policy leader. In Valenciennes, north of Paris, where the economy has been devastated by the decline of its coal and steel industries, he spoke of his social "crusade" to tackle the "grievous realities" of ordinary French life.
Monsieur Chirac, purposefully ignoring the would-be economic "reformers" in his party whom he
blames for making him unpopular [our quotes - at last he's waking up to what they really are], said his mission was to remedy the "social fracturing" of France.
During his visit Monsieur Chirac was greeted by thin crowds on a council estate rebuilt with
French and European Union money.
Monsieur Chirac's popularity has sunk below 50% for the first time since his re-election.
The status he won from opposing the Iraq war has been lost and voters are saying his
income tax cuts benefit only the rich, while the middle classes are being pounded with
increased petrol and tobacco taxes.
The visit to Valenciennes was vital to restoring his image as a man in touch with France's
problems and his speech would not have embarrassed a Socialist, or at least Social
During the past few days Monsieur Chirac has voiced his displeasure with his party's Right
wing. Unlike them, he sees no point in forcing through market and economic reforms in
France, as demanded by the EU.
France's deficit is already in breach of the stability pact rules and is showing no sign of
coming down, a fact which scarcely seems to bother Monsieur Chirac.
Unlike Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Germany, he is no hurry to restructure [or destructure] his economy.
At a private lunch for his parliamentary party, he said it was "stupid" to try to reverse the 35-hour working week, introduced by the last Socialist government and a favourite target for the "reformers." He said: "One cannot beg for social dialogue and then have a ruthless plan in mind."
[I.e., pull the kind of hypocrisy Bush did in pretending to want input before invading Iraq.]
In the latest polls, Monsieur Chirac's popularity sank below 50% for the first time since
before his re-election. That of his prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, is now at 37%.
Voters blame Monsieur Raffarin for aggravating the social situation with a bullying pressure to "reform."
Monsieur Chirac would rather see his government focus on social issues. In his speech
yesterday, he said: "Run-down housing, crime, unemployment, discrimination, increasing social inequality: these grievous realities must be seized upon."
He said these problems were not irreversible, but were "new frontiers of public action,
where we must act to defend our republican values". Monsieur Chirac added that economic progress should benefit everyone and "it is not acceptable in a country endowed with a tradition of public service that some areas fall by the wayside".
[Good God, Chirac is a changed man - he's seen the light! - had a "Road to Emmaus experience" like St. Paul! There may yet be hope for France.]
- [Please patronize our worksharing timesizers -]
Sanyo Electric finds itself in the spotlight - Quiet leadership in number of hot devices is getting attention of some investors, by Phred [huh?] Dvorak, WSJ, C13.
[Flashback to two years ago (12/21/2001 #1) - "Hitachi, Toshiba introduce work-sharing programs," Kyodo via AP-NY-12-19-01 1251EST via AOLNews, stated "Sanyo Electric Co. also plans to introduce a work-sharing scheme next spring ." Haven't heard much more about it but apparently it's working out -]
TOKYO: Quick: which is the world's biggest digital-camera maker? No, it isn't Sony or Canon, despite all the Sony and Canon equipment on the shelves of your neighborhood camera shop.
About 30% of all digital cameras are made by Sanyo Electric, although the bulk are produced for other companies to sell under their own brands. That quiet leadership in a number of hot gadgets and devices [difference?] is making Sanyo, a company that started out 50 years ago making bicycle lights in Osaka, Japan, an increasingly attractive-looking investment....
[And just as nobody wants to compete with constantly-innovating-due-to-worksharing Lincoln Electric, nobody wants to compete with Sanyo either - recently Kodak's execs have got the bright idea to move into digital cameras and found themselves in the midst of a stockholder revolt - see "Kodak's net slid 64%...amid shareholder dissent over a new digital strategy," pointer blurb (to A6), 10/23/2003 WSJ, front page.]
- Alarm over sleep-deprived workers, Sydney Daily Telegraph.
AUSTRALIA - Dog-tired doctors making life-or-death decisions, sleepy train drivers conveying hundreds of commuters, weary firefighters battling blazes - these are just some of the 63% of Australia's workforce who are sleep-deprived.
Healthworks chief executive officer Ken Buckley said he was alarmed at a new finding
that 78% of Australian employees have felt too tired to perform basic duties at
work at least once.
Nearly 40% have fallen asleep at work one or more times, and 63% said
they were chronically sleep-deprived.
"You go to the hospital and you've got doctors working 12- or 14-hour shifts back to back and they're exhausted," Mr Buckley said.
"You've got professionals, blue-collar workers, people from all walks of life and in all
sorts of positions responsible for other people's health and safety, saying they are just too tired."
Around 30% of those surveyed by the occupational, health and safety consultancy
admitted late nights out and family pressures were causing their tiredness, but many more said work itself was preventing a good night's sleep.
The survey of employees at 425 companies revealed 24% thought workplace
anxiety and stress was causing their fatigue, 19% blamed long work hours and a further 19% said shift work was the problem.
In a reasonable hours test case last year, the ACTU gave evidence that work
intensification including longer hours, fewer staff, increased responsibility and a faster pace of work, affected all industries.
The ACTU argued that work intensification almost always leads to fatigue.
It has said Australia had the second longest working hours in the OECD.
"We have to supply people with more resources, more flexible work times, more
encouragement to get a good rest at night because fatigue is a major factor in workplace accidents," Mr Buckley said.
A pervasive culture of shaming the ill or fatigued into "working through it" was taking its
toll, he said.
"We've had this culture of blaming the victim rather than saying it's a workplace issue
and we need realistic hours and shifts, and time to recover from onerous shifts," Mr Buckley said.
"Employers also need to encourage people to take breaks through the day and work regular hours, cut back on overtime.
"If you expect people to work 60 or 70 hours a week it affects problem solving, they get sick, their productivity drops, their concentration goes out the window."
Of the organisations surveyed, 13% provided a sleeping area at work and 17% said they asked tired employees to take breaks.
Sixteen% said they advised obviously fatigued workers to go home and sleep, but
38% said they would not take action to address the fatigue of their staff.
- Three articles in Business Week unintentionally describe our country's betrayal of
working-class Americans, by Chuck Kelly, OpEdNews.Com.
...Three articles from the [October 20, 2003] issue of Business Week [that] summarize our country's betrayal of its working-class citizens [are -]
Key statements in these articles:
- The Productivity Boom Is Just Warming Up....
- U.S.: A Jobs Recovery, Yes. A Hiring Boom, No. Intense cost pressures and weak pricing will keep payrolls from surging....
- Italy: Trying To Ease The Pension Squeeze
[More on the third one -]
- "The evidence on productivity is particularly important since growth in
technology and productivity are the most significant determinants of
improvements in the standard of living." That should be a true statement,
but, today, it's only true for investors because they have all the power....
[and employees are a cheaper and cheaper surplus commodity.]
- "The large spurt in technological progress during the past 8 years is
mainly due to...rapid progress in computer capabilities, the explosive
growth of the Internet, advances in cellular and other wireless technologies,
the growth of fiber optics, advances in biotech, greater world competition for
U.S. companies." And all of this progress helps American corporations to [slash their home consumer base by outsourcing jobs to low-wage economies, thus deepening the American labor surplus and cheapening American employees further].
- "Companies face unusually intense cost-pressures that were rare or
nonexistent in prior upturns. Global competition, soaring healthcare
expenses, and the need to restore pension-fund assets are eating away at
profit margins at the same time that businesses have little pricing power in a
low-inflation economy." Meaning: If investors and top corporate executives
are to continue getting incredibly richer, they must continue the present
practice of taking all the benefits of productivity for themselves. Forget
healthcare and pension benefits for workers - more money for the top brass
is all that counts [and sooner or later that causes steep drops in consumer markets.]
- "...Temp workers, part-time employees, and work-time management have
allowed companies to delay hiring full-time workers.... A greater number of
job losses in this business cycle are permanent." Meaning: globalization is
only the biggest cause of job loss and lower wages in the U.S....
[No it isn't. Downsizing instead of timesizing in response to efficient technology is the biggest cause of job loss. It's been going on for 200 years and only war and plague have destroyed the labor surpluses that would otherwise have resulted in the dread Black Hole Economy earlier (though we came close in 1929-41). Globalization came only in the last decade when the communication and transportation technology was available and when the labor surplus had weakened employees beyond their powers to resist.]
- "...The success businesses have had in cutting payrolls and holding the line on
wage gains means labor's share of national income continues to fall this year,
as profits' share keeps rising." Meaning: investors and top corporate
executives are cannibalizing their own consumer base - and are teetering at the razor-thin top of an unsustainable and increasingly fragile income tower.
- "History has shown that both can be satisfied, but only if demand-growth
accelerates to a point that enables the economy to accommodate both its
productivity trend and the desires of job seekers"..\..
[But past a certain level in the concentration of the nation's income and wealth, there's no way that demand-growth can keep up.]
The article about Italy requires more extensive discussion: "Berlusconi appears
ready to go head to head with the unions, but he also faces opposition within his
coalition government, especially from the Northern League party."
- Italy: Trying To Ease The Pension Squeeze.
Is Italy getting serious about pension reform? Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has
made it the focal point of his 2004 budget, even taking the unusual move of going on
national television to plead his case. Berlusconi appears ready to go head to head
with the unions, but he also faces opposition within his coalition government,
especially from the Northern League party.
Beginning in 2008, Berlusconi's plan would require all workers to amass 40 years of
pension contributions, up from 35 years, with penalties for early retirement. From
2004 to 2007, as an inducement to delay retirement, the plan would pay workers
eligible to retire under existing rules a bonus of 32.7% of their salary, equivalent to
the contributions they and their employers would continue to pay into the system.
Unions, which are receptive to the work incentives but opposed to a longer
contribution period and penalties, have set an Oct. 24 strike date to protest the
[But where are the jobs?]
This statement is a brief description of the philosophical discussion that is going
on in every country: to what extent will the rich share the benefits of the economy
with those who work for a living? Italy, along with some other European countries, decided to fulfill the promises made decades ago that their workers should share in the benefits of productivity
and technology improvements. They continued to pass national legislation that
provided for better benefits, better working conditions, and shorter working hours.
Result: investors have abandoned these countries in favor of countries that were
willing to brutalize their workers.
[Who cares? Investors aren't where it's at, though they think they are, and their media assume that they are and many people buy their line. The key market is the job market, which doesn't even enter into calculations of the main "scoring" index, the GDP, but which is the anchor of the consumer market. And the consumer market has been contributing 67% to the GDP but it's now down to 65% and falling.]
The U.S. [has] better working conditions than most other countries, but they are deteriorating. We're in the process of joining countries such as Indonesia, China, Guatemala, etc. in the race to the bottom - with the rich getting incredibly richer, and middle and lower-class Americans working harder for less
And to think that 50 years ago we were predicting - and promising workers - that we'd have 35-hour, 3-day work weeks, with five weeks vacation per year, by the year 2000, along with better health care and pension benefits. We got workers to contribute to corporate productivity by making such promises.... Those things didn't happen [and] it's time for a change (see A *voter's guide for taking back our government).
Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
1998 and previous years.
For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, 'flung' into print as a campaign piece during the 1998 race for Joe Kennedy's empty Congressional seat. The handbook is available online from *Amazon.com.Top |
Questions, comments, feedback? Phone 617-623-8080 (Boston) or email us.