Timesizing® Associates - Homepage

Timesizing News, February 21-29 and March 1, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080


2/28-3/01/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 2/27-29 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #5 which is from the 2/28-3/01 WSJ &/or NYT hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -

  1. [superiority of shorter hours proven again -]
    2/27   Workers return to shorter shifts - Standard Register employees worked 11-hour days for more than a year, by Michelle Starr, York Daily Record [PA].
    YORK, Pa. - Standard Register’s union voted to return most of its workers to their 7½-hour workday after more than a year of pulling 11½-hour shifts.
    In December 2002, the union at the Springettsbury Township [office-supplies] plant agreed to try longer shifts, and the company agreed to switch back to the old schedule if the plan didn’t work. At the time of the changes, the company said the longer hours would allow it to maintain a competitive edge for serving clients and to reduce high costs of starting, stopping and restarting presses. Employees would work longer hours, but they would have more days off in a row.
    Since that time, productivity at the plant dropped, said Darrell Lewis, president of Graphic Communications Union Local 594. “It was long days, long hours,” Lewis said. “We have a lot of older workforce. Out of this, we have lost a lot of good people.”
    Others felt stuck. “I’ve been with the company 15 years,” said Mike Pressel, union member. “I have enough time invested in the company not to leave, but I wasn’t happy.”
    Wednesday night, 140 of the 220 union members voted in favor of switching back to the shorter hours, while 19 opposed the plan. The remaining people did not attend, Lewis said.
    “I know it’s going to improve production,” Lewis said. “Everybody was tired. Twelve-hour days don’t work.”
    The switch back will take place March 22.
    John Leber, who was president of the union during the previous shift change, declined to comment.
    Standard Register is based in Dayton, Ohio, and specializes in customer-printed documents, labels, document management services and commercial printing.
    Julie McEwan, public relations manager at Standard Register, said some employees will remain on an 11½-hour shift if they work with equipment that takes longer to set up....
    Two weeks ago, the company reported a drop in revenue from $257.8 million during the fourth quarter 2002 to $225.1 million during the same time last year, according to documents filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission. For the year, revenue declined from $1.028 billion in 2002 to $916.3 million in 2003. Pricing, demand and increased plant costs because of associate retirements, overtime, training and other costs associated with plant consolidations negatively affected performance in 2003.
    Pension costs rose because of an unusually high number of retirements, which the company attributed to favorable interest rates, the filings stated.
    Dick Boyd, president of the York Adams County Central Labor Council for the AFL-CIO, said, in general, once workers pass that 8-hour mark, the job wears on a person. “It’s just something about being there that long that you lose some of your edge being productive,” Boyd said.
    Pressel said the shorter shifts will give him time in the evening for his girlfriend and her daughter. “It really disrupted family life,” Pressel said.

  2. [meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler is going the opposite direction = backwards -]
    2/29   DaimlerChrysler to reinstate 40-hour week for some employees, Bloomberg.com.
    SINDELFINGEN, Germany - DaimlerChrysler AG, the world's fifth-largest carmaker, will reinstate a 40-hour work week for some employees at its main German factory, making the company the first to extend working hours following an agreement with unions this month.
    About 10,000 people, or a quarter of the Sindelfingen, Germany plant's workforce, in the development and planning departments will increase the number of hours they work to 40, said company spokesman Thomas Froehlich, confirming a report in the Stuttgarter Nachrichten.
    The move follows wage negotiations this month between German employers and metal, electronics and car workers in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg who won a 2.2% wage increase starting in March. The talks also led to an agreement which allows companies to extend working hours without extra pay.
    Under the terms of the agreement, employers may allow 50% of their ``highly qualified'' staff to work 40 hours per week.
    [Oh gee, what a "privilege"!]
    IG Metall members' working week is 35 hours. Employers may also ask staff to work as many as 40 hours per week without paying overtime surcharges.

  3. [but back in the US of A, others are moving in the right direction -]
    2/27   Deficit in social capital, letter from the editor by Richard Lodge, Weston Town Crier [MA].
    METROPOLITAN BOSTON WEST, Mass. - We work too much and our commutes are too long. As a society, we're losing our grasp on our communities, and it has been happening for years.
    If you're 35 to 50 years old, chances are good you're less involved in civic or school organizations than your parents were three or four decades ago. It's likely you spend more time on the road taking your kids to soccer games in another town than you do inviting your neighbors over for a Saturday night cookout or volunteering at the food pantry.
    Yesterday, at least 100 people from throughout MetroWest took the town of Ashland, Leadership MetroWest Alumni Association and the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce up on an offer to talk about "social capital" and the importance of civic engagement, a fancy way of saying "people involved in their towns."
    Lew Feldstein, president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and co-author of "Better Together: Restoring the American Community," talked a lot about social capital, which is sort of the community tapestry that is woven when people get involved on many levels. He said social capital can be defined as your network of connections in your life. "Who you know matters. Your network of friends, associates and connections makes a difference," he said.
    Feldstein cited statistics that show people who join an organization - whether it's the Kiwanis Club, a church group, a PTO, it doesn't really matter - have a 50% decrease in the likelihood that they will die that year. Join two organizations and the threat of dying drops another 25%, he said.
    "Being connected is critical to your life," he said. The converse - being alone and isolated from the community - can be fatal, something proven after devastating heat waves in Chicago and across Europe in recent years. When authorities studied the lives of hundreds of victims, they found the vast majority of victims were alone, had no strong family or neighborhood connections, and no real links to their larger world.
    Feldstein said building social capital is important, but not easy. A national study cited by Feldstein found that participation in 32 national voluntary organizations had dropped steadily since an all-time high just after World War II. "We're talking a 20 to 30% drop in every one of these organizations in every part of the country," Feldstein said.
    [Whoa, this is the first data we've had on this, though we've been talking about it every since our political campaigns 1996-2000. And from this article, it looks like volunteer organizations are starting to wake up to the priority of workweek reduction, for their own sake. Our first pre-publication copy of Timesizing, Not Downsizing, was purchased by Ruy Costa, then of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, because he was concerned about people's lack of time for their spiritual lives. And then there's the need of free time for responsible citizenship and voting -]
    There are loads of reasons why people don't vote, they don't join, they don't run for office, they don't get involved in a church or temple and they don't even have as many parties at home as our parents' generation did. Keefe Tech Superintendent Peter DeWar talked about his two sons who entered the work force, one as a college intern, the other as an employee at a Framingham manufacturer. His concern, he said, is that employers want more and more of an employee's time and commitment, which takes away from the time that might go toward civic engagement back home. DeWar said his younger son, interning at a company, is "getting the same feeling from the corporate world: Come to us and we own you."
    Lynn Sand, director of the I-495 Partnership, noted that she is raising her four children and trying to teach them the importance of civic involvement. "We are not all innocent bystanders. How many of you teach your children to be engaged with you?" she asked.
    One speaker said this steady unraveling of the sense of community is self inflicted. By letting the workday encroach so heavily into the other hours of the day, we're doing this to ourselves.
    Cesar Monzon, a Framingham resident who works for the U.S. Census, said current data shows the average commute for a Bay Stater is about 26 minutes a day. That translates into an entire week every year spent driving to and from work.
    Feldstein pointed to the longer commute as one problem leading to this unraveling. He also noted that we work longer hours ("40 days per year more than our parents' generation"); more women have gone to work outside the home, draining away people who had, traditionally, helped build social capital; and TV watching has worked to isolate individuals and fragment the community.
    What can be done?
    [Hmm, same question as in the story below.]
    One thing was obvious, in light of the almost standing room only turnout at the Warren Center in Ashland yesterday: Keep the discussion going, hold more such forums and sharpen the focus on ways to get people involved. Hopkinton went so far as to form its own civic engagement committee, according to its chief, Trish Perry. "We're trying to convince committees, the sooner and earlier you involve people, the more they'll get engaged" in issues facing the town, she said. It's unlikely many towns will form civic engagement committees, given the difficulty in some areas of getting enough people to be on committees in the first place. But the spirit is there in Hopkinton, and it was alive and fully engaged yesterday in Ashland.
    [Cut the feel-good rhetoric and get strategic - what can be done is: timesizing, in any ways, shapes or forms you can think of to fit your situation.]

  4. 2/28   Rat race a reason for birth dearth - In Friday's Budget statement, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong revealed that Singapore's birth rate last year fell to a nadir of 1.26, one of the lowest in the world - The Sunday Times takes a look at what can be done to fix this, by Li Xueying, Straits Times.
    [Ah, let's get some reality into this story upfront. It argues the right deed = cut the workweek - for the wrong reason = increase the birthrate. So - So this article is way waaay weird.]
    SINGAPORE - The Straughans should have been the poster parents for those who 'have three, or more if you can afford it'. After all, both are well-paid professionals, have an experienced maid to help out with chores, and a loving mother to baby-sit their kids. Sociolog[y professor] Paulin Straughan, an expert in population and family life, realises more than most people the need for Singapore to arrest the slide in its birth rate.
    [More likely, if she has half a brain, the need for Singapore to back away from 3rd highest population density in the world. Let's "get down" to a more comfortable 2,964 people per sq km with the West Bank and Gaza (4th place), or a breezy 1,230 with Malta and Gozo (5th place: from Gaza to Gozo), or an absolutely patrician 1,128 with Bermuda (6th place).]
    But despite the temptation of having a girl to add to their sons, Robbie, 12, and Timmy, 9, they are stopping at two. 'Given our circumstances, we should have been very comfortable. But we still find it difficult, and we're struggling to give them all the time and attention that we want,' said Prof Straughan....
    'Things are just about manageable now, but if we have one more, it will tilt the balance. It will also take away the time we're now giving our sons.'
    Their situation is hardly rare. Singaporeans' pursuit of excellence is leading, ironically, to the dearth of births.
    [There's nothing ironic about it at all. If you're pursuing excellence, you're interested in quality, not quantity.]
    Parents here want the best for their children, and if that's not attainable, they'd rather not have them, said Prof Straughan.
    The nub lies in the cost - in terms of money and time - needed to bring a child up.
    [Nice to hear somebody in the world is considering these factors before jumping into spawning. After all, any insect can reproduce physically. Only humans can reproduce intellectually.]
    There are two areas of monetary cost - the basic one that provides for necessities, and the 'value-added one which you aspire for your kid for him to be at the front', said Prof Straughan. These are the extras, such as tuition and music lessons, which have become 'must-haves' for many parents.
    'The race is competitive and that head start can be crucial,' said Prof Straughan. 'There is very little room for late-bloomers. And unfortunately, if you fall out of the education system, you're marginalised in our society.'
    A 2002 Straits Times survey found that the education costs for a child, from pre-primary to university, totalled $77,353.
    [So if Singapore's wealthiest taxpayers really want to jam their island's bulging population to the gunnels, they could cut the homiletics and assume more of the general public's education costs.]
    Education policies such as Primary 2 streaming and four exams in a year mean it has also become crucial for parents to invest time and attention in guiding their kids through the minefields.
    So what can be done?
    [...Hand wringing, stage right... - compare same question in story above]
    Prof Straughan says monetary incentives are a 'superficial, short-term' measure. What's more important is a hard look at the root of the problem.
    [Still the "problem" of low birthrate in a 6-7 billion population world? Uh uh, especially not in Singapore.]
    Policymakers, in areas from education to labour, have to consider how their policies may affect the family function. Companies should be family-friendly, by instituting a five-day work week,
    [what is it now, 5½ like South Korea (till July when they cut to 5)?]
    and be more flexible by allowing parents to take an hour off to collect their children from school, she said. 'It's all about balance.'
    The problem is less severe among Malays, the only group reproducing enough to replace its population. Its 1999 birth rate is 2.42, compared to the Chinese group's 1.3 and the Indians' 1.58. This is because Malays tend to be more traditional on the gender division of labour, said Prof Straughan. This stems from a strong community network - a result of a common religion - leading to greater social policing. As Chinese and Indian women tend to be more highly-educated, the opportunity costs are higher if they give up their careers to have children.

  5. [meanwhile, back in the US of A again, an item that ties longer hours to the loss of the American dream and the erosion of the middle class -]
    2/29   Jobs, from Bangor to Bangalore, letters to editor, NYT, 4:12.
    ... By Orla Dermody of Urbana IL.
    Bob Herbert's defense of the average worker (column, Feb.23), while noble, is based on the myth of the American dream.
    Who is the average American worker? Large swaths of the population have worked for years at the minimum wage. In addition, they struggle in the healthcare bracket between Medicaid and insurance.
    The outrage at the economic stresses on the previously comfortable middle class is justified, but it sounds hollow, I'm sure, to those who have no hope of reaching middle class.
    Even in high-quality jobs, employees work more hours for fewer benefits [than a generation ago and] than in comparably wealthy countries like...France or Germany.
    [Orla included Britain, but stories from Britain indicate they may not be such a good example any more. Try Denmark and Belgium, according to the list at the bottom of our workweeks page.]
    Purveyors of the American dream should consider that years of complacency among trade unions and legislators in the face of longer working hours and rising health costs are also responsible for the instability the middle classes are facing today.

  6. [and here's some of that trade union, legislator and employee complacency at work -]
    2/29   Overtime change picking up speed despite criticism - Numbers on how many lose time-and-a-half  pay differ, by Bruce Alpert, Newhouse News Service via Houston Chronicle.
    WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is moving ahead with plans to revamp the nation's overtime laws this month, rejecting opposition from labor groups that dispute White House estimates on how many workers will lose the right to time-and-a-half pay for putting in more than 40 hours a week.
    How the administration deals with the issue will not only affect the household incomes of many Americans and the bottom lines of employers but could emerge as an issue in a presidential campaign already dominated by the question of whether administration trade policies are hurting workers.
    Labor Secretary Elaine Chao recently rejected a call by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to delay implementation of the rules so a study could be done to determine whether the administration or its critics are right. Such a study would put off action until after the November presidential and congressional elections.
    Chao said the new rules are designed to bring clarity to outdated regulations that are so difficult to interpret that issues of worker pay often are left to expensive and time-consuming litigation. Moreover, she said at a Senate hearing that the new rules provide guaranteed overtime to a group of workers who need it the most — those making up to $22,100 a year, an increase on the current ceiling of $8,060.
    But opponents paint a drastically different picture of the new rules, which also expand the definitions of professional workers exempted from overtime. Instead of exempting workers who "customarily and regularly exercise discretionary and independent judgment," the new definition is broader to incorporate people who "hold a position of responsibility." The definition of professionals exempted is expanded to include not only workers with advanced degrees or postgraduate study, but those with special work experience or training. Salaried employees who make $65,000 or more would be automatically exempt from overtime pay.
    The administration says 644,000 workers nationwide might lose rights to collect overtime for working more than 40 hours a week. The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank whose statistics are often cited by unions, puts the number at 8 million. "The administration has a funny way of saying that 'it's not our intent to deny all these millions of people overtime rights,' " said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president and policy director for the Economic Policy Institute. "But if the rules say that employers don't have to pay overtime, you can be pretty sure that they won't."
    Although Chao said police officers, firefighters and nurses won't lose their rights to overtime, the institute said the draft rules prepared by the Labor Department don't give workers any such assurances. That has generated campaigns by groups representing police, nurses and paramedics to urge Congress to intercede. "We're making our concerns known to Congress that any tweaking or changes in overtime rules could make it easier for cities to take away overtime from police officers who, particularly in ... places in the South, depend on overtime because the initial pay is quite low," said David Benelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans.
    The American Nurses Association, which represents the nation's 2.7 million practical nurses, is worried that hospitals and nursing homes will use the expanded exemptions in the new rules to deny overtime. "The administration has said this won't affect nurses, but we're not certain of that," said Carol Cooke, the association's spokeswoman.
    One reason for the huge disparities between the Labor Department and Economic Policy Institute numbers is how each does the counting. The administration said it based its numbers on the current number of white-collar employees who collect overtime and might not be guaranteed such benefits when the new rules go into effect. That's the most accurate estimate, the administration said.
    The nonpartisan think tank counted the number of people eligible to get overtime, including those who may not be collecting it because their employers limit their time to no more than 40 hours a week. Eisenbrey said the reason the institute's calculation makes sense is that if the new rules let employers require longer workweeks without paying overtime, many will do so.
    Michael Eastman, director of Labor Law Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the new rules, while far from perfect, bring clarity to labor law and would help reduce the huge costs in litigation to decide whether workers are fairly or unfairly denied overtime.
    Some chamber members, he said, are concerned about the additional costs of paying overtime to low-income workers not now guaranteed 1½ times their normal rates after 40 hours of work, but that it decided those costs were "balanced" by potential savings in litigation. "What we're really concerned about are the relatively highly paid class of employees who, after the fact, file suits claiming they should have been paid overtime all along," Eastman said. "It's a boon for plaintiffs attorneys but is costing our members a lot of money in legal bills."
    The GOP-led Senate and House voted last year to bar immediate implementation of the new overtime rules, but that language was stripped from a spending bill when the Bush administration objected.
    Despite continued pressure to delay the new rules, Chao told a Senate hearing that she wants to proceed as planned this month. "It's been almost a year since we first published our proposal," Chao said. "We have since reviewed thousands of comments, we have listened to members of Congress, and we intend to put forward a revised, final rule that is responsible and responsive to the public record."

  7. 2/28   Why more work equals rage, by Adele Horin, Sydney Morning Herald.
    SYDNEY, Australia - If men are supposed to work until they drop, it won't be long before they start to lash out at women. The Mummy Wars, between mothers in paid jobs and mothers at home, will seem like a minor skirmish compared with the coming fight between overworked men and underworked women. How long will it be before the long-hours blokes come to see bourgeois women as lazy gym bunnies who hold down itty-bitty jobs even when their kids are teenagers?
    There are many good reasons to explain why mothers spend fewer hours, months and years in the paid workforce than fathers. For a start, this Government has imposed financial penalties that make it difficult for many mothers to return to work after having raised young children. And, of course, everyone knows women still do most of the housework, and child care.
    But some women have no excuses. They are well-educated, skilled, have one or two offspring now almost grown, who can catch the bus by themselves or drive the family car. By choice these women don't work much, or even at all. They toil a couple of days a week in publishing, or put in a few mornings in their husband's office. Their husbands are overworked. But these women are "over" work.
    "My wife does a lot of Pilates," a father of teenage children told me recently. He was not hostile, just puzzled at how Pilates could fill a day.
    A mother of my acquaintance, who has managed to whittle her work hours to a bare minimum, still finds it, frankly, a bit too much.
    Until now this behaviour has been acceptable enough. Australia has a culture of mothers working part-time, often quite short hours. It is the norm. Indeed the percentage of women in full-time work has stayed virtually the same - about 35% - since 1966. All the growth in women's participation has been in part-time work. And many men have liked it that way because it excuses them from domestic duties.
    However, a brave new future is being plotted for us. The Treasurer, Peter Costello, says retirement is a thing of the past.
    [Apparently Australia is copycatting the retirement deterioration of the once-great USA.]
    Since the Government has a blind spot about working women the implications for men are serious. They may have to work forever. The nation has sentenced them to hard labour.
    It might suit men without hobbies or a life outside the office. But other men, I imagine, will consider the prospect bleak. Their gaze may turn on their female colleague, better educated and younger than themselves, and working three days a week even though Justin is now in high school. And they might just think, "Why can't I work three days a week? Why can't she carry the burden of the nation's economic future and retirement incomes policy on her shoulders?"
    Last year Ron Liddle, in The Spectator magazine, dared to utter what some men must have started to think. "Check around your office for a few minutes. How many women there have gone part-time recently? How many women have given up work altogether? How many women went part-time because they were having a baby but now, four years later, just look: they're still part-time? What's happening to them? Where's the bloody work ethic?"
    [The bloody work ethic has been taken over by automation and robotics, you dopey down-under drudges.]
    Well, as a four-day-a-week worker myself, I had a quick riposte. Lots of women work very long hours when you combine their paid and unpaid jobs. They are exhausted doing it all, with no respite on the weekend either. They need an extra day off.
    But when my blood pressure had reverted to normal I had to admit Liddle's white male backlash could not be dismissed. He was talking of a certain class of women. And I, too, know women in the prime of life who have simply tired of work. Their jobs are no longer new and challenging. Their jobs have become a drudge. They don't need the income. And so they tell their husbands, and then their bosses, that they've had enough, they want out. And their husbands say they would like to have out, too. But someone has to pay the gym fees.
    Or they tell their hubby that even though Sophie is 15, she needs her mother at home more than ever, and hubby thinks he'd like to hang out with his daughter, too, but someone has to pay the private school fees and the snowboarding lessons.
    I also know women who look like 40-year-old gym bunnies but never intended to end up that way. They did what society expected: took years off to raise the children. And hey. They never could get a proper job when they wanted one. They'd like to help ageing Australia out of its budgetary woes - contribute to the tax base, fill the expected job vacancies, pay towards their own retirement. But they left their run too late, and now they're underworked and overexercised.
    It's the old feminist dream. But I hoped society would move to a position of genuine equality. To me that meant men and women would share as equally as possible the pleasures and demands of work and family. Men needed to work a bit less, and spend more time at home, and women needed more paid work and less domestic labour. It hasn't panned out that way. If we don't want the Mummy versus Daddy Wars, women may have to reconsider their take-it-or-leave-it attitude to work.
    And men will have to get serious about sharing the domestic load. But you know that one already.

  8. [this one's kind of wordy but we include it to leaven the discussion of redesigning retirement -]
    2/28   Working on retirement - As older people are told to toil longer and spend their
    super[-annuation, ie: pension] later, the next generation draws the short straw
    , by Anne Lampe, Sydney Morning Herald [Australia].
    The new future super-annuation blueprint was announced this week with great fanfare by the Treasurer, Peter Costello, who claims that it will offer greater flexibility in work and retirement. He also said that we can forget full-time retirement and that we will be looking at half work and half retirement in the future. What that means for aged pension entitlements is yet to be explained.
    The Government's broad aim is to provide an incentive to keep more people in the workforce longer, to keep them earning something and not blowing all their super before they reach 70, and to keep them contributing to super for as long as possible, thereby reducing their dependence on the aged pension.
    But while the broad thrust is clear, the announcement was short on the detail and mechanics of how the changes will affect us at stages of our working and retirement lives - what does it mean for younger workers, for those at preservation age, for those who have reached 65 and 75 years of age?
    Young employees have been given the short straw. Costello announced no changes to the Government's triple tax take from super and has offered no incentives for them to put more of their earnings into super. They face working more years than older employees, possibly until they are 70, to accumulate enough super to live up to 20 years in retirement and to pay taxes to support the aged who have not got enough super.
    For most young employees with retirement so far off in the future, super will remain a pipedream. "My reaction if I were a 30-year-old would be, 'gosh I'm going to be expected to work till I'm 70 or 75, I have another 40 or 45 years to go'," John Randall, Deloitte's partner for superannuation, says. That person will also have a longer life expectancy to fund than their parents or grandparents.
    Randall also points out that with many young employees earning higher salaries than their parents, the 15% super surcharge will eat into their super contributions for a longer period, carving out 30 cents out of every dollar of contributions before their money goes into the fund, a further 15% from the investment earnings plus 15% of benefits over $117,576 accumulated from employer contributions.
    Nor has the Costello package tackled the fee feeding frenzy in the industry, with fund managers, asset consultants, technical experts, lawyers and financial advisers earning big incomes. The average management fee is 2% of money invested, and that does not count some hidden fees such as legal and asset consultant fees charged to fund administrators on the way through.
    The three big changes announced last week are the abolition of the work test to enable employees and those out of the work force to contribute to super, easier access to a super income stream at 55 and the halving of the amount of complying pension capital base that is counted for asset test purposes to determine old age pension entitlement.
    As a general rule now, to access your super if you are 55, you are required to retire from your job or be retrenched. And it can't be a retire on Friday and find another job on Monday situation.
    It is a general rule because under the provisions of some trust deeds, particularly those covering private company employees, access could be gained to super money earlier if a complying pension is purchased.
    Costello wants people who want to reduce their working hours, but not dip out of the workforce altogether, to remain in work on a part-time basis rather than retire at 55 just to get their hands on their super. Employees 55 years and older can then access all or part of their super and use it to supplement their lower income. In this way Costello hopes not everyone who retires at 55 will blow all their super before they reach pensionable age.
    That change allowing access to retirement benefit at preservation age - between 55 and 65 depending on date of birth, with 55 applying to those born before 1960, rising to 65 for those born in 1964 - regardless of work status, will occur in July 2005.
    That complying income stream bought with the super benefit will continue into retirement, with the balance of benefits available released at retirement. Contributions to the fund will continue in the interim.
    All this, however, is dependent on the provisions in the fund's trust deed. If the trust deed says you cannot access any super until you retire, then the flexibility at 55 years is lost.
    Peter Hogan, head of technical services at Colonial First State, says this policy change is in response to the increasing number of employees who want to ease themselves out of full-time work, rather than give up work altogether, but feel they can't afford to live on half their income.
    The new flexibility is also predicated on employers accepting more flexible work arrangements. The employers may not be happy with this approach. Many employers, who are pushing out employees aged more than 45 in favour of younger, cheaper employees, will need to change their attitude to older employees dramatically for the Costello changes to be effective.
    There are already too many people aged over 50 who are classified as retired because they can't find an employer willing even to interview them for a job, whether it is part-time or full-time.
    If money is released from a superannuation fund for 55-year-old employees, it cannot be taken out in a lump sum. It must be turned into an income stream from a complying pension or annuity. So it cannot be used to discharge your mortgage, or buy a new car, an investment property or a holiday. If you want to do that with it, you have to retire and take out your lump sum.
    Under the new regime, from July this year, fund members and retirees will be able to buy a new product called a complying growth pension, which is linked to sharemarket performance, rather than the run of the mill, conservatively invested, fixed-interest variety. Growth pensions are designed to increase the underlying assets by investing in shares.
    The removal of the work test refers to the current rule that employees over 65 have to prove they work at least 10 hours a week to continue to contribute to super and for deductions to be claimed on contributions. Trustees say it is a difficult test to police, and was policed by fund trustees who had to collect declarations from fund members that they are working the requisite hours. This test is to be replaced by a yet-to-be-announced annual number of hours worked test.
    The major fear with the early access package is that part-time employees will draw down so much out of their super at 55 to top up current reduced pay that they will have insufficient money to live on when they fully retire. If they have insufficient financial resources at retirement, they will be reliant on the aged pension to keep them in their later years, which is what Costello is trying to avoid.
    For employees reaching their reasonable benefit limit, $588,056 in lump-sum benefit and $1,176,106 if taken as a complying pension, there is a major change to the assets test applying to the pension. A complying pension is one which cannot be commuted to a lump sum and which runs down to zero over the life expectancy of the recipient. It is calculated by dividing the asset base with the number of years of life expectancy to give an annual pension figure.
    Until September this year, a complying pension based on the $1,176,106 figure is exempt from the assets test and this meant that one could own a $5 million house, have more than $1 million in other assets turned into a complying pension, receive from that an annual income stream of about $70,000 and still qualify for $8200 of government welfare in the form of the aged pension.
    There is no income recipient or wage earner at that income bracket who would be eligible for a dollar of any welfare benefit, be it unemployment benefit, disability pension or aged pension. It has been widely argued that is an overly generous special treatment of the well-off retiree.
    On September 20, this generous treatment will be removed so that half the complying pension asset base will be counted for asset test purposes. The effect will be to wipe out the aged pension eligibility. However, existing arrangements will be grandfathered (exempted from the new rules), as will arrangements entered into before September 20 this year. It will create two classes of retiree.
    As well, people with large super benefits who want the aged pension might be tempted to retire now and get their plan in place under the existing generous rules because if they retire later they will have to make up the pension out of their own resources. That is not what Costello would want, so there is a question about why the changes did not take effect from the time of his announcement.
    That change will introduce yet another grandfathering date into the superannuation time line.
    A further change from July 1 affects those aged 75. Until then 75-year-olds who could demonstrate they worked at least 30 hours a week can put off drawing down any super, effectively letting it grow in a fund for the use of future generations in a tax-effective environment.
    For a person with their own business, all it has meant was that they turned up at the office for 30 hours. Now, regardless of the hours worked or appearing at the office, at 75 retirement benefits will have to be drawn down.
    Accountants contacted by the Herald are generally supportive of the Costello package, although most said more could have been done to remove the tax burden on super accumulations.
    For those already retired, the changes will have no impact. The same applies to those in their 50s on the job scrapheap; the changes will have no impact.
    "I think this is a step in the right direction but there is a long way to go," Michael Rice, director of RiceWalker Actuaries, says. "The tightening of the means test is probably the most important issue, and it is disappointing that it affects only future retirees because there are quite a lot of wealthy people getting what I see as undeserved social security at the moment, and it does not go far enough, but at least the process of doing something about it has started. "But it is a half-hearted solution. "A lot of people don't want to have such long retirements," he says of the package. "With life expectancies and health being so different these days you do tend to want to work longer, part-time anyway. You don't just cut yourself off."

  9. [We put this article last till we get the publication info - plus this workaholic reporter is pretty clueless about the timesizing imperative - evidently thinks 'jobs grow on trees' in the Robotics Age.]
    2/27   Welcome to the working week, by Jeremy Slater, Tech Central Station (www.techcentralstation.com).
    This month's vote by Members of the European Parliament to abolish any remaining opt outs to the so-called Working Time Directive presents the EU with another clear-cut decision: should it exist to promote its idea of a social model or instead be a driving force in the global economy.
    At the time the directive became law, in 1993, the UK government argued that limiting workers to 48 hours per week would make the labor market too rigid and damage economic performance. It won a special opt out from this regulation, giving employers in the UK the right to ask workers to work longer. The vote by the Parliament this month would end the UK's exemption.
    A decade after the Directive went into effect, with the European Commission considering a redrafting of the law, other nations are looking for a similar escape clause. Countries such as France, Germany and the Netherlands, who often defend their elaborate social protections to the hilt, are now attempting to negotiate opt outs and want their health workers to be exempt from the directive. Luxembourg wants an opt out for the hotel trade.
    After a European Court of Justice ruling last September, German health experts said that limiting doctors' working time to 48 hours per week would cost an extra E1 billion a year as they would have to hire an extra 15,000 doctors. Needless to say, this is a heavy cost to bear when the government is busy trying to cut spending and reinvigorate the economy.
    The Parliament's vote is intended to put pressure on the Commission to review the directive and abolish any existing, or the chance of any potential future, opt outs. The Commission had already said in a report in January that twice as many workers in the UK opt out of restrictions as those in the rest of Europe - and this was not mentioned in a positive way.
    The Working Time Directive requires EU business to provide:
    1. a maximum 48-hour working week averaged over a reference period;
    2. a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours a day;
    3. a rest break where the working day is longer than six hours;
    4. a minimum rest period of one day a week;
    5. a statutory right to annual paid holiday of 4 weeks; and
    6. night working must not exceed eight hours a night on average
    And while the Commission studies new ways to impose limits on the hours people work there are moves by Spain, Italy and Ireland also to seek opt outs. The major economies of Europe consider labor market reform as key to either ensuring credible economic growth over the medium term or, in the UK's case, maintaining a regulatory system that has allowed its economy to grow at trend rate (2.5%) or above for the past ten years.
    Ironically, further plans by Brussels to restrict working hours will prove unpopular with the workers whose interests those in the Parliament and the Commission claim to be defending. Former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's vaunted proposal for a 35-hour workweek was disastrous, and hurt even Socialist Party members seeking to earn a little overtime.
    [Hardly 'disastrous'. It's very popular throughout France.]
    It cost Jospin lost vital votes in the 2002 election; it helped to end his political career; and sent his party into political oblivion from which it still struggles to return.
    [The only thing that cost Jospin vital votes in the 2002 election was the greater fractionation of the left's votes and the fewer choices on the right which funneled the right's votes and allowed an extremist like Le Pen to beat Jospin by a small margin. The only thing that ended Jospin's political career was his own Woodrow Wilson-like perfectionism and hypersensitivity. And the only thing that sent his party into political oblivion was their own thin skins.]
    In Germany, business leaders want to increase flexibility for more than just healthcare workers. The powerful trade union IG Metall has forced a 35-hour week on most workers,
    ["Forced"? This birdbrain would doubtless delight in the "option" of a 168-hour workweek. But when the choice is between shutting down the game because too few players have any game pieces, and FORCING a more even allocation of game pieces so the game can continue....]
    and businesses (and many workers, no doubt) want to increase this to 40 hours. With the German economy growing at just 1.4% per year over the past 10 years, against an EU average of 2.3% for the same period, German business is desperate to find anything that will improve its performance. The German government, hoping to avoid becoming the next Japan.
    So, across several countries in Europe a surprisingly powerful coalition is forming that will try to negate the consequences of the Working Time Directive. But it will face tough opposition from some in the Parliament and Commission. Given Europe's economic outlook at the moment it may have no choice but to succeed.

2/27/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 2/26 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. Metro workers to walk out, by Alan Jones, PA News via The Scotsman [UK].
    UK - Hundreds of workers on the Tyne & Wear Metro are to stage two 24-hour strikes in a long-running row over hours, union leaders announced today. Members of the Rail Maritime & Transport union will walk out at 7pm on Friday March 5 and again at 7pm on Sunday March 7.
    [Tyne is a river mostly in England, maybe a little bit in Scotland. Wear is probably a river or a town or both. "Metro" means "subway" in Paris but here probably means hust "commuter rail."]
    The union said the action would halt all metro services on the system between Newcastle and Gateshead, which is run by transport operator Nexus.
    The union is seeking a 35-hour week and has accused the company of going back on a commitment to cut working hours.

  2. Nurses seek law to limit required work hours, by DAVID PITT, AP via Keokuk Gate City Daily [Iowa].
    DES MOINES - Nurses, frustrated with staffing cuts and escalating overtime requirements, lobbied lawmakers Wednesday for a law that would eliminate mandatory overtime and set nurse-to-patient ratios for emergency rooms, operating rooms and maternity wards.
    [There should never, ever, be overtime "requirements." This is just bad management.]
    "Nurses are being asked to take on more and more patients, and too little thought is being given to the quality of care they receive," said Mary Schlichte, a registered nurse from Cedar Rapids. "If legislators don't do something to help my patients now, it's only going to get worse."
    The nurse staffing requirements are part of a House Human Services Committee bill which also specifies maximum hours a nurse may be on duty.
    "Nurses are faced with working more hours with more patients all the time," said Sarah Swisher, an oncology nurse and state director of Iowa for Health Care, a project of the Service Employees International Union, the largest health care union in the country. "This has serious implications for the quality of care our patients receive and for the long-term status of nursing care in the state, if more nurses continue to leave the field."
    Iowa for Health Care has more than 4,400 Iowa nurse members.
    House Minority Leader Pat Murphy, D-Dubuque, lead sponsor of the bill, said the goal is to ensure safer health care.
    "The main issue that we're talking about here is guaranteeing quality patient care," Murphy said. "That needs to be the number one goal and the way that occurs is by making sure that we create staffing standards and that way we make sure that nurses aren't working long hours and the possibility of making mistakes."
    Iowa Hospital Association spokesman Scott McIntyre said the bill will make the problem worse. "Hospitals across Iowa and across the country are working hard to fill their nursing positions," he said. "Iowa hospitals aren't in a position to handle that kind of mandate and it's just not right to take a one-size-fits-all approach."
    [Nonsense. One size can easily fit all when it can take any shape.]
    He said a nursing shortage often makes the task of balancing nursing hours difficult.
    [Can you spell t-r-a-i-n-i-n-g? We know you can spell profit & greed.]
    "You can't create more staff out of nothing.
    [Ah no, Scotty, you create more staff out of training. Ever heard of training? as in hospital schools of nursing?]
    "Hospitals are working very hard to keep and bring in staff that's needed. This bill doesn't help," he said.
    [Oh, saving you from the malpractice suits from hell "doesn't help"? Maybe you need to get out of the healthcare industry, Mr. McIntyre!]

2/26/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 2/25 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. Three-day week at furniture firm, by Lynette Alcock, Norfolk Eastern Daily Press [UK].
    DEREHAM, Norfolk - Production workers at one of the town's largest employers, Deeside Cabinets, have been working a three-day week since February 2 due to a shortage of orders from the companies they supply..\..
    [We surmise that this means three 8-hour days, or a 24-hour workweek. They're not the only ones. Colleague Kate, on her Kudos-to-HP contract-at-will, has been repeatedly timesized over the past four months from 40 to 36 to 28 to 18, back to 40, and now back to 18 - and layoff as of Mar. 9, despite HP's recent claims of profit. Sounds like Carly's been workin' hard, cookin' the books.]
    Staff at [the] Dereham manufacturing firm...that supplies furniture to Marks & Spencer are said to be thinking of leaving their jobs because of [the] shortage of work.
    [At least because of the timesizing-not-downsizing policy of this firm, the staff still have jobs to leave. In addition, the choice of, initiative for, and timing of that drastic step has been given to them, not seized by their employer.]
    By law, staff were entitled to 90% of their full pay for the first five days of the reduced working week, but now they are only getting paid for the days they work. Some say they are struggling to make ends meet. One said: "We are not even getting 90% of our wage. How are we supposed to live on the wages we are getting?"
    [Maybe they'd rather be in this position -]
    The news comes 10 months after Deeside had to make 24 workers redundant after a shortage of work in May 2003.
    The GMB union, which negotiated for voluntary redundancies last year, has become involved in discussions with staff and bosses. The three-day week is set to last until the end of next month, when management will review the situation.
    Warehouse workers at the Dereham site, which has more than 200 staff, are back to full-time duties.
    [Better to put both all the workers on four-day workweeks, 80% pay, and do some cross-training and job reassignment, as at Lincoln Electric, if that arrangement doesn't yield enough warehouse-worker hours, so you're more sure of retaining the non-warehouse workers through the slack period.]
    George Murray, a senior manager at Deeside Cabinets, refused to comment yesterday.

  2. W.Va. outlaws forced overtime for nurses, by Gavin McCormick, AP via Kansas City Star.
    CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Bob Wise signed into law Wednesday a bill barring private hospitals from forcing nurses to work overtime except in emergencies or to complete a patient procedure. Surrounded by dozens of white-uniformed nurses, Wise echoed health care and union officials by saying the law would improve patient safety and prevent medical mistakes by nurses exhausted by long hours. Beginning May 17, nurses who work more than 12 hours must be allowed at least 8 hours off.
    "We cannot ask nurses to work hours on end, jeopardizing patient and employee lives," Wise said.
    The law will cover an estimated 10,100 nurses at West Virginia's 60 private hospitals. Four state-run hospitals and four veterans' hospitals run by the federal government are unaffected.
    West Virginia joins New Jersey and Washington in banning mandatory overtime. Several other states have debated the issue.
    West Virginia Nurses Association member Cheryl Brumfield said the law should help recruitment and ease the state's shortage of both licensed professional and registered nurses. "This will help keep students in nursing because they'll have security that they won't be stressed beyond their capabilities," Brumfield said.
    The law would not interfere with a hospital's attempt to manage emergencies such as disease outbreaks or natural disasters.
    Nurses who agree to work overtime will be unaffected.

  3. No time for quality life, by Melissa King, South Australia Advertiser.
    Australians' quality of life has fallen in a generation and longer working hours are to blame, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward said yesterday. She said women were working 76% more hours than they did in the 1980s and men were doing more overtime.
    But while "the country cannot afford for women to go home", family life was suffering as a result of the need for two incomes to get ahead. Obesity was on the increase, more people were time-poor and families were under stress.
    [Apparently Australians are letting their lonely fascination with America turn them into the same kind of fat-slob slaves that Americans are allowing their insulated and isolated super-rich decision-makers to turn them into.]
    Ms Goward told a local government conference organised by the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Services Union that working women were still performing most of the housework and child-related tasks. Meanwhile, men in their early parenting years worked more overtime than any other group in the workforce.
    "Our lives are out of balance, our children are showing the effects of it," Ms Goward said. "I think the country knows this in its guts . . . knows that our quality of life is not what it was even a generation ago. "They want it to change and it has to change, but of course the contentious bit is how do we do it?"
    Ms Goward said many men were afraid to reduce working hours because it might appear they were less dedicated. "If men want to be part of their family, they need to say so," she said. "You can be an effective parent and contribute at a very high level at work."
    She said a two-tiered labour market was emerging in which skilled workers enjoyed more "comfort and protection" and low-skilled workers were often marginalised. "I think this whole notion of work/life balance will become class-ridden, divisive and unfair," she said.
    Ms Goward said governments must take the lead or there would be more dysfunctional families and at-risk children.
    Labor's workplace relations spokesman Craig Emerson told the conference a Latham government would abolish workplace agreements and restore collective bargaining. "We will stem the abuse of casual employment (by employers)," he said.
    "At stake at this election is the whole notion of whether we go forward as a fair Australia."

  4. Workers gift: [hours] of free work - Doctors: 9.7 hours unpaid overtime a week, BBC News.
    UK - British workers are giving away the equivalent of [hours] of free work every year through unpaid overtime, according to research from the TUC [Trades Union Council]. More than five million workers do unpaid overtime work beyond their contracted hours, the body said.
    Top of the list are senior civil servants, teachers, farm managers and health professionals such as doctors. As part of a TUC campaign to highlight long hours, a new league table allows workers to compare unpaid overtime.
    Proper hours
    The league table has been released in the run up to the TUC's "Work Your Proper Hours Day" on 27 February.
    According to the TUC, this is the date when the average UK worker who does unpaid overtime finishes the 40 unpaid days they do every year and starts earning for themselves. However, some workers have much longer to work before they start working for themselves.
    Top civil servants, the group that do the longest unpaid overtime, must wait until 27 March.
    Teachers, who are the second worst-off in the unpaid overtime stakes, must wait until 24 March.
    The side-effects of long hours, such as stress and ill-health, can be very damaging for workers.
    Long hours can also wreck relationships and make caring for children more difficult, the TUC said.
    It wants workers to vote with their feet on 27 February and work only their proper contracted hours. "We're not calling on Britain to turn into a nation of clock-watchers," said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. "But too many of Britain's bosses who depend on the unpaid overtime of their staff take it for granted and never show their appreciation."
    Work slaves
    Britain's love affair with long hours is not necessarily paying dividends, and going home on time could be good for the economy.
    It is an often cited statistic that workers in the UK work the longest hours in Europe. However, British workers are not as productive as employees in other countries, when assessed on output per hour. In France, many employees work a maximum 35-hour week but achieve a higher rate of productivity.
    Recently released figures from the Office for National Statistics show France is 31.7% and Germany 16.4% more productive by hour than Britain.

  5. [meanwhile, back in the Death Star at the heart of the new Evil Empire -]
    Bush administration moving ahead on overtime changes, by Bruce Alpert, Newhouse News Service.
    ["Don't confuse me with facts, my mind's made up!"]
    WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is moving ahead with plans to revamp the nation's overtime laws next month, rejecting opposition from labor groups that dispute White House estimates on how many workers will lose the right to time-and-a-half pay for putting in more than 40 hours a week.
    [Alfred E. Bushman: "What me worry?"]
    How the administration deals with the issue will not only affect the household incomes of many Americans and the bottom lines of employers, but could emerge as an issue in a presidential campaign already dominated by the question of whether administration trade policies are hurting workers.
    Labor Secretary Elaine Chao last month rejected a call by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., to delay implementation of the rules so that a study could be done to determine whether the administration or its critics are right. Such a study would put off action until after the November presidential and congressional elections.
    Chao said the new rules are designed to bring clarity to outdated regulations that are so difficult to interpret that issues of worker pay often are left to expensive and time-consuming litigation. Moreover, she said at a Senate hearing last month that the new rules provide guaranteed overtime to a group of workers who need it the most - those making up to $22,100 a year, an increase on the current ceiling of $8,060.
    But opponents paint a drastically different picture of the new rules, which also expand the definitions of professional workers exempted from overtime. Instead of exempting workers who "customarily and regularly exercise discretionary and independent judgment," the new definition is broader to incorporate people who "hold a position of responsibility." The definition of professionals exempted is expanded to include not only workers with advanced degrees or postgraduate study, but also those with special work experience or training.
    Salaried employees who make $65,000 or more would be automatically exempt from overtime pay.
    The administration says 644,000 workers nationwide might lose rights to collect overtime for working more than 40 hours. The Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank whose statistics are often cited by unions, puts the number at 8 million. "The administration has a funny way of saying that it's not our intent to deny all these millions of people overtime rights," said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president and policy director for the Economic Policy Institute. "But if the rules say that employers don't have to pay overtime, you can be pretty sure that they won't."
    Although Chao said police officers, firefighters and nurses won't lose their rights to overtime, the institute said the draft rules prepared by the Labor Department don't give workers any such assurances. That has generated campaigns by groups representing police, nurses and paramedics to urge Congress to intercede.
    "We're making our concerns known to Congress that any tweaking or changes in overtime rules could make it easier for cities to take away overtime from police officers who, particularly in ... places in the South, depend on overtime because the initial pay is quite low," said David Benelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans.
    The American Nurses Association, which represents the nation's 2.7 million practical nurses, is worried that hospitals and nursing homes will use the expanded exemptions in the new rules to deny overtime. "The administration has said this won't affect nurses, but we're not certain of that," said Carol Cooke, the association's spokeswoman.
    One reason for the huge disparities between the Labor Department and Economic Policy Institute numbers is how each does the counting. The administration said it based its numbers on the current number of white-collar employees who collect overtime and might not be guaranteed such benefits when the new rules go into effect. That's the most accurate estimate, the administration said.
    The nonpartisan think tank counted the number of people eligible to get overtime, including those who may not be collecting it because their employers limit their time to no more than 40 hours a week. Eisenbrey said the reason the institute's calculation makes sense is that if the new rules let employers require longer work weeks without paying overtime, many will do so.
    Michael Eastman, director of Labor Law Policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the new rules, while far from perfect, bring a certain amount of clarity to labor law, and would help reduce the huge costs in litigation to decide whether workers are fairly or unfairly denied overtime. Some chamber members, he said, are concerned about the additional costs of paying overtime to low-income workers not now guaranteed 1½ times their normal rates after 40 hours of work, but that it decided those costs were "balanced" by potential savings in litigation. "What we're really concerned about are the relatively highly paid class of employees who, after the fact, file suits claiming they should have been paid overtime all along," Eastman said. "It's a boon for plaintiffs' attorneys, but is costing our members a lot of money in legal bills."
    The GOP-led Senate and House voted last year to bar immediate implementation of the new overtime rules, but that language was stripped from a spending bill when the Bush administration objected. Despite continued pressure to delay the new rules, Chao told a Senate hearing last month that she wants to proceed as planned next month. "It's been almost a year since we first published our proposal," Chao said. "We have since reviewed thousands of comments, we have listened to members of Congress, and we intend to put forward a revised, final rule that is responsible and responsive to the public record."

2/25/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 2/24 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. Embrace the end of work - Unless we send humanity on a permanent paid vacation, the future could get very bleak, by Prof. James Hughes of Trinity College's health policy dept. in Hartford CT, (jhughes@changesurfer.com), Betterhumans [Canada].
    ["Permanent vacation" sounds pretty ominous, unpaid or paid. And worksharing at currently suitable levels, considering we passed a 30-hour workweek bill through the US Senate 71 years ago, would make it unnecessary anyway. And who's "we" who are doing all this "sending on vacation"? Under worksharing, we can still "let the market decide" - a market further balanced by leveling the playing field on access to marketable skills and well-paid, shorter-hour jobs.]
    Newspapers are full of bewildered economists scratching their head at the emerging jobloss recovery. The right reassures us that job growth is right around the corner, although it wouldn't hurt to have more tax cuts, deregulation, freer trade and lower minimum wages. Liberals counter that we can cut unemployment with more job retraining, free higher education, more protectionism, more demand-side tax stimulus and nonmilitary public sector investments.
    The problem is that none of these policies can reverse the emerging structural unemployment resulting from automation [agreed] and globalization [wrong, tariffs can certainly reverse the unemployment resulting from globalization on the principle: you contribute to this consumer base with employment or you don't get to access it for sales].
    The economists and policy makers are still wedded to the idea of full employment, or at least to a labor market with a job opportunity for everyone who wants one.
    [It's immaterial who "wants" one. A sustainable system of mutual exchange with no dependency or parasitism can only be maintained with the participation of everyone, whether they "want" to or not. The essence of "work" is giving up control for a specific amount of time (wage work) or for a specific product or service (piece work) in exchange for money (general access to the results of everyone else's temporary ceding of control).]
    Without a clear strategic goal of a humanity freed from work [hardly a clear or strategic goal] through the gradual expansion of automation and the social wage ["social wage" is evidently a technical term and cannot be used without introduction and definition], all policies short of Luddite bans on new technology will have disappointing and perverse effects.
    [An arrogant statement of unsupported religion-like faith. Hughes cannot possibly know "all policies" short of Luddism.]
    If liberals and the left do not re-embrace the end of work and the need to give everyone income as a right of citizenship, unconnected to employment, they will help usher in a much bleaker future of growing class polarization and widespread immiseration.
    [Not necessarily.]
    If libertarians and the right do not adapt to the need to provide universal income in a jobless future they may help bring about a populist backlash against free trade and industrial modernization.
    [At least he's used the subjunctive "may" this time.]
    In other words, it's time to make a choice: Luddism, barbarism or a universal basic income guarantee.
    [A pretty unimaginative menu: stop machines, revert to primitive life, or institute parasitism. We've got a better choice: share the vanishing work on a flexible basis.]
    The compensation thesis
    Techno-utopians have predicted the end of work through automation for a century or more, and yet employment has continuously expanded. This has made the compensation thesis, the idea that technological change creates as many jobs as it destroys, seem like common sense. As the need for farm labor shrank, mines, factories and mercantile trades grew. In the late 20th century, industrial jobs were replaced with service sector employment. Supposedly, whatever jobs are lost to robotics, AI and nanotech in the 21st century will also then be replaced by new jobs.
    The alleged mechanisms that drive this compensatory job creation were summarized by the Italian economist Marco Vivarelli as: Empirically, the evidence for the compensation thesis up through 2000 is mixed. On the one hand, the proportion of the population participating in the labor market has steadily increased in the industrialized world. On the other hand, the number of hours worked per year has steadily declined in most industrialized countries from about 3,000 hours a year at the turn of the 20th century to about 1,500 to 1,900 hours per year at the turn of 21st century. So whatever gains in employment that technological change has facilitated in the last century appear to have been happily accompanied by a decline in total average hours worked.
    The US is the biggest exception, however, since we appear to be working more hours over the past 30 years, due in part to a stronger preference for income and consumption over additional leisure. This is taken as another confirmation of the additional products part of the compensation thesis. We could just work a couple of hours a day to attain the standard of living of our ancestors, but we all in fact believe that we have to work longer hours each year to provide ourselves more of the novel goods and services being produced by the supersize-it society. Americans have also demanded and won fewer workplace and social wage benefits, such as universal health insurance, a month of vacation or fully subsidized university education. So the US has been able to sustain a lower unemployment rate, and stay competitive with robots and the developing world a little longer, largely because of the growth of low wage service jobs with few benefits.
    But now we are facing the same structural unemployment that was supposedly due to overregulation of the European labor market and their generous safety net, their so-called "Eurosclerosis."
    Robots for people
    All of these compensatory mechanisms fail to take account of the possibility that capital investments in technology will become increasingly more productive and profitable as substitutes for investments in labor. The number of workers required to make the new machines and products will then be fewer than the number of workers displaced each year regardless of increased demand or the accumulation of investment capital. Any increase in demand resulting from falls in prices, declines in the cost of displaced labor or increases in the wages of the remaining workers will only stimulate further capital investment in labor-saving machinery. Any effort to stimulate the demand in the economy, Fordist or Keynesian, by sharing the benefits of increased profits and productivity with workers through increased wages or benefits, or shorter work weeks, will only increase the cost of labor and the profitability of investing in labor-saving machines.
    This is part of the story behind the disappointing experience with shorter work weeks as a way to redistribute employment. In the end it is more expensive to hire 10 workers to provide 350 person hours of labor, rather than nine, even if you pay both teams the same wage per person hour. So laws that reduce the exploitability of human labor, such as reductions in the work week, make investments in automation all the more comparatively profitable, even when they were supposed to redistribute employment. In an automating economy, redistributing employment through shorter work weeks will result in less employment, not more.
    Nor is this substitution of capital for labor, machines for people, only occurring in the expensive labor markets of the developed world. Labor-saving technology also appears to be eliminating agricultural and industrial jobs in the developing world. Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently noted that between 1995 and 2002, despite dramatic economic growth or perhaps because of dramatic economic growth, China lost 15% of its manufacturing jobs. During the same period, Brazil lost 20% of its industrial jobs, the US lost 11% and Japan lost 16%.
    The compensatory theorists argue that new employment will soon open up in fields that are one step ahead of automation. This was of course the solution to globalization's job losses offered by people such as Robert Reich in the mid 1990s: Retrain displaced assembly-line workers to be computer programmers. Now, as computer programming slips away to the developing world and one intellectual or managerial occupation after the other is routinized into an expert system, the argument seems less convincing.
    The brief reign of the knowledge worker could soon be over. What if there are no more types of labor accessible to humans that artificial intelligence and robotics cannot do more cheaply and efficiently, with higher quality? Marshall Brain makes a very convincing case that there are very few occupations ultimately exempt from automation. Even Reich recently opined, "The issue we really ought to be talking is what jobs Americans, and everyone else, will be able to find when machines are able to do just about everything."
    We won't prefer humans
    An optimistic thought frequently offered at this point in the argument is that, even if machines can do everything better than humans, humans will still prefer some things to be done by other humans rather than machines. But I think the growth in the percentage of American meals provided through highly automated fast food franchises puts the lie to this idea. Apparently many people find fast food more appealing on the grounds of at least convenience and cost, and perhaps also quality, compared to meals they could make themselves in the kitchen or consume in a more traditional, labor-intensive restaurant. Similarly, the wealthy might spur a strong demand for performance art involving millions, for vegetables grown labor-intensively in window boxes or for other personal services that might take up the slack of structural unemployment. But it doesn't seem likely.
    The compensatory mechanism of giving increased profits from technological advances to consumers to stimulate demand will undoubtedly be tried in a variety of ways, starting with expanding public employment. But what are those occupations that the state can hire displaced workers for? The largest sectors of public employment are administrative-managerial tasks, mail handling and the military, all of which are being downsized by information technology and automation.
    We could also provide public sector subsidies to make hiring the unemployed more profitable and attractive. For instance, in the US we could expand national health insurance to cover all Americans, rationalizing and generally reducing the burden of health care insurance on employers. Then we could expand our nursing care benefits to give employment to more nurses, and income to the women who currently take care of their sick relatives for free in the informal economy. But that assumes that the growing elderly population will need more nursing, when in fact seniors have a rapidly declining rate of disability. Even if we do only figure out how to make seniors live to 120, without making them healthy and able-bodied in the process, nursing and health care are also undergoing a robotics and information technology revolution permitting sick seniors to be monitored and cared for in their homes, and when necessary institutionally, by fewer and fewer caregivers.
    Another laudable strategy to expand the economy would be some form of global Keynesianism, efforts to stimulate global economic demand by distributing the benefits and wealth of technological innovation to the majority of the world's peoples who still live at substantially below the Western standard of living. Setting aside the political and ecological constraints, dramatic expansions in the global market might delay the global decline in employment, but would not stop it, as the declines in Chinese manufacturing demonstrate. If a global Marshall Plan allowed every Bangladeshi to buy a car, the most competitive cars would roll off increasingly automated assembly lines, providing only a temporary increase in global employment.
    A way to avoid structural unemployment rarely considered outside of transhumanist circles is upgrading human beings themselves. Using the converging technologies of nanotechnology, genetic engineering, psychopharmaceuticals and cognitive science it might be possible to upgrade workers to keep them competitive with machines. But computers are doubling in memory and speed every two years. It is pretty unlikely that human beings will ever be able to keep up with the wave of automation without merging with it completely, which is a whole different essay.
    Luddism, barbarism or basic income [or work-sharing, and sequential programs]
    In the end, business would rather invest first in people in the developing world and then infotech and robots rather than expensive human workers in the developed world. Because of this, wages in the developed countries will fall in competition with the lowest wage human competitors around the world, and then in competition with the increasingly inexpensive robots and expert systems. Jobs will disappear, wages will fall and we will face three choices: Luddism, barbarism or basic income [or worksharing].
    The Luddites might win a temporary battle here and there, delaying one or the other labor-saving device or innovation. But in the end they will lose, and the technologies will come. Then the question will be what happens to the displaced, and to the economy.
    Without an expanded social wage (benefits and income from the government) in general,
    [money for nothing is not a "wage"]
    and a guaranteed basic income in particular,
    [which would breed dependency]
    we face widespread immiseration, economic contraction and polarization between the wealthy, the shrinking working class and the structurally redundant.
    [unless we share the vanishing work. Aha, finally they include this choice -]
    Or we can avoid this bleak future by
    1. re-embracing the techno-utopian vision [OK]
    2. and consciously striving to shrink working life by reducing the work week [good],
    3. mandating paid vacations [fine],
    4. raising the minimum wage [wrong - if the workweek is reduced enough, market forces will take care of wage levels in response to employer-perceived labor 'shortage' (actually balance) without creating a gap in the wage ladder at the bottom that would discourage job-market entrants],
    5. improving workplace protections [unnecessary: a free-market consequence of a perceived labor 'shortage']
    6. and providing health insurance [ditto]
    7. and a basic income [wrong and unsustainable because breeds dependency, similar to "polarization between the wealthy, the shrinking working class and the structurally redundant"] as a right of citizenship.
    All these policies will make human labor more expensive [same as during wartime and epidemics like the Black Death of 1348] and investments in automation increasingly attractive.
    [Only selectively, since automation followed by downsizing will discipline management further by reducing worktime per person further, or shifting the pressure to fewer imports, immigrants or births].
    Employment will shrink, social wealth will grow and be shared more equally, and we can start rejoicing instead of despairing about the end of work.
    [More evenly sharing work is not the end of work.]
    As Marshall Brain says, humanity can go on a permanent vacation.
    [Wrong, that would be the Eloi (vs. the Morlocks).]

2/24/2004   primitive timesizing (saving est. 36 jobs) & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 2/23 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA, and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. Switzerland: Swisscom Workers cut hours to reduce lay-offs, Union Network International.
    Workers in the IT Services Branch of Switzerland's national telephone company, Swisscom, are reducing their hours in a bid to reduce the number of lay-offs at the company. Workers will voluntarily reduce their working day by up to 20%. Switzerland's largest telecommunications company said several dozen jobs would be saved by the concession and that a drop in lost earnings would be partly compensated.
    [We'd say a couple of dozen if we meant 2 doz. and we estimate that "several dozen" means at least 3 dozen, ie: est. 36 jobs saved.]
    Swisscom's computer services unit announced in October 2003 that it was slashing 300 of its 2,300 employees.

  2. Job shift to India continues to hit headlines in the US, Economic Times [India].
    WASHINGTON: Outsourcing continues to be a hot topic in the United States with politicians railing against it and the phenomenon grabbing media headlines even as economists say that the practice is of benefit to the US in the long run.
    The US media is replete with stories on the phenomenon, charting how American jobs are being affected, but how Indians, especially English-speaking professionals, are benefitting and American companies are cutting costs.
    The Seattle Times wrote how 12-hour shifts and seven-day workweeks exhausted accountants at Rucci, Bardaro & Barrett.
    [In India or Seattle?]
    But most painful for employee Chris Barrett was the annual "Easter parade" layoffs of seasonal workers and interns after April 15.
    According to the paper, Barrett will send about 150 of his 600 clients' tax returns this year to India, where recent college graduates will prepare Americans' 1040 forms. Barrett won't hire or fire any extra employees, and the average turnaround time for completing returns was already shrinking.
    Speaking on the benefits of outsourcing, Barret said, "We're always looking for ways to reduce the pressure. It frees us up to provide financial and estate planning, which we didn't have time for when we were too busy filling out returns."
    The Accounting Web wrote on the trend towards outsourcing accounting work to India. It gives the example of the launch of a new American company, 'Accountants in India' (AII), which would enable US accounting firms to lower costs by hiring full-time accounting professionals in India. "Through AII, firms can hire a qualified, college-graduate accountant, successfully trained in QuickBooks Pro and other business management applications, for about $8 an hour," said Chief Operating Officer Wayne Harding.
    Time Magazine carried an article on the hi-tech boom in Bangalore, saying it represented the Indian economy in fast-forward mode.
    Steel-and-glass office buildings and sprawling corporate campuses are taking shape to handle the flood of new businesses and employees. Major players like IBM, Oracle and Intel are there, the magazine wrote.
    The outsourcing wave from the US has provided an outlet for the thousands of technically astute, English-speaking graduates pouring out of India's elite universities. These kids are "earning and spending" as never before, it said.
    According to a report in Business Week , Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape Communications, and who now chairs the start-up Opsware Inc, said Opsware was now considering hiring Indians to take advantage of talent at lower wages.
    Andreessen, an unrepentant believer in entrepreneurial capitalism, thinks new jobs and new industries will emerge in the US that will more than fill the current jobs gap.
    [Pure fairy dust. New jobs will never get a chance to emerge while cand his CEO buds are clobbering their own consumer base by laying off ever more of their own workforce. Add Andreesen to the growing list of self-serving CEOs and economists who've never themselves been laid off - Mankiw, Greenspan, Bush.]
    Tuscaloosa News carried a story on how US payrolls were changing lives in Bangalore. It said a social revolution was under way in India's numerous back offices and call centres.
    Many of the employees were barely in their twenties, and just a year or two ago they were living traditional lives in their parents' homes, often in smaller towns. Now, caste, religion and other age-old Indian social divisions are being shaken, the report claimed.
    [This is one weird story. Instead of simply telling us what's going on in India, the Economic Times of India wastes time telling us what US papers are saying is going on in India, without even confirming or denying it. Now that's media cowardice!]

2/21-23/2004   primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 2/20-22 via GoogleNews & searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA (except #1 which is from the 2/21-23 WSJ &/or NYT hardcopy), and excerpts [& comments] are by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialled -
  1. 2/23   Theory vs. Reality, op ed by Bob Herbert, NYT, A25.
    Welcome to the 21st century. The landscape has changed. We're in a new hypercompetitive worldwide economy, driven by breathtaking advances in technology. Men and women are being added to the global work force by the hundreds of millions.
    In this dynamic, potentially very treacherous labor market, few people are looking out for the interests of the American worker. The very concept of the traditional high-paid American job, with its generous health and pension benefits and paid vacations, is at risk.
    Senator Charles Schumer of New York sees the economic changes as a paradigm shift. In an era of high-bandwith communications and the free flow of capital, most goods and services can be produced or performed anywhere in the world. And with highly educated workers in countries like China and India ready and able to perform sophisticated tasks at a fraction of the pay earned by Americans, there are fewer and fewer reasons for those American jobs not to take flight.
    In light of these changes, said Senator Schumer, we should at least be asking some tough questions about the real-world effects of free trade as we've known it. Referring to David Ricardo, the 19th-century British economist whose theory of comparative advantage became the basis of free trade, Mr. Schumer said: "Ricardo set up a model that served very, very well for a very long time. But now there are new facts on the ground."
    The biggest and most ominous new fact for American workers is the dreadful employment environment of the current economic expansion. In terms of job creation, it's the worst expansion on record. The job growth since the recession officially ended in November 2001 has been primarily in low-paying sectors. These are not the upwardly mobile jobs long associated with entry into the American middle class.
    And they are not the kinds of jobs that free-trade advocates were promising in the 1990's, when they were hustling American factory workers, assuring them that the transfer of their jobs to low-wage countries overseas was a good thing. Globalization will be wonderful, the advocates said. There will be more jobs. Better jobs. Higher-paying jobs.
    The multinational corporations, which have had by far the biggest say in the development of America's trade policies, are thriving in the new environment. Workers are the big losers, and the losses are only beginning. We now know that offshoring or outsourcing — whatever the term of the moment is for dumping American workers in favor of cheaper workers elsewhere — was never going to be limited to factory jobs.
    Outsourcing is not the only reason for the employment squeeze in the U.S. But it's a significant reason. And while it's getting a lot of attention lately, it's not getting the kind of close scrutiny such a powerful economic force deserves.
    One of the great achievements of the United States has been the high standard of living of the average American worker. This was the result of many long years of struggle to obtain higher wages, shorter work weeks, health and pension benefits, paid vacations, safe working conditions, a measure of job security and so on.
    It is not an advance to move to a situation in which all of that can vanish with the flick of a computerized switch. High-quality employment is the cornerstone of the economic well-being of America's vast middle class.
    Among the questions we should be asking about the real-world effects of unrestrained trade is what happens to the U.S. economy after we've shipped so many jobs from so many sectors overseas that American families no longer have the disposable income to buy all the products and services they need to buy to keep the consumer economy going.
    That's not supposed to happen. In theory. But American workers are filled with anxiety because they understand that disaster can result when theory comes face to face with reality. One of the things that sank with the Titanic was the theory that it was unsinkable.
    In a recent column I wrote incorrectly that Bechtel had received no-bid contracts for work in Iraq. The company is operating under contracts won after limited bidding.

  2. 2/22   STUC makes Friday day for lunch break, The Herald [UK].
    UK - Workers across the country will this week be urged to take a proper lunch break and leave the office on time as part of a campaign to cut back on the billions of pounds of unpaid overtime worked throughout British industry every year.
    Friday has been designated as Work Your Proper Hours Day by the STUC and TUC in an attempt to highlight the country's working hours culture. Staff will be encouraged to stick to their contracted hours and not work through lunch eating a sandwich at their desk. The idea is to remind their bosses how much modern workplaces depend on unpaid overtime.
    The STUC has contacted shop stewards and health and safety representatives in various workplaces across Scotland to spread the word, although it is not yet known whether any special events are being planned for Friday. Grahame Smith, deputy general secretary of the STUC, said: "This is a TUC and STUC joint initiative to highlight the problem of the long hours culture. We've just got into the habit where employers expect, and staff are prepared to work, very long hours. "We want to bring this to the attention of people in the workplace, and especially employers who take advantage of workers and get them to work for longer than they should do. "The hours we work in Britain are far higher than the average for the rest of Europe. This brings with it various health and safety problems and can make family life difficult. "We've calculated that the average worker works 40 unpaid days in overtime a year." On the TUC's Worksmart website, workers can download and print out posters advertising the initiative. It also encourages them to send free e-cards to friends and colleagues who they think stay in the office too long, asking them to meet up for lunch or after work.

  3. 2/21   Business bosses 'are working too long', by Ian Bullock, Norfolk Eastern Daily Press [UK].
    UK - If your partner looks exhausted this morning after yet another long week at the office - or is even planning to pop into work again today - don't be too surprised. For many of East Anglia's business bosses are overworked and suffering from stress as they endure a "long hours culture", says a new study.
    More than two-thirds of business leaders are working 45 hours or more a week, in danger of exceeding the Government's recommended working week as set out in its Working Time Directive, and 60% suffer from work-related stress, says the report by business and financial advice firm Grant Thornton. The company canvassed the views of more than 870 senior UK business people about their work patterns, the major causes of work-related stress and how widespread it is.
    In East Anglia, the survey revealed that a "long hours culture" is well developed, with 67% working between 9 and 11 hours a day - up to 55 hours a week - and 5% working more than 60 hours a week. The Working Time Directive stipulates that people should not work more than an average of 48 hours a week over a 17-week period.
    76% of respondents work a five-day week, 15% work a six-day week, 6% work a four-day week or less and 20% often work at weekends.
    Nigel Savory, managing partner at Grant Thornton's Norwich office, said: "The survey was carried out among senior business people so it is not surprising to see high levels of commitment, both in terms of time and hands-on involvement. However, the frequency of weekend working and the fact that 15% work a six-day week is concerning and this will inevitably lead to increased stress levels if people are not achieving the right work/life balance. On the other hand, flexible working may allow people to work from home from time to time and this could potentially improve the work/life balance."
    60% of the sample admitted to suffering from work-related stress. The principal cause cited was having "too much to do in too little time" (40%), followed by 28% of respondents citing a "lack of communication and consultation". Other significant causes were listed as "lack of leadership" (12%) and "personality clashes" (12%).
    Companies appear prepared to tackle the problem, with 62% feeling there was a regular opportunity for staff to raise issues and 44% having a grievance procedure in place. But Mr Savory questioned whether this went far enough. "Our survey has shown that stress among business leaders in the workplace is at a phenomenal level. The Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development say that stress is likely to become the most dangerous risk to business in the early part of the 21st century and companies need to act now to address the issue," he said.

  4. 2/22   Working: If you can’t read this, you may be addicted to work, by Aleigh Acerni, Charleston Regional Business Journal [NC].
    Work-a-hol-ic: n. A compulsive worker. (courtesy Merriam-Webster online, M-W.com).
    If you’ve dashed through this issue of the Business Journal, or were reading this while driving, surfing the Internet, talking on the phone or paying your bills, you may be a workaholic.
    Are you the kind of work-obsessed employee your boss adores and your co-workers love to hate? For all of you who consider yourselves workaholics and are PROUD of it, take note: your work addiction may be the one legacy you end up passing on to your children whether you intend to or not.
    A recent article in The Wall Street Journal describes the work-addicted “baby boomlet” as those kids who come home from college for Christmas break, only to work full time through vacation (including Christmas), taking no time to relax. “As the baby boomlet hits their teens and 20s,” the article continues, “many parents are dismayed to see they’ve created little adults just like themselves: workaholics. They toil to exhaustion, they’re stressed and distracted, and they seldom make time to spend with loved ones.”
    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that almost 26 million Americans spend 49 or more hours a week on the job. Of those, nearly 11 million work 60 hours or more weekly. That’s a lot of workaholics! Here’s a quick test for signs of work addiction. Give yourself one point for every “yes”: If you’ve got two or more points, keep reading. Whether overwork is an addiction or simply habitual, it can cause rifts in your personal life, not to mention your physical and emotional health. According to WebMD.com, workaholics are more likely to be depressed, anxious and angry than non-workaholics. They have a tendency for high blood pressure (putting them at risk for heart disease and heart attacks), and have a weaker immune system, making them susceptible to other illnesses.
    Spouses and children of workaholics often feel ignored and resort to attention-seeking behavior, or resentment. Children of workaholics often have trouble distinguishing the good (work ethic) from the bad (work compulsion).
    The child of a workaholic quoted in The Wall Street Journal once told her father: “all I ever saw of you was the back of your head, sitting at your desk…” Here’s how to prevent raising a baby boomlet of your own and to show your children that having a balanced life is the most important goal.
    Learn time management. Read a book or work with a life coach. Perhaps simply learning to use your time effectively will allow you to work regular hours.
    Cut back at least a half-hour on your workday. If you’re not close to working a “normal” workweek in a month, go cold turkey, at least for a week. If nothing else, seeing the effect a less intense work schedule has on your family could inspire you to make it work long term.
    Get a hobby, something that you enjoy doing outside of work. And don’t let it become all-consuming. That defeats the purpose.
    Socialize with people you don’t work with.
    Discuss your overwork habit with family and friends. They probably already know it exists, but will be happy to know you’re ready to take action.
    List your true life priorities. Share them with your family.
    Set an example, and show the importance of play. Take a vacation. Take a day off. And don’t forget to turn off your cell phone and leave the laptop at home.

  5. 2/20   Illinois continues fight against federal overtime changes - Comptroller has made job-related issues a large part of his senate campaign, by Jennifer Wig, Lee News Service via Munster Times [Indiana].
    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The House Labor Committee approved legislation Thursday that would override new federal rules limiting overtime pay for white-collar workers. Sponsored by state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, House Bill 4462 would require the Illinois Dept. of Labor to maintain current eligibility tests for overtime. President Bush's administration is finalizing rules expected to dramatically reduce the number of executive, administrative and professional employees eligible for overtime pay after a 40-hour workweek. About 375,000 Illinois workers could be affected.
    The bill is supported by State Comptroller Dan Hynes, who is running in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary. Hynes has made job-related issues a large part of his campaign in railing against Bush's economic policies. "This is a slap in the face of workers and it is utterly unacceptable," Hynes said in a press release. "The Bush administration's favoritism for corporations over workers' rights is not only an affront to those workers and their families who depend on overtime pay but another costly assault on the Illinois economy."
    The new federal rules are expected to guarantee overtime for white-collar workers earning about $22,000 or less and abolish overtime for annual incomes above $65,000. Right now, only workers earning less than $8,000 are guaranteed overtime. The Bush administration has said the new regulations will extend overtime pay to 1.3 million low-wage workers, while 640,000 higher-paid employees would lose the benefit.
    For employees earning more than $22,000 but less than $65,000, their job classification could determine whether or not they are eligible for overtime. For example, current rules allow employers to exempt managers from overtime.
    The federal changes will go into effect March 31.

  6. 2/21   Overtime overhaul worries workers, by Karin Rives, Raleigh News [NC].
    Deborah Jenkins never read the Bush administration's 38-page proposal to overhaul the nation's overtime regulations. But the licensed practical nurse knows enough to worry that her work situation may change dramatically if the rules are implemented as expected by March 31.
    Workers in many industries would no longer be eligible for overtime pay under the Dept. of Labor's proposal. According to labor groups that have analyzed the plan, they include many: licensed practical nurses, journalists, EMTs, paramedics, cooks, secretaries, dental hygienists, bookkeepers, administrative support, computer support personnel, drafters, surveyors, designers, graphic artists, engineering technicians, planners, assistant and associate architects, health technicians and paralegals.
    The Labor Dept. says some of the affected positions could include accountants, auditors, marketing and quality control professionals.
    Who gets overtime?
    Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, nonexempt workers should be paid 150% of their regular pay after 40 hours of work in a work week. Some workers, such as police officers and firefighters employed by public agencies, and employees at hospitals and nursing homes, are not eligible for overtime.
    What will change?
    The U.S. Dept. of Labor will issue new overtime rules that will affect certain white-collar workers in executive, administrative, professional, outside sales and computer professions. Among the proposals: New "white-collar exemptions" could shift nurses, cooks, architects, paralegals, dental hygienists, secretaries and millions of other workers who are now paid time-and-a-half after 40 hours into the group of workers who can't get overtime pay, labor organizations warn.
    Jenkins, who has been a nurse for 25 years, rarely works more than 40 hours, because her employer, Durham Pediatrics, limits overtime. That could change, she fears, if requiring LPNs to work longer hours wouldn't cost employers. "You would have to stay until the last patient is gone," she said.
    Officials at the U.S. Dept. of Labor insist the analysis made by labor groups is exaggerated and premature. Critics such as the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest union federation, accuse the government of glossing over the truth.
    So it's not surprising that with a little more than a month to go before the new rules are expected to go into effect, most workers and bosses have only a vague idea of what's in store. Large Triangle companies such as Progress Energy, First Citizens Bank and Rex Healthcare say they're ready to re-classify dozens or perhaps hundreds of positions. But all are in limbo until the final rules are out.
    The disagreement stems, in part, from a difference in interpretations. The proposed rules, much like the old, don't designate specific professions - for instance, nurses or architects - as a group that can or cannot be paid overtime. Instead, human resources departments will have to apply a set of rules and tests based on income, job descriptions and responsibilities to determine who qualifies and who doesn't.
    Proponents say the new guidelines are less confusing than the old. Others predict that employers will struggle as much with the new rules as they did with the old ones. For example, journalists who today qualify for overtime pay could be classified as "exempt" from such compensation if their work includes "conducting interviews, reporting or analyzing public events and acting as a narrator," according to the Labor Dept.'s proposed rule. But journalists who "collect and record routine facts or data without analysis, interpretation, synthesis, or creative or original writing" would still qualify for overtime pay.
    And office managers who now must be paid overtime unless they "regularly exercise discretion and independent judgment" would lose that extra income if their job is simply considered "a position of responsibility."
    "For employers, the best thing that can happen here is for the rules to get clearer," said David Lindsay, a labor and employment attorney at Kilpatrick Stockton in Raleigh who represents corporate clients. In some ways, Labor Dept. officials have made the rules clearer, Lindsay said, "but it's not a perfect proposal."
    The Labor Dept. has fielded tens of thousands of public comments over the last year in response to its proposal, which was published in the Federal Register in March 2003. (To read the plan, go to www.dol.gov/esa/regs/fedreg/proposed/2003007449.htm.) After a Senate amendment to keep the agency from rewriting the regulations failed last month, the rule change seems certain.
    Still, some say it could be months or even years before the full effects of the revisions to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act become apparent in workplaces. "This is a problem that could snowball over time," said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank that has criticized the proposed changes. "There's no way, if this rule is implemented on March 31, that 8 million people will immediately lose their overtime protection. It will be eroded over time as employers begin to take advantage of the new exemptions."
    Joyce Davis, a Raleigh labor attorney who represents both workers and employers, thinks the new rules will lead to more lawsuits. "It will take years of litigation and appellate review to thresh out whether that nurse is going to actually be exempt," she predicted.
    Today, 39 million workers in the United States, or 29% of the total labor force, are barred from overtime pay because they perform certain executive, professional or administrative duties. The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimates that 640,000 additional workers would lose overtime pay under the new regulations, while 1.3 million low-wage, white-collar workers who are now ineligible for overtime pay would qualify.
    In all, 109 million workers at 6.5 million establishments will be subject to the new regulations, the Labor Dept. says. Among the beneficiaries will be 1.3 million people who make less than $22,100 a year managing restaurants, department stores or other businesses that today don't have to compensate for work over 40 hours, the agency estimates.
    The changes come as the government tries to modernize a 65-year-old law that most agree is outdated. Today, businesses spend up to $2 billion a year on back-wages, damages and attorney fees, in many cases after they accidentally misclassify employees and don't pay overtime, Labor officials say.
    But the government's effort to clarify the rules has become a topic of heated and partisan debate, with Democrats charging Republicans with trying to erode workers' rights, and Republicans accusing Democrats of playing politics. Labor groups have lined up as opponents, while the business community has come out in favor of the changes.
    In a Senate hearing last month, Bernstein called the Labor Dept.'s impact analysis flawed because it was based on a survey that covered only 11 million workers. The remaining 80 million or so people who are eligible for overtime - many of whom would be affected by the changes - were not included, he testified.
    The Economic Policy Institute estimates that as many as 8 million workers could lose overtime protection if the proposal becomes law. But Asst. Labor Secretary Victoria Lipnic insists her agency's estimate of 640,000 is solid. It was calculated with the help of a 2001 population survey, records showing overtime violations, and several assumptions that together produced, in Lipnic's view, "the best data available."
    She said she is confident the new rules will strengthen workers' rights because employers will find fewer opportunities to abuse ambiguities in the law. "Just the word overtime is something that resonates with everyone who's ever gotten a pay check," she said. "That's why it's important to me, as assistant secretary, that these rules be updated and at the end of the day that they benefit as many people as possible."
    Employers will have a grace period of at least two months to implement the rules, and the Labor Dept. will assist businesses that need help interpreting them.



Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
Feb.11-20/2004
Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
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Jan.1-9/2004
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2002
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Y2000
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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.

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