Timesizing® Associates - Homepage
Timesizing News, September 7-10, 2004
[Commentary] ©2004 Phil Hyde, Timesizing.com, Box 622, Porter Sq, Cambridge MA 02140 USA 617-623-8080
9/10/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 9/9 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #1, 2a, 2b, 2c which are from 9/10 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 9/10), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
9/9/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 9/08 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except Australian & Far East stories which are 9/9), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Nucor raises estimate for profit in third quarter, Bloomberg via NYT, C3.
[Latest on a major spontaneously timesizing US corporation, one of our ' working models' -]
The Nucor Corp., a steelmaker, raised its forecast yesterday for profit in Q3. The company boosted its dividend and will split its stock for the first time since 1993. Profit for the quarter will be $4.40-4.60/share, higher than a forecast of $3.20-3.40 Nucor made in July. Stronger demand is helping the company raise prices and pass on rising costs for natural gas and scrap. The profit would be higher than the $3.72 a share forecast by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call. Nucor's stock rose $6.13, or 7%, to $88.43 a share.
[Nucor, which 'accordions' their workweek instead of their workforce, is the most profitable American steel company, and often the only profitable one.]
- The House defied Bush's threat of a veto..., pointer blurb (to A3), WSJ, front page.
...in voting 223-193 to bar the administration from enforcing its new overtime-pay rules. 22 Republicans broke ranks to give a rare victory to organized labor.
[And the targeted headline -]
House votes to bar new regulations on overtime pay, by David Rogers, NYT, A3.
[Compare NY Times version -]
House votes to block administration's rules on overtime - A sharp rebuke to the House leadership and the White House, by Carl Hulse, NYT, A14.
[Here's the AP version in full -]
House balks at work rules - 22 Republicans join Democrats in overtime vote,
by JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press via Houston Chronicle, TX.
WASHINGTON - In a sharp rebuke of a new administration policy, the House
moved Thursday to block the Labor Department from carrying out overtime
rules that critics claim could deprive millions of workers of overtime pay.
The 223-193 vote in favor of blocking the rules defied the White House. A
veto is threatened for a massive spending bill, now on the House floor, if
it contains any language tampering with the rules that took effect Aug. 23.
"This is one step in the legislative process. We are continuing to work with
the Congress," said Trent Duffy, a spokesman for President Bush.
Democrats, united against the rules, were joined by 22 Republicans in voting
for the amendment to a $142.5 billion health and education bill.
"The administration has chosen this time to institute new regulations, which
for the first time in 80 years scale back workers' entitlement to overtime
pay," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., a sponsor of the overtime proposal.
"This is the place where making ends meet happens because people have
overtime pay. Republicans cannot grasp that," said Democratic leader Nancy
Pelosi of California.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry called the veto threat "the
latest evidence of how dead wrong the Bush administration is when it comes
to meeting the needs of America's struggling middle class."
The White House and most Republicans insisted the rules would update an
antiquated overtime system and make1 million more lower-paid workers
eligible for overtime.
"I do think that the clarity that comes with these new rules will help
better protect American workers," said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman
of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
The Senate has yet to take up the health and education bill.
House GOP Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he expects the provision to be removed
when the House and Senate meet to work out the final version of the bill.
Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette of Ohio, who voted for the amendment,
suggested there was a middle ground. "I would hope this vote, taken together
with some votes in the Senate, will let the administration say, 'Well, wait
a minute, let's go back and revisit this case.' "
Democrats and pro-labor Republicans have fought for more than a year to stop
the Labor Department from going ahead with the proposed rules.
The administration said they were needed to adjust to changing working
conditions and clear up confusion that has led to lawsuits against
"For those who receive overtime, it's as high as 20 or 25% of their
income," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., co-sponsor of the provision with
"It's the largest government-imposed pay cut in the history of this
country," Miller said.
The AFL-CIO, which has lobbied against the new rules, said 6 million workers
facing weakened overtime protections include foremen and assistant managers,
nurses, workers in the financial services industry, journalists and others
who do small amounts of administrative work.
The department said 1.3 million workers who earn less than $23,660 a year
would become eligible, while about 107,000 white-collar workers making
$100,000 or more could lose eligibility.
The department said the amendment would put the overtime rights of millions
in jeopardy because the government could no longer protect those making more
"Especially hard-hit are police, firefighters, construction workers and
others whose overtime rights were explicitly guaranteed for the first time
in the new rules," said Alfred B. Robinson Jr., acting administrator for the
Wage and Hour Division.
[Here's Kerry's reaction -]
Statement by John Kerry on House overtime vote,
press release by by Allison Dobson of Kerry-Edwards 2004 (202-464-2800 or
http://www.johnkerry.com), U.S. Newswire DC.
WASHINGTON - Senator John Kerry released the
following statement on today's House vote (223-193) to stop the Bush
"Today's House vote to stop the Bush overtime regulations was a huge
victory for working Americans and underscores the bipartisan opposition to
George Bush's war on overtime pay. George W. Bush has actually threatened to
veto funding for critical education and health programs to perpetuate his
wrong- headed scheme to deny overtime pay to 6 million Americans.
"This threat is the latest evidence of how dead wrong the Bush
administration is when it comes to meeting the needs of America's struggling
middle class. overtime pay is the lifeline that allows millions of working
families to keep their heads above water in an economy sinking under a
rising tide of health care and energy costs."
[And here's House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's reaction -]
Pelosi: Democrats Win Vote on overtime Pay for Working Americans,
PRNewswire via Yahoo News.
WASHINGTON - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
released the following statement today after the House voted 223 to 193 to
accept a Democratic amendment, offered by Democratic Congressmen David Obey
of Wisconsin and George Miller of California, to block implementation of the
Bush Administration's new overtime regulations:
"Today's vote was a rare victory for middle class Americans. President
Bush's overtime regulations will affect 6 million workers and are the
biggest pay cut ever for middle class families, cutting 25% of some
"A 25% pay cut is a punch in the teeth of working Americans, and
Democrats put on a full-court press to stop it. Democrats will not stand by
while middle class Americans are asked to work more so that President Bush's
special interest friends can pay them less.
"Both the House and the Senate have now voted to block the President's
overtime pay cut. Republican leaders should honor the wishes of both Houses
and stop the regulations, but if history is any guide they will deceive,
dodge, and delay until the bidding of their special interest masters is
done. Democrats will fight to make certain hardworking Americans get the
overtime pay they deserve."
- VW, Opel join German outfits going for jugular in wage talks,
AFP & Bloomberg via Business Report, South Africa.
FRANKFURT - Labour conflict looks set to boil over in the German vehicle sector in the coming weeks as car makers seek to
impose rigorous belt-tightening measures in answer to chronically weak demand.
At Volkswagen (VW), Europe's biggest car maker, unions and management are already engaged in fierce sabre-rattling ahead of next week's wage talks.
Management is seeking a two-year wage freeze and increased flexibility of working hours. The company says it aims to
preserve 176 544 jobs in Germany while reducing labour spending by 30% by 2011.
But in the battle to get what it wants, the car maker seems willing to go for the jugular. Up to 30 000 jobs in Germany
could be axed if unions did not agree to deep cost-cutting plans, VW finance chief Hans Dieter Poetsch threatened in an
interview with the Wall Street Journal Europe yesterday.
A VW spokesperson subsequently tried to play down Poetsch's comments, insisting that the "30 000 number is based on a purely
mathematical model for a scenario when the cost situation does not improve".
But the remarks succeeded in riling the unions.
The powerful IG Metall union, which is demanding wage increases of 4% and job guarantees for employees at VW's six
German production sites, slammed Poetsch's comments as an affront. "It's completely unacceptable that yet another VW board
member is pouring oil on to the fire of the wage dispute" before the talks had even started, said IG Metall's chief
negotiator, Hartmut Meine. "It is irresponsible to play with people's fears for their jobs," Meine added. "Employees are not
Poetsch's high-handed and confrontational stance made IG Metall all the more determined to fight for its demands, he said.
"They're putting pressure on the unions ahead of the talks, but there's a realistic background to the number," said Robert
Heberger, an analyst at Merck Finck in Munich. "Management at VW is very serious about their plan to lower costs because
they can't go on producing cars in Germany and pay 20% more than competitors."
Pay at VW plants in Argentina and the Czech Republic was as much as 80% less than in western Germany, Peter Hartz,
the car maker's personnel chief, said last month.
German new car sales fell 3% in August to 222 000 units, according to industry figures released earlier this week.
Another car maker, Opel, also seems set on strong-arming unions into submission. Management and unions at the loss-making
German subsidiary of US car giant General Motors (GM) are trying to hammer cost cuts, including an extension of the working
week to 40 hours and a cut in bonuses.
Unions, for their part, want job guarantees until 2010.
But GM upped the ante last week by suggesting Opel's main factory in Ruesselsheim, outside Frankfurt, could be under threat
The threat acted as a red rag to the bull of the German unions. The head of Opel's works council, Klaus Franz, warned
managers not to underestimate employees' willingness to fight.
The tough tone has been set by rival car maker DaimlerChrysler, which in July succeeded in using the threat of job cuts to
force unions to agree to €500 million (R4 billion) in cost cuts, including longer hours and a reduction in benefits.
A growing number of major German companies have been pushing for pay cuts and longer working hours to improve
competitiveness at a time when Germans are feeling resentful about the government's painful reforms of social welfare and
In July, Siemens and Bosch reached accords with workers to lower expenses and increase flexibility to maintain profit
Since 1970, hours per worker in the EU had dropped 17%, more than five times the rate in the US, an Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development study said.
- French government encourages employers’ jobs blackmail,
By Pierre Mabut, Infoshop News.
In recent weeks, French companies have launched a number of significant attacks on workers’ jobs and living standards. These
include firms threatening to relocate as a means of imposing wage cuts, such as auto parts maker Bosch’s successful effort
to make its employees accept 36 hours’ work for 35 hours’ pay or face the transfer of production to the Czech Republic.
Then there was the hasty dismantling of production lines in 24 hours by Snappon GDX Automotive and their being shipped to
the Czech Republic. The operation took place under the protective eye of the CRS riot police. The 225 jobs disappeared
overnight. Snappon is an automotive parts manufacturer and a subsidiary of the US group Gencorp.
Management had previously tried to remove its machinery during the night of July 15, but was prevented from doing so by
barricades erected by workers. However, on August 26, the firm was armed with a judge’s decision to “protect the rights of
property and trade without hindrance.” Although the judge had also empowered the works council to legally oppose the
firings, le préfet, the local national state official, conveniently shelved the matter until Snappon had completed its
business of relocation to the Czech Republic.
The company’s relocation is in line with its goal of lowering production costs (especially labour costs) and remaining
close to its clients such as PSA Peugeot, which is setting up a new auto production plant in eastern Europe.
Nonetheless, the right-wing government of Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is coming under increasing pressure from the
employers’ federation MEDEF (Movement of French Enterprises) to abandon its “social cohesion” policy.
MEDEF is happier with Raffarin’s attack on the unemployed, which will oblige the jobless to accept virtually any job
anywhere after six months, on pain of losing some or all of their unemployment entitlements. Baron Seillière, in the Figaro
interview, is unequivocal on one question: “It’s better to work longer and keep one’s job than sanctify the 35-hour week
and lose it.”
[Start down the road of longer hours and you're going to lose your job security anyway, because you're concentrating employment and spreading unemployment in an age of automation and further weakening domestic consumer demand, already weakened by the self-destructiveness of "free" trade (actually very costly) and outsourcing.]
Seillière underlined at the opening of the MEDEF meeting that the Bosch company’s wage-cutting was “a demonstration of
social gains having to give way to economic necessity.”
Yet another blow to workers, this time in the poultry industry, came from Doux—the biggest chicken producer in Europe. On
August 26, the company announced the abandonment of the shorter working week, cutting the average wage, according to the
unions, by 500 euros a year for workers who are already earning the legal minimum wage of 7.61 euros an hour.
Elsewhere, the Sediver company, part of the Italian group Vertoarredo, plans to move production of electric glass insulators
to its subsidiaries in China and Brazil unless the workforce accepts a 25-30% wage reduction—which, according to the
company, would save 150 out of the 294 jobs. Trade union representatives believe that even with the concessions demanded,
the company will close in two years.
In eastern France, the American manufacturer of electronic components, Vishay, has decided to close its plant at Colmar,
putting 292 workers out of a job. In order, as the company put it in its press release, “to safeguard competitive activity,
the assembling of diodes will be regrouped on the sites in China and Hungary, and the activity in Colmar ended.”
The Vishay unit at Colmar specialises in diodes and transistors destined for the auto, computer and household electronic
goods manufacturing sector. The company announcement goes on to explain its motives for relocation by saying, “This
specialised division in diodes is faced with a market characterised by the massive displacement of electronic manufacturing
and component suppliers to low-cost countries, and more especially Asia, a continuous drop in retail prices and a strong
slowdown of growth is expected as from 2005.”
Workers at Vishay estimate that wage rates are around 40% lower at the sites in the Czech Republic. Originally, the
site was set up in Colmar by the American conglomerate ITT in the 1960s, employing 600 people. The number of jobs gradually
fell until American Semiconductors took over and merged with Vishay several years ago.
The same type of jobs blackmail and attacks on workers rights carried out in France is taking place in Germany, all across
Europe and around the globe. But the trade union leaders ignore the international reality behind the relocation blackmail:
the drive of capital to seek out the lowest production costs on the planet under conditions of globalisation. They pretend
that some national solution can be found for this problem and portray the nation-state as a guarantor of workers’ social
- Southern China facing labor shortage,
UPI via Washington Times, DC.
BEIJING, China - Factories in southern China are facing a
labor shortage as migrant workers seek better wages and working conditions
elsewhere, a government survey shows.
The study, released this week by China's Ministry of Labor and Social
Security, said there was an estimated 10% labor shortage in the Pearl
River Delta, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, where factories are most
The Pearl River Delta alone reportedly requires an additional 2 million
workers to meet present needs. About 6 million workers a year arrive in the
area from poor inland provinces, but many are moving on after short periods
of work, seeking better conditions.
Most affected are manufacturers of toys, shoes and clothing, with some
electronics and plastics producers also in trouble, the South China Morning
Analysts said a rise in grain prices might have lured some migrants back to
their farms, but younger workers, unwilling to put up with low wages and
long hours, were seeking better jobs as opportunities increased elsewhere.
- Bumpy road to Saudisation - Twenty years after the peak of the oil boom, Saudi Arabia is struggling to find enough jobs for its citizens,
by Rasheed Abou-Alsamh, Al-Ahram Weekly, Egypt.
[This makes Saudi Arabia a prime candidate for the Timesizing Full Employment Program.]
Despite the fact that seven million foreigners work in Saudi Arabia, the
country is ironically finding it hard to place the estimated 300,000
unemployed Saudis in the workforce.
A combination of a weak educational system, and an attitude of entitlement
brought on by once having had an annual per capita GDP
(GDP) of $27,000, has contributed to the current dilemma of Saudi
unemployment. Some Saudis also believe that the easy availability of cheaper
foreign workers has prevented Saudis wanting employment from finding work.
But the heady days of a welfare state are over. For sure, education all the
way up to the university level is still free, and all Saudis have access to
free healthcare, but the Saudi government has been steadily privatising
everything from the telephone company to desalination plants in an attempt
to lighten its burden of a SR660 billion public debt ($176 billion).
With annual per capita GDP now down to $7,500 and one of the world's
highest annual population growth rates of 3.2%, the pressure on the
government to help needy Saudis has grown exponentially. "When the
Saudisation of jobs held by foreigners was first mentioned in 1987 it was
like a far-fetched goal, somewhere there on the horizon," said an American
teacher who has been teaching Saudis English for the past 20 years.
Not anymore. The government has become very aggressive in cracking down on
businesses that are too slow or even reluctant to employ Saudis. An
ambitious Saudisation target of 5% a year for the workforce of
every company with more than 100 workers was put into place in 1993.
Companies initially complied with the order to show how cooperative they
were with the government, but subsequent years saw a slide in compliance.
Reasons for this slide were virtually the same for every company involved:
Saudis were too expensive, not properly trained, had a bad work ethic andoften jumped from job to job, even when given expensive training. Foreigners
were cheaper, worked long hours without complaining and were practically
shackled to their employers by the iqama sponsorship scheme that all foreign
workers are part of.
In a further attempt at forcing compliance with its Saudisation targets,
the government a few years ago declared whole job categories open to Saudis
This meant that work visas were no longer being issued for accountants,
security guards and salesmen, among others. Many companies got around this
restriction illegally by bringing in workers within a certain job category
and having them perform other duties. Regular raids on shops and offices by
Passport Office officials soon put a stop to that when errant workers were
arrested and deported, and employers were fined for disobeying immigration
With a population of 12 million Saudis, and dwindling oil revenue despite
this year's expected budget surplus of SR130 billion ($34 billion) as a
result of the spike in world oil prices, Labour Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi
declared war on the open sale of work visas that had developed into a very
profitable business for corrupt Saudis over the past decade.
"It is unacceptable that we issued 600,000 job visas last year. At the rate
we're going, we will issue 750,000 work visas this year, a figure that I
shall never accept as long as I am in a position of responsibility," Al-
Gosaibi said last April to the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and
Industry in Riyadh.
According to Al-Gosaibi, as much as 70% of visas issued are being
sold on the black market. Many Saudis involved in the sale of visas, have
companies only on paper and ghost employees. But these ghost employees are
very lucrative, each one paying an average of SR9,000 ($2,400) for a visa,
and SR100 ($27) a month, plus extra fees for exit/re-entry visas and
renewals of work permits. In return for this lucre, the Saudi contractor
just has to sign a few bits of paper and hardly lift a finger.
But the days of easy money for corrupt Saudis is rapidly ending. The
government has put the squeeze on the number of visas being issued, with a
just announced new rule that a commercial establishment can only apply for
one work visa at a time, with a two-month period between each subsequent
application. Previously, employers could apply for visas in blocks of 10, 20
or 30, enabling them to bring in planeloads of workers at a time.
Al-Gosaibi says the government has adopted a three-pronged approach to
fighting unemployment: Control the influx of foreigners; intensify practical
training of Saudis and set up a dialogue with the private sector to create
more jobs for Saudis.
Although the government has set up many technical colleges and programmes
across the kingdom, economists and employers still complain that there is a
disconnection between what Saudi schools are producing and what the Saudi
economy needs in terms of skilled labour.
"I don't think the government has set realistic Saudisation targets as
there isn't enough training for Saudis to be able to substitute foreign
workers," Nahed Taher, chief economist of the Jeddah-based National
Commercial Bank, told Al- Ahram Weekly in an interview. "Unfortunately, 35%
of Saudi workers are in administration, 25% in education
and only 3% in industry. We need to change our curriculum's
emphasis on the social sciences and humanities to more technical subjects if
our Saudisation programme is to succeed."
In the mean time, the private sector has found itself forced to step in and
fill in the gaps in training of the Saudis that it hires. According to
Faisal Ghulam, general manager for human resources at Tetra-Pak Saudi
Arabia, his company has signed an agreement to train 30 students from the
Jeddah Technical College for six months to a year. During the training,
Tetra-Pak will pay the trainees a basic salary and give them the opportunity
of full-time employment if they show promise. The company has even built a
fully-equipped ideal classroom and donated it to the technical college, as
part of its contribution to training Saudis. The classroom will be ready by
the end of September.
"The Labour Office used to send us Saudi graduates who were looking for
jobs, but more often than not they would send us literature graduates who
were completely unsuitable for technical jobs. That's why we started our own
training programme," explained Ghulam to the Weekly. "Our workforce of 312
employees is 35% Saudi, but we find it extremely difficult to find
High salary expectations of some Saudi graduates have also prevented many
of them from finding suitable employment. It is not uncommon for engineering
or computer science graduates to expect a starting salary of around SR12,000
a month ($3,200), especially if they have a degree from the US or Britain.
But Saudi employers have been reluctant to pay such high starting salaries
when they can hire foreign engineers at a fraction of the cost.
"We have a very low retention rate for Saudis," said Bader Al- Aujan,managing director of the Dammam-based Al-Aujan Industries, which produces
Rani, Vimto and Barbican beverages in the kingdom. "Since much of our
business involves working in a scorching factory or delivery trucks, we find
many of our Saudi employees leave us once they find jobs with easier work
conditions even if they get less pay." Even so, his company is now 25%
Al-Aujan says the government has politicised the whole Saudisation drive,
and is not listening closely enough to what Saudi businessmen are saying.
"What we need is national masterplan for developing the economy and
generating more jobs, much like Singapore has done," said Al-Aujan. "With
10-13% unemployment and 50% of the population under the age
of 25, what is the plan? What are we going to do 15-20 years from now?"
While waiting for a national masterplan, many Saudi businesses have forged
ahead full- heartedly with Saudisation. A good example is the Al-Azizia-
Panda Supermarket chain, which has fully Saudised all of its cashiers in its
48 supermarkets across the country.
"In 1999, only 5% of our employees were Saudi," Abdul-Rahman
Al-Zomiea, Panda's localisation manager, told the Weekly from Riyadh. "At
that point we had to decide whether we were going to stick to the
government's minimum of 5% Saudisation a year or were we going to
do more? We decided that we needed a strategic objective for Saudisation
that would give us a competitive edge."
Today, 31% of Panda's 5,500 workforce is Saudi, and the company has
already spent a total of SR19 million ($5 million) in training programmes
for new and current Saudi employees.
"Most of our cashiers are 18-21 years of age, and after one year of
successful work have the opportunity to move up to assistant store manager,"
Surprisingly, Panda's success story has been in a job category that in the
past Saudis would not have touched with a 10-foot pole for being low paying
and of relatively low status. But this development of seeing Saudis working
as cashiers, security guards and fast-food waiters is an indication that
Saudis are finally realising that not all of them are destined to have
university degrees and land managerial jobs.
The bottom line remains that Saudi students need much more training than
they're currently receiving and also need to improve their English-language
and computer skills to be competitive in an increasingly globalised
One Western manager of a private English-language school in Jeddah told the
Weekly that he felt Saudis had realised in the past year that the bubble of
prosperity had burst. Indeed, his school's summer enrolment of Saudi
students was up 40% over last year's.
Even so, it is clear that until enough Saudis are adequately trained to
replace key foreign workers, the government is going to have to work out a
plan with Saudi businessmen to allow foreign workers to still be hired, but
without restricting access to jobs for qualified Saudis. It's going to be a
delicate balancing act, finding appropriate jobs for the growing number of
unemployed Saudis while satisfying the private sector's need for skilled
foreign labour. Labour Minister Al-Gosaibi certainly has his work cut out
- Volkswagen Threatens 30,000 Job Cuts to Lower Costs (Update3),
by Jeremy van Loon (jvanloonbloomberg.net), Bloomberg.
FRANKFURT - Volkswagen AG, Europe's biggest carmaker, is
threatening to slash 30,000 jobs to force unionized employees to accept a
pay freeze in the latest and largest labor- management confrontation this
year in Germany.
Germany's high labor costs and slow economic growth are leading companies
to demand longer hours without higher pay.
[= equivalent to a demand for weaker domestic consumer markets.]
DaimlerChrysler AG, Siemens AG
and Robert Bosch GmbH in July reached accords with workers to lower expenses
and increase flexibility as the companies struggle to maintain profit
Volkswagen wants more than 100,000 workers to agree to a two- year wage
freeze amid a stagnating car market, dismissing a union demand for a 4%
yearly raise. The company aims to preserve 176,544 jobs in Germany
while reducing labor spending by 30% by 2011. Contract talks will
"They're putting pressure on the unions ahead of the talks, but there's a
realistic background to the number," said Robert Heberger, an analyst at
Merck Finck & Co. in Munich who has a "sell" rating on the Volkswagen's
stock. "Management at Volkswagen is very serious about their plan to lower
costs and they have to be because they can't go on producing cars in Germany
and pay 20% more than the competition."
Shares of Wolfsburg, Germany-based Volkswagen rose as much as 16 cents, or
0.5%, to 32.13 euros and were up 5 cents at 12:52 p.m. in Frankfurt.
The stock is down 27% so far this year, making it the second worst
performer on Germany's benchmark DAX Index.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government is preparing to implement a law
that lowers benefits for the long-term unemployed and compel them to accept
low-paid jobs, sparking tens of thousands of demonstrators to take to the
streets. German unemployment rose the most in five months in August to 10.6
percent, the highest level since May 2003, weakening unions' bargaining
German business confidence declined for a third month in four in August and
consumer confidence fell to the lowest in more than a year.
[You'd think they'd get a little more "nuanced" about free trade and with Third World countries after this, but no, the True Religion goes on and on.]
Hans Eichel last week boosted his forecast for the budget deficit this year
to 3.7% of GDP, pushing the shortfall further
beyond European Union limits for a third straight year.
The Volkswagen cuts are based on a "mathematical model" derived from the
carmaker's plan to lower costs by 30% in Germany over the next seven
years, said Stefan Ohletz, a company spokesman.
[Bet that mathematical model does not factor in the impact on domestic demand and unemployment taxes of reconcentrating the nation's vanishing employment on fewer people at a time when they need to do just the opposite.]
IG Metall, the union representing Volkswagen workers, is sticking with its
demand for a 4% wage increase, said Harmut Meine, the chief
negotiator in the upcoming talks. The company is "playing with people's
fears about their jobs," he said in an e-mailed statement.
Pay and benefits at Volkswagen plants in Argentina and the Czech Republic
are as much as 80% less than at factories in western Germany, said
Peter Hartz, the carmaker's personnel chief, last month. At Volkswagen's
eastern German plant of Mosel, the figure is about 20% less than in
Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Bernd Pischetsrieder in July cut the
carmaker's 2004 earnings target because of "weak demand" and rising oil
prices. IG Metall also negotiated on behalf of workers at Siemens and
The IMF forecasts the German economy will expand 1.8% this year,
about half the rate projected for the U.S., Japan and the U.K.
[But then, Germany is not dotted with prisons like the U.S., or stained
with the blood of 10,000 Iraqis like the U.S. and U.K.]
German new car sales fell 3% in August to 222,000 units, the German
automobile manufacturers association, said earlier this week.
DaimlerChrysler on July 23 won 500 million euros in cost cuts from workers
after threatening to shed 6,000 jobs. Robert Bosch, the world's
second-largest auto-parts maker, reached an accord with workers at its
German power-tools factories to cut costs by 7 million euros a year and
increase "work-time flexibility." Bosch, which is closely held, is also
based in Stuttgart.
Munich-based Siemens won an extension of the work week at two phone
factories to 40 hours from 35 hours at no extra pay, after threatening to
cut 2,000 jobs there. The accord applies to more than 4,000 workers
assembling phones at the Kamp-Lintfort and Bocholt factories and will allow
the company to cut costs by 30%.
The German carmaker wants to maintain the number of jobs in Germany, but no
movement from the union side would be "an extreme negative for the
employment situation," Chief Financial Officer Hans Dieter Poetsch told the
Wall Street Journal in an interview published today.
Moody's Investor Service Tuesday changed the outlook on Volkswagen Bank's
short-term debt to `negative' from `stable' citing the carmaker's plan to
buy LeasePlan Corp. The bank's long-term debt is rated A2, or six steps from
junk, while Volkswagen group has a long-term rating of A3.
In Germany, the number of workers covered by union contracts dropped to 68
percent in 2000 from more than 80% in 1990. IG Metall, the country's
second-largest union, last year suffered its worst defeat since 1945 when it
failed to get eastern German employers to pare work hours.
Since 1970, hours per worker in the European Union have dropped 17%,
more than five times the rate in the U.S., according to a study by the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. German
employees put in an average 1,446 hours last year and their French
counterparts worked 1,453 hours, about a fifth less than the 1,792 hours
worked in the U.S., the study showed.
- Self-delusion, rosy picture,
Miami Herald (subscription), FL.
"I don't think we can win the war on terror.
"Wait! Wait! Forget I said that! We can win the war on terror! We can! We
I half expected to see President Bush holding Toto and furiously clicking
his ruby slippers together, so certain was he that simply by repeating a
belief, he could make it so.
Yet Bush's 24-hour pirouette regarding the winnability of the war on
terrorism - easily the flippest of flops yet seen in a presidential
campaign laced with accusations of same - provided an appropriate backdrop
for the recent Republican National Self-Delusionfest at Madison Square
'Safe' in a N.Y. bunker
The theme of the convention - indeed, of the entire GOP presentation this
election cycle - seemed to be, If we say something often enough, no matter
how inaccurate, laughable or downright ludicrous, it becomes reality.
How else but through self-delusion could a political party stage its
convention deep within a formidable, neighborhood-strangling armed defensive
bunker, having placed New York under a level-orange terrorism alert, and
still take credit for making Americans "safer?"
How else but through self-delusion could an administration underfund its own
education program by $9.5 billion, underfund veterans benefits and close VA
hospitals, call the outsourcing of jobs overseas a good thing and cut back
access to overtime - while 1.3 million additional Americans fell below the
poverty line and 1.4 million became newly uninsured in the last year alone
- and still claim to be the party of "compassion?"
How else but through self-delusion could a president turn a projected $5
trillion federal surplus into a projected $5 trillion deficit, create the
largest annual budget deficit in U.S. history and preside over a net loss of
a million jobs - while personal bankruptcies hit all-time highs - and
still claim to be steward of a "strong" economy?
U.S. soldiers being killed
How else but through self-delusion could a president speak of "liberating"
the people of a nation that now teeters on the brink of a civil war held off
not by any exercise of democracy but only by the intervention of a godlike
ayatollah who, luckily for us, is named Sistani and not Khomeini?
How else but through self-delusion could an administration claim to be
"winning" a war on terrorism while scores of American soldiers are being
killed each month by terrorists in Iraq, when airliners are crashing in
Russia, buses are blowing up in Beersheba and commuter trains are exploding
in Madrid, and civilians from various nations are being kidnapped in Iraq
Oh, that's right - Bush said that we can't win the war on terrorism, just
before he said that we could. You know things are bad when Bush can't even
get his delusions straight.
Self-delusion is usually harmless, even entertaining - until others begin
to buy into it in large numbers. There has been an eerily cultish quality
among Bush supporters. His devotees have been hypnotically impervious to any
evidence contradicting whatever spin on reality he and his people have put
Ignoring the facts
It's disconcerting when a leader can induce adoring followers to believe
what he says over the reality that should be evident. It almost makes you
want to cry out, Snap out of it! Don't drink the Kool-Aid!
A commission empaneled by the White House says that Bush's defense
secretary bears some responsibility for the reprehensible treatment of
prisoners at Abu Ghraib? Four more years!
Bush refuses to denounce the widely discredited ads aired by Swift Boat
Hypocrites for Truth despite their implicit insult to all war veterans? Four
Bush's envoy concludes that there probably were no weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq, yet Bush chose to attack? Four more years!
The 9/11 Commission reveals that Bush did little despite being handed a
document a month before the Sept. 11 attacks entitled "Bin Laden determined
to strike in U.S."? Four more years!
- OUR OPINION: The world vote,
by Steve Williams, Victorville Daily Press, CA.
In France the other day, a leftist organization (are there any other kind
[yes, there's Le Pen & his far-right party, and there's Pres. Chirac & his center-right party which introduced a voluntary 10 or 15% cut in corporate workweeks (the Robien Law) in '96 with 10 or 15% corporate taxbreak incentives in the name of creating more jobs]
was pushing hard for a 25-hour work week
[this poor sap can't even get the number right - it was a 35-hour workweek - we caught the WSJ article this incident was mentioned in on 9/03/2004 #1]
in the name of creating more "jobs" by cutting the hours of those who have jobs and giving those hours to the new hires required to fill a firm's work force. Weekly pay, of
course, would stay the same.
One member of the organization was asked why it wasn't seeking a 10-hour
work week, thus creating quarter-time jobs for every single citizen of the
country - at full-time pay, of course.
[Steve Williams of the Victorville Daily Press CA is a news-distorting liar. The organization member was asked why she wasn't seeking a 25-hour workweek.]
The reply? "Oh, that would be silly." So even the French have limits to their insanity.
[If cutting the workweek is insane, then the God of Moses is insane, because He cut the workweek from seven days to six c.1500 BC (see the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20), and all Americans are insane because they cut the workweek from 80-84 hours in 1776 to 40 hours in 1940. Steve Williams evidently thinks the 40-hour workweek is, was, and ever shall be.]
That whole episode reminds us of the left in California, which is now
seeking yet another increase in the minimum wage, this time to $7.15 an
hour. That would force California employers to pay the highest minimum wage
in the country.
[A minimum wage is destructive, and sufficient workweek reduction would make it unnecessary.]
Why doesn't the left go whole hog and ask for a minimum wage of $50 an hour,
thus (theoretically) creating the richest working class on the planet?
Asking that question of those groups would draw blank looks, looks that tell
you they wonder how you could be so silly.
But what's the real difference if government is allowed to dictate to employers how much they must pay their employees, or what the maximum number of hours can be for an individual worker per week? There isn't any.
[Yes there is. If employers continue to introduce worksaving technology without offsetting cuts in maximum workhours per week, the mounting labor surplus will continue to flatten wages and consumer markets and we will be in a permanent and deepening depression that will make our current permanently "struggling recovery" look like a wartime boom.]
Given that, it's no surprise to learn that a poll conducted from May to
August by GlobeScan, a Canadian research company, shows John Kerry would win
a "global election" for president in 30 of the 35 countries surveyed. Kerry,
of course, has been in favor of every minimum wage hike he ever saw, and
would doubtless also be in favor of cutting the work week to a maximum of 25
hours - with no reduction in weekly pay.
[Not too many people are smart enough to see a difference between minimum wages (impotent or worse) and maximum workweeks (imperative ever since we started introducing worksaving technology) - most economists aren't, for instance - so why should Kerry be?]
Kerry would do best in Norway, where socialism rules (74% vs. 7%
for Bush). He would also win overwhelmingly in Germany (74%
to 10%), France (64-5), the Netherlands (63-6), Italy (58-14) and
Spain (45-7). In the United Kingdom, he would win 47% to 16%,
in Japan 43-23 and in Canada 61-16. In Germany, France, and the Netherlands,
cradle-to-grave care - under which those who work subsidize those who won't
- is the norm.
[And there is a lot smaller percentage of those who won't or don't in those countries than in the U.S., which has 2m families on welfare, 5.7m on disability, min. est. 2m homeless (based on 930k youth homeless), 2.2m incarcerated, and uncounted millions on forced early retirement and self-'employment' without clients.]
And in those three countries, not surprisingly, economic
growth is dismal, as it is in Italy, Spain, Japan and Canada.
[And as it is in the USA if you factor out the huge contribution to GDP of the prison- and military-industrial complexes.]
The United Kingdom is doing somewhat better economically, but only because Ireland - where government regulations, taxation and interference have been widely
curtailed - is booming.
[Good God, Steve Williams is so ignorant that he thinks Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom. Steve, Steve, Steve - that ended in 1922.]
Only the people of Poland, Nigeria and the Philippines prefer Bush. Poland
is easily explainable, because its residents are all too familiar with the
economic goofiness of a communist-socialist government.
[And all too ignorant of the difference between the U.S. and Bush.]
The Philippines has received significant U.S. aid to combat terrorist groups there, and so showed some appreciation for Bush.
[You know what they call purchased love, Steve?]
It's also no real surprise to learn that, because Arabian governments place
severe restrictions on polling, none of those countries were included in the
survey. Those governments, in other words, not only don't want to know what
their people think, they don't care.
[It ain't necessarily so, and they're not all the same.]
Will any of this mean anything to Americans come Nov. 2? Only to those who
support John Kerry,
[guess that includes a lot of our National Guard and Reserves, whom Bush has been abusing with "stop loss" policies of arbitrarily prolonged terms of service even if he's covertly drafted both parents of small children, and for whom he frequently hasn't even provided body armor or even washboards - so their families have to purchase them for them and ship them over; this was all documented on Bill Moyers' NOW on Sept.17, 2004]
and they too think socialism has its merits.
[And so do you, Steve, except you evidently want socialism for Halliburton and KBR and Bechtel and the other corporate parasites around Cheney and Bush - corporate socialism and socialism for the rich, that's what you want, don't you Steve, because that's what Bush has been giving us. Wake up and smell the coffee, Stevie - the Republicans under Bush and his neo-con artists have become liberals while suckering morons like you into thinking they're still conservative (Big-government "conservatives"? I don't think so. Freedom-restricting "conservatives"? I don't think so. Conservation-dissing "conservatives"? I don't think so. Unprovoked-war declaring "conservatives"? I don't think so. It's the Democrats today who are far more conservative than Bush and his radical, liberal, big-government, corporate-socialist neo-cons.]
, co-authored by Dianna Thompson & Glenn Sacks,
American Daily, OH.
Kathy Thompson of Albany, Indiana made national and international news with
her "housework strike" against her husband Gary earlier this month. Since
Gary reportedly works six or seven days a week and also claims to "cook
quite a bit," it's unclear how valid Kathy's complaint is. What is clear,
however, is that studies have repeatedly shown that, when one considers both
the work done on the job and the work done in the home, American husbands
contribute as much work to their households as their wives do.
According to a survey released earlier this year by the University of
Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR), the world's largest academic
survey and research organization, women do an average of 11 more hours of
housework per week than men. Compensating for this, however, is the study's
less-publicized finding that the average man spends 14 hours a week more on
the job than the average woman. In fact, studies conducted by the ISR and
others have found that rough equality between the workloads shouldered by
men and women has existed for at least four decades.
The origin of the lazy husband myth lies in part in UC Berkeley professor
Arlie Hochschild's best-selling 1989 book The Second Shift, in which she
claimed that "women work an extra month of 24 hour days each year." Just as
the media has rushed to publicize Thompson's housework "strike,"
Hochschild's factoid was repeated uncritically (and unmercifully) by major
Yet Hochschild's conclusions were deeply flawed. As gender issues author
Warren Farrell notes, Hochschild unfairly compared the housework burdens of
full-time employed males with those of part-time employed females. In
addition, while she claimed to be writing about contemporary society, she
used data on male housework from studies done in the pre-feminist era,
before most women worked outside of the home. Also, she defined "housework"
to include chores usually done by women, ignoring many of the household
tasks generally done by men.
Echoing Hochschild, Gloria Steinem says that in today's economy, because
both couples work, men have one job and women have two. However, the average
full-time employed man works eight hours a week more than the average
full-time employed woman, women are four times as likely as men to work
part-time, and women are much more likely than men to be full-time
homemakers. It is only natural that housework burdens reflect men's and
women's unequal employment contributions.
In addition, both the ISR survey and "The Second Shift" count only hours
worked, without noting the special contributions of men who do dangerous and
physically demanding work. The workforces employed in what US Department of
Labor lists as the nation's 25 most dangerous jobs are all at least 90%
male. While housework may seem like drudgery compared to middle-class, white
collar jobs, it certainly doesn't when compared to most blue collar work.
Also, while homemaking can be dull, it comes with several advantages. For
one, people are usually much happier at home and in casual dress (and
perhaps talking on the phone or watching TV while they work), than they are
in a supervised and regimented work environment. Homemakers also benefit
from a flexible schedule. Most importantly, being at home usually means
being able to spend time with one's children.
Men like Gary Thompson are victims of a doublebind. If they are talented
cooks or doting caretakers of children but are unable to provide for their
families, they are not respected as husbands or as men. Yet when they work
long hours to fulfill the principal breadwinner role that they are still
expected to perform, they are blamed for not contributing enough at home.
Ken, a project manager for a San Diego-based computer company, believes
that the contributions of male breadwinners like himself are unfairly
ignored. He says:
"The weight of supporting our family falls on my shoulders. I work 10 or 12
hour days, so of course I don't do as much housework as my wife does. But
she benefits greatly from having time with the kids while they're young,
whereas I struggle every day just to get home in time to read them a bedtime
story. The time I've missed with my children is something I'll never get
back. Maybe I'm the one who should go on strike."
Glenn Sacks is a men's and fathers' issues columnist and radio talk show
host. His radio show, His Side with Glenn Sacks, can be heard on KRLA 870 AM
in Los Angeles. His columns have appeared in dozens of the largest
newspapers in the United States.-->
9/08/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 9/07 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #1, 9, 10 which are from 9/08 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 9/08), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Labor groups petition for better conditions,
by Hungfu Hsueh, Taiwan News via eTaiwan News, Taiwan.
TAIWAN - Labor union representatives stage a sarcastic drama outside the Executive
Yuan to demand a more reasonable labor policy after a water-company staffer died of work-related stress. (photo)
The Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries [TAVOI] and other labor
groups yesterday petitioned the Cabinet, asking that the government review
its labor policy to prevent the incidence of death from overwork.
Labor activists, indicating that there have been many such case recently,
cited the example of a technician employed by the water company who died
from a heart attack during the recent water crisis in Taoyuan County.
The activists said in recent years employees in both the public and private
sector have been overworked due to rapid changes in industry structure and
manpower cuts in the public sector.
"Many employers now use the salary of two employees to hire three employees,
then ask the three employees to take the work load of four employees," said
Huang Hsiao-ling, secretary-general of the TAVOI. This phenomenon is very
common in the society - even public servants such as policemen and teachers
are faced with it."
The activists also called on the government to review its labor policy to
improve conditions for workers.
"The government should devise clear criteria and standards by which to
define the state of overwork," said Huang.
Huang said so far labor administration authorities had not yet formulated
any regulations regarding overwork, and the term "overwork" was even
official terminology accepted by the authorities.
"In the labor regulations, so far, we have only found the phrase 'acute
circulatory-system disease caused by occupation' which is close in the
meaning to 'overwork,'" Huang said. Because of this oversight, many victims
of overwork and their families have been unable to obtain proper
He further said that many ill-regulated labor policies had caused workers
to endure the hardships of overwork. These policies include flexible working
hours, shrinking employee quotas in government-run business, privatization
projects for government-run business, and subcontracts that exploit workers
for the sake of profit.
The TAVIO also asked the government to establish an inter-department
reporting network in order to control conditions that lead to the
overworking of employees.
The Cabinet's petition office sent an officer to accept the petition, and
promised to forward it to the relevant department.
- High Point Regional praised for family friendliness,
Triad Business Journal, NC.
High Point Regional Health System is one of 40 companies statewide to be
recognized by Carolina Parenting Inc. as "family friendly," the hospital
The publication applauded the fact that approximately 80% of the
management team at the health system is female. The health system was also
praised for its working options, including flextime, compressed work weeks,
part-time work and job sharing.
Carolina Parenting Inc., which publishes Carolina Parenting, Piedmont
Parenting and Charlotte Parent, recognizes companies that go out of their
way to help their employees put family first.
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center was also recognized as
"family friendly" by the publishing company.
- Surveys: Workers are stressed, restless,
by Kristen Gerencher, CBS MARKETWATCH via Tallahassee.com, FL.
SAN FRANCISCO - Many workers who may have been glad just to have job security during the recession are now grappling with
dissatisfaction and weighing career options, according to several surveys.
Families are sending their children back to school and confronting anew the struggle to balance work and life, with some
pondering whether it makes sense to continue working when the negative impact of stress overrides the financial benefits, career experts said.
In fact, a growing number of workers are considering downshifting, according to a survey of more than 1,200 people by the
Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit group that aims to help Americans consume wisely.
In the past five years, 48% of Americans have voluntarily opted to make less money so they could have more time and a
less stressful life, they told the center's pollsters. More than half would be willing to give up one day's pay per week to
get that day off to spend with family and friends.
Signaling that materialism doesn't trump all, one in two Americans would accept less money in exchange for more time, they said.
At the same time, workers who survived several rounds of layoffs may still feel pressure to outperform, said Jim Derivan,
spokesman for LifeCare, a benefits consulting firm.
"While their primary concerns are with their family and care of their children, they're feeling a certain dedication to
their employer to put in more hours to be productive," Derivan said, noting they're "looking for new and creative ways to
balance their responsibilities at work with their responsibilities at home."
68% of working parents are considering cutting back or even quitting altogether due to child-care issues,
according to a LifeCare survey of nearly 500 workers.
46% said they like their current job but want to work fewer hours, while 22% would like to quit work
altogether for child-care-related reasons, according to LifeCare.
More employers are offering flexible scheduling, job sharing, telecommuting, child-care referrals and other benefits to keep
parents on the job, but some employees ultimately decide it's not worth the struggle, he said.
"They can't always get to the day-care center right at 5:15," Derivan said. "What are they going to do? There's that stress
about making arrangements to have someone in place to pick up their child."
Those who continue to work also often patch together backup systems in case a child gets sick or has some other unscheduled
absence, and sick-child clinics are still hard to find, he said.
Of course, labor concerns aren't confined to parents and their desire to alleviate time crunches.
30% of workers say they are unhappy with their career progress, according to a survey of 1,600 mostly full-time workers from CareerBuilder.com, a job-search site.
42% of those who are dissatisfied plan to leave their current positions, with 28% expecting to change
jobs before the end of the year.
"The top three factors we see time and time again in what causes the greatest amount of dissatisfaction with workers are
pay, workload and career advancement," CareerBuilder spokeswoman Jennifer Sullivan said.
And this year is no exception. Many workers say they don't see much opportunity to move up the ladder at their
organizations, which may indicate that employers aren't doing enough to identify career paths for them, Sullivan said.
Workers may also feel stuck or "compartmentalized" in their positions, she said. "You become focused on your particular
function within a company and may not know there's a great opportunity in another department where you can transition your skills and experience."
The top five reasons workers cited for their dissatisfaction in not achieving their career goals, according to
SURVEYING THE MOOD
Lack of career advancement opportunities at present employer: 27%. One in four workers said they've been overlooked for a promotion this year.
Lack of appropriate education, training and experience: 18%. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement or assistance, and workers need to take responsibility for updating their skills, Sullivan said, noting that a two-year plan can help.
"Here's where I am today, where I want to be two years from now. Here are the goals I need to make that happen. You want to make sure you're creating a checklist for yourself."
Inadequate direction from supervisors: 15%.
A challenging economy: 10%. The unemployment rate dipped to 5.4% in August and job growth returned after two disappointing months, the Labor Dept. said Friday. But even when jobs become more plentiful, more workers may leave their employers instead of taking another internal position when the time is right, Sullivan said.
Lack of support from present employers: 7%.
In the past five years:
Source: Center for a New American Dream survey
- 48% of Americans have voluntarily opted to make less money so they could have more time and a less stressful life
- More than half would be willing to give up one day's pay per week to get that day off to spend with family and friends.
- One in two Americans would accept less money in exchange for more time.
- Making a career comeback - 5 tips: getting back to work as a senior,
by Gerri Willis, CNN/Money.
NEW YORK - By 2030, the number of Americans over age 65 could
more than double, putting a strain on the federal budget. But Fed Chairman
Alan Greenspan says retirees can lessen the burden by financing more of
their retirement themselves.
Americans are already working longer. Some say they've headed back to the
grind out of financial need, but others say they want to work. Many are
learning new skills and launching a second careers.
Are you looking to make a career comeback? Here are today's 5 Tips....
3. Check out senior-friendly companies....
Conventional wisdom has been that companies prefer hiring younger workers.
But some in corporate America are embracing seniors.
The AARP just released its honor roll of Top 35 Employers for workers over
50. Firms like Deere & Co., Adecco and Pitney Bowes were recognized for
their commitment to recruiting, retaining and treating mature workers right.
The employment outlook is bright for older Americans. According to the
AARP, 20% of the workforce will be over age 55 by 2012, compared with
14% in 2002. Among the measures companies embracing are phased
retirement programs, flexible work schedules and retraining initiatives.
Phased retirement programs allow older employees to work reduced hours for
a period of time before full retirement. This way, retirement becomes a
gradual process rather than a sudden life change.
Flexible schedules allow workers to choose what time they'll begin and end
their day, and how many hours they'll work. Some companies may even allow
their employees to work from home some of the time. Retraining is also
helpful, allowing older workers keep up with changing workplaces.
These measures are great for older workers looking to stay employed. But
employers benefit too. They get to keep skilled workers in the company
ranks. And in many cases, older workers serve as mentors and trainers for
younger employees. For a look at the AARP's honor roll, visit www.aarp.org.
- `Mr. Dad' sees slow evolution in father's role,
by Mike Cassidy, San Jose Mercury News, CA.
It's somehow comforting that the instant I reach Mr. Dad by phone, his kid
turns on the Dustbuster.
They just know, don't they?
And when I arrive at the Oakland house, where he works from home with nanny
help, a stroller blocks the front door. Toys are scattered across the living
And Mr. Dad, a.k.a. Armin Brott, looks as if he hasn't found time for a
shower, though this isn't the sort of column to dwell on personal details.
The point is, the man is a dad, an honest-to-goodness, care-for-the-kids
He has made a career of it, which is both very clever and very helpful to
other dads trying to navigate fatherhood.
Brott, who lives with his wife and three daughters, has written or
co-written six books on fatherhood. He takes the dad's side, not that there
are sides, of course. He writes an advice column and hosts a weekly radio
show and a Web site, www.mrdad.com. All of which has me wondering: How do
you become Mr. Dad?
"It really was an accident in a way," Brott says.
OK, not completely, but he's not a psychologist or a therapist. He's a dad,
whose expertise comes from life.
Brott...has three daughters. His first was born 14 years ago and another
three years later. ("The Expectant Father." "The New Father.") His kids
grew. ("A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years.") He divorced. ("The Single
Father." "Throwaway Dads.") He remarried. And 16 months ago, had another
child. ("Father for Life.")
He's in a good spot to survey the fatherhood scene.
"I've got the 14-year-old who hates me," he says, "and the 1-year-old who
can't live without me." (He's kidding about hate, but you get his drift.)
So, I ask, just what is the state of fatherhood?
"I see a change, a perceptible change from 15 years ago when I started
doing this. But not as much as I'd like."
No longer unusual
Sure, there is more literature for dads now. And some bosses are more open
to men cutting hours to spend time with their families. Stay-at-home dads
are no longer considered suitable for a carnival freak show.
But strangers still ask Brott if he's "babysitting" when he's out with his
kids during the day. And pop-culture role models remain scarce. (Homer
Simpson, anyone?) Even commercials seem to portray child-rearing as women's
work. "Choosy moms choose Jif."
"If you want peanut butter, or something to eat," Brott says, "don't go
to Dad, because he doesn't know what he's talking about."
Brott calls it the other glass ceiling - the glass ceiling at home, where
dads are allowed to help up to a point.
How often, he asks, do you see a mother take a crying baby from a father, as
if to say, `I'll handle this?' "
Gender roles persist, subconsciously or unconsciously, Brott argues. There
is mother turf and father turf. Moms need to give up some control of
child-rearing and let dads do it their way, make mistakes even, Brott says.
Maybe you don't see yourself in this picture. Maybe you think Brott is
simply talking talk.
Just remember, whatever you think, you can't deny that Brott walks the walk
- sometimes stepping over toys as he goes.
- China blames low pay, long hours for labor shortage in south,
by Le-Min Lim (email@example.com, Bloomberg).
HONG KONG - China is 2 million workers short in the nation's
biggest exporting province of Guangdong, as low pay and poor working
conditions stem the flow of migrant labor from poorer parts of the country.
[Then the shortage will solve itself by forcing up pay & conditions.]
The shortage is acute in the Pearl River Delta, a cluster of cities in
Guangdong that supplies the world's toys, shoes and clothes, where factories
are finding it more difficult to fill 12-hour-day jobs that pay less than
700 yuan ($85) a month, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security said on
its Web site.
Shenzhen, a Chinese city that borders Hong Kong, needs to add 400,000
workers to the existing 4.2 million to keep production lines running,
according to the government. At least 17% of factories in Dongguan,
another city in the delta that draws Taiwanese investors such as
noodle-maker Uni-President Enterprises Corp., said they had trouble finding
Guangdong, whose economy is larger than Ireland's, accounts for more than
10% of the nation's factory output and 30% its exports.
The province is losing workers to Shanghai and other cities in eastern
China, where pay and working conditions are better. Shanghai drew 900,000
migrant workers in the last three years and has had no complaints of labor
shortage, the government said.
The average pay of a worker in Guangdong averages 160 yuan less than in
Jiangsu, a eastern province. The minimum monthly wage of 510 yuan in
Guangdong's capital Guangzhou lags even that of the poorer neighboring
province Guangxi. Monthly wages in the Pearl River Delta have risen 68 yuan
in the last 12 years, out of step with rising prices, the government said.
Incomes in rural China - home to about 60% of the country's 1.3
billion people - rose 16% in the first half, according to the
National Bureau of Statistics.
To stem the labor drain, Guangdong's companies must improve worker
benefits, the government said.
- Naughty boys with angel voices inspire France - A film about delinquents being redeemed by the power of music is swelling the ranks of choirs,
by Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, UK.
PARIS - A film about delinquent schoolboy choristers has inspired a revival of
enthusiasm for choral singing in France, attracting thousands of new members
to choirs this autumn.
Since the term began choirmasters have noticed that Les Choristes, a
postwar boarding school drama, has precipitated a remarkable increase in the
number signing up to become members.
"The film has reawakened an extraordinary interest in singing," said
Sebastien Fournier, an opera singer and conductor.
The Choirboys has been seen by more than 7.6 million people in France since
its release in March, outstripping such obvious blockbusters as SpiderMan
and Harry Potter. Miramax has it lined up as a contender for next year's
best foreign film Academy award.
Set in an authoritarian reform school in 1949, the film focuses on the
attempts of a dissident master to subvert the draconian regime by teaching
the boys to sing, and shows the redemptive power of music on the boys.
It is a family feelgood movie with a saccharine gloss which has chimed with
a new French nostalgia for the postwar era.
Due for release in Britain in January, it is being promoted as an export to
rival the international success of Amélie in 2002.
Marie-Christine Roux, of Ariam, a organisation run by musicians which puts
individuals in contact with orchestras and choirs, said the effect on
nascent choristers had been striking.
"It's too early to collate the figures, but it is something which is
becoming more and more fashionable.
"We have received many more calls than usual from people who want to start
singing, or who want to find a choir for their children," she said.
France has 7,000 choirs, excluding those in schools, in which about 280,000
people sing regularly.
The French Institute of the Choral Art expects the number to rise steeply
The French revolution and the subsequent separation of the church and the
state left cathedral choir schools in France with little state funding until
about 30 years ago.
"Anything which prompts a revival of interest is very welcome," Mr Fournier
The after-work choir is becoming a social phenomenon in France similar to
that of the book club in Britain, providing both social activity and
It is a cheap but rewarding way to spend the extra hours of free time which
the arrival of the 35-hour week has given French workers.
Véronique Gratiot...a banker, who has given much of her spare time in
the past five years to singing in a choir, said it was a hobby which offered
many of the health-giving, life-enhancing attractions of the gym.
"People come and meet other people. A lot of couples have met during choir
practice," she said.
Les Choristes is a remake of the 1945 French hit La Cage aux Rossignols
(The Cage of Nightingales).
Its first-time director, Christophe Barratier, who completed the film on a
budget of ?5.5m (£3.7m), has been unable to explain its success.
"This isn't a particularly fashionable subject," he admitted last month.
Nevertheless, more than 700,000 copies of the soundtrack have been sold;
the boy who plays the hero, Jean-Baptiste Maunier, has become a national
star; and Gérard Jugnot, the actor who plays the music teacher, was voted
one of France's most popular men this year.
A new fascination with this era of short trousers, scratchy pens and
leaking inkwells is also responsible for the huge success of France's latest
reality television series, in which the 14-16 age-group boys and girls of
Chavagnes boarding school have been translated to the repressive atmosphere
of 1950s education.
Later this term they will have to sit the much tougher school certificate
exams of that period.
The first episode of the series attracted 6.2 million viewers on Thursday.
( Here's the current search pattern used by our backup, Ken Ellis - he's experimenting with four search runs because of erratic one-run behavior:
"work sharing", OR overwork, OR overworking, OR "work-sharing", OR
"job-sharing", OR "job sharing", OR "work week", OR workweeks, OR
"work-week", OR "work-weeks", OR "working week", OR "working weeks", OR
"work-time", OR "worktime", OR "decreases hours", OR "shorter schedule"
-sports -coach -coaches -coaching -football -soccer -baseball -olympics
"cut hours", OR "cutting hours", OR "reduce hours", OR "reduced hours", OR
"reduces hours", OR "reducing hours", OR "hours reduction", OR "40 hour", OR
"40 hours", OR "forty hour", OR "forty hours" -sports -coach -coaches
-coaching -football -soccer -baseball -olympics
"free time", OR "long hours", OR "extra hours", OR "long work", OR "long
days", OR "long workdays", OR "long workday", OR "decrease hours", OR
"decreased hours", OR "decreasing hours", OR "schedule reduction", OR Nucor,
OR "Lincoln Electric" -sports -coach -coaches -coaching -football -soccer
overtime -sports -coach -coaches -coaching -football -soccer -baseball -olympics )
9/07/2004 primitive timesizing & worktime consciousness in the news = glimmers of strategic hope - all are 9/06 from GoogleNews & are searched-screened-collected by Alan Applebaum (AA) of Brookline MA with backup from *Ken Ellis (KE) of New Bedford MA (except #1, 9, 10 which are from 9/07 hardcopy, and Australian & Far East stories which are 9/07), and with excerpting and [commenting] by Phil Hyde (PH) unless otherwise initialed -
- Selectmen move Town Meeting to new venue - Also support proposal to standardize town office hours, by ROB MARGETTA, Providence Journal.
REHOBOTH, R.I. - The Board of Selectmen revised the town's logistical
arrangements last night, changing the location of October's Town Meeting and
their own weekly meetings and proposing a change in town offices' hours.
Since April, the selectmen have been discussing moving from their current
meeting location, at the Town Office building, on Peck Street, to the
Rehoboth Senior Center, at 55 Bay State Rd.
But before the board made the move, the Rehoboth Public Access Corp., the
town's local cable board, needed to equip the Senior Center for live
broadcasts to air the selectmen's meetings.
Last night, Public Access Corp. spokesman Norman Spring said the process is
complete, and the Senior Center is ready for the selectmen. The board's next
meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday.
The board also gave a favorable response to a proposal from the town
clerics' union to standardize town office hours, so that all of the offices
would be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 8 a.m. to
11 a.m. on Fridays.
The Town Office building is currently open on weekdays, from 8 a.m. to 4:30
p.m. But, Selectman Albert Berry said, the individual offices set their own
hours, which can be confusing.
"I like the consistency," he said. "People think the town offices open after
8 a.m. If an office opens at 9 a.m., they have to wait for an hour."
Berry said the change would give town office staff a maximum work week of 36
hours. The current maximum workweek is 37.5 hours, he said, adding that the
employees who work that schedule have indicated that they wouldn't mind the
Although the selectmen said they'd prefer that town offices stay open until
noon on Fridays, they said standardized hours would be good for the town.
"I don't see a downside to it," Berry said.
Selectmen Chairman John P. Ferreira asked Executive Secretary David J.
Marciello to relay the request for an 8 a.m. to noon workday on Fridays to
the clerics' union.
The selectmen also scheduled the fall Special Town Meeting for Oct. 18, but
they rejected the meeting's original location, in Dighton-Rehoboth Regional
High School's auditorium.
"The acoustics are bad, the lighting is bad, you can't read anything and you
can't see anyone," Selectman John M. Krasnianski said of meetings in the
high school auditorium.
Instead, the board set the meeting's location at the Palmer River Elementary
School's gym. Marciello said the new location means he'll have to ask the
town Finance Committee if he could spend roughly $200 to rent chairs for the
To contact Rob Margetta, phone (508) 674-8401 or e-mail
- Work week hits the weekend, The Western Mail via ic Wales, UK.
Most people are having to work at weekends to catch up with deadlines,
fuelling the UK's reputation for long hours, according to a new report out
A survey of 1,000 employees showed that four out of five took work home with
them and a similar proportion worked late or put in extra hours on Saturdays
Firms were urged to make sure their staff were not overworked because it
could lead to stress.
Danny Done, managing director of recruitment firm Portfolio Payroll, which
conducted the research with employment law company Peninsula, said treating
work as a priority could have a detrimental effect on staff. He said,
"Carefully monitoring the workload and work duties helps to prevent stress
in the first place."
- Professional brief,
by Kim Pattullo, Newsquest via The Herald, UK.
In a bid to combat staff absenteeism due to sickness, companies are offering
staff gimmicks such as holidays and cars for going to work....
Research has shown that companies that offer flexible contracts and working hours enjoy greater staff retention and improved employee morale. In addition to flexitime, the
introduction of family-friendly policies, stress counselling, home-working or job sharing may also be effective in diminishing excessive employee absence.
Kim Pattullo is a solicitor specialising in employment law with Shepherd &
- Cost of living rises, offsetting wage increases,
AP via Arizona Daily Sun, AZ.
MESA, Ariz. - Arizonans may be earning more, but their raises are being
depleted by double-digit increases in living expenses.
Costs for health care, child care and other expenses far outpaced a
worker's wage increase, according to a report released Sunday by the
Children's Action Alliance in tandem with a national study by the Economic
"Their take-home pay is getting squeezed," said Tracy Clark, an economist
with the Bank One Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University.
"Companies can't afford all the health care costs, so that's increasing the
amount that workers are paying."
Median wages increased by more than 3% to $13 an hour from 2000 to
2002 in Arizona.
However, the median four-person household income declined during the same
period by more than 2% to $58,160.
That's because employers either reduced hours or laid off workers, people
found lower-paying jobs and two-income households had to get by on
one-income, according to the new report.
"The people who kept the same job are kind of being squeezed by food costs
and gas costs, which are going up faster than the core inflation rate,"
At the same time, health care costs went up 10% and child care costs
Employees in lower-wage jobs are getting less for their money than they did
25 years ago, even as unemployment rates continue to gradually improve, the
report said. The value of the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour is lower
than it was in 1979, which in today's dollars would be worth $6.92.
And unlike recessions in the past, companies haven't been quick to resume
hiring as the economy improves, partly because of uncertainty and continued
increases in productivity, Clark said.
- Germany's workplace revolution - fast-paced globalisation, high unemployment and a shaky recovery are leading to erosion in job benefits built up during the prosperous post-war years,
by Andrew McCathie, Expatica, Netherlands.
Germany was once a worker's paradise with among the highest wages and best conditions in the world.
[Workers' paradises have the biggest consumer bases for their population size in the world. If Germany isn't satisfied with its domestic consumer demand (something that's a lot more under its own control than its export markets), it should be making itself more of a worker's paradise, not less.]
Twenty years after Germany's powerful metalworkers secured an historic 35 hour-week, a shaky economic recovery plus growing competition from low-wage countries in Central Europe and Asia have resulted in employers moving to reintroduce a 40-hour week.
With German industrial workers enjoying among the highest wages in the world and some of the best employee benefits, more
than 100 companies across a range of industries have lodged demands with their unions for a sharp extension of the working
week, in some cases without any additional pay, and in exchange for agreeing not to make any layoffs.
Germany's state-owned railways, Deutsche Bahn AG, has become one of the latest companies to unveil plans to increase the
working week from its present level of 38.5 hours to 40 hours including provisions for employees to receive the same wage.
In return, the company would not make further job cuts.
At the same time, leading German machine and equipment maker, MAN AG, has also launched negotiations with its workers' union
to increase the working week from 35 to 38 hours. Otherwise, it will begin making layoffs.
Other German employers have been lining up to cut back the working week such as car spare parts supplier Bosch, tyre maker
Continental and tourist group Thomas Cook with the nation's recession-hit building industry calling on workers to accept a
wage cut and the introduction of a 42–hour working week.
But the push to extend the working week is part of the revolution in the German workplace that was emerged following the
changes unleashed by the breaching of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and fast-paced globalisation which have result in an erosion
of workers' rights won during the more prosperous days of the nation's post-war Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle).
"It is a process which started during the 1993 recession and which has gained momentum in the last two years," said Adolf
Rosenstock, European economist with Nomura International.
Indeed, with unemployment having escalated in recent years and economic growth having stagnated, the days when German
workers could look forward to a Christmas bonus (the so-called 13th monthly pay), paid overtime, holiday loadings and in
some cases, spa treatments have been rapidly disappearing along with work contracts guarding against redundancy.
In the meantime, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrat-led Government is considering reducing the number of public
holidays in the country so as to shore up economic growth.
Forty years ago Germans worked on average a 44.56 hour-week, but growing economic prosperity and the success of IG Metall,
Germany and the world's biggest industrial union, in gaining a 35-hour week as a result of a tough seven-week strike in
1984, has meant that the average working in the nation has fallen to 37.77 hours.
But labour market economists say evidence shows the average working week for many Germans employees has already increased
ahead of the employers' campaign for a 40-hour week with a large part of the workforce working more required under their
Now, however, in the wake of the opening of new markets in low-wage high-skilled parts of Central Europe, German employers
are threatening to shift more operations out of Germany unless their workers accept longer working hours.
With unemployment in Germany stuck at more than 10% the battle over moving jobs out of the nation has rapidly taken
on political dimensions with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder saying that German companies shifting production abroad are
However, German electronics giant, Siemens AG, has already forced workers in parts of its German operations to agree to
extend their working week from 35 hours to 40 hours so as to secure their jobs in Germany.
[Secure their jobs by concentrating employment per capita, weakening the centrifugation of the national income and de-activating consumers? We don't think so. They must drop the economy-shrinking dogma of free trade.]
At present employing 170,000 workers in Germany, Siemens has been threatening to move part of its operations to nations such
as Hungary, which along with eight other Central European states became members of the European Union on 1 May.
Siemens said labour costs in Hungary are about 30% lower than in Germany and has launched talks with workers'
representatives in a bid to slice back wages in its domestic German market.
But Siemens rejects union claims that the group is planning to slash its German workforce by about 74,000 in the coming 10
years with company chief Heinrich von Pierer insisting that the Bavarian- based firm wants to keep jobs in Germany but that
intense global competition means certain parts of the business need to lower costs.
Indeed, Germany's southern state of Bavaria appears to be spearheading the push to return to the 40-hour week with
conservative Premier Edmund Stoiber seeking to extend the working hours of the state's public servants.
Last month Siemens announced that it will invest USD 1.2 billion in China over the next few years as part of a plan to
double revenue in the country, with part of the funds going towards beefing up its research and manufacturing facilities in the nation.
Fast-paced globalisation and employers threats to shift operations to neighbouring EU nations have further served to
undermine the influence of Germany once powerful trade unions, which have also been hit by a recent dramatic slump in
membership as unemployment has climbed and worker interest in the union movement has declined.
However, some analysts are doubtful about the economic benefits of rolling back the shorter working week with Martin
Werding, a labour economist with the Munich-based Ifo economic institute saying that reducing labour costs was the crucial
factor in checking the shift of business operations out of Germany.
- New Proudfoot study shows Americans working longer hours than at any time since 1973 -
Study cites long hours, not greater efficiency, as cause of U.S. productivity, PRNewswire via
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Proudfoot Consulting announced today the findings of its annual productivity study, which shows that the historically high productivity rating achieved by the U.S. compared to other countries is driven by longer work hours, not greater efficiency.
According to Proudfoot Consulting's study, entitled "Managing for Mediocrity," the U.S. is tied with Germany for most
efficient labor force, with 64% of available time spent productively. However, when the longer American work day and shorter
annual vacation time is factored in, U.S. productivity lags behind Germany and France. Measured as Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) per actual hours worked, France is the most productive country.
[This is just great, isn't it? At a time when the smartest people in the USA are saying we don't have the best model - France and Germany do - the IMF is talking the moronic CEOs of France and Germany into copying us!]
"Americans are working more hours per year than at any time since 1973," said Tom Long, North American president of
Proudfoot Consulting. "This is driven by heavy reliance on overtime to achieve increased output, and aggravated by
insufficient planning and supervision. With Europe's move to legislate a longer work week and the backlash against overtime
here in the U.S., American companies are now feeling real pressure to improve management efficiency and find alternate solutions."
Proudfoot's findings are based on analysis of more than 1,600 detailed studies representing more than 10,000 hours of work at client projects in Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the U.S.
Hidden opportunities to trim overtime by 10%
According to the study, the top three barriers to productivity are:
Together these factors account for 81% of all lost time. Proudfoot estimates that if companies took advantage of these hidden opportunities to improve workforce productivity by as little as 10%, organizations could reduce employee overtime without affecting output.
- insufficient management planning and control
- inadequate supervision
- ineffective communications
[In short, more than "the discipline of the workforce," we need "the discipline of management."]
In an accompanying Gallup poll commissioned by Proudfoot, most senior executives in U.S. companies see poor management as
the biggest cause of lost time, yet 75% of them feel they need to make capital expenditures to address the problem.
"It is interesting that most managers believe they need to acquire more machinery or new technology when the evidence
clearly points to insufficient management and communication as the root problem," said Long. "The survey reinforces what
Proudfoot has discovered from working on more than 16,000 client projects - changes in behavior and processes can increase
productivity, reduce overtime, and provide an immediate and sustainable positive impact."
Proudfoot Consulting is one of the world's leading and longest established providers of management consultancy services. In
over 55 years and through more than 16,000 assignments, Proudfoot has consistently remained an effective, practical resource
for organizations seeking superior operational and financial performance. For additional information about Proudfoot click to: http://www.proudfootconsulting.com .
- Man granted worker's compensation over business trip ulcers
Mainichi Shimbun, Japan.
A man who developed ulcers requiring surgery while overseas on a business
trip won the right to claim workmen's compensation insurance Tuesday after a
Supreme Court bench overthrew two lower court decisions and ruled the man's
condition was caused by stress from the trip.
Accepting the 52-year-old worker's claims, the third petty bench of the top
court ordered the Kobe Higashi Labor Standards Inspection Office to reverse
its decision not to grant him worker's compensation insurance.
"The cause (of the man's condition) should be viewed as the exceptionally
strong physical and mental burden (of stress)," the court said in handing
down the ruling.
A lawyer for the worker said it is the first ruling to accept a condition
affecting the digestive organs as a worker's accident.
"There are many cases when people develop stomach conditions while on
business trips, and the impact (of the ruling) is great," the lawyer said.
In the past, the worker had a history of duodenal ulcers, which affect the
first part of the small intestine beyond the stomach. When he left on a
business trip overseas on Nov. 26, 1989, he was physically well, but on the
12th day of the trip, while traveling from Bangkok to Hong Kong he was
attacked with stomach pain and underwent surgery at a Hong Kong hospital.
The court accepted that the man had a past history of ulcers, but ruled out
that the ulcers could have developed naturally at the time the man left on
the trip. "Since no other certain cause for the condition can be imagined,
it should be accepted that there was a considerable causal relationship
between the condition and overwork," the court ruled.
Since the man was not entitled to health insurance while overseas, he
covered the 6.7 million yen it cost for his treatment. Under the Supreme
Court ruling, the worker is entitled to the same amount in compensation.
Earlier rulings in the Kobe District Court in July 1999 and the Osaka High
Court in July 2000 focused on the man's past condition, and rejected his
claim for compensation insurance.
- French injustice,
by Joanna Parrish (ed. Graham Tearse firstname.lastname@example.org), Expatica France via
The French press has revealed that Toulouse serial killer Patrice Alègre,
convicted of five murders after a strangely shambolic and delayed
investigation, is now suspected of having enjoyed the protection of
politicians, magistrates and police in the southern city to whom he is
alleged to have provided drugs and women for sex parties. If this sounds
fantastic, have a look at our ongoing serialised investigation, in Life in
France, into the murder in Burgundy of British student teacher Joanna
Parrish ( Who murdered Joanna Parrish?)....
France's examining magistrates openly complain that they are are unable to
carry out their jobs properly. But they cite overwork - on a national
average, each has 120 cases of serious crime to investigate at any one
moment. This is obviously a ridiculous situation, and yet another indication
of the disregard successive French governments have had for an effective
- Brooklyn was the king of beers,
BY SYLVIA CARTER, Newsday, NY.
Brooklyn has been home to 100 breweries over the years, so the Brooklyn
Historical Society called its current exhibit "100 Bottles of Beer on the
True to the title, there really are 100 bottles on the wall.
Brooklyn was one of the nation's largest historic centers of beer
production. Many of the first breweries started in the early 1800s, when
German immigrants settled in the borough, bringing with them the desire for
good beer and recipes from home....
During beer's heyday in Brooklyn, workers in breweries and nearby factories
often got free beer during shifts, and union contracts routinely stipulated
beer breaks. Eventually, workers demanded more. In April 1949, union workers
went on strike against New York breweries, demanding a 35-hour work week,
job security and safer factories. The strike lasted 81 days, and some
brewers never recovered from the lost business....
The Brooklyn Historical Society is located at 128 Pierrepont
St., near Clinton Street. "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" is open 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Fridays, with a beer garden from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Monday and
Tuesday. For more information, call 718- 222-4111 or visit
www.beerhistory.com or www.brooklynhistory.org.
- The trader-economist hybrid - The daily reckoning, HoweStreet.com, Canada.
PARIS, France - Which country has the worse regulation - America or France?
"America has much worse regulation than France," said our friend Michel
over lunch on Friday.
Michel reads the news. OSHA, SEC, EEOC, FDA, IRS - he knows them all...and
has come up with an insight that will be novel to Americans.
"You Americans think France has worse regulation because you've heard horror
stories about our 35-hour work week, European Union employment rules and so
forth. But what you don't understand is that France is a Latin country. We
put laws on the books, but we don't try to enforce half of them.
There's much more flexibility and negotiation in the traditional French system than
in the Anglo-Saxon model.
"Americans have much more respect for rules and regulations. They take them
much more seriously. They try to enforce them. That's the problem.
"And it's a growing problem in France too...our ruling elites have all gone
to Harvard or Stanford. They love the American system of regulation, because
it gives them much more power. They're trying to apply it here. It's the
worst of both worlds: lot of rules...and now they want to enforce them!"...
Michel recently received a tax bill from a local government. It was one of
those curious little charges designed to cover the cost of sewage treatment.
- Schroeder setback,
The election of ex-IMF chief Horst Koehler as Germany's new president is
likely to add to the pressure on Gerhard Schroeder as he struggles to
overcome record low opinion poll ratings, tackle high unemployment and to
keep the nation's economy on a growth path. Leon Mangasarian reports.
Horst Koehler: setting down markers for economic reform
Victory of conservative, ex-IMF chief Horst Koehler in Germany's
presidential election Sunday is a further blow for Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder's ruling Social Democrats whose reformist zeal is faltering amid
sagging opinion polls.
Koehler, who headed the International Monetary Fund from 2000 until 2004,
was elected as the opposition conservative candidate by the Federal
Convention which meets every five years to choose Germany's mainly
ceremonial head of state.
Schroeder's Social Democratic (SPD) candidate - university director Gesine
Schwan - failed to muster a majority due to opposition domination of
parliament's upper chamber.
Moving swiftly to turn up heat on the government, Koehler used his
acceptance speech in Berlin's 19th century Reichstag to pressure the
Chancellor to forge ahead with economic liberalisation.
"I view fundamental reform of our nation as necessary and overdue," said
Koehler to conservative applause, adding: "As an economist I'm concerned
over the state of the German economy."
Koehler said Germans needed to get over their "angst" regarding change and,
in a jibe at the left, said more trust was needed in the strength of
Conservatives hailed Koehler's victory as the beginning of the end for
Schroeder's centre-left government which has been in power since 1998.
Germans needed to get over their 'angst' regarding change.
They point to a similar situation in 1969 in which the election of SPD
president Gustav Heinemann paved the way for SPD Chancellor Willy Brandt's
election only months later after the collapse of a wobbly grand coalition.
"Federal president elections are often a harbinger for a power shifts and
given the state of (Schroeder's) government all signs are that this again
will be the case," said Friedrich Merz, deputy Christian Democratic leader
But nobody expects such a swift collapse of Schroeder's SPD-Greens alliance
and the Christian Democratic alliance (CDU/CSU) says the presidential vote
is milestone for Germany's next general election due in 2006.
Schroeder's SPD crashed in defeat in Hamburg state elections earlier this
year and with a further 13 state, regional and European Parliament elections
in 2004 still to come the omens appear grim.
The SPD has hovered around 25% in all polls for months, compared
with almost 50% for the opposition CDU/CSU.
Germany's economy has been in stagnation for the past three years and hopes
of a revival may be dashed due to weakening business confidence at home and
rising oil prices threatening the world economy on which Germany depends as
a major export nation.
Is Schroeder running out of luck?
The German jobless rate is almost 11%, close to where it was when
Schroeder took power almost six years.
Koehler - who will only be Germany's second non-professional politician as
head of state in the post-war era - looks set to be sharp change from
outgoing SPD President Johannes Rau.
A devout Christian, Rau sought to mediate in the tradition of Germany's
post-war consensus system.
Germany's president may have far fewer powers than the US or French
presidency - but the post has considerable moral authority to set the public
For Chancellor Schroeder a Koehler presidency promises to be prickly and
defeat for his candidate is a bad omen in the run-up to next month's
European Parliament election.
In past weeks Koehler has taken stands on turning around Germany's stagnant
economy - with almost 11% unemployment - which are deeply unpopular
with Schroeder's SPD.
On the touchy question of imposing longer working hours for Germans who
mostly have a 35 or 36-hour work week, Koehler flatly says: "It's
[That guys like Koehler can arise and utter such nonsense is an indictment of the backwardness of worktime economics development on this planet. Here's another one -]
Regarding biotech, Koehler dismisses widespread public fears and says
decisions must be made "on economic grounds."
[Never mind that economists are notoriously short and near sighted and desperately need ecologists to prevent them from murdering their descendants in advance.]
Koehler argues charging fees for Germany's largely free-of-charge
universities cannot be taboo as it is for most SPD leaders.
[In short, Koehler just wants to turn Germany into a copy of the USA - except for Iraq -]
After years in Washington, Koehler is also bluntly undiplomatic about his
analysis of the US-led war in Iraq. He says the US "behaved arrogantly" in Baghdad....
[Look who's talking.]
- "Seconds away, round two" - France's 'reform' battle resumes [our quotes],
Buoyed by its first positive opinion polls in months, as well as by
long-awaited signs of an economic recovery, France's centre-right government
has promised to use 2004 to re-invigorate the country's stalled programme of
structural 'reform.' Hugh Schofield reports.
2004 'reforms' will target France's massively indebted social security system.
After a dire period marred by the heatwave health scandal and constant
reshuffle rumours, Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin appears to have
entered the new year with a recharged sense of confidence, telling the
pro-government Le Figaro newspaper on 6 January that he intends to "see the
'reforms' through to the end."
The radical modernisation of France's institutions which was promised by
President Jacques Chirac in his 2002 re-election campaign ran out of steam
last July after a modest - but highly contested - overhaul of the pensions
And since then the government has vacillated on a series of fronts - from
'reform' of the Socialists' 35-hour work week to the liberalisation of
France's overcrowded universities - while the country's deteriorating
finances pushed it into ever closer confrontation with the European Union in
However with three years remaining before the next legislative andpresidential elections - and with the economic gloom tentatively beginning
to lift - the coming year is seen as a key window of opportunity to re-start
Raffarin has promised France: "We are at a historic turning point."
For Raffarin - whose ratings plunged to under 30% a month ago -
January has been of good augury, with three polls showing a clear rebound. A
small fall in unemployment, forecasts of 1.7% growth for 2004 and a
survey showing 58% of the public "optimistic" have also helped.
Speaking to Le Figaro, the prime minister expressed some of his former
pugnacity, shrugging off his unpopularity with the words, "That is what I am
there for. My job is not to come out with good news stories, but to put
France back on the European track ... We are at a historic turning point."
The centre-piece of the 2004 programme is to be an overhaul of the country's
massively indebted social security system which begins the year EUR 10.9
billion (USD 13.9 billion) in the red this year - which Chirac said should
be back in balance by the end of his mandate in 2007.
The 'reform' promises to be at least as controversial as the pensions debate,
which sparked mass protests across the country in 2003, but the government
is banking again on a long period of consultation and a timetable which will
see its plans finalised in July - just before the long summer break when
politics disappears from the national agenda.
A ban on "conspicuous" religious insignia in schools is popular in France.
Another 'reform' set for the year is an employment law, promised by Chirac in
his new year address to the nation, which would combine a personalised
re-training contract for each job-seeker with a liberalising shake-up of the
Also promised are the much-heralded law banning "conspicuous" religious
insignia, including Islamic headscarves, in schools - controversial abroad
but generally popular in France; a 'reform' of the education system; and a law
guaranteeing minimum service during public sector strikes.
However before that, the ruling Union For a Popular Movement (UMP) party
must face regional elections in March followed by European elections in June
- both by tradition occasions for voters to express their mid-term
dissatisfaction with the government.
A big swing against the government - either to the opposition Socialists or
to the far-right National Front (FN) whose leader Jean-Marie Le Pen hopes to
become the regional political leader in Provence - could make the current
resurgence of confidence merely a brief respite.
- Rapid changes taking toll on some teachers - Charleston County educators say demands leaving them overwhelmed, exhausted, BY SEANNA ADCOX, Charleston Post-Courier, SC.
A month into the school year, Charleston County teachers say they are
Many feel overwhelmed by Superintendent Maria Goodloe's new initiatives,
which added hours to their work week without a penny more in pay. They want
to do whatever helps students, they say, but the pace of change is stressing
them to the breaking point.
"It's all coming down so fast and furiously, we're feeling overwhelmed,"
said Jewel Brown, a James Island Elementary teacher in her 30th year of
teaching. "Before we have a chance to figure out what to do with the first
part, the second part is coming. There's a great deal of frustration."
Goodloe's new initiatives include standardizing math and English curricula
district-wide to ensure, for example, that third-graders at Minnie Hughes
Elementary in rural Hollywood are learning the same thing as third-graders
at Charles Pinckney Elementary in Mount Pleasant.
Teachers in every school meet at least once a week for training in the
drafted lesson plans, handed down just days before school began. Teachers at
nine struggling schools receive additional training through the district's
contract with the private company Edison Schools Inc.
"We need to improve student test scores and achievement across the board,"
Goodloe said at a recent school board meeting. "We can do that through
professional development of teachers. That is not optional."
Research shows that an elementary school child who gets two ineffective
teachers in a row will never recover academically, she said.
Goodloe also directed principals to find some way to provide at least two
periods of extra help to students who scored below grade level on state
standardized tests. District officials say teachers are getting paid if they
tutor after school. Some teachers, however, say they are not.
According to school district policy, teachers must work at least 35 hours a
week - hours consumed by the seven hours between students' arrival and
dismissal bells - but no more than 40 without compensation.
But teachers have long worked more than 40 hours a week, as they stay late
for parent conferences, take papers home at night to grade and come in on
the weekends to prepare. Brown's longstanding routine includes arriving at
school at 5:50 a.m. and leaving, with more to do at home, at 6 p.m. or so.
But for many this year, required school duties push well past 40 hours.
That includes regular bus duties and staff meetings, plus the now-mandated
extra training, and for some, student tutoring without pay. Add in the extra
pressures and paperwork associated with federal accountability laws, and
many teachers feel as though they're being asked to work around the clock
just to keep up.
"I do understand the need for additional training, but we're taxing the
ones held responsible for everything," said school board member Sandi
Engelman, who brought up the issue at a recent board meeting. "We have to
take care of the people who are going to make these programs work."
Veteran teachers are especially disgruntled by all the training, Brown
"It's not that they're not willing," she said. "They're out there working
their hearts out. But we need help."
Teachers, who rank among the lowest-paid professionals, know that help is
unlikely to come in the form of cash. In Charleston County, salaries range
from $28,039 for a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree to $62,226
for a teacher with a doctorate and 27-plus years of experience in a
Engelman suggested, for example, recruiting parent volunteers to take over
bus and detention duties while teachers undergo training.
Brown said more schools could copy James Island Elementary, where the
principal arranged teachers' schedules so that curriculum training occurs
once weekly, during the school day.
Andrew HaLevi, a Burke High School teacher and a founding member of the new
Charleston Teacher Alliance, said he'd be happy with some "real" teacher
"The thing about the district is that they never really take anything away.
They just add," he said. "If the district is just going to add on and not be
able to give us money, they need to find another way to compensate us."
Administrators have filled teacher workdays, supposedly set aside to give
teachers time to grade papers and/or prepare their classroom, with more
workshops and training, he said.
Over the four teacher workdays before school started, HaLevi said,
administrators allotted teachers only five total hours in their classrooms.
Meetings, at both the school and district level, took up the rest of the
"So what did teachers do? We stayed until 10 p.m. We went in the weekend
before," he said. "I'm not sure district planning coincides with what
teachers need to be successful."
Like many teachers, Christina Kleindt, a science teacher at Laing Middle
School, thinks the initiatives are good. A National Board Certified teacher,
Kleindt conducts many workshops herself and understands their benefits.
"What's bad is the pacing, going from zero to 100 in 60 seconds," said
Kleindt, in her 23rd year of teaching. "If you overwhelm teachers, they're
not going to learn anything. The pacing could go a long way in getting
HaLevi wonders whether the training will actually adversely affect student
performance this year.
"Training is good in the long run. In the short run, it could make us less
effective teachers because we're not spending as much time preparing,"
HaLevi said. "If I'm going to a meeting instead of correcting papers,
students are not getting as much time."
Nancy McGinley, the district's chief academic officer, said the teachers'
"points are well taken.
"Teachers already work very hard," she said. "We can't expect them to
continue to give and give and give without some compensation."
- Car wars test mettle of Germany - A union dispute at Volkswagen is the litmus test for a nation's economic guru ,
by Peter Beaumont, The Observer via ZNet, MA.
At the end of Porsche Strasse there looms the raison d'être for the Lower
Saxony town of Wolfsburg. Four chimneys tower over the Mittelland Canal.
Below them is fixed a giant marque. It reads VW, for Volkswagen.
The home of Europe's biggest car manufacturer, a short drive off the
autobahn that links Hanover with Berlin, would be an unremarkable little
town. Except that Wolfsburg has become a metaphor for Germany's struggle to
reinvent itself after almost two decades of industrial sclerosis.
This symbolism can be summed up by one man - a figure more closely
associated in the minds of German workers with the pains of reinvention than
even Chancellor Gerhard Schröder: VW's director of personnel, Peter Hartz.
The employment guru, and author of Job Revolution - picked by Schröder to
head his commission to reduce Germany's vast welfare budget, staggering
under unemployment of 4.6 million - has become a lightning rod for all the
merging tensions in German society: between unions and management;
government and governed; east and west; right and left.
The recommendations of his Hartz Commission - to encourage the long-term
unemployed back to work - are behind four weeks of growing anti-Schröder
'Monday demonstrations' that started in the east and have spread to over 140
German cities. The tough prescription has led to puns on Hartz's name with
hart - or 'hard'.
Under a provision known as Hartz IV, Germany's once-generous unemployment
benefits will be cut to a single year from three. Jobseekers must then find
employment or apply for a new, lower, means-tested benefit that will even
take into account the amount of children's savings.
These are measures so controversial that they have triggered a growing
political crisis within Schröder's own governing Red-Green coalition,
confronted with an almost devastating collapse of support for Schröder's own
SPD, and threats against him by the more left-leaning in his party -
including former leader 'Red' Oskar Lafontaine - to form a separate group.
It is not only in the area of welfare 'reform' that Hartz's name has emerged
as a byword for controversy. In Wolfsburg too he has stirred up anger in the
workforce, with an announcement last week that VW, faced with declining
profits, was seeking a two-year wage freeze among its 175,000 employees as
part of plans to reduce labour costs by 30% by 2011. The plan was
immediately rejected by the powerful IG Metall union - setting up what some
fear could be a bitter confrontation between the union and the management.
And so last week Hartz became the symbol of two converging forces that
confront Germans with an unenviable choice: to work harder for less money or
to risk losing their jobs to factories overseas and face a tough new
Rainer Redweik is a Volkswagen computer operator who collates exhaust
emission reports in the Wolfsburg works. A union member, he is intelligent,
cautious and pragmatic as he articulates worries about the Catch-22
confronting workers, switching between concerns over Hartz's plans for
Volkswagen's workforce and his concern over Hartz's recommendations for the
He can see the challenges confronting German industry from globalisation
and cheaper manufacturing overseas, although he questions whether their
product is the same quality. He sees the need for welfare reform, but is
horrified by some of the remedies suggested. And he admits that he is
baffled by what he calls 'the politics of Volkswagen'.
'I don't understand it,' says Redweik. 'They want to take away our money,
yet share-holders will still get theirs. And the management will still be
getting good money.' He complains too about a plan for newer employees to be
paid less than longer-term workers for identical jobs
When he switches to the welfare reform agenda, his feelings are more mixed.
He is scandalised at a proposal to count the savings of children of the
unemployed towards their parents' assets but agrees that with so many out of
work, some cuts are inevitable and even 'positive'.
But if he articulates one thing, it is uncertainty about the future - the
same poisonous uncertainty that is demolishing support for Schröder. What
men like Redweik can see around them is a slow unravelling of Germany's
post-war social accord, amid the ever-declining power of the trade unions
which contributed so much to the social stability in western Germany since
Now 48, Redweik was born into a generation that expected the
union-protected guarantees of the generation before: an apprenticeship that
would prepare the worker for a job for life; eight-hour shifts; a shortening
work week and the Lohnfortzahlung, which would ensure his pay would continue
in case of illness.
Since the Fifties these unions had fought for a working week
ever-shortening towards 35 hours, and collective bargaining agreements that
bound whole industries. Their influence went beyond that. In 1998 they
helped to propel Schröder into power, organising rallies, helping his
election effort and spending millions on advertising.
But even as he was elected, trade union power was in a deep decline. A
membership that peaked at almost 12 million following reunification has now
lost more than a third of its members. Of those that remain, up to a third
are pensioners while the average member - like Redweik - is male, educated
and over 40.
In the past 12 months German management has begun to reverse a half-century
of union gains, beginning in the east when IG Metall was defeated in a
strike designed to bring work hours down from 38 hours to the 35-hour norm
in western Germany.
Managements have since forced two high-profile settlements - at
DaimlerChrysler and Siemens - where workforces agreed to work longer hours
for no extra money to save jobs moving abroad, setting the scene for the
showdown between Volkswagen and IG Metall in September.
Jörg Köther, one of the IG Metall officials involved in negotiations with
Hartz and Volkswagen, feels industrial action is almost certain in a case he
contends will have ramifications across Germany if his union loses its claim
for a 4% wage rise and guarantees of full employment, rejected in
Volkswagen's hard-nosed pre-emptive bid.
But Köther paints a more sympathetic picture of Hartz: 'For most people now
demonstrating in Germany against his welfare recommendations the simple view
of Peter Hartz now is that he represents both the management pressure on one
side to bring down wages and an attack on welfare benefits on the other. But
it is more complex than that. He was always one of the more progressive
managers - although not easy for the unions to deal with.
'When I hear what he has to say now it sounds not like Peter Hartz, but the
company's board that is speaking.'
Köther is convinced the dispute is important because of managements' desire
to take on the unions. 'If we lose at Volkswagen,' he said, 'every other
company in Germany will do the same.'
He is certain of another thing. When Schröder's party goes to state
elections in the autumn and afterwards, IG Metall's 2.5m members, 'upset and
angry' at his betrayal, will no longer help him.
'What happens in Wolfsburg with the Volkswagen negotiations will have a
significant impact for Germany,' agrees Dr Martin Werding, director of
social policy and labour markets at the Ifo Institute in Munich.
'Germany has seen 20 years of relatively poor economic performance, lagging
behind our competitors. For 20 years we have reduced our working hours and
that trend has not been matched by a reduction in compensation for workers.
Now we have the world record for pay per hour worked.
'The reason it is being addressed now is because our economic crisis is
becoming more and more visible with the problem of massive long-term
Werding believes this has caused the convergence of the two issues: tough
welfare reforms and a move to drive down wages. But one thing worries him.
'The unions do not have a clear strategy. They do not understand how things
have changed in Germany in the past 30 years.'
And if a premonition was needed in Wolfsburg about the likely trajectory of
September's negotiations, there is a poster pasted on the town's walls. It
is for a grand arm-wrestling competition. Its sponsor is Volkswagen.
- Chinese factory workers begin protesting low wages, poor conditions,BY TIM JOHNSON, Knight Ridder Newspapers (KRT) via Monterey County Herald, CA.
DONGGUAN, China - A large number of migrant workers in the region
known as the "world's factory" are getting fed up with their low-paid jobs
and are shucking the assembly line, creating a significant labor shortage.
It's an unusual, and somewhat startling, occurrence in a nation with an
excess of workers.
The Pearl River Delta became the fastest-growing region in the world over
the past quarter-century as peasants, unchained from their collective farms,
migrated to the delta's factories. Guangdong province, which surrounds the
Pearl River Delta, saw its economic output soar 64-fold over the past
quarter-century. For anyone observing, it was like a high-speed video of a
But some of the 30 million or so migrant workers providing the Pearl River
Delta with its industrial muscle say they haven't shared in the bounty.
While industrialists earn buckets of cash, joining gated country clubs and
gambling away fortunes on junkets to the nearby casino mecca of Macao, wages
for migrant workers over the past decade haven't grown at all, workplace
Earlier this year, some factories found the pool of job applicants drying
up. Exacerbating the situation, many workers who went home for the Chinese
New Year holiday never came back. Some estimates now put the labor shortage
in Guangdong province at up to 2 million workers. In cities such as
Dongguan, 60% of factories need laborers. Banners stream over factory
entrances, promising that the companies won't default on wages, as they have
in the past, or that they're improving work conditions.
The labor situation in southeastern China is worth watching for reasons far
beyond the economy. Workers have few ways to voice dissatisfaction in China.
They can't form independent labor unions. So worker discontent is one of the
many wildfires around the pillars of Communist Party rule after more than
five decades in power.
Experts pinpoint a number of factors for the sudden shortage of laborers in
small- and medium-sized factories.
Among the obvious reasons are that workers have grown weary of forced
overtime, wages of $50 a month, rampant workplace injury, disregard for
labor law and frequent nonpayment.
Another possible explanation of the shortage is that migrants have sent word
home about abuses in the Pearl River Delta region.
Liu Kaiming, the head of the Institute of Contemporary Observation, a
nonprofit group in nearby Shenzhen that monitors workplace issues, said
researchers of the Dongguan Communist Party Committee found in a survey this
year that 100 of some 300 local factories questioned had defaulted on wages
to workers. Moreover, 60% of workers in Dongguan must toil an average
of 120 hours of overtime per month (or about 30 hours a week), he said.
A less obvious reason for the shortage, perhaps, is the coming of age of a
more independent-minded generation of young workers born since 1979, when
China began a family planning policy that limited urban couples to one child
and most rural ones to two.
"They've grown kind of picky about their jobs. They haven't gone through the
hardships that their parents did," Liu said.
"There's been a lack of evaluation of the consequences of the one-child
policy," echoed Yang Sen, a manager of a Taiwan-owned factory that makes
chargers for cellular phones, who added that parents with a sole offspring
often don't want them in a bone-wearying job at an assembly plant. Some are
keeping them in school longer, he added, hoping they can obtain more skilled
Another factor is the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, epidemic
that spread from Guangdong in late 2002 and eventually killed 800 people
worldwide. The outbreak spooked parents of migrant laborers.
Along the alleys of this city, the third-largest export hub of China, labor
discontent is evident.
Outside the Esteem Industries electric-fan factory, about three dozen
workers quickly swarm a visitor inquiring about conditions.
"By October, 50% of us will leave here," said Tang Hua, a 23-year-old
with dyed spiky blond hair. He said as many as 16 workers are crowded into
each room in the dormitory provided by the factory. Guards barred a
photographer from entering.
"The food is terrible and it is not clean. That is the main reason we want
to stop working here," said Li Tianxin, a migrant who came from Hunan
"They just give us turnips and bean curd," piped in Wang Shaohuan, adding
that meat and hygiene have disappeared from the company meal plan.
Many of the 8,000 or so workers at the factory say they make less than the
$55 a month required by local labor legislation.
"According to labor law, we should be paid more. But the factories don't
follow the law," said Zhou Deqing....
Even with wages of only $50 a month, the factory workers still earn far more
than the average farmer, who ekes out a living on $320 a year, official
statistics show. Farmers are also hobbled by a near-total lack of public
health care, the diminishing size of rural plots and a heavy tax burden that
only recently has begun to drop.
But migrant factory workers haven't enjoyed the rising standards of living
of other urban residents, who've seen incomes increase an average of 8%
each year during the past 10 years. Per-capita urban incomes now
average $1,020 a year.
The manager of the largest private employment agency in the city, Yang Qi of
Chitone jobs market, said factory owners insist on paring wages to the bone
to maintain global competitiveness. Local city inspectors turn a blind eye
He said, however, that the labor shortage is distressing city officials in
Dongguan, which has a population of some 10 million people. City officials
sent out a circular in March asking industrialists to come up with ways to
attract more migrants.
"These migrant workers are demanding more in terms of their working and
living conditions," Yang said. "If they (factory owners) do not raise wages,
they won't get any workers at all."
Factory owners and city officials have even considered importing laborers
from neighboring Vietnam, Yang said, although such a plan may never take
Some larger companies are recruiting far afield.
"In the past, everyone came here. If we wanted people, there were lined up
outside. Now we need to go to other places that are poorer to get workers,"
said Yang Sen, the Taiwanese businessman who's also vice president of the
Taiwan Businessmen's Association in Dongguan, which represents some 4,000
Companies like his are going as far as the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region,
nearly 1,000 miles to the northwest, to find workers.
The company invited a Ningxia broadcasting company to send a television crew
to report on "the life and working conditions" at the local plants, he said,
to ease fears of poor conditions.
In March, Premier Wen Jiabao announced a change in agricultural policy that
also may have contributed to the urban labor shortage. Wen announced the
lifting of a series of taxes on farmers in a move to make their lives less
"The peasants think tending the fields is not as bad as working in the
factories now. That's why they don't want to come," said Annie Su, the vice
president of the human resources management committee of the Tangxia
district of Dongguan.
Grain prices are now rising in the countryside, pushing up rural incomes.
City and provincial officials declined to talk about the labor shortage.
"They worry that if they admit it, it will have a bad effect on the
investment environment," said Liu, the workplace specialist.
Experts say large factories that supply consumer goods to U.S. and European
companies often pay slightly higher wages. The major labor problems are
among smaller factories, usually owned by Hong Kong, Taiwanese or mainland
Some see the labor shortages as salutary for workers.
"It is good. It will force these companies to improve their working
environment and payment," said Zhang Youhuai, a management expert at the
Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences.
In lectures to factory managers, Zhang said he encourages them to treat
workers better, comparing the workplace "to a big ship. ... The workers are
the crew. If you want the ship to go fast and in the right direction, you
have to be nice to the crew."
- Doctor Tough-Love - Controversial hospital CEO drawing praise
and criticism for his management style,
by Denise Allabaugh (email@example.com), The Citizen's Voice, PA.
Since Dr. William Host became president and CEO of Wyoming Valley Health
Care System three years ago, he has had his share of conflicts.
n He suspended neurosurgeon Dr. David Sedor after alleging he threatened to
kill Dr. Host over a new partnership with Penn State Milton S. Hershey
n He had disputes with registered nurses and other hospital employees about
the way he distributed Medicare money.
n He last year spent $3,614,141 on replacement nurses during the three-week
strike of 440 registered nurses at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, an issue
nurses are still bitter about today.
When asked if he would make that decision again, Dr. Host responded, "in a
New York second."
"Think about the alternative," he said. "We would put 450 physicians
on the street. On behalf of 440 nurses, we would have had to put 1,300
other employees out of work."
Dr. Host disagreed with nurses over the main issues that led to their
strike. They wanted mandatory overtime eliminated when, he said, they are
only mandated to work overtime less than one half of one% of the
He also disagreed with nurses over staff-to-patient ratios and was opposed
to nurses having a "union shop," in which everyone had to join the union....
[In short, it's all right if doctors band together to get what they want for themselves, but not all right for nurses to band together to get what they want for their patients. With doctors like this, who needs viruses?]
- Labor Day Statement of Joseph Hansen, President of the United Food &
Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, press release by Greg Denier (202-466-1591) & Jill Cashen (202-728-4797 or firstname.lastname@example.org) of UFCW, U.S. Newswire, DC.
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - UFCW International President
Joe Hansen spoke at the 2004 Milwaukee, Wisconsin Labor Day rally. His
I am Joe Hansen and I am happy to be home. I got my first union card as a
meatcutter apprentice at a Milwaukee supermarket, I organized my first
non-union shop here in Milwaukee and, I ran my first strike to protect pay
and health benefits in the Milwaukee grocery industry.
I have come home because we in Wisconsin have a job to do: we have to put
decency, honesty and a commitment to working families back in the White
House. And, this Milwaukee meatcutter has come back to help you get that job
I listened to George W. Bush's speech to the Republican Convention. And
there is something I cannot forget or forgive in that speech. There is no
dishonor in disagreement about the issues, that why we have elections, but
there is dishonor in dishonesty.
When George W. Bush said in his speech that he was proposing comp time as a
family-friendly overhaul of labor laws, he lied to the American people. Comp
time means no time [false], no overtime [true], no family time [false], no time except work time
for as along as the boss wants you to work [false]. Work time should be paid time
and, overtime work should be paid overtime pay.
If you take a hard look at any of the Bush proposals, you can find the lie
beneath the rhetoric:
- Privatize Social Security - really means give away billions of dollars in
workers money to Wall Street stock brokers.
- Prescription drug plan for seniors - really means a giveaway to the big
- Medical savings accounts - really means a giveaway to the big insurance
- Labor daze - What better way to celebrate the American worker than by stripping him of
one of his few remaining benefits - overtime?
by Matt Hutaff, The Simon, CA.
My fellow Americans, I hope you enjoyed your Labor Day.
Whether you sat for hours in soul-numbing traffic, frantic to rest your
weary, oversized bottom on a cubic foot of beachfront, or simply prayed for
death at another obnoxious family gathering, it's a day off. A day set aside
by the government to allow the average wage-earner a breather from the rat
race and enjoy not two, but three consecutive days of gardening and
As for me? I got an extra hour of sleep before attacking two of three extra
jobs I have that allow my family to survive in the economic nightmare
America has become.
I bust my ass every week to bring home a steady paycheck. My schedule
comprises a ten hour workday I arrive at the office no later than 9am and
am lucky when I can walk out the door at 7pm. I like my job and the people I
work for; the money is good. But it's oftentimes not enough considering the
average cost of living in a state like California; worse still, there are
millions of workers who work even longer hours for lower wages and benefits
than I. In turn, many end up working odd jobs whenever possible to scrounge
up extra money.
What many of us have in common is that little jewel called overtime. For
that ninth blessed hour I jockey my desk every day, I get time and a half.
Those extra earnings seem small on a daily basis, but over time it amounts
to thousands of dollars I can put towards my future... or funnel to one of
the many thousands of sleeper cells operating in the United States.
Like those aggravating Sally Struthers commercials, even the cost of a cup
of coffee can keep one of our homegrown terror units well-fed and
overtime isn't just an incentive to keep workers satisfied with working
longer hours (time better spent with friends and family), it's the law. The
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 provides for it along with other radical
notions like minimum wage and child labor protections. For roughly 65 years
the government has guarded the ability of the American worker to subsist.
Truly a cause worthy of a day celebrating the American worker, right? Don't
bet on it. The Bush Administration has found another pot to piss in, and
this time it's the Department of Labor.
Mark August 23rd on your calendars. It's the day that Bush vetted the
overtime benefits program, leaving potentially 6 million American workers
without the one thing that separates them from living in a Dickensian
workhouse. It's being called the "biggest pay cut in American history" and
it hits some of the most important sectors of employment in the nation
nursing and law enforcement are only two of the professions expected to see
Should you be surprised? Not really. After, this is a president who's done
his best to grandfather millions of illegal immigrants into the American
workforce, allowing corporations like WalMart to save millions by paying
wages below the minimum to voiceless Mexicans. It's long been Bush's policy
to favor his elite "base" of campaign contributors over the needs of the
very people he's sworn to serve. This latest example is no different.
As if there could be something more ridiculous than stripping an entire
government agency of its mandate, Bush has also managed to coax Secretary of
Labor Elaine Chao into providing big companies helpful hints to reduce wages
in case they are negatively affected by the changes.
"Affected employers would have four choices concerning potential payroll
costs," the Federal Register says. The fourth choice is "converting salaried
employees' basis of pay to an hourly rate that result in virtually no
changes to the total compensation paid those workers." (Emphasis mine.)
Yes, you read right: not only is the government actively screwing a huge
section of the workforce, they're giving employers tips on circumventing
Does it get any more f*cked up than that?
The repeal of overtime has been in the works for over a year. Hundreds of
thousand have protested Bush's actions; unions across the country decry it.
Polls have shown that only roughly one in four Americans supported the bill
in the first place. In a country where the majority (supposedly) rules,
having 75% of the populace against anything should kill it before it ever
reaches the President's desk. However, as you know, we do not live in times
where the interests of the people are widely regarded by our elected
As a worker, does this necessarily mean the end of your overtime benefits?
No several states such as Hawaii and California have overtime laws that
trump the federal changes. And even those directly affected by the changes
in law could very well find themselves working for an employer who actually
values their employees by choosing to pay them a fair and honest wage. But
millions of American workers are definitely on the receiving end of some
very pro-corporate nonsense. It's not fair and it's not right.
"Under the new rules, workers will know their overtime rights, employers
will know their responsibilities, and the department can more vigorously
enforce these protections," Chao said in a statement. "To succeed in the
21st Century, our nation must be prepared to adapt to changes in our economy
in how we work, where we work, and how we balance our professional and
Remind you of those misleading advertisements from 2003 touting Bush's
medical benefits plan that ended up reducing overall benefits while raising
costs by $100 billion? Chao's simplistic political jargon is bullshit. Sure,
workers will know their overtime rights they have none. Employers will
know their responsibilities they have none.
And of course, it's easy to vigorously enforce nothing.
To truly succeed in the 21st century, the American government needs to quit
reducing what little pay hourly workers receive, stop the hemorrhaging of
jobs to other countries and start focusing on rebuilding our industry along
with the belief that blue collar jobs are respected and desirable.
Otherwise, Chao's concept of parity will consist of people who have all the
family time in the world because they have no jobs, or no time whatsoever
because they're working 4 jobs just to survive.
So celebrate Labor Day while you can. If the government has its way, it
could soon be the only guaranteed benefit workers have left.
Canon Fodder is a weekly analysis of politics and society.
By the way, let's do the list:
Tell me again why we put up with all this?
- No overtime
- No comprehensive medical coverage
- No truly free press
- No expectation of privacy
- No election with a verified paper trail
- No guarantee of social security
- No due process
- No congressional declaration of war
- New overtime rules yield unexpected bonus: anxiety, pointer blurb (to B1), WSJ, front page.
[The front page spins it positive as "bonus."]
The recent changes in overtime eligibility spur workers to mull changing jobs or seeking demotions.
[Target headline -]
Changed U.S. rules for overtime pay roil the workplace, by Kris Maher, WSJ, B1.
[Finally inside it takes on a negative charge with "roil the workplace."]
- Ont. union supporters want labour law changes
Canadian Press via CTV, Canada
TORONTO - Ontario union boosters are calling for the Liberal government to
reinstate labour laws struck down by the Harris government, and say things
are so bad in the province that workers are scared of their bosses.
Tensions over union rallying and activity have escalated into threats and
physical violence in recent years, says John Cartwright, president of the
Toronto and York Region Labour Council.
The Labour Relations Act says people have the right to form unions and
bargain collectively with their employers, but amendments by the now
defeated Harris Tories turned unionization into a highly problematic process
for Ontario workers.
"What Mike Harris did was change the laws so that it has become very
difficult to truly exercise that right," he said.
"If the Liberal government cares about the working people in this province,
they need to fix those laws now."
The labour movement is primarily urging Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government
to reinstate automatic certification.
Under changes made by the Conservative government, the Ontario Labour
Relations Board lost the authority to order automatic union certification
when it felt an employer's anti-labour tactics resulted in a majority vote
against a union.
Employers were practically free to interfere with the process after Harris's
government eliminated the automatic certification, Cartwright said.
This led to firings of workers who tried to organize union drives, and
later, threats and violence.
"There's been a serious escalation and it's been evident in every single
union drive that I've been involved in," said Courtney Radic, a Toronto
union organizer with Unite Here, a group that represents 440,000 unionized
workers in Canada and the U.S.
"Employers know that if they break the law, they can get away with it."
In May 2001, the Ontario Labour Relations Board found that Baron Metal
Industries Inc. had committed illegal actions to defeat the United
Steelworkers' organizing attempt in November 1998.
The campaign ended in a tied vote after Baron Metal hired two known members
of a criminal gang a few days before the vote to intimidate employees.
Employers can usually get away with firing workers due to union involvement,
because the Labour Board doesn't typically hear the employees' grievances
for about 18 months, Radic said.
"(Changing the laws) would go a long way to making workers feel like they
can exercise their rights, because right now, workers are scared. They're
scared of their bosses."
The Liberal government hasn't yet taken any steps towards creating a better
situation for those trying to initiate union activity. The huge fiscal
deficit left behind by the Tories can hardly be used as an excuse in this
case because "it doesn't cost them anything in order to give justice back to
working people," Cartwright said.
"They're dragging their feet. They mentioned during the election that these
laws were terrible and unfair and that they needed to be fixed, but many
months have gone by and there's been no indication that there's a
willingness to make any serious change."
As he prepared for Labour Day weekend activities, Labour Minister Chris
Bentley wouldn't say if his government would bring back automatic
"I have been meeting with a steady stream of people from the union movement
and the business community and other interest groups to hear what changes
should be made to our labour laws," he said.
"We're getting close to a point where we can make some decisions."
The primary concerns of his ministry have been raising the minimum wage,
repealing the 60-hour work week, and improving job protection for people
taking care of dying relatives.
He said his government is committed to restoring "the balance in labour
relations, and then maintaining it."
The problems, he said, began not with the Conservatives, but with the NDP
government that preceded it. The NDP swung the balance heavily in favour of
the workers. When the Tories came into power, Bentley thinks the party
viewed the NDP's actions as a licence to swing the scale heavily to the
"For about 15 prior years, the party in power had attempted to shift the
balance from one side to the other, and frankly, that isn't in the long-term
interest of Ontarians," he said.
Cartwright thinks the need for immediate change is dire. The government has
the power to make improvements, and he hopes it make some moves quickly.
"We don't want to be celebrating Labour Day a year from now and still have
people being fired because they tried to exercise their democratic rights."
- Other views: The new family affects workplaces
Sydney Morning Herald via International Herald Tribune, France
SYDNEY, Australia: The stereotype of the home mom and the office dad is in steady
decline. Nearly 60% of young Australian families have both parents in
the paid workforce. Only 28% of families have a sole, male
breadwinner. Employers no longer can expect workers to leave family life at
home. Some employers have injected flexibility into the work routine because
they appreciate that contented workforces are more productive and because
mutually agreed reforms, such as tradeable annual leave and job sharing, might suit their own fluctuating needs while keeping experience and
expertise on their books. Many others, however, resist because compulsory
flexibility does not suit the manner or size of their enterprises. The
challenge is to refine proposals so that business and workers profit. The
two goals need not be mutually exclusive.
- Workaholics glad to labor while others play
by Shirleen Holt (206-464-8316 or email@example.com), Seattle Times, WA
Lawyer Bob Manlowe often works out of his car late at night or early in the
morning. His car-office has a laptop, BlackBerry handheld, GPS system and,
of course, a cellphone.
We're not talking about the poor shlubs who had to work on Labor Day. We're
talking about the people who chose to work.
We're talking about doers.
Every company has them; in fact, it's safe to say most companies were
started by them. They're the drivers, the organizers, the directors. They
move fast. They multi-task. No time for chitchat. Nothing personal. Just
Much has been written about the American overwork ethic, but relatively
little is said about this important slice of it: Some people work hard
because they're simply wired that way.
Seattle lawyer Bob Manlowe is one. He gets by on four to six hours of sleep
a night, or even as little as one hour if he's preparing for a trial. He's
accessible for clients from 4 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week, via
cellphone, airphone, Internet or his cherished BlackBerry attached to his
He says he keeps this schedule because he specializes in crisis management.
If a stadium collapses, a factory explodes, a university coach is involved
in a gambling scandal, Manlowe...is there with legal advice and sometimes
"I tell my client, I'm the guy you hope you never have to call, but if
you're in a crisis, I'll help you walk through the firestorm."
But big disasters are fairly uncommon, and Manlowe, who represented
University of Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel during the battle to
keep his job, is still staggeringly busy.
On a crisis-free day, he gets up at 5 a.m., works a few hours in his Mercer
Island home office, then heads for his Seattle office. He works on most
family vacations, talking to East Coast clients before his wife and three
daughters wake up.
His family, he says, tolerates his obsession to a point. "I think there are
probably times where they wish the BlackBerry was left in the refrigerator
Especially during meals, when he's been known to pull out the device to
check his e-mails.
Long work week
Nearly 10 million Americans worked more than 60 hours a week last year, the
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found. We've outpaced the famously
productive Japanese in hours worked. We're the only developed nation without
mandatory vacation time. And, according to Expedia.com's annual vacation
poll, one in three of us will take no vacation this year.
Some of this is due to economic pressures: We put in longer hours because
we need the money or because our boss wants to squeeze more out of us. If
we're not the doer driving the schedule, we're the one being driven.
The doer profile shows up in every workplace personality test. The name may
change - they can be called drivers, strivers, generals or directors - but
the descriptions are the same.
At their best, doers are decisive, persistent, self-motivated, passionate
and committed; hence, the long work hours.
Doers built the country and the economy. Thomas Jefferson was a doer, as
was Abraham Lincoln. Former General Electric Chief Executive Jack Welch is a
doer. Taskmaster Martha Stewart, who boasts that she sleeps as few as four
hours a night, would qualify as a doer. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos -
doer, doer, doer.
At their worst, doers can be demanding, impatient, intolerant of flaws and
emotionally distant - a disturbing trait for co-workers who value
collegiality. As the narrative for one personality test, the KeirseyTemperament Sorter, relates, doers need "a goal-directed reason for doing
anything, and people's feelings usually are not sufficient reason."
What causes these achievers to work longer and harder than the average
person? Are they joyful creators, people so passionate about their work they
can't bear to be apart from it? Or are they workaholics with low
self-esteem, desperately trying to prove themselves?
They can be either, say experts, even though the increased visibility of
job burnout has caused the media to fixate more recently on the negative
Sense of pleasure
"Some people just get pleasure from accomplishment, " says Doniella Boaz, a
psychotherapist in Seattle. "It's not always a psychopathology."
Indeed, researchers have discovered there is such a thing as a "happy
Sharon Lobel, a professor at Seattle University's Albers School of Business
and Economics, co-wrote a research paper with that very title.
"There are people who decide that work is truly a source of gratification
for them," Lobel says. "When you are doing something that really aligns with
who you are, there's a feeling of deep satisfaction. It's not about
promotions, glitzy accounts or prestige; it's about a sense of identity and
integrity and doing the right thing."
Oprah Winfrey would seem to fall into that category.
"You can tell if you spend significant amount of time with people whether
they're motivated by fear or motivated by fun," says Janet Scarborough, a
Mercer Island career counselor and coach. "Oprah is having fun. She's
incredibly busy, but I think she's having a good time."
Where doers get their bad rep, and deservedly so, is when they impose their
frenetic pace onto employees who don't share their slavish devotion to work.
Susan, a...former software tester (she asked that her last name
be withheld so that her job search isn't jeopardized), worked for a doer
whose demands got more and more outlandish as her team prepared a product
Her 10-hour workdays began to stretch to 15 hours. On Fridays came the
boss's dreaded e-mail: "Mandatory weekend. Cancel your plans."
"He would come in on Saturdays and write an e-mail saying, 'Where are you?'
The crazy thing is that some of us had to come in and work even if we were
caught up. We felt we had to be there."
After she started crying for odd reasons, and when she developed tremors,
migraines and stomach pains, Susan transferred to a different team and a
boss who expected 40-hour work weeks. The stress had taken its toll, though,
and she left the company after two years.
"A job is not worth all that," she says. "It's really not. What's important
is being happy."
Such workplace horrors multiplied during the technology boom, when 15-hourworkdays became a virtue, a symbol of devotion to the cause, and the price
that grunts would have to pay for future stock riches.
TechRepublic.com, a Web site for information-technology workers, posted
some egregious examples from its users: There was the guy who shaved his
head and grew a beard so that it would only take him 10 minutes to get ready
for work; the woman who slept in her car and office; the guy who showered at
the health club across the street so he wouldn't have to go home.
The excesses of that period created a backlash against the doers' demands.
Seattle is the birthplace of Take Back Your Time, a national movement
pushing for a mandatory three weeks' paid time off for workers and a cap on
But organizers also want a cultural shift away from the doer mentality.
"We have come to a point where we are honoring the warrior archetype a
little too much," says Irene Myers, a Seattle life coach involved with the
movement. "There will always be doers, but the question is, who do we choose
to follow? Do we choose to put those people in the limelight and keep them
there, or do we seek other models?"
Lobel, the social scientist who supports the Take Back Your Time
initiative, discovered that this may not be necessary. In their research,
she and Stewart Friedman of the Wharton School of the University of
Pennsylvania found it is possible for driven CEOs who work 15-hour days -
the doers - to create an office culture where employees don't feel pressured
to emulate their workaholic ways.
Instead of being role models for "balance," some of the executives studied
(at Ernst & Young, Allied Signal, Frank Russell and other large companies)
were role models for "authenticity." The message: I'm working at this pace
because this is who I am; you're expected to negotiate a balance that's
right for you - and you won't be punished.
This may come as a relief to doers whose idea of balance is a phone in each
ear. For them, being forced to limit their work time would be as cruel as
forcing others to adopt their style.
"It's simplistic to say that everyone who spends a great deal of time at
work is doing so out of unhealthy motivation," Scarborough, the career
counselor, says. "I think it's highly individual. For some people, balance
is a value; for others, they have a driving passion to achieve something,
and it can't be done in 40 hours a week."
Indeed. This morning, the day celebrating labor with a national holiday,
before his wife and daughters wake up, Bob Manlowe will get out of bed, walk
to his downstairs office and turn on the computer.
- Laboring to Balance Work and Family
letter by Bill Friedman of Studio City CA, Los Angeles Times, CA
Re "All Work and No Play Is the U.S. Way," Commentary, Aug. 30: Joan
Williams and Ariane Hegewisch cut right to the heart of what should be a
major campaign issue, our culture of overwork. It always fascinated me that
our largely Republican captains of industry, while supporting "family
values" candidates, generally do not offer family-friendly places ofemployment. Of course, the Democrats do not seem to have much to say on this
I suggest that Williams and Hegewisch consider that the business school at
their university is one of the sources of this problem.
As far as the typical MBA is concerned, there is no difference between
human capital (economists called workers "labor units" when I was in school)
and other forms of capital. Hence, the employee is just another piece of
equipment (why buy three when we can make one do the job?) to be used up and
Is it any wonder that in France (that county we love to vilify!), where the
average worker actually enjoys more protections and benefits than the
typical typewriter, the output per man-hour is higher?
- The new economy can cut both ways - As America's evolving economy changes, many wonder whether democratic workplaces and fair wages are [deteriorating] to underpaid workers and stagnation in the job market
by Jeff Madrick, NYT via Miami Herald, FL
On this Labor Day, it is worth remembering how widely it was once argued
that America's new economy would produce more democratic workplaces that
depended on the advancing skills of workers. Old assembly-line mass
production was dead, hierarchical management was a dinosaur, and the
nation's productivity would be raised rapidly through the creation of
interesting jobs at higher pay and benefits.
But the new economy, it appears, can cut two ways. New technologies can be
used to create good jobs, but they can also be used to create stultifying
and poorly paid ones.
[Actually then, the new economy can cut three ways. New technologies can also be used to destroy "costly" jobs.]
In fact, the latter possibility, more than outsourcing
or globalization, may account for why the nation's productivity has been
rising recently while real wages are stagnating and job creation is well
behind the pace of past recoveries.
To the historian Nelson Lichtenstein, who teaches at the University of
California, Santa Barbara, one way to think about how the economy has
changed is that Wal-Mart, a service company, is the classic "business
template" of the contemporary economy.
It is the nation's largest company, representing 2.3% of the gross
domestic product and employing 1.5 million workers. Its prowess and buying
power are breathtaking: It is the largest trucker in the nation, the
third-largest pharmacy, one of the nation's largest grocers, and its overall
sales are greater than those of Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway
and Kroger combined. Microsoft and Intel sales are a tenth as large.
Moreover, it is a remarkably innovative exploiter of the latest
technologies, enabling it to run its huge retail network productively while
providing its 20 million or so daily customers with both low prices and a
variety of products. The economists Barry Bosworth and Jack E. Triplett of
the Brookings Institution find in a new book, Productivity in the U.S.
Services Sector (Brookings Institution Press), that retailing in general has
contributed substantially to the nation's productivity boom since the
mid-1990s. And Wal-Mart is the industry leader.
By contrast, Lichtenstein says, in the 1950s, General Motors was clearly the
nation's business template. GM was the largest company in America, its
revenue making up 3% of the GDP. Also, GM was highly productive,
meaning high output per hour of work, just as Wal-Mart is now.
But here is the critical difference: The manufacturing company paid high and
rising wages, setting a pattern for the rest of the nation, but, unlike GM,
Wal-Mart is not producing high-paying jobs, even by the standards of the
retailing industry. Critics are compiling evidence that Wal-Mart's success,
while entrenched in the brilliant management of new technologies, is
dependent on low labor costs. And the low-wage business model is setting a
pattern for others.
As James Hoopes, a professor of business ethics at Babson College, put it,
the new technologies enable Wal-Mart to manage its labor from the top down
in ways that Frederick Winslow Taylor, the classic managerial-efficiency
expert of the first mass-production era, could only dream about. Just as it
closely manages its inventory and purchases, Wal-Mart's central management
deploys its employees and minimizes their hours.
Hoopes says that, because it does not work face to face with employees, top
management may not even fully understand what is going on. But academic
researchers interviewing Wal-Mart employees find frequent complaints about
stress and overwork and little respect for personal needs. And a recent
gender-discrimination class-action suit has garnered wide attention.
High technology, critics say, also allows companies like Wal-Mart to juggle
worker schedules so adeptly that they can make efficient use of part-time
help. So part of Wal-Mart's success results from hiring a high proportion of
temporary and part-time workers from the ample supply of students, retirees
and working spouses.
A new study by Arindrajit Dube and Ken Jacobs of the University of
California, Berkeley, has produced clear evidence of Wal-Mart's
comparatively low wages. The researchers calculate that, in the San
Francisco Bay area, the company's average wage, about $11 an hour, is
roughly 30% below what unionized workers get in local grocery chains.
They also find that the average Wal-Mart wage for all of California is 20 to
30% below the average wage paid by retailers with 1,000 or more
workers. Indeed, annual turnover is high at Wal-Mart, averaging some 46%
nationwide. Costco averages only 24%, though Wal-Mart
counters that its turnover is lower than the average for all American
Wal-Mart also argues that the Berkeley study was done by researchers who are
advised and sometimes financed by organized labor. But this observer could
find no bias with their methodology. Further, Wal-Mart's healthcare benefits
have also come under fire.
But the issue goes well beyond Wal-Mart. A recent book by Simon Head, The
New Ruthless Economy (Oxford, 2003), finds a tightening supervision of labor
in other technology-intensive industries.
Ubiquitous call centers are Head's favorite examples, but he argues that the
healthcare industry is going down a similar path. He even finds that the
widely praised innovations of the Japanese automakers in the 1970s and '80s
had more to do with ever-tighter control of labor tasks, reminiscent of
Frederick Taylor, than with any touted cooperation among workers.
Whether Head is ultimately right, the new economy is clearly not the one-way
street it was once heralded to be.
"There has been a sort of wishful thinking that technology will create
democratic workplaces," Hoopes, of Babson, said. "To some degree, where
skills are short and demand is high, that is happening. But for unskilled
and semiskilled workers, people can be more closely supervised, lose freedom
and be stuck in low-paying jobs."
Just as at the turn of the last century, a key way to improve conditions is
to change laws to make labor unions easier to organize, many Wal-Mart
critics say. Lichtenstein says a substantial raise in the minimum wage -
back to its 1980 level, before inflation eroded it - would have still more
impact. This sounds like 19th-century progressivism all over again. Perhaps
it is sometimes true that the more things change, the more they remain the
Jeff Madrick can be reached via e-mail at challengemesharpe.com.
Get rid of working time opt-out, says TUC
The Trades Union Congress [TUC] last week called for the phasing out of the
opt-out provision of the Working Time Directive, frequently used by UK
employers and employees to keep working hours above the maximum 48 hours per
week permitted under the Directive.
The Directive provides that workers in all sectors, public or private, must
not work longer than 48 hours a week, including overtime. The Directive also
specifies requirements for rest periods, breaks and no less than four weeks'
paid holiday per year. Its aim is to protect workers from the health and
safety consequences of overworking.
In 1993, the UK negotiated an opt-out which allows Member States not to
apply the limit to working hours under certain conditions: prior agreement
of the individual, no negative fall-out from refusing to opt-out, and
records kept of working hours of those that have opted out.
While the UK is the only country to have made extensive use of the opt-out,
France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Luxembourg are preparing or have
passed legislation to make restricted use of the opt-out, in certain
In a report published on Friday, the TUC and charity Working Families called
for the individual opt-out to be abolished, claiming that family life is
being damaged by long working hours and that six years after the
introduction of the Directive, there are still more employees working over
long hours than there were in 1992.
According to TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, "A clamp down on
employers abusing working time rules and the removal of the opt-out would
prove very popular with working parents."
But Mike Emmott, Employee Relations Adviser of the Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development, disputed this claim, saying, "Our research shows
that the majority of people actually working over 48 hours per week choose
to do so."
"The issue of long hours working is complex, deep-seated and ingrained in
the culture of organisations and cannot be addressed by a uniform ban," headded. "CIPD research shows that persistent long hours working can have
negative effects, but these are best solved by employer measures such as
flexible working arrangements rather than a blanket ban on long hours
The European Commission is currently reviewing the Directive, and in
particular the opt-out, and is expected to propose changes to both in the
near future. The UK Government is therefore carrying out a consultation into
the issue with a deadline for responses of 22nd September.
Speaking at the time the Government consultation was launched, Robyn
McIlroy, an employment specialist with Masons, the international law firm
behind OUT-LAW.COM, commented:
"Clearly there are pros and cons for retaining and removing or at least
restricting the opt-out. On the one hand, removing the opt-out may lead us
away from the long-hours culture that is becoming increasingly common in the
UK. On the other hand, any measure which restricts competitiveness and the
ability of business to make profits must impact on salary levels and, in the
current economic climate, UK workers may feel that is too high a price to
pay for increased leisure time."
A new survey conducted by Kronos Incorporated shows that many
Americans feel overworked
by Donny Rowles, KAAL, MN
In the last six months, 32% of us adults employed full-time increased their
work week hours. Of these, 67% now work additional five or more hours each
"My work hours have increased probably five or six hours a week - yes my job
responsibilities have increased over the past six months."
The survey also asked people if they thought they would have any relief in
the next six months.
"No I wouldn't expect any major changes in the next 6 months. It's hard to
say it depends I guess if the economy picks up hopefully we'll get some
relief by getting more team members but I don't know, I hope so."
The survey identified lack of efficient staffing, less people to do the sameamount of work, and pressure to do more as the top three reasons for the
- Working long hours? Take a massage break, courtesy of your boss, by Benedict Carey, 2nd of 3 articles in series 'Sick of Work,' NYT, D1.
[They'll do anything but give people what they want and need = more free time.]
Through the tropics of mid-August, Michael Maccari, a men's clothing executive, was at it 10 to 12 hours a day, fretting over the details of an imminent holiday shipment to stores, the fittings for the spring 2005 lines and the designs for next fall - three seasons, three sets of deadlines. But right now, at lunch hour on a Wednesday, the deadlines were dissolving beneath a gentle tide of deep breathing....
- Bush roared out of his convention with political wind [or 'fart'?] at his back, news blurb, WSJ, front page.
...Congress returns today to an in-box overflowing with a mountain of unfinished business.... Its torpid work ethic may cost members votes.
Bush move on labor bill seen as a surprise
by Bob Cusack, The Hill, DC
In a surprise move, President Bush last week renewed his call for
long-stalled legislation that would allow businesses to offer comp time in
lieu of overtime pay.
The comp-time bill had been considered dead after House GOP leaders last
year pulled it from a scheduled vote because it lacked enough votes for
passage. But Bush's call for comp time in his Republican nomination
acceptance speech in New York may have reinvigorated the chances that
Congress will tackle the controversial issue this year or early in a
possible Bush second term.
Most of the ideas Bush discussed last week during his address were not new,
including comp-time legislation. But the president's move to seek comp-time
changes was viewed by some Washington insiders as a surprise because the
legislation has been stalled in the Congress for more than a year.
Thursday night in New York, Bush said, "In a new term, we will change
outdated labor laws to offer comp time and flex time. Our laws should never
stand in the way of a more family-friendly workplace."
The AFL-CIO opposes comp-time legislation, claiming that businesses would
force workers to take vacation time instead of getting overtime pay.
Industry groups that have lobbied for comp-time legislation, including theU.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that workers would have the option of
taking overtime funds or vacation time.
In June 2003, House GOP leaders scheduled a vote on the comp-time bill, but
were forced to backtrack after an unsuccessful whip effort. Democrats and
union officials claimed victory, but some privately said they wished a vote
had taken place so they could use it as political ammunition this election
year. The Senate has not voted on comp-time legislation.
overtime pay has been a bitter source of conflict between union officials
and the Bush administration. The Department of Labor, over the objections of
lawmakers in both parties, implemented its new rule revamping the nation's
rules on overtime pay last month.
This `help' is unwelcome
by Ellen Bravo, Sun-Sentinel.com, FL
I don't mind when someone states a view different from mine. (You think tax
cuts for the rich will solve the jobs problem? I don't. Fair enough.) What
really gets my goat is when people claim to share my values, but in fact
want to undermine them.
Take President Bush's latest effort to appeal to working women. On the 11th
anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act - a bill his father twice
vetoed and which he has weakened - Bush gave a speech about families' need
for more time together. "This world is changing," the president said,
acknowledging that most married women with young children are in the paid
labor force. "We need to make sure government changes with the times."
Time! Flexibility! Change! Yes, I say, these are all concerns of mine and
the organization of low-wage women I represent, 9to5. But the "flextime"
Bush has in mind couldn't be further from the kind of change working
families desperately need.
Simply put, what Bush is calling for is flexibility for employers. His
proposal - a recycled idea that couldn't muster enough support for a vote
in the House last year - would enable employees to "choose" comp time over
overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week.
So, you get to spend more time with your family only after you've been
forced to spend more time away from your family.
The Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted nearly 70 years ago to discourage
employers from demanding overtime by charging a premium. Bush's proposal
removes that disincentive. By making it cheaper for employers to demand
overtime, comp time would lead to more mandatory overtime, longer hours and
more unpredictable schedules.
And, please note, the employer, not the employee, has final say over when
you get to take the time you'd be given instead of extra pay. Right now,
many 9to5 members already have comp time and complain that they're only
allowed to take off when work is slow - times that usually don't coincide
with their needs.
Bush says government ought to permit employers to tell an employee, "If you
want some time off and work different hours, you're allowed to do so." Guess
what - the FLSA already allows employers to give workers time off whenever
they please, and to arrange flexible work schedules. The problem is, too
many simply won't.
Who would suffer under this proposal? Many 9to5 members depend on cash
overtime to make ends meet. Others are concerned about the time squeeze
they're already under and fear being forced to work more overtime.
"Government ought to be helping families," Bush said.
I agree. Here are a few items for starters: Raise the minimum wage so
workers don't have to put in extra hours to pay the rent. Eliminate
mandatory overtime. Expand family leave to more workers and for more
reasons. Require a minimum number of paid sick days, so workers don't get
fired for having a sick kid.
But if you want to make overtime cheaper for employers, just say so. Don't
push it in the name of helping families.
Ellen Bravo, director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women,
testified against the "Family Time Flexibility Act" in March 2003 before a
How Europe beats Scotland by bending the rules
by Calum Macdonald, The Herald, UK
It was a typically Gallic decision. Faced with the choice of complying with
the new European working time directive, or maintaining hospital services,
France opted for the latter and ignored Brussels.
In a country where junior doctors work an average of 70 hours a week, the
law is effectively being ignored in many regions. Doctors are not bothering
to discuss it with the government, seeing it as impossible to implement with
the current number of junior doctors.
Raphael Gaillard, president of the Union of Interns of the Hospitals of
Paris, described the working time law as "so totally abstract that it seems
Nicolas Amabile, European relations officer for the junior doctors'
professional organisation ISNIH said there were simply not enough doctors in
hospitals, and maintaining services was being prioritised over adherence to
the new law.
"With the numbers of junior doctors, it's not possible for us to apply the
directive because it will affect the functioning of hospitals. The
government does not punish hospitals that do not comply because everybody in
France knows the directive can't be applied."
But it is not just the staffing issue which is causing problems. Many French
junior doctors are opposed to the curtailing of working hours because they
are keen to gain as much experience as possible, in order to progress to
Mr Amabile said: "I think it will be a fight for years to apply the
directive in France."France may be at one end of the spectrum, but for other major EU countries,
non-compliance is the norm, to avoid the inevitable cuts. In nations apart
from the UK where it has been successfully implemented, there has been
relatively little impact, either because the junior doctors already worked
fewer hours, or funding was increased to employ more staff.
Every health provider in the EU is facing similar difficulties in applying
the law: staff shortages and a demand within the medical industry for
consultants to build and sustain specialist skills by working in the busiest
hospitals.The solutions needed to tackle the problems are also the same:
increased recruitment of junior doctors and more investment.
The directive is based on a Dutch law dating back to 1992 which restricted
working hours. In order to implement the law, the Dutch government paid for
an extra 1000 junior doctors.
In 1998, when the EU-wide directive came into force, but junior doctors were
still exempt, the Dutch government was spending 8.6% of gross national
product on health, compared with 6.7% in the UK.
Negotiations are under way in Germany to draw up a new contract with
hospitals which satisfies the directive and counts on-call hours as full
working hours. Rather than cut services to comply with the directive, many
hospitals opt instead to "hide" overtime hours and not report them.
Dr Otmar Kloiber, secretary of the German Medical Association, said: "The
situation is very tense in Germany. Hospitals have problems changing their
internal organisation to make it fit for the working time directive. It is
estimated we would need between 10,000 and 15,000 extra doctors to comply
"We have seen many doctors who are being forced by their superiors not to
write down extra hours so they do not appear in the papers and they cannot
Ireland has also bypassed the law and the vast majority of doctors are
continuing to work more than the legal limit. However, 20% are in compliance
with the directive because they have traditionally worked agreed shifts
which limit their hours.
In Austria, a shortage of junior doctors means they regularly work more than
60 hours a week, the limit laid down by Austrian law before the European
directive came into force.
The Austrian Medical Chamber, which represents doctors, believes the
directive is full of loopholes and, instead of mounting legal challenges in
court, it is pursuing a strategy of highlighting the heavy workload of young
Non-compliance with the directive is also the rule in Portugal. Almost all
doctors exceed the 58-hour week because they accumulate overtime on top of their standard 42-hour week.
Italy has a surplus of doctors and the standard working week for hospital
doctors is only 40 hours but, according to unions, this is exceeded when
on-call hours are taken into account.
Regional variations in Spain mean some areas are fully compliant, while it
remains a distant prospect for other parts of the country.
In some EU member states, notably those with high doctor/patient ratios such
as Greece, and the Scandinavian countries, where domestic working time laws
which mirror the EU directive have been in place for years, the directive is
being applied with little upset.
Sweden has few problems in complying with the new law, and working hours are
said to be generally about 40 hours per week. In Finland, the implementation
of the directive is causing little trouble.
Similarly, in Denmark, junior doctors have worked a 37-hour week for more
than 10 years. Belgium is also said to be fully compliant, and Greece, which
has one of the highest doctor/patient ratios in the EU, is experiencing few
The European directive applies to all 25 member states, but it is generally
accepted that the 10 new countries, mostly from the former Soviet bloc,
which joined earlier this year will take longer to meet the conditions.
Details were not available from Luxembourg.
The key questions -
Why are local, unelected health boards being left to manage a national
How genuine is the consultation process if the boards decide to go ahead
with closures, despite massive opposition?
Where is the evidence that people get better treatment in large specialist
Why weren't we ready to implement the new laws on doctors' working hours
without shutting services?
What is the evidence about how patients are affected by longer journeys to
Shorter work week? Don't count on it!
CBC News, BC
VANCOUVER, B.C. - On this Labour Day, the president of the B.C. Federation of Labour is calling for a shorter work week.
Jim Sinclair says many Canadian companies are asking their employees to work too many hours. And that is putting a strain on family life. Sinclair believes Canada should follow examples set in Europe.
"We have to send the message that the only real way out is to have people working shorter hours and having saner lives," he says. "And when they say, 'no, no that's impossible,' then you say, 'well, why does Finland have a 35-hour work week now institutionalized? Why does Sweden now have two years of maternity leave?"
France also has a legislated 35-hour work week. But it has its critics.
Jock Finlayson of the B.C. Business Council notes French companies blame the shortened week for a weakened economy. He says legislating a shorter week would also hurt our economy – and the wages of Canadian workers.
"If we work fewer hours presumably we are going to get paid less, unless you think employers are somehow in a position, at no cost to productivity or the economy, to start paying people more money for actually working less."
Still Finlayson says we are working shorter hours than 50 or 75 years ago.
[Whoopeedoo. Now that's progress. We're working shorter hours than in 1929. One-two-three organized cheer.]
And he says if the economy continues to prosper there is no reason that trend can't continue. But he says any move to a shorter work week will have to come very gradually.
Cost of living rises, offsetting increasing wages
AP via Tucson Citizen, AZ
MESA, Ariz. - Arizonans may be earning more, but their raises are being
depleted by double-digit increases in living expenses.
Costs for health care, child care and other expenses far outpaced a
worker's wage increase, according to a report released Sunday by the
Children's Action Alliance in tandem with a national study by the Economic
"Their take-home pay is getting squeezed," said Tracy Clark, an economist
with the Bank One Economic Outlook Center at Arizona State University.
"Companies can't afford all the health care costs, so that's increasing the
amount that workers are paying."
Median wages increased by more than 3% to $13 an hour from 2000 to
2002 in Arizona.
However, the median four-person household income declined during the same
period by more than 2% to $58,160.
That's because employers either reduced hours [= better than the next alternative:] or laid off workers, people
found lower-paying jobs and two-income households had to get by on
one-income, according to the new report.
"The people who kept the same job are kind of being squeezed by food costs
and gas costs, which are going up faster than the core inflation rate,"
At the same time, health care costs went up 10% and child care costs
Employees in lower-wage jobs are getting less for their money than they did
25 years ago, even as unemployment rates continue to gradually improve, the
report said. The value of the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour is lower
than it was in 1979, which in today's dollars would be worth $6.92.
And unlike recessions in the past, companies haven't been quick to resume
hiring as the economy improves, partly because of uncertainty and continued
increases in productivity, Clark said.
Click here for spontaneous cases of primitive timesizing in -
(July 31+) Aug.1-10/2004
Feb.21-29/2004 + Mar.1
Jan.31 + Feb.1-10/2004
1998 and previous years.
For more details, see our laypersons' guide Timesizing, Not Downsizing, 'flung' into print as a campaign piece during the 1998 race for Joe Kennedy's empty Congressional seat. The handbook is available online from *Amazon.com.Top |
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